Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Backstairs

There's something about a back stairway that adds comfort to a home. They certainly did in my grandparent's old farmhouse. While the front oak stairway and banister were polished and kept immaculate, the backstairs were quite the opposite. Worn, made from planks of wood, some creaked; some were uneven. But they were such fun. We'd run up and down them-half running and half skipping through the five bedrooms and the bathroom with two doors. Tucked behind my grandmother's wood stove in the kitchen, you'd never know the stairs were there if the door was shut.

My mother used to tell how she and her sisters would run down them in the winter, anxious to seek heat from the woodstove. When we were very young, we'd hurry up those stairs to bed when staying over, especially when the adults told us if we didn't-a man up the road would be stopping by to find out why we were still up. It worked every time. That's when we rushed up those stairs so fast that a few times we tripped over each other.

Proably the best case for that back stairway in the rambling farmhouse was when we'd play hide 'n seek. Those rickety old stairs allowed for a great escape just before capture. Of course they gave us older kids a quick get-away from pesty, younger siblings and faster access if playing upstairs to good things cooking downstairs on the woodstove.

But most likely the fastest anyone came down those backstairs was on Christmas morning when my mother and her five sisters were young and still believed. That was one winter morning when gathering in the kitchen was not about getting warm. It was all about checking their stockings full of oranges and nuts as smells of cinnamon filled that home full of family and excitement.

That back stairway holds so many memories of little feet running up and down for countless reasons through every season over so many years. How lucky we were to be carried to adventures and getaways and hideaways by simple planks of worn wood. Sometimes-Simple is best!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Family Nicknames

I know every family has those unique, in-family nicknames given to one another over the years. Most of the time just family members are aware of them and when you get together years later, those nicknames seem to slip right out. While people obviously mature and grow out of a strange, cute, or scarcastic name attached to them when they were younger, awkward situations can arise when a potentially new member to the family is introduced. That's when th
e fun begins for family insiders!

Our family certainly has had its share of nicknames. The most "famous" of them all continues to be the nickname "Giddy" given to my grandmother by my brother. He was the first grandchild and was unable to say grandmother. It came out Giddy and that stuck like glue to the most amazingly strong and beautiful-in-spirit woman I've ever known. Fact was she was called "Giddy" by most everyone who knew her.

Other nicknames that have sprung up over the years-and I will not connect any of them to anyone in particular for fear of being chastised are: Whell, Sparkle, Mooonbeams, Mooo, Butt Bows, Bart Lib, Fred, Freddie, Hound Dog, Houndie, Hound, Nookie, Pin, Cures, JoeMeDough, Bif, Doo, Dooweenahogboat, Porky, Tubby, Pree, OoooWaaa, Gwim, BiBe, Barns, Bud, Boone, Crow, Deacon, Buzzy, Den, Fuffy, Fluffy, Trish, Beauty, Beauties, Moop, Chief, Nu-Nu, DateMan, Sport, Guy, and probably more that I'll hear about from those inside-the-know once I post this.

Bottom line, family is family. We can pick and moan and groan and rail against one another within the confines of the family unit but it's family we call on when in need; it's family we gather with for holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals. While we are all unique, we share a heritage-which includes all those cute, scarcastic, funky, strange nicknames

Monday, June 6, 2011

Late Night Movies with my Father

When I was a little older and when summer vacation hit, I'd stay up after the late news and watch the late movie with my father. He'd sit in his chair and would usually fall asleep before it was over. He always said dozing off in that chair was the best sleep ever for him.

There was never a hesitation if I'd be able to watch any of the nightly, feature-length fil ms. They were all decent movies with no overload of special effects or violence or sex. They were good, solid movies with no effects needed. The acting did all of that. I'd either curl up on the couch or on the floor with blankets and a pillow and go off on adventures with Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, Rita Hayworth, Marlon Brando, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, William Powell, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Elizabeth Tayor, Richard Burton, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, Doris Day, James Cagney, Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelley-and so, so many more! All superb and talented actors and actresses who kept me up until after 1 a.m.

I always knew when those two night owls popped up on our TV screen-sitting on a branch with the moon overhead announcing the movie was about to start that it was again time for my special couple of hours with my father-even if he did fall asleep!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Photo of the Chicken Coop Clubhouse

To the right and down a bit on this page you will see a photo added this week of me standing between some neighboring kids in front of the Chicken Coop Clubhouse which I've written about in a few blogs. The photo points out the truth in the adage, "A picture is worth 1,000 words."

Ramshackled with hardly any glass in the windows that small, old building was our DisneyWorld-the hub of our growing up in the country. It was a schoolhouse-a playhouse-a library-a restaurant-a stop along the way for stagecoaches or whatever else our imaginations pretended it to be. It provided us hours of creativity. It allowed us to explore the depths of childhood imagination. It instilled in us an excitement of the possibility. We learned sharing and responsibility; caring for those younger than we were; organizing events and carrying through with those events when the best laid plans hit roadblocks-just as life does when becoming adults. We read books; my favorites always by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. We wrote books.

From that Chicken Coop Clbhouse came plays and fairs; circuses and artshows. We taught the younger ones their ABCs. We read to them. We did projects with them. We even sent worksheets and report cards home with them. We hand-printed 4 copies of a family newspaper and delivered the copies every Sunday morning complete with family news, display ads, and local family sports.

Most kids don't need anything fancy to play with. Imaginations just need to be stimulated-not from TV or electronic games but from the freedom to explore where their very own imaginations can take them. Turn a sofa into a cabin. Throw a blanket between two chairs. If your lucky turn an old chicken coop into a Clubhouse for if you do, those marvelous experiences will stay with that child forever. I know this for certain!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Creative Cooking

When we could-meaning when there were no adults around-my cousin and I conducted experiments in my mother's kitchen. We'd take out my mother's big, yellow bowl and "make recipes." Sometimes we'd add the ingredients-just water and an egg as I remember-to a Jiffy cake mix and then devour the goo like soup. No need to bake it when you're experimenting. After all, it was a small cake mix; like drinking a milk shake!

Before we'd make-up r
ecipes we'd look out all the windows to make sure no one was coming; then we'd rush back into the kitchen and the fun would really begin! We'd start with one of those little cake mixes-most always white or yellow. Then we'd add whatever we could find; mushed-up bananas, cut-up cherries, peanut butter, jam of all sorts, pepper (Yes-Pepper-we were experimenting remember!), coconut, chocolate chips, more sugar-even brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, garlic (Yup-garlic),allspice, plus a dash or two or three of whatever else we could find in the refrigerator or my mother's baking drawer. This may have included mayonnaise, thyme, ketchup, mustard-a cut up pickle-whatever caught our fancy for after all, we were creating and creating means using your imagination and ingredients otherwise foreign to baking a cake.

After we felt the concoction was complete, just like two mad scientists, we'd stir the savory hodge podge and actually bake it, or at least try to. Once in awhile the end result was so good we'd devour any evidence it ever existed but that was once in a great while. Usually what was in the cake pan was impossible to swallow; even worse, impossible to bake. The birds, however, had a great time with their suprise meal discretly discarded behind my mother's rock wall where she grew her snapdragons.

After the kitchen was cleaned up, we'd go back outside to play-certain my mother would never miss the cake mix, eggs, bananas, cherries, peanut butter, jams, pepper, coconut, chocolate chips, more sugar-even brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, garlic, allspice, and whatever else we threw in. Surely she'd never wonder what the strange aromas were coming out of that kitchen or why her big, yellow bowl wasn't where she always kept it!