Sunday, September 7, 2014

Picking the Old Maid Every Time

When my oldest child was 3 or 4 years old we'd play Old Maid all the time. Usually my younger brother played along with us. It was always a fun time-full of laughs and jokes-until it got down to less and less cards held in each hand. That's when it became very quiet as the maneuvering and shifting of cards became the game instead of the game itself. All eyes would be on the backs of those cards and how each card was positioned and how each player played the waiting game. That was usually when my daughter blew it-especially if she was the one holding the Old Maid. And if she was the one holding that most unwanted card, she made it obvious by sticking it in the middle of her cards and holding it way above the rest. Of course she was only a little girl but she repeated this strategy every time-and every single time she'd end up with that horrid card and every single time she'd throw whatever cards she had left and go screaming to her room. Funny thing though-she'd always sit down and play Old Maid again next time. Besides being inexpensive, those little packs of cards could be played on a front porch or back porch-in the kitchen or sitting on a floor.Those little packs could go anywhere. It never mattered which game you were playing-Hearts-Slap Jack-Go Fish-Crazy 8's-even Old Maid-they provided time spent with friends and family-even if one might leave the table screaming over and over again.     

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Heirloom Tied with Lime Green Yarn

My youngest child never knew my grandmother. She passed away when he was a baby. But that doesn't mean she didn't leave him a memory-something just for him from a great-grandmother who wanted him to feel he was as special to her as the other great grandchildren who knew her-who sat on her lap and rocked with her in her rocking chair by the front window. 
My grandmother was always using her hands like instruments to cook-to clean-to hold little ones and tell them she loved them-and to create. Sewing-darning-crocheting-braiding rugs-quilting. It never mattered what she was creating as long as her hands were busy with a task.
My grandmother set out to make my unborn a quilt. She had some of the little squares cut out.
Back then we never knew if we were having a boy or a girl so she chose colors at random. It didn't matter what the colors were to me. What did matter was despite the fact she was tired and weak she kept pushing to finish the quilt before she no longer had the strength.That in itself was a testament to her grit and determination.
My grandmother never did finish the quilt. She ran out of time. But what she left for my child is a masterpiece. With unsewn edges and hand-stitching still intact and little bits of lime green yarn tied amongst the squares, the unfinished work is priceless. Instead of putting it away in a dresser drawer I had it framed. It hangs in my dining room. My grandmother is always near. My son knows the heirloom tied with lime green yarn is his-made just for him by a great-grandmother who loved him.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Out On The Range on Summer Evenings

Don't you wish you'd paid more attention to certain things when you were growing up? Looking at this picture I realize now I wished I'd done just that but I guess when you get to be a certain age the world as you consider it to be is meant to revolve around you and whatever the adults are doing or saying is trivial. After all, what do they know? And when you are growing up surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents there's lots of adult trivia going on-like the summer evenings when they'd gather outside around a fire in a stone fireplace and talk-as this picture shows them doing.
Whenever my parents told me they were going 'out on the range' I was thrilled. That meant they'd be out of the house and I could do just as I pleased which usually wasn't anything different than what I'd be doing if they were home. It was the fact they weren't there. Sometimes my older brother joined them. That was even better! The TV would be all mine as well as the couch and the refrigerator. My cousin who lived in the farmhouse next door couldn't come over because she had to be there for her younger brother and sister while her parents were out on the range. I had to do the same. I don't remember my little sister or brother waking up once!
Now when I look at the adults in this picture they look so young to me. Back then they looked so old to me. Back then I thought they knew nothing. Now I know they knew everything-everything that matters-everything that touches most everyone at one point or another-love, sorrow, loss, disappointment, joy, worry, and so much more-so much more than a young teenie bopper watching TV on the couch even understands.
I've come to realize what 'out on the range' meant to them, sitting in their enamel chairs or on seats from a school desk coming from our clubhouse-with their dogs resting nearby. Just as I felt that was my time to be rid of them-I believe they felt the same way. That was their time to come together without children-to talk, share some stories and laughs, have a few beers and snacks-relax-unwind-before they had to go do it all again. Looking at them, I wish I could hear their conversation now as an adult.The more I look at this picture the more I can imagine crickets chirping-a breeze sifting through my aunt's pine trees-the damp air coming from sucker creek not far away-the fire cracking-and glorious stars shining.That sure beats watching TV. But you never could have convinced me back then.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Off to College in a Hearse!

Sometimes having a father as a funeral director led to some unforgettable memories!
Most people knew my father as a funeral director-a caring man who took great pride servicing families in their time of sorrow. I love this picture of my father because it's about the only picture I have where he is not wearing a tie. He's kidding around, enjoying some down time-showing his sense of humor. Growing up around a funeral home offered a unique awareness of the frailty of life-and some unforgettable moments-some quite hilarious-like the time I went off to college in the hearse and never thought a thing about it. When it was time to go to that community college, my father just happened to be going that way to pick up a remains to bring back home. So we loaded up the back of the hearse with all of my stuff and off we went. The school didn't have dorms on campus so I was renting an apartment with four other girls I'd never met.(This was way before facebook)! Adding to the plot was my hair. At that time The Munsters was the #1 show on TV. The vehicle used in the show resembled a hearse. Lily Munster had hair down to her waist with a strip of white down each side in the front. Well I had hair down to my waist just like Lily's but my strip wasn't white-it was a blondish shade. So not only did I arrive in a hearse-I looked like Lily Munster! At first, my landlord thought the hearse was a joke. My roommates loved it. After we unloaded everything, my father and I jumped back inside the hearse and went to dinner-parking right in front of a spaghetti place nearby!

Friday, June 6, 2014

When Sneakers Were Just Sneakers

I can't imagine summers when I was growing up without my Keds sneakers. My sneakers went everywhere with me as I played with my cousins-down to the creek and on to the raft my uncle made out of telephone poles; in the barn and up into the haylofts to walk across the plank bridge connecting the two; across the road and down to the pine grove-and some days down further into the woods to the river to go swimming; out in the field to play baseball; to the front yard of my grandparents' farmhouse to climb trees, make bows 'n arrows out of some sort of a rubbery, flexible stalk-like weed, play hide 'n seek and red light-green light, and. of course, spend time in our chicken coop clubhouse-day in and day out. I was certain my Keds made me run faster-jump higher-stop quicker. They took me through hayfields and mud; cow pies and creek grass. They stayed with me when I'd kneel down to get a drink of water at the bubble-a natural bubble of very cold water squeezing out of the flat rock. They never failed me. If they were wet when I went to bed-they were dry in the morning and if there had been mud on the soles-the mud had magically disappeared.

When I think about those Keds I realize I was lucky to have grown up in a time when sneakers were sneakers. They came in basic colors. Mine were blue-always blue with white laces. I didn't need super cushioning or aero dynamic soles or neon sparkles or sci-fi designs, zippers, or Velcro. My sneakers were all I needed. My blue Keds took me wherever I wanted to go. They did make me run faster than the wind. I did jump higher than an Olympian when wearing my sneakers. And not that I even thought about such a thing back then-but I'm certain my Keds were economical-unlike today's weird and overpriced versions of sneakers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

One Man-So Many Pen Names-So Many Great Books

Besides Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott books, I loved reading the adventures of The Bobbsey Twins when growing up. This was a series about two sets of twins in the same family-Bert & Nan and Flossie & Freddie. I think I read "The Bobbsey Twins at Big Bear Pond" a hundred or so times. I never realized it back then but those kids never aged.
I recently found out that Laura Lee Hope was not the author. In fact she never existed. The Bobbsey Twins was created by Edward Stratemeyer who wrote the first book in that series and outlined many of the books that followed.
I discovered Mr.Stratemeyer also created The Rover Boys, The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Nancy Drew-150 popular series in all under 100 pen names. This was such a surprise to me. As a lover of the Nancy Drew series I grew up thinking Caroline Keene penned Nancy Drew. I guess it doesn't matter. Just because there never was a Laura Lee Hope or Caroline Keene doesn't change anything. To me they will always be the authors of books I loved. Their names are part of my childhood.
While discovering some author names connected to books I grew up with were as fictitious as the storylines, I find it amazing that one man created so many different book series each with unique plots and characters without the aid of a computer. That means he had no delete button, no cut and paste or forward, no pdfs or jpegs or email or all the rest we take for granted.
Despite all of that, I don't see where this Mr. Stratemeyer-or Laura Lee Hope or Caroline Keene-or whatever you want to call him-was stifled. He pumped out stories and created characters that remain in the minds and hearts of kids now grown-ups. Maybe because he couldn't spend his time surfing, texting, posting, pinning, emailing, commenting, liking, he simply wrote stories-so many good stories.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Spectator Pumps at the North Pole

Even when spending a day at the North Pole visiting Santa Claus in the summertime my mother wore spectator pumps with a good dress. Of course back then women didn't wear jeans or pants but  if they had, I don't think my mother would have followed the crowd. She even dressed me in fancy shoes and a fancy dress that day. I see I have a Band-Aid on one of my knees so the tomboy in me still showed. I'm sure Santa Claus was impressed. My mother loved shoes. Lucky for her, one of my uncles owned a shoe store. Her closet was full of shoe boxes. Most contained high heels. She had about every style and every color. Even with a shoe store in the family I never cared much about shoes. Barefoot was my favorite way to go. My mother would tell anyone who would listen how I'd run outside without anything on my feet even in the winter. I think it had to do with shoes making me feel confined. That hasn't changed. I didn't inherit the shoe fanatic gene. I don't go shopping for shoes in all the stores. When I need a pair I can pick them out in minutes. Stores stifle me. The bigger the store-the more stifling they become. Once when in Macy's in New York City I was looking for a pair of jeans to bring home to my daughter. There were floors of jeans. I left empty handed.

Besides my mother's shoes catching my eye, I wonder what we were talking about when this picture was taken. I don't remember that day. I do remember how I'd sit still in the kitchen of the house beside the lane while my mother would French-braid my hair. Once braided, it stayed in place for a few days.
 I've been back to the North Pole with my children. I noticed mothers talking to and walking along with daughters but I never did see a mother as beautifully dressed as mine. None were wearing spectator pumps and a fancy dress, sitting next to a little girl in French braids with a Band-Aid on her knee.