‘Old Maine Woman’ – a true survival story

‘Old Maine Woman’ – a true survival story

The following is from Glenna Johnson Smith’s new book, “Old Maine Woman, Stories from The Coast to The County.” Smith, 90, grew up in coastal Hancock County and moved to an Aroostook County farm as a young bride. This excerpt is from the chapter, “Snowed In.” For more information about “Old Maine Woman,” go to www.islandportpress.com

Snowed In

The snow came down hard last night.

This morning son Mel calls and asks if I plan to leave the house today. When I tell him no, he says he will wait until the storm is over before he plows me out.

There’s a holiday feeling about being snowed in an I’ll-do-whatever-I-like feeling. I’ll think of something really great. But first there’s my morning routine of pills, exercise (strenuous for me but not much compared to what younger people can do), breakfast, and the word puzzles in the Bangor Daily News. And then I’ll think of something.

But since this is Friday I must put the garbage out, to be picked up at about eleven. I empty the wastebaskets and check the refrigerator. I might as well throw out last week’s casserole. Or was it the week before’s? The snow is so deep that I need my high boots for going to the garage for a big plastic container. For years I just put the garbage bags out by the street, but then the hungry crows started shredding the bags and strewing remnants of my private life all over the place. I love crows, but there is stuff I’d just as soon my neighbors don’t see.

I look in my downstairs closet. Finally I find one boot. Lord only knows where the other one is. I don’t think I wore these boots at all last year. I tug at boxes and bags until the den floor is piled with them. Here’s my boot! It was under a box of old handbags I’ve been planning to throw out. I’ll put them out now, with the garbage. Oh, here’s the L.L. Bean bag that I loved. Since it’s washable I might as well keep it a while longer. And this patchwork bag. There’s a little tear, but I could easily mend it. Maybe that will be today’s project cleaning out this closet since all the stuff is hauled out anyway.

But I’m all out of breath. I’ll just sit for a few minutes and drink my coffee. I’ll check to see what’s on TV while I’m sitting here. Here’s an old Ava Gardner–Clark Gable movie on Turner Classics. I saw it years ago but I can’t remember much about it. I remember that Clark Gable passed through Presque Isle during the war. He stayed at a hotel for the night and somebody I knew saw him shove a woman aside so he could use the telephone in the lobby. Anyway, I still think he’s a hero. I’ll watch for a minute while I finish my coffee. I fall asleep in my chair. Oops! I wake up at ten-forty. Must hurry and get the garbage out. I pull on the boots and take my cane. I get dizzy when it’s all white out. It feels good, being out in the cold air.

I’m out of breath when I get back in and get the boots off. I’ll sit down a minute and see if I can finish the crossword puzzle. Most every evening my friend Pat and I have a phone visit, and if she says the puzzle was easy and I still have blank squares in mine, well, I feel just awful. The house feels so warm and cozy after being out in the cold that I fall asleep again.

I wake up to see two cats sitting and staring at me. It is snowing so hard that they don’t want to go outside, yet they hate to use the litter box in the cellar. They blame me for the weather. They try all three doors, find it’s storming outside every one of them, then chase each other up and down the stairs, howling and snarling. I always thought

that when I got old I’d have gentle, loving cats. Mr. Gray usually has a good disposition, though. He likes to sit in my lap when I watch ball games. He stares at the game. Coty, never a lap cat, sleeps in the chair beside us. Sometimes after the game I stare at something that doesn’t interest me just because I don’t want to disturb the cats. After all, they’re old and set in their ways, like me.

The telephone rings and I’m glad to hear the voice of my granddaughter Jasmine. But I can barely hear her. My left ear has shut down, and that’s my good ear.

I’ll go get the eardrops. I’m glad that most of my parts still work, after a fashion and with lots of help. I’ve had to give up long walks and instead walk in stores, pushing a cart for balance. But I’m grateful for the things I can do. I always loved to dance, partly because I liked snuggling up to some lad I had a crush on. But I’ve learned that dancing is fun for its own sake. That’s one thing I can do for fun today play some peppy music and dance. My only partner would be a chair back in case I get dizzy. I don’t move fast, but I still like moving to music. But I’ll take another crack at that puzzle before I dance.

Where’s my pen? I buy cheap pens by the dozen, and yet there is never one in the room.

I’m in. Must be one here somewhere.

Oh, here are the family pictures from last summer. I wondered where they were.

That’s what I can do today, put them in an album. But first I must organize some albums so each will contain Ashville pictures or farm years pictures or . . . I’ll just sit here and look at the pictures for a few minutes and remember what a great time we had.

I might as well have some lunch before I start work. Some leftover corn chowder and a bran muffin would be good. I always doze off after lunch for a few minutes, so I check Turner Classics again. Ah, an old musical with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I like to doze to music. I hope my left ear comes back before the telephone rings again.

Now I’m wide awake and ready to work. I wonder why it’s getting so dark. Four o’clock? Can’t be. That’s when I prepare my supper so it will be digested by bedtime. I sure do like storm days; the snow is still peacefully falling. I’d better put those bags and boxes back in the closet or I’ll trip over them in the night. I can organize those pictures after supper. Or maybe there’s a Celtics game. Anyway, I’ll get up earlier than usual tomorrow and get right to work.

I always get a lot done on storm days.

Glenna Johnson Smith has seen many fierce winters in her 90 years. She is the author of the newly published memoir, “Old Maine Woman, Stories from The Coast to The County.”“Old Maine Woman,” by Glenna Johnson Smith

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