What a winter we picked to move to the country! At least a blizzard is handy when you're winterizing a weekend cabin. You don't have to hunt for the drafty places to know where to put the weather stripping. You just shove it everywhere.
It reminds me of the time Grandpa Rhodes folded long strips of newspaper and stuffed them in the doors of the front parlor and everybody had to use the back door.
The back door is the only one we can get open up here in WayneLakesPark, six miles south of Greenville on Route 121. Drifts cover the fence line in spots and have piled white blankets against the sheds and completely disguised the car. The engine starts but there is nowhere to go.
We're living in a picture postcard world, all sounds muffled. Icicles frame the windows. We dug under drifts to find the wood pile and knocked the frozen logs apart with a sledge hammer, but the fire burned comfortingly and it is worth hunting around in the new crop of snow to find the kindling.
It takes a blizzard to let city folks know that good feeling of putting on a pair of warm, dry socks. I never knew how wonderful warm feet could be until I came in to the fire yesterday, after helping round up a flock of sheep lost in Saturday night's storm.
Sheep roam WayneLakesPark during the day, going toward the barn every night. When the blizzard began, however, they huddled for shelter about a mile from the main gate. Not until Walt Krick, in charge of the WayneLakes farm, plodded through waist-high drifts to our end of the park did we know that the uneven snow piled in the hollows actually covered sheep huddled together for warmth.
Four of us neighbors waded Out to help Walt head the sheep toward the barn. But the sheep wouldn't follow the road because it was a smooth, unbroken expanse of snow. The men and Walt started the endless job of shoveling a path for the lead sheep to follow. Yelling and waving our arms, we'd get the sheep to go only as far as the shoveled path went and then they'd stop dead in their tracks.
Finally, Buff and I waded along the snow-covered road and laboriously broke a path. The drifts were higher than the dog but he leaped like a gazelle and joined the new game.
Then would the sheep follow our path? No, because Buff and I were in front of them and they didn't want anybody in front of them. Buff and I swam back through our gate and hid behind a drift so the sheep wouldn't see us.
"Write something about durn, dumb sheep," yelled Walt as he nudged and coaxed them. "They've got a nice warm barn and plenty of feed waiting for them and the durn fools won't go home. Co 'long. Cit!" he yelled. The sheep finally started along the path Buff and I had forged and then we neighbors yipped like cowboys to get the flock moving.
Buff loved it. He pretended to be a snow plow, racing with his head down and piling up a triangle of snow on his nose.
I've always wanted to be snowbound. I imagined the books I'd read and the extra sleeping I'd do. Now I am snowbound-and there's more work to it than turning a page.
There's plenty of fuel oil and bottled gas and the woodpile is handy.
We're our of milk but I always did want to try powdered milk-that's next. We're our of bread, but the pantry has plenty of biscuit and pancake mix.
The party line gossips that the main road's still drifted and we'll be lucky to get out to it by Wednesday. We see smoke coming from cabins a half mile away but between us lie oceans of snow. Walt is starting a community project of neighbors to dig each other out of the snow.
When you're snowbound in the country, thank goodness for the Day-' ton Power and Light, Greenville division' The power is on and we learn how Dayton is digging out via the radio and television.
Being snowbound isn't so bad when the electric blanket works, the pipes thaw out and the party line still operates. I finally had time to bake two pumpkin pies. In fact, it's so relaxing, I may not be back to the office until spring ...
“Sitting-In-Place Exercises for Captive Audiences”
THE GREAT AMERICAN CONVENTION of "having a convention" is a grand and wondrous thing. Anybody who has ever been to a convention knows what I'm talking about. Daily living is never the same before or after, as it is "during." There's a ritual about "keeping the schedule," definite rules for departing therefrom, and the endless words of all the endless speeches would-if laid end to end and then covered with three feet of earth-leave this world a better place.
Speeches. We need a vaccine for speeches more than we do a cure for the common cold. So many nice persons, when confronted by a captive audience, begin to suffer from running off of the mouth.
If you could only prescribe aspirin and let them lie down in a quiet room while the audience tiptoes out. But, no, the plague continues through convention after convention, and so do the speeches ...
Let me offer my "rules for speech endurance" or "Sitting-In-Place Exercises for the Captive Audience":
1. Take off shoes and rub feet on carpet. Friction sets carpet afire and when you run for the extinguisher, keep on going.
2. Make notes. Speaker is flattered. You compile Christmas card, grocery, things-to-do lists.
3. Rest elbow on table and hold face in hand. Keeps forehead from cracking on table edge when head nods.
4. Chain-smoke a screen for your neighbors to use when escaping.
You can't leave, but they'll do the same for you next session.
5. Drink sips of water. Enough sips and you won't have to make up an excuse to leave the room.
6. Figure out your expense account. It keeps you awake nights, it alight to keep you awake days.
7. Classify contents of handbag (if woman), contents of pockets (if man). You find more interesting things that way.
8. Squirm, or scratch. Both, discreetly.
9. Applaud regularly, but this is dangerous since it may encourage speaker to ad lib which is murder.
10. Finger jewelry, particularly necklaces, winding strand around finger until you start to choke. This wakes you up, but quick.
11. Make a list of all the ways the rest of the captives are using to keep themselves awake and upright.
These patents are not applied for and you are welcome to use them without charge. In fact, if you know of any better ways to stay awake during speeches, let me know-I have plenty more speeches to go ...
AUTUMN'S COLORS, just beginning to turn our MiamiValley woodlands into panoramas of beauty, already have drenched the Pennsylvania hills with bright reds, vibrant yellows, harmonious browns and all the subtle shades therein.
I had a chance to see those colors from the air and from close by last Friday. The sight of such magnificent natural splendor more than made up for the struggle to arrive at Vandalia in time to make a plane for a seminar appearance near Pittsburgh.
Our neighbor state is low on rain this year, too. The autumn woods I saw hadn't been touched by early frosts. Yet the prideful natives were quick to point out: "Our trees will be even more spectacular when it frosts, but isn't Pennsylvania beautiful now?"
The only truthful answer to this question is yes. But, if our own weather forecasts were accomplished last night and the first frost touched our Ohio trees, I will match our autumn colors with any to be seen anywhere.
In fact, the exact location is secondary. The mere fact that the trees in 'autumn colors are beautiful enough to bring quick tears to the eyes is the important thing ...
The little lake in front of my house mirrors those colors in the early morning. All is so quiet, the mists rise ever so serenely, a white duck and two brown ones move across the lake surface like toys. And my heart jumps with the first look at the uncommon beauty of still another tree that overnight has turned from green to gold, or to a red so brilliant you think it might be a paint job except that no human could combine such shades so daringly, so expertly.
It is a joy to drive home in the late afternoon through the countryside, especially on the long smooth slopes and curves of route 40 where the wide vistas of woods in radiant parade dress give a spiritual lift to the end of a humanly tiring day.
Each year it is a seasonal repeat of an old pictorial review. Each year it seems as new as the moment. There are new combinations of colors born each autumn. There's a "best of show" prize winner around each bend.
How mercurial is my love affair with the seasons.
In winter, though I dread the slush and the marrow-chilling winds, I drink deeply of the crisp December air with the stars so Christmasy and the landscape shorn of sham, trimmed down to the stark beauty of truth. I am confident this is my love.
In the spring, I race to embrace the whole greening world. The first warm shafts of sun, the first buds on the flowering trees - these are gifts I hug to myself as if they were for me alone, from someone who loves me very much.
Then the summer-now this I know is my favorite. "Then, if ever, come perfect days." And perfection they are, each following each until my heart is so full I want to walk around saying, 'Thank you, thank you." Sometimes I do-and then look quickly over my shoulder in sudden embarrassment lest someone hear me and wonder if the heat has addled my brains. Even the noisy thunderstorms do not sway my complete obeisance to my summer love-they are like the squabbles between two persons who aren't quarreling but setting the stage for coming closer together.
Then it is now. Eye-filling wonders of the autumn woods. The unexpected brilliance of a single tree. The promise of October's bright blue weather. The spice of the air, the tingle of secrets about to be shared this I am sure is, at last, my true love.
How is it that one who doesn't know a red haw from a crab apple can be so affected by one of nature's minor miracles, a phenomenon that occurs regularly whether I approve, or disapprove, or take any notice at all ...
How is it that I can fall in love again, over and over, with each season in its time-and swear undying allegiance to a love that, itself, is always changing, always moving away from me before I am ready to part with it ...
Those who love have no time for questions. For them, to love is enough.
I LIKE this one ...
Sandra and Linda Kenner, identical twin daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Kenner, 960 Richard street, are in the third grade at Ruskin school.
The traveling physical education teacher, Cathryn McLean, has trouble telling which is which.
"I don't know how to tell you two girls apart," said Miss McLean the other day. "I have a terrible time."
"Oh, that's easy, Miss McLean,' said Linda.
"It is? Well, tell me how to do it."
"Well," said Linda, "I like raisins and my sister doesn't."
“Let’s Go To A Party”
NEW YORK-On every visit here, I enjoy accepting an invitation to the Trifari reception when the offices of Trifari, Krussman and Fishel at 16 East 40th street are filled with champagne, laughter and the glitter of jewels.
You meet everyone you know and a few people you'd like to know better-the buffet table is high, wide and handsomely appointed-waiters are everywhere-and your hosts always present you with a token of their affection: a pretty bauble from their jewelry collection.
All in all, a fun party that is like none ever given back in Darke county, Ohio-yet is a prime example of a typical New York gathering where business mixes with pleasure.
This January when the formal engraved invitation arrived, I promptly RSVP'd Dorothy Lansing Hess, the blond public relations sparkler, and looked forward to the affair.
I went with high hopes.
Such a crushing disappointment. It wasn't at all the way it usually is, the way you remember for years to come, the way you regale your friends at lunch with the wondrous details ...
There was no stampede to the coat-room to check your coat. Three men politely divested you of coat and packages and gave you a numbered ticket which you had time to tuck safely in your pocket.
The hosts and hostesses were not flying off somewhere greeting guests with loud cries and wet kisses. They stood properly in the office lobby and shook hands.
You signed your name in the guest book, murmured discreet hellos, and strolled at leisure through the jewelry displays until a butler beckoned you to dine in a secluded corner.
I slumped back in that secluded corner for a half hour, disappointed beyond words. Oh, the food was elegant, the service faultless and the conversation polite.
But what had happened to dull what usually was such a breezy soiree? I gathered myself together and prepared to depart.
Coat-check in hand, I started from that secluded corner-somebody's private office-to walk back through six offices and one corridor to the front lobby.
The joint was mobbed.
In a din reminiscent of the sardine canneries of Monterey, people were packed vertically into the small rooms like little fishes in mustard sauce. One woman had a champagne glass in one hand, a cigaret in the other, her evening bag under one arm and press releases under the other. "Why do I DO this every time!" she said, to nobody in particular, taking a drag on her cigaret while her glass dribbled champagne on the shoes of the man next to her.
There was a jungle cry ordinarily denoting surprise and pain-and two women threw themselves at one another, touching cheeks briefly but being careful not to touch hair or make-up. When they drew apart with the faces of strangers indulging in some native custom, one remarked as she joined another group: "I never can remember her name."
Men in twos and threes roamed the crowded spaces, shouldering their way through clusters, eyes darting here and there seeking the gals with the bold eyes, or the daring decolletages.
Models, wearing Trifari necklaces with the price tags cascading down their powdered bare backs, leaned against the head-high partitions that separated the office stalls but let the party noise spread like a contagion. Around every curvaceous model were at least five men, none of whom noticed she stood on one foot while she slipped her other foot out of her stilt-heeled slippers and wiggled her toes.
A waiter sidled by, bearing a tray of pastry goodies. A lady in basic black with a mink stole reached across two people to snatch a pastry puff from the tray. She bit into it daintily. A rnustardy custard squirted out, leaving a trail of moist yellow embroidery down her basic black bodice.
The party was really getting into swing-and I eyed every detail as I worked my way through the buffet area. The table by now was decorated with spilled green salad, crumbs of turkey and cheese, and waiters were trying to lift seafood casseroles above the heads of nibblers to exchange them for empty platters that other waiters were trying to hand them in mid-air.
Hungry guests were two deep around the table, reaching for little sandwiches, grabbing handfuls of pickles-and I watched in pleased amazement as one woman, spooning rice and seafood on what she thought was her plate, heaped a nearby stranger's plate instead. A second later when the crowd eddied a different direction, both guests looked at their own plates in astonishment, neither realizing what had transpired.
Edging sideways through the room, I managed to reach the back hall.
Here, guests were struggling with full plates slipping off their laps as they perched on spindly chairs and tried to keep their legs out of the way of the scurrying waiters.
Oops! There went one plate on the floor as a waiter swung too close.
In the crush, he simply kicked the spilled plate back under a table, handed the startled woman a full glass of champagne from his tray, and whisked away. She drank the champagne.
A man attempted to negotiate the narrow hallway, bearing a full plate in one hand, and a plate with a highball and an old-fashioned in the other. He made no progress at all-in fact, he lost ground. He handed the full plate, still untouched, to a waiter rushing by-stood still, in the middle of the confusion, and drank the old-fashioned in one gulp. I lost sight of him then because the lady with the mustardy-custard on her dress had just discovered the mess which, by now, had dripped off her skirt on to her stockings. She was shrieking.
As I pushed my way past the office restroom, the door opened and a wide-eyed woman burst out, clutching her head. She grabbed my arm. "Is my hair falling out?" she screamed. "I just sprayed it with that stuff-I didn't know they put john deodorant in spray cans! I'm scalped!" she wailed, turning me loose and plunging into the crowd.
I fought my way to the coat-room and had only one argument to get my own coat back. I couldn't find any hosts or hostesses to say farewell, so I fled into the empty elevator that had just disgorged another load of noisy guests into the melee.
Now THAT was the way to remember the Trifari party! I'll never go early again!
DURING one Thanksgiving season, when I was feeling crushed in spirit because someone I loved was very ill, a wise and wonderful friend sensed the unspoken depths of my distress and said to me:
''You have many blessings."
Sympathy I could have endured. Pious mouthings I could have ignored. But this "Pollyanna-The-Glad-Girl" philosophy from one I considered a friend? I was hurt.
"Many blessings," repeated the voice, softly.
Bitter words filled my mouth. "All right," I said, angrily. "So I'm grateful to be an American and live in a free country and have the right to vote. I'm glad the science of medicine has advanced and that the hospital is handy and the doctors skilled.
"But what good does it do?" I spit out the words.
I was prepared to fight back at any sensible argument.
I was not prepared for what my friend said next: "Do you know the alphabet?"
To such a silly question, I didn't bother to reply.
"Take the alphabet, one letter at a time, and think of one thing beginning with that letter for which you are grateful. The letter A. You can be grateful for the air you breathe. Remember when you had asthma so badly you couldn't get any air into your lungs?"
I was silent. I could not deny it.
"The letter B. You can be grateful for the bed in which you slept last night, and will sleep in again tonight.
"C. You came to work today in a car that brought you safely and comfortably, didn't you?
"Or perhaps C can be the chair on which you sit-and D the desk at which you work. Little things, but without them, your work and your life would be harder today."
There was no need to reply.
Because I trusted my friend and because I felt in my heart things I did not yet know with my mind, I walked to the window and looked out. I thought about many things. I thought about the alphabet-F for food ... and friends ... yes, I could be grateful for those ... H for my home ...
I don't know that I ever reached the end of the alphabet. I doubt that my friend meant for me to reach it ...
By recounting plain, everyday, taken-far-granted blessings, anger at things I could nor comprehend was tempered by blessings I could understand. Calmness seeped over and around me like a comforting blanket. Strength was mine again. And hope.
Every day can be a day of thanks giving if you know your alphabet ...
"DO PEOPLE who write make things up to suit their own purpose, or does it all have some basis in fact? Like when you write something and then you say, 'As Grandma used to say.' Did your grandma really say that or arc you making it up)"
This startler peered up at me from the mail the other morning-in a letter from a reader in the valley,
For some writers, it's a little of both, ma'am---part fiction and part fact. But, for me, that part about grandma and what she used to say, well, it's this way:
I'm writing along here at the typewriter about something or other and there pops into my mind a retort I remember my grandma having said about a similar situation or something she said about something else that just fits in this case,
But it isn't always the same grandma!
It seems now that when I was little I had six or seven grandmas but three of them, particularly, remain in my memory. And, believe me, they were the kind of grandmas who had answers for no matter WHAT situation arose.
My great-grandma Lena Snyder was the one who wore the bustle, long after ladies stopped wearing bustles. She wore high boned collars and diamond earrings. And was deaf as a post when she didn't want to hear, and other times could hear a wee whisper, especially when somebody was saying something they didn't want her to hear.
This one made the best vegetable soup, always on Saturdays, and we had a game our of identifying the bits and pieces in it like, "Here are the noodles from Tuesday" and "Found-Monday's carrots!"
And you can laugh at my big pocketbook if you want, but you should have seen grandma's. One big, black bag held everything you could imagine wanting once you left home-peppermints, hard-boiled eggs, deck of Flinch cards, cotton for earaches-oh, grandma went prepared.
She was over 70 when she took five of the youngest kids in the family (I was the youngest of the lot) on a week-long boat trip on the Ohio river from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh and back. Never can I forget that old stern wheeler, 'The Betsy Ann," and grandma' She advised the captain how to steer in the middle so he wouldn't hit the banks, she called down to the roustabouts how to load the thousand and one things the river packet carried up and down the Ohio, and she had the cook cutting the biscuits HER way before we were one day away from home!
My grandma Amelia Evers was the little, quiet one who wouldn't let me say bad things about anybody, and who let me plant seeds in grapefruit halves that she'd clean out and pack with earth and let me direct their hanging all over her house.
Whenever she looked puzzled about what to cook, she never knew why we all laughed and hollered: "Green beans and potatoes!" because that's what she ALWAYS cooked when she ran out of ideas. She's the one who called out all the names of her children and grandchildren every time she wanted one of them-that way she was sure to get the one she wanted even if she couldn't remember his name at the moment.
There always seemed to be kittens at grandma's house, little ones with their eyes not open, and she'd let me watch while she bathed their faces with warm milk. She's the one who'd take off her shoes and stockings and pin her skirts up and wade out in the Stillwater with me because I was the littlest and afraid.
My grandma Margaret Rhodes is the one who could eat more ice cream than anybody in the whole world-or it seemed like it when we'd walk down to Hanaghari's confectionery and order all we could eat. I never beat grandma. I had a numb tongue and a headache long before she was ready to call it quits on ice cream.
She's the quick-tempered one who threw the playing cards in the dining room stove, calling them pasteboards of the devil, when she lost a game. And who could dance a real cakewalk. And the one who left the cellar trapdoor open and I walked backwards into it and fell down and knocked myself unconscious and when the doctor came, he said I had measles. I never did figure that one out.
Seems I was always having measles at grandma's house. They were fun at her house-you got to sleep in the front parlor and grandma brought you rock candy on a string and grandpa cut the red horse off the pack of chewing tobacco by making tiny pin-holes all around it instead of using a scissors and that seemed like magic.
And this grandma is the one who made an event out of riding the streetcar to the Soldiers' Home on summer Sunday afternoons to listen to the band concert, stroll in the cool, dark grotto and, for a treat, look at the midway from a distance.
No, I don't make things up when I write "as grandma used to say."
I could write a book about all the things my grandmas used to say and do ... they used to say and do plenty, for a little girl to remember ...