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NEWS FROM THE HILLS

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Dear Cousin,

 

Cold wind sighs through the hemlocks with a sad winter sound, and stirs the tenacious oak leaves with a dry, papery rustle. Dark, lowering clouds have threatened all day to spill freezing rain or float snowflakes upon the hills, but have kept their burden so far.

The recent snowstorm that covered us in winter white has disappeared, leaving only a small mound of snow where a regal snowman once reigned. The landscape emerges once more, looking bleak and naked without its winter blanket, and shivers in the blast of frigid wind.

All at once from deep in the underbrush comes the sweet song of a tiny bird, with notes so clear and pure that it almost stops the heart. I am reminded of a little verse, "We are nearer to spring than we were in September/I heard a bird sing in the dark of December." This courageous bird, with his song of hope and cheer, lets me know winter always passes and spring will come again.

My cousin Madelyne from Ansted, West Virginia, writes that her snowdrops are up and getting ready to bloom. She says that they always bloom by the end of January, even in the snow. They seem to be rushing the season just a mite, but we humans are about as eager. Even though our warm season lasted almost until Christmas, most of us are already tired of winter and ready for spring.

I'm thankful that the Lord planted me here in these hills where the seasons change. The same weather all the time would seem monotonous, with nothing to look forward to. (I know that ends in a preposition, but how else would you express it?)

I love to see the naked trees begin putting forth tiny buds, then watch them growing into full-blown leaves. There is nothing like the glorious fall season when the woods are a riot of color, and there are golden, mild days when the brown leaves fall to the ground.

We wait with a child's anxious anticipation for the first snowflake, and the first real snowfall is beautiful to our eyes (well, to most of us, anyway). There will be more snowfalls, more cold and wintry days. Then when our hearts grow weary and our senses are saturated with cold weather, the wheel of time will roll again and the season will once more change.

As we grow older, we look for projects to fill the shut-in days of winter, such as quilting, reading or sorting through paperwork that we have collected through the years. I can't make much headway when I am sorting through papers, though; there are so many memories connected with each one.

When we were kids, we could find plenty of things to do on winter days. Except for bitter cold days, we played outside. Donning our heavy coats, mittens (sometimes we wore socks on our hands when we couldn't find enough mittens) and boots or galoshes, we defied winter weather. We made snow forts, had serious snowball battles, and played "Fox and Geese" in a ring packed down in the snow.

After we were thoroughly chilled to the bone, we would stagger back in the house discarding wet mittens, snow-logged boots and drenched coats in a steamy pile in front of the open gas stove. Sue Shaffer asked me the other day if I remembered the smell of wet woolen mittens and rubber boots drying in front of the fire. Oh, yes - that was the unforgettable odor of wintertime.

I remarked to Mom the other day that our children were grown up, and no longer trooped through the snow. About that time a flock of grandkids (plus some of their parents) came storming in to dry coats and mittens, only to go right back out and wallow in the snow once more. (Now we have the blessing of a dryer).

When the weather grew so frigid that we couldn't play outdoors, we would retreat to the barn. It was a shelter from the wind, with the pleasant sweet smell of hay and warmed by the farm animals that also took refuge there. We would burrow back into secret caves we made in the piles of hay and play for long hours.

The years have melted away, just as the snow melts away in the springtime. The barn is gone; no cows munch contentedly in their stalls. The red-cheeked children who played there are grandparents over and over. But the heart doesn't grow old, and neither do memories.

Genevieve Moore of Clendenin, West Virginia wrote to me and requested the words to three songs. I found the words to "I'm My Own Grandpa" and "Old Age Pension Check" but I couldn't locate the song "Tattler's Wagon." Do you, or anyone in Waynedale, have the words to this song? I'd appreciate knowing what they are and I can send them on to Genevieve. Thanks.

 

Love, Cousin Alyce Faye

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