Mom and Dad with Older brother and myself in Feb. 1954
My second day back to work after the New Year and I’m unable to keep my mind on my job. As I sit here I let my mind wander just far enough on the other side of the door to the company that I find myself taking a little trip down memory lane. It brings back such found memories for me, I often reminisce about my childhood with the kids. The girls and I love the kitchen not only because we like to eat but it is a warm and happy room with lots of window to see out and a relaxing view to enjoy while we cook and eat our dinner. I use this time together to drive my message home and to reminisce. Some days it’s just a few memories and other days it is a flood and we can sit in the kitchen and talk and laugh the night away. Growing up my father had the gift of storytelling. He could spin a tale and had us hanging on every word. He told us of his life on the Mississippi River and his migration to Michigan. We sat in our living room every night begging him to tell us more stories, or just repeat our favorite ones. It wasn’t till after he passed away I learned that most of his stories were fiction, but the memories of those days were happy and we didn’t care about truths we just love the story telling that brought us all together as a family. Now I have found I possess some of his story telling abilities, I just have an endless supply of topics and a life of chaos to talk about, no need for fiction.
We grew up poor, with Poor Mans gravy and potatoes towards the end of the month and eating bliss at the beginning of the month. There was always food just not always variety. Our house was the favorite house on the block, Wednesdays all the kids from the neighborhood came over because that was bread making day, hot fresh homemade bread. You could smell it all over the neighborhood. Mom always made a little extra dough and she would fry small pieces of it and then shake in a paper bag with sugar, and if we were lucky and she had cinnamon, we all thought we died and went to heaven, All our less fortunate relatives always love to come to our house or have us come to theirs. Mom could make a dinner for an army out of a fish and a loaf. Back then there was no food stamps we got commodities. Now for those who do not know what commodities are they are the basics and if you cook you had enough to feed every one. But you had to know how to use powdered milk, powdered eggs, flour, cornmeal, oatmeal and lard, because the canned meat and brick of cheese and butter did not last long. Most folks never used these things so Mom was given everyone’s powdered milk and eggs etc. She baked and made some of the best bread, cakes, cookies and we grew a garden and had an orchard so it was canned and preserved for the winter months. When we got older we were sent to the relatives’ farm for the summers to work in exchange for a side of beef that was cooked and canned so it would last the year. We never minded because we got fresh milk, real steak not canned meat and to swim in the creek, ride the cows and horses and all the things kids can find to get into on the farm. Mom never went anywhere empty handed so she made lots of goodies to take with us when we went to visit. Now to us this was normal but to the relatives we had the best food because their families did not do all that cooking. I always was envious of them because they had store bought bread. All I had was homemade and if we ever got fresh milk it was mixed with the powdered milk to make it go further. Mom had her own version of Jiffy mix. She took the milk eggs and flour and mixed it together in big containers. So all we had to do was take out a cup and water in different quantities to have pancakes biscuits or the basics for cakes and cookies. I miss the taste of the food from my childhood. Gone are the days of hot fresh bread, who has time. Most days I don’t want to cook at all. I never realized how much time my mom spent in the kitchen and how much of what she did there made our lives so wonderful.
Dad worked hard to make us things to play with. He put a cable between two trees angled it down to the other and because the distance was longer than the cable there was a splice ¾ the way down. A rope was hung on a pulley with a large tree limb on the bottom to straddle and sit on. We would pick up speed as we headed down the angled cable, when it hit the splice and if we did it just right we could make the rope throw us so far up that we almost totally wrap around the cable. I think about it now and have no idea why we are still alive. We had go carts Dad made for us from old parts that he got from the junk yard. He made a figure 8 race track on one acre of over grown grass, we would start at the same point in the figure 8, but we would be going in opposite directions and not able to see the other one from the tall grass there were many crashes. Dad made an ice skating rink in the back yard, where I almost lost an eye fooling around on hockey skates. We had a baseball sand lot I don’t remember many games just batting the hell out of rocks, dirt clots and any other thing we could smack with the bat.
There were no cell phones back then if Mom wanted us she just stepped out the back door and with her finest outside voice she would yell Suzeeeee, Jimeeeeee, Traceeeeee and so on. The E sound was always long and drawn out there was no mistaking it and it lasted so long you could hear it in the next county over. We listened in on the party line phone to hear all the gossip, who was grounded or what someone did in the neighborhood. We would sit in the crab apple tree telling all the gossip and eating crab apples till we were bloated. Later the processing of them apples caused us a considerable amount of time in the library where we had a stack of comic books to pass the time as the apples exited. We loved Buck night at the drive end theater it was only a dollar for a car no matter how many people were in it. We wore our jammies, ate dinner and played on the play ground before the show. Of course we never watched a movie because we were asleep by that time. Sunday drives to the country and sharing a bottle of coke a cola while we were there was always fun till my brother and I started to fight and then the ride was over and we could just forget the coke. We dug holes in the back yard trying to see if we could make it to China. We never did but after a good rain those holes were the best mud holes to play in. We would jump in them like we were going swimming. Then rinsing off with the garden hose always turned into another way to horse around till Mom cut the water off. I so miss the simple life of my youth. Although there was a lot of discomfort from the things we did we had the best time. Every day was a new adventure in the lessons of life and Mom and Dad at the ready to redirect our lessons when they got out of hand. I often wonder what our kids will reminisce about when they are our age. (I love to sit in my room and skype my sister in the room next to me.)