Monday, November 30, 2015

When the old became new

Brrrrrr..... The temperatures usually do not get into the teens here in Oregon; however, this year they seem to be getting mighty close. I cannot be this chilly and not think of other cold winters on Neff Road. In looking back this year, I was struck with a new thought: What was it like when my sisters grew up in that old house? The years that part us in age certainly saw a new era on this lovely farm. So, I went to the sources, my sisters Peggy and June.

Never did I think to ask Mom questions about life in the Johnson household. She had even a bigger gap between she and her siblings than did my sisters and me. How different were their lives than the one she lead?

In this research of the Loxley past, I learned that my parents had lived in three places before my sister June was born. June and I were Neff Road babies. Peggy had been born in the house back the lane next to Newcomer's Cemetery. At the time that Willard and Ruth moved into the house back the lane, the basement had a dirt floor and coal in a corner for the old stove. There was no electricity nor was there any running water in the house. The old pump sat outside the kitchen on what was later to be the back porch. Mom cooked on an old wood stove. Peggy remembers the old lamps lighting the rooms and baths in an old wash tub.

During the ten years between Peggy and I and seven between June and I, a first phone was put in when June became ill with rheumatic fever. Progress came slowly and out of necessity. A dirt basement floor was cemented and a furnace put in. A beautiful fireplace was built by Dwight Sebring. A fireplace that would give this family joy for all the years after. New stairs were put in to replace those open to the damp basement. A fruit room replaced a shelf under the stairs. Mom and Dad were raising their daughter in fine 'new' home.

By the time I came along, the house was a warm place to live. The kitchen was modern and full of life. I never knew it without a phone and loved when the power went out and Dad went into the backroom to get one of those old kerosene lamps. The basement was my playroom where I skated around the ping pong table. We spent many chilly winter days and nights around Dwight's lovely fireplace. I seemed to have come along in a different time than that of my sisters.

I feel fortunate that I have asked questions of my sisters. I rather feel like an archeologist clearing off the layers of today seeking the history of yesterday. This is a time of families gathering together. A time of remembering. I hope you will find this a time of asking questions and learning more about the people in your past. Yes, I learned much around that kitchen table when I was a child. It is too bad that I find new questions long after my parents have passed. I thank God for my sisters and the years we have had together. We rejoice in the history we share and, too, a deep love for that family and farm back the lane on Neff Road. Wishing you a season of embracing the past.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Welcome home.

Seems like I have been a nomad for most of my adult life, starting in Ohio then to Wisconsin and finally to Oregon. Have moved from place to place and finally one more added to the number. On Saturday, my son's friends joined us in moving me once more to a smaller place. Indeed, this was a difficult move.

I had already parted with an old antique desk that had been one of our first purchases for the newlywed couple, planning to live out their years on Teagues South not far from the family home place on Neff Road. Perhaps it was then that I realized that not only did I have the treasures from my parent's lives but also from mine over the adult years of my life.

I had to chuckle when a young man picked up a couple of old grey boards. They were heavy for their size and greyed with age. "Suppose you wonder where those came from," I said to Nate. "Well?" he replied. The old boards had been salvaged from the old barn where my horse and I hung out. It was also the place where we stripped tobacco and had many hours together as a family. To me, they are priceless.

A big letter "L" sat atop the boards. It was one of the letters off the front of Dad's big, white barn. It could have been one of the Willard L's or perhaps one of the Loxley L's. Many of the grandchildren and children of Ruth and Willard took one of those letters that greeted us every day of our lives.

I tried to thin out the many lovely dishes that travel with me. Many were my mother's but some are my grandmothers' as well. I have a cracker jar from Freeda Anderson and depression glass that I began to collect when I got my Grandmother Loxley's dessert dishes. Pieces of my family. Generations in just a few pieces of china and glass.

I was going to part with my Haviland china. But first I gave my oldest granddaughters a voice in the decision. Of course, they would want it. What was I thinking?! The lovely roses edged with gold. Ninety-two pieces to be divided one day. I'm glad they want them. We did not get any of our china when we were married, because I had picked expensive plain, white Haviland in the same imprint as this lovely set. My cousin Millie had the same pattern. When she passed, I was to get her set. It was stolen the day of the funeral. When her sister Camille passed, I was given this lovely set. Yes, it has my heart in it. I am thrilled to pass it on.

It is difficult going through your history when you move. Even more difficult when you are older. I won't part with my grandfather's derby hat or my mother's raccoon one. I have things Brenda made me that are treasures in themselves as are those things from my sisters. All of them gifts from the heart that I hold in my dear.

My linens could be thinned out, but I will not part with things my aunt and other relatives made. I have things from Doris Lavy and Margaret Stager that are special to me and full of love.

Yes, my memories travel with me in the pieces of my past. Stories to pass on with each piece. It is a melancholy thing, this moving. Each time I feel that I leave a little bit of myself behind. And, too, in each move, I add to myself. It is indeed a good opportunity to get rid of the junk. A good opportunity to take a look at myself and decide just what is important in life. For me, I'd rather get rid of the new and hang on to a little of the old.

Well, I am in a new place. Closer to my grandchildren and adjusting to a new set of neighbors. Life is will be much better when the boxes are emptied and I can say, "Welcome home."

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Because of you

This week a picture of my old home on Neff Road was sent to me by Dean Lavy. The picture warmed me with memories....not just of the farm, but of the people in Darke County. I am blessed to be able to share the memories of that place I love. I am blessed to have conversations with all of you once a week. Do you know why? Because it feels like home.

Often I have talked of how our house was a gathering place. The door was never locked, and anyone could just walk in and feel at home. But this was true for most homes I entered back then. Yes, maybe some were a little more conservative, but this family of ours was not. We loved the people of Neff Road and embraced our times with them.

Friendliness was a big part of those days on the farm. Farmers relied on one another as do their farming. Kids played together while mothers worked together preparing food, sewing quilts, caring for gaggle of children. Friendship was a way of life. We celebrated the births as a community and came together when there was a death. We cheered successes and pulled together when there was need.

So, what brings this on, Pam? A sweet letter from Miriam Knick. A letter that means the world to me. I sometimes forget that I am writing not only my life, but I am writing yours as well. We lived in a time of hope after so many years of war and sadness. We lived in a time of change. Our parents did the Charleston, and we did the twist. You were and are part of my life. You know the best part? I know for a fact that I could knock on the door of your house and be welcomed with warmth and laughter. I know that we could sit around the table with a cup of coffee and chat for hours. You are my old friends and my new 'old' friends. We have come from our youths in that other century and are still changing and growing in this new century. We are the keepers of family history. We pass on not only the stories and memories, but we pass on the warmth of that generation. We know what it is to work hard in a field yet laugh and bond as we worked. We know what it is like to face years of poor crops but hold together in the warmth of neighbors and friends.

Miriam's letter came at a perfect time. I am getting ready to move across town. Some things that have traveled with me for 68 years are going to be left behind. Already I have tossed pictures that will mean nothing to my children. I weigh what is important and what is not. Not an easy task for this woman who embraces her roots. In clearing out my 'stuff', I came across a video my son made for each in the family when my parents passed. It is a journey from our childhood days to the final days on the farm. Many faces pass through the video. Faces of friends now gone. I watch in joy and not loss at what I have had in my life. All we have in the end is love and our memories. Both are easily passed on. For my part, both are shared weekly with you.

I realize that this column is a little different today. Perhaps it is because of you, this feels like home.