Sunday, February 17, 2019


I believe these are Alaskan friends.  My sister looks to be about the right age in 1952.

         Jo was annoyed with her mother.  It was the same every day.  When she came through the door from third grade her mom would be cooking the evening meal and it was only three p.m.  The scene repeated itself again and again. 
          The kitchen of the government housing provided for them by the U.S. Weather Bureau included faded, wavy, linoleum floor  an old refrigerator, stove, sink, wood table, scarred chairs, and high chair.  Light from the bare bulb overhead shadowed everything in the dark Alaskan afternoon.  Jo's baby brother cried from his cradle.  Wasn’t there more to life than school, dinner, and then bedtime?  Didn’t her mother have anything interesting in her life?  Wasn’t anything exciting ever going to happen?

Finally getting outside to play in the spring in Fairbanks 1952

         “Mom, where’s Stephanie?” Jo asked as she struggled out of her snow clothes.
         “She’s upstairs in your room, but before you go and play would you be my Superhero, like you usually are, and rock little Samuel for me?”  Mom wore a bib apron over her blue jeans and sweater, and stirred food on the stove.  It was never too warm in the house.
         “Yeah, all right,” said Jo.  She threw her outdoor clothes on the floor heat register to dry, and walked to the cradle in the corner of the room near the entrance to the living room.  It was away from the windows, front door, and basement door, to keep the drafts off the baby.  She took a breath, and instead of feeling sorry for herself because she always had to help her mother, she tried to think of herself as a Superhero. 
If she were a Superhero she could fly through the air, go miles and miles, and see the whole Earth.  Someday she would travel all over.  She rocked the cradle and rattled mom’s keys for her brother.  He stopped crying and looked at her.  He really couldn’t focus, she knew, because he was only a month old.   He started to cry again and Jo rocked harder, and rattled more, but nothing seemed to help.  Finally, Mom came and picked him up, and took him to change, and feed him.
         “Jo, before you go play, wash your hands, and set the table for me.”
         “Oh all right.”
 After setting the table, Jo went to play with her little sister, Stephanie.  They always played school because Stephanie wanted to go to school, but she was only four.  Stephanie was easier to get along with than that crying baby, Samuel.
The sun set even before Jo’s older brother, Steve, got home at four.  He had to carry a flashlight to his fifth grade class at school so he could see to get home.  Living in Fairbanks was a difficult adjustment for Jo after moving from Burbank, California, but her dad loved Alaska.  He had been stationed on the Aleutian Islands when he was in the military.  So he had moved the whole family to Fairbanks and now worked as Chief of the U.S. Weather Bureau.  On top of adjusting to a new place they also had to adjust to a new baby, Sourdough Sam. 

One Sunday after church, Jo and her family were invited to dinner at one of her dad’s Weather Bureau friend's house.  The Ostrander’s cozy house warmed Jo after her whole family had walked several blocks from their house in the below zero winter day bringing their portion of the dinner, artichokes from California, which had been flown in by an airline pilot friend.  Near the front door was a rack for outdoor clothing.  She took off her icy wool scarf, which covered her nose and mouth so her lungs wouldn’t freeze.  Her long gently curved black eyelashes became covered with water as the ice on them melted.     Ice heated and dripped from her hood.  She carefully removed her white rabbit fur parka -- which was trimmed with wolverine and wolf fur -- her snow pants, mittens, and hung them on the low hooks.  She took off her boots and stepped over the puddles so she wouldn’t get her wool socks wet.  The wool and fur had a tangy, soggy, smell, but they would dry quickly.
My aunt, sister, mom, and me (wearing my parka) with Alaska friends.
         Jo was happy to see her friend, Bonnie, as her family had also been invited.  The older children played a game before dinner and planned to play again after dinner. 
During dinner Jo heard her mom say, when the other ladies asked her how she could take care of so many children and the house too, “Jo is my Superhero.  She is an extra hand for me.  She's very competent for eight.”  Jo felt good that her mom thought so much of her.  The meal of chicken, potatoes, and artichokes, was eaten, and it was dark again.  Bonnie’s family needed to take their car home to its heated garage.  Jo forlornly looked out the window as the family got into their car.  She had wanted to play with Bonnie some more.  Snow silently drifted down.  It was getting thicker and thicker in the dark sky.  Jo heard the engine start up and when the car moved forward it slipped on the icy road and stuck in a snowdrift. 
         Jo watched as the car backed and went forward trying to get out of the ditch.  She saw Bonnie’s dad get out of the car and return to the house. 
         “Could someone give me a push?   I’m stuck in a drift.”  
         “Sure, we’ll be right out,” said Mr. Ostrander.  The men put on their heavy outdoor clothing and boots and went out.  They began to push the car.    Still it wouldn’t budge.  Bonnie and her mom came back inside bringing a snowy blast of cold air with them.  “I guess it’s going to be awhile,” Bonnie’s mom said.
         The men put boards, gravel, and gunnysacks, around the tires.  Still it wouldn’t go.  Finally, Jo decided she would have to help.  She put on her warm clothes and went out with the men.  She stood between her dad and Mr. Ostrander at the back bumper in the cold night air and pushed on the trunk as the driver gunned the engine.  Suddenly the car lurched forward and the driver pulled the car to a level place on the road. 
Bonnie and her mom had watched from the house.  As soon as the car moved they came out and climbed in.
         “Thanks for the push,” they called as their breath steamed out the open car window.
         Jo thought to herself, it sure was a good thing that I helped out.  Nobody would believe that I was the one to make the difference to get the car out of the ditch.  She would keep that thought to herself.  And she felt very happy that she was a Superhero.


 Christmas in Alaska with aunt, uncle, cousins, and Woofy 1952

Galations 6:Let everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done and won’t need to compare himself with someone else. Each of us must bear some faults and burdens of his own. For none of us is perfect!



  1. This is great! It has some elements like you would find in the plays Our Town and It's a Wonderful Life combined with the enchanting uniqueness of the Alaskan setting.

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