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Do Over

As the sun neared the western horizon, the July day began to cool. A hot, tormenting breeze that began around noon changed from feeling as if from a hot furnace, to the slightly damp, cool draft as if from an open refrigerator door. Usually, I liked to spend summer days visiting and playing with my neighborhood cousins, but today the heat had made me feel sleepy and uninterested in doing anything.

Golden evening sunshine slanted through a stand of trees west of the house making long shadows stretching from one end of the lawn to the other. Under my bare feet, the shaded grass felt cool and slightly damp. From the barn my cousins and I heard a calf bellow and the mother’s calm, answering low. Daddy’s half-filled haymows, warm from the heat of the day, seemed to breathe the sweet smell of freshly dried hay into the yard. The clank of pots and pans from the house meant someone was in the kitchen washing supper dishes.

Reinvigorated by the temperature change, three of my cousins, Barb, Donna, Alice and I gathered in the back yard. One of us suggested, “Let’s play ‘freeze tag’. Everyone nodded enthusiastically. Continue reading

Listening to the Stillness

Feeling restless, I looked around at my bedroom. There was nothing to do here, or at any rate, nothing that I was interested in doing. So I headed downstairs. From the stairwell I heard Bing Crosby singing the “Little Drummer Boy on Mom’s ever-playing kitchen radio.

The song served as another reminder that we didn’t have our Christmas tree up yet. Mom never allowed it to be put up until the afternoon of December 24th. All my eighth-grade classmates at school had theirs up already.

Huffing impatiently, I grumbled to myself, “No one’s even gone to the woods to get our tree yet!” Just as I expected, the kitchen was empty. Since it was laundry day, Mom was in the basement using the wringer washer. Daddy and Billy were in the barn doing chores.

Cutting a slice of bread and buttering it, I went to sit on the basement steps to eat. Mom looked up at me just as she was about to begin feeding wet, soapy clothing to the wringer. She said, “Where have you been hiding? I haven’t seen much of you today.”

I merely grunted while shoving a big, buttery bite of bread into my mouth. The clean, wet smell of laundry detergent reached me as the rollers delivered flattened shirts and towels to the rinse water basin. I knew well Mom’s laundry routine. The rinsed laundry would be fed to the wringers one more time before being hung on the backyard clothes lines.

Mom put another load of clothing into the washing machine where they could agitate while she wrung out the rinsed clothing. As she worked, she said, “After the chores are done, Billy plans to go down to the swamp to cut down our tree. Did you want to go with him?” Continue reading

Miracle Bably

Mom put down the magazine she was reading and leaned back in her upholstered rocking chair. I looked up at her from where I was playing on the floor nearby. Kneeling next to her footstool, I put my head in her lap. She tousled my hair lovingly. I asked, “Tell me about how you had me.”

Always willing to retell family stories, Mom explained, “After your sister Betty was born, I kept having miscarriages. The doctor told me I’d never be able to carry another baby to full term.”

Some children would like to have the book, ‘Goodnight Moon’ read to them at bedtime 365 days of the year. I wouldn’t have minded hearing this story that many times, either. Though I was very young, I’d heard this story often. I knew what a miscarriage was and what it meant to be full term, because Mom had explained.

Prompting her to continue, I said, “But you wanted one last baby.”

Smoothing my hair, Mom answered, “Yes. One day when I was in my middle forties, I babysat your cousins; one was a toddler and the other an infant. They were so sweet! I prayed, “Lord, please allow me to have one more child.” Continue reading

Snow Songs

I kept checking, but there was nothing to see outside our classroom windows, except low, heavy clouds and gray tree tops all morning. Like the rest of the seventh graders in the room, I was thinking, “Surely, it should snow soon! It’s already the end of November!” During noon recess the wind was bitterly cold. Despite wearing mittens, my hands froze. When the bell rang for my class to troop back inside, I felt relieved.

At first, I was glad to be back inside. But then Sister Wilhelmina started the afternoon by having the class take out their arithmetic books. I hated numbers. Instead of looking out of the windows, I began to watch the classroom clock. To my dismay, the minute hand slowed to the speed of an hour hand. Time crept past as slowly as a snail climbing a bean stalk after eating a huge meal. After enough time for the snail to complete a full cycle of evolution, the class finally ended.

While putting my arithmetic book away, I noticed the class was whispering louder than usual. Glancing around, I discovered snowflakes were fluttering past the windows. Sister Wilhelmina said with resignation, “Now that the snow has started, no one will be able to concentrate on school work! That’s okay. Our Christmas play is in three weeks, so let’s begin practicing the songs in the program.” Continue reading

A Treasure Outlived

Three steps from the bottom of the staircase, I sat down to play with my doll. This vantage point gave me full view of the living room, the hallway leading to the back door and the kitchen. The phone rang. Mom picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?” After listening for a few seconds, she said, “I thought about you this morning, Katie. How are you feeling today? I hope you’re getting over your cold.” Clamping the doll upside down between my knees, I began threading the baby doll’s legs into a pair of under pants.

While jamming white plastic shoes on the baby’s pink plastic feet, I heard Mom brag to her friend, “Three blossoms opened up on my hibiscus today. You should see them! They’re each big enough to fully cover a coffee cup saucer.”

Mom loved plants. In the summer, every flowerbed around the house had dozens of flowers, each fighting for elbow room to blossom. Now, during the winter, she had plants near almost every window. The hibiscus was a big plant, almost as tall as me. It had a small brown trunk like a tree and big, double pink blossoms. Leaning forward, I peeked into the kitchen. The small tree stood in the far corner between two windows. Continue reading

Dinosaur Tales

Before going to my garden to pick tomatoes, Niki put her cell phone on the dining room table. Blaise, my four-year-old grandson saw his opportunity and snatched the device. His small fingers flew this way and that to bring up the You Tube videos he wanted to watch.

Although I didn’t grow up with computers, I’m not a total ‘slouch’ when it comes to technology. Seeing his expertise though, impressed me.

Ben, age thirteen, was sitting in the living room staring intently down at an iPad. The curtains were closed, so the room was shadowed. Ghostly blue-green light from the flickering game screen reflected on his face. Next to him, nine-year-old Jacob complained about having to wait for his turn and finally demanded, “You’re hogging the iPad. It’s my turn to use it. Hand it over!”

Gemma, my six-year-old granddaughter, was sitting at the dining room table drawing. She looked up from her picture and told me, “Last night we watched a You Tube video…” In great detail described what she had seen.

I’ve always considered myself to be a modern woman and looked in awe at how primitive the world had been when my mother was born in 1906. Few people had electricity, indoor plumbing or motor vehicles at that time, nor for many years after.

On the other hand, when I was born in 1950, most people had in-door plumbing, electricity, radios, cars and some even flew in airplanes. Television was introduced to our household when I was eleven. When I was eighteen, NASA sent men to the moon and brought them back. Continue reading

Little Sister

I gazed with admiration at my big sister. She was as beautiful as a princess. We were almost in different generations with my being eight-years of age to her twenty-two. She was grown-up and I was a little kid watching her dress for a date. Agnes’ clothing accented her slim feminine form. Her eyebrows arched beautifully and her dark hair curled smoothly under in the popular page-boy style.

Jim, Agnes’ boyfriend arrived driving a 1956 white and blue-green two-tone Chevrolet. Pulling to a stop in the driveway near the sidewalk, he pressed the car’s horn. Instead of a simple honk, it blared out a musical series of toots. He stepped out of the car laughing. Jim worked at one of the grocery stores in Stratford. Once, when I was there with Mom, he checked us out at the cash register. He joked and teased as he rang-up each item.

I liked Jim. He was tall and had broad shoulders with dark, extremely curly hair. Instead of ignoring me as many adults ignore children, he seemed to enjoy talking to and playing with me as he waited for Agnes to finish getting ready for their date.

Whenever Agnes was home from college during the year that followed, Jim came around to visit. By the time he asked my sister to marry him, I already considered him a part of our family. It made me happy that their first apartments were close to our home. I looked forward to visiting them. Continue reading