Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Childhood Christmases

The Christmas Season is officially here and my thoughts are drifting back to my childhood Christmases. Christmas was always my favorite holiday! I would start the year out with a Christmas Club account at the Lapeer County Bank & Trust, depositing my thirty-five cents every week in anticipation of the gifts I would be able to buy everyone. As I got older, I upped my bank account up to fifty cents a week – I was a big spender!

The season began with “The Hanging of the Greens” at Trinity Methodist Church, across the street from the hospital in Lapeer. I think this would have been the first Sunday night in December. It was always so exciting, decorating the church with ropes of greenery and red bows; it all looked so beautiful. It was warm inside the church while outside the wind howled and the snow flew. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best; the Christmas music, cookies and punch made it all so festive. On several occasions, I was the acolyte for the evenings service. Dressed in a white gown and carrying a lite brass taper, I walked slowly down the center isle of the sanctuary, being careful not to let the flame go out. I would first light the alter candles and then candelabra on each side. When I finished, I would sit in the pews up front, opposite the choir, waiting to extinguish the candles at the end of the service.

Finally, the time to cash in Christmas Club accounts would come and I would start my Christmas shopping. I always tried to buy a little something for the entire family. One lucky person received a world globe shaped pencil sharpener from me! I think I bought Old Spice After Shave for Dad most years. Can't remember what I bought Mom, maybe some stationery or maybe some of that Evening in Paris perfume.

I loved to go Christmas shopping downtown on Friday nights. It all seemed so magical with the lights, the snow and the cold. Downtown Lapeer was a busy place back then, no empty buildings. I would shop at McCrory and D & C dime stores. D & C had lots of penny candy to choose from, I'm sure I bought a little something for myself there. There were two hardware stores to choose from, The Lapeer Hardware and Gwinns. At one point there was a toy shop, my dad worked there! There were two drug stores downtown, selling much more than just drugs, Vincents and Zemmers. Lyons & Smith, Gages, Thornes, Vosburgs, and JC Penney were all lots of fun to look through, but I couldn't afford to shop there. I can't remember when the Hallmark store opened downtown, but once it did I was a constant shopper. I loved the Christmas kick-off they would have every year with free calendars, cookies and punch.

Decorating for Christmas at home was fun. Mom loved candles and we would make our own. Melting down paraffin wax, we would add crayons for color then pour the wax into a waxed paper milk carton with a string suspended from the top, tied to a pencil. Next, we would melt some more wax, but not add any color, then we would beat the wax with a mixer until fluffy and apply it to the outside of the hardened colored candle we had already made. The uncolored wax would look like snow and with the lights off at night and the candles lite, the colored wax would show through. We would display our new candles surrounded by greenery – cut from the bottom of the tree. 

Mom always liked to have all blue bulbs on her Christmas tree and I must say the effect was beautiful! Lately, I've noticed a few houses decorated with all blue bulbs, it makes me think of her.

Mom loved music. Her stereo was sure to be playing Christmas music all season long. The Little Drummer Boy is one of the albums I remember. I'm sure Perry Como was playing, too. Nate King Cole singing, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” makes me think of Dad, along with White Christmas by Bing Crosby.

I don't remember our doing any holiday baking, we didn't need to, Dad received so many gifts of cookies and candy while he was working as a rural mail carrier. He received homemade cookies of every kind, huge fancy brass tins of store bought cookies, fruit cakes and candies. I especially loved the tins of chocolate and vanilla caramels! I don't know where you can get those chocolate caramels now.

Occasionally, we would get together with my mom's family at Grandma Taylor's house on Madison Street in Lapeer. I think this would usually be a week or two before Christmas. Card tables would be lined up end to end in the living room, to accommodate all the people. I think we usually had ham and potatoes of some kind or maybe a turkey. Aunt Ernestine usually brought a delicious rainbow layered jello salad with cream cheese in it. I'm sure we had the perennial favorite, green beans with mushroom soup – probably made by my mom. Can't forget the brown and serve rolls.

Dinner finished, the adult women would clear the table and was up the dishes. While waiting for presents, I would play with my cousins Brad and Roger, the two closest to my age. I remember playing Move To The Head Of The Class and a marble/maze game with a tilting table. In the closet was an old fashioned metal race car that use to go when pumped, but it no longer worked.  The View Master with reels of a cave often caught my attention. There was also a marble filled tube, you had to shake it to move the marbles from the top to the bottom; that tube drove all the adults crazy! 

Finally it was time for presents! I think we exchanged names, so we probably only received one gift each. Aunt Gern always decorated her packages so beautifully. I remember a hand crafted gift, a glass jar with macaroni glued on, painted with gold spray paint and filled with bath salts – I thought it looked so beautiful!

Christmas Eve was always spent at Grandpa and Grandma Seames' house on South Elm Street in Lapeer. The delicious smell of grandma's scalloped potatoes and ham greeted us as we opened the door. We couldn't wait to eat, not just because grandma was such a good cook; we got to open presents after dinner! One year, I remember receiving a white oxford shirt, gold link bracelet with pearls and, as always, vanilla drops from Grandma and Grandpa. The cold trip home in the crowded car seemed to last forever; our breaths fogging up the windows, elbowing the one sitting next to us. Once home, off to bed we would go, too excited to sleep, knowing Santa would be coming! I remember trying to wait up for Santa on the top landing of the stairway, but I never made it.

Waking early (probably around 4:00 am) we would check out our stockings. There was always an orange, nuts and assorted miniature Hershey candy bars in the stocking. Not too many gifts stick out in my mind, except the year we got a round pool table with a single hole in the middle (That was fun to play!) Or maybe the year Patti and I got a Barbie house (Dad must have been working in the toy store that year.) I think we got games, paint-by-number pictures, and probably some clothes. I remember wanting a Betsy Wetsy, but I never got one. The year I turned seven, my sister Dawn was born, so I guess I had a real live baby doll then.

I think Dad usually made us eggnog on Christmas day. Made with uncooked fresh eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, beaten until frothy. It was delicious – we didn't worry about eating uncooked eggs back then.

Can't remember what we ate for Christmas dinner, Mom wasn't much of a cook. Maybe we had Swiss steak braised with onions, she liked to cook that. I mainly remember bowls of nuts - that Dad could crack with his bare hands – Hershey's candy bars, and cookies. Who needed real food with all the goodies around! 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thanksgivings Past

Here it is November already; time is moving by so fast, I can't keep up with it. Thank goodness, we get an extra hour tonight with Daylight Savings Time ending (But I really need a least twelve extra hours.) Plans for this year's Thanksgiving are on my mind and with it memories of Thanksgivings past.  I'm not sure why, but we always spent Thanksgiving with Grandpa and Grandma Seames.  I hope Grandma Taylor wasn't sitting home all alone!  Maybe she spent Thanksgivings with Uncle Ron and his family.

Thanksgivings spent at Grandma Seames' little house on South Elm Street in Lapeer are the best memories! Coming in the front door, grandma would always exclaim, “Oh my goodness, you are getting so big!” giving us all a hug and a kiss. It didn't take much to be bigger than Grandma, she was so tiny.  Grandpa would be sitting there by the front door and the window, ready to tell us everything he had seen the neighbors doing from his perch. The house would be filled with the most delicious smells from grandma's cooking all day. The house warmed by the oven.

We would lay on the floor, maybe watch a little bit of TV or just stare into the fire in the living room furnace, kind of an early day gas fireplace. We couldn't wait for Thanksgiving Dinner, grandma was an excellent cook!

Finally, dinner was called and we all made our way to the big oval, oak table in grandma's dining room. The table pretty much filled the room, when all the leaves were used. An old brown towel sat on grandpa's chair for him to use on his lap. We kids all had our favorite glasses; glasses with cartoon figures (Originally filled with jelly or cheese) when we were younger, then when we were older, glasses with amber leaves and blue glasses with white sailboats. Those glasses would be filled with icy cold milk. The adults drank coffee made in grandma's drip coffee pot; the water was boiled then poured over the grounds to drip down below. I can smell it now; I love the smell of coffee, but I don't drink it. The table would be overflowing with food; huge bowls of mashed potatoes, stuffing piled high, the gravy boat full (With more gravy waiting in the kitchen,) green bean casserole with crunchy French fried onions, tossed salad with a mayonnaise dressing, cubes of cheese, dill pickles, sweet gherkins, olives, celery & carrot sticks in glass jars of water, radishes, brown and serve rolls with plenty of butter and strawberry jam. In later years, grandma started making this wonderful Strawberry Jello Salad, too. Of course, the main event at Thanksgiving dinner is always the turkey! It was browned to perfection and filled with the most delicious, savory dressing. Grandma Seames (Or Grandma Marg as my children would know her) sure knew how to cook!

Grandma Marg's Stuffing

1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
½ cup butter or margarine
3 qt. Dry Bread Cubes
1 teas Sage
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ cup giblet broth (or chicken broth)

Put giblets in salted water and cook until tender. If you wish, giblets can
be chopped up and added to stuffing.

Saute onion, celery and carrots in butter until onion is soften. Add sage,
salt & pepper; then remove from heat and add broth and bread
cubes. Put stuffing into turkey (Don't forget the neck cavity) and put
remaining stuffing into a greased bowl of pan to bake at 350 degrees for
one hour.

Grandma Marg's Strawberry Jello

1 – 6oz pkg strawberry Jello
¾ cup boiling water
1 can strawberry pie filling
½ cup pineapple chunks, drained
¼ cup marshmallows
whipped cream (Grandma used Dream Whip)

Add water to Jello, stirring well to dissolve. Let sit until thickened then
beat until fluffy. Fold in pie filling, pineapple, and marshmallows and
pour into a pretty glass bowl or mold. Chill. Top with whipped cream.

I can't remember if we ate dessert right away, but I think we might have waited for our swollen stomachs to recuperate a little. We would lay on the living room floor or if it was too hot, go into grandma's bedroom. There the air was frosty cool because of the little perfectly round hole in the window, grandma kept a Kleenex stuffed in it to block the breeze. I don't recall ever asking how that hole came to be in the bedroom window, it is curious.

Mom and grandma would wash the dishes as we lay in agony from having eaten too much. When we were older, I do remember helping with dishes. Mostly when we kids were in the kitchen, we were making a mess! Grandma had a little pass-through window from her kitchen to the dining room, she also had a little wheeled cart and a kitchen sink with a sprayer. This got our minds working. We would use the sprayer to fill shot glasses with water, put the glasses on the cart and wheel them to the window. Then placing orders from the dining room, we would play restaurant or more probably bar, passing the shot glasses and little demitasse spoons through the window. I don't ever remember getting in trouble with grandma for making such a mess, but dad might have gotten mad.

Finally it was time for dessert! Grandma made the spiciest pumpkin pie that we sprayed with whip cream from a can. Her apple pies were stuffed full with apples, the crust flaky. Grandma would make us each our own little pies.  Of course, we had French Vanilla ice cream with those pies. French Vanilla ice cream and cookies could always be had at grandma's; they always seemed to magically appear when used.

Grandma Marg's Pumpkin Pie

1 ½ cups pumpkin
1 cup milk
1egg, beaten
1 cup sugar 
1 Tab flour 
½ teas salt
¼ teas cinnamon
1/8 teas cloves
1/8 teas allspice
1/8 teas ginger
1/8 teas nutmeg 
1 unbaked pie shell

Mix ingredients together and pour into pie shell. Use pie shield
or foil to protect edges of crust from burning. Bake at 450 degrees
for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees for one hour. Cool
and serve with whipped cream.

After a wonderful day, we would all pile into the car for the trip home. That car would be pretty crowded, three in the front seat, dad, mom and one lucky child; the four of us kids in the back seat were pretty tightly packed. There was more than one complaint of elbows or someone being on someone else's side. The drive, of just a couple of blocks, seemed to take forever. The car windows would steam up from all our breaths. Eventually we would all pour out of the car and head inside to get ready for bed. Another Thanksgiving gone by.

Will my grandchildren have such fond memories of Thanksgiving at grandma's? I hope so, I use grandma's stuffing and pumpkin pie recipes, but sadly, no one seems to like her Strawberry Jello Salad. Wait a minute, I haven't tried it on Jessica or Hope yet; maybe I can still find someone to eat Strawberry Jello Salad with me!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Memories

Fall can be a treat to the senses:  The cool crispness of the air, the rustling sound of your feet shuffling through the leaves, the vibrant colors of the leaves and the smell of burning leaves in the air. It can also be a trick: Forty-five mile per hour winds, the sound of thunder, bleak gray days filled with rain, the stuffy smell of furnaces long unused. I have a love/hate relationship with Fall, it is so unpredictable.

Last Saturday we spent several hours out in the cold, windy weather watching a football game that started a hour late, encroached on my nap time and didn't end the way I wanted (Our team lost.) After school tonight I attended a soccer game. It didn't seem too awfully cold when it started, but by half time it was getting pretty chilly (And I was wearing my winter coat and had a blanket!) Again the sky was dark and gloomy. At least our team won this time!

I'm beginning to think Fall (And Winter for that matter) are for the young. I remember raking leaves into the shape of a house when I was young; playing for hours, only coming inside after the street lights came on and the bats started appearing. Other times we would rake the leaves into giant birds nests and jump in (Boy did we come home dirty.) Eventually the leaves would all get raked into a pile and burned. We would often run down the street and pick up a few chestnuts to throw into the fire. Chestnuts smell so wonderful when burning, something like the smell of baked potatoes.

Fall also brings one of childhoods favorite holidays, Halloween. I'm surprised I don't remember more of the costumes I wore for Halloween. I do remember being a zebra one year, it might have been kindergarten or first grade. Another year I was a table (Yes a table,) I wore a sheet for a table cloth, my mom glued a tray with dishes onto the table cloth, there were Smarties candies glued on there too. I'm pretty sure I was a witch at least once or twice. And I do remember, when I was a pre-teen, being Ellie Mae Clampet from The Beverly Hillbillies (Pig tails, jeans and a rope belt.) In High School, I attended a Future Secretaries Halloween party as an ancient (Not old) Greek woman.

The best part of Halloween was all the candy (My dentist got a lot of business after Halloween!) I always loved getting chocolate (I still do.) Sometimes we would get a can of pop or maybe some chips. I didn't like getting Milk Duds, I don't like them, but that didn't stop me from eating them (Only as a last resort.) We always got a lot of peanut butter kisses and Mary Janes (A harder, rectangular form of peanut butter kisses.)

We started Trick-or-Treating early at Grandma Seames' house. She always gave us a donut, an apple and I'm pretty sure a candy bar (Hershey?). Next came Grandma Taylor's house, I think she would often have popcorn balls (Not a real favorite of mine,) but she would dress like a witch with her long, floor length hair down, she looked pretty wicked. Then it was off with a group of friends to get to as many houses as possible. We didn't go with an adult and I always lived in fear of the older boys who would steal your bag of candy. I remember hearing about that happening over near The North End Store.

My sister, Patti, had the unfortunate luck of being born on Halloween. Like people born at Christmas, her birthday pretty much got lost in the holiday. I do remember we had a least one Halloween birthday party for her. We played some game that had an arrow you spun on an orange cardboard with black cats and other things on it.

Orange and black crepe paper were used to decorate. We had a cat decoration with a cardboard face and black honey-combed tissue legs and tail. Grandma Taylor had a paper mache pumpkin.  The black cats and orange pumpkins with human teeth, that were popular back when I was a kid, have seen a resurgence of popularity in recent years.

The games we played at Halloween parties when I was young would make most people nowadays queasy and worried about germs.  We dunked for apples; several apples were placed in a washtub of water, without using your hands, you had to get an apple out of the water by biting it.  Another game was to hang a donut by a string, without using your hands, you had to bite the donut.  This game could be made interesting for teenagers by having a boy and girl trying to bite the donut at the same time.  

Of course for teenagers, no Halloween was complete without a hayride down an old bumpy farm lane, the wagon being pulled by a tractor.  The stars and moon illuminating the night sky made it magical.  The colder the weather, the better (It gave you the excuse to keep each other warm.)  I was invited on one such hay ride put on by the Boy Scouts at Camp Holaka.

I usually made all of my children's Halloween costumes. We've had devils, pumpkins, ghosts, ballerinas, clowns, pirates, witches and a bunny. Right after school I would take the kids (Still wearing their costumes from school parties) Trick-or-Treating at Great-Grandma Marg's, Great-Grandma Taylor's and Grandpa and Grandma Seames' house. We didn't go to Grandpa and Grandma Garner's (It was too far to go and still get back in time for Trick-or-Treating.) After supper, Dad would take them (In the wagon when they were young) around the neighborhood while I stayed home and passed out the candy to all the little ghosts and goblins.

I've made a lot of the grandchildren's costumes as well (And reused some of the old ones.) Harry Potter and Hermione, Star Wars, pirates, ghosts, kitties, doggies, and pumpkins to name a few. They come to my house for dinner before Trick-or-Treating (More houses in my neighborhood.) I usually serve a shepherd's pie with potato ghosts on top and ghosts in the graveyard for dessert (A pudding dessert with crushed cookie dirt, Peeps ghosts, Vienna Cookie tombstones and gummy worms.) I'm still the one who passes out the candy (Unless the grandchildren finish early, then they like to help me out.)

For some reason the Fall trees now, don't seem to be as beautifully colored as I remember growing up. There was a beautiful sugar maple down on the corner that turned the most wonderful shade of red. Why is it everything always seems like it was so much better when we were kids? Maybe it is just that we didn't have all the cares and worries we have now as adults. I wonder if my grandchildren will have as many glorious Fall Memories as I have?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Finally Know What I Want to be When I Grow Up

When I was in school, I envied the kids who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. They knew what classes to take and had college all planned out. I just couldn't think what I wanted to spend a lifetime doing. I let my friend talk me into taking secretarial classes, so that we could be in the Future Secretaries Club together. I didn't even think of college. I figured, I was just suppose to be a wife and mother. I did work as a secretary for several years (It gave me constant headaches.)

A few months ago I was reading a wonderful book. It was written about everyday life back in the thirties and forties, just a short book. A light bulb went off and I thought, I can write about my own life. Even though my life seems boring to me, I have lived for fifty-nine years and have seen a lot of changes in the world. I have always loved the Little House books by Laura Ingels Wilder (Even toured her last house in Missouri,) they were simple books about every day life.

As I sat and thought about it, I realized I have always been a writer. I still have the Barbie diary I started so many years ago. In the late 80's and early 90's I always kept beautiful calendar/journals which I still have. I even keep all my wall calendars, with their scribbled messages. Just one look at those messages and I am instantly brought back to that date and time.

Back when I was in high school, taking those secretarial classes, I always took another English class in addition to the Business English. Didn't that tell me anything?

When I did manage to take a college course (American History pre-1900,) my assignment was to be a newspaper reporter and report on the events leading up to the Civil War. My professor was so impressed with my work, he asked if I had thought about becoming a journalist.

I remember sitting at a little desk in my sister's room, painstakingly writing (In pencil) a family newspaper. As an adult, I wrote the newsletter for our Frontier Muzzleloaders club. Volunteering as a girl scout leader (Twice,) I insisted we have a troop newspaper, that I helped the girls write. Being Queen of my Red Hat group (The Lovelys of Lapeer) was another chance to write little newsletters. And I can't forget those Christmas newsletters I broke down and started writing a couple of years ago!

One year for my sister's birthday, I wrote and planned a murder mystery party for her The Cell Phone Murder. She said it was her best birthday ever. For my brother's birthday, I wrote a story for him about the cruise my dad had taken my brothers, sisters and I on. I gave that story a Peter Pan slant.

I can be a little dense sometimes. On my fiftieth birthday Gary took me for a ride to Port Huron. Halfway there, I said, “I don't really feel like going to Port Huron. Let's go home.” Turning down Maverick Lane, I noticed several cars parked on the street. “Somebodies having a party,” I commented. Even when we pulled into our driveway and I saw the garage filled with tables, chairs and people, it didn't dawn on me that it was a birthday party for me! Yes, I can be a little dense sometimes. Why didn't anybody tell me I was a writer?

Oh...A funny thing happened the day I published my first blog. I was going to contact friends and family about my blog (In case they wanted to read it,) when I noticed an e-mail from my aunt. She was e-mailing friends and family to let them know she had written and published a book! So at the ripe age of 80, she has discovered she is a writer. I guess I shouldn't feel so bad that I have just discovered my calling at the age of 59.

I may not be the best writer in the world, but I am a writer.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The 10th Anniversary of 9-11

When I turned on the TV this morning to watch the news, I had momentarily forgotten that today was the anniversary of that horrible day. It was immediately brought back to me with the image of the second tower collapsing right at the moment the TV turned on. 
What should have been a happy day for me on that day ten years ago, was turned into one of horror, that I will never forget. I had a doctor's appointment that morning, to have the port removed after completing chemotherapy for breast cancer. I was watching the news and saw that the towers had been hit just before I left for the doctor's office. In the waiting room, I watched the TV in a state of agitation. Returning home, I continued watching the footage and was horrified when I saw the first tower collapsing. The commentator was talking, not realizing what was happening behind him. Later that afternoon, friends came to what was suppose to be a celebration tea, but was now filled with sadness. Realizing the full extent of what happened that day and just how many people were dead, I went into a depression that lasted for many months. 
I have lived through too many such days in my lifetime. The day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I was home sick from school and saw it all. I saw the footage of the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. The day the space shuttled exploded after take off, I was again watching my favorite morning news show. During the Oklahoma Bombing, I was at the hospital watching TV with my grandmother who had just had surgery to remove her breast. These days are forever etched in my mind along with the worst six weeks of my life. The six weeks from the time our daughter, Jessica, went missing until the day her body was found; raped, murdered and left on a beaver dam in the Flint River.

Why does God let these things happen? All that keeps coming back to my mind is if bad things never happened, how would we ever know the good things people are capable of doing? Were our lives all planned out before we were born? Did these people volunteer to take on this kind of horrific death to learn something? If so, then what of the people who committed these crimes? Did they too, volunteer because they needed to learn something? I can only wonder which would be the hardest to experience? 
All through the trial for our daughter's murder, I just sat and wondered what could make a person capable of committing murder? What happened to them in their life that would make them capable of it? I just kept thinking, if I could just figure it out, I could put an end to murder.

I guess some things are just not met for us to know, we just have to trust that God knows what he is doing. It is just so darn hard to accept and live on faith!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day of School

It's that time of year again, back to school time. I have made it a habit of taking pictures, of my grandchildren's “First Day of School.”

This year, I took pictures of Mathew sitting at the table eating his breakfast (Charity had already eaten) and Hope walking around with her piece of toast. I took individual pictures of Mathew and Charity standing at the door, walking down the sidewalk, further down the side walk, getting into the car and in the car, also Charity starting the car this year. Then we went back in the house and started all over again with Mathew and Charity walking Hope out to the car and picking her up in the air between them.

In previous years I have even followed them to the school and gotten pictures of the whole family walking in together. 

I don't remember much of my own kids first days of grade school. It was always chaotic trying to get everyone up and fed, making sure they had everything they needed and seeing them off at the bus stop down on the corner of Farnsworth Road and Maverick Lane. I remember other parents seeing their kids off for school with photographs and thinking I need to do that, but I never did and I regret that. Other mother's jumped for joy as their child went off to school for the first time, but I never felt that way.

Jimmy's "First Day of Pre-School" was very traumatic for me.  I had someone watch the other two kids and went with Jimmy his first day.  I was standing there watching him play with the other kids, thinking he would be devastated if I left.  He came up to me and said, "Mom, can you go now?"   

I think it was the year Jessie started first grade that Gary's sister, Cheryl, was living with us. She had a pattern for making Cabbage Patch style dolls. We made Jessie a doll with a blond pony tail, Brian a curly brown haired doll and Jimmy a bald doll. They got their dolls after school was out that day.

The next year on the “First Day of School” we had a birthday party for Jessie's Amy doll. Friends were invited to come with their dolls and of course Jimmy and Brian were there with their Timmy and Ryan dolls. We had a birthday cake, jello and punch. Amy even received presents. This went on for several years, always on the “First Day of School” 
On my own “First Day of School,” I was driven by taxi from our house on Bowers Road to the Second Ward School (?) on the corner of Calhoun and Parks Streets (Currently a funeral home parking lot.) The lady driving the taxi was nice, but we had to pick up another kindergartner, a boy who always messed his pants. The kindergarten classrooms were in the basement of the building. I liked my teacher, Miss Kitely, and I thought she was beautiful. Unfortunately, there was a girl in my class who took my little polka dot purse and wouldn't give it back. After that, I dreaded going to school and would make myself physically sick. I did my work, but never spoke a word that entire year of school. I can't believe I was passed on to first grade.

By the time first grade came around, we were living back on Biddle Street. I walked the four blocks to school. I think my mom might have walked with me. My sister, Patti, was starting kindergarten that year, but I can't remember if she went mornings or afternoons. First grade meant you had to climb the stairs to your classroom. The fire escapes were on the outside of the building and I lived in constant dread of fire drills. I can't remember my teacher's name, she was old and left in the middle of the school year (I wonder if she died) and we got a different teacher. I do remember reading about Dick and Jane, their sister, Sally and dog, Spot. We also played a Hide the Thimble game that I liked.

Second grade brought me to a new school, the E. E. Irwin School. About four blocks away, I walked to and from school twice a day. I ate my lunch at home everyday (except when mom was in the hospital.) Mm, chicken noodle or tomato soups and maybe peanut butter and jelly, tuna fish, bologna, or egg salad sandwiches. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Jessop, was beautiful and sparked an interest in drawing for me. I had copied a picture of a rabbit from a book and she told me how well I had done. Even though I loved my teacher, I was very shy and still dreaded school.

Anyway, the “First Day of School” always brought an awful, anxious anticipation for me.   I was always too shy and didn't think I was very smart.  I wouldn't raise my hand to answer a question, even when I knew the answer. What if I was wrong, it would just be too embarrassing!

I hope my children (and grandchildren) enjoyed (are enjoying) their school years more than I did. I look back with so many regrets...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fun Times At the Garner House (Not )

Gary just dug up the back yard last night so that they can come empty our septic tank today.  Gary thought it was just off the post by the back porch, but he was off by several feet.  I remembered we took pictures of the tank the last time it was dug up, so I ran off to search for them.  I did find the pictures (Just after Gary found the septic tank door.)  So the hole is much bigger than it needed to be (Poor Gary.)  We have been having problems with the toilet overflowing, sure hope this does the trick.

This all brings back memories of ten years ago, the last time Gary dug up the septic tank.  Mother's Day weekend and I had just started my first round of chemo (My hair was starting to fall out.)  Brian and Christy were visiting from Texas with Charity and Mathew (Our first time seeing the little guy.)  Gary had dug up the septic to have it emptied, but found that we also needed a new septic field.  We didn't have money for that, so Gary came up with an idea to try and drill the tiles out.  After a lot of hard work and a smelly mess (In unusually hot weather) he decided it wasn't working.  New idea...lay new tiles in next to the old ones.  Gary hand dug all the trenches, laid and connected the new tiles himself.  Instead of trying to dispose of those stinky old tiles, he just left them there and buried them.

I sure hope it doesn't come to having to dig that septic field up again, don't know how many more tiles can be laid back there.  And I sure don't want to try and dispose of those odorous things.  Besides, Gary's not as young as he use to be!

Just wanted to let everyone know that our sweet grandson, Mathew, helped grandpa out by filling in that big hole all by himself!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Childhood Home

My first memory is of waking up crying in the middle of the night with a leg ache; my dad administering orange flavored aspergum and rubbing my legs.  We were living in the west apartment of my grandmother's house at 354 Biddle Street in Lapeer (Grandma T. lived in the other apartment.)  I was probably 3 years old.  My room had a big pink iron bed and a crib in it.   My brother, Terry, must have been the one in the crib; my sister, Patti, sleeping with me.  I'm not sure, but I think my brother, Mike, might have slept in the sleeping porch off my mom and dad's bedroom.

Years later, when Gary and I married, this would be our first home.  We slept in that same room (Minus the big pink bed and crib.)  The room had a double window with a rounded top .  I loved that house!

My grandpa bought that big old house for his family to live in when he knew that he was dying.  My aunt Gern once told me that she thought they must have been rich to move into such a big house.   Grandpa remodeled the house, making it into duplex, so that my grandmother would have some income after he was gone.

When I was about 6 years old, grandma bought another little house on Madison Street and we moved into the big apartment at 352 Biddle Street.  

Entering the house your eyes were drawn to the north wall of the living room and the beautiful french doors, with fancy floral doorknobs made of brass.   The front door was on the south wall as well as a window.  For as long as I can remember, a mirror made of cherry hung on the wall between the front door and the window.  Checking my appearance every time I left the house in that mirror would become a routine.  Years later, when mom and dad had a fire at the trailer they had moved into, that mirror was the one piece of their furniture that I was worried about (It survived and now resides with brother, Terry.)  

An archway, on the east wall, lead into the dining room.  In the dining room a double window, with many panes, looked out of the dining room onto the east lawn.  A blue glass violin vase with a black metal hanger always hung on the wall by the window.  I don't know whatever happened to that vase, but years later I found one at an antique store and bought it (Maybe it's the same one.)  My violin vase now hangs next to my dining room window.  There were bookcases, cupboards and a dutch door (A door cut in two so that you could open just the top if you wanted) on the north wall of the dining room.  The south wall had a wonderful stairway, a wall of wood paneling and a large coat closet. 

That coat closet would become our telephone booth, when we were teenagers and wanted a little privacy.  Nestled in among the old coats and galoshes with their dry dusty smells, I spent many hours talking to my future husband.

My room was up the winding stairs and to the left.  The west wall had a bookcase (Also built by grandpa.)  Wallpaper of purple rose sprigs on a white background graced the bookcase wall (The other three walls were plain purple wallpaper.)  The ceiling sloped down.  The closet didn't have a door, so dad put a folding door on it (There was a hole in the closet wall and I am wondering now if the reason there was no door is because that hole was the way heat got into the room.)  There was a round top door on the south side leading out onto a balcony.  Being afraid of heights, I rarely ventured out onto that balcony.  My brothers, though, did make use of the balcony during their teenage years, slipping out without my parents knowledge.

For many years I had the bedroom to myself.  My sister, Patti, had the little bedroom on the north side of the house,  accessed through my bedroom.  My sister, Dawn, was born when I was 7 years old.  She slept in a crib in mom and dad's room, until she was old enough to move in with our sister, Patti.  Eventually, Patti moved into my room and the great war began.  We slept together in a double bed with an imaginary line drawn down the middle.  Each of us constantly accused the other of crossing over that line.  

As we got older, twin cots were bought, but there was still an imaginary line drawn down the center of the room.  My side was neat and tidy, prim and proper; while Patti's side was often messy and very modern looking with posters on the wall.  We were kind of like Patti Duke's portrayal of two cousins on The Patti Duke Show, complete opposites. 

 In Patti and Dawn's little room, there was a window you had to sit on the floor to look out of (More sloping ceilings.)  The closet was built around the heat duct and was very hot.  Some of grandma's things had been left behind in that closet.  I remember a set of bronze bookends depicting Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

The boys, Mike and Terry slept in the big room to the right of the stairs.  At one point, this would become my room.  I think this might have been after Mike went into the Army.  The room was bright, with two big windows on the east wall that caught the morning sun.  There was a big closet (With a real door) on the south wall.  The door into the room was on the west wall with a little cupboard next to it; still filled with more of grandma's things (I remember a white ceramic pitcher with a ship engraved in blue.)  The ceilings in this room also sloped down.

The apartment only had one bathroom and it was accessed through mom and dad's bedroom.  At one time it was accessed from the living room, but that doorway had been boarded up and shelves built.  The main feature of the bathroom was a huge old fashioned claw foot bathtub (No shower here.)  It is amazing to me, now, how a family of seven functioned with that one bathroom.  

I think mom and dad's room should have been a family room, but with our big family, we had to use it as a bedroom.  There was a glass paned door to enter the room off of the kitchen.  The east and west walls had double windows.  I remember sleeping in a crib next to the east window when I was sick with the measles.  Mom's old fashioned pedal sewing machine usually sat under the east window.  The door to the basement (And outside) as well as a door to the screened porch were also off of this room.  

A big old wardrobe was pushed up against the south wall of mom and dad's room.  Mom's paper dolls and what she called penny dolls were stored in that wardrobe, they could be brought out only on rainy days.  I remember she had the famous Olympic skater, Sonia Henie, paper dolls.  Christmas presents were also stored in that wardrobe.  The year I discovered this,  I had a very disappointing Christmas.

The east wall of the kitchen featured a huge window with a wide windowsill on which sat mom's plants.  Under that window was my childhood's worst nightmare, the kitchen sink!  It seems like I spent half of my childhood slaving to wash the many dishes a big family like ours used every day.  If it was my turn to wash the dishes, I had to wash them (Even if I wasn't eating at home that day.)  Gary would come and help me, when we were dating.  In the background Crimson and Clover, by Tommy James and the Shondells, would be playing on my battery operated record player. The week I got my class ring, I cut my hand on a broken glass while washing dishes in that dreaded sink.  Several stitches were needed and my new ring was hidden by the bandages.

The house had a huge yard, bordered on the east side by a row of black walnut trees.  These trees were planted close enough together that I was able to put one hand and foot on one tree and the other hand and foot on the opposite tree and scooch my way up.  A barn had once sat on the property, the cement doorstep was still there.  The foundations stones now bordered the back northeast corner of the property.  A swing set and tractor tire sandbox were in the northwest corner of the yard.  The yard backed up against an unused alley, the site of many neighborhood games.

Grandma loved gardening, so the property was filled with flowers and bushes. Rose bushes, peony bushes, iris, tulips, daffodils, lily of the valley, violets, hostas, hyacinth and probably many more flowers that I have since forgotten about graced that magical yard.  A huge rock sat in the middle of the back formal flower garden (I loved sitting there.)  An overgrown blackberry bush climbed an old Victorian iron fence on the southeast side of the property.  Nestled against the big bay window out front was a golden flowering forsythia bush.  When I was three or four years old, I sat under that bush and cried because the neighbor kids wouldn't let me play with them until mom bribed them with cookies.

We had a wonderful childhood growing up in that big old house.  The house would probably be at least 150 years old now.  It needed insulation, the sewer had a tendency to back up and it was probably infested with bats and squirels; still I wish Gary and I could have bought it and fixed it up.  I sure did love that old house!

This is what the house looks like now.  It was much prettier when we lived there.
All the flowers and shrubs seem to be gone.  There were also shutters on the windows.