A New World
Tom wondered where he was. He was lying on a rumpled pallet of blankets. The roof was close overhead. He stared at his surroundings. Light from below penetrated the darkness of his loft bedroom. His mother called for him to get up. He put on his clothes – but they didn’t look like his clothes. He didn’t recognize the linen pullover shirt, the straight-legged, black linen trousers, or suspenders. Suspenders? He had never worn suspenders. And the clothes looked dirty.
He scrambled to the lighted opening and looked. There was no stairway, just a ladder. Where was he? Slowly he made his way down the ladder and then looked around. It was bizarre. He had never been here before, but his mother, father, and two sisters were in this one-room house that looked like a cabin. WOW! IT IS A CABIN! How did he get here, and how did his whole family get here?
There was a table whose top was rough-hewn timbers. A bench served as seating at the table. Against one wall was a large stone fireplace with a rack that held pots for cooking. Tom’s mother had just used the fireplace to cook breakfast. A worksurface with a water basin was under the only window in the house. As he prepared to wash his hands, he noticed the water was dirty. He was about to dump it out the front door because there was no sink. His mother quickly said, “Don’t dump it. That’s all our water until we go to the well.” So he washed his hands in the dirty shared water.
After breakfast, he asked where the bathroom was. His dad said, “The outhouse is in the same place it has always been – behind the house.” Tom found the outhouse – a little shed-like building that reminded him of the port-a-potties he had seen along road construction sites. It had two holes, and it stunk. Where was the toilet paper? All he could find were green corn husks. What an awful nightmare. But he managed to get through that ordeal.
Monday was wash day. His dad asked him to carry some firewood over to a place in the yard where his mother had built a fire. Mother had a large pot heating over the fire to boil water for washing clothes. They would boil the clothes in that ash-lye soapy water, scrub them with a washboard (he had never seen that before), and then hang them on a clothesline. This process was weird. Why didn’t they use a washing machine?
“We need to build up our supply of firewood for the coming winter,” Dad said. “Let’s go down by that pile of logs. We’ll use the cross-cut saw to cut the logs into short enough pieces to fit in the fireplace. Then we’ll split those pieces with an ax so they will dry and burn easier and make them easier to carry.”
“But Dad, I have never used a saw or an ax. I don’t know how.” “You will learn today,” Dad said.
After several hours of sawing and splitting, Tom’s hands were raw with blisters. He had never worked like this before in his life. He wanted to rest and soothe his hands with skin salve. But dad said, “we need to go to the garden now. It needs cultivating and weeding.” Tom had never used a hand cultivator or weeded a garden before. While at the garden, they picked some ripe tomatoes and some other vegetables and took them to the cabin. “Will this day never end?” Tom thought.
“One more thing,” Dad said. “Take the sickle and trim the grass around the house.” I could see that the cow and the horses kept the grass down in the areas away from the house, but they were not allowed close by the house. So, - - -- - - another big job for Tom. No use protesting.
Suddenly Tom woke from his dream! The dream had transported him back to a new and different world in 1823. Tom had vigorously protested the day before his dream because he had to mow the lawn instead of playing video games. As he contrasted the responsibilities and hardships of a boy his age in 1823, his difficulties in 2023 were trivial, and his protests were selfish and meaningless.
Now was the time to face his responsibilities and get on with his life.