Monday, February 24, 2014

Red Nail Polish and Blowing Smoke Rings

My mother and her older sister graduated from a nursing school that was part of the hospital. Back then there were two local nursing schools. Both have since closed. I recently found a handwritten speech my mother must have given during Class Night prior to their graduation. This surprised me because I never saw my mother in that light-giving speeches-but then-she was my mother and mothers have sides their children never see. Some of what she wrote I couldn't read as it was written in pencil in 1939.
She started out with a class history-stating that "three years prior, on September 11th, twenty-six young and ambitious girls entered training in the Hepburn School of Nursing. Everything was so different. It took us several weeks to become accustomed to the routine. During the first year, four of our girls left for other vocations." She explained that near the end of October, they were placed 'on duty.'  That meant they carried water and maybe helped an older student make a bed. In a list of "trials and tribulations" she includes, ".....and imagine yourself sitting enjoying a good forty-cent movie when suddenly you sneak a peek at your watch and find that you have eight blocks and eight minutes to get there." I loved when she listed her classmates and areas of the hospital and equated a song of the era to each. 4th floor-home to the Nursery-she listed "Got a Million Dollar Baby"; the OR-"I Can't Fail the Mission."
She also mentioned unforgettable moments-like the time she found herself in trouble with the nuns. She was in so much trouble for following through on a dare that she had to clean all the bathrooms with a toothbrush for two weeks. Despite that setback my mother graduated as did her older sister. Both proved to be excellent nurses.
I remember sitting with my brother in the back seat of the car when our father drove our mother to the hospital. She worked the evening shift. Before she'd leave, she'd feed us and give us our baths. We were always in our pajamas on those short drives. Once we dropped her off in the circle driveway-we'd sit and wait for her to get up to the second floor where she'd look out the window and wave good-bye. I can still see her there-smiling-her crisp white uniform ironed to perfection; her white cap starched and immaculate, held in place with bobby pins; her white stockings and polished white duty shoes always flawless. She took great pride in her uniform. I remember her stockings soaking in the sink; her cap stretched flat on the counter. By the time my mother retired from nursing, she was in charge of the ER at night.
Included in that Class Night speech she writes-'red finger nail polish was never seen on duty.' Maybe that's why later on in life her nails were always manicured and polished with the reddest of reds polish. She also mentions how some of those classmates were 'reprimanded for blowing smoke rings on state property.' I never saw her blow smoke rings-but then as I previously stated, mothers have sides children never see.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Where is Lowly Worm?

Little kids have their favorite books-the ones they most always pick out when you sit down to read to them. It doesn't matter how many books they have. It's those certain ones you end up reading over and over again. And if you're tired and you try to skip a page or even a paragraph-they'll catch you. I know because I tried doing that a few times and every time I'd get caught-especially if it was a Richard Scarry book.
'Best Story Book Ever' was a favorite Scarry book on those nights before bedtime. Along with, "Is This the House of Mistress Mouse?"; "Chipmunk's Birthday Party"; "The Country Mouse and The City Mouse" and more, there was one particular story read so many times those pages are now worn and tattered. I could recite it today-word for word, from beginning to end without even opening the book. That particular story, 'Pierre Bear'-was read every single time we sat down to read.
And if we weren't reading books by Richard Scarry, we were absorbed in his fun, imaginative illustrations. Within those magical pages, scattered here and there, the artist cleverly hid a little worm dressed in a tiny green hat with a feather. The search for Lowly Worm became part of our nightly routine. No matter how many times they found him, the next night the search was on again with as much excitement as the night before. It was as if every search for Lowly was the first search ever.
There were other favorite books read those evenings while sitting on the couch. Most of them are now on shelves in a bookcase in the living room. You can tell which ones were favorites. They look tired after having been held; after having been turned upside down and used as tunnels for Matchbox cars or as houses for Weebles. Some have crayon scribbles in them which could have been the result of playing school or library. Some are taped together in certain spots.
They all await little hands to pick them up again-to be cuddled and read while sitting on the sofa. Lowly Worm is there too-on the same pages as he was years ago-wearing that same tiny green hat with a feather.

Friday, February 7, 2014

From a Sod House to Harry Potter

I have my grandmother to thank for introducing me to books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I didn't realize at the time how those books and that writer would influence me or how the storylines would follow me through adulthood as favorite ones ever read.
I don't remember how old I was when I found "Little House in the Big Woods" wrapped in tissue paper under the Christmas tree. It would be the first of many of this author's books I'd receive. I never had a favorite. From "The Long Winter" to "On the Banks of Plum Creek" I absorbed every word. I could see Laura living in her sod house or surviving what must have seemed a never-ending winter.
Sometimes I'd take one with me when going to play in the chicken coop clubhouse and sometimes, I found time to read. The books fit right in to the surroundings since the chicken coop had been gutted and filled with the remains of an abandoned one-room schoolhouse. It mirrored the classroom in the TV classic-"Little House on the Prairie" except our clubhouse had a crooked door and a few windows without glass-allowing snow and rain to come in.
Back then  I was aware of a little inkling stirring inside me that I wanted to write. I didn't know what or how but there was something about books-and words-and telling stories. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder stories because they were about family. While it was her family, much of what she wrote I understood as I had siblings and lived where winters were-and still are-long and severe. I never lived in a sod house but loved reading about her sod house.
None of us share the exact same family stories. What we share are feelings and memories-and that's what I loved about her books. Her influence remains.
I wonder what young kids today with a similar inkling stirring inside them will do since so many have been influenced by JK Rowling's "Harry Potter." I find the possibilities exciting. Words inspire. Words make a difference. Words awaken young minds-even young minds playing in a chicken coop clubhouse.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Making Her Puppy a Cookie Dough House

There's something about licking beaters covered in cake batter. Growing up my cousin and I would mix the ingredients of a Jiffy cake mix. Then we'd not only lick the beaters-we'd eat the cake mix as well. Not once did we get sick. I've thought of those times when making cupcakes these days with a certain little 3-year old. If she had her way she'd do more than lick the beaters. 
It's different when you're the adult doing the baking. You get the job done-clean up-and that's that. But it's amazing when you are the grandparent doing the baking and you have a little helper by your side. Cookies-cakes-cupcakes-they all take on a different meaning. Suddenly flour becomes snow and sprinkles fall like rain. Perfection in rolling out the sugar cookie dough or frosting the cookies goes out the window. Imagination takes over. Forget the flawless cut-out cookies. After awhile-forget the cookie cutters. Anyone can cut out a horse-a heart-a gingerbread boy. But not many would think to make a snowman by rolling little balls of dough in one's hands and then stacking them one on top of another-and then putting the dough snowman on a cookie sheet to bake. That's what my little helper did. It took her quite a few tries as the balls of dough rolled around the counter. And of course her dough snowman had to have a family baking right beside him so that meant more balls of dough rolling around the counter and some falling to the floor. It was heartbreaking to see her reaction when the snowman and his family were finished baking!
And again-not everyone would think to take a big blob of sugar cookie dough and instead of using the rolling pin, slam it down with one's hands and announce it was a house for a favorite little toy puppy. Yes-she did that too.
"How will your puppy get inside his house?" I asked.
Taking another blob-this one not as big-and slamming it down on top of the first blob, she replied,
"This is the door Gra-Gra!"
Then other blobs became windows and different-sized blobs became friends for the puppy.
After some dough handprints and dough imprints from her butterfly/flower plastic bracelet were created and baked-it was time for the frosting and sprinkles-and I mean sprinkles. That was followed by some taste-testing. By the time we got back to her house a few of those puppy friends had been devoured. We both decided they were rather tasty!