Shoveling coal like mad – 1/18/57

January 18, 1957

My dearest John,

Just a note today and will enclose some letters that have come. I meant to write yesterday but got busy running the sweeper and didn’t get it done. Really got cold Wed. night. I couldn’t get the car started and so called Dillons, and they came after us. David wanted to run to Milliman’s [a neighboring farm] but it was so terribly cold, I didn’t want to get them out, when I knew that some of the folks at the chapel would be out anyway. 2 below zero at supper time with a good wind blowing. The boys’ room is closed up and they are on the davenport. That helps to keep the other two rooms upstairs warm. It got to 10 below that night and, while not that cold, it hasn’t been above 15 above zero since. Shoveling coal like mad (16 tons).

Yesterday Milliman’s went up and down the road starting the neighbors’ cars with the Jeep. The bus wouldn’t even start so Heitchers down the road picked up the kids and took them to school. Herb McLaughlin brought them home in the old greyhound the school owns.

We have been way off schedule this week since the youngsters are home every afternoon. Seems like another vacation. And it has been nice not packing lunches. We get a decent breakfast this way. Guess I should start earlier in the morning, but it is so cold. I have to get up though now in order to have a fire. I put 4 big shovelfuls of coal on last night at 11 and at six this morning there was just enough fire left to start some coal burning. And the house wasn’t above 65.

I delivered your message to Ralph. I think that he will write Mr. Little. At the farewell the young people gave Millers two beautiful lamps. The chapel gave them one of those pictures of Christ that have a bulb to light or plug in to put a light behind the picture, and a nice electric skillet. For such a cold night and such short notice, quite a few people turned out. Not as many however as if it would be on Sunday night. They would have had it then, but word got out that they were moving on Sat.; in reality it will be Tuesday. (if they can get a van – that hadn’t been arranged yet yesterday) Margaret Snook suggested that Harpers move in the house – if they do consider that, what shall I say? Since it is on sale perhaps they will not consider it.

Danny has an imagination. He calls that little peg thing that the rings fit on his “this I know”. He puts the rings (records) on and twirls it around! How about that?

Now I’ll close – . Oh, about the money, don’t bother to send any now. I have plenty for a while. Damers gave me 10, Moores handed me 10, and the check from Cathers was signed to me, so there is plenty. I have acknowledged all of those already. I don’t know if it was impulse or the Lord bidding – but all day Sunday I felt I should give Arnie $10, so just before I left on Sunday evening I saw Ralph and asked him to give it to Arnie anonymously. I was going to skip it thinking it was probably impulse but as I drove out of the yard and nearly bumped into Ralph, I had the thought to handing it to him to give – now how do you know?

I went to the book store in La Grange yesterday to get a little more material for Wed. nights and bought the youngsters a few more books. Wanted to get Milnot [evaporated milk] but forgot. Did get some day old bread and gas at Howe. Gas goes sooner when you have to run the car a while to get it warmed up each time.

W.S.T.R. has already sent your income things here. Mike Strong is taking your place at night. Dick Bunce won his ninth match last Wed. night. Sturgis plays East Lansing tonight – they are tied for first place so it is a big game. Millers invited the girls to go and David is about dying he wants to go so badly. They might ask him if he and Pat weren’t so goofy about each other. But I can’t take him, so he is mad and says he won’t even listen on the radio! But I’m going to!

Now I will close – Loads of love from all of us. We sorta have our hopes up that you’ll get home the 27th. But don’t do it if you are to preach someplace else – Unless you have the whole weekend it is too much. It is almost too much to come so far to preach and get back. Would you consider the train to Elkhart – I’d come meet you there. It would be so much easier traveling that way. Could study while riding.

As I said before, I must close. The chicken backs and necks for soup must be overdone by now.

Lovingly, Nellie

Reading Lucy Maud, Part 1

DSC_2475(She could be Anne-with-an-e except she’s no orphan. She’s the cherished youngest.)

HOW did I make it through my youth without reading Anne of Green Gables? There is no explanation. I first met Anne Shirley after I was married. I gasped at the nonstop sentence of Anne talking to Matthew Cuthbert on the way from the train station. A while later I read Anne of Avonlea; I birthed sons, abandoned Anne, and started reading Henty.

Each year I  pick an author and read as much of his/her work as possible. My default would be to hunt down every last novel, bibliography and online essay. But I’m trying to get over my compulsive tendencies. Last year, I read through Carol Ryrie Brink of Caddie Woodlawn fame.

So this is my summer of Lucy Maud, my summer of Anne, my summer of Rilla, my summer of Emily. [Yes, I’m holding on to summer until September 21!] I’ve read print books and Kindle; I’ve listened to dramatized versions and I’ve listened to the 147 short stories on Librivox. I could only listen to a few at a time in order to keep my nostalgic blood sugar from spiking.

There are recurring motifs in Montgomery’s work: the shape of noses; imaginations; emotionally isolated orphans; friendships; cold and impregnable aunts, a high view of education; music; words; books; flowers; the ocean. Lucy Maud’s characters share a palpable yearning, an intense desire to be wanted, to belong.

Reading through Montgomery’s work, one would think the mortality rate of birthing mothers to be 90%. Mothers aren’t the only thing missing in this fiction. Strong fathers—strong men— are on the endangered list. Fathers are either absent, dying, or overseas. I had hoped that Gilbert Blythe might be the exception in Rilla of Ingleside; alas, he is the absent father caring for distant patients.

What about Matthew Cuthbert?  Matthew is sweet, Matthew is empathetic, but I wouldn’t call him strong in the masculine sense. In my mind I’ve been kicking around the matriarchal nature of most of the households in these stories. And wondering how that colors the narrative.

Who stood out in my mind?

I loved the harum-scarum Meredith family (in Rainbow Valley) headed by the absent-minded widower, the Rev. John Knox Meredith. The descriptions of a brood of lively siblings in a motherless house rang true to my experience in such a family. But it could not be denied that there was something very homelike and lovable about the Glen St. Mary manse in spite of its untidiness.

It goes without saying that I love Anne. I was drawn to Rilla, the youngest Blythe who discovers she has gumption and at fifteen raises a war-baby. Emily was endearing, an aspiring writer whose coping mechanism of thinking how she would write the scene got her through many tongue lashings.

The short stories are not Chekhov. I’ve come to the conclusion that the short story is the one of the most difficult genres. A few of her good ones make it word-for-word into one of her novels.

I have more thoughts. I will corral them and sort them into categories. And sift through the heaping pile of quotes I’ve highlighted. It has been a fun reading summer. And there are still more books to read!