Friday, June 29, 2012

When the Adults Dressed Up

When growing up out in the country it was quite exciting when any of the adults dressed in their finest clothes for special occasions which could have been anything from a funeral to a night out at the movies to going to church. Every Saturday evening my brother and I got to go to the local theatre with our grandparents and every Saturday night my grandmother wore her fancy hat with netting in the front, her good coat and white gloves. My grandfather who worked his farm all week dressed in his suit with a tie and his gentleman's hat on his head. They never looked out of place. That's the way all the adults dressed.

My father was a member of a civic organization. Their annual Installation of Officers was held every June. I think I looked forward to it just as much as my mother because I got to watch her get ready. During the day she'd put Dippity Do in her hair and then wrap it up tightly in small curls held in place by bobby pins. She'd be sure to feed us earlier than usual because most every year my parents would host a small pre-Installation of Officers gathering of friends in our backyard before they went to wherever the event was being held. Usually that was at the local country club-a rambling building with a big stone fireplace and lots of room to dance.
More times than not my mother made her dress. She was an expert seamstress. For awhile she owned a fabric shop and carried the finest in silk organza and taffetas so her dress always stood out. I remember her going through the pattern books sitting in her shop. Her choice usually came down to Butterick or Vogue. Vogue was usually the winner. She also carried hat-making supplies which included feathers and pins and shiny jewels. Most of the women wore hats and nylons with seams up the back of their legs and their fingernails were polished. My mother was meticulous about her nails. She'd do them faithfully. Her small jars of Revlon nail polish along with her cuticle remover and nail file were kept on top of the sidetable by the couch in the living room. She'd pick one evening a week to do her nails.

When the kitchen was back in order, my mother began getting ready for the big event. After her bath, she'd put her slip saved for good on-and then her marvelous dress. While she was doing all of this I would sit on her bed and go through her blue-velvet lined jewelry box. I loved doing that. There were so many pretty things-from cameo earrings with matching necklace to brass bracelets to pearls and pendants. Whatever she chose she looked beautiful. Once she took the bobby pins out and brushed her hair and put her red lipstick and heels on she had only one more thing to add-a splash of T'oujours Moi-her favorite perfume. My parents were a stunning couple. My father most always wore a white shirt, his good suit and a striped tie. His hair sort of cuved up into what we called his "time tunnel." Thinking back I bet women would have payed a pretty penny for that hair of his. He never had to use Dippity Do.

While the adults had their small get-together out back I'd try not to watch but I couldn't help it. I liked seeing my parents dressed up. And when it was time for them to leave, my mother would put her over-the-elbow white gloves on along with her feathered or jeweled hat and off they would go-and off I'd go back to her blue-velvet lined jewelry box and pretend I was Princess for a night-like my mother.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Haying Season

Hot June days like the ones we are now experiencing bring me back to what seemed to be even hotter days when growing up in the country and watching the hay wagons being brought in from the fields. I didn't understand at that age how very hot it was for the men handling the bales-the very picky bales of hay that scratched your skin and left you itching for quite awhile.

My grandfather's farm included rambling hay fields.When a wagon was brought over the plank bridge and up the hill and over the rock bed where a small stream flowed until the summer sun dried it up, my cousins and I would get excited. We'd run to meet the wagon and try to wedge our way up onto it somewhere between the bales and ride all the way to the barn. We never realized how picky those bales were until we jumped off as the work of getting the bales out of the wagon and up into the silo began.

I've never seen such hard work but it did get rewarded. My grandmother and her daughters cooked all morning-and I mean cooked. At noon a full-course, sit-down meal was served to all the workers. I remember helping. I remember bowls of home-grown lettuce covered in vinegar and bowls of fat at both ends of the table for the men to dip their homemade bread into. Of course there were homemade mashed potatoes, homegrown vegetables and of course, the beef or pork from the farm and my grandmother's mouthwatering homemade pies. After the meal was finished it was back out into the fields where the sun was still hot and the hay was still high and picky but the work seemed to go a little faster after a full-course meal had been served and enjoyed!

(The picture above is at my grandfather's farm way before I even remember-when horses were used instead of tractors. Either way the haying was done-it was very hard labor in the heat of the summer.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Popsicles and Other Frozen Delights

Summer is a time for many things enjoyed best while the days are hazy and hot. Of course when you're young summer also means a very, very long vacation which allows even more time to enjoy those special, frozen delights meant to be savored and licked and finally bitten into and then when swallowed, felt all the way down to your stomach,freezing your insides for a second while outside the temperature is soaring and the crickets are yacking and the bees are buzzing. There was a small neighborhood store we loved to frequent when at all possible, especially from June through August. That was because right inside the door to the left sat one of those white enamel, horizontal-shaped freezers-the kind where you'd pull on a latch and when you lifted the top, all the frost from inside would roll right out in your face, cooling you off for a second or two. When the mist cleared, the fun began for inside that frozen oasis all nudged beside each other were what seemed to be-to us kids at least-countless, flimsy cardboard boxes, each with one end ripped off displaying what was inside awaiting little fingers. Back then there wasn't the extensive variety of frozen treats on a stick or in a cup as there are today but you don't miss what you've never had. We were excited every time we lifted that lid and found cherry, orange and grape popsicles; mouth-watering creamsicles and fudgesicles; ice cream filling waffle cones-some with peanuts on top; yummy ice cream sandwiches which you'd unwrap in a hurry and eat before the chocolate sandwich-like covering fell apart from the vanilla ice cream inside melting away-but when that did happen it tasted so gooey and good; ice cream cups which came with a small wooden-type spoon that if your teeth happened to scrape on too hard, chills would go up and down your spine-sort of like fingernails on chalkboards. The hardest part of going into that store was deciding which frozen delight we wanted that particular day. It didn't really matter though. We were young and on summer vacation allowing us endless opportunities to lift that latch and choose again-and again.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Quite possibly one of the best things about this time of the year is that it is time for homemade strawberry-rhubarb pie! It amazes me how you can take total opposites-one so bitter and one so sweet, wrap them up in some pie dough, add some sugar, and out from the oven a short time later comes a most heavenly tasting, gooey, piping-hot blend that has, at times, forced me to sit down with a fork and just keep eating pieces one right after another. This pie even works for those who might not like strawberries or those who might not like rhubarb because for some reason by mixing them together one enhances the other. Gone is the bitterness of the rhubarb. Instead the rhubarb seems to add just a bit more flavor to the strawberries making the wait for the pie to bake a bit hard to take! My mother had a strawberry patch that ran along the side of our home in her rock garden out in the country. The problem with a strawberry patch is that many times most of the strawberries never make it inside the house due to kids sitting and picking them and eating them one right after another. That's what we did. Thinking back to when we'd sit in the grass in front of those delicious red berries with a warm summer breeze making the day even more perfect, with birds chirping and the sound of tractors pulling wagons out in the hayfields, life was the best it could get for kids happy to be back wearing shorts and anticipating the long, hot summer ahead. Of course that all changed once we went inside the house with the evidence all over us that we'd been eating strawberries again. Now whenever I bite into a strawberry-rhubarb pie I hear my mother telling me to stay away from the strawberry patch. That was a very hard thing to do. It proved to be impossible!