Portrait—Untitled by Mildred Grant

            Glancing around the kitchen at the pile of breakfast dishes in the sink and the mound of laundry near the stove waiting for the water to heat, Helen was a bit envious as she watched her two oldest children go careening down the slope of the back lawn toward the stone wall that separated lawn from pasture in their make-shift vehicle. Nearly a foot of new snow had fallen overnight finally turning to rain in the early morning hours. Just before dawn the thermometer took a steep downward plunge and the rain froze making a thick, shiny crust on the new snow.

           Chester and Eleanor immediately wanted to go outside to test all the sliding possibilities, not realizing that a slide down would necessitate solving the problem of getting back up the ice-covered slope. Their “vehicle” was a large, abandoned, cardboard packing case left over from the family’s recent move to Westmoreland,New Hampshire from Greenfield,Massachusetts.

            Helen smiled as the children’s first ride stopped just short of the stone wall. The box tipped over spilling both children onto the hard, slippery crust. .

            “Chester,” Helen called as she opened the kitchen window, “Drag the box over to the stone wall. The crust isn’t as thick there. Now, push the box over the pile of snow your Dad made when he shoveled out the clothes line this morning. There! You and Eleanor can make it back to the top of the hill from there.”

            Later, with the dishes put away and the clothes ready to hang on the line, Helen joined the children outside. She thought the clothes should dry quite well as a brisk wind out of the north had begun to blow.

            “Almost lunch time,” Helen called as she hung the last of the baby’s diapers.

            “One more ride, Mom?” Eleanor asked.

            “Mamma! You have a ride,” Chet offered. “It’s fun,” he added.

            Helen appeared to consider the offer as she scanned the box inside and out. Glancing about as though searching for a possible on-looker, Helen raised the skirt of her long house dress and climbed into the box.Chestergave the vehicle a push and off his Mother went wildly swinging about down the ice encrusted hill.

            As Helen dragged the box back up the slope, via the clothes line route, she thought the crust seemed to have softened a bit in the bright sunshine.

            Eyes sparkling, Helen bargained, “How about I have one more ride, then I’ll go back inside and get lunch ready while you two take a couple more rides, then come in for lunch.”

            The children held the box steady while Helen climbed in, again checking the area for possible observers. This time the children gave the box a spinning send-off. Almost down to the stone wall—this time a corner of the box punctured the softening icy crust tipping the box over and hurling it’s occupant over the stone wall into a snow-covered patch of brush.

            “Mamma! Mamma!” the children cried as they started slipping and sliding down the hill.

            Helen’s voice, coming shakily from over the wall, assured her frightened children that she was all right. She just needed a minute to catch her breath.

            Soon their Mother’s hands groped their way to the top of the wall and, with a strong pull, her head and shoulders came into view, but, in place of her hat there was a large, crazily tilted piece of frozen crust. Her hair was in total disarray, snowflakes scattering with her every move. It was an unforgettable portrait of a normally very prim and proper lady—a picture never to be forgotten.

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