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Two Red Hots
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March 26, 2012 12:01 a.m.

Forty years ago, there were no alarm clocks or cell phones to wake us up in the morning. When my father's rousting voice carried up the stairs, we rose reflexively. The five of us kids knew we were not being invited to wake up. No, we were to get up and get moving right then and there. I don't remember exactly how my parents conditioned that behavior in us, but whatever they did, it worked.
The loudest voice I ever heard my gentle father use was on cold winter mornings. Delivering each word with increasing emphasis and volume, he'd call up the stairs,
That wake up call meant just one thing. It was not just cold, but bitterly cold outside. But this we knew even before his announcement. Through the coldest nights we'd hear the bones of the old house snap and creak when the warmth inside caused the frigid 1910 frame to contract.
It wasn't only my Dad's voice that got us going in the morning. My mother made a lot of noise when she cooked breakfast. Out of the kitchen a cacophony of clanging would echo - pans, dishes, silverware, food containers - it all got banged. I don't know if this was Mom's way of waking up, if she was angry or simply oblivious to the amount of noise she made in the kitchen each morning. Raspy sawing sounds could be heard as she cut through the hard crust of homemade bread. I remember that bread knife. It was engraved "Crookston Grain" along it's shiny serrated blade. I wonder what went through her mind when she used that knife. Maybe she was angry, and with every stroke thought about how exhausted she was from the never ending farm chores and caring for five children day after day. If she was resentful, she didn't take it out on us. Perhaps it was the kitchen that got the brunt of it.
In those days, farm wives had little, if any help from their husbands who were equally taxed. There was no respite ever from the farm and livestock. Today's winter trips to warm islands and Vegas were unheard of in the 1960's. Being a farm wife was a pretty thankless job. Area businesses would give small tokens of thanks to farm wives each year at Christmas. These were all domestic items, imprinted with the business logo from the grain elevator, gas company, the co-op, or farm supply store, just to name a few. As a thank you, the lady of the house would be gifted a knife, platter, coffee mug, spatula, calendar etc...
Can you imagine what a woman would say today if the co-op gave her an embroidered oven mitt after she and the hubs spent over a hundred grand on fertilizer? I think today's woman would take that mitt and stick it somewhere and I'm telling you, it's not the oven.
Let's get back to breakfast. By the time Dad yelled up the stairs, our noses had been thoroughly teased by enticing smells wafting out of the kitchen. Drawing us out of bed would be buttery fried eggs, sausage or bacon from our own stock, toasted homemade bread, and old-fashioned oatmeal with raisins. This wasn't any old pasty oatmeal. My mother took care to boil the cereal flakes to a perfect chewy texture. The raisins had been resurrected into soft plump fruit by soaking overnight. They added a delicious sweetness to the oatmeal. If you put brown sugar on top of the hot oats and patiently waited a few minutes, the sugar would melt into a toffee-like crunchy crust. So good. I don't ever remember any of us kids ever having a problem getting to the breakfast table on time.
Tomorrow morning when my cell phone alarm rings, I'm going to hit the snooze, and go back in my mind to the two RED HOTS, the best breakfasts I ever had, and our old house that was full of love.

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