Twisted

Impatiently tossing the crochet pattern book aside, I looked at my small cache of yarn. I knew what I wanted to make, but was unable to follow through. I could read and understand the words, but by the pattern’s fourth step, confusion equal to what happened at the Tower of Bable would cloud my mind.

Pulling navy, white and red skeins of yarn closer to myself, I pictured a lap robe with wide crocheted bands of red and navy with a dozen white stars stitched onto it. The trickiest part of my design would be making the stars, but I had an idea. Picking a white skein, I took a strand of the yarn and twisted it around the crochet hook.

A warm, humid early summer afternoon breeze blowing through the living room window made the shear curtains flutter. All day an angry, dark blue sky had been threatening storms. Weather forecasters predicted tornadoes. Worried because I lived in a mobile home, I had the radio on so I could run for cover if there was a local tornado sighting.

I had been alone at home one May evening three years earlier when a tornado came through our mobile home court. Not having listened to the radio that evening, the storm startled me when I heard what sounded like a locomotive train alongside the house. Pulling a curtain aside, all I saw was nightmare-inducing greenish-black air between me and our neighbor’s house. Seconds later, the wind roughly picked up the front end of my house and set it down with a jolt three feet over. Continue reading

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

Bumps and Thumps

Snuggling down under a large quilt in my rocking chair on a cold winter night felt so right. The best part of my self-indulgence was that my conscience was clear; I wasn’t being lazy. During the day I had washed two loads of laundry, swept, vacuumed, baked bread and cooked a nice supper. The furnace in the basement kicked in with a roar. I smiled. During the summer when I had had it installed; I worried it would be so quiet that I wouldn’t know when it was running. Ruefully, I reflected, “With it directly below where I’m sitting, it sounds like a jet engine revving-up to take off.”

As a new widow and fully responsible for my home, I had quickly become aware of the sounds in my house and what they mean. The old furnace was working right when; augers kicked in, pellets clinked down the chute and the noisy blower frequently started up with a roar. Well pump clicks told me when water was being drawn from the well. Snow falling from the upper roof make loud crashes, but apparently do no damage.

Sometimes I learned new sounds. One day I was in the dining room when I heard a loud thumping sound coming from the upstairs hallway. It sounded like a kid was running from one end of the house to the other. My heart pounded. I was home alone. Slowly walking toward the staircase, I spotted Louie my white and black cat on the landing. A few seconds later, Shadow the black and white cat joined him. They had been chasing each other. I picked Louie up. He looked soft and fluffy, but tipped the scale well over twelve pounds. Still, how did he manage to sound like an elephant heffalumping down the hallway? Pets make surprising sounds. 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.