Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Winter Memories of Pennsylvania

Sorry for the delay between the most recent post and this. A number of things came up, as they tend to do in anyone's life.
I write the morning of the great national winter storm of 2011. News from around the country is a little hard for me to pick up--my radio keeps buzzing out, and I use my television solely for watching movies --but we seem so far to be all right, and I hope no one else is worse off than we are.
I also hope I don't come to regret this upbeat assessment of our own status.
Looking from my window, I can see trees coated with clear ice, and a townscape and landscape barely pushing through a deep blanket of white. Once in a while--a GREAT while, at that-- something moves on the street two blocks away. As a rule it flashes an official light--specifically orange-yellow, which seems to have something to do with snow removal.
I am glad to be indoors, with my books and my cat and my pennywhistle and harmonica. But I remember the country winters of my childhood.
I remember one school snow day in the years I spent on the farm. Just one. We were a farming community, and snow days were a luxury we could not afford. Better to ingrain that into the children while we were young.
And ingrained it was.
Even on normal days I had to walk a mile and a half to school and a mile and a half back. This didn't change when there was a foot of snow on the ground. By the time I walked the half-mile-long dirt road, and the blacktopped road down to Normal Square my "arctics" would often be full of snow, and my feet would be wet all day. Along the walk my hands would lose circulation, encased as they were in their mittens, and I thought I could not bear the pain. I was told by someone to take off my mittens, rub my hands in the snow, and put the mittens back on again. To my delight, this restored warmth at once. Someone else told me it was very dangerous to do this; but I kept doing it and no bad results ensued.
Sometimes, even on such wintry days, we got a break going home. Russell, the farmer who was our landlord, not only ran the 165-acre farm, but had a job as a coal miner in nearby Summit Hill to support his expensive farming "habit." Russell didn't get any snow days either; and once in a while, even through what looked like the White Witch's kingdom, we would hear the sound of his rickety old car coming, racket-y, racket-y, racket-y. That meant a ride the rest of the way home.
And it was good to arrive early back in our home, to the warmth generated by our little coal stove and kerosene heater, and the warm glow of the kerosene lamps.

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