I miss the smell of wet wool. In a world before polar fleece, that’s what winters smelled like in Maine. Wet wool, wood smoke, and beans slow cooking all day Saturday. Beans cooking still smell like love to me.
And wet wool. From the mittens and hats Nana made for us and the socks that Meme knit. Meme also made us pichous: knit slippers with a pom pom on top. You left your boots in the mud room and only wore pichous in the house during the winter. At Nana’s and Meme’s, there was a basket of pichous by the door you put on when you visited, just like at our house. These women were tidy, and didn’t want us tracking snow all over their polished floors.
My sister Irene and me would play outside for hours with our friends, making snow forts and snow men. Riding our flying saucers down the hill over to the Hughey’s house. Skating on the pond behind Shirley’s farm. All of this unsupervised, you understand. Not like today. Back then, you were told to go play outside and your parents didn’t want to see you until lunch or dinner. It was pretty safe too, because we traveled in packs, with friends, brothers and sisters and their friends, all together in the great outdoors.
I remember one time when our cousins from Ohio visited during school break, our parents took us up to the old camp road. There we met up with Aunt Denise (my father’s sister) and Uncle Dominic and their kids Mark, Maureen, Kathy and Scott. It was a dirt road with packed snow, and my father and Uncle Dom tied a toboggan and a couple of sleds to the bumper of an old Ford pickup truck.
Then us girls got on the toboggan in order of age: Irene in front, because she was the youngest, then me, Kathy and Maureen. And Scott and Mark on sleds, one on either side of the toboggan, lying on their stomachs, holding on to the cross bars of those Radio Flyers. Once we were settled, Dad climbed into the truck with my mother and Aunt Denise and off we went! I remember the jerk as the slack came out of the rope and the toboggan started to move, and laughing like crazy as the truck picked up speed. Though we probably weren’t going all that fast, because Uncle Dom was able to keep up, running behind to make sure nothing happened. But it sure felt fast!
I can still remember Kathy’s arms around me and Maureen’s boots by my elbows, my arms around Irene, feeling her shaking, she was giggling so hard. No helmets either, just good, old fashioned fun: wet wool, truck exhaust and all.
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here.)