January 23, 2020
I have written this column for over twenty years. And that statement puts me in awe. It never occurred to me when I agreed to write an article “now and then” for, Donald Gilliland, the then Editor of the Leader Enterprise, that I would still be writing Oh, I haven’t written every week. And I have missed more than usual recently. But just when I think I am done for good, someone encourages me to keep it going.
This is the time of year when I have a terrible time coming up with a new idea. After all, I have written about my new kitchen stove (the very first column,) how much I dislike winter and how much I enjoyed, at one time, making cinnamon rolls.
I’ve discussed the village of Gold and how the name was pulled by a little girl from a hat full of scribbled choices held for her by the local postmaster
I have written about the one room school in Gold where I attended the first and second grades.
I have talked about my ancestors who settled the communities in this area and whose children and grandchildren grew up and became citizens of Potter County and beyond.
I have told stories about the Christmas celebrations held in the one room school and at the Gold Union Church.
Picture albums , dusty tintypes hanging in my grandmother’s attic, and the huge portrait of my maternal grandmother which hung on my grandfather’s wall have all been fodder for my tales.
I wrote about the C & PA (later the WAG) the train that made its way through Raymond and Gold on its way to the Newfield Junction for so many years.
It has been very obvious to my readers that I am particularly interested in the local area history; and that there is nothing I enjoy more than a good story
In that light, I have often written about my beloved Great-Grandmother Williams, who was, in my book, the greatest story teller on the planet. There is not a doubt in my mind that Mark Twain, had he been given the opportunity, would have sat happily at her feet listening to her tales.
As the years went by, I wrote about historical events that effected me and my family.. President Kennedy’s assassination and Nine-Eleven certainly topped the list.
I described our many trips including those to the St Louis Arch, the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore as well as others.
And I talked about the death of our son from AIDS and later, I wrote about my husband’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.
During the last few years I recounted the building of a new and larger Gold Church and the demolition of the old one, which was in sad disrepair. Although many of us miss the old church in many ways, we know it had accomplished its intended job very well. It was time for us to move on.
I wrote about my father only after his death; since he told me that I could not write about him while he was still here.
I wish Gram was here to tell me another story; about her sister who went West with her husband in the 1880s. I wish I could ask her if (as I have suspected in later years) she was the little girl who pulled the name GOLD out of the postmaster’s hat.
Thank you for reading, my friends. I’m hoping to find a few more tales rattling around in that old bucket before I hang it up.
I am wondering how many of my readers remember when one of the best gifts that appeared in their Christmas stocking was an orange?
Well, I do. My memory goes back “a ways” as the saying goes. The stockings my sisters and brother and I hung behind the stove in the living room weren’t fancy. They were just – well,- stockings. And when we went to bed they hung limp and ugly, from the tack that held them to the wall.
But! On Christmas morning, when we came running down the stairs, they were bumpy and lumpy with candy and fruit. And in the toe, usually, was the thing I looked forward to the most: a big, round, thick-skinned orange. Fresh citrus fruit wasn’t commonly available in this area at other times of the year when I was a kid. And it was relatively expensive at anytime. Oh how I looked forward to the first bite of that treat. With my loot (aka fruit) filled stocking, I then headed to check out the gifts that waited under the tree.
To paraphrase a song that was popular a few years ago, I have friends in warm places. One of them, a regular reader of this column, mentioned several times recently that he and his wife were hoping to keep the fruit that was ripening on their backyard orange tree from being damaged by frost. After all, chilly weather reached a bit deep into the country a time or two, this fall.
And, I couldn’t help but reply that I had no idea what it would be like to pick a ripe orange from my own tree! That thing would have to be beyond delicious!
Then, a few days before Christmas, a heavy white box was delivered with my mail. “Hmm,” I thought. “What did I order that I forgot?”
I checked out the return address and opened the well-sealed box. What in the world?
Of course, you have guessed it by now. There, surrounded by packages of mouth-watering homemade cookies, were six beautiful, round , ripe oranges. One of them even had a couple of leaves attached to the stem; just make sure I got the message!
Now, I promise you, that was some Christmas stocking!
I am savoring them slowly. Every bite is sweet, juicy and yes! Very ‘orang-y’. And the cookies are delicious; the “icing on the cake” as the saying goes.
How I wish I could show the oranges to my Dad, our original Santa who made sure there was an orange in our stockings back when my siblings and I still hung them behind the stove.
Yes, we are already into the new year. I wish all of you who continue to read this stuff a wonderful 2020. And may you be blessed as I have been and find an orange or two or three your stocking next Christmas.
December 19, 2019
I don’t decorate for the holidays very much these days. The Nativity set my husband and I put together years ago fits perfectly on the fireplace and a smaller one is just the right size to sit on my kitchen hutch. They both help to put me into the Christmas spirit.
However, a small piece of the railing from the old Gold Church found a place near my front door a few years ago and it just begged to be decorated. It has taken a couple of years for me to decide just what it needed. Then a friend gave me three lovely and unusual angels. They fitted perfectly between the posts. What a great way to greet anyone who came to the door during the holidays, I thought.
But — there were two empty spaces on each end. Hmmm I found a tiny crocheted angel sitting inside my china closet. She would work. Then, while I set up the smaller Nativity on the hutch, I spotted, tucked into a corner behind a goblet, my clay angel. She would be perfect! Her name is Sarah. And thereby hangs a tale.
I called my friend who grew up with me in the Gold Church just to be sure we shared the same memory. We do.
. A lady named Sarah Howe who taught art in New Jersey, spent her summers in Gold when I was a kid.. My friend and I think we may have been around ten years old the summer that Sarah taught our Bible School craft class. And, she decided to show us how to make an angel from clay. Natural clay, that is, that was present in the local soil. .
There was a farm pond not far from the church and we were given permission to get the clay we would use from it. How did Sarah know there was clay in there? I have no idea. All that I remember is going to the pond and gathering the mud. Sarah showed us, somehow, how to clean it so that the clay was cleared of the grit and gravel and ready to mold.
She had made a beautiful model for us to copy. It was in the form of a young girl with brown hair, a long blue gown and a birthday candle which fit perfectly into the tiny holder she held between her hands.
I remember admiring her angel so much and wanting to make one just like it.
My angel had a head and hair and a gown and held a candle holder between her hands. However, I knew that she didn’t resemble Sarah’s angel very much. Sarah praised my efforts, anyway. as she did those of all the other students.
And then she fired each one of them in her portable kiln. I was so excited I could hardly stand it until our angels were solidly “baked”, cooled and ready to paint. Hers was blue — mine was red. But they both had brown hair and they both could hold a candle in their hands.
I have no idea what I might have done to deserve it, but when Bible School was over that summer Sarah gave me the angel she had made. And I have cherished it down through the years. Along with the one I made with my own hands, she has occupied a corner on my hutch for many years.
This year my Sarah angel is greeting anyone who comes to my door from her spot beside the other angels standing in the old church railing. I think it is fitting that she occupies that place for several reasons. And I think Miss Sarah Howe, who created her from honest-to-goodness Gold clay, would be happy about it, too.
Merry Christmas, my friends! And a blessed New Year.
NOVEMBER 15, 2019
I have no idea how many years hollyhocks have been growing in front of my house. “I left a place there between the sidewalk and the foundation,” my husband told me when we moved in, more than fifty years ago. “I thought you might like to plant flowers there.” He hadn’t quite figured it out yet that I hadn’t the slightest hint of a green thumb.
However, it sounded like a good idea and something was certainly needed to fill in that strip of dirt.
So I thought about it. And I asked my Dad about it. I’m not sure what I planted the first spring. Nothing that amounted to much; that is for sure.
The following summer I took a picture of our boys posing in the yard, planning to put it on that year’s Christmas card. Morning glories are visible in the photo, climbing up beside the dining room window.
I had always loved hollyhocks because they grew in the yard of the home where I grew up. And I remembered that they just seemed to grow. No one paid much attention to them. They blossomed, died back after a frost and came back the next year. My kind of posy. And they didn’t seem to mind growing alongside morning glories.
And so, for longer than I want to admit, morning glories and hollyhocks have vied for room in that narrow patch in front of the house. Most of the time, they took care of themselves, dying back and reseeding on their own. We would simply cut down the hollyhock stalks every fall and toss them away, scattering seeds from the pods. Most years, new plants would begin to appear just before the first freeze and then die back. By spring the entire strip would seem to be hopeless. But once the sunlight lasted a bit longer every day, they would come to life, new leaves would appear and the cycle would begin as it always had done.
This summer, however, the hollyhocks threw tall scrawny stalks; blossomed half heartedly, and then the leaves were taken over by a very ugly rust. My son was more than happy to cut them down for me.
Fresh plants began to appear from the roots as they always had. But it was earlier than usual and the weather stayed quite warm. One day, I noticed a bud peeking out from under those new leaves. Oh my goodness! The hollies were budding! Really? This time of year?
Well, they didn’t throw stalks — but they had no intention of giving up that early. They continued to produce more buds down so close to the ground I had to pull the leaves aside to see them. And by golly, those buds began to blossom.
How I wish I could show those posies to my grandmother and my Dad. Dad would laugh out loud and Grandma would grab her camera and take pictures.
I take after them both.
I have never before had hollyhocks blooming at my house in November. I have checked the one by the front door every morning, and pulled leaves aside to get a good view. Yes, I have laughed. And of course, I took pictures.
October 18, 2019
Several people sent messages to me a few weeks ago. Old friends. Newer ones. Some acquaintances I hadn’t heard from in a good while. They all wanted to be sure I was aware of a particular program scheduled on public television. I was, but I deeply appreciated the fact that so many wanted to be sure I didn’t miss something they knew I would enjoy.
Oh, yes! Ken Burns’ documentary on country music was well advertised. And I had no intention of missing it.
It wasn’t cool at all to be a country music fan when I was a kid. Most folks called it “hillbilly music”. Too often, as far as I was concerned, the words were said with an obvious sneer. Rock and roll was still in the foggy future.
I’ve seen enough of Burns’s films to know that he is very very good at what he does. I eagerly looked forward to his newest project.
After watching the first couple of episodes I messaged my sister Peg; the one next younger than me and the one most likely to share memories. And I knew she would be watching.
“Did those first few episodes make you think of our kitchen on Saturday nights? Dishpans of water heating on the stove because our water heater wasn’t big enough to keep up with bathwater for all of us kids. Dad’s precious radio on the shelf ; tuned to WSM Nashville Tennessee and the “Grand ‘Ol Opry. ?”
And she said, “Oh, yeah!” I could hear the grin in her voice.
We grew up on that stuff– we remember the Carters; Mother Maybelle and her daughters; long enough ago that they called June Carter “Junebug”. Roy Acuff , Bill Monroe and many others.
I have no memory of Jimmy Rodgers singing but our parents did and obviously had enjoyed his music.
No one played a guitar or fiddle in our family but we sang. Oh, yes, we sang. Our Dad had a very good bass voice and it just came naturally to sing along with him.
As I grew up, even though it wasn’t cool, I still preferred the country and western music to anything else, including rock and roll. One of my best friends did her best to raise my musical sights a bit when we were kids, but didn’t succeed. These days, she loves to tell me that she has become a country music fan. In fact, she was one of the first to make sure I would be watching the documentary.
I’m not a big television fan and usually turn it off no later than nine o’clock at the latest. However, for eight nights, on two separate weekends, I stayed up well past ten, watching Burns’s production with absolute fascination. I sat in my comfortable chair, not taking any break, and realized that most of the time, I had a goofy grin on my face for the entire while.
Just in case anyone reading this did not watch it, I promise you, fan of the genre or not you really missed something. From Jimmy Rodgers and the early Carter Family: from Gene Autry and Bob Wills; and on to Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs – the gut-wrenching heart- breaking and at times hilarious music became more and more popular.
Hank Williams, dubbed the Hillbilly Shakespeare, appeared on the scene before I was ten years old. As young as I was, his songs just reached the center of my soul. I began learning to play some of them on our piano by ear. And I was way to young to really understand the words to songs such as “Your Cheating Heart” and “Cold Cold Heart”. Despite Williams’ flaws, he also wrote the popular gospel song “I Saw the Light”.
Then, along came Johnny Cash. I was an instant fan and when he partnered up with June Carter; well, I didn’t think it could get any better than that.
Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Pride, Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, the Judds, Reba McIntyre, Kathy Mattea — the list goes on and on.
They wrote and sang the songs of America.
And there are still times, now and then, when I hear an old familiar country tune, that I can almost see that old radio on the shelf in Mom’s kitchen and see the steam rising from the dishpans on the stove. And yes, there is our daddy,- our Daddy singing bass—–.
October 11, 2019
The fall colors are a bit muted this year, it seems. I have waited for the gaudy autumn hues that I always look forward to, but I guess that isn’t going to happen.
However, around my home there are bushes, both along the road and up on the hillside, which are doing their level best to take the season out in style. We called them “shoemakes” when I was a kid. I was long into my adulthood before I was informed that the proper name was sumac. Really? Soo-mack? I think “shoemake” sounds much better.
As much as I dread the winter that is just around the corner, I love this time of year. I love the color of the leaves on the hillside across from my house as it changes. And, yes, as much as I enjoy the long days of summer, I like the pretty sunsets and showy sunrises that seem to occur more often this time of year.
Although I haven’t ventured out to pick berries in a “good while” as folks used to say, I do have great memories.
Blackberries hung heavy on wild bushes along the road as my sisters and I walked home from the school bus. Somehow, they tasted better when we picked them that way than they did later . It never occurred to us to wonder about the possibility that maybe they should be washed before we ate them.
Transparent apples hung heavy on the tree near our house. They were wonderful to eat right off the tree and could be cooked up into delicious applesauce or pie.
Another apple tree, just up the side hill beside the house hung heavy with a crisp sweet fruit. Our mother sometimes baked them with sugar and cinnamon .
Our grandfather loved huckleberry pie above most any dessert and would walk for hours along the railroad tracks where the best wild huckleberries grew. Grandma’s pies were sinfully sweet and seriously good.
Elderberries grew on bushes near the crick that ran by our house from the spring above the barn. They, too, were delicious in pie not to mention the sharp tangy jelly our mother made from their juice.
Yes, the “shoemake” bushes are brilliant on the hillside. The leaves from the trees will soon begin to fall leaving the branches barren for another winter. The time to harvest Ma Nature’s bounty is here. Although I don’t pick fruit or berries for my own use these days, many do. Freezers are being filled to capacity Shelves in basements and pantries are rapidly filling with jars of fruit, vegetables, soups, sauces, jams and jellies. And winter meals in those homes will be delicious in a way that just doesn’t happen with commercially preserved produce.
Another of the many reasons I am so glad I continue to live where I do.
September 20, 2019
Anyone who reads this column is well aware that I love this place where I live; these lovely old hills. I recently had an opportunity to show them off a bit to a friend who has not always lived in this area.
We’ve planned it for a while. She came to my house, picked me up and we went to a favorite place for lunch. And then some friends came in and sat down at a nearby table. We not only had a delicious meal but enjoyed a good visit. It doesn’t get much better than that.
However on the way home I tried to tell her where some of the folks she has met in this area live; and where they grew up.
“How long do you have to spend?” I asked.
“I’m free all day,” she said with a grin.
“OK!” I said settling back in the seat. “You just keep driving and I’ll tell you where to go.” Thank goodness she has a well-developed sense of humor.
I directed her up the road we call the Rappillee and on up over the hill. She laughed when I asked her if she minded driving dirt roads. “No! this car is already dirty.”
So at the top I told her where she was and pointed left. The goldenrod is huge everywhere this year; blossoming brilliant yellow along all of the roads and into the fields. Memories kicked in and I asked my friend if she had ever had goldenrod honey. She didn’t think she had.
My grandfather harvested goldenrod honey from his bee hives every summer, and it is my absolute favorite. I’m hoping the bees are busy this year and that later on I can find some in one of the local stores to give to her.
We continued along the top of the ridge. I had forgotten that the corn crop would be as tall as it is at this time of year. We had to drive a bit farther than I had thought to get to a place where it didn’t block our view. And then, she saw it.. My favorite scenery; looking out over the valley just before the road drops down from the top of the hill. It never fails to take my breath away and my friend was in awe.
“You should see it when the trees have entirely changed color” I said. She promised that we would go for another ride in a few weeks.
I pointed the way across the highway and up one more hill. Again, the view was spectacular. We talked a bit about the railroads that came through this area every day once upon a time. I pointed out the place where the Newfield Junction used to be.
It was time to go home. I promised my patient friend that another day I would show her a few more of these old ridges.
Yes, there is nothing I enjoy much more than showing off the beauty of this place I call home. I can only imagine how it must have appeared to those very first settlers. No highways then. Just a path through the ancient forests and dreams and possibilities,. Sometimes I wonder how they had the courage to stick it out and build the communities that became their homes– and eventually mine.
But, Oh say! I’m so glad they did.
August 16, 2019
Someone wrote a song about that subject a few years ago. It would probably be kinder to say “old friendships”. In any case, there really is nothing more precious than friends and the friendships that have endured.
I had a phone call the other day from one of my dearest buddies. She has been in my life for as long as I can remember. Actually, longer.
We were born exactly three weeks apart during a miserably (so I have been told) cold winter. Sometime that spring or early summer, someone took a snapshot of our mothers, each holding their chubby baby daughter, standing in front of her family home.
We attended Sunday School together and of course, when the time came we went to school together, riding to the next town on different busses. In the third grade we met another girl. I don’t remember just how it happened, but very quickly we became a “threesome“–a buddy-ship that only grew stronger as the years went by.
We spent overnighters in each others’ homes. We giggled a lot and now and then shared a cry. When I finally got rid of my pigtails, I let them put my hair up in pin curls, since I had no talent whatsoever in that direction. When we were old enough, we sometimes double dated.
We graduated from high school. One became a nurse, one became a beautician and the other one, me, got a job and waited to see what would happen. We each married and began families. And went very separate ways. But whenever we were together, no matter how much time had gone by ,almost nothing had changed. We talked, laughed and shared just as we had always done.
. We lost the third member of our trio a few years ago. Oh, how we miss her.
The two of us are grandmothers several times over. She is a city woman. I never left the country. At least for any length of time.
But–when we get together , just as it has always been, very little has changed other than well, maybe the color of our hair. We can talk as comfortably as we ever did. Maybe a bit more so, since time and experience has broken down any self-conscious barriers. We say what we think about most anything, without concern that the other one will take offense. We share our worries and our joys and yes, there are still secrets we keep just between us. And we laugh a lot.
Sometimes the time between visits either by phone or in person gets a bit lengthy. More so than it should. We have promised each other to remedy that.
Our lives are very different these days, it is true, just as they have always been. But our roots are deeply set in the same corner of the world. We share memories of the same people; neighbors, teachers, Sunday School teachers, relatives and school mates. We have both experienced deep love and heavy grief. And we can still visit and share; weep and laugh together just as we always have.
We are blessed. We are, after all, old friends.
July 12, 2019
My sister appeared at my door the other evening and handed me a quart of strawberries. Oh, boy, they looked good! It was nearly supper time. How long would it take me to — –? Not long.
I hunted up my mother’s recipe for biscuits. Yes, I think shortcake should be made with real biscuits. In a very few minutes, I stirred up half of the recipe, dropped gobs of dough into a pie pan and popped them into the oven. While they baked I “looked over”, as my folks used to say, half of the berries. And, since I never quite grew up, I ate a few, fresh from the stem. They were washed, chopped and sugared by the time the biscuits came out of the oven.
Although my husband could make an entire meal on dessert, I need a bit of foundation for my sugar. So, after eating a sandwich, I filled a bowl with the best treat available this time of year; home made fresh strawberry shortcake. Oh, yes! I scraped the dish down to the last red drop.
How very different this was from the way it used to be. When I was a kid, we waited and watched every year for the wild strawberries to ripen. Most everyone I knew spent hours picking buckets full, eating a few of course, right from the stems. And once the pails were filled and the weary pickers were home, the oh-so-tiny berries still had to be “looked over”; the hulls removed, before any shortcake or jam could be made. The shortcake our mother made was beyond delicious. And every bite was earned the hard way. I took it all so much for granted.
By the time I had a home of my own, wild berries weren’t as readily available. My husband let me know that he wasn’t overly fond of those tiny little things anyway, which, in his opinion were filled with more seeds than juice. He loved strawberry shortcake as much as I do, though, so it became our habit to buy tame berries from local vendors. The biscuits, however, I continued to put together from scratch. Some things just need to be done the old fashioned way.
All of this and more rattled through my head the other evening as I enjoyed that very tasty, if I do say so myself, strawberry shortcake. It had lived up to its name in more ways than one, since I had put it together in true “short order.”
I’ll follow through and make this column short. I have a few more strawberries to look over.
There has been more rain than sun recently and that is the sort of weather that sends me looking for a good book to read. I have more than a few to choose from. I’ve collected books most of my adult life. However, I can’t claim to have read them all. Not by a long shot.
Since I have never had any real sense of order, the book titles on the shelves next to my favorite chair are random and unrelated. For more years than I can remember I belonged to a book club. Rarely a mon…
June 7, 2019
Well, as the saying goes, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. It isn’t easy for an ol’ gal to learn them, either. However, I am trying.
I received my introduction to what would become the cyber world when my husband gave me a table top word processor for Christmas; more years ago than I want to admit. And very quickly, I was truly in hog heaven. I could write to my heart’s content and lo’ and behold – if I made a mistake, it was easily corrected.
But! A computer? Me? No! I was adamant. I had no intention of getting involved in that mess. Then one day a cousin arrived with his old rebuilt computer loaded with family history. He was giving it to me.
It was a while before I ventured into the internet. However, I spent hours on the huge machine, writing, learning and oh, yeah, playing games. Whether I wanted to admit it or not, I was hooked. For longer than seems possible now, I have enjoyed the ability to communicate with others through e-mail and social media. I enjoy writing these columns and storing them in this little black device, where they are readily accessible at the click of a button. I take a lot for granted.
The time has come to update, whether I want to or not. This faithful old gal is on her last legs — or what ever it is that computers stand on.
I contacted a young and patient neighbor and told her I was having problems. She checked things out, shook her head and asked how long I had been using this device. Ummmm. I had to think about it. Probably ten years.
Long story short, I have a new laptop computer sitting on my desk. Slowly, one day at a time, with the help of that patient woman, I am learning the new bells and whistles. Or rather, the clicks and beeps.
Many things that I have become accustomed to simply aren’t available anymore. After all, ten years in the cyber world is a life time. Or more. The things which my grandkids take easily for granted just make my head spin.
But, I’m getting there. Slowly but surely. I may not be young, but I do not want to be left behind.
A dear friend stopped by the other day for a visit and for a few minutes, we marveled at the changes that have occurred in our life time. As intimidating and yes, frightening as it can be at times for us, we are in awe.
And, we laughed as we wondered, what changes are out there waiting for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.
Well, it is an interesting thought, but I’m glad I won’t have to worry about it This new computer is giving this ol’ gal all the new tricks she needs to learn for now.
I posted it on social media the other day, for no reason other than a different way to say “good morning”. I had enjoyed an old favorite, salt rising bread toast, with my coffee. And, as I have known for several years, it doesn’t taste quite the way I remember it .
“Salt rising toast just ain’t what it used to be!” I typed and hit the button.
Maybe I had better go back a bit. My Grandpa Morley loved salt rising bread. I think Grandma liked it, too, but for him, it was an essential part of his diet. They traveled to Genesee in their green 49 Ford pickup every week or so, and always shopped at Chapman’s for groceries. Now and then I was lucky enough to ride along with them. Of course, near the top of their list, along with coffee (ground on site) and real honest-to-goodness butter was salt rising bread. And it was quite different than it is these days. The aroma (some would give it another name) was very apparent to say the least. I loved it.
Breakfast toast? Salt rising bread. Smeared heavily with butter and jelly or jam.
Bread and milk before bed? Salt rising bread. And my sisters reminded me that it tasted even better with some chunks of sharp cheddar cheese. Milk toast? Salt rising bread; toasted dark over the flame in the wood burning stove and thickly buttered. The memory still makes my mouth water.
However, several years ago, things changed. Somebody somewhere decided that since the bread tastes as it does (and smells as it does) due to fermentation, it wasn’t entirely safe for the general public. I don’t know exactly what changes were made. In any case, it may be technically healthier, but the flavor is definitely altered and not, in my opinion and that of many others, for the better. While the present day version still has a distinct aroma, it is no where near as , well–distinct. In fact, one of those who commented said it well: “It doesn’t stink anymore!”
A cousin of ours used to join our parents now and then for an evening of visiting, laughter, tea and, oh, yes, salt rising toast. She called it “stinky bread”. What did they put on it? I’m not sure. It didn’t matter. No fancier meal would have given them any more joy.
One person replied to my post by saying she preferred it with peanut butter. I confess, I never tried that. However blackberry jam, “lots of it”, currant jelly (my personal favorite) grape jelly and crabapple jelly are favorite toppers. And there was another I had never heard of: lots of butter with a dash of table salt!
There were those who had memories of their mother or grandmother making salt rising bread. I tried that a couple of times. It is complicated, time consuming and the results for me were more than a little questionable. I have no desire to attempt that again.
I don’t buy salt rising bread often these days. It isn’t as loaded with preservatives as most commercial breads are. Consequently, it molds quickly. I usually tuck a few slices into sandwich bags and freeze them. However, it tastes best, as most any thing does, fresh out of the wrapper soon after purchase. I think it stinks a little better that way, too.
So, I will enjoy a slice or two of fresh salt rising bread now and then, darkly toasted and slathered with a heavy spread of butter topped off with a layer of currant jelly. I’ll enjoy it with my coffee and remember my grandpa. I know that he would be happy that, stinky or not, his family still enjoys one of his favorite treats.
April 19, 2019
It is nearly gone. There is just a tiny blob of snow tucked into the pocket in the hillside back of my house. Once it has entirely disappeared, I will know for sure that winter has given up for good.
Oh, more than likely we will get another flurry or two. And the temperatures will drop below freezing overnight. But the morning sun will take care of that in short order.
I came into the house a couple of days ago and, just before I opened the door, I realized I was hearing an unfamiliar sound. Hmmm! What was that? Oh my! Peepers! As far as I am concerned, there is no more welcome music than that of peepers singing over in the crick across the road. More often than not each spring, I anxiously wait to hear them. But they surprised me this year.
I’ve been watching as my daffodils, which are left entirely to their own devices by this careless gardener, have begun to bud. There is one very audacious bud which is taller and fuller and yes, more yellow than all the rest (I wanted to say it was “yellow-er” , but spell-check wasn’t in favor of that idea.) Any day now it will reward me with a gorgeous blossom. And the others won’t be far behind.
Some brave hyacinths are breaking out in a soft pink just behind the daffodils. Darn! I wish those tulips I planted years ago had survived.
It does seem at times as though Spring can take forever to show up in this neck of the woods. And the older I get the more I look forward to the longer sunnier days.
I chose to be married in April because it has always, since childhood, been my favorite month. The long winter loses its grip and however grudgingly, finally has to give way to spring.
Fifteen years ago I wrote about April in this column and my friend and mentor, Dr. Larry Biddison quoted it in the introduction he wrote for the published collection of columns. And since it says exactly how I feel about this time of year, I will take the liberty of quoting it one more time.
“I have always been partial to April. It marks the beginning – the awakening of this corner of the world after the winter’s long dormancy. I love to watch as, with a pace that seems excruciatingly slow at times, the hillsides turn from drab brown to a pinkish gray and finally to green. The early flowers bloom and although there may be some short-term snow flurries now and then, the serious snow banks disappear. April is the threshold to summer with all the warmth and freedom that I so long for throughout the dreary winter.”
Here I sit, in my computer/scribbling/communication corner, enjoying the blue sky and the sunshine bouncing from the few clouds visible from the window. The hill side across from my house is still drab, but here and there I can catch a glimpse of color. The robins are back and looking for lunch in my front yard. Although I haven’t caught sight of them, several times I have heard geese honking their way back north.
And now, of course, the days will pick up speed. The hours of light may last longer but they seem somehow to fly by.
I’m going to watch for that first daffodil to finally blossom and I’ll welcome it with a hallelujah. And if daffodils are in bloom, why! dandelions can’t be far behind.
April 12, 2019
Every now and then, when I tell someone that I live in Raymond, Pa, they give me a strange look. Really?, they say. Not much there, is there, except a cemetery, a couple of houses and a potato storage.
Well. Maybe not. But there are still signs along Route 49 designating that Raymond is a town, so -. My house is just outside the eastern sign so I sometimes tell folks I live in the suburbs.
I’ll admit there isn’t much visible here these days to catch the eye of anyone just passing through. But if not a town, we are a community, and darned proud of it.
I wrote about us over eighteen years ago and I am going to repeat much of that column here
Raymond was a larger village once upon a time. Begun around 1836 when the Daniel Raymond family settled here, other settlers soon followed. The community developed quickly. A cluster of homes sprouted around an intersection and small farms were cleared over the surrounding countryside.
Towns tend to grow according to priorities. A general store was erected on the northeast corner of the crossroads. Eventually it housed a post office. As soon as possible, a school was built and the building was also used for religious services until a church could be built nearby. A cemetery, the earliest graves dating in the 1840s, began on the North side of what is now Route 49.
By 1875 there was a cheese factory in Raymond as well as a roller bolt mill. When I asked , I was told that roller bolts were manufactured for use in textile mills.
The original store burned but was soon replaced .
In time, the C & PA railroad extended its track from Coudersport to the Newfield Junction, going, of course, directly through Raymond. A small depot was built near where the track crossed what is now known as Kidney Road. Folks could flag down the train and catch a ride, to send freight to the next town or send animals to the stock market. A note in a “Raymond Rustling” news column in the Potter Enterprise fussed a bit about the fact that, with the “cars” rumbling through town twice a day there seemed to be more “strange faces” than there had once been.
The years went by. The church congregation slowly dwindled and eventually the doors were closed for good. In the mid 1940s, the school was taken up and the pupils were bussed to Ulysses. Slowly, the tiny town seemed to melt away. The depot, cheese factory, store, school and church exist these days only in fading photographs. Many of the houses that existed a century ago are gone.
However, some older homes still stand and a few new houses have been built in Raymond over the last few years. Young families have taken up residence. Although it may be true that there isn’t a great deal to see while driving along Rt 49 between those Raymond signs, we are definitely a community. We are a community of neighbors, friends and family. We care about each other and we take care of each other.
I have called this place home for over 50 years. And, as I so often say, I am so very glad I live where I do.
April 4, 2019
I sent a message to my sisters and my big little brother recently, asking them which of the meals our mother cooked was their favorite.
Now, I didn’t expect it to be an easy question to answer. Mom was a wonderful cook. She had the knack for making a feast from a very little for a houseful. And as kids, we took it pretty much for granted. At least, I did.
Some of my earliest memories are of waking up to the aroma of frying bacon and pancakes cooking on the griddle. I would stumble down the stairs, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and go through the dining room to the kitchen. I could see Mom through the slight haze as she flipped the steaming pancakes; one, two, three. We liked them skinny and brown; covered with butter and accompanied by bacon or sausage or sometimes, fried eggs. At our house, maple syrup on a pancake was dessert; eaten last. And now and then, usually after a Sunday dinner of chicken and biscuits, we would be treated to left-over chicken gravy on our pancakes the next morning.
And so, I asked each one for their opinion.
The list wasn’t long, but it certainly was tantalizing: Beef pot roast with potatoes, carrots and onions topped the list. Chicken and biscuits, with that wonderful gravy. “Boiled dinner”, which consists of ham, cooked with potatoes, cabbage, rutabaga, (we called them turnips) carrots and sometimes, onion was on the list. All accompanied, of course, by either a lettuce or cabbage salad.
Youngest sis listed all of the above and finished with apple pie. Oh my, Mom’s apple pie. Or cherry. Or pumpkin. Or in the late summer, my favorite, blackberry. Now and then dessert was “Aunt Hazel’s Chocolate Cake”. To this day, I have never tasted a chocolate cake that can begin to hold a candle to it.
Big little brother said he always liked Mom’s potato soup with dumplings. I think we all did.
If by chance there were any leftovers after these meals, they tasted even better the next day.
Somehow our mother made it look so easy. And I took it all so much for granted. It was what our Mom did, after all.
On more Sundays than not, aunts and uncles and cousins would come driving up the road. Maybe Mom knew they were coming. Maybe she didn‘t. It truly didn’t matter. All of us, especially Mom, were tickled silly to see them. We ’young-uns’ visited, giggled and listened, some of the time, while the grown-ups told stories about when they were kids. Seeing the incredulous looks on our faces, they would laugh and assure us that it really wasn’t so long ago. Just wait, they said. You kids will be grown ups, too, one of these days. On those long-ago Sundays, such a thing was beyond our imaginations.
I have never come close to being the cook our mother was. Each one of my sisters as well as our big little brother, are all much better at it than I. The best I can do is make an Aunt Hazel chocolate cake now and then. But we get together once in a while and take a stab at it, as folks used to say. And chicken n’ biscuits is still my favorite, whether we have pancakes the next morning or not.
Of course, we realize now that as truly delicious as those long ago meals were, the flavor, the spice and the true sweetening was the company; the laughter, the story telling and the love that is only found when we are surrounded by family. And it still is.
Oh yes! Memories are made of this.
My niece came across an envelope that she hadn’t seen in a while the other day. It was filled with a collection of negatives and slides. Remember those? Those plastic-y things that were the back-up to snapshots? The colors were reversed and details were hard to determine, but if they were sent to a developer in due time copies of the original pictures would appear in the mail. How about that!
Oh, how things have changed. With the new cameras and a cell phone in everybody’s pocket, negatives aren’t necessary any more. However, those old ones do come in handy now and then. My niece posted several of the pictures from those she found on social media recently. I have been enjoying them for days.
She isn’t entirely sure where she got them. Some came from her grandmother, others from me and probably others from various relatives. I was amazed when I realized that the original photos were taken over a period of more than eight decades. What a collection!
There are black and white snapshots of my parents, along with Dad’s sisters and brother, young and full of foolishness. I’ve seen those photos before, many times. They are funny and fun, but also poignant, because looking at them now, we know that World War II was waiting not far back in the wings.
Someone took pictures of my young sisters and friends having a wonderful time staging what appears to be a pretend wedding in the back yard of our home. Their costumes were hilarious.
And, oh, my goodness, there are snapshots of the bridal shower that Lucille Barnett held for me and yes, there are a few of my wedding! Oh, we were so young.
Our oldest son, possibly a year old at the time, stands gazing at the camera in a black and white photo; his grandmother’s laundry flapping from the line just behind him.
And someone took time to climb up on to the hillside just east of town and take some lovely color shots of the north end of Gold. There is the old school building, the church and both stores that stood on opposite sides of the intersection. We can date these as taken around forty years ago because the Gold Store had not yet been remodeled.
So far, none of us can figure out what was going on at the church, but there are two wonderful color photos of an adult and a children’s choir, in full choir robe regalia. There are so many familiar faces there; several of whom are no longer with us. And those in the kid’s choir? Some of them, as hard as it is for me to believe it, are now grandparents. Whew!
And a double exposure, which would usually have been thrown away is among the mix. Almost like a painting in half a dozen shades of gray, my grandmother is visible twice in the hazy photo as is her daughter, Marg. They are surrounded by recognizable shadows of other family members and friends; almost as though they were gazing through the blur of time.
Yes, photography has changed greatly in my lifetime. All we need these days is a well-charged phone. As the old song says, “Thanks for the memories.”
March 15, 2019
Oh, the weather outside was frightful — so the old song goes. It was cold and windy and – did I mention, cold? I had no intention of stepping even one foot outdoors. So, I decided to go into the “middle room” where all sorts of stuff abides, waiting for me to sort through, throw out and give away.
I pulled out a plastic tote filled with pictures. And I made some progress. I pitched some into a wastebasket. I tucked a few others into an envelope to give to a relative and of course, I dropped a few onto my desk, intending to keep them. No matter what.
And, as I dug around some more, there was another scrapbook. One that I hadn’t seen in quite a while. It had no business being in that tote with all those photos. But I never have been any good at organizing things. Pictures forgotten, I took the scrapbook to “my corner” where I could spend some time reading it.
I know. I talked about my scrapbooks just a few weeks ago. But they are all different.
This one is literally falling apart. Not that it is terribly old. I guess it has just been handled a lot, and apparently quite carelessly over the years. I am probably the one at fault for that.
Page after page is filled with obituaries. I remembered, as I leafed through it, that this book was one that convinced me to mix the stories that I pasted in my own scrapbooks, in order that they would not be overly depressing to any future reader.
My favorites, always, are the local community columns. And one in particular caught my eye. “Raymond Rustlings”. (no date given) : Here are a few samples from it:
Miss Nettie Carriel of Sunderlinville visited friends here last week (I expect she packed a satchel and spent a night or two.)
W. B. Perkins has about 15 teams hauling lumber down Dwight Creek to Coudersport. (Wow! 15 teams?)
Miss Emma Ellison, the Free Methodist Minister is holding revival meetings.
In a separate article:
“The Hon. D. L. Raymond and his neighbor and friend Dell Williams were down from Gold Tuesday. They were both pleasant visitors at the Enterprise office.”
And, a headline: “Raymond Scribe Announces Birth” “Mr. and Mrs. Chester Morley, formerly of this place, are happy over the birth of a daughter at Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville.” How about that. I made the news before I had a name!
Another Raymond News column:
M. F. Kidney and wife, accompanied by their daughter and husband autoed to Hudson Falls to visit friends from Monday until Sunday.
Mrs. Lucy Woodcock and son Clarence were up from Bradford on Wednesday evening at the home of Kenneth Conable.
Headline: “Boys Win Places State Farm Show!”
Several local schools placed. For the Lewisville Vocational School, (later known as Ulysses High School) James Morley placed fifth for a bronze medal in bee keeping. Paul Buck took a bronze medal in potato production, as did Almon Freeman. Edward Kosa placed fifth.
The article concludes: “Considering the number of boys in these contests the Potter County boys did well, which demonstrates that they are doing good project work in the agricultural courses.”
I have no idea what will happen to these old scrapbooks in the future. It really doesn’t matter. The pleasure they have given me over the years make the time put into them by the ones who compiled them worth every single minute.
March 1, 2019
So, what does one do on a cold snowy day in the heart of winter? There was nothing urgent on my agenda. Retirement took the schedule out of my life years ago. It was the middle of the week with nothing pressing from either end.
School had been let out early due to the weather. The kids were free for an entire afternoon. Remember how that felt?
I have no idea what 2019 kids might do. But I do remember what I did when I was blessed with an extra freebie day. As quickly as possible once I was home, I grabbed two or three spy apples from the basket in the cellar-way and found a book. The chair in the living room fit me perfectly. I could throw my legs over one arm, rest my head on the other, place the apples within easy reach and I was all set.
It has been a long while since I did anything like that, of course. So, I decided it might be fun to take a trip back in time. I knew flipping my legs over a chair arm was out of the question. Nor were there any apples available for a snack. Oreos would have to do. The next thing was to decide what to read.
My old favorites, the same ones that I cuddled up with all those years ago still wait for me, on a corner bookcase in the spare bedroom. The first book I could call mine, Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” is fragile with age but I cherish it. Near it, rest copies of “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys”. There are a good many others. Just looking at those old books, their covers frayed and worn, reminded me of the joy they brought to me when I was a kid. I read each one of them over and over and I knew the characters who occupied them intimately. Those books opened doors for me that have never closed, since one book, no matter the subject or the time of its publication, leads to another.
However, these days I have caught up to some degree with the cyber world and I do most of my reading on my Kindle. My choice of style and subjects has changed a good deal. For many years, I was fascinated by historical novels. Recently, I have become more interested in true accounts of historical people and their influence on world events. I have enjoyed reading about George Washington and his wife Martha; the life of Abraham Lincoln; the Roosevelts, and just recently, a couple of fascinating books about Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine. The fiction I enjoy is usually about modern day people attempting to cope with today’s lifestyles and issues.
So, I left those old books on the shelf. I put my feet up on a hassock and threw a blanket over my feet. I chose a book from the growing list I have collected in my reader and time quickly slipped away. A good deal has changed in this old world during my lifetime. However, many things have not. There really is no better way to spend a cold mid-winter day than between the pages of a good book.
February 15. 2019
“How did they do it?” my friend asked. The temperature reading in this neck of the woods was somewhere between 16 and 20 degrees below 0 that morning, depending on what side of the hill one was on. But we both sat comfortably at our computers in our warm homes as we chatted on line.
“How did those early settlers do it?” she said again.
I have read several accounts. I know that the people who arrived here over 180 years ago came prepared. They knew to some degree what they were in for. Their cabins were built small but sturdy, with a fireplace that provided light, heat and a place to cook their meals.
They were prepared with the warmest clothing available to them.
Still, I can not imagine.
Alone in what was then a true wilderness, they could only depend on each other and their faith. And they did it. I am in awe.
I remember hearing about my great-great grandmother Susannah who’s family was among the early settlers. She was known for knitting constantly, even when she was walking over the hill to visit her sister. With a ball of yarn in her pocket and needles clicking in her hands, she created mittens, hats and huge scarves as she hiked over the hill on summer days. Her family would thank her for it when the winter became harsh.
But, where did she get the yarn? She couldn’t just run over to the nearest Wal-mart and pick up a few skeins. I don’t know if the sheep who provided the wool were hers or not, but I have been told that she was the one who cleaned and spun the wool into that yarn that was in her pocket.
And another story: One night when Susannah was alone with four young children after her husband was drafted into the Northern army, she had absolutely nothing to give them for supper and had to send them to bed hungry. Sometime during the night a neighbor knocked at her door and when she opened it, he handed her a bag of ground corn and went on his way. Susannah went to work and soon woke her children up to a middle-of-the-night meal of corn-meal mush.
I’m sure there were many such stories in many other homes.
No, I have no idea how they did it. I can read the accounts; I heard the family stories when I was young. But my imagination will only go so far. I have never gone to bed hungry. I have never depended on a fireplace to keep me warm. And, goodness knows, I have never had to spin my own yarn.
As I so often say, as much as I enjoy hearing and reading about our local and family history, I have no desire at all to go back to that time. However, my admiration for them; particularly the women who followed their adventurous men into the wilderness, knows no bounds.
I sat here that day and watched the TV meteorologists show just what was happening out there, warning us all to stay inside; that only a few moments in that frigid temperature could cause serious frost bite. My friend and I chatted, warm and cozy in our homes, and wondered about those early settlers.
How did they do that? I can’t imagine.
But, Oh, my! I’m so very glad they did!
February 7, 2019
This a milestone year for me. I came into the world on a bitter cold winter night, so I was often told. Maybe that is why these frigid days have a way of “setting me to thinking”, as folks used to say. There isn’t much else to do.
I thought, when I was a kid, that I would at some wonderful time reach a point when I would feel mature and that I would better understand the world. I thought that I would be as wise as the “grown-ups” around me seemed to be. Well, it hasn‘t happened. My hair has been white for a while and a while. At one time it embarrassed me a bit that the store clerk took one look at me and automatically gave me senior citizen rates at check out. Not any more. I’m happy to take the discount. My glasses have three lenses and I have to resort to dime store specs now and then. I don’t understand most of the jokes on TV these days -or most anywhere else, for that matter. Even though I have learned to use and thoroughly enjoy my computer, I have a tough time keeping up with the language of this 21st century cyber world. Doggone! I thought I would have life all figured out by now. However, it seems that I have more questions and fewer answers than ever.
For instance, here are some I asked rather facetiously in an article I wrote over twenty years ago for another publication:
I still have no idea which came first; the chicken or the egg. And no one ever seems to know for sure why that fool chicken crossed the road.
What is this world coming to and where, oh, where in the world are we going?
How come babies are so wonderful and puppies are so cute?
There are many other questions that are much more serious, of course. The only thing I’m certain of is that I don’t have the answers. I don’t know that anyone does. In any case, I’ll leave that up to those who are, I hope, much wiser than I am..
However, I have come to a few conclusions over time,
Just for starters:
Babies are wonderful and it doesn’t matter why. To become entirely convinced of this, one must first become a parent and then, be blessed by the arrival of grandchildren.
Our families are our greatest earthly blessing.
Friends are the second greatest blessing.
Cute puppies often grow up to be ugly dogs.
And I don’t give a hoot in Harry’s haversack why that chicken crossed the road
Yes! It does take a while to figure some things out. I’m still working on it.
January 18, 2019
During a visit from some nieces of mine recently, the conversation turned to our recollections of the house in Gold that belonged, in our memory, to dear relatives. It was the first house built in Gold, according to family records, built sometime before 1850.
We remembered the artesian well that was just down a few steps into a small room to the right of the kitchen door. The water was clear and icy cold and truly delicious.
At sometime a full bathroom had been added to the house, just off the dining room. And from there, a door that was rarely opened led to the room that always fascinated me. Never heated, it provided storage for various garden produce during the summer. However, my favorite place was the row of cupboards along the wall just to the left of the door. That was where the treasures were stored; such as picture albums, old family Bibles and oh yes! Scrapbooks.
We reminisced for a while longer the other day; each of us enjoying the fact that we share similar and happy memories.
And now, with the nudging of that conversation, I’m back to my favorite winter pastime. The scrapbook that had once belonged to my great-grandfather’s sister and had been stored for decades in that old cupboard became mine when the house was cleared out for sale. In time, I transferred the fading pages to a three-ring notebook. I dug it out a couple of days ago and lost most of the afternoon as I turned the pages.
Although obituaries tended to dominate the news, each community had a local correspondent who sent a weekly column to the paper. Everyday activity became fodder for the news. Such as:
Gold News: dated 1918
Miss May Grover has been suffering the past week with tonsillitis.
Several from this place were shopping in Ulysses on Saturday.
Guy Lambert and Mack Morley drove to Coudersport Saturday on business.
Edwin Morley visited at Mr.and Mrs. Seth Morley’s last Sunday.
Well, you get the picture. And this custom continued for a good many years; teaching us all to scramble to either make sure the item written about us was reasonably accurate or kept out of the paper entirely.
Marriage licenses were published, as well as elaborate accounts of the weddings and landmark anniversaries.
And one young “man” had his picture published with his five (count ‘em) five grandmothers. In the photo, he is happily sitting on the lap of the eldest one, appearing to be somewhere around a year old. The write-up: “A distinguished young gentleman of Philadelphia has five living grandmothers and just think of all the cookies he has coming to him when he gets a little older!” All five of his grandmothers lived in Potter County, by the way.
One of my favorite clippings is a letter written by William J. Grover who at one time was our Potter County Treasurer. According to the article saved alongside the published letter, he was born in 1847 and ran away from school to enlist in the Civil War on March 30th, 1864. He was sixteen years old.
The letter was written in 1933 when Grover was 86, to an organization titled Daughters of Union Veterans. In it he stated that he was in 15 hard battles as well as “plenty of skirmish fights”.
In a following paragraph, he wrote “I don’t believe in war and never have since the Civil War. —— I hope that I may live (the Lord willing) to see all implements of war turned into plow shares and pruning hooks”.
And the scrapbook goes on ; full of sad stories, happy stories, funny stories and historical facts, all communicated from people who once lived here.
They may be old fashioned; and in many ways seem entirely out of place in today’s world. But I expect I’ll continue to hunt out one or two of the scrapbooks in my collection on a cold winter day now and then and take a quick trip to another time in this special place where I live.
January 11, 2019
The readers of this column often ask me how I come up with something to write about every week. Well, as most of them are aware, I often repeat myself. At least, I repeat a basic idea. And I am about to do it again.
“You have so many stories”, people say. “I don’t have any stories worth telling.” It is true, I grew up in a family of story tellers. Anytime there was a gathering of four or five or more, sooner or later, the stories would begin to fly. Most of them had been told so often that we could almost repeat them word for word, but that was part of the fun. Funny stories, scary stories, family history stories; they were fascinating and often, downright hilarious. And it never ceased to amaze me that when I was certain that I had heard them all, every now and then a brand new one would pop up.
Everyone has a story. And no matter how simple they may be or how mundane they may seem, they are worth the telling.
Not long ago, my sister and I were discussing the fact that there are people we know who, for reasons unclear to us, are very unaware of their family history. And as time has passed, the ones who could have related the stories to them are no longer here. So the history; the background; the special yarns that reveal personalities and family quirks and opinions are forever lost
However, I recently was told about a friend’s aunt who passed away. She had come to America from her native England after falling in love with and marrying an American soldier during World War 2. Sadly, she was widowed relatively young and raised their large family alone. At her death, they discovered that their mother had left them a written record of her life. She told them of her childhood in England; her love for that American soldier and her life here in the United States. What an amazing treasure!
I have been given the opportunity now and then to interview women who candidly related their own private history. The stories of their struggles in marriages that were not always perfect and their efforts to provide for themselves as well as their families were as fascinating as any novel I have ever read.
In a column a while ago, I wrote one of my favorite stories of the young girl, the daughter of a German mother and an American soldier. She was thirteen before she finally came to this country. One of her sharpest memories is the night of her arrival in the United States. Darkness had fallen when the airliner in which she was a passenger approached New York City and the pilot circled the Statue of Liberty before finally landing at the airport. “It was beautiful,” she recalls “all lit up with bright lights”.
Well, maybe you don’t have a story such as that to tell. Neither do I. But all of us have families. All of us have grown up in communities, each of which had its own personality. We have had various experiences during our school days. We have lost loved ones, we have had heartaches; we have laughed until we gasped for breath and we have made friends in unexpected ways and places. Our children have brought us to tears with love and pride at times and now and then caused us to shed bitter tears.
Life is never simply the dates on our tombstones. It is always made up of the spaces in between.
Tell your stories, my friends. Repeat them more than once. Write them down. Make your family laugh and cry. Help them to understand why you are who you are. After all, one or two of them might, like me, need a story to write about now and again.
January 4, 2019
It is an experience, these days, to listen to my grown-up grandkids discuss the way they communicate with each other. Little hand-held thing-a-ma-jigs blink and talk and take pictures and — Well, you know how it is. I can’t help but wonder if they have any idea how different their world is compared to that of my generation when we were young; or for that matter, for that of their parents.
It appeared, this past Christmas morning, that my grandson was taking pictures but I couldn’t see what he was holding in his hand. When I asked, he held out a camera that was smaller than most salt shakers. Then he tried to show me just a few of its capabilities. Oh, my! Photos and videos; along with the ability to combine them in any way that would work to produce a narrative. Whew!
My first camera was a small Brownie that I received for Christmas when I was about twelve. It took decent black and white photos and was a step up from the box camera that my grandmother had used for years. When our first son was a baby my Christmas gift from my husband was a camera that not only took color photos, it had a flash attachment. Later that year, I was thrilled when we invested in our first movie camera. These days, I have a small digital camera that does everything I ask it to, including transferring photos to my computer. That is enough for me.
I don’t remember what year it was, but I clearly recall our excitement when my husband and I invested in our first color TV. Our boys weren’t the only ones who were fascinated. And a generation before that, I remember the first TV my grandparents purchased. The picture, black and white and blurred all over, left a good deal to be desired. But at least we could put a face on those voices that had talked to us from our radios for years.
As I so often do, I wondered what my great-grandmother would think about all this. Having been born five years after the end of the Civil War, she saw tremendous changes during her lifetime; both in modes of travel and methods of communication. I’m sure she would be fascinated by today’s capabilities. I never once knew her to complain about any new-fangled thing.
She loved radio comedy shows and when they became available via television, she enjoyed them even more. One of her favorite programs was I Love Lucy.
As years have gone by, I have happily learned to use a quite a bit of modern technology. I enjoy the Internet and the capability of instant communication. I would be very upset if my TV with its clear-as-crystal color picture demanded that I get out of my chair to change the channel.
I have recently (I put it off as long as I could) acquired a cell phone, although I‘m not yet very well acquainted with it.. I’m working on that.
My grandkids are whizzing around me in electronic circles. I doubt I’ll ever learn to entirely understand their modern day language. But, like my great-grandmother, I’m fascinated by what they can do; both with those little thing-a-ma-jigs they hold in their hands and with today’s huge flat-screened televisions.
As I watched and listened to them the other day, I could only wonder: What in the world, (or out of it) is waiting for them just around the corner? What will amaze them, should they find themselves sitting some future Christmas morning watching as their grandkids play with their new toys? Wouldn’t that be something to see!
December 21, 2018
One of my very favorite memories of Christmas when I was a kid is hustling down the stairs on Christmas morning. The first thing we saw, when the stair door opened was the tree that Dad had brought in from the nearby woods a day or two earlier. It sat in front of the living room window glittering with icicles and Mom’s cherished ornaments. And beside it or under it, were the presents that Santa had left– waiting for us, my sisters and I and little brother, to scatter into the room and sort out our treasures.
I won’t pretend that I remember every detail of each Christmas morning, nor do I remember every gift. There are some stand-outs, however. One year there was a small table with two matching chairs; painted white with red trim. Another Christmas I found a doll, dressed in a blue dress and bonnet. I pushed her around in my doll carriage for most of the following summer,
Three sleds stood waiting for my two younger sisters and I one Christmas morning, No one pulled the wool over little sister Janie’s eyes, however. She immediately recognized the sled with her name on it as one that had been mine as a baby even though it had been thoroughly sanded, newly varnished and trimmed with new paint. Janie took one look at it and announced, “Well! It ain’t a new one, I can tell you that!” But it didn’t take long for all of us to realize that when it came to riding down hill, that old sled was by far, the slickest and the quickest.
I began to grow up, I think, the first Christmas after I graduated from high school. My best friend and I went to Elmira that fall; she attended beauty school and I found a job in the tea room of a large department store. The best perk of the job was a small discount on anything I purchased at the store. And that year, I came home with presents for every member of my family. While I watched my parents and sisters and brother open the gifts I had bought for them, I began to realize for the first time what Christmas is all about. Giving is so much more fun than getting!
Soon, I had a family of my own and I enjoyed Christmas giving more every year. My husband’s job as a bulk milk hauler meant that he rarely had Christmas day off, so we woke the boys up before daylight, called them to where the tree was glistening by the window and watched as they jumped and laughed and threw wrapping paper every which way. And, our best gift, of course, was the joyful grins on their faces.
As time goes by we all realize, I expect, that the best Christmas gifts are not always found under a glittering Christmas tree nor in a package wrapped with a pretty bow. I cherish a phone call from my grown-up granddaughter: “Hey! Grandma! Merry Christmas! How are you doin’?”
:The lunch with a friend where we visit more than we eat.
:And the knock on my door where find a neighbor standing there with a plateful of cookies and a big smile saying “Here you go! Enjoy!”
Recently, I was walking by my window looking out at the three or four inches of snow that had fallen over night. I knew that I should clear my sidewalk but decided to have another cup of coffee first. Suddenly a big black pickup pulled into the driveway. The doors opened and my niece and nephew stepped out. Each one grabbed a shovel and in almost less time than it takes to tell it, my steps and sidewalk were cleared, the snow was brushed from my car and there was a path cleared all around it. A rush to the door– “We were going by and just thought we would get this done for you! We’ve got to get going!” a quick hug and off they went. My mouth was still open. I think I managed to say thank you before they disappeared.
I don’t need many things these days.
But I do cherish family and friends and – the best gift of all – their love. In those things, I am abundantly blessed.
Merry Christmas, my friends. May your day be merry and bright and filled to the brim with the gift of love..