Tag Archives: Reminiscing

A Christmas Memory #3….The Tree

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I’ve been told, by my older siblings that when they were little, they would head to bed on Christmas Eve with a bare tree standing on a bare platform in the living room awaiting Santa’s touch. As they slept, he not only delivered the presents but also put all the lights and ornaments on the tree and set up the houses and trains below so that when they emerged groggy eyed on Christmas morning they would get the full effect. I can see where this would be an exciting and magical for a child to start their Christmas Day, however…

I’ve (also) been told, by my mom and dad that when my sibling were little there were many Christmas Eve’s when they never actually made it bed! My dad usually tackled the platform and any gifts that needed to be assembled while mom did the tree. If they were lucky, neighbors or family would stop by to help but most times they were busy at home with the same task. From what I’ve heard, there was a fair amount of treats and “good cheer” flowing as well. I suppose they did need something to keep them motivated.

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By the time I came along (12 years after my oldest sister) my parents had pretty much burned themselves out on that whole “putting the tree up on Christmas Eve” nonsense and, since my birthday was just a few days before Christmas, we began a new tradition of having the tree up in time for that. I always felt like the tree was part of my birthday celebration. It is still my favorite part of the holiday season.

When I was around 12 or 13, it became my job to go with my dad to pick out our tree. I think my mom had run out of patience years earlier and was eager to step aside. Usually we started at the closest lot, sized up a dozen or so newly cut trees, testing branch strength and freshness, making sure the trunk was straight and not too wide for the stand. Dad would haggle a bit with the tree guy and then decide none of the trees at that lot was good enough. We then performed the same routine at  a half a dozen other tree lots, testing and haggling. Inevitably, we’d end up back at the very first lot with the very first tree we had sized up back at the beginning!

This weekend, D-man and I ventured out to the tree farm where our son has been working for the last few holiday seasons, to pick out our tree. We don’t do artificial trees. Never. Nor do my sisters. That’s just the way it is. We have two small artificial trees elsewhere in the house but the main tree has to be real. To me, each Christmas tree is unique and has its own personality. I don’t want it to be perfect and I certainly don’t want it to be just the same as last year’s. Where’s the fun in that.

I know that artificial trees have all kinds of advantages. Believe me, I think about that when I’m still discovering pine needles in February. Certainly, they’re more convenient and the branches are all strong and even. The symmetry certainly appeals to my perfectionist tendency but the fact is that nothing brings back Christmas memories for me faster than the smell of a live tree. All I need to do is open my bedroom door each morning and let that scent wash over me. Suddenly I’m a kid again back at that Christmas tree lot, rating trees with my dad, strapping it to the roof of our Ford with much more rope than was probably necessary, and singing Christmas caroles all the way home at the top of my lungs. In short, Christmas is once again filled with magic.

 

A Christmas Memory #2….Church Bazaars

My mom's Bazaar bought snow couple

My mom’s Bazaar bought snow couple

 

Growing up we never belonged to any particular church or religion but most Easters and Christmas Eves we did attended services at the Baptist Church down the street. I suspect we went there just because it was the closest. I also attended Vacation Bible School there during the summer. However, there was one thing we couldn’t get from the Baptists. If we wanted nifty home made holiday items at dirt cheap prices, we had to walk a few more blocks to the Catholic Church.

These bazaars (defined in the Free Online Dictionary as:  A fair or sale at which miscellaneous articles are sold, often for charitable purposes.) would happen in early December and I looked forward to them every year, celebrating it as the official start of the holiday season. The bazaar was held in the gymnasium of the Catholic school attached to the church. There were rows and rows of long wooden tables piled high with bright colored items for sale. Mom would give me some cash and I would roam around, Christmas music playing overhead, and pick out small items to give her, my dad and my grandparents. She also gave me enough to purchase something for myself as well.

Pretty knit pot holders never meant to actually use!

Pretty knit pot holders never meant to actually use!

My grandmother received several knitted pot holders courtesy of the Church bazaar. Dad might get a wallet stitched together with leather strings and grandpa, a handmade pouch for his pipe tobacco. For my mom, I would buy decorative Christmas items or maybe an apron.

A Christmas trinket box purchased for my mother

For myself, I poured through the many hand sewed Barbie Doll clothes. The attention to detail always amazed me. How could someone make such perfect little coats and skirts in so many different patterns and styles!? They were the best made Barbie clothes I had, some handed down from my older sisters who had attended the Church Bazaar long before I was old enough to walk.

A few of the surviving doll clothes.

A few of the surviving doll clothes.

As you can see, several of these memory filled items still celebrate Christmas with us. Most started out as gifts to my mother then handed down to me. Even a few of the Barbie clothes have survived. I can’t help but wonder what those nice Catholic women who spent so many hours creating these item would think about that?

Okay, your turn. Have you ever been to or made items for a bazaar (church, school, or otherwise)? If you have, what kind of treasures did you bring home?

A Christmas Memory #1…Holiday Goodies

Last year in honor of my favorite season I embarked on a daily Christmas Postathon. It was a great way to maintain my holiday spirit but to be honest, the pace nearly did me in! So this year I’m going for a looser, more laid back version.  Periodically I will pull out a Christmas memory or favorite to share. Feel free to join the party! I would love to reminisce with all my friends.

Today’s topic is…

Favorite holiday treats

As we slouched around the remnants of our Thanksgiving dinner this year, the conversation turned to all the special treats that made our childhood holiday seasons so memorable. Goodies like Christmas cookies and egg nog jump to most everyone’s mind but each of us had our own personal treats, those things that brought back that rush of Christmas feelings from our childhood.

imageMy sister and I compared notes and decided that we always felt Christmas was upon us when the bowl of mixed nuts appeared. They occupied a special cut glass bowl my mom saved for such delicacies with silver nut crackers tucked in beside them. We knew we couldn’t eat them all at once because they were an extravagance and had to last till Christmas Day. Back then I preferred walnuts and loved cracking them open and then digging around with the little silver pick trying to get every last piece from the broken shell. Today I’d happily dig into the almonds, filberts and pecans as well.

imageMom also splurged on a big box of Whitman chocolates each season. The box she purchased was called the “sampler” because it contained an assortment of every sort of filled chocolates they made. My favorites were the caramels. In fact, they still are. After we were grown and out on our own, mom still gave my sisters and I a Whitman Sampler each Christmas. I usually had to stash it away somewhere safe or it would be empty in no time.

imageAnother special Christams treat I remember from my grandmother’s house were ribbon candies and chocolate filled straws. She was very fond of hard candies  and usually had some type around her house but those two were reserved just for the holidays. To be honest, I only sucked on them for a minute or two before I spit them out to try another flavor! I wonder if my grandmother ever noticed all those half eaten candies in her trash? She always offered me more so I guess she didn’t mind!

imageNow it’s your turn. What are the special treats you remember from your childhood Christmases? I’m sure the there are local and regional goodies that are unique to certain areas. So many confections, flavors and tastes but the feelings of joy and warm memories they bring are the same no matter where or when you grew up.

The Tale of the Red Dress and the Broken Glass

Recently, on Facebook one of those “get-to-know-you” lists was circulating. It had about 50 life events that you were just suppose to answer “yes” or “no” to, (been scuba diving, watched a baby being born, visited all 50 states, etc). One of the things on the list that I was able to answer “yes” to was “rode in an ambulance.” Usually, this would be a serious or sad event but my ambulance trip was more of a strange and embarrassing ride and, as it turned out, a really lousy way to meet men. Who knew, right? I hadn’t thought about that night for many years but it’s a pretty funny story so I thought I would share.

 

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To begin this story we must first time travel back to the year 1983. My friend Patti  I, two twenty-something singles females, were heading out for a night on the town. I was feeling pretty fancy in my favorite little red dress with matching red heels, my brown hair permed to within an inch of its life. Patti was sporting a silk blouse with shoulder pads and high waisted pants with pleats (1983, remember).

The club we went to had a DJ and a dance floor and catered to hip young singles like us. By ten o’clock it was pretty packed. We staked ourselves a spot at the bar and I had struck up a conversation with a really nice looking blond guy that I’ll call “Doug” (because I can’t really remember his name but I think he looked like a “Doug.”) I was drinking a lite beer and Doug had a scotch on the rocks in one of those really heavy bar glasses, the kind with the thick bottoms. Somehow, during our conversation, as he leaned over to shout something in my ear, (the music was very loud), the glass slid out of his hand, hit the tile floor bottom first, and shattered into a million pieces.

The infamous red dress on another occasion

The infamous red dress on another occasion

Everyone in the immediate area jumped back, stunned looking down at the mess on the floor. The tiny chunks of glass looked a bowl of diamonds spilled across the floor. It was really quite beautiful. Then we noticed that there was blood mixed with the diamonds. At first we checked Doug’s hands and arms but when I looked back down I realized that I was the wounded one. Apparently there was a cut on the inside of my right ankle just above the shoe line because every few seconds a little stream of blood would shoot out all over the floor and down the inside of my opposite calf. This was  both worrisome and macabre. I wasn’t in any pain but I obviously couldn’t stand there bleeding all over the dance floor.

The music was still blaring and most of the crowd was totally unaware that anything was awry. The area around me,however, was pandemonium. Patti came rushing over, a nurse in the crowd took charge and the bartender hopped from behind the bar and kind of pushed/carried me through the nearest door into the kitchen prep area. All the while, “Doug” was beside himself appologizing, hands waving around trying to figure out what he could do to help.

He followed our little group into the kitchen where the nurse quickly propped my foot up on the stainless steel counter putting pressure on the wound with a bar towel.  I lean heavily against Patti, balancing on one heel, trying to keep anyone from seeing up my skirt. The club manager appeared from somewhere, took stock of the situation and, against my protest, called for an ambulance. I suppose they were worried about a lawsuit.

The next thing I knew, two very efficient EMTs were strapping me onto a gurney, my ankle covered in gauze. Before they wheeled me out, Doug pushed a napkin and pen in my direction, asking me to please write down my phone number. “Okay,” I thought, “This would be a really interesting story to tell our kids someday” so I quickly jotted my number, pulled the sheet over my head and tried to make myself as invisible as possible while they took me out of the kitchen, across the dance floor, out the front door and up into the waiting ambulance. The EMTs and Patti hopped up beside me.

It was close to midnight by the time we got to the closest hospital. I was feeling pretty foolish as I sat waiting in the emergency room cot. Even though my left leg was covered with splatter blood, the cut on my right ankle which was no more than an eight of an inch had stopped bleeding before we left the club. The doctor that looked at it said that the glass had probably nicked an artery explaining the spurting effect and the amount of blood. (Ewww!) He poked around making sure there was no glass in the wound, cleaned it with some antibiotic cream then covered it with a tiny square of gauze.

The drama could have ended there except that as the doctor was signing the release papers, we realized that we couldn’t leave the hospital because Patti’s car was still at the club. Neither one of us was going to call our parents at that hour so the most sensible option was my sister Linda. She wasn’t crazy about coming out in the middle of the night to rescue us either and she was even more ticked when she saw the size of my band aid!

Epilogue….By the next morning my ankle was slightly bruised and tender to the touch but otherwise fine. My stockings and shoes were history but the red dress survived to party another night. And what about Doug, you might ask? He did call the next day but only to make sure I was okay and to apologize yet again. I guess he didn’t feel that our shared experience was enough of a basis for a relationship.

I don’t know if this story has a moral but I do know that my sister loves to bring it up at family gatherings every so often just to remind me that I owe her. 😊

Growing Pains…Part Two

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Yesterday, my baby girl turned 18. How did that happen? How did she go from being that little baby in the white bonnet discovering the beach for the first time, to a college bound young woman with a job and a drivers license?

I guess I must have blinked.

She did come into this world in a hurry, just 45 minutes from the beginning of labor to delivery. We like to joke that if we’d hit a few more red lights, she might have been born in the front seat of a Honda Civic! And as a toddler, she was the kind of kid you had to hold on to while you locked the front door or else she would be down the block and around the corner before you turned the key.

But then she slowed down. She became thoughtful. When she became old enough to realize that other people had feeling, she worried about hurting them or about them being sad. I remember when we played “Chutes and Ladders” or “Candyland” she would make me take extra turns so we finished at the same time. “There, mommy,” she’d say, “You win too.”

This empathy carried through  as she got older. For many years she avoided playing sports, choosing instead to cheer her brother through baseball and basketball games.  She couldn’t bring herself to be competitive enough. No matter who won, someone else had to lose.  In high school, however, when a friend convinced her to join the tennis team, she agreed because she said it was a very polite sport. At the end of each match, you shook hands with your opponent and said “Good game.” No anger, no hard feelings (on the surface at least!).

She loved playing, loved being part of the team and bonding with the other girls but she worried about letting them down when she didn’t play her best. Her coach told her that the only skill she lacked was confidence. She lacked that drive to win. I must say though, that she still had a pretty good record and she enjoyed playing which was the point.

As a mom, I worry about this need of her’s to make everyone happy. I worry she will be taken advantage of. I walk the line between wanting her to stand up for what she wants, and not wanting her to compromise this kind and giving side of herself. Luckily, she has surrounded herself with friends who have her back and force her to choose herself sometimes. Smart kid.

She has an amazing eye for detail, arranging her room or a table setting to look just so.  She notices everything and can capture a moment perfectly, whether in a photograph or a poem, and even though she has chosen to study business management, I hope she keeps up with these more creative pursuits as well. I think they help her express things she is sometimes too shy to say. Being quiet allows you to observe unnoticed but I also want her to stand up and be noticed for all the wonderful things she is.

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Of course she has her quirks that sometimes make us nuts. There are those “teenage mood swings” that surface from time to time, and don’t ask her to make a choice if you’re in a hurry. She could be all day making up her mind, waiting till the absolute deadline to decide on which college to attend, but even choosing what dessert to have or what outfit to wear takes her a while. This is probably something we should warn her future husband about.

So I blinked and my baby grew. She struggled and she flourished. She cried and she laughed. She lived and she learned and I’m so very proud of the person she has become. I’m glad I was able to watch it all happen, regardless of how fast it went. For now I will keep watching. I think the future is going to be pretty amazing too….

I better be careful not to blink.

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I Remember Mom-mom

Last week, my friend Ann, over at “Muddling Through My Middle Age,” posted a lovely tribute to her grandmother. I enjoyed reading it very much and was reminded so much of my own grandmother,  that I was inspired to write a tribute of my own. 

Lola (1926)

Lola (1926)

My maternal grandmother’s name was Lola. She was born in 1909 in Delmar, Delaware but spent most of her life in Southern New Jersey. Lacking in physical stature,  four foot, eleven inches tall and a hundred pounds soaking wet, she more than made up for it with a strong personality. She was  fiercely loyal and protective of those she loved and not above quietly voicing her opinion if she felt it necessary. We all called her Mom-mom.

Lola and her sister Anna 1927

Lola (left) and her sister Anna 1927

She met my grandfather Cliff through mutual friends. They married in December of 1928, two months short of her twentieth birthday. For a while she worked at a cigar factory in Philadelphia, but when my mother came along in 1930, followed three years later by her brother Bobby, Lola settled down to run her household and care for her family. My grandfather, a very cheerful, easy going fellow,  made a very good living as a master plumber. He  installed plumbing systems in large buildings and even ocean liners, but he was also a weekend drinker and very free with money,  so he could be a bit of a trial.

With my mother and uncle, 1938

With my mother and uncle, 1938

He certainly tested my grandmother’s patience! According to tales I heard growing up, she was a bit of a spitfire in those days. Occasionally on payday, my grandfather would stop at the pub on his way home.  In the wee hours, after buying many rounds of drinks, he would stagger in, with less than half his pay left.  Lola would be waiting up.  During the ensuing argument, she would emphasize her points by pelting him with anything she could lay her hands on!  Either she had bad aim or he was pretty quick even when drunk, because she rarely hit him even though she threw candy dishes, mixing bowls and nick-knacks of any kind. My mother told me that at one time they had no working lamps in the house because she had thrown them all at my grandfather!

Eventually, the fighting and the money worries were put to rest when it was decided that she would pick up my grandfathers pay each week, allowing him money for the pub and keeping the rest. This arrangement seemed to work fine and Mommom, who had grown up with very little, proved very good at managing money. She even had a habit of hiding little stashes around the house, just in case of a rainy day. After she passed away, we cleaned out her house, and found almost $500 taped to the back of dresser drawers, hidden behind wall art or under the carpet corners.

Mom-mom and Pa with my mother around 1975

For most of  childhood, Mommom and Pa lived in a little house down the street from my parents.  My memories of her are of an energetic, task oriented woman in her late sixties, early seventies. At one time, I was told, she always wore skirts or dresses (house dresses at home) but in the seventies, when ladies “pant suits,” became popular she latched on to the style and never turned back! I can’t remember her wearing anything else, except to weddings or formal occasions.

She wore her steel grey hair short with tight curls and every Thursday morning she went to “Estelle’s Beauty Parlor” to have it washed and set.  She managed to keep her “do” looking good till the next Thursday by sleeping with her head wrapped in toilet paper each night! I also remember that she had a fondness for large pocketbooks and had a different one for every season as well as a several more just for special occasions.

My grandmother liked to drive whenever we went out.  I suspect she liked to be in control. Having had to keep my grandfather in line for most of their marriage, she was comfortable in that role but, being a rather tiny person who, for some reason, always chose to drive large cars, presented some problems.  In order to see over the wheel (which, by the way, she always gripped at “ten” and “two”), Mommom needed to sit on a cushion….and to boost the cushion up a little further, she tucked a wooden rolling pin beneath the back edge.  Even with this extra height, her chin was just above the top of the steering wheel.  Add in the  fact that she insisted on driving exactly the speed limit or less, and you have for some fun road trips!

Mom-mom with my niece At her christening .

Mom-mom with my niece At her christening .

One of her favorite pass times was playing bingo. A little odd for someone who was so money conscious but I think she enjoyed the idea of a windfall; money for nothing. Some nights, she would take me with her to the hall at the Catholic Church and I would watch in awe of her, and her friend Bea as they monitored ten cards each, marking each number with a chip or a ink dotter. They never missed a number and sometimes they even caught one that a neighbor had missed on theirs! Later on, when the casinos came to Alantic City, she and her friends would take bus trips down there and spend the day playing the nickel slot machines. She was very careful to spend only a certain amount but even so she usually came home ahead.

Mostly what I remember when I think of Mom-mom is always feeling safe and loved. She took care of me whenever my parents were out, making me cheese sandwiches and teaching me to play Tiddly Winks with her bingo chips. I helped her with her house cleaning on the weekends and she helped me buy my first car. I always knew she had my back and it makes me sad that my children never got the chance to know her and even though I have a few inches on her, I hope someday to have as  “big” an influence on my grandchildren.

The Super Elastic Power of Friendship

The first friend I ever made was named Donna. She had blonde curly hair and blue eyes and she and her family lived across the street and up a block. We might have met earlier than we did, except that neither of us was allowed to cross the street by ourselves. As it was, we didn’t become friends until my older sister started babysitting for Donna and her siblings.

From that point on we were like sisters ourselves. Sleepovers, vacations with each other’s families and just lots and lots of fun. By the time we were in 8th grade we had a nice little circle of friends and quite a history. That was the year that Donna’s father accepted a job transfer and moved the whole family south to rural Virginia. Needless to say, we were devastated. Her mom and dad promised they would do whatever they could to make sure our friendship survived.

Honoring our devotion to the Monkees...1975

Honoring our devotion to the Monkees…1975

All through high school we endured the four and a half hour drive back and forth between New Jersey and Virginia. Sometimes we went with family, sometimes with friends and one time, all by ourselves on a rather scary Greyhound bus (a story all in itself, especially the layover in Washington DC!) She spent part of each summer at my house, hanging with our old friends, and I spent part of the summer at her house making new ones.

In between, there were letters – lots and lots of long letters sharing every little thing that was going on in our lives. This was back before email and cell phones so there were many photographs sent back and forth as well. Each letter was signed “TTFN” our code for “Ta-Ta for now,” because that way it wasn’t really goodbye, it was just a break until the next time.

My sisters wedding...1982

My sisters wedding…1982

We made occasional phone calls to each other but long distance was expensive so it wasn’t very often. One call, however, will always stand out in my memory. It came late one night during our senior year of high school. Donna called to tell me that her 18 year old sister had died in a car accident. It was an awful feeling not being able to comfort my friend in person. Suddenly the miles between us seemed so much longer.

Life moved on. When she was 19, Donna married a Marine Sargent named Bob. I was maid of honor. She settled into being a military wife, going with him when she could or living with her parents, working and taking college courses when she couldn’t. At the time of my first wedding, in 1985, they were living in California, making it difficult for her to be my maid of honor, as I had hoped. In fact, we weren’t even certain they would be able to come to the ceremony until the very last minute. They did manage to make it but our visits, and even our letters were becoming less and less frequent.

Nine years later I was planning my second wedding. Donna and Bob were once again living in Virginia and working in Washington D.C.  It had been a few years since we had been able to see each other but I’d promised myself that if I remarried, I wanted her to be my maid of honor. Hubby and I drove down to visit for a weekend so they could meet and so that we could work out some of the details. Then, in May, Donna, Bob and her mom came up to New Jersey for the wedding. We were both thirty-one and had known each other for over 25 years but it felt like life was making it harder and harder for us to stay connected.

Flash forward twenty years. My life revolved around raising my kids, working in a school, and spending time with my family. I was a small town girl living the simple life. Donna, on the other hand, had finished her masters degree in computer management and had been working for a company that sent her all over the world updating their systems. Her life had become about work, taking care of her fur babies and globe trotting with Bob. They had chosen not to have children and instead spent much of their free time traveling and exploring.

Our lives had moved in such different directions and our emails, which had dwindled to a few a year, started sounding impersonal and distant, like those newsletters people send in their holiday cards. We hadn’t talked on the phone or seen each other face to face since my wedding. She had never met my teenage children. We had, for the most part, dropped out of each other’s lives.

Then, last November, my mom passed away. I knew Donna would want to know so I sent her an email, not even sure I still had the correct phone number. To my surprise, she called that night and we had an awkward conversation, both of us a little embarrassed about how much time had passed. Her schedule made it impossible for her to make it to the funeral but before we hung up we made a promise that we would do our best to arrange a visit.

It took seven months for that visit to finally take place. She and Bob arranged to drive up to New Jersey for a long weekend. They had more time available since they had recently opted for early retirement. I was glad they had chosen to book a hotel room instead of staying in our home because, even though I was incredibly excited to see her, I was also feeling very anxious about spending time with this person who felt like a stranger to me. What would we talk about? How could we possibly relate to each other?  Once upon a time we could finish each other’s sentences, we knew each other’s deepest, darkest secrets, we told each other everything. Now I was afraid our visit would be filled with awkward silences.

The evening they arrived was very emotional, filled with hugs, introductions and basic catch up. There were a few uncomfortable moments but not too bad. We made plans for the next day including a visit to my moms grave so Donna could pay her respects and then a road trip to Chaddsford Pa to visit some historic sites.  It was a two hour drive. The men took the front seat while Donna and I sat in the back.

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Something amazing happened during those two hours. It was almost like  we were transported back in time to our teenage years. We settled into the familiar rhythm of our friendship, engaging in jokes only we understood and finishing each other’s sentences, completing ignoring the guys in the front seat! The day flew by and before I knew it they were heading back home again, but not before plans were made for the next trip a month later.

The second visit was even more fun. We discovered a mutual love of fantasy fiction and antique shopping. She and Bob are building a retirement home in the country so interior design and decorating has become a common topic as well. But the connection is much more than that. I think, even though our lives and interests changed, deep down we didn’t. Our, now weekly, emails are more like chats that are following an already started conversations. I was hoping that we had made it back to a good place, but I knew for sure when Donna signed one of her notes “TTFN!”

It made me giggle, warmed my heart and made me realize that best friends are always close, no matter how far away they are. So if there is a friend in your life that you’ve lost touch with, take my advice, pick up the phone. After all…

Good friends are like stars. You can’t always see them, but you know they’re always there.

Chaddsford, Pa...2015

Chaddsford, Pa…2015

 

Home Sweet Homes

Last weekend I went to see Mr D’s soon-to-be off campus housing. The best I can say is it’s safe and sort of clean. Decor wise, think ’70s basement rec-room: drop ceilings, vinyl floors and lots of wood paneling. It’s pretty much perfect for a bunch of 20 year old boys.

A new home is an exciting adventure. This will be Mr D’s third residence and I’m sure it’s not going to be his last. I started counting and realized that I’ve lived in seven different places so far. Some I liked better than others, but they each served their purpose and for better or worse they were the settings for all the life events that made me…me.

House number one was the home of my childhood; 1950s rancher; 6 people-1 bathroom; red carpet in the living room; paneling everywhere (dad hated to paint). This was the home of Barbie dolls and sleepovers and getting caught necking on the sofa with my first boyfriend when I thought mom was fast asleep.

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House number two was the home where I first set up housekeeping; 22 years old; newly married (the rehearsal husband); one bedroom ground floor apartment ten minutes from mom and dad’s; brand new blue striped sofa and love seat; new towels, new sheets, new everything; learning to do laundry and shop for groceries. This was the home I shared with my first cat (sweet Maggie); cooked my first meal (breaded pork chops and scalloped potatoes), and decorated my first, very own Christmas tree.

House number three meant a mortgage and grown up responsibility; pretty yellow cape cod two blocks from my sister’s house; weird paneling in the master bedroom featuring deer filled wooded scenes; above ground pool; cricket infestation in the basement (Maggie liked to catch them and bring them upstairs!) This was the home where I learned how to stencil and wallpaper, where I fed my maternal instinct by caring for my infant nephew and where I became a divorcee at 26.

House number four represented my independence, reconfigured second floor apartment in an older house; noisey downstairs neighbors; green paneling and sloping floors in the kitchen; big and plentiful windows, perfect for Maggie to perch. Here was a home that was truly my own, paid for and cared for by me alone. Here was where I lived the life of a single woman, late nights, dates; lugging my laundry to my parents every Tuesday night and coming home with a bag of leftovers. Here is where I was living when I met my forever guy.

House number five, the home for new beginningstop floor end apartment, red brick building in a complex with an in-ground pool; sharing a home with the man of my dreams; “shacking -up” as my mom put it; olive green appliances in the kitchen; stackable washer and dryer in the bathroom; moved in in June; engaged by December. This was the home where I was living when I lost my dad, the home where I turned 30, the home where I planned a wedding and, once again, became a wife.

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House number sixtwo story townhouse; another mortgage; three months pregnant at closing; fenced in yard with a luscious thick lawn and morning glories growing in the back; hosting Thanksgiving dinners and Mom’s surprise 70th birthday party (we flew my brother in from Oklahoma to surprise her even more). This was the home where we said a sad goodbye to sweet Maggie and welcomed Jack and Chrissy into our family.  It was also where I welcomed my babies, where I became “mom” and embarked on the biggest adventure of all.

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Finally, House number seven, the worst house in the best neighborhood, 25 years old custom built, original and unique; loved by its first owners; trashed by its second; months of tearing out carpets and flooring; adding walls and my beloved porch; sanding, scraping, planting, painting, making it our own. This is the home where we have raised our children, where I returned to the work force and where I said goodbye my wonderful mom. This is the home where I’ve come into middle age and settled into my life.

Is this my dream house? Not even close. My dream house would be at least a hundred years old and would have a wrap around porch with a swing. It would have pocket doors, crown molding and a fireplace or two. Someday, maybe, I’ll live in a house like that but for now, even if this isn’t my dream house, it is definitely my dream home because it’s where the people I love are and after all, that’s what make a house a home.

Christmas Postathon Day 7

Baking cookies or another holiday treat

In my recipe binder, along with all the recipes I’ve cut from magazines and collected from friends, is a tattered little chunk of green cardboard. It was cut from the side of a box and even though the recipe is a simple one..1 cup butter or margarine; 1 cup sugar; 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; 2 eggs; 3 cups sifted flour; 1 1/4 teaspoon salt…it’s the most special recipe I own.

Let me tell you why.

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When I was a little girl I rarely spent time cooking with my mom. It just wasn’t her thing. Not that she wasn’t able to make good food, it just wasn’t something she really enjoyed doing. I don’t remember her collecting recipes or having a ‘famous’ dish or spending hours making anything by scratch. Dinners were hearty but basic and her only baking, for the most part, were several batches of cookies for the holidays. Those were the rare occasions when we cooked together.

We always made pressed butter cookies.  I’m not sure why that was the cookie of choice. My father’s mother, a world class baker, was from Germany and these were very much like German spritz cookies so they may have been his request. The recipe we used for our cookies, was the one that was printed on the side of the box that the metal cookie press had come in.

My job, at first was to turn the handle on the sifter and slowly add the flour as my mother stirred. Then, after the batter was ready, she filled the press. I would pick out which shape to make first (usually the flower) and she would fasten that to one end, and the plunger to the other. Face down on the cookie sheet, she pressed row after row till the press was empty. Finally, we used red and gree sprinkles to decorat the top.

Once the first batch was in the oven, we started on the second, sometimes adding red or green food coloring to the dough to make it more festive. Soon the house was filled with the aroma of cookies that smelled just like Christmas to me!

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As I got older, we would take turns doing the mixing and pressing. Even after I moved out on my own, I still came over to my parents house the week before Christmas for our cookie baking party. Sometimes, my sisters would join us as well. Then, one  December, the tired old cookie press finally gave out. One of the metal fasteners that held the plunger on snapped off. Even my dad, who could fix just about anything, couldn’t repair it. Reluctant to just throw it away, mom packed it in the box and put it back up in the cabinet.

The next year, I purchased a battery operated cookie press that was faster and easier to clean. We used it for many years after that. It worked fine but it felt different, and even though the cookies looked the same, I would swear they didn’t taste quite the same.

My dad passed away in 1984 and a few years later, Mom decided to sell the house and buy a small condo.As we were cleaning out the kitchen cabinets I found the old green box with the broken cookie press up in the cabinet where she had put it years before.

“I guess we should just toss it.” Mom said, resigned down sizing. There were so many childhood memories attached to the press that it was hard to just throw it away, so even though I had memorized it years before, I used her scissors to cut the recipe off the side of the box and tucked it in my pocketbook.

Now, every year, Miss Dee and I make pressed butter cookies. I mix the ingredients,  she picks the shape (usually the flower) and puts on the sprinkles, We still use the battery operated cookie press and even though I already know the recipe, we still pull out the page from the binder with the tattered piece of green cardboard. It reminds me of when I was little, baking with my Mom. I feel blessed to be able to carry on the tradition with my daughter.

 

Just Playing Around

imageI read in the newspaper this week that the Slinky is turning 70! Cool, huh? This iconic toy was invented in nearby Philadelphia by a gentleman by the name of Richard James, an engineer at the Cramp Shipbuilding Company. Apparently, Mr James invented the Slinky quite by accident. He was attempting to devise a spring that would hold sensitive shipboard equipment stable during rough seas when he knocked one of the reject springs off a shelf. It flounced about the floor for a bit and Jim had enough imagination to see an opportunity.

We spent many days playing with Slinkys when I was little and my own children had them too. When I think of them I am hit with dozens of memories of us building ramps and steps out of books just to see what tricks we could get the Slinky to do!

Isn’t it funny that when you think about the toys you played with as a child, it’s not just the item you remember but the wonderful way it made you feel. Life was so exciting when the whole world of your imagination was open to you! My friend Donna and I would spend hours playing Barbies or paper dolls inventing entire lives for them complete with jobs, pets and boyfriends! She had a Barbie Camper so they often went on road trips, usually to see The Monkees in concert. We had a thing for Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork back then. The best Christmas ever was the year I received both Quick Curl Barbie and Mod Hair Ken!! He had stick on facial hair! Hard to beat that.


Dolls were always my favorite things to play with and it wasn’t just Barbie. The 1970s produced a plethora of weird and wonderful dolls.

One that I really loved was Dawn. She and her friends were like mini Barbies with various shoes and outfits. I even had a fashion show stage for her. You basically stuck her little foot in a little vice and then cranked a handle moving a track around the stage. It sent her for a spin than brought her back. Very low tech.

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Dawn by Topper Toys (1970).

Then there was Mrs Beasley from Family Affair. Anybody remember her? She talked!

Mrs Beasley by Mattel

Mrs Beasley by Mattel

I also had  Growing Hair Kerry, the doll whose hair expanded out the top of her head then retracted when you pushed her belly button. Nothing weird about that. She had a bunch of outfits too (I’m beginning to think my older sisters were right-I was spoiled!)

Kerry by Ideal (1970)

Kerry by Ideal (1970)

Of course if you wanted a truly weird and disturbing doll it would have been Little Miss No Name, the poor orphan doll with the glued on tear drop. Her box reads, “please take me home and wipe my tear away.” Yikes! Who thought up this one? Not only is this sad little girl  wearing a burlap bag, her eyes make her look like a zombie! Can’t imagine why I wanted her so bad.  I do, however, remember that her tear drop fell off and got lost within the first week. Guess she got her wish. 😌

Little Miss No Name by Hasbro (1965)

Little Miss No Name by Hasbro (1965)

I played with other toys too; wooden blocks, puzzles, the Easy Bake Oven, but the dolls were always my favorite. Whenever I come across one of them now, at a yard sale or antique store (those Mrs Beasleys are very collectible by the way) I get all misty eyed. I miss playing dolls with Miss Dee. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the babies in the family to grow up a bit more.  In the meantime, I can get them all Slinkys!

Tell me about your favorite toy.

FYI..This post has been added to the Leisure Link curtsey of Perspectives On. Hop over and check out the other blogs!