Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Little Girl's Perspective of Grandma

I was visiting with my sister this evening and she said she liked my piece about Grandma.  She told me she had written something similar years ago. I read hers and really liked it so I asked her permission to post a copy here.  Enjoy:

Grandmothers are very special people. No one else can combine the love of a mother, the knowledge of years of experience, the closeness of a friend and at the same time crack the whip and get wanted results like a grandmother.
The responsibilities of a grandmother are many, The head of several generations, all going in different directions.  The chief cook of those memorable holiday fares.  Reinforcing parents' rules with one hand and with the other slipping their grandchildren a cookie.
My grandmother fits this description completely.  We were fortunate enough to live close to her as we were growing up.  We always knew Grandma loved us.  She told us often.  Not being confined to the role of mother, Grandma could let down and be a friend.
Saturdays were made even more special when we were allowed to spend the night with Grandma.  We sat up late, Grandma right there with us, just as involved in the late show as we were. There were walks in the hills on more than one occasion. Grandma was there, walking stick in hand, leading the way, opening our eyes to things we would have missed altogether if she wasn't with us.
I remember the dresses she made me during the time when my figure wasn't quite what it should have been. They were camouflage for my imperfections.  Now I can look at the quilt she made and discover pieces of those dresses and the memory of quilting day when we all gathered on Grandma's patio, stationed around the quilting frames. Grandma, Mother and the Aunts would stitch and cut the threads.  We kids followed along tying the knots.
My first bra was quite a big deal.  Grandma saw to that.  After living through her reaction I managed to see my first day back to school with little or no inhibitions about the possibility of someone noticing.
The knowledge one uneducated person can accumulate is astounding.  I shouldn't say uneducated, Grandma was self-taught. She read constantly and shared her knowledge with us all.  I guess that's where I and many of us got our addiction to books.  When Grandma read a book the rest of the world did not exist. What else was there for us to do but grab a book and join her.
Learning from Grandma wasn't too bad an experience. Even if her constant motto was "If you're going to learn to do it, you may as well learn to do it right."  And we did.  She was the one who showed me the technique I still use when ironing.

Little Girl - part two

I helped on laundry day, pushing the clothes through the wringer, into the rinse tub and into the bluing tub went the whites.  I believe my first cooking experience was at Grandma's. The egg I fried was far from perfect. The hardened yolk, framed with a crispy, browned edged egg white, just stared at me from the plate.  But, I got to cook it myself. That's what counted.
Grandma always kept chickens and ducks.  We learned to feed them and to keep their water pans filled with fresh water.  We always knew when one of her hens had hatched some eggs or when Grandma had been to the feed store for a new batch of chicks.  A box would be sitting in the living room by her chair, rigged with a light bulb for heat.  There the little ones would stay until they were old enough to care for themselves outside. That is another practice I adopted from Grandma.  Caring for the fuzzy yellow chicks indoors until they were ready to go outside.
Grandma has always been a lover of beautiful things.   She always kept her yard edged with flower beds.  Bricks, standing on end leaning on each other would outline those flower beds.We spent many a summer afternoon straightening bricks and helping weed between the multi-colored beauties.  I was always fondest of the Fuchsias that hung in the wooden pots around the patio.  And the Martha Washington Geraniums that grew along the fence.
My favorite memories and those in which I would gladly live over again, if possible, are the eves of holidays, especially Thanksgiving.  Although Grandma's house was small, that's where the family gathered at holiday time.  Some of us kids would spend the night before Thanksgiving with Grandma.  We would sit up very late just to watch Grandma put the turkey into the oven.  Always a large bird, overstuffed with cornbread stuffing.  After careful preparation into the oven it went and into the feather bed we would go.  Waking up to that aroma of baking turkey, climbing up  out of the feather mattress is something to remember.The family would soon start drifting in, filling the little house to the corners.  It didn't phase Grandma.  She followed through the day, a whip in one hand and a cookie in the other.
I regret that my girls couldn't have spent more time with this remarkable person before we moved away.  I'm sure most of their shyness would be  melted away layer by layer without them realizing it.  They would have been exposed to much more than they are at home.  Going to Grandma's is a little like entering the world of Auntie Mame without the frills.
At seventy seven and with failing eyesight she still charms every kid in the neighborhood.  The little one come to Grandma Ada's for cookies and coffee. The older ones come to get a booster shot of confidence. I'm hoping when my turn comes I can put aside the role of mother and step in to the role of friend, fun-maker and teacher.  The role of a very special person like my grandmother.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Story - The Original Photo Bomber

We've had a death in the family and I am out of sorts. So before I continue my narrative here's a photo taken in 1957. Pictured here is my cousin Ronnie and his wife Wanda.  It was taken in my grandma's front yard in Manhattan Beach. Note my dad's '53 Buick parked on the street. And of course, there I am at 12 years old peeking around from behind them. I'm wearing my black and white high top Red Ball Jets.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

July 4

While we are waiting for the family to arrive for the holiday festivities I went to the garden for some photos:

I didn't find these in the garden.  Red, White, and Blue cookies.

Progress Report

On Tuesday I had the surgery on my nose.  It went well.  I'm amazed at how much tissue can be cut away and yet the reconstructive procedure can return the appearance back to normal. (after healing has occurred and swelling goes away.) Gracen has been impatient with her Poppy unable to join her outside for play time. Grandma has tried to spend time with her in the yard but grandmas are just not as silly as grandpas so it's just not the same.
The doctor is pleased with how I've brought the glucose levels under control.  I haven't heard the results of the kidney function test.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Story

I think I'll put my grandfather's story on the back burner for awhile.  I didn't know this narrative was going to be so difficult. None the less I'll begin again soon. In the mean time I have a couple of issues I have to deal with that are weighing on my mind. Tuesday I will have another MOHS surgery on my nose to remove a basal cell carcinoma. This is the second one in four years. Another thing grabbing my concentration is the fact that I recently had my annual physical exam and found out my glucose level is elevated and the doctor is a little concerned about my kidney function.  I think every thing is going to be ok but until I get the all clear signal it will be on my mind. I'm a worrier.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

"One of the most startling developments of the late twentieth century has been the emergence within every major religious tradition of a militant piety popularly known as 'fundamentalism.' Its manifestations are sometimes shocking. Fundamentalists have gunned down worshippers in a mosque, have killed doctors and nurses who work in abortion clinics, have shot their presidents, and have even toppled a powerful government. It is only a small minority of fundamentalists who commit such acts of terror, but even the most peaceful and law-abiding are perplexing, because they seem so adamantly opposed to many of the most positive values of modern society. Fundamentalists have no time for democracy, pluralism, religious toleration, peacekeeping, free speech, or the separation of church and state. Christian fundamentalists reject the discoveries of biology and physics about the origins of life and insist that the Book of Genesis is scientifically sound in every detail. At a time when many are throwing off the shackles of the past, Jewish fundamentalists observe their revealed Law more stringently than ever before, and Muslim women, repudiating the freedoms of Western women, shroud themselves in veils and chadors. Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists both interpret the Arab-Israeli conflict, which began as defiantly secularist, in an exclusively religious way. Fundamentalism, moreover, is not confined to the great monotheisms. There are Buddhist, Hindu, and even Confucian fundamentalisms, which also cast aside many of the painfully acquired insights of liberal culture, which fight and kill in the name of religion and strive to bring the sacred into the realm of politics and national struggle."

Karen Armstrong -- The Battle for God

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Story - Part 4 - Grandpa


My grandfather was born in the 19th century. 1898 to be exact. Some people are born and live their entire lives in one particular historical period and other's lives straddle the end of one era and the beginning of another.  I have a theory that some people who witness great technological, social, economic, and/or political change during their lifetimes, especially when the change occurs during their formative years, have difficulties adjusting and gaining a purchase on life. (Yet some thrive under those same conditions). The year  Grandpa was born William McKinley was president and was assassinated  3 years later, the USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbor precipitating the Spanish American War.  When he was 5 years old in 1903 the Wright brothers built and flew the first airplane. He was 19 when the United States entered WWI and 43 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I may be making excuses for my grandfather because when it came to navigating his way through life he seemed to prefer the fog of inebriation to the clarity of sobriety. He was an alcoholic.
    His people were the English and Scot-Irish who landed on eastern shores two centuries ago and gradually drifted down Appalachia and settled in the hills of Arkansas and Oklahoma where they made a living farming and share cropping until the winds of change, just as strong as the wind that blew the topsoil away, blew them to California where they became known as Okies. My grandmother said they didn't notice when the Great Depression came because they had always been poor. So my people stayed for another decade or so. Grandpa sold vegetables from a horse cart and was content if he managed to buy some flour, bacon, and coffee each day.  They lived for a time in abandoned farm houses. But, at the end of WWII  the family was drawn to California by the lure of jobs that paid steady money.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.
David Whyte

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Spring Blooms

I'm glad I snapped these photos when I did because a thunder 
storm came along and blew these Clematis flowers right offf
the vine.

We just planted this hosta.  It's called Orange Marmalade. I think
it goes well with the golden Japanese barberry next to it.

It's also a perfect complement to the Frances Williams hosta
on the right.

Gracen picked a peony.

It makes a good accessory for her
pink shirt.

Marley's Band Concert

It's a mystery to me how grandchildren grow up so fast.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kelly on the Mountain

When Kelly told me she was going to go out on this ledge over in Arkansas
 I tried to talk her out of it. I can always photo shop her into the picture, 
but she insisted on going.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Part 3 continued - My Grandma

My grandma was an animal lover. I can't remember a time when she didn't have ducks and chickens in her back yard. She had a duck named Donald that would chase the grand kids all they way to the back door when they ventured toward the back of the lot, territory he deemed his own. She had white ducks, mallards, a mixture of the two, and the red faced Muscovies.  She had a squirrel that a family member brought to her all the way from Arkansas, an aviary containing hundreds of parakeets, a couple of large tortoises that wandered her back yard, and a crow named Jim who was granted house  privileges. Her dog was a feisty little bull dog mix that was as mean as he could be. No grand child was spared from being bitten. He and I gradually came to a truce and he would let me pet him for a few minutes before he bit me. I think he began to like me because he didn't break the skin anymore when he bit me. He loved to play fetch and would run after a ball time after time and then signal the end of the play session by biting me.  Every few years my grandma would start missing her family in Oklahoma and go back for a visit leaving Duke with me. He was a house dog which meant I had to take him for a walk every day.  Putting on his halter was very tricky but I learned to do it without being bitten. He would sleep on my bed and sometime during the night work his way under the covers and sleep at my feet.  If I moved he would bite me.

Grandma and Duke in her back yard.  Manhattan Beach 1957

When I was a kid the only black people I saw were the men who picked up the trash.  I was afraid of them. My grandma, a woman who was born in Alabama and never went to school beyond 3rd grade (she was self educated through reading) treated them as equals. She would would talk and laugh with them; they were friends. That made a big impression on me.  My parents were not overtly racist (I was never allowed to use the N word), but they believed the races should not mix or socialize. Years later my black friends and I would meet at grandma's for dinner and bible study.  Bible study?  My grandma?   Yes, she became a Christian late in life and I know it was a true conversion because she didn't cuss so much after that.

Every Friday afternoon after school my grandpa would arrive in his 1954 Ford pick up truck to pick me up so I could spend the night at grandma's house.  We would spend the evening sipping ice tea and watching TV shows like Sea Hunt, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 77 Sunset Strip, and our favorite, The Twilight Zone. Those were good times but I was growing up.  My interests were wandering to girls and cars so one Friday afternoon when grandpa arrived I told him I didn't want to go. It seemed childish to spend the weekend with grandparents. The next time I spent the night with my grandma I had Dorothy and two little girls with me. Not long after that my family moved away from Hermosa Beach to La Puente in the San Gabriel Valley about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. I suppose because of my love of reading I have always looked at different periods of my life as chapters. This was definitely the end of a chapter as my childhood slipped away.  I had become a teenager.

Redondo Pier c. 1953

Historic Perspective:1959
  •  Alaska becomes a state
  • Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens die in a plane crash
  • The first transcontinental commercial jet flight. $301 LA to NY
  • Fidel Castro overthrows Batista to govern Cuba

Friday, May 08, 2015

The End of an Era

We've had an old barn on our property for as long as we have owned it.  It was old when we arrived and over the years, especially since we've had no cows or horses of our own, it has fallen into disarray.  So today, with the help of our neighbor Mike, a member of the local volunteer fire dept, we burned it down.