Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rooms with names

The two-story South Dakota farmhouse was large to accommodate my Dad's family of nine. 

Two bedrooms downstairs, along with the living room, dining room and kitchen.  Five rooms upstairs. Beautiful hardwood floors. And one teensy-weensy bathroom.

But what was unique about the farmhouse was that most all of the rooms had names.

Well, the kitchen was just "the kitchen." A large cast iron stove took corn cobs for heating, kept in a basket alongside the stove. The window above the sink not only let the sunlight in, but provided a view of the yard and barns. Chickens scurried about, while the dog, (first Pudgy, then Butchy), slept peacefully in the shade. 

The dining room contained a large table covered with oilcloth. This middle room, between the kitchen and living room, doubled as an office-of-sorts, with a desk piled with mail and newspapers, and a record player for 45 rpm singles. From the dining room, one could usually hear Ferlin Husky singing Cattle Call, or crooning, Ah'd walk fer miles, harsh miles, fer my momma and daddy...".

Grandpa and Grandma outside
the back door by the pump
used for drinking water.
The three dining room
windows can be seen.
The coolest thing about this room was the built-in buffet.  It separated the dining room from the kitchen, and the doors and drawers could be opened from either direction. Silverware needed in the kitchen? Silverware needed in the dining room?  Either way, there it was.

The living room had a deep ruby red frieze couch and matching chair, with doilies made by Grandma to cover the arms and backs. A crocheted cup and saucer that Grandma starched with a sugar mixture adorned the glass-topped coffee table. A door leading to a large front porch was in the living room, but, sadly, the front porch, called the "East Porch," was seldom, if ever, used.

The “East Room” was one of the main floor bedrooms, where Mom and Dad always slept when we visited there.  The other bedroom was Grandma and Grandpa's room. All the bedrooms had iron beds and wooden dressers.

The “Toy Room” (our favorite) was the first room you came to upstairs. It was filled with charming toys once belonging to my aunts and uncles, played with as they were growing up. Paper dolls with plastic stands, an old-fashioned green wooden toy telephone, dolls with plaster (mostly cracked) heads, that we lovingly placed in handmade cradles, my aunt Lois Ruth’s candy bar wrapper collection, and many other assorted and sundry old treasures.

At the far end of the upstairs was the “Book Room” that housed Uncle Erwin’s collection of  academic and philosophic books on shelves and in big foreboding trunks. He also had a fascinating collection of matchbook covers. All the matches were torn out and he kept only the covers. They, and the books, are still there in that same room.

In the middle of the "Toy Room" and the "Book Room" was the "Boys’ Room.”  This was where Uncle Erwin, Dad, Uncle Herb and Uncle Marvin slept. Bereft of any decorating whatsoever, it was obvious the boys slept there. Iron beds, one wooden chair, a calendar on the wall.

The "Girls' Room" belonged to Aunt Norma and Aunt Lois Ruth. As we grew older, this became our favorite room. The closet was full of old Prom dresses,  pressed corsages, summer sandals and high heels which we clomped around in.

A deep blue bottle of Evening in Paris and tins of talcum powder sat alongside jars of Ponds cold cream and a brush and mirror set on the dresser. Ah, we were princesses in this room.

If Lois Ruth happened to be home, we’d “powder" her back. My sister, Christine, and I would first sprinkle eau de cologne on her back, then dump talcum or dusting powder on it. This would make a wonderful paste and we’d rub it all in. Although the bedroom reeked of perfume and powder, we thought it was great fun, while Aunt Lois thought it was pure bliss.

The last room actually had no name, but it belonged to Aunt Loretta. Again, an iron bed and a curved, skirted make-up table, painted blue and white, with a hair brush and mirror set. It was our least favorite room because it had a stuffed owl in the closet. Intriguing, but it gave us the willies.

We considered all of the rooms in the farmhouse special. They all contained abounding love, energy, and warm memories for my Dad's family, and then for us.

Each of us felt as special to my grandparents as the rooms with their own names.

And the legacy of love, energy and warmth were passed on.