Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Archie, Veronica, Betty & Jughead

With all the wonderful books to read way back when, including the Nancy Drew Mysteries, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott books as well as the Bobbsey Twins, a favorite source of reading was not a book. It was the monthly comic book titled Archie. 

I have no clue where my cousin and I bought our copies. Maybe we had a subscription. Maybe they were for sale in Woolworths or Newberry's located in the downtown where we lived. Quite possibly we bought them at what was called The Busy Corner in that downtown-a combination smoke shop, ice cream parlor complete with ceiling fans and small round tables with wrought iron chairs and a checkered linoleum floor. Besides tobacco products, the smoke shop carried numerous newspapers and magazines. I'm sure they must have carried comic books.

The backdrop to the Archie comic book series was a high school like most high schools of that era with students like most students of that era. Red-haired Archie was the main character. Jughead was his best friend. He always wore a funny-looking hat and always seemed to me to be lazy. Betty, the pretty blonde was like the girl next door. Very sweet with her eye on Archie. But the problem was Veronica who was Betty's best friend as well as rival for Archie's attention. Veronica was  attractive with her long, black hair. I remember there was a boy named Reggie but that's about all I remember about him. He wasn't a main character.

I can't remember any of the storylines. More often than not, it had to do with Betty and Veronica vying for Archie's affections. But none of that stuff caught my interest. I didn't care who ended up with Archie. I guess I realized that could change in the next issue. Rather, I was more interested in what Betty and Veronica were wearing and how their hair was styled. Their outfits reminded me of outfits a few of my pretty aunts would wear to work. Betty and Veronica didn't look like high school girls. At least not the girls where I went to school. They were quite curvy if you know what I mean and the outfits were beyond stylish. And the best part of that was the fact that, besides the comic books, we could buy paper dolls of all the Archie characters and along with those dolls came all of those wonderful outfits including bathing suits, skirts, pedal pushers, blouses, dresses, coats, pjs, and accessories. It was fun putting Veronica's outfits on Betty or vice versa and they never fought over who was wearing what. Not once. Maybe they were too busy fighting over Archie!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Frankly My Dear

When I learned of the death of actress Olivia de Havilland, my thoughts went back to a summer of long ago. My cousin and I were still hanging out in our chicken coop clubhouse, surrounded by the books, chalkboards and desks from an abandoned one-room schoolhouse up the road. Besides 'teaching' our younger siblings, we taught pretend students as well. And if we weren't teaching, we were putting on art shows, circuses, carnivals-whatever we thought the adults would 'love' to attend. After all, our shows were Free, and Tremendous.

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

The Magic of Fields

There’s something magical about fields. It doesn’t matter the time of year. Fields amaze me whatever the season. This fascination began at an early age. I remember playing with my cousins as we watched for our grandfather to return from haying in the backfield. Once he drove his little red Ford tractor back over the plank bridge spanning the creek on his way to the barn, we’d run and jump on board the wagon full of hay. Fields surrounded us on both sides of the road.
When I was 8 or 9, we moved to the country, next door to my grandparents’ farm. Despite the farm not being a working farm anymore, the fields provided hours of play for me, my siblings and my cousins. They were great places to play hide ‘n seek. Fun places to pick wildflowers and clovers that were sweet tasting. Fun places to play ‘pretend’, making pretend houses by stepping down on the tall grass. Fun places to escape the adults. Fun places to walk through in the snow, stopping to make snow angels and snowmen and snowballs for throwing.
I remember sitting at my desk in my bedroom, looking out the window at the fields stretching to the back woods. When the sun would set through the trees, the fields would often be streaked with color. When it snowed, the fields glistened. After a rain shower, the fields with their weeds and wildflowers and brush and hay grew all the more. After a storm, the fields became disheveled. Even some trees might have fallen. But Mother Nature stepped in. Mother Nature was its caretaker.
When autumn came back around, Mother Nature meticulously painted the weeds and wildflowers and brush and leaves in splendid shades of orange and red and yellow. The fields took my breath away.
Fields still take my breath away. I’m still surrounded by fields. Although they are different fields, they too have their weeds and wildflowers and brush and trees. Mother Nature is their caretaker and I am a grateful onlooker —no matter the season.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

For The Love of Paint-By-Number Kits

I always felt like a famous artist when working on a Paint-By-Number Painting. I loved them. They came in a kit inside a decorated cardboard box. The kit contained everything one would need to complete the painting. Some kits included one large paint-by-number painting. Others included three paint-by-number paintings, smaller in size than the kit with the single painting. I can still remember my most favorite of all the ones I painted. It was a horse standing in front of a barn-a rather big horse. I spent hours on that painting, sitting at my desk in a bedroom I shared with my younger sister with a huge assortment of brushes, a glass of water and lots of tissues sitting next to me. I always made a mess when creating. That's just what artists do.

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

Lilacs In The Blue Vase

The lilacs are blooming, their sweet scent drifting about the back yard, over the fields, even coming inside through the screens on the back porch. It amazes me that such a sweet scent can come from such little flowers. But then, there are so many little flowers in a cluster. I couldn't resist cutting a few and bringing them inside, arranging them in the blue vase.
It was my father's vase, handed down to him from his mother. I don't remember how I ended up with it but I am thankful I did. It makes me feel like I have something tangible from a grandmother I hardly knew. She passed away when I was quite young. I only have one vivid memory of her and in that memory, I can see the blue vase sitting on her dining room table.
My older brother and I had gone with our father to visit his parents. I'm certain it was a Sunday morning. I remember wearing a pale yellow sundress with bunnies embroidered around the neckline. It must have been in the summertime because a window was wide open and the curtains were moving a bit. I could smell flowers as we walked up the front steps and through the front door. My father and brother were ahead of me.
When I was walking through the dining room, I was swallowed up in a warm embrace. It was my grandmother, smelling like a grandmother, all warm and safe and loving with fresh baked cookies on the kitchen counter. She was wearing black shoes. They tied up the front. An apron that went over her head and tied in the back covered up what I think was a dress.
I remember hair combs and wrinkled hands and little pearl earrings and thinking I'd like a cup of tea from the beautiful teapot sitting on the dining room table covered by a beautiful lace tablecloth with that blue vase full of flowers sitting in the middle.
Sadly, I can't remember her face. I can't remember if I ever did have a cup of tea from that teapot which now sits in my home along with the blue vase.
I wish I'd gotten to know my Grandmother Louise. I bet we would have had tea parties while sitting at that dining room table covered by that beautiful lace tablecloth with that blue vase full of fresh, blooming flowers sitting in the middle and a breeze coming through the windows.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Small Talk While Wearing Face Masks

It was another beautiful morning. I was up early-at the post office getting my mail out of my postal box when I noticed an older gentleman walking into the building. He had a cane and was wearing a face mask. As soon as he was inside, another older gentleman wearing a face mask and making copies at the copier, turned to see who was opening the door.

By the boisterous hellos, it was obvious they knew each other.
“Well look who’s here! How you been old guy?”
“Oh you know. Tryin’ to stay home but I gotta pay my bills.”
“Know just what you mean. I make copies of mine.”
“I was thinkin’ earlier. This would be a great time to rob a bank! With everyone wearin’ a face mask, you’d never get caught!”

They both started laughing in the old post office that had stood witness to so many catastrophic events in this country’s history.

Then the older gentleman who’d walked through the door continued as he adjusted his face mask. “I’m tempted sometimes to take this thing off. Makes it hard to breathe.”
“No! You can’t do that. We’re only in the third inning. Keep your face mask on. You don’t know who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy, if you know what I mean.”
Their small talk and laughter continued as I walked out the door.

My next stop was the grocery store. Standing in front of the meat case, with signs posted concerning limited quantities on some items due to Cova19, I thought about news reports concerning slaughter houses around the country where so many of their employees had been stricken with Cova19. As I continued to stand there, another older gentleman happened by. He was wearing a face mask. The fabric was all kittens. He didn’t hesitate to pick up a few packages of hamburger. Then we started talking. Turns out he’d been a farmer all his life. I told him my hesitation in buying meat.
“Check the expiration date,” he told me. “If ok, buy what you want and cook the heck out of it. That’ll kill anything, even that virus!”
“Thanks,” I told him. “I like your face mask.”
“My granddaughter made it. She knows I love kittens. Her mother told me she made quite a few for those who needed them. Well, it’s been nice talking with you. Stay safe.”
I picked up some packages of meat. When I got home, I cooked the heck out of it.”

I’ve been thinking about those three older gentlemen. They reminded me of my grandfather, especially the farmer. I remember hearing stories of how my grandparents and family would gather around the radio in the evening to listen to news after the Pearl Harbor attack and during WW11. I remember hearing stories of very tough times on their farm and in the country. I've been wondering what my grandfather would be doing during this Corona Virus pandemic. I suspect he'd be doing what he had to do just like the three older gentlemen I met the other morning, even if that meant wearing a face mask made from fabric with a kitten design.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Having Fun With Stilts

I don’t remember who made the pair of stilts my cousins and siblings and I played with when growing up out in the country. I do remember how much fun we had with them. The stilts were kept in my grandmother’s garage which was always open so we were able to get them whenever we wanted to.

The wooden stilts were painted gray. There was nothing fancy or mechanical about them. They were just gray with chunks of wood added for foot rests. Funny how such a simple thing could bring so much fun. But they did. Even my older brother would walk around on the stilts and he hardly ever joined us when we were outside playing which was most of the time. That just reinforces how much fun we had, taking turns walking around on those gray wooden stilts.

My grandmother’s driveway was crushed stone so if whoever was using the stilts wasn’t careful, a stilt could land on some stones the wrong way and throw the rhythm of walking on the stilts off. And down they’d go. Landing on crushed stone was very painful.
Sometimes we’d have races. Since there was only one pair of stilts, we had to count how long each of us took to determine a winner. Sometimes we’d try doing tricks like holding on tight to the stilts and attempting to jump one or two or maybe even three times with them. Another trick was to walk backwards. Another one was to look as if you were dancing. Of course, getting on and off the stilts was always a trick.

In the spring, we’d march through puddles. In the summer, we’d host circuses outside our chicken coop clubhouse. I’m sure all the adults loved attending our show which included some amazing stilt walking and stilt tricks and stilt marching under the big top which was actually just being outside in the sunshine.

I don’t know whatever happened to those simple, gray stilts. I do know they were lots of laughs despite all the bruised knees and elbows.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Oh Those Little Knick Knacks

I never knew a lot of the little things my grandmother had on display in her home could have been collectively referred to as knick knacks. In fact, growing up, I never heard that term used for anything. All those things sitting here and there, on tables and book shelves and shelves inside cabinets with glass doors and on window sills and in plants and on the mantel above the fireplace in the living room and sitting on antiques and on top of starched doilies and on little wooden steps of a wooden crescent moon serving as a display as it hung on a wall weren't just things. They were my grandmother's things and each one of them was considered to be a treasure by those of us who loved her. Each one had a story all its own.

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

A Ten-Day Beauty Plan

Way back in the day when I was in my early teens plagued by acne, I would have done anything to get rid of those pimples. In fact, I did but still pimples blossomed all over my face. After reading a magazine ad stating if you used their product faithfully for ten days straight, your skin would be rid of acne. In fact, it claimed, "You will be beautiful!" That's all I needed! I bought a jar, convinced there'd be no more reason to hide my face with my hands or turn away when seeing popular upperclassmen.

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!"

"Yes. Really!"

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

Playing Marbles

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

A Magical Little Stream

After passing by the creek shown in the attached photo, I found myself turning back around to take a closer look. There was something about that creek; bringing me back to another creek waking up in springtime.
When growing up in the country, spring surrounded us with the smell of the earth thawing and the honking of geese announcing their return. The creek that ran behind those four homes full of relatives would overflow its banks like clockwork when the temperature began to rise. One day it'd be frozen in place. The next day it'd be moving along swiftly, spreading out into the surrounding fields like a wildfire out of control. It was exciting to see that creek expand. Sometimes while having supper, we'd watch muskrats sitting on chunks of ice flowing by as if on a carnival ride. We weren't allowed to play near that creek when the water was full of cakes of ice and moving along at full speed but that didn't matter. There was a little stream that ran alongside our grandparents' farmhouse. It was the perfect-sized little stream even when it overflowed its little banks. I'd play outside with my cousins in and around that little stream until dragged inside, soaking wet and anxious to get back outside to continue our playing.
The little stream came flowing through a tunnel built under the road, bringing waters from other fields to our little stream; then to the flat rocks and eventually to the big creek with cakes of ice.
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.
Racing those twigs was so much fun. Sometimes a twig would get lost underneath the edge of ice still in place. Sometimes a twig would blend into a glob of twigs or dirty, leftover leaves. If that happened whoever owned the twig would have to take their mittens off and recover their racing twig, I don't ever remember being cold when playing in that stream even when my mittens were soaking wet and my nose was dripping and my boots were full of mucky water mixed with leaves and stones. None of that matters when you're a kid and spring turns your winter playground into something brand new and exciting, offering brand new things to play and explore until spring turns to summer and that little stream dries up and disappears under the sunshine and heat of the new season.
But with that flat rock in place, something magical happened in the heat of the summer. That's when a natural bubble would pop up and out of the flat rock. It was so cold and so delicious. It was worth clearing away the green moss, lying down on the flat rock and getting good and wet just to drink from that natural bubble-proving once again how magical it was to play about that little stream-that wonderful little stream offering hours of never-ending fun at no charge and no batteries required.
All that was required was Imagination.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Rding Horses Bareback Out In The Country

Did you ever look at a photo and wish you could remember that moment; remember what lead up to it and what everyone was saying and who took the photo and what happened after the photo had been taken and life continued on?
I had all those questions and more after receiving the attached photo from a cousin. That’s me sitting on a horse behind my Uncle Paddy-my cousin’s father. My older brother is sitting on the other horse. I have no recollection of that day. But I do know if my Uncle Paddy was involved, it would have been a fun day. Most in the community knew him as owner of a shoe store. I knew him as an uncle who was a kid at heart.
Uncle Paddy was the one who built us kids rafts out of telephone poles so we could go off on adventures on a creek that ran along behind our homes. Uncle Paddy was the one who helped my cousin and I set up a tent behind his house so we could camp out on occasion over summer vacations. Of course he was also the one who loved to scare us later on and then show up early in the morning for fried eggs and toast cooked over a fire consisting of twigs and creek grass producing lots of smoke that made our eyes water.
Uncle Paddy was the one who spent hours planning what became an annual Easter Treasure Hunt when we all lived out in the country in those four houses in a row. Before we were awake on Easter morning, he’d go about that huge plot of property and hide clues for us to find. The pot of gold was individual brown bags of candy, lots of candy, for each one of us. We worked for that candy. He hid the clues in hard to find places. Some of the clues were near impossible to figure out. A few times over the years we’d ask him for help when we were stumped, but he never said a word. He’d just laugh and tell us to keep looking. He loved watching us running from the creek to the barn to the grain shed to cars and rock walls and everywhere else in between. After we finally found the treasure, we’d hurry inside to discuss the hunt with the treasure hunt creator himself.
Later in life, it was my Uncle Paddy I’d go with to the movies. He’d always buy us popcorn in that downtown theater of long ago. I think Dr. Zhivago was one of our favorites.
I still have so many questions about that photo. I’m thinking my Aunt Claire probably took it with her Brownie camera since we were on our horses right in front of her home and she loved taking photos. The horses probably came from a nearby farm. Of course I’m just guessing.
The one thing I know for sure is my brother and I were having lots of fun and lots of laughs riding horses bareback out in the country with that kid at heart.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Little Valentine Tree

This past December when going to the woods for a Christmas tree, I came back home with two trees. One was for the living room. The other was for the room where Brian and I spend most of our time. We call it the Groove room. It used to be a back porch. Now it’s where it all happens; everything from singing and dancing to TV viewing and CD listening and writing and watching the leaves turn and the snow fall and the garden grow and the deer pass by. It overlooks the back yard and the fields; a rock wall where rabbits live and the old barn with a light in the upstairs window.

I’d thought about putting a small Christmas tree in the Groove room before but I never followed through. Something was telling me to do it this past Christmas. So I did. Once Christmas was over, it didn’t bother me to take down the tree in the front room but that little tree on the old back porch was a different story. Brian and I weren’t ready to say goodbye to what had become our favorite little tree. So we decided to keep it up through January. But by the end of that month, we still weren’t ready to say goodbye to that precious little tree.

Because I love Valentine’s Day for all of its color and warmth in the midst of winter whites and greys and chilly temperatures, I suggested to Brian that we turn the little Christmas tree into the little Valentine Tree. He liked the idea, probably because it meant a few more weeks of having the little tree within view. 

As Valentine’s Day approaches we feel blessed to have our little Valentine tree. And once Valentine’s Day comes and goes, I’ll take that little Valentine tree back outside where the snow will eventually cover it and the wind will blow and the birds will sit on its branches and the seasons will keep changing. 

But the memories of that little Christmas/Valentine tree will remain in our hearts forever.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Winter Suppers

With the snow and the wind and below zero temperatures, I sometimes fix something simple for myself when suppertime comes around. This doesn’t happen every night but when it does happen; whatever I fix not only warms me up but fills me with an even deeper appreciation of winter. I’d never think of having hot cereal for supper in the summertime. But I do during the winter. And I enjoy every spoonful as much as I would enjoy a full-course meal. After the hot dogs and potato salads and the boiled dinners and turkeys, winter offers a time of slowing down and occasionally treating yourself to simple, warm and relaxing suppers.

Besides a bowl of hot cereal, which could be Oatmeal, Corn Meal, or Wheatena with an added treat of dipping a piece of toast into any one of those cereals, my simple winter supper might be buttermilk pancakes with either blueberries or bananas on top. When the kids were little I had a Hello Kitty-shaped pancake skillet. Those pancake suppers were quite popular.

Another simple winter supper—which was sometimes enjoyed for breakfast as well— was a favorite when growing up in the country where I was blessed with having a grandmother living next door. Those of us who gathered around my grandmother’s kitchen table in wait of her serving her quite popular rice croquettes could never get enough of such a simple, yet such a delicious meal. Now looking at her recipe, it’s hard to believe the joy and satisfaction we experienced from rice mixed with 2 beaten eggs, then shaped into croquettes and rolled in flour or bread crumbs and cooked in deep fat until browned. Maybe it was the hot tomato sauce covering the croquettes that we loved. Or, maybe it was because we were gathered around our grandmother’s kitchen table and we would have enjoyed whatever she was cooking.

One of my aunts loved having an egg on toast or chipped beef on toast or creamed peas on toast. They were all simple winter suppers. This aunt also loved going out to a diner for breakfast. She’d come home with more than a few packets of sugar or little creamers in her purse.

Some winter suppers are a little fancier yet remain on the simple end of preparation. Tuna casseroles, creamed tuna on toast (can you tell I love tuna fish), or corn bread served with regular goulash or my grandmother’s French goulash all hit the spot when the snow is swirling and the wind is howling. Homemade soups and shepherd’s pie get a little fancier but worth the effort.

Winter suppers, simple or not quite so simple, are all about being home; being content as the wind howls and the snow falls and you are safe and warm with less dishes to do and more time

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Snowy Day People

The other day as big, fluffy, beautiful January snowflakes fell, Brian started listening to a Gordon Lightfoot CD I'd bought him for Christmas. I bought it for one particular song that he's always liked. After he listened it, I suggested he listen to the other songs, telling him the other Gordon Lightfoot songs were just as good. So he did.
I was in the kitchen when a certain song started playing. It used to be a favorite of mine (still is) so I started singing as I began to gather ingredients to make him an omelet.
"How do you know that song?" he asked.
"I don't remember. I've just always liked it."
"Come sit down and listen to it."
So I did.
It was peaceful sitting there with the snow falling about the fields. I went on a bit about the beauty in winter; the peace I find in the stillness and how absolutely breathtaking it was outside.
Of course Brian has heard me go on and on about winter many times before. This time he laughed, telling me, "You're a Snowy Day person!"
I agreed.
The way the snow was coming down reminded me of the times of long ago when skating with my cousin down at the creek that ran behind our homes. We spent hours at that creek. We'd never get cold. That's probably because we just kept on skating. And sometimes those snowy hours spent on the creek led to a bowl of piping hot cereal at our grandmother's house.
My grandmother-my aunt-my mother all cooked hot cereal. They each had their variations. Some used brown sugar. Some sprinkled cinnamon in the bubbling mix while some served it with cream instead of milk. My grandmother would add a dab of butter as she dished her cereal into a bowl. When making the hot cereal, she'd always use a simple sauce pan with a top that had a dent in it. She used the pan for years. My aunt used it too.
On Sunday mornings in the wintertime, that pan made serving after serving of hot cereal, depending on how many of us were gathered around the table. Besides Oatmeal, favorites included Cream of Wheat and Corn Meal. We weren't picky as long as it was hot and served with buttered toast for dunking. Of course there were no microwave variations-just spoonful after spoonful of creamy, delicious hot cereal cooked in a certain saucepan and served around the table as the snow fell and the wind blew.
So that afternoon as Gordon Lightfoot kept on singing and with hot cereal on my mind, I asked Brian if he'd like a bowl of hot cereal.
"What about my omelet?"
"You could have both if you'd like."
After thinking for a minute with Rainy Day People playing again he replied, "Hot cereal!"
"Wonderful. I'll have a bowl too."
And so as those snowflakes kept swirling outside, inside we sat and enjoyed some piping hot Oatmeal because that's just what Snowy Day people do on a snowy January day.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Marshmallow World

On mornings like this morning when waking up to a breathtaking soft and fluffy snowfall, I think of my mother. Growing up, on days like these, she'd go to our 'entertainment console'-a big, clumsy piece of furniture made for stubbing toes, where inside there was an AM/FM radio which was a big deal, a record player for all of our many 45 records and 331/3 albums (a really big deal) as well as a storage place for the albums-albums including Sonny & Cher, The Beatles, Glen Miller, Perry Como, Simon & Garfunkel, Boston Pops, Frank Sinatra, and So many more.
Of all of her choices on those wintry, snowy mornings, she'd always select a Dean Martin album and when that funny and talented man began singing, "It's a Marshmallow World", she'd sing and dance around the house while dusting, doing dishes, making beds. She'd play that song over and over again. Sometimes, if I was there, I'd pretend to be annoyed-that's just what preteens and teens do sometimes. Other times, I'd sing and dance along as did my siblings.
Looking back, I always loved it when she played that song. It was a happy song. It was fun watching my mother let her hair down and let loose, dancing and singing around the house doing her everyday chores as the snow kept falling.
If it was the weekend or if school was cancelled, I'd end up outside with siblings and cousins playing in the snowdrifts and playing down at the creek for what seemed forever. I don't remember ever getting cold.
Now that I think about it, I bet my mother loved it when we went outside to play. I bet she turned the volume up and kept dancing along with Dean-singing even louder; laughing and carefree on such "a whip cream day."

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Keeping Stuff For Good

When growing up and playing in the dining room of my grandparents’ farmhouse with my cousins, I remember being told to be careful of the china cupboard because it held all of my grandmother’s china, including tea cups with matching saucers and serving dishes, as well as plates and silverware kept in a particular box lined with velvet. We were told most everything in that china cupboard was kept for good.
When I was a little girl I loved sitting in the middle of my parents’ bed and looking through my mother’s jewelry box covered with-yes again, velvet-midnight blue velvet. Everything in that jewelry box seemed to glisten. Gently touching the strands of jewels and stones and rings that glittered, I felt like a princess getting ready for the ball. But there were a few things I’d been told not to touch, like the long, narrow box holding my mother’s pearls and another holding a cameo brooch with matching earrings my father bought for my mother. I’d been told those pieces were kept for good.
When my children and their cousins were newborns-to-toddlers, my mother would go shopping for them at a little boutique in my hometown. It was owned by a wonderful woman with a warm smile. The merchandise equaled any shop in Manhattan. Besides rattles and cuddly blankets and sweaters and soft nightgowns, knitted outfits with little ducks or bears stitched in for accents were available in gentle baby shades as well as snow whites and earth tones. Along with sweater-like tops, the knitted outfits included knitted shorts or long knitted pants. And no matter what you bought, it was wrapped in tissue paper and placed inside a white box with her shop name stamped on top. When you received a gift from that shop, you were aware that what was inside was top quality. So most of the time when one of my children received a gift from my mother wrapped inside one of those boxes, I put that gift aside. I kept it for good. That meant those knitted outfits were hardly ever worn and eventually, they were outgrown.
We all keep stuff for good. We all have our good shoes-a good dress-good tie-good jewelry-good suit-good china-good linens-good blankets-good this-good that. Keeping stuff for good comes with the possibility of putting stuff away and forgetting about it and what good is that?
Wouldn’t it be more fun to bring some of that good stuff out and use it or wear it on a normal, run-of-the-mill, ordinary, no special reason, no special occasion day? When you think about it, every day, despite our problems and worries, is a good day. When you really think about it, we are blessed to be living it.
So maybe—just maybe, once in a while or once a year or just on a Saturday, have your morning coffee in a china cup with a saucer, wear your pearls to breakfast or your cameo brooch to lunch or serve dinner on those china plates kept for good no matter if that dinner is but a hotdog.
After all, stuff is just stuff. Every day is a good day.
(Photo was taken in my grandparents’ farmhouse in the dining room on an Easter Sunday of long ago. Top left you can see a bit of my grandmother’s china cupboard. Sitting around the table: my father, my mother, my sister, my grandmother, my cousin and her mother-my aunt).

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Ballerina with Wings on Ice

Before last week’s mini ice storm I’d put some suet out for the birds in a clustered bunch of bird feeders. A few of the feeders are made of wood that’s now worn with plastic dividers chipped in the corners. One feeder is made of small, colorful pieces resembling stain glass that glitters when the sun is shining. Once the ice storm hit with howling winds and snow falling and ice forming, many of the remaining seeds in the feeders went flying. Many ended up on top of the ice covering the ground while even more of them ended up under the feeders. Seeds just sitting there on the ice and under the feeders attracted a variety of birds but more often than not, only the big birds were able to conquer the slippery ice; then grab some seeds and take off to a nearby tree to enjoy their winter feast.

Of all the birds that were out there, it was one little bird that caught my eye. She was very small but determined. As my son Brian and I watched her fight for a seed, we found ourselves cheering her on. There is a very slight incline in the yard leading to the bird feeders. You probably wouldn’t notice it but if you are a tiny bird with thin little legs and the wind is pushing you and the snowflakes are knocking you and ice wants to trip you up as you try to put one thin little leg in front of the other in order to get under the bird feeders where some prime seeds are resting, you’d notice that giant incline.

I’m sure that’s how the little bird felt as she tried and tried to get under those feeders. Sometimes she’d get part of the way. Then the wind would take her swirling around and around the ice like a beautiful ballerina with wings giving the performance of a life time. On a few occasions, one of her legs ended up in the air as if she was doing an Olympic-style program in the backyard. Once we saw her pushed by the wind so far away that we thought we’d seen the last of her as she crashed into some leaves frozen in the ice. But that never happened. That only spurred her on to victory under the bird feeders. Back she came, stronger than ever and away she flew with a mouth full of prime, delicious seeds.

You see— this little bird was a fighter, conquering blue jays and cardinals and sparrows and robins and mourning doves as well as the ice and snow and wind . She was determined. She was Forrest Gump and the Little Engine Who Could and Dumbo and Cinderella and Susan Boyle and a certain hockey team who beat those Russians and Rosa Parks and Rocky and Rudolph and Stephen Hawking and Andrea Bocelli and so many more. She was anyone who is physically or mentally handicapped who gets up every day and puts one foot in front of the other. She was the underdog who keeps trying; keeps fighting; keeps going. She was akin to those who are bullied by cowards yet  stand their ground and give it right back to the spineless.

There certainly is a lot going on out at the bird feeders. More than I ever realized. And when it rains or snows or the wind blows or the ice falls, some of those birds stand up and fight for what they believe in.

I like that idea.  

Friday, January 3, 2020

A Most Unexpected Christmas Gift

In early November, I received a Christmas gift from a cousin I spent most every day with when growing up out in the country in that row of four houses filled with relatives. The gift came in a large manila envelope. Inside there was a Christmas card with copies of what started out as an idea we had and turned into a ‘family newspaper’.
I don’t know how old we were when we had the idea of ‘publishing’ a family newspaper but it didn’t take long before the idea turned into a reality. We called our newspaper the ‘Burns Row Journal’—named after our grandparents. We decided it would be a weekly. Starting out, we’d charge five cents a copy. Every Saturday night, the ‘presses’ were rolling, meaning we sat down and hand-printed four copies of our newspaper. Delivery was always Sunday morning to each of the four houses. While the first copies of ‘The Journal’ were small, content quickly grew to offer our readers more than just news, which was a combination of family news and national news if something caught our attention from the fifteen minute nightly national news broadcasts on TV. Added content included Sports, Classified ads, Display ads, Want ads, Local Events, Birthdays, Jokes, and ‘Newsy Notes from the Editor’s Desk.’
The manner in which we held the pages of our paper together changed as we became more professional, starting with scotch tape; then staples and eventually, sewing them with a sewing machine. From the examples I am including, you can see, as we grew older, how our front page changed for the better. There were fewer misspellings. We used a typewriter. The name of the paper was printed in a more ‘professional font.’ And the price went up!
I have no idea when our first edition hit those houses. Looking at the example, we were quite young. And, I don’t know how old we were when our presses stopped rolling.
I hadn’t seen a copy of the Burns Row Journal since delivering the final copies. So when I opened the manila envelope, I was overjoyed to find three copies. I’d shed a few tears and then laugh as I sat and read each edition. And when I opened my cousin’s card and read her note, I felt the rush I’d feel when working on our paper. We worked very hard to make our paper interesting for our readers. Our ads were quite creative. The copy, at times, was lively. My cousin’s message was heartfelt, writing that our Burns Row Journals were “works of art!”
The Burns Row Journal never won any journalism awards. Instead, it won the hearts of their dedicated readers in those four houses in a row out in the country.