Tag Archives: fun

Carrying In Wood

When I was in elementary school, there were occasional Saturday mornings in winter when I’d get the dreaded knock on my door at 6am.  It was followed by the booming voice of my father…

“Get up! We’re carrying in wood.”

Groaning, I would drag myself from bed (never have been much of a morning person), bundle up, and complain (very, very quietly) with my sister about our dread over the task looming before us.

Our house was heated by a homemade wood-burning stove. My dad can make anything. He turned an old metal barrel into a stove and piped the heat through the whole house. We had a furnace room in the basement where the stove was, and one wall stacked with wood.

Outside the basement door, Dad stored wood for the whole winter. Inside the furnace room was enough wood for a month or so. “Carrying in wood” meant that we went outside, got an armful of wood from Dad, walked down the hall to the furnace room, and waited a few seconds for him to come in with his own load behind us. He put down his load, then took ours from us and stacked the wood neatly against the wall. Then we’d do it all over again.  And again.  And again…

Dad carried in massive pieces of wood. The wood was so heavy that as a little girl I couldn’t even push or roll it across the floor. When I tried to move it, it wouldn’t budge. But Dad carried in gigantic piece after gigantic piece without any effort that I could see. He was the biggest, strongest man in the world.

The oldest that my sis and I were when we did this chore would’ve been 12 and 9. We moved into that house when we were 5 and 2. Somehow Mom was excused from carrying in wood. I was just the tiniest bit jealous of her…

My memory is probably a little fuzzy here, but it seems like this chore took us at least four hours to accomplish. Those were the longest mornings of my life. Back and forth with that heavy load, wait for Dad, then do it all over again. And out of all the times we did that, I only remember taking one break. Probably because the break was so memorable.

I’m sure Katie (little sis) and I complained constantly as we were doing this task. Katie was pretty little, so one day she was excused to go upstairs and get us some drinks. She filled two big glasses with ice and lemonade, then very carefully made her way to the newly carpeted basement steps.  I happened to glance up at the top of the stairs just as she was getting there.

We’d recently been on vacation and a big suitcase on wheels was sitting at the top of the stairs waiting to be carried down.  In those days, rolling suitcases had a looped handle that you pulled and then tried to balance the suitcase on all four wheels as you walked (not the best concept; the suitcase was always falling over).  Much to my horror, as Katie rounded the corner to start down the steps, her little foot got caught in the suitcase strap.  It threw her off balance and she fell headfirst down the stairs.

Of course it isn’t funny to think of a little girl falling down the stairs…  Of course not!  However, if you knew how Katie sacrificed her body to keep those two glasses of lemonade from spilling on the new carpet, you might have to giggle just a little.  (Relax!  She’s okay in the end.)  I saw my little sister go flying headfirst down the stairs, hollering, with a terrified look on her face.  But the whole way down she held her arms out straight in front of her and perfectly balanced those two big glasses of lemonade as she bounced down the stairs.  Not one drop of lemonade spilled on the stairs until the bottom three steps!  Toward the bottom, she finally gave up the heroic effort and spilled the drinks, landing in a heap on the basement floor.

Oh, but that was not the end of her unfortunate experience.  Don’t forget about the suitcase that started this whole thing…  Yes, the suitcase that she caught her foot in was right behind her on the stairs, bouncing along behind her.  No sooner had she landed at the bottom than she was struck by the run-away suitcase. 

She cried and we comforted and we were all thankful that the long fall didn’t do much damage.  She was simply a little bumped and bruised.  Then Dad asked me what in the world happened and if I had seen it.  I felt so bad for her, but as I began to tell what had happened, a little giggle came out.  And then another one.  I tried so hard to tell what happened without laughing, but by the end of the story – especially when we all realized how successful she’d been at not spilling the drinks – we were all laughing.  Well, maybe Katie wasn’t laughing, but the rest of us were. 

I think it’s safe to say that we never left suitcases at the top of the stairs again.

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Emma Mildred

My maternal grandmother was a fun, mischievous woman and I have great memories of her.  We lived in the same small town for a few years when I was young and I got to spend a lot of time with her. I was thinking about her today and wanted to share a little about who I remember her to be.

Her name was Emma Mildred (Mager) Schoch.  I thought the name Emma was beautiful, but she couldn’t stand it.  She went by Mildred instead, a name I thought sounded like a “grandma” name.  I always thought it might be nice to name a daughter Emma in her honor, but is it honoring to name a child a name that was hated?  Hmmm…  And now Emma is such a common name that I’m hesitant to do it for that reason.  Not that I have any children on the way…  (Sigh.)

We lived really far out in the country when I was a kid.  It was about as rural as a place can be, with the slight exception that the church was built behind our house.  We burned a lot of our trash, but anything that didn’t burn got put in the church dumpster.  It wasn’t a fun task for my parents to haul the trash back to the church, so we worked out a deal.  Dad taught me to drive the car (I was eleven, but 5’8″ tall) and I drove the trash back to the dumpster.  This was a total distance of maybe 1/4 mile each way, on private property, but made me feel like a million bucks.  I loved it even though I probably never went over 15 miles an hour.

One day Grandma and I drove to the neighboring town.  I told her how Dad had taught me to drive and that I did it all the time, conveniently leaving out the part about only driving back and forth to the dumpster.  I begged her to let me drive us back home.  To my utter shock, she let me!!!  I got up to 55 miles an hour.  It was one of the best days of my life.  When Mom and Dad found out, they were horrified.  Poor Grandma.  She never scolded me for it though.  She seemed to thoroughly enjoy the adventure.

Since Dad was a pastor, we were in church A L.O.T.  I mean, A WHOLE LOT.  And we were Charismatic, so the services were no 45-minute walk in the park like you Baptists sometimes get…  There were services where we stayed long into the night, sweating and singing and praying.  We were there for every single one of them.  Not only were there long services, but afterward people needed to talk to Dad.  So my mom and sister and I waited and waited and waited.

Grandma felt sorry for us for being little girls in very long services.  Much to our delight, she always brought us BIG bags full of candy.  I thought I had hit the jackpot when one of those bags came out of her purse.  But Mom didn’t like us having all that sugar (we’ll rot our teeth!), so she put a stop to it pretty quickly.  Here’s the great thing about Grandma though…  She found sugar-free candy and this chocolate substitute called carob and filled bags with that.  I have to admit, I really didn’t like the fake stuff, but I don’t think I ever told Grandma.  I just smiled and took the bag because I loved it that she thought of us and brought us treats.  (By the way, the no sugar thing worked.  Neither my sister nor I have ever had a cavity!)

Grandma told me “grown up” things too, then begged me not to tell my parents.  One time she told me all about strippers.  She’d always thought they were really bad girls.  But she’d seen a TV program that explained that many of them were single mothers and college girls.  They had to do it to support their children or pay for college.  We had a big talk about what makes people do the things they do and how we shouldn’t judge until we understand the whole story.  I promised to play dumb if my parents ever mentioned strippers around me.  I think I’m released from that promise by now though…

Grandma told me that she’d had beautiful legs as a young woman and my legs reminded her of hers.  All I could see when I looked at her legs were varicose veins, but I realize now that she was trying to give me some much-needed confidence and make me feel good about something I felt very bad about.  I always thought my long legs were a bad thing because of comments others made about the need to cover them up.  Grandma saw my pain and sought to ease it without embarrassing me. 

We moved from Ohio to South Carolina when I was thirteen, which I don’t think she ever really appreciated…  I became a bratty, fourteen year old who avoided my parents at all costs and didn’t hug them unless it was required of me.  I remember the night my mom woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me my precious Grandma had died.  Grandma was fairly young – just 69.  She died very unexpectedly.  Mom came into my room, sat down on the edge of my bed, and told me the news.  Without thinking much, my heart went out to her.  I knew this had to be the hardest day of her life.  Instinctively I said, “Oh Mom…” and wrapped my arms around her.  We cried for a minute before I realized that I was too cool to hug my mother or cry in front of her.  Then we got up and started getting ready to leave for Ohio. 

It’s been almost 20 years since that happened and I still cry thinking of it.  My mom was sad for a long time after that.  It was hard for her to go to church because people would say things to her about it (out of love and concern) and it would make her cry all over again.  I was so sad for her, and sad for myself, but I didn’t know how to comfort her.  I didn’t want to mention it and make her cry again.  I realize now that I’ve never acknowledged the anniversary of Grandma’s death or said much to Mom about her since then.  I’ve been trying to spare her feelings, but unintentionally have probably come across like I don’t care or don’t miss her.  Yet I have often wished for her to be here and to see the woman I’ve become.  I think she would’ve cheered me on all the way. 

Mildred Schoch was a wonderful woman and an amazing grandmother.  She is missed.  I only wish I had had more time with her.

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