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Remembering Dad

dad-at-door-b-w2It’s been a generation, 19 years ago, since Dad passed away; and as this anniversary approaches, I can’t help wondering what Dad’s thoughts would be regarding politics, society, and life in general.  Dad was a pretty opinionated guy, I think we could all agree; so I wonder what he’d have to say about “twerking,” “tweeting,” and “texting” in this modern, technological age.  Dad mellowed with age and seemed to have developed a broader view or a greater understanding of human nature, but just when I thought I’d have him pegged, Dad would surprise me with his thoughts.

Dad, like Mum, was always intellectually curious.  Although he may not have embraced fully the technological aspects of the information age, which was still in its infancy when he died, he read hard copy every day and never missed the evening news. I’m pretty sure he would not only be up-to-date with trending news, he would not mince words about his feelings towards something. Just as I really miss asking Mum her take on current events, I miss the having the opportunity to do with same with Dad–just as I miss the opportunity to ask either of them family history questions. I’m just as sure that Dad wouldn’t have patience with any of the 24/7 “news” networks, recognizing them for what they are:  entertainment. Okay—so maybe that’s MY opinion.
As much as he was curious, Dad was also industrious.  After a hard night’s work in the coal mines and a brief stint in bed, Dad usually found something that had to be done:  working on the car, repairing something to give it added life, or making something for the family to enjoy. In the early years, he repaired our shoes—not with duct tape or staples, but the right way with the right tools.  Dad gave me my first haircut and many thereafter. Fortunately, because he used scissors on my hair, I didn’t suffer the same fate as the boys did.  Dad used clippers on them.  At least I know he used clippers on Chip with less-than-stellar results that made for the cutest school pictures.
He welded a metal frame together and made us a great swing set that we all enjoyed so much.  It was the best place to be on beautiful PA summer or autumn days.  There was a large swing for Mum and Dad or a parent and child or multiple kids.  The single swing provided many hours of enjoyment for any one of us kids. I can remember swinging so high it was impossible not to laugh out loud as the posts came out of the ground.  It was the combination of fear and excitement that was so exhilarating and something I’m sure Dad got a kick out of watching.

Dad and fireplaceThere is also the stone fireplace that stands decades later, a testament to Dad’s ability to craft a monument to our lives in the Yatesboro house.  I remember family picnics with Uncle Nick, Aunt Liv, and all our cousins outside with the fireplace serving as the sentinel charged with marking time to the laughter, story-telling, spats…life…that happened in its presence. It was difficult leaving the swing set and fireplace behind when we moved to Rural Valley.
It was at the Rural Valley house that Dad worked the hardest, or maybe it seemed that way because I was older by then and more aware of what was going on around me.  I remember the stone wall that Dad, Uncle Nick, and even Uncle Sid constructed off the patio.  Then there was a bathroom in the basement so Dad could take a shower after he got home from work or when he put in a full day around the house. There was always something to occupy his time, and most of that time was spent in his shop.

Later, when the house was pretty much in order and Dad was approaching retirement and beyond, Dad used his wood working talent to make beautiful built-in bookcases, sewing tables/desks, bread boxes, covered candy dishes—so many things came out of that shop.  I prize the piece he helped Ken finish.  Ken made the base of a hutch and needed some guidance with putting on the doors, so Dad came to the rescue. Now home to all my cookbooks, it’s over 30 years old.  I’m sure Dad struggled with not being able to use the shop in those last years when the thing he loved to do most, putter in his shop, sapped too much of his energy. But never one to sit idle, Dad would soak in the warmth outside while fashioning peach pits into little baskets.  How many he made, I’ll never know.  Anyone who stopped by to chat for a minute or two got one. His was a life of hard work, as it was for his generation.

Mum and Dad 1935Above all, though, was Dad’s love for Mum.  It seemed he was always trying to make her life better or happier.  He brought her little “treasures” just about every day–just something little to make her smile…a dandelion flower, a beautiful tomato from the garden, a piece of candy.  He’d sneak up behind her, nuzzle her neck, say something in Italian to make her smile, and then present his little gift.  Always, he entered the house and shouted up the stairs: “Lucy, I’m hooome!”
I like to think that when Mum made her way back to him this past summer, there he was…waiting, arms outstretched, a twinkle in his eye: “Lucy, you’re home.”  –Linda

5…4…3…2…1…0

Dove, November 2013

Click on Dove’s photo to Donate

As I write this we’re counting down 17 hours to donate to Dove’s fundraiser! At midnight tonight, it’s all over. Let’s begin the new year right. Let’s send some love Dove’s way and keep her hope alive for the coming year. Let’s keep Dove’s smile on!

We have to take advantage of our matching donor … we’ve added only $100 since he made his pledge. Surely we can do better. Let’s make him dig deep!

Everyone’s busy this time of year: visiting friends and relatives; going to parties; making special foods; or maybe just taking this time to rest and rejuvenate a little. Many of us make resolutions and contemplate doing better in the new year.

Well, here is a great opportunity to put your resolutions to work and help out a beautiful young woman in need.

If you’ve already given, the main thing you can do is to pass along Dove’s fundraiser address to everyone you know. Even if you’ve done it in the past, do it again. Maybe write a little note about why you think they should consider donating. Do you know Dove personally; do you know someone in a similar situation; do you feel strongly about Dove’s needs? Tell them why you’re passing along Dove’s story and encourage them to donate. This is our last chance, the hours are ticking away.

Let’s begin 2014 with a bang! Let’s push this thing over the top!

“A life lived for others, is the only life worth living.” Albert Einstein

Click on Dove’s photo to Donate

Dove, November 2013I have a lovely family living next door to me who needs some help … your help. When you have the time and would like to raise your spirits high, please visit our “Keep Dove Home” website. Theirs is such an amazing story. If you browse through the updates you’ll read their entire story: the heartache and the triumphs, the joy and the gratitude, the everyday ups and downs of raising a child with paralysis from the neck down.This is a truly inspiring Christmas story for all of us.

I hope, after reading Dove’s story, you’ll be inspired to give in what ever way you can: a note of encouragement, a prayer, and/or a monetary donation of any size to help the family through this crisis. Just let them know you care and you’re out there thinking of them.

And one more thing … a very important one … please forward Dove’s story to friends and relatives and help us make it a very blessed Christmas morning for the family. We have only 2 weeks of fundraising to meet our goal of $10,000 and the more people we tell about Dove and her exceptional attitude of joy and gratitude in the worst circumstances a 21-year-old can be in, the better chance we have of reaching that goal.

Henry James, the author, once said,“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Most things we spend our money on will disappear one day. But when you show kindness to a family in need, the goodwill and joy it produces will live on forever.

Please read Dove’s story, share what you can, and know that your efforts are received with utmost gratitude.

Thanks for listening. A very merry Christmas to you and yours and a New Year filled with all good things.

Joanne

 

Nut Roll

Any serious holiday baker included nut roll on her/his holiday baking list, so I thought it only appropriate to give nut roll its own space.  I think there are as many recipes for nut rolls as there are nuts!  When I was organizing recipes for my mother-in-law, I discovered 17 recipes for nut roll, each just a little different from the others. With the holidays approaching, I remember Mum discussing nut roll “this-and-that” in the lead-up to the actual baking…considering at one time to eliminate it from the list because it was so much work (gasp!).  Eventually, though, Mum succumbed to the inevitability of the nut roll’s appearance on a holiday cookie tray.  I mean, what self-respecting baker didn’t make nut roll? The alternating layers of pastry and nuts of a sliced nut roll is so hard to resist.  Eventually Mum stopped making the large rolls and made the mini-sized nut rolls—equally delicious, equally impressive on a cookie tray and the only recipe that I have to include here.

As a not-so-serious holiday baker these days, I think making either the large nut roll or the mini nut rolls is the only confection a person has to make.  Packaged in a cellophane bag tied with a beautiful ribbon and placed in a basket with a bag of good coffee beans; and you have a very nice, thoughtful gift to give a special friend.  Or have nut roll on hand to serve when unexpected Christmas visitors drop in.  You don’t need an entire tray of cookies when you have nut rolls.  When you look at the “Nut Filling” recipe that follows, notice that you can use either vanilla or maple flavoring.  My personal preference is vanilla because I find maple flavoring overpowering.  Also, using purchased apricot filling instead of nuts is an equally good choice.  If you’re really pressed for time but still want to make nut rolls, you could purchase just about any filling for the dough. Almost all grocery stores have various pastry fillings in addition to the nut variety. We have a wonderful Amish store near us that sells all sorts of delicious-looking fillings in clear plastic pastry-type bags that would be perfect for this recipe.  Of course, then they wouldn’t be “nut rolls”, but would a nut roll by any other filling be as sweet?  Absolutely!

Favorite Nut Rolls

Mix and set aside:
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
In a large bowl, mix:
6 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Cut in as for pie crust:
2 cups shortening
Mix then add to flour mixture:
4 eggs
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
yeast mixture
Using a fork, mix together lightly and well.  Refrigerate overnight.  Roll out, 1/4 at a time on breadboard sprinkled with part flour and granulated sugar.  Cut into 3-inch squares; spread with nut filling.  Roll up; place on greased baking sheet.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 12 minutes.
Nut Filling
Combine in a saucepan:  1 pound ground walnuts, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup evaporated milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla or maple flavoring.  Heat until mixtures comes to a boil, stirring constantly.  Mixture will be thick; cool (or use purchased apricot filling).

The next recipe, Walnut Horn Cookies, is a variation of nut rolls that moves away from the traditional yeast dough in favor of a butter-cream cheese dough.  What could be better than that!  Again, if you’re pressed for time, you could make the dough but purchase the filling to make it easier and less time-consuming.

Walnut Horn Cookies
1 pound butter (no substitutes), softened
2 packages (one 8 oz., one 3 oz. [I think Mum means 4 oz. here]) cream cheese, softened
4 egg yolks
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Filling
4 cups ground walnuts (about 1 pound)
5 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
In a mixing bowl combine butter, cream cheese, egg yolks, and flour; beat until smooth.  Shape into 1-inch balls; place in container with waxed paper separating each layer.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  To make the filling combine ground walnuts, 3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (the mixture will be dry).  In a small mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; fold into nut mixture.  Add extracts and a few drops of water if necessary until filling reaches a spreading consistency.  Place remaining sugar in a bowl; roll cream cheese balls in sugar until completely covered.  Place a few balls at a time between two sheets of waxed paper.  Roll balls into 2 1/2-inch circles.  Gently spread about 2 teaspoons filling over each.  Roll up; place seam-side down on ungreased baking sheets.  Curve the ends slightly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on wire racks.  Yield: about 8 dozen.

Your house should be filling with heavenly scents if you’re baking along!  –Linda

Even without the advantage of the Internet or the Food channel, Mum found recipes everywhere—through family and friends; cookbooks; flour or sugar sacks; labels on the packaging of nuts, bakers chocolate, etc.; print newspapers and magazines.  For as long as I can remember, Mum had subscriptions to one magazine or another.  I would wait for McCalls magazine with as much anticipation as Mum did.  Mum poured over the entire magazine while I waited impatiently for her to extract all the cooking, needlework, household, and life wisdom for that particular issue and then hand it off to me.  I would then cut out Betsy McCall, a beautiful one-dimensional paper doll, complete with her new monthly wardrobe. I can still remember being so excited that I wiggled and sang and talked to myself while carefully guiding the scissors so I wouldn’t accidentally cut off one of the precious tabs that kept Betsy’s clothing attached to her body.  I’m pretty sure that was where my love of “women’s” magazines began.

Whatever sources she used, shortly after the Thanksgiving dust settled, Mum began drafting the list of cookies she would make that year.  Once the list was made, she’d gather in the supplies.  I have to admit that I really didn’t pay much attention to what was bought but only that the flour and sugar came in huge sacks.  I remember discussions about the twenty-five pounds of flour (venticinque).  Important discussions that involved numbers or money or our transgressions were always conducted in Italian, which was Greek to me. Buying extra food was not taken lightly in our household, especially on the heels of a food-centric holiday such as Thanksgiving.  And some of the ingredients could be expensive as well as exotic…like dates…to me something very exotic but oh so delicious.

While these date cookies are a little labor-intensive, they are well worth the effort:

Date Cream Cheese Roll-Ups

1 cup butter
1/2 pound cream cheese (8 ounces)
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pitted dates

Cream butter and cream cheese together.  Blend in flour and salt.  Chill for several hours until firm enough to roll.  Roll into 1/8-inch thickness on a board sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.  Cut in 1 x 3-inch strips.  Put a date in each strip and roll up.  Put seam-side-down on cookie sheet.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Makes 8 dozen

As a sheltered kid growing up in the fifties and early sixties, nothing could be more exotic than alcohol as an ingredient in a cookie.  During cookie-baking season, I can remember the very distinctive bottle of Sicilian Gold being lifted from a nondescript brown paper bag as the choirs sang—“Gloriaaaaaaaaaaa….” (not to be confused with the a very popular Van Morrison hit of the sixties: G-L-O-R-I-A or perhaps, maybe)  The Wine Wreath cookies are delicious!  I loved the kick from the heat of the cinnamon candies used for decoration.  Mum included a note on this recipe that it was Rhonda’s favorite, but I’m afraid I’d have to arm-wrestle Rhonda for any last one of these on the tray.  I think I could take her!

 Wine Wreaths

Cream until light:
1 cup oleo (butter is better)

2/3 cup sugar

Add and beat well:
2 egg yolks

Sift and add:
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
Alternating with:
1/4 cup Sicilian Gold (or Galiano) [maybe a heaping fourth cup]

Force through star-shaped pastry tube to form into small rings; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of a sugar/cinnamon mixture or brush with egg white after baking then sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Decorate with red cinnamon candies like a wreath.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 6 to 10 minutes on ungreased sheets.

If you bake only the cookies from yesterday’s and today’s blog, you would have an impressive and pretty plate of cookies to share with anyone stopping by for some Christmas cheer.  Linda

With only twelve days left until Christmas, I thought I would share twelve cookie recipes from Mum’s vast repertoire of cookie confections.  No…I’m not going to post all twelve at one time, nor am I going to post cookie recipes for the next twelve days.  What I plan to do is to include however many recipes suit my fancy at the time I’m writing.  Already I can see your eyes rolling back into your heads.  Bear with me; maybe you’ll be inspired to go out to the kitchen and whip up a batch of deliciousness!  I know there are those of you who might have even more cookie recipes from Mum than I do, or maybe you’ve developed lists of you own from a combination of sources.  These recipes will be some of my favorite cookie  recipes and standards that I remember Mum baking.

One cookie I love for its short, buttery melt-in-your-mouth goodness is the “spritz” or cookie press cookie.  I could eat the almond-flavored dough right out of the bowl, it’s so good!  Spritz cookies not only taste and smell good, but their tiny size and shape add charm…flair, if you will…to any cookie tray.  Mum would use red and green food coloring at Christmastime to give her spritz cookies a festive touch. When she passed the dough through the press, she would use the discs that she felt represented Christmas flowers or designs.  She passed her cookie press along to me many years ago, still in the original packaging.  I can tell you that that press works better than any of the new and improved “cookie shooters” that are on the market today.  I’ve tried a couple and always go back to that original cookie press handed down to me.

You’ll notice that in this recipe, Butter-Rich Spritz, Mum used oleo. I use butter. The choice is yours, of course; but if it’s named “butter-rich” why not splurge on the fat and calories?  Frankly, I feel a Christmas cookie without butter is like Santa without the “Ho-Ho!” if you get what I mean. I think Mum may have used butter more often than not despite keeping “oleo” in her written recipes.

Butter-Rich Spritz

Cream:

1 cup oleo (butter)

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Blend in:

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla

Add gradually:

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix well.  Press dough through cookie press onto ungreased cookie sheets using any shape.  Bake in 375‑degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes.  Do not brown.

Another cookie that adds a touch of panache to a cookie tray is the Coconut Pom-Poms.  I inherited Mum’s love of coconut.  Cakes, cookies, tea breads—all taste better with the simple addition of coconut in my opinion.  I’m aware not everyone shares this enthusiasm for coconut. Ken, for one, will grudgingly eat something with coconut only if there’s no other choice, but a coconut-laced or coconut-topped cookie would definitely rate number one with me.  Mum used coconut not only within her baked goodies; she used it to garnish any frosted treat.  She made a delicious frosted chocolate cookie topped with coconut!  I don’t ever remember her putting peanut butter in the center of these cookies; but since it appears in the recipe, she must have at some point. Candied cherries are a nice Christmas touch.

Coconut Pom-Poms

Cream:

1 cup oleo (butter)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

Add:

2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Shape dough into 1-inch balls, shaping around candied cherries, dates, mints, or peanut butter.  Roll in coconut and place on ungreased sheets.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

You’ll notice that Mum didn’t concern herself with how many cookies a recipe would yield.  I think that might be because she would make one batch of about twenty different kinds of cookies.  Each tray of cookies would have two to three cookies of each kind, more than enough cookies to savor with morning or afternoon cup of coffee or tea.  Check again soon for a couple more Christmas cookie recipes.  Linda

Saying Good-bye

ImageOn June 5, our mother Anne suffered a major stroke at 7 pm, at St. Andrew’s Village, where she had been living for the past 2 1/2 years. She never recovered and, while they kept her comfortable and pain-free, she died peacefully about 9 am, Saturday, June 8, at Indiana Regional Medical Center. She was 96-years-old. All six of her children stayed at her bedside through her final journey.

While she never wrote an entry for our blog, she was intricately involved in many aspects of it. She not only eagerly looked forward to reading each entry but if you scroll back through from the beginning you’ll see that she was the subject of many of our reminiscences and a reference for much of what we wrote.

The following, written by Kathy, Linda, and me, is a memorial to our mother. After a busy life we wish her an eternity of peaceful sleep.

—————————————————————————————————-

From Black Shanty to “Easy Living”

by Joanne

 Our mother Anne lived her entire life within 1-square-mile of the home in which she was born. And while this diminution influenced the person she became and the provincial life she lived for 96 years, she found many ways to escape the boundaries of her geography.

She began life in 1916, in Rose Valley, in the Black Shanty, a sort of boarding house for new immigrants, who lived there until they could find more permanent housing. The Dorazio’s lived in the Black Shanty from 1915, when my grandmother arrived in this country from Italy, until they moved into an empty company house on The Hill in Yatesboro shortly after Anne was born. The Black Shanty was crude, basic living; it truly was a shanty covered with black tar paper and was furnished with the barest living necessities. The house on The Hill was a short step up as it had four rooms, gas lights, no indoor plumbing, and meals were prepared on a coal-fired kitchen range. Anne would share this house with four siblings, her parents, and several boarders until she left at eighteen to marry our father.

1940_Joanne_Mum

My mother Anne and I when we lived in Tipple Alley.

When Anne and Joe married in 1935, they moved into an upstairs apartment on The Flat, a short distance from her home on The Hill. When their first baby, my brother Joe, was born they moved to a newly renovated apartment in Tipple Alley, just down the hill and up the road from her mother’s home. The buildings had been offices of the mining company that she described as having beautiful hardwood flooring and trim. I, their second child, was born in Tipple Alley and have several first memories of the simple life she and Joe shared there with their neighbors and friends.

Our little family lived in Tipple Alley until 1942 when we moved to House #9 in Yatesboro PA, shortly before my sister Kathy was born. This was a duplex and we lived in one-half: 2 rooms downstairs and 2 up. No bathroom, no central heating, no hot water. When the residents of the other half of our duplex left, our parents bought the entire house and then the fun began. One summer our dad dug out the clay basement, then one-by-one he installed central heating, hot water, and a bathroom, all firsts on The Hill. We lived in our luxurious castle with a large back porch and yard and surrounding woodlands to explore. Three more children would be born in this house: Ron, Linda and Dave.

In 1965, with most of their family out of the house, our parents built a nice ranch home in Rural Valley, just about one mile from our mother’s birth home in Rose Valley. And here she would live until at the age of 94 she moved to “easy living” at St. Andrew’s Village, a nursing home in Indiana PA. While she began life there in Assisted Living, she called it “easy living.”

Why am I going on and on about where our mother spent her life. Well, because she never wanted more. She was happy where she lived and where she was in life. She truly bloomed where she was planted. She loved keeping house, doing all the tasks required of a wife and mother of six, and taking on much more than just what that required. She baked, she canned and she froze fresh produce from the garden, she sewed, she did all kinds of needlework, she read voraciously, and raced through the house as though it was on fire going from one thing to another. I must say we often got in her way as she furiously busied herself with the work at hand. But in the process she taught us many things.

You may think our mother was a simple person. But let me reassure she was not. She was as complex as one can be. Although she completed her formal education with the 11th grade, she continued to learn her entire life by reading anything and everything she could get her hands on. Books arrived regularly in the mail because of the book clubs she belonged to. Magazine subscriptions were countless. And we always received a daily newspaper. So we all learned to read early, and by association, learned to write. To this day every one of her six children read books and magazines and write as easily as we talk. It just came naturally to us because of the availability and the immersion in reading material while we were growing up.

Anne also continued to learn from other women in our small coal mining town. When someone came up with a new idea, a new way to make something, or a new way to decorate, she always had to “get the directions” and try it. She was a visual person and noticed everything. If she visited someone’s home and liked something she saw, she would come home and low and behold! there would be a new way to display a doily, or pictures on the wall, or ivy across the kitchen cabinets. She would try anything she liked and most often succeeded or even bettered what she had seen. She constantly changed the furniture arrangements (much to Dad’s consternation) and tried new recipes in the kitchen. When anyone complained she would say, “Life is change. Get used to it!” A saying that still serves us to this day.

She was a strong-minded women who, it seemed to us, believed in a “my way or the highway” philosophy. She and our dad expected no less than perfection from us. Doing a good job was primary to them and that meant chores, school, or even what we did with our leisure time. And that lesson was well-learned and carried into our adult lives as attested to by the high-achievers that we have become. Nothing is ever finished. There’s always room for improvement. This can be a curse as well as a blessing but we are learning when it’s time to stop and let it be.

1962 and Dave's 10th birthday.

1962 and Dave’s 10th birthday.

Anne lived her beliefs. While she believed in hard work she didn’t preach it. She just showed us. We all had chores to do from an early age and she taught us girls homemaking skills by letting us help her in the kitchen and with cleaning the house. When I was six-years-old she taught me to crochet lace around handkerchiefs one summer to give me something to do. I was also six or seven when I began to help her with the ironing. She layered the clothes in the bushel basket with handkerchiefs and pillow cases on the bottom, blouses and dresses next, and on top were the boys shirts and pants, and finally Dad’s work clothes. She would begin with the larger, heavier pieces, and I would finish with the pillow cases and handkerchiefs, gradually graduating up the layers until I did the entire basket by the time I was eight or nine. For someone who loved ironing she seemed more than willing to turn it over to me. When I was in high school I would mix a large recipe of bread dough before going to school in the morning and she would bake it so that when we got home the house smelled delicious and, as a special treat, a bowl of Johnny Bulls was waiting for us on the table.

When I was twelve or so, the kitchen became mine after the supper dishes were done. I would pull out the Betty Crocker cookbook and bake cakes, pies, or cookies. A couple evenings a week I would whip up something delectable for my brothers and sisters and Dad’s lunch bucket. I never got a compliment but everything sure disappeared. I still use the Betty Crocker cookbook for cakes and pies from scratch and enjoy that time in the kitchen knowing the enjoyment my efforts will bring.

And it wasn’t until after Dad died that we discovered Anne, our mother, had a sense of humor. Joe loved talking and visiting with just about anyone and everyone while Anne stayed in the background, serving drinks, a meal or snacks. She’d sit at the table and listen but didn’t say much. Once Dad was gone, she came into her own and we could talk to her about anything under the sun: family, emotional crisis, books, poetry, world happenings, or politics. And she saw the humor in things, often cracking her own jokes to break the tension of a situation. Even near the end of her life, she had pet names for the aides that cared for her daily and when she talked to them she made them laugh. One day she told me, “If I can lighten the burden of taking care of us, I will.” While it had to be hard for her to let them help her with the most intimate things, she did it with grace and they left her room feeling better about themselves.

Serving one of her delicious spaghetti dinners in 1957 in the "house on The Hill.

Serving one of her delicious spaghetti dinners in 1957 in the “house on The Hill”.

Anne was an enigma in many ways, a study in contradictions. She either loved something or hated it, she loved you or hated you. And when it was the later she didn’t hesitate to let her opinion be known. You didn’t want to make her mad; the sting of her backhand or tongue lashing could last forever. She didn’t show affection (except to our dad) but she would buy you a new dress for the school concert or prepare your favorite supper for your birthday. She didn’t make a big deal out of it, she just did it. It wasn’t until near the end of her life that she would tell us that she loved us. While it sometimes seemed she didn’t have time for us when we were young and at home, in later years she was always there and eager to stop what she was doing to have a good conversation over something good to eat. When you stopped in for a spur-of-the-moment visit, she was always there.

In fact, now that I think about it in those terms, throughout our lives she was always there. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, she was always there. She is, and always will be, missed.

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Memories of Mum

by Kathy

Mum at clothesline

Here’s mum doing what she loved to do.

As I was contemplating what memory I wanted to share about Mum, I got an e-mail from Joan and she said I think this will bring back a lot of good memories….in the e-mail was this poem about clotheslines.

 A clothesline poem

by Marilyn K. Walker

A clothesline was a news forecast
To neighbors passing by,
There were no secrets you could keep
When clothes were hung to dry.

It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.

For then you’d see the “fancy sheets”
And towels upon the line;
You’d see the “company table cloths”
With intricate designs.

The line announced a baby’s birth
From folks who lived inside -
As brand new infant clothes were hung,
So carefully with pride!

The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed,
You’d know how much they’d grown!

It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.

It also said, “Gone on vacation now”
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare!

New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way .. . .

But clotheslines now are of the past,
For dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody’s guess!

I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung on the line.

As I read this poem, I thought this is a wonderful memory to share.  Mum loved using her clotheslines.

Living in Tipple Alley and washing those work clothes by hand.

Living in Tipple Alley and washing those work clothes by hand.

MUM’S BASIC RULES FOR CLOTHESLINES:

  1. You had to wash the clotheslines(s) before hanging clothes.
  2. You had to hang clothes in a certain order and always hang “whites” with “whites” and “darks” with “darks”.
  3. You never hang a shirt by the shoulders — always by the tail!
  4. Never hang clothes on the weekend.
  5. Hang the sheets and towels on the outside lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts & busybodies, y’know).
  6. Never leave clothes pins on the line……very tacky!
  7. If you were efficient, you could line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothespins but shared one of the clothespins with the next washed item.
  8. Clothes off the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket and ready to be ironed.

Mum would hang clothes the length of the yard, I believe there were four lines.  Dad used old railroad tracks and made them into a  “T” shape.  He cemented them far into the ground so they would never lean.  He made Mum several clothes props to hold the lines up when they were heavy from sheets or rugs.  I am safe in saying, we had the best lines on the hill!  They lasted as long as we lived at the old house in Yatesboro.  When we moved to Rural Valley, the first thing Dad did was make Mum new lines.  They weren’t as long as the old ones but they were just as sturdy.  They are still there to this day.  Mum got great joy from hanging clothes on the lines.

Mum and clotheslineWhen we lived at the old house the trains would go past our house on their way to NuMine and sometimes the engineer would blow out a huge puff of black smoke and the soot would end up on Mum’s clothes.  She would shake her fist at the train and rattle off  an Italian saying that would make anybody shake……the train would just keep on going.

She had a certain way of hanging her clothes on the line.  All the whites were together, all the darks and it seemed she hung our clothes in birth order.  The clothes were always neatly hung to dry.  When it came time to take the clothes off the line, she had a way of taking each piece off and carefully folding it and putting it in the basket.  She would always tell us when she put fresh sheets on the bed.  Crawling into bed with those fresh sheets was just about as close to heaven as you could get.  The way they smelled and felt you knew that it would be a good night’s sleep that night.

Mum and Kathy on a windy perfect for hanging clothes out.

Mum and Kathy on a windy day perfect for hanging clothes out … but the lines are empty!

Mum would be the first in town to have a dark sun tan and that came from hanging clothes on the line.  It would fade in the fall but come the next spring, she would be a beautiful tan again.

When Mum was learning how to drive, we would take the country roads for her to practice her driving.  She would always notice when people had clothes on the line.  She loved to see the clothes blowing in the wind!

Today, people don’t seem to have time to hang their clothes out to dry.  It is sad because they don’t know what they are missing.  I plan to hang my clothes out to dry as long as my arms will reach my two little lines.

Rest peacefully, Mum………..kathy

 

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My Mother; My Teacher

by Linda

Although the umbilical cord is cut at birth, we’re tethered to our moms forever. Now that Mum has passed, I feel unmoored, temporarily adrift…still attached to the mother ship, but floating aimlessly. I haven’t quite accepted the fact that I won’t be able to ask her about recipes, tell her about the book I’m currently reading, catch up on family news, or make her laugh just to hear the sound. As much as I will always love Mum, she certainly could confound me; but, always, there was a lesson I gleaned from her words or actions, sometimes years later upon reflection!

When I was little (okay, younger), I never understood her practice of group punishment. I’d be minding my own business, swinging outside on a beautiful summer day. The next thing I knew Mum was summoning us all to the porch–now. I knew I was going to get a smack as I walked passed her, but I had no idea why. One day I remember asking her why I was getting punished when I didn’t do anything, which prompted her to give me an extra whack. I learned to accept my fate after that. Another thing that confused me was the group laxative. If one of us was constipated, we were all lined up for that awful tasting medicine, Castor Oil! To this day, I’m very, very reluctant to take any laxative despite the need. I learned much later to rely on the more natural approach.

Mum will never be known for her hair dressing skills as evidenced by most of my school pictures. She never missed an

Dave, Mum and me dressed for the first day of school.

Dave, Mum and me dressed for the first day of school. I was in 4th grade.

opportunity to put a braid somewhere in my hair and only one braid never two. The worst, though, was when I was in seventh grade and Mum decided to give me a perm. Granted I was a pretty homely kid, and I’m sure Mum thought a perm would be an improvement; however, I had naturally curly hair already. I can still remember looking in the mirror after Mum styled (I use that word very loosely) my hair. That’s the first time the expression “oh shit” entered my lexicon. Not only did my hair look horrendous, the residual odor from the perm clung to me like…well, I’m sure you know an appropriate expression. Let’s just say that for almost two months at school the kids called me a very pejorative, unflattering racist name. After that incident, I took my hair into my own hands, so to speak. I may not have looked any better, but at least there was no one to blame but myself.

While still in the hospital Mum showed me how to pick up stitches while recovering from a broken hip.

Showing me how to pick up stitches while recovering from a broken hip.

The one thing that frustrated both Mum and me was her inability to teach me to knit. As a lefty, I was hopelessly confused when Mum had me sit across from her to mimic her movements. I just could not translate what she was doing to my fingers. We would end our knitting sessions both of us upset with me. Finally, one wintery evening I decided that sitting across from Mum just wasn’t working. I sat beside her, took up my working needle in my right hand, and copied her movements. Success! The rest is my knitting history.

Mum taught me to value so much—the pleasure found in a good book, the beauty in nature,

1990, Mum and I enjoying each others company on a regular visit.

1990, Mum and I enjoying each others company on a regular visit.

the pride in a job well done, the satisfaction of cooking or baking to please others, the rewards of curiosity and persistence, a good laugh, a good cry, and knitting something warm and cozy for someone you love. The hardest lessons, though, came near the end of her life. When her eyesight was failing and she could no longer walk, without saying a word, Mum taught me patience. Her determination to accept the limitations imposed on her and yet move beyond them was a true testament to her grace and dignity.

Throughout my life I sought to understand Mum and to be understood by her; but I’m grateful to have grown enough that in the end the little things didn’t matter so much anymore. It was enough to accept each other, to love each other, and to laugh together.

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