Pocket Knives

I come from a long line of “pocket knife always in the pocket” men on my paternal side.  Come to think of it, my maternal side also. I can remember Christmas struggling with that hard-to-get open packaging on a gift. It was like gunslingers in the Old West with my father and grandfather quickly reaching into their pocket, pulling out their pocketknives, opening them up and saying, I got it!

I am not sure I ever remember a time that my father did not have a pocketknife in his pocket. He would clean under his nails with it, open envelopes, and cut apple slices. When I was little, he smoked a pipe, and he would use the knife to clean out the bowl of the pipe before refilling it. Tangent, he also had this very large rough green-blue stone ash tray. It was probably seven inches by four inches and about two inches deep. It was made the prettiest rough stone, almost geode- like and I remember thinking how sad it was covered in ash. And heavy, that ashtray totally could have been used as a weapon in a game of Clue.

Do not try this at home. Sigh.

Anyway, back to pocket knives. One trip when my son when to stay a few days with my dad, my dad taught him to whittle.  As a mother might do, I felt he was WAY too young to be hanging out with a sharp blade, but my father taught him how to care for the blade and how to properly and carefully open the blade. While the whittling was basic (taking a small stick and making smaller and with a point), it became something they did together and made a cool memory.

I do wonder what happened to my father’s pocket knife upon his passing. I know he had a few, as he was never without one. I am happy the habit of “pocket knife always in the pocket” is carried on with my husband and kid.

Wedding Vase

Because of health issues, my mother had to move out of her home where she lived independently and into the skilled living area in a nursing home. Having her go through her home and decided what she wanted to keep was … well, it was god-awful for both of us. She ended up with at least 14 copy paper sized boxes that she wanted to keep and to go with her in her new space. She was moving into a room with a roommate that was about half the size of a one car garage. I went with emotion over logic and said, yup no problem, loaded them up and at least three of them are still in my attic.

repaired wedding vase

The wedding vase was very important to her. I swear I had never seen it before she made the move.

She talked about it always sitting on her parents’ dresser growing up. I have no idea where it came from or how it ended up on her parents’ dresser. She told me that sometimes change was kept in it. No markings on it, and no Native American origins in my family history that I have found so far but it was important to her, so I made sure she had it in her new room.

In the nursing home, she had it on the window ledge with a plant and like her parents, kept change in it. Sometimes I buy snacks for some of the residents that don’t have money to use the vending machine she told me in a whisper. I tried to sneak a dollar here, handful of change there when I visited.

One day I visited her, and the vase was in pieces with change in the shards of pottery. An Aide knocked it off, she said with a catch in her voice. Doesn’t matter, just throw it out. And my heart broke. I gathered up the pieces and took them home. I worked for hours on trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together and then match the paint and the markings. It isn’t perfect. It certainly isn’t Kintsugi, but it was vase shaped and it held change again.

She thanked me for fixing it, but something had been lost even with my best efforts. It sits in my study, still holding change a reminder of sometimes we can try so hard to help and still not be able to fix things.

The Stove

This was my mom’s play stove growing up.

You know those kitchen sets kids play with when they are small? I had one that had actual running water! Ok, so it was a tiny reservoir that circulated the water when you pushed down on the lever.  The whole thing was made of cardboard, but MAN did I think I was the cat’s pajamas with that kitchen unit! Oh, the meals I created! Santa did an amazing job that year.

Sitting in random places in our houses growing up was the cast iron stove for kids. I do remember it having at least three of the circular metal pieces that covered the burners and at least two pots and some sort of extension on the one side. Who knows where those pieces ended up?

The thing is, I never played with it. Maybe once or twice outside but nothing of great note. I was a child in the era new plastic toys and I lusted after an easy-bake oven. I think this stove scared me. My mom would tell stories of how she would have it outside and would start a fire in it to bake mud cakes and pies that she would then decorate with flowers and leaves to serve her dolls (She was a doll girl, I was never an overly doll girl except for Chrissy and Barbie).

A FIRE? My small brain (ok and my adult brain also) would think. Were your parents insane? I was taught at a very young age you do NOT touch matches (my dad smoked a pipe, and they were all over the house). Did her parents just hand her matches and say ‘ta ta go have fun’? And yes, pretty much that was it. My grandmother was taking care of her mom who had had a stroke and lived with them. My mom was a middle child of two boys and that kept her busy.

When I was in my early 30s, my mom insisted that I take the Stove. Not going to lie, I didn’t want it and had no idea what I would do with it. But I took it and it made her happy. Years later I get it. It was such an important part of her childhood and growing up. It contained so many memories for her that she wanted to pass that along and try to preserve it. I wish she would have written those down; instead I have the Stove in my garage. Maybe if you stop by this spring, I will make you some baked mud pies.

Silver

My maternal grandfather died when I was a little over two years old. He worked for the telephone company his entire life and was about a month short of retiring when he had a heart attack and died. Every record I find puts him in the same small town in Southern Indiana on the Ohio River. He was a lineman for the telephone company and that is how Silver was discovered.

One day, in the mid-1940s, he was at a home attic to run the telephone lines. In the attic were tubs of empty alcohol bottles (maybe wine, the family story changed over time) and an old beat up, neglected rocking horse. He asked the woman of the house how much she wanted for the horse, knowing he could clean it up and it would make a wonderful Christmas surprise for his at the time, two children. She told him he could have it for free IF he also took all the bottles away. And he did.

He cleaned it up. Made it a new mane and tail out of unraveled twine. My grandmother helped make the saddle and the reins. A fresh coat of paint and he was perfect. My mother, pictured on Silver, rode and rode that horse. She would tell me that sometimes she would ride so fast the whole base would thump and that it sounded like actual horse hooves hitting the ground.

I met Silver when I was in elementary school. My grandmother had moved into town after his death as she did not drive. She, of packrat fame, lived in a large house with much storage. In the “guest room” was yards and yards of fabric, a bed you could sometimes find, two dressers and Silver. He was usually hiding under a half a quilt or extra sheets, but I would unearth him and then gently ride him (no womp thomping for me). I found his marble eyes especially fascinating.

In the late 1980s, my grandmother moved into a nursing home but she made sure I got to keep Silver. By then his mane was bedraggled and his tail missing. He needed more paint and a good cleaning. I worked on him, making his mane and tail from yarn this time and making him more a cream color than the original grey with subtle white spots. He then joined me on my many, many moves.

When my son came into the picture, he too rode Silver. For the longest time I had a three picture frame of each of us, my mom, me and him proudly riding our faithful steed. I don’t think, however, anyone loved Silver as much as my mom or rode him with such vigor and passion. Silver? Oh he is still around, having quite the nap in my attic.

Two Snoopys

My husband and I are first born kids. And we display a lot of those tendencies. We are cautious, reliable, tad controlling, and ambitious but mostly we took good care of our toys. Our books were not torn or colored in. Puzzle pieces were not missing. All the game pieces accounted for and in order (yes, monopoly money in groups from lowest to highest denomination). Oh sure, our rooms got messy, but they normally returned to order in time.

And then we received siblings. Family lore has it that my husband flat out asked his sister be returned very early in their relationship (spoiler: they did not return her). I am pretty sure I liked my brother until he could talk. And then he never stopped talking at that point, I, too wished there was a return program for siblings.

Much to our dismay our siblings did not display the sort of reverence for toys and possessions that we did. Pieces were lost to games. Puzzles destroyed. Books, well I cannot even talk about the books. One time my mom went into my brother’s room only to discover he had taken a hammer to a glass piggy bank to remove the 20 pennies. You can’t make this stuff up.

I had a small stash of toys that I flat out refused to hand down. They were MINE and I would not share them. Special colored pencils and books were some of the items I cherished. And a wind-up Snoopy. I have always loved Peanuts. My Aunt Mary introduced me to the world of Charles Shulz, and I never looked back. Granted I feel Woodstock is more my Spirit Animal than Snoopy but still.

When we married and were combining our things as couples do, we started to unpack our treasured keepsakes and showing them to each other. Turns out we both had Snoopys that walked that we had kept protected. Yup, they still walk across the table. Though, I am pretty sure mine is faster.  

Harry & Harold

I was born in Mobile, Alabama. I have no memory of this as we moved by the time I was 18 months. We moved to Illinois, New Jersey, and Virginia before settling in my mother’s home town. I did Kindergarten in two different states. Needless to say, I was a bit anxious about starting first grade.

I remember walking to school. I cannot fathom that I walked to school as a first grader but I do remember walking to school. A parent would help me cross the four lane State Route and I would walk three blocks, turn right and walk two more. The really bad part (besides the house that had dogs) was the school buses took that same route and I used to think when I saw their brake lights, they were going to stop and let me ride. Not so much, more slowing down for the turn. Oh, how I dreamed of riding the bus, until we moved and I had to.

Harry was a back-to-school purchase with my supplies. He fit perfectly in my hand and often slept in my pencil box during the day. Maybe getting taken out for a difficult moment or just a glance for confidence. As you can see by his appearance, he spent a great deal of time protected in my hand. The school year continued without too much fuss (I had the best teacher ever (you will get to meet her later)), until the Friday I got home from school and could not find Harry anywhere. He wasn’t in a coat pocket or my book bag. He was gone.

To say I was devastated is an understatement. Harry was my only friend at school. I was the weird kid that could read and got to sit in the hall and read harder books while the class did other things. I had lost my best friend.

Because I was not really a drama child, my parents realized this was a huge problem. And while I had grown up under the rules of “You lost it? Too bad there is no more”, they took pity on me and we went to the store, to the display and they said I could get a new friend to take to school. Apparently alligators were not a hot selling item as they still had one. A twin, but not really.  I bought Harold and he was a stand-up guy, but he was not Harry. I tried all weekend to pretend he was Harry. On Monday, I went to school with my new alligator friend. I took him to my desk and opened my pencil box to make him comfortable for the long school day.

And there was Harry!

Quilts

My maternal grandmother made quilts. She did all the piecing and some designing and also embroidery on the finished top part and then sent them to be quilted by a church group. That always seemed so magical to me. I would see the snippets of materials around her chair and then connected together. The project would grow from the size of a cookie sheet to six cookie sheets and then bigger. Once all the machine sewing was done, she would then begin on the decorative work. Once that was all complete, she would send it away and it would come back a usable quilt. Quite magic.

The quilts remind me of my grandmother and her very gnarled hands. Because of her hands were so knotted, when she wrote she would put the pencil between her pointer and middle finger. Her cursive was quite elegant and as I child I figured it was because she held her pencil in such a fancy way. Her casket was open at her funeral and her hands curved in C shapes as they normally were when she was at rest. I remember thinking how lovely it would be to tuck purple violets into her hands. Her yard was always full of purple violets.

She was a ‘waste not, want not’ type of lady. Some might suggest a tad of hoarding. She had bags of plastic Legg eggs in her storage area. She had saved beer cans (my uncle helped with that as she was not a drinker) and she crocheted beer can hats for all the men in our family. (Go ahead Google it, I can wait). She saved Pringle cans and So. Much. Fabric. She has been gone over twenty five years and I am still using the muslin I inherited from her.

Her quilts displayed that mindset of saving and using for something else. At least once, maybe twice a year, we would be at her house and she would tell my mom that we needed to “do the quilts”. My mother would go upstairs (after being reminded to turn on the light by her mother; that too seemed to be a pass down generation thing) and bring down the ones she kept. Mostly she gave the quilts away or made them for a specific person in mind. However, about ten of them were her special quilts that she kept. I was allowed to pick on for my sixteenth birthday. They would come out of storage and be opened up. We would look them over, point out different materials that had been used prior in dresses or tops, as curtains or the numerous toddler bubble suits (Simplicity pattern # 8811, 1970) I wore in my youth. They would be opened out fully and then refolded, but never on the same lines as the prior folding to help keep them fresh and longer lasting.

I do the same with mine from time to time, though mine show much more wear, use and love.

Yes, I owned a bubble suit from this fabric!

The Bear Bank

The January writing prompt is things. Things that stir a memory or remind us of a certain person. Items that we hold dear or maybe ones that provoke other emotions. Try to do two for the month, extra credit for more than two.

***

When we were in our late 20s, my brother and I used to joke about what we wanted in our mom’s house when she passed. It seemed at the time like an event that would never happen, and we liked to perturb her with our banter. We would tease her that we were using invisible ink on items to mark our initials and claim her treasures. In all reality, there were three things I wanted the most: the blue bowl, the bear bank and her rolling pin.

I have no idea the origins of the bear bank. It is made of plaster and missing its stopper. No markings or signatures and the paint is starting to scuff off on areas. As a child, it fascinated me for two reasons. Initially, because it was SO HEAVY. I thought there must be millions of dollars in it. One time she took all the change out (upon adult reflection, it was probably because we needed the money for food or gas in the car) and it was so light and easy to hold. I wanted to keep it in my room, but back on the shelf it went.

The main reason the bear fascinated me was that it reminded me of the picture book Blueberries for Sal. In the end papers, it shows the mom and little girl canning. To my child’s eyes, I was sure this was my mother and me. It looked like us and my mom did lots of canning.

Illustration credit: Robert McCloskey

To me, the bear bank obviously reflected the bears in the book (though the book just has one child bear and the bank has two, I can only assume that the bank represented my family with the addition of my younger brother; I, am of course, the one in the mom bear’s arms). To me the bear bank symbolized my mother and I when I was little. We would do all the things together, the fun and the day to day. She probably longed for some alone time, but to me it was perfect.

In my 30s, I unwrapped the bear bank as a birthday present. It had a few coins still in it, but so great was the wealth I felt at owning the bank and having it for my own. Shhh, my mom said, maybe don’t tell your brother. I didn’t and it makes me smile when I see it sit on my shelf, heavy with quarters and memories.

Thwarted

I believe the redesign of my site is complete. Or as complete as I am going to make it. I had a dream of the 2019 blog being on different page and starting fresh with this page for the family history posts that we will be doing together in 2022. But all I managed to do was make another page and delete a post (well I can still see the post but I don’t think you can, and it really wasn’t that good of a post anyway, so it will be just fine).

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Looking forward to spending 2022 with you. If you followed me in 2019, thanks for coming back and I hope you are well. I leave you with a bit of summer until we start for real in 2022!

PS sorry the picture is so flipping large! I will work on that as it frightened even me when I looked at the page!

Afraid

I will admit it, I am afraid of these shoes. They are nice shoes. I like the colors. They fit well. I have only worn them maybe nine times. But they are the shoes I was wearing when I fell. The back heel caught just enough on the carpet to send me tumbling forward. Yeah, I probably blame them for the fall.

I have gone to the closet at least three times, had them in my hands and nope put them back. I should give them to charity. They are good shoes. Not inexpensive shoes but I fear them. I fear falling again. I honestly don’t think I can wear them again.

The doctor told me at least three times (and this was pre-surgery) that I was not a china doll and that the mental was going to be one of the more difficult parts of this whole thing. Now having had physical therapy for the past 5 weeks, not TOTALLY sure I agree with this take on what is most difficult, but I will admit to this being a stumbling point I had not really factor in in the healing process. I’m not normally a fearful person, so this is a challenge for me.

I have always liked this quote:

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” — Rosa Parks

Something to ponder as we all deal with things that make us afraid right now (job security, health, friends, family, money). The unknown can be scary, having a plan helps no matter what the level of the fear. Yeah, maybe the shoes need to go in the next bag of clothes for charity.