Posted tagged ‘radiators’

“Winter bites with its teeth or lashes with its tail.”

January 3, 2017

We have rain and 44˚. The low for the day will be 43˚. This is not winter in New England, but winter is impatiently waiting in the wings. Daytime tomorrow will be 50˚ but tomorrow night will be in the 20’s. The rest of the week will be 30’s during the day and 20’s at night. That’s a warm winter in New England!

The winter weather never mattered when I was a kid. I still had to walk to and from school every day. It wasn’t miles or feet of snow, but it was cold, freezing cold. The blasts of wind from across the field at the foot of my street whipped through my jacket. I remember using my mittened hands to protect my ears, red and numb from the cold. The hat my mother insisted I wear never kept my ears warm, just the top of my head. I’d hurry to get to the street below the field, the one with houses on both sides, buffers from the wind. It was a straightaway from there to school.

The middle of my classroom was always warm. Near the windows was chilly so most of us wore sweaters over our uniforms. The girls wore blue skirts and white blouses. The boys wore white shirts and blue pants. We could wear any shoes and socks. I don’t remember what shoes I wore, but I remember knee socks and pink long underwear which warmed my legs almost to the hem of my skirt.

In winter the classroom was never quiet. Even if we were silently reading, we could hear the hissing and wheezing of steam escaping from the radiators. I think that’s the sound I most miss from long ago winters.

My house has forced hot air from my gas furnace. I keep the daytime temperature at 68˚. That used to be warm enough. It isn’t anymore so I wear a sweatshirt around the house. The air blows and the house gets warm. I know this system is far more efficient than the radiators were, but the radiators did far more than spew heat. Coming in from the freezing cold, I could sit with my back to the pipes and quickly get warm. My mittens on the top of the radiator sizzled as they dried. My shoes with their curled toes looked like something Aladdin would wear after they’d dried under the radiator. When I was falling asleep, the radiators would hiss, crackle and even groan when they were warming the house. It was a comforting sound. I knew heat was coming.

“He had mittens, Minjekahwun, Magic mittens made of deer-skin; When upon his hands he wore them, He could smite the rocks asunder, He could grind them into powder”

November 30, 2015

Today is cloudy and in the 40’s which I still consider warm for this time of year. A sweatshirt is enough for me. I suppose if I were outside for a long time, I’d probably have to wear my winter jacket which sees little action most years. I do keep gloves in the car just in case, but I prefer mittens. They keep my fingers warmer. My pink ones are my favorites. They brighten even the darkest winter’s day.

When I was a kid and outside for a long stretch, the snow would stick to my wool mittens which would get so heavy with balls of snow the front would sag under the weight. It was time to go and trade. My mother kept pairs of mittens handy in case we wanted dry ones. She’d take our wet mittens, remove as much snow as she could and then put them on the radiators to dry. She also kept mittens without a mate just in case the mate appeared. If worse came to worse, we’d wear unmatched mittens. Fashion was never an issue.

Sometimes we got mittens in our stockings. My mother would buy them at church fairs where there was always a table of handmade goods. The women, always my grandmother’s age, sat behind the tables chit chatting. Every now and then one would get up to sell something or to rearrange the table. When I started buying stocking stuffers for my niece and nephews, that table was always my first stop. I swear the same old ladies were sitting behind it chatting.

Today is a day to get things done. I have a wash sitting in the hall, another load in the dryer where it’s been for a week and I have some errands to do. My larder is bare. Last night it was eggs and toast, a favorite dinner of mine, but not for two or three nights in a row. I am definitely thinking mashed potatoes and some kind of meat. Maybe I’ll go comfort food and cook meatloaf. Add peas, and that’s perfect dinner for me.

“Recess and lunch are the best.”

August 29, 2015

The sun was bright and warm earlier this morning. Now the sky is cloudy, and the day has darkened. No rain is predicted so I figure the sun will be back in a bit. I have a few errands today then I’ll do nothing productive for the rest of the day. The laundry still sits in the hallway. I don’t really care. It can sit another day.

My elementary school smelled of chalk, polish and on some days wet wool jackets. In the winter the radiators hissed steam and the windows were fogged so much you couldn’t see outside. That didn’t matter as there wasn’t really anything to see but the school yard in the back and on the side a couple of houses separated from the school by a fence and a driveway size exit from the back lot. I used to wonder if those people kept their windows closed whenever we were allowed out. That would be in the morning before school, recess and at the end of the day. My friend Kathleen lived three houses down from the school, and I envied her that. She came just before the morning bell, went home for lunch and after school was home in less than five minutes. I once had a pajama party at that house. I think I was ten or maybe eleven.

I have the strongest memories of that school. I remember standing on the top floor and looking down at all the stairs. Between each set of stairs was a landing and in the corner of every landing was a statue of Mary or Jesus or some easily recognized saint. They were small statues on shelves. The old stairs creaked and were so worn the middles of the steps dipped. Wood was everywhere. Every classroom had a cloak room right outside and every cloak room was too small for all the jackets. The classes had at least 35 kids and many had 40. So many jackets and coats were on the hooks you really couldn’t walk from one end of the cloak room to the other without having to pick up the jackets you dislodged.

That school is over a hundred years old. It is still in use. The old windows have all been replaced with more energy-efficient ones. Nothing else I can see on the outside has changed. I wish I could get inside. I want to see how well my memory drawers have kept the school alive for me. I can remember walking through the doors and seeing the first set of steps in front of me and on the right another set of steps going to the basement where the bathrooms were. At the top of the stairs I can look right and see my first grade classroom with the cloakroom right outside. That’s the room I remember the most because it was the first, the only room which made me nervous and a little afraid for the first few weeks. After that I was an old hand at school.

“sometimes music isn’t just a bunch of sounds and lyrics, sometimes it’s more than that: a time machine…”

October 18, 2014

Last week was summer. Today is fall but it is a beautiful fall day with lots of sun, a deep blue sky and a breeze which is strong enough to bend limbs and blow leaves. I can hear the mower in my front yard. The grass was high and several pine needles had already fallen. Before long they will cover the lawn, and I’ll hear the blower making piles. I miss the sounds of rakes. Every Saturday this time of year I could hear rakes from just about every house on the block. That scratching sound is one of my strongest memories from this time of year.

Remembering the rakes got me thinking about sounds which have disappeared. I remember the rotary phone and how it clicked before the dial circled back around so you could finger in another number. My father would always tell us we’d break the TV dial if we moved the channel selector really fast. It clunked as it moved from station to station. Snow was often the annoying background sound on our TV. It was like a hissing, and it did kind of look like snow when the picture disappeared and those black and white dots replaced it. When TV programming when off the air for the night, snow or the test pattern was what you’d find.

My mother had a hifi. I used it to listen to my 45’s. I’d load the records on the top over the chunky middle piece you had to use for 45’s then I’d turn the button. First I’d hear the record falling then the clicking sound of the other records as they moved down to fill the now empty space. The arm moved onto the first grooves of the record which made a sound almost like a click then the music would begin.

I know some old houses probably still have radiators, but mine doesn’t. When I was a kid, there was one on the wall opposite the bottom of my bed. I could hear the water run through it then the hissing of the steam as it was released. Woolworth’s used to have a cash register with clunky keys and bells. Typewriters had great sounds from the clicking of the keys to the sound of the bell when the carriage was moved. I still have my typewriter. It was my high school graduation gift.

Of all these sounds, I miss the raking the most and my Dad the raker.

“June suns, you cannot store them To warm the winter’s cold..”

November 23, 2013

The weatherman says to expect a cold front starting tomorrow. I just bought a new hat, a wool knitted hat with ear flaps, so bring on the cold. I think I’m going to look quite fashionable.

This morning I watched leaves fall one at a time from the big oak tree by the deck. They fluttered as they fell. I watched the birds at the feeders, mostly drab gold finches, eating thistle and sunflowers seeds. When Gracie comes in from outside, her ears are cold. The other morning a thin layer of ice-covered the water in the bird bath. I don’t hear people outside any more. Winter is coming.

Winter brings back memories. I remember the hissing of the radiators in the house where I grew up and how the windows in the morning sometimes had a thin layer of ice on the inside. I’d use my nail to write my name. We always wore warm pajamas and sock slippers. For breakfast my mother made oatmeal and added milk and sugar. The walk to school was quickest in winter. The worst part of the walk was passing the field where the wind whipped across and seemed to go through every layer of my clothes to touch my bones. Getting to school was always welcomed. It was warm.

In winter there was never enough space in the cloak room outside my classroom. Winter coats were bulky and the hooks were small. I’d stuff my mittens and my hat in my sleeves then try to get my coat to hang. Sometimes it stayed on the hook while other times it was held up by the coats around it all jammed together. On the coldest days I’d leave my sweater on. The nuns didn’t care. They sometimes wore black ones with buttons.

Getting coats to go home was always done in rows. The nun would announce our row, and we’d get our coats and bring them into class and get dressed there while the other rows went and got theirs. Sometimes the nuns had to zipper coats. They never seemed to mind. I conquered zippers early though sometimes it took two tries. The hat came next and the mittens last. We’d stand in a line in the classroom until the bell was rung to dismiss us then we’d walk to the door and into the cold.