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Trapped

I arrived home from work and found Arnie standing at the kitchen counter making himself his favorite snack, a cheese and summer sausage sandwich. Pulling off my coat, I opened the entryway closet and hanging it on a hanger, commented, “There’s a sharp edge to the wind this afternoon despite the sunshine. Clouds are moving in from the west. Maybe tonight we’ll get our first snow.”

Taking a big bite from his sandwich, my husband replied with smug satisfaction, “It’s a good thing I made a point of pounding in the fence posts for our snow fence this afternoon. In the next few days, the ground will probably freeze and then it would be too late.”

Eyeing the last of the sandwich disappearing into Arnie’s mouth, I guessed, “You won’t be looking for an early supper tonight, so I’m going to change the bed and do the laundry before I start cooking.”

Looking out of the dining room window at the big blue barn across the yard, Arnie mused, “I should probably go out and feed the cattle now instead of later. The longer I wait, the less I’ll feel like going out there.” Busy with my own work, I wasn’t sure when he actually went to the barn. Continue reading

Corduroy Road

After emptying the sterilizer, I stepped back into the labor room hallway to check on how things were going with our only labor patient. The labor and delivery nurse walked out of the mother’s room. Glancing at me, she ordered, “Set up the delivery room. We’ll be moving our patient there as soon as I call Dr. Rice. This is her fourth baby, so when it’s ready, it’ll come quickly.”

Pulling a surgical cap over my hair and covering my nose and mouth with a mask, I entered the delivery room. First, I opened a supply kit on a large wheeled table next to the delivery bed, then I took a sterilized package of delivery instruments from the shelf, opened the outside wrap and placed them next to the placenta basin without touching the inner wrap.

By the time I returned to the labor room, the nurse had already unplugged the bed and pulled the mother’s IV pole behind the headboard. Waving a greeting at me, the soon-to-be-mother grimaced with her next contraction. The nurse and I guided the wheeled bed out of the labor room, through the delivery suite hallway and into the setup room. By the time we transferred the mother to the delivery bed and I’d pushed the wheeled labor bed into the hallway, Dr. Rice had arrived, capped, masked and freshly scrubbed-in. Continue reading

Weigelsdorf

As I crested the hill, my eyes immediately focused on a farmyard on the west side of the road. Arnie and I had lived there from 1974 through 1979. The mobile home we had lived in and sold to the new owner was gone. In its place they had built a house. Many of the trees and shrubs around it were ones that my Mom and I had planted the summer I raked and seeded the lawn. Spotting a tall pine tree in the back yard triggered a memory. We had struggled to dig it up from a local ditch, unable to believe that a small sapling could have such a long taproot!

Shock filled me as I scanned the rest of the yard. Across the driveway where there had once stood a large blue barn, four silos and a small handful of stonewalled sheds; was a skinny, skeleton that merely traced the defunct barn’s outline. The landmark barn was disappearing.

The farm had belonged to the Weigel family. Bachelor brothers, Max and Leo, had been the last proprietors.  My husband and I had moved our mobile home there in 1974 from a lot in Marshfield. We were told that we lived in the center of an area some people called, Weigelsdorf. All the farmers living near this crossroad were Weigels or people who had married into the large Weigel family. Continue reading

Mercerized

Pointing a long bony finger at a boy in the front row, our sixth grade teacher thundered, “Do you know what your problem is? You are lackadaisical! You have no ambition!” Taking a quick glance at the large wall clock, she turned to address the other forty-nine children in the classroom to command, “Take out your ‘Readers’. When I have finished my coffee, we will begin English class. You read the story for this week. I will call on each one of you to check your comprehension.”

Pulling the English book out from my desk’s storage space, I looked at the clock on the wall. Both the long and short hands were pointing at nine. Opening my book, I peeked over it at the front of the room. Our teacher was seated at her desk, pulling a thermos and small package of cookies from the bottom drawer. A moment later the strong smell of coffee filled the room. Another peek confirmed my suspicion. She was having her usual coffee break snack; fig newton cookies. Continue reading

Rosie’s Marshmallows

Feeling chilled, I walked into the living room where I sat in my rocking chair and pulled a heavy quilt over myself. Comforted by the warmth of this cocoon; I appreciatively examined the mammoth fabric covering. One side was a subdued purple, the other side had two wide panels of gray and one wide panel of pink and purple flowers with green leaves on a gray background.

I had received the quilt several years ago as a posthumous gift the Christmas following my mother-in-law’s passing. Her daughters had found a stash of fabrics in her house. They took it to someone who made quilts. When the family gathered that year for Christmas, all the new quilts were stacked on a table. Each family was invited to choose one. I immediately knew which one I wanted.

Guilt poked at my conscience as I snuggled under the warm quilt. I had a job I needed to do. Sitting there wasn’t getting it done. Reluctantly, I pushed aside the cover and got to my feet. The small upstairs bedroom in my house had turned into a drop-off spot last summer. Things needed to be put away so I could do a much needed cleaning.

A moment later I stood inspecting the messy room. In one corner was a book shelf and a prie dieu (pronounced, ‘pray-do’). In the opposite corner was my Viking sewing machine on a desk with a chair for the seamstress. The two remaining corners of the room were filled with storage shelves. A craft table in the center of the room had once been bare, but now was heaped with craft supplies and household flotsam. A pile of odds and ends stacked under the table was beginning to spill out into the walkway.

Craft supplies in boxes on the storage shelves were as good as not there, because they were in such disorder. Memorabilia taken from my childhood home, which I quickly emptied several years ago, were jumbled and disorganized. Empty boxes, wads of fair ribbons and boxes of jelly jars competed for space.

My genetic make-up contains several ‘hoarder’ genes, impeding every housecleaning and organizing job I undertake. “I can’t throw out that nice box! I might need it for a Christmas gift or to store something.” When I do actually need and use something I’ve hoarded, my hoarding tendency is justified and reinforced.

Watching Antiques Roadshow is not good for a hoarder. When things are old and useless, I might think about throwing the item out, but when the item is extremely old, circa 1900, I imagine it has value. Heaven forbid that I should ever throw anything like that out!

I saved an eclectic assortment from my childhood home that partially tell the story of my family. I sometimes wonder why I bothered to take what I did, and then remember things I should have taken. I shook my head ruefully, realizing that ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Memories will have to be enough.

I thought about the items I had kept and items I had thrown out, but drew a complete block when it came to my sister Rosie’s marshmallows. What it the world did I do with them? Did I throw them out, or leave them in their hiding place?

My two oldest sisters had both gone from home and married before I’d reached the age of ten. I inherited their former bedroom. One rainy day I poked about looking at things stored in the room’s cubbyhole and found a surprise. Inside, on top of the boards that framed the cubbyhole doorway, was a box of Campfire marshmallows. The find was surprising in itself, but discovering that marshmallows once came boxed in orderly rows was a surprise, too.

I somehow knew the marshmallows belonged to my sister Rosie, not Agnes. I wondered if they were an emergency sweet snack that was forgotten, or if they were for a campfire with friends at Big Rapids park, that for some reason never took place. Once soft, the marshmallows were hard and dry like lightweight rocks!

Not remembering what I did with the petrified box of marshmallows adds to the mystery. I will always wonder if some rainy day, one of the children now living in my old farmhouse will go exploring in that cubbyhole and find that mysterious treasure.

 

Snow-Shovel Fairy

The first time it happened, my daughter Tammie picked up her phone and called me. She exclaimed, “Mom, snow-shovel fairies exist! One shoveled my sidewalk today.”

Tickled that someone had helped Tammie with a job that is very difficult for her, I excitedly questioned, “Who was it? A neighbor? Someone from your church?”

Like an astonished child on Christmas morning, Tammie answered with a voice filled with amazement, “I don’t know. The sidewalk needed shoveling when I got up. By the time I ate breakfast and dressed in winter clothing, I found the sidewalk shoveled clean!”

My daughter Tammie was born with elbow length arms, intestinal problems, a blood disorder and poorly functioning knees. When she was two-years old, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic did surgery on both legs. Using disordered tissues and tendons, he constructed useable knee joints for her. Continue reading

Slack Tide

I sat watching birds visit the bird feeder in front of the large living room window. Cheerfully, they darted about between the feeder and nearby pine branches, apparently impervious to the arctic cold that had enveloped Central Wisconsin for the last few days. A brisk wind carrying a load of powdery snow whistled around the corner of my house. The snow settled like dust on two nuthatches and a chick-a-dee who were busy scratching and pecking at the frozen seeds. The surprise shower of ice particles didn’t seem to bother them.

I shivered, partly in sympathy for them and partly because cool air was blowing from the register next to me. Counting to ten, I thought, “Wait for the warm air that will eventually come; one, two, three…” I missed everything about my wood pellet furnace, except its messiness, the hard work of keeping it clean, and having to handle two tons of pellets multiple times each winter.

My daughter Tammie walked into the living room carrying two cups of steaming tea. Handing one to me she commented, “The wind is really blowing the snow around. I’m glad I don’t have to drive back to the cities today.”

After attempting to take a small sip of the scalding black tea, I ruefully pointed out, “It’s hard to believe that the tide turned on December 21st. For over a month now, we’ve been in slack tide.” Continue reading