Friday, February 26, 2010

The Bin

So Oprah is going to clean out her closet and auction off her used clothing. First of all, I find it remarkable that people are excited about owning someone else’s smelly shoes and worn clothing. I wonder why a woman who is so into helping others has a bijillion pairs of shoes while so many in this world have none. And, what is so exciting about owning a celebrity’s old clothes?

I grew up wearing hand-me-downs. I was thrilled to have something new to wear. However, the best used clothing was that which resided in the old storage bin in the upstairs closet.

I’m not sure or the origin of the clothing. My memory bank has nothing in it resembling my parents or sisters wearing the used clothes. Yet it was the best pile of dress-up clothes any little girl could ever wish for. I do know that the roller skating outfit belonged to my cousin Karen. The green corduroy vest had yellow buttons that matched the yellow satin lining the circle skirt. If you twirled really fast, the skirt flared straight out revealing the gorgeous underside. I did a lot of twirling.

A red chenille jacket was a prize for the wearer. It was a bit tattered but darling in the eyes of a girl of 6. The buttons were rounded and the sleeves narrowed at the wrist. I can’t imagine anyone wearing it in public, but in the dress-up world of a little girl, it was styling.

Mom stored really old shoes in the bottom of the linen cabinet. Old high heels soon found their way to small feet. On the top shelf were the hats. If one could stand tall enough and not fall off the chair, a hat could top off the outfit. A little girl’s paradise.

Once in awhile new items would appear without announcement. I remember an old yellow and brown knitted beret and a bit of lingerie that neither Brenda nor I wanted to wear. Tossed aside we went for the old standards we loved.

I have a feeling that some of the clothing came from a deceased relative or in a bag of old clothing someone handed off to Mom. I like to think that each piece had a family history. Probably not.

The old bin was a precious as the clothing. Probably an old grain or flour bin that had once been in a store, it had two sections that opened from the top revealing on one side a casket sized opening and on the other the smaller bin with dress-up treasures. Sometimes the bin would become a hideout or just a great place to sit and contemplate the closet.

June has the old bin now. It holds many memories for me, memories of giggling girls rummaging through old clothes, the pile of blankets stored in the other bin. Shoes lined up across the top.

I know that my memories of the old bin are not my own for every child who visited Ruth’s house new where the dress-up clothes were waiting for another day of play. There was no value in the clothing in that old bin, but still they were treasures.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Can We Go?

“Can we go, too?” Gabby asked.

“We want to see where you lived,” adds Sydney.

Oh, how I want my granddaughters to experience Neff Road. Gabby has never been there, and Syd was just a toddler when the farm sold. “I want to take you some day,” I replied.

When will Sydney be too old to want a trip with her Grandma? When will the adventure of visiting farm country still have its lure? From the bottom of my heart, I want to take the girls ‘home’.

Going back to Neff Road has been difficult for the Loxley girls and their children. Our deep love of the farm, our other parent, still calls us back, but we cannot go back to what we left behind. A big metal barn stands where the old barn once stood. The house has been changed. A new door added to the basement has an entrance cutting through the hill. It is difficult to look for memories in a different place where different people live. It is no longer our home, but our memories long for it to be ours once more.

My sisters do not want to go back any more. The changes have been hard on us all. Why revisit the pain of missing? Mom and Dad are gone, my cousin, Gene, is gone. The neighbors we love are older and in the Brethren Home. Changes take place when you live far away. We still see Neff Road as it was in our growing up years. Now it only hurts to return.

I am pulled back again and again needing to see the old neighbors who were as much the farm as were my parents. My friend, Brenda, is always home to me. Neff Road and all the homes of my youth, the family homes, are still there allowing me a glimpse of my roots.

“When you come back, I will walk down Neff Road with you,” writes my friend and Neff Road neighbor, Janet. Such a lovely offering warms my heart and means the world to me.

Hopefully, I can take my girls back to Neff Road again. My children find it too painful to return. The missing of the farm is not just for one generation. I will take the girls back the lane. I am not looking forward to the emotional journey. My grandchildren are the keepers of our history, our roots. I want them to walk the land that raised their grandma, to see the barn where their mother played, to walk to the bridge that holds a lifetime of memories and to know some of the people who walked along with me in my life.

I love you Neff Road. Two small girls look forward to embracing you as well. I pray it is soon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Row of Flowers

I remember the iris. Mom’s iris bordered the field at the bottom of the hill, the hill where we would sled in the winter, roll down in the summer and where we hung wet clothes to dry. A long line of iris that framed the view to the east.

Margaret had iris to the back of her house between the lawn and the field. Doris had flowers along fence rows as well. Of course, when the fences went away, the flowers stayed. They separated work from family framing the yards so we knew where one ended and the other began.

I remember as a child looking into the huge iris thinking that three fuzzy caterpillars were living there resting on the petal. Brenda and I would pet the caterpillars and later in the summer cause the snapdragons snap their floral mouths. Margaret would yell at us to leave her flowers alone.

I liked the idea of the rows of flowers separating the black soil from the lush green. I like that as you passed by homes on Neff Road, you were greeted with the same type of floral hedge bringing warmth to the barns and equipment. We actually had a fence next to our home on Teagues South. Sweet peas climbed in random abandon making wire and post lovely. I once had a boyfriend who called me ‘Sweet pea’. I do believe it was a compliment.

I remember when Mom and Dad dug out the iris. I’m not sure if it made mowing easier or the field a couple of inches wider. The tree in that row of flowers was cut down as well. The row of flowers moved to the barn replacing scraggly shrubs with day lilies. The row of flowers would not be put aside. It just moved from time to time.

What a lovely idea this separation of fields by rows of flowers. I wish all of the fields had been separated the same. For wherever your work would take you, so too would the beauty that nature possessed.

In town the fences go up separating neighbors. I wonder if some day they will be replaced with rows of flowers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter Ice

How I love the Olympics! Perhaps it stems from the time we spent on Grandad Loxley’s frozen pond. Neighborhood kids gathered dragging skates across the field to the once gravel pit. Boots slipped and slid across the frozen water. My father skated here as a boy.

Dad took me back to the pond with the pair of new figure skates I’d gotten for Christmas. I was sure that I would be as great as the skaters we watched on TV. Skates had been a part of our lives since we were kids, so I had no doubt that I could create figure eights right off the bat. Little was I prepared for the pick on the toe of each skate blade. I tripped. I fell. I loved it. I never tackled a figure eight much less use the pick to step across the ice. I felt like an Olympic star.

My youngest granddaughter loves to skate. Her petite body falls on the ice, and she pops back up like a jack-in-the-box. She is resilient and determined. Small bodies fall all around her yet she moves forward ignoring any possibility of joining them. I know that Dad and Mom would be laughing to the point of falling off the bench watching her. Were the rink closer to home, I know she would live there.

I started with double edged skates that strapped onto my feet. I’m not sure what I wore in the interim before my figure skates. I probably got the beat up hand-me-downs from my sisters. Regardless, my childhood winters were spent on the ice.

I watch the Olympics remembering and wondering if anyone now skates on the old pond. I know that the ghosts of winters pass still glide over the winter ice.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This Is The Way We Wash Our Clothes

Here we go round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush
Here we go round the mulberry bush
So early in the morning

This is the way we wash our clothes
Wash our clothes, wash our clothes
This is the way we wash our clothes
So early Monday morning

This is the way we iron our clothes
Iron our clothes, iron our clothes
This is the way we iron our clothes
So early Tuesday morning

This is the way we mend our clothes
Mend our clothes, mend our clothes
This is the way we mend our clothes
So early Wednesday morning

This is the way we sweep the floor
Sweep the floor, sweep the floor
This is the way we sweep the floor
So early Thursday morning

This is the way we scrub the floor
Scrub the floor, scrub the floor
This is the way we scrub the floor
So early Friday morning

This is the way we bake our bread
Bake our bread, bake our bread
This is the way we bake our bread
So early Saturday morning

This is the way we go to church
Go to church, go to church
This is the way we go to church
So early Sunday morning

Monday. She writes on Facebook that her Monday will consist of laundry and other tasks. Monday.

Every Monday on the farm began with laundry. Piles of work clothes, towels, bedding all sat in the wicker laundry basket waiting their turn in the wringer washer. Every Monday clothing hung across the clothesline on the hill between the house and garage flapping in the wind or in the basement hoping to dry before the next wash day.

We grew up living “Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush”. Monday was indeed laundry day. Tuesday was ironing day. Mom would dampen down the clothes washed on Monday and place them in a plastic bag. I sat by the ironing board for hours trying to once again dry the clothing with the hot iron. Mom had me ironing sheets, pillowcases and sometimes even towels. I think she thought it would keep me out of trouble.

Perhaps Wednesday was considered a day to mend pieces that had been noticed on ironing day in need of a button or patching. Maybe it was the day when the farm woman finally had time to do a bit of handwork.

Thursday was probably the day most women decided to sweep out the farm dust and dirt. Mom scrubbed and swept the floors most days. On top of all this, she worked in the fields as well. Friday blended into all of the other days.

Saturday was Mom’s day to get ready for Sunday ‘dinner’ and to clean house before we went to piano lessons in the afternoon. Our day to go to market.

We did have a day of rest on Sunday with a wonderful Sunday ‘dinner’ waiting for us after church, company stopping in to visit or drives to go visiting. Sunday was a day of family.

I chuckled when I read my friends notation on Facebook of doing her Monday laundry. It’s Monday, and I’m doing mine as well. I wonder if this is a farm thing or universal. Are most women found sorting, washing and folding at the same time? It is a universal thing that began when women gathered to beat clothing over rocks at the communal river bank? Do Laundromats have an influx of quarters on Mondays?

I personally think it all began when Sunday became a day of rest. None of us had many pieces of clothing. We had enough clothes to get us through the school week. The farmer’s clothing was pretty nasty by Saturday. Sunday we got to wear our weekly clean Sunday garb. Monday was the time to restart the clothing rotation, the day to get back to work, the day to greet the sun and a new week of chores.

I’d write more, but I need to go change laundry loads. I don’t iron any more. I look at the iron and ironing board as archaic. I do have enough clothing to get me by more than one week. Being laid off, I have many days of rest….too many. Still Monday is that magical day smelling soap and softener, crawling beneath clean sheets tonight in clean jammies.

Ah, I miss the clothesline overlooking the creek bottom on Neff Road, but I revisit it every Monday

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ohio Caverns

At the bottom of the steps we entered a wonderland. This small child cautiously walked down the steps leading into the scary hole. Years later I would visit the Ohio Caverns again.

Aunt Kate and Uncle Keith took me along with my two elementary-aged children on a trip to see the Ohio Caverns. Instead of walking down the stair, an elevator was available for transport. My children had never seen stalactites or stalagmites. They are a wonder to behold. I enjoyed tagging along as my aunt and uncle explained the caves and the stony icicles to my children. We walked the long path under the earth’s crust in the bowels of the earth marveling at the treasures that unfolded. James and Stacey were captivated as I was a child.

Later we stopped at castle that I believe was in Sidney. Again, Aunt Kate and Uncle Keith took the children under their wings investigating nooks and crannies, joking about one of the first indoor toilets and learning history together. Most of all, they were bonding with these kids who knew little of their great aunt and great uncle.

This bond firmly in place we packed into the car and headed to Greenville Park to play shuffleboard. I’d never played. I thought only old people played. With total delight, Uncle Keith got us all on track with the rules and regulations of the ‘board’. Teasing, laughter and moments etched forever for three generations happened over shuffling.

My granddaughters would like to go to see where I grew up, to walk to the bridge down Neff Road. I would like for them to have some memories of a place where I once lived. Perhaps from my writing they will someday know the people who share the same genes with them, those who touched my life. Maybe they will dig a little deeper, settle in for a time and make their own discoveries of another time and a place once home to their grandma, a place of their roots.

As the stalactites and stalagmites hang in suspended animation, so to do our memories to be taken out one day and shared with a new generation.

BTW, I don’t know who the man is in the pictures, but that is one great stalactite.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Feathered Conqueror

The drilling sounded close yet I could not quite get my bearings on the location where the workers had begun their early morning task. I opened the front door. No sign of workers, and, it seemed that the workers had ceased their work when I went outside. Once more I returned to the house. Again the drilling.

The drilling I heard that morning two years ago finds its way into the neighborhood once more. The drill hitting the target beating at it to break up its essence is no longer a mystery. I didn’t discover the source on my own. My neighbor told me of the phenomenon…..a woodpecker trying to drill a hole into the chimney flue. Stupid bird.

A sound would echo across the farm. “Come here,” Dad would say. “Look in at that tree.”

I would strain to see what he was pointing out to me. Not unusual. Dad was always showing me something new in nature. Finally my eyes would find the bird hanging onto the side of the tree neatly pounding its beak into an unseen hole. Dad explained that the bird was searching for bugs beneath the bark of the tree. I was fascinated. I could no more hit the same hole over and over with a pointed stick let along something hooked to the front of my face. The familiar sound of the woodpecker echoing from a distance was a sound of the country.

This morning the woodpecker is looking for food in my chimney flue. The metal rattles as the bird refuses to give up potential food. Obviously, the bird has a problem with recognition and texture. Yet it is good for a morning chuckle. As the bird attacks the insect riddled flue, I notice another attacking the suet hanging in its little cage on the tree. The big bird hangs on to a small limb poking a long beak into the fat and seeds. Obviously, this bird realizes that it can feast without toil while its crazy kin is determined to search for food in an unrelenting source.

I’m not on Neff Road, a young girl standing in the yard looking for the source of tap, tap, tap. Dad would laugh at the crazy bird trying desperately to find a weakness in the flue’s exterior. I hope this is not a sign of the confusion facing our wildlife with global changes and progress. Truly, I hope this is just a bird, a feathered explorer, a conqueror trying to tear down the monster that cuts down the trees, who destroys the forests and who no longer stands in the yard awed by nature doing what it does naturally.

Listen, Neff Road. Listen to a memory for a town girl.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Away from Neff Road

The truck pulled out of the driveway on Teagues South one last time. NCR had transferred my husband to the newly purchased Appleton Papers in Wisconsin. We worked in the carbonless paper division of NCR. This new product would now be part of the paper mill on the Fox River.

Seven years later with two small children added to the mix, we would move to Portland, Oregon, in search of hope for a marriage in crisis. Trying to save a marriage that has been damaged beyond recognition is not easy let alone 2,000 miles from family and friends.

The month I was to move to Oregon an event happened that caused me to call the moving van. I needed to think about my options. I could go to Oregon which was not looking too promising at that moment, return to Ohio or go to my sister who then lived in Pennsylvania. Because divorce was not something my family accepted and because of my children, I came to the west coast.

The distance over the years has been difficult. Living far from Neff Road and the people there has always been heartbreaking. Missing special events in the lives of my nieces and nephews, dropping in to visit old friends, the separation from my sisters became a part of my life. It was not cheap to fly this family of three back for visits. Moving back was not an option. Oregon had become a home we loved.

I could never move away from my children and their families. However, I miss my sisters more and more each year. I sometimes wish that we were like Inez and Ola Viet who lived at the end of our road in a huge old house. The sisters were together their entire lives. Yet I know the Loxley girls could never have stayed on the farm. Mom and Dad had opened the world to us through music and those who visited our home. We watched adventure shows on TV as well as those introducing us to the arts.

Of course, our marriages took us far from Neff Road. After our numerous conversations, we sisters knew that we needed to be explorers of the world and of ourselves. Many of the things that held us to the farm also took us from it. Mom and Dad seemed to understand even though it was hard to see us all scatter.

Often I am asked how I remember so many things of my youth. When you live far away, those are the treasures you cherish and never leave behind. The memories are the basis for who I am. The simple as well as the more complicated, the hurtful as well as the joyful, the visits as well as the phone calls, all are packed away in my memory. Writing my blog gives me a chance to unpack them, to read old journals and scrapbooks, to visit yellowed pictures and diaries, to go home once more.

Maybe it has taken me all of these years to understand that part of my life on Neff Road. If I daily traveled the road and saw the same people, I might not realize what the journey back that lane meant to my life. I definitely would not be the me I am today.

Neff Road… further than my mind.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine Neff Roadians

This is my personal Valentine to my friends, my family, my life on Neff Road.

Rowena lived in the house on the corner of Neff Road and Pitsburg/Gettysburg Road. She lived there until the 3rd grade then moved. Her father was our minister. He baptized me and was part of our wedding service at Painter Creek Church. Rowena was a Valentine.

Aunt Kate and Uncle Keith lived on down the road. The older I got, the dearer they were to me. I spent many hours playing with Kenton and followed Karen around like an adoring fan. My Valentines filled this house.

On the same side of the road lived Lena and Raymond. Mom and Dad would travel with them to our home in Wisconsin and later to Oregon. They were so dear to me. Two special Valentines loved me.

Janet lives on the corner of Byrley and Neff Road. She has become a dear friend, one I look forward to visiting soon. Neff Roadians know how special are those who live next door.

Brenda and her family were my family, too. A bond once began by two little girls has grown into a lifetime of families caring about one another. Margaret and Hollie were my other parents. Valentines continue from that home.

Doris and Victor gave me more family to love as well. Their house represented continual love, hugs and laughter. Through Facebook I can go home to visit with Merrill and Lowell John once more. Their home gave me more Valentines.

Then we got to the Loxley lane. Hand-holding, hugging parents taught us about love. Sisters embracing one another growing closer over the years are cherished Valentine’s. Families drawn together despite the miles indeed makes the heart stronger and the love deeper.

I send Valentine wishes to you in this year of 2010. For those on Neff Road, the Valentine’s box was always full to overflowing.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Heart Day Cards

Absent. Yes, there are days I will be absent. As I have already said on my other blog family, friends and time in my own space come first over my blog. So if I miss a day or so, please wait for me. I will return.

Second grade Valentine’s. Pages filled with once more with glued cards. This time, in 1955, Mom wrote the names of the sender on the front of the card. I got a card from my sister in college. I got another one from Dickie Neff. Most interesting is a note evidently not returned to the sender. It reads:

‘I love you Pam. Do you love me? Say yes or no. (written in green pencil beneath the ‘yes or no’ is written ‘mabe’. John Gard.

I don’t remember ever loving John Gard. In fact, I don’t even know what happened to him. Evidently, he moved on since I still have the note glued in my scrapbook. I’m sure it gave my mother a chuckle or two.

In 1956,third grade, I got another card from my sister in North Manchester. Nice to know she thought of me. Connie Welbaum sent me a card that took up most of a page. Bonita Stryker gave me a lollipop. So did Marilyn Unger. It was a good year for my sweet tooth. Dickie sent a card with blue birds singing “Let’s sing a love song together.” He moved that year.

Yesterday I went to both of my granddaughter’s school parties. Gabby loved handing out her cards and was thrilled to find her bag filled with tattoos, suckers and lots of cards. Cupcakes were devoured and heart designs made for them to give to someone they loved. Gabby made hers for her sister.

Syd’s party was a bit more grown up. Hearts on wands were stuck in hair, pointed at other kids and placed on their desks at the teacher’s recommendation. I helped with my one-handedness as the kids glued pictures and magnets under glass. Syd made an extra one for her sister.

It’s so nice to have someone tell you that they love you, even if your name is just on a list and the other kids are required to send you a card. A Charlie Brown existence is hard on the soul. It’s hard on the heart.

I had fun on Valentine’s Days over the years on Neff Road. Those memories come alive once more each February 14.

Happy Valentines Day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Be Mine

February 1954. The yellowed mimeographed page reads:

Concerning activities in the First Grade

We will have a Valentine party on February 12. At this time we will exchange valentines. Each youngster can send as many valentines as he wishes to whomever he wishes.

Below is the list of youngsters in this class. However, if the youngsters wish to send to any youngster in another classroom, they may. We will see that they get them.

Mrs. Delaplane

Howard Best, Roger Best, Lee Brumbaugh, Mary Christman, Ronald Denlinger, Randy Flory, Vivian Force, Jane Gilbert, Stephen Gregg, Cheryl Heninger, Mike Kendall, Pamela Loxley, Bobby Marker, Rowena Miller, Brian Moore, Dickie Neff, Donna Puterbaugh, Dennis Sebring, Larry Spitler, Marilyn Unger, Terry Lee Unger, Bobby Wehrley, Roy Westfall, Donna Jean Yount, Miss Barnes (music teacher). Mrs. Violet Manney (Religious Education Teacher)

Wow! Memories come flooding in as I type the names. A few names I do not remember at all. Marilyn died last year. Vivian and I occasionally touch base. I saw Bobby and Vivian at the 20th reunion. None are on Facebook.

There are several things of note here. First of all and probably most important is a note I scribbled at age 6 next to Dickie Neff’s name: P.S. I love you. Another thing I noted was that class members were referred to as ‘he’. The 60’s would change that. We were not required to send to everyone in our class contrary to the rules in the elementary school today. Parties were called Valentine Parties instead of seasonal class party. Religious education was taught in the school.

In my old, tattered scrapbook, Valentines are glued to the pages. Names 56 years older are hidden beneath the cards. Verses are old fashioned:
A gal should share her umbrella with her ever-lovin’ fella. U 4 me. Me 4 U; Brushing teeth will make them shine. Gee won’t you be my valentine; I’m at sea because of thee.

Politically incorrect:

Red headed girl dressed as an Indian: Valentine’s Day is here and I won’t ‘squaw’k if you are near.

I vaguely remember the parties. We read and re-read the cards. I read Dickie’s over and over again looking for deeper meaning….he just signed it Dickie Neff.

This week I have been helping my granddaughters make Valentines for the family. Stickers, colored paper, heart patterns, colored pencils, heart-shaped buttons, markers, blank cards with envelopes. Each card was designed thoughtfully. Verses were nonsensical and goofy. Gabby wanted to make cards for the entire world. Sydney was content with her few. There were no ‘wrongs'.

It is a new day and age. Kids are taught to be thoughtful to other children. Card makers are responsible with their verses. The kids no longer make Valentine Boxes. Cards will be delivered child to child. Thank you’s will follow. Responsible teaching.

I love looking back at my old scrapbook. I journey into the events that made me the me I am today. I even still think I like Dickie Neff. I remember most of these people as ragtag kids from the farm….a difficult time on the farm.

This scrapbook is a history book of the 50’s, a history of a girl on Neff Road.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Neighbors. Often I write of our country neighbors, but there are not enough words to capture the spirit of friendship and concern that resided on Neff Road.

Doris was in her yard when she looked across the road to see my best friend, Brenda, building a burn pile in the barnyard.

Doris was always good at keeping an eye on Neff Road. Living close to the road near the bottom of our lane, she and Victor were well entertained at the comings and goings at the Loxley farm. Throughout our lives we stopped to sit on the stoop and visit. They watched as we children played in the yard and walked to the bridge. They were our protectors.

Doris happened to look over as Brenda tossed a liquid onto the fire. The fire traveled across the fumes capturing my dear friend. Doris grabbed a blanket and ran the short distance to burning child. The fire out, she placed Brenda in the car and drove to the hospital in Greenville. With minimal scarring, Brenda survived. Without hesitation and with a watchful eye for her neighbors, Doris saved my friend.

No longer on the farm at the bottom of our lane, she sits in a room much as she had the old stoop. The last time I visited we talked of old time. Her hug was a blessing to my aching heart that misses them so. Gratitude and love for two people who were a daily part of my life on the farm is overwhelming. Neighbors. Yes, neighbors, but moreover family.

There was never a question as to who you would run to on Neff Road if help was needed. I need only to have run to the bottom of the lane to find arms that would hold me, a warm house that would welcome me and love that would see me through even the worst.

I click my heels together and whisper, “There’s no place like home.”

Monday, February 8, 2010

History at the Table

Memory foods. Not foods that increase your memory but those you take through your life that carry memories. This morning on the Today Show talking about foods your children will love. Well, my childhood favorites are a bit out of style, but they are memorable.

Mom’s noodles were unlike anything on the market then and now. Fresh eggs and a little flour rolled thin then rolled up tightly took most of Mom’s morning. Finally the bundles were cut into tiny yellow noodles, covered to dry, then dropped into rich chicken broth. I would sit under the card table where Mom dried the noodles sneaking a hand up from under the table cloth capturing a handful of fresh noodles. Raw eggs. A wonder I’m still here.

Under Mom’s rolling pin, pie crust for shoo fly pie and cream pie were created. Potpie was rolled and cut into fat squares we all craved with our mashed potatoes. We kids rolled leftover dough, sprinkled it with sugar and cinnamon. A few minutes in the oven, and we had a child’s delight. Apple dumplings that still make my mouth water were a treasured dessert….and sometimes a meal. A bit more flour and eggs and rivilles dropped into beef broth topped another mound of mashed potatoes. Memories.

I look at the things I fixed my kids. The foods I grew up with never turned out well in my kitchen. My family ate on the run more times than not. Sour cream casserole, stuffed Mexican shells, grilled cheese and tomato soup. Later the kids would pick their own favorites.

Favorite foods are a history. They represent an era, a way of life. My children are living in a time when their kids will know more about nutrition and health when remembering their childhood table.

I cherish this love and memory of home style cooking, of feeding hands on the farm and making a little go along way. Of homemade noodles, vegetables from the garden, eggs from the hen house and meat raised to feed a family of five. We were fed with history at our table. The history of a family on Neff Road.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Lyon

Like clockwork I knew that at a certain time each day my Aunt Welma and Mom would be positioned in front of the TV waiting for a woman to appear on the screen. One who opened doors for women, who took them away from the farm and into a much larger world.

Her microphone was hidden in a bouquet of flowers. I knew it was in there not only because she talked into the flowers but also because the flowers had a cord hanging down snaking across the stage. Poised and strong she was a liberated woman before the 60’s rebellion.

Ruth Lyons was a trailblazer. As a piano player on a radio show, she was called into action when a broadcaster was ill. Her temp position handed her the lead broadcaster role. Her fame grew when she stayed on the air non-stop during the great 1939 flood praising the resiliency of those in the Ohio Valley and asking for donation. She continued on the air throughout the 50’s and most of the 60’s.

Ruth Lyons was a friend to women. They loved bringing her into their homes. I remember Ruth talking lovingly about her husband, Herman, who was a professor at the University of Cincinnati. She shared her family with ours.

She entertained with her piano playing and brought in stars like Bob Hope and Pearl Baily. Newcomers like David Letterman and Phil Donahue sat on her sofa and spent time.She was often visited by Arthur Godfrey. Their similar shows seemed to compliment one another. Arthur brought in fresh talent, and Ruth gave them another venue in which to perform.

We came to know her sidekick Bob Braun with his thick black hair and another handsome man named Nick Clooney, father of George. Rosemary often showed up. It was family, and we were allowed in.

Ruth left broadcasting after her daughter died on a family cruise. Cindy had leukemia. Ruth later confided to a friend that Cindy had jumped overboard to her death. A viewing audience grieved with her.

Aunt Welma would walk into our kitchen immediately sharing what she had seen on the 50/50 Club. She and Mom discussed the show as if having just visited a close friend. I know that these women in my life were influenced by Ruth Lyons. Their world became larger. They learned more about the world and who they were. As a child, I saw my first woman in a powerful position.

A friend came to visit our home every day. Her name was Ruth Lyons.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Little Red Tractor

To me it was the baby tractor. It sat in the barn all red and pretty to a farm girl with bobbing blonde curls.

Dad had two tractors. Both Massie Harris (Later Massie Ferguson. Evidently in the war between the clans, the Fergusons won. I’d rather not think of a Scotsman in a kilt on his tractor). One tractor was more powerful and harder to get up on as I remember. The little tractor was just plain cute. Just the right size for a Goldilocks.

Pop Johnson had a Ford tractor. Gene Johnson had John Deere. I believe Grandad had dear John as well. I could drive the little Ford tractor when I was little, but Dad would not turn me lose on the little Massie. I remember always asking Dad if we could take the little one instead of the big red tractor. I’m sure he knew his little girl was captivated.

I remember when I finally had the okay to drive the tractor. I was much older and allowed to pull the manure spreader. The good combined with the ugly. It was a job that needed to be done. I sat on the tractor proud at last to be the driver.

On one visit back home, my friend, Brenda and I went to the great Darke County Fair. Her son was showing a tractor he had revived from the past. I was expecting a Farmal which was what their family had, but, no, it was a Massie Harris. I remember feeling warmed at the sight of an old friend. It seems that we farm kids remember our tractors as much as we do our first cars.

In reflection, I find that the experiences, the recollections are more vivid and alive with new understanding. Today in my revisiting the past, I am once more on the little red Massie Harris, a young girl loving a tractor.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Warsh Up

Dirt. See the dirt, wash your hands. The men came in from the field and went to the outside faucet to 'warsh up'.

The conversation between my sister and I began with concern about this trend for a germ free environment. “I don’t remember washing my hands much as a child.”

“We didn’t,” she replied. "If we could see the dirt, we washed our hands.”

The conversation went on. “I don't remember ever washing my hands after a trip to the outhouse.”

“We didn’t,” she chuckled. “Probably why we are so healthy now. Do you remember the faucet outside of Grandmother’s house? A tin cup hung from it.” Vaguely I recalled the faucet by the garage. “Everyone used it. I don’t remember it ever being washed. Aunt Esther and I would take the cup to the barn when Grandad milked the cows. We drank the fresh milk from the tin cup then let the kitties finish it off. Then back the cup went to its place by the faucet.”

No wonder we were sick often on the farm. Of course, we didn’t have all of the vaccinations that are available now. We worked in the fields and ate with dirty hands. Neither my sister of I can remember being sent to wash our hands before meals.

This might be disgusting to many people, but this was the way of life when I was a child. The kitchens were not sterile. Clean but not sterile. Food was kept in the garage in the winter when the refrigerator was full, much as it must have been with a summer kitchen when my parents were young.
I have been rarely ill since becoming an adult. I cringe when someone uses the bathroom then leaves without hand washing. I insist that the girls wash hands before eating, especially when they come home from school. I find myself using hand sanitizers when I go out. Yet, I do not believe in a germ free existence. I envision germs waiting for sterile people to make one mistake then they go in for the kill.

No wonder children died so often when my parents were young. We’ve come a long way. But I wonder if maybe we aren’t just a little healthier today, because we built up resistance as children. I wonder what happens when a child leaves a sterile house into a world of germs. Does it sterilize the child too with germ phobia?

Hm. I think I’ll go wash my hands.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Taco Soup

On the mend from my hand surgery and typing slowly, I have every intention of picking up speed with my left hand. Good to be back.

I’m being well taken care of. Friends are bringing in meals for the invalid and giving me glimpses of the world outside. I am in captivity and eager for escape.

I cannot go through this without thinking of the generosity of Neff Road. When someone was in need of attention, our kitchen became a flurry of activity. Pies were baked, hams were bake, noodles were cooked. The car was filled with food. Mom would walk into the house with her goodies and immediately go into action doing what she could to make the situation better. It was her way.

When Mom had surgery, I returned to Ohio to help her. I never needed to worry about meals. Someone was always there to visit bringing food for the body or for the soul. I was never a stranger to Neff Road.
It is the way of the country. A tradition from the earliest days of the settlers where survival depended on the closeness of neighbors. It was the way of Neff Road.

Nice to be home again. Thank you for waiting. I think I’ll go have a bowl of taco soup……