Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And So It Began...

And so it began, as always before.  Ema Mims and I huddled together in the sheltered comfort and warmth of her bedroom as the winter winds whipped a cresendo of frightening chill and fury upon us.  Her porcelain hand rested cooly in my own youthful hand.  As I had always done, I sat still upon the vinyled green hassock at her side, while the warm glow of lamp light danced upon her fine silvered hair.

Except for the ticking of the now ancient enameled clock at her bedside and the shifting of logs within the fireplace, the only sound  was that of Emas' soft and weakened voice punctuated by the raspiness that age often imbues upon each of us.

Her entire countenance was transformed and her face grew slack as she prepared to answer.  She visibly relaxed into repose as she slowly and bit by bit, unwound the gossamer threaded reel of  her cherished memories.  Those lovely hazel eyes, dimmer now, were yet sequined with gold and the moments of  history known uniquely and only unto her...

It seems that I can recall it was so very cold back then, those winters of 1941.  I was fourteen, let's see, yes, I was fourteen just that year in August, 1941. The wind that night wasn't unlike this night Jolene.  But there was snow, oh my that snow...she rasped.  It reached right to the window sills of our out kitchen where mother kept the lard.  That old man winter reached into our very soul, it seemed and rattled the bones.  And, I can remember now as though it were yesterday.  Mother , herself, had done her best to block  the windows and doorways from the draft. Of course, I had held the bulk of the weight of those quilts.

Father was gone that winter for quite a spell at a time, what with the war just starting and him headed out to find a job, just any work would do.  He'd taken one of the last trains out of Gettysburg in 1941 headed for Baltimore, because we so needed the money to tide us over.  I'll remember that the next December, 1942, if I recall correctly yes, yes... it was the last that old train blew out of town.   Wasn't easy at all for mother to see him go.  It was so hard Jolene, you can't understand the hardships we endured then.  We didn't have anything to speak of, the four of us, we were just humbled to have warmth at night and mighty blessed for any dinner of roasted beef  and turnips from the cold cellar. 

It's so cold, isn't it?  Ema began to fret and listlessly fumbled for the natted afghan resting upon her stomach. Gently, I drew the afgan closer to her frail chest.  It was a blessing that mother had hung the worn patchwork quilts to keep the draft out and a blessing to have those old quilts too.  You remember your Aunt Claire don't you, Jolene?  I nodded for I knew well the story, told and retold, but Ema did not notice my gesture, so lost in her reveries she was.

Yes, that December or was it January, Aunt Claire had the croup.  Fact was, the whole town was dealing with some ailment or another, it seems.  Oh, the chest liniment and Castor oil flew heavy that winter.  Wasn't any use to visit the doctor then, Jolene.  Unless we were on our death bed or in labor, as mother said, we weren't making any pricey visits to the doctor.  So, at fourteen, and with no prospects in sight,  or was it fifteen, and Claire seven, we didn't see us going into labor anytime soon then...she smiled that old glorious smile of her youth ... but there were manys the times we were on our death bed, or so we thought.  

Start Again At The Beginning Ema Mims? Gettysburg in the 1930s and 1940s?

"Ema Mims?  Ever so gently now...steady old gel.  It's alright, ...  Ema...there, there darling...here take the tissue? Wipe your tears, now?"

"Ema...Ema tell us about your memories?  Why not  at the beginning, the very beginning... as you feel comfortable dear and as far and as wide as your memory will carry you, darling".   There, there now,...it's alright, go on now...". 

"What's that?  Yes, Ema, I'll hold your hand.  Good, good!  I'd love to hear of your winters"...first...

Read on gentle readers, of  "Ema Mims"...enjoin her in reveries and memories as she shares of life and, particularly her life in the Gettysburg she knew during the 1930s and 1940s!   You may just find yourselves enchanted as you enter a world of  Emas' , our parents' and grandparents' yesterday. 

Soon, very soon, we promise all the world of beauty shall pour forth...and we must make haste for time, memory and fancy is fleeting!

In honor of the first and third loves of my childish youth.