Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Winter Begins

It's 23 degrees on the thermometer as I get out of bed this morning. That seems unseasonably cold for early November. Six months ago spring was beginning. Now we're headed for short days, cold nights, frost, snow, more cold. The thought squeezes the heart and I have to tell myself to "have courage". Each day brings what it brings. Cold and snow are the least of things to worry about. And so I get up and start the day. With a clean washcloth I wipe the condensation from the windows; the inside air is still humid enough that it condenses on the cold panes at night when the thermostat is turned down. Even though the windows are double-pane, they are decades old, and new ones would be better insulated. Still, they serve their function and I don't mind wiping the moisture away in an effort to protect the wood frame from water that might drip downward. It's a small defensive action against winter and as the inside air dries out it will no longer be necessary except on the coldest of nights when the condensation will then be frost instead of water. I thank God for an energy-efficient furnace and a comfortable home. And I think of my grandmother.

It's late 1898 in Lee Township, Midland County, Michigan. Elise Susanne crawls out from under heavy quilts to stir the fire which has ebbed to glowing embers during the night. Her husband has already left the small cabin to tend to livestock. The children, three boys, are still in bed, snuggled together for warmth. As she rises from the low bed her first thought is a sorrowful one; last year's baby did not live. Her hand caresses the wood trunk wherein lie little shirts and cloths. She doesn't know two more babies are already growing in her womb. Nor does she know that one, the girl-child, will die within 30 days of birth nor that the boy-child, who will be the scrawnier and weaker of the two, will live to raise his own family of six. She focuses on caring for the ones who are snuggled nearby. One of them, the youngest, whimpers in his sleep and she glances over at her sons. August at seven is stubborn and strong-willed, much like his father. Heinrich, a year younger, was named after her father. He has a quiet temperament, much like herself. Carl, not yet four, trails his brothers everywhere they go, fussing and crying when he can't keep up with them. The cabin is small and the heat of the replenished fire will soon make it cozy. There are many chores to do today. Elise must finish her spinning. Her knitting has already produced warm sweaters for the two oldest. The youngest will have to wear the one handed down from Heinrich. Her husband, too, needs new socks. She breathes a prayer for God's blessings on her small family and begins her day.

© 2008 Whitestone Under no terms are you allowed to copy this material without my permission. Please observe this copyright.


cinnamongirl93 said...

Yes, I agree that winter has begun. My thermometer read 28 when I got up. My lettuce is under cover. I am waiting for the sun to rise to see if they are protected.
I loved reading an excerpt from you book! I can't wait to read more.

Renna said...

Fascinating! You wrote that??

WhiteStone said...

Yes. I was thinking of my gramma and what an early winter morning must have been like for her.