It always seemed that way. After Christmas in the little house, the winter dragged on merciless, with keeping warm the main objective. We woke to a cold house, warmed quickly enough by my mother’s kindling and a drop of kerosene from the little blue metal container kept by the end of the wood box. Snow had melted from the wood so after the kindling caught, Ma found the driest wood to get the wood stove hot enough to heat water for the morning coffee. How wonderful that coffee smelled as it circled up the stairway to the attic where I slept.
I dreaded leaving my “covers”as we called them. I was fast on my feet, dressed in a flash and down the stairs to stand near the stove, but just out of the way of my mother who was busily frying eggs and sliced potato for my father’s breakfast.
Dad hated the winter and made no bones about it. The car sat at the main road with a narrow path shoveled to the house, so he could haul the blocks from the mill for fire starters. Another path was shoveled to the outhouse, which sat at the edge of the woods.
Roland, my oldest brother, made sure that my younger brother, Curt and I were neat and clean for school by scrubbing us thoroughly around the neck and ears and sometimes the water felt downright cold. Then on with the long brown stockings Ma made me wear all winter. We were bundled up so we could hardly move to wait for Cass Howe and the school bus van. The boys had the woolen leggings, some with red and some with green stripes at the top and the rubber buckled boots over their shoes. Sometimes a buckle would be broken and it would click clack as they walked. Someone had given me over shoes that slipped on over my shoes and the snow sometimes soaked through the bottom of my brown stockings.
We took turns watching for Cass to pass by and turn around and we ran furiously to the main road to climb aboard. Cass , many times, had a cigar lit and I hated the smell. One time I was sick and didn’t go to school and the next time I climbed into the van, Cass looked at me and said, “Did my cigar make you sick?” I was scared of Cass for some reason and shook my head NO and sat down on one of the benches that lined the sides of the van. Maybe he had noticed my face looked green some mornings. But, no, it was just a winter germ that got me and not Cass’s cigar.
January crept like a snail into February and there was Valentine’s Day to look forward to at school! We decorated a box with pink, red and white crepe paper with a huge slot on top! Some kids had valentines that came in packages all separated. Ma said she had to buy the books of valentines that we could punch out and sign. She said they were just as pretty and I am sure they were, but oh, how I wanted to have a box and let them spread out on the table while I selected the best ones for my very best friends! Oh, and there were the valentines with a lolipop attached. Life did not get any better than that!! Ma said we were lucky we had any to give so be happy!
I wondered if our camp at Indian Pond was snowed in and what it looked like in winter. We only went once in the late fall when Dad said we would find cranberries in the bog behind the camp…and we did! When my brothers were older, they snowshoed into the camp with friends and stayed a week-end. It was rumored they ate the liver of a hedgehog or something or other, but I did not want to hear of it. Dad told them just to leave the camp standing and not burn it down. They did leave it standing and they didn’t burn it down.
We had the usual nights of sliding in the moonlight and the tire burning skate sessions on Twitchell Pond. Roland built a ski jump and could soar over it without falling. But after weeks and weeks of cold and snow, we were ready to see spring come.
I wanted to walk the half mile to my Uncle Roy’s without the wind from the lake hitting like an icy whip in the face. We were all tired of smelling wet mittens dry on the side of the wood stove and boots lined up by the front door. It felt like we were in prison.
Spring always arrived and with it, joy of our mud season vacation. The weeks when Rowe Hill and other unpaved roads became a rutted picture of chocolate pudding. Even Cass, cigar and all, threw up his hands when that happened. School was closed for at least a week and again we could see the little green shoots come sticking up around the patches of snow by the brook.
That is when I first began to realize that winter does not last forever; it only feels like it sometimes.