Friday, December 15, 2017

Pictures On The Wall

I love looking at photographs. I do not even have to know the people in them to enjoy them.

When we had the junkyard we would sometimes get cars that had pictures in them. I would look at every one. It is fun to see the expressions on the faces and try to place the times when they were taken. Each time period has its own fashions you know. Of course we held them until someone claimed them.

I am not much of a picture taker. But I like getting them as gifts from the kids. They are records of events in their lives and always evoke memories that make me smile.

My mother decided at one time that she wanted a large professional photograph of each member of the family. She would place them on a wall in the living room that she determined was just the right size to hold nothing but pictures. Then she set about making appointments for each of us to have the portraits taken.

After a few months her wall was covered with all these beautiful pictures. Mom and Daddy were the first ones on the wall and one by one the rest went up.

My younger brother had died in Viet Nam. Mom had his service picture on another wall and wanted a civilian picture of him for the family wall. I suggested a favorite school picture. Mom loved that picture from the day she got it. She said it brought out the deviltry in his eyes. It is a happy little boy with a big smile on his face and a sparkle of life in his eyes.

Mom had it enlarged and framed it. It went on the wall with the rest of us.

All the grandchildren who were around by then were up there too. My niece was not yet a year old when her parents had really cute picture taken. Her hair was white not blonde but white. Her eyes were pale blue. The picture looked like her pretty little face was ready to pop right out of the picture. It went on the wall.

When a person walked into the house the wall of pictures was the first thing they saw. It was covered from about three feet abouve the floor to the ceiling. It was gorgeous.

After Daddy died Mom moved. She packed all the pictures into a trunk because she was going to stay with my sister for a short while. The trunk was in my sister's basement when it flooded. Most of the pictures were ruined. We had duplicates of my brother's pictures because everyone in the family wanted one. He is on the wall of many of our homes.

We also had duplicates of Daddy's pictures. He hangs in a prominent place in every single home even the grandchildren. He was a special person and looked upon with reverence by all of us.

Mom's picture was ruined. It was not a good picture of her. She seldom took a good picture. In fact she seldom allowed pictures to be taken. I have no real pictures of my mother. The only one that has remained is from when I was a baby. She was dressed in the stylish suit women wore in the late 1940's reaching out with one hand to me as I sat on the porch steps.

There is also her high school graduation picture. Once my sister, my brother, and I were going through Mom's pictures. Mom had died and we were trying to decide what to do with things. My brother picked up a picture and said with a leer in his voice, "Who is this?"

I said, "That's your mother, you pervert!" She was a beautiful woman but we have no pictures of her.

My own picture was also ruined, thank goodness. I inherited my mother's lack of a photogenic face. Not a good thing. This particular picture made me look like I was in the final second of my life or in the first second after I died. And it was the best of all the poses the photographer took!

Now you know why my photo for the blog is one of my baby pictures.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

It Is Rearing Its Ugly Head

I told you about the family curse. During the time leading up to Christmas we have problems with our vehicles. I am hoping that our furnace will take the place of our automobile this year.

Unfortunately I am not the only one in my family to consider. My children and grandchildren are subject to the curse too.

My grandson has no car. He had yet another accident. Insurance rates went through the roof. So he has to walk to work and school unless someone else in the family can take him and/or pick him up.

My daughter's car is in the shop. She waiting for warranty approval to replace her transmission. It will be at last two weeks before she has her car back.

My son was driving at work. He was going one direction. The car going the opposite direction managed to hit him in the side. He said the truck he was driving spun three times before it came to a stop. Thank goodness he was not hurt.

The truck was not so lucky. The whole driver's side is damaged. The front wheel assembly was torn completely off the axle. The truck belonged to the company he works for so he still has his own car.

A couple of days latere my granddaughter was driving to meet her aunt. They were going to go to the symphony together.

On her way she was driving on the freeway. Suddenly a car cut in front of her from another lane. And stopped! My granddaughter slammed on her brakes. There was nowhere for her to go and she hit the car that was now in front of her.

When the police came they said they would push her car over to the side of the road so they could interview her and the other driver. She told them that her brake pedal was stuck on the floor and she might not be able to stop. Using her hand brake she managed to help them get her car off the road.

So now she is without a car. She recently quit her job so she could go to school full time. So she will have to raid her savings to help replace the car. Insurance should pay the majority of the costs but there are things like license plates, title transfer, taxes, and of course insurance fees.

So far that is all. I hope for no more.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmas Eve

When we were little Christmas was an expectant time. We went to bed early so that Santa Claus could come and leave us presents. We had written letters to him assuring him that we had been good. We let him know what gifts we wanted.

It was so hard to go to sleep. We would try and the harder we tried, the harder it was to relax enought to finally drop off. But eventually it happened.

Christmas morning was glorious. We would get up and file to the living room. That is where the Christmas tree was with all the presents beneath it. There was an order to opening gifts that has been followed from then on. I will tell you more later.

Some Christmases we went to spend the day with my mother's family on the farm. It was fun getting so many people together. But most years it was just our family and that was special.

One Christmas when I was 5 or 6 I awoke to hear the sounds of nuts cracking. That was Daddy. I cannot pass the nuts in the store at Christmas without thinking of him. He loved them so and Christmas was the only time they were available.

There were voices. Had Santa been there?

I got out of bed and went quietly to the door. There were Mom and Daddy wrapping gifts and putting them under the tree. Most people would say that was proof there is no Santa Claus. Of course I know better. He is real.

Every year Santa left a giant Hershey bar for each of my brothers and sisters. Mom and I got big boxes of chocolate covered cherries. They are still my very favorite.

Another year my brother and I woke up early. It was about 2:00 in the morning. We went to the living room and there was the tree with all the presents under it. We were much too excited to go back to bed so we decided to wait quietly until everyone else was awake.

We spent the time guessing what was in each package. The round one had to be a basketball. It was fun. The problem was that even our whispering got louder and louder. Mom got up and shooed us back to bed.

Then there was the year my brother and I decided to play sick and stay home from school before Christmas. We knew where Mom was stashing the gifts and we were going to take a peak. Mom was working at the time so she took our youngest sister to Grandma's. We were alone. Yay.

We went into the closet and went through everything. I found two dresses that I assumed were for my sister and me. Mom sewed most of our clothes. She had outdone herself with these and they were gorgeous. I even tried mine on. Perfect fit.

That was a terrible Christmas for me. I discovered that a major part of the fun is the expectation and surprise in the packages.

When I was about 15 I went to my boyfriend's house on Christmas Eve. I had a wonderful time with his family. He was to take me home so I would be home by 11:00.

There was a terrible blizzard that night. I lived at what amounts to be the top of a steep hill. He drove home the way we usually went. His car could not get to the top of the hill. He tried another way. No luck. We went around and tried to get up the hill past the cemetery. It was steeper than the rest.

Then we decided that perhaps he could go part way up and then turn into a subdivision. By winding through streets that only went up for a block we were finally ably to come out on my street and I made it home. He had no trouble going to his house because it was all downhill.

Because it was so late I went to explain to Mom why I did not make curfew. She understood. She was wrapping gifts for my brothers and sisters and told me I could help so that she could get a little sleep. I was happy to do it.

Then the next morning we opened our gifts from Santa. I was miserable because I knew everything the other kids were getting. I do like surprises.

As we got older the kids started buying gifts for our parents and each other. In order to make room under the tree we opened those gifts on Christmas Eve.

When I was a teenager I realized how much my parents loved Christmas and what they did to make sure that our Christmas was a good one. We did not get gifts for birthdays and other occasions. There were special things we did but money was hard to come by.

At Christmas my parents went all out. They would go into debt or sell something that was precious to them just to make sure that our Christmas was a good one. And they never ever let on. I knew but I never mentioned it to them. That was my gift to them.

One year I got my first wrist watch for Christmas. I was being recognized as the soon to be adult that I felt I was. It was before we had digital battery operated watches. It had to be wound by the little stem to keep it running every day. No problem.

The problem was that it felt hot. I told my parents but they just chuckled and told me that I would get used to the feeling of wearing it soon. I kept complaining and they kept being amused.

Then one day I showed them the blister on my arm where the watch had burned it. They took it back to the store. It seems that the watchmaker had not put in that teeny tiny drop of lubricant that keeps the gears from creating the friction that eventually caused my burn.

As we got older and began having families of our own we still tended to go to Mom and Dad's for Christmas Day. Mom always told us she was cooking and we were all welcome. Just don't get between her and the television during the football game.

Daddy never understood why any of us moved into our own homes, much less why we would want to spend Christmas Day at home. As my family got older I wanted my children to develop happy memories of our Christmases like the ones I had. So we began to spend Christmas Day at our house. Daddy did not understand.

Now Mom understood about Christmas Day. However she had a strict rule about Christmas Eve. Everyone in the family was required to be there, no matter what.

We had baked goods, candy, cakes, and pies. One year she even decided to make every fruit cake from the recipes she had been collecting for decades. I always took some of the things I had made. There were cold cuts and chips, pickles and relishes, vegetable trays... all easy to eat and no work at the time.

We all sat and talked and laughed. The kids played and told the adults what had been happening in their little lives. Daddy just sat in his chair and reveled in having his family around him. Mom even was able to enjoy herself because all the work was done for a time and she could join in without interruption.

We are a large family. We were not blessed with those soft genteel voices. As we talked the noise level would rise. So we talked louder. The noise level would keep rising and we would keep talking louder. To new members of the family it was disconcerting but they would learn to adjust.

Then came time to open the gifts. We all took our gifts to each other to Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was reserved for Santa Claus.

Daddy played Santa. He did not dress up or anything. He was the person who passed out the gifts. The first gift always went to the youngest member of the family. We would all watch as the gift was opened then ooh and aah at the gift. Then the next in line would receive the next gift and the same oohs and aahs were issued.

After each person in the family had received a gift in the order of their age and the appropriate responses were given, the gifts were not necessarily given in order. But each gift received the same presentation... we watched as it was opened and then appreciated the wonderfulness of it.

As I said we are a large family and there were a lot of gifts. Gift opening took a long, long time. We loved every second.

I miss those huge Christmas Eves. Mom and Daddy are gone. Some of the children are no longer with us. There have been divorces and marriages that have changed who is a present member of the family. Two of my brothers have died. But the spirit of Christmas lives.

I tried to keep the big Christmas Eve celebration going. But people would move too far away so they could not come. Soon it was just my children and grandchildren. There were still enough of us to have a raucous, noisy party.

Now I have moved away. I came back to the part of the country where I was raised and away from the big city that I hated. My children and grandchildren had to stay where their jobs are. My Christmases are quiet now. But I have all those happy memories and they are more than enough.

By the way, for any who doubt, Santa Claus is real. He still leaves presents for me under my tree.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Mike is three years older than my husband.He was the big brother my husband looked up to his whole life. He is also the brother I knew best because we all lived not far from each other after we moved to the big city.

Mike was quite a mischief maker. There was an older boy who lived down the road who was more than happy to be Mike's accomplice. Of course my husband would do anything his big brother wanted him to do. Not to mention that he was not an angel himself.

They decided to play a 'joke' on their mother one time.

Now my mother-in-law was not very tall and was also heavyset. She was a comfortable and comforting woman. She loved her children fiercely. There was nothing she would not do to keep them safe.

The boys went to a tree about halfway up the hill from their house. They tied a rope around my husband's waist and hoited him up into the tree. Then they put another rope around his neck to make it look like he was hanging by the neck.

Then the two older boys ran down the hill yelling for Mom. They screamed that my husband had hung himself!

My mother-in-law ran out of her kitchen door. At top speed she ran up the hill hurdling a fence as she went. As she got closer to the tree my husband could no longer contain himself. He began to laugh.

His mother ripped him down from the tree, got a switch, and hit him with it until it broke. Then she got another switch and started over. By then Mike and his friend had disappeared.

One day at school Mike had done something that required the principal to step in. He grabbed Mike by the ear and pulled him into the office. Mike told his mother what had happened. She agreed that he deserved to be punished and gave him punishment at home.

The next day she went to school with Mike. She found the principal in the hall. She reached up and grabbed his ear and dragged him to his office yelling at him the while way. She told him he was not to grab her son's ear again. Then they had a polite discussion about what had happened and reached a polite decision on the best way to handle it.

When Mike got his driver's license and was able to drive where he wished he and his friends would be found across the river in Nebraska. Apparently there were a lot of pretty girls there.

He found one that he really liked. The problem was that she was Native Amerian. At that time such unions were frowned upon.

My mother-in-law told me herself that she was furious. She said that she could not picture herself walking down the street holding the hand of a little Indian kid and letting people know it was her grandchild.

Well Mike married that girl. That first grandchild was a little boy who immediately became her favorite grandchild.

They had three chilren within three years. Many years later when my own daughter was close to a year old they had another child. When that child was in school they had another for a total of five children.

Unfortunately Mike has a wandering eye. And the rest of him follows closely. His wife was left home with three babies while he was out with other women. It was so hard for her.

She was going to leave him at one time. Then one of her sisters told her that she needed to stay with him no matter what. She shoud have his dinner ready when he came home from work. If he was going out she should make sure his clothes were cleaned and ironed. (Bad advice,)

Eventually he moved to the big city... alone. He left his wife and three children with his mother. She liked having them with her but knew that a father should be with his family. Mom finbally told him when he called one time that he needed to deided. He made the trip home and moved them all to the big city.

Things were not always easy for them in the big city but he seemed to settle down a bit.

When my husband and I moved to the big city after we were married his brother and his family were the only people we knew for a while. As a matter of fact they let us stay with them until we found a place of our own.

My children adored their Uncle Mike. He was a good uncle. He also liked to tease them. I guess it is the purpose of being an uncle.

My oldest son was fun for him to tease because my son was afraid of everything. When my son was about four years old he decided to play a joke on his uncle.

My son had 'won' a plastic hot dog at a carnival. He was going to feed it to his Uncle Mike.

The next time we went to visit my son took his hot dog with him. He secretly showed it to his aunt. She told him she had some hot dog buns so they hurried off to the kitchen. She fixed it up even putting mustard and ketchup on it.

My son took it in to feed to his uncle. Mike sort of glanced at it and said he was not hungry. A friend of Mike's (who was one of the free-loaders always there) immediately grabbed it and tried to take a big bite. My son laughed and laughed. He was disappointed that he could not fool his uncle but he did get somebody.

Mike and his wife were always good to my children. They made sure no one ever bothered them.

After my husband left us he was not as available to our children as he should have been. But Uncle Mike was always available. As a matter of fact he was there for me too. If I had problems with my car he would take a look at and fix it for me. I appreciated it.

I did not always like Mike. He still treated my husband like a little brither which would rankle a wife. And there were a few times he took advantage of us. But I have respect for the way he treated my kids. And I have the utmost respect for the way he treated my daughter.

After her father left my daughter was even more hurt than her brothers. She needed her dad.

Mike stepped in and was there for her. As a matter of fact he really loved her. She was the only person I ever knew him to love that he did not have to.

You know... you have to love your parents, your spouse, and your children. He did not have to love my daughter but he did and she loved him just as much. It was truly the most beautiful relationship I have ever seen.

My daughter spent a lot of time at their house. So much time that they gave her a room of her own. It had all new furnoture. When Christmas came she received the same gifts they gave their daughter of the same age. They were more like sisters than cousins.

Of course my sister-in-law was just as good to my daughter. She liked all children however. Mike really did not care one way or the other about most of those children.

After time I did not go around Mike or his family as often. My childrenstill visited the regularly.

As my children grew and began to have families of their own the visits became less often.

Mike went back to his old ways. He was chasing women again. He developed feelings for one. He could not see her during the day because she was entertaining clients. But he stayed with her at noght.

During the day he would return to my sister-in-law's house and just sit there watching television until he got the call that he could go back.

It was so hard for my sister-in-law. She talked to me about divorce. I told her she should do what she felt was best for herself. She could not bring herself to do it.

Mike ended up in prison. He was gone for several years. His wife should have had a relatively stress free life. Instead she began a long battle with cancer.

She told me several times that she was prepared to die. She always hoped for a few more years to watch her grandchildren grow. But she was ready.

I called one day to check on her. A man answered and I asked if he was their oldest son. He said, "No. This is Mike!" I was surprised even though I knew he was due to be home soon.

She was so glad to have him home. He took her for treatments and doctor appoiuntments. He even took her to church. It meant so much to her.

The bad thing was that he had not given up the girlfriend.

The thing is that my sister-in-law had her husband with her when she died. It was a good thing.

Mike still lives with his youngest daughter. She inherited the house from her mother. She will not allow the girlfriend into her mother's house. So the girlfriend picks him up at the end of her day.

Mike recently fell and had to go to the doctor. The last I heard they were waiting for swelling to go down to know whether his ribs were broken or simply bruised. So he is up and going as strong as ever.

Friday, December 1, 2017

It's A Family Tradition

The traditions I refer to in the title are not things like holiday rituals or alcoholism. The things I am talking about are more like family legends. They are things we feel are unique to us and we have a lot of fun with them.

The seeds of maple trees have a "tail" on them. It is almost see through and is flat. It is wider at the end than it is at the seed. If you throw them into the air they spin and float to the ground. We call them helicopters. A handful of helicopters thrown at the same time is a sight to see.

My second granddaughter took a handful of helicopters to her second story bedroom. She tossed them into the air from her room. Some went up and floated straight down. Some just went straight down. Some caught little flows of air and went to the sides before floating down. It was spectacular.

My family considers snapdragons to be our family flower. My father delighted in taking a snapdragon to show a child how he could make the dragon open and close its mouth by gently squeezing the sides of the blossom.

When my mother died in a cold January I asked the florist if it would be possible to have arrangements made of summer flowers because she loved them so. It was possible. We were all thrilled to see snapdragons in the arrangements. When I asked my oldest son if he would like to leave anything with his grandmother he told me to take some snapdragons from the arrangements. So Mom was buried holding our family flowers.

Most members of the family like rain. We walk in it and we dance in it. Or maybe we just sit on the porch and watch it come down. A good storm is a delight with rolling thunder and an occasional flash of lightning.

When my oldest granddaughter was about 8 years old she came in and said, "Grandma, I smell rain coming. Do you want to come out on the porch to watch with me?" Of course I went right out and we had a wonderful time.

If you drive by a house where someone in our family lives and it is raining you might very well see people out dancing in the rain. From the oldest to the youngest we spin and twirl to celebrate the cleansing of the earth.

Gremlins are those troublesome little creatures who cause glitches in mechanical items. My father claimed that he brought one with him when he married my mother. The gremlin's name is Petey. Whenever an appliance or a car would act up we all blamed Petey.

Then I married a man of Irish descent. Suddenly we had leprechauns too. They were the ones hiding car keys and misplacing important papers. How many families can be so lucky as to have both gremlins and leprechauns?

I told my second granddaughter about feathers. The belief is that whenever you find a feather, especially a white one, a loved one who has died is watching over you. My granddaughter is constantly finding feathers. She even tells us who is thinking of her.

My granddaughter idolized my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law. All of them are gone now. When my granddaughter found three feathers, all separate but in the same place, she knew they were from her great-grandma and her two great-aunts.

Have you ever seen a slope and wished you could just roll down? We do it all the time. It is freeing to be at the top and lie down and roll over and over until you are at the bottom.

My husband's parents owned a small farm in the Loess Hills. As soon as my children arrived on the farm when visiting the first thing they asked to do was climb the hill behind the house and roll down. Soon after there would be what they called "walking the hills".

Sadly after the deaths of both my mother-in-law and father-in-law the farm was sold. But happily the man who bought it has welcomed members of our family and allowed them to "walk the hills" and roll down the hill. He is a nice man.

As you can see it takes little to make a family tradition. It could be your evening walk as you point out interesting sights in the neighborhood. All that is important is that they create cherished memories that are carried to adulthood. Then they will try to re-create the same memories for their children. And the cycle continues.