A Hard Winter
Drag himself out of a warm sleep
Ice forming psychedelic shapes on window panes.
Rush down the stairs,
through his parents’ bedroom to
the bathroom for his turn to wash and brush.
Milk and hot oatmeal at the kitchen table
Mom pours orange juice, smiles encouragement
until the engine cranks outside.
Over the chugging sounds, Dad calls,
“Get a move on Danny,” adding his mantra,
“The mail won’t wait.”
At the post office
gather satchels of letters and cardboard boxes
filled with the route’s daily deliveries.
Up and down country roads,
Slide envelopes into mailboxes, or tromp
through snow delivering packages to front doors.
The old Ford with chained wheels
like a German tank; so cold, the bones ache.
Shivering to keep warm. Hot cocoa on his mind.
Grampa Baugniet worked for the hometown post office all his life. He had this fantastic car for delivering the mail, probably built in the 1930s. He modified it with a full set of chains, like an army tank, so he could plow through the heavy Wisconsin snowfalls.
I remember a picture of us kids standing on a snowbank that reached to the telephone wires. Snowplowing continually added to the bank’s height. But long winters kept the snow frozen in place for months.
During the time I was doing most of my family genealogy research, my father told me about how he helped his dad on the mail route. When I suggested it must have been fun, he said, “No, it was hard work. And in the winter time, it was very cold.”
In a town that extended seven miles into Lake Michigan, you can imagine the wind chill coming off the lake. That’s why it was easy to imagine my father having hot cocoa on his mind!
Skating at the ice rink across from
the high school or the pond in our own
backyard. Swing forward, weave back, slice
left or right.
Race, glide, tiptoes, edges.
Into the warming house when fingers
grow numb. Thick mittens removed for
a brisk rub of the arms, stomping blades on
bare concrete, thinking
of whipped cream topping as frozen toes thaw.
Return outside quick before body heat
makes you adjust to the cold all–over–again.
Play ice tag with three school mates. Then home,
tired, feet sore, stomach growling;
smiling, in anticipation.
When I wrote the linking poetry, I wasn’t aware of my strong focus on sports. No surprise, though. We didn’t have videos, iPhones, or e-readers to occupy us. (I’m making up for it now!) We would never have considered watching television after school. Other than meal time, we seldom spent daylight hours inside the house unless the weather was bad.
As a young grade-schooler, ice skating at the rink across from the high school was a big deal. Part of the appeal was that I could walk to the candy store up the street. One day, I removed my skates and put my shoes back on, then hiked down to the store. Visions of penny candy danced in my head.
At the store, I tried to open the front door but it was stuck. I must have made quite a racket trying to get that door open because the candy store owner finally came and opened it for me. He lived up above the store. It was Sunday. The store was closed!
He let me come in to make my penny candy purchase, then locked up again as I climbed down the porch steps. I've always thought he’d been kind to do that for me.