True Winter Tales: Today's pick
By Stephanie Rideout (Marysvale, NL)
Lying under handmade quilts so heavy, I can't turn over against the weight. Snuggled in with my baby sister and the mattress so old we sink towards the middle in a heap. My body is warm and toasty, but my nose is cold and red; I keep sniffling. Mom comes in to wake me for school. She has dad's bathrobe, (which he never wears), ready to wrap me in. The air is so cold I can see my breath; the window is frosted over. Mom holds her warm hand against it to melt the ice: "Snow last night! Hurry up now, so you don't freeze. The kitchen is warm."
I jump up, pulling on my vamps. I slip and slide on the wooden stairs; the vamps are real wool, lots of colours; my Nan used the odds and ends that she had left over from our sweaters. My flannel nightgown was too long last year when nan made it, but now it is half way up my shins....hope she sews me a new one soon.
I race downstairs, pushing aside the heavy quilt that is nailed to the archway. The oven is going on broil, and the door is left down to warm the kitchen. There's a smelly propane heater in the middle of the room. I need to pee, but the bathroom is freezing...can I hold it?
Dad is home. He always is in the winter. We have power, but no oil for the furnace. He wont hear talk of mom going to welfare. We always make do.
The kettle is boiled. Mom pours hot, sweet tea into a saucer and blows on it; a slice of homemade bread ready to be dipped in. She has a dishpan in the kitchen sink full of hot soapy water so we can have a wash before school. My pants and shirt are in the dryer to warm them up. I'm so excited because it is my favourite outfit - purple pants and shirt. The shirt has orange footprints all over it; hand-me-downs from the cousins in St. John's. They have so much clothes! And it looks new, no scuffed knees, no stains!
"Now, right to school, no foolishness. If your mitts is wet, you'll have to stay in at recess. Hurry up, don't have your cousins in here to see that quilt up, you knows what Flo is like, the whole Arm will know we ran out of oil."
Stocking cap, mitts, scarf, ski-doo boots, parka - ready! Nan made all us girls white scarves, mitts and hats, but with a different colour trim for each of us. Mine has pink through it, and it matches my coat too.
At recess, there's enough snow to go sliding. Dad bought me a coaster for Christmas, and everyone wants a turn. Freezing again, blood red cheeks, wet hands.
Race home at lunch for some tea and bread, and a few fishcakes nan sent up.
Were we poor? I didn't think so.
Stephanie Rideout is from Marysvale, NL