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!


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