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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

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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.

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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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For most of my sixty-plus years toward the end of August, I begin to anticipate the month of September.  What a perfect month!  The daytime temperatures are warm, even hot; but the evening and nighttime temperatures are a comforting cool that’s perfect for sleeping with the windows open—the night sounds a soothing lullaby.  September has a particular smell all its own.  Go outside on a beautiful September day and just take in a deep breath of fresh air and you’ll understand what I mean.  The chipmunks and squirrels are chattering and scurrying on the quest to ready themselves and their families for the cold winter months.  The have-a-heart trap really gets a workout this time of year!

On Luigi’s last walk of the night, I look up at the stars so bright and close, but it’s the moon that captures my heart, and as I walk with Luigi I sing:  “I see the moon; the moon sees me….”  A song Mum would always sing to us as we cuddled close on the swing at night, the thrum of night insects the background music.

On a beautiful September, with clothes blowing in the autumn breeze, smelling so clean and fresh, Mum would break into song.  Her rich alto voice regaling The September Song.  I love that song and my favorite rendition, I would have to say, is the one Mum would sing.  I would pause whatever I was doing to listen as Mum’s vibrato made goose-bumps on my arms.  I used to feel the song was written for me, September baby that I am.  It wasn’t until I was old enough to understand the words that I came to love its sad, tender poignancy.

When I was very young, September meant birthday cake, and I would mark time through the month with birthday cake.  Joanne’s birthday was celebrated on the twelfth and then Dad’s, the eighteenth.  My birthday followed Dad’s by three days so, more often than not, his birthday cake became my birthday cake, too.

Mum baked and decorated the best birthday cakes!  These were “scratch” cakes, mind you; and she would pipe on shells and stars and write “Happy Birthday” over the icing.  Beautiful and delicious!  The finished cake would sit on a pedestal in all its regal glory for all admiring eyes to see and maybe a small finger here and there dragged through the frosting, the anticipation too much!

September also was the month when I began my love-hate relationship with school.  In September 1954 I began first grade.  All of a sudden I went from waiting for my brothers and sisters to return home from what seemed like a daily eternity to suddenly run-skip-walking to keep up as we headed for the bus stop and the humungous yellow school bus.  Back in those days, there we no “dry runs.”  One day you were at home talking about this mysterious thing called “school,” and the next day your tiny, innocent five-year-old self was smacked right over the head with school—including a scary bus ride!  It was Kathy’s responsibility to lift me up onto the steps until I could manage on my own.  Really, should kids be sent to school before they can even navigate the bus steps?  Of course, for me with my slight vertical challenge, that would have meant not going to school until I was forty.

That September despite getting the knack of, and love for, oral reading, Miss Patterson felt I needed to be with the slow readers in the “blue bird” group to help them along with the hard words instead of being with the faster-reading “red birds.”  While waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for one of my fellow blue-birders to sound out the word “stop,” (for goodness sake already…sss-t-aw‑p…Stop! Stop! Stop!…how hard can it be?) I learned to love day-dreaming!  “Linda,” says Miss Patterson, “you’re supposed to raise your hand if you know the word so you can help your fellow blue birds.  Are you day-dreaming?”  I learned that teachers ask difficult questions just like parents do.  Hmmm…what’s the right answer here?  Yes, I’m day-dreaming?  No, I’m paying attention?  School was not turning out to be “a piece of cake,” so to speak!

First grade was hard!  If that September was the harbinger of days to follow, October through May were going to prove more than a little difficult for me.  I was forever being asked things I knew but was too shy and too scared to give the correct answers.  I couldn’t articulate my feelings to my siblings nor would I have even if I had the words.  I somehow had learned very early that you don’t whine and complain; just learn to deal.  Besides, all the siblings  seemed perfectly adjusted to/in school.  There must be some trick to it that I’d pick up, so I toughed it out and rejoiced when summer vacation began.

Me in my September “marble” carrier dress.

Toward the end of August 1955, Mum went to Wards (Montgomery Ward) and bought school clothes.  I got a new dress that looked like a jumper with a blouse attached.  I loved that dress!  It was a beautiful plaid of fall colors.  That September that dress was my pick for the first day of school and for my school picture.  Mum had some pretty pearl clip-on earrings that she attached to the yoke of the dress.  When I got to school for picture day, Mrs. Mildred Hilliard told me I looked very pretty and I nearly peed my pants with embarrassment!  After recess one boy I really liked asked if I would keep his marbles for him (how provocative is that?).  I was just beside myself with joy!  I took his dusty marbles and mine and put them in the pocket that the yoke of the dress made…marbles being warmed by my tiny chest and warming my little soul.  Even with all that joy, I wasn’t feeling quite well.  I didn’t know what was wrong, but my head just didn’t feel right.

As my birthday approached, I was very excited.  School was going well–Mrs. Hilliard recognized my reading ability and put me with the “fast” readers, I was slowly becoming confident enough to answer questions, and I was even making some really nice friends.  Still—when I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t open my eyes…literally.  The lids seemed to be almost glued shut.  I would lie in bed and pry my eyelids open with my fingers while pain, like a thousand sharp needles, would shoot through my eyes.  I’d run down to the kitchen once I had my eyes open and Mum would take off my pj’s and wash the “sleep” from my eyes, and get me dressed for school.  I really didn’t feel well, but I didn’t want to miss school and Mrs. Hilliard, who for some reason seemed to like me as much as I loved her.  I would lag behind on the way to the bus stop and through most of the school day.  I couldn’t wait to get home just to lie down, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage the pain that made my eyes and nose feel as though they were on fire.

Dad’s birthday, September 18, fell on a weekend that year, and so we celebrated with cake—my name and Dad’s inscribed on the top.  Just looking at my piece of cake made my stomach clutch, but…it was cake.  Who passes up cake?  I was going to be seven years old.  By the standards of the Catholic Church, I had reached the age of reason, and I reasoned a little cake wouldn’t hurt.  But all I could manage was a little cake.

Each day it became increasingly difficult to pry my eyes open to the point that I had to get Mum to intervene.  She would apply a warm wash cloth to my eyes and ta-da!  Eyes open…ready for school.  Still feeling crappy, but trouper that I was, I was still marching off to do battle with the alphabet.

September 21, 1955.  I awoke but no amount of prying would budge my eyelids.  When I put my fingers to my eyes, pain shot through my face. My eyes felt twice their normal size.  I could see just a slit of light through my left eye.  I made my way down to the kitchen, and when Mum saw me she gasped in the middle of wishing me “Happy Birthday.”  I knew then something must be very wrong.  Mum pulled me onto her lap and no amount of warm compresses would pry my eyelids apart.  Mum lay me on a black leather settee that was at the far end of the kitchen (where Dad would eventually build a breakfast nook) and covered me.  The windows and doors were open.  I could smell my beloved September and watch the kitchen curtains billow in with the breeze; but if I moved ever so slightly, the pain would make me want to puke.

That evening Dad carried me to the car, and I lay in the front seat between him and Mum.  This was, of course, before seatbelts; and I’m so glad it was!  I was so comforted there between my parents as we headed for Dr. Wilson’s office in Dayton, PA, my head in Mum’s lap.  Mum and Dad spoke in hushed tones in Italian, presumably about me and my pathetic self.  I assume the older siblings were watching the younger siblings because Duff would have been a mere three years old at the time and Chip would have been only nine years old.  With Joanne in charge and Kathy as her first lieutenant, the boys were in safe hands.

As we waited in Dr. Wilson’s office, Dad went across the street…or somewhere.  When he came back, he whispered in my ear to open my hand.  When I did, he placed the biggest candy bar I’d ever seen through the small slit in my eyes in my hand.  And, he told me, it was all mine; I didn’t have to share it.  How great was that!  You have to know in a family as big as ours being given permission not to share was huge.  Even though I hadn’t eaten all day, I couldn’t bring myself to take a bite.  I treasured that candy bar anyway.

We didn’t get a diagnosis until Mum and Dad took me to the specialist that Dr. Wilson referred us to—Dr. Yocki (spelling?) in Kittanning.  I had herpes zoster—shingles.  Dr. Yocki was so kind and gentle with me.  He told Mum he’d never seen such a brave little girl and that he had seen grown men scream and cry with the pain.  Well, please, I did cry with pain, but I took the compliment anyway.  I didn’t see the shingles themselves until I could finally open my eyes a little and Mum passed me a mirror.  Holy cow!  From my nose up, I looked pretty bad—very bad!  Between the swollen eyes and the shingles, I brought new meaning to being beaten with an ugly stick.

That September passed with no more incidents or surprises.  I survived my bout with shingles with just a few physical scars that have now receded so that they are hardly visible, but the emotional scar that I may one day again experience that pain haunts me.  And, no, I haven’t gotten the shingles shot but have intended to for some time without following through.  And don’t remind me about intentions because I do know where they lead.

As a retired teacher, September has always been a month filled with anticipation.  From the moment Staples would come out with their back-to-school ads and flyers, I was like a kid at Christmas—“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” to coin a phrase.  I couldn’t wait to load up on school supplies! Then there was the excitement and challenge of meeting new students and colleagues, finding out their stories, passing along skills students could use for the rest of their lives (ahem…typing!), enjoying the give and take of a classroom of excited kids, laughing and crying as a new year unfolded were like life-giving waters to me.  I loved settling into the rhythm of school life and the intellectual stimulation of every minute of every hour of the day!  Even now that I’m retired, I have to make a couple of trips to Staples to check out the pocket folders, colored papers, pens, notebooks—oh (and sigh), the calendars and organizers!  I still gravitate toward kids I see in the store to ask about their school year.

Me and the boa…fun times!

It was a September (1971) that brought Ken into my life.  This tall, handsome guy from somewhere around Pittsburgh that all the young girls had a crush on…who saw something in me that I didn’t see and who changed my world.  Who could make me laugh about the silliest things when I was as serious as a heart attack.  Who tricked me into holding a large boa constrictor in front of a gymnasium full of students and then he ran for the door! And who stuck up for me and elevated me when I needed it most.  And who still makes me laugh and still supports me these forty-plus years later.

And it was in September 2001—that awful day—colleagues, friends, and students all struggled to understand how any one group could be so misguided and so filled with hatred and rage.  That September I cried along with everyone else and stood with conviction to recite the pledge to the flag, determined that I would not allow intolerance and ignorance to dictate my response to others.  I remember leaving the school building that day and wondering how it was possible that the sky could be so beautiful, the sun so warm on my skin, in the face of such despair.

That one awful September day made me realize what a gift it is that our family is fortunate to be able to continue making beautiful memories of perfect September days.  And I feel fortunate to be able to tell our 95-year old mother of the memory I have of her singing the September Song, and the warm feeling hearing her singing those familiar lyrics again just recently gives me.  The vibrato may be gone from her voice, but her memory of the words was still strong and touched my heart as never before.       –lcjt

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I have mixed emotions about graffiti.  The “tags” scrawled across buildings, overpasses, fences, etc., without regard for property owners are criminal acts of vandalism, which I am happy are now a punishable misdemeanor in Erie, PA.  That said, when I see the work of people like David Choe, who created a very famous image of Barak Obama, I’m conflicted.  I consider his work very artistic.  Certainly blighted areas benefit from street artists of his caliber.

Traveling north on Interstate 79, as I often do, are two graffiti-covered overpasses that caught my eye and amused me despite my feeling that scrawling is not art.  One scrawl has been on the overpass near mile marker 118 for at least 10 years, perhaps even longer.  I can’t quite remember when I first noticed it, but it has remained untouched for a very long time.  The other more recent graffiti was on an overpass in the vacinity of Grove City, which I noticed about a year ago.  The scrawl near mile marker 118 expresses a sweet sentiment of love.  The one near Grove City expressed a sentiment that was a little eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

Notice I used the words “was” and “expressed” in the previous sentences in reference to the newer graffiti posting?  That’s because the “eyebrow-raising” scrawl was painted over when a new location sign was added to the overpass. The sentiment for all northbound travelers to read was “Fornication is not a sin!!!!!”  I may have misrepresented the number of exclamation points but there were multiple ones.

I raised my eyebrows and guffawed the first time I spotted the sentiment and couldn’t wait to get home to tell Ken about it.  In fact, I laughed almost the entire drive after that.  Grove City, in case you don’t know, has an enclave of Amish within walking distance…or buggy-driving distance…of that overpass.  I just pictured drunken Amish teens during Rumpspringa, fresh from self-discovery and ticked off at the elders for misleading them, dangling over the side of the overpass, scrawling by moonlight or oil lantern.  Come on!  It had to be teens, don’t you think?  And Amish teens in the throes of exploring our hedonistic ways during Rumpspringa.  So…hats askew…either boys or girls…perhaps both…declaring for all northbound travelers to see what we all discover at some point in our lives, some sooner than others, “Fornication is not a sin!!!!!”  Halleluiah! Praise the Lord!

The scrawler could have been a formerly repressed college student from Grove City College.  Students there are held to strict religious standards even in this reality-T.V.-Kardashian-driven society.  So it could have been a chastity pledge gone awry.  But, I’m sticking with the Amish.  We all know American teens are jaded by the time they reach junior high, chastity pledges aside…so Amish teens…had to be. The mental image of the graffiti painting taking place is way better in my mind with Amish perpetrators!  It was probably repressed fundamentalists, though, that insisted the graffiti be painted over when the location sign was attached.  I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that county council meeting!

Farther along I-79, just before mile marker 118, is another overpass.  Once again, I was driving north alone when I spotted the then freshly painted plea:  “Chase the sun with me!”  I know…sweet, right?  Every time I see it, and it must be hundreds of times now, I automatically smile.  That sentiment has been on the overpass for years.  I don’t know exactly how many years it’s been there but enough so that the paint has faded and dulled by the elements.  No one has attempted to cover it or write over it or erase it in any way.  It remains in all its sweetness as an inspiration for all romantics.

I often wonder about people who make huge public proposals…graffiti or otherwise.  How in the world can anyone possibly live up to any grand romantic gesture–one that draws public attention?  I’ll bet Tom Cruise wishes he never saw Oprah’s couch!  How about Angelina wearing Billy Bob’s blood around her neck? That didn’t turn out so well.

But imagine making a gesture to the one you love that is both grandly public and at the same time sweetly private.  Even though the author’s entreaty in this case is quite public (“Chase the sun with me!”), it’s also very private.  Only two people have to know:  the author and the author’s heart’s desire.  They could spend the rest of their lives nodding knowingly to one another while those of us who have seen the sentiment are left to wonder.

Of all the graffiti I have seen scrawled or drawn, “Come chase the sun with me!” still remains my favorite.  If you saw the line scrawled across the side of the overpass, you would be unimpressed with the style because it isn’t pretty.  But for me, it represents perfection.  Most days when I’m traveling north and I see the overpass come into view, I picture the author and his intended still chasing the sun together but returning home and smiling each time they pass under the overpass, fingers entwined.  And then some days I see the graffiti and the needle scrapes across the harp music and I think, “How corny!”  Seriously.  Most times, though, the messy line makes me smile as I speed home to my one true love.

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Porch Swing

The family swing still hanging protectively for winter at the family home.

This post is an extension of Kathy’s last one. As she said, we’ve been cleaning out our mother’s home, preparing it for sale. The new owners will take over in another week or two so we’re all going through a transition with Mother, nursing our nostalgia for what was once our family home. I visited this week for the last time to take some pictures before the new owners take over. The porch swing was still hanging where it has hung for many years during the winter months. Mother had moved in February so it didn’t get lowered this year for another year of swinging, singing, and solving the problems of the world. This is the subject of my post.

1993: Our dad and Pudge

Our family has an addiction. It’s in the genes. We’re all victims. No matter how hard we try we can’t stay away from … swings. Yes, since we were tiny toddlers we’ve always had a swing. Most often two swings: one hung on the porch and the other hung in the yard. No rinky-dink plastic swing with padding. No push-button toddler swing. Only large, oak swings that fit three adults with perhaps three toddlers, one on each lap … a 6-person swing. Most of the swings we’ve had in our family have been handmade by our dad. And most of our swings had large springs installed at the top of the chains to give the smoothest, most comfortable swing around.

Our mother and grandchild

When my first child was born, Dad gave me an oak swing on which I could croon my babies to sleep. It hung at three different houses in two counties until we bought our current home. We rocked our four boys to sleep on this swing, they courted their high school sweethearts here, and Bob and I dreamed of an old age together on this swing as one-by-one the boys went off to college and jobs away from home. Finally, after fifty years of highs and lows, toddlers and teens, middle-aged and the elders, it gave way to rot as it hung between two Silver Maple trees at this house that it serviced for forty-three years. At the same time, one of the maple trees that held it also died so it was time … the end of another era for this family.

1952: Duffy_Joanne

1952: Joanne with our littlest brother Dave

As I grew up, the porch swing was the seat of much of our social training and activity. Looking back, it seems as though every house had a porch, and most of my fondest memories are of events that took place on the porch. For instance, in the summertime we ate, visited with relatives, entertained neighbors and friends, played games, courted, read, learned to do needlework, and we even slept on the porch. Loneliness was unknown to our young minds. All you had to do was sit on the porch and soon someone wandered by to join you for a chat as you swung slowly back and forth.

Mom braided the rag rugs that decorated our porch floor. She made them from our old dresses and shirts which she had also made, many from flower sacks that once were made of fabric decorated with bright colors and designs. Most every porch in those days had a swing, an essential piece of porch furniture. Babies were nursed and rocked to sleep on that swing, secrets were shared, problems discussed, dreams dreamed, and sweethearts kissed.

1947: Dad and Kathy enjoy a swing

Walking home from school one could tell who was sitting on the porch by how the swing was going. If it looked like any minute it would fly right off the porch, it was a younger brother or sister trying to touch the ceiling with their feet. If it was a nice, slow medium swing, Mom was probably putting the baby to sleep; and if it was barely moving, Dad was taking a nap or Grandma was visiting. Whoever it was, you had time to plan your entrance so you didn’t get killed if someone did happen to be napping.

1957: Dad and 5-year-old Dave swing away

One of my favorite pastimes was to swing until my feet touched the ceiling all the while singing the popular tunes of the day at the top of my lungs. While I poured my heart into the lyrics of “Now Is the Hour,” “I’m Sending You a Big Bouquet of Roses,” “Sweet Violets,” “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” I dreamed that a talent scout from one of the large movie companies would just happen by our house in his long black limo, hear my melodious voice, and sign me up. It was the heyday of the big production musicals with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astair, Shirley Temple, Doris Day, and Judy Garland, movies that we never missed, glamorous lives that we heard about on the radio—so why not me? We dreamed big in those days. The higher the swing went, the bigger the dream.

1953: Linda and one-year-old Dave on porch swing

Innocent times they were. After dark on a summer’s night the only place we were allowed to be was the porch. The backyard that was so much fun during the day and that offered a plethora of delights to every kid that lived in our row of company houses became a forbidden, scary place after dark. When it was really hot, we tormented Mother until she grudgingly went inside and shortly reemerged with a large comforter. We helped her spread it on the grass then we lay on our backs and looked at the stars, but always with the admonition that the first kid to leave the blanket had to go straight to bed.

After what seemed like an eternity of identifying the north star, the big and little dippers, and even trying to count the infinitesimal candles in the sky, we began to catch “falling stars,” or lightning bugs, that came near the blanket. Eventually, feeling very adventurous, we got further and further away from the blanket only to return to show our latest catch to Mother and also Dad who had stopped to kiss us good-bye on his way to the hoot owl shift in the coal mines. Mom, rather than banishing anyone, ended up going into the cellar for a canning jar in which to keep these heavenly critters that had become earthbound just for us. When we had several fireflies in the jar we let them all go at once and squealed enthusiastically at our special fireworks display, the perfect ending to our foray into the wilderness from the sanctuary of the porch. But I digress …..

1950: Chip and Linda share a swing

Speaking of canning jars, we always had a canning jar of wildflowers on the porch railing. Dandelions in spring, then in season, Columbine, Day Lilies, Cardinal Flowers and Goldenrod. And of course, all the house plants came out onto the porch in summer complete with clay pots and wicker stands. They had such descriptive names: Rubber Plant, Snake Plant, Coleus, Philodendron, African Violets. On lazy afternoons we sat on the swing and conjured up stories about the places they came from and how they got their names. We wondered what stories they could tell of exotic places and we giggled as we spoke in strange accents that they might use if they could speak. Margaret Jean ran home for an atlas and we found make-believe jungle homes for our plants all over the world. Then we looked up the countries in which our parents and grandparents and our friend’s parents and grandparents lived before they came to settle in the States. Most of us in that tiny coal mining town were first or second generation Americans.

On that porch swing we learned a lot about life. Every Saturday morning my sister’s job was to scrub the porch, mine was to scrub the two-seater at the back of the yard. We must have been born with those job responsibilities because I don’t remember when we began doing them, we just always took it for granted. Sometimes, for a really big favor, we swapped jobs and I got to clean the porch. But the porch job was really overrated. I found it a lot easier to clean the john. It was smaller and there wasn’t so much stuff to move out of the way—only the roll of toilet paper and the reading material. My parents didn’t care who cleaned what, just so everything was coal-dust free by nine a.m. It amazes me now that we so happily obliged them—but they may remember it differently.

1957: Mum and Joanne on swing with houseplants in background

To keep my sisters and me occupied and out of trouble during those restless summers, Mother taught us all kinds of stitchery while sitting on the porch swing. We learned to crochet, knit, embroider, and we shared a wonderful camaraderie with Mother in our new talents. She had us put lace edges on handkerchiefs and dresser scarves, then embroider pretty designs on them. We made doilies for the furniture and we were so proud when she showed off our accomplishments to company. I’m sure they weren’t that great but to this day I am able to share Mother’s talents with my granddaughters and others who want to learn to knit a scarf or crochet a sweater, and to pass on, not only these dying arts but also to satisfy in others the deeper needs that Mother inadvertently filled in us while teaching our fingers to do complicated stitches. My sisters and I still do needlework today, keeping hands busy and out of trouble while fulfilling the need to create, decorate our homes with unique projects, and give gifts with that special touch.

1970s: Joey and family. Many family photos were taken on the swing

My porch experiences are not unique. The kids I grew up with have similar porch memories. We played jacks, tiddle-winks, marbles, charades. We quarreled, mended fences, laughed, and cried on my porch or theirs. We looked at an upside down world while hanging upside down on the swing that gently swayed back and forth. One could watch the seasons go by within the branches of the large maple trees that hung over the banister and wonder about the mysteries of life beyond the porch while listening to the comforting sounds of Mother’s homemaking coming from inside the house. Granted it was a slower time then, an age of innocence, or so it seems compared to the fast, paced electronic age of our grandchildren.

2011: The country swing in its new city home

Our porch swing has a new home now. But it’s still in the family. Our youngest brother Dave has taken our country swing to his home in the city where it looks perfect and will undoubtedly give him and his friends many pleasant hours of conversation and contemplation while gently swaying back and forth on Dad’s last oak swing. It’s been quite a journey, not only for the swing, but for all of us as well.

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Molly and Emily painting.

Molly and Emily painting.

I have had the entire month of July off work. It has been wonderful! I’ve had so much time with my lovely, active, curious, imaginative granddaughters Molly and Emily that I feel over-indulged. We have done a truckload of fun things, all within thirty miles of my home. They’ve created beautiful artwork on a variety of canvas sizes, baked cake after cake, made cookie after cookie in our huge sandbox outfitted with a kitchen set, and we’ve spent hot afternoons at the local pool splashing, swimming, meeting friends and making new ones, taking turns on the new, higher water slide.

The girls had a chance to visit their Great Grandmother Anne who is 93 years young, and their Great Aunt Kathy. She gave them some delicious ice cream and they had a ball with Murphy, Kathy’s shitz tzu. They had a great time letting about 25 helium balloons go off into the horizon, they played Ladder Ball in the backyard, and we had a ball on our school shopping spree. Emily and her cousin Megan created and ran a Lemonade Stand that raised $42.05 in an afternoon for Four-footed Friends and were so humble about what they had done when we went to turn in the money. But the most fun for me were the great conversations we had over meals and bath and bed times that let me know what great girls their parents are raising. I hope they enjoy their visits as much as I do.

I also had time to garden to my heart’s content. I planted a new Butterfly Garden along a sunny garage wall as well as a Hosta Garden in a shady corner of the yard where nothing else would grow. For the first time in a long time my large perennial garden is weed-free and the annuals have been watered and dead-headed so they still look glorious.

And I had lots of time to read. I’ve discovered May Sarton’s books and have read several of her journals, some of her poetry, and am now in the middle of her biography. It’s always fun to find a new author and then to concentrate on their work. I find that I like some of Sarton but not all of Sarton. I had the feeling reading her journals that they were an artificial construct rather than what was really happening in her life. Now that I’m reading her biography it’s true that she left a lot out of the journals in order to achieve a certain view of her life, some of which would’ve made them more interesting; and that her life was a constant battle with depression and low self-esteem. All this from an author who was able to make her living from her writing and to live comfortably on those earnings. But, in my opinion, she was a good writer and I enjoy reading her style. I still have to read some of her fiction and I’m interested in finding out how her fiction relates to the journals and her poetry because she states that some of her fiction was based on her relationships with real people. She definitely wrote to a muse; she writes over and over again in the journals that her poetry especially was inspired by a muse. She had several muses throughout her career and without the muse she struggled with her writing. Interesting stuff for a fellow writer.

But now, for me … Fall is in the air.

Let’s face it. Once we turn the calendar to August Summer begins receding further into the past. Most vacations are over, school is just around the corner, high school bands can be heard rehearsing for the football season in the distance, and as I write this, Cicadas fill the air with their undulating whine echoing this way and that then suddenly stopping … silence … until they begin again on cue.

Joe Pye Weed is tall in meadows and along roadsides accompanied by Boneset and early Goldenrod. Dark purple Ironweed and Asters dot woodlands and fields. Morning walkers are dazzled by hedges and meadows covered with gossamer webs that sparkle in sunlight like beads strung for the empress. Milkweed and thistle fluffs drift in the wind filling the air with Spring’s promise.

Trees, that gave us that delicious shade all summer, look worn and tired from all the insect activity and I’ve noticed some diversion among local Chipmunks and Squirrels as they begin to fill their winter larders. Soon birds will set out on their annual Fall migration with Hummingbirds and some warblers in the lead. The deeper we get into Fall the quieter it gets. Eventually even local Robins will take off for their Winter quarters in nearby woodlands.

August is like waiting for the other shoe to drop. The air smells different, sounds change from the leisure sounds of summer to the more vocal sounds of Fall: Blue Jays screaming at who knows what, Cicadas and Crickets ply the air, the whisper of leaves beginning to fall, then leaf blowers instead of lawn mowers, and quiet backyards as neighborhood kids go back to school. Slowly we begin to anticipate the winds of Winter.

The blues and purples of August are quiet, calming colors reflected there for our rumination on another year approaching its autumn and beyond. The yellows of Sunflowers and Chrysanthemums remind us of a Spring long past but that another will materialize in the not-too-distant future. Soon we’ll have to let go of August and welcome the colors of September. But for now we too are “born to the purple” and join the purple shadow dance across the horizon of Summer.

Enjoy it all … it passes so quickly. —Joanne

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I’m finding that I can’t put off responding to what you two write or I get so far behind I don’t know where to begin. When Kathy wrote about Tipple Alley I wanted to write about being born and living there for the first 3 ½ years of my life but I didn’t get started and now Linda, with your memories of our old house, which are so different from mine, and Kathy with the train tracks below the house, I have to give it a shot. I’ll try to make it short.

Joey, Me, and Jigs our dog at Tipple Alley

Joey, Me, and Jigs our dog at Tipple Alley

The buildings of Tipple Alley were the old coal company offices that were remodeled into homes after the mines closed. The outsides were red brick and on the inside all the trim and the floors were finished oak. They were really quite beautiful. Here’s a photo of me and Joey in front of our Tipple Alley home with Jiggs, our dog.

Mum and Dad moved from The Flat to Tipple Alley #5 when they were expecting their first baby, Joey, and that’s where he was born. Almost three years later their second baby was born there, and that was me. When Mum was expecting me she had to stay in bed the last two months of her pregnancy. The neighbors brought in food and watched Joey while Dad worked. We lived there as a family of four for another three and a half years after I was born.

I have two memories in this house. The first is of me and Joey as toddlers laying on our stomachs in the living room … waiting for something, clapping our hands and giggling … and suddenly Mum enters from the back of the house through the kitchen with a bowl of ice cream in each hand, one for each of us. Her and Dad were out back with friends making the ice cream, something they did often because it was cheaper to make it in those days than to buy it. The neighbors would pull their resources and then everyone got some ice cream. This was during World War II in the early 1940’s. This was when neighbors talked to one another.

My second memory is of moving day when we left Tipple Alley. I was 3 ½ and Mum was very pregnant with Kathy so it had to be 1942. I remember standing at the bottom of the yard at our new duplex coal company house #9 watching them carrying in all our “stuff.” We lived in the right side of the house and an older couple lived in the left side. We had two rooms downstairs and two up and a big beautiful outhouse. Really! It was much nicer than all the others on our “street.”

The house was heated with a coal stove in the living room and Mum had to heat our water for baths, which we took in a big galvanized tub in the kitchen, on the kitchen stove. And she washed clothes on the side porch carrying all the water both hot and cold. Then the lady next door died, I remember that day well because they called Mum to go over, and shortly after that her husband moved away. Mum and Dad bought the entire house from Kovalchick Salvage Company, that had bought all these houses from the coal company, and Dad started to work knocking out walls and working to make it our home for the next twenty-five years. They must have been thinking they would have more kids because it turned out to be a really BIG house.

Dad, who had started working in the coal mines when he was 14, would come home from work, black from coal dust and tired, and he would get to work digging out the eight-foot high clay under the house; one wheelbarrow full at a time, he dug that clay and hauled it to below the railroad tracks. He did all that work to give us a basement where he could install a whole-house coal furnace and a gas hot water tank. He would beg, borrow, and steal to get all the parts he needed to get the job done. He also put a clothes washer in the basement for Mum, but no dryer yet. In the summer she hung up lines and lines of clothes in the yard and in the winter lines were strung all through the house to dry clothes.

Then Dad put in the bathroom. Nobody was happier than me when he did that because from an early age I was the one that had to scrub the outhouse every Saturday morning. I carried down a bucket of hot, soapy water and a broom to scrub it, then a bucket of cold water to rinse. I was so happy the day they knocked that thing over. Not only because of the scrubbing but we also got rid of the pots in the bedrooms then. They might have had lids but they could still send out a mighty rich smell.

I always say, “God bless Dad and those hands that gave us so much when they were so poor. He worked them to the bone for us.” Rest in peace, Dad, you deserve it.

I don’t remember ever having to take a bath with anyone except Duffy when he was a toddler. I would get in the tub and sit him in there with me, play with him a while, get him clean, and give him to Mum, then I would wash. But I do remember when I was taking a bath and decided to shave my legs for the first time. I had one leg done, using Dad’s razor, I might add, when Mum came in to put away some towels she had just laundered. Here I was with one leg all soaped up and Dad’s razor in my hand. I held my breath and washed the soap off my leg like crazy but she went right about her business, never looking at me in the tub, and then she left. I’ve wondered to this day if she saw what I was doing and just decided not to say anything. How could she not have seen me?

Three to a bedroom … hip-hip-hooray! And I can tell you how Kathy ended up in a bed by herself while Linda had to sleep with me. Kathy and I slept together for a long time before Linda entered the picture … and it wasn’t pretty. We fought all the time so we put a row of pillows down the middle of the bed so we wouldn’t touch. I have to admit I was pretty bad to sleep with as Linda has already attested to. I peed the bed until I was about six-years-old and I also threw up in my sleep. I would wake up in the morning with vomit caked to my face and hair. It was pretty gruesome. I couldn’t blame Kathy for not wanting to sleep with me. I didn’t want to sleep with me. And then I probably tried to kill her, too, like I did Linda but I don’t remember specifically. However, one time I punched her in the stomach so hard she couldn’t get her breath and that scared the bejesus out of me. I don’t think I ever did that again. So I was a pretty bad monster. I don’t know if we learned to “get along” or if we just learned how to stay out of each other’s way. But I guess that’s getting along, isn’t it?

Another memory I have from those early days was being able to walk up the hill with Mum and Dad to see Grandma Rose and Grandpa Tony. They lived a couple rows above us in House #58 until 1946 when they moved to Youngstown. And then Aunt Liv and Uncle Nick lived next door in House #10 until they moved to Kittanning RD in the late 1940’s. Rozanne, Carole, Kathy, and I were a foursome and we played buckety-buck and hopscotch in our free time. Our families went on Sunday picnics together and we celebrated the 4th of July in the backyard with games and lots of running around and we all had sparklers. We’d end the evening by watching the fireworks they set off in the ball field and then run around some more catching lightening bugs.

One more thing about the railroad tracks. Joey and I would put pennies on the tracks when we could hear the train coming then we would run like the Devil to get out of the way before it got to us. When it went by we’d run to the tracks to get our pennies. We also played in the boxcars they parked on the tracks below our house. I don’t remember the games we played but I do remember having so much fun. When we got older we would walk the tracks to NuMine and back without a thought, a distance of about 3 miles one way. A great way to spend an afternoon and keep out of Mum’s hair.

Buckety-buck, anyone? –Joanne

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