19TH DAY OF NaBloPoMo/The Laundromat/A Story originally posted on Nov. 19, 2013

MERLIN AND lady on favorite chair
My cats: Merlin and Lady!

THE LAUNDROMAT

The washers and dryers were humming noisily when John walked into the Laundromat.  It was easy to see that he wasn’t accustomed to using  a laundromat by the furtive way he was acting.  He picked out a washer after much searching, loaded his clothes and then discovered that he did not have any detergent and had to search for the machine that dispensed it.  Everyone in the place could have cared less whether he knew his way around or not, they were all wrapped up in their own thoughts.  After a few trips there though he became a regular and knew his way around as well as everyone else.

It was on one of these trips as he was gaining confidence in himself that John had a strange thing happen.  John always liked children and there was certainly enough of them running around.  A little blonde girl of three years old came up to him smiling and started a conversation.  “Hi, I’m Sandy,” she said.  “Hello Sandy, my name is John, what do you do for a living?”  Sandy just giggled and proceeded to tell him her age, her mother’s name and anything else he wanted to know.

John was beginning to enjoy himself when a blonde woman rushed up and grabbed Sandy, gave him a dirty look and rushed  the child away.  Her admonishment to the child could be heard throughout the laundromat, “I told you not to talk to strangers especially old men.”  John was startled and a little sad.  After hearing that, he wasn’t as friendly to children unless of course he knew their parents.

John was a tall man in his early sixties and his hair was mostly gray but he had a thick and lustrous head of it.  He had green eyes that sparkled when he was happy which wasn’t very often now that Janet was gone.  He had a slim build although he had a hearty appetite, but that had diminished lately.  Since Janet had died a year ago, he was in a transition period.  They had planned to vacation in the mountains this year.  Renting a cabin and fishing was his idea of heaven, but Janet’s illness had come on suddenly and now his life was dramatically different.

He had thought himself a strong man but lately he began to doubt that strength.  He had not planned on being alone and it was a strange, new experience for him.  The house loomed before him like some vast unknown expanse. The days were endless.  Then one day at the Laundromat, as he was loading his clothes into a dryer, a young woman next to him was struggling with a large basket of clothes as she tried to lift it onto one of the shelves.  It slipped out of her hands and the clothes went flying onto the floor.  The girl looked embarrassed as she stooped to retrieve her laundry.  John went to her aid and after the clothes were picked up and placed in the right machine, she sat down beside him.  He offered her a cigarette and after accepting she thanked him profusely for his help.

“I’m new in the area,” she said.  “Is that so?”  John was never much of a conversationalist.

She was so young and pretty, he was wondering why she even bothered talking to him.

“Can you tell me which market has the lowest prices close to this area?  I’m kind of new in town and still have to get a car.  So I am kind of limited in where I shop”   She seemed to be embarrassed to admit this.

“Medina’s Market is only a few blocks from here and has the best buys and good quality, I can show you where it is.”

“Oh thanks, that’s very kind of you but I wouldn’t want to put you out.” she retorted.

“No trouble at all.  After we are done here I’ll take you there.  By the way what’s your name, mine’s John.”

“Gloria.” was the answer.

“That’s a pretty name, it suits you.”

To be continued

24th Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up

And so the years passed and of course we kids were growing like weeds.  Anna was  a good head over me and very healthy looking; where I on the other hand, was skinny and short at that time.  The doctor even wanted Mother to keep me out of school for a year.  My ribs were actually sticking out and the doc thought I might have the rickets.

He told Mother to keep me home and let me rest and fatten me up.  I did not want to stay home because it was much warmer at school and I got hot lunches there.  Besides, I would miss all my classmates; we had all gone to school together for quite awhile and they were like family.  So I begged Mother to let me go to school and of course she would rather have me in school because I was a handful at home.  So she decided to let me go with the doctor’s approval of course.

Now the Catholic schools were known for their plays and recitals on every different occasion.  And one of the big Holy Days was coming up.  It was the Annunciation. The school needed someone to play the angel Gabriel in the upcoming play.  Since Anna was tall and had a good voice and of course was good looking, she was picked for the part.  She had long blond hair and blue eyes, which did not hurt her chances either.  She, as the angel was to announce to Mary, the Blessed Virgin,  that she was to be the Mother of God.

The Magnificat, which was the announcement in Latin, had to be sung in Latin, and of course Catholic school children knew their Latin.  Especially the songs, as they were sung in church every Sunday.  Anna was studying diligently and Mother was making her costume, which included wings.  In fact, Anna was singing the song so much that we pretty much all knew it by time the play rolled around.

The evening before the big day arrived and Anna was washing her hair in preparation for the big night.  She had to look the part.  She did have beautiful blond wavy hair and everyone complimented her on it.  You could say it was her crowning glory.  Anna was very excited!

Now we didn’t have hot water in the shack, so we had to warm the water on the coal stove whenever we needed it.  Anna was bent over the sink with her head over the basin of water and her hair was all soapy; she  had put a pot of water on the stove to warm it for the rinse.  I happened to be in the kitchen at the time and she asked me to get the pot of water from the stove and pour it on her head to rinse the soap off.

Well, I did exactly what she told me to do!  But as soon as I poured the water over her head, she started screaming!  She scared the bejasus out of me and I yelled, “What’s the matter?”  “You scalded me,” she yelled back.  Mother heard all the noise and ran into the kitchen.  “What’s going on in here?”  she yelled.

By the time everyone was settled down and we both told our stories, Mother took over.  She sent me to go and get Mrs. D.   Mrs. D. was of course our ‘go to’ person.  Mother had just put a towel over Anna’s head and was trying to sooth her when  Mrs. D. came running in.  She asked what she could do to be of help?  Mother explained what had happened and they unwrapped Anna’s head to take a look.  The news was not good!

To be continued

 

21Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up

Paddy was walking on clouds for a long time after Edward was born and the girls were happy to have a brother.  The Christening was held at Grandma’s house Paddy’s Mother of course.  Most everyone in the family was there except for Mother who was not feeling well since having the baby.

After getting baptized Edward made a brief appearance at the party and was taken home to sleep in his crib and also be close to Mother.  She had tried breast feeding and that didn’t work out but he seemed to take to the bottle well.  Mother gave him the bottle and tucked him into his crib. Right after this the children arrived home courtesy of Mother’s sister, Alice.  Alice said she was tired of the party and wanted to go home anyway as she had to get up early to go to work.

The months went by and things between Mother and Father seemed to be going well but Edward was not doing very well.  He wasn’t gaining weight like he was supposed to and at his last doctor’s visit, Mother was told that Edward had soft bones.  The doctor thought it was from Mother not getting enough calcium when she was pregnant.   When he was six months, she had to tie him around the middle with a diaper to keep him from slipping down in the highchair.  Edward was a happy baby but by the time he was a year, he still wasn’t able to stand.

Father blamed Mother for Edward’s health problems.  “It was because she did not eat right and did not drink milk while she was pregnant,” he said.  This of course didn’t help matters, only serving to make Mother more miserable.  She was really worried about Edward, and we kids, young as we were, would try to think of ways to cheer her up.  Nothing seemed to work though.

Then the unimaginable happened, Edward contacted pneumonia plunging us all into a state of shock!  After that, we took turns kneeling around his crib, listening to his raspy breadth, and praying.  Edward wasn’t strong enough to fight off the pneumonia though; it seemed that one day he was there and the next day, he was gone.  And even though I was only seven, I was bargaining with God.  Telling Him what I would do if only He spared Edward.  It was not to be!

To be continued.

 

17th Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up

After getting Mother pregnant for the fourth time, Paddy hung around for a while.  Of course no one knew for how long a time that would last.  He even managed to get a few substitute teaching jobs which helped tremendously.  The Church under the auspices of the Pastor was still having milk delivered to us on a daily basis.  We were still receiving commodities but no cash since Paddy was living with us and working.  If course the shack was still a shack with the rain coming in through the leaks in the roof.  Especially bad was when it would hit you in the face while you were sleeping and the pinging noise when it dripped into the pots we had put on the stairs.

All the while, Mother was growing larger and getting more uncomfortable.  As the time drew near to her due date, she became more anxious.  And unlike himself, Father was helping with the cleaning, going for groceries and even helping with the children.  Of course Paddy was hoping for a boy!  He thought surely they wouldn’t have another girl.  Mother knew he would be very disappointed if she had a girl.

A week later Paddy drove Mother to the hospital in his old truck and he was driving like a maniac!  The contractions had come on so suddenly there was barely enough time to get to the hospital.  And while he was waiting in the hospital waiting room he said a silent prayer for a boy.  Couldn’t hurt he thought.

So when the doctor came out and delivered the news that he had another girl, Paddy almost swooned.  It couldn’t be!  It just could not be possible for him to have a fourth girl!  And yet that’s what the doctor was saying.  He called his mother who consoled him and then she let him rant and rave and get it out of his system.  He had told her and all his siblings that he was sure that they were going to have a boy this time.  Of course they didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was always a fifty fifty chance.  Nevertheless, he was bitterly disappointed.

It was a good thing he had his teaching job to take his mind off things; his friends at work were sympathetic but coming home was another matter.  With Mother not feeling well yet and the baby crying a lot.  The baby was named Kay after Mother, at least she would have one of them named after herself.  Winifred was named after Paddy’s mother and Anna was named after Mom.  So there was no argument with naming Kay after Mother.

Paddy proved himself helpful for a time even rocking and singing to the new baby and lo and behold even changing her diapers.  Mother was still anxious though even if Himself was being very good, working and helping out at home.  Almost too good to be true.

The stress of just having a baby and with three other children to take care of became too much for Mother.  Soon she and Father were arguing on a daily basis.  He started staying out late after work and having drinks with his friends, some of these friends were women.  Most of whom were single and loved to party.  Drinking beer and dancing was common at the bars they frequented.

This did not sit well with Mother and she did have a temper after all.  So a few weeks after one of Father’s late night drinking and what not, Mother was waiting when he did come home and there was an argument which was worse than any they had ever had.

To be continued.

14 Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up

Anna and Marion
Anna and Marion

After Winifred’s death, Mother went into a depression and she blamed Paddy for what had happened.  She told him that she was sure that his spraying the DDT around in the bedroom and hallway caused Winifred to get pneumonia.  This did not sit very well with Father and they would get into a shouting match.  But since the neighbors were constantly dropping by with condolences and cakes, pies and casseroles, they had to keep the arguing down.

Mother agreed that Grandma could have the funeral from her home and it was very sad.  Everyone was commenting on the small white coffin and the beautiful flowers.  Mother was so depressed she could not go to the cemetery; she had to lie down and rest.  Soon after that though, the arguments between them escalated and became an almost daily thing.  It was only a few week later that Paddy went to stay with his mother for a while.

This was the beginning of his going back and forth between his mother and his home.  Whenever things got a bit hard for him at home and he didn’t know what else to do, he took off and went to live with his mother.   Usually it’s the wife that goes home to her mother but not in this case.

Mother’s mother or ‘Mom’ as we kids called her, told all of her children that once they were married, that was it!  She was not taking any of them back!  In fact, one of her favorite expressions was,  ‘You made your bed, now you can darn well lie in it!’   Or words to that effect.  And she was very serious because she was a single parent from an early age and you could very well take care of yourself and your children after you were married, without expecting any help from her.  It certainly made them think twice before either getting separated or divorced.  And of course the Catholic Church frowned on divorce which kept a lot of people together long after they would have liked.

And although Mother may have thought about separating or even divorce, she was a devout Catholic and she made her mind up that staying together was best.  When Paddy came back after a few months at his mothers, things went well for a while.  Anna was growing and in no time it seemed was two years old and finally out of her colicky stage.  A  few months after Anna’s second birthday, another girl was born to the happy couple.  That would be myself, Marion and of course Paddy was hoping for a boy by this time.  He was magnanimous enough not to look too disappointed at having another girl.

It was about six months later that we moved into our three bedroom house with a big backyard.  They had agreed that a big house was what they needed,  especially if they planned on having more children.  Which seemed pretty inevitable being the good Catholics they were and Paddy being determined to have a boy.  He said he was willing to wait!

To be continued.

 

13 Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up

winifred circa 1928
Winifred

The next morning came with Winifred coughing and burning up with a fever.  She couldn’t seem to get her breadth and her temperature was 103 degrees!  Mother called the Doctor immediately, while Paddy took care of Anna.  He changed her diaper and gave her a bottle and she seemed to be calm and not crying for a change.  This was good because Mother had her hands full giving Winifred a soothing luke warm bath to help get her temp down.  She was still coughing though and it was not sounding good to Mother.

The Doctor got there in record time because Mother had him worried with not only the temp but the coughing.  He immediately wanted to get Winifred to the hospital.  Paddy only had an old truck so the Doctor said he would drive Winifred and my Mother to the hospital.  They got there making good time as the Doctor knew his way very well and he was if not calm at least steady.

It was determined that Winifred had pneumonia and so she was put into an oxygen tent by several nurses who were bustling about.  Mother sat by the  oxygen tent and continued to worry about Winifred’s raspy breathing.  There were no antibiotics in that day so that was not an option.  The only thing they could do was keep her in the oxygen tent and keep bathing her with cool water to get the temperature down and hope and pray for the best.

Meanwhile at home Father had his hands full with Anna.  He was worried about Winifred but was glad that he didn’t have to go to the hospital.  He had proved himself no good in a crisis many times over the years.  He did not like people leaning on him for anything.  So when Anna was finally down for a nap, he sat  by the radio to hear the latest news, keeping one ear out for the phone call from Mother.

A few hours later Paddy got the phone call from Mother and the news was not good!  Winifred had died about an hour before, but it took Mother that long to pull herself together enough to call him.  It was a fast moving pneumonia, that’s all the doctors would say.  And she was crying so much, Mother had to get off the phone and go and be alone with her grief.

Father was crying also but not so much that he couldn’t call and tell his Mother the news, and she was upset but said she would let the rest of the family know.  She also offered to have the Wake and Funeral from her house, saying that would make it easier for Mother.  When Mother found out about the offer, she scoffed and said that Grandma always did like a party no matter the reason, especially if there was food and drink involved.

12th Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up

winifred circa 1928It was a hot summer night and the heat seemed to put everyone on edge, add to that the humidity and you have a perfect setup for arguments, if not worse things happening.  The temperature had hit 90 degrees earlier in  the day, which was unheard of in this particular small town in the Northeast.  So Paddy was on edge even though he was not working for the summer and wasn’t doing much to help Mother around the house or with the children.  Anna was still colicky and crying much of the time unless she was being held or rocked in the big rocking chair.

That day Paddy had a few of his buddies over to play cards and drink beer and they were all happy enough after they had a few beers under their belt.  Mother was left to deal with the children.  Winifred was always good, playing with her toys and eating a few cookies with a glass of milk.  That would keep her occupied for hours while Mother attended to the baby.

It was late afternoon before Paddy’s friends decided to leave and soon after Mother had put Anna down for a nap and all was quiet for a while.  This gave Mother time to start preparing dinner and since Himself  liked steak, she tried to have it several nights a week, with mashed potatoes and gravy and a vegetable, either carrots or peas.  They only had dessert once in a while because the meals were pretty filling.  They had either coffee or tea with their meals but since they were both coffee lovers, that’s mostly what they had.  In the summer it was iced coffee.

Tonight Paddy offered to do the dishes while Mother gave Winifred a bath before putting her to bed.  After she had bathed Winifred and put her pajamas on Paddy said he would read her a story.  Just about that time Anna woke up crying of course, and it was several hours before Mother was able to join Father in bed.  The children were sleeping soundly and Mother looked forward to at least a few hours sleep before Anna would wake for her next bottle.  Anna was nine months now but she still liked the bottle, in fact, it was the only thing she did like.  She usually spit out the mashed up food that Mother was trying to feed her.

Finally, Mother had fallen asleep and it seemed like it was only minutes before she was rudely awakened in the middle of the night by Paddy slapping himself trying to kill the mosquitos that were biting him.  He kept doing it until Mother finally told him to go out on the couch to sleep, especially since Anna was sleeping in her crib next to their bed.  He got up and headed for the kitchen, coming back a few minutes later with a sprayer to kill the bugs.  The sprayer was filled with DDT!    He started spraying it everywhere until Mother yelled at him to stop, that it could be dangerous for the children.  He poo pooed her although he finally stopped, but the odor of the DDT hung in the air even though all the windows were open.

To be continued.

 

11th Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up

When my parents first got married they did not have any children for six years after that.  This was unusual because they were both Irish and Catholics in good standing.  They actually eloped because they did not want their parents to know they were married.  The reason being, at least on Mother’s side was that Mom had insisted that her older children would live at home and turn over their salaries to her until they were twenty five.  This was so that she could pay for the younger children’s education.  And this meant college and or teacher’s college.  Mom was alone and had seven children!  Since her husband, Grandpop, had been killed in a coal mining accident when he was relatively young, she had to take over the reins of the family.  Mom was a feisty woman and usually got her way in most matters especially with her children.

So when Father and Mother got married they left town and went to a cousin of Mother’s who was a priest, later to become a bishop.  Fr. Kelly assured them that he would not divulge the fact that they were married especially to their parents.  They got married in the rectory with two young men who were studying to be priests as witnesses.  Then they went to dinner and a movie and returned to their respective homes.  Paddy was in teacher’s college at this time and he had the summer’s off.  So during this time both he and Mother and a few of her sisters (who were in on the secret),went to the Delaware Water Gap to work as waiters and waitresses for the summer.  The Water Gap was a beautiful summer resort for the rich and also provided meals and rooms for the wait staff.  This way the honeymooners could be together at least in the summer.  This went on for a few years before they decided it was too hard living separately and they told Mom and all of the family.  They found an apartment in town and settled in to married life.

It seemed forever before Paddy got his teacher’s license but it finally happened and that’s when Mother got pregnant with their first child.  So since he was working now and earning a good living teaching, Mother could finally quit her job in the Silk Mill, which was a hard and dirty job and concentrate on getting ready for the newborn.  Their first child Winifred, was born and named after his Mother of course!  Winifred was a blond, blue eyed beautiful little girl and they loved her and she was welcomed into the family by all.  With all the sisters and brothers on each side the family was growing rapidly.

It took Mom a long time to forgive Mother for marrying without her permission and cutting off her paycheck.  Mom also made it known that she did not like Paddy, no matter that he was a teacher and working and making a good living.  By this time she had her two youngest girls in teacher’s college and it was hard paying for them to go to school and keep up with the other bills.  She still had two daughters and a son at home who were working and turning over their paychecks.  So it wasn’t as though she was left high and dry but Mom could be a hard woman.

So time passed and as the weeks turned into months, Mother became pregnant again.  Winifred had just turned two and was walking and talking now and was such a delight to her parents.  Anna was born on a beautiful June day and Mother had a long hospital stay as they did in those days.  It was a good rest for the new mother especially if there were other kids at home.  One of the Aunts came over and took care of Winifred while Mother was in the hospital.

Anna was a healthy baby but she did cry a lot.  She was colicky and that meant gas, so the baby had pain and cried constantly.  The crying was causing conflict between the parents and they seemed to be always arguing about something.  Mother was frazzled between taking care of a two year old and a crying baby!

To be continued.

10th Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up/Growing Up

mother and girls
This is Mother and girls circa. 1951. I am in the middle.

Anna and I continued to yell at Buster to get out of the street as the cars were flying by.  Buster had no leash on so we couldn’t just grab it and drag him to safety.  Most of the drivers were slowing down hoping that the dog would run out of the street without getting hurt.   Buster had always liked to bark at cars and he certainly was not afraid of them.  Then he decided to sit down in the middle of the road and keep barking!  Each time we tried to run out to get him another car would come too fast for us to take a chance.

Then all of a sudden a car going much too fast and not seeing Buster, ran right over him!  He lay there quietly and we didn’t know if he was dead or just injured.  The car that had run over him just kept going unaware of what he had done or just did not care.  A few drivers slowed when they saw Anna and I in the middle of the street trying to pick Buster up.  The cars stopped long enough so that we could get to the sidewalk with the dog.  Buster was limp and heavy even though he was a small dog.  He had blood oozing from a few places and as Anna carried him, we were pretty certain he was dead.  He certainly wasn’t moving.  We both started crying as we started for home.  I told Anna that we were going to be late for school but she said that we had to get him home and have Mother check him out.  She was still holding out hope that he would recover.

So on we trudged and fortunately there was no snow yet, even though it was November, so we didn’t have to worry about that as we slowly walked up the hill towards home.  When we arrived at home with Buster in tow, my Mother screamed, “What happened?”  Through our tears we explained what had happened.  She took Buster and lay him on a blanket in the kitchen while she examined him and then pronounced him dead!  By this time we were all wailing!  Fortunately, the baby was asleep.  Mother cleaned us up a bit and gave us a note for the nuns at school explaining what had happened.  Then after a cup of tea, she shooed us off to school.  We knew we wouldn’t be learning much that day.

When we came home after a miserable day at school, we saw that Mother had wrapped Buster in the blanket she had used at first and put him in our little wagon on the covered porch where we kept tools and such.  And that’s where he stayed for the Winter, frozen stiff!  We couldn’t bury him because the ground was so hard from being frozen.  So every time we went to the toilet which was also on the porch with a door of course, we saw Buster.  He was covered with the blanket but it still brought tears to our eyes.  Needless to say, there was a lot of crying going on in our house that Winter.

To be continued.

6th Day of NaBloPoMo/Growing Up

000_0065Over the next few years my Father managed to lose his job as a teacher.  He always blamed the Republicans for that.  He told everyone that he had refused to vote Republican and since the  School Administration officials were all Republican and Pennsylvania was a Republican state in those days from the Governor on down the line, they only wanted teachers who towed the party line.  He would not work in the coal mines and since that was where the jobs were in the small coal mining town where we lived, he was pretty much out of luck as far as jobs were concerned.

Paddy’s father had been killed in a coal mining accident a few years after the Christening for Joan and he went down hill after that.  Between losing his teaching job and then his father in a few years, he was never the same after.  He even threatened suicide one time and my Mother had to call his Mother to come and try to talk to him.  I suppose he was in a depression for awhile then although no one ever heard about that then or at least no one talked about it.

So while there were reasons for his not working it still did not pay the bills and put food on the table, especially if you have several kids to feed.  My Mother did go out and find a few jobs cleaning houses and cooking for wealthy people.  Sometimes she had to stay overnight because her employer was having a party.  She made extra money then.  He was happy to stay home and watch the kids.  He would sit on his rocker and hold the latest baby on his lap and sing all the songs he knew.  He could cook but mostly he would make a big pitcher of lemonade and a package of cookies for us to eat.  But Mother’s pay was not enough to take care of all the bills even after we moved into the shack and the rent was less.

So the fighting and arguing was beginning to be a constant thing until one day Paddy came up behind my Mother and tried to strangle her!  She was pretty feisty and managed to get out of his grip and picked up the nearest thing and threw it at him, which happened to be a clock.  He ducked and started to come after her again.  Then she started to scream and I think he got scared that the neighbors would hear.  By this time all of us kids were crying and wailing and we ran outside.  She yelled at him to get out and never come back.  And fortunately he did just that!

To be continued.