Cooking Eggs and Skating on Sidewalks

By:  Annette Smith Bisbee

It was 1952. All was well with the world. It was summer time, and we’d been out of school two months. Finding stuff to do to occupy our minds was becoming quite the challenge. My two sisters, Naomi and Sue, and I played outside – how we ever got chores done for this leisure, I don’t know. I was only 7 at the time, and concerning myself with such high and lofty matters, hadn’t yet taxed my brain. It was almost August and in southern Missouri, that meant high humidity and high temperatures. Bored and sweating, we ran to the house; maybe mom would have the fan on.

Mom stood in the kitchen, her hair in a bun, covered by a headscarf. Sure enough, the black metal fan vibrated as it slowly oscillated back and forth, back and forth, cooling mom’s sweaty brow. She gathered up the corner of her muslin apron and wiped her hands, then her face.

She had just finished making two pans of yeast rolls, covering them with a thin cloth. I smelled the yeast, mixed with the ham-flavored Pinto Beans, permeating the air; my tummy ached as I inhaled the sweet fragrance. I was immediately lost in the daydream of tearing apart one of those light, fluffy rolls, taking the center and dipping it into the thick, brown bean sauce. Then I’d reach for some fried potatoes, along with a fresh sliced onion….

Whining and complaining interrupted my dream. “Mom, we got nothin’ to do. It’s so hot outside, we can’t breathe.” Now I don’t remember who said it, but that was a rude interruption.

My mom was quite creative and fun, and could always find something entertaining for us to do. She wasn’t about to allow us to whine around in the house. She reached high in the cupboard, bringing out a metal pie pan, “Here,” she offered it. She then opened the wooden icebox, bringing out an egg, and handed it to us.

“Take this pan outside and put it on the sidewalk. Break the egg and put in it, and watch it cook.”

Our mood quickly shifted. We were excited as we headed back out the front door. Was it even possible? Would it really cook?

I skipped in anticipation. We all stood ‘round watching the unfolding of this new adventure. This was the strangest thing I had ever seen, and I couldn’t wait.

We stared and stared as we hovered over that pan. Nothing was happening, so someone suggested we skate, (you see, Sue and Naomi always told me what to do, and I did it, or I couldn’t hang around with them…you didn’t think we were that perfect, did you?), so I ran to the house to retrieve the precious possessions. How on earth our parents could buy such a frivolous thing as skates is a mystery in itself. Oh how we loved to lock them onto our shoes, and skate the sidewalk.

We all took turns, and it was finally my turn again to skate. As I came upon the pie pan, I groaned with impatience. “Aw, this ain’t gonna happen…the egg looks just like it did,” Once again I had to interrupt my skating pattern to check on the egg. But wait…I caught a glimpse… just a glimpse, of a tiny white line running along the edge of the egg.

“Come quick! I think it’s cooking!” I squealed, as we all lingered ‘round, staring at our unique project. We occupied ourselves for several minutes as the clear whites of the egg began to slowly turn a milky white.

I don’t remember how long it actually took to cook that egg, but I do remember our refusal to eat it. There was just something ‘not right’ about eating an egg cooked on the sidewalk – even if it was in a pie pan. It sure proved how miserably hot it was outside. The pie pan was removed from the sidewalk, so our sidewalk route was uninterrupted.

“My turn!” yelled Sue, and I begrudgingly took the key and loosened the skates to oblige. Sue quickly skated the entire sidewalk, one foot in front of the other, arms flinging side to side in complete balance, as her long hair swayed behind in perfect and constant rhythm. Ah, the memories.

 

Sue turned out to be a good sister. She’s still got that perfect balance. If you need her, she is there. She’s always looking for the good in people, and her friends call her blessed. And I…I don’t even have to do what she says anymore to get to hang around with her.

Naomi grew up to be the most talented…she played the accordion, the piano, the organ, AND she preached the gospel. She loved people and served the Lord with all her heart. She now lives with Jesus and we miss her.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Unknown Visitor

Many memories come to mind when I revisit my childhood. One in particular came to visit today. It was in the springtime of 1953.

We were the Smiths and the Jones lived across the street…. honest to goodness truth. About 20 yards behind the Jones’ house were the railroad tracks, the view partially blocked by the grain elevators. We were at the end of Cleveland Street with only two houses closer to the tracks than we were. I wasn’t sure which side of the tracks we were on – the wrong side or the right. My 7-year old mind hadn’t yet acquired such knowledge.

Our house was a huge, white, two-story, which could have easily housed 4 families, but since the Smith family included 4 boys and 4 girls, we easily filled its quarters. It was said that Dad saved up $3,000 and paid cash for it.

In the afternoon of this particular cool spring afternoon, I was watching the sun stream across the pretty fabric on the old, Singer, treadle sewing machine, as mom diligently created a new dress for me. I watched the little dust flakes waltzing in the sunbeams, mom’s feet keeping rhythm with the foot pedal….up and down, up and down. I was in a half-daze when I heard a knock at the front door.

“Come in!” my 9-year-old sister called out. (You see, in those days, we didn’t lock our doors, neighbors and parishioners from dad’s small church often stopped by for a visit).

The front door opened into the hallway, which separated the rooms to the left and to the right. The huge wooden staircase leading to the boys’ bedrooms, stood in the middle. I caught a glimpse of this woman, and sat up straight. Her eyes wandered in all directions, and landed on me, then Mom. She didn’t wait to be invited. With a commanding presence she barged right into our living room, and plopped herself down on the couch. Mom stood from her labors to see the somewhat large and very tall woman intruding into our home.

My mind was at full attention, as my kind-hearted mom asked “Hello. How can we help you?”

Tightly clutching her flat but roomy-looking purse, she gently touched the zipper at the top, sliding it open, and then closing it, slowly.

“Well,” she blurted out. Her voice was as commanding as her presence. “I’ve never been in this town before. I just got here from Arkansas….just got off the train, and I’m looking for a place to spend the night.” She continued, “I’m down in my back, I have no money. Word on the train is, you’re good Christian people who will lend a hand to one in need.”

“Well, we really can’t offer a bed, ma’am. You see, we are going to church services tonight, uh…in another town.” That was true.

“That’s not a problem,” she bellered. “I can stay here while you’re gone.

“I’ll see if my husband has any suggestions. Cecil!” my mom called out. She wasn’t about to let this woman stay in our house – especially with us gone. Cecil was in the room within seconds. Had he picked up the distress in her voice?

“Yes,” he answered as he walked into the living room, a surprised look on his face to see our unknown visitor.

By the twinkle in mom’s eyes, you could see she was cooking up something and it wasn’t a pot of beans. She smiled as she explained, “This woman has just gotten off the train, and was needing a place to spend the night. I explained we wouldn’t be home tonight.” My mom paused, then continued. “I was thinking maybe we could call Mr. Harrison. He always has an extra room.”

With, great strength, this large woman leapt to her feet. “You ain’t callin’ no sheriff on me!” she exclaimed, and off she went.  She found her way out the front door, as quickly as she came in, dashing back toward the railroad tracks.

For the next few weeks, our unknown visitor provided many nights of entertainment as our imaginations filled in the blanks. And even now, I remember it vividly, as I allow my mind to wander, ‘New in town?’ How did she know the sheriff’s name? ‘Down in her back?’ She certainly showed no evidence when she practically ran to get away. “What was in that purse that she so mysteriously and slowly unzipped, then re-zipped? Was it a knife…or maybe a small gun?” Who knows?