Lovely idea for Christmas giving, an amaryllis. We gladly received one right after Thanksgiving. This was not our first amaryllis. We knew that the homely bulb might produce its gorgeous, exotic bloom in time to glorify the Christmas dinner table; surely its dazzle would help us ring in the New Year. That was then. As we near the end of February, the amaryllis still hasn’t bloomed.

Had we misremembered? Last week, Shelly Ouelette at Davis Florist affirmed that from bulb start to bloom is usually about six week. Hers had.

We didn’t do right by our amaryllis. Back in late November, we put the amaryllis on the kitchen work table. Two reasons: the kitchen gets lots of sun and the plant was not in what you’d call a parlor pot.

The kitchen is one of our colder rooms though, so in mid-January, when there was low-to-no sign of development – not a leaf, never mind a bud – we moved the amaryllis to a warmer room. This, our haven, is warm, but dark. The amaryllis, seeking light, began to grow tall, very tall.

And so, about a week before Valentine’s Day, we moved the pot with its long, swaying leaves and rocky bud to the sunniest place in the house: beside the glass doors in the living room. Despite the warm afternoon sun, that spot is chilly because we do not turn on that furnace zone except in the most extreme cold. Still no bloom.

It’s all about the awful cold and the price of oil, in any form. The temperature falls, fuel prices rise. By the end of last week, gas prices had jumped from under $3 a gallon to $3.179, even at Mt. Valley Variety.

A friend reports that when he called his supplier to find out how much his kerosene delivery would cost, he got this reply: “Don’t ask.” Translation: the answer will be bad for your health.

Thelma Giberson told me that there has been a big uptick in requests for assistance. “It’s all about oil.” Quite a few tenants have been advised by Thelma or their landlord: “Don’t pay the rent. Spend your rent money on oil for the furnace.” The state won’t allow towns to assist anyone who isn’t eligible for general assistance. But you don’t have to be very poor to feel the price pinch – or the cold.

So your amaryllis hasn’t bloomed? Big deal.

This harsh, long winter tests survival skills – mental and physical. Hobbyists, skiers, ice fishers, readers and community activists prevail in the battle with cabin fever.

Enthusiastic eaters do pretty well, too.

It’s the Lenten season, and the St. Barnabas Friday lunches – salmon pie – are a perennial favorite. Up and down the River Valley, churches and fraternal groups organize potluck suppers – an ecumenical potluck feast is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 28, at the United Methodist parsonage on Franklin Street. Phone 364-8703 for more information.

Over in Dixfield, the “Church on the Hill” is planning a pre-Easter turkey feast – three turkeys were donated to the Congregational church there – proceeds will benefit the food bank. Find out more: call Leslie Skibitsky at 562-7095. Not all food events are seasonal, of course. You can get breakfast any Sunday morning ’round 10:30 at St. Athanasius/St. John (donations welcomed).

If you’re riding Route 2 through Rumford Center any time from early morning till early afternoon – any day of the week but Tuesday – you have doubtless noticed the big clutch of cars at the Route 2 Diner.

If it’s the third Wednesday of the month, the crowd is even bigger: The Stephens High School Class of 1954 is in there: Alton Shurtliff rode east from Gorham while his brother rode west from Dixfield. Henry and Nancy Harlow were down from Oquossoc. Lew Irish, Jane Welch Peterson, Barbara Stearns Gross and Clara Allen hadn’t far to travel.

Muriel said that, especially in the summer months, they were a bigger crowd. She and Barbara and Jane ticked off the names of some 15 other classmates, among them: Ann Richard Kezal, Walt Abbott, and Shirley (Wyman) and Bob Dolloff – this midst a lot of ragging among the boys. Fifty-four years out of high school and they still have fun.

Running the Route 2 Diner is a family affair. Owners Erin Weber and Matt Hall – newcomers to the River Valley – are spelled by Erin’s mother Debbie and Matt’s sister Megah. The diner opened in April last year, and it’s fair to say it’s a hit. If our amaryllis blooms in time, maybe we’ll take it down to the diner for a first anniversary gift.

Linda Farr Macgregor lives in Rumford with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance writer. Contact her: [email protected]

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