I can't help but laugh at the commercials the big box department stores have been running lately, the ones encouraging everybody to "winterize" their houses. Yep, winter is on the way and we've had some right chilly mornings already, but I don't think there are that many folks around who actually remember how uncomfortable a cold North Georgia winter can be.
I ran into a couple of my cousins the other day and we began reminiscing about the good old days and somehow winter came up. I have a lot of precious memories of growing up in Porterdale. Winter isn't really one of them -- not for the most part.
Oh, there was the occasional surprise snow storm -- yes, every once in a while something would slip by old Guy Sharpe -- but other than that, winter never was my favorite time of year.
Let me paint you a picture of the little mill village house in which I was raised. It had four rooms. In fact, it was a perfect square. There were two doors in each room. If you entered through the front door, which few people did, you walked into the living room. There was a couch against the near wall, my daddy's recliner was against the wall on the left and there was a television, eventually, in the corner.
If you walked through that room you would enter the kitchen, where most of the entertaining was done. There was a sink on the far wall, a table in the middle of the room, and a cupboard in the near corner. The two rooms on the left side of the house were bedrooms. The back bedroom was my parents' and had a double bed, a chifferobe and a chest of drawers. All of the family's clothes -- all of the family's clothes -- were kept in that one chifferobe and chest of drawers.
My sister and I shared the front bedroom. We had twin beds that Mama bought used from her first-grade school teacher, Sybil Ellington -- who would also be my sister's first-grade school teacher. We had our own chest of drawers, eventually, but we didn't have enough clothes to fill it up.
The bathroom? It was on the back porch -- eventually -- and that was an upgrade.
We didn't have carpets on our floors. We did have a linoleum rug on our kitchen floor. The rest of the house was bare wood. There were no lamps. A bare light bulb hung down from the center of each room, with a string to pull to turn the light on. In the living room, there was a gas heater which was supposed to keep the living room and kitchen warm. We kept the doors to the bedrooms closed, which didn't matter because Daddy turned off the heater at bedtime anyway. The house was a bit drafty -- it was up on brick pillars with no underpinning -- so the wind blew underneath it, and he lived in fear that the pilot light would blow out, filling the house with noxious gas.
How did we keep warm? Quilts, of course. We would bury ourselves under four or five or six home-made quilts. Nowadays folks sell such quilts for a couple thousand dollars apiece. We used them for cover and took them on picnics and to the drive-in and lay on them to work under the car. You get tucked in under four or five of those heavy quilts and you weren't going anywhere. On really cold nights Mama would heat bricks on the stove and wrap them in towels and put them next to our feet when she tucked us in.
You didn't dare drink anything close to bedtime because answering nature's call meant one of two things. Walking across ice cold bare floors and going outside to the bathroom or using the "pee pot" under the bed. Neither was a very viable option. You could freeze walking across those floors and going outside -- if you could even lift the quilts enough to get out of bed -- and the last person to use the pot had to empty it the next morning. That was never a pleasant task.
When we finally did wake up, we would get dressed in a hurry -- let me tell you -- and then stand by the newly lit heater trying desperately to get warm. Then it was time to put on our sweater and our jacket and our gloves and our caps and get ready to walk to school. There is no colder place on earth than the Yellow River Bridge at 7:30 in the morning on a cold January day.
When the weather was really cold, which it often was, we would have to leave the water dripping in the sink to try and prevent the water from freezing, which it often did, even though Daddy "wrapped" the pipes with newspapers at the first sign of cold weather. At least once or twice a winter the pipes would freeze and burst and we would be without water until it was our turn for Oscar Harold Jackson, the Bibb plumber, to come to our house and fix the pipes.
Yeah. I remember winter -- and I am so very thankful for a thermostat that stays on 70, warm carpet on my floors and a bathroom that is about 12 feet away from my bed. Come ahead Old Man Winter. We are ready for you at my house.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at email@example.com.