Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More About Hazel

As I knew yesterday, there is just too much for a few paragraphs on my grandma. So, yes, I'm going to continue about her life.
She grew up on a farm. She loved animals. Even though David's great nephew is no relation to Grandma, they are kindred spirits. Jacob will go on and on about his animals and cried and cried when a calf at his grandpa's farm died that I can't help but think about Grandma. So how does a farm girl become overly zealous about animals. It can't be a romantic, far away notion. I saw a picture once of her sitting on a cow in the field. All the pictures of her animals had as a caption on the back about "my dear..." whatever it was.
For 18 years, she had a black and white terrier that she named Bitsy, because she was an itsy, bitsy thing. Bitsy came to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at our house. She also had cats, two I remember. One was a fat orange cat, can you guess the name? He was in commercials about a persnickety cat named Morris and this cat looked like him. She had a orange and white cat, not so muscular, she named Pretty Boy.
Grandma had beautiful long blond hair. When we cleaning out her house, I found the long braid she cut off with her first bob, I suppose. That was kind of creepy to me. That old dusty lifeless braid of hair was thick, too.
Grandma loved to go shopping, for one who couldn't walk well, we had to run to keep up with her at the mall. Then almost as soon as she had steam,she ran out and planted herself on seat in the concourse. We'd find her chatting away and laughing with some stranger.
Oh, and she wanted people to notice her china blue eyes. Maybe that's why Grandpa married her. They were married in Wellsville, a special train took honeymooners across the Ohio River to West Virginia. First they lived around Pittsburgh. Grandpa worked for Westinghouse in the office. Uncle Bill was born in Turtle Creek, I think. Grandpa then transferred to Sharon. My mom was born the day after his birthday. Grandma told me how she labored all day while fixing Grandpa's birthday dinner, and then she labored all night, while the doctor slept in the chair.
They never owned a house, but rented throughout Sharon.
Grandma was proud of her house, she bought. For a long time she had renters. When I was very small, she lived upstairs. There was only one bathroom, off the kitchen. She did have her own kitchen upstairs. Only the bathroom was shared. Can you imagine doing that today? In the mid 70's, one tenant did a lot of damage and the family decided Grandma shouldn't rent any more. Soon Uncle Bill was out of the Army and he lived in the house till he died in 1989.
Grandma also rented her garage, and a parking space to a Westinghouse employee, as she was a few blocks up the hill from the plant.
She had a comfortable fenced in yard. She lived by the Oakland Cemetery that I sometimes walked through with Bitsy. I guess I have always liked walking dogs.
Grandma had a lumpy bed. I only stayed over a few times, but I slept with her when I did. She listened to the radio at night, like radio theater- The Shadow Knows, ect.
We often had her birthday parties in our side yard, with the heavenly blue skies, the luxurious shade from all the trees and as Grandma would say, "Good eats" Her funeral dinner was there, as well. It seemed proper. It was summer. That side yard is always what I think of when I think of heaven- beautiful filled with loving people. It is just a foretaste!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June 28, 1898

My grandmother, Hazel Alfreda Thompson Evans was born to Seth Campbell Thompson and Mary Olive Fisher Thompson, "Papa and My dear little mother," on this date in Coolspring Township just kitty corner from the Coolspring Church. The house was made the "Showplace of Mercer County" by her grandfather, Edward Campbell Thompson, a Civil War veteran and sheriff of Mercer County.
As a sort of re-gifting today to me, I was looking at our bookshelf downstairs this morning. I saw a book, The Re-Creation of Brian Kent, Wright. It is very old and I wondered was it written by Harold Bell Wright, the author of The Shepherd of the Hills. That was the name on the title page, but the real gem were the names on the flap. Mrs. Mary E. Fisher and above it read "to Grandma from Tad"- I have no idea who Tad is, but below Mary's name was written,"To Hazel from Grandma" A re gifting from 1919! Plus, I'm inspired by The Shepherd of the Hills, so it will be fun to read another book by Harold Bell Wright. The book itself is in good shape.
Grandma had a little sister, Arvella, but somewhere along the line, a hired hand remarked about a girl wearing overalls, "Well, you're a little Jim" And Jim stuck as her nickname. They were five years apart with a strong sibling rivalry. I don't believe Grandpa Thompson ever used the name Jim, but he blew on the fire of their competition. My mom said she would over hear him as he was giving money to one, "Now don't tell Arvella." or "Don't tell Hazel"
Mary Olive died when Grandma was seven and Jim was two. The girls were very pretty, but I'm sure it was hard on Grandpa Thompson with running a farm and two girls for which to care. Grandma talked about her mean German grandmother, that was Hannah Barnhart Thompson, she married Edward after the Civil War, Sept. 1865. I have the date, record somewhere. It was in Sharon, PA. She was from Clarksville, now Clark as was Edward- his mother being the one who was widowed by Charles Koonce, of Tara fame.
Soon Grandpa Thompson married a school teacher, Miss McMillin- I have to look up her first name. Later her sister married Grandpa Evans father, his second wife after they moved from Pittsburgh to Coolspring Township, so she was Aunt Eva to my mother, even though she also was a step grandmother. As yet another aside, Great Grandpa Evans was the choir director for Coolspring Church. I could write a whole blog on Coolspring Township.
Grandpa Thompson, and Mom called his second wife, Grandma Thompson, had a son Burdell. They made a big fuss over him, because Grandma Thompson was old when she had him. Years later, he committed suicide on the farm. Grandma Evans didn't talk much about him

that I can recall. My mother loved his daughters, Wilma and Verna Mae.
I think because Grandma was seven when her mother died in 1905, she was considered almost an adult. I know they had no grief counseling then. She may have had more sympathy from her mother's family. They wanted her to move with them out West. She cried, but Papa couldn't let her go. My sister has the letters they wrote to her from California.
I'm sure this is getting too long for a blog post. As you can imagine there is much information. Grandma has been dead for twenty five years. She was confused in her last days. She thought baby Katie was my oldest sister's baby. She thought my dad had died not her son, Bill. She had a stroke and quietly died in August 1989. My mom and dad were with her.
Before my mom died six years ago, we both missed Grandma more and talked a lot about her. She had funny sayings. In the winter, "you needed to get out and blow the stink off." She never got strange names right, Herman was Norman, HoChi was HoJo, Toni, her great granddaughter, was Tonya- which made the grandfather irritated, "Toni, Mom, Toni."
Grandma is buried beside her beloved June, her youngest daughter, who died in 1962 of uterine cancer at age thirty three. Very tragic. Affected our whole family for many years. June, the month was also her favorite, as well as lavender for color, violet for flowers. She put kitty litter around her violets and they were extraordinary.
Happy Birthday, Grandma! We miss your jolly self!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sometimes You Can Hide It

I've had pain and being a nurse, you have to hide it. When you care for people, they don't want to know or see your pain, they have enough of their own. I respect that. Children are like that, too. We hide the pain from them. There are different levels or types of pain as well; physical, emotional, spiritual.
It had only been two weeks since my mother had died. I was in a patient's home. She was particularly hard to please, as well as hard of hearing, and had extensive wound care on her legs. Being July, the weather was steamy. I was happy to be leaving. She sadly looked at me, after being mean, confessing,"My family wants me dead." I thought I was going to bawl right there. How we all wished we had another moment with my mother and here was someone, according to her, no one wanted alive. I hugged her and then quickly exited, crying the half hour ride home. I was shook.
Today, I tried, but cannot hide my pain. Saturday evening, after reading on the couch, my back spasmed. I thought yesterday after large amounts of ibuprofen, it was easing. I never had it like this before. Sure, I've had achy backs, cramps, thighs hurting, but this I can hardly move without crying out in a yelp. My last two visits, my pain etched my face. The PTA noticed immediately, as I gingerly hesitated up steps or tried to sit down. I apologized to the patients and as soon as I finished my work, called the doctor's. I can't get in till tomorrow at 11. I'm actually praying it will be better with copious ibuprofen and rest.
Sometimes it is that little moment between wellness and a life change. Please don't let this be one of those moments.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Entertaining Angels Unawares

Another activity my parents loved was entertaining. They had this beautiful 9 room Victorian house that my dad had always wanted since he was a child. He was walking one day and saw it was for sale. He talked to Coe Byers, the owner, proceeded to the bank and secured it with a thousand dollars. My mother had mixed feelings about this because they had recently completed a remodeling job in their current house. But that house really was too small for our family as Uncle Dave still lived with us, my sisters were teenagers, with my brother a recent one and no bedroom for a 3 year old-me.
I believe my sister had the first party for her 16th birthday. It was still empty with those vast rooms. The walls were a sick pepto bismal pink and the hard wood floors kind of bowed. Let more remodeling begin. I still can see myself standing over those weak spots after the bluegreen carpet was installed, wondering how far that hole went...
Many open houses, going away and coming home parties, Christmas parties and informal movie nights- before all the VCR's, cable and other choices in entertainment- graced our home. Being with each other was the entertainment.
One Sunday in church, my father pointed out to my mother a row of college students sitting in a pew nearer the front of the church. Before Mom knew, they were invited for lunch. A singing group, The Colony from Sterling College where my oldest sister graduated, delighted to get a free meal. My father hardly had invited them than he was off to Kentucky Fried Chicken 6 miles away for lunch. My mother had quit trying to time dinner after Rev. Hatch went over on the sermon one time and the pork chops were very hard. The weather was sunny as it was summer break and the impromptu picnic occurred.
Another time the Ray Fentons were in town. Maxine, you may remember was the nurse who helped my mom through her ectopic pregnancy. They were very close friends of my parents. I stayed at their house outside Chicago when I was very small. Ray mentored my father in his spiritual growth. In fact they were so close, if I had been a boy my name would have been Raymond Gerald. They too came for lunch, but I believe that may have been planned.
I feel bad at times that I do not have that instantly invite someone over for lunch quality. Our culture today, we're more likely to take someone out to lunch than have them come to our home. Mine is usually a pig sty and I never feel ready for those unexpected guests. I envy the home I grew up in, if you couldn't tell. When we were looking for homes many years ago, one owner was saying how much easier it is to hide clutter, dirt in a big house. Close a few doors, run your apron over an end table or two and voila! it's presentable. I know, my toy room was one of those rooms that the door was almost always shut. My mom also had the whole family helping, even Dan. He was good at cleaning the oven.
I guess the main thing is to watch for those singing college kids or former preachers and have fun. We're to be relaxed, making our guests feel special. Hospitality is not having home beautiful, but loving on people.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Evening Drives

3 or 4 years old, feeling restless one night after dinner, I asked my dad if he would,"just drive me around the block?" He did more than that as we rode around the Shenango Valley. He loved to drive.
We took many evening drives and I loved to stare out the windows making stories in my mind or listening to the adults talk. I often rode with my friend, Karen and her foster parents, too. We remarked on beautiful homes in the country, but Karen didn't like them because "where would could I ride my bike?" I didn't enjoy riding bikes as much as she. I liked taking in people's homes and imaging stories about them.
In the summer after rains, we came across rainbows.
A big deal was for a dad to pile all the kids he could in the car to drive a few miles up the road to Bobby's Corners and get gas. The windows were down, air blowing all around. Monotony broken.
Most of the time these rides involved an ice cream cone somewhere, maybe Brookfield at the point on 7 and 62, or Twin Kiss in Hickory before the dog leg was fixed on Maple Drive and State Street.
We never drove to Erikson's because that was just a walk down the block. We frequented that often, too.
We loved riding around on a summer evening. Was it the freedom it seemed to give us? The exploration of different places, the remembering of times past? I knew from going down Campground Rd., that Dad snuck away from town to hear the African American campers at the Church of God campground singing. He also told other stories of exploit getting away to the country. Sometimes we just visited people and I ran around in new places. Stories were repeated and imagination sparked. Sometimes, I think we just cooled off with the mechanical breeze and an ice cream cone.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oh My Gut!

Last night I woke with what Regis used to call the "grippers". I kept the bathroom light on as I trotted to and from the bathroom. I was transported back to the back bedroom in the house I grew up in. When we first moved there, the room was an upstairs kitchen, as an old lady lived in the upstairs at one time, Mrs. Johnson. My mom and dad chose it as their bedroom and I often slept with them. Dad got up with the light over the sink to get me a drink of water. The light last night felt like that light for some reason.
A lot of remodeling was done in that house, like that kitchen changed into a private room with a full tub and shower, back stairs to the kitchen and a large closet. Mom and Dad used that room for quite a few years. I was supposed to have a little room on the east side, the carpet chosen, a maroon pink, since I wanted a pink room. My sisters were to share the front bedroom overlooking Main St. A short little hall, more like a landing at the top of the curved stairs, led to another bathroom, remodeled with a double sink, and bathtub. The big middle bedroom was my brother's. The three back rooms all blended together, with no central hall, the only drawback I could see with the lay out of this house.
My sisters did not get along at that time and quickly my second sister shared the middle bedroom with me and Dan went into the small room with the maroon pink carpet.
But I think I spent the most time in that back room. I sneaked in when my dad worked midnight turn or laid there until he was home from afternoon turn, then pretended to be asleep so they wouldn't move me into my room.
One time as convenience to my sister entertaining a girlfriend overnight, I slept with my mom. In the morning, Mom discovered that Gerri Lee had locked the door. She shrugged at me and we went down the back stairs. But they weren't carpeted and Mom wasn't too happy to use them.
When I was in first grade, my sisters were both all ready in college. I seemed then to have some stomach ailment. Was it first grade stress? I threw up I felt almost every night. My teacher, who was ancient as the hills surrounding our town, missed a lot of school. Her substitute was even older and meaner. Was I worried about my teacher leaving, too? Or was worrying about spelling after Christmas break fearful to me? I was sure they meant cursive writing and I didn't feel ready to do that. Christmas party time, I had a cute little red and white dress with an adorable gray mouse on the pocket. I still love gray Christmas mouses to this day. But I was sick. My stomach hurt so much. My teacher was very sympathetic to me and I felt accepted, even though I was scared about that spelling in January.
At night, I laid in my parent's bed with a towel, in case I couldn't make it to the bathroom. My mom would rub my stomach and I used a heating pad.
By the end of the year, the pediatrician was going to work up the situation. The first test was the simple urine test, only I couldn't pee in that doctor's office. My mother turned on the spigot and even the sound of running water didn't help. We went a few blocks over to my grandmother's, who scolded me for not peeing when it was required, but I was relaxed and was able to pee in her dim old lady bathroom.
No more tests were done because I seemed to have a miraculous recovery. I don't know if they ever did figure it out. My mother often said she thought I was worried about my teacher, but didn't know how to voice my concern. It could have been that or just that fear of added responsibilities, like spelling in January.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day Tripping

The first meaning of the song is day trips you could make on the bus or train. And for my family and myself it was wonderful trips of learning and seeing. Even Youngstown proved exciting even before all the shootings. I observed my first ballet at Powers Auditorium, gazed at naked boys in paintings at Butler Art Institute. Hey, little girls are curious, too. Before malls drove all the stores to them, we shopped at Strouss's, McKelvy's, Higbee's with the feel of a big city, truly an adventure.
Sea World as I mentioned before was another Ohio destination we visited several times.
Karen accompanied us to Old Economy in Ambridge, PA, just north of Pittsburgh. Homemade ketchup in a big black kettle thrilled me, but the thought that the men and women were not to marry certainly puzzled me. Remember this is before sex education was shoved down little ones' throats, but I knew men and women needed to be together, at least married, for there to be children. My mother told me that is why no one really lived there anymore. That is just not natural.
Often we drove through the forests of northwestern PA. We watched the Elmenton bridge being built when my sister was at Grove City College. We tooled around the big dam at Kinzua. I watched closely for Indians or now a days, Native Americans. And one day I discovered oil history at Drake's oil well in Titusville.
A few times, we ventured to Pittsburgh and the Civic Arena to be bedazzled by the Ice Capades. I sat in those orange seats mesmerized by the skating figures, costumes and props. I always got an animal with skates on its feet, like a black bear or a tiger. I loved the Gulf building with its changing lights to tell the weather, the incline and the Clark Bar neon sign. We always ate at the Cranberry Inn.

My favorite destination was Pymatuning and I believe it was my dad's, too. Grandpa Evans declared Jerry knew the roads around Pymatuning like the back of his hand. One time I asked if Pymatuning was opened in the winter. Instead of laughing, Dad drove us up there to see the winter wonder. Still to this day, I marvel at the barren beauty of the lake and landscape as I try to get up there in those frozen months.
So before stacations were popular, we valued the day trips. Even Niagara Falls could be a day trip or an overnight trip. The short trips teach as much as the longer vacations. I enjoyed them all.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Foster Children-Part 2

I'm not sure why my parents waited until I was in 5th grade to pursue foster children, maybe it was launching the older kids first. My mother was a member of the Children's Aid Society as was our neighbor. At least once, they held a picnic at the neighbor's because they had a pool. The children from the home were younger when I was small, I looked at them as potential siblings. Something like the old Shirley Temple movies, that shaped my reality for a while.
Another neighbor had a foster girl come live with them when we were 4. I'm not sure how Karen and I met, I imagine it was a phone call between the mothers to arrange a meeting. We were fast friends and about 9 -10 years old, we almost looked like twins. I wrote a poem that was published in the WMHS newspaper about the Twins at the Fair. We wore similar outfits that were not planned. We went on many day outings together with either family. Her foster mom liked when I came over because she could make chicken, Karen didn't like chicken. My mom made sauerkraut for Karen for the same reason, I detested sauerkraut.
I think as this friendship developed and maybe financially as girls were out of college, my parents applied for foster children. My mother thought she would get a young girl, like Karen, but at this time young children were rare. Teenagers needed homes.
Our first girl was Pam, 17, almost 18. She was working on her GED and had a boyfriend she was pretty serious about. A few years later, my parents helped plan their wedding. A very nice girl, but not the companion a 10 year old girl was seeking.
I wrote about Debbie- see Summer of '72.
A few years later, my parents were offered a job as house parents at the Children's Home, but that is a different story.
Pam and Debbie were the extent of our fostering in the system. Many people lived with us over the years, uncles, friends down on their luck, teachers, a secretary. Our doors were always opened. Even when my mother was paralyzed in bed, the church would call for a room for a traveling singing group, after I had even left home.
My parents had big hearts and fortunately a big house to accommodate all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Foster Children- Part 1

Even though there are many years between my older siblings and myself- 10, 12, and 13 years, I was not an accident or an oops baby. My parents wanted many more children, but my mother had several miscarriages between my brother and myself. One time she almost died, when my oldest sister was 8. She knew enough to call the minister's wife, who was a RN. My father was at church camp over an hour away. Maxine, the nurse, rushed over, asking almost embarrassingly, "Jean, do you have any whiskey?"
My mother, appalled, "You know we don't drink."
By now, the whole neighborhood was in the living room. The next door neighbor slipped out the door and soon came back with a bottle of whiskey, "Good thing, you have drinking neighbors!"
Then my mother worried about riding in the hearse that doubled as an ambulance with whiskey on her breath. She related it was very strange to be in that vehicle with the wine color curtains.
My dad, in his hurry, rushed to the hospital in his tennis shoes, forgetting his dress shoes at camp. Men in the 50's did not go to the hospital in tennis shoes.
The other miscarriages weren't as dramatic. My mom told me she just went to the bathroom one time. The doctor examined the results only saying it was a multiple birth. She also had one a year before I was born.
With me, Mom thought she was having a gallbladder attack. They performed exploratory surgery. One surgeon wanted to abort when they discovered she was a month pregnant, but the other fought for life, saying, "She's young and able to have this baby."
A woman being 36, pregnant, in 1960, probably seemed old. Her cousin, who was younger, had a Down's syndrome child the year before. But life was chosen!
My father said he knew all along Mom was pregnant. His nickname for me was "Little Gallstone"
Yet, after I was born, my mother was instructed to not have anymore children. She felt bad that I didn't have a little sister. Which was the start of the desire to either adopt or open our home to foster children.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pick Your Birthday Cake

The other day I received homegrown strawberries from an Amish farm. They were beautiful, not too small, but not like the large red ones from California that we start getting in Feb. They reminded me of the ones from when I was kid. I cut them up like my mom did and taught me. Put them in water and cut them in 4's, then those in half. I don't think I added as much sugar as my mom would, and I mashed them just a little, as I don't possess a masher.
Since it was Friday, one of my busiest days- I traveled officially 3 hours plus my half hour to the first patient, then another half hour home from my last, I was tired.
We cheated on the cake, buying pound cake and then Reddi Whip. My mother made her shortcake from Bisquit, because it tasted as good as ones she made from scratch. The topping was either Cool Whip or Dream Whip. My mother-in-law still makes whipped cream.
I stood at the sink with those scrumptious strawberries soaking while I cut them and I thought of my mom. Her sister's birthday was June 15th, right in the heart of strawberry season. My mom and her siblings could chose their birthday cake that my grandma would then make for them. Aunt June picked strawberry shortcake.
I'm trying to remember what the other children picked or even my mother, I can't remember. This is when I wished I could just ask Mom these silly little questions. I think Uncle Eddie liked chocolate cream pie. I know for my mother's birthday party- because I have the newspaper article about the event- she had a checkered cake, probably before you could buy the special pan on TV. It had pink frosting.
Birthdays are special and we honor them because it is a gift to have the people you love in your life. The Lord wants us to enjoy life, He came to give us life and it more abundantly. So make that special cake or buy it for someone you love, even if it's not their birthday. Say Thanks and that you love them. Break out the china and party! I think I'll buy the frosted almond cake from Giant Eagle!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer of '72

I only use this title because a magazine my brother got me for my 11th birthday was New Inguinue with the Sept. issue raving about the greatest summer ever, '72. I really can't remember what the article was all about. Most of the articles I didn't understand, but Dan knew his kid sister was growing up, I guess or he got a great deal on ordering magazines in Guam where he was stationed at the time.
I was growing up. This summer had the stirrings of awakening, not quite the awakening. Debbie, that I mentioned yesterday, opened the door to the high school I hadn't seen since Dan walked out in 1970. She fell in with a crowd that I don't think my parents approved. She smoked and as I mentioned before, tried pot or oregano, depending on who you want to believe: a 15 year old girl who wanted to get high or a government agency.
Debbie, when she lived with us, actually had 2 boyfriends. My mother thought dating was like in the 30's I guess, because she seemed to encourage it. I remember Mom did not like the cigarette smoking, one time spraying cologne or something all over the living room and us, ranting about smoking. I believe she was more upset because Debbie had said she had quit. My parents may not have been prepared for the drug scene, but they knew tobacco.
After the drug inccident, Mom and Dad had to speak to the principal at the time. My mom related that he told my parents that they needed to think about the little girl up there as he looked out the window at the elementary school. But Debbie stayed through the summer.
We took a lot of day trips, too. Niagara Falls in Hurricane Agnes. The van didn't have radio- maybe Dad remembered the Indiana trip, as we also took along 2 friends, Debbie had Lori and I had Tracy. 9 year old Tracy had a page boy kind of hair cut and the waitress called her a little boy. My dad nicely informed her that that was a little girl- Thank you very much. I wonder what kind of tip he left for that meal. We always went to this restaurant near the Nabisco Factory and I had the urge to have Shredded Wheat. I mean it was made next door. It had the picture of the Maid of the Mist, the Indian, oops sorry, Native American, princess that went over the Falls. All the rain kept us inside and we toured the museum that if the weather had been bright,we would have missed. I was fascinated with the mummy, the parameter bark of the redwood and Anne Taylor display of her going over the Falls in a barrel.
Another day trip was to the newly opened Sea World. Dad wasn't cheap, but the food was so pricey, he knew next time, pack food. I was upset I couldn't get a pearl from the Japanese pearl divers.
We also visited Wildwood, NJ again. Debbie loved to swim, diving into those waves. She came up one time aghast. The ring finger with her boyfriend's class ring was empty. She kept diving and I joined in, because how was she going to explain this to Dominic? Yikes! Never found that class ring. If you find a WMHS 1974 men's ring on the beach- well, never mind. Not sure if Dominic is even still alive.
Near the end of the summer, August, still well before school started, things really started to turn bizarre. This was after Debbie had gone to church camp, saying she had made a decision for Christ. I'm not sure if Debbie had got some real drugs or what. She did try to protect me. She became lustful about the boy down the street. He was really cute, that wasn't lost on me. But he was also her friend's boyfriend. Kind of not cool to go after your friend's boyfriend.
Debbie ran away from us. My dad, the police and I think some friends scoured all of West Middlesex looking for her. In the morning, Dad came home defeated, "I was wet up to my knees and down to my chest." His way of saying as he walked through the wet tall grass, he was crying all night. We all loved Debbie. She later said she could see everyone looking for her, but managed to stay hid in the grass, laughing or feeling special.
A court appearance showed she wanted to leave us. The judge had grown up with my mother, was in her graduating class and also knew my dad, admonished her, "You'll never live with a better family."
The next family Debbie lived with she only lasted a month. I do think she got into drugs more heavily than before.
The end of this summer left me a much different person than a year before. I still played with dolls, after all my best friend was 9, but I wanted to be cool. I liked rock and roll. I was entering 6th grade, the top of elementary school. As the days got shorter, a new me was emerging.
A side note on Debbie, a few years later, she seemed to turn her life around. My mom said her husband was from a "good" family in Sharon. She had an adorable little boy. She always told a good story, knew how to engage people.
The summer of '72, what a summer!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Evanston, Indiana

Summer of 1972, I'm 11 and my world is exploding in different ways. I'm growing, I'm not really a child any more, but not really a teen ager. I believe this would have happened anyways, but my parents having a foster child opened doors in other ways. I'm exposed to the cool radio stations WHOT and WFMJ out of Youngstown, no more WPIC or WFAR for these itching ears. I discover the "in" music. I find out about drugs in a off hand way, not directly. I want to dress cool. I don't want my frizzy, wavy hair and am exposed to conditioner for the first time. I want to be like and liked by my new foster sister who is 15 going on 16, Debbie.
She comes with a brown grocery bag of her stuff from the jail, because there was no room for her anywhere else, until she ends up in my bedroom. We welcomed her into our home, probably naively, but as a new member of the family. She is hesitant at first in Feb., but soon her gregarious personality comes out and we are infected by her laugh and good nature.
One day Debbie jaunted home from school in an especially jovial mood. She stopped and talked to our neighbor, Rev. Hatch. As she came in the door, she laughed, "What a funny and nice person the reverend is!" Somehow during the course of the evening, it was discovered Debbie had a bag of pot in her sock, explaining the over the top reactions to everything. Later, after it was sent to a lab, the results were it was oregano, not Mary Jane. Debbie didn't believe it.
So with this background, we actually took many day trips and one to Evanston, Indiana to visit my cousin, Paula, there. Dad took along her mother, Aunt Eleanor and sister, Elaine. We rode in a green sedan with no air conditioner, all 4 windows done and breeze, no wind through our hair. The girls sat in the back seat and the adults sat in the front seat. The girls begged for rock radio, but when the Eagles came on with "Take it Easy" and we sang along, Mom thought we were lying and really liked country. When we weren't fighting over the music, we were in a heat induced trance.
Elaine and Debbie were the same age and I believe this is when I discovered Elaine smoked, too. I remember it being so hot in southern Indiana in mid July. My mom still did my hair or at least some of the times. This one day, she pulled it up into a 50's pony tail and I freaked. How could she? The style was flat down, then pin it back up with a barrette. I think this is funny, now, as many wear the 50's pony tail. I find it is much cooler, but in 1972, it was not "cool"
The girls and I sauntered around the neighborhood and an old guy in a beat up car stopped to talk to us. He had the Confederate cap, long stringy white hair and a longer white beard, a few gapping teeth. The conversation continued at his house, which is what we now would call a hoarder's house, just cluttered and dirty. He was very interesting and I didn't pick up on any sexual overtures, but I really was innocent at the time. I, with the two older girls, couldn't fathom why our parents and older cousin were so frantic that we were talking to this grisly older man. Almost 40 years later and being a mother, myself, I certainly understand their misgivings. But this was all before the After School Specials, and my awakening to the older world.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Another Army Buddy

On that Perris Island trip, near the end when the rain came, we spent the afternoon with Billy Bell. He lived on the Virginia Peninsula in a big house, as I remember. On the way, we visited a battle ship in North Carolina- hugeness and gray is what I recall most. Very gray. Probably because it was inclement weather as well.
If I mentioned before, I loved tunnels and Dad knew this. I never made a secret about what I liked encouraged by their willingness to fulfill my wishes if possible.
We took the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel to the peninsula. It was a very rainy, foggy day, so Dad took no personal pictures. He bought the canned pictures. We did not fly. I was fascinated by looking at those tunnels burrowing into that gray water, and then we were in them! We took a break at the restaurant and even in the wet weather walked out the fishing pier. All that water to get across!
Billy Bell had a enormous black cat that wasn't too friendly. I explored the house, as 9 year olds tended to do when adults were talking. I love the freedom I had as a child. I would never dream of walking through a house now, even though that is part of my job. I have to ask and it feels very weird.
Billy Bell carved wooden ducks. He must have realized I was a little bored and the cat wouldn't play with me, so he gave me one. I still have it to this day. If I had any computer savvy, I'd

take a picture and scan it. It is a mallard. I thought that was the best thing, because he actually made it.
So even though there was no pond to canoe, no sunny weather to play outside and no kids for distraction, I still cherish this memory with my wooden mallard duck.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kentucky 1971

On our way to Kansas one year, we took the southern route. Our trips included many friends, family and then the camping. After one trip when we met so many "Army Buddies", my dad's older cousin, Gordon Likens came for a visit. I asked afterwards if he was an Army buddy. The Thompsons weren't big on family reunions, I guess.
In Kentucky, we parked our camper outside an apartment of old neighbors. Charlotte was my sister, Gerri Lee's friend, who right after graduation went to Transylvania University and got a job teaching in Lexington. I remember on class day, G. Lee told me about all the "gifts" the kids got regarding their future and Charlotte got a stake and as a 6 year old, I thought she meant "steak", so then I learned the vampire lore. Charlotte's grandmother moved down with her and continued her retail career.
I was entranced by the Southern belle feel of being in Kentucky. My long hair was starting to wave and I pulled the curl to one side, feeling very pre-Civil War. My school library had these wonderful biographies with black etched illustrations and the past year I had read about Mary Todd Lincoln's childhood. I'm not sure how accurate these biographies were, I'm remembering they were based on the famous person's childhood, before the American Girl series.
Well, Mary grew up in Lexington, KY. My father, in his nature found out where her childhood home was located, drove us there. With those fancy ball pictures in my head and curls on my head, we arrived in the slums. There was a faded plaque, but the house with a bag of half eaten oranges on the step was abandoned. A promise they were moving it to Ashland, a beautifully restored house on the outskirts of Lexington was the only ray of hope. We couldn't stay long because of the location. But Dad did get a picture.
We had been to Ashland earlier. My memory of that was a quilt, where all the quilters signed their names from like 1840 or something. One girl was Mollie and I thought her signature looked an awful lot like mine. I was quite impressed. I loved visiting all the old homes we did. Now as I'm older and realize how much this all costs, I'm doubly grateful to my parents for saving for these vacations and never giving me an inclination of the money spent.

We didn't make it to Churchill Downs, but visited Keenland, another horse stable. Kentucky is such a gorgeous state with the bluegrass and white fences. I love horses and the stables were fabulous.
My mom and I went back another time in 1978 with a girls group, but to Louisville. The women we were with also wanted to go to Lexington. Truly a wonderful state. I think it is time to visit again.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Before the Food Channel

The women in my mother's circle of friends loved to cook and entertain. The Church ladies, the Women's Club and the Garden Club interconnected to create fabulous courses and evenings. It was more than delicious food, the presentation also a big factor.
Living with my mother, I experienced first hand the proper setting of a table and decorating. We often had 9 at the table just for supper. Friends were always invited. My mother learned it some from her mother, who was not a fancy cook, probably because of the Depression, but the table was set with the china with the sauce bowls and alway a dessert. My mom said Grandma made the best pineapple upside down cake in an iron skillet.
Mom read cook books, newspapers and magazines for recipes and she wasn't afraid to try them. I used to "write" on the margins of her Betty Crocker cook book before I went to school. One Sunday when I was older, she surprised my dad and me with spinach salad and hot bacon dressing. Another time, she tried poaching eggs in chicken broth, served over toast, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. These are just two of the trials she made that were a delight, and unusual.
The Garden Club every fall had a flower show where they staged card tables with a theme. My mother never won a big prize, maybe honorable mention, but I loved going to the Fellowship Hall at our church(we lived right next to it) and admiring the tables. Oh, those judges were from Ohio and tough. The tables displayed a mixture of traditional to whimsy to the fantastic. Liz and Joyce, the younger ladies of the group, created the most original settings. But it was more than the flower arranging, the table had to be properly set.
Beverly Tomer had wonderful ideas and seemed to cook with ease. I first had manicotti at her table in her home and she also froze pineapple juice in ice trays, pouring ginger ale over them for a different drink.
Lois Bartlett, petite and pretty, entertained with fabulous food. I remember her using Romain lettuce, while most were still chopping iceberg. Those emerald leaves with cherry tomatoes impressed me. Cobalt blue plates on her table were awesome.
Everyone made their own salad dressing. Mom made a sinfully calorie loaded milk dressing. I could just eat it by the spoonfuls. My Aunt Nome used Tang for a fruit dressing that quite enticed me. She also made me witch's brew that you added to 7-up, a cherry flavored concoction. As we left, she gave me the jar.
I must mention Esther Hart, who knew how to prepare a dinner for any crowd. Myltreda Truby still makes the best hamloaf.
These women also seemed to do this with such ease. They were at home in their kitchens and dining rooms. I loved when Mom entertained and she did a lot. We all helped. Family dinners for the holidays were often at our house. The best was when she hosted the Garden Club the first Friday of December, because the tree and tinsel went up early that year. Yeah, she freaked sometimes, but somehow as the people came, calmness rested over her.
Our generation, I'm sure appreciates this, but now our energies are in running the children to every activity, so they are well rounded, our jobs, just keeping up with the chores. Can you imagine getting all your laundry done in one day? That is another memory, I'll share someday. I owe much to these ladies of the Club- cooking, flower arranging, I forgot about the PTO meeting fashion show- very tongue in cheek- they were hilarious, decorating and the laughter these ladies shared. Most of them are now on to glory. God rest the ladies of the Club, and thank you for being my real life Food Channel.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Community Theater is Back in the Shenango Valley!

Last evening was the last of the run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat at the Sharon United Methodist Church, and I must say it was excellent. The talent a community has lays hidden and is sometimes dormant. Last night revealed the jewel that shines.
I remember when we had community theater before. One performance was at Farrell High School when it was new. My cousin's first wife was in the musical Pippen. I also remember it was not what my parents expected. So exciting to see adults on the stage.
My mother often attended the Kennley Players at Warren Packard Music Hall. She would regale us with stories of celebrities she saw while out on the town with her girlfriends. They often ate at the Brown Derby after the plays and she would see local DJ's, too.
One time my parents took me to see The King and I with Yul Brenner at the Packard Music Hall. I sat in the dark hall, transported to Siam. Being a child, I loved the children. Theater takes you places, no matter the sets. The music, acting, the make-up, costumes all combine for an enchanted evening.
Last evening I was in Canaan and Egypt- way, way back many centuries ago. I'm so thankful community theater is back in the Shenango Valley.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Washington, D.C.

We actually did Washington, D.C. twice on that trip to Perris Island. The first part of the trip was in sunshine and cherry blossoms, boat trips and seafood restaurants. The seafood restaurant had a green plastic mermaid on the glass that I absolutely adored. Doors were opened for me literally and figuratively as we were in the South in 1970.
One of the odd things about this trip is just my mother and I went up the Washington Monument. Heights petrified my mother, most times she sat out the upward excursions by herself while Dad and I climbed them, l

ike the Statute of Liberty in 90 degree weather the summer before. I'm not sure why the change. It was an elevator, instead of the 900 or so steps to the top, but just Mom and I viewed the scenery from the small windows at the top.
We rode a middle size boat to Mt. Vernon on a perfect spring day. I loved the water. Dad wanted a picture of me in front of a carriage, but I didn't want to go past the velvet rope. I still went and then laughed with the guard, who I believed could not scold such a cute little blond girl. It starts early, folks.
The motel room was on the 12th floor with a view of the city. Truly awesome for all of us. I believe it was the Holiday Inn, was there any other place to stay back then?
On the trip back to PA, we had more rainy days. Our second time in the capital city was wet. We met with the Congressman then. Dad again joked about my mother's photographer lack of ability by saying the Congressman cut him out of the picture. "So like a politician"
I remember learning so much on this trip. Travel is a great way to learn. Reading goes hand in hand with it. My dad drove all over looking for a statue of Sequoia because I had read about it in maybe The Weekly Reader. He would do that when we asked. Later I'll tell you about Mary Todd Lincoln's home when we were in Lexington, KY.

Friday, June 3, 2011

End of School Year

Hermitage has finals for the kids in 9th grade up with an abbreviated schedule and even an extra day off this year for Mary Ellen. This was something new for me when Katie hit 9th grade. Days like this I miss living in West Middlesex when I could walk to everything in town. My senior year though, I did drive some because I could. I allowed Katie to drive her senior year, too, due to her being in Chambers practicing at 7 am and their busy performance schedule.
At WMHS, we didn't have finals like this, we spent the whole day in the non-air conditioned brick building keeping cool with fans and open windows. We read, talked, and probably thought of trouble. One class had a boy set off an M-80 and gave the teacher a literal heart attack. I was in the morning class and we just slept. Goes to prove teenagers get into trouble in the afternoon. This teacher was kind, but not inspiring, maybe clinically depressed. I just know teaching was not her passion.
I'm sending my other baby into school today for an English teacher to edit it. My short story I finished a year ago, edited, rewrote and now am giving up another copy to be examined. I feel shy about this, yet even as I numbered the pages, I really liked what I wrote. I can't keep it hidden in the box. I can see numerous red marks all over it and I desire that, yet, it is part of me. I need to do this. Deep breath.
The end of the school year, I often would have dreams of writing through the summer and even start a page or two on the left over cheap paper tablets the school gave. June holds so much hope of wonderful things to do and come. Soon though, sleeping in and being bored took over. Price is Right was more appealing than using my mind. The pool always beckoned at 1pm, too.
The evenings would be consumed by TV, again. Sometimes, we'd get cleaned up and go shopping, even 20 miles away to the big mall. I loved those evenings as the day cooled, we would put on pants, putting a division through the day. Long summer evenings this time of year inspire one to think one can do anything.
Well, I'm packing up my first born of stories to prepare for a writer's conference later this month. I think it is fitting to do this in June, a month of beginnings.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

At Peace

The cooler weather with clear skies, end to end sunshine, has made the animals crazy. I wish I could just call off and spend the day with them. The Siamese and taupe cat raced around earlier while the mutt slept. Now the beagle mix is looking for trouble. He is restless, observing me as he grabs yet another object to destroy!
And as I grab that away from him, he comes over and pushes my hand to pet him or pushes his behind at me to scratch it.
The late spring mornings are so peaceful, except for this restlessness inside- both the house and me. I know when I get in that car this morning, I'll see a road and want to explore it. That happened to me last week, I wanted to go west and just drive all day. My dad had that as well, which is why we traveled so much. I'm glad though that the restlessness was only for driving.
Dad provided a stable home. We felt safe there and at peace. He made repairs as needed. He kept a beautiful, maintained yard. I loved our yard so much that I really felt heaven must be like it on a late June day when we had Grandma's birthday parties with the extended family. Our home set the scene for many open houses, parties and picnics.
The dog is resigned and laying at my feet. I must now be resigned that I can't stay home and play or care for my house, but traverse eastern Ohio, bringing my skills to the ill.