Monday, March 24, 2014

A Fine Country Morning

My bed was pushed under the eaves at the top of the stairs. The steps were narrow, wooden and of uneven lengths. My uncle Roy had replaced the outside door and stairs by framing in this newer staircase inside, and I was grateful to not have to go outside when I went to bed. In winter it was frosty upstairs without any heat, but in summer it was sultry and stuffy, like tonight.
There was one small window beside my bed, but it wasn't big enough to catch any stray breezes. I lay on top of the covers on the bed and listened to the silences of a night on the farm. Sometime after midnight I finally fell asleep, awakening to the roosters' crowing and the smell of strong coffee from the kitchen below. After listening and enjoying the roosters crows for a few minutes I jumped up and knelt on the wooden floor planks beneath the window. The soft grey pre-dawn began to lighten to the rosy glow of a summer morning. The animals were stirring, as another July day began on the farm. I knew uncle Roy was up and aunt Joyce was busy in the kitchen.
The trees looked freshly green against the pale blue dawn sky and the grass looked dewy. It all felt so be alive with all the possibilities of the day stretched out before me. My uncle banged the screen door below as he left the house. I watched him follow the dirt path to the gray barn, carefully unlatching and then re-latching the gate. One of the roosters came running to the attack as usual, and received a swift kick from his work boot, also as usual. The hens, geese and ducks surrounded him as he threw the grain down in the hen yard, then he disappeared through the barn door.
I hurried to pull on some cut-offs, an old tee shirt and some tennis shoes, before jumping down the stairs, kissing my aunt on the cheek as she stood at the sink, and then taking my turn to bang the back screen door shut. I ran to the barn and slipped into the dark cool interior, the strong scent of fresh hay tickling my nose. As my eyes adjusted, I saw my uncle seated on his three-legged stool in front of Bossy, the brown cow. His sure hands pulled rhythmically on her pink teats, and the ringing sound of the milk streams hitting the tin pail filled the barn. The barn cats prowled around the stool, and every so often he would shoot a stream of warm milk at one of them, hitting their face and they would have the fun of licking it up. Bossy's calf was in the stall next to her, and was still curled up asleep in the hay.
I asked Uncle Roy what we were going to do that day, and he told me he needed my help in the hay field. He wanted me to drive his old '57 pick-up pulling the hay wagon behind it, and we would start right after breakfast. When he finished the milking we walked back to the house with the pail of warm milk, the thick cream rising to the top. He poured it into the separator and my aunt ladled out some of that thick rich cream for our coffee. We settled onto the benches in the dinning nook, and ate our scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage with the pleasure that comes from knowing it was all home-grown goodness. The sun was up now over the horizon and the early rays were slanting through the white ruffled curtains around us.

It's been 43 years since that morning, but I have never forgotten the sense of well-being that pervaded my spirit, the joy of living and the joy the city girl felt at being outdoors in the country.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It happened on March 12, 1946

It was just before Thanksgiving and Frank had been cooped up in the bottom of the transport ship since Hawaii. His destination was within sight, and all the soldiers crowded against the deck rails, pushing and shoving for their first sight of home. They yelled and cheered as the boat pulled in to port at the Seattle docks, just waiting to spill down the gangway to freedom. The young Frank was just as eager as anyone. Dressed up in his dress uniform he let the mass of men carry him along the docks. He could just see his buddy Dennis caught up in a group behind and to his left. Dennis had promised to go with him to visit a friend of his mothers', Minnie Kuentzel. After they ate all the food they could push in, they were going to find a dance hall downtown and dance the rest of the night away.
They broke away from the group, and hopped on a trolley that would take them from the docks uphill to the foot of Queen Anne Hill which was where Mrs. Kuentzel lived. They switched trolleys at the bottom of the hill and rode straight up Queen Anne Avenue, to the top, then walked the rest of the way to the house. The doorbell chimed as he pushed the button, and a short woman with gray curly hair answered. She was expecting them, and as he walked into the entry he could have died at the good smells coming from the kitchen. It seemed he hadn't had a real meal in years, and he could barely contain himself. He guessed that doing his mother this favor was going to turn out all right. Mrs. Kuentzel introduced him to her husband George, who was sitting comfortably in his favorite red leather chair, then excused herself to go and get dinner on the table. Frank couldn't wait, and unashamedly followed right behind her into the kitchen and into all the wonderful smells of cooking food. To his surprise there was a girl at the sink with her back towards him peeling potatoes. He walked over to look over her shoulder and she turned to the left so he couldn't see her hands or face. She had on a white apron over her dress tied around her waist, and as he moved to the left, she turned right. This continued until Minnie turned around and introduced him to her niece Susie, who she explained was living with them. Susie had to turn then but kept her eyes down as they were introduced. No one had told him there was a pretty niece at Minnie's house. Things were looking better all the time. 
Minnie shooed him out of the kitchen so he joined Dennis who was chatting with George in the living room. About a half an hour later they were all seated around the oval dinning table, loaded with great food, and looking out at the view of Seattle at night. As promised, Dennis and Frank filled up their plates three times, until they were stuffed. Frank kept looking at the pretty niece and thinking about how long it had been since he had seen a real girl. Susie cleared the table and Frank found a bit more room when Minnie offered him a slice of lemon pie with coffee. He told her news of his parents, but he hadn't seen them in two years. George asked the two of them questions about their Palau Island base and their work and the war and how they felt now that it was over. When the ladies got up to do the dishes Frank offered to help Susie and so found himself at the kitchen sink with a dishrag in his hand. They chatted a bit as they worked and Frank asked her if she would like to go dancing with them. He told her his favorite was Glenn Miller and how they played his music back at camp. She in turn told him she was going to a Youth for Christ Rally after the dishes were done, and that she didn't dance. Frank had a decision to make. Dancing or the niece? He was torn but asked if he and his buddy could tag along with her? She said yes, if they wanted, and after she got her coat on they walked to the bus and rode downtown to the Rally.
Frank and Dennis returned to their ship late that night, and Mrs. Kuentzel had invited them to the house as much as they wanted while their ship was at port.
It turned out that Frank spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Kuentzel's, spending each night on the ship while waiting for it to take him back to San Pedro where he had signed up. When the ship finally sailed in January, he was engaged to marry the cute niece and they set the date for March 12th, two months later.
Susie spent her time getting ready, while Frank hunted down a new suit, which wasn't easy with all the demand. He had a photo taken that he sent Susie to keep her company until March, making sure she didn't forget him.
Soon enough, he was back with his parents for the wedding. They got married on a Tuesday afternoon in the chapel at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle, with Susie's best friend June as bride's maid and Susie's brother Harold as best man.  
 The soldiers returning from war wasted no time in making up for lost time. Frank took the niece back home to Los Angeles, stopping along the California coast for a brief honeymoon. He was ready to start
life after war.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Looking Forward To Spring

 Snow is still on the ground, but I have a bit of spring in my house!  My husband brought these two little pots home the day before my birthday, March 1st.  I couldn't believe how perfect they were, just what our table was needing as a little promise of spring ahead.
 The white hyacinth is so fragrant too.  What a treat.

And I must show you my table runner, while I'm at it.  After Valentine's day I pondered what I should put in the center of the table next.  Since spring was coming and my birthday was close and blue is my favorite color, I decided that something blue would be nice.  It seemed like the perfect time to get out this crocheted table runner that my sister, JoAnn, made for me.  I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed it on my table the last few weeks.  Family love, favorite color and hope of spring makes for much cheer in my heart!  Having the kind of year where my head is clear enough to even think about creating atmosphere is a reason for much cheer as well!