Saturday, September 30, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 34

What is an object you treasure that you got from your mother?

There are many items I inherited when my dad died, such as the family photo albums. There is no question that those are a treasure. However, they did not come from my mother as she predeceased my dad. The one thing that my mom specifically said would be mine one day was her diamond cocktail ring. She would tell me that when I was a still living at home, and I would always give her a hug and say that I wanted her in my life, not her ring.

original wedding bands
 My dad had enlisted in the Army Air Corp when he and my mom got married in 1942. As with so many war couples, they had little money so their rings were simple. At a later date, my dad gave mom a bigger engagement ring and a new wedding band. She also bought him a diamond wedding band. Mom gave her original engagement ring to my older sister, who in turn passed that along to her daughter. I guess that is why mom felt like I should have the cocktail ring.

cocktail ring
But there is a funny story behind this ring. My dad liked new cars, and once in Des Moines when he purchased a Cadillac, the dealer gave him the cocktail ring. Can you even imagine? Mom only wore it when they were going out someplace fancy, which wasn't very often. After she passed in 1989, dad made sure that I received the ring. I, too, wear it only when we are going someplace fancy. Every time I look at it, I think longingly and lovingly about my mom. And when I wear it, I feel as though she is going someplace fancy with me.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 33

Today is my mother-in-law's birthday, so I wanted to use a writing prompt that involves mothers.

Who are some other important mother figures who have been influential in your life?

My mother-in-law and I first met at Iowa State when I was 19 years old and dating her son. She has been a part of my world for over 40 years, and I can't imagine my life without her in it. Lorraine is a very loving, compassionate and affectionate woman. She is called Honey by her family, and the nickname is perfect for her. I know that I have been extremely blessed in the in-law department. You hear so many stories and jokes about mother-in-laws, and honestly I just can't relate to any of them. Early on in our marriage, I gave her a framed photo of the poem shown below.

Through our relationship I have learned to be a better cook (she gave me wonderful recipes), experienced the rare pleasure of conversing with someone who actually listens attentively when I speak (she truly cares about what people are telling her), and most importantly been a better mother to my own children (I hope) by observing her interactions with her family.

I was only 32 when my own mother died, and Lorraine has filled a very large whole in my heart. She has been an outstanding grandmother to my kids, having the kind of relationship with them that I was never able to have with my own grandparents. I hope to someday have the opportunity to be that type of grandma myself.

The bonus mother that God gifted me with has enhanced my life beyond words, and I could not love or respect her more were she the one who gave birth to me. It's just an added bonus that she makes homemade brownies and cinnamon rolls that could put the mall bakeries out of business.

Happiest of birthdays to my mother and my friend!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 32

What was the first foreign country that you visited?

In 1984 my husband had a business trip that would take him to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for three months. At the time, any income earned in a foreign country was tax exempt in the United States, and Jim received an increase in pay for the time that he would spend overseas. So we decided to take advantage of the fact that his flights were paid for and enjoy a European vacation at the end of his work schedule in Riyadh. We settled on a 17 day, multi-country tour beginning in Rome.

The trip was booked, Jim had been ensconced in his duties in Saudi Arabia for two months, and I was working full-time at MOMEDICO when I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Surprise! This was way before the Internet was widely used, and home land lines had exorbitant rates for continental long-distance phone calls, much less international calls. I decided that I would not tell Jim about the baby until I saw him face to face, which meant no one else got to know the secret until we returned from our trip.

Making my first international flight by myself was a little scary, but I survived and Jim met me at the airport in Rome as our flights arrived on the same day. After catching up with all he had done and what had been going on with work and our families back home, I let him know that he was going to be a daddy. We had planned on having a family at some point, so fortunately he was overjoyed by the news.

Being in the first trimester of pregnancy, I was experiencing some morning sickness. Diesel fumes in particular made me nauseous. Fortunately Ritz was the universal cracker, and eating those helped immensely.

We met up with our tour group the day after we arrived in Rome, and the bus took us on a site-seeing tour of the city. One thing we liked about traveling with this particular group is that in each new city we visited they offered a half-day bus tour to get us acquainted with the area. Then we had free time to go back to see what interested us on our own. We were definitely among the youngest people on the tour, with the exception of a college student who was traveling with his grandfather.

Vatican - so young and skinny!
In Rome it was a great thrill to see the Forum, Pantheon, Colosseum, Arch of Titus, the Vatican and St. Peter's, and of course, Michelangelo's David. All the places you learned about in school, church, or saw in the movies - to see them in real life was a bit surreal.

We took side trips to Villa d'Este, a 16th century villa in Tivoli known for its terraced hillside gardens and fountains, as well as to Pisa to see the leaning tower. We climbed to the top of it, despite the lack of guard rails to protect from falls. Unfortunately our visit was marred by the fact that someone stole Jim's telephoto lens right out of the backpack he was wearing! That was particularly maddening in light of the fact that we were only days into our trip and would not have the use of the lens for the rest of our travels.

Villa d'Este and Tower of Pisa
From Rome we went to Venice before heading to Lucerne, Switzerland, then on to Paris (with a side trip to Versailles), and ultimately ending up in London. Since this post is about the first country I visited, I won't go into more details about the rest of the journey. For the most part we enjoyed traveling with the group as the company took care of all transportation, luggage, language barriers, etc., and breakfast was included each morning. Though we soon learned that the breakfast was the same each morning - no matter what country we were in. It included coffee, tea, juice and a hard roll with butter and jelly. By about the 8th day, one of the couples was missing from breakfast. When we saw them later, the gal explained, "We couldn't eat one more damn roll!" The rest of us could relate. But overall, it was a good way to be introduced to foreign travel.

Rialto Bridge in Venice, Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Buckingham Palace in London

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 31

Since I wrote about eating in the last post, it seems reasonable this week to discuss who cleaned up after the meals.

What were your chores as a child?

My mother did not work outside the home (with rare exceptions), so most of the housework fell on her shoulders. As I got older, I was responsible for cleaning my room, dusting, vacuuming and raking the rug. Yes, you read that correctly. I raked our living room and hallway rugs.

Do you remember shag carpets? They were a thing in the 1960s and 1970s. Due to the length of the fibers, these carpets would become flat when people walked on them. Plastic rakes were used to fluff them back up. I understand shag is making a bit of a comeback. My advice? Don't go there. Who wants to add an additional step to the already long list of household chores?

When we got big enough, my brother and I were enlisted to take over washing and drying the dishes. That had been our older sister's domain, but once she got a full-time job the dishes were passed down to us. Dad was a stickler for clean dishes. If he inspected our work and found any food remnants, EVERYTHING would come out of the cabinets to be washed and dried. I think that only happened once. Quick learners, my brother and I.

My brother took out the trash and mowed the lawn, but I like mowing as well so I asked to cut the front lawn. Getting to the back yard involved traversing steep hills on either side of the house, so my dad didn't want me to attempt that part. I also enjoyed washing the car, so I did that when I was free.

My chores at home continued even after I began my part-time jobs when I turned 16. Those skills served me well once I went away to college and even more so after I got married and we had a home of our own.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 30

Let's talk about food for this week's writing prompt.

What did a typical mealtime look like?

Growing up our meals were always eaten as a family, and that included breakfast, lunch and dinner (though we referred to the latter as supper.) The six of us would gather around the table to eat, except if someone was working or out of town. During the week my mom was responsible for the cooking, though she and dad did the grocery shopping together. On the weekends, my dad was right in the kitchen with mom. Dishes were the responsibility of the kids.

Mom with Duke
The household rule was that you had to eat everything on your plate, and dad made us sit at the table until the plate was clean. On several occasions that meant that I sat there until bedtime. There were some things even our German Shepherd Duke wouldn't eat, despite my best efforts to feed him under the table. Rutabagas come to mind. Dad mellowed a bit in later years, and mom was allowed to make me a hot dog for times when things like liver and onions were on the menu.

Both my mom and dad were excellent cooks, and most things they served tasted really good. While they never were into baking goodies like cookies or brownies, dad could whip up awesome pineapple upside down cakes, lemon meringue pies, apple or peach pies, etc. My dad's pineapple upside down cake was so good that I took the pan he baked it in after he passed so that I could try to duplicate his masterpiece. Regular cakes were pretty much reserved for birthdays. But the best part of eating was getting to catch up with everyone on what their day had been like.
pineapple upside down cake
My husband experienced pretty much the same thing in his house growing up, so sharing meals was something we carried through to our married lives. When our children came along, we made it a point to sit down together for meals despite both of us working full-time outside the home. We learned a lot about their daily experiences by being tuned into the conversations that flowed as we ate. The greatest compliment my kids ever gave me was the fact that they both planned their extracurricular activities around our dinner time whenever possible, so that they could eat at home. I hope that is something they will continue to do now that they have households of their own.