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Posts Tagged ‘memories’

It is June, so you ask, why is she writing about Christmas stuff?  Because she is memory deficient and she a/k/a me, would have to write this now anyway and then save it in her Blog and then probably forget to publish it in December.  Besides, Christmas in June is nothing new.

I have made several errors in my life. (Quit laughing, Master’s Daughter) Okay, more than a few. One was having the lack of judgment to be married, for a short time, to a man my daughter’s fondly refer to as Hitler. My mother says he is the only person, on this earth, that she hates and she has to ask forgiveness for that when she gets to the Pearly gates.  I say, Hate him, Mom. He deserves it. 

Hitler had many horrible traits, which explains why we called him Hitler. Those traits are best left forgotten. He did have a few redeeming traits and one was a love of all things Christmas, including the Christmas tree, which he did not want taken down until the fire department showed up in June and said, “You have to take this fire hazard down.” It was a real tree and you can only water them for so long before they become tinder.

The perfect Christmas dinner, for Hitler, meant that the adults drover around town most of the day on Christmas Eve and picked up everyone’s favorite food from restaurants. With gas prices now, it would be a very expensive dinner. Since, his kids had a “traditional” dinner with his ex, and mine had one the next day at Grandma’s house, it was really a fun thing to do. The kids all loved it and it was their tradition. Which goes to prove that anything can be a tradition. It just needs to suit your lifestyle and family for it to last and be fun.

Christmas holidays have always been a big thing in my life.  Mom  decorated the perfect tree, I’m really thinking she was the original Martha Stewart, the cards always hung straight and filled the walls (remember when you were a kid and your self-worth was based on how many cards you got? “I got twenty valentines. How many did you get?”) Mom and Dad would work to make the house, inside and out, perfection. There were yard decorations to be hung and lighted, window decorations, indoor decorations and the tree.

One of my fondest memories of my brother was the year he taught me how to wrap a present. David may have had a touch of the Compulsive gene, because you never saw such a job of wrapping in your life. Corners were pressed and creased. I’m sure you could have bounced a quarter off that box. But, he was also artistic and they were beautiful when he was done. He loved Christmas too.

Dad, my brother and I would hunt for the perfect living tree. It seems like there was a lot more snow then, so it was snowing when we went and you could see your breath as you spoke. It went on top of our station wagon and, when we got home, if it wasn’t perfect, dad would work to make it so. Branches were actually added to our tree, if I remember right. I know it had to have the “bad” side to the corner and then dad and David put the lights on, while the mom directed them.

What was I doing while this went on? I was in the kitchen eating a whole box of chocolate covered sugar wafers. At eight, this is not a good thing to do on Christmas eve. You miss decorating the tree because you are heaving into the toilet. You would think this incident might have led to anorexia. Trust me, it didn’t.

Mom may have been the first person in the modern world to use actual toys on the tree. She had all the traditional glass baubles and lights, but she would also hang trinkets. These included fancy dangly earrings, or strings of beads she had made, as well as little stuffed animals and dolls. People would come to our house and marvel at her tree.

While recovering from surgery,  in 2007, I relinquished a lot of the traditions that, I am now learning, really robbed the fun of Christmas. I relinquished that little compulsive side of me who had to do the tree just right. I sat on the couch and watched the men decorate the tree. I laughed with them and Christmas was all the more special for the love that went on that tree, that year. It wasn’t nearly done, but the memories are even more rich, and that’s what Christmas is about.

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After we took the second and third boy from their mother’s home, I was so stressed out that I did not sleep more than two hours at a time for a good three months. I still find it necessary to sleep with a book on tape going to keep my mind from wandering/remembering.

 

The stress resulted, or so I am told by doctors, in my having a spasming artery that necessitated emergency open heart surgery. It has been a year and a half now since my surgery, and I am trying to balance things out with good memories and funny movies.

 

With that in mind, I have a few of those, the memories, that I did not list in my first list.

 

I attended an outdoor party one night, long ago, and someone brought a very good telescope, they built with their father. The moon was a full and awesome sight. I almost touched it. Honest!

 

The first time the music festival was held on Navy Pier in Chicago, I had the privilege of sitting on bleachers that were far from full, and spending time getting lost in the music of B.B. King. It felt like a private concert.

 

I think that everyone should spend two years of their early twenties living in Chicago. There is so much to see and do there and, while I never lived in Chicago, I did attend two years at U of IL, Chicago Circle, over eight years working downtown and another three years at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Another memory is Venetian night when the illuminated boats sail on the river. I was watching from one of the bridges when the fireworks that lined everything started going off. I was right in between fireworks strung on each side of the bridge. I don’t think they allow that anymore, but I am glad I was able to experience it.

 

The fireworks over Lake Michigan are another fantastic thing to see. One of my big childhood disappointments was when dad felt I was too old to bother taking to the fourth of July fireworks in our Indiana town.  No one is too old for fireworks. 

 

I was driving through, maybe Kansas City, KS on a fourth of July and saw some spectacular ones once. But, the best ones were spent on the porch of a friend’s house on Lake Dale, in Indiana. He lives right on the lake and the homeowners there try to outdo each other with fireworks. We sat on his porch, with refreshments, and watched for hours as they set off one after another of their fireworks. It is especially beautiful when reflected in the lake.

 

This memory is not so happy, but is very memorable. I was one of the first cars allowed into Yellowstone after the fire they had, ?in the late 80s? I was alone, on an art selling/placing trip out to California. The water bucket helicopters were still dropping water and the burn smell suffocated the air. I drove for a time and all looked normal, then I would turn a curve and it was mass destruction. The last half of the trip, the tears were flowing quite freely.

 

I will go to sleep tonight remembering these special memories.

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My mother joined our household, of four, for a family Easter. One grandson, who is only home in the summers now, is working in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our oldest daughter and family (with three grandsons) had their own celebration in So Bend. Eight other grandchildren, who live in Wyoming, have long been missing from our embrace. It was a comfortable and enjoyable day, with the two grandsons who live with us.

 Dinner was ham, mashed potatoes, corn, deviled eggs, guacamole and chips, baked beans and Easter Bread. We remembered the salad on Monday. No one was about to forget the blackberry pie, nor the two pineapple pies. We try to make sure that everyone has something that is their favorite.

 I am not a game person, feeling that I should, and would rather, be painting or writing or sculpting, rather than playing with cards. Sometimes the noise of it is just too much. But, I even joined them for a game of Tryce. The fifteen year old took over after that. They continued to play games until it was time to take my mother home.

 Sunday evening, I started thinking about what I would consider my most memorable things in life to be.

 My family would have to top the list. Moments I have spent rocking a child, having one come to me with problems or happy events, or just to show me a flower or rock they have found. This makes me incredibly sad that I have never even met my youngest granddaughter.

 Other memories are:  

 

My mother serving me tomato soup and grilled cheese when I was ill and home from school. That’s traditional mid-western comfort food.

 

Dad always bringing me a treat in his lunch box is another great series of moments. One, where the child, me, never really realizes that it’s food right from our own cupboard/refrigerator. It always tastes better out of his black metal lunchbox. Do I sense a pattern of food developing?

 

My oldest daughter remembers things from when she was two. She remembers odd things. Not those things you remind them about every holiday. She remembers moments you just would not believe someone that young would remember; just plain, ordinary, everyday moments.

 

My first memories involve my paternal grandfather. He had familial palsy or Parkinson. We are not sure which really, but by the time he was in a wheel chair and visibly shaking, I was around two years old. I remember bringing him a glass of water. The next memory is from his funeral. My dad was crying. This is a family thing I have inherited. I could write a whole blog on the things that make me cry, (not blubber cry, just a few tears down the cheek) but should tv tell me about someone doing something nice for someone else. Or, should the time be when I am sitting and watching a parade. (Don’t even ask.) Anyway, my aunt took me for a walk during my grandfather’s service and I remember the patterns of the sun shining through the trees on the sidewalk and how beautiful they were.

 

To this day, I still love shadows: venetian blind shadows or trees on the wall, or just a glass sitting on the window sill.

 

Here is a list of other moments I remember:

 

A whale breaching off the eastern coast. They are so right when they say, “If you have to ask. It’s not a whale.”

 

Petting a lion.

 

Feeling the skin of an elephant. I monopolized my spot, in amongst a row of children at the zoo, but it was just soooo cool. It felt like a balloon full of water.

 

A Harrier jet stopped in mid air over Chicago skyscrapers. I have never heard the streets of the city so deadly quiet. Then slowly it’s nose pointed toward the sky and BAM! It disappeared skyward, in an instant.

 

Sitting on the porch, when I was maybe five, watching a storm come in over the field behind our house.

 

Wrapped in a blanket, I sat and watched a full lunar eclipse, in the quiet wintery night, in Wyoming. Sometimes I just have to experience the world alone, with no talking going on.

 

Another night, I went out alone and the house was surrouned 360 degrees by lightening storms.

 

Wyoming skies are great. One day after a storm, I saw three rainbows in the sky at once.

 

Coming home and getting out of the car every night for “x” days and seeing Haley’s comet.

 

Laying in a sleeping bag, in the sand, watching a meteor shower.

 

Sitting in a hot tub, after skiing, and sort of seeing the aurora borealis. I didn’t have my glasses or contact on, so it was rather blurry.

 

The sound of a bagpiper in a quiet campground in Nova Scotia.

 

The sound of a bagpiper in the college quad after the death of a friend.

 

 

 

The feeling of immersion in the music, and being in sync, when playing a violin duet with, my teacher, Rainer Schwartzkopf. The one thing I miss more than just about anything in the world is studying with Rainer. He is in Wyoming and I am in Indiana.

 

Watching the sun set within sight of Indian cave homes from my van and not getting ejected from sleeping in a National park where I shouldn’t have been, sleeping in my van. Thank you to whomever I owe a thanks. Karma, I hope. It was a sight I will always remember.

 

They all are.

Hope you have dozens too.

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I never met my maternal grandfather, since he died before I was born, and I was only one year old when my maternal grandmother died. They had six children and they live through the stories their children tell. 

 

Memories have a way of reinventing themselves and I have listened to many family discussions that disagree.  One memory all their children agree on,however, happened during the depression when grandfather was a bootlegger.

Granddad supported six children, a wife and a father living in his home; as well as a roving number of assorted relatives, who stayed for short and long stays, and friends who dropped by on Sunday for the best, fried chicken dinner in town.

He had trained as a classical violinist, so when the depression descended, he made extra money playing honky-tonk fiddle in bars and on the radio.  He played on the Hammond radio station as “Dad DeWitt and the Pumpkin Huskers.”  His four daughters sang and his two sons played instruments.  This was not what he became famous for, though.

What he became famous for, was the best bootleg bathtub gin in Lake County, Indiana.  The, then Mayor of Hammond was his best customer.

The still had been set up under a false floor in the coal bin of the house they rented.  One day, a cousin was helping him watch the still and fell asleep at the gauges. Yup, it exploded. Fine black coal dust sifted up out of every register in the house. No one was hurt but it days to get the house cleaned of soot.

Grandpas bootlegging career ended unexpectedly the day a black limousine pulled into the yard. The driver knocked on the door and told granddad that Al Capone was waiting to talk to him. Mom says Granddad’s face turned white as a ghost at those words. Grandma did not know if she would ever see him again. He walked to the car, with Capone’s henchman, and got into the back seat. The car did not drive off. Instead, Granddad sat in the back seat and had a conversation with Al Capone, in the limousine, in my grandparent’s yard.

Capone told Granddad that the quality of granddad’s gin was so high he wanted granddad to make bathtub gin only for him. He would buy Granddad a new car and a new house. But the house would have to be located where Capone wanted it. Granddad politely declined what must have been great wealth during the depression. He explained to Capone that he had children and did not feel it would be right to get them involved in this business. Capone was very friendly and polite about the whole thing and even gave Granddad a cigar.

After the conversation, Granddad came in and smashed the still. That is when grandpa, Omar DeWitt, decided he was not going to make bootleg bathtub gin anymore, for anyone. He was not going to endanger his family because once you start working for Al Capone, you could never ever quit. 

 

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