A Cold Winter's Morning

November 30, 1896
Charles Birchwood

There is nothing like the taste of a hot cup of tea on a cold winter’s morning. I know it is not quite winter yet, but the white snow on the ground outside argues convincingly otherwise. I lit the fireplace in the living room and with Phillip’s help, the dining table was relocated in place of the sofa and table normally occupying the space nearby. It was not strictly necessary, but I saw no reason why we should not enjoy the warmth of the fire through breakfast and afterward. Caroline had exams to prepare for and I exams to prepare.

I sipped my tea, enjoying the inner warmth it provided. Caroline sat across from me at the table and did likewise. Her books were neatly stacked beside her on the table as my music sheets were gathered near me. Neither of us were eager to get started with the necessary work despite knowing procrastination would not lessen the load nor ease the related stress.

“Another cup?” Caroline asked.

I glanced inside my cup to notice it was indeed empty. I nodded in the affirmative and sighed as I picked up the stack of music to begin my work. Caroline rose from the table, placing our cups on the tray with the teapot and disappeared into the kitchen.

As often happens, I quickly became lost in my work. Time slipped by without being noticed until I realized I had completed a substantial portion of my work and Caroline had yet to return. She was still in the kitchen. I could hear her moving about.

“Caroline?” I called.

“Yes, dear?”

“Have you received word back from England on our tea yet?”

“Pardon me?”

“You have been a long time in preparing the tea, dear.” I clarified. “Is there a problem?”

“Oh, no. It’s almost ready.”

I could have pursued the matter further, but I chose otherwise. After all what purpose would be served by my calling attention to facts of which she is all ready aware? Moments later she returned with the tray and poured me a fresh cup which I immediately began sipping.

Caroline grudgingly opened one of her books and began reading. I turned my attention back to my own work knowing she need no distractions from me. It was strangely comforting to know she was there nearby with her own tasks to accomplish but still with me. Never before had I realized how much I enjoy the simplicity of proximity to my wife. My work load suddenly became lighter and smiling became easier.

That was all until I noticed, quite by accident, Caroline’s book was upside down. I must admit the situation gave me pause. Did she expect me to catch her and do something? Was she manipulating me or was this a cry for help? Should I ignore it and allow her to face the consequences of failure in her studies? There were no easy answers.

“Are you attempting to fool me or yourself?” I asked.

“Whatever do you mean?” She replied, all innocence.

“Your book is upside down and I find it hard to believe you are not so aware.”

“Oh.” She blushed.

“Are you going to answer me?”

“Do I have a choice?”


“Then I believe I will answer you.”

“And yet you still have not.”

“I don’t feel like studying.” She whined

“We must often do things we do not feel like doing.”

“Could we not snuggle in front of the fire for awhile first?”

“We can do that when we have each finished.”

“But I want to do it now.”

“Then you should have ample encouragement to do complete your work.”

“A few minutes won’t make any difference.”

“If such is true then why do you persist in arguing with me?”

“Because I want a break.”

“How could you possibly need a break when you have yet to begin?”


“Turn the book right side up and do your work.”


“What did you say?”

“You heard me.”

“You had better hope I heard you wrong.”

“I said, no.”

I pushed my chair back and stood up without a further word. Walking around the table, I grabbed Caroline by the wrist and pulled her out of her chair. She protested, but I ignored her and half dragged, half pulled her to the front door. I pulled it open and propelled her outside.

Dressed in only her nightgown and robe, she looked at me as though I had lost my mind. She shivered as soon as her feet hit the snow on our doorstep. I did not wait for her to protest more than she all ready had, but instead closed the door and turned the lock.

A moment later there was pounding on the door.

“Who is it?” I asked.

“Charles you open this door this minute or you’ll be sleeping on the sofa for the rest of the year!” Caroline shouted through the closed door.

“Do you really think I am going to tolerate your threats or that they will motivate me to open the door any sooner?”

“I’ll freeze!”

“Are you going to do your school work if I let you back in?”

There was a noticeable pause and silence as she considered her options and response.

“Yes.” She finally answered.

“Why don’t you think about it for a few more minutes and I’ll check back to see if you are certain.” I said.

“Charles, it’s cold out here!”

“I hadn’t noticed.”

She started pounding on the door again.

“The sooner you stop pounding on the door the sooner I’ll think about opening the door.” I said.


“You are going to stand out there for ten minutes of quiet whether it starts now or an hour from now is entirely up to you.”

Amazingly, there was silence. I sat back down by the fire and watched the clock tick away the minutes. Phillip came downstairs while I was waiting and sipping my tea.

“Where is Mommy?”

“She had to step out for a few minutes.” I said.

“I want some milk.” He said.

“I think we can manage that without her.” I replied.

The two of us went to the kitchen and I heated some milk on the stove for him and his sister. Phillip happily carried the glasses upstairs without a second thought about his mother, but I know the boy is far from dumb and most likely heard more than enough to know precisely where his mother was and why.

I glanced at the clock and decided it was time to bring her in even though it had only been seven minutes. I opened the door to find Caroline shivering quietly with her arms wrapped around herself.

“Are you ready to do your schoolwork?” I asked.

“Y-yes.” She said through jittering teeth.

I guided her back inside and sat her back down at the table with her books. Her seat was close to the fireplace so there was no doubt she would quickly be warmed by the flame. She turned toward the fire to warm her hands more directly.

“Schoolwork.” I ordered.

“Let me warm my hands.” She pleaded.

“Do you want to go back outside?” I asked.


“Schoolwork.” I ordered.

“Yes, Charles.”

Peace at last. I am sure she expected a different reaction from me, but it is never good to be too predictable. No doubt the cold was far more effective than any additional warmth would have been on a cold winter’s morning like this one.

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