Saturday, September 26, 2015

Small panes

A front room. A parlor. A room separated from the rest of the house by French doors. Lovely French doors. As a child I stood outside the windows and looked in wondering why I was not allowed to play there. Why were there doors inside the house that were always close?. Why was this room so special? Why was there a door to the outside porch? Another front door. A front room. A courting parlor long out of use. A room where the man who came courting entered by that other front door. A room where the couple met with windows where parents could keep an eye on the interaction of the young folk. A room long out of use.

Grandad Loxley's home had a beautiful front room. His house was so lovely and included many bells and whistles long before other homes caught up. My favorite place was, obviously, the front room. French doors separated the dining room from this special place. In essence it was the living room, yet a room set apart. the old player piano sat against the wall. The brick fireplace framed by two window seats. A front door opened up onto the front porch where the swing sat waiting for the next occupant. I always knew that if I went into that room, I needed to be on my best behavior. The French doors were swung open when the family came for Christmas, that one time of the year.

Pop Johnson's house had  French doors. The doors were always closed again until the family came to call. I never played in there. It seemed to be very apparent that the room was off limits to anyone shorter than the huge, standing radio that sat beside the doors. (I think it might have been a Silvertone radio from Sears and Roebuck.) This room was small. A big piano sat along one wall and a horsehair sofa on the wall next to the front door that opened onto the porch. There was no fireplace. Instead there was a mantel. Sitting in front of the mantel was a small, composite dog. A fascinating item for a little girl looking through French door windows.

My Aunt Welma and Uncle Bob had  French doors. Another room set off from the rest of the house. Again, it hosted a front door. French doors like the others that were seldom open. The parlor was Aunt Welma's pride and joy. Her loveliest pieces of china resided in the china hutch. And, another horsehair sofa waited for someone to come calling. A room, like the others, that was seldom used.

Theses home all held several things in common. A front door that was never used as such. Small-paned French doors that were also quietly waiting. Rooms that were always a bit cooler than the rest of the house. Rooms that were not receptive to fun and laughter. Sofas that remained like new year after year. The little girl on the other side of the glass often wondered if there was ever family fun inside those walls.

Certainly other older homes in the area were constructed the same. It must have been a time of plenty for the French door manufacturers. One Christmas the French doors were opened at Pop Johnson's house. The family sang around the piano and Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam gave a toddler a painted pony to ride. Maybe that one experience was what draws me to those windows time after time. Small fingerprints and probably a smudge from a little nose questioning even back then. The doors were always closed.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cocoon of fall

"MeMe, is it fall?" sweet Emma asked on her way to preschool. "Why? Where is summer?"

The changing season, a small child wondering at is all. Why? Well, I could have gone into a scientific explanation, but even for me that is a bit boring.

"Honey, it is time for the trees to rest and the leaves to fall so we can play in them."

The explanation seemed make her happy, and it made me happy. I love fall.

The smell of fall, the crispness in the air, the putting away of summer clothing and slipping into a nice warm sweater. What is not to like?! Perhaps there is a deeper reason. It began back on Neff Road.

The corn picker hummed its way across the field. Wagons were overflowing with field corn that was destined to Scammahorn's grain elevator or was heading into the corn crib, my summer playhouse. The corn was shoveled onto the elevator that carried it up and into the crib. I sat up above watching it fill the bin, oblivious to the little critters that were also eagerly watching, watching their winter pantry fill. It was time with Dad.

Tobacco hung in the shed not yet ripe enough to strip. The sheep were donning their winter coats. The cows seemed more content to stay close to the barn. Kids were back in school, and beds as well as people were dressed for cooler weather.

It was the one time of the year that I had my parents. Mom no longer cooked for hands. Dad had put the farm to rest. We lingered around the kitchen table more and neighbors came to visit. Doris stopped in a couple of times a week. That distance between houses was just perfect for a nice fall walk. Relatives came to visit and sometimes stayed overnight. It was a time of being in the house. A time of socializing and laughter.

Dad had chopped enough wood to keep the fireplace going for most of the winter. Mom laid in hot dogs, buns and potato chips, always prepared for a special night of roasting hot dogs. Those nights were the best of the times on the farm. My parents were youth leaders. It was not unusual for us to have a basement full of kids on a Sunday afternoon. The ping pong table was busy downstairs while a group of kids sang around the piano upstairs. Our house was full of laughter.

We always shared our parents with so many people. The Loxley daughters appreciated the time when were had them all to ourselves. We sat in the kitchen and visited with Mom while she puttered around. There were no hands to feed. No huge meal to get ready. She had time to talk. Dad spent equally as much time in the kitchen, watching the birds out the west window. It was the beginning of that precious family time that was rare any other time of the year.

The fall evenings were cool. There were more daily walks to the bridge. We knew that they would soon disappear with the winter weather. We hung over the side of the old, black bridge, looking for any frogs or crawdads that just might be lingering. Leaves fell and the woods became an artists canvas of color.

Cousin Betty had a puzzle ready for downtime during cold weather. The freezer was full. New bedding and clean barns were provided for the livestock. Dad's equipment was stored, oiled and resting for a time. Aunt Welma baked cookies and her nieces played beauty shop styling her hair. It was a time of family, of quieter moments and listening to gossip and family history.

No wonder fall makes me feel all snuggly inside. It is that crawling back into the cocoon of Neff Road again feeling the warmth of family and friends.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Who's got the button?

Button, button. Who's got the button? Again, the brain kicks into gear, and I wonder why these words have come to mind. Button, button, Who's got the button? Remember the game? Hands clasped together with the button in between. The person in the middle of the circle had to decide who the button was passed to. In the earlier rendition of the game, an adult would sit at the bottom of a stairway, hiding the button in his/her hands. If the child guessed the correct hand, he/she could go to the next step. The child to reach the top was the winner.

Buttons. Mom Johnson had a basket of buttons. Of course, everyone saved them. Buttons were often lost, especially by those rowdy, farm kids at play. When a garment was completely worn out (and I do mean completely) or when someone passed and no one could use the clothing, the buttons were clipped off and saved. When we went to my grandparent's house, I would play with these buttons. I remember old flat buttons shaped like flowers. There were a gazillion underwear buttons. Little white buttons with only two holes. Evidently the underwear wore out first, probably because it was not washed very regularly. So I got to play with the lovely buttons.

Mom saved buttons. Why not? Saved money. Saved running to the store to buy new. Always had a supply to match for something old or something new. I would string buttons. Mom tied a big button to the end of the thread, and I would pick out my favorites to string making a button necklace. Button, button. Who's got the button?

I have my own baby food jar full of buttons. Honestly, it has been years since I have used any of them. Yet the button jar is full of memories. The green button is from the first, fancy bathrobe I ever bought. I can go through the past by looking at my buttons. There are three that mean a great deal to me. In fact, they have gone from the button jar to my jewelry box. My mother had a couple of dresses that had belonged to my Great Aunt Alma Hollinger. She was one of my favorite people. This one particular dress had tiny cloisonné buttons set on a silver backing. Precious little pieces of art full of memories of a lovely aunt.

Buttons came into being as ornamental seals and brooches. In the 13th century, someone in Germany decided to use a button to fasten clothing. Of course, along with the button came the button hole or button loop. The first Button Making Guild was created in 1250. Their buttons were created only for the wealthy who loved buttons down their sleeves and on the front of their garments as ornamental design. When they were used for fastening, dressing became an event. I am sure that the servants were not so happy with these new fangled things. In the 16th century, the directionality of the button came to be with men wearing theirs to the right and women to the left.

Well, I probably should button this up for now. The Advocate is kind to allow me a bit of space to write. I thank them for the privilege. If you would like to contact me, please send your correspondence to the Advocate, and they can forward it to me. If you have access to email. please write. I love hearing from you. Miriam, I have received your lovely letter. Thank you for writing.