Archive | September 2022

Two Steps at a Time

Hurrying, I grabbed the moving box containing bathroom toiletries and bounded up the staircase in our new house, two steps at a time. Undaunted by the effort, I immediately began to put them into a cupboard. At the moment, the house my husband Arnie and I had bought was a hollow shell. All the rooms were empty. None of them showed that they now belonged to us. Turning this house into a beloved, cozy home for our little family, was up to me.

With the recklessness of youth, I never questioned if I was able do something or not. In addition to being a homemaker, I worked outside of the home as a Certified Nursing Assistant. When male patients worried that I wasn’t big or strong enough to get them up for a walk after surgery, I’d laugh and say, “I’m a farm girl. I can carry two bales of hay the full length of a barn with no problem.” My busy, active life was all as easy as running up a staircase two steps at a time.

I started to get hints that I wouldn’t always be young and physically strong in my mid-thirty’s. Arthritis began to make my hands ache and after sitting for a while my feet and hips would be very stiff and sore. No problem. I just barreled through life ignoring these minor discomforts. If I had stopped to think about it, I would have recognized that my twinges and aches sounded very much like the twinges and aches my elderly mother had described. It was hard to take Mom seriously though. When she had a bad day, she just limped and laugh it off with a complaint of, “Oh, my aching pinfeathers!”

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Going Home

Seeing the movie, Wizard of Oz for the first time, the flying monkeys scared me and when the hot air balloon lifted off without Dorothy in it, my stomach tied itself in knots. Glenda, the good witch of the north’s cure for the change in plans was to made Dorothy to click the heels of her ruby slippers together three times and repeat, “There’s no place like home…there’s no place like home.”

There really is no place like the home where we first begin to record memories. The feeling of safety, the fascinating newness we found there and all the first experiences of our lives are filed in a nostalgia bin that we carry with us for the rest of our days.

Few people spend their entire lives in the same house they were brought up in. Some families move frequently and most people move when they reach adulthood. Fanciful memories of our first home makes us remember the rooms as larger, stairway banisters as longer, closets as doorways to Narnian adventures and all food served as gourmet quality.

My daughter moved her big family to a bigger home three years after she was widowed. The house came with several acres of land and was in a more convenient location. None of that mattered to the children.

My grandchildren were not happy about having to move. In their eyes, the small home they lived in, sitting on only one acre of land, was a beautiful, desirable place to live, far beyond anything a new house could offer.

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Secondhand Memories

Grandpa Jacob Altmann Senior with Mary and Betty and Casper in the background.

One of my sisters reminisced, “Grandpa kept a pint jar filled with hard candies on a shelf by the door. Whenever we visited him, he’d give us a candy.”

Another sister chimed-in, “I remember going to his apartment in the garage that summer after he died. I took one of the candies from the jar and it was chewy!”

Younger than my sisters by more than a decade, I volunteered, “I remember Grandpa falling when he came into our house. I was standing in the kitchen watching Daddy hold the door open for him.”

“You couldn’t possibly remember that!” scoffed one of my older brothers. “You were just barely two-years-old, too little to remember. What you do remember, is what we’ve told you.”

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Hand-Me-Downs

When I saw the garage sale sign, I pulled over to the curb. Children’s toys littered the lawn around the open garage door. In the yard behind the house, I spotted a swing-set. I thought to myself, “This place looks like the perfect place for me to shop.” Inside the garage I spotted several tables heaped with household items and clothing. Across the back of the garage was a rack of children’s clothing.

After a few minutes of looking through the sale items, I realized that the family putting on the sale had daughters just a year or two older than mine. I picked out several items of clothing that my growing daughters needed. Everything was in good condition and clean. Feeling like I’d found a buried treasure, I rushed to pay for them. If I had bought the same items in a store, I wouldn’t have been able to afford them. The woman took the money from me with a big smile. It was a win-win situation. She needed the money and I needed the clothes.

Being the youngest child of my family, I grew up familiar with the concept of secondhand clothing, otherwise known as hand-me-downs. When I became a mother, I quickly realized that with children constantly changing size until their teenaged years, it makes sense to reuse clothing. The minute I take my garage sale purchases home, I put them in the washer and add soap. That instantly makes the secondhand clothing stop belonging to someone else.

One of the small dresses I took over with my “soap and water ownership” method that afternoon was so cute, I put it on my youngest daughter while it was still warm from the dryer. My husband happened to come home just then and suggested, “Let’s take the girls out for a fish fry.”

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