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I rarely write reminiscences, not yet that age, Kirin Bridge is an exception, where I had my childhood. All kinds of inescapable topics in her childhood are hidden in every corner of her, the change of seasons and the kind rural voice.
It’s winter again.
Every winter, as soon as the cold wind blows, I will think of my childhood, think of the Qilin Bridge, maybe it is too memorable, that cold.
This winter is not cold, although the whole country cools down on the day of the beginning of winter, and there is snow in many places, and everyone is talking about what a cold winter it will be. But to this day, we have not even had a frost, and Jiangnan is still flowing and green. In the community, children are running happily and playing. When we were children, how was it so cold in winter?
Qilin Bridge is a village five miles east of Nanling City, through which the provincial road from Nanling to Jing County passes, and there is a stone bridge named Qilin Bridge on the east side of the village, hence the name of the village. To the right of the bridge, there is a bathhouse, which is very lively in winter. Although the sparrow is small and has all the organs, there are pedicures and back scrubs in the bathhouse, and you can also buy snacks such as peanuts and dried seeds.
Winter in Qilin Bridge is not a world of ice and snow, but a frozen world, because whether there is rain or snow, there is ice everywhere. In the middle of the village, in the river ponds on both sides of the asphalt road, children wander leisurely on the thick ice, and women carve ice holes around the bluestone slabs at the water’s edge, carefully washing rice and coats. Forty years ago, in the countryside, tile houses were rare, and on the grass roof after rain and snow, the ice formed a bright and smooth cone, hanging upside down under the eaves, and sometimes, after melting, dripping on the ground, and forming new ice that echoed under the eaves, rows of them, very beautiful and spectacular.
When I go to school in the morning, the Qilin Bridge is often frozen, even if there is no rain or snow the night before, it is still a little water droplets. If it is snowy or early snow, the wind is even more bitterly cold, like a knife scraping on the face, and walking on the bridge is more difficult. The students’ little hands were basically frostbitten, red and swollen, festering, and their little faces were wrinkled, one by one, we laughed at ourselves and said that they were “shredded radish on their faces.”
I finally look forward to the winter vacation, so I can hide at home and sit in the fire bucket to write homework. Usually at school, I can only bring my own fire pot for heating. In the stoneware fire pot, charcoal buried in grass and wood ash is burned, and the upper handle is covered with a cotton cloth to keep warm, and the hands or feet are placed on the edge of the fire pot, and then the cotton cloth is used to put on it. The barrel is made of wooden planks, and the single person is generally round, and the person sits on it. My house was rectangular, and my brother and I sat on one side, and under our feet were also pottery braziers, burning charcoal fires covered with wood ash, and the brazier had an iron bar on it, and the feet were placed on the iron railing. After people sit down, they also use a cotton cloth to put on their legs to keep warm.
Now people don’t use charcoal for heating, they all use electricity. A few days ago, when I went to buy casserole in a department store, the clerk said to me quite poetically that this stew on the red clay stove is the best to simmer slowly. I laughed and said, then you have to burn it with charcoal, where is the charcoal? The clerk was speechless. But in those years, charcoal heating was very popular, and charcoal baskets made of bamboo fences were bought one basket after another. When adults praise children, they will say, “Give you a charcoal basket”, which means “put a high hat on you”.
Speaking of which, the channel through which my father bought charcoal was also very characteristic of the times: it was carried by the mail truck master who escorted the mail. Remember that at that time, the mail car passing through Nanling was from Wuhu to Shitai, and there were no express delivery companies decades ago, and the Post and Telecommunications Bureau was exclusively engaged in mail transportation, including letters, parcels, newspapers and periodicals, etc. were escorted by mail trucks. Tea leaves are carried in the spring, charcoal is brought in the winter, and the escort master will often bring some benefits to colleagues in various bureaus along the way. Of course, this is not in line with the relevant regulations, firstly, the folk customs were simple at that time, and secondly, the price was fair, so everyone was accustomed to it and did not think there was anything wrong. A basket of charcoal for a dozen or twenty dollars, enough for one winter!
It was winter, but it was really cold! Every year, my mother knitted several sweaters and pants for my brother and me, and when it was coldest, I couldn’t stand wearing two sweaters and two pants, and I had to add cotton pants. Gloves go out wearing cotton gloves that do not separate your fingers and palms together, and wear at least half-cut woolen gloves that show your fingers when writing homework. My brother and I were dressed round like two little cotton balls. It wasn’t until Qingming that I was relieved: just wear a thick sweater!
When I grow up, I know that before dawn is the darkest time of the day, and before the spring blossoms, it is always chilling!
But when winter comes, will spring be far away?
About author:Wang Lu, a native of Nanling, Anhui, is a member of China Financial Writers Association, mainly writing prose and poetry, and his works have been published in “Financial Literary Circle” magazine, “Financial Writers Association”, “Shandong Financial Literature” public account and “Qilu Evening News • One Point”.
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