Mother, not your mother

 

I found this really cool letter from a mother to her child when I was flipping through the old photos in sheet protectors at my favorite haunt recently. What makes this letter unusual is that it is was dated December 17, 1879.  Perhaps at one time the paper it was written on was whiter, but after 139 years while still sturdy, the paper itself has melded nicely into a soft tawny color.

The paper still shows light lines to write on in a faded shade of blue, and the letter itself, which I could not tell until today when I released it from its plastic protector, was originally folded in half lengthwise, with writing from top to bottom on each side, like a thin book. Unusual, right? That a letter would be folded in such a way, and not in the thirds of today’s #10 envelopes.

In this letter the  mother talked about a birthday party for Emmett, and that they were off visiting which is why she is delayed in answering. She also says that she hopes his machine was sold and is sorry she missed him when he passed through.  Hmmm, and that’s not even the best part.

Two lines down from the letter’s closing, which reads as follows- good by your mother S.M. Abbott, this little gem appears:

“…you will know this is not your mother’s handwriting, so I will say that she knows me well enough to come to me with your letter to see if I would answer it…”

Let that sink in for a second- not your mother’s handwriting. 

NOW it gets interesting. Glad you kept reading, right?

The physical writer of the letter, one Ada Thomas, finishes off by adding “ Don’t say one word to anyone of my writing for her. She thinks it will make her more trouble. You understand I think  without my explaining”.

Now, if you’re a writer, your mind immediately and furiously starts the old creative spin on the big wheel of who, why, and most importantly…what if.

Who is this mother? Why is someone else writing to her grown child? What is she hiding? Because, dearhearts, she most definitely is hiding something, and it’s big. Can’t you feel it? The way Ada Thomas ends with her admonition not to say…a single word… gave me pause, and a quick shiver up the arms.

Why must the receiver of this letter keep quiet? Who can’t find out that Mother can no longer put pen to paper? What will happen if word leaks out? I gotta know, so like any good writer, I will save this and when the right opportunity presents itself, I will use it.

I also want to know what kind of machine the son( I’m guessing because it’s 1879 after all) was selling. She writes: “I would like to know how much you got for your Machine if you will tell me. I am glad you got back safe and that your business is all settled…”

Could he have been selling one of the first typewriters? That’s where my mind went, seeing as the typewriter first appears a scant ten years earlier. Hmmm…

 

I am so intrigued by Mother. She has at least one grown child, and at least two smaller ones(Emmett, the birthday boy, and his sister Claudia) because she mentions them receiving a small birthday gift, a bookmark, from someone known only as Cora.

Could Mother have some sort of illness? Tuberculosis is my bet.  That would be something to hide. Now think, they were not home when this adult child passed through, and someone who is unfamiliar to him but quite familiar to his mother is writing on her behalf…but keep it quiet.

What do you  think? Leave a comment. I’d love to see where other minds are going with this, or if you are in agreement with me.

But for now…

…don’t say one word to anyone…

 

Love in a frame

 

Once again, the piece I was about to write shifted and this little girl encased in a frame demanded its time to shine instead. I love that I have so many  oddities on hand that auto-switches are not only possible, but in my case, probable.

As soon as I saw this little girl I immediately thought of this frame hanging on the wall behind a man’s work bench. I wondered why. Was this work bench in the basement, a home’s garage or shed, or was it at a place of work? I let it sit in the back of my mind for a month or so until…I got it.

Here’s the story…

Dad wasn’t a builder as much as he was a fixer. Lamp quit lighting, toaster cord frayed, screen got a hole from the cat—whatever it was, her dad would make it whole again. He had this small portable radio of black plastic  that sat on one of the wood shelves about shoulder high, and the crackle of the day’s baseball game announcements over the AM waves would rumble out as he worked, fingers re-threading or hammer nailing with a slow and easy smile on his face. Yep— shirt and tie man by day, tinkerer and fixer by night. That was her dad.

One evening, just before bedtime, the little girl appeared at the workbench, and watched for a moment as her dad slowly, carefully, replaced a worn plug on her favorite lamp. The lamp with little lambs playing in a field of tall grasses. She was too old for it, hadn’t used it since she moved to her big girl bed, but it was still a favorite.

And her dad knew that, so he replaced the bits that had been carelessly yanked out of the wall one angry play day. Just in case. Or perhaps  looking ahead, to a time when it would be needed again, for the next generation.

Little hands held up the little frame to him that night. She’d begged her mother for it and her mother gave in, as mothers sometimes do, knowing intuitively how important that little frame was to her girl. His little girl wore a huge smile when she told him that was her, in that frame, his little bow in the hair child with the falling down socks. That was her, sure enough, he agreed with a squeeze to her little shoulder. Love in a frame, he called it.

And now, here it sits, right where the little girl pointed, all those years ago. Right next to that black plastic radio, leaning against small boxes of screws and bolts and other little pieces of the fixer’s life. The black plastic AM radio is silent, hasn’t played in years, and a thick coating of dust lines the shelves. The screws and bolts and tiny nails are still in their little plastic squares, labels hanging loose by a single yellowed piece of cellophane tape.

And right next to that black plastic AM radio is the little girl in the frame. The white background is beigey now, with little dots of black growth barely visible. Her socks are still falling, the bow is still in her hair, and right below her, on the wooden work bench sits a single lamp.

And on that lamp, frolicking forevermore, are three small lambs, jumping along a field of high grasses. The plug looks brand new.

 

Hummel Love

 

I picked these two up at my local Goodwill just a few days ago. Actually, I first chose the little girl figurine, liked the way she fit so easily in my palm. My eyes slid right over the little boy because of all the…plastic flowers. I’m sure that’s happened more than once because this little guy wore a fair amount of dust, or should I say, plasticky-feeling dirt.

The boy figurine was stuck up on the top shelf, I’m guessing so that his “flowers” would be noticeable and on full display. The little girl was one single row underneath him, next to two white porcelain geese, both sporting those awful aqua bows so reminiscent of the 80’s. Obviously,I needed to get her out of there.

I flipped the bottom of the girl figurine up, whispering all the while…”hummel, hummel,hummel…” but, alas, no marking on her base. No bother, I thought she was worth the $1.99 for her cuteness alone so I walked around the rest of the aisle with her propped between my fingers. It was kind of funny now, looking back, how I had her placed so that it appeared she was checking everything out along with me.

Except that she wasn’t.

Those eyes of hers were transfixed on those stupid plastic flowers, and the boy figurine in the center. I laughed it off as I moved around the store, but somehow we kept coming back to the knick-knack aisle. Finally I picked the plastic flowers up to take a closer look at that figure trapped within. I sat the little girl on the top shelf and she watched as I pushed those flowers aside and found…that the bottom of the figurine had been stuck into a green square of floral foam somehow. Well now, that intrigued me some. Could this little guy be a hummel figurine after all?

I debated a minute and for each of those sixty seconds I felt the little girl’s eyes watching me from the top shelf.    I couldn’t take it any longer so I scooped her up and with the plastic flowers in one hand and her in the other I literally ran for the register.

Why?

Because it became apparent what the real story is here-I need to free the little boy figurine from his plastic flower prison.

With the little girl’s black olive eyes watching my every chisel, I set to work. First I pulled the plastic bits out, uncovered a faded pink ribbon that had been stuck inside, dislodged even more crusted dust underneath and then…I saw why he’d been stuck there in the first place.

He was broken.

How did he break? Did a child knock him over? Did someone drop him when they were dusting? Did a cat stroll through where he shouldn’t have?

However it happened, someone took very strong glue and a very strong hand and smooshed this little guy right into the floral foam for all time. Or, until some years later when this woman bought him and decided to free him…under the watchful gaze of his new best friend.

 See, don’t they look happy now?

 

 

Coke bottle of memory

Found this coke bottle at Goodwill.

It’s heavy bottomed, thick glass, with a side coating of mud that has solidified over the years, hardening until it became a part of the bottle itself. Impossible to scrape off with a fingernail. Possibly a scrub brush and a long soak would do it. But that’s part of its charm, isn’t it? Why remove it?

This coke bottle has no value, most of them don’t even though people think they should, so they might squirrel a few away for a better day.  So was this one dropped on purpose, buried with the other trash like folks did sometimes, or was it left behind, forgotten until found?

Here’s the story:

Saturday afternoon meant two things—drive down Main st., sitting shotgun with dad to fill up the Oldsmobile with gas, then turn around and drive back home to wash it while he pulled out the lawn mower and set to work cutting the grass.

This was the Saturday  ritual, and it worked just fine. After a morning spent in front of the television with a bowl of cereal and cartoons she’d be pushed outside anyway. And besides, the gas station meant lifesavers and a coke.

They’d pull in, windows down to catch a breeze or because it just felt cooler to drive around that way. The front tires would roll over top of the black hose that ding-dinged their arrival, and the owner himself would stroll on out from inside that white concrete building.  Dad would step out, shake hands and start to talk about the week or the price of gas or the weather, as the owner pumped the gas and checked the oil and squeegeed clean the windshields front and back.

Once the tank was filled and the oil rag was once again hanging out the back of the owner’s work pants, the trio would enter that little white building. Right inside and to the right stood the coca-cola red cooler, and like the bell above the screen door, that cooler had always lived right there.  

She’d grab herself a bottle and flip the cap off with the bottle opener on the front, sometimes catching it but more often watching the metal top hit the worn dusty wood floor and roll off to a crevice somewhere, where it would join others of its kind left by years of little girls stopping in with their fathers.

On to the counter where the lifesavers lived inside their cardboard multi-packs, twelve rolls to a box. Three kinds to choose from—five flavor, wintergreen, or tropical. She didn’t much care for the medicinal twange to the wintergreen, and she liked the five flavor well enough but with those came the chance of losing the pale yellow pineapple to an over-eager sister with greedy and unearned fingers, so she usually chose tropical.

Secretly, tropical was her favorite. The white white of the coconut flavor was creamy sweet, but her hands-down favorite was the soft orange-colored cantaloupe. Those she never ever shared. There were only two in a roll, so she planned her sharing accordingly, even giving up the pineapple if necessary.

With dad’s palm resting on top of her head, they’d leave the white building and slide  back into the Olds, because that was how you did it; open one door and slide on over, careful not to spill the halfway empty coke.

My question to you is this—

Which one saved that coke bottle all those years?

Dad or daughter? Or was it saved without thought, then found and saved with love remembered…?

I vote for love remembered

Sister, dear sister

Ah, what is this ugly little computer replica you see this week?  It stands less than 6 inches tall.

Look at that monitor. See how much it looks like an old style television, complete with a fat back and a frame around the screen.

Check out the attached keyboard.  That dark slit on the right could have been for a floppy disk insert. Either way, this item, which I first took for a remote holder because of the wide opening on the top and the felt lining, is seriously dated. The white parts have gone south of eggshell and the keyboard has taken on the patina of beige bakelite.

What a treasure from the shelves of Goodwill.

And here is its story…

 

Ugly pencil cup lives on the corner of her desk. An out-dated computer monitor with a few stray unused pencils, tips broken, eraser tops still pink, poke out from the cup like relatives that no one really talks to anymore.

She could place that ugly thing up on the shelves behind her easily enough, hide it from view behind the years of accumulated awards and plaques and other bits of a life spent on the edge of greatness.

Her clients will make note of it, some with a quick laugh and others with a raised brow. Her coworkers have learned through the years not to mention it, to let it be, there on the desk of the vice president, sixty-five floors up, in an office the size of her first apartment.  For it was a gift, this ugly computer cup, given to her a very long time ago upon her college graduation.

Her only gift.

Her parents saw things differently back then, her whole family minus one did. they all, as one, believed in the two simple rules for secondary education-

Boys go to college for business, or to become doctors, lawyers, accounts of fine measure. Girls, if they must, go for either english, which is another way of saying husband search, or for a teaching certificate. That’s what her parents told her and what she always believed.

So she quit college. Didn’t want to be a teacher and wasn’t looking for a husband. She wanted to stretch herself, use her brain, be independent. So until graduation, she worked as a waitress, in a crummy little coffee shop down by the river, that smelled of fried meat and old people.

Each Friday morning, without fail, a sturdy-looking grey-haired nun would stop in, always sit in her section, and order a coffee and a crueller.  The girl continued to work at that coffee shop throughout her college years. She needed the money. Had to pay her own way after refusing her parents’ choice of career path. And each Friday, that nun came in, ordered a coffee and a crueller,  and left her a fifty cent tip. They shared conversation and laughter and the day after she graduated, tears. Happy tears in response to finding a certain grey-haired nun sitting in the graduation audience, way up front where she would not be missed.

The nun wasn’t sitting next to her family, because no one came. Just the nun, who was also a teacher, and the new graduate, who was not. Someone snapped a picture of the two of them together, the girl in her black cap and gown standing, arm around the shorter version in black, her aunt.

The same aunt who gifted her that ugly computer pencil cup that next Friday. One of the nun’s last Fridays before the cancer sent her away to her husband in heaven.

And that is why that ugly pencil cup in a long-outdated computer model still sits on that fine wooden desk of hers. In remembrance of a simple act of kindness, repeated each week, by a woman who loved the child as if she were her own.

It is often the little things that have the longest, farthest-reaching impact on us.

 

 

Hiya, Doll!

 

I was at a thrifty store, sifting through the scores of photos in plastic sheet protectors and colorized baby faces from Loring Studios when my fingers caught on the metal edge of this employee badge.

It was a young man’s face, in shades of gray and black and white, lying inside a grayish metal frame that had seen better decades. There was almost something etheral about that photo, a foggy glaze brought on by the years or a clumsy picture taker, that make the overall feel of it hypnotic. So of course I bought it.

On the back is a silver-coated cardboard piece which looks just like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was blank. Not faded away, not rubbed off through years of use, but blank. My handsome young man in the frame was nameless.

So here’s the story:

They met without meeting. The young girl, almost a woman, would wait each morning on the cement wall that bordered the catholic church, sitting and swinging her legs ever so slightly as she watched people hurrying by her on their way to work. She would sit there, always waiting for girlfriends with no sense of time, because girls of her age in her era walked in giggly packs with fresh-scrubbed faces. It was only when the school came into view that they would all stop, hands reaching inside coat pockets for their tube of lipstick purchased at the local drugstore, and redden their lips to perfection.

Each day that the young woman sat there, on that cement wall with one hand idly playing with the silver tube in her pocket, he would appear. Not hurrying, head down like the men in hats racing to make the train or the crumpled old women snaking in for morning mass.

No.

This one, he sauntered. swinging a battered metal lunch pail in perfect rhythm with the girl’s swinging legs. And each morning as he moved by her in that fluid motion of his he would throw a “Hiya Doll!” her way, along with half a smile.

At first she ignored him, or at least that is what she told her giggly friends. In reality she she glanced at him quickly, then away, then just as quickly her eyes would meet his again, and a pain sharp and sweet would run down her throat all the way to her swinging legs.

Some weeks he would bring her a little something-a few daffodils in the spring, four stolen roses clipped fresh from a neighbor’s yard,  and a handful of butternuts, from the same neighbor. Always, and only, with a “Hiya Doll!” as he would hold his hand out with the  offering.

In return, the young woman would offer, sitting beside her, something fresh from the oven. One week it was snickerdoodles, with their crisp sides and crowns of cinnamon. Another time a few slices of fresh-baked bread, then as time went on the slices became a loaf. And still, the only exchange beyond the gifts was the “Hiya Doll!” and the smiles in their eyes.

This day the young woman arrives, lipstick already applied, a fresh pinch to her cheeks and a tremble along her arms. Today she will speak to the handsome young man who holds her eyes in his. Today she will tell him her name. Today she will ask him his.

When she reaches her usual spot on the cement wall in front of the catholic church, she stops. Placed exactly where she sits each morning before school is a small silver employee badge. She picks it up gently, and feels that same sharp but sweet pain from her throat down to her toes when she sees his photo inside. There he is, in a crisp white shirt with a serious stare, like the person taking the picture admonished him not to smile.

She waits but he doesn’t come by. When her friends arrive, late as usual, the young woman pockets the small metal-edged badge, not wanting to leave it behind to become lost. If he needs it for work today, he will get in trouble, she thinks to herself as her friends giggle along beside her.

After two weeks of sitting on the cement wall, with his badge inside her coat pocket next to her silver tube of lipstick, she knows he won’t be back. She doesn’t know why, but she is certain that he left that badge for her.

One last gift, from the young man who never said anything beyond “Hiya Doll!” to her. One last gift, this small silver badge with a handsome serious face inside, that she will keep for the rest of her days. This she knows with certainty.

Handsome, isn’t he?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeanette F-3

 

You know how you are drawn to certain color combinations? Whether it’s a throw for the back of the couch or the dominant shades of a print on the wall,  when you see these two colors together your eyes widen for a second and your mouth might even round itself into a little OH as a hand automatically reaches toward the object. You can’t quite help yourself.

That is exactly what happened when I spotted this little handmade beauty at Goodwill. Any shade of cranberry to maroon crossed with forest or deep pine green gets my heart thumpy-thumping and if it happens to be vintage, the checkbook follows.

A bigger heart tugger though, is that I already own a few of these bowls. In varying sizes and patterns, each carry the small finger marks of its elementary-school creator, along with its endearing imperfections. Sure enough, a quick flip reveals the author of this piece…

Jeanette.

So how did this handmade bowl end up here on a Goodwill shelf? Here’s the story…

 

No one likes the old woman that lives next door to Jeanette. Some say she’s lived there since she was first married, in a small tidy white house with two cement steps up to the front door and green awnings over each window to protect the insides from the sun.

No one crosses her yard to get to their friends quicker because she’ll rap her knuckles raw telling them to get out. No one trick-or-treats at her house because her porch light is never on. No one offers to clear the snow away in the winter or to gather up the fallen leaves in October because a pickup truck appears when needed, with leafblowers and snowblowers and out of town markings on its sides.

Until the crisp autumn afternoon when the old woman is making her daily trek to her mailbox at the same time that Jeanette is stepping off of the big yellow bus. They meet at the roadside, the old woman and the young girl, and as the old woman struggles with the latch on her box the young girl drops down to her knees. She unzips her backpack with determination and ever so carefully removes a white plastic bag from inside.

“For you,” she whispers to the old woman, who turns toward the soft voice, circulars mailed to occupant in hand.

“I made it.”

The old woman reaches down as the young girl reaches up and the old woman receives the hug the young girl so freely gives her. She watches as the young girl gathers up her backpack and waves back at her with the white plastic bag swinging in the afternoon air. The old woman runs a gnarled thumb along the small thumbprints along the edge of the crooked cranberry-colored bowl and a smile forms along her lips.

“I will keep it forever,” the old woman whispers into the silence of the autumn air.

She brings that handmade bowl up the two cement steps and right into her kitchen, where she places it on the unused red-flecked placemat directly across from her much-used one.

There that cranberry handmade bowl with the dark green piping stayed, catching the early morning sun year after year, until the young girl left for college and the old woman left this earth.

One of my bowls, proudly made by my son so many years ago
We still use it, for our car keys

Daily Express of memories

 

Propped up against an old wooden wall, alongside half-rusted tools and years of dust, I found this piece of a newspaper in a frame. The frame was nothing special, nor was the yellowed front page of a newspaper from 1940. Just the usual daily reporting of wartime info, on a regular day, so I flinched at the $20 price tag and took pictures instead of purchasing. The place I was at used to be filled with cool broken down odd pieces but had unfortunately for me gone through a gentrification in recent years. Now the old stuff is woven in among all of the strategically placed new but looks vintage  items which seems to be all the rage right now.  I shook my head at the cutesy small pillows and stepped around all of the (dear god save me) antique white-washed wood pieces and carefully folded throws to creep around to the side away from the windows where dust still dances underneath the light of a bare bulb.

April 20, 1940.

The date meant nothing to me, and a quick google search didn’t bring up anything worth framing the front page over.  The search did reveal one cool fact though—this newspaper, the Daily Express, was from England. I took a closer look, zoomed in on a few places and found this:   

Look closely and you will see underneath Daily the words  Black-Out 9.33 p.m. to 6.24 a.m.

Wow. That sent shivers down my arms. So how or why did this front page piece of newspaper end up here, in Connecticut, behind a frame?

Here’s the story—

She hadn’t even cleaned her shiny gold wedding band once before the telegram arrived, shattering her new world. Her husband of two months had been killed in action on April 20, 1940. She didn’t care where or how he died, not really. The knowledge would do nothing for her or the tiny seed of a child she carried in her womb.

When her eyes had emptied of tears and her skirt wouldn’t quite zip, she packed away her wedding china, wrapping each piece carefully in newspaper and into a wooden crate. She could have sold it all, unused as it was, but something propelled her to save it for her slowly-growing bump.

Some years later, after her second husband passed away and she was comfortably settled in America, did she happen upon that wooden crate in the attic. Her bump had grown into a smart and independent young woman, away at college, the same age that her mother had been when she first packed that crate.

Slowly the woman pried off the top of the crate. She brushed aside a strand of her still auburn hair as she looked inside, remembering the china wrapped away all those years ago. What she hadn’t remembered was the newspaper.

She had wrapped the pieces up carefully, slowly, without thinking but by muscle memory, in the only thing available to her, which was the newspaper from the same day as the telegram. The telegram was burned after she read it, words that forever changed her. Somehow the newspaper was forgotten, had slipped through only to be refound now, when years had eased the pain of raising a daughter who looked so much like her dead father.

She smoothed out a piece of that newspaper, which happened to be the front page. It’s wrinkled and creased but her hands keep at it until the piece lays straight. She takes that newspaper downstairs, along with an empty frame she doesn’t remember putting up there.

She gently places the newspaper into the frame, cutting the bottom a bit so that it fits. Before she closes it she stops, and walks away. She returns carrying a small white carnation, dried yellow and wrapped in a dark blue ribbon. The flower is too fragile so she unties the ribbon, from the boutonniere her soldier man wore on his wedding day, and smooths it onto the side of the newspaper where the advert for Lux soap is. She oh so carefully flips the frame over and seals it shut, trapping that day and those memories behind glass forever.

Too bad she never told her daughter.

Some years later the daughter is cleaning out her mother’s house and creates quite a pile for the local junk man to come and haul away. Sitting on top of that pile is  a wood frame with the front page of an old and yellowed newspaper inside.

And next to that ad for Lux toilet soap a bit of dark blue ribbon could be seen, if anyone cared to look.

I like how I am also in this photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Valley of my Heart

 

 

The Big Valley, starring Barbara Stanwyck and a young Lee Majors and Linda Evans, captivated me as a child. How I loved that show. It was on in reruns most afternoons(had to check the TV guide to know which days) and on random Saturdays as well.

 

The Big Valley was a western with a strong female as the head of house, or lead character, which wasn’t seen a lot in the ’60’s. And to have Lee Majors introduced in the first episode as the…gasp…illegitimate son…of Stanwyck’s dead husband, well, my boots were a-shaking at that.

So Imagine how I felt when I spotted this spine-out on one of the few bookshelves in my favorite thrifty store—  

 

 

 

I know, right?

Happy dance down the aisle, a screech of joy perhaps? Or maybe…a bit of panic that a book based on a TV show could possibly ruin some childhood memories so a shaky hand slipped that volume back when it came from. I wanted to keep my happy memories intact. Wouldn’t you?

I found out that Gene, one of the Barkley brothers who appears for a few episodes and the leaves for “medical school  back east”, was actually drafted and that is why he left the show. The show aired during the mid to late ’60’s, prime Vietnam war time. Young me didn’t even realize he was gone. However…

I already knew that my favorite, heart throb of my tender years Peter Breck who played Nick, the dark-haired son who was always getting into fights, had passed away a few years back. Not only that, but he had dementia. That saddened me somehow, because in my mind he was, and will be, forever young and wild and unmarried and handsome up on his dark brown horse named Coco.   

That said, this is not a sad reflection, but a happy one filled with good and precious memories.  Here are a few…

I would watch this show in my basement, which had a vintage maroon chair, a bar, and a fireplace just like my friends in the tv. We also had an old rocking horse but I didn’t take it that far.

Sometimes there would be a fire crackling in the fireplace, and  a pepsi in a glass by my side, with me pretending it was sarsaparilla because, you know, that’s what the children all drank in the saloons of Stockton.

Once in a while, usually for the Saturday shows, I’d be allowed to eat down in the basement at the bar, sitting high and swinging my feet as I chewed on my sandwich. I’d try to plan it for eating while the Barkleys were either at a barbecue or picnicking, because it felt more real to young me than when they all sat in their cowboy gear at the white tableclothed table with crystal and fancy coffee cups in china saucers.

Isn’t that the best though? Inserting your child self into a show or a book that you love so much?  Haven’t you done it, or at least thought of doing it?

I know I could never have watched The Big Valley upstairs in my house. Not that it wasn’t allowed, of course it was, but because it felt wrong. Child me needed the pine paneling in the basement and the big squares of dark tile on the floors and even the support column, that I could swing around if i felt like it. And don’t forget the fireplace. It was essential. And the old pine shelving around the fireplace? it helped with the whole western feel as well.

Comment away with how a tv series captivated young child you…let the memories roll…

Now, you’re wondering what happened with The Big Valley book, aren’t you?

A month later, I returned to that store, went right over to those bookshelves, and found that book. it how sits happily atop my writing desk.

You know, for memories’ sake.

 

 

 

 

Teatime with grandma

I was struck by the beauty of this woman. How she stood proudly on that top shelf at my local Goodwill, towering over anything else nearby. I did not buy her, but I did pick her up, first noticing her dusty feet, hidden beneath her silken gown of what is now a faded Ai(japanese indigo). But it was when I flipped her over that I discovered her story.

Here it is:

Each Saturday, without fail, the child was dropped off at grandma’s so that her mother could run a week’s worth of errands in a morning’s time, or so she told her daughter. The little girl didn’t mind, because she loved that small white house with the green shutters and the flag waving in a pole stuck by the front door. She loved the way the sofa squeaked when her bare legs met the plastic covering, and she even loved walking on the plastic runners that covered the hallway carpet.  

She pretended the clear plastic was a gangplank on a pirate ship, or a balance beam at the Olympics, or a shaky bridge over raging river.

But most of all, the little girl loved teatime.

Each Saturday, the little girl’s mother would call to plead for more time, and each time the grandma would scowl and complain and shake the telephone receiver as she winked at the little girl. The little girl, in turn, would smile and clap her hands and run as fast as she could on the plastic walkway over to the living room. Once there, the little girl would rise up on the balls of her feet and daintily tippy-toe over to the mantle above the fireplace that was never ever used, in the corner of a room that was never ever used.  Very very carefully the little girl would remove the japanese doll from her resting place next to the hand-painted display plates of hibiscus and cherry blossoms, and she would carry her back to grandma’s kitchen, arms outstretched without a bend to either elbow.

The doll, a black-haired beauty, would be placed on a round white doily that grandma kept for just that purpose, right in the center of the little oval table, next to her favorite salt and pepper shakers, an old man and his wrinkly wife with the sad eyes.

Grandma would place a delicate cup of tea in front of the little girl, white with a flowered pattern and matching saucer, and she would always tell the girl to be very very careful, the tea was hot and the cup breakable. The little girl would play with the white string hanging down the side of the cup, flicking it so that the words Lipton would sway back and forth as grandma placed exactly two small gingersnaps onto the saucer after telling the girl to stop that.

Every Saturday the little girl and her grandma would sip their tea and crunch their cookies and each Saturday the grandma would spin another story about the japanese doll who graced her table. First it was a gift from her husband, then one week it was from her brother who had sent it back when he was a soldier, and another time it was a long ago penpal who one day stopped writing. The little girl didn’t care which story was true, she believed them all.

After grandma’s funeral, as the cookie platters were unwrapped and the coffee urn was bubbling away, a young woman walked the plastic path along the hallway to the living room, where she rose up on the balls of her feet and tippy-toed over to the mantle and ever so gently removed a tall black-haired japanese doll from beside the hibiscus display plates.

The woman, tired and tearful, lost her grip for a moment and the doll tumbled toward the unwalked-upon carpet. She quickly grabbed the doll by her legs, upside down, and that’s when she saw it. Something she had never seen before, never even felt as she carried that doll each week back along the plastic pathway to the kitchen and grandma.

On the bottom platform, right underneath the hidden feet of that doll, was a sticker of gold, with three words in black…

Made in China.

The woman thought back on the years of stories her grandma had shared with her, tales the doll traveled to get to her, hands that had passed her along, love that bound her, and love that surrounded her.

The  young woman scraped that sticker off with a single thumbnail, rolled it up onto itself and flicked it into the fireplace.

Then she headed off back to the kitchen, doll in hand, to search for a round white doily, and to see if perhaps, somewhere in that massive cookie platter, there was a gingersnap or two.