An Old Maid

Two of my sisters sat on the davenport with piles of Mom’s favorite magazines on their laps. I sat on the floor next to them going through a mound of Dell comic books. They had been read to me so often, I nearly knew them by heart. Familiarity made them all the dearer.

Outside the living room window was a boring winter Saturday afternoon. Snow hadn’t fallen for over a week and the temperatures were frigid. None of us wanted to go out to play.

This year at school I had learned how to read. Despite all the praise I’d received, I was unhappy. Reading was harder than listening. I missed having my sisters read to me. Holding out one of the best comic books, I appealed to my sister, “Mary, please read this to me!”

Mary lowered the Woman’s Day magazine and said, “No. You know how to read. Read it yourself.”

I looked over at my sister, Betty, who was reading a Red Book Magazine. She didn’t bother to look up. I suspected that she was purposely ignoring me. Continue reading

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Iron Horse

I found the patient watching television. He looked sleepy. I said, “I’m here to take you for a walk. Getting up and moving around after surgery is very important.”

The patient responded, “I’m too tired and too sore.”

Nodding, I replied, “I know you are, but it’s a doctor’s order that you get up and walk at least three times a day. You can take a nap when you get back.” Knowing it wouldn’t pay to argue, the man sighed, pushed back his bedding and tried to sit up. A pained expression crossed his face and he dropped back against his pillow.

I patiently explained, “It’ll hurt less if you roll to your side and then push up.” Following my directions, he easily got to sitting on the edge of the bed a minute later. I suggested, “Get your bearings while I find your slippers and help you put on a robe. Do you want to comb your hair?” Continue reading

Baker’s Daughter

Snow began to fall as noon recess ended. When the bell rang, I reluctantly fell into line at the school door with the rest of my first-grade class. At Sister Donna’s signal, we obediently marched into the building, up a set of stairs and into our classroom. Going straight to the windows, we admired how beautiful the playground looked with a thin blanket of snow.

The first flakes of snow that December afternoon were large and had fluttered slowly to the ground. Sister Donna passed out work pages, but my classmates and I kept turning toward the windows. She begged us to pay attention. The snowflakes soon became small and dashed rapidly to the ground. All we could do was watch in excited fascination. A house on the far side of our playground turned into a gray shadow.

When the third recess bell rang, everyone in my class rushed to go outside. We formed lines and shuffled through the snow-covered playground, leaving long, snake-like trails. Our hats turned white while an inexplicable joy filled our hearts. Continue reading

Oh Fudge!

Mom handed me a box as I left the house. Without peeking, I knew there were fifty Christmas cookies inside, one for each of my classmates. She warned, “Be careful. Don’t drop the box. Don’t tip it side to side, either. I want those tender cookies to be whole when you hand them out.”

I’d hardly been able to think about school work the last few days. Earlier in the week my teacher, Sister Florence, said the third-grade class would have a holiday party after today’s last recess. Ever since her announcement, waiting and anticipating the fun and goodies had made time creep past very slowly!

I rushed out the back door of our farmhouse and found Daddy patiently waiting in the car. His farm chore routine was designed to fit around busing his children to school each morning and to return to pick us up each afternoon. Today I wasn’t the last to the car. We had to wait for Betty.

A subdued buzz met me the minute I walked into the school. Everyone was excited. Sister Florence tried to guide us through spelling, arithmetic and phonics, but our minds had a hard time settling.

A cold wind during first recess made me and the other girls in my class huddle around the exhaust vent from the cafeteria, where warm air filled with lunch aromas prompted us to talk about the goodies we’d brought to school. We knew there would be several fudges, two homemade caramels, divinity, chocolate cookies, ginger snaps and taffy to savor. Continue reading

A Moving Experience

Everyone was still munching on food when I jumped to my feet and examined the room. Tammie glanced up at me and quipped, “Oh-oh, look out! Mom’s got THAT look. She’s ready to get down to work.” Niki had provided cheese, crackers and dip shortly after we’d arrived at Tammie’s third floor apartment. Having spent the last three hours cooped up in the van traveling, her eight children were hungry and restless.

Frowning, I pointed out, “You have a lot to pack before moving on Saturday! Let’s get this job done as quickly as possible. We have hotel rooms reserved and a pool to play in. Plus, we left our luggage in the van. I’d feel better if it was safely at the hotel.”

I began sorting and packing craft boxes, cleaning supplies and trip souvenirs. My daughters immediately fell to work at my side. Unable to help because of tight quarters, my eighteen-year-old granddaughter Anne, decided to take her sixteen-year-old brother Jon to the Mall of America. Shortly after they left, one of the other children complained, “Blaise stinks. He needs a diaper change!”

Niki said, “I left the diapers in the van. I’ll run down and get them.”

I glanced out the window at Niki’s vehicle parked across the street. Someone crouched behind it. Alarmed, I asked, “Tammie, what’s going on down there? Someone’s hiding behind the van!” Continue reading

Fire Safety

I heard the school bus pull to a stop in front of our house as I put a kettle of potatoes on the stove. My five-year-old had been standing at the large living room window for the last half hour, watching for her big sister. She shouted, “Niki’s home!” A moment later I heard the back-door slam and my fourth-grader walked into the dining room.

“How was your day?” I asked.

My daughter shrugged and gave me the usual before supper non-committal answer, “It was okay.”

The events of Niki’s day would slowly unreel as the evening progressed. She was never able to pour it out all at one time, so it didn’t pay to push.

By the time I was doing the supper dishes, Niki had told me about a math test she’d taken in the morning, who she played with at recess and what was served at hot lunch. The way my daughter leaned against the cupboards watching me clean the kitchen made it clear she wanted to say more.

Looking troubled, Niki finally said, “We had a class on fire safety this afternoon.” I turned to face her. Every fall the school taught the children what to do if their homes were to catch fire. Along with the knowledge came worry. Continue reading

Goldilocks’ Home

Despite wearing cumbersome leg braces, Tammie independently hoisted herself onto the dining room chair next to her big sister, Niki. While putting bowls of food on the table, I noticed that as usual Tammie was clutching her favorite toy in her left hand. All summer long, everywhere she went, my daughter took this small gray seal with her.

I suspected Tammie liked the plush-covered, stuffed animal because it fit perfectly in her small four-year-old hands. It had beady black eyes and bristly plastic whiskers, which I frequently caught her biting.

When Daddy took his place at the table we blessed our meal. Then I asked, “Tammie, why are you biting the seal’s whiskers?”

My daughter answered with conviction, “Because he WANTS me to!” Continue reading