Remembering Again :Spring is Coming!

meDad and Ma are at work and we are having our “mud vacation” from school. There is just so much mud on Rowe Hill that someone said it is like a swamp and once you get into the ruts, you can’t get out. We go through this every year when spring starts to come.  The nights are cool but the days are warm.

Curt and I are sitting at the kitchen table. He’s coloring in one of his books, which he loves to do. I just finished sweeping the floor for Ma and sometimes the old wooden floor is rough. It looks better than it did before I started.

I can’t remember when Curt was not with us, but I remember when Ma was in the hospital and brought him home!! Winnie Hanscom was living on Bird Hill in Locke Mills and I went to stay with her and her husband, Ray.  I was a little upset to be away from home because I was only four years old and used to being with my older brothers. Winnie and Ray gave me a doll that was in the house when they moved there, so I played with that but I wasn’t happy.  Then one day, Winnie told me that we were going to have a big surprise. Tomorrow was Christmas and we were going to Ray’s family in Newry!  I did not know how we were going to go because there was no car. She said that was the big surprise.

Early the next morning, Winnie, Ray and I went to the railroad station near the bridge in Locke Mills. I was a little afraid because I had never seen a train but sometimes I had heard it from Greenwood Center.  It finally came into sight, with big gushes of steam coming out the top and oh, the whistle when it came to the crossing!! I put my hands over my ears and Winnie told me it would be alright. When the train stopped, she helped me up the stairs and I handed my ticket to a nice man who smiled and asked me if it was my first train ride. Before I knew it, we were chugging up the track. I held tight on to Winnie’s hand because after awhile everything seemed to go by awful fast.  Well, before you could say Jack Robinson, the train stopped and off we got in Newry, Maine!  Now I could tell Ma and Dad I had a train ride! We had a wonderful day at the Hanscom house, but a very nice man gave us a ride back to Locke Mills, so I never did get another train ride.

There Curt sits, coloring away, and I remember Ma holding him and I wanted to hug him and she said, Sandra, you have to stand at his feet. If you stand up above his head, he can be cross-eyed. Well, I certainly did not want that. Now he is six years old and  his eyes are just fine, so I guess I stood in the right spot.

I have the front door open to let in some of the spring air. There are patches of snow here and there but it has melted enough in the woods so that Roland has tapped some maple trees, so we can have some syrup. Grammy Martin has a big rock in her pasture that is split in two and in the split is a perfect place for a metal rack and a small fire to boil down the sap.  We all take turns walking the little snowy path from one maple to another with a little pail and emptying the sap into it. We try to guess which tree will give us the most!  It is hard work, as Roland ,and sometimes Rex, has to use an auger and bore the holes by hand and put in the spiles.  I love it when Roland gets the fire going and the sap bubbles around in the old metal dish pan Grammy gave us.  We usually don’t get much syrup in the end, but it is a nice treat for each of us. Roland is careful that the fire is out when we are through for the day. Grammy says that is all she asks of us.

I remember one day last year when it was near the end of maple syrup season. We had a little sap we wanted to boil down and oh, it started to rain. So we brought the sap to the house and boiled it down on the wood stove. That was a mistake! We really didn’t realize it until it was boiled down perfect and I touched the cupboard and it was sticky. Oh, my goodness, everything felt sticky. We grabbed some rags and water and Ma’s Fels Naptha soap and started scrubbing everything within reach. Roland took care of the sap pan while Rex and I scrubbed.

By the time Ma and Dad got home from work, the kitchen looked very clean and even Ma commented on our cleaning. All during the next week, sometimes I would hear her say, now that feels sticky. I wonder what that is. Well, none of us said a word.

That syrup sure tasted good with Ma’s warm biscuits!  I hope this year the weather holds good and we can boil it all down in the pasture because we are not going to be bringing it inside again.

Sometimes we learn by our mistakes!

Wishing for spring and Sunday Rides

carI am ready for spring. It seems like snow and winter has been here forever.  We have a narrow path from the road to our door step because it is just too far for my brothers and Dad to shovel by hand. They keep a place open for Dad to park his car and that is enough, as deep as the snow drifts.  Dad bought a 1938 Chevrolet last summer and it is a wonderful car.  I like to think about going for rides as the wind howls outside.

We have already had our Valentine Day celebration at school. I was not sure if the “big room” celebrated it or if it was just the younger students, but Mrs. Lurvey brought pink and red crepe paper and during lunch time, we all decorated a box and she made a big hole in the top for us to drop our valentines in for each other.  Some kids have wonderful valentines to give, but Ma usually buys us some that come in a book. We punch out the valentines and put the names on the back. I gave the funniest one to Kay and on back put “to Kay from Sandra”. Sometimes you get a valentine with just your name on it and you have no idea who gave it to you. That is always a mystery but a fun mystery! The books have about 25 valentines in them and I think they cost about a dollar or less, so Ma gets those for Rex, Curt and me.  Sometimes I get valentines with a lollipop stuck in it and some have tabs on the bottom, so when I get home and chores are done, I set them up on the kitchen table , all in a row, and look at them.  I love the colors of Valentines Day and the big hearts. Of course, the valentines are put away when it comes time to set the table for supper.

There isn’t much to look forward to the rest of the winter at school. We all hate that we have to sit inside and eat our lunches. The windows are closed and if the sun shines in all those windows, we get sleepy after we eat our lunch and Mrs. Lurvey is very patient when our eyes get heavy, but the learning goes on. I do think I have learned more this year than any other year. She is a very good teacher and this year I am paying attention!

I keep thinking about the rides we took last year when Dad got the new car. He had driven the old 1933 Chevy into the ground and the new one just purrs. Every Sunday afternoon or at least, most Sunday afternoons when we are not at camp, he wants to take a drive. He and Ma are in the front seat and Curt and I have the back seat and each has a window. Rex is always busy doing something with friends and Roland is too old for Sunday drives, I guess.

The only thing is that Dad likes to go the same place every Sunday. One day Ma asked him if he thought something had changed in a week and he just gave her a look and kept on driving. One ride we always make is to Bethel and then to Newry and stop at Screw Auger Falls. Then Dad always pulls the car over and exclaims “There’s old Mt. Speck”. I don’t know if that is the right name for it or not as sometimes my Dad makes up names for different things. I know it is very pretty in the fall when the leaves look like Grammy’s patch work quilt. There are browns, oranges, reds, yellows and some pine trees stuck in there for green. Screw Auger Falls is always beautiful . Sometimes Dad stops the car so we can walk around a bit and other times, he is in a hurry to keep going, so he just waves in the direction and we just rush by!  He loves to go to someplace near Andover, I think, and he always looks over his shoulder and says to Curt and me, “This is East B Hill”. Curt and I look at each other and wonder if it is an important place or not, but we are just glad to be out of Greenwood Center and having a nice ride.

Right now, it is parked down by the road with the snow drifts around it and I can’t wait for that snow to melt. Mr. Kenyon will come to his cottage across the road around the last of June or the first of July. About that time we will head for Indian Pond, probably. One never knows with Dad.

Right now, the wind is howling and I am going to stay here in the attic and dream about summer time rides.

New Year: Same Winter Chores

CURT SANDRAWell, another Monday morning has come with the frost on the attic roof nails and I know it is time to get up and get going, as Ma calls it.  Another school day upon us and I am so glad we had the week-end.  After Christmas the whole winter seems boring and the cold seems to settle in our bones. I think Winnie must know these things because she invited Curt and me to spend Saturday with her and sleep over and Dad could come get us Sunday.

She had her view-master out for us and reels and reels of pictures to look at. We took turns and were careful to put the reels back in the right paper container when we were through. Everything looks so real when you hold it up to your eyes and click, click away.  Of course, she made us chicken fricassee which is one of our favorites and we hummed our way through that meal! Winnie has the prettiest plastic curtains at the windows with different colored flowers all through them. This is the first time I have ever seen plastic curtains, but she explained that they were easy to clean and pretty too.

She cranked up the Victrola and played some of her records while we popped corn on the stove. Winnie has electricity which is something we do not have yet. It seems good to just flick a switch on the wall and have all the light you need without worrying about breaking a mantle or a lamp chimney!

But today starts another school week and I hear Ma and Dad already leaving. Roland will be waiting to inspect me and to scrub Curt. There is always the scrubbing “dance” every school morning because Curt says the water is either too hot or too cold. Well, usually I find it just right because the old wood stove takes awhile to get a kettle of water hot enough for washing.

You can imagine what Ma goes through when she has to wash clothes. She puts the big boiler, she calls it, on the stove early in the morning and adds a little vinegar . She says it keeps the clothes soft and helps get the stains out. I know it takes her a long while to wash the clothes and bend over that scrub board with her brown Fels Naptha soap. Sometimes her hands are all red from scrubbing. In the summer we hang the clothes on the line outside, but when we try it in the winter, we usually have to bring the clothes in frozen. They look funny, but hanging clothes in the cold is NOT funny!

Cass looks like he is ready to start the school week and drives us carefully around the ponds, with his cigar in his hand. Sometimes it is lit and other times, I think he holds it just for the company. I am not sure, but I don’t dare ask him. He pulls up in front of the school and as the last one jumps out, he backs up the van and heads for his store on the hill.

This day seems like forever. I think everyone is tired from the Christmas holidays and just want to put their heads down on their desks and sleep. There are two boys with their heads down, but that is because they were talking and Mrs. Lurvey warned them twice. After that, down go the heads!!  I can tell you, I am very, very careful to do my work and keep quiet. 

I want the day to end as I am tired, but on the other hand, school is nice and warm and I know what it will be when we get off the bus at home. We will walk through the snow to the house and if Roland is with us, he will start the wood fire. I dig the potatoes out of the corner and start peeling. The kitchen is cold, my hands get wet and red but they have to be peeled now so they will be cooked when Ma and Dad get home. Rex goes behind the house where there are some skinny trees cut and piled. He puts one on the sawhorse and uses Dad’s buck saw to start cutting. As soon as I get the potatoes peeled, I put on my mittens and the overshoes with buckles that Rex outgrew from last year and go to help him.  I hold on to the end of the tree while he cuts because if the blade goes crooked, it might break and boy, Dad will be really mad!!  We have to fill the wood box so he keeps pulling the trees on to the sawhorse until we figure there might be enough. Then we both start lugging it in. Chunks of snow go down our jacket sleeves and boy is it cold when they melt against our bare skin. Our mittens are getting big clumps of snow on them and pieces of sawdust. I think this is the chore we hate the most!  The kitchen is getting warmer as we carry it in and finally the wood box is full!!! I make sure the kettle is full of water so it can heat for Ma and Dad’s coffee and get the frying pan down where Ma can put whatever she buys at the store in it.  She can’t buy ahead of time because there is no way to keep it cold, though I think from the feeling, she could toss anything into a snowbank and it would freeze until we need it!

I check the potatoes to make sure they are done, but not too soft to hold together. I think Ma is bringing home fish sticks tonight as they do not cost as much as other meats.  She asked me once to keep an eye on them and handed me a spatula to turn them. Well,  you know how graceful I am.  I started to turn them and they all fell apart and Ma was disgusted and said she wanted fish sticks not mashed potatoes. I felt bad but I knew Ma was tired from working all day in the mill and she still had lots of work to do before she could go to bed.

Life sometimes is hard for everyone and especially in the cold of the winter.  I am glad Ma has someone like Winnie for a friend and that Winnie loves us as much as if we were her own kids.

Maybe tonight Roland will take us skating! That is one thing that I love about winter, tires burning, the smell and everything!

Christmas Day At Last

s1It is still dark outside. I am not sure of the time, but I think I heard Curt rustling around downstairs.  He is getting his Christmas stocking. I just know it. Last night we hung our stockings. I used one of those ugly brown cotton stockings and thought, at the time, it was the best use for the thing. Curt had a wool stocking with two red stripes around the top. Rex had the same but his had two green stripes and Roland came in late, so I am not sure what he hung…maybe he left a shoe, but I think he probably just hung a sock.

After we went to bed last night, I could hear Ma down in the kitchen. The rustle of paper was loud and I knew she was using the kitchen table to wrap our presents. Dad was already in bed reading his western novel by the light of the kerosene lamp. Like I said, he wants nothing much to do with holidays. I fell asleep before the rustling of paper stopped, so Ma must have stayed up late. She tries to make a nice Christmas day for us.

I am going to sneak down and get my stocking. Oh, these old stairs creak something awful. There is just enough light coming through the kitchen windows so I can see some presents on the tree. I have my stocking and up the stairs I go. There is something big and round in the bottom of my stocking and I know it is an orange. We get one every year and I eat mine very slowly and make it last. I think I will save it until way later in the day.  I sit on the side of my bed and dig into the stocking. Of course, the stocking is not full. I didn’t expect it to be, but it was the only stocking I had to hang!  There are a box of crayons, some little scissors. I have a little flashlight which is getting dimmer and dimmer as I search. Two pencils and a candy cane and here is a card with two pink barrettes for my hair. They are little butterflies! And there is the big orange!!!  Wow, what a nice stocking and now I hear Ma getting the kitchen warm for us. She must have heard Curt get his stocking and decided we would all be up early today!

Breakfast is over; dishes are done. Never has cereal, eggs and potato been eaten so quickly!  Rex and Roland sit in the kitchen chairs by the wall, Dad is in his usual place at the end of the table, Ma on the other end and Curt sits on the floor in front of the cupboard. I have a little cardboard box sitting on top of the woodbox and will put my presents in there. Curt is excited about a card game called “Old Maids” and is already asking me if I will play with him later.  I have a book of paper dolls. I love paper dolls and sometimes I cut clothes out of the Sears catalog that Grammy gives me to fit on the paper dolls. Rex has a book to read and there is a round tin filled with different wooden objects. Tinker Toys!  I guess by putting the little wooden sticks into the holes on the round pieces you can make wheels and all sorts of things!  He also has a yo yo!  Curt is coloring in his new book already.  Roland has a new Hardy Boy book and a new flannel shirt.  We all have new hats and mittens that Grammy Martin has knit. Ma has the hankies I bought her and some pins that my brothers have bought. Grammy Martin has knit her some mittens and she says they will keep her fingers warm going to work in the morning. Dad has leather mittens with liners and two new flannel shirts. We are all pleased and I will take my box upstairs to the attic and really look at my new treasures.

Dinner is almost cooked, although we do not have a really special meal today. Ma has made her fluffy biscuits and we have a small ham and mashed potatoes and carrots. Hopefully, we will have a special person eat with us today and I can see him coming through the snow.

Grampa Libby has walked all the way from his house on Rowe Hill in the snow and cold. He is carrying a sack over his shoulder and as he gets near the house, I see his beard is white with frost and the cold. He comes in and hands the sack to Ma, who disappears in the bedroom.  I take his big black coat and hang it on a hook under the stairs with the other coats. Grampa smiles and when he does, his eyes smile too.

Ma comes from the bedroom with four presents wrapped and hands one to each of us kids. I open mine and there are two beautiful hankies that Grampa has given me. You see, Grampa can’t read nor write as he left school in the third grade to work in the woods and help support his family. It doesn’t matter to us because he is one of the nicest people ever. I look at him and say “thank you” very slowly because he is also hard of hearing. He smiles at me and his eyes light right up. I love my Grampa Libby very much.

We all sit down to eat. Dad does not say much to Grampa. I think it is because he does not know what to say to him, but we talk to Grampa and he is enjoying the ham and potatoes. He doesn’t get nice meals too often, as my Grammy Libby is sick and cannot do much. After we eat Dad will drive him back to Rowe Hill because he doesn’t want Grampa having to walk both ways in this cold weather and snow.

Ma and I pick up the dishes and load them into the black iron sink. Grampa says he should get home because he does not want to leave Grammy too long. We say goodbye and Dad starts up the car and away they go. I hope spring will come soon so Ma can drive us over to visit Grampa more often.

Dishes are done and the house seems very empty. I am going upstairs and use my new little scissors to cut some of the paper dolls. Curt and Rex are sharing the tinker toys and Roland is off skiing with a friend on the pasture hill.

We look forward so long to Christmas and then like a feather in the breeze it comes and goes so quickly. Well, it’s time to peel the orange!

Christmas : Bringing In The Tree Part One

DadToday is Saturday and I think Dad will give in and get the Christmas tree today.  He has been putting it off for what seems like forever. Ma asked him last night if he might do it this week-end and he tapped his foot, took another sip of coffee and muttered that he would try to find one that would fit in the house. I told you that Dad just tolerates holidays like a rash.  I don’t think I have ever seen him excited over any holiday and when I asked Ma about it once, she just shrugged her shoulders and said that some people are like that. Well, I am just hoping he will do it today so we can decorate this afternoon.

Ma is sweeping and cleaning out the corner and I don’t see Dad anywhere so I guess he has finally decided he can’t put off getting the tree another minute. He hates it as the only place we have to put it, is in the corner of the kitchen.  Seems like every time he goes by, he hits a branch and knocks off something and then he mutters! I ask Ma if he has gone and she says he put on his snowshoes and grabbed his axe so he should be home soon with a tree. At least the corner is all cleared and chairs moved so it can fit.

Curt yells at me to look out the window and that Dad is back, dragging a tree behind him. It looks awful big to me and Dad has his buck saw ready to take some limbs off and cut some off the end. I think he cut the first tree he came to because this looks like no one in the world would choose it for their Christmas celebration.  Curt says he thinks it is pretty and I tell him it will be once we get our decorations on.

Curt and I back into the opposite side of the kitchen because Dad is making a big ka-thrash through with the tree and Ma is telling him he is knocking all the needles off and making a mess. Doesn’t sound much like a fun Christmas right now, but we go through this every year. Dad has nailed two boards across the bottom of the tree in a big “X” and has driven a nail into the wall by each window. Then he will take the clothesline Ma is holding and hook it to one nail, wind it around the middle of the tree and then hook the other end to the other nail. That way the tree should stay secure for the few days Dad will allow it in the house. There, by Gar, my Dad says, standing back with a look of satisfaction on his face. What do you think of that, he asks us and we nod our heads to show we think it is the best tree in the whole forest. I am thinking it might look an awful lot better if we cover it with as many things as we can.

After dinner, Dad announces he is going to visit his brother, my uncle, Roy for awhile. Ma thinks this is a good time to go to the attic and bring down the big box of ornaments. They aren’t much to look at, but a few nights ago, Curt and I sat at the kitchen table and colored and cut out strips of paper. Ma made us some paste out of flour and water and maybe something else, and we made two big long chains of colored paper rings.  Curt digs out a purple metal cone and Ma says that is Roland’s ornament that he got when he was a baby. We find a few more metal ornaments shaped like little bells, cupcakes, stars and some have glitter . They all look in pretty bad shape but tonight when the Aladdin lamp is lit, they will sparkle in the light. We have one ragged looking red and one worse looking green garland which we have had since I can remember. Curt and I string that on and the tree is beginning to look better. Maybe it’s because we can’t see much of the tree now!

We have added the paper chains and it is looking fancy so we dig deep to the bottom of the box and bring out the icicles left from last year. There aren’t too many, so we drape them one by one on the branches to make it look all even. They will really sparkle in the lamp light tonight!!

Curt reminds me not to hang icicles too close to where we walk by as usually Dad brushes against a limb and if he gets any on his sleeve, he has quite a time!  Ma says it is hard enough to get through holidays with him without putting icicles in his way. Curt looks at me and snickers and I give him my evil eye look.

Now the tree stands in the kitchen corner looking pretty decent. It cuts down on our space in the little house, but Christmas comes but once a year so I guess we can stand it for a week, at least.

Now the gift wrapping is to come and Curt will be writing more letters to Santa Claus. He writes one most nights and I fold it and put it on the sill of the frosty window. He doesn’t ask for much, I guess, because it doesn’t take him long to print his note.

It is good to see the excitement in his face. Even Dad can’t spoil that with his humbugging!

Celebrating the Early Christmas

DSC00001-001It seems like Christmas is everywhere. There are little candles in people’s windows and  there are brightly lit Christmas trees showing in houses, in town, as you drive by at night. That is what Kay told me at school.  We don’t have our Christmas tree in the house yet, but it will be soon.

There was Christmas at school on Friday.  Every year we draw names and buy for the person whose name we’ve drawn.  I always hope I get the name of someone who does not have much money, because I know they will be happy with whatever we can afford to buy. Ma does the shopping and she can make money stretch, that’s for sure.  If I get a girl’s name, I will buy a bracelet, perhaps, or a pretty pin at Brown’s Variety Store in Bethel. I always hope I don’t get a boy’s name, because what do you get a boy? I guess perhaps I could get a book or something like that.  This year I got Kay’s name and she is easy to buy for because I know her so well.  She likes pins, so I got her a Santa Claus pin to wear on Christmas Day. She was really pleased.  I got three pretty hankies from someone. There wasn’t any name, so I figure it was a boy and he probably was shaking his head and wondering what to buy a girl. Maybe his mother helped him. Anyway, now we are off for about a week and a half over Christmas vacation. I am so glad we don’t have to get up early and wade out to the road for the bus. 

This is Sunday morning and in the winter, Curt and I do not go to church at Grammy and Grampa Rings on Rowe Hill. I think it would be hard for Rev. Lord to find his way over and back when there are snow storms and some times the roads are not plowed that well. But today is a special day!  This afternoon Rev. Lord has promised to come  and get Curt and me.  This is the day we have waited for so long!  Curt says it is pay back for all the Sundays we went to church when we were tired and Rex stayed home and did what he wanted to do!

Rev. Lord is coming in the driveway and Ma is inspecting us to make sure we are “presentable” as she calls it. Curt has on a nice flannel shirt and his pants are held up by a pair of brand new suspenders he got last fall when we started school. Ma made me put on a dress and I hate it, because that means I have to wear the long brown cotton stockings to keep my legs warm. But today is the Sunday School Christmas party and I won’t argue.

Rev. Lord drives very carefully up the Greenwood Road and as we turn on to Rowe Hill, he shifts into a lower gear because although the road is plowed, it still has loose snow in it and is so narrow.  I hope we do not meet another car.  Today we are not going to have the party where we attend church, but we are going to go past the Bryant and Hanscom farm and go up a hill to the Palmer farm. I have never been there.

We are making the turn and Rev. Lord says he is glad that the long up hill driveway to the Palmer’s house is well plowed. I bet Mr. Palmer, himself, cleaned it up nicely.  He is a hard working man and every summer comes to Greenwood Center with his horses and huge wagon to cut hay and haul it clear back to his farm here on Rowe Hill. Sometimes he lets us hitch a ride on the side of the hay wagon, so odds are that he also made the road nice, knowing we were coming.

The house is nice and warm!  Winnie Hanscom and Elizabeth Palmer Bailey are both waiting for us and other children.  We are soon ushered into the first room off the kitchen and Curt and I take a seat on the steps that lead to the upstairs.  We are buzzing with excitement because there is a tree in the corner, decorated and little gifts underneath.  Rev. Lord stands up in the center of the room and tells us the story of Christmas. We have heard it before, but he tells it in such a way that all the children are quiet and listen.  Soon, some lady sits down at the piano in the corner and we sing “Away in a Manger”. That is one song all the children know and we are very loud. There are some who are singing off-key, but I guess that doesn’t matter. At least none of the grown ups seem to change expressions. I am sure that our song is echoing right down into the valley and right to our little camp on Indian Pond. It is that clear a day and the sun is sparkling on the snow.

Winnie is handing out the little packages.  All of us are getting little crosses with a Bible verse in the middle. They are so pretty and I am sure they are home made. Someone put a lot of work in them.  All the girls get a hanky and the boys some pencils!  Curt is looking his pencils over and the cross. I tell him it is a pretty bookmark, but I don’t think he hears me because he is looking at a basket that Winnie is carrying. There is something in little white cloth bags and there are a lot of bags. Elizabeth is handing them out. What can they be?  Curt takes one and says thank you. Good. He remembered his manners. He waits until one is handed to me and we open them together. What a wonderful smell. The bag is full of popcorn and in the popcorn are three pieces of fudge!! Oh, I love salt and sweet and this is soo good. Curt has popcorn in his mouth and reaching for the fudge when I slow him down, although I know how he feels. I would like to gobble mine, but we should save some to take home! Rev. Lord tells us that Winnie, Elizabeth and the other neighborhood ladies, probably Mrs. Sumner and Mrs. Brooks as well, sewed the little bags and then made the fudge and popped the corn to make the treat for us.  We all say thank you together and Winnie and Elizabeth are smiling. I think they are happy to see us so happy.

We have been here two hours and it seems like we just got here. What a nice time we have had and we have a gift and candy and popcorn to carry home. Curt whispers that he bets Rex will be sorry he did not go to church and I nod my head and grin at him.

Rev. Lord asks if we are ready for the journey home, so we gather up our coats and thank everyone again.  I don’t know which I like the best, the story of Christmas, the singing, the tree, the gifts, but I do know I will make the popcorn and fudge last as long as possible.

Christmas sure is a good time of year even if it does come with snow and cold.

Christmas shopping in the Little Village

s1This is going to be an exciting day. I can feel it in my bones. Dad is going to take us to Winnie Hanscom’s house on Rowe Hill really early this morning. Roland, Rex and I are going to visit her and then do our Christmas shopping.

We have just passed Dan Cole’s farm and are climbing the hill. It sure goes on forever and I am glad there are no storms today. The sun is shining bright and it feels warm for this time of year. The roads have been plowed well and the old car seems to be chugging along. I always have a fear of getting stuck and being stranded, but I know Dad has a shovel and some tire chains in the trunk just in case something happens.

Winnie is waiting for us and waves from her upstairs apartment window. She lives upstairs in her mother’s house and her mother, Margaret ( Maggie) and her brother, Wilmer live downstairs. I know she is coming down the stairs to open the door and greet us.

Dad has errands to do and he is already gone! We go up the stairs to the cute little apartment. Her kitchen table is in an alcove at the head of the stairs and next to it , on a stand, is a phonograph. I know Roland likes that as he has wanted one for so long. I don’t think we will have time to play records today.  She has a Mexican face with a big sombrero on the wall and a ball of twine so the twine comes out his mouth. She says she loves anything Mexican and we can see that with the two red plaster peppers on the wall. At least they look like peppers.  On her living-room stand is her Viewmaster. I love to look through the little holes and then click to another picture on the round disk. Oh, I hope we will have time for that later!

Winnie gives us each some milk and a cookie and we all sit and rest before our big outing. Roland has money of his own as he works every minute he can and Rex and I have a few cents to spend. Winnie digs out her big brown purse and hands us each a dollar bill. I am rich! I have never had this much to spend at one time. She laughs and says that is her Christmas present to us and we thank her.

It is about two miles, I guess, to Bryant Pond village. Winnie sets the pace and we walk along with her. She points out where the road is that leads to my Grandfather and Grandmother Libby’s house. She tells us that little dip in the road is called Velvet Hollow, but she says there are many stories how it got its name.  We walk up Townline Hill and before we know it, with all the talking and visiting, we are walking by Birch Villa Inn and realize we are almost into the village. I guess when people are happy visiting, time goes fast and you don’t  notice if your legs are tired or not.

The village is quiet today and we go up the steps into Clarence Cole’s Variety Store. Look at the treasures. There are two or three aisles of things laid out flat so I can see them really well. Winnie tells Mr. Cole that we have come to Christmas shop and he smiles and tells us to take all the time we need and if we have any questions, just ask him. He is a very nice man and very patient as we walk and look and pick up and try to make decisions. I see some very pretty hankies Ma will like and there is a big blue bandana that Dad would like to carry in his pocket to the mill. It is hard to buy for my brothers when they are walking around me, but there is a box of crayons and a coloring book for Curt. When the boys look the other way, I pick up two boxes of pencils for Rex and Roland. Rex keeps track of his baseball scores and his trapping money and Roland is a wonderful artist. He draws lots of pictures with a pencil, so he will like them.

We have been here almost an hour and Winnie has found a seat in the corner of the store and smiles as she watches us. Mr. Cole has taken my brothers’ gifts and he totals it all on paper. They both go out on the little landing in front of the store and that is good. They won’t see their gifts when Mr. Cole adds up what I owe. He smiles and even gives me back some change which I stuff in my coat pocket. Don’t lose it now, he says, as he hands me my bag. Winnie asks if we are ready for the walk home and I guess we are because our hands are full!

The sun has gone a little lower in the sky, so it isn’t quite as warm on the walk home, but Winnie says we will keep warm by walking and she is right. Up the first hill, down Townline Hill, through Velvet Hollow and soon we know around the bend is her house. We all go back upstairs and the warmth of the house makes our cheeks smart.

Winnie tells us to come into the kitchen and take a handful of chocolate chips from her big jar. Meanwhile she says she will make us some hot cocoa to warm us all up. That will taste sooo good because they have their own cows and this will not be made with the canned milk Ma has to use.  It is nice and warm and we all smack our lips. She has put some tiny marshmallows on top and that is a real treat.  Just when I think it cannot be any better, Winnie reaches into her purse and brings out three candy canes she bought at Mr. Cole’s when we were not looking.

Dad will be here soon to take us home.  What a wonderful day we have had!  My legs are awful tired, but I have a bag full of wonderful gifts.

They don’t make many people as nice as Winnie.

Winter in Greenwood, Maine /Early Morning Flight

s1Today is Saturday and I don’t have to roll out of bed for school. It’s cold here in the attic or I would lay and read awhile before going down by the wood stove. Sometimes I read my books over and discover things I didn’t notice the first time.

There’s snow on the ground and Twitchell Pond has frozen. Dad says it is thick enough for skating, but watch out where the brooks come into the pond and watch for air holes.  I have been skating on the little bog beside the road next to the cousins’ house since Thanksgiving.

Roland built a ski jump on the side hill, but I won’t go over it. I would rather take our Speed-Away sled and go to the top of Grammy’s pasture hill, get a running start and throw myself down on the sled and go all the way to the road.  It is especially fun if there’s a bright moon. The air is very cold, but Ma gives us some cocoa when we come in right before bedtime.  She uses canned milk, but I am so cold, I don’t notice the taste I usually hate.

I hope my brothers don’t make the same mistake they made last year!  When any of us are through with the skis, we are supposed to take care of them by leaning them against the house or sticking them in a snow bank.

Well, last year I was up early one morning and had breakfast with Ma and Dad. This time of year, of course, it is dark when they leave for work and Dad always goes out to start the car and warm it up for Ma. Dad had his lunch box in one hand and out over the doorstep he went. Unfortunately,  one of my brothers had left the skis right in his path and of course he couldn’t see. All of a sudden, there was an awful yell and Ma rushed to the door and saw Dad balancing on a ski down the slope in our yard. She said later she thought he was going clear to the pond! Oh, no! I peeked out the window,  but couldn’t see much, but boy did I hear a lot!! He yelled something fierce with his arms waving in the air swinging his lunch box. He finally came to a stop and staggered around in the snow a bit. Then he put down his lunch box, took both of the skis, one by one, and threw them as far as he could into the woods.  He picked up his lunch box and crawled into the car and I guess he was still cursing.

The strangest thing was that Dad never mentioned the ski flight. My brothers never mentioned the skis or going skiing. I decided it was best that I not mention the skis and had the suspicion that as loud as Dad yelled, my brothers heard him from their bed up in the attic. The rubber bands, cut from old inner tubes to hold the skis on their boots, lay on the stairs the rest of the winter and no one went near them.  Neither brother asked where the skis were..not even as weeks passed.  When the snow melted last spring, the skis were found under a pine tree at the edge of the woods.  I imagine they will take care of their skis in the proper manner this year and I am still surprised that Dad did not sputter. Maybe he figured by keeping still, it would be punishment enough. I’m not sure. Parents are strange that way.

I think tonight Roland might build a fire on Twitchell Pond and we will skate.  He bought a pair of second hand white ladies skates for me which look wonderful. I just wish I could skate better, but I kind of push myself along. My cheeks always prickle in the cold, so I stay pretty close to the fire. The tires burn really well but boy do they smell!!  Grammy and Uncle Louis sit on their porch and watch us as we skate around the fire. No one in the neighborhood complains that the smell is awful or too much.  I think they are glad to see us having such a good time.

It’s time for me to go downstairs. I can hear Curt and am sure he is through with his bowl of Puffed Wheat and is ready to make a snowman or a fort.  Sometimes winters are very pretty after a snowfall, but not when the roads drift around the ponds so hard the plow can’t go through. That is when they come to get Dad and other men to shovel through the drifts.

My favorite place in the winter is sitting in front of the stove with my feet in the oven, but the only bad thing about that is the smell of wet mittens drying on the stove shelf!  Ma says she can’t wait til spring comes and I don’t blame her one bit!

Thanksgiving in Greenwood Center

blogIt is truly cold this morning and I have my blankets pulled right up to my neck. There are noises in the kitchen and the smell of brewing coffee comes up the stairway.  There are voices and the slamming of car doors woke me.  I heard my brothers go down the stairs some time ago and remembered in my half asleep daze, that all the unusual noise and early rising means that the hunters have arrived.

A few nights ago, our kitchen was filled with hunters my father had recruited for a big hunting day.  Mugs of coffee sat steaming while they pored over a map Dad had drawn  for all to see. There would be a couple men to drive and others to sit and wait at a certain point. The names Furlong Pond, Overset Pond, Pine Mountain, Spruce Mountain, the old Ames Place all were bandied about as I sat in the corner reading.

Ma hunts as well, but today she cannot go with the rest as the sun is cresting over Moose Cove. Today is Thanksgiving and it will be just the three of us, Ma, Curt and me, in the house preparing the dinner.   Curt won’t help with the dinner, but he’s too young to go along on the hunt.

I hear the door slam and know I should be downstairs as soon as possible to help Ma get the hen ready for dinner. We don’t have a turkey, though I’ve heard some of the kids talk about them. Dad made the trip earlier this morning to the Lester Cole farm and returned with a nice fat hen for us to dress and cook.

After I gobble my egg and fried potato, Ma asks if I am ready . She has the stove going nice and hot with a big pot of water boiling. She grabs the hen by its scrawny, ugly feet and dunks it over and over. What an awful smell, but it has to be done. We laid newspapers on the kitchen table and now, standing side by side, pluck the feathers out of the bird. Thankfully, Ma cleaned out the insides earlier. I helped her do that last year and told her it was not one of my favorite things to do and she said she wasn’t too keen on it herself. We finally have all the feathers out, so Ma goes to the wood stove and removes two covers.  Time to singe the pin feathers!  She grabs its scrawny legs again and puts the body down in the stove and turns it around until the pin feathers are all black and scorched. The smell is not getting any better, but I keep quiet as this is the unpleasant part of Thanksgiving Day and Ma is very busy.

We scrape the pinfeathers and out comes the roasting pan, kerplunk and the hen is now in the oven. Ma puts the stick up to the oven door to keep it closed real tight and declares it a job well done.

It is time to start on the potatoes as we always have a big bowl of mashed potatoes. Ma says she hopes this year Dad gets home to eat at a decent time. If he doesn’t, she says we will go ahead and eat because he knows what time the meal is going to be on and if he wants his cold, well that’s the way he will get it. She flips her apron when she says it, and I know she is remembering last year when Dad and the boys did not come home until about two hours after the food was ready. That is how my father is when it comes to hunting. He gets on the track of a deer and he forgets there is anything else in the world. Meanwhile, Ma is back in the kitchen making biscuits and mashed potato and looking at the pie she made yesterday to make sure it will pass muster.

Dad does not like holidays and makes no bones about it. He considers them a nuisance and tolerates them like he would a rash.  He gets through them, but there is no excitement around him. Thanksgiving is like any other meal, but more food and a hen.

Biscuits are made, potato is mashed and the hen has come out of the oven, all nice and brown. Ma says, well here they come and on time for once. I put the six plates around the table and the water glasses at my brothers’ and my plates. Ma has opened a can of peas to go with the potato and hen. The table looks really full of food with the biscuits and oleo set out  now.

Dad and the boys come in and announce there was no luck in getting a deer this morning , but they plan to eat quickly and go right back out somewhere by Overset Pond.  We all sit down and Dad starts to pass the food. He hands the chicken and says the same thing every year. Here, have a piece of roadrunner. It’s been running around the hen yard for so long, we will probably break our teeth trying to eat it. Ma always replies the same way, Beryl Martin, that is a chicken and it is perfectly good. No matter. All through the meal, Dad will take a piece of chicken and hum..hmmm, good roadrunner this year. Ma says he should be grateful we have chicken on the table, but he just grins and taps his foot, which is what he always does when he knows he has made her sputter. He decides he will have a piece of the pie, but Ma sends me to get the red jello in the glass bowl which has set in the snow bank overnight.  Curt and I especially like jello and the jiggling it does.

We have just finished eating when Dad tells the boys it is time to go back out hunting and before Ma and I can blink an eye, they are out the door and in the car.  She looks at me and I look at her and we both look at the pile of dishes to be washed in the black iron sink and put away in the little cupboard.

Another roadrunner Thanksgiving is over.  It was fun while it lasted and I think Dad just announced with no words that now we have eaten, all can return to normal…as normal as it gets around here.


School Days Part 5 or the Ties that Bind

Mom school reworkThe days are long now in mid-November. There is enough snow to make walking miserable from our door to the main road for the bus.  Once the bus comes, we huddle together on the wooden benches and with the little heat escaping from the front, manage to keep warm. Most of us live in houses heated by wood stoves anyway, with a lot of the heat escaping through cracks to the great outdoors, so any heat is welcome on the way to school.

I hate getting bundled up to go to school. It feels like ten layers as I peel them off in the school hall way. Mrs. Lurvey is seated at her desk and I can tell she is ready for the day’s lessons in all three grades she teaches. Sometimes, if I get my work done, I listen to her teach the other two grades and learn a lot. I figure next year when I go into the seventh grade, I will already know some of the arithmetic and geography and other subjects she writes on the blackboard.

I sit behind Kay, as I have done for many years and we are best friends. But, aha, she is also Rex’s girl friend, I think and has been for a few years now. I don’t ask him because he will deny it anyway. She has been writing a note for some time now and I bet she is going to try pass it to Rex. Well, she knows how strict Mrs. Lurvey is about note passing, but maybe she can time it right .

Rex is passing by handing out papers for us to work on and Kay slips him a note. I stare straight ahead, but oh, no! Mrs. Lurvey has seen her. Now what will happen? I don’t want them getting a strap on the hand. I think she has other ideas because she is in a corner by her desk, where she hangs her coat and is tying something around her waist. I don’t dare stare, but she is calling Kay and Rex to the corner.

I cannot believe it! She has an apron on and has tied one of Rex’s hands to one string and Kay’s to the other. They are tied to her apron strings and they have to follow her around as she teaches. How embarrassing is that!  Kay seems to be taking it much better than my brother, who is staring down at his shoes and his face is red.

I am very busy, pencil to the paper and finishing up some arithmetic. I don’t want Mrs. Lurvey thinking I have anything to do with the note passing. I have no idea how long it has been because I won’t even look at the clock, but my stomach is growling.  No one has even snickered all the time they have followed her around…not even the big boys in the eighth grade. They know they will be the next to be tied or something even worse.  I hear her announce it is time for lunch and the town kids are dismissed. Kay is untied and out the door she flies. She will be back by one o’clock and act as though not a thing has happened. Rex has come out to get his brown bag to take in as we eat at our desks this time of year.

We all will be so glad when we can go out in the school yard and sit in nice green grass to eat our lunch..what a long time off that is. Rex stopped coming out to eat about a week after school started. One day after school, I asked him where he was and he said he ate inside at his desk. I asked him why and he said one day he went in for something and Mrs. Lurvey was playing a record and he asked her if that was Sammy Kaye. She looked surprised and said it was and was he one of the Martins that liked music and were so musical. Well, Rex said he told her that yes, he was and she asked him if he would like to listen to some records at noon if she brought them from home. He jumped at the chance and after that, til snow flew, he ate with Mrs. Lurvey while they listened to the big band sounds of Guy Lombardo and Sammy Kaye.  He made me promise not to tell the other kids and they never found out where he was.

So, today, I reckon it’s a good thing there is snow on the ground and no promise of big band music, because I don’t think Rex could look her in the face after looking at her back all morning.  It proves to me that Mrs. Lurvey has no favorites. If  you’re good, she is kind and thoughtful, but you have to obey her rules or else. It doesn’t matter if  you’re musical and love the same music she does, she is the ruler of her classroom. I don’t think Rex will forget that right away.

One thing for sure…we won’t be discussing today’s happenings at home tonight. Some things are better left unsaid.