Monday, October 31, 2011

The Haunting....EEEEEEEEEEK!

Okay, there are no 'eekings' here. We have a ghost the girls have named Gloria. We don't see her, but we hear her. We discovered her when the floorboards in my bedroom creaked as steps crossed my room. Step, by step, by step Gloria made herself known. Since then, Gloria has opened doors and slammed them shut. She surprises us once in awhile with some new noise. The dog crate opens and things fall in odd places.
"Grammy, Gloria knocked a vase off the dresser!" Gabby yelled. I followed her up the stairway to her room. When we entered, she gasped, "Grammy, the vase was on its side when I came to get you." Now the vase was standing upright.

A friend knows the people who lived here before us. They indeed verified that a ghost lives here. They actually saw the old woman walk down the hallway and smelled food cooking. I'm hoping she likes to cook and takes over the kitchen duties.

We had a ghost in our home many years ago. He would shake my bed and that of my daughter even as we sat there awake. The bed would shake. Stop. Then shake once more. My son had seen the man standing in his bedroom doorway.

Once a friend came to house-sit for us……she slept in James' room.

"Do you know you have a ghost?" she asked upon our return. She was unaware of our silent resident yet went on to describe him exactly as my son had previously. Oh, yes, we had a ghost.

When my grandmother passed, the neighbor swore she saw doves flying from my grandparent's chimney. Spirits. There are many who might be unbelieving, but I for one have no doubts.

One night in our house where the man ghost resided I was trying to fall asleep. Night after night undoubtedly one of my two children would tap me on the back. "Can I have a drink?" "Would you tuck me in again?" etc.

On this night, I felt the tap on my back. "Go back to bed," I warned.

Again......the tap.

"I said, go back.....", and as I turned over, I saw that no one was there. I got up and checked on both children who were both soundly asleep.

My granddaughters so fairly well with Gloria. Having a ghost has given me a chance to talk to my children and grandchildren about fear and about accepting that there are some things we just can't explain. We talk

about death and afterlife. We talk about the lives we imagine for our visitors turned ghostly. We accept that
we have no answers....but we do have a ghost.
If Gloria is looking over my shoulder, I hope she understands that we can live peacefully with her and wish for her final peace.

As for me, I ain't 'fraida no ghosts! 

This post will also be on A Grandparent's Voice today. Happy Halloween!!!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

From the Hands of the Women I Love

From the hands of the women I love came pieces of art and timeless treasures. I am surrounded by these pieces never forgetting the days I received them and never forgetting those who created them.

Mom was never without her crocheting in her hands. She sat for hours making baby clothing and hats. She always had a gift for a new baby or newlyweds.

Cousin Betty Johnson crocheted doilies as had my grandmother, mother and aunt. My Aunt Welma Johnson tatted around handkerchiefs.

A quilt made by my grandmother sits in my bedroom.

My sister and I embroidered as did most of the women in our family. In the 60's it came in very handy.

My cousin Alma Lea paints incredible pieces of art. My sister, June, creates with leaded glass.

Stacey, my daughter, knits. From hats to stuffed toys, her art fills our home with delight.

I have a chest full of pieces of the handiwork of people I know and those I do not know that have been handed down.  Pieces of art made by the hands of the women I love.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Driveway

So I crawled into my friend's car yesterday. "Guess what I found?" she said handing me a bag of Jacks.

I gave the game to my friend several years ago after a conversation in which we both said how much we loved to play Jacks as kids. Then, she misplaced them. Personally, I think it was on purpose. Now I'm not so sure how long I can sit on the floor to play the game with my sixty-two-year old friend.

"Brings back memories of Brenda and I playing Jacks in their driveway," I said just before imaginary light bulb went on above my head.

I'd never thought about it before. I knew it, just didn't think about it. We played on the cement in front of the garage. Not many people on Neff Road had a cement drive into their garages. Brenda and I were lucky they had one so we could draw with chalk Hop Scotch squares and bounce the ball for a game of Jacks.

It wasn't much of a discovery I made yesterday, but it takes me back remembering the changes that took place during that time. Bathrooms went from out back to inside. Roads were paved. Cabinets were built in. Not major events, but each a progression into the future.

A small bag of ten jacks and a little red ball took me back to two small girls grabbing at jacks before the little ball bounced back to the cement driveway. A place of good memories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Focus

My apologies for not writing every day. Weekends are always down time. Now I'm extending some of that time due to the work I am doing on the book, Neff Road. I will try to write at least three times a week. I appreciate the time you take to visit my blog and love your comments. Hopefully, the book will be in final editing before the end of the year.

I look forward to spending more time with you on Neff Road. Please continue to visit.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hardly Simple

A barn. A door to the hay mow. An old kettle and old bucket. A grandson. Three sisters. The last day we would spend on the farm back the lane on Neff Road. The old racks once sat in the cow stable full of Dad's tools. Old boxes, crates and buckets held all sorts of odds and ends.  A cow stable that once was a milking chamber became the catchall for an old piano frame, old sleds, baseball bats, piles of twine and sweet memories.

The older I get, the more I realize what an incredible experience was that life on the farm. It was a place of adventure and imagination. A place of hard work, bonfires, long walks and lazy Sundays. A place of wheat, corn, tobacco, soy beans and oats. A place for cows, chickens, sheep, rabbits, horse, dogs and cats. A place where the planter, drag, rock slide, baler, manure spreader, tobacco planter, plow, cultivator, elevator, wagon and tractors resided. Barns full of tobacco hanging from the rafters, corn piled to the top of the corn crib, hay on the west wall and straw on the east in the hay mow, oats in the old barn along with the wheat. A place that saw lambs, calves and bunnies born. Where sheep were shorn, bulls became steers and bunnies went off to market along with the chickens. Warm eggs were gathered from beneath the hen.

We played in the barns, in the creek bottom and in the woods. We roamed and nobody cared where we went. When dinner came, Mom would yell knowing we were within hearing distance. We ate fresh vegetables from the garden, meat from our own stock, eggs from the hen house. We saw ground hogs, owls, moles and sometimes packs of wild dogs.

One might say that life was simple back considering the above, I hardly think it simple. I think it simply wonderful.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Only a Photo

Vague memories lie somewhere in the recesses of my mind. Memories of a big round table in a kitchen. Adults laughing and teasing. The smell of my grandfather's pipe and my uncles cigarette. An adult world that I remember only in soft memories that tickle my awareness now and then.

I do have the pictures. I do have pieces that I can put together to discover a life of which I had no part. A brother and his sisters play around in the yard. An uncle as I never saw him. A loved aunt that was full of mischief that we all loved. My mother young with a brother she adored and a sister who truly loved her. I do have the pictures.

My children will not have my memories. No, someday they, too, will have only the pictures. I thank God for the gift of words that I might add to them the stories they might one day care to know. We are all only pictures in time. The history we hold is every bit as important in time to a family as is that we read of other in history books. We write our own history book. I hope that you are in mine and I in yours.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Bond

"I would have stayed on the farm. Why did you sell it?" my son asked. Why indeed? My son learned to love the farm, not by being a farm kid, but by the love of the place we all called home.

Today my blogs are for my son. A boy who first met his farm grandparents the beginning of November when they came to see the new baby in Wisconsin. Their last grandchild. My grandfather, Mom's dad, would die on their way home from this trip to see his great-grandson.

James loved the farm. He and his sister loved the freedom to roam with no one worrying about where they might be. They loved the swing in the barn and the animals that lived behind the barn. They rode on the tractor and played with the neighbor kids. They bonded with the home place where once their mother played.

James was never at the farm long enough to learn much about farming, but still he loved the land as much as any of us. The dark, rich soil had found its way into his blood. Over the years we have all wondered why we sold the farm. None of the Loxley girls wanted to live there at the time. Caring for a place hundreds of miles from home was impossible. Yet my son would have given up anything to have the farm back in his life.

Maybe the farm was really more a frame of mind for those who lived far from it. Peace, a slow pace, an oasis in our busy lives calls us home over and over again.

James may have been born in Wisconsin and raised in Oregon, but his heart is still back on the farm on Neff Road.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It Was 1966

In late October 1967, I flew for the first time. I flew from Dayton to Hawaii to meet up with my fiance who was on R & R. Panicked I sat in the back row of the plane. An elderly woman (Ha! She was probably my age now!) from Canada was in the seat next to me. She asked if it was my first time flying. I guess it was obvious. She reached over and held my hand and helped me through that first flight.

On each leg of the flight, other angels watched over me taking me to my gates, talking me through the long flights over the ocean. I was only eighteen and leaving home for the first time on my own.

I stood with other young women in a receiving room waiting for the young soldiers from Viet Nam to arrive. Girls primped and giggled full of anticipation. A door opened and miles were erased.

Hawaii was beautiful. The beaches weren't cluttered as they are now.We were in Hawaii during Aloha week. We stood on a above the parade that passed below. Exotic flowers and beautiful people waved and smiled. We were far away from Neff Road, away from bullets and bunkers.

It was another time. A time when a farm boy's first adventure put a gun in his hands and sent him to war. A time when couples were torn apart and parents wept. It was a time when two kids from Darke County spent a few days putting war behind them.

It was 1966.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just Good Cents

1944 Postage Rates

First Class letters cost the sender exactly 3¢ an ounce (sealed or not sealed). Special delivery over 2 lbs., not exceeding 10 lbs., was all of 25¢. Newspapers and periodicals sent by the public could go for 1¢ per ounce.

I'm always amazed when I see old postcards with old 1¢ stamps on them. Of course, a penny meant more back then. I remember shining copper pennies on the living room rug, precious pennies. One  could buy a piece of penny candy or a stamp. Along with the cent sign disappearing from the keyboard, the penny has lost its worth.

I'd like to get more mileage out of a penny. Used to be that a child lighted up when a shiny penny was placed in a small hand. Now the child says, "What am I to do with this?" Penny loafers aren't around to claim a couple of pennies. Pennies from the tooth fairy are long past with the sound of coin replaced with rustle of paper. Lincoln's face is less and less recognized by children. George seems to be in the piggy banks that make no sound when shook.

Christmas cards are just around the corner. For the price of four stamps, I can buy a cheap card....if I'm lucky. Mail bags are a bit lighter with internet cards sent instead. The thrill of find a card in the mailbox will fade in time. Instead a card will be read then deleted.

Today I honor the penny that meant something to children when I was a kid. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Other Kitchen

The women gathered in the kitchen. A kitchen that was as much theirs as was the one where they cooked daily meals for their families. The took their aprons out of their baskets and bags reaching behind to tie them. Laughter was a companion to these women who had known one another most of their lives.

Dough was rolled and cutters busy making little circles. I was old enough to place the rounds on baking sheets. The process repeated over and over again. Once a tray was removed from the oven, another took its place. Little donuts were tossed with sugar and bagged in brown paper bags. A dozen in each. It was the churches annual donut sale.

Orders had been placed for the bags of sweet delights. Of course, once the smell of fresh donuts reached the nose of the buyer, more were requested.

I miss standing in the kitchen with those women. I loved those women. Pauline, my preschool Sunday School teacher, became my friend when I became an adult, a friendship that grew in that kitchen laughing over pure silliness. I miss the smell of those wonderful donuts that showed up once a year.

Apples, donuts, pumpkins. It must be Fall.

Friday, October 14, 2011

For Aunt Esther

The piece of petrified wood sits on the shelf. A gift from an Aunt and Uncle who knew their niece loved nature. They knew because we looked for agates together. We shared a love Indian stones. The birds that flocked to our yards were important. The creatures that live around us were safe with us. A bond of blood. A bond of nature. Wonderful memories are mine. I get to keep them and cherish them, revisiting them time and time again. Aunt Esther, this is for you. The pictures tell it all.

 Daddy's young sister came long after her brothers. A true Christmas gift to a mother of three sons.

My children got to know their great aunt and great uncle. They got to know their grandfather's sister. They gained an important relationship in their lives.

They came to Oregon. We looked for agates along the Pacific coast. We laughed and were happy to have them with us.

Twice they came. Each visit was a treasure.

Their adventures were ours. They shared their rock finds and their pictures....and our world grew bigger. Each visit was a treasure.

A new generation is welcomed by a loving aunt and uncle. A child who has grown up knowing about Uncle Phil and Aunt Esther and who is sharing their love of nature as well.

We had sale at the farm. They stayed by their nieces and remembered. A loving uncle and aunt with us at a difficult time.

As precious as the stones she gave to me is the love I have for my aunt who left us this week. I always thought that she understood nature the same as my dad. There was a connection that started long before I was around. How my father loved his little sister.
On my visit to Ohio in July, I got to see my beloved aunt and uncle. They always were willing to drive to whatever location necessary to see their nieces. Our aunt loved her girls. I am blessed to have spent time with my family. Time over lunch, over old pictures, over a piece of pecan pie.

This saying 'good-bye' is difficult, but in my heart I know I will see her again....and I know that she and Dad are sharing laughter once more. My heart is with my Uncle Phil in his loss. My home will always be his.

For Aunt Esther Loxley Barnhart with love.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In the Headlines

Standing in her kitchen posed for The Daily Advocate, Mom was enjoying the spotlight. I came across the old newspaper clipping today. The article came out in 1994.

Few were the times our family had holidays together. Still their children knew that their parents would be with others who considered them 'Mom and Dad'. Mom loved company and rarely was her kitchen free of visitors.

She always wanted a large kitchen. Our little kitchen with the old sink, stove and refrigerator had only a cupboard for storage. The table took up most of the room. Mother dreamed of a remodeled kitchen where she could cook for an army. Here she stands in her new kitchen with built in cabinets and window on two walls.

Home Extension Service was a blessing for Mom. She loved what she learned and what she could teach. How often we had heard her say, "I have Extension today".

I think Dad enjoyed the new kitchen as much as did Mom. He sat at the window on a bar stool watching the fields and his birds. Sometimes they both would sit there eating lunch, a far cry from the old kitchen they shared with their children. This was their kitchen. Their children had not been children there.

The kitchen is a gathering place for family and friends. Mom's kitchen was for her family, those related and those not. This article meant a great deal to Mom. I remember receiving the article in the fact, I think I received two or three of them. She deserved to be recognized.

The farmer learned to cook with his wife in her new kitchen. They puttered around one another, Dad predicting her next move. Over time he came up with his own recipes.

A porch was another of Mom's dreams. A porch that wrapped around the east side of the house. The original porch did eventually expand and was screened in, but the wrap around never happened. The old house has been remodeled. Now a small porch sits on the east side of the house. I smile thinking how happy Mom would be that the porch was finally finished.

In the headlines......

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sitting by the Fire

I flipped the switch. The chill in the house faded as warm flames chased it away.

The basement door opened and the brisk fall wind entered along with Dad, his arms loaded with logs. He took the logs to the fireplace stacking them for the first fire of the season. The outdoors chill emanated from his grey jacket. I sat on the old piano bench watching Dad light the wood. The flame faltered. Dad lightly blew on the weak spark, raising it to meet the dry wood. Fire whooshed across the fireplace and smoked into the chimney.

Dad and I sat on the old piano bench watching the colorful flames. He explained the different colors of flames flickered from different types of wood. We listened to the crackling bark and twigs sitting in silence. Our faces warmed. A father and daughter.

"I'd better go help your mother," Dad would say then disappear up the stairs.

Sometimes Dad fixed fish over the fire. Eat bite of fresh fish from Michigan was savored. The usual fare was hot dogs and potato salad. While Mom puttered around setting up the meal, Dad placed a hot dog on the end of a roasting fork and handed it to me. He usually had two on his and sometimes ended up with mine as well. I could only take the heat so long, but Dad would crouch down in front of that fire seemingly unaware of the heat.

Casual dining at our home began in front of the fireplace. It was a gathering place of happiness and contentment. From my days as a little girl watching my Daddy build the fires to the years I would watch my children roasting hot dogs next to Dad, the basement held and saved memories for the Loxley girls.

I flip the switch. The chill in the house fades as warm flames chase it away. How I miss the smell of the wood burning and the crackle of the fire. Most of all I miss my father, his arms full of wood and the chill of fall clinging to his grey coat.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Place in the Heart

"Hi, Pam. This is Michael."

Michael. It has been probably two years since I last heard his voice. He in Berlin. Me in Oregon. The last time I saw him was around 1988. Hearing his voice again was a nice surprise.

Michael came to stay with us when I was just a kid. A strong-willed, hard-headed, teenage, exchange student stayed with the Loxley family for a time. It was post-war. American families were still trying to forgive. A German boy was trying to be a proud man. It wasn't a good mix. I was just a kid.

There is something to be said for being a little brat. No one pays too much attention to you. You are too young to have prejudices. And, to top it off, life is an adventure every day from dawn until dusk. I loved Michael. I don't think he paid too much attention to me. I probably followed him around fascinated with his accent. One day when playing in the barn, I stepped on a nail stuck into a board. Michael ran from the house, picked me up and carried me into the house. That was the beginning of a friendship with my 'big' brother.

Michael visited the farm again when I was a teenager. He was more interested in his 'little sister' wanting to meet her friends and to learn about her life as a modern teen. Several years ago he came to visit us here in Oregon. I spent a couple of days with Michael showing him the beautiful sights in Oregon and learning now about this man I'd known for decades.

"I have come to look at things differently," he said over the phone. Age and time have mellowed the boy now man. He talked to me as a brother would a younger sister. His regrets of not appreciating what he had during those times on the farm and of the people are in his mind. Age is a mighty learning tool.

"I will call more often. You have a place in my heart," he said.

"I love you, too," I replied.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Bright Golden Haze

Theirs a bright golden haze on the meadow. There's a bright golden haze on the meadow.

The musical Oklahoma had it right. In Darke County, the landscape is a bright golden haze. Fields and fields of gold appeared every fall. In the country quiet, you can hear the leaves of the stalks slapping one another. The corn silk turns brown and dry. Ears push out of their summer cocoons. It was a good day when Dad walked into the kitchen holding a full ear of ripened corn. We knew the harvest would be good that year. We knew we would have an easier winter.

Dad drove the corn picker into the field, the wagon attached behind. Corn was separated from the chaff as the picker clipped off the stalks then moved up the elevator and into the wagon. Quickly the wagon was filled with bushels of gold. Once the wagons were filled, the corn was shoveled into the tall elevator that dumped the corn into the bins in the old corn crib. Brenda and I would sit on the beam high above the floor of the crib watching the corn drop into our summer playhouse.

Tractors pulling wagons and truck laden with the fall crop made their way down Neff Road to the elevator. Corn would be stored. Feed bins would be filled. Winter for families and their stock would be easier.

The corn rustled in the field beneath my bedroom window. The sound lulled me to sleep. Perhaps I even heard the sound of it growing.

The corn is as high as an elephant's eye, an' it looks like its climbin' clear up to the sky....

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Little White House

The little house sat next to the school yard on McKaig Road in Troy. A sweet little house. The place they had raised their two children. I would marry their son.

Many Sundays were spent visiting my in-laws. When we visited, we spent the entire afternoon and evening. Mom Drake and I played card games while Jim and Dad watched football, baseball or whatever was the season sport. It was a place I felt at home.

The school yard butted up to the house. The Drake kids just popped out the back door and over to the school. Lunch at home was easy. A big playground in the back yard was every kids dream. It was home.

After my husband and I divorced, I still stayed in contact with my in-laws. Whenever we were back to visit, we spent time with them. My children would have that time with their grandparents. My son has written a musical based on WWII, a musical written for his grandfather who once shared the war with his grandson. The once and only time he talked about it.

I walked into the room. I didn't recognize him, but he recognized me. Mom was gone. Dad was frail. Tears filled his eyes as I took his hand. I had always had a special bond with Dad. I laid my head on his pillow next to him giving him all the warmth I could.

"I love you, Dad."

"Oh, I love you."

The sweet little house on McKaig Road.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Old Bus

Bill was one of a group of twenty kids who were the first to go to Franklin School the year it opened. He started the first grade when the school opened in 1926 and graduated in 1939. In a conversation with his sister, Bill told that before Franklin was built, there were one room schools since kids had to walk to school. He went by the name of Leonard back then. William Leonard Kinnison.

I stood at the end of the lane waiting for bus #16. Louie was our bus driver. I rode the bus with his daughter, Patsy, who was a year older than me. The same Patsy wrote to me after reading my column about Franklin School. She provided me with this history from her brother Bill.

I never thought much about the way my parents got to school. I guess I thought they walked or were taken by their parents. They never talked about a bus. I thought of my grandmother watching her children walk down their lane to meet the bus and of my mother standing by the mailbox waiting for it to pick her up. I tried to envision them sitting on the old bus in the rain and in the snow. How many kids were on the bus? Was it just one bus or were there several? What was it like to be a kid back then going from a one room school to a big school with two floors of classrooms? Bill more than likely rode that bus with my parents. His story is theirs as well.

Patsy gave me a gift by sharing Bill's story. I have a new appreciation of the history of the old, brick school.
I wonder if Bill's dad decided to be a bus driver when he took this picture of his son getting into that first Model T school bus heading to Franklin School. I write this for Patsy, Bill and their father, Louie.