Memories of Sleeping in the Cold

Last night we had a power outage here in Austin, and throughout Texas. Because the temperatures all over the state of Texas were extremely cold, the state-controlled power grid (which is completely separate from the large regional power grids in North America) was overwhelmed, and we had an electrical blackout, which left us all sleeping in the cold. There was no heat and no light in our house, and the howling wind outside was blowing snow into drifts. As my wife and I snuggled under the covers, it reminded me of sleeping in the cold, upstairs at the old farmhouse when I was a kid. Allow me to share some of those memories with you.

A picture of the house where I was sleeping in the cold.
The old farm house in eastern Colorado.

In the early 1950’s, I was growing up on a farm in rural Colorado. The old farmhouse that we lived in at first had been built some time in the 1890’s, and it had not been constructed to the modern standards of insulation and tight windows, although my Dad had put a lot of work into modernizing it. Also, the winter weather in Colorado at that time was particularly harsh. I remember blizzards with blowing snow and temperatures well below freezing. These conditions would continue for weeks at a time during the winter.

About half an hour before my younger brother Kenny and I were sent up to bed in the wintertime, our Mommy or Daddy would open the door leading upstairs. This was supposed to warm the space where we slept, and I’m sure it helped. But when Kenny and I were sent upstairs after we had changed into our flannel pajamas, it always seemed like it was freezing. We would race up the stairs as fast as we could, then we would leap into bed together, nestling between the cold sheets and snuggling under the heavy quilts that Mommy had lovingly sewn for us. Our teeth were always chattering until our bodies were able to warm our little nest

A warm quilt for sleeping in the cold

I remember when Mommy was buying the materials for our winter quilts. We were up in Brush, Colorado, and we stopped in at an Army Surplus store, where a lot of wool blankets were for sale. Mommy purchased a pile of Army blankets and brought them home.

A picture of people make a quilt to help when people are sleeping in the cold.
A Quilting Bee

A short time later, she and some other ladies (perhaps some of my aunts and my Grandmother, but I don’t really remember) started making quilts out of the blankets. The women had the blankets spread out on a table and they were tying the layers of blankets together with knots. The blankets were sandwiched between two soft layers of sheeting, and the knots went through all the layers. Then they bound the edges of the layered blankets and the sheets. When they finally finished their work, Kenny and I had some very warm — and extremely heavy — handmade bed covers!

Picture of a quilt that helps when sleeping in the cold.  Photo by Jen Theodore
A quilt very similar to the one my mother made.

When we went upstairs on cold winter nights, Kenny and I would leap into our bed, and pull those wonderfully toasty, heavy covers over our heads, leaving only a very small tunnel for air to come into our little nest, so that we could breathe. Our teeth chattered, and the usual wild and wondrous stories that we always used to tell each other at night became very abbreviated. But we loved those warm winter quilts when we were sleeping in the cold.

In the mornings, especially when the wind had been howling all night, and we had awakened to find a dusting of snow on the floorboards leading to the stairs, we used to race downstairs as fast as we could, slamming the door behind us as we ran into the wonderfully cozy kitchen. There we sat down in our chairs and put our feet up on the nice warm stove, where Daddy always toasted his feet, too. He sipped his morning cup of coffee calmly, and we three revelled in the warmth of the kitchen, filled with the wonderful, appetizing smells of Mommy’s breakfast cooking on the stove. Mommy always knew how to take care of us well!

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