Monday, July 13, 2015

July 13, 2015 - The Old House

Thinking about an old home on a dusty road a long time ago.  The windows never did shut quite right.  They stuck to the frame in the summer, and when you finally got them up, you had to jam an old stick underneath to keep them that way.  In the winter, they kept Old Man Winter out, but just barely.  Jack Frost, on the other hand, was given free reign, and he designed masterpieces for us every night that delighted us in the morning.

The front door and back door both slammed easily.  There was nothing to hold them open and nothing to gently close them behind you.  They were old doors, and we only had old skeleton keys for them.  It didn’t matter much because we didn’t lock them anyway.  Oh, how I do remember my mother yelling, “Close the door, you’re letting the flies in!”  The old fan from the 1920’s that looked like a whirligig would chop them up easy enough with its imposing metal blades.  But we never told her that.

So many memories in old houses . . .

The pipes were all on the outside of the walls in the kitchen and the bathroom because the house was built before indoor plumbing came about.  It was built before electricity, too, come to think of it.  There weren’t many outlets in the old place, but we really didn’t need many.  Most things were done by hand, from making pie dough, to washing delicates on the old washboard outside, to opening cans.  There were very few electrical appliances, as I recall.

There was an old ringer washer for the “dungarees” we all wore and my father’s work clothes.  I think people call them blue jeans now.  My mother used to have to put her foot on the wall and pull with all her might to get those wet clothes through the ringer because that part was done by hand.  Or if it worked through electricity, the ringer must have been broken then.  I never asked.  There was no spin cycle in those days, and the very wet clothes were hung in the yard to drip and drip.  In the winter, they were hung in the attic where they would ice up a bit but then somehow dry.  Evaporation occurs even then, I guess, but I liked the wind blown clothes better because they smelled so nice.  The sheets on my bed always put me fast asleep at night because they smelled like the meadow.

We were very poor but I didn’t know it.  One time I overheard a conversation about money I was not meant to hear and it worried me very much.  I asked my mother if we were poor.  She laughed and opened her purse and showed me some coins in it.  There were a couple of quarters, a few dimes and nickels, and several pennies but no bills.  “No, look how much money is here!” she said.  I felt greatly relieved at the sight and went about my merry way, enjoying another magical day.  She went about hers without saying another word.  I didn’t worry about money again for a long time after that.

There were a lot of mouths to feed, but somehow there was always food on the table.  Everything was made from scratch and was utterly delicious.  Already prepared food was not something we could afford, and I still have the constitution of an ox, so I’m very grateful now we couldn’t eat that kind of food.  Homemade biscuits were my favorite and flour was very cheap.  “Don’t be a glutton!” she’d say.  Everything was cooked in cast iron pans that were used on the old stove top as well as inside the stove.  Even breads and pies came out nice.  To this day, I still use old cast iron pans.  The new pans make food taste different, and I don’t care for it one bit.

It was all a long time ago.  The house is gone now; they took it down.  It exists only in my memory and in a few old photos.  But I can still see every room in it as if I had walked through it just yesterday.  There was the old wooden fold-down ironing board that I always bumped into--“Watch where you’re going, clumsy!” she’d yell--and the ancient old dining room table I still see in my mind’s eye when I open any door these days.  The carved woodwork over the old kitchen sink still makes me smile when I think about it.  What I wouldn’t give to wake up just once more to good old Jack Frost’s paintings on the ancient window panes.

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