THE COLD ROOM. . .
When you reach the age of 92 your internal vision seems to gaze backward instead of forward.
I am thinking today about my grandmother’s house. It stands prominent in my memory as so many of my childhood hours were spent there. The house sat on a large lot—large enough to accommodate a barn and a windmill. Grandma kept chickens in a fenced enclosure and part of the barn was dedicated to an incubator where chicks were hatched each spring.
It was a two- story house and looms large in my mind .
I see a big kitchen with a large wood-burning stove. I believe it provided the only heat in the house. I have no memory of a fireplace or any other stove anywhere in the house. Off to the side a stair led down into to a spooky cellar and on the other end of the kitchen was a small vestibule-a kind of intersection.
A stair to the right led to upper rooms and to the left was the front parlor and main part of the house.
Another door opened into the COLD ROOM. That door was always kept closed. It was not totally forbidden, but we were admonished to not go in.
To the children a closed door holds a kind of mystery-!
Of course, that was where we most wanted to explore, and on occasion we were allowed. It was really cold in there!
In this room were kept the stack of player piano rolls-those strange objects that somehow produced such wonderful music—when Grandma allowed it. She had a strange aversion to music, and became very grouchy when, at holiday time, the uncles opened up that wonderful piano and pumped the pedals and made music. While Grandma steamed!
I yearned to go into the cold room because along the wall stood a beautiful pump organ! It was one of those with carved shelves and little nooks and crannies and mirrors. It was a beautiful thing and I was totally fascinated. I loved it with such a passion and longed to hear it. Only on a few occasions was I allowed. No one else seemed to be interested or ever played it …or even mentioned it. My heart ached to touch it, to let the music out!
The cold room was kept closed, I suppose, because it was difficult to heat, and was a handy place to store things. It held cast off furniture and old lamps and things, but it also seemed to have a sinister aspect --as if it held secrets...ghosts!
Perhaps it held the secret of why Grandma hated music, and acted strange and cold around Grandpa.
My mother told about long ago evenings when her daddy (Grandpa) would get out his fiddle and play happy tunes while the family clapped and danced. Then one day the music stopped, and Grandma stopped fixing her hair, and seemed to no longer care about how she looked.
My mother never understood the reasons behind the sadness in Grandma’s eyes, and the coldness that developed between her and Grandpa, but Grandpa never ever got his fiddle out again, and Grandma lost her love of music.
I think the secrets were there in THE COLD ROOM.
FAMILY TALES by betty L. Owen