Tag Archives: home and family

Fairy Alert–Beth Trissel

Some of you may remember earlier posts inspired by our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, now eight. A soulful eyed sprite, Cailin glimpses a realm unknown to most of us, though imagined by me.  She creates homes for fairies in her backyard and assures me that they love my garden, even have a fairy school here. Good to know my flowers are appreciated by these ephemeral beings. Cailin and her fairy friends have enhanced our lives with wonder.  Big news–she discovered her first baby fairy.

Sunday afternoon I received an excited phone call from Cailin with descriptions of this marvelous find, also questions as to how she should care for such a unique infant. While Cailin and I were speaking her teenage sister, Lizzy, walked in the door to cries of, “Lizzy! Look! I found a baby fairy!”

The story of Cailin and her latest fairy find, Taler, is a fascinating revelation, one that unfolds daily as she learns more about her new charge. As my sister tells the tale: “I was downstairs doing laundry when Cailin came rushing down the stairs. I heard, “Mama! Mama! Guess what?! Guess what I have in my hands?!” Her hands were cupped, and held close together, her face with an expression of sheer delight and anticipation as she couldn’t wait for me to see and discover what was in her hands. She then said, “I found it in the grass, and Andy (her stepfather) said I can keep it! He said I can keep it and take care of it!” (*Image of Cailin and her fairy,  Taler, above.)

I was a little hesitant, and asked her to show me what she held. She carefully opened her hands so her treasure wouldn’t fly off and looked up at my face, knowing I would be just as excited as she was…then it dawned on her that I couldn’t see it. She said, “It’s an ‘everything fairy’ – that’s why it’s invisible” (well,  to most). She explained she was walking along with Sara (her sister) and they were having fun with “Mr Moustache” (the caterpillar they’d discovered) when “out of the corner of my eye,” she says she saw a glimmer in the grass. Before it got stepped on or stolen, she reached down and scooped it up just in time.

At first Cailin didn’t understand why she’d be there, a little baby fairy, all alone. She feared her parents had abandoned her. But then Taler told her the whole story as the evening wore on. Apparently, her parents were trying to hide her from the Wind fairies (a terrible whooshing sort of fairy that would want to get her as an infant and raise her as one of their own). They hadn’t abandoned her, they were trying to protect her. Cailin said she still needs to watch out for the wind fairies, because they’re still searching for her. Taler (very sparkly) may be of royal blood as well. And, an everything fairy is quite rare. She has the potential for amazing powers. After the enthusiasm of showing me her fairy had calmed for a second, she asked, “How do I take care of a baby fairy? I’ve never taken care of one before.” That’s when I announced, “We should call your Aunt Beth. She might have some good ideas about that.”

And I did, of course. I suggested a small warm box lined with something soft for a bed and a diet of nectar, honey or sugar water, hoping she doesn’t attract ants, as a butterfly is the closest creature I can compare a fairy to.

(Playground for fairies and bed, with tiny teddy, for Taler)

Also of interest to note, Cailin was hoping Taler would be more turquoise, because that’s her favorite color, but Taler is pink and purplish, also has tiny stripes on her arm–a recent discovery. Cailin isn’t yet sure why. When she first found Taler, furled wings concealed much of her, but as they’ve opened Cailin is better able to see more of her. Oh, and Taler can teleport. Not from room to room, but her house to mine, one place to another. With help, I think Cailin should make Taler’s story (and more) into a book. Stay tuned. The adventure of Cailin and her fairies may be coming to an Amazon near you.

(Cailin and her fairy garden pictured above. Drawing of Taler.)

For Lovers of Gardening and Country Life–Beth Trissel

Written in a month by month journal style, my award-winning nonfiction book, Shenandoah Watercolors, follows a year in my life on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Excerpt from May:

“The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,

Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…” ~William Shakespeare

The heavy rain has given way to a misting drizzle, but streams of water pour down from the hills and make new ponds and creeks. It’s chilly with that raw wet feel. This spring is awash in moisture and amazing after last summer’s searing drought. I’m struck by the intense beauty around me, and I thought I was already seeing it, but it’s so much more somehow. The grass seems to shimmer, yet there’s no sun out today, and the meadow is so richly green it’s like seeing heaven.

Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.

I’ve been thinking about my favorite places. The pool I like best lies in the woods near a place called Rip Rap Hollow in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A splendid falls cascades up above, but I like the pool far more. We always meant to go back, but never have. The cold water ripped through me like liquid ice and is as clear as melted crystal.

I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new-mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.

Now, that’s a good place to go in my mind when I’m troubled. The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found.~

Only .99 in kindle at Amazon, Shenandoah Watercolors is also out in print with lovely photographs taken by my talented family.

“This is perhaps the most beautifully written memoir I’ve ever read. Its lovely and languid descriptions of the picturesque valley, the farm and gardens are equaled only by the charming and funny descriptions of the antics (and conversations!) of the farm animals. What a joy this is to read…” Amazon Reviewer C. G. King


For The Love of Fur Babies–Beth Trissel

Excerpt from Shenandoah Watercolors, my nonfiction book about gardening, country life and herbal lore.

~Years ago, my youngest daughter, Elise, and I found a bedraggled black kitten in a murky corner of the old red barn huddled beside an ancient water trough. Hay was stuck to its fur and its head slick in places from a calf’s sympathetic tongue.
niece Cailin with kitten PavelWe carried the mewing puff ball down to the house and gave it a bath. Being mostly fur, it shrank considerably in the water and nearly disappeared.
After drying this soggy specimen of catdom, we bundled it up in an old towel and fed it the formula concocted by a local vet for orphan kittens: one cup whole milk, one teaspoon of vegetable oil, one egg yolk, whisk well and warm. Sometimes I use a tiny bottle, but this baby is old enough to lap and downed the lot I had poured into a shallow lid. We filled a canning jar with hot water, screwed the lid on tightly and tucked our swaddled charge beside the improvised water bottle back in the small closet in the laundry room.
KITTEN TEA PARTYAssorted farm coats, jeans and shirts hang on hooks up above and brush our heads as we kneel to peer into this den-like place. There’s nothing dogs like better for a bed than a worn coat with that barn smell still clinging to it, cozily tucked back into this closet. Cats prefer sunbeams but will make do. I’ve spent many hours on my knees helping to birth puppies, fuss over their care and tend kittens. Countless kittens and puppies, tiny terriers that could fit in a shoe box, medium size dogs and dogs that have grown too big but are still attached, have called this comforting space home. The narrow walls are gnawed and deeply grooved from the many inhabitants over the years. Every household should have such a place.
Fortunately our rescue dog, Mia, also likes her bed in the dining room because she cannot be trusted to kitten-sit. The formula rapidly dwindles. Not only that, she’s afraid of kittens. Silly, silly Mia. The kitten does not yet have a name because if you name a creature that implies that it’s staying, which this one very well may be. Sometimes you just need a kitten.
Oddly, it would seem that Mia always wanted a kitten of her own after all. She follows the minute puff ball around the kitchen and hovers over it with a worried look. Actually, Mia generally looks worried. I suppose from earlier traumas before we took her in. She has never had a small furry friend though and even tries to play with the kitten as it bounds around the kitchen in great excitement over everything and anything.
My mother made the observation that kittens and other babies can utterly give themselves to play in a way that the rest of us can’t because we’ve had the play smacked out of us by life. Now and then, I think we should all play as unreservedly as possible.
***Photograph of the kitten and baby goose, Mia and our rescue kitty, Percy (Both bigger and older now) and rescue kitty Minnie Mae (tea party) by my mother, Pat Churchman. Niece Cailin and our latest rescue kitty Pavel by Elise.
Author/farm wife Beth Trissel shares the joys and challenges of rural life on her family’s small farm located in the scenic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Journey with her through the seasons on the farm, owned by her family since the 1930’s, and savor the richness of her cherished gardens and beloved valley. This journal is a poignant, often humorous, sometimes sad glimpse into a vanishing way of life for anyone who loves or yearns for the country and even those who don’t.
At Amazon in kindle and print. The paperback has lovely images taken by my talented family.

Autumn on our Farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia–Beth Trissel

An excerpt from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life,  Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 EPIC eBook Award Finalist:

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” ~ Anne Frank

(Image by my mother, Pat Churchman. If you look closely you can see my daughter Elise as a child and her little friend, James, peeking our from behind the trees.)

“A cold autumn wind blew as my younger daughter, Elise, and I scurried about the garden in the last of the light to gather in our treasures. She heaped great orange Cinderella pumpkins into the wheelbarrow and picked the rest of her pink and blue Indian corn. Beams of sun touched the crimson cockscomb flowers just coming into full bloom, an antiquated variety that I seeded late and coaxed through our wet summer. (Cinderella Pumpkins, image by Elise taken this fall)

The vibrant color of the plumes stood out against the grayish black clouds like a king’s velvet robes. This wealth will quickly dwindle if the temperatures dip too low tonight. The weather is quite cool here today. Forecasters are calling for the chance of frost tonight, but only if the gray blanket covering the sky clears and bright cold stars come out. Then maybe Jack Frost’s chill breath will silver the hoary earth.

I must get myself to the garden and pick the last of the orange persimmon tomatoes–truly the most luscious variety in the world–and the heirloom lima beans, called Christmas limas. These beans are mottled a lovely wine color and very tasty. Perhaps I can get our dog, Mia, to help me. But I doubt it. She takes no interest in vacuuming or dusting either, just wants to know when its time to eat.

I have this wild hope in the back of my mind that maybe I will wake up one day and find the house ordered and gleaming, all put to rights while I slept. I suspect this delusion comes from my having read The Elves and the Shoemaker too often, and other fairy tales. I have also seen too many Disney movies.”

(Colorful maple tree near green rye field on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley, image by Elise)

***Shenandoah Watercolors is available from Amazon in kindle and now paperback with lovely photographs taken by my family.

***For a seed link to the Christmas Pole Lima Beans click HERE.

***For a seed link to Cinderella Pumpkins click HERE

***For a seed link to my favorite Orange Persimmon tomatoes click HERE.

After your initial purchase you can save the seed.

Who Doesn’t Love Baby Bunnies and Kittens–Beth Trissel

“It is impossible to keep a straight face in the presence of one or more kittens.” ~Cynthia E. Varnado

“An ordinary kitten will ask more questions than any five-year-old.”
Carl Van Vechten

“A kitten is chiefly remarkable for rushing about like mad at nothing whatever, and generally stopping before it gets there.”
Agnes Repplier

These precious little cuties are my son and daughter-in-law’s. Elise and I went to visit this week and she had her camera.  I’m holding them in my bandaged overgardened hands. I got in a fight with a thistle and lost.

“It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific’.”
Beatrix Potter, The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies

“Peter lost one of his shoes among the cabbages, And the other shoe amongst the potatoes.”
Beatrix Potter

“Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea: “One table-spoonful to be taken at bedtime.”
Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit

My Answer to World Peace

This will come as no surprise to those of you who follow my blog, but I strongly feel and emphatically declare the world would be a far better place if everyone had a garden.  I’m convinced when people are growing things, they’re much less prone to destructive behavior.  Granted, violent extremists, serial killers and zombies seem beyond redemption, but the rest of humanity would gain immeasurably from a connection with the earth.  To cultivate a garden is to commune with the essence of life and the source of all creation.

“The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for him there. ” ~George Bernard Shaw

I urge planting herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers in an outdoor plot–convert a patch of lawn if need be–or as part of a community garden. This is a particularly good idea because it brings together people of all ages, from the very young to the elderly, and provides wonderful learning opportunities for children while tapping into the storehouse of knowledge many older people have.   The interaction between those joined in the common purpose of producing food and beautifying their neighborhood helps cultivate the people along with the plants.

Above pic from the site How To Start A Community Garden.

Our church has a communal garden with small plots for those who ask for them.  Folks garden side by side, sharing trials and triumphs and learning together.  More churches could do this if they tilled up part of their yard and put in vegetable plots  instead of only grass.

Sacrilegious?  I don’t think so.

Back to the garden, think sustainable methods, like making compost, and practice organic gardening.   Encourage beneficial insects, butterflies, and song birds to make their home in your yard.  You’d be amazed how many you can attract just by planting a patch of sunflowers and zinnias.

Anything that rots and hasn’t been sprayed with herbicide or pesticide can be used as mulch, although it’s best to compost the material first.  Old hay or straw make good mulch without needing to break down before using.   Different parts of the country have various natural material that can be used.  Organic matter feeds the soil and encourage earthworms.   Remember, as I tell my children and now grandchildren, happy worms make happy dirt.  Worms are the gardener‘s friend.  Non-hybrid, heirloom seed can be saved for next year and shared with others, and old-time flowers can be divided and spread around.

If digging in the earth isn’t an option for you, try growing plants in pots on a patio, deck, rooftop, sunny windowsill, or under fluorescent lights.  These can be fairly inexpensive to set up.   I used to have a stand with long fluorescent lights suspended over it about 6-10 inches above the foliage.   Raise the lights as the plants grow.  You’ll need warm and cool fluorescent bulbs for good plant growth, but not the more costly ‘grow lights.’  Although they’re good too.

“No two gardens are the same.  No two days are the same in one garden.”  ~Hugh Johnson

A film I really enjoyed about how gardening can reform and transform prisoners is Greenfingers with Clive Owen.  The movie is based on a true story which makes it even better, and it’s a love story, another plus, and the fabulous Helen Mirren co-stars.  I also really like actor David Kelly.  He’s wonderful.  The gardens featured  are gorgeous and I never tire of looking at Clive.   This is a feel good movie.

“Green fingers are the extension of a verdant heart. ” ~Russell Page

****Royalty free images–except for the film cover

“The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat.” ~ Jules Reynard

“Ignorant people think it is the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it is the sickening grammar that they use.” ~ Mark Twain

(P. Cuthbert Wiggins, otherwise known as Percy the beloved)

“Again I must remind you that a dog’s a dog–a cat’s a cat.” ~ T.S. Eliot

“There are no ordinary cats.” ~ Colette

(Newly arrived Pavel and the adored one, Sadie Sue)

“I purr, therefore I am.” ~ Anonymous

“The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.” ~ Comedienne Paula Poundstone

“A cat is like a puzzle with no solution.” ~Anne Campbell

(Pavel actually NOT pestering Percy at this moment)

“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” ~Tay Hohoff

“There is no single quality of the cat that man could not emulate to his advantage.” ~ Carl Van Vechten

“In a cat’s eye, all things belong to cats.” ~ English proverb

(Minnie Mae playing with or escaping from Pavel)

“There is no more intrepid explorer than a kitten.” ~ Jules Champfleury

“A Home without a cat, and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat, may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove it’s title?” ~ Mark Twain

And a dog or two, I add.

(Pavel in a calm mode)

***For a collection of great cat quotes visit this swell site.

‘Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.’ ~Regina Brett & Other Inspirational Quotes

My daughter Alison reminded me of this excellent quote yesterday:  “If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.” ~Regina Brett, Author of God Never Blinks

*I contemplated what image I might use to symbolize the Divine and decided this mystical holy rays of light (royalty free image from istock) seemed best.

Ms. Bret has much wisdom.  Here are a few of her most noteworthy quotes.  With commentary from yours truly, of course.

“Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.”
― Regina Brett

*Even a sympathetic dog will do.  Or a purry kitty, very comforting.  Although the dog will probably care more.  Cats have their own way of relating.

*My grandson Colin and his best friend Grady taken by daughter Alison.

“Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.” ― Regina Brett

*This is more true than many of us realize.  Definitely worth bearing in mind.

“When in doubt, take the next step.”
― Regina Brett

And from Folk Singer John McCutcheon, “Step by step the longest march can be won.”

To this I add, it helps to have a friend walk with you.

*Image taken by my husband Dennis of two little Old Order Mennonite brothers.

“God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.” ― Regina Brett

*Thank heavens for that!

“Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.”
― Regina Brett

*To this, I’d say, particularly in the spring when all the world is new and bursting with life.   And especially in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.  *Image of the valley by my mother, Pat Churchman, and the cover for my nonfiction book on Gardening and Country Life on a small family farm, Shenandoah Watercolors.

“Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.”
― Regina Brett

*Yes, yes, very sound advice.  Tough to do.

“I once heard someone say that prayer is more than words. It’s a stance you take, a position you claim. You throw your body against the door to keep the demons from advancing and stay put until they go away.” ― Regina Brett

*Stand firm.  And may God be with you.

“Life isn’t about how you survived the storm … it’s about how you danced in the rain. Dance with me.”  ― Regina Brett

*Perhaps a gentle spring shower, or mist.  It’s raining outside now, cold wet rain, and I don’t feel inclined to dance in it.  But her sentiment is lovely and I suspect not meant to be taken literally.

*Image of North River in the mist taken by my mom, Pat Churchman.

“…there were two kinds of women: those who wear nail polish and those who don’t. Which do you prefer?…” ― Regina Brett

*Actually, those who don’t.  There’s no way an avid gardener can keep their nail polish looking good, and I feel more at home with earthier sorts like gardeners.  Not that I will shun you if you wear polish.  You may have other superb attributes.

To Ms. Brett’s trove of wisdom I add my own adage, When the going gets tough, the tough get kittens.  And if it’s really tough I recommend a basket of kittens.   I also adhere to the eating of dark chocolate.  And to that Regina Bret says, “Resistance to chocolate is futile.”  I’ve already had my chocolate ration for the day.  May need to up the ration.

*Kitten image is royalty free, but perfect so I bought it.  We didn’t happen to have a basket of kittens on hand for this post.

“No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up.”
― Regina Brett

*Ummm, but not if you have anything contagious, please.  My thinking is that everyone should stay home for a couple of days and break the cycle of germ sharing.  But, again, I suspect that’s not what she intended.

*Image of my niece Cailin as the fairy princess.  An ardent believer in fairies whom I fully support.

“Your children get only one childhood.”
― Regina Brett

Unless you’re Peter Pan, or headed to Never Never Land.  In truth, some of us never really grew up, we just got older.

Lastly, do no underestimate the wonderfully restorative value of naps.  Even a cat nap does a body good.

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”  ~Irish Proverb

“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.”  ~Carrie Snow

Bring on the kittens.  🙂

For the Love of Cats

This  past summer we took in an unusual barn kitty, the part Siamese offspring of a tabby mama.  A tiny runt, Pavel (pronounced Pabel) was half the size of his robust litter mates.   We’re told he was born pink and hairless, so must have been a premie. Even now, at what should be a nearly full grown size, he only weighs a little over six pounds so is still quite small for a kitten cat.  Not that this deters him in any way.  And nothing escapes his insatiable curiosity.  Ever on the prowl, he continually seeks for that which he can get into, unless he’s snoozing in a sunbeam.   We all savor Pavel’s nap times.

Feisty,  we guess that’s how he survived, this determined little guy can be very sweet and purry when he so desires and has brought much pleasure  into our lives.  I particularly like it when he cuddles with me. Mostly he’s busy pouncing on the bigger kitties and other naughtiness.  Our two older cats Percy and Minnie Mae are gradually adjusting to him, although relationships are strained.  Especially when he tackles them all in good fun and they take offense.  At one time, they were the new kid here who had to gain acceptance among the ranks.  I tell them sometimes you just need a kitten.

“It is impossible to keep a straight face in the presence of one or more kittens.” ~Cynthia E. Varnado

“A catless writer is almost inconceivable.  It’s a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys.”  ~Barbara Holland

(Pavel and my little pom poo Sadie Sue sitting with me as I write).

“The cat could very well be man’s best friend but would never stoop to admitting it.”  ~Doug Larson

“There has never been a cat
Who couldn’t calm me down
By walking slowly
Past my chair.”
~Rod McKuen

“Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these.”- quoted in “UC’s Bancroft Library celebrating Mark Twain,” San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 2, 2008

“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.”~ Mark Twain

“I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult.  It’s not.  Mine had me trained in two days.”  ~Bill Dana

“If there is one spot of sun spilling onto the floor, a cat will find it and soak it up.”  ~J.A. McIntosh

***Image of my niece Cailin with kitty Pavel.

“A Home without a cat, and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat, may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove it’s title?” — Mark Twain 

***In case you haven’t noticed yet, Mark Twain loved cats.  And he’s a distant ancestor of mine, so maybe the connection?

“Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.” — Anonymous

***Our most recent pic of Pavel, all images taken by my daughter Elise.

“No amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat, and no amount of masking tape can ever totally remove his fur from your couch.”  ~Leo Dworken

“Kittens believe that all nature is occupied with their diversion.”  ~F.A. Paradis de Moncrif

“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” — Tay Hoho

To this I add, I also love dogs. But there is something inherently special about cats.  As a child they were always my favorite pet.  I could not be without them and will probably become the crazy cat lady.  Maybe I already am.  Hmmmm….

“Of all God’s creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” — Mark Twain

I Remember When–1960’s Nostalgia

The bubble-head Barbie came out in the early 1960’s, her hair style influenced by Jacqueline Kennedy. When I was eight, I was  overjoyed to receive a red-headed one for my birthday.  Presents were simpler and fewer in those days. Most of my Barbie’s wardrobe was laboriously made by my mother, the ‘store bought’ outfits being too pricey for us. Even so,  my grandmother felt we were quite spoiled.   Anyone who lived through the Great Depression did.  Plus she grew up in China, the daughter of missionaries.  Talk about poor…that dear lady once sewed a collection of my great uncle’s old ties together to make a skirt for me.  I was a teenager, so didn’t wear it.  She always told me there was no room to stand on pride when you were hard up.  But I took a stand on that occasion.  Now I wish I’d saved that skirt.

Books were particularly special in my childhood, my collection small and continually reread.  The thrill of my life was when my mom ordered a box all the way from England filled with C. S. Lewis‘s the Chronicles of Narnia, not yet available in the U.S. To say I was influenced by The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe (and the rest of the series)  is an understatement. I’m still looking for Narnia.  I assume everyone is, but apparently they’re not all…weird.

Given my love of reading, trips to the library were savored. With three younger children to take care of, mom let me check out as many books as I could manage myself.  Thin arms laden, the pile stretched from my knobby knees up to my arched chin as I staggered to the car with my take.  I devoured everything, fiction, nonfiction…even the biography of Lotta Crabtree, which I suspect most children haven’t read.

I remember dirt roads with bumps we’d beg to ride over fast, and endless highways before the age of the interstate.  Traveling from one place to another in our old Chrysler was an arduous affair with warm sandwiches smashed in between wax paper and tepid, metallic sips of water from my father’s Marine Corps canteen.  And that had to date back to the Korean War, unless it was his father’s and then we’re talking WWI.   Air conditioning in the car was unheard of then and rarely enjoyed anywhere.  Mostly public buildings.  Few homes possessed such comfort.  Only a fan stirred the heavy stillness of our sweltering summers.  We finally got air-conditioning  in our farmhouse when the older children were well into elementary school with one window unit in the family room where we all camped out together when the nights were really hot.  We now have several units, the height of comfort, except for the parts of the house that don’t.

Childhood trips to the movies can be numbered on my fingers.  Maybe not even using  both hands.   Cinderella and The Sound of Music stand out in my memory.  My college English teacher father, who spent several years getting his doctorate, wasn’t overpaid.  And then I married a farmer, also not overpaid.  As for television, a small black and white set sufficed until I was thirty-something.   Only recently did we acquire a more advanced means of obtaining channels other than the battered antenna, constantly zapped by strong winds, that required my hubby to climb up on the garage roof for adjustments and yell down at the person in the kitchen doorway below, “Can you see it now?” The answering shout was relayed from the person in the living room until better reception was achieved.  I was delighted to discover  Netflix.

As for clothes, refer to the long-suffering mother mentioned above and selfless grandmother at their sewing machines, and hand-me-downs.   I reveled in what some would call a ‘missionary barrel’ of hand-me-downs when my father was in graduate school, my younger sister on the way, and our family as poor as church mice.    I thought a pair of ‘to me’ fashionable flats made me look like a movie star and dreamed big dreams.  When I reached the advanced age of thirteen I was awed by a pair of fish net stockings and my first ever lipstick, a pale pink by Bonnie Bell.

Back to fashion.  When my children were small, I labored at my sewing machine and even made over some of my own clothes into little shirts, pants, and smocks for them (and embroidered the fronts). Again, mom and grandma sewed much appreciated contributions, and Grandma knitted sweaters.  Children weren’t expected to be as well dressed in my day, or my children’s, as they are now.  As long as we had something suitable for church, and when I was small that meant petticoats, white gloves, and a hat.  Sales had to be really good for my mom to buy ‘ready made’ clothes.  Ditto for  my kids.  They even sold sweet corn at a roadside stand in the summers to earn money for back to school clothes.  But all of this built character, right?  Made us more appreciative of what we have.   (*Image of little Beth)

No Kleenex in my childhood.  We used handkerchiefs which were washed, and if one was  fastidious, ironed.  Some of them were quite fancy, possibly family heirlooms.  Again, I wish I’d saved some.  I’d dress my Betsy McCall doll in the prettiest ones.

Furniture?  In our family, with rare exceptions, you inherited it, or someone still living gave you some pieces, or you made/refinished them yourself.    Food?  A lot of home cooking/canning.  Some less than appetizing meals when mom got into a hardcore health food phase.  My sister recalls groats, but only once. Again, I can count on my fingers, maybe with both hands, how many times our family ate out as I was growing up.   And eating between meals was frowned upon or we’d ‘spoil our dinner.’  An occasional snack, maybe.

Didn’t like your supper?  Too bad.   Probably why I have the urge as an adult to eat whatever I want, whenever I want.   But we kids played outside all the time and were wiry and fast.   Little danger of obesity among the youth back then.  Those were the ‘Timmy and Lassie days’ of riding our bikes all over the neighborhood as long as we were back by suppertime.  Now we want to know where our children are every second, and understandably so with all the pedophiles at seemingly ever corner.

Have we really come all that far?  In some ways, yes, in others, not so much. When I was young, we feared the Russians, the Cold War, and Nuclear proliferation.  Now, its Muslim Extremists.  And they’re worse than anything I recall, and I was one of those kids who had to hide under their desk in elementary school as part of a practice drill for what to do if…as though that would have saved us from a nuclear attack.  We also practiced taking alternate routes home which had me stopping off in a golf course to play–alone–at the age of eight.  Great plan. (Not me in the pic, just a random child from that era doing the desk drill thing).

What are your memories?  Do you lament the old days?  Those Russians don’t seem so scary now, huh?