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    September 2017
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Mom and the Chimney Sweep

I’ve hesitated about telling this story, not because I don’t like it—it is one of my favorites. But I’m not certain I can tell it coherently, since Dad is barely coherent when he tells it. It’s been over 45 years since Mom had this unfortunate run-in with the chimney sweep, but it still leaves Dad struggling for control when he talks about it.

Long ago, we lived in an old clapboard farmhouse set near the edge of a small town. I’m sure you can picture that house—two story, two front doors, tin roof, no central heating. There was a coal burning stove on the ground floor which kept an area about three feet on all sides of it warm, and no where else. The heat certainly didn’t make it up stairs to our bedrooms.

Anyway, one day Dad and Mom decided the chimney needed to be cleaned, and since I mentioned before that Dad is the one who fixed things around the house, Dad took on the role of chimney sweep. Mom was his helper.

Picture it: Dad on the roof with his tools; Mom down in the family room with a bag to catch the soot. (Oh, my goodness! I can hear my Dad starting to chuckle.) Dad yelled down through the chimney, “Ready, Rube!” (Rube, as in short for Ruby.) Mom leaned in close to the hole in the chimney where the stove pipe was attached in happier times, and yelled, “What?”

Actually, it was probably more like, “Wha? Augh! choke, cough, hack” because, of course, the soot was already on the way down as soon as Dad had said, “Ready, Rube!”

mamas eyes

Rube, apparently, was NOT ready

Dad said when he had climbed down off the roof and made it back inside the house, Mom was still just standing there, covered in soot, holding the empty, useless bag. Although, I can’t figure out how he noticed all those details since he was on his hands and knees, beating the floor with the palm of his hand, gasping for air as he laughed.

We’ve all enjoyed many laughs over this story through the years, including Mom. But she never again volunteered to be an assistant for this, or any other, chimney sweep.

And I can’t blame her.

Don’t miss the rest of the Stories My Family Tells as I Write 31 Days this October. Click here to check out the wide range of topics from a wide range of writers.

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