Zaftig: Chapter One


The other day, my nine year old spent 15 minutes sobbing in the car.  For the sake of her privacy I won’t report her words verbatim, but suffice it to say, it was a meltdown over how she looked. I was heartbroken.  On reflection, I was amazed that this didn’t happen sooner. She made it to nine, nearly ten, before this particular inner monologue started up in her.  Far later than it took root in me, or in most women I suspect.  

I attempted to coach her through the moment.  The breakdown did not respond neatly to the previous trope I employed whenever conversations about the state of one’s body came up.  “Does your body do what you want it to do? If so, great. That’s all that matters.” This had worked for many years, but now I had to switch up my tactics.  As I mentally scrolled through articles on the topic, I simultaneously stomped out all of my own inner critics that longed to take the easy way out and join her in wallowing sorrow.  Instead, I decided to write a series of essays on my own body image journey. (Thanks, therapy!!)

Before I begin, a disclaimer:  My parents did a kick-ass job. Upon reading this, mom and, to a lesser extent, dad will start blaming themselves. Guys, this is so much bigger than either of you!  You did an above average job with the five of us! Look how differently we all turned out! You clearly were encouraging each of us to be our own best selves! Quit thinking that this essay has anything to do with you.  You are just minor, supporting characters. So just calm down. This is but one of the many ways you screwed me up and made me the complicated, therapy-supporting citizen that I am today.  I hope to succeed as spectacularly.

Chapter 1.  The unclear roots of the thing 

I don’t feel like doing a bunch of research on how girls form their body images.  I’m sure it’s terribly complex and there are entire journals devoted to the subject. I can only report what I know.  

Around the house?  I guess my mom and her sisters and girlfriends were concerned about their bodies and weights.  I remember a lot of conversation about avoiding a cantaloupe belly, which was their euphemism for what has come to be know as FUPA.  You know, the usual stuff. Nothing out of the ordinary. Mom didn’t have a lot of diet food around the house, no Diet Rite or Tab. But she was a bit of a whole grain freak for most of my childhood.  Let’s just say she stocked carob and we ate tofu before it was cool. So I did develop a bit of a “feast or famine” attitude toward coveted sweets and soda. Sweet cereals were especially intoxicating, and I still have a fascination with the milk / cereal management dilemma that can lead to massive amounts of cereal consumption in one sitting. But, again, nothing overtly problematic. Just the usual background noise. 

 In the ether?  I grew up in the 80’s.  All the women seemed to be wearing leotards, including Jane Fonda on the cover of the LP that mom had to guide her home exercise routines. I remember Special K.  This was the days of the tagline, “Thanks to the K you can’t pinch and inch, on me!” and a lady in a leotard or bathing suit would pinch her thumb and finger together along her waistline and –oops!—be unable to encounter even a tiny pinch of flesh.  Haha! I always was able to pinch an inch, as are most humans. One time, a goofing-around uncle went to tickle my five year old tummy and teased, “Pinch a foot! Pinch a foot!” This had to be insignificant, right? I mean, it’s just a coincidence that I remember it. It was just more background noise, right?

jane fonda

Around this time I developed the habit of dealing with my anxiety with food.  No matter the worry–school, friends, nuclear war with Russia, the fact that we will all die eventually, what’s that bump on my cheek?–food solved it.  Food is very effective at temporarily numbing feelings. That’s why so many of us turn to it so religiously. It works so good! Because mom was health obsessed, (only for about the first three of us.  For the last two, it was off to the races with sugar cereals and Little Debbies. I’m just saying.) there was no typical junk food in the house. So I would turn to less obvious choices. Baking supplies like sweetened coconut, handsful of raw nuts, and raw sugar.  Of course, because this was all definitely weird and off limits, I scarfed it in secret. And then I felt worse about myself, got all anxious, and eventually…well, you get the idea.

So guess what?  Eventually I was able to pinch an inch.  And I clearly remember the first time that this bothered me.  It was summertime, and we were running around in our bathing suits.  I guess I was about eight or so, in my royal blue tank with pink and orange horizontal stripes.  I walked into the family room, dutifully draped a beach towel over the coveted recliner and flopped down to watch some Price is Right.  And a fold appeared in my belly. Had it ever been perfectly flat? Probably not. But I saw the fat, and I grabbed it, and I hated it. And I the Slim Fast commercial suddenly made sense.  No one had to create a curriculum to teach me to hate my belly fat. Life was my curriculum, and I was a dedicated student.

A Flame in a Manger


Note:  Merry Christmas.  A re-post of a perennial favorite.


For years my parents had been christening our one-acre front lawn with a set of those plastic Nativity figurines frequently seen huddled together during the holiday season.  When I was younger, the novelty of having a complete set—two lambs and a camel along with the full cast of characters including a shepherd—was enough to keep me feeling special.  As I got older I comforted myself that, because ours were vintage, displayed in a tasteful hay bale barn, and illuminated from above with a floodlight rather than garishly from within, my family had narrowly escaped being hopelessly tacky;  we instead rested firmly in the camp of whimsical nostalgia.  Regardless of the taste level, the annual appearance of the gang on the front lawn was something that provided a sense of continuity and, no matter the chaos going on inside, a sense that a certain Christmas serenity still reigned.

manger scene 1

I must have been photographing this particular moment, as only mom, dad, Katie, Louise and Pete are pictured.

manger scene 2

Louise with vintage (read–really old and chipped) Mary and Jesus.

It was my senior year of college that everything changed.  There were only a few days left of the term, and I slogged through finals with the promise that a comfortable, familiar Christmas on County A awaited me in a few short days.  Mom and I were wrapping up our once-weekly call that Sunday night when she offhandedly mentioned,

“Oh, and the Manger Scene burned down the other night.”

Coming as it did, across the phone line to my dorm room a couple hours’ drive away, my mother’s comment seemed even more incongruous.  True, we certainly did edit our traditional Sunday evening calls down to a skeletal minimum.  On my part, this was to spare her the details of the questionable choices that I was making during my last year of undergrad—a decision that she was more than happy to go along with.  This approach formed the crux of her parenting after age 12:  don’t ask any questions that you don’t want to know the answer to.  On her part, the lack of foreshadowing and leaving out of key details was more routine.  She never has been very good at foreshadowing things.  Dropped in your lap like an unexpected, squirming baby, her pronouncements were often without context and, similarly, without clear instructions on where to proceed next.  Luckily, it took very little to get her going, relating the story that now exists as a legend.

Apparently they’d gotten the manger scene set up a few days before.  It was a typical weekday night, and they were settled down in the family room for the evening.  A bright floodlight swept across the back of the family room as a sheriff’s vehicle swung into the gravel driveway.  They immediately assumed that this had something to do with the family’s newest driver, my sister Louise, who had already had one hit and run incident to her credit since getting her license in September.  (Fear not, the victim was the bumper of another car in the parking lot at dance).  They hustled to the kitchen door and stepped into the crisp, semi darkness of a winter night on the Wisconsin prairie.  The only light came from the manger scene, the dusk to dawn light having been ritually unscrewed to provide center-stage billing to the front lawn tableau.  The light seemed a bit brighter than usual however.  And and it was throwing off heat.  And crackling.

The nativity scene was completely engulfed in flames

The sheriff’s deputy exited his vehicle, glancing perplexedly from the Biblical inferno to my dad in his then-uniform grey hooded Janesville Fire Department sweatshirt.  Oh, have I forgotten to mention that he was the Janesville Fire Marshal at the time?  Must have slipped my mind.  The young deputy glanced nervously between the two and asked the only logical question:

“Sir, are you aware that you Christmas scene is on fire?”

An interesting question.  Perhaps my parents just were tired of that particular decoration and couldn’t see taking a trip to the dump.  Trash burning was not uncommon in the township, and who needs a burn barrel when you have a snow-covered front lawn as a fire ring?

His mind already reeling ahead to the implications of this very public display of the fire dangers inherent in Christmas light displays, dad wearily asked while rubbing at his furrowed brow, “Sheesh, please tell me that this hasn’t been called in.”  He was answered by the crackle of the deputy’s radio coming to life.  Oh, it had been called in.  And heavily discussed by all on duty firefighters that evening.  Dad told the deputy that he had things under control, no a hose truck wasn’t needed, and PLEASE don’t say any more than you need to about this on the radio.

As the deputy pulled away into the quiet night, dad wearily pulled on his barn boots and walked over to the fire.  He unplugged what proved to the be the inciting culprit:  a 50+ year old extension cord festooned at various points along its length with electrical tape.  Using a piece of scrap lumber he knocked the haybales apart, attempting to dissipate the the now roaring blaze.  Haybales really can go to town, once they get started.  They burned for several hours and smoldered into the night, long after my parents went to bed.  In the morning all that remained was a charred circle in the center of the lawn, melted plastic lumps marking the former positions of the holy family and their retinue.  Unfortunately it didn’t snow again for several weeks.  County A is a fairly heavily traveled road, and between the the dispatch radio and the road’s usual traffic, word of the incident spread quickly.  I think that dad took the ribbing in stride, and several poems commemorating the incident were delivered to the house, all set to familiar Christmas tunes.  The best was clearly “A Flame In a Manger.”

I didn’t quite believe my mother until I saw the evidence for myself.  And for those of you who have heard the story before, perhaps you didn’t believe it either.  But while dad put out the flames, mom had the foresight to document the proceedings for posterity.  Thanks mom!

Flame in a Manger

The next Christmas, mom went out and got a new set of figures at the Farm and Fleet, but things were never really the same.  The manger scene’s magical allure was diminished somehow.  One good thing, though, they didn’t need to purchase new wise men.  You see, the year of fire brother Patrick–he would have been around 8 at the time– had added some theatrical flair to the proceedings and was having the magi approach from the east, set to arrive on Epiphany, 12 days after Christmas.  Every morning he trudged across the acre-wide lawn in his boots and hauled the three statues several feet closer to the scene.  At the time of the fire, they were still far enough to the east to have been saved.  It took a couple of days for him to give up on the project, and for awhile the three plastic wise men were seen to be slowly approaching the burned patch of lawn little by little, inching their way through the blowing prairie winds toward the greasy plastic disc on the lawn of my childhood home.


The Ol’ Deer Snare

Last weekend the girls stayed at my mom and dad’s.  Staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s is always an interesting experience.  In addition to the treats that are only available there, being in your parent’s childhood home unaccompanied makes for prime snooping time.  When I was little, overnights meant staying up late to watch bowling over a dish of ice milk.  I could stumble across books my mom read as a child, or toys my dad played with, or leftover adolescent residue in their bedrooms. My own parents have moved from my childhood home, so my and my siblings’ childhood detritus has been neatened up a bit.  Still, the Fischer Price farm set is available for my girls, just as when I was a kid, and the same recycled crafts are dragged out for Grandma’s instruction. This time, the gals and Grandma produced pom poms.

The girls also learned about Davy Crockett;  my parents figured out how to use the DVR.  In addition to catching up on Monk and Gunsmoke, they recorded a couple of the Disney Davy Crockett classics.  Growing up, my entire family was well versed in Davy Crockett, thanks to my brother Pete.  The kid was obsessed.  He had a fake coonskin cap and musket by age four, and was devoted to the movies.  We saw all of them multiple times, having recorded them onto VHS during Sunday night Disney Family Movie time.

Dad chose to introduce the girls to the classic, Davy Crockett and the River Pirates, featuring such seminal scenes as the trick shootout with Davy’s nemesis, Mike Fink, and the battle with the injuns, now shockingly inappropriate.  The best scene, though, is when Mike Fink sings his personal anthem, Mike Fink, King of the River.  Dad queued up the scene, and he and I joined in the singing, much to the girls slack-jawed amazement, complete with saucy hip twitches.

After I’d gone, they must have really dug into the Davy Crockett lore.  Most notably Pete’s penchant for setting deer snares to try and catch my mother.  After supper, while mom cleaned up in the kitchen, Pete donned his coonskin cap and fashioned snares out of jump ropes.  Then he and my dad would give each other the signal–the old hoot owl–and shimmy on their bellies into the kitchen to set the snare behind mom at the sink.  She was required to pretend not to notice the grown man and child slithering loudly on the linoleum behind her.  We girls would have been in the other room, studiously ignoring the proceedings. When the signal was given, mom would somehow step into the jump rope snare, fall dramatically to the floor, and be strung up.  I can’t remember what usually happened after that, but God bless her, right?  I can’t stress enough:  THIS HAPPENED REPEATEDLY!

So this morning, I opened the bathroom door and stepped neatly over the jump rope lying on my bedroom floor.  I’m used to unexpected debris magically appearing in otherwise clean rooms. Then I noticed my 8-year-old attached to the end of the rope, looking at me with a look of malignant disappointment.  Noted.  The ol’ deer snare had been resurrected.

When I came down the stairs I noticed another hot pink loop of rope at the bottom of the stairs.  Shoving aside my thoughts of lunches to be made and time running short, I made my way down, paused dramatically in the snare, and fell victim to the newest iteration of Davy Crockett, kind of the wild frontier.  


Summer Feet

“They feel too small!” exclaimed my 8 year old, complaining over the gym shoes that were actually a size too large.  “Give me back my sandals. It’s only the first day of school, nobody will care.”


Growing up, back to school shoe shopping was a rare treat.  The Bier kids were allotted two pairs of shoes each: a pair of athletic shoes and a pair of “nicer” shoes.  Additional, activity- related shoes were acquired second hand. Some classmates might see an additional pair of shoes or two throughout the year depending on sales and whims.  I, however, knew that those two September pairs were it, so they better be good.


As much as I loved those back-to-school shoes, putting them on was a mournful rite.  We spent summers largely barefoot, a pair of flip flops tossed in the heap by the back door.  These were reserved for those occasions when actual footwear was required: church, the once-per-week trip into town to the library, or a visit into the barn.  Otherwise we marauded the yard in barefooted glee. Our feet were uniformly black by the end of those summer days. Mom may not have always had the energy to force full baths on all of us kids, but every summer night concluded with us perched on the side of the bathtub for a footbath, transferring our grime to the black bathwater.  My soles grew tough, and by the end of the summer I was able to run across the gravel driveway without missing a beat. Those free summer feet rebelled against the new, stiff, back-to-school shoes. They were smothering, way too tight. Rest assured there’s no way they were ACTUALLY too tight. Mom made sure we all had a full thumb’s width of space at the toe, all the better to guarantee a full season’s usage on the rapidly growing Bier brood.  



Hiding away those summer toes might as well have occurred alongside corset application.  My feet felt stiff and choked. After a few days, the feeling of the ground faded away, dampened by thick soles.  My toes got used to their sardine-can existence and stopped straining to stretch. My summer tanned feet began their inexorable slide into the soft, pinkish pallor of February.

The morning drive

This morning while driving to the library, I turned right on a green light.  The opposing traffic was, appropriately, stopped at the light.  I would never have noticed this unremarkable fact, save for an unexpected movement that caught my eye.  The car at the front of the line waiting in the intersection was occupied by an older man in a sensible four door, gray sedan, a fact I noticed only when he began to open his driver’s side door. For a brief moment I considered the possibility of a Chinese Fire Drill-type situation involving his small fluffy dog in the passenger seat.  He didn’t get out though. He leaned out the door, hocked up a big loogie (official medical term), leaned back in pulling the door behind, and went on about his business.  And I was suddenly back to the front seat of Grandpa Bier’s car, on the way to St. Mary’s School.  

Grandpa Bier drove me and whatever of my siblings were at St. Mary’s to school every morning, except for when he and Grandma were in Florida. During that 6-8 week stretch we were forced to rely on my mother and were uniformly late.  Grandpa’s routine was strictly punctual, and after dropping us outside the doors at the bottom of the hill, he would go to mass.  If there was a Kindergartner in the mix that year, he’d hang around the parking lot and drive them home after the morning session.  If there weren’t, he’d go to the Janesville Oasis for a coffee. Years later my youngest brother, Patrick, recreated this scenario before heading to high school, and his morning coffee klatch somehow received recognition as an official high school club, The Breakfast Club.


Sadly, neither the Janesville Oasis itself nor it’s iconic giant cow remain 

Anyway, the driving provided an invaluable service to my mother, his daughter-in-law.   I believe he maintained his presence as a morning fixture int he gravel driveway until mom started driving the kids to school herself.  This coincided with her return to the parochial school teaching force and swift ascent to the barely secular title “Sister Jan.”  When Grandpa drove, I always rode in the front seat because I was oldest and age restrictions played to part in seating assignments.  In fact, some of my happiest car memories as a grade school were spent perched on the armrest between two adults on the front bench seat.  But when Grandpa drove, I occupied shotgun an experience of intimate proximity and uniformly stony silence.

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Grandpa and Grandma Bier and me during my grade school glory.  Taken on the occasion of my first communion.

There was no idle chit chat in the morning drive;  apparently that was saved for coffee time.  Instead, Grandpa waged a years-long battle, attempted to secure a clear reception of WGN news out of Chicago.  He clearly entertained the belief that the static was not due to distance or broadcast strength.  Rather, it had something to do with the heating system.  This belief manifested as frequent shifts between gentle adjustments to the tuning dial and violent slams of the hot/cold control lever back and forth in an attempt to clarify what was never more than spotty reception at best.  He’d pause occasionally:  to retrieve a toothpick from the trim over the window, to yell at squirming miscreants (almost uniquely confined to  the time when we also drove our cousins to school, a.k.a, “The Karl and Tim Era,”), and expectoration.   Whenever we reached a stop sign or stoplight, he’d predictably open the door and produce a generous loogie, a sound that echoes clearly in my memory.  My dad figures that his prodigious phlegm production had something to do with his history as a smoker, a persona that I have no recollection of as he quit right around the time of my birth. Probably his slow decline into various stages of heart failure didn’t help much either.  

I don’t recall him every saying “have a good day” or “I love you”. His drop off procedure in front of St. Mary’s school was a thing of beauty, a no-nonsense slamming on of the brakes signalling that we’d better all bail and bail quickly before he lifted his foot again, distracted by his ongoing warfare with WGN radio.  We’d catch up with him later at mass, which we schoolchildren attended on Wednesdays.  We were encouraged to disperse among the regular attendees, a group of 20-30 mostly retirees.  For a good 15 years, Grandpa’s entourage included an ever-changing cast of characters with various shades of blonde hair and the Bier cheeks.  During the handshake of peace I’d get my hug and remember that, despite the strangely-punctuated silence of the car trip an hour or so ago, I was his Dolly.


2010-05-01 01.40.06

Show Choir: it’s a thing

A couple of weekends ago, I took the girls along with my mom to see a high school show choir performance.  What is show choir, you ask?  It’s a singing / dancing / costumed extravaganza the comprised the heart of my high school career.  This particular performance featured two groups from Janesville Craig high school and two from my show choir of record, Milton High School’s Choralation.  Since then, I’ve had all sorts of conflicting emotions;  indulge me while I  unpack a few of those items and shake out some universal truths.


Milton Choralation:  ballad position, some things never change.

The show choir kids appeared to be the same as I remembered, but with perhaps slightly more modern hairstyles. While performing they were, as a group, emotive and in your face and completely guileless.  While audience-ing they were rapt, supportive, and locked in various stages of platonic and non-platonic embraces in the semi-darkened auditorium.  These were My People.  Whenever I counsel kids going through a tough peer time in school, I always emphasize the importance of finding Their People.  Their People may not be everyone else’s people, and Their People may not be the popular people. Worrisomely, Their People may not exist at their current school and they will have to hold out for the hope of finding Their People later on.  I suppose this is a version of the “it gets better” mantra. Fortunately, My People did exist, and they existed in show choir. We shared the need for the drama, the glitter, and the joy of creating something as a group that brought people to their feet and to tears.  All while spending inordinate amounts of time draped all over similarly minded people in countless auditoriums, gyms, buses and rehearsal rooms.  Finding one’s People should be somewhere in the Maslow Hierarchy;  oh wait there it is in the yellow band.  I knew I was right.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.  Finding one’s People is somewhere in the yellow-green zone, I think.


As much as I’d like to think that I had no pretense about those being truly, honestly My People, that would be crediting my adolescent self with far more self confidence and self awareness than I actually possessed.  I had other People too, or should I say other versions of myself.  It was a small school, so many of these tribes necessarily overlapped–both for me and other.  In fact there was always drama about athletes’ schedules when they found themselves participating in the dramas, musicals, and show  choir competitions. I seem to recall a lot of soccer players in show choir… Anyway, there were other versions of myself, too, and the other big version of my high school self was the hyper-academic version.  There were plenty of smart, academically successful kids in the arts programs, as I recall.  However, for me academically successful was actually skewed to mean being The Best.  I found myself caught in the vicious spiral of “successful kid must do approved academically successful things with their life,” like take all of the hardest math classes and declare academically successful career plans.  I learned this lesson early on and it stuck.  So, these two versions of myself were somewhat at odds, at least in an adolescent mind longing for approval and success.  The one area that I could safely guarantee success was academics.  I still wonder, if I would have felt more successful in show choir, might I have been open to exploring other facets of my personality, those that thrived on things other than pure academic achievement and recognition?

But I wasn’t successful in show choir, at least not the way that I wanted to be.  Oh, I was successful–as the piano player.  I was, and still am, a dynamite choir accompanist.  Thanks to early piano instruction by a nun hell-bent on turning me into the next version of herself–a working church musician–I could play four staves of parts and switch between that and the accompaniment line, no problem.  But I wanted to sing and dance and wear frivolous shoes, which is no surprise to anyone that’s known me then or sense.  As I frequently reassure my eldest daughter, people like us with no filters are destined for a lifetime of memorable public displays.  I think I’m really nailing this parenting of a preteen thing, by the way.   But back to show choir—I tried out to be an on-stage performer twice, which is what I secretly, fervently desired. The first time I was passed over and gladly took the role of pianist just to get a seat at the proverbial table. But the second time? I was hurt to not be listed on the choir director’s door.  I had done OK in my audition. My voice was never going to be picked out for a solo, but I could carry a tune, and I could move. So why not me? I screwed up my 16 year old courage and confronted the choir director with that very question.  He basically said, it’s the piano or nothing. So I chose the piano again and didn’t audition a third time.  People told me that it was because he didn’t want to lose me as an accompanist, which makes sense logically, but since when do teenagers think logically?   I knew the real reason that I wasn’t chosen:  I wasn’t attractive enough to don the red sparkly dress, I was simply too horrid to look at.  My adult brain knows that this is simply ridiculous, but on some reptilian level, I think I still believe it.  So, my senior year, I knew all the steps, all the songs. When a girl unexpectedly left to move to another district, I was sure it was my chance, to be slotted into her emergently vacant spot.  I can’t remember if I offered the idea or just quietly hoped.  Probably the latter;  he cast someone else.  To make matters worse, the replacement then got to dance two numbers with my boyfriend.  Insult to injury.

Looking back on the whole thing as an adult, the lessons are almost trite in their obvious simplicity. I can see now how important it is to not push kids too hard toward who we believe / hope / wish Their People are.  And calm down, mother, you never overtly did that.  In fact, I actually remember you daring to disagree with Sister Mary, the St. Mary’s school principal, when I suggested in sixth grade that maybe I wanted to be a cosmetologist rather than a lawyer and she rebuked me.  That took guts, mom, she was scary, with her helmet of iron gray curls and sensible shoes.  Ultimately, thought, the Sister Marys of the world, coupled by a few rejections in other areas as recounted above, left me firmly seeking my future People in the camp of intense academics.  But that’s a story for another day.

In my opinion anyone who comes through high school and identifies those years as the best of their life?  Something’s dramatically wrong there.  The search for one’s yellow band on the Maslow Hierarchy shouldn’t be easy or complete by 18.   That being said, while far from my best years, those were good times.  For a time, I found My People. So, seeing the show choir was bittersweet.  But the sweet must have outweighed the bitter, because I’m currently composing an email to the Franklin high school choir director to see how I can help support this district’s fledgling show choir.  Because I know that some kids need that home for them and their people.

Snow Reverie

Two days ago it snowed, a light fluffy, non sticky snow, the stuff of bitter cold weather and bright clear skies.  Yesterday it blew, and the crisp edges of the driveway were blurred into little duney drifts.  Around town, those stretches of road with no windbreaks were heaped up with snow.  It was just the like snow on the stretch of County A starting just in front of my parents’ old house and heading east. It was a Bermuda Triangle-esque stretch of country road, where any bit of wind would sweep the snow off of the flat, plowed fields and send it racing across the prairie, to be caught and heaped up on the roadway.  We kids always thought that those swirling eddies of snow across the two lane road looked like the action of hockey players, racing and jostling across the ice.  Every winter, people heading east out of Janesville would be caught unawares by the treacherous stretch of windswept road just past the farmhouse, and they’d end up in the ditch.  Ours was the nearest house, and the drivers would inevitably end up at our back door, asking to use the phone, back in the day when cell phones weren’t a thing.  The kitchen phone was wall-mounted with a curly white cord that cold easily stretch into the unheated “back room” as we called it;  I know because perched on the washing machine was the only place that anyone could have a private conversation in the house. If mom was home alone with us kids, she’d make any single men make the call from the back room, with the door shut firmly between us and them, the white coil of cord mashed in the door jamb.  If there was a woman or kids however, a spot was generally cleared for them at the kitchen table.  One time, dad even gave the mom and kids donuts.  But that was a time that the mom was crying because she’d hit a farm dog in the road further up the way, not because of snow.


That swirly, windy, country snow would sometimes appear pink, as the debris from the silos filled with drying soybeans at the farm across the road would dust the top layers of it pink.  One winter the snow heaped up dirty  brown on the bottom, clean white next, and a pinkish layer on the top that looked for all the world like a cross section of the Neopolitan ice cream in the half-gallon box container in the freezer compartment of the house on County A.