The jangling of an alarm woke me. Instead of a light-infused spring dawn peeping through the bedroom windows, a dark, foreboding quiet surrounded our mobile home. I had the day off from work, but Arnie, my new husband needed to get up. I shook him and gently pushed him out of bed.
Being the good little new wife, I got up with Arnie and made him a scrambled egg breakfast. It didn’t matter if he appreciated my efforts or not, I was filled with self-satisfaction. The minute he stepped out of the house, I trotted back to bed.
Far away thunder rumbled. Rain pelted our metal mobile home roof. I stretched, yawned and snuggled under the covers with a smile. I loved to lay in bed listening to thunder storms. An occasional flash of lightning and closer rumbles of thunder entertained me for the rest of the morning. Continue reading
Dark clouds overhead made the afternoon look and feel like dusk. The air in the backyard was hot and sultry. A flash of lightning illuminated Mom’s lush flowerbeds and shrubs. It was as blinding as the flash of her Brownie camera, but terrifying. An ominous deep rumble rolled from one end of the sky to another.
I wanted to be with my brother Billy in Grandpa’s two-room apartment. The storm was getting worse. If I didn’t go now, I wouldn’t be able to get there!
A fifty-foot-long path paved with flat stones was between the backdoor of our farmhouse where I stood, and the garage apartment. Afraid, I took off running as fast as I could. Another rumble, louder this time, inspired me to pick up speed beyond what my seven-year-old legs had ever done before. Continue reading
Standing in front of the dressing table facing my sisters on the bed, I twirled a button threaded onto an arm’s length of yarn. My sister Mary giggled, “Tell us about yourself, Rosie Spearmint.”
Like an actor on a stage, I maintained a serious expression as I informed her, “I’m a little girl and my Daddy used to own a grocery store.”
Betty elbowed Mary and hissed, “Ask Rosie why her Daddy doesn’t have the grocery store anymore!” Betty had been with me when we dreamed up this game, so she knew the answer.
Mary frowned and questioned, “Hmmm. Did you say your Daddy used to have a grocery store? Why doesn’t he have it anymore?”
I sighed theatrically and answered, “I ate him out of business. He bought cookies and cakes, bacon and cheese to sell, but I have such a big appetite, I ate it all up before he could sell any of it.”
Laughing, my sisters flopped onto their backs and hooted.
My make-believe game had me claiming to be someone other than Kathy. As the youngest member of our family, I loved making my siblings laugh and this schtick was doing the trick! Continue reading
The orange sun was slowly setting behind the woods across the road from our farm. I stood beside a strawberry patch as my mother picked berries. I looked forward to a bowl of them with sweetened cream. With a sound of disgust, Mom held up a big red berry with a large hole made by a bird’s beak.
Preparing for the night, all the spring birds in our yard sang their last melodies for the day as they foraged for bedtime snacks. I looked up as a large, orange-bellied bird landed on a cherry tree next to the strawberry patch. The bird opened its beak and threw back its head, letting out a clear, warbling song.
The sound reminded me of swiftly flowing water. Hearing it made me feel a full measure of joy and sadness at the same time. At the end of the song, the bird made several demanding clucks.
Mom watched the bird from where she knelt in the berry patch. As it ended its heart-moving performance, she scoffed, “There’s our berry-pecking culprit!” The bird made more clucking sounds. Mom added indignantly, “Listen to that robin. He’s laughing at us!”
Staring up at the colorful, sassy bird, I memorized the bird’s name, appearance and sounds. In my mind I could completely believe Mom when she said that the greedy, berry-wrecking robin was laughing at us. I could tell he had a full belly and felt happy.
On warm spring evenings whenever I hear robin’s sing, I am instantly transported back to my mother’s cherry and berry garden. With an indulgent smile I repeat my mother’s words, “That robin is laughing at us.” Continue reading
Christmas tree boughs and sawdust littered the shed floor. Stepping over the mess, I ushered my niece to a row of plastic totes and pointed to bulging bags further in.
I announced, “There they are.” My warm breath made an impressive plume of steam rise from my mouth. It was a week before Christmas and I had invited Susie to come for a visit.
When the Altmann family farm was sold in 2016, I had emptied the farmhouse for the new owners. Much of what I had salvaged is stored in my shed. My mother had spent over thirty years making afghans as a legacy for her children and grandchildren. As we searched though the treasures, I instructed my niece, “Take as many as you want.”
Later, visiting in the warm comfort of the house, I gave Susie a jar of elderberry jelly and a box of meringue candies made to look like small, freckled mushrooms. Then, handing her a box of pictures, I explained, “I sorted the family photographs according to each member. These are the ones I think your Mom would have wanted.”
I began to tell Susie stories of our ancestors that I doubted her mother had passed on. My deceased sister, her mother, had never been very interested in family history. “Your maternal great grandmother, Franziska, immigrated from Eisenstein, Germany in 1893 with John, her toddler and Elizabeth, her eight-month-old infant.” Continue reading
Warm bath water hid my wrinkled fingers and toes beneath the foam. Bubbles from excess Vel, Mom’s preferred bar soap, frosted my skin and the sides of the tub. Taking a deep breath, I happily sniffed the wonderful, clean scent. From the kitchen I could hear the radio playing a soothing song called ‘Twilight Time.’ Mom called out, “Kathy, you’ve been in the bathtub long enough. It’s time for you to get out.”
I was seven years old. Mom had a hard time getting me to take a bath. But once I was in the tub, she had a hard time getting me out. I had been in the bathtub for a very long time. So long, that one of my sisters came into the bathroom to wash her face. Peering around the corner from my bath, I watched her pat her face dry, open a cobalt blue jar of Noxzema and apply the cream to her face. The cream had a strong, exotic scent which I loved, too.
A slight breeze fluttered the bathroom curtains as I stepped out of the tub. The spring evening air felt soft as velvet wherever it touched my drying skin. As I slipped on a clean nightgown, I examined my wrinkled finger patterns. I felt happy, clean and perfect. Continue reading
I shivered while donning an industrial quality dust mask and a pair of nitrile gloves. The house was cold because the furnace had been off for a full two hours. Having taken all the precautions I could, I pushed ahead with the job at hand; the weekly cleaning of ash from the pellet furnace which heats my old brick house.
In April it will be twelve years since my husband, Arnie died suddenly. Two days into my grieving, I had realized that I needed to learn how to maintain the furnace. This had always been Arnie’s job, so I didn’t have a clue. Arnie wasn’t around anymore to tell me what I needed to know. I was horrified. Searching the house failed to turn up a user’s manual. No one in my circle of friends had a furnace like mine. All the local businesses that sold and repaired furnaces had never seen a Canadian-made Traeger pellet furnace.
Tammie, my reference librarian daughter found a manual for my furnace on-line. Taking the copy she’d printed for me, my son-in-law Mike, carefully guided me step-by-step through the process. We learned the ash needed to be cleaned out once a week. Once a month the face plates had to be removed to clean the heat exchange tunnels. Ash, soot and creosote blackened my hands, arms and face, staining my clothing. Continue reading