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Drenched with sweat, Arnie came into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water. After drinking he said, “I found the place where the rats got into our back porch.”

I shuddered with revulsion. There had been always mice in our old farmhouse, but this summer I discovered badly chewed things in the back porch. My husband had informed me, “That’s the work of rats.” Not willing to accept such a horrible possibility, I set two mouse traps loaded with peanut butter. During the night they both totally disappeared.

I pictured a rat running away from the house wearing them like earrings. The rat trap I next bought was huge. Instead of a small shingle of wood, it was a substantial plank equipped with heavy-duty metal to snap down and kill a large rodent. Before going to bed, I loaded it with a slice of bologna. The next morning, I found a dead rat the size of a two-month-old kitten.

Turning to return to working on the house’s foundation at the back door, my husband apologized, “I’m sorry, but it’s going to take me a couple days to mortar shut the hole I’ve made in the foundation.”

Picturing a swarm of rats invading our home, I yelped, “Arnie, our house will be flooded with vermin! You have to close that hole by tonight!” Continue reading

Chef Bruno

The silence of the empty house wrapped itself around me. I clumped noisily down the steps from my upstairs bedroom, tired and bleary-eyed. Although I classified myself as a morning person, getting up was never easy. From experience I knew that after spending fifteen minutes upright, I would be ready to go full throttle into the day.

Nine-year-old Tammie and eleven-year-old Niki had boarded their school bus two hours ago. At about the same time, Arnie, my husband had left the house to deliver products to one of his farm customers. Taking advantage of my day off from working at the hospital, I’d crawled back into bed for an extra hour of sleep.

Mentally, I organized the chores I needed to do before Tammie, Niki and Arnie returned to the house hungry for supper. Glancing into the living room showed me that straightening the house topped the list. Papers and books littered the floor where Niki and Tammie had done homework and art projects. Sofa pillows were scattered across the room.

Since everyone in my family also wanted blankets to cuddle while watching television, four of them lay crumpled wherever they were used. Segments of the newspaper I’d read last night after supper, lay scattered next to my chair, along with an empty drinking glass.

The sofa, Arnie’s royal throne, looked as if it had exploded. One cushion was out of place and on the floor. The pillow and blanket he had used were tossed in separate directions. A few chocolate chips, raisins and peanuts were scattered throughout. An empty bowl and beer bottle sat on the table next to the sofa. The television remote control laid on the floor under the coffee table. Continue reading

Sunday Afternoon Oasis

I rushed around the kitchen preparing supper. My nerves were strung as tight as guitar strings. I didn’t know when it would begin, but wanted most of the supper prep done before then. Tammie, my two-month-old daughter began wailing before I had the potatoes pealed. Glancing at the wall clock I thought, “She’s starting early tonight.”

The pediatrician told me Tammie suffered from colic. He said eventually she would stop her incessant evening-into-the-night cries; cries that sounded as if she had great pain; cries that nearly drove my husband and me out of our minds.

Tammie had been born missing her fore arms and with a bleeding disorder. I was well past feeling upset about her missing bones. My fear at this point was that all her straining while crying for hours every day would cause an internal bleed. When I examined her in the mornings while she was calm, I noticed that her skin had freckles of broken capillaries from her waist on up. The roof of her mouth was bruised from suckling. Nothing was easy with this baby.

Dumping the unpeeled potatoes into a kettle with some water, I put it on the stove over a medium flame and went to scoop my infant out of the bassinet. I knew from experience cuddling, bouncing, back pats, diaper changes, sips of food or water wouldn’t calm her. Placing Tammie on her stomach on my shoulder, I trudged from one end of the house to the other. Walking reduced her crying a little, but she continued wriggling as though uncomfortable. Continue reading

Treasure

The air smelled earthy, spiced by the many plants in various stages of shutting down for winter. Closing the garden door behind me, I stood silent, looking around at the rows and listening to the slow drops of condensation dripping from the plastic hoop building ceiling. The sound of the drops falling to the dusty soil below seemed exaggeratedly loud, “plop!…plop!”

The outer leaves of the most delicate plants were dark and wilted, nipped by Jack Frost the night before. A harder freeze was forecast for the next few nights. It was time to put my garden to bed for the winter.

Although I am a hard-core list maker, I didn’t need to make a list today. I knew what needed to be done first and what needed to be done last. The plants that would freeze when the thermometer lowered to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, needed to be carefully dug up, replanted in pots and taken into the house. Poinsettias grow lush during the summer in my hoop-building garden. If too many of their roots are broken when transplanted, they don’t do well. Continue reading

Scratch and Sniff

Seeing tears glittering in my daughter’s eyes, the nurse gently distracted her by sweetly pointing out, “I have some stickers for you.”

Niki’s eyes lit-up and the tears disappeared. No fuss, no worries, life was good! Forgetting her doctor’s office anxieties, she leaned over to examine the stickers the nurse held in the palm of her hand.

It has always amazed me how much my children loved getting stickers. I found they worked just as well for bribes as for rewards. Everyone seemed to be handing them out. My girls received them not just at the doctor’s office, but from the dentist, their teachers, the bank and at birthday parties.

By the time Niki was in grade school and Tammie was starting kindergarten, the types of stickers had multiplied. Plain pictures on a sticky-backed paper became passé. Stickers came out with textured surfaces. Some were padded plastic. My children especially loved the ones of the latest Disney movie princesses.

One day, as we were shopping with Grammie, Tammie received a rather plain-looking, slightly bumpy sticker of a pink-frosted cupcake with a cherry on its top. She proudly showed it to me saying, “Scratch it and then sniff it.” Continue reading

Too Much

My belly rumbled as I picked up the restaurant’s menu. Ordinarily, I enjoyed eating out, but today when I scanned the meals listed, nothing excited me. The menu was filled with bright pictures of juicy hamburgers, steaks, chicken, soups and eleven different kinds of sandwiches. It even offered all day breakfast meals, so the problem wasn’t a lack of dietary variety.

Arnie and I had been on vacation for the past week. Every single meal since leaving home was at a restaurant. When we left home I’d thought eating out all week would be like a dream come true. There would be no meals to cook, nor dishes for me to wash. All I had to do was lean back and enjoy myself.

The first thing I discovered was my dear husband had turned into a dietary camel sometime during the previous twenty years since our wedding vows. He loved to eat huge breakfasts early in the mornings, but then didn’t want to stop to eat anything else until six or seven in the evening. I, on the other hand, like to graze for most of the day. I needed at least a bowl of soup or fruit every four hours. I ended up furtively snacking on candy bars to keep from passing out.  Continue reading

13th Child

Warm, happy waves of excitement and cold, shivery chills of nervousness washed over me in turns. Daddy was driving me into town on a Saturday afternoon for a birthday party. I alternately fiddled with the wrapped present on my lap and the hem of my Sunday dress. My friend, Karen had invited me and more than a dozen other classmates. The party was at her house in Stratford. Along the road, we passed homes that I recognized. We were getting closer to where Karen lived.

I was used to birthdays celebrated in class rooms. Usually the birthday person’s Mom would send a pan of brownies or a jar of chocolate chip cookies to school to be passed around when Sister said it was okay. Many birthday parties that I’d been to, were for my nuclear family or for one of my neighborhood cousins. Those parties were limited to cake and ice cream after supper. Today was different. Today I was going to a real birthday party with games and many other children! Continue reading