Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Memorable Memorial....

Long time tradition for many families.. the annual visit to graves of long ago loved ones and even longer ago ancestors beloved by our grandparents' generation...  I spent all my young days traipsing along with my mother and grandmother in search of graves, placing solemn lovely, tributes... (drooping peonies carefully wrapped in wet paper towels and "tinfoil.") It seemed we had an entire trunk filled with these flowers made early morning and lovingly packed in old aluminum dishpans. As we placed the flowers, the adults would speak of these people either in memory or recited lore, and I learned the story of my past. It was beautiful, and although I was never one to appreciate long days of standing and walking in what usually was pretty strong sunshine and heat by the end of May, I still loved this day. Sometimes we finished by noon and came home to a little lunch made by my mother usually. But sometimes we took a little basket of hot dogs in white bread, wrapped quickly in foil so they would steam and make the bread soft and precious...  long drinks of cold water from a plaid thermos, and if we were super lucky, cookies made from scratch by my gramma...  I loved the cemetery picnics as a little girl.

Flash forward to now, and a new tradition has been in the works for many years. My sister/cousin and I venture forth with pretty silks and a few cut roses to visit the graves of our loved ones. We usually get a little breakfast or lunch (now from a drive through instead of packed at home) and have our own cemetery picnics. One year a well-meaning neighbor spotted our car parked in a rural graveyard and called someone to check us out... There we sat with soft tacos and our colas...  It was a great laugh because the gal who checked on us was a friend...  We wished we'd brought her a taco, too!

We visited the graves last Tuesday a week ago. Dark drizzling morning, but it was indeed a soul-nourishing time.

Our conversation flicked back and forth from old times to now, from loved ones to family legend.

Sweet connections with those who are not with us in the real sense but who will never really travel beyond our hearts' reach.

This past Sunday and yesterday on Memorial Day, my son and I ventured into a time capsule of highest order..  We decided to tackle the two steamer trunks and the cedar hope chest in an attempt to consolidate and eliminate some things, making more storage and finding out if we needed to "keep much" in those things.  Haha...  That determination is still up for grabs. 

First...  we opened the huge trunk with the most messages from the past. Luckily I am familiar with all "historian" handwriting, so I could decipher the many "my mother's baby dress... and my father's work gloves, etc."  All notes fluttered to the ground penned on tiny wisps of check stubs and the backs of grocery receipts. I really wonder at the scarcity and preservation of paper in those days. We could have saved so many trees if we still used every scrap like they did. The steamer trunk, purchased new in 1919 as a wedding necessity for my grandparents, was in great shape. We laughed so hard at the quilt I had always thought my mother embroidered for me, carefully wrapped and marked, "FOR GERRED."  He gave it to me any way since it was covered in autumn leaves and acorns and all things I love.  I gave him all the military items, all the old money, foreign money, and memorabilia from Wars 1 and 2. We marveled that the ones from WW1 simply said, From the War of 1917 or The Great War...  innocent of any succeeding involvements yet to come. 

As you can see, the other trunk was beautiful inside and also filled with family keepsakes. Our stacks of treasures grew alarmingly and our pile of throwaway was just a little sparse. We kept saying, "Well, they kept it this long..." and "It doesn't take up any more room than anything else."  And so it goes. I guess we did manage to get it all condensed into one trunk, and my son is going to take all of it to his house because he likes the trunks!!!  Oh, I have more trunks and I am thrilled. 

The rising sun flags and silk kimonos, the old serge suit shirt and tie worn last by my great grandfather Willard...  "my daddy's second best shirt." --- penned by my gramma.... (Because we all know he was buried in his finest.)----  All looked and felt brand new, thanks to the wonders of cedar. It's a definite thing...  Cedar really preserves the past.

 And in the old foreign money, I spy this bill, signatures faint and proud. We read about the currency and the use of pesos in the Philippines during the war on Wikipedia...  and I search the names for one or two I might recognize. I finally found Norm Helgestad, my dad's war buddy from Wisconsin. I then knew it was a Victory Bill, signed by my dad's unit...  except, of course the one signature I wanted the most...  my dad's. It's understandable he wouldn't sign his own bill...  Here he is in uniform...

The last wearing of the doughboy WW1 uniform from France was by my son many moons ago at a Roaring 20's New Year's Eve party...  Gotta love the addition of the non-standard-issue little red snowboots!  It makes my heart melt to see this from over 30 years ago...  

All in all...  back to the usual today with a visit from a dear friend who lives pretty far away...  Why is she here? Why, she is bringing flowers to her family graves in the area. How appropriately perfect. May we never forget and ever remember....  which on the surface sounds redundant, but based on this weekend...  I see the two as profoundly different.  Happy Summer... it's on the way.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bits and Bobs

Can a cat talk? Yes. My son picked out a different kind of Meow Mix the other day. It had a blue package...  Evidently not a fave. I noticed Callie seemed to be on a bit of a boycott, so I ordered some DeliCat, always the choice of my Sally....  I sprinkled a little bit on top...  Yep. This spoiled brat pulled all the new out on the floor and ate it there...  Sheesh...  She didn't even leave a tip!

Had a good day Sunday. My son was here for round steak and vegetables in my favorite cast iron Lodge... and deviled eggs... He brought petunias for my porch... and he detailed my car!!!!!

And in other news, here are cupcakes I took to celebrate my friend's birthday. They were Krispy Kreme doughnuts with the icing glaze in the box....  Really did taste like doughnuts!

Have a fun week!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Wearing of the White Corsage

It's funny how memory keeps a flash drive of images, times spent, moments from an "ago" that seemed so commonplace, so unremarkable they defy calling up. Yet, suddenly there you are, standing in a kitchen in a home long demolished, getting all antsy for your grandparents and parents to come on...  I was about five years old, and it was Mother's Day. Our family was going out to eat, probably in Moberly at Reed's Corner Restaurant. My mother had told my father in no uncertain terms we needed to get moving or the restaurant would be full. I was always up to speed and in my Mom's opinion corner. I knew I needed to be... or else.

This is the car we were taking, my grandparents' '51 dark green Chevy. I scrambled in the back seat between Gramma and Mom, ponytail no doubt slicked back and perfect. My mother was one of those Mommies in the Dick and Jane Books...  nothing if not perfect.  Then Daddy and Paw-paw turned around and produced three corsages, three colors of carnations all ready for their "girls." Red, pink, and white.

My gramma reached out automatically and took the white one, a sweet smile on her face and a proud tear in her eye. "I wear the white." Mom handed me the red, and she took the pink. I don't really think any symbolism rode on those choices except Mom knew her own mother loved pink the most, and mine loved red.

I remember as if I am saying it now, "Why did you want the white one, Gramma?"  She softly told me it was the only one she could wear. "But why?"

"Well, my own mother is gone," Gramma told me. "I picked the white carnation because she has died."  I sat there in silence (thank goodness) I'm glad I didn't rattle on what my mind was screaming. I was pretty sure I wouldn't want to pick a white flower if my mother were "gone.."  I would want a red one to roar out that she wasn't dead at all. I wouldn't want to say to the world, "My mother isn't here today because she has passed away." I honestly sat and contemplated all that pretty much all the way to the restaurant.

Either my gramma was surely intuitive, or I was an especially loud thinker (and I'm fairly certain it was a little of both) but right before we got out of the car, she reached over and kissed me right on the forehead. "I wish you'd never have to find out. It won't be for a very long time... It's okay to wear the white. I love it because I loved Mommy." (I always thought it was so dear to hear her at her old age say Mommy and Daddy...)

And here I sit... over a half century later...  finally having to symbolically choose the white.... because it is the first Mother's Day without my mom. We don't do carnations, or even going out to lunch any more to honor Mother's Day. It's usually something special I love to cook, a barbecue, or even yummy China Garden takeout. As long as I'm able to be with my son, I'm sure I'll be happy.

I'm ending with a beautiful picture of my mother as a young girl, right before she married my dad... and then a photo of my two grandmothers with me as a young woman. Gramma from this story is fixing the blue formal she made me for my second wedding, and Ma, my dad's mama, is showing me a crochet piece she is working on...

We will hug our Mamas or our memories close this weekend and honor them with real or imaginary carnation corsages of red, pink, yellow, or white...  Much love...

I snapped this picture on Christmas morning 2015, two days before Mama's stroke. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

One Woman's Treasure

Imagine my surprise when my son brought this little beauty in his last haul of things from home. I had made this for my gramma in the '70's... when my gifts nearly all included decoupage of some sort. Gramma loved red, so I decided to create her a recipe box with favorite things "stuck" all over.

The really awesome part is that she absolutely stuffed it with her favorite recipes. The cards are in her careful, pointed script and in my mother's beautiful penmanship. And the food is what you might call a blast from the past.

Here and there a neighbor or friend chimes in with her version of a dish. It makes me smile because just reading through a few of these takes me right back to my gramma's red, pink, and green kitchen where her windows billowed with white, airy curtains... windows propped open by various heights of sticks due to the window weights all being broken...  Remember window weights at all? I don't actually recall having any that worked!

The honor among home cooks is fierce in my family. No matter how many times my family prepared a dish, it never lost its true origin. I have often wondered if the donor of the recipe actually prepared it half as many times as we did. I just know we never stole a recipe and called it ours. That was serious stuff.

My kitchen has a lot of red so this will fit right in...  I will probably lose a few of the newspaper clippings. I don't think we ever made many of those "dreams in a box" for our family dinners. Food is the love language in my family, especially the preparation of it for special events. I am blessed to have the opportunity to cook for those I love. I recognize with tears how desperately sad my mother became when she no longer could cook for us. It was, however, never too bad for her to sit at the table and help me cook something. Until that last year, and even then she made it her business to choreograph what we were cooking for this and that.

Sometimes a recipe such as my Aunt Hazel's apple butter transports me to another home, one filled with dolls and antique pine and cedar paneling... and cinnamon air.

And then... I remember the note I cut up to make this....  My mom had written a little Mother's Day thank you note to me on this, so I saved the front for immortalizing.  Now I probably know the interior of the note held more value.

And another glimpse into my mother's cards, testimony to her foreverlove of all things doll...

Rain continues and grey skies... perfect weather for cleaning, for cooking, for remembering...

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Locust Winter Sunshine

Waking up each morning in a happy mood...  Lots of fun activities to choose from, and cool, brisk weather...  the typical early Summer cold snap.  Now, Nebraska!  Snow? That's really Locust Winter. I love snow, I'll say that. A bit unnatural to have to mow your snow away, I'll say that, too... 

Do any of you use the dryer wool balls?  It seems to be very well accepted by my laundry, but the bumping and thumping are a little scary for my Callie. She isn't accustomed to that noise coming from the laundry room. She's only just been allowed in there. Funny, if I leave the door open, she really doesn't want to be in there. If it's closed, dig dig dig dig...  haha...  Cats.

Could I interest you in a little frittata?  They are soooo good with some balsamic salad and delicious hot tea. I have a tiny, barely-oiled skillet that just accommodates one or two eggs, a few stray chopped vegetables. Last night I browned up some deli chicken until it was really crisp... Scramble the eggs with a couple tbsp. water and some seasoning and let brown. Never stir or turn.  And after it sets, I add a handful of shredded cheese and pop the whole skillet a few final moments in the oven on broil or 400 degrees ..... Those few scorching moments make the top all bubbly and golden. Take a look at these plates. My son brought them over, and they make me happy all over again. Once upon a lifetime far away, I ordered two sets of dishes from the beautiful catalog,"Through the Country Door." They arrived at my doorstep "up home" a few days later in a roaring blizzard. Although at that time I could and did do a lot of real shopping, the whole aura of online and catalog ordering made such whopping sense. I had not been forced to drag those boxes in and out of the store, my car, my front door...  I just scooted them over, gave the dishes a wash, and began to enjoy them. I have dark green, dark red, denim blue... two of each plus bowls, little plates, and cups. So far the whole set isn't over here, but....  in time.

Well, headed out to wish a dear friend a Happy Birthday on the day of her birth. We are celebrating on a different day, but thought it might be fun to pop by. She went to buy flowers today, which suits her quite well...  Hope she doesn't have to float a "frost barrier tea towel" over them, but I couldn't swear to it. 47 degrees tonight...  I think we're good.

Whimsy and Hugs!