Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Today I am grateful for storm cellars. You don’t see them much anymore, but they were a staple in the good old days, just like coal chutes.
My grandparents farm house had a storm cellar. I got many a sliver from the chipping paint when I used it as a sliding board. I know. Entertainment sometimes got a little desperate on the farm. If I got sick of climbing the huge box elder tree that must have been a hundred years old when I was a kid, then I’d slide on the storm cellar door.
If you didn’t find a way to amuse yourself, someone would give you work to do and I’m talking “real” work, like shoveling shit. . . literally. If you got lucky you might be put to task in the kitchen with grandma, snipping beans or shucking peas, but you had to keep a really low profile to pull that gig.
I usually spent a couple of weeks on the farm in summer. “Vacation at grandma’s” is what my parents called it, but now that I look back on it I think I was a migrant worker. I was just too young and stupid to realize it. Clever folks, those grandparents. Get the kids to do the picking of strawberries, beans and those godawful prickly pickles. Let the mosquitos dine on the backs of their knees and not yours. Let them get sunburned and sweaty and cranky.
I’d love to say my grandma was sitting on her porch sipping lemonade, but she wasn’t. She was right there in the field. . .yes, the garden was a huge field. . .wearing her Bo Peep bonnet and cotton house dress with sensible oxford shoes, picking and swatting and hollering at us to stop eating all the berries. What’s the point in picking if you can’t eat? But she sold him and we were killing her profit.
You hit the hay early on the farm because the demon rooster will have you awake way before you want to be. But you’re a kid, so you don’t have to get up to do the milking. You can just lay in bed, smelling the pungent farm smells wafting through the sheer window curtains, billowing like electric dust. When grandma bellowed up the steps, “Are you gonna sleep all day! There is work to do!” it was the smell of frying bacon that got you up more than her words.
Another work day on the farm, just like every day. But when you get a chance, you’ll scootch down that storm cellar door, pretending it’s a real slide, in a real park, never knowing that someday when you’re old, like now, you’ll be glad it wasn’t.