Sunday, December 8, 2019

Dreams between the pages

Indeed it was a dream book. The pages held my dreams, then those of my children and even again for my older granddaughters. Christmas catalogs from Sears and Penneys were leafed through time and time again. Of course, there is the old outhouse use of catalogs that we always laughed about. And, I know my parents often bought family staples from those pages throughout the year. But there was indeed nothing like Christmas catalogs.

There was always a bit of sadness when I went from buying baby toys to moving up the chain of toys for each advancing age of the children. Still I loved to browse the pages, dreaming of yesterdays and tomorrows. Toys for my babies. Toys for my grandchildren. Gift ideas for all the family. 

I remember the anticipation of receiving the catalog. It was delivered to the house for years. Then in later years, we ended up going to the store to pick one up. It was as if a door had slammed in my face when I went to the check out and asked for a new Christmas catalog. "We no longer carry them." WHAT?!?!? How could this be? No catalog for me??? I felt I should shrug or hide under the rug, but there were no toys to see. (Oops, I went Dr. Seuss on you). Thus you can see how losing the catalog affects me. I have spent hours over my lifetime perusing the pages of catalogs. I circled toys. I made my Christmas list from the book. My anticipation was dashed away, dashed away, dashed away all. 

This is a real disappointment for us all. For in losing the catalog, we have lost a tradition that, by all the stars above, should never have been discontinued. One year, I tore all of the toy pictures from the catalog and pasted them onto my Santa letter. On some I just glued a corner and put an arrow on the front, because I wanted the toy on the back of the picture as well. Christmas catalogs were my Christmas vacation entertainment!

Ah, my venting will do no good. We now sit around the fire and talk of the olden days of thick Christmas books that didn't tell a story, but instead captured our childhood desires and carried us away with anticipation. Tis the season of dreams for all ages. Many of mine still reside among those pages where once a little girl planted her wishes.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Traditions for all the family

Thanksgiving. One of those holidays that in reality did not happen in November. Nope, it happened in October. Sort of like Christ being born in August, yet we celebrate in December. Traditions. Hm. Someone started them that we did not know. They changed over generations. I am thinking we can make them even better.

New ways of thinking about Thanksgiving are not wrong. No, they open up creative thinking, allowing it to be more than just a bird and family meal. We do not need to fall into the usual roles played by our parents and grandparents. They were a product of their times. 

When I grew up, we had the same routine every year. I watched the parade every Thanksgiving morning, while Mom cooked and Dad saw to the chores. Eventually, the Johnson's trickled in with the same dishes they made every year. The women ate on the card table in the living room, and the men chowed down at the kitchen table. After the meal, leftovers were taken to the garage where it was cool. Yep, dinner would be waiting to be warmed up once more later in the day. Next the men gathered around the TV to watch football, while the women worked on a puzzle. There you have it. Our Thanksgiving tradition.

Well, times change. We learn more about family and the importance of showing our feelings. We find new recipes. We add other activities. We include all the family in creating a thankful day. My son actually does all the cooking. We all pitch into the kitty for the food. He began taking this all on when one of the people who were furnishing a main dish became ill and could not attend. So now we are covered.....unless the cook gets sick!

For me Thanksgiving should include all the family for the day. I mean, I am most thankful for my family, so why not make it a family day? Helping the children with ideas for place cards and centerpieces for the table can be great fun. Allowing them to come up with their own ideas is even better. I do not believe in the kids' table. What better way to learn about family and past than dining with the adults. Watch the parade with the kids. Get involved. Laugh and ooh/ahh together. Play games after dinner with the kids. The football viewers can actually take a turn and watch the game. They can drink beer and talk during it, so spending time with the kids can happen as well. Let the kids be part of the cleanup process. If you start them early, they will love the responsibility and interacting with aunts, uncles and all the rest. Be thankful that you have those little ones. Interact. Show the teenagers what it means to be included.

Donate money or time to charity. Give someone else something for which to be thankful. Invite someone who will be alone to join your feast. Don't focus on Black Friday. Be thankful for what you have on Thanksgiving Day.

Yes, traditions can change. They can be even more memorable. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Used, reused and remembered

Winter approaches. This time every year I am flooded with memories of the tobacco shed. Tobacco time seemed to be family time. However, this is not about tobacco. Nope this is about tobacco lath.

For those of you who do not know about lath, here is a short synopsis. Lath are long, narrow pieces of wood that were vital in the raising of tobacco. A spear was placed on the end of the lath, so we could yank the tobacco stalk down over the lath, continuing until the lath was filled. The filled lath were then hung on beams in the tobacco barn where the tobacco would cure. Lath.

Dad handed the lath to me. I remember that I was just about the size of the tall stick. He then tied a piece of twine across one end of the lath just about eight inches down. It was then he handed me the twine reins of the harness, so I could mount my wooden horse. Yes, it was my first horse, and one that required a great deal of imagination. I found it hard to tie up my horse as it always wanted to lie down. It required no food and offered hours of keeping me out of trouble. Lath.

The old swing sits in the garage, waiting for a makeover. The paint on the laths has bubbled perhaps due to the many layers of the stuff. The swing is from my Aunt Iva's house in the 1930's. The old lath swing hung at my parent's home throughout my growing up years. I took possession of it in 2001. An old tobacco lath swing holds memories of five generations.

I held many a lath in the tobacco field. I probably even rode my wooden horse out there. Now the one precious lath I have hangs out in a basket with a few other treasures. I've seen pictures of things like tables, headboards, wall hangings, Christmas decorations and more made from lath. I love that they still have life. Used, reused and remembered.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Let the festivities begin

The dead flowers are either tossed or set in a cool place to awaken again next spring. Geese have been maneuvering in the sky above, creating that perfect V. Those leaves that have escaped the raking hang on the tree, waiting until we go into the house. Then they fall. Oh, well, great mulch for the yard, and, just maybe, a wind will find them a new home. The irises have crew cuts and lights are waiting to be hung in the trees. Change is in the air.

Even though we have mild weather we decided to begin setting suet cages out for the birds. The squirrel hangs from a branch, working hard to get a little claw through the cage. Birds flit and flutter, covering the cage with their wings. Hummingbird feeders are moved to the porch next to the house. We are dedicated to them, and it seems they like to live in our trees.

The twins already have their Christmas lists started. This year toys are fading away as games, crafts and construction sets make the lists over and over again. Oh, yes, seasons change and so, too, do the ages of children. Christmas music is already on the air, and it all makes me want to bake cookies. There is a feeling of excitement that just naturally permeates all of us. We begin thinking of turkey and cranberries. We need to make decisions about food, gifts, parties, etc. Will we put the tree up the weekend or wait a week? Will we eat the same food we have eaten for the last 60 years or change it up a little? College kids will be home soon with dirty laundry and lazy bones. Traveling for the holidays will begin. And all too soon it will end.

Perhaps this holiday is taking us away from all the worries in the world. Perhaps we are looking forward to escaping for a couple of months. I can think of no place better to get a reprieve than being surrounded by loved ones, delicious food and giggles and hugs. Let the festivities begin!

Monday, November 4, 2019

Two boys for sale on Monday

A book was passed on to me. I sat looking at it wondering if I really wanted to dive into its pages. Sold on Monday by Kristina McMorris. On the cover of the book is a small boy with a suitcase sitting next to him. Sold on Monday. A man stumbles across two boys sitting on the porch of their run down home. TWO BOYS FOR SALE reads the sign above them. The man who saw the boys was troubled. I was even more troubled. In fact, the thought sickened me and would not leave me. How could a parent just put a sign above their child and turn aside? How do you give up a child to save money or to make profit?

Of course, all this led to investigation. The stories were heartbreaking. Children during the Depression had been sold for only a couple dollars to farmers who basically used them as slaves. Girls were raped or sold by the people who took them in. Children were treated as nothing more than a piece of livestock. Desperation seemed to numb people to the reality of what they were doing. It was a horrible time of starvation and destitution. Again, the thought sickened me.

There were those who had so many children that they could not feed all the mouths. So, those children were sold or given away. Then the people went on to have more children as they prospered. Those they kept. The stories are tragic. In my research I found stories of those adult children trying to find their siblings as they piece together their pasts and find pieces of themselves. Many children during that time were given to other family members to raise. Families were separated in order to save them. For a child who grew up with the joys of living on the farm, the thought of losing my sisters to others was terrifying.

I was not a child of the Depression. However, over the years, before I came along, several cousins and children of other families had come to live at our house occasionally. In one family, the children were separated and sent to live with other family members when the mother died. In another, the mother was destitute. Her husband died leaving her with three children and no way to raise them. I believe her son came to stay with Mom and Dad just to give her a reprieve. It is a history I can now understand a bit better.

I know. This is a depressing subject, but I have a reason for posting this. There are children today in foster homes. Children living on the streets in poverty. We live our every day lives of prosperity and hope while so many families are suffering. Children separated from families yearning to have love and stability in their lives.

The holidays are coming. We are planning for a day of thankfulness. There are agencies that can help those in need. There are children who need homes. There are women who are struggling in a life alone. There are elderly who would give anything for a conversation with a stranger or a family member. You can be the difference.

Yes, I will finish the book. But the sign still haunts me: Two Boys for Sale. Please remember that you have much to give. Give someone else a reason to be thankful.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Never had a pumpkin patch

We never had a pumpkin patch. Not even sure we had pumpkins. I do not remember ever carving one as a child, thus every Halloween our kids had pumpkins to de-gut and carve. Time passed and my granddaughters covered in orange goop stood next to the pumpkin their dad was planning to carve. They had a pumpkin patch.

Last week we took the twins to the pumpkin patch to help us pick out our pumpkins. Nolan and Emma looked for the wartiest, most crooked pumpkins and gourds. I was looking for character in mine, while Loren, who is a black and white photographer, wandered around the whitish/blue pumpkins. Seems there were pumpkins for every personality.

We paid a fee to go into the pumpkin patch for our two-hour adventure. The animal pens were visited, horses petted and a big, beautiful bull was captured in photographic form. We went on a hayride, bumping along a well-traveled path. Emma and Nolan then hopped into the barrels for the barrel ride.
As in past years, the hay maze ending with a slide was their favorite, closely followed by a very long wavy slide. Included in the adventure were the bouncy pillow and a jumpy pad. Weird trikes were ridden and cider donuts were consumed. We never had a pumpkin patch. 

Jealous? Maybe a little.  But, wait a minute!!!! Today we had our weekly family brunch with the kids. We walked in to find them making Christmas lists and listening to Christmas music. Argh!

Oh, and by the way, my sister June just informed me that we did not have pumpkins, because we ate all the blossoms. Happy Halloween, my friends.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Mumble, mumble, mumblety-peg

I stood with Dad in the circle (the yard between the barn and house). It was too bad that I wasn't a boy, but I couldn't help it. We girls worked as hard as any boy, but there were some passages of youth in which we were denied participation, such as hunting with our dads, scratching our backsides and spitting on the ground. We had to behave like girls should. Luckily, dad gave us a little leeway, allowing us to shoot a BB gun and play mumblety-peg.

mumbly-peg: noun (mumblety peg, mumble-the-peg, mumble peg (Webster-Merriam)
definition: a game in which the players try to flip a knife from various positions so that the blade will stick into the ground. Webster goes on to tell me that this game was first known to be used in 1627. Originally, the loser had to remove the peg from the ground with his teeth. Now I know why men spit.

Dad unfolded the knife and handed it to me. I must have been around eight at the time. I had watched the farm hands and Dad toss their knives many times. I thought it was a spectator sport, but now Dad handed the blade to me. I held the blade between my fingers and tossed it to the ground. Hm. Not as easy as it looked. After several tries and masculine instruction, I sent the blade into the earth. Then I wondered what the big deal was all about. But then a knife was entertainment for the male side of the equation. And, perhaps only a man would think of pulling the darn thing out of the ground with his teeth. I was glad I was a girl.

Many a man was seen cleaning his fingernails, carving a piece of wood, cutting twine and using a knife as his handiest tool. I noticed that women never did the same. Heck, Mom could have pulled out her pocket knife and cut pie dough, cleaned our dirty fingernails, pried open lids and found numerous other creative ways to use her handy pocket knife. Mom could even have used a tool belt as she cooked up a meal for those farm hands sitting out under the tree.

I was never given a knife. Perhaps I was not as trustworthy as a son would have been. Oh, wait! I just read an article that said that a knife and the prowess with it was a sign of manhood. Well, no wonder. I was definitely not striving for my manhood. But I sure did want my own knife. Maybe we girls didn't have times of boredom when we needed to toss a knife or clean our nails. Maybe it was a good thing that girls spitting and scratching was frowned upon. Hm. One more thing to contemplate.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

No nonsense just a crock

Indeed it is! A crock, I mean. For all of my growing up years, stoneware was just a part of life. Pickling crocks, jugs, animal feeding bowls, bean pots, the list goes on and on. It wasn't until I was older that I learned that these were considered stoneware. So what is stoneware?

According to Wikipedia, stoneware is a broad term for pottery and other ceramics fired at high temperatures. Stoneware has been made since people found that pottery and fire came together to make some great vessels for most any purpose. Crock ovens were buried when an oven wasn't yet invented. Crocks stored salt and foods that were fermented. Sauerkraut was made in crocks.

The Loxley girls grew up with stoneware in that house back the lane, but, truly, we never paid much attention to it. We had big crocks for brining, little crocks for the rabbit feeding bowls, bean pots with nifty little stoneware lids and somewhere along the way, I'm sure there was a butter churner in my grandparent's home. Crocks were just part of a way of life similar to having canning jars in the pantry.

I was excited a few years ago when we went to Arcanum Hardware where I found a medium-sized crock. I found an old stoneware jug in our farmhouse barn not long after I was married. And when I moved out here, I walked into an estate sale where the living room was full of crocks ranging from small to gigantic. Yep, one went home with me. A stoneware bean pot was a wedding gift. Over time, I have accumulated a stoneware pie plate, a second bean pot and a casserole dish accompanied by two little matching ramekins. Hm. Perhaps my children grew up with stoneware, too. My crocks are now a part of our home decor. One holds a plant and has in the past been an umbrella stand. Stoneware bowls hold the dog food.

There is this old friendship with crocks that reminds me of aprons, baked beans (and Cousin Betty), bunnies in the rabbit hutch and maybe even moonshine. Indeed, this is story is a crock. A crock of memories.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

We are the difference

First of all, this is not about me. It is about our society. 
Yesterday I went to the store. In front of me as I was waiting to check out, a young mother was struggling with her three children. The most trouble was the two-year-old in the back of the cart. I started paying attention to his firetruck socks. Soon he was focused on me and not dropping groceries from the cart. The couple behind me started talking to me about their grandkids. It became a little community all its own. 

As I left the store, I came upon a woman in a wheelchair struggling with her keys. I asked if I could help her and did. We hugged and said we loved each other as surely we did. I had three opportunities in less than ten minutes. I had no agenda. I had no message. I had looked around me and seen what was needed. 

We all should be doing this. It isn't about praise or accolades. It is about being a tool to serve others and in turn serve ourselves. It is about being aware of what is around us and how we can make a difference. So help me. Keep your eyes and hearts open. 

We are the difference.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Smell of pies and noodles

My sister June sent a picture of a woman feeding sheep. Of course, she sent it knowing how much I loved our lambs. The picture resides in an old frame that is a lovely setting for the scene. Reminders of the farm. And, most of all, the smell of the sheep and the shed.

Memory is a wonderful thing. It comes with scent and with vision. Recall of my grandpa's octagonal barn immediately makes me think of the dust and straw in the mow. Stories of my grandmother falling through the floor of the mow into the herd of cattle mingling below come to mind. Her fall was always thought to be the beginnings of her cancer. A sadness hangs in that barn for me.

When I walked into that barn back the lane, I was assailed by the memories of kids flying across the barn on the swing, kittens hidden behind the bales and cattle milling below. A smell of hay, straw and cattle is alive the same as it was when we lived there. I am once more a child swinging on the swing Dad made and the one playing pirates with neighbor kids.

A place. A smell. A memory. Last week we were at the ocean for three days. Most of it was spent walking the Pacific beach or just watching the waves rise and fall. I was mesmerized. Memories captured me and pulled me to and fro with each wave. Dad was the first to introduce me to the ocean. How could I not call that to mind? The sound of the waves at night reminded me of that nighttime introduction that terrified me with the thunder of the waves and a body of water that was dark and endless. The ocean held an ocean full of moments with family, of children exploring, of sand between my toes. I looked at it wondering if the only thing my grandchildren would know is a barren span of water full of plastic. A place where our planet cried for what it lost.

I talk often of memories. We are memories in the making. What will be the things our families remember? What opportunities are there that we ignore by just the task of living day to day. My son James often talks of the smell of the house on Neff Road. It was the smell of pies in the oven, the fire in the fireplace and that of his grandparents. Dad always smelled of the field, of hay. Mom always smelled like pies and noodles. I probably smell like plant soil and topical pain relievers.

Perhaps our house smells of Play Doh and evergreen. Maybe the sight of a musical instrument or a painting will pull memories of our home and of us. Our senses are so attached to our memories that we cannot deny what they hold for us. Mine seem to always bring on a smile and a warm place in my heart. How about yours?