Archives

Throw another Potato

I nibbled on apple wedges as I read the electronic newspaper in the computer. Sadie, one of my copycats sat curled up snoozing in my lap. I clicked on the next page and found the advice column. It’s always interesting to find out what sort of dilemmas are currently bothering mankind, so I leaned back to read the first letter.

The writer complained bitterly about his relatives who dropped by his house unannounced, uninvited and unwanted. He furiously noted, “If they stop in at meal time, they expect to be invited and don’t take the hint when we fail to set a place at our table for them!”

I caressed the cat in my lap. Sadie’s fur was very soft and she began to purr. Jerry, Sadie’s copycat brother suddenly leapt onto my lap. Snuggling together, Jerry began to lick Sadie. I mused, “You didn’t need an invitation. You’re welcome whenever you feel like dropping in, aren’t you?”

The letter was followed by several other letters from people also complaining about family members who felt it was their right to drop in whenever they wanted. Reading these letters made me laugh and think of Daddy.

Continue reading

Birthday Blast

I had exciting news and couldn’t wait to tell my teacher, but when I arrived at my fourth-grade classroom, I found that we had a substitute teacher for the day. I was surprised because our regular teacher was uncommonly healthy. She seldom missed a day of school. It didn’t matter though, I decided. I’d tell the substitute teacher my exciting news.

Sidling through a group of students standing at the teacher’s desk, I waited for her to look at me. When she did, I blurted, “My big sister had a baby boy last night!”

Her response surprised me. She exclaimed, “How wonderful! I know who your big sister is. I went to school with her. What name did she give the baby?”

My regular teacher was old. She probably would have just said how nice it was my sister had a baby. This teacher was the same age as my sweet sister, ‘Babe’. I babbled, “David. She named him David!”

Continue reading

By the light of the Moon

As I searched through the rack of sequined dresses I sounded like little Miss Goldie-locks as I pointed out to the saleswoman, “This one is cut too low in the neckline, this one is sleeveless. I don’t want to expose my upper arms.” Holding out a beautiful blue dress I complained, “The top of this dress is transparent material. It would allow my undergarments to show through.”

Dress shopping as a young woman was easy. In 1970, almost all women wore dresses. There were several stores along Central Avenue that carried a wide variety of dresses to choose from, ranging from casual to fancy. My criteria for what I wanted in a dress was different back then, too. I wanted the garment to be a color I liked, fit and be affordable.

Searching for a dress to wear to my granddaughter’s wedding has me feeling discouraged. I might be old fashioned, but I don’t think a grandmother of the bride should be a show-stopping spectacle. The dress should be modest and complementary to my aging body and include being able to wear familiar, tried-and-tested foundation garments.

One of the dresses I tried on looked nice, but showed every contour of my midsection. When I told my daughter that I needed to wear a bulge control thing under it, she laughed at me. I find it hard to say the word: girdle. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, I suspect every woman wore one whether she needed to or not. I hated how they rolled and cut into the flesh. Taking a deep breath, I went shopping for what I needed. Eventually I managed to find a girdle that would gently shape my form rather than strangle it.

Since my recent shopping trip for wedding clothing, I came across an article I treasure as a trivia enthusiast. It told of the intimate connection women have with the Apollo Space Program. The Playtex company, famous for bras and girdles since the 1950’s, made the space suits that made it possible for man to walk on the moon.

Continue reading

Flower-Fooled

A jumble of plants crowded together, all vying for a spot in a patch of weak, early spring sunlight in the far corner of my kitchen. Suddenly I noticed my mystery tree appeared to have blossoms. Stepping closer for a better look, I quickly realized the unexpected white blossoms belonged to the spider plant on the shelf above. One of its dangling spider babies hung perfectly within the cluster of the mystery plant’s green leaves.

Shaking my head, I vowed to put most of the plants crowding the counter, including the mystery tree, outdoors as soon as the weather was warm enough to plant my garden. As I began to make breakfast, I debated leaving the mystery plant outdoors next winter. Would it survive? Did that matter?

Two years ago as I was preparing the garden for winter, I’d found the mystery plant growing in one of the rows. The small tree already had a woody trunk. Its leaves were a deep, glossy green. To my surprise, I discovered sturdy thorns at branch points. I consulted Google, asking it what sort of plant would have these characteristics. Google answered, “Most citrus trees have thorns.” Of course, that meant I just had to put the plant in a pot and take it indoors.

Each summer I enrich the garden soil by burying scraps from my kitchen: potato peels, egg shells, banana skins, apple cores and juiced lemons. The two bags of Meyer lemons I’d bought earlier in the spring came to mind. So, I knew why a lemon might have started to grow in my garden. One of the seeds I’d buried along with other scraps must have thought it had been planted.

Continue reading

Brain Exercise





Renovation Line Icon, Outline Vector Symbol Illustration. Pixel Perfect, Editable Stroke.

My daughter asked, “How many cupboards do you have left to empty?”

I sighed as I repositioned the phone, “Just the ones to the right of the kitchen sink.” After a pause, “Wait, that’s not true. I haven’t taken stuff out from under the sink.” After another pause, I exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, I’ve forgotten about the cupboard above the stove!”

The men I’d hired to remodel my kitchen were coming tomorrow morning, so for the past four hours I’d been working nonstop, moving things out of their way. The job seemed endless. I decided I owned too many things and resolved to get rid of unnecessary and duplicate items.

I’d started this job with an organized plan. I wrote numbers on the boxes and recorded what drawer or cupboard contents were inside. Fatigue and urgency side-tracked my plan to keep track. When I ran out of table space for the boxes, I began to put them on the floor. Eventually, I ran out of floor space in the dining room and started to fill the office and living room.

Then I ran out of boxes before the cupboards were empty. A run through the house netted me a laundry hamper, two picnic baskets, an oversized shoe box and one large storage tub. The last cupboard filled a dresser drawer in the guest bedroom Tammie uses when she visits.

Continue reading

Kitchen Creation

Peering into a cupboard next to the stove, I spotted a small casserole dish that I often used. Shaking my head, I eyed the package of chicken breasts I had bought at the grocery store the other day and muttered, “Nope, not big enough.” Bending over even further, I peered into the dark recesses of the backside of the cupboard. Behind the kettles and dishes that I usually used, I spotted the perfect casserole dish. Unfortunately, two large kettles sat on top of it.

Pulling a step stool over alongside the cupboard I sat down to lean into the open cupboard to get a better angle. With my back end higher than my head and shoulders, I struggled to pull out the two kettles. Then I dove back into the dark recess to pull out the lid and finally the dish. Sitting upright, I looked at the two kettles. It was tempting to leave them out until the big casserole dish was washed and ready to be returned to its hideaway. I looked around at my cluttered kitchen and struggled to push them back into obscurity.

I’d bought a lemon and a package of fresh blueberries the other day at the store too, so I set about making lemon blueberry scones. Trotting to the far end of the kitchen for the pail of flour I needed, I immediately turned and trotted to the opposite end of the kitchen for the butter. Then, pulling hard, I extracted a jelly roll pan from where it was wedged between a few other pans.

Making meals is easy for me to do, but struggling with an inconvenient kitchen is tiring. Usually I don’t dwell on the things I’d like to change to make the kitchen look and function better. It is the way it is. I shouldn’t complain because after all, it’s a nice, newly remodeled kitchen. Right? Arnie and I had had new cupboards, countertops, flooring and a lowered ceiling put in…probably in 1988 or 1989.

Continue reading

First Nest

I didn’t glance longingly back at my bedroom’s blue ceiling with the hundreds of silver stars two of my big sisters had lovingly stenciled across it. I just picked up the suitcase I’d packed and took it out to the car my brother had loaned me. The day to move out of my childhood home had finally arrived.

All I could think about was the one half of a dorm room that belonged to me for the next month, and for the month following that if I wanted. The hospital where I would be trained as a Nursing Assistant had run a nursing school and owned a nearby student nurse dormitory. I was fortunate to have a place to stay so close to study and hopefully work afterwards.

It felt great to store my belongings in my half of the furnished room. Though small, it was my new home. I decided where things went and how to spend my time there. There was a desk and lamp across from the narrow bed. Near the foot of the cot was a closet with a built-in dresser. A bathroom with showers was just down the hall. I hadn’t thought about food when I rented this little nest, but the dorm building did have a large kitchen on the first floor. I loved my new home.

Continue reading

Grandma for Supper

I dropped down in my office chair and opened my email. Every day I looked forward to hearing from my daughter Tammie. Her messages never failed to be full of interesting observations and descriptions of life at grad school in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  My daughter’s undergrad school had been a short, two-hour drive from home. When she decided to earn a master’s degree in library science, she insisted on going to the University of Michigan as one of the best in the United States.

That afternoon, her message described an international foods night at her co-operative house. She said, “I loved trying all the different foods, but one of the drinks offered was rose water. Mom, I took one sip, but couldn’t finish it. The drink made me feel as though I was drinking Grammie!”

I laughed. It was understandable that she associated my Mom with roses.

Grammie wore dresses that were rose-colored, shared bouquets of roses from her flowerbed with us and always smelled like roses. My daughters loved her. With her love of roses, it was easy for my family to buy Mom Mother’s Day gifts. Each year we gave her rose-scented body lotion, rose-scented candles and rose bushes from the greenhouse to replace the ones our Wisconsin winters killed. The mere smell of roses made everyone think of her.

When Tammie and her sister were four and eight years of age, my husband and I were living on a farm. We occasionally invited my Mom to stay overnight with us after I took her for a day of shopping. I remembered how excited my daughters were when I told them that we were going to “have Grammie for supper.” They knew what I meant. It never occurred to us that ‘having Grammie for supper’ sounded cannibalistic.

Continue reading

Smoke Mama

No matter where I sit next to a campfire, tendrils of smoke follow me.

I tore the flap off a cardboard box, folded it and placed it between two logs of wood. After placing several twigs above it and bigger branches above that, I ignited the cardboard. A small orange flame licked tentatively around the edges of the brown corrugated paper for several seconds before it completely became engulfed in eager, leaping flames. I glanced around. What would burn fast and quick to keep the fire going until the logs caught?

         Nearby, laid a pile of small scrub trees I’d cut down last fall, the reddened Christmas tree, a mound of grass raked from the lawn and a bundle of asparagus fern from the garden. I didn’t plan on using the Frazier fir, since I only wanted a small, respectable fire. From experience I knew the Christmas tree would burn too hot, fast with high, leaping flames.

My daughter Tammie joined me by the blaze. Watching me tuck sticks into the embers, she observed, “You really love playing with fire, don’t you?”

I grinned at her and admitted, “I’ve always enjoyed tending fires. When I was small my family burned all our household garbage except bottles, cans and kitchen scraps. It was big excitement for us to all stand around and watch stuff burn. If I got too close to the fire, my brothers and sisters told me that if I fell in and burned off my head, I’d have to wear a kettle to replace my head and that my new name would be little Miss Kettlehead.”

Tammie laughed, “That’s a weird thing to tell a kid.”

I nodded and agreed, “Yes, it is. But when I was a kid, it seemed to make sense.

Sitting down on a small barrel, I watched the fire. Flames licked at a pile of grass next to it. I had raked the grass up this spring. Too damp to ignite, the grass sent up a plume of thick, white smoke. A breeze swirled the smoke towards where Tammie and I were sitting. Coughing, I jumped to my feet.

Continue reading

Frankenstein Dresses

Mom said she felt like sewing a dress for herself. I watched as she carefully laid a beautiful floral-print material on the kitchen table. The day before last, my family made one of our rare visits to Marshfield where she’d bought material and a new pattern.

My only interest when we visited downtown Marshfield was the candy, toy and pet sections at Woolworth’s or Ben Franklin’s. I tried hard to be patient as Mom slowly studied the McCall pattern book before picking out what she wanted. She knew how I felt by my frequent sighs, moans and occasional question, “Can we leave this store pretty soon?”

Most of the tissue paper pattern pieces were pinned to the material when Mom stopped what she was doing and stood quietly. After a moment she spoke as if talking to herself, “The neckline isn’t exactly what I want. Also, I want the sleeves to be longer.” Pulling pattern pieces from other pattern envelopes, Mom began pinning those onto the material to replace the original neckline.

I was just a little kid, but I couldn’t figure out how Mom was going to get everything to fit together without puckers in the cobbled together material. Remembering my long wait for her in the fabric store, I felt restless and decided to go outside for a while.

Continue reading