A little bit of perspective goes a long way.
21 December 2012
Where I live got more than 18 inches of snow today.
That's right. Just today. Because one of my phobias is driving in snow (and worrying about those I love driving in snow), you can imagine this was a bit upsetting. But a book I'm reading gave me a little perspective.
The book in question is Evelyn Birkby's Always Put in a Recipe and Other Tips for Living from Iowa's Best-Known Homemaker, published by the University of Iowa Press. It's a compilation of newspaper columns written over the past sixty years by Birkby, who is lauded on the cover as "Iowa's best-known homemaker." The columns range in topic from Birkby's marriage to her husband Robert, their years in farming, the raising of their children, their vacations, involvement in boy scouts, and many other subjects. The part that gave me perspective was the chapter in which she discussed living through winters in less-than-cozy homes:
"The small white house was uninsulated, and when the temperature got down to freezing in the winter, frost formed on the inside of the windows...when chill winds blew tenaciously through the walls of the house and up from under the floor boards.
I remember using the playpen to provide a warm place for the children. I put a blanket on the bottom of the pen, which was about four inches above the floor. Then I hung another blanket on three sides. I placed the pen with the fourth side open toward the oil burning stove in the living room -- the only heat source in our house. The children would get inside the playpen to read, color, play with their toys, and stay warm." (p. 66.)
Holy crap. Our sixty-year-old house isn't the warmest thing in the world, but we don't have breezes coming up between the floor boards, for the love of pete.
It's really a pretty interesting book. Birkby is nothing if not upbeat* and the stories range from tragic to mundane to heartwarming. If you know any readers who like "cozier" nonfiction, particularly with a rural bent, they might really enjoy this.**
*For some reason this book tickled me this week--I must have been in the right mood. In real life optimistic and wholesome people who "never say die" tend to make me a bit uneasy.
**Although it's not a perfect book. It would be better if the columns included the date they were first published; sometimes the date can be figured out from the context, but it would be easier if it was just there. I also think it might benefit from an index.