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Jeanette Riffle: February, The Shortest Month

The Free Press WV

I was reading Alyce Faye Braggs’s column in the Charleston Gazette this Saturday morning and was reminded of some old sayings, songs and sassafras tea. Dad loved his buckwheat pancakes and he would bring in Log Cabin syrup in a tin, shaped like a log cabin. We had cow butter and that good syrup to make those pancakes just right. Every time we had those, which was on a Saturday when he was home from work, he would sing, “Buckwheat cakes and Indian jammer, make me fat, a whole lot fatter, look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land. “I never heard anyone else sing that song. I don’t know where he got it. Maybe it was an army song.

February was sassafras tea month. Mom had a big fat kettle with a bale on it and Dad would dig up some sassafras roots, bring them home, scrub them up and boil them in that kettle, to make the rich red brown brew. When it was just the right color, they added sugar to taste and turned the fire off. My oldest brother couldn’t wait for it to cool and he would pour himself a cup and sip on it while the rest of us were waiting for ours to cool down. It tasted like a rich root beer pop and we looked forward to that tea in February.

Another thing we looked forward to was the valentines and little heart shaped candy boxes with chocolates inside. Mom found them at the Murphy’s 5 & 10 cent store and she bought a box for each one of us kids. Back then we signed our name on valentines and gave them to friends at school. Then there were the tiny little heart shaped candies with writings on them like, “Be mine, valentine.”  I don’t remember any valentine parties or anything special at school like they have nowadays. We kept it simple.

February is almost half over and next comes March with the March winds to dry up the mud. Another saying, “March winds and April showers, bring May flowers. “There are lots of old sayings and Mom knew a lot of them. There are two birthdays in the month of February in our family. My husband’s is February 27th and Mom’s was February 6th.  Happy birthday to Mom in Heaven. She sent cards to all her friends on their birthday. She bought perfumed stationary and she kept dainty hankies. Most of them had a pretty flower design in them but some had a lace made of crochet thread for a fancy edging. Her friends got a nice birthday card, a letter, and a hankie.

She had a cake and ice cream for each of us kids on our birthday. At that time, folks didn’t have a birthday party for each kid every year, only one. Mom had me one when I was about 10 or 11.  She said we could each have one birthday party but if you had more than that, you were just begging. Things have changed.

Until next time, enjoy the warmer temperatures. I hope they stay, but winter is not gone yet.

God bless and keep you in His care!

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