Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bertha and Dante

The children are behaving so well, we aren't sure what happened to our children, but we have decided to keep these instead.

I am telling you, it's because we unplugged them this week. Either that, or it's because they haven't been in school. But I suspect the former.

I am becoming a farm girl. I didn't get on the internet today for the first time until 6:00 p.m., and it is now nearly 9:00 p.m. (I have not been on this entire time, I was only on for a few minutes before).

This morning when we got up, Joyce was babysitting their friends' two-year-old boy Chase, and so I told the boys I'd pay them to do some chores. They got bundled up and I was loading the dishwasher, when Christian insisted that if he had to go, I did too, and then Joyce decided to take Chase to see the chickens, so we all ended up going. I went and opened the barn door and got the three pans for grain for the calves that have been weaned and are in the pasture near the house. I put a big scoop of grain into each of the pans, stacked them, put them in the wheelbarrow, threw a bale of hay into the wheelbarrow, and headed outside. Joyce and Chase opened the chicken coop and fed the chickens and let them out. Tommy and Christian threw snowballs at each other and Sam went up to count the cows in the hill, and then Christian started building a snowman, while Tommy went to get snowpants on and go sledding.

I threw the hay over the fence, and it didn't get very far, so I had to go and grab it and finish throwing it over, and then I took the pans out of the wheelbarrow, and Joyce put Chase into it. I fed the calves, and then went back to the barn for the comb, and went into the pasture to comb the calves while they eat. They have to become tamed for being shown in the spring, and Joyce noted that they now know me better than they know her.

I nabbed Dereck then for a walk up on the ridge for exercise, and we looked at animal tracks in the snow along the way, and Lucas came with us.

What next? We went to a local joint called Elaine's for lunch, and went out to see Tom's habitat for humanity houses, very nice setting for those, and then came home and Dereck and Tom went out to assemble the shell we bought for the top of the van, and I tucked in with Sam and Tommy for a nap (until they abandoned me).

Oh, yes, I had had the boys gather up every single present, and we put them into the downstairs bedroom, and then I got up and packed all of them into the big suitcase. The clothes will go into plastic bags and into the shell, except for one change of clothes for the hotel on the drive back. I had packing anxiety dreams last night, so I figured I better get to it.

We had tacos for dinner, and then I showered (finally) and put on a dress so we could go and visit the neighbors, Bertha and Dante.

Bertha and Dante are in their eighties, and they never take their Christmas tree down, and Bertha gives out more than 350 Christmas gifts every year. I told Tom I was going to send him a copy of "Christmas Every Day" by Bertold Brecht. One of the things that Bertha gives is these army issue clotheshangers, which are really very nice. But I admit, when I first heard about Bertha and Christmas, I thought maybe she was a little crazy.

So, I was kind of expecting Crazy Christmas house when we went. I could not have been more wrong. Bertha and Dante are elegant and their house with its elegant china and candelabras and beautiful chandeliers, and exquisite mural on the wall-- it was clean, orderly, uncluttered, and most importantly, didn't smell like my grandmother's house--that smell a house gets sometimes when there is food rotting somewhere.

Bertha's blood pressure shot up to 220/160 a few weeks ago, but she didn't want to bother the doctor in the middle of the night. So, she started labeling everything in the house according to who should get what when she died, and then she dyed her hair so she would look good in her coffin. And in the morning, she called the doctor and entered the hospital for 5 days.

She had been a designer, so she showed me the curtains she had made, which looked like silk, and the velvet cape she wears to go dancing, and the beautiful Italian dress she is wearing dancing tomorrow night.

She gave me a black raincoat her sister had given her that was too big for her.

Bertha actually has an Italian name: her parents were coming to America from Geneva, Italy, and Bertha was born on the ship and named for it. But her first grade teacher couldn't pronounce her name, so it became Bertha of all things! When Dante asked her to marry him, she had three conditions:

  1. She wouldn't work in the fields.
  2. She wouldn't milk the cows.
  3. Dante had to take her dancing every Saturday night.

They still go dancing, though now only once a month, and they are going tomorrow night.

I saw a picture of her in her wedding gown in their bedroom, and she was worth every condition.

Still is.

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