The radio in Mom’s kitchen was tuned to a music station, just as it had always been from morning to night during my growing up years. Although in my early fifties, when I visited Mom, I still felt like I was a child, cradled in a time capsule. The many years which had passed since my childhood had taken their toll on her, though. Mom’s vision was gone and she needed my help to bathe, change her bedding and pay bills.
After I had washed and set Mom’s hair that afternoon, she settled down in her rocking chair. I sat nearby at the dining room table to pay her bills. With soft music playing in the background, Mom suddenly commented, “Tonight…we switch back to God’s time.”
I looked up from the check I was writing. The dour manner in which she’d pronounced, ‘God’s time’ made me want to laugh.
A number of questions swarmed through my mind. Was Mom biblically opposed to day light savings time? I’d never gotten that impression as a child. Maybe Mom was repeating something she’d heard her own mother once say. My stern grandmother Franzeska, had been born in 1867. Although I’d never met her, things I’d heard made me wonder if she was a rather humorless person.
A cool breeze from the open church doors swirled down the center aisle. I quickly tucked a scarf closer to my neck and fastened each of my coat’s buttons. People ahead of me were stopping to exchange greetings with the parish pastor, so the line moved slowly. Through the open church doors, I could see colorful trees in the park across the street. Orange and red leaves fluttered in the air.
Finally, there was only one man ahead. He shook the priest’s hand and questioned with a jolly laugh, “You mentioned today that you enjoy reading “The Farmer’s Almanac” winter predictions. You don’t actually believe them, do you?”
When the man happened to glance back at me, I smiled and suggested, “Maybe Father keeps a log on what the prediction was, then compares it to what really happens.”
Father laughed, but didn’t confess to keeping records. Continue reading
I stopped working and leaned on the shovel I had been using to dig carrots. My garden was well on its way to being put to ‘bed’ for the winter. Arnie, my husband looked up from where he was working and commented, “Today is a perfect fall day.”
Nodding, I looked around. Clouds blanketed the sky. It felt warm, yet not too warm. A hint of coolness hovered around the edges. Night time temperatures the past week had been chilly. Our lush, green, freshly mowed lawn around the house contrasted beautifully with the deep burgundy sumac along our yard’s second driveway. I exclaimed, “Arnie, just look at how beautiful the sumac is today.”
My husband straightened up and looked. After a moment of silence, he asked, “What am I supposed to be seeing?”
I prompted, “The red leaves. Aren’t they pretty?”
When Arnie shook his head and denied seeing red leaves, I suddenly remembered he’d made certain comments in the past that made me realize he was unable to perceive the full spectrum of colors as I do. My husband was apparently partially color blind.
An article I read about colorblindness stated that men are more likely to experience partial colorblindness than do women. Trouble seeing the color red and green is most common. Complete colorblindness is rare. It occurs in only 1 person out of 30,000 births. Continue reading
The farmhouse screen door slammed loudly behind me. Clutching the newspaper I’d collected from the mailbox a few moments before, I announced, “The News Herald is here. I’m gonna read the funnies before anyone else!”
My commandeering the paper was possible because it was only three in the afternoon. Other than my Mom, the rest of my family were out and about taking care of their business. Opening the oven door, Mom took out a pan of cookies and slid them on the kitchen table to cool. She said, “You had better hurry and read it fast. Your brother will be home soon.”
The sweet smell of cookies made my mouth water. I snatched one to enjoy while reading. The song on our ever-playing kitchen radio was, “Charlie Brown” by the Coasters. It had a jazzy sound. I loved the way one of the band members would periodically question in a deep voice, “Why’s everybody always picking on me?”
Sunshine coming through the living room’s oversized window, bathed the gray linoleum floor. I dropped down in that warm, bright patch and spread the paper out in front of me. The back page of the paper was covered with familiar cartoons. Reading them was like catching up with extended members of my family. Continue reading
The familiar chugging sound of Daddy’s Surge vacuum milker engine started in the barn while I was getting a drink of water from the well. Feeling secure because I knew Daddy and my brother were nearby, I turned the well faucet for more water. The late summer afternoon was hot, so pouring water over my legs and arms felt good.
Crossing the driveway between the well and the milk house, I peeked in. The milk house’s back door and barn door were open, so I could see all the way into where the cows were. Their warm, earthy smell wafted out. I loved being in the barn, but decided to wait until the chores were almost done. The sticky heat and flies took all the fun out of being in there this time of year.
It was so warm that afternoon, even the cats didn’t want to be in the barn. Old, gray Mama cat was stretched out on the grassy lawn between the milk house and the barn hill. Gutsy, her orange kitten and Squirmy, her black kitten played nearby. While rubbing Gutzy’s belly, I looked up and noticed Mama cat chewing on a blade of grass.
At nine years of age, I knew that cows ate grass and cats ate kitchen scraps and milk squeezed from the milk can filter. It wasn’t normal for cats to eat grass. Jumping to my feet, I ran across the yard to the house and found Mom. I exclaimed, “Mom! Mama cat is eating grass. What’s wrong with her?” Continue reading
I mounted the bike Arnie had bought for himself 15 years ago. Tammie got on the one he’d bought for me at the same time. Seeing no approaching cars on the road, we peddled out the driveway. My entire yard slopes toward the river, so it follows the road in front of my place does the same. Enjoying the cool evening breeze, we coasted downhill across the Little Eau Pleine River bridge.
My daughter and I peddled the next quarter mile in companionable silence. Two deer stepped out onto the road and stood gawking at us. I said, “They won’t survive long if they stop and stare at approaching cars like this!”
Tammie called out, “Go back where you came from.” As if heeding her words, the two animals leapt gracefully off the road to disappear into the dense roadside growth. Turning to me, my daughter said, “By the way, I’ve decided to return to my home in Saint Paul next week.”
From the beginning of our quarantine, I knew Tammie would eventually go back to her own home. The irony, of course, is COVID 19 hasn’t gone away, but spread to even more places now, than at the beginning. The new normal is masks, social distancing and chapped hands from frequent washing. Continue reading
Several tall trees shaded the picnic table where my high school friends and I were sitting. Hot rays of sunshine baked the nearby sidewalk, but a cool breeze playfully ruffled our hair. One of the girls took a drink from her can of pop. The minute she set it back on the table, an insect appeared and hovered over the can. She screamed and all three girls who were with me jumped to their feet. Staying where I was, I calmly reminded them, “The bee is after the sugar, not us.”
One girl exclaimed, “If a bee goes into the pop can and we take a big drink, we could accidentally swallow one!”
Another girl asked with a shudder, “Would it sting us on the insides?”
Bees and wasps never frightened me. I had the benign belief that if you leave them alone, they would leave you alone. My wry quip always was, “Panic makes them see you as a pincushion.”
Although there are many wasp nests in my yard, deck and buildings, before the year 2013 I can only remember two times that wasps stung anyone in my family. The first time was on a Sunday afternoon when Niki and Tammie were small. A nest in the garage was disturbed when we arrived home from a picnic. A wasp stung Arnie on his left ear. It hurt so badly he laid on the sofa for an hour or two with an ice pack. The second time was when ten-year-old Niki disturbed a nest behind the garage. The two stings on her leg were very painful, but by evening, only showed as slightly red, irritated spots. I concluded that wasps were unpleasant, but no big deal. Continue reading
Sun-dappled shade blanketed the woodland floor. Green ferns peeked through last year’s papery fallen leaves. We heard the rustle of small feet scampering and the sleepy call of a bird in the tree tops. Along the trail, ferns stood guard over a slumbering, moss-covered log.
Ahead of us, we saw a sun-filled clearing. Stepping into the sun made me squint. Cleared by man, the woodland corridor allowed poles topped with electrical wires to march through the property. The path diverged at this point. A map mounted on a post showed different route options.
The path to the left would take us directly back to The Clearing’s campus schoolhouse. The path to the right would meander further from the campus, but eventually bring us back to the schoolhouse, too. Glancing at Tammie, I asked, “Which path do you want to take?”
My daughter stated, “I want to take the one to the left.”
When my daughter Tammie and I visit The Clearing for a vacation, we take classes to learn new crafts or perfect crafts familiar to us. This year, because of COVID 19, classes were canceled, but the venue remained open for self-directed retreats. We decided to go. A handful of other people had done the same. Consequentially, the campus was strangely empty and quiet. Following the hiking paths on the 128-acre campus, we found the less traveled paths were not as trampled or easy to follow. Continue reading
Rain pounded on the shake shingle roof. I opened my eyes and yawned. Gray, early dawn light filtered grayly through a water streaked window next to the unfamiliar bed. A flash of lightning startled me. An angry growl of thunder answered a few seconds later. For a moment I wondered where I was. Then I remembered.
Yesterday afternoon I’d left my husband and children at home to drive five hours to Ellison Bay, almost to the tip of Door County in Wisconsin. I felt brave for doing something so out of my comfort zone. For the next five days I’d attend a writing class taught by a professional writer.
A loud roar of thunder seemed to enter Lake Michigan, rolled around at the bottom of Green Bay, then rumbled to the surface. I loved the beautiful, deep-in-the-earth sound. The window light now was grey, tinged with green. Day was dawning and vines growing outside my cabin framed the window, reflected their summer hues into the room. Continue reading
I pulled one picture after another from the box and studied them. The old-fashioned clothing fascinated me, looking so stiff and uncomfortable. Finally, I came to the photo I sought. The ancient image showed a beautiful woman wearing an amazingly huge hat. She stood next to a man in a formal photographer studio, posed stiff and unsmiling. I exclaimed to myself, “Just look at that hat. It has to be at least a foot and half tall!”
A few years ago I inherited a large box of old pictures that were taken in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Some are of my relatives. Unfortunately, there are many I don’t have a clue who they are. When there were still people around who knew them, their names were never written on the photo’s backside. I love all of these images, even the ones I can’t identify.
Knowing the names of the people in a keepsake photo gives it more value. It also gives the pictured people an immortality that goes beyond just the one or two generations that knew them.
My family history project is slowly moving forward. Recently, a sister-in-law loaned a box of her family’s pictures to me. Just as in my family, many of the older pictures were not labeled.
Three 5 by 7 pictures especially piqued my curiosity. One showed two young couples. One of the women wore white, but had no veil. I showed it to my daughter Tammie and asked, “Do you think the girl in white is a bride?” The second picture showed two young couples. Holding that one up I wondered, “What do you think the special occasion is? Why did they have this picture taken?” The third photo showed a man and woman in a farmyard, surrounded by two black pigs and piglets. I observed, “This family must have been proud of their productive farm.” Continue reading