Thursday, December 17, 2020
Sunday, December 6, 2020
There was something about the old tin Santa Claus sitting inside an old cardboard box on a wooden shelf in an open outdoor shed that caught my eye. The area was full of one-of-a-kind Christmas wreaths and precious one-of-a-kind holiday decorations like the old tin Santa Claus obviously put together with love and imagination by the woman who owns the acres of Christmas trees where we’ve been going for quite a few years in search of and then the sawing down of our Christmas trees.
Sunday, November 15, 2020
This time of the year brings back memories of sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table enjoying more than a few slices of her freshly baked johnnycake. Most times it'd still be nice and warm. The aroma of that favorite cake often eaten with meals like bread filled her home. When you walked through the front door and caught the scent of johnnycake, it was as if you'd discovered a little bit of heaven. Actually, my cousin and I did. It was always heaven being around our grandmother whose johnnycake was made from scratch without any need to look up a recipe in a cookbook or go searching in a drawer for a piece of paper with the recipe scribbled on it. She knew that recipe by heart.
Friday, October 30, 2020
When I think about it, I was the lucky one back when watching The Twilight Zone with my cousin. Those were the days when we lived next door to each other out in the country. Separating us was a field with a pathway that we used to go back and forth. Lining one side of that field was a row of tall, stately poplar trees. To this day I can still hear the leaves in those trees rustle in the wind. When Halloween was approaching that rustling sounded more like witches screeching.
Friday, October 23, 2020
I took the above photo of a hedgerow a few weeks ago. Most any photo taken outdoors this time of the year stirs one’s senses but this one was telling me a story that I couldn’t figure out. That changed yesterday when I opened up an old cupboard where I keep little odds ‘n ends of things, most handmade by my children over the years —like a small ceramic ghost holding a pumpkin and a stuffed-with-newspapers-brown paper bag made to look like a pumpkin face and a ceramic statue of Charlie Brown and a painted, wooden tulip in a wooden vase as well as small candles and small Santas and reindeer and bunnies and trinkets from Dollar stores.
I’d gone to the cupboard over the weekend for a few Halloween ceramic pumpkins and while I was getting the pumpkins I noted a plastic bag way in the back. Sitting on the floor, I pulled the bag out; reached inside and grabbed hold of three very large and very beautiful quilt tops my mother had made. (Example of one shown above). I’ve written before of her sewing skills. She was meticulous. Her eye for color and design was keen. After sitting there for a bit, I put the quilt tops in the plastic bag and sat them way back in the old cupboard with all the other beloved treasures gathered together, safe and sound and out of the way.
So yesterday there I was yet again—back in the cupboard for a few more Halloween trinkets. The minute I saw the plastic bag with my mother’s quilt tops inside, it happened. I heard the story that hedgerow was telling me. I realized the quilt tops were telling me the same story. My mother had the ability to turn all those little mismatched pieces of color and design into keepsakes with every stitch she made. Mother Nature took the wind and the sun and the soil and the rain and turned a simple hedgerow of mismatched brambles and weeds and mini trees and grass sitting along a country road into a breathtaking pallet of design and color.
Both told a story of determination. Both revealed a beauty unique to themselves, even those brambles and weeds twisted together like pieces of fabric sewn together in quilt tops kept in a cupboard.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Growing up in the country provided the perfect spooky setting when Halloween was looming. Poplar trees with limbs bare transformed themselves into scrawny fingers ready to snatch any one of us kids as we ran by in a hurry. Leaves scurrying over the fields evolved into mice rushing toward us. We were certain our grandfather's old barn with its main door creaking in the howling wind sounded more like screeching witches cackling under the big orange moon. But Halloween wasn't only looming outside with bats swooping down and ghosts swirling about. Things were happening inside the house as well. Especially in the kitchen.
Friday, September 25, 2020
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Years ago there was a rhubarb patch growing alongside a sandbox in front of a garden near a river and that rhubarb patch, just like the sandbox, the garden and the river, was enjoyed all summer long. Children big and small would sometimes pull a stalk of rhubarb when going to play in the sandbox or run through the garden.
One day, a glorious, beautiful day, a bunch of teddy bears, of all shapes and colors and sizes and conditions, gathered together by that rhubarb patch to play outside in the sunshine. Big, lovable Dandy, wearing quite the straw hat, was more worn out than the Care Bear or other teddy bears enjoying their time together. Dandy’s condition had nothing to do with his age. Rather, it was all about the love he received and the love he gave back—reminding me of one of so many quotable lines from the treasured children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams—
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“REAL isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL.”
Dandy was loved. Dandy became real just like so many other teddy bears have become real through endless hugs and countless kisses and fur combings and dress-up times and tea parties and snuggling in bed before falling asleep and sitting by rhubarb patches in the sunshine. Many of those really loved and really worn teddy bears now sit on shelves or are tucked away in attics or closets or have been tossed into a toy box or placed in a crib or given down to the next generation, or have become but a memory kept deep in one’s heart.
To all those beloved, those really worn, Real Teddy Bears like Dandy, I wish you a very well-deserved, very Happy Teddy Bear’s Day. You have been there for so many of us in good times, bad times, funny times and sad times. We’ll forever feel your hugs and the warmth of your fur and the love in your eyes. As Margery Williams simply explained: “Once you are REAL you can’t become UNREAL again. It lasts for always.”
Saturday, September 5, 2020
I must have been twelve or thirteen when I first looked through a New York Times’ Sunday edition that my father brought home from work.
I was instantly intrigued by such an extensive newspaper with so many sections and the smell of all that ink on all of that newsprint. I remember standing at the kitchen table with the paper wide open. There was just so much to see and read. But I never made it through all of those pages. I never got beyond the first section. I was stopped in my tracks by a logo.
You have to realize this was way before computers and instant everything. There were only three news networks on the TV. Cable was nonexistent. Magazines ran cigarette ads. It was a whole different world. So when I turned a page of that newspaper and saw for the first time a pen and ink logo that swirled off the page in creativity, I was hooked.
The logo was the Lord & Taylor logo. The ad said the item advertised was available at all Lord & Taylor stores. I wasn’t interested in the item. It was the logo that intrigued me with the capital L looking like a bird you’d draw when you were a kid and how the word Taylor was written as two words with the letter r looking to be an extension of the letter o. It all flowed together beautifully. I stood there and studied each and every stroke of the pen that created it. From then on I asked my father to bring home that paper whenever he could. He tried remembering but many times it slipped his mind.
One time when he did remember, more than the logo grabbed my attention. This time the advertised item hooked me as well. I had to have the outfit drawn with the ink pen showing a skirt with a flair and a pin stripe shirt with long sleeves in my size. But what really had me in a tizzy were the suspenders attached to the skirt, going up and over the shoulders of the pin stripe shirt worn by a model sketched by an artist somewhere far away from my kitchen table where I stood in awe of both the logo and that outfit with suspenders.
I remember making quite a commotion to my parents about the outfit. I made it very clear it was a matter of life and death that I have the outfit. I was told it was too much money for just a skirt and a shirt. I argued how the outfit came with suspenders but I could tell it was a lost cause.
A few weeks later when getting off the school bus, I saw a package attached to our mailbox. Waiting for cars to go by, I ran across the road to see who it was for. Even before I reached the mailbox I saw that logo—that swirling, creative sophisticated logo with the capital L looking like a bird. My suspenders had arrived! I was later told it was a belated birthday gift.
I kept the box with the logo in my closet for the longest time and I wore those suspenders to threads.
Last week when I heard Lord & Taylor would be closing all of their stores, I felt sad. I thought back to when I’d look for their ads in the New York Times and how excited I’d get when seeing their logo. To think an artist could bring the excitement I felt to even suspenders tells me Lord & Taylor was nailing it. A global pandemic and a thing called the internet were out of their control.
The memories of standing at the kitchen table with a newspaper opened to a page displaying a Lord & Taylor ad will never go away. Neither will the image of the letter r looking to be an extension of the letter o.
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
With zucchini so plentiful in the garden last week, my son Brian and I spent a few days making small loaves of zucchini bread. Some loaves will be for Christmas gifts and some will be for giving away—and some are for our own enjoyment.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Monday, July 27, 2020
Sometimes we'd bring books to read if we had the chance. Our grandmother had given us the Laura Ingalls Wilder books one Christmas. We read them all. Other favorites were the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew Mysteries. But during that particular summer, I went to my mother's bookcase and pulled out a paperback she'd raved about titled, "Gone With The Wind."
My mother was an avid reader. She worked evenings at the local hospital as Charge Nurse in the ER. She'd always put a book in her bag of stuff before going to work. Some nights she'd find time to read. Most nights I'm sure there was no time. Her favorite books were of the South in the era of plantations and beautiful women in big, beautiful, puffy gowns with matching hats and jewelry. The shelves of her bookcase were lined with those types of books. I'd neve heard her talking about any of them like she did "Gone With The Wind" so I pulled that book off the shelf and took it with me to our chicken coop clubhouse. The minute I started to read it, I fell in love with the story, especially Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara. It took me all summer to read the book. I was quite proud of myself for reading a book that was over 1,000 pages long. My mother was surprised. I wasn't. I was hooked from the beginning. "Frankly my dear" was a perfect closer.
When my mother passed away I was given most of her books. They now sit on shelves in my living room. Sometimes I'll pull a few of those books out just to look at the covers and once in a while when I do that, I remember my mother sitting in a chair by a window in the dining room with her hair done up in bobby pins, reading before getting ready for work. Now that I think about that she was probably gearing up for the transition from mother to nurse.
For some reason, "Gone With The Wind" was not included in the books I was given. I have no clue where it went. But that's okay. I will never forget that story just like I will never forget my mother sitting in that chair by a window in the dining room with her hair up in bobby pins, reading before getting ready for work.
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Sunday, June 14, 2020
Going shopping for new paint-by-number kits was great fun. Woolworths and Newberry's always had great selections. Sometimes my cousin and I would go downtown shopping and sometimes I'd come back home with gift ideas to tell my mother if my birthday was coming or Christmas was near. Those gift ideas always included some paint-by-number kits. When the Sears Wish Book arrived in the mail, paint-by-number kits were sought after items.
But of all those kits I received, the one I remember the most came from my father. I don't remember the actual painting itself but I do remember the anticipation it created. It was a Christmas Eve. My father was a funeral director and that meant he even had to work on Christmas Eve if there'd been a death. This particular Christmas Eve he had to work. On top of that it was raining. Relatives had come for dinner and were gone when he came walking inside the house soaking wet. My older brother and I were dressed for bed. Milk and cookies were all set up. We waited for our father to get his coat off before we hugged him and said goodnight. When he took his coat off I noticed him grabbing hold of something hidden by his coat and putting it on a chair in the dining room. It was a package! It was Christmas Eve! I just knew it was for me.
While I thought I'd never get to sleep it was soon morning and I was rushing down the front stairs and into the living room with my brother. The stockings were bulging. But it was a package wrapped in white tissue paper kept together by Christmas stickers that caught my eye. It was sitting under the tree on top of some bigger presents. It was tradition for us to open one gift after our stocking gifts. Then we'd have breakfast and open the rest. I knew which gift I was going to open. I knew the present wrapped in white tissue paper was for me. I felt it. When it was time, I took hold of that gift with my name written in cursive on a tag. It was beautiful penmanship. I loved how the letters swirled as if caught in a breeze. I looked at my father. He was smiling. It was his penmanship.
Seconds later the tissue paper was off and I was holding on to a box I'd held in a small corner store just up the street. A few days earlier, my mother and I had stopped there for a few things and while she paid for them, I found what I was now holding. I'd told my mother how much I hoped Santa would bring me the paint-by-number kit with primary colored felt tip markers included. Sitting there in my nightgown I looked back at my father. He was still smiling. Then he pointed to the window. It was snowing.
The paint-by-number kit with primary colored felt-tip markers ended up my favorite Christmas gift that year. I don't know how my father ever knew I wanted it as much as I did. I convinced myself he was Santa Claus.
Thursday, June 4, 2020
Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Saturday, April 18, 2020
When walking through her front door, those knick knacks were there to welcome you back. They never called in sick due to the weather. You knew where each one sat day after day. They added to the scenery; to the warmth of that home. They were a part of that home just as much as the furniture and books and paintings on the wall and dishes in the kitchen cupboards and canned goods in the pantry. They were part of the family.
Most of those little things had been gifts to my grandmother-birthdays, Mother's days, Christmas. Some were home-made. Some were ceramic like little bunnies and kittens. Some were Santas and snowmen. Some were little vases holding pencils or rubber bands or paper clips. Of all those things called knick knacks, one was probably everyone's favorite. It was a candy dish in the shape of a chicken. It sat on an antique table behind the sofa. All you had to do was take hold of the chicken's head, lift it up and your reward was candy. I can't imagine how many little hands lifted that chicken's head in search of a treat.
Later in life my grandmother would tell us, when her birthday came around or Mother's Day was near or Christmas was coming, not to buy her a thing. "Come spend some time with me," she'd say.
Sitting around her kitchen table enjoying a cup of freshly perked coffee and listening to her stories and those of my Aunt Claire who lived with her was certainly better than buying a knick knack or receiving a knick knack. And, of course when visiting, lifting up that chicken's head for some candy was the icing on the cake.
I don't think knick knacks play such a prominent roll in homes today like they once did many years ago. Everyone is busy. Some consider such things as dust collectors. Homes are more efficient and void of clutter. I get that. But back then, knick knacks were more than just useless things sitting here and there. They were story tellers of the family in that home. They were little things always there to greet you when coming through the door. They were traditions.
I am blessed to have one of my grandmother's little knick knacks in my home. Every time I look at it, I remember it sitting on one of those wooden steps of the crescent moon that hung in the dining room of her farmhouse. It is so much more than a knick knack made in China.
To me, it is love wrapped up in memories.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
For ten long days, I'd grab the magic jar and cover my face with the magic, silky lotion. Then I'd wait for however long I was supposed to before taking a clean washcloth put under warm water and then cold before wiping the magic, silky lotion off my face. I did that twice a day for nine days. At the end of the tenth day, I went into the bathroom and shut the door. Then I picked up the jar of magic, silky lotion and covered my face extra carefully. I left it on a little longer. I could feel myself getting excited. The long wait was over. No more pimples! No more being embarrassed or hiding my face with my hands. No more spending time on products that did nothing as promised in their ads. I was certain the magic, silky lotion I'd used as directed twice a day for ten days straight had rid my skin of acne.
With a clean washcloth put under warm water and then cold, I slowly began to clean the magic, silky lotion off my face. I took my time. Beauty, I decided, is to be savored. The only problem was when I looked in the mirror, I had even more pimples than I'd ever had. Throwing the not-so-magic lotion in the waste basket, I ran to my room; threw myself on my bed and buried myself in blankets. I stayed there until morning.
One good thing when I woke up, it was a Saturday. I didn't have to see anyone with my face smothered in pimples. I didn't feel like doing anything but decided to go next door to my grandmother's house. She was always up to something. I hoped her something on that Saturday would help me take my mind off my face.When I walked through the front door, I could hear her sewing machine humming. I knew where she was. Walking through the kitchen, I slowly approached her sewing room. Hesitating for a second, I took a deep breath and walked into the room. It made me feel better just to see her. I felt like crying but her words stopped me cold.
Looking up from her little black, Singer sewing machine with a tape measure around her neck, she smiled at me and said, "Well, don't you look beautiful today!"
I spent most of the day at my grandmother's. I decided, with brown spots on her hands and long gray hair twirled up in a bun and lines on her face that told her life's story, she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I was in good company.
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Right about this time of the year when growing up out in the country, I’d be looking for my bag of marbles. It wasn’t a fancy bag. It was a paper bag and there weren’t that many marbles in it. My older brother was the one with the marbles. He kept them in a plush-like bag with ties you’d pull shut so the marbles wouldn’t fall out. Sometimes when he wasn’t home I’d sneak into his room, pull open a certain dresser drawer and grab hold of that plush-like bag. Then I’d sit on his bed. Open the bag and spread the marbles out in front of me.
One time a marble rolled off his bed and disappeared just as I heard him come through the front door. I panicked. I scooped up the marbles and dumped them in the fancy bag. Then I got down on my knees and searched for the one that got away. I couldn’t find it! I was running out of time so I put the plush-like bag back in the drawer and hurried to my room and shut the door. I waited for him to start yelling at me. I was convinced he’d find it. But that never happened. He never went in his room. A few minutes later I heard him go back out the front door. Watching him walk up the road, I hurried into his room and eventually found that marble and put it back where it belonged.
I think most of my marbles came from Woolworths or Newberry’s. I didn’t have any fancy ones like steelies, but my brother did. And like his marbles, he had steelies in all sizes. My marbles were just your regular sort of marbles. Some, like the solid white ones and solid yellow ones, looked like gumballs. I had a few favorites chosen because of their swirling colors.
My cousins and I would get our marbles outside as soon as the snow started melting. We’d play with them in what grass there was despite it being frozen. Our marbles would roll in the snow; in mud puddles; down the cinder driveway; into the little stream beside our grandparents’ farmhouse waking up and getting a little bit bigger most every day. Our hands would be freezing. Our feet would be soaking wet but we didn’t care. We were finally outside playing with our marbles after waiting all winter long.
I don’t know what ever happened to that paper bag holding those glorious little balls of fun. I guess you could say ‘I lost my marbles!’
Thursday, March 5, 2020
If the weather changed and the temperature dipped, that little stream would turn to ice. But that never stopped the play. We'd find shovels or picks and open our highway of water back up so we could find more twigs and use them to race each other's twigs down that little stream to the finish which was the flat rocks.