When the temperature plummets to single digits, I always remember how cold penetrated our farmhouse in my childhood. No one who grew up on a Midwest farm in the early or mid 1900s forgets going to bed and getting up in numbing cold.
We spent most of our waking hours in the kitchen. When I was small, most of our heat came from the wood-burning cook stove. After electricity came and my mother bid a happy farewell to that, we kept a tall, round, black coal stove in the kitchen. One of my chores after school was to go to the coal shed and shovel all I could carry into the coal bucket.
During the day we shut the three bedroom doors. My parents would open up our two doors a little before bedtime, but those rooms remained giant ice boxes.
We’d change into our nightclothes in the kitchen while my mother heated water to boiling and filled a hot water bottle for each of us. A bottle was actually a reddish rubber pouch with a screw-in stopper. She would wrap a scrap of old blanket around it and put it in the bed to warm it. When we were ready to leap in, we shifted it to where our feet would be.
My parents banked the fire for the night and got up before we did to feed it. I don’t remember shivering for long in bed. We slept under a mound of blankets and comforters and quilts. Surplus wool, khaki-colored army blankets formed one layer. They were rough and ugly but warm.
I haven’t seen a hot water bottle for years. They warmed winter nights in my childhood, and I hope I never see another one.