Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Quick! Do Something!

The world's a mess! Violence. War. Pollution. People are hungry, homeless, lonely, sick, living in fear, or isolation, or poverty, or ignorance, or pain or . . . Are you depressed yet? Feeling overwhelmed by the needs?

We could let it make us feel helpless or hopeless. But that only makes matters worse.

Instead, let's do something!

It is our job to change the world. Yeah, you, me, all of us. Each one of us can do something every day to make the world better.

Really. We can!

No matter your circumstances, there is always something you can do. The secret is to not minimize the small changes you can make. If you think you have to solve all the world's problems on your own then you will get depressed.

Just remember that each small act of compassion on your part makes the world a little better. And with more of us making more of those little differences things will change. Think about how water wears away stone. If water drops on a stone over and over and over again, it will wear the stone down, change it. Think of the world's problems as stones and our acts of compassion as drops of water wearing them away.

So, what acts of compassion could you do?

Of course, your personal circumstances will determine many of your choices. If you don't have much money you cannot personally fund a cause you care about all by yourself. But you can do something to raise money for it. Look at all the interest in community funding through websites like Go Fund Me. Someone starts it and encourages others to contribute.Then things change for someone because of everyone working together.

And don't ignore the power of regularly setting aside a bit of money at a time to make a meaningful gift later. Maybe you can only set aside a dollar a week. You'll have a donation of $52 at the end of a year. That can make a difference somewhere.

If you are physically able you can still volunteer in countless ways to address problems in your community and beyond. What cause do you care about? What are your skills? Find a group or organization that can use your participation to make a difference in people's lives.

Think you don't have any time? There are still many little things you can do that won't interrupt your busy schedule. Sometimes something as small as a smile for someone who doesn't seem to have one can make a difference for that person. And who knows what that difference will become when they then interact with others. Remembering to open a door for someone or helping them manage their load or sharing your umbrella really can brighten someone's day.

Small random acts of kindness can turn the day around in someone's life and that makes the world a little better in that moment and in that day and in that part of the world. Paying it forward impacts more than just the person you help. It keeps the kindness spreading outward into the world beyond you.

So maybe together we can change the world in significant ways if we all choose to do something. Over the next couple of weeks let's brainstorm what we might do?

How about helping me make a list of acts of compassion/kindness that someone [even me or you] could do to make a positive difference in this mess of a world? Okay? Then we can encourage more to join in changing the world for the better.

Leave your ideas in the comments and we'll compile a list to help others choosing to make this a better place for all.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Momma Lou

 Momma Lou and Daddy John in 1956

My maternal grandmother, Lucinda Hutchinson Houston Whitt, was my caregiver for most of my early childhood. I was born just after Pearl Harbor. And before long my dad was fighting in the South Pacific and my mom was building airplanes. My grandmother and her husband John Whitt took care of my brother and I while my mom worked. Soon we all moved in together in a big frame house on Cypress Avenue in Columbus, Ohio.

I was soon learning to talk and all the other early development tricks. But it was a bit confusing to have two Mommies. So they decided I should have "Mommy Betty" and "Mommy Lou" to help everyone understand who was who. "Mommy" got shortened to "Momma" and my grandmother became Momma Lou forever. "Mommy Betty" became "Mommy" when I got a bit older.

Since there was only one man in the house I thought John was my daddy. But everyone was afraid that would cause too much confusion when the war was over, so he became "Daddy John." By the time my dad came home it was more simple because my dad became "Pop."

Momma Lou and Daddy John adored me. My mom says they spoiled me rotten. Well, I'll admit they did spoil me some. They had trouble telling me "no." But I always knew I was greatly loved. Momma Lou was very affectionate and included me in nearly everything she did when I was very small. We read story books and played learning games, I think she was enjoying having time with me that she didn't get to have with her own children because she had to work so hard when they were at home.

God and church were important parts of her life, so I was "churched" very early. We prayed at meals and at bedtime. I'm sure I didn't have a real understanding of God and Jesus, but I knew they were important. And church was an extension of family, as everyone was united in love and acceptance.

On Sunday Momma Lou would pack a little lunch for me so I would be quiet and occupied during the pastor's Sunday sermon. Sometimes the pastor would say something like, "Well, I see that Cinda's finished with her lunch, so I guess it is time for me to finish."

I loved church. There was music and singing. I'd sing with the congregation, even though I didn't know the words. I'd sing "You Are My Sunshine" and "Pistol Packin' Mama" because those were songs I knew.

Momma Lou was always the last one out of church on Sundays. She had to chat with everyone and she was in charge of seeing that everything in the church was in order before closing the doors. So Sundays were rather long for a little girl. We rode two city buses from our house to church and then two back, a long trip. I often would go to sleep on the bus.

My mom says that one time we were riding the bus to church and I was all dressed up in a new dress she'd mad me. It had lots of ruffles and she had even sewn ruffles on my underpants as well. I was so proud of my ruffles that I kept lifting my dress so everyone could see the ruffles under my dress! Another time she said we were on the bus and when a soldier got on I ask my mom if he was my daddy. My mom apologized to the guy and told him that I hadn't seen my daddy for a couple of years and didn't really remember him.

Momma Lou wasn't bothered by anything I did, apparently. Don't remember her ever scolding me. I'm sure she had to have had, since I was pretty well behaved and that doesn't happen without some kind of scolding at least once in a while. But she was such a sweet person her scolding couldn't have been very stern at all.

She was always sweet. I remember in my teens were planning to take a trip and had her suitcase in the trunk of our car when it was being repaired. Someone broke in and took her suitcase with all her stuff in it. She wasn't very upset, as most folks would be. She just said, "Well maybe they needed it more than I do."

She was always generous like that. If someone needed something she had, she'd give it to them. She never had much money but made sure she tithed to the church and gave small donations for other causes. She had a very strong faith in the generosity of God and believed that her every need would be supplied. And it always was! Even without asking for help from anyone when she needed it, someone would just show up and provide it for her.

Her life of living her faith taught me a lot. As an adult I came to trust that my own needs would be met. And like her, my needs were met in some unusual ways. Maybe I'll write more about that another time.

When the war ended the airplane plant closed and my mom lost her job. So she could be home and be a full-time mother again. And then my dad came home and Momma Lou and Daddy John decided to move into a home of their own. They sold the big house to my parents and bought a little house for themselves. When they moved, I was bereft. Apparently I would cry and cry until they would come over to comfort me. And if I was still awake I'd cry even more when they were ready to go home. So sometimes they would take me home with them for the night. For several years I'd spend the weekends with them and then every other weekend until I started having my own activities on weekends.

Often when I was at their house for a weekend Daddy John would take me downtown on the bus and we'd go to the Kresges Five and Dime on High Street. If I saw something and said I liked it, he'd usually buy it for me. Then when I got back home to my house my mom would scold me for asking for things. But, I'd explain, I never asked for anything. He'd just buy it. So, over time I learned not to ask for anything or even admire anything. We'd always get a hot fudge sundae at the counter in the store. It was such a treat! (Check Kresges out at

When I was nine years old my mom and her doctor put me on a diet because they thought I was too heavy.[It was torture. But that's another story.] But when I was at Momma Lou's I could have whatever I wanted. Made my mother nuts. Little wonder I wanted to spend time there! Momma Lou's philosophy was that if it tastes good it must be good for you!

She also believed that, since we seldom had dessert for our meals, that we should eat dessert first to be sure to have room for it. I like that idea even today.

Momma Lou was always an important part of my life. She didn't always live in the same city but we always managed frequent visits. And she wrote letters all the time. Her letters were really something. She had been a school teacher in her early twenties but you'd never know it from her letters. She seldom used punctuation and seldom separated paragraphs, so the run-on sentences would sometimes result in hilarious news. And she often mentioned soap opera characters and plots as if they were neighbors and I'd have to stop and think, "Now who are they?"

After I was married and had my first child, Momma Lou came, as a widow, to live with my mom just a few houses away from us in rural Ravenswood, WV. She adored Robin, my firstborn, and had to see her every day. Once when Robin was a toddler she had gotten into something I'd told her not to and I slapped her on the thigh. She was very fair skinned and it left a little red imprint of my fingers. Momma Lou came over to visit just then. She saw the hand print and had a fit. She implied that I'd been beating the child!

She loved it when my mom would keep Robin overnight. Momma Lou would play with her when she woke up in the middle of the night night. They were great pals.

A few years passed. Momma Lou had been doctoring for what she thought was arthritis for several years then discovered tumors. Apparently, while thinking it was arthritis, she had suffered for several years with multi-myaloma of the bones. She was taken to the U.S. Marine Hospital in Springfield, Ohio, where they began treatment for cancer. The treatments made her very ill and she became weak and frail. She never complained and often you wouldn't know she was in any pain at all because she suffered silently.

When released from that hospital she was taken to Baltimore, MD, to my mother's home. Finally, unable to be cared for at home, Momma Lou died of cancer in the military hospital at Fort Meade, Maryland, in April of 1966. .She had always been ready to die, as she was at peace with her God. And when she finally passed it was a release from her suffering. For those of us she left behind it was a terrible loss. Many people grieved her death because she had left many, many friends.

Momma Lou loved everyone and everyone loved her.

By the way, if you read my last post, this isn't the photo I was looking for. Still haven't found that one!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Disorgainization, Chronic, Late Onset

That's my personal diagnosis of me. Symptoms include heightened frustration and constant searching, often accompanied with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness to make life simple.

Yep. That's me. I haven't always been this way. Actually, I used to be quite organized. I had to be to manage a busy multi-faceted life. I was a single mother of two children while attending college full time and working two and sometimes three part-time jobs. Couldn't have done it without organization.

And when I finished college and the kids were gone I used those organization skills in my job as a mental health therapist in the prison system. I kept files in order, designed programming, wrote lesson plans, taught classes, held therapy groups. And nearly always knew where everything was because everything had a place and I always put things back where they belonged.

What the heck happened?

Well, first I married a clutter-er. But I still put my things away, usually. I was still working, after all.

But then . . . I retired. No time schedule to confine me, I could just put things off. Just put it somewhere and I'll get to it later. And, of course, I now had a lot of different interests, different things going at the same time. There was sewing that I worked on a little at a time, so why put it all away when I'd just be getting it right back out again.

And paperwork. I thought that the age of computers was going to create a paperless society! Hah! We now by reams of printer paper, and printouts either get piled up somewhere or filed or stacked to be filed. Eventually a lot of it gets recycled, which is another pile.

I also do crochet, so collect lots of skeins of yarn. And sometimes I embroider, so there is floss. And church projects often involved crafts of various kinds.

And, of course, I also paint with pastels. So I have a large easel and a chest of drawers with art supplies in the corner of the living room. And there are portfolios and boards to support the paper when painting, and art papers, and . . .

Well, you get the idea.

What inspired this post? I'm looking for a photo to use with a post I'm writing about my grandmother. I have manila envelopes stuffed with photos, boxes stuffed with photos, stacks of photo albums and I spent the evening looking for the photo I want. Haven't found it yet. I think there might be more albums in the basement.

At least the condition isn't fatal, unless one of those stacks of papers buries me someday. If I'm lucky you'll get to see the photo when and if I find it.

Take my advice: get organized early and keep it up. You could end up with my diagnosis if you don't.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

It's About Time

Daylight Saving Time, lunch time, bedtime, prime time, time limit, half-time, double-time. Seems like we spend a lot of time thinking about time! We even worry about time - enough time, being on time, running out of time, time on our hands, arrival time, next time, end times
And yet time may not even exist! I mean, what exactly is time? Seconds, minutes, hours, days, years? Not really. That is just a way of marking segments on earth in relation to the sun and the earth's rotation. But what if we aren't on planet earth? What is time then?

Is a day on earth the same as a day on Mars where the rotation is different from earth? Or what happens to measuring time when we go beyond this galaxy? There are other galaxies with other suns!

I guess basically there is no limit to time. If you can't actually quantify it how can there be an end to it? And yet our lives are built on our concept of time.

Let's consider just earth time. It is still relative. What is a lifetime? For us it is longer than it was for our ancestors, since we are now living longer. And yet they managed to get in the basic activities for life. No matter how long we live, if we have lived at all we have breathed, received nourishment, and eliminated waste from our bodies. That could define a whole lifetime for some.

Of course we are considering human lifetimes for the most part. "Your whole life" may encompass much less if you are a different species. Imagine a butterfly's whole adult life could last only a day or two and still fulfill it's purpose.

So what about you? Do you stress about time, about something that may not even exist? How often do you think "there just isn't enough time"?

I know that there are things we must do to survive and to thrive. And anything we do "takes time". Yet time seems to be limitless when we consider the whole of creation. Why not let go of trying to "fill time" and make our lives flow more easily and peacefully?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Play, Now and Then

Playtime is important, and not just for children. But aschildren there is often LOTS of playtime. At least that has been true for my family for a few generations. Those of us raised in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries at least. Before then everyone in the family had to work on the farm to make it work for the family to survive. But even then, children were known to play, even if the adults had little time for it.

I don't know much about my great-grandmother's [Angeline Hutchinson] playtime. I know she helped on the farm and went to school whenever the weather permitted them to make the trip to the one-room school house. . She said it was hard to get a school teacher and when they did he seldom lasted the whole term.Her father taught them the rest of the term. They had few toys. Her mother [Lucinda Tatman] made rag dolls for her and her sister and her father Isaiah made cradles. And they each had a china doll. They were taught to sew the clothing for their dolls. And their father made them each a sled to use on the many hills around them in Vinton County.

 I know even less about my grandmother Lucinda's playtime. I know she and her family always lived and worked on farms in Vinton and Madison Counties. Their father worked at sawmills that would frequently move to areas that still had plentiful trees, which meant that the family moved frequently. So I imagine that their siblings were their most constant playmates. I know that she went to school in a one-room schoolhouse. I would guess she had rag dolls like her mom had had. And they played tag at home and at school But there were always chores to be done first and they were very poor. She always loved school, worked hard, and managed to go to Teacher's College in Athens for nearly two years to get a certificate. Then she taught in one-room schools around Madison County.

My mom [Mary Elizabeth "Betty] and her sisters lived in town in Columbus, so they didn't have farm chores. They had household chores, though. They played jacks, marbles, hopscotch, jump rope, sidewalk skates, Red Rover, Run-Sheepy-Run*, Mother May I, London Bridge, Tisket-a-tasket, and leg races. They managed to play outdoors a lot with the neighborhood kids. Their favorite places to play were the three vacant lots across from their house. 

One summer they helped themselves to a couple of garage doors from the houses being built nearby, dug a big hole for a cave, placed the doors on top for a roof. They sometimes had a fire and roasted potatoes, apples, or anything else they could bring from home. They climbed trees, built forts, climbed around inside houses under construction - until one of the neighbor kids broke an arm when she fell from a rafter.

She said they walked all over town, as they had no car and couldn't afford the streetcar. They went swimming in a "swimming hole" called Yellow Banks on Sunbury Road, until their mom found out and forbade it. They didn't know how to swim and it was know for its under current. 

My mom said she had a several dolls, getting a new one each year for Christmas, and she loved sewing clothes for them and playing house with them. They had games to play in the house, checkers and Parcheesi. I don't think she ever had a stuffed toy until she had kids of her own.They made their own scooters with a couple 2' x4's and the wheels from a pair of old roller skates.  

When I was little I always had dolls and my mom would sometimes make clothes for them. The Christmas I was three years old I got the doll I named Mary. She was bigger than my other dolls. I still have her and she wears one of the baby dresses made for my cousin and worn by my older brother, as he wore mostly hand-me-downs from his female cousin. My dad made a cradle for her. I still have that too.

I had a big black and white teddy bear that I had for a long time. And when I was about six I got a metal doll house that had furniture in it. My mom had crocheted rugs and bedspreads for it and I spent many hours playing house. We lived in a two-story frame house on Sullivant Avenue on the west end of Columbus. It had a big front west-facing porch across the front of it and a rose trellis against part of it to give it shade. So it was a great place to play on summer afternoons. My little girlfriends and I would take our dolls and play house for hours there.

In the back yard my dad had built a large sandbox under a grape arbor on the front of our garage. It was another favorite place to play. I loved the cool damp clay on bare feet on hot days. We built roads and tunnels and buildings and ran toy cars around in it.

In the evenings all the neighborhood kids would play on the front sidewalks and front yards. We played hopscotch, jump rope, Blind Man's Bluff, tag, hide and seek. I remember us standing in the yard and turning ourselves around and around until we were dizzy and then throwing ourselves in the grass and watching the sky go round and round. We were only allowed to go to either end of our block. And when the street lights came on it was time to go in.

I was probably about nine when I got a bicycle. I wasn't allowed to ride it far, but it was really a thrill to make the wind blow my hair. We'd use a clothespin to fasten a playing card to the bike so the spokes would make a noise when we rode. 

Sometimes after dark my mom, my brother and I would play table games. We played checkers, Chinese checkers, Parcheesi, and, when I got older, we played Monopoly. We also played Canasta, Go Fish, Rummy, and War. Sometimes my brother Jim and I would have a game of War last for days. We'd each take our stack of cards to our bedroom at night so the other one couldn't steal any cards.

We seldom went to movies and we didn't get a television until I was six or seven. I remember going down the street to a friend's house to watch Howdy Doody. I don't remember ever going to a restaurant until I was probably eight or nine and we drove to Colorado. We didn't eat out otherwise unless you count eating with family on Sundays or holidays. My mom got a car when I was about ten and we'd often take Sunday drives and pack a lunch. Unlike today, travelling didn't include many restaurants or even hotels along the roads. We were lucky to find a gas station for a restroom stop.

My childhood was much different from my ancestors. While we didn't have much money, we managed with what we had and our lives were less physically taxing. My dad was in and out of our family and often gambled his paycheck before he got home. So it was hard on my mom. She finally went to work full time when I was nine, which gave us some financial security. But as a child I didn't understand about all that and resented her being away from home so much of the time. In reality, we wouldn't have survived without her working.

Now kids play on computers and don't spend enough time outdoors. I see kids and adults almost everywhere looking down at cell phones or hand-held gaming devices. The kids spend lots of time on digital games rather than board games, yard games, or even on playgrounds. We used to see and hear kids running around outside playing chase or hide and seek. I am grateful, though, that many still play baseball and other sports outside. And many families have swing sets in their yards. I just hope the children are getting enough fresh air and exercise so we don't end up with a generation of dull-eyed, flaccid people.

Through the generations the games and playtime have evolved while staying essentially the same. I'll bet you have played at least one or two of these activities yourself. What's your favorite childhood playtime memory? What do you see children in your neighborhood playing? Would you share it here?

*Find out how to play run-sheep-run at

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What now?

What shall I do with this blog? I can't imagine that many people will be interested in my family. After all, we aren't famous or even mysterious. What would attract someone to come read about us?

And I want to be read. I want to return to writing and writers want to be read. There were times in my life when I wrote and published. Then I got too busy with life and stopped trying to write for publication. Now that I've learned a bit about blogging it has rekindled that desire to write and be read.

As a non-traditionally aged student (read "old") I was an English major in undergraduate school. Even before I thought of going back to school I wrote poetry, short stories, articles. Quite a few were published. It felt good to find something I was good at, something that others valued. Even for a few years after my graduate degree I wrote, mostly poetry. I was in a poetry group and participated in and led Poetry Therapy. It was great to get feedback and encouragement from people I valued and respected.

I'm not really sure why I let it go. Of course I was busy with work and a relationship. But that wasn't the only reason, surely. I had been writing even during all that. Somehow I lost interest in it, didn't need it any more, I guess. My life was full and rewarding without it.

So why now?

Life is less full and rewarding at my age, certainly. I don't have a job that makes a difference. I'm less physically able to do things that I once did. I don't have the energy I had when I was younger. And I don't want to just "disappear". I still want to make a positive difference in the world.

That was the original impetus for doing a blog. I wanted to encourage people to DO SOMETHING to make the world a bit better. I want each of us to decide to do that each day. I guess you could say that making a positive difference is my passion.

I've always wanted to make things better for folks wherever I could. I take great pleasure in helping people do acts of kindness. I have organized various charitable acts, raised money, coordinated donations, headed up teams of volunteers, that sort of thing. Now that I'm less able to do as much, I still want to make a difference. I thought a blog might be a way to do that. But I'm not sure how.

I wonder if I can make that happen? What do you think? How might that work? I'd really appreciate your ideas and suggestions. Please leave your comments below.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Mom's 100th Birthday.

Today would have been my mom's one hundredth birthday. She never wanted to be that old. In her last few years she was in a lot of pain and breaking bones frequently due to severe osteoporosis. She wasn't able to do much of her activities, couldn't even knit or crochet after she broke her shoulder. She frequently needed to be taken care of and hated that. She was in and out of the hospital and "rehab" facilities, finally dying in the hospital of C-Dif, an aggressive viral  infection. She spent her last few days in hospice care at Riverside, barely aware, most of the time, of what was happening around her.She was more than ready to die, had been for some time. So her passing was quiet and peaceful.

Reading her journal has been such an experience. I knew that much of her life was filled with challenges, but there was much I didn't know. I didn't know the full picture. She was a perfect example of the saying, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." A remarkable woman.

At twelve years of age she found a torn up letter in the trash that she helped her mom piece back together. It was a love letter to her father from some woman not his wife. They used it in the divorce proceedings after her father had left her mother with three daughters 14, 12, and 10, and no income of her own. The child support was intermittent and their lives became very difficult. Her mom took in laundry and cleaned people's houses.

My mom was always very close to her mother and always helped any way she could. She babysat for a bit of spending money but mostly gave it to her mom.

Never a good student, she struggled through high school, graduating from Central High School near downtown Columbus on the Scioto River. (The Center of Science and Industry [COSI] is there now.)
She says English was hard for her. In later years I think she would have been diagnosed with a learning disorder. But then there was little help available, especially to economically distressed families. And she had little help with homework at home with her mom working so hard.

When she finished school there were no jobs for her. Her best skill was Bookkeeping but with the Depression there weren't many jobs for young people just out of school with mediocre grades, even though her Bookkeeping grades were good. Her father surprised her by showing up and offering to send her to school, so she went to Beauty School and trained to be a beautician. She found work in a couple of small shops where she worked on commission, so earned very little. It wasn't long after that that she met my dad.

It wasn't love at first sight. He was handsome and charming and persistent. He spent every moment he could with her until she fell in love with him. Their's was not a match made in heaven, however. Like her father, Champ was a womanizer. All that charm and good looks attracted women to him and he loved it. He also turned out to be addicted to alcohol and gambling. So their marriage was rocky from the start. But he was the love of her life and she tolerated way more problem behavior than was good for her or the family.

Her life was filled with problems, challenges, heartache and pain. And yet she was always able to find the positives. She relished time with her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. She loved beauty in nature and art. She developed skills in ceramics to the point that she had her own studio and taught others the craft. She mastered leather tooling, embroidery, sewing. She took up drawing and painting in later years, worked in oils and acrylics. She loved flowers and gardened anywhere she lived, for as long as she was able. Mostly she grew flowers. And she even raised tomatoes on her balcony when she was in senior housing. She loved to dance, beginning in her teens dancing to the big bands around Columbus. But Champ wasn't good at dancing and she gave it up. She took up dancing again as a senior citizen and loved it. Sadly she had to give up dancing after breaking her hip.

She raised two children almost on her own.She made it through the depression. She lived through WWII, worked on the airplane assembly line at Curtis Wright bucking rivets, while struggling to raise two small children with her estranged husband in the South Pacific. They were ready to divorce when he enlisted and she agreed to wait for him to return. Over the years she buried her parents, grandparents, sisters, and many friends. She spent countless lonely hours, days, weeks.

She had many medical emergencies throughout her life. In her twenties she had a bone tumor removed from inside her skull. They put a metal plate in her head. She suffered from frequent anemia, from severe hay fever, from several falls, had several kinds of surgeries, and developed very severe osteoporosis which resulted in many broken bones in the last decade of her life.

For several years she worked with retarded adults in the sheltered workshops - demanding and challenging work that she loved - until unable to continue for health reasons.

My mother, Mary Elizabeth "Betty"Houston Champ, would do anything to help someone in need. There were times she gave people her best clothing, took in folks with no where else to go, provided transportation for countless folks needing rides to doctors, grocery, etc. Eventually, she even gave her car to her neighbors when she decided she should give up driving.

She was strong-willed, independent, caring, smart, talented, loving, creative, and always beautiful.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I don't know if they have birthday cake in heaven, but if they do, I hope it is your favorite. Or, better yet, the blackberry pie that you loved.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My arrival into the family

Reading my mom's journal is truly fascinating. Perhaps it is because I knew the folks she writes about. And, of course, it sometimes is about me. I've learned that she was thrilled that I was a baby girl.

She said that even my brother was thrilled to have a baby sister, like his friends had. My brother is five years older than I and I couldn't imagine him being thrilled about not being an only child any longer. And I may have learned a clue about why we've never been close. Once when he was holding me I wet on him! Mom said she was getting ready to bathe me and someone came to the door. She asked Jim to hold me while she tended to the door. I didn't have rubber pants on because she had started to undress me. So . . .  She said that was the last time he ever held me!

While she was pleased to have a girl, I can't imagine her being terribly pleased she was pregnant. It was a difficult time for her. She and my dad were separated and she and Jim were struggling to make it on their own. They depended a lot on the kindness and generosity of family and friends. For the first few months of my pregnancy she tried to continue working as a beautician, in spite of the social rules that said pregnant women were not to be seen in public.

Her pregnancy didn't show because she was too sick to eat and didn't gain any weight for a long time. She said she lived on oranges and coffee. She was being treated for "nerves and low blood." I assume she meant she was anemic, as she had mentioned that she had struggled with that when she was younger.

She also said she didn't remember a lot about that time because she had blocked it as just too difficult. I can relate. I've done the same with periods of my life.

Apparently I nearly didn't survive my first month. At two weeks old I had bronchial pneumonia. The doctor came to the house and brought a vaporizer. He put a sheet over the handles of the bassinet with the vaporizer under it for fifteen minutes every two hours four about twelve hours, letting my mom rest after being up with me for many nights. I pulled through and thrived.

Then at nearly two years old I had my tonsils out the same time as my mom had hers out. We shared a hospital room. Can you imagine? She says I cried from the moment they brought her back from surgery until hours after they brought me back to the room from surgery. She was worried about the crying making my throat even worse. She says my grandmother (Lucinda) curled up in bed with me to calm me down and help me get to sleep. What an ordeal for my mom!

After that, though I think I was pretty healthy. At least as a child. I was in the first kindergarten in the District at Avondale Elementary. Kindergarten wasn't the norm for schools then. My mom was very involved in the PTA and had helped get the kindergarten started, raising money to hire a teacher. I don't really have memories of that time of my life, just photos and stories I've heard my mom tell. Apparently I was very smart, loved books and school. We learned how to cross the street with a traffic light, had one in the classroom.

Oh, I do remember my vaccination before I could start school. It scabbed over and one day I was running in the hall and a teacher grabbed me by the arm to stop me. I remember that it hurt. That was the first of a couple of vaccinations, none of which ever took. I have no scar at all.

I do remember the school, as I attended there through sixth grade. It is a big stone school and had wooden floors that always smelled of the oil they cleaned with. There was a big furnace in the basement with huge round pipes that sent the heat up to the rooms. I had mostly good teachers. I don't remember their names, though. I remember going to summer school one year because when I started school they had two classes starting different times each year - Fall and Winter. I started in winter when I was not quite six because my birthday is in February. Then when I was in fifth grade they wanted to eliminate the two different classes and combine the A group with the B group. They sent the Winter group to summer school to advance half a grade so we would be even with the Fall group.

That meant I started that Fall in the Sixth Grade. I was younger than most of the kids but I had no trouble keeping up. We had the same teacher that taught Summer school, Mr. James Teft, and I had fallen in love with him. It was the first male teacher we ever had in our grade school and he was right out of college. He was young, enthusiastic and had lots of creative ideas about how to teach us our lessons. I loved it.

I was thriving in school and thought life was pretty great. My mom's life, however, did not get much easier, she had a lot of stress and heartbreak. I'll write more about her later, as I'm reading more about her young married and middle years now. Not always a happy tale, I'm afraid.

I may write more about my school years at some later date. Robin wants me to write my memories like my mom and my great aunt had. We'll see.

Have you written about your memories of childhood? Do you keep a journal now? What do you write in it?

Friday, March 4, 2016

My mother's journal

I finally found my mom's journals and am amazed at how much detail she remembered from her childhood. It is fascinating to read about her family and her friends and activities. I wonder, as I read, where all those people ended up and if their children got the opportunity to know about them from their parents.

Life was different then. But in many ways her growing up was similar to mine. Both her father and mine were in and out of their family due to drink and women and other vices. Those cycles go on for generations sometimes, don't they? Sad.

But her journal doesn't hold much sadness about her childhood. It is filled with her adventures and games and dolls and friends. She and her sisters got into more trouble than I ever did. I was pretty dull by comparison! Maybe that is why I don't have as clear a memory of my childhood as she. I don't know that my recollections would be nearly as interesting as hers.

I'm not far along in reading yet. I've not gotten as far as her adulthood. That will be even more interesting because there will be things that I witnessed as well, although from a child's viewpoint. I have a feeling that her journal is going to get more attention than the novels I've been reading for a while.

While I'm tempted to search for the part about my birth and childhood, I still want to read what all led up to then. I don't want to miss any of it! I guess the thread about my birthday will wait.