Ribbon Mountain

Although it was Sunday morning, Mom didn’t have chicken roasting in the oven. That was my first clue the day was going to be different. The second clue came by eavesdropping on my teen aged sisters in their bedroom.

Betty said, “I heard Mom ask Rosie if she and Glenn were going to come with us to Rib Mountain on Sunday. Rosie said they would come, and so would Agnes and Jim. Have we ever been there before?”

Mary answered, “I don’t think so. Some of my friends have. They said it was a nice park and they had fun climbing around on the rocks.”

Racing downstairs into the kitchen, I found Mom cutting slices of bread. She had already cut at least two loaves. I excitedly questioned, “Mom! Are we really going to have a picnic on Ribbon Mountain?”

“That’s Rib Mountain,” Mom laughed, “not Ribbon. Yes, we’re having a picnic at the Rib Mountain park.”

I frowned. “Rib?” I had sincerely thought it was Ribbon Mountain! Once in a while when the weather was right and we were on high enough ground, my brother had pointed out the small mountain to me. It appeared to as a faraway mist-covered hill.

I watched as Mom put large chunks of bologna into the meat grinder and began to turn the crank. She opened a jar of dill pickles and put several of them into the grinder, too. When she added mayonnaise to the mixture, I realized what she was doing! Mom was making bologna sandwiches, just like she did last summer when we had a picnic at the Eau Pleine Park. My mouth watered. Ground bologna sandwiches were delicious! Continue reading


Noodley Cough

My family trooped into church up the right-side aisle, genuflected and filled the entire fourth-from-the-front pew. I reached up to scratch my head, knocking my small curvette hat askew. Mom removed her white gloves and set them down next to her purse before straightening my headgear. I twitched and flounced my short, fluffy, Sunday dress, uncomfortable because my bare legs were sticking to the wooden pew.

A few minutes after the Mass started, I heard someone cough. It was a very strange, wet sound. Somewhere between a gurgle and a bark. From time to time throughout the next hour I heard the sound. Mom didn’t like my turning around to see who was coughing like that. She turned me firmly face-front.

In the car on the way home after church, I asked, “Who was that man in church with the…” I stopped to think what word described it best…“noodley cough?”

All my brothers and sisters laughed. “Noodley?” They questioned in chorus.

In my seven-year-old mind I could picture the cough sounding the way a plate of buttered elbow macaroni looked. Continue reading

Really Scary

I tossed restlessly. There was something not quite right in my dream. The kitchen I stood in had a clean black and white checkered floor, a clean table and counters, but a strange, grunting sound was coming from a closet near the entrance.

As I watched with horror, the closet door slowly opened, out lurched a broom monster. It turned toward me and swept quickly across the floor, grunting hungrily. I backed away, turned and ran. The kitchen suddenly became as large as a house. Broom Monster chased me up stairs and down, past the kitchen table and the closet again and again, all the while wheezing, “Ughnth…ughnth…ughnth!”

Feeling totally panicked, I opened my mouth to scream, but the second the smallest sound came out, I woke up and found myself in bed. Moonlight streamed into the room through a window. Next to me in bed was my big sister, sound asleep, breathing deeply. With each exhalation she made the sound, “Ughnth…ughnth!” Continue reading

Our Granary

Cold October rain pelted down from a leaden sky. Leaves, pretty only a week or two before, were now brown and sodden. Thursday and Friday were teacher’s conference days and I refused to allow rain to spoil days off from school.

After lunch I started making rounds to all my favorite places on the farm. Sadly, the haymow felt cold and empty without a nest of kittens in it. The barn wasn’t interesting because Daddy wasn’t there milking cows at this time of the day.

On rainy summer afternoons, Daddy liked to take naps in the garage attic sometimes. I often kept him company and played with old toys and a crank phonograph next to the horsehair davenport where he slept. Today, he wouldn’t be napping. Negotiating the ladder and trap door to the attic didn’t feel worth my time to find it felt cold and empty, like the haymow.

One place was left. Climbing the Old House’s porch steps, I pushed the door open and stepped inside. Although the kitchen was cold and silent, I knew I’d found what I was looking for, connection. Continue reading

Work Vortex

At age ten I thought Mom ‘relaxed’ by working in her flowerbeds when the air was cool on summer evenings. It seemed she was having fun! The enthusiasm and enjoyment in her accomplishments were clearly evident. Looking back, I realize her fun was a labor of love.

Mom’s meticulously-kept flowerbeds and shrine were a source of pride. Visitors to our farm were always given a tour of the yard. As Mom aged, the number of flowerbeds she kept decreased, but she still enjoyed working in them when she could.

One summer day shortly after Mom had turned eighty-four and I was approaching my fortieth birthday, Niki, Tammie and I visited her. She said, “My joints ached yesterday, so I didn’t think I would get much work done in the rose bed, but once I started to dig and weed-all my aches went away. I worked all afternoon, felt good and enjoyed myself.” Continue reading

Get Set…

White, hot rage rose up from inside my chest and came out of my throat in a loud, horrible wail concluding in a shrill screech. I wasn’t getting my way and I hated everyone…especially Mom and my sisters.

When I was little, my family would offer to set my limp, fine hair. It never mattered to me if it was done or not. Then slowly as the years passed, I began to notice how much nicer I looked when my lazy-bum-tresses were curled.

At age twelve, my personality developed a new facet and the vain pussy-cat in me emerged. I rudely insisted my hair was properly dressed after every washing. The more I wanted it done, the less Mom and my sisters cooperated.

The Saturday morning that found me locked in our farmhouse bathroom, raging and howling, was the day my support staff, Mom and my sisters, flatly refused to set my hair anymore. In varying decibels, they each shouted, “You’re old enough to do it yourself!” Continue reading