When I awoke the next day and was dressed, I went down to the kitchen but my aunt wasn’t there. I went back into the living room calling out for her, but no answer. I was becoming a little upset when I went back upstairs to my aunt and uncle’s bedroom. Still no answer to my calling her.
I really began to panic. Where could she be? Not outside for she wouldn’t leave without telling me. I didn’t know what to do. I stood in the upstairs hall calling her and holding back the tears that were close.
Then I noticed a ladder in the corner of the hall. It seemed to lead to an open square in the ceiling. I called up again and there was a faint response. I felt so relieved I started to cry. It was my aunt and she was coming down the ladder. I ran to her and she hugged me. I hung onto her and she told me she would not leave me so I should not cry.
We went down to the kitchen and I had breakfast. I asked her what was she doing up on the roof. She said she was checking on the cistern. What a funny name. What was it for? Cistern, I had never heard the name before. She explained that it would catch the rainwater which she used to water the garden, wash the clothes, etc. This was not for drinking. They had a well for that and other household chores. She said that after breakfast she would take me up to see it.
So, we climbed up the ladder later and walked over to this huge, open, circular wall. It was taller than me. My aunt lifted me up to see inside. It was half-full of water, very dark, and frightening. My aunt put me down and explained it was very dangerous and that I should not go near it when I was alone. She didn’t have to worry as I wasn’t that interested in the big monster-like sized thing with all sorts of things in the dark water: snakes, fish eating everything and bugs. It was really frightening.
When we were back downstairs, she told me she was thinking of having chicken for supper and wanted to know if I liked chicken. I said, “I do like chicken and maybe I could help her with the cooking.” She said, “Sure,” and laughed, “I’ll teach you how I cook the chicken.”
Now, at home we would buy the chicken ready to cook from the market, but my aunt had another plan. We went out to where the chickens were and she picked one up, holding its wings. I was surprised. “What were we going to do with a live chicken?” I asked. She told me that we were going to chop off its head, which she proceeded to do. Then, she let it go and it ran around without its head. I’ve heard my mother say that people sometimes, “run around like a chicken with its head cut off,” meaning they didn’t know what they’re doing. Now I saw it really happen.
“But what about all the feathers?” I asked. “Oh we’ll take care of that later.” She grabbed the chicken and hung it in the barn upside down. Before I could ask, she said it was to purge the blood from congealing so we could cook it. I was very uncomfortable with all this and too sure I wanted chicken for supper. She assured me that they did the same thing with the chickens in the market.
After a little while she brought the chicken into the kitchen and started pulling off the feathers, which is called plucking the feathers. Then she put the chicken in a big pan of hot water for a few minutes. This was to loosen the quills that held the feathers and remained. I helped on this and it was very hard, as they did not come out easily. My aunt was very good at it and in no time she had them all out and the chicken washed and cleaned inside and out. She put it in a big baking pan with potatoes and vegetable and poured some tomato sauce over the whole thing. While it was cooking, she read me a story about geese and their habits, good and bad. She thought I should know as she had geese on the farm.
Soon the supper was ready and my uncle Jim came home with a treat for me. He had me guess but I didn’t guess right. It was some spearmint gumdrops, which I could have after supper.
I wasn’t too sure about the chicken at supper, but my aunt and uncle both tried to assure me that this was how the chicken was done in the city. I tried a small piece, and it did taste better than at home. My aunt said that was because it was fresh.
After washing up from supper, we went into the living room. My aunt lit the real large lamp on the big round table in the center of the room. It was a kerosene lamp with a white globe, which had pretty flowers on it. The electricity hadn’t been installed out in the country, only in the city where I lived. The light was dim and my aunt said tomorrow she would have to trim the wick and perhaps all the other kerosene lamps.
She said she would show me how, but I’d better be off to bed now. I looked forward to seeing what she meant by trimming the wick as I fell asleep.