A CHILLY MEMORY

No matter how hard I try to forget January’s cold in Greenwood Center, it persists. After Christmas, the rest of the winter looked bleak and felt more than bleak. Cold greeted me in my attic bed each morning, with the frost on the nails through the roof and the one window completely covered with frost. It was a prison and no way to escape!  When I was ten years old, I tried to talk my mother into letting me free of the long, brown ugly cotton stockings she insisted upon my wearing. There was no compromise coming. The stockings would stay. I actually would rather be cold than to wiggle those things on every morning. Instead, I took to wearing slacks or a pair of my older brother’s pants to school. Nobody looked and pointed. Nobody cared. It was every kid for himself , I guess, back in the late forties and early fifties.

There seemed to be an abundance of snow…always. Dad left his car by the road as plows were non-existent then and the distance to the house to long to shovel. Uncle Louie, clad in his dark green wool pants, flannel shirt and heavy coat shoveled Gram’s driveway with not a flake left in the shoveled path. Dad was the hurry up and lets get this stuff out of the way kind of man and it showed! He had a flannel shirt like Uncle Louie wore, thanks to Gram Martin’s Christmas gifts, but that was the only similarity when it came to shoveling.

By the time the kitchen wood stove produced a little heat, Ma and Dad were on their way to work and we four kids just danced around the kitchen, eating breakfast and trying to make sure we were ready for Cass Howe’s van to come pick us up for school. We were still cold when we hurried to the main road. We were cold in the van. What welcome relief to enter the school with the warmth radiating off our cheeks as we put our lunch boxes down and shed our coats.

The only way we managed to tolerate this long cold month was to participate in any form of fun one could find in the snowy tundra. Dragging our sleds to the top of my Grandmother’s pasture, pushing, grunting, running and flopping on the sled to make our way to the bottom of the hill was an activity that made us forget for awhile just how cold it was. Skating on Twitchell Pond to the old tires burning ( and smelling) we forgot the cold…until our cheeks started tingling.

I hated January because I couldn’t walk the roads and visit neighbors as I did in the summer. Bundled up like a monster, one had to remove boots, shoes, coats and all the outer garments and by that time, it was time to put them all on again and go home.  Instead I busied myself at the kitchen table with my Gram’s old wallpaper catalogs and her Sears and Montgomery Ward Catalogs, which she parted with after the holidays. The dolls came from the latter and the wallpaper catalog provided me with pretty prints to cut out for dresses. It was a treasure trove!  We were warm in the kitchen with the wet mittens drying and providing quite an aroma  at the same time.

I loved to read but the attic was a bit chilly, so I tried to find a spot in the kitchen where it was warm to curl up with my Nancy Drew books. Ma always cooked on weekends so I tried to stay out of her way. My favorite memory is being with her as she made her “Finnan Haddie” as she called it ..I am not sure if that is the right name or not. She took fresh fish and doctored it up with milk and seasonings and put it in the oven..and oh that smelled so good and tasted even better.

The warmth and the oven smells seemed to soothe me into a mood to take on the next week of the cold which I hated so much.

Now I have all the warmth I want; the space I want ..but still some mornings I feel January’s cold creeping into my bones. It could be my imagination, but just looking at a frosted window will do it. 

I look at the picture of Dad’s car parked by the main road in all that snow and I shiver…but I’d like to live just one of those days one more time.

car

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