Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Building the Future

 The saw mill was set up in the creek bottom. Trees were cut and boards sawed then loaded on the sleigh drawn by the horse that took them to the site of the barn raising.

My sister, Peggy, was a little girl when Dad built the barn. She was the first to sit in the big door in the mow. She was the one to remember the horses. She was the first to walk into the cow parlor when it was all brand new.

The barn was a new style. One of the first to have an open loft with beams that ran from the floor to the peak of the roof like ribs inside of a huge carcass. It was a piece of art made of wood, made by hand.

I love knowing that the wood was from the farm and carried by horse power. I know that Mom was in the kitchen cooking for the hungry builders. Crops were still growing in the fields and in need of attention of man and beast. The farm grew up by my parents' hands and sacrifice. A different era that today is precious to the daughters who lived there. A barn was raised on Neff Road.

And so was I.

Monday, November 28, 2011

They Were Love

In memory of my parents who would have been married 76 years this year. In memory of two people who knew how to love not only each other but everyone they ever met.


Only my mother would be married in a dark blue velvet gown with strappy little heels and gold lame cap. She held yellow long-stemmed roses, her favorite. Her best friend, Lucy Beane, stood up with her while my Father's brother stood up with him. Willard, a man who fell in love with his bride when he was just a boy.

My parents struggled many years. They suffered huge losses. They faced death and illnesses. Yet, their love saw them through the worst of it and celebrated the best of it. 

It wasn't unusual to find Mom wrapped in Dad's arms. He kissed her and hugged on his way to the barn and on the way back from the field. He kissed in front of his children or anyone else who happened to be in the room at the time. Mom watched for her husband and smiled whenever he came into the house. They loved....and we knew it.

In their late years, they sat side by side on the sofa and watched Jeopardy. Dad held yarn while Mom crocheted. Every night they sat side by side. I remember once walking behind them through an airport. They were aging. Both smaller than the parents I knew the last visit. They walked holding hands just as they must have when they were children. Sometimes I wasn't sure where one stopped and the other began. They were always as one. 

Perhaps their love has kept me company all of these years. I always hoped to find that soul-mate, but it has never happened. Still, I am warmed at the memory of two people who truly understood what it is to love.

In memory of Mom and Dad, I send wishes of love to each of you. A love that encompasses all, that forgives all, that embraces the beauty of every moment.

Friday, November 25, 2011


It was a day event. The dough was made then put aside to set for a couple of hours before Mom rolled it out into thin sheets. Mom was making noodles.

I'm pretty sure that if one were to ask any family member who remembers our days on the farm what was the favorite food, Mom's noodles would be the number one pick. Fresh eggs from the hen house and Mom's magic hands made memories.

I can't think of the holidays without thinking of Mom's labors of love in the kitchen. She was a born cook. We sat at the table talking with neighbors, friends and family while Mom cooked. We all knew to stay out of her way. Maybe we migrated to the table drawn there by the aromas and laughter that drew us there.

In later years when I had moved away, Mom would send as part of our Christmas a bag of homemade noodles. The kids would squeal with delight. The perfect gift.

None of us can quite capture the method or the taste involved with Mom's noodles. I no longer get a bag of her noodles in the mail. But as I write this, I find myself smiling at the delight over the years that came when Mom made her noodles.

Hm. Maybe I'm hungry. I think I'll go eat leftovers.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Savor the Day

We sat around the table. One of the few times our family would all be together for a holiday. I was expecting my first child. The year was 1971.

In the blink of an eye, time passes. The children once wiggling in their seats waiting for Grandma's good cooking are settled into their own homes and lives. The gatherings no longer happen where once the relatives abounded.

Each year I recite the same litany of the Thanksgivings when the Johnson's came to dine with us on Neff Road. Mom and Dad always hosted the event. The tradition went on for as long as Aunt Welma and Uncle Bob were around. I know that Mom and Dad must have felt the changes, the losses. Still those of us who sat around that table knew of Aunt Welma's butterscotch pudding and Betty's beans. Mom's pumpkin pies. Then men watching football, and the card table brought out for the yearly puzzling. We started with lunch and ended with dinner. Or, as they say in Ohio: We started with dinner and ended with supper.

No matter how much I want that same feel of Thanksgiving, I know will not happen. My children have their own lives, and there is no extended family here. Priceless are the memories of those Thanksgivings back the lane on Neff Road. Priceless were and are the people.

To you, my readers, happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy those around you. Make memories for a lifetime. Savor the tastes, the sounds. Most of all, embrace one another in love.

From Neff Road to you, God's blessing this Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Knock at the Door

This is a story I share from our history as told to me by my Uncle Bob Johnson. I came across it when putting together my book Neff Road and wanted to share it. This story was told to my uncle when he was a child by my great grandmother, Parolee Johnson. I relate it in my uncle's words.

Grandmother "Pal" was all a grandmother could be. Always happy and telling me things I liked to hear along with a piece of butter bread or a cookie. One of her stories I remember well. She and her husband Jim moved into a little two room log cabin, a kitchen and bedroom, about 200 feet north of Painter Creek. She had finished her morning work and heard horses outside. She looked out the door and there were two grown men, tying their horses to the hitching rack. They walked up and knocked on the door. She answered and was told that they had been riding all night and could she give them a bite to eat.

She fixed breakfast for them and invited them in. They ate very hearty and when finished expressed their thanks for the good food. On their way out, she asked them where they were going and the one said that they had been to Kentucky to see relatives and was on their way back to Missouri. As a last word, one turned back and said," I am Jesse James and this is my brother Frank."

My grandmother remembered the names and it was long after that she found out that they were the most notorious bank robber in America.......As related by Bob Johnson (90 years old)

Rich is the history of Neff Road. A place that began with dirt roads and paths and men on horses.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Once Upon a Table

When the new kitchen came along, Mom and Dad got rid of the old dining set. The heavy furniture that had accompanied us our entire lives was gone.

We sat at the table. Mom and Dad at the ends of the table. I am sitting next to Pop Johnson. Cousin Camille sits next to him. My sister, Peggy is next to Mom along with my brother-in-laws, Paul and Bob. The old grandfather clock stood in the corner. A clock that once chimed 84 times when I came home from a date late one night. I know because Dad counted each chime.

The heavy dining room suit would find its way to a friend's house. The table I played beneath for hours would live somewhere else. The china cabinet that held Mother's favorite dishes would disappear. The room that had seen dinners with relatives and friends would turn into the master bedroom. All that was of our meals there would be gone. Well, not really.

I'm not sure if there was another table in the kitchen full of other family members. Camille's husband, Leonard is not evident, and I believe he was still living at that time. My sister, June, seems to be missing as well. I'm thinking there might have been some other Johnson's at the kitchen table. It seems like yesterday that this picture was taken.

When we sold the farm, I found the pair of shoes that I'm wearing in this picture in the old closet. They were a bit tattered suggesting that maybe some children had been playing dress up. They had been my favorite shoes with pointed toes and a wine glass heel. Of course, they had been new thirty-eight years before. The china now resides with my sister in Indiana, the clock is living with my niece.

For me? I have the best part of all.....I have the memories.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Remodeling the Family Tree

They sat beneath the grape arbor. A grandmother. A great grandmother. They sat with two granddaughters who would always remember them. On a sunny day, they made a memory.

Ethel Hollinger Loxley, June, Peggy, Angeline Bookwalter Hollinger

My sisters have memories that I, born years after them, do not share. I'm jealous. I want those memories, too. Sometimes I look at these faces trying to absorb what I can of the women who touched the lives of so many. Still all I have are pictures....pieces of a time I did not know.

Maybe that is why Neff Road is so important to me. I want other generations to know more about their roots. Not just a family tree but a story of the past and profiles of the people who share their genes. Perhaps I want to have a conversation with those future generations telling them that there were  wonderful people who came before who loved, who struggled, who were full of laughter and talent. Now I must try to find glimpses of those I never knew. Their lives are the roots of who I am. Perhaps through the window of my writing those to come will discover more pieces of themselves.

Most of my life I was asked if I was Ethel Loxley's granddaughter. She touched lives. She had a sense of humor and a loving heart. She was intelligent and bore much during her years. I know my great grandmother by the words of my cousin, Alma Lea. I can see in the pictures the love she gave to the children she held. I have only glimpses, but those who remember give to me the women in the pictures.

I think we make a mistake by just drawing lines from name to name showing our roots. My sister has included in her family history profiles and pictures of each person. She writes history in each entry. She passes on a gift to future generations.

They sit beneath the arbor. A moment captured. A moment that today includes me.

On A Grandparent's Voice today: Brain File

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Fevered Brow

So whatever is going around has taken me in and begs to remain. How I wish I was back on the farm with Mom to look after me.

We seemed to be ill a lot on the farm. I attribute it to a drafty house and sometimes not the most sanitary of conditions. It wasn't unusual to play in the barn then come into the house to grab something to eat....bypassing the hand washing.

Mom was great at providing an atmosphere of care. When I was sick with German measles or a miserable with chicken pox, Mom made soup and saw to my every need. She held our heads when we were feverish wiping our faces with a damp cloth. She held us when we were in misery and sat with us when she could. After we got the TV, Mom made a bed on the sofa for her ailing child. We always knew that Mom would take good care of her ill children nursing them back to health.

When a Loxley girl was ill, neighbors and relatives stopped by to see how the ailing child was doing. Sometimes they brought something for us to eat knowing that Mom had her hands full. Sometimes they came and sat with the child. Our medical staff was the people who were part of our lives. Dad always stopped in during his busy day to bring some sunshine to the sick child. Sometimes he even brought in a winter breeze.

Even though I'm sixty-four, I still want the loving hand of my mother on my brow. I want to crawl back into the warm memory of the past and be visited by Doris, Margaret, Betty and even the men of Neff Road who cared about the Loxley girls.

Today I think I might live. It's a struggle, but I'm working at it. I still hear my mom asking, "Can I get you anything?"

Oh, yes, Mom. Oh, yes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Smell of Horse and Leather

The wheels that got us from there to here. From the Johnson's to the Loxley's. From the farm to Greenville. From Ohio to Michigan. The wheels that carried generations of my family.

The romantic side of me would love to have lived in a time when horses were the mode of transportation. A sweet carriage ride with a young man. The smell of the horse, the wind in my hair, the creaking of the saddle. I was a little over one generation away from those day. My mother was on the edge of that day and age that was leaving Neff Road.

I love this picture of my great grandparents, Sarah and David Ernest, riding in the buggy behind this enormous, sway-back. I want to know more about the horse. Who is the young woman who stands next to the buggy. I want answers! I want to ride in that buggy behind that huge horse that only a little girl from Neff Road could see as a beauty.

Granddad Loxley loved cars. I remember washing his Edsel when I was a kid. He had one of the first and few of these cars that showed up in Darke County. My Dad stands next to a car that took the family on a trip west. A handsome picture.

With affection, I remember our old, black Packard. I was recently explaining to my granddaughter about riding in a car with the front seat a bench like that in the back.

"Three people could sit in the front?!" My how time flies.

The family wheels have a history. Again, it is the small things in pictures that we fail to notice. The history that sits in plain sight. From the wagon wheel to the Honda that sits in my driveway, the generations in my life saw them all.

The wheels beneath the buggy pulled by a white horse. The smell of horse and leather......

Monday, November 7, 2011

Old Loxley Homestead

He ran to the trees where the tiger lilies bloomed. "Mom, it's here!"

I never knew my great grandfather Ben Loxley. From all of the stories I've heard of him, I'm not sorry that I didn't meet the man. However, I am always wanting to know more about my family (you probably already knew that). I've written about this before, but I though a 'before and after' might be fun.

 The old Loxley homestead is located outside of Bradford, Ohio. At that time, Grandpa Loxley was a prosperous farmer. I think he had as many acres as he had children. That's another story. At one time a lovely house sat back a lane in the middle of the acreage.

The house that we found had been burned down for the most part. Some of the brick walls were still standing. James and I walked through the house. This house that had seen the death of a woman and the birth of many babies. A house full of history. Some we would never know.   

I touched the bricks and thought, "This is a place of my beginnings, the place where my grandfather was a child."
James was checking out every inch of the house. The gaping hole of the old cistern sat in the corner of one room waiting to swallow whoever wandered blindly into the hole. Even though vines and plants had overtaken the house and trees pressed against its sides, the new growth could not erase the eeriness of this place. A place of unsmiling children.

I have a brick from the old homestead as do each of my children. Perhaps one day another will seek to find these ruins and another story will be written remembering an adventure into the past. A history lays hidden in the rubble......


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hands of Time

From there to here. Maybe that is what Neff Road is about. It is about a journey from there to here. I constantly go through the pictures and paper I have accumulated from there to here looking for stories to write and memories to embrace once more. All of it is my journey from childhood to this age that some call senior. I call it the age of illumination.

In working on my book about Neff Road, I came across an old card that evidently I sent to someone when I was a toddler. I've seen the card before paying little heed to it. Yesterday I place it on a pile of papers, a pile I turned over this morning. My mother had signed the card with my name, but not until the card was turned over did I see the true signature.....a small hand print that just fit the card.

I sat holding the card looking at the small print wondering what I was like as a child. Did I giggle and wiggle when Mom tried to outline my hand? Was the card to my Dad? As I looked at the card, I noticed the hand holding it. A hand that had gone from there to here.

I have my mother's hand outline when she was a girl. I have her mother's as well. Now I have mine, my daughter's, my granddaughters'. Five generations of hands. It's not that I needed proof that I was a little kid. I wish I could remember those times when I was very small. I wish I could remember my mother holding my little hand and my father laughing when he saw the hand print on the card. The distance from there to here is measured in the hands, the hands of time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mother and Child

With my hands hidden beneath the blanket, I held my baby daughter so she wouldn't fall over during the photo session. I did the same for my son. Mom under the baby blanket holding up the wobbly baby.

I came across this picture recently. It is an old tintype. It is out of an album that was given to me....not family. However, the history of the 'early method' of holding a child for a picture is quite evident. This picture has given me a quite a few giggles. I feel lucky that I didn't need to cover myself with a blanket waiting for the photographer to take the shot.

I did a little research on tintypes finding that there is actually no tin in the aforementioned. The pictures were taken with a twelve lens camera and produced on metal, but the metal was not tin. And the negative type pictures are priceless.

I am thankful to have the tintypes recalling another day and age. Most of all, I love having this one of 'mother' and child.