Cold tickles my face
as I look through a frost rimmed window pane at the thickness of
the snow that covers my Grand Fathers barn's slanted roof. Soon,
my eyes are drawn from the barn to look down at a wisp of snow
that the wind had blown through a crack onto the wooden window
sill. I was happy now that now the wind was calm after a night of
frigid blast, then blowing blizzard conditions that had rocked
the house. Looking up, I admired the sun as it shone brightly
against a totally cloudless bright blue morning sky. As bright as
the sun was it had not gained the strength yet to melt the eight
inches of fresh white powder. The snow was so deep and the snow
drifts so massive that they completely covered my grandfather's
'42 Chevy, which had been setting up on blocks in the side yard
for years. If the old orange tractor had not been sticking out
above the snow drift I would have thought the hump that the car
made was just another huge snow drift. The outside world now was
a winter's wonder land right out of a Norman Rockwell
Losing interest in
the snow drifts, I began staring at two sets of foot prints in
the snow that lead towards the little timber. The parallel tracks
were made by my older my cousins John and Tony. Following in
family tradition, they have taken John's single shot 22 rifle on
a hunting excursion. Or so they say, more likely they are just
going target shooting since, I saw them stuff their pockets with
several discarded green bean tin cans.
My eyes squint as I
follow the tracks from the shade of 4 large snow covered oak
trees out into the sparkling snow covered lane, passing through
the now dormant wheat field, that lead to the little timber. I am
brooding with disappointed that I am still in the house left
behind. More than anything I want to be making a third set of
track in the thick snow. But, being only 8 years old I have to
say in the house.
As I wipe my runny
nose with my shirt sleeve my Aunt La Rue walks up behind me to
give me a big hug. Looking over my shoulder to see where the hug
came from La Rue said, "Get away from that window Alan…you'll
catch you death of cold standing by that leaky old thing. Looking
at her I said, "Aunt La Rue, you are my favorite aunt because you
look like my mother."La Rue smiles and gives me a kiss on the
cheekily Rue said, "Come on to the front room, Pa Pa is going to
light, a fire."With some trepidation, I allow myself to be pulled
by the neck away from the window and ushered in the correct
The kitchen now
behind me, I walk through a tobacco smoke filled dining room. One
cannot help to notice the heat of the black oil stove off to my
right. As I side step around my grandfather's tan recliner, I
take a quick a look to the left towards the living room, called
by every one, the front porch. I take comfort in seeing my father
looking through his black rim glasses watching the Army and Navy
football game playing on a Black and White TV.As always, he
notices me as I pass by him. I smile, as we have a moment
together, as I pass by and he gives me a wink and a smile with
his kind brown eyes.
Impatient with my
shuffling, Aunt La Rue gently pushed me from behind into the
front room of the white clap board Missouri farm house. All ready
in the room are my grandmother, Aunt Alberta, Cousin Glenda and
my mother as they watched my grandfather place wadded up
newspaper under several logs to start at fire. Satisfied with the
paper, he took out a yellow Zippo lighter with an imbedded trout
fly in the handle to first light a home rolled cigarette then the
paper kindling for the logs.
I run ahead of Aunt
La Rue to my mother. She sat next to my grandmother on a silver
couch. In my mother's arms, I give her a hug and a slurpy kiss.
Still hugging her, I notice that In between my grandmother and
mother on the couch laid souvenir pillows either made or
purchased by member of the family. My mother did not stop talking
as; she gave me a hug back then gently pushed me towards my
Cousin Glenda sitting on the floor by the now roaring fire. Next
to Glenda set a bag of marshmallows and two sticks.
"Glenda," I asked,
"Can I have a marshmallow raw?" Not taking her eyes off the stick
she had just pick up and was sharpening with a black pen knife to
a point Glenda ask, "Why would you want to eat them uncooked? We
are going to roast them over the fire."Crossing my legs as I sit
down to then rest my chin on my two fists I said, "I don't like
them all burnt and runny."Always nice to me, Glenda opened the
bag to hand me a marshmallow to eat. As I stuffed the Marshmallow
all at once into my mouth, I listened to my mother, her mother
and two sisters' in conversation.
Mother said. "Did you
see the boys coming back yet?" La Rue replied, "No, no sign of
them yet. I didn't expect them to be returning so soon anyways."
After a pause, Mother said, "I hope they are not walking on the
pond, I'm afraid they may fall through the ice."Alberta chimes
in, "Oh Marjorie be quite. Its 10 degrees out there. That water's
got to be frozen solid. And, even if they did fall through the
ice that pond can't be over 2 feet deep."La Rue said, "What would
they want to walk on the ice anyway."Mother replied, "Well, I
don't want them to get soaking wet."
My grandmother spoke
to my grandfather. "John you better go out and get some more
wood. As fast as it's burning that little bit you have there
won't last long."Grandpa finished arranging the logs for a better
fire with a metal poker before he left the room without comment.
I could hear his foot steps creak as he walked to the back porch
and out the door to the wood pile. As he returned Grandpa gave a
loud sneeze that could be herd for miles. Grandma said, "Did you
hear that? I don't know what I'm going to do with that man."
Grandpa arrived to lay his arm full of split wood in a cardboard
box by the fire place. After standing up straight he took out a
white handkerchief from his back pocket to blow his nose loudly.
Ignoring the women watching him he exits the room pulling the
door shut behind him, I presume he shut the door to not have Dad,
Uncle Bob and Uncle Jay and his' football game
With the fire raging
and comfortably warm, I stretch out on the floor watching Glenda
cook herself a marshmallow. Through the door I hear Grandpa's
recliner open and muffled words spoken In Grandpa's voice. Taking
my eyes off the mesmerizing fire, I gaze around the room at wall
paper that looked like corn stalks, to finally settle looking at
my mother as she looks abruptly at the dining room door.
A knock and scraping
sound had come from the next room.La Rue said, "You think that
was the boys? Are they home already?"Alberta said, "No that's
just Arnold leaning back in that old chair again," while snapping
shut her brown cigarette case to then light another
After inhaling and
exhaling her cigarette smoke Alberta smiled mischievously and
said, "Do you remember when Uncle Chester used to bang his cane
on the floor in the upstairs room when we kept playing that same
record over and over on the phonograph?"My mother said, "What was
that song, "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah?"
After a brief pause with the sisters looking back and forth at
one another Alberta responded, "You think we could remember. We
must have played it a thousand times." Alberta continued, "We
would crank the Victoria up all the way to make it play real fast
then not wind it up when it was at the end of the record and it
would play real slow."La Rue laughed then said, "When Chester
used to bang on the floor we would get mad then let the record
catch on the skip to play over and over the same line. Uncle
Chester used to get so mad he would come down stairs and chase us
with his cane?"
Grandma said, "Poor
old uncle Chester. You kids tormented him so. You were so
terrible. After all he was a disabled World War I veteran."La Rue
asked, "What happened to him during the war?"Alberta said,
"Didn't he get gassed or some thing like that?"Grandma said, "I
don't know. All I remember is he had trouble walking and
finished, La Rue got up from her chair to walk over to the black
painted mantel over the fireplace to retrieve her cigarettes.
Taking one out of the pack, she set pack back down to walk to the
door that lead to the houses' front foyer. After she shut the
door behind her Alberta said, "She'll worry herself to death
about those two boys. She's in the North bedroom right now
looking for them. My mother said, "Should we send Pa Pa out to
look for them?"Grandma said, "Oh! Margie, let them be. They'll be
ok.They're almost grown men now."Alberta said laughing, "I guess
they are smart enough to come home before they freeze to death.
"My mother said, "I wish that they hadn't taken that old gun with
them." Alberta said, "John knows how to be safe."
With out a word being
said La Rue walks back into the room to sit in back in her chair.
The fire cracks and sizzles drawing everyone's attention for a
moment. After an awkward pause La Rue said, "Didn't our first
radio only have head phones?'Alberta said, "That's right. It only
had two head phones and I remember we use to fight all the time
to see got to wear them. "Grandma said, "Mersey sakes, you kids
were terrible, fighting over those head phones. I use to have
make you just listen to one ear piece. That way 4 of you could
listen to the radio at the same time."My mother said, "La Rue,
you and Wilfred were the worse. You two would fight all the time.
I remember one time you got in a fight upstairs and rolled all
the way down the stairs together."Grandma said, let's not talk
about that. And, buy the way, Alberta I need to talk to you later
about your brother"
While I eat another
marshmallow out of the bag, Glenda makes herself one with her
sharpened stick over the fire. Pulling the marshmallow off the
stick Glenda looked over at my mother.
Mother said, "I'm
afraid of John going a way to the Air Force after he graduates
from Bradley University this spring. I don't know why he has to
go off to that old war in Vietnam anyway." Alberta said, "He will
have to go to boot camp and flight training first. It could be a
year or more before he will be stationed over there. Anyway, he
will be stationed in Thailand not Vietnam."
Let's hope, the war
will be over before he even gets there.Le Rue said, "I know that
we have to stop the spread of communism but, I have to tell you I
will do everything I can to keep my Tony out of the war. I don't
want him over there getting killed for nothing."Alberta scoffed,
"For nothing? Where will it end? First China, Eastern Europe,
Korea now Vietnam, where will it end? Do you want the communist
marching down Truce Street?"La Rue answered, Truce Street? Do you
believe that? Anyway they wouldn't get much off of that street,
anyway. Tony is my only son and his father's only blood line, he
shouldn't have to go to Vietnam.
Alberta said, "Next
thing you know you will be telling Tony, when he turns 18, to
burn his draft card like those fools out at Berkeley. You know
the one that took over that building. What was it called Sprout's
Hall or something? They took that building and held it for 3
days. I'm glad that those 7 or 800 kids got arrested. They need
to lock them up and throw away the key. They are no better than
your common traitors giving aid to the enemy." My mother said,
"Quit it you two. I wish you wouldn't talk about such things.
Your own boys may have to go over there and if that war is not
ended soon maybe Alan will have to go. I don't want to think
'Mother can you hear
me?" A voiced calls out. Alberta said, "Is that Johnny? They must
have come in the front door."I set up to look at the front of the
house as both Alberta and La Rue sprang up to help our now
freezing wet returning hunters.
I could hear Aunt La
Rue say, "You two are soaking wet. Go into the north bed room and
take off those wet cloths while I get you some dry ones. You are
going to catch you death of cold."While Alberta waited outside
the door La Rue went to gather some dry cloths.
Grandma said, "Well,
I'm glad there back. The football game will be over soon and the
men will want their dinner. We better get in the kitchen," as she
arose from the couch my mother did as well and followed