Changes

The shelves under the stereo in the dining room nearly sagged from the weight of photo albums. I stood examining them. Which one did I want to pull out? Each one was like a black hole that would swallow the rest of my afternoon, so I needed to be careful in my selection. I wanted pictures from the first ten years of my marriage for the family history project I’m working on.

Luck was with me. The one I finally pulled out was labeled, 1968 through 1980. Between the shelf and the dining room table, five photos fell out and scattered on the floor. Sighing impatiently, I glanced at my daughter, who works remotely from my house, and asked, “Would you like to help me this week end? I want to put these pictures into a new album; one with pockets.”

Tammie eagerly offered, “Sure. Looking at the old pictures will be fun. What’s wrong with that album?”

Several more pictures spilled out of the album as I turned pages. Trying to put them back in place, I explained, “This album had sticky pages covered with plastic cover sheets. After 50 years, the pages have stopped being sticky and now the pictures don’t want to stay in place anymore.” Continue reading

Playing Tag

The bush near our farmhouse’s chimney was a cedar tree. At least that was what Mom called it. To me, it just looked like a tall, narrow bush. I snuggled into its green branches, trying to melt into it and be invisible. Suddenly, two of my big sisters galloped past and around to the front of the house. They didn’t seem to realize I was even there!

I sighed with relief and discovered that the cedar smelled really good. Tearing off a flat cedar leaf spray, I held it to my nose, took a deep breath and peeked out at the surrounding lawn. I didn’t see anyone. Maybe it would be safe now for me to run. Shouts from the other side of the yard emboldened me. As I sprinted off, my hasty departure making the cedar sway.

My brothers and sisters were playing a tag game called, “7 Steps Around the House.” The rules were simple; if the person who was “IT” saw you take more than 7 steps as you ran around the house, you became the next “IT”.

I didn’t want to get caught and be “IT”! The prospect filled me with great dread, too horrible for my five-year-old mind to express. Just thinking about getting caught made me shiver as if with chills. Continue reading

Zoo Doo Review

The sun felt warm, but a chilly wind kept trying to find a way down our collars and up our coat sleeves. My daughter and I stood on the deck at the back of my house inspecting the yard. Pointing to the row of pine trees along the backside of my property, I proposed, “For our walk today, lets walk the perimeter of my land.”

“That’s a good idea.” Tammie enthused. “We can see how high the river is and check for buds on all of your shrubs.”

My daughter and I decided to shelter together when the “Safer at Home” order was given. We knew being together would ease our anxiety about the situation.

As we settled into this new, unfamiliar lifestyle of never going anywhere to ensure an extreme form of social distancing, we decided that keeping busy would make us feel better and that we needed to get fresh air and exercise every day.

Keeping busy is an easy plan to follow. Tammie’s job for the last two years allows her to work remotely. All her meetings and social gatherings are done online now, too. For my part, I keep busy by managing the house, making meals, cleaning, washing clothes and writing my family history.

As Tammie and I walked across the lawn, the sound of an eagle call made us look up. Soaring overhead we saw a beautiful bald-headed eagle. Its white plumage glowed in the sunshine. As we watched, it called, “Screee!” and disappeared behind tall trees upriver.

When my daughter and I reached the line of pine trees we discovered it had a solid boarder of deer doo-doo. Tammie exclaimed, “Now we know what all the local deer did this winter. They came here every day to take a dump!”

The lawn ended as we neared the river. Picking our way through the trees and winter-bleached grass, we discovered another much-used deer trail. All along it, we found more doo-doo. Tammie dissed the deer, “What dirty animals! There’s hardly a clean place to walk.”

Sounding like a wise old Indian scout, I pointed out, “This wasn’t all done by deer. Notice the pile by that tree? A rabbit did that. It’s shaped differently.”

My daughter observed the difference, “Hmmm, yes, I see what you mean. One is shaped like jelly beans and the other like skittles.”

I muttered to myself as we continued our walk, “Another reason I won’t be eating those kinds of candy this Easter.”

Nearing the bridge, we found more doo-doo that looked different. Stopping to look at it I guessed, “Coyote or fox?”

A few steps further, Tammie exclaimed, “Ew! This is from a very large dog…or maybe a bear?!”

Seriously considering her last possibility, I mused, “We’ve had a few warm days this week. I guess the bear along the river have left their dens already.”

Looking nervously around and over her shoulder, Tammie quickly suggested, “Let’s walk on the road.”

Smiling, I nodded in agreement and confided, “Several years ago I read an article about how some gardeners like to use manure from zoos because of the different beneficial nutrients some plants require.” My daughter didn’t laugh. She listened, nodded and looked as if she was evaluating the possible benefits.

I chuckled, “I told my friend Val I wanted to start a business selling zoo manure. When people called to order their poo of preference, I would answer the telephone by saying, “Zoo doo-doo! What can I get for you?”

Giving me an eye-roll, Tammie suggested, “You could gather up all the doo-doo we saw today and advertise it as, “Just the thing you need for your wild garden this summer; deer and rabbit septic results without inviting them over for dinner.”

Groaning over her joke, I pointed out, “We were pretty good at guessing whose was whose back there… After our “Safer at Home” quarantine, we’ll be expert scatologists.”

Taking a Walk

A sense of being caught in a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from, washed over me when I first heard the news. The order to shelter in place was soon to be given. All non-essential stores were to close. There were to be no more church services until the pandemic was under control. I felt very alone, like a shipwrecked sailor on a deserted island. Luckily, I had something Robinson Crusoe didn’t; a telephone and computer.

Knowing that my daughter Tammie was working from home, I called her. Trying to sound cool and relaxed, I inquired, “How are you doing?” Her voice radiated stress as she answered, telling me about strange cars parking in front of her house on the quiet side street, sounds never noticed before and so many sirens from a nearby fire station screaming along on a street one block from her house as they rushed to their next emergency.

Concluding her litany of complaints, Tammie stated, “I have no appetite. I haven’t eaten anything all day.”

Concerned, I asked, “Have you gone out side for walks? You need fresh air and exercise to make you feel better.”

After a slight pause, Tammie questioned, “Mom, would it be alright with you if I came home for a little while? Since I work from home, I can be anywhere. I thought if you agree, I’ll slowly pack this week and drive home on the weekend. The loneliness of not going anywhere or seeing anyone for the last few weeks is getting to me.”

Without a moment of hesitation, I eagerly suggested, “Why wait until next weekend? Pack up now and drive home tomorrow! The order to shelter in place will soon be given.” Continue reading

Touch-Me-Not

Walking out the back door, I shouted, “Girls, I’m going for a walk.”

From the living room I heard the thump of feet on the floor and the television being switched off as fourteen-year-old Niki and ten-year-old Tammie chorused, “We want to come, too!”

By the time I reached the end of the driveway, my daughters had caught up with me. The early fall evening sunshine was glorious and the sky a clear, deep blue. Crossing the bridge over the river, we headed up hill. Along the road were young poplars, their leaves quivering in the slight breeze. The sound they made was a murmuring background to my daughter’s chatter.

As we approached a culvert along the road, we heard a gurgling trickle of water. Many weeds grew in this damp ditch. I spotted one that was blooming and gingerly stepped over to pick one of its stems. I instructed my daughters, “This is a jewel weed. As kids, my friends and I called them ‘touch-me-not’ weeds. Look at their pretty orange blossoms. When their blossoms get old, they turn into seed pods.” Pointing to a fat, green pod on one of the branches I exclaimed, “Like that one!”

Tammie looked closely at the pod. Niki was leaning over her shoulder to see. I encouraged, “Touch the seed pod, Tammie.” The minute her finger touched it, the walls of the pod sprung open and the seeds within went flying in all directions. Tammie let out a small scream of surprise. I laughed. Continue reading

Fears

Dusk darkened the corners of the living room. After the bright, sunny afternoon, the close of the day seemed darker than usual. I looked up from where I sat playing with a doll on the linoleum living room floor as Mom walked across the room to switch on a floor lamp.

A warm evening breeze fluttered through the window curtains as I continued to play. Then, suddenly without warning, the light went out. Mom tried to turn on a different lamp. It didn’t work, either. Something had cut off the electrical power to our house.

It wasn’t uncommon for the lights to go out during a summer thunder and lightning storm, but the day had been clear and cloudless. Mom turned to stare out the big living room window. In the dusky yard everything looked normal, but despite my young age, I knew nothing was normal in the house.

A young child instinctively knows when their mother is frightened. She doesn’t have to say anything. The fear is in the tense way she stands, in her nervous glance, the way she breathes.

It wasn’t until talking to Mom many years later that I discovered what frightened her so badly that evening. She feared communist invasion lead by Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union. World War II had ended only ten years earlier and the cold war between the United States and Russia was ramping up. Continue reading

Blood on my Lintel

Before I could switch stations or turn the television off, a news reporter for the local 10 p.m. news flashed onto the screen. As I grabbed the remote control, I heard him announce, “Another person in Marathon Country has tested positive for COVID-19.”

Hitting the power-off button, the screen went black. Turning to my daughter Tammie, who is sheltering in place with me, I complained, “I can’t listen to the news right before bedtime. I won’t be able to go to sleep if I do. Sleep is important for us to feel well.”

Tammie nodded in agreement as she pointed out, “We’ve been keeping up with what’s been going on throughout the day. I don’t want to listen to the news at this time of the day, either.”

The reality of what sheltering in place really meant, took two weeks to totally sink in. My life, a sense of what my world was, my place in it and the end of old carefree routines crumbled and disappeared. I felt scared. The change was so sudden and drastic. We saw no end to this disruption, either. How frustrating!

As I prepared for bed, I thought about what I knew about the Spanish Flu in 1918. My mother had been 12 years-old at the time. People were told to stay home, then too. Many farmers in the Stratford area, like my mother and father’s families, didn’t alter their lives much. They already stayed home most of the time. Continue reading

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