Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Old House in Winter

In summer, corn field to the north, maple trees, hog lots, pastures, soy bean field to the south west....house on the left

“An old house is a cold house” and all farming families knew this to be true.  Cold seeped through every crack and crevice, between lathing and ancient plaster, around windows, and this Old House was no exception.

Vacant since before electricity and plumbing, The House was barely livable, but this family would be moving in the second day of September.  After tremendous effort, only the first floor would meet needs of this family, with the second floor having only electricity in one room.

Winter was brutal that year.  Deep snow surrounded The House, challenging every board and window. Non-insulated water pipes froze along with the newly laid septic line.

It took strong parents who had lived in other Old Houses to stoke coal and oil in kitchen and front room heaters, cover every bed with elderly wool quilts, and surround five children with warmth and family.

In evenings, all gathered together in the front room with books, blankets and sweaters, and an ancient black and white television. Nothing was different to the children.  This was life as they knew it. 

Even though upstairs was bitter cold enough to freeze a glass of water solid, The House sheltered them while layers of wool warmth covered three older children sleeping there. Below, parents, with toddlers, slept in the darkness of a December winter.

In late 1960s and early 1970s with snow melting off, for now.


I confess that I am crying as this is being written.  Images sharp as the day our lives were lived out in The Old House linger before me.  The wool quilts, heaters where we stood, and the laughter echoing in hollow walls surround me.

 In one of his blogs,Wrote about Rote, Arlee Jackson shared his mother's recent passing.  She was the holder of family history and he feels her loss.  I understand. 







27 comments:

  1. So very very beautiful, and I am able to share some of these memories.

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  2. I'm sorry your friend's mother has passed. And you're right, the kiddos just think it's life, and if it's a loving family, it's a happy family.

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    1. Arlee Jackson has several blogs and spearheads the A to Z every years. He is a treasure!

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  3. I too share some of these memories of a cold farm house and a struggling young family. Good times. Sorry to hear of Arlee's mother passing.

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    1. As you said, "Good times". I remember them with a pleasant smile.

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  4. WOW these memories were written in such a vivid manner. No wonder they brought tears to your eyes. Thank you for sharing with us...

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  5. Those are special memories. Sounds like the warmth came from love.

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  6. I grew up in the same winter cold and summer heat. Funny, I remember the heat more than the cold, even though our upstairs was not heated.

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    1. The first winter in the house was in the "mini-ice age" of the fifties. Summer was same as always: miserable and more miserable.

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  7. Very, very familiar.
    While our cold was not as vicious as your cold, only one room was heated. Extra layers were the rule, and love and laughter made up for a LOT.

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    1. Extra layers are world-wide. Mom had some very old quilts made by some of the great-great g-mas.

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  8. It sure is the way it is. The heat is what got me as a kid, but it was just life and still had fun.

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    1. Heat had its own sets of problems, including UFOs.

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  9. Susan, These photos could have been taken near me. It looks like PA. Speaking of old, cold houses. I live in one! I can't get warm. Brrr... BTW, please pray for Pam (2 Encourage)...for her son who has surgery today. Thanks!

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    1. Of course. I hope Pam's son is healed.

      There are electric "booties" that warm the feet. Once the feet grow cold, I could never heat up.

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  10. Many of us of over 60 have similar memories. Times were not easy, but we knew most of our neighbors had the same problems. Even though I grew up in NY, we spent many nights under many blankets.

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    1. Everyone in our farm area had the same problems, so it all seemed normal.

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  11. You lived in that old cold house? Thank goodness for loving parents and wool blankets.
    I've lived in old houses, some were wood and some were stone, but none as cold as yours. I can't imagine living with frozen plumbing. You northern people sure are tough.

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    1. Frozen pipes, sigh. No fond memories there.

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  12. PS, we had wood stoves and dad would put bricks in the oven to heat in winter, when they were hot each brick would be wrapped in newspaper and put in our beds to warm our feet on.

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    1. I wish that had been a custom in our house! Warm bricks would have been wonderful.

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  13. Hi Susan,

    Sorry I've not been around much lately. I'm having computer issues and I have to get a new computer!

    Even an old, cold house was warmed by the ambience of a family united in fending off the cold.

    Memories and emotions intertwined. Here's to you, dear lady and our good friend, Lee.

    Gary

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!