In search of story

January 30.21: Coping


Grandma’s kitchen clock

ticked crisply like a snare drum,

by day blended in the rhythm of work,

by night echoed

through the bedded house

while the rite of springs squeaked under me,

percussive, brassy,

objecting, it seemed,

to my child’s weight.

A bare light bulb

dangling on thick black cord


over the bed,

beyond my reach

even when I stood


on the jello mattress.

Grandma reached up

and turned it off herself,

then slipper-padded out.

Her bedroom a whole dining room

and kitchen away,

sly-eyed shadows deepened

around me

in borrowed bed

where once my aunts were little girls.

In the sleep breath of her house,

Ivory soap.

Now, as COVID blurs days into nights,

and nights into days,

my clock ticks crisply like a snare drum.



11 thoughts on “January 30.21: Coping

  1. I was reading and remembering all at the same time. For several years at my grandparent’s farm, I slept on a twin sized feathered mattress. It makes me smile just to think about it. The bedroom was on the second floor and was pretty scary for a young child. There also was no heat except for the round, metal, plate-sized grate in the floor that allowed heat to rise from the first floor of the farm house. When I got up, I didn’t dawdle but headed down for those donuts fried in lard that I smelled through the grate. ๐Ÿ™‚ With regard to the clock, it reminded me of a family relative who liked cat clocks. When we’d visit, there would be a cat clock with the tail moving in every room. Creeped me out. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy Saturday, friend. Wicked cold here but supposedly we’re getting some sunshine which will mentally warm me up at least. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you! I am sitting here laughing out loud at your comment about being creeped out! I can only imagine the horrors of a cat clock in every room! I have seen such clocks in the Vermont Country Store catalog and wondered about them. So it was your relative who made them famous. “A chicken in every pot and a cat clock in every room” would have made a great campaign slogan. I love the image of the grate with the doughnut fragrance wafting up! And I can believe you didn’t dawdle when you got up on a winter morning. I bet that room felt as though it was right outdoors. Just like the cold outside your windows right now! I hope you get that sun; you are so right about how it warms us mentally. Happy Saturday to you too, Judy!

      • Besides the tail moving back and forth, the eyes moved too. I had to sit with my back to those things so I didn’t have to look at them. I think after Covid takes a backseat to life that there should be a gathering where we close our eyes and a ‘mature’ woman fries us up some nice chocolate donuts in some grease. You remember – they had to go on a tea towel to drain the grease before you ate them. If it kills us, it might just be worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • What a way to go! Death by doughnut! My grandma used to make doughnuts, and my brother commented years later that they fell like lead into his stomach but were wonderful. I do remember that they had to drain but I don’t remember on what. However, I never had to look at cat clocks with eyes and tails that moved! Oh, no!

    • p.s. Thanks for reviving my memory of those grates! Grandma’s weren’t round, but they were a detail of her house I hadn’t thought of in a long time, so I was glad to be reminded of it. Those things we were so used to seeing often disappear in memory.

  2. Lovely memories, just lovely. Thank you.

  3. I loved the rite of springs and jingle-kneed / on the jello mattress, although it took me a while to remember jello is jelly. I have never liked a ticking clock, especially if I’m trying to sleep, so snare drum resonates too.

    • Thank you! I figured you’d catch the rite of springs, and I did wonder if the word “jello” might have meaning in other countries. Jello is mocked as a non-food by many here, but I am a proud jello enthusiast.

  4. You’ve captured the child’s perspective of a visit to grandma’s house beautifully, Maureen. And you had me at Ivory Soap (one of my favorite smells), although at my grandma’s house it was bacon grease and Jean Nate.

    • Thanks, Tamara! I have to say that bacon and anything at all would be fine with me, but I wouldn’t immediately think to pair it with Jean Nate. Very glad you understand about the Ivory soap.

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