Winter Worms a’Gnawing

gram mI do pretty well until the middle of February each year. By this time I am beginning to pause in mid-chores and my mind wanders back to Greenwood Center…maybe the fact that I will have been on earth for 78 years come next week has something to do with it. This gaining a year in winter just adds to the agitation.

There is the photograph of my Grammy Martin. I dearly love this photo right down to the little blue sneakers she always wore. Behind her is the huge rock, divided by nature, where I used to sit and day dream. There is the chicken coop …that magic place where shiny glass eggs sat in the nests and Gram laughed when I thought it was the real thing. Near the rock was a little green garden, ever growing, and she broke off a long green stem each time we passed. Each time we chewed them, I told her it tasted like onion. It sure does, she always answered.

Gram was a central figure in my growing up days but she couldn’t be with me every minute. That is where imagination came into play. Ma bought Shredded Wheat cereal, which I hated and called bales of hay, but I loved the little cardboard drawings and stories that separated those bales of hay. I believe they were called the Teenie-Weenie family and at age 6 or 7, I spent hours in the dirt with my own little family of stick people living in the little stick and rock village.  After Ma graduated to buying puffed wheat in a big plastic bag for Curt, I promptly gave up the stick family and concentrated on the two trucks my brothers owned. Rex and I played in the tiny dirt area in front of the house and pigweed made up the logs in our trucks as we hauled them to the make believe mill.

A lawn never got a chance to grow because we were always outside, always building tree houses, waging battles with the cousins or playing ball. Ah, baseball. One old bat, one old glove and we were set for a game. The “game” consisted of two people: pitcher and batter. First base was a pole, second base a rock half way down the driveway and third base was a piece of cardboard or whatever was handy placed near a tiny flower garden I had grown from my Grammy’s offerings.

We had so little in comparison to today’s youth, I often wonder how we survived! Books took us to far away lands; Roland read his Hardy Boys first and then loaned them to me. I was deep into Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins until I discovered my father’s Police Gazette and my mother’s True Story magazines. These were read while they were busily working at the mill!

I read an article the other day on movie stars back in the late Forties and Fifties and suddenly I was back in time. My friend Shirley and I were laying on her bed surrounded by movie magazines and admiring the gowns and wondering what it would be like to live that kind of life. Sometimes, after school, Shirley invited me to stay over at her house . Now mind you, we were in high school and it was easy to imagine ourselves living the high life!

Shirley lived with her grandmother,  and  as it was in those days, she was another Grammy to me. Grammy Crockett! She always put another plate on the table, added some water to the soup or whatever, but she welcomed anyone into the house.  One could not help but be happy because she was so sweet and I always felt I could come there anytime , even unannounced, and be welcomed. It was years later that I realized Grammy Crockett had a real first name..Mary.

At this time of year, my father would have been cursing the snow drifts and delegating the chore of shoveling a path to the outhouse to one of my brothers. Dad hated shoveling, whereas my Uncle Louis was meticulous when it came to cleaning Gram’s driveway. Ah, the differences in siblings! Dad was a musician; I never heard Uncle Louis sing..so there you go. Dad hated anything to do with winter. He was always cold and he’d sit in the kitchen in his big morris chair with his right leg outstretched with sciatica. “Don’t hit my leg,” he’d bellow a dozen times a day whenever one of the kids passed by ….now suffering with the affliction myself, I can understand. But he sure made a lot of noise to little ears!

My mother would have been searching for two mittens that looked similiar, if not perfect, for us to wear to school. She had wooden racks to dry the clothes once they were washed with the scrub board and remarked constantly that she couldn’t wait til she could “hang ’em on the line” again.  

The wooden floor, with all its roughness, looked the worse for wear about this time of year and no one seemed to care. One could feel the air around the windows, so Ma would take tiny pieces of cloth and tuck them here and there during the coldest spells.

About this time, at least two of us had colds. Ma used her saved grease all warmed up for Rex’s chest during his awful croup sessions and the rest of us got Vicks Vaporub topped with a piece of warm flannel. She kept two bricks in the oven and at bed time wrapped pieces of cloth around them for our feet. No heating pad or electric blanket can feel as good as that brick at the foot of my bed in the middle of the winter.

Grammy Martin didn’t come to visit in the winter, but I knew she was just across the snowy field and probably making those raisin filled cookies she kept in a jar on the kitchen table.

Well, now you know some of the winter worms that gnaw away when I should be doing something productive. But, you know, it wouldn’t be bad to go back for just a day…using our imaginations again, feeling happy inside to be loved and welcomed and walking with my Gram to the chicken coop.

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