This is part 13 of my mother's book about her life, written in 2004.
The seasons change: Colored leaves and holidays
Summer had drifted by. It was autumn or fall. In Missouri, autumn is a spectacular time of year. Very beautiful -- with trees of red and trees of gold. There was a vine that had dark red leaves. There were a lot of trees. There was a wooded area between us and Wayman Hill. It was on the side of a larger hill and very spectacular when all the trees were dressed for autumn. We also had at least ten trees in our yard, but only some changed color. Four were cedars.
In school for years, we were supposed to bring in different kinds of leaves and trace around them and fill in the veins. Then write the name underneath. I also remember vases of colored leaves. Mom used to also send a bouquet of autumn flowers.
For just about every holiday -- major -- we made booklets of pictures related to that holiday. For some holidays, we gave plays. I remember the windows being decorated with witches on brooms for Halloween. Uncle Doc or Daddy actually brought a shock of corn with pumpkins (they raised a few pumpkins, too) that were put around it.
Autumn in Missouri
Autumn back home is like no other place I have lived. There are certain days with a pale drift of sun, a gentle breeze, and a feeling of something lost just beyond the reach of memory. Slightly sad days with something long forgotten that can not be remembered. A drifting kind of a day. I could almost hear voices in the wind. Strange. I never thought that I would ever live any place but there.
Thanksgiving and snow
November and Thanksgiving. I don't remember about what Miss Hazel taught or did but usually there was the mandatory play and the whole neighborhood came.
Finally I was out of school for a few days. Jean and I watched Mom make pumpkin pies by the double kitchen windows while big flakes of snow came down outside. Soon the fence posts were wearing little caps of snow and the bare branches of the trees were wearing snow. The whole scene looked like a winter wonderland. It was beautiful and cold.
The men weren't that thrilled. They swept the snow off their gum boots outside when they got back and headed straight for the stove in the living room. After awhile they took off the mittens Mom had made them, their lined blue jean coats, their sweaters, and caps. They took off their boots and stretched their stocking feet toward the fire. There were always chairs setting around the stove waiting for them.
Frankie headed behind the kitchen stove. The stove set out quite far from the wall because of the stove pipe. It was a nice warm stop. Frankie slept there all year around. Sometimes the men sat around the kitchen stove when Mom wasn't working in there. Frankie sometimes moved his legs and feet when he was asleep. Uncle Doc smiled and told me Frankie was chasing rabbits in his sleep.
Back in those days, dogs were fed scraps from the table. Mom used to tell Daddy not to feed Frankie when we were at the table eating. But Frankie always got under the table and waited. Pretty soon, with a guilty little grin, Daddy would be holding a bite of meat out to him. It was only the first.
The mittens mentioned above were the only thing the men wanted to wear on their hands. Daddy said Mom's mittens were the only thing that would keep his hands warm. The outside of the mitten was made with what I think was called feather tick. It was the dark gray and white striped material that was commonly used on pillows. Then another material or two was placed inside the feather tick, and finally a soft white material that was called a sheet blanket was placed on the inside. Mom made them on her sewing machine. She brought the edge of the sheet blanket forward, folded it on the outside of the gloves and sewed it down.
They looked good and they did feel warm. She always made them each several pairs a year. The gloves also resisted dampness.
Mom's sewing machine came in handy. She used to make us skirts and dresses when we were little. She also made dresses for herself. She recovered chairs and they looked professional. She made drapes and contains for the windows. She also made cloth dolls to entertain us on gloomy days. they had yellow yarn hair. She also made clothes for our dolls.
She "pieced together" (made) a lot of quilts also. Our pillows were white ones with embroidered flowers on them and sometimes lace along the opening. She made the cases and did the embroidery and lace. She hooked rag rugs in her spare time. They were round and used to be tightly put together. They were throw rugs. They were made from left-over material torn into stripes and sometimes from unfaded material from clothes. Even pajamas.
Mom also made and embroidered dresser scarves and scarves for the lamp tables. She often edged them with lace.
She also made herself new aprons.
Another thing that she made was footstools. She used to buy coffee in tall, wide metal cans. I know each can was at least two pounds, but it could have been more. When she got enough cans -- maybe eight or nine -- she put sand in each can, fastened the lid on, wrapped them in upholstery cotton and tied them together. Put cotton in any vacant space between them. She also cut two solid pieces of cotton the same size as the top and bottom of the foot stool. She had made a pattern that had the top and bottom separate from the sides. She sewed it on the sewing machine as much as she could, then put the fastened together cans in and finished it. When she finished, it was a footstool covered with cotton inside. Nothing ever shifted in it, and one never felt the edge of the cans. The outside covering was a heavy cotton material that didn't seem to wear. I have one somewhere.
Since today is Christmas, I am thinking about Christmas on the farm.
We usually had the tree up about two weeks before Christmas and we took it down the day before New Year's day.
When it was time to get the tree, Mom would always say, "Now Ernest, we don't need a great big tree this year. Just a small one." Daddy would smile sheepishly and drive off with the horses and sleigh to get the tree. He loved Christmas just as much as we did. Frankie always went with him.
Sometime later Daddy came back with the cedar tree and yes, he did it again. It was too tall to stand up in the living room. So he had to saw part of it off. It smelled so fresh and wonderful. Of course, it should. It had just been chopped down over in the pasture. Jean and I -- and Daddy -- could hardly wait to get it up. Sometimes he shook snow off it. He always swept the snow off his gum boots before he came in. Gum boots were rubber boots that came up to a few inches below the knee. A couple of pairs of heavy, tall socks were worn with them, but no shoes. They were not made for shoes.
Finally, he had the tree up. We already had the decorations out. No electricity, no electric lights. We had beautiful breakable ornaments to put on it. Some of them were partly frosted. A few had Christmas scenes, a few were half an ornament with a deepening color and design. We also put foil icicles and a garland on it. It always had a silver star on top. Mom helped us decorate.
We knew Christmas was the birthday of Jesus and that he came so we could go to Heaven someday by believing in him. It was fun and exciting waiting for Santa, but still that period of time felt holy. The silence of the snow covered countryside probably contributed to this feeling. There was a peace not found today.
On Christmas morning, there were oranges, apples, nuts and candy for everyone. Two pairs of new overalls for Zack. Plus a sack of all the treats. He was a neighbor who was in college with Daddy and Uncle Doc. Zack got measles or something similar that caused him to run a very high temperature. He never recovered -- he became like a child of probably nine or so years.
He always came to our house to see what Santa had brought him. He ate Christmas dinner with us. His brother Albert was probably enjoying the quiet. Albert stayed a bachelor and spent his life farming and taking care of Zack.
Daddy, Uncle Doc and Charley got new mittens sometimes. I don't remember what Mom got.
When Jean and I were small, we found dolls, stuffed toys like bears, little rocking chairs sometimes, slates and chalk and other things. Plus all the food.
The bears that we had were different than the bears that children play with today. The ones we had were stiff, not soft like the ones today. Their faces were different and they had heavy wires in the legs and arms. The legs and arms were movable. Sometimes the heads were, too. They could sit, stand and walk with help.
As we got older, we found sweater sets, skirts, pen and pencil sets. Also a huge dark blue box for each with powder, perfume, toilet water set on a white silk interior. It was called Evening in Paris and was in dark blue containers. The scent of the perfume "Intimate" that I used to buy reminded me of it.
Back to Christmas. We never had turkey; we had pork roasts, usually. Mom always fixed a fantastic dinner with different kinds of pie. One of them was usually mince pie. At that time it was called mincemeat and actually had bits of meat in it.
One time on Christmas, when I was in early grade school, I followed Daddy outside in the snow. There were sleigh tracks near the yard fence but in the sheep pasture. I showed them to Daddy and told him I thought they were from the night before when Santa brought the presents. He agreed that it sure looked like it. Jean and I were delighted.
Labels: animals, aunt, dogs, farm, food, grandfather, grandmother, holidays, jesus, missouri, mother, personal, school, sheep, this is home, uncle, writing