Turn your frown upside down

Turning a chore into a game or a diaster into an event was our folk's specialty. One of their best reversals was the day the furnace went out. It was during a Michigan January on a Friday night and we never knew till later there was a problem.

When we got up that morning in our upstairs bedroom we could see our breath - but that was normal. There was one open vent in our room for the heat to rise through, pretty hit or miss heating. Usually it was still warm down stairs so we would hurry to dress and run down where theboy would huddle on a vent while we got breakfast around.

The folks were already up that day, we could hear them moving around. My Dad hollered up the stairway to tell us all to get dressed for outside, we were going to have breakfast in my brother's cabin. This might have surprised some kids because it was not "normal" routine. Our Dad was likely to tell us anything, he was always thinking up strange, fun stuff to do. So we just looked at each other, shrugged and scrambled for our warm clothes. Then we ran down to get out outside clothes on.

This was going to be wild because Dad had built the cabin for theboy. It was about 6 x 8 feet and only 5 feet tall inside. There were 7 of us, two of them adults, one of them extra tall and broad. (Dad was 6'2" or better) Inside the cabin was one three foot long bench and one built in bench four foot long on either side of an 18" by 4 foot table at one end. There was a stove made from a 5 gallon can that really worked in the center of the other end and a working propane lantern hanging from a chain in one corner.

We all got dressed and ran outside to play in the snow while Mom and Dad gathered up what we needed and got a fire going in the cabin. When they were ready we all ran to the house to help carry stuff. Theboy and Mom went in first and took the built in bench and started organizing the food and dishes on the table as we handed them in. Arr crushed in beside them. Vee , Cee and I took the little bench and Dad brought in a five gallon paint bucket, emptied the last of the dishes out of it and flipped it over for a seat with one leg in front of and one leg in back of the stove. Then we closed the door, looked at each other all smushed in there and cracked up. This was FUN!

Dad got the tin pot out and made perked coffee for them. While it was cooking he poured milk for us in 6 ounce plastic cups. Then he bent up two metal coat hangers with just his hands and turned them into a camp toaster. Magic! Once he an Mom had coffee steaming from their mugs he started making toast four slices at a time. We buttered it and put it in a pie tin leaned off the back edge of the stove and balanced against the stove pipe.

When that was done (14 slices) he took out of one coat pocket a little, 3" cast iron frying pan. We laughed and laughed. It was so tiny! He put a little butter in it to melt and when it was hot he broke one egg into it. It sizzled just like a real pan would!

While that egg cooked he reached over and opened the little window beside us a crack. We had all unzipped and unbuttoned and tossed off our hoods and scarves and mittens. It was really warm in there! We had to leave them on because there was no room to take them off and no place to put them if we had.

The coffee and toast had made it smell yummy in there over the scent of the burning wood, now the egg and butter made our mouths water. We were telling stories and jokes and cracking each other up while Mom got out the little 4" plastic cake plates and a fork apiece and sat them around the table. There was one for everyone and one for Dad on the end by his elbow.

When it came time to flip the egg we were all waiting to see what he would use. Did he have the world's smallest spatula in his pocket? Nope. He saw us watching, grinned and grabbed the handle on that pan with a corner of his shirt, gave it an upward flip and a jerk and it went up in the air......turned over...... and splatted right on top of the stove and broke! He sat there staring at the tiny, empty frying pan, looked at the egg on the stove and started to laugh. So did we kids.

"ARR!," Mom snapped, "We only have just enough to go around. Now what will we do?"

Still laughing Dad took a fork and rolled the egg up on itself, showing that the bottom was ok, stabbed it and put it on theboy's plate. The boy made a face at it, but I knew how to handle him! "I want it! I'm the oldest and it's the first one, I should get it!" I looked right at Vee while I said this and she chimed right in.

"No! I want it! I like my egg scrambled!"

"It's Mine! theboy cried, "Dad gave it to me! Mommmm! Tell 'em it's MINE!"

"Now you girls stop that, " Mom fussed at us.

We just giggled as theboy ate the slightly scrambled egg and a piece of toast with gusto now. He was a contrairy little cuss. You just had to know how his head worked.

So we sat and laughed as Dad successfully flipped egg after egg, one at a time, in the tiny frying pan. Every one had toast and jam and milk and 2 eggs. Mom and Dad had their seconds on coffee. It took a long time.

For clean up Dad stood up all bent over and we put everything left into his bucket. "I'll be right back, " he said, "you all wait here for me." It's a good thing the door opened outward! He squeezed out the door, reached back for the bucket and headed toward the house.

We started singing songs then. It got loud and rowdy considering we couldn't move! He was back after "Henry the Eighth" and before the 89th bottle of beer. The door popped open and he said, "Button up and come on back to the house!" So we did, talking all the way about making tiny hamburgers for dinner that night and tiny pancakes for Sunday breakfast.

Once inside we hung up coats, stacked boots, hung scarves, did dishes and took out the trash. It was just another winter Saturday. Later Mom told us the furnace man was here the whole time we were having breakfast. It could have been awful, cold, inconvenient and full of cranky cold people. It was fun then and is a treasured memory today. My folks were not saints but they knew how to have fun!