Category Archives: Nostalgia

STRENGTH

My paternal grandmother, Grandma James, was a strong woman.

Due to her mother’s debilitating illness, Grandma, at the age of 10, assumed the role of homemaker for her household.

She raised her own eight children during the Great Depression.

My dad said that without her, his family would have starved.

Those eight children didn’t include her twin babies. Born prematurely, they were buried in tiny boxes in unmarked graves.

Hardship and loss were her companions through much of her life.

Grandma was resourceful and wasted nothing.

She planted and tended a huge garden and canned vegetables and fruit for her family to eat during the winter.

Half-rotted and bird-pecked peaches might have been thrown out by some homemakers. But Grandma salvaged every edible scrap and canned or dried them.

She canned more than just what her garden and orchard produced though. When she had an excess of eggs, she boiled and canned them. She canned fish and other meats.

She made clothes for herself and her children. With the scraps of fabric, she made quilts.

She did her laundry, winter and summer, using a wringer-style washing machine and a clothesline.

On washdays, she had her laundry hung on the line before she made breakfast for her family.

That breakfast was cooked on a cast iron, wood-burning stove.

She mended and ironed her family’s clothes, and she gave to other people in the community who had less.

When my sister and I were little girls, Grandma made dresses for our dolls.

Her yard was filled with beautiful flowers, watered with the rinse water from her weekly laundry.

She took in more than one aging relative and cared for them in her home.

Grandma was not a big talker. She enjoyed visiting with relatives and friends, but she didn’t gossip. Prolonged pauses in conversations did not bother her.

If someone did an odd thing, such as naming a new baby Crystalline, Grandma said of the event, “Well, that’s hers fer it.”

By this she meant the new mother could name her baby whatever she chose.

Sometimes Grandma told funny stories, often about her chickens.

As she told the story, she rocked harder in her chair, laughed, and said, “Law, law! You should’ve seen that old hen take off after that hawk!”

I am certain Grandma didn’t graduate from high school. She may not have finished the eighth grade.

But she knew much that I’ll never learn.

I loved my grandma and miss her. I have a taped recording of her voice, but I can’t listen to it.

People who are born into abundance may become strong.

People who are born into scarcity become strong or die.

My love for Grandma includes a deep respect for a woman who did what she had to do.

Pondering the unfairness of life would have used up time she didn’t have to spare.

 

BOOM! BOOM!

I was (am) a Baby Boomer, born in 1952.

The following is the first paragraph of Wikipedia’s entry for Baby Boomers:

Baby boomers (also known as boomers) are the demographic cohort following the Silent Generation and preceding Generation X. The Baby Boom generation is most often defined as those individuals born between 1946 and 1964.

Interesting charts listing characteristics of Boomers can be found at:

http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf

https://emilms.fema.gov/IS0020.18/groups/103.html

These charts also compare Boomers to the generations before and after us. You might enjoy scanning them.

I may or may not be a typical Baby Boomer, but I will share a few of my early experiences. Some will be unique to me; others will be like experiences of my fellow Boomers.

My dad was in the Air Force during the Korean War, but he did not fight. For a while, he was stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa in the East China Sea. He also spent time in Formosa, today known as Taiwan.

When he was stationed in the States, my mother and I (and eventually my sister) lived at times near Air Force Bases in Missouri and South Carolina, and at an Air Force Station near Texarkana.

When we could not live near where Dad was stationed, my mom, my sister and I lived with my mom’s parents in rural north Arkansas.

I look at that little house today and marvel that my two grandparents, their three teenage daughters, my mom, my sister, and I managed to live happy lives in such a tiny space. But we did. Those were wonderful days for me.

Eventually my dad left the Air Force and became a store owner and Postmaster in the tiny town of Elizabeth, Arkansas. My brother and another sister were soon born, and that is where I grew up.

That part of Arkansas is near enough to the deep south to be miserably hot and humid in the summer but far enough away to be cold and often snowy and icy in the winter.

Our family was certainly not wealthy, but for that part of the country at that time in history, we were more comfortable than many.

I knew for certain I was loved. I never went without food, clothes or a clean bed.

I had cousins and friends to play with. I liked school and made good grades. My parents set boundaries, which we stayed within.

I grumbled about having to sweep floors, wash dishes, carry in firewood and pick up toys from the yard before Dad mowed, but I was not overworked.

I was never afraid of anyone except the Russians.

Mom disciplined her kids with a switch broken off her forsythia bush. Dad disciplined us with a look that kept us on the straight and narrow for a good month.

Since we lived in a rural area, my siblings and I roamed freely. We had never heard the term, stranger danger.

We knew everyone.

We played hopscotch and jumped rope. We hula hooped. We played jacks and kids’ card games. (I was deadly at Authors.)

My sister and I constructed beautiful hollyhock dolls from the plant’s blossoms and buds.

 

Our lone brother shot his B.B. gun and climbed and fell out of trees. We still joke that he was fortunate enough always to land on his head, so he wasn’t badly injured.

We played Mumblety peg, which none of my Indiana friends have ever heard of. It involved using a knife, but no one ever got hurt. Google it.

In summer, we tied strings to the legs of June bugs and flew them like kites. We swam in a nearby creek.

We put our black walnuts in the road for cars to run over and peel off the yucky outer husks. We then cracked open the hard shells with a rock and ate the nutmeats, digging out stubborn pieces with bobby pins.

Most mornings, my young siblings and I watched Captain Kangaroo. We loved the antics of the Captain, Mr. Green Jeans, Tom Terrific, and Crabby Appleton. (He was rotten to the core.) We knew by heart the song, It’s Another Be Good to Mommy Day, that was featured on the show .

Our family owned one black-and-white television set, and since we lived in a rural area, we had access to only one TV station, KYTV in Springfield, Missouri. This was (is) an NBC affiliate.

No matter how hard we twisted the big metal antenna pole outside our living room window, we could not access any other station. I routinely watched Bonanza, My Three Sons, Fury, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (in black and white).

The Beatles made their big debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. My neighbor, whose television antenna accessed a CBS station, let me watch the show in her living room.

Soon after, my parents allowed me to buy a pair of tennis shoes like these. (Today I found a pair for sale online for $475.)

Keeping with the theme of fashion, here is a photo of me wearing a pair of go-go boots in 1966. I was 14.

Ironically, one of the shows that made go-go boots popular, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, was banned by my dad. Although it was an NBC program, it didn’t appear on our TV screen.

Dad also didn’t let us watch the part of the Dean Martin Show that featured the dancing Golddiggers.

Among my friends, not one of them had a dad who restricted their television watching. I felt deprived.

Speaking (again) of television, we watched the Huntley Brinkley Report almost every weeknight. As far as I knew, that news show would lead with heartbreaking pictures of the Viet Nam War for eternity.

At different times I had crushes on Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Kildare), Michael Landon (Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza) and Glen Campbell (singer).

We had party-line telephones and shared our line with two other families. Each family had its own phone number but could use the phone only if no party-line sharer was already using the line.

We could also listen in on phone conversations of our line sharers. We didn’t do much of this, because mostly they just talked about whether we were ever going to get any rain and what was happening on their soap operas.

In elementary school, I said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag every morning, read a passage of Scripture, and sometimes listened to my teachers pray.

I sweated on a hot school bus half the school year and felt my toes go numb with cold the other half.

In my teen years, girls wore their dresses short, and boys wore their hair long, if their parents tolerated it. Girls either wrapped their long wet hair around empty frozen orange juice cans to get big curls, or they spread their hair across ironing boards and ironed it to remove natural curls.

We went to church three times a week. Each summer, our church had a “gospel meeting.” A preacher from another area visited and preached every night for at least one week, sometimes two. Our family heard every sermon.

I attended Sunday school and Wednesday night Bible classes from the time I was a baby.

While going through some of my parents’ old papers a few years ago, I found a Sunday school assignment I completed. The photo isn’t clear, but it is a rough draft of a report on Queen Esther.

In junior high school my friends and I made gum-wrapper chains long as our arms. Mostly we worked on these chains while riding the school bus.

We made and wore out many paper fortune tellers like this one.

My fortune teller told me I would meet and marry a guy from Indiana. We would have two kids and four grandkids . . . just kidding.

Was I a happy kid? I never thought about it. Life was what it was. I didn’t do much evaluating of my circumstances. I didn’t have everything I wanted, but show me a kid who does.

I had parents (and grandparents) who were always nearby. They loved me, saw that I had everything I needed, set boundaries, and taught me about Jesus.

Paraphrasing King David’s words in Psalm 16:6: The boundary lines fell for me in pleasant places, and I enjoy a wonderful inheritance.

 

 

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

I received my first love letter when I was 12.

Mom handed me the envelope as I ironed a blouse.

The letter was from Ronnie, who lived a state away and was a year older than I was.

I opened the envelope, skimmed the letter, and then tore it into pieces and put the pieces in the trash.

The letter ran along this line: I like you. Do you like me? You have pretty hair, etc.

I wish I had that letter now, but I don’t.

It didn’t go out with that day’s trash though because I dug out the paper pieces and taped them together.

In my early teen years, I had crushes on movie stars like Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Kildare) and Michael Landon (Little Joe Cartwright).

Then my love shifted to Glen Campbell, whom I was certain I would marry. I wrote Mr. and Mrs. Glen Campbell inside hearts on all my school notebooks.

The first boy I had a crush on was a teenager who helped the man who delivered milk to our store. Through the front window of my house, I watched him load gallons of milk onto a dolly and roll it into the store.

I would have died a thousand deaths before I told him I liked him.

The worst thing a girl could do was tell a boy she liked him before he told her he liked her.

The first boy I went out with more than one or two times ditched me for a girl who performed I Gave My Love a Cherry at a school program. I mean that night, after the program, he ditched me for her.

Early dating is always clumsy.

Each partner wonders:

 

She: Will he hold my hand?

He: I wonder if she would let me hold her hand.

 

She: Will he kiss me?

He: I wonder if she would let me kiss her.

 

She: Will he ask me out a second time?

He: I wonder if she would go out with me a second time.

With every relationship, I made blunders.

I rejected one boy’s request for a date with these words: “I can’t go out with you. I’m taller than you are.”

Have I mentioned early dating is clumsy?

I didn’t buy a boutonniere for a boy who took me to a school social because no one told me I should do that. Few people noticed his lack of a flower though because they were looking at his cowboy boots.

Though classmates dropped out of school and got married because they were pregnant, I knew little about the sex those couples engaged in.

On the first night in my college dorm, after lights out, my roommate (a girl I had met for the first time that day) asked me, “So, how far have you gone with a boy?”

She wouldn’t have surprised me more if she had asked how many times I had been arrested.

I don’t remember how I answered, but I remember what she said next.

“I’ve been to second base with a boy a few times.”

Holey Moley!

Feeling in over my head, I kept a safe distance between my dates and me.

Boys nicknamed me “the girl who polishes the passenger side car door.”

But I wanted a real boyfriend, someone who chose me, someone who made me feel special.

The pregnant girls who dropped out of school were like me. They wanted love and acceptance.

Most of the time, that was not what their boyfriends wanted.

Guys use love to get sex and girls use sex to get love.

I will step onto my soapbox for a minute.

Moms, don’t let your daughters grow up unprepared to handle situations they are certain to face.

Dads, tell your daughters often they are beautiful, real treasues, just the daughters you want. Don’t make them wait to get affirmation from boyfriends, whose motives are not as unselfish as yours are.

I recommend this article about teenage sexuality. Check it out.

https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/what-parents-need-to-know-and-do-about-teenage-sexuality/

In the past, I liked/loved several boys. But I have loved only one man, the man to whom I said  I do.

SNAP!

My mother was a woman of many talents. When I was a kid, she always knew where to find any item I had lost. She remembered the words to almost every poem or song she had ever heard. She warmed up to even the coolest personalities in our little community.

She also raised four children in a house that relied upon a dug well, not a drilled one, for its water supply. This meant we had to treat water as the precious resource it really was. As kids, my siblings and I joked about having to take our baths in teacups.

Our family conserved water as if the next day we might be without it, which was sometimes the case.

Mom grew beautiful flowers inside and outside. We lived on a stretch of land my grandpa called “glade rock.” By this he meant its soil was essentially dust scattered across stone slabs. A horticulturist’s paradise it was not.

But my mother planted a vegetable garden each year. Often it withered up and died for lack of rain, but optimistically she planted one every spring.

She was tenacious

In the yard she grew irises, peonies, lilies, daffodils, tulips, and crocuses that she watered with used rinse water from her weekly washing. She grew lovely lilacs, white ones and, well, lilac ones.

Inside the house she grew ferns, vining plants, and African violets. Her violets, though never entered in a contest, were prizewinners. She had pink ones, white ones, and purple ones; white ones with purple edges, pink ones with ruffled edges, and purple ones variegated with white.

As any grower of these delicate plants knows, violets demand tender care. They require access to good sunlight and need just enough, but not too much, water. Withered blossoms must be plucked so new ones can grow. Dead leaves must also be removed.

But removing any part of an African violet requires the dexterity of a microsurgeon. If during the process a healthy leaf is accidentally tapped or bumped, even slightly, it breaks.

The snapping of a healthy African violet leaf comes as unexpectedly and unwelcomely as a paper cut. The sound it makes is one-of-a-kind, unmistakable.

  My mother lived by the motto: If you think you may have broken an African violet leaf, you have.

 She applied this proverb to more than the tending of her houseplants.

Her goal was to hurt no one, not her friends, her sisters, or her children. Her ears were ever cocked, listening for the snap indicating harm had been done.

If she suspected she might have wounded one of the people she loved, she reacted as if she indeed had. She couldn’t run fast enough to make an apology and restore kinship.

She knew that, unlike leaves on violets, relationships can be mended if addressed quickly and with love.

Never doubt that she pruned her kids. She diligently plucked from us any hint of disrespect, disobedience, and every other ugly thing.

But as she removed what was bad in us, she meticulously protected what was good.

And she never broke us, emotionally or any other way.

At a restaurant recently, I watched a bully who was masquerading as a dad. He snapped at his young son, “I’ll beat that kind of attitude right out of you.”

This man needed the lesson of the violet leaf.

We all do.

NEVER ONCE

I cut my teeth on the back of a pew in a small country church. My siblings did the same. I can take you to the church and show you the teeth marks.

In that church I learned that motives count. Not only should I give, but also I should want to give. I learned that honoring my parents meant more than being good in their presence. I learned the meaning of words I never encountered anywhere else: sanctification, regeneration, propitiation.

I knew from day one I was imperfect but God loved me and Jesus wanted to save me.

Qualities taught to me at home were reinforced inside that little church. Qualities like integrity, patience, and kindness.

God poured His grace down upon me, the little girl who wanted so passionately to be good but knew she would never be perfect.

My mind often wandered during church services. Sometimes I silently reviewed the memory verse I would be asked to recite in Bible class. I looked at pictures in my Bible of blind Samson breaking the pillars of the temple and Moses talking to God in the burning bush.

I studied my fingernails, picked at my cuticles, and passed an occasional note to my sister. I thought about what I would be doing that afternoon. I listened to my grandma singing alto in the pew behind me and tried to copy her.

I fanned myself with a paper fan provided by the Leland Carter Funeral Home. I watched mud daubers whizzing outside the window. I heard baby cousins fussing just a few rows back.

I watched my mother tend to my young siblings. I struggled not to laugh the Sunday my brother held chewing gum in his hand and eventually created a sticky, pink spider web between his fingers.

I tried to pay attention if the preacher wrote things on the chalkboard. I tried to focus as he pointed to places on one of the big Bible maps that stood on an easel near the podium.

Once, in a sermon about the tabernacle the Israelites built on their journey from Egypt to Canaan, the preacher flipped the map pages to one that showed the route they took. And right there, right in the middle of the map’s desert, a mud dauber had built a brown, crusty nest.

The preacher chuckled and said, “Well, there’s the tabernacle right there!” and everyone laughed.

I thought about going to college. I dreamed about someday driving a car, being a teacher, and having babies. I wondered if I was pretty.

I pondered unanswerable questions about whether or not Adam had a belly button and if God could make a box so tiny he couldn’t get into it. I contemplated trying to use faith to move a mountain.

I checked often to make sure my slip strap was not showing. I looked down and reaffirmed that I hated my old black, patent leather shoes.

Sometimes in church, I listened and learned. But, truth be told, much of the time I daydreamed and wondered and contemplated and planned and pondered and imagined and questioned and resolved.

But never once in all those Sundays did I worry that a lunatic with a gun might walk in and blow away my entire family and me.

Household Hints

Just before Dan and I married in 1973, my college roommates gave me a copy of the book, Heloise’s Housekeeping Hints (Pocket Books, 1972). This paperback reference manual is filled with ideas for making one’s home function more smoothly.

Many of Heloise’s suggestions begin with the words how to: how to remove stains from clothes, how to organize your kitchen cabinets, how to make windows sparkle.

When I was a young bride, I consulted this book fairly often. Now I hold on to it only for sentimental reasons. The cover is faded and creased, and every time I open the book, pages fall out.

I read some of those dried and discolored pages today and found a few suggestions that made me laugh out loud. I will share them with you.

WAX YOUR PETTICOATS (page 91)

I have found the answer to the nylon and cotton petticoats that go limp after washing. Since they have to be ironed anyway, I place waxed paper over the petticoat and press. The wax from the paper transfers to the garment and it looks new again. This is especially good in damp weather when everything goes limp.

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TRIM YOUR LIPSTICK, GIRLS (pages 119-120)

If you use a razor blade to slice off the end of your lipstick tube diagonally, it will give you a very sharp outline when applied. It seems to fill out those minute wrinkles and cracks around your lips. Put the discarded lipstick ends in a small jar and use them with your lipstick brush.

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QUICK TRICKS (page 124)

When hanging nylons or leotards outdoors to dry, slip a teaspoon into each toe. This prevents the hose from wrapping around the clothesline and getting snagged.

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I am no Heloise, but in my 44 years of homemaking, I have discovered some excellent tips that I will now share with you.

VINYL GLOVES

Buy and keep in your kitchen a box of disposable, vinyl gloves. I use these gloves whenever I handle raw meat. I am especially glad to have them at Thanksgiving when I am forced to get up close and personal with a tom turkey. I also wear them when I cut up pickles and other smelly foods in order to keep their odors off my hands.

I wear them when I mix meatloaf with my hands and whenever I handle food coloring, such as at Easter when I dye eggs with my grandkids. As an additional bonus, these gloves can be turned into balloons for the grandkids to decorate.

FROZEN CHOPPED ONIONS

Buy and keep in your freezer several bags of frozen chopped or diced onions. I hate chopping onions and have often rejected recipes that directed me to do that. Now I simply take a bag out of the freezer, use as many of the onions as I need, and return the bag to the freezer.

My husband has been heard to say on multiple occasions, “There’s not a thing in this house to eat for lunch but thank goodness we have five bags of onions in the freezer!”

 

DECORATIVE BOXES

Prepare and stash in several rooms of your house small, decorative boxes containing household items that you reach for daily. These include paper clips, scissors, Scotch tape, sticky notes, a nail file and clippers, a small stapler, a reliable ink pen, a sharp pencil with a good eraser, and a highlighter. Throw in a few Hershey Kisses if you are so inclined.

Now I have those things at hand wherever I am in the house. Before I did this, I often had to get up out of a chair or out of bed to retrieve an item kept in only one room of the house. I have these boxes in my living room near my recliner, in my kitchen, and on two bedside tables.

 

Of course we all want to wear clean clothes and have a tidy house, but those things are not of highest importance. What is much more important is maintaining loving relationships with the people who share your house with you.

 

Dan and me, housemates since 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adolescence

From the moment I heard Glen Campbell’s Gentle on my Mind play on Little Rock’s KAAY 1090 AM station in 1967, I was in love. Seriously in love. I was 14 at the time and knew I had seen my future, all wrapped up in the person of Glen Campbell.

I decorated all of my notebooks, my textbooks, and my clipboard with beautifully flowing script lettering: Mrs. Glen Campbell, Mrs. Debbie Campbell, Mrs. Debra Campbell, all written inside hearts.

I don’t remember, but very likely I went around singing: Glen and Debbie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

That memory makes me laugh. But I wasn’t laughing much in 1967. I was young, naïve, and eager to grow up and enter the adult world, though I had no clue how to go about it.

In fact, I didn’t have a clue about most things. Why was I still stick-thin and shapeless when my girlfriends had developed curves? Would I ever pass a driver’s test? What possessed me to sign up for geometry? Would my complexion ever clear up?

Though I was a mostly-A student, I felt ignorant. I suspected that everyone else knew things I didn’t know and they weren’t about to tell me. My clothes were wrong, my hair was wrong, and I didn’t know how to apply makeup. I was plagued with a constant fear that my period would sneak up on me and make its appearance on the back of my skirt.

Nobody understood me. I couldn’t blame them since I didn’t understand me either. Why did there have to be this middle part of life, this being no longer a child but not yet an adult?

My babyhood dream of growing into a beautiful princess dissolved the instant I looked into the mirror. No Prince Charming would claim this spotted-faced girl, even if the glass slipper fit perfectly.

Was I meant to be doing something specific, something significant that would launch me into the grown-up world? If so, I wished someone would tell me what it was.

I survived my adolescent years the same way most people do. I stumbled my way through and got to the other side by the skin of my teeth.

I look at young teens today and wonder if they feel as awkward and unprepared for adulthood as I was.

The kids I see appear comfortable in the skin they are wearing. They go so far as to take selfies in order to preserve memories, for crying out loud! They do not seem self-conscious or fearful of making fools of themselves. In fact, they seem to be enjoying life.

Did people think the same thing about me when I was a teen? Did they assume I was a happy-go-lucky, glad-to-be-me girl enjoying the last of her free-wheeling years before entering adulthood? If they did, they were sorely wrong.

Adolescence was a graceless, humiliating time of life that I thought would never end. It was characterized by embarrassment, uncertainty, and the constant fear of failure.

In fact, I might not have survived adolescence at all had I not held on to one sure and certain fact: I was going to marry Glen Campbell.

 

Glen Travis Campbell (April 22, 1936–August 8, 2017)