Louisa Bufton Freeman and her dog Laddie in 1957
EPISODE 158 GRANDMA ALWAYS WRAPPED A HOT BRICK FOR US ON THOSE DARK WINTER NIGHTS
(and she shook with Parkinson’s disease while doing it)
Nov. 4, 2020
“Here, boys, a warm brick for each of you.”
“You will need it…the bed will be cold.”
We left the wood stove comfort of the only heated room in the farm house. Leaving that room was Like walking into a refrigerator.
Every other room in the farm house was frozen…walls clothed in frost where the winter winds slipped through
the cracks in window and door sash. Footsteps on frozen floorboards echoed back at us from the dirt floor
cellar below our feet.
“Two tired little boys.”
“Grandma, it is really cold.”
“Climb the stairs, I’m right behind you holding the lamp.”
And she began sing…a song of which I only remember fragments.
“Too tired to climb the stairs … off to the land of Nod” Grandma had a nice singing voice
that we just took for granted as a natural part of life. Kids are like that.
We took a lot more than Grandma’s voice for granted. She had serious Parkinson’s disease.
Made her shake all the time. That lamp that she carried shook as my brother Eric and I climbed
those cold stairs. It made shadows on the wall that seemed alive and plenty frightening.
But grandma never let the disease change her life She had lived through a lot worse than
We took everything for granted. Eric and I let grandma light the wood stove in the morning.
She had made a whole pile of twisted paper wicks from old newspaper. Getting that burning wick
in under some kindling and a piece of split maple was not easy because her hands shook so badly. She knew the
dangers that an error could light the farm house on fire so she was as careful as possible and
in no time the stove was belching out enough heat to drive the frost from the walls while wash
water was warming in the water reservoir attached to the stove.
Funny thing.. I just remember that her hands were wrinkled and the wrinkles held
soot from that stove. She was clean but the soot was deep. Grandma and Granddad
had odd habits. She had her tea cup and he had his. Those cups were old and
cracked but they were used every day. The same was true of the plates and cutlery.
Seemed almost that using those old dishes was some kind of religious act. After they
died the farm house was robbed. The robber or robbers broke in on one dark mid-March
evening when the fog was as thick as Cream of Wheat porridge. Why mention this robbery?
Because the thief took his time . He sorted the dishes. He did not take grandma and grandpa’s
cracked and beaten plates and cups. He took the good stuff, I suppose But I was glad left those
heirlooms behind. I wonder if I will have a favourite cup when I get old?
So many memories about her tumble out of my finger tips as I tap tap tap on the computer.
Around 1957 I was offered a summer job working in the bush deep in Northern
Quebec North west of Chibougamau. It was a tough and lonely job as those of you
who have lived in the wilderness know. Some of our bush crew were very rough
people. The meals we made for each other were less than perfect…fly larvae lived
well in our kitchen tent. To kill the taste of some of our meals I lathered it with
Worcester sauce. That killed the taste. Eating in the bush reminded me of Grandma’s
meals. I always ate what was put in front of me. Still do. Grandma always had
a great lump of beef hanging in the Dairy. Now there is a misnomer. The Dairy was a
dark room in the dirt floored cellar of the farm house…a room that acted as a refrigerator
The slab of beef was always well marbled with congealed fat. Grandma and granddad
loved that. I did not. I found that a slab of that beef and fat on my plate discouraged
eating so I lathered everything with Worcester sauce. Grandma notice, of course, and
she told Mom on several occasions. “Elsie, did you know that Alan loves Worcester sauce?”
What is the connection among these disparate comments? They all came together when the
bush plane landed with our mail on that lonely lake. Every time there was a letter from
grandma. I took those letters for granted. Just writing a letter was a chore for her.
her hands shook so badly. It would have been easier for her to use Parkinson’s as
an excuse for not writing. I took those letters for granted just as I did everything else
about Grandma. I never said thank you…never asked about her shakes…never
commented on the cold marbled roast beef. All I said was, “Grandma, where is
the Worcester sauce?”
Now I do not remember Grandma asking if I had a bottle of Worcester sauce on
that mine exploration job. She probably did.
I remember so much about her.
This is just my opening Episode about Grandma. Her early life was not very nice
and initially I was unsure I should even make into an Episode. Maybe she would not
want the bad times in her life put before those of you who actually read these Episodes.
No, I don’t think she would mind. She loved me. I knew that.
Nov. 4, 2020
POST SCRIPT: 1885 A Child’s Garden of Verses
I Don’t remember the song she sang but the lyrics fitted the
Land of Nod as written by RoBert Louis Stevenson in 1885
“Nod” is a very interesting biblical name. The Land of Nod was supposed gel
East of the Garden of Eden. Only mentioned once in the Book of Genesis but
it has fascinated biblical scholars Did the Land of Nod exist?
The Land of Nod
From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.
All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do —
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.
The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.
Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.