Friday, April 28, 2017

Uncle Gerald

Finally an uncle I knew! Uncle Gerald lived in a near-by town from Grandma.

Uncle Gerald was older than my father. In fact his oldest daughter was close to the same age as my mother.

I was surprised to learned that Uncle Gerald had a first wife. I thought that Aunt Sophie was the only wife he had. I do not know (yet) what happened to his first wife.

Uncle Gerald and Aunt Sophie had four children. Three were girls. Of course they were quite a bit older than me. One was married and had children near in age to some of my younger siblings.

The other two girls liked to take me to their house for the weekend. They would fuss over me like a live doll. Then on weekends they would take me on their dates. We went to drive-in movies or to the auto races. I saw my first demolition derby with them.

Often my aunt and uncle would come to Grandma's house on Friday. They would all get spiffed up and go out to have fun. I think Uncle Gerald and Aunt Sophie usually went to the bar. My cousins would have dates and go with their dates to whatever was happening for young people at the time.

Like so much of my father's family Uncle Gerald's family was on the selfish side. They thought little of other people's feelings. I know that sounds odd after telling you that they paid a lot of attention to me. But that is the way they were.

When my brother was killed in Viet Nam family began calling my parents to offer sympathies. My father sat up most of the night. Every time the phone rang he would say, "That will be Gerald." Uncle Gerald never called.

In fact Daddy did not hear from him for a couple of years. Aunt Sophie sent a letter telling Daddy that Uncle Gerald had cancer and was not doing well. Oh by the way it was a shame about my brother.

Daddy was so hurt. I was furious. They had hurt my father so bad. The one family member he had been around could not even call to see if he was okay.

All of them are dead now. I had contact with the oldest daughter for a while online. Her children and grandchildren live only a few hours from me. They are doing well.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Uncle Willis

We have yet another uncle I did not know well. He did not live to far from us but we did not visit back and forth.

My grandmother did not visit him either and he did not visit her. For some reason Grandma did not like his wife. She never had anything pleasant to say about her.

My uncle had three sons. They are all close to my father's age. I'm not sure I ever even saw one of them.

Uncle Willis was a fireman. It was his life's work. Because of his hard work and love of his job he eventually became the fire chief of his suburb of a large city in the area.

I remember reading about him in the paper once. He demonstrated that an oil fire could be extinguished with water if other methods were not available.

My grandmother had cancer. Uncle Willis and Aunt Irma were the ones who offered to take care of her while she recovered from surgery.

When the doctors went in to try to remove the cancer Grandma was so full of cancer there was nothing they could do for her. They simply closed the incision. When she was ready to leave the hospital she wen to stay with my aunt and uncle.

Both my aunt and uncle had back problems. It was not easy for them to take care of Grandma but they did.

Toward the end another aunt and uncle went to visit Grandma. Aunt Irma mentioned that Grandma would not eat.

My other uncle became furious. He screamed at her that she had to feed her no matter what. Force it down her throat if she had to.

The following day Aunt Irma called the doctor. She was worried that she was not taking proper care of Grandma.

The doctor told her that she was doing a good job. He said that very often terminal patients have no appetite, If she wanted something to eat by all means give her something. Otherwise let her alone. Ice chips and sips of fluid were the most important.

We went to visit. It was to see Grandma before she died. She really did not know we were there. Except for my youngest sister who was her favorite.

My sister was only 4 years old but she seemed to understand that Grandma needed her. She sat with her all day holding her hand.

Grandma died that night after we left.

My aunt and uncle were left to take care of all the necessary things one needs to do after a death.

All from the ones that Grandma had no time for. I respected them for that.

I learned that you never know who will be important in your life or why. It is best to treat everyone with kindness. You may someday need a kindness from them.

Friday, April 21, 2017


I need to pause in telling you about aunts and uncles to remind you of a couple of things.

As i have told you before both of my parents came from large families. Eleven babies were born into each family. Two babies on each side died soon after they were born.

That leaves 18 babies. My parents are not included as aunts and uncles so the number drops to 16.

You will notice that I will write about fewer than that. The reason is that my father's family was quite a bit older that my mother's family. Some of my father's siblings I know little about.

I know he had a brother who had epilepsy. Rather than the family suffer the stigma of a "defective" child he was placed in a home. Back then there was little they could do to control seizures and children were often placed in institutions.

I did not know until I was grown and had children what really happened to him. Grandma always said he died in a Juvenile Delinquent Center.  It was preferable to having a son with epilepsy.

I know of a sister too. She married and had children. I have seen her grave not far from my grandparents' graves. Her husband is buried there and several children. I know nothing about them.

So that is why there are fewer than I should have to tell about.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Uncle Rolan

I did not know Uncle Rolan well. I only remember seeing him twice.

The first time I saw him was when my family moved to Washington. Uncle Rolan had lived there for years. He was showing us a few sights.

The only sight I remember is the Grand Coulee Dam. Everything was so new. It was a little too much for a 9 year old to take in.

The second time I saw him was when Grandma died. I am sure he loved her but she was not an easy person to spend time with. So my feeling is that it was sort of a duty thing.

Uncle Rolan and Daddy went to Grandma's house after the funeral to see if they could find the little bust I made of clay. I really wanted to have it. But they found nothing.

Uncle Rolan had a wife and three children. When I saw him in Washington my aunt was in the hospital. I do not know why. It was not discussed in front of me.

One of their sons died when he was a year old.

Their daughter I did not meet either. She was a teenager and certainly not interested in a bunch of little kid cousins.

The other son was with Uncle Rolan the day we went to the dam. He was also a teenager. He did not seem to mind us too much. My parents saw him playing in the Army/Navy football game one year.

It is really sad that I know nothing more about them. I have no way to learn either because all of them have died.

I discovered that while working on my family tree. I found no records of either of my cousins having families.

So this is the first uncle I introduce. Unfortunately I have little to tell.

Friday, April 14, 2017

In Your Easter Bonnet

Last year for Easter my grandson took pictures of him and his daughter making Easter eggs. The eggs were made of Play Doh. They were beautiful in the way that only homemade items can be. Beyond that he spent hours with his daughter creating something they could be proud of and that they enjoyed doing together.

It made me think of Easters past. Of course I love thinking of things from the past so I reveled in the memories.

My family did not have much in the way of material things when I was a child. For Easter we had plenty of eggs to color because we had chickens. The Easter bunny left baskets with candy. Mom made a fancy meal. Then we re-hid the eggs over and over all that day.

New clothes were not often bought for Easter. We just dressed in our Sunday clothes like most of the rest of the children where we lived.

I only had one Easter bonnet. Out house had burned and a collection was taken and placed with a neighboring department store for us to purchase new clothes. There was a little extra money and I was able to talk my parents into letting me have my only Easter bonnet.

However we used to make Easter bonnets at school. They are fun and fairly easy to make.

Some of the items we used were disposable aluminum pie pans, facial tissues, crepe paper, and ribbon. Paper plates could be substituted for the pie pans but they are not as sturdy. You will also need scissors, paste or glue, string or thread and something to punch small holes into the pie pan. Paint might be an addition but is optional.

First we made flowers with the tissues. We separated the plies so that each tissue was two. Then we used several layers. More layers make a fuller flower. After stacking the tissues we would pick up the stack in the center and bunch it. Then we tied the center with thread to hold it together.

We trimmed the corners from the tissues so they will not stick out past the rest of the tissue. Then comes the fluffing. Gently separating each tissue and arranging them so that it creates a full soft looking flower. If you cannot find colored tissue you can spray paint the flower for the desired color.

Use either crepe paper or ribbon or both you fasten a band around the hat. Paste or glue into place. Then punch a hole on each side of the pie plate. Pass the ribbon through each hole from the top. It should be long enough to be able to tie beneath the neck to hold the hat in place.

Punch more holes in the pie plate. When you have decided the placement of the flowers you will need to be able to secure it to the hat by putting the bottom end through a hole. A little bit of glue helps keep it in place.

Bows can be made as well as any other decorations you wish to include. After allowing time for the glue to dry completely You have an Easter bonnet fit for any princess.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Aunt Luella

My Aunt Luella was a couple of years younger than my mother. She had five children who were close in age to my younger siblings. My sister liked to go to their house a lot. She had other girls to play with.

I have said before that my grandfather raised horses. They were a necessary part of the farm besides the fact that he loved them. The horses were the method of transportation.

Luella seemed to have a love/hate relationship with horses. Jenny was her favorite. That was the horse she usually rode to school.

But there was a problem with Jenny. When she was close to home she made a bee-line to the barn. She liked being home I guess.

So one day Luella was on her way home. She was not paying much attention to Jenny. You can do that when you are riding a horse because they will keep moving. Suddenly Jenny took off. She was ready for the barn.

Luella tried to slow her down but Jenny wanted to be home. So Luella sort of allowed Jenny her head. Straight to the barn doors they went.

There was the problem. The barn doors were open... at the bottom. The top halves were closed. Jenny went right on through. Luella was not so lucky.

No she did not fall off. That might have been easier. Luella's upper half was smooshed into the upper doors of the barn. Her lower half was still on Jenny inside the barn.

Luella tried to make Jenny back up so she could dismount but Jenny was having none of that. She was home.

It took some time before someone realized what a predicament they were in and came to rescue Luella. I am not sure how they accomplished it but Luella and Jenny were both unharmed.

Bird was another horse on the farm. She was a good horse. Bird was the horse we all learned to ride. She seemed to understand that a small or inexperienced rider needed her to be more gentle.

But older experienced riders were fair game. One of her favorite tricks was to hold her breath and puff up her belly when her saddle was being put on. If the rider was paying attention they would wait for her to let her breath out and then tighten the cinch. Sometimes it would even take a poke to the stomach to make her breathe.

Luella was going out to bring in the cattle for milking one afternoon. Her mind must have been elsewhere when she was putting the tack on Bird. She climbed up in the saddle and off she went.

There was a dog-leg part of the trail out to the pasture. Right at one corner was a huge walnut tree. Bird decided to walk right under a low hanging branch. Luella leaned to one side to avoid it. The saddle kept moving and Luella ended up on the ground. I can almost hear Bird chuckling to herself.

Luella married a man who drilled water wells. He was partners with his brother. They made a good living because in that area there was always a need for good water.

They built a new house to her exact specifications. It was spacious with plenty of room for all their children. They lived on a small farm outside of a small town. They raised sheep and bees.

Luella was also a fashion plate. She wore the modern styles in clothing. She was the first person I saw wearing culottes.

My sister has many of Luella's facial expressions. My daughter has many of my sister's facial expressions. So I guess you could say my daughter got them from my aunt.

Years after my uncle died my aunt remarried. I lived a long way  from her so I never met the new uncle.

My aunt's sons bought the well drilling business. They drilled wells all over the world and conducted seminars about the business. Eventually they sold it for a hefty price. Neither has to work any more.

One of them makes periodic trips to Africa to help with water concerns there. For him it is an act of love.

The girl cousins married. The youngest was in the army for a long time. She became a welder. Because they needed women to fill quotas she could pretty much decide where, when , and how long she would go to any assignment.

My aunt died of cancer a few years before Mom died. She was able to see her children grown and settled and that is what most parents hope for.

Friday, April 7, 2017

It Is A Poem

I dearly loved school  In one very small town (as in most of them) all grades were in one building. Elementary school had three grades to a room. There were only three girls in my grade.

There were several programs for our parents each year. We performed plays, or sang, or danced, whatever the teacher decided we would do.

My grade was not the only one with a shortage of girls. Often the boys from another grade would need dance partners. Sometimes they would need additional girls for a play. So the girls were called upon to do many different things each time. It was fun

I was in second grade and my teacher recognized that I had a good memory. In addition to the other things I was doing for the program she would often assign a long poem for me to recite. I remember them fondly but of course I can no longer recite them completely.

I believe the first one was The Gingham Dog and The Calico Cat by Eugene Field. The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat side by side on the table sat... If you do not know the poem you can do a search for it. It is a cute little poem with a surprise ending.

Another was Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley. It was originally titled The Elf Child then renamed to Little Orphant Allie. In a later printing there was a typo and it became Little Orphant Annie forever. It is meant to threaten children into good behavior with the admonition of An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you Ef you Don't Watch Out! 

I Have A Little Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson is a description of a child's shadow. It is light-hearted and fun. I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, and what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

A.A. Milne who wrote Winnie The Pooh also wrote a carefree poem about a child who likes to sit on a step at the middle of the stairs. He likes it there because it is not up and not down. It is a short poem that explains a certain logic.

Hiding by  Dorothy Keeley Aldis really captures the way a child thinks. I'm hiding I'm hiding but no one knows where for all they can see is my toes and my hair. Then the parents begin to search... Have you looked in the inkwell... but I was not there.  It is absolutely enchanting.

The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt. "Will you walk into my parlour ?" said the Spider to the fly. The cautious Fly is seduced by the crafty Spider. Can you guess how it ends?

The patriotic Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is probably still taught in most American schools. While not completely factual it is exciting and rouses pride in our country. Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. It is full of action from the beginning.

The Owl And The Pussycat by Edward Lear tells of an owl and a pussycat who are eloping. The Owl and The Pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat... It is a beautiful love story.

The Raven by my favorite author Edgar Allen Poe made my mother happy. She loved the alliteration. For those who do not want to look it up alliteration is when the first sounds of several words help convey a setting. And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain givers the feeling of being able to hear the curtain swishing against each other. It is a melancholy tale of a lost love. Most people remember "Quoth the raven, Nevermore."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote The Song Of Hiawatha. It has such a rhythmic primal beat and it was fun to recite. By the shores of Gitchie Gumie by the shining Big Sea Water tells of Hiawatha observing the morning.

There were others but I think you get the idea. I loved that teacher. All of her students did. She gave me an interest in poetry and taught me that it is more than a sing-song group of words. She also told my mother that I was too young at the time but to make sure I was exposed to Shakespeare when i was ready. She was sure I would enjoy it. She was right.

These are all good poems for children. If you like you can begin with shorter poems that they will not lose interest in because they do get wiggly if asked to sit too long. Look them up for yourself as well. They are all great fun.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Aunt Carol

 I am skipping an aunt. There is a reason.

Aunt Carol is only 5 years older than I am. She is more like an older sister who liked to boss me around when we were children. Carol has a twin brother who I will write about another time.

Carol is enough older than me that I was an annoyance to her much of the time. Imagine a lovable child like me being an annoyance. I must admit I did a good job of living up to her view of me.

She used to ride a horse into town on Sundays to attend church. Our church was only a block form the house. My parents had her tether the horse in a different spot each Sunday. We needed no lawn mower there.

My grandparents had an attic stuffed with treasures. Grandpa's musical instruments were there. He could no longer play due to the arthritis in his fingers. His stuffed bobcat stood near the top of the stairs. Walnuts from the walnut tree were kept in a big box in the attic.

The best things were the old clothes we used to play dress-up and the paper dolls my mother and other aunts had played with.

On rainy days or cold winter days we would go into the attic and dress up in those old clothes. My aunt would hold tea parties for elegant women or we would be men off to work in the fields. We might strum the guitar or banjo. We couldn't play the fiddle... no bow.

Paper dolls were the most fun for me. My mother and aunts made their own paper dolls using models in catalogs as the dolls and clothing in the catalogs as the dresses. Carol taught us how to match the clothing to the model so it would look like it was made for each one. There were cigar boxes full of them and we added to them.

When the Singing Nun was so popular with her song Dominique we all sang along. It was much like Let It Go from Frozen is for little ones today. One day I heard my aunt having a heated discussion with one of her friends. Her friend had mentioned the Singing Nun. My aunt insisted it was the Singing Num. After all nuns were not allowed to make records.

Like all the women in my family (ahem) my aunt was extremely intelligent. She and another student had identical grades in high school. When it came to choosing who would be valedictorian they chose the young man. At the very least they should have been co-valedictorians but it was the late 1950's and he would have a family to support so he also had the honor.

My aunt married. She was like many of us and made a bad choice. Luckily no children were involved and divorce was relatively painless.

She married another man who has been her husband for around 50 years now. She has a son and grandchildren. Until recently her life has been good.

Carol has been fighting leukemia for a few years. There have been ups and downs but she has been coming out on top.

A few days ago she let us know that she has an advanced case of lymphoma. She has begun some intensive chemotherapy. If it works we will rejoice. It if does not work we will have her for 3 to 6 more months.

All of us have families. It seems there is always something that is a little scary. We are hoping for a good outcome.