Sunday, December 10, 2017


Ina’s Sundays were always quiet days, devoted to church, fellowship, a good mid-day meal, and quiet activities.

A visiting minister came the first Sunday of the month. Other Sundays, they called the service “Sunday school,” and a member would provide a lesson followed by discussion. Today, Bertha shared the story of the Wisemen. An inspiring discussion followed. The congregation sang several Christmas carols.

Pot roast was a natural for Sunday dinners since the meal roasted while they were at church and was mostly ready when they arrived home. Today, it was just the three of them. Shirley Anne set the table while Ina put the food in serving dishes. The meal and the dishes were finished quickly, and Ina was glad, since she wanted to start her Christmas cards.

Mid-afternoon, Ina became aware that Shirley Anne was sad and rightly guessed that she was missing her mother. It was difficult to know how to cheer her, but just then the phone rang – a long and two shorts – and Ina lifted the earpiece to answer. Yes! It was Mrs. Smith calling to talk to Shirley Anne. “Why, she’s right here. I’ll put her on,” said Ina.

Telephone calls were kept short in those days because they were expensive. If I told you the cost of a long distance call, you would think it a pittance, but even loose change was dear. Ina set the 3-minute egg timer on the windowsill, and Shirley Anne knew what it meant. Undaunted, she forgot her sadness in hearing her mother’s voice and chatted along about the magic closet, the new nightgown, robe, and slippers, and even about the poem she was learning for the school Christmas pageant. Ina was pleased to know the child was happy in her stay, even though she naturally missed her mother. 

The call ended satisfactorily within the three-minute limit, and Shirley Anne’s cheerful nature was restored. Ina set her to work putting stickers on the back of Christmas cards and letters. KW

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Here it was Saturday, the 9th of December – Christmas coming closer with each day. Even though Ina didn’t decorate until just before Christmas, there was still work to be done so that the house was ready. With Shirley Anne tagging along, they dusted and mopped all morning long, the little girl chattering away all the while. Ina had forgotten just how much a child could talk.

As soon as the noon meal was finished and the dishes done, Ina set about to make her mother’s recipe for pork cake, an old-fashioned fruitcake that was a family tradition on special occasions, including Christmas. Ina wasn’t sure she really liked pork cake, but like I said, it WAS tradition. Ina set Shirley Ann to work chopping nuts and such other helpful tasks as were safe enough for a youngster to perform. The wonderful aroma of baking fruitcake soon filled the house. Perhaps that was the best thing about fruitcake.
It seems fairly quiet in this world of 1933, doesn’t it? Well, things will soon change. KW

Friday, December 8, 2017


It was dull day – no sun – but the frost clinging to the pine trees made the grove a fairyland of beauty. After Shirley Anne left for school, Ina sat down with her crochet hook and a skein of yarn and made a little pair of slippers for the child. It didn’t take long, and once the slippers were in the closet, Ina set about her other chores. Today she baked several loaves of bread and an “old-fashioned” gingerbread.

Shirley Anne was delighted with the new slippers. “I think they go with my new robe very well, don’t you Aunt Ina,” she asked. She politely didn’t mention that the spring-like design on the nightgown didn’t fit the winter theme so well. Shirley Anne knew her manners – and her place.

After their dinner of fresh bread and milk – you know, rich warm milk poured over buttered bread and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon – Ina once again coached Shirley Anne on the poem. She now suggested gestures and movements to enhance her performance. Then the little girl sat with Uncle Jack before the fire as he read to her from Mother Westwind’s Children while Ina unraveled the yarn of an old sweater. KW

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Christmas did not come early to Ina’s world. Oh, there were preparations, such as planning gatherings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, buying or making gifts, writing letters, etc., but bringing in the tree and decorating happened Christmas Eve. Ina didn’t mail her gifts early either, even though the Post Office wanted her to. 

Ina was contemplating the gift that Shirley Anne would find in the closet today, when the front door opened and Bertha breezed in with the fresh air. “Ina, it’s cold, and we need to make sure little Shirley Anne is warm enough. I made this robe for her out of an old flannel shirt.”

“However did you find the time?” asked Ina, and the sisters looked at each other and giggled.

When Shirley Anne peeked into the closet after school, she was delighted to find the new robe. It couldn’t be said that the robe was beautiful. Bertha did love to make frilly things, but this robe needed to be practical and serviceable. And Shirley Anne loved it just the way it was.

After supper, Shirley Anne put on her new nightgown and robe, and Jack lifted her onto the upside down wooden box that he had brought in for her. From there she recited her verses from The Little Gingerbread Man. “Don’t sing-song,” Ina admonished, saying the lines more evenly and with expression. Shirley Anne obediently repeated. Her performance was improving with every practice. KW

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Ina and Jack are long gone, but I still imagine them in this old place.

The fire in the old wood range had been well-stoked and sent welcome warmth into the house on this cold day. Ina chuckled in spite of herself as she ironed Monday’s laundry. The memory of Shirley Anne finding the nightgown in the “magic” closet was so satisfactory.

Cottonwood Butte from apple tree at the pond
Yesterday’s trip to town had put Ina behind in her household chores. Thank goodness she had found a candy cane at the Merc to put in the “magic” closet today because she had no time to sew, not even in double time.

When Shirley Anne came in from school, Ina immediately saw the note from Miss Johnson pinned to her coat. “Please help Shirley Anne memorize these verses for next week. Selection for parts in our Christmas pageant will be based on this recitation.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” thought Ina to herself, “if Shirley Anne could win a good part?” Ina knew competition from older girls would be stiff. Shirley Anne would have to recite flawlessly and with good inflection were she to have a chance. The old teacher in Ina came out, and she resolved that they would try hard.

Here are the verses that Shirley Anne was to learn:
Once on a time there was a King
As cross as any bear,
He shook the cook and often took
A handful of his hair!
(And this was quite a shame because
He hadn’t much to spare.)

But then, a wretched cook he was,
Which complicated things,
And sure as whales have fins and tails
Poor cooking makes poor Kings!

Now, this one flung folks right and left
And scolded without cause,
And perched upon his throne, he made
A lot of dreadful laws.*

They set to work that very night, and Ina was pleased to discover that Shirley Anne was a willing worker and quick learner.

Near the barn looking south
*From The Little Gingerbread Man, produced by Royal Baking Powder Co., 1923

[Where past meets present: Mike and I drove to the farm to check on things today, and also to pick up a few things I needed for this advent project. There was no snow to speak of, but it is cold -- highs in the 30s, lows in the 20s. It was a bright day such as Ina enjoyed.] KW