Saturday, February 21, 2015

It takes a licking and keeps on ticking

Wristlets were delicate watches for women. Real men carried a pocket watch. Small watches hung on a fine change were created for women. Ah, the wristlet was thought to be just a passing fancy. However, real need for a wristwatch would change the attitude of those 'real' men when WWI came knocking. The sweet little wristlets were turned into watches on leather straps that soldiers could wear freeing up hands during battle. That passing fancy never passed.

My grandtwins were about eighteen months old when they began wearing MeMe's watch. I cautiously supervised as they dangled it on their tiny wrists. Each time I spent time with them the watch came off and the twins took turns trying it on. Now at twenty-six months they put the watch on to their feet as well as on their arms enjoying a bit of  a grown up thing.

My babies would be restless. I placed my ticking watch up to their ears and the wiggles ceased. The tick, tick, tick soothed them their eyes full of wonder. Tick, tick, tick. I even remember listening to my father's watch on many a Sunday morning while wiggling on the pew at Painter Creek Church. Tick, tick, tick.

So what happens if we ever reach a time where we are tossed out of this world of technology? What happens if the computers and phones go off-line or our access to batteries is hindered? Hm. Of course we can go back to watching the sun and moon moving across the sky...that is, if anyone knows how to read the sun and the moon moving across the sky. Or, perhaps one could dig up an old wristwatch that continues to tick, tick, tick after years of resting in a box of old family jewels.

There are many things from the past that I do not miss at all. The old phone that hung on the wall. The outhouse. The old wringer washer. Yes, the list contains many things of the past that hold memories but not ones I care to have continued to the present time. But the ticking of that wristwatch? A child listening to the tick, tick, tick while snuggled in my arms. Sweet time sitting on my daddy's lap with his watch pressed to my ear. The ticking watch that reminded me when class would be over, when a date would drive up the lane, when the minutes ticked off until prom, when the last seconds would pass before I walked down the aisle. Tick, tick, tick. Yes, that I miss.

As John Cameron Swayze said for Timex, "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Some Day Box

Mother had a drawer full of doilies, crochet-edged pillow cases, embroidered dresser scarves, table cloths, napkins and even an embroidered antimacassar set that was used on the backs and arms of chairs. The items were made by the hands of relatives long gone and added too over the years by each generation. Now they reside in an old trunk in my home. I have no use for them but cannot give them up. They are my family history. They are tokens from the hands of the women in my family.

I just finished a great book The Last Runaway written by Tracy Chevalier. A good portion of the book has to do with a dowry. Quilts were made and given to the family of the groom. It was a long way from bringing two horses or a camel to the groom's family, depending on the country of origin. Yet, the dowry was an important item in the life of a young bride in Ohio.

Mother had a closet filled with old quilts and comforters. We didn't have new. We had old. Sometimes I wondered who had been sleeping under the blanket that presently covered me. I also wondered how often said blanket had been laundered. Needless to say, when it came to airing out the blankets at the end of winter, I prayed for a hearty breeze.

In reading this book about farm life in Ohio, I was awakened to many things I had not considered on the farm. How family farming evolved. Why children were encouraged to marry local. How a life of isolation formed a lifestyle that would be repeated for generations. The dowry eventually changed into a hope chest for a future bride. I continued with a Some Day Box for my children and grandchildren with items for their first place away from home.

Women needed to stay on the farm and close to home. A hope chest, a dowry, was set aside in hopes that a wife would be prepared well to set up housekeeping. In looking back at my grandparents, I can see the life shown in this book come alive. My grandmother was a writer. I know that she would have loved to be a novelist. Yet the marriage that her parents encouraged lead to her dreams disappearing with the sound of a train whistle. My mother would have loved to go to college yet my grandfather did not think that a woman needed a college education.

The Last Runaway is about Ohio in the time of the Underground Railroad yet I think perhaps a young woman who was alone in a foreign country might have wished herself to be the runaway.

A dowry. A good thing to be something of the past. A Some Day Box. A good thing to accompany those we love into the future.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sending my lov-o-gram

The men killed the animal then struck the women with the flesh of said kill. It is said that during this February celebration the women lined up to get slapped with that strip of flesh believing that this act made them more fertile. Now this is not my idea of the way to spend Valentine's Day, but this was the age of the Roman empire during the feast of Lupercalia. Well, we cannot all have such exciting Valentine's Days.

Annually, $13.9 billion dollars are spent in celebration of love. They call this a Hallmark holiday, and why not? 180 million cards are exchanged yearly. Now that is a lot of paper. Having worked at one such store, I observed the ins and outs of Valentine's Day shopping. The men rush in at the last moment. They grab a card, dash to the counter to pay and, most often, have a box of  Sees Candy under their arms. Women come in looking for that perfect card. They buy for their loved ones the oldest to the youngest. Perhaps a stuffed toy goes home as well.

Paper Valentines were first mass produced in England in the early 18th century. By 1835, 60,000 such love cards were sent through the mail in Britain. A booming business sending love out into the world. A little later the first box of chocolate would be introduced by a man named Richard Cadbury. He actually decorated the box with a painting of his sweet daughter holding a kitten. I guess this means he invented the first box of Valentine's candy and the advent of more cavities.

So, Pam, what brings this all to mind today? Well, it is back to that basket of post cards that sat on Pop Johnson's coffee table. When putting the old Christmas post cards back in the basket, I got sidetracked with the Valentines. There are three that have delighted me over the years. One card is of a young soldier dressed in WWI uniform shooting a cannon ball heart at a woman standing atop a castle, wearing a cowboy hat and carrying a sword. No words. Just a blazing heart headed at the love of his life. Hm. The other is called a "lov-o-gram". A puppy holds a Valentine while hiding in a clothes basket. When opened, a little girl in black Mary Jane shoes pops up, "If my Valentine you'll be, I'll do the washing cheerfully." Can you imagine! Now if he offered to do the washing, I just might consider the offer. The last is a handmade card. The roughly cut heart is colored red with crayon. A small picture of a child is pasted in the middle. It is to my mother from Flora Jones. A primitive Valentine created just for my mother. One of a kind. What could be more special.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Valentine's Day love and consideration carried over every day? Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone received words of love to cherish over and over again? We can all relate to when as children we opened our Valentine's boxes to see if we received a special card from a special someone. It is not about slapping a woman with freshly killed meat or loving her for washing your clothes. It is not about how much a fella spends on his girl but more about how much he cares to show his affection in his own way and she in hers.

I will not be helping with the sales for greeting card companies this year. I did not even get my Christmas cards sent. But I will send love out far and wide by handing out smiles and kind words. I will take time to notice the people I pass and to tell those close to me that indeed I do love them. It will be my personal touch.

So to you, my friends, I send my own lov-o-gram. I wish you love and happiness on this Valentine's Day. And, may it follow you every day.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Never trust a whistlepig

Punxsutawney Phil decided on Monday that there will be six more weeks of winter. A ground hog weighing 20 pounds seems to be the weather guru. I personally have a bit of trouble with that considering that during my entire life on the farm, my father either trapped or shot the fat, marmot. Yes, it is a rodent but belongs to a family called large ground squirrels or marmots. Misnamed by my reckoning.

When my family went to visit the farm, we often slept in Mom and Dad's old bedroom. The window overlooked the creek bottom. I loved to wake to the mournful cry of the mourning dove. A sound that echoed across the dewy dawn. And, once in a while, a big old ground hog would be wandering along the creek. I had to wonder if Dad had seen the same, and if the life expectancy of said marmot was going to be shortened.

Old Punxsutawney Phil has a 40% rating in his forecasting. I have noticed with the global warming that he, too, is aware and adjusts his call closer each year. Of course, he really has nothing to do with it. It simply depends on the sun. If there is sun, there is a shadow. Now I'm not sure if he whispers to someone the exact length of winter, thereafter, of if there is some sort of way to deduce the length of the remaining winter months. It doesn't seem very scientific.

In my research, I learned that ground hogs in the wild live to be around six years. In captivity, they can live as long as nine to fourteen years. Which makes me wonder, if we could have had one as a pet. Since they eat everything from grubs to grass, seems they would be easy to feed. Since they hibernate from October to the day of weather prediction, their food bill would be lower. However, rumor has it that these land-roaming, tunnel burrowing creatures have a nasty temper. Hm. Negatory on that one.

Another interesting fact: Not only is the ground hog called a woodchuck, it is also called a whistle pig.  I found that Ohio has their own weather forecasting whistlepig known as  Buckeye Chuck. He is predicting an early spring. Just like on TV, weather forecasters just can't agree.

Never trust a whistlepig.