Closing the door on the holidays

Make no mistake: down the road, we will pay for the prolonged January thaw which blessed us for so many days. Mother Nature does not bestow favors without strings attached, and those strings may just be upon us as you read.
At this moment, the mercury hovers in the low 40s, having outdone itself yesterday (Jan. 8) in the high 60s. In the front yard, a dandelion blooms.
Forsythia brought in the house on New Year’s Eve – usually I make myself wait until at least mid-February but the branches on my hedge looked about to burst so I took a chance – have blossoms one week later.
Anemic earthworms have been flushed out onto the driveway and Apache and Toby are so covered with mud – and so happy – that I barely recognize them.
Because Toby’s legs are shorter than Apaches and his fat belly closer to the ground, he has added clusters of burs to enhance the neglected look. I assure you, neither he nor Apache is neglected. Spoiled rotten is what they are.
When they hear Winnie bark, they know I’m in the barn and come tearing in for a snack, which of course, they get, and which, of course, they do not need.
Closing the door to the Christmas closet after returning to it all the holiday clutter for another year, I reflected on how exciting it was to get all the boxes and bags out, to put all the traditional artifacts in their traditional places, to even get a little teary as I reread some of the affectionate cards my parents sent me.
Nevertheless, I am relieved that both Christmas and New Year’s are officially over once again. As Judy said, “It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. You hate to do it, it hurts so much, but once it’s done, how wonderful!”
But returning the clutter led me to investigate a grocery bag that I knew held old sheet music from my high school – and earlier – days when I fancied myself a great pianist and an upcoming opera singer.
My mother even spent good money for both piano and voice lessons. Today, Winnie buries her head in her paws when I sing to her, and since I no longer have a piano she has no worry there.
In what we fondly, if erroneously, remember as the good old days, the holidays were times for businesses to distribute free, beautifully illustrated song books for groups of carolers who did indeed go singing from door to door in the smaller villages and towns.
One of several which I saved was a gift of “C.A. Burbick, licensed and bonded Real Estate Broker, Farms, Homes, Businesses, 334 Lisbon St., Columbiana, OH; phone 2573.” The telephone number alone will give you an idea of how long ago this was!
On the inside of the last page is a poem written by William G. Burbick in which he emotionally recalls his joy in the country life. I wish there were space to print it in its entirety because it is really quite good and certainly appropriate in these times when “country life” isn’t what it used to be, just as nothing is.
I also keep a song book on which I had written “Janie Steinfield, Christmas 1936″. Its songs are those which families who had pianos remember – no television, few radios – gathered to sing together such songs as Flow Gently Sweet Afton, Home on the Range, Sweet and Low, Love’s Old Sweet Song and Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair.
Today’s so-called “music” could not possibly be sung around a piano and today’s young people would laugh at such sentimentality.
A highlight of a recent day is, I’m sure, a never before incident and a never again incident! Perched and even leaning backward on my window feeder, his little claws clutching the rim, his eyes closed, was a black-capped chickadee.
Those little birds are always like quicksilver, dashing in for a seed and then dashing out. There had to be something amiss.
I stepped outside the door. He did not move. I reached over and actually picked him up. He did not object. I began gently stroking his throat. He made a tiny gurgling sound. Again I did it.
More little sounds, and finally a louder one – and he flew away! Perhaps he had a seed or seed hull stuck in his throat and what I did could be compared to a Heimlich maneuver for a human, or even perhaps CPR!
Now when I go out to replenish the seed supply and the chickadees scold me, I remind them that I saved the life of one of their flock and to be quiet – and grateful.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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