Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Playing Down at the Creek

I recently took the attached photo showing geese coming back to a creek where I played when growing up in the country alongside cousins and siblings. We were always outside playing and going on adventures and that rambling creek was most always included no matter the season and no matter the weather.

This time of the year, as shown in the photo, the creek would overflow its banks in a spring thaw and we'd be right there; standing as close as possible to the edge of the creek trying not to get soaked. But most times we'd get drenched as we'd take turns throwing chunks of ice or, if the conditions were right, throwing snowballs along with the chunks of ice at larger chunks of ice moving along the open water. Sometimes when eating supper we'd watch muskrats sitting on those big chunks, hitching a ride down the creek to wherever the big chunks took them.

Summer found us making forts along the creek bed using fallen limbs and branches to hide us from the enemy. Inside our fortresses we'd keep a supply of weapons in case we needed them. Weapons included stones and rocks; sticks and smaller limbs. We had spaces in our hideouts to "cook" and "sleep." If we weren't out exploring, we'd be at our swing which was a very long rope made of a heavy twine. It was tied way up on a thick and sturdy branch. At the end was a huge knot. We took turns running to catch hold of the rope. As soon as we lifted off, we'd get our feet on top of the knot as we soared out over the creek and around to the other side of the tree in an attempt to land on a giant rock. Sometimes we nailed the landing. Other times we went into the creek or backside into the tree. However we landed, the flying part was lots of fun. I felt like a bird minus the wings.
Besides the rope and the fortresses, we were lucky to have had an uncle who made us rafts out of telephone poles. There were two rafts. One for the boys and one for the girls. We'd use long, heavy pipes to maneuver ourselves from one shore to the other. Those pipes came in handy to rid the rafts of blood suckers. After all, it wasn't called Sucker creek for nothing!

Fall found us right back at the creek. If it was a weekday, we'd run off the school bus, into the house to change, grab an apple and run down to the creek and play until suppertime. It was a beautiful time down there what with the colors and crispness and country smells in the air.

Winter was magic on the creek. When the water froze we'd go skating day and night. I don't remember ever getting cold; even when lying on the ice and talking with my cousin under the stars. With everything glistening it felt like a winter wonderland. But then, it was!

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Everyone Has A Story

Years back if you'd opened that door in the photo and walked inside, you would have discovered a talented and hard-working woman who spent her life in the world of dance; teaching dance to anyone willing to learn. Of course, willing to learn, in her book, meant possessing the ability to listen, to pay attention, to be able to take criticism and then accepting the criticism which she herself described as "essential." It didn't matter if you were a young child-a moody teenager or nervous adult. If you were in her School of Dance, this instructor let it be known that she was there to teach. Lack of attention or fooling around would not be tolerated.

The instructor's name was Ruth Dumas, who at the age of sixteen, moved to New York City to study dance.To pay for her lessons and expenses, she'd assist with instruction. After opening her school of dance when returning to her hometown in 1935, Ruth kept studying dance during the summers in New York City with Dance Educators of America. Mrs. Dumas taught dancing for over fifty years.

When I was in junior high school, my older brother and I took dance lessons with an aunt and uncle at Ruth Dumas' School of Dance. I considered my aunt and uncle to already be pretty good dancers, especially when doing the jitterbug. Lessons were Tuesday evenings. I can't remember how many weeks we enrolled but I do remember how much fun we had. My brother was my partner. He stepped on my feet when learning the jitterbug, the cha-cha, the stroll and ballroom dancing. Despite that, we did learn to dance and Mrs. Dumas gets all the credit. Our learning how to dance those different dances was because she'd take us aside, slow us down, get and keep our attention and go through every step one at a time. She'd continue doing the steps until we mastered them.

Years later I was back at Ruth Dumas' School of Dance with my younger daughter. I enjoyed sitting on a bench and watching her under the instruction of a master in her craft. I can't remember how it happened, but often when a lesson was over, my daughter and I would give Mrs. Dumas a ride home. When I think back to those short rides in the car with Mrs. Dumas, I find myself wishing I'd bothered to get to know her; wish I'd asked her questions about her experiences. It was only after she passed away that I learned what an amazing life she'd led. I never knew all that she'd accomplished in her lifetime. I'd never taken the time to ask.

Everyone has a story. Because my father was a funeral director I've always found obituaries interesting, and some, fascinating reads. They are mini biographies. Each is a glance into a life. We assume we know someone but discover that not to be true. We form opinions about someone and learn our assumptions are baseless. I often think so many senior citizens are untapped history books full of untold stories. The longer you live the more you've experienced; the more people you've met; the more places you've been and the more history you've lived through. It's our loss when someone passes away and their stories, big and small, pass away with them.

I will forever treasure the times I sat around my grandmother's kitchen table with cousins and siblings and listened to family stories told by my grandmother and aunts. When one story was finished, we asked for another and then another. Coffee made in a simple little pot never tasted so good. It probably had a lot to do with the conversation going on.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Making Hats in a Little Fabric Shop

For a time, my mother had a fabric shop out in the country. It was an addition added on to our home. The best thing about that little fabric shop was that it provided me hours of creating when I shut the door in the evening. I'd tell my mother I was going to do some homework. I did do homework for a while. But when it came time to do my math, I'd turn my attention to the bolts of fabric and the pattern books, and especially the antique hutch full of items used to make hats. That antique hutch was so much more than a hutch. It was magical. Full of colors and possibilities.

Before I began my creating, I'd take loose leaf paper and scribble some designs. To get the juices going, I'd open the pattern books and look at the sketched models for different ideas and ways to wear the hats. Most of the models on the pages wore hats, especially in Vogue. I guess I thought I was a hat designer. Anyway, hat frames came in different shapes. Once I decided on the frame, the fun began.

In the antique hutch were all sorts of feathers in all kinds of sizes and colors. There were jewels and stones of all shapes and sizes and colors. There were single pearls and pearls on what looked like bobby pins and pearls on picks. There were diamond-like sequins of all colors. Even small buttons made just for hat designing. It was all so much fun. I'd lose track of time, traveling from Paris to London; New York to Los Angeles and back. While I didn't actually glue any of the feathers or jewels or stones onto any hat frames, realizing my mother would have a fit, I pretended I did. Walking around the fabric shop, I pretended I was walking down Fifth Avenue or walking down a runway or into a gala event at the opera or anywhere my feathered creation would fit in to the occasion.

I loved those evenings traveling around the world in my fancy hats. It sure was more fun than doing my math. But sometimes it all caught up to me when report cards came out. For awhile I wasn't allowed to do my homework in the fabric shop. But that was okay. I didn't need to be in the fabric shop to be creative. I realized creating can happen anywhere if you try. And it did as I sat at my desk in my bedroom designing more hats and outfits as my math book sat right there next to me.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Women Wore Pearls and Cardigan Sweaters

I've posted this photo before showing me with my cousin standing on a sidewalk in what used to be the downtown of our hometown. It was taken after a parade in the summertime. We'd been part of a float celebrating the 19th Amendment. This is the only personal photo I have of that downtown. I can't run out and take a new photo because the downtown is no longer there. All that remains are a few buildings that escaped the wrecking ball. The rest of that downtown is tucked away in my heart.

There are so many memories:enjoying milkshakes at soda fountains; stopping at at my uncle's shoe store where a merry-go-round for kids was quite popular; spending time in a small bookstore with my mother and feeling my imagination stirred by the smell of all those printed words in one space; going with my mother to a fancy dress shop and being told to sit in a chair and not to budge an inch; going with my mother to a men's shop that I seem to remember had two doors, and of all the merchandise stuffed on the many shelves, it was a display of belts that I remember the most-especially the beaded belts that looked like the old Wild West; shopping for ties for my father in another men's shop that was a little fancier than the one with the beaded belts; spending what seemed hours in a little store that was always busy with people bringing film in to be developed and young teens going through rows of 45 rpms and vinyl records; trying fancy hats on in a millinery shop with my cousin and laughing at ourselves in the mirror; finding treasures in the two five and dime stores sitting side by side; going to lunch with an aunt, siblings and cousins to a popular downtown restaurant while out for the day Christmas shopping.

There were so many more wonderful stores and places of business in that downtown full of memories. As I was thinking about them I realized that most of the women who either owned or worked in the stores were always dressed up. Their hair was always in place. Their make-up was flawless as were their smiles and genuine desire to assist you. A few of those stores were very small in size yet they offered a wide assortment of high quality merchandise. I'd always be with my mother who'd carry on lovely conversations with any of the women assisting her in those stores. Once she selected the items she wanted to purchase, the shop owner would take out white boxes and carefully put sheets of white tissue paper inside. Then she'd take the merchandise one item at a time, fold the item, and gently place it in the box. When  the box was full, she'd carefully cover the merchandise with more white tissue paper, patting it down in place before putting the top on.

While that process was going on, I'd be looking at the woman's hands with polished nails. The way she held the tissue paper was a thing of beauty. It was like watching a maestro absorbed in the music. Most all the women wore sparkling rings. Most all the women wore pearls and many wore cardigan sweaters with their dresses or skirts. Most all wore heels or a good flat shoe probably from my uncle's shoe store.

Shopping in that downtown felt like Mayberry. Andy Griffith was surely around the corner.