Saturday, October 28, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 38

Today is my birthday, so I chose a writing prompt this week that deals with birthday celebrations.

How were birthdays celebrated when you were growing up?

mom, holding me, with brother Joe
This question made me think about the day I was born, and so I did a little research. I remember my mom telling me that she missed her baby shower, so I must have arrived a little earlier than expected. I was born at 4:36 in the afternoon on Friday, October 28th. The weather in Cincinnati, while cloudy, was an unseasonably warm 71 degrees. On that day 320,000 babies, including Bill Gates, were born around the world. I wonder how many of them are still alive after 22,646 days have passed? Eisenhower was president, and the top song in the nation was "Autumn Leaves" by pianist Roger Williams. It hit Billboard's number one spot on October 29th. Williams died in October of 2011. I'll think about him when "the falling leaves drift by the window..."

Birthdays were not a big deal in my house as I recall. In looking through old family photos, there is exactly one picture of a birthday party celebrating my sister, and none for the rest of us. Cards, gifts, and even cakes were not the norm. My sister probably did the most for me on my birthday, as she took me to see The Sound of Music and gave me gifts such as my first camera and a skate board, both of which I still have to this day.

The only birthday party I remember is one I threw for myself. In my sophomore year of high school I invited my three best girlfriends over and we played pool and had snacks and soft drinks in our finished basement in Des Moines. They gave me the highly desired new Jackson 5 album. It is even now in my collection of LPs.

Was it because my parents grew up during the depression that they perhaps felt birthdays were frivolous celebrations? Did their own parents do nothing for birthdays? I don't know the answer. But things were different in my husband's family. Birthdays were and are a time for family and fun, with cake, ice cream, cards and presents. Once he and I became a family, his traditions carried on first with us and later with our children. Even though they are grown and living on opposite coasts, we send them a card with cash and call them on their birthdays.

Everyone's day of birth should be honored in some way. Happy birthday to me!
October 2016

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 37

What was it like to be the baby of the family?

me in 1956
Though my mom and dad had five children, I grew up with just one sister and two brothers. The oldest child, Roy, died of aplastic anemia was he was only 7 years old. My sister Kathy was 5 at the time of his death, and my brother Ken was 3. I wasn't even a twinkle in my mom's eye when that happened. Following her first successful pregnancies, my mom suffered at least one miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy, which resulted in the removal of one ovary and all but a piece of her second ovary. She was told that there was a chance in 10,000 that she would ever conceive again, and a chance in a million that she would carry a baby to term. A couple of years passed, and my brother Joe was born. I followed 16 months later. So much for the statistics!

Since my sister is 11 years older than me, she was like a second mother to me. She was also saddled with a lot of the care and responsibility for both Joe and me. I've always felt like I was doubly blessed to have two women who loved me unconditionally. Because Joe and I were so close in age, I always had someone to play with when growing up.

Being the youngest in the family had its advantages. I think my dad mellowed a lot by the time Joe and I came along. He was much harder on Kathy and Ken than he was on us two younger kids. Having said that, I also think that I was an observant child. I watched what my older siblings did to set dad off, and I just didn't do those things.

As the baby, I felt secure in my place in the household. While my parents probably felt as though they were raising two families, from my perspective as the youngest, I had the best of both worlds.

Ken, Joe, me & Kathy 1959

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 36

Since I previously wrote about a treasured object I received from my mother, it only seems fair to do the same for my dad. This week's writing prompt is:

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

the chair
My mother died in a car accident in 1989, and when my father got older he told my siblings and me that if there was anything in the house that we wanted, we should take it. There is one chair that he and mom owned that had always fascinated me as it was solid wood and had a face carved in the back of it. I've never seen anything like it before or since. Even better, it had a great story behind it.

In 1944 my dad was stationed at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. My mom, who was expecting a baby, and their 2 year old son Roy were with him. Dad received orders to ship off to Chabua, India, so he moved his family back to Cincinnati. They took up residence with my maternal grandparents. One day dad received a letter from mom telling him that the Koch's house was for sale, and asked if she should buy it. The Koch's lived right next door to Mike and Mayme Crusham, so she wouldn't have to move far. Before dad even had a chance to reply, he got another letter telling him, "I bought the Koch house!"

August and Louisa Koch left a few pieces of furniture in the house, including the above-mentioned chair. She told mom that the chair was 100 years old at that time. The chair moved with mom and dad from Cincinnati to Chicago, then to Des Moines, and then back to Cincinnati. After its final move, dad refinished the chair, removing the heavy, dark stain replacing it with a warm oak finish. Those of us who watch Antiques Roadshow know that the appraisers cringe when the original patina is removed from an old piece of furniture, but I have to say the results brought out the beauty of the wood grain as well as the features of the face.

As my husband and I live in a 1902 house that is filled with antiques, I told dad that I would like the chair. None of my siblings collect antiques or seemed interested in it. But dad would not allow me to take the chair. He said that Aunt Marie (my mom's older sister) liked to sit in it when she came over for a visit.

It was not until after my dad died in 2004 that the chair made its final journey to our home in St. Louis. I proudly display it in our entry foyer. When a new antique store opened by our house offering free appraisals, I did not hesitate to take the chair in for her to take a look at it. She told me that the chair was from the 1850s (so Louisa Koch was pretty close in her assessment of the chair's age), and was referred to as a North Wind Chair. The face carved into the seat was not intended to scare small children but rather to dispel bad spirits. The appraiser was excited to see the chair as she had only read about them. When I asked her if dad had diminished the value by refinishing it, she agreed that it was always best to have it in its original state. But then she said to me, "Do you like it like this?" When I told her the wood of the chair and the detail is much prettier this way, she said, "That is all that matters." Too true - I love it and am happy to have it in my family and my home.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 35

me with my brother Joe,
Christmas in Des Moines
Masochistic folks are already posting the dreaded "only X number of days left until Christmas." That made me think back on my days as a child when Santa was so anticipated. With that in mind, I chose the following as my writing prompt for this week

What was your favorite toy as a child?

When I was about 9 or 10 I received a Thumbelina doll as a present from Santa. The first Thumbelina doll was manufactured by Ideal Toy Corp. in 1961. She came in three sizes - OTT-14 (Tiny Thumbelina), OTT-16, and OTT-19. The numbers referred to the length of the doll, although the dolls are actually a little longer than their numbers would indicate. All the dolls moved their heads when a knob on the back of the doll was turned. Beginning in 1962, some of the dolls also cried. Thumbelina was Ideal's best-selling baby doll during the 1960s.

My doll was the OTT-19, and at 20" long she was roughly the size of a newborn baby. Her head moved, and she made a crying noise when you bent forward as if to lay her down, stopping when she was raised up. I was thrilled! If I had a baby doll before her, I can't remember it. There was just one problem with these dolls. Due to their size, normal doll clothes would not fit. Ideal offered some clothing for them, but they were expensive and out of the budget for my folks. Mom purchased real baby clothes instead, or she sewed outfits for my doll.

When I first brought my doll over to a neighbor girl's house, she told me I wasn't allowed to play with them because my doll was too big! I went home in tears. Isn't it strange how the hurtful words of someone you considered a friend can stick with you years later?

My affection for Thumbelina was not diminished, however, and I still have her to this day. She no longer cries, and the head motions are much slower when she is wound up. Like many aging ladies, she has lost a lot of her hair. I have her dressed in a newborn sleeper that was once filled with my daughter, and a crocheted sweater and hat that was lovingly stitched by my mother when I was expecting my first child. I have to say that it looks a little better on Thumbelina than it did on my son - haha.

In Thumbelina I'm reminded of the love of my parents, and days filled with a make-believe world when all I had to worry about was making sure that my precious doll was not crying.