RECALLING THE GOOD OLD DAYS

As I sit here by the fire on this freezing cold winter evening, I find myself gazing out the window, so grateful to be inside where it’s warm. As millions of snow flakes fall softly to the earth, I feel myself slipping . . . slowly . . . into a mesmerized state of recall. Recalling winters-gone-by I embrace countless sweet memories. Memories I pray that Old Father Time will permit me to carry with me always.

So many winters have passed in my lifetime, each one with its own pure white driven snow. Drifting . . . further and further back in time, my mind wanders until I’m suddenly no longer here in the warmth of this room. Instead, I’m a child again; a child of six. I’m walking from my grandparent’s home to the tiny post office where I’d wait each morning to board the school bus to take me to my grade school in the next town of Saint Peter, Minnesota.old p.o. waited for bus in 1st grade

Trudging through the four blocks of snow covered alley-ways (in Kasota, Minnesota) seemed like such a long walk. I didn’t care because in my mind’s eye I was already playing in my grandma’s backyard; building snow forts and snowmen with my little sister. How we had loved being all covered in white, fluffy snow. It seemed as though the snow would be so deep that many times it was difficult to walk through it; at least up to my knees, every year, before it stopped falling!

My first year of that walk that seemed so very long, I’d have to make my way to kindergarten in the big old Kasota School.Copy of The Old Kasota School4 It was an enormous, very old building and had always seemed a bit ominous to me.

Soon the school bus would pull-up in front of John Ireland School where I’d climb down those tall school bus steps into even more deep snow. My heart would beat faster with wild anticipation of that three-o’clock bell; the bell that meant we could go home, go outdoors and play for hours in the snow!John_Ireland_School_St_Peter_MinnesotaPatty & I @John Ireland

Sometimes Mama would drive us out to the Saint Peter Golf Course where there was an enormous hill to go-sliding down. We would take our sleds along and slide to our heart’s content! That hill was the highlight of our winters every year.

Many times though, I’d be invited to stay in-town after school and go to one of my school friend’s house. I had two friends who I especially enjoyed visiting. One of those friends had parents who owned a small grocery store a few blocks from school. We’d walk inside the front door, and there before us would be spread a large display of candy bars and all different kinds of penny-candy. How I loved that little store. LeAnn lived with her parents in a pretty little apartment behind the store. I recall thinking how lucky she was to have all of that candy right there at her fingertips.

The floors looked so different back in the 1950’s. Old, unfinished, worn wooden boards. The floor boards were dark colored and a little bit dusty in that little store, and they’d creak as I walked across them. How I loved Starkens’ Grocery Store.

Then, of course, there were the floors in my grade school . . . they, too, were old wooden floors, but were finished with some type of varnish and were kept so well polished that one could almost see one’s face in them! Reminiscing, I chuckle to myself at how things like floors, and deep snow could have made such a lasting impression on me. For several years as I grew older and taller, in fact, I’d wonder sadly why the winter snow falls were never so deep anymore. One day reality dawned on me; and I finally realized that it wasn’t the snow that had become so much deeper then, but how much shorter I’d been as a young child!3rd Grade

Once at school, my lungs would immediately fill with the heavy scent of an air-freshener that never seemed to go away. I never could figure-out whether or not I liked that scent. At times, especially in the lavatory, it always seemed overpowering. Grade school was scary for me at first. On the first day of school, a little girl rushed over to me and began talking to me and making over me. Soon I had lots of little friends who managed to replace my fear with gladness.B-day-Childhood1<a
One of my favorite times in winter were the times that my girlfriend, Linda, my little sister and I would go Christmas caroling in Saint Peter. We were in the third and fourth grades back then. Mama would drive us into town and drop us off during the evening, and return to pick us up later by the Ben Franklin Store in Saint Peter’s tiny downtown. Together, we’d walk from house to house, knock on each door and when the residents opened their door, we’d begin to sing Silent Night to them (along with a few other caroles.) We were able to harmonize well, and people seemed to love our singing. Residents would ooh and awe over us and then give us a small donation. StPeterBenFranklinToward the end of those evenings, we’d walk a couple of blocks to the tiny downtown and buy Christmas gifts for our mothers with the money we’d earned. To this day I’m able to experience the exhiliration of being outdoors after dark all by ourselves!

John Ireland (5)Recalling how much fun school recess could be; how we’d walk single-file over to the playground on the next block. During springtime and the autumn, we’d swing and ride the teeter-totter. Sometimes we’d even play softball. How I loved those big old swings that squeaked as they moved to and fro, as if I was somehow magically floating through the air.

My other favorite friend was Patty McCabe. She was a very sweet and gentle spirit. Mama always had to work, whereas Patty’s mother, Maxine, was always at home. I was always welcome there and so Patty’s house became my second home. Her mother would always have a snack made-up for us as soon as we’d arrive there after school. Maxine would make us fabulous breakfasts and dinners. Patty’s two older sisters were quite a bit older than we were. I used to love to watch them fixing their hair for their Friday night dates. Patty and I both looked up to them. Mike, Patty’s brother was lots of fun to kid around with. He had a very comical sense of humor. Theirs’ was a very strong family unit and I truly felt as if I were one of the family. I practically lived there from third through the sixth grade with Patty and her family. John Ireland (2)We joined Campfire Girls together and held slumber parties. But then I changed schools and Patty and I didn’t see each other as much. It saddens me now, how easily people lose touch with friends who’ve been so important to them. It saddens me because at my age, I realize all too well how a loved one can be here one minute, and gone the next. Forever.

I returned to visit John Ireland School forty years later. It looked exactly the same inside and out! Even the air-freshener smelled exactly the same. Nostalgia permeated my mind and my heart. I was so glad that I’d made that visit back-in-time because that old school was torn down just a few years later.

Although the building is gone, I’m able to see it so clearly in my mind’s eye, that it is as if I were still there. The little Starkens’ Grocery Store and the old Ben Franklin Store are also present in my mind’s eye as if it were only yesterday that I visited them both. I miss those days even now, more than fifty years later, and I believe I always will.

DSC_0405 Copyright November 2014 by JC “Jeanie” Cooke-Fredlund, Author. (Jeanie’s new book BAD RAP, The Truth About the Tragically Misunderstood Pit Bull was recently released/published by http://www.Bookwhirl.com.)

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