part of a writing assignment a while back. enjoy the memories (as i recall them anyhow). e.It was only a week before Christmas 1983 and we were an anxious and capable crew determined that we'd have a tree for the holiday. … before the Saturday morning oatmeal bowls were emptied, twelve-year-old Frans was sorting through the mound of boots in the porch trying to find matching pairs. Becky the oldest us kids at home was eighteen; she helped the youngest, 6-year-old Jennifer get bundled up, but Ivan who was a full year older insisted he was old enough to get himself dressed for the outdoors. In record time everyone was bundled up and trudging through the deep snow towards the woods. It was a hike through the field and we marched in single file — most of the older ones in front cutting trail - holding hands and singing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs while swinging our arms to the tune. Once in the woods, we headed toward the back corner to find the best trees, keeping a look-out the entire way. “No, that one's too small.” “Too scrawny.” “My feet hurt,” Ivan whimpered. “No branches on that side.” “Jennifer lost a mitten!” Every tree we came across was discounted as not quite perfect and the whimpering of the little ones was grating on us. We aimed our sights higher coveting the tops of the tall pines — if we could just cut off the tops of one of those it'd be perfect. “Hey, David, how about you climb up there with the hatchet and cut off the top?” Frans dared. “Are you nuts?” David responded. “Hey, I've got an idea! How about if the two of us run back home for the chainsaw and we can take one of these babies down and cut off the top?” “Yes! That's a great plan!” somebody pitched in, “We'll wait here until you get back.” And off they went jogging through the deep snow back to the house for the chainsaw. “Make sure there's gas in it,” I called after them. We tried to distract the little kids by showing them how to shake a tree so all the snow falls down on our heads; we made snow angels; we told adventure stories; and we identified the perfect tree top. It's hard to picture a 10-foot high ceiling when you're surrounded by towering pines. The length we cut off the top of the tree we later measured to be 25 feet — more than twice we could use. The tip of the tree hadn't looked nearly as good when we had it on the ground, but we couldn't go around sawing down all the trees, so this one would have to do. “Ivan, can you carry the ax? Jennifer, you take the hatchet. Be careful — they're sharp. And whatever you do, don't lose them. Gary, you take the chainsaw and the rest of us will pull the tree.” Becky had command of the situation and soon we were parading our way back the ¾ mile back to the house. “I'm tired.” “Well, I am too. Do you want us to leave the tree out here in the middle of the field?! Come on, we're almost home.” “My feet hurt,” Ivan's complaint had become a moaning mantra. “We're almost there. Who knows “O Christmas Tree”?! Let's sing!” “O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum” Nobody could remember any words beyond the first line of the song our music teacher had us sing for the Christmas concert at school. But we sang heartily and for a while drowned the protests as the seven of us trudged home with the tree. “I get the bathroom first!” I called out when the house came in sight. “I'm next!” “I'm after Jennifer.” “Who's going to put away the ax, hatchet, and chain saw?” Becky asked. “Let's measure the tree first and see if we need to cut any more off,” David suggested. Back in the yard, I rushed for the house determined to beat everyone to the bathroom. Although I'd called firsts, people sometimes cheated and would budge in if they figured a way. “Oh no! Who left the door open?!” I called from the house out to the assembly standing in admiration of the tree. They all trudged in to investigate.
part II of the same story for anybody still reading...“Hmpf. The fire's out.” Becky observed. “Me and Frans can get it started up,” David volunteered. “My feet hurt,” Ivan's mantra hadn't subsided; it'd just been ignored. “Okay come here, let me see.” Becky ordered him somewhat frustrated. She lifted him up onto a kitchen chair and helped him out of his jacket. Then she knelt down to take off his boots. “No socks, Ivan?! Why didn't you put socks on?” “I couldn't find any,” he whimpered. “Hey, Elizabeth, come look at his feet. Is this frostbite?” “Hmmm. Yes. Let me get the medical encyclopedia and see what we're supposed to do.” “We need to warm him up,” Becky stated the obvious. “But we can't put his feet in hot water — Mother said — it'll make his skin fall off.” I called down while looking for frostbite in the medical encyclopedia. “Okay, here…I found it,” I came running down the steps, book in hand. “Do not try to thaw frostbite unless you're in a warm place. Remove wet clothing. Don't rub frozen parts. Warm in luke-warm water — make sure its not hot — for about 30 minutes. Warm the entire body, not just the frostbitten parts…. Okay, Becky you get some warm water, I'll find him a blanket. David and Frans should have the fire going soon.” Becky dug in the cupboard for the big bread mixing bowl, taking out all the ice cream pail buckets, pots and pans, and everything else in the way. And then she brought it to the kitchen sink and turned on the faucet. “Oh. Noooo.” She muttered at the spigot when only a teeny trickle of water came out before stopping. She stood with her hands on her hips fighting back tears willing the faucet to work. “What's wrong?” I asked as I wrapped a blanket around Ivan. “The pipes are frozen again.” “Probably because someone left the door open.” I stated the obvious. “Hey, Gary, the pipes are frozen! Can you bring me the blowdryers when you're done in the bathroom?” Gary came out carrying an armload of hair dryers and curling irons all twisted up with one another. “Let's start with the porch,” I suggested while opening the door for him. We plugged in two blowdryers — careful not to do anymore or we'd blow a fuse — and aimed them at the water pipes, lying down to get better access. Frans and David leaped over our legs as they went dashing through the porch and called in unison over their shoulders, “We've got a chimney fire!”
wow, i love the memories, post more its quite fun to read them. -debbie
I read this to Frans last night, and he got a pretty good chuckle from it! Thanks for sharing Liz! :)Jenny
part III...“How's it looking up there?” Frans called to David who was coming down the ladder from the roof. “I've got all these snowballs ready in case any sparks stay smoldering on the roof. We'll put them out before they catch anything on fire.” “Here, I've got the baking soda,” Frans handed him the bag. “It's about time!” David took the bag and scaled the ladder. “Be careful up there!” Frans called up as he held the bottom of the ladder steady. David walked gingerly to the chimney and dropped the bag of soda down. The bag would melt in the heat of the fire, dumping the contents and putting out the fire. He stood there waving the smoke out of his eyes as the flames disappeared. “Well, that's out. Now let's see if there's a fire still in the woodstove.” He reported as he climbed down the ladder. “Hey Jennifer, you can come down now!” Frans called at the top of his voice as they came back in the house. She had been posted in the attic with a hand on the chimney block to let them know if it got too hot.“I can't close the door.” Jen whined. “Whaattt? I can't hear you!” Frans shouted again over the sound of the blowdryers. “What did you say?” I shut off my overheating blowdryer and turned on the kitchen faucet. “Gary, there's still no water!” I called to him over the sound of his blowdryer. “The fires doing okay. I'll get the vacuum cleaner,” David volunteered. “I'll check the kerosene.” I answered. The routine Dad used for thawing pipes was to hook the vacuum cleaner hose on to the blowing end of the Electrolux and put the sucking end near the kerosene heater. That way the heat would get blown at the pipes to thaw them. “It's almost empty,” I reported to Frans who had come to inspect the situation. “I'll go get the can from the garage,” he said before dashing out the door. “Gary, why don't you shut that off now — its not working and I can't hear myself think.” The sudden quiet in the porch was pierced by the sharp scraping noise of the kerosene tank being lifted out of the heater. When Frans came back, he sloshed more fuel into the receptacle spilling as much as he got in. “Hey, easy there. Be careful. We don't want that stuff dumped all over the porch.” “Okay, its full,” Frans reported screwing the cap back on the fuel can. David came with the electrolux vacuum cleaner. “Ugh. That stuff reaks. Be careful when you light that thing.” “I'm not going to light it — this whole porch will start on fire.” I told him. “I'll do it,” he volunteered. After some discussion about how high the blue flame should be and what size cone was appropriate, we set up the vacuum cleaner to suck warm air from the heater and to blow it through the hose, which by now Gary had in his hand. “Ready, Gary?” “Yep, turn it on!” He called without taking his eye of the pipe. “How are Ivan's feet doing?” I asked Becky as I headed back into the kitchen. “They're warming up. I've got them wrapped in a towel. Can you take over here? I've got to milk the cow.” She scooted over so I could take her place at Ivan's feet near the wood stove. Several hours later, with the water still not flowing, we gave up. The woodstove was burning nicely, Ivan could stand on his feet without wincing too bad, the cow had been milked, the goats fed. “It's already seven o'clock — who's hungry?” I asked while surveying the contents of the refrigerator with affirmatives answered all around. “Looks like it'll be makara pottus,” I announced using the Finnish name for weiner soup — a dish Mom convinced us was a delicacy during the tough economic times of Dad's 33 weeks of unemployment the previous year. The recipe called for boiled potatoes cut into pieces, wieners cut into pieces, cornstarch for thickener, ketchup for flavoring, and more or less water depending on the number of mouths to be fed. With several of us pitching in we had the potatoes boiling on the stove in no time and were sitting down to eat by 8:00p.m. The next morning, the frozen pipes were our only problem but after burning through so much kerosene the night before we'd decided to wait for Mom and Dad to get home. We turned our attention instead to the tree. To measure the height of the ceiling, Frans climbed up on a chair and stretched as high as he could with one end of dad's tape measure. “10 feet.” Becky read the bottom. We dashed outdoors stopping only to slip our feet into whoever's boots were standing upright in the porch. We measured the tree. At least 15 feet would have to be cut off and more if we were going to fit the angel on top. “Stand back.” David warned as he started up the chainsaw which hadn't been put away and was right handy beside the tree. Soon we were struggling to get the tree to stay erect in the tree stand. “It's leaning towards the creek.” “No, now its leaning too far towards the field.” “Oops, come back this way a little.” Becky and I were giving direction to Frans and David who lay on their bellies under the tree adjusting the screws in the tree stand. “Alright, that looks good. Let me get some water.” Becky dashed off as the boys stood up and brushed the pine sap and needles off their hands and onto their jeans. “The tree looks terrible.” “Is this the same one we hauled back yesterday? Where did all the branches go?” After some discussion it was decided that three of us would retrace our steps back to the woods to retreive any branches that broke off on our trek — because surely they were on when we found this beautiful tree. We were back an hour later with arms full of boughs and red faces and frozen fingers. Becky had a spool of white sewing thread ready to begin the work of tying on branches to the bare spots. But no sooner did we have one tied in place than it broke. “Duct tape would hold,” David boasted. “How about fishing line? Its almost unvisable,” Frans observed. Hours later with branches tied on with fishing line and reinforced with fishing line slings hanging from the curtain rod, we'd added 10 branches to patch up the bald spots in God's handiwork. We wrestled the huge cardboard Christmas box down the steps from the attic and set about hanging lights and bulbs and icicles and other ornaments on the tree. By the time Mom and Dad got back from Thunder Bay with Heather and Charlie, the tree was glowing bright in the dark living room. After they'd had a moment to admire the tree and our popcorn chain and the decorations we put around the house, David asked, “Do you see anything odd about the tree?” “No — why? What do you mean?” Mom asked. “Do you mean the fishing line?” Dad asked. “We hoped it'd be invisible,” somebody muttered. “Well you did a good job — I've just got a good eye for finding my things — that is MY fishing line, right?” Dad teased. “How'd everything else go while we were gone?” Mom asked as she took off her winter jacket. “Well, the pipes froze. And they're still frozen.” “Will somebody get the vacuum cleaner out? I'll go change into my work duds,” Dad said matter-of-factly.
i love it, its a perfect way to stay busy while mom and dad are out of town, we should try something similar here to keep from being bored when mo and dad are gone :) i don't think that would sly to well any more :) -debbie
Thanks; this is going to be printedand added to my scrapbook. I recallsomething of the trip to Thunder Bay. It was cold there that the carwouldn't start. Can't recall how wegot it going! dk
I shared this story last night with Jeff & Mona, Frans & Jenny (who had already had their laughs) and Ronda Byykkonen. What a hoot. You can see each person today in who they were back then. Quite hilarious .... wonderful writing!-anita
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