My Uncle Tom

Sister and I

Uncle Tom was my mother’s only brother.  I never knew him very well because he was so gruff and grim and very rarely spoke to children.  As a child, whenever my sisters and I, along with my mother, would visit my grandmother’s house, Tom would be sitting at the kitchen table eating and reading the newspaper. That’s the only place I ever remember seeing him.  Funny I remember him at all because his face was usually buried in the newspaper.  I am not sure if he was interested in politics because he never seemed to engage anyone in conversation, least of all the children.   At least never more than a grunt and that was to ask either mom or one of his sisters for more coffee or more to eat.

Tom had dark hair and always had a five o’clock shadow and if he had any personality, it was never apparent.  The only way I knew anything about him was through my mother and her sisters. They talked about him behind his back of course.  The strange thing though was they always used the name “Dick” when they referred to Tom.  My sisters and I always assumed that Dick was his name.  We never found out that his name was Tom until we were adults!

Tom did have a favorite sister and that was Lily, one of his older sisters.  She was married and living with her husband in another State.  New Jersey was the State and eventually most, if not all of the family eventually moved there for the jobs.  There was work in New Jersey for both men and women.  But at this time, Lily was the only one of the family that lived there.  The reason being that her husband Frank got a good job working in the ship-yards in New Jersey before and during the War.  The second world war that is, or WWII as most people were calling it.

This was a few years before America got into WWII  and the young men were either being drafted or joining up with the Army, Navy or the Marines.  The older men, by that I mean men in their thirties and forties were going where the jobs were and also helping the war effort. They were glad to get the jobs as there  was no work in Northeastern Pennsylvania except the coal mines.   No one in their right mind, wanted to work in the coal mines.  You either died in a mine accident or died more slowly from “black lung”.  Jobs had been scarce for a long time in that area and the men and their families sometimes had to work in the mines because they couldn’t afford to move to New Jersey or their families didn’t’t want to move.

Tom was deferred from the service because he was the only man in the family.  His father had died a few years before from an accident in the Coal Mines.  His sisters worked in the silk mills and Tom did also but the pay was not that good.

The younger men elected to leave the area rather than work in the mines.   Since New Jersey was the closest State to northeastern Pennsylvania where we lived and had a lot of good paying jobs, especially now with the rumors of war and the buildup of companies making the machinery of war.  It was only natural that a lot of young men in the area would migrate there.  Also, the pay was much better in New Jersey.

But back to Tom.  He worked in the silk mill closest to where he lived.  Several of his sisters worked in silk mills also.  I know my mother would talk about the time she worked there.  It was interesting mostly because my mother was a good story teller.  In fact, when my friends would come to our house to either pick me up for a dance or other activity we were going to do, or just to visit, they would be entranced by the stories my mother would tell.  A lot of the stories were about ghosts and graveyards and they would scare both my friends and my sister’s friends. However, they always wanted to come back for more which they did on a regular basis.

There was a definite smell that clung to my aunts who worked at the mill.  It was a medicinal smell that was not pleasant.  It just seemed to ooze out of them and when they would come to visit us and we would complain to my mother about the smell, after they left of course.  She would try to explain where the smell came from and told us to never to mention the smell in front of the aunts.  As far as I know, none of us ever did .  Most of the older sisters, including my mother had to quit school after finishing eighth grade.  This was because she, as well as the other older sisters had to go to work in one of the mills, to help the family survive.   There was not  much, if any other work in the area at that time.   Tom refused to work in the mines.

Mom, she was my grandmother but she insisted that her grandchildren call her ‘mom’ because she thought grandma made  her seem too old.  My mother and her other sisters who had children did not mind that we then had to call our mothers,  ‘mother’.   It was the Irish way anyhow!

Lily and her husband Frank were much loved by mom.  I think one of the reasons was because Lily was a good Catholic and went to church on a regular basis and mom was very religious.  Lily’s husband Frank was also a good Catholic.  Lily also had a big family consisting of five children, only one was a boy.  John was his name.   He was named after his grandfather and mom loved that.  John was also very spoiled by his mother and indeed by his sisters also.

Lily doted on John and sent him to Catholic school when he was in high school, which was several towns away from where they lived.  He had to take the streetcar to get there.   Whenever either myself or my sister, Anna would see him on the streetcar, we would address him as ‘Jackie’ because that’s what we called him when we were younger.  He would now correct us and say “John please”!

Lily decided early on that John should become a priest, which of course the nuns were happy about and encouraged this.  Mom was extremely happy about this also.  In fact, John was her favorite grandchild!   The other grandchildren were relegated to somewhat lower positions.

So Lily was the ‘Golden Girl’  and her family got most of the attention from mom.  I never heard any of the other sisters complain about their children being left out of mom’s affection but I do not believe they were happy about it.  I do remember being snubbed however whenever my sisters were visiting mom and Lily and her family were there also.

Lily’s girls had taken dancing lessons, tap dancing and were always asked to perform for everyone to much applause and adulation.   Of course they were always dressed in the latest fashion which Lily would donate to my mother for her ‘girls’ when they were done with them.  The material of the dresses was always taffeta and lace and we would refuse to wear them because they were too fancy for us.

To be continued.

Murder in a Small Town

 

Murder In a Small Town

 

Chapter II

After Joe was expelled from Catholic School, his family put him in public school.  He continued to have problems because he was always getting into trouble, which included  minor things like pranks on fellow students.  These at first seemed harmless enough, but were escalating to more serious offenses, such as putting a mouse in a teacher’s desk drawer, which scared the teacher to death.  Next he got into a fight with another student and when called into the Principal’s office, he mouthed off to the principal.   It was obvious he was escalating in his trouble making.

Although the public school was a lot more lenient than the Catholic school had been, he managed to graduate by the skin of his teeth.  Before he graduated however, he managed to get his girlfriend pregnant.  The girl and her parents were not happy, to say the least. So a  hasty marriage was arranged by both his and her parents, with only the immediate families attending.  This happened only a few months after both Joe and Janet had graduated from high school.

They moved in with his parents for the time being and with his father’s help, Joe landed a job working with his father in an auto mechanic shop as a trainee.  They planned on finding an apartment of their own as soon as possible, with the parents help of course..

After being married a few months, Janet had a miscarriage.  There were mixed feelings about this among the family members.  Joe was not happy because the pregnancy was a big reason he felt he had to get married and now here he was stuck with a wife and barely eighteen years old.  Both of their parents were confused but felt it was too late to do anything about it.

The young couple went on to find an apartment and not long after, Joe started his new job with his father.  It was six months since they married and Janet was getting restless staying home alone while Joe was off at work and she started nagging him about maybe getting a job herself.

“What do you think of the idea”?  she asked Joe when he walked in the door from work.

“What idea”?  he said.

“Of me getting a job, instead of lounging around here all day in this tiny apartment”?

“A wife is supposed to stay home and let her husband support her.  Besides, you have not recovered from the miscarriage”.  Joe said.

“I am fine and it has been a few months”.

“Well, I do not like the idea of you going to work, makes me feel like I am not doing my duty as a husband”.

Janet was not prepared for this attitude from Joe.  He was acting like an old man instead of the teenager he was.  So she decided to drop the idea for now.  No use getting into an argument over it.  But she knew she would get her way soon enough.

 

To be continued.

 

A TALE OF TWO KITTIES

The tale of two star-crossed felines, with special thanks to Sarah Piggott from RSPCA Millbrook Animal Centre. A rough patch Patch came into our care in May of last year. His owner had far too many cats to care for – they were all under-socialised and very timid. The household then suffered a house fire,…

via Lovecats! How nervous Patch found his purr-fect match — Katzenworld

I am reblogging this story from Katzenworld to call attention to the fact that people can adopt pairs of kitties who have bonded with each other and shouldn’t be separated.  They make great pets.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS continuing story….

Grandmother/Mom
Grandmother/Mom

Mom, who was our grandmother, but insisted that her grandchildren call her mom, was a major force in my mother’s family and therefore in our family as well.  As a result of having to call her mom, we had to call my mother, mother.

When we were children, we often went to visit Mom with my mother.  She lived several blocks away and since we did not have a car, walking would have to do.  Three of mom’s daughters, she had eight, lived with her at the time.  And a few had married and had their own homes and families.  Two became teachers and the rest worked in the silk mills in the area and turned in their pay to mom as long as they were living at home.  Mom used some of the money to send two of the youngest girls to Teacher’s College.  Mom was very progressive especially being she was from the “Old Country”.

We, my sisters and I, were shy and would hide behind my mother if we were asked any questions when we visited.  Mom would comment on how bashful we were and my mother would scoff and say, “They are not that way at home!  Can’t keep them quiet there.”  Which of course, made us more bashful when we were out..

We kids enjoyed playing in mom’s large backyard where she kept chickens and had a vegetable garden.  We made up our own games and were usually pretty tired when mother would call us in for a snack of lemonade and cookies that mom had made.  Usually oatmeal and raisin cookies and the lemonade was so cool and refreshing that we guzzled it down.

After all the playing and then walking home we kids were pretty tired and usually took a nap, giving mother a brief respite and maybe a visit with her friend and neighbor, Mrs. Kelly.  Mrs. Kelly lived right next door to us and had a large yard in which were planted all manner of vegetables.  She used to give us vegetables on a regular basis, anywhere from carrots to tomatoes and onions.  My mother would make wonderful stews with chunks of meat and always potatoes added.  My mother had a small garden and even some chickens but with four children, was always grateful for donations of food especially around the holidays.

Mrs. Kelly, in addition to being very helpful to us, was also a bad influence on my mother, teaching her to smoke and sometimes drink alcohol.  But mother never became a big drinker and she never became a heavy smoker either, in spite of Mrs. Kelly.  But they did have a good time when they got together.  They both loved hearing and telling a good story.  There was always a lot of laughing when they got together.

To be continued.

24th Day of NaBloPoMo/The Laundromat Continues

Merlin and Lady
My cats, Merlin and Lady. Merlin has his head turned away.

THE LAUNDROMAT

The decor was elegant and her love of art apparent in the many seascapes and still life paintings adorning Alice’s walls.  They sat on the couch and sipped coffee to which Alice had added a little brandy after John agreed and the conversation turned to Gloria’s Father.  John had wondered about him and Alice seemed anxious to tell John  that she was divorced and not on very friendly terms with her ex-husband.  Alice told him that she had been divorced for five years and was doing just fine with her job as a Real Estate agent.  The ex lived in another state and neither she nor Gloria had seen the “bastard” in several years.  And what’s more, they liked it that way.  Seems he was a big drinker and when he was drunk he became violent and abusive towards both Alice and Gloria.

“Sounds like you’ve had a difficult life with him,” John said.

“You might say that,” Gloria replied.  “For the first few years alone, it was extremely difficult.  Chuck was never an easy man to live with and he made it as hard on me as he could.  Gloria was only a teenager then, so it was doubly hard.”

“You seem so self-assured and together now Alice.”

“Thank you, it took me quite awhile to get this far but I am doing great now.  Real Estate has been good to me and I am considered one of the best agents in the office.  I have been able to buy this house and provide Gloria with a good education.  With practically no help from her Father.  Of course therapy did help me more than I can say.”

John was getting a little uncomfortable with the conversation and tried to change the subject.  “An attractive woman like you must have a lot of men friends,” he said.

“Not as many as you may think.”

“Really, I find that surprising.”

“Well I am very particular about who I go out with and when you get to my age the pickings are very slim,” she joked.

“You certainly don’t look that old Alice.  What are you, about forty?”

Alice laughed and said, “try adding another ten or more years to that and you would be closer to the truth.”

“You are joking,” he asked?

“Not a bit,” Gloria said.

John was strongly attracted to Alice and learning that she was closer to his age, he thought that he may have a chance with her after all.  So he jumped in and asked her if she would go out with him to dinner sometime.

“I’d like that John,” she said and kissed him impulsively.

He was a little startled but not so much that he didn’t respond by kissing her back.

On the drive back home John’s thoughts were filled with Alice and how soon he would see her again.  He was in a rosy glow and wasn’t paying as close attention to the road as he should have been.  So as he rounded the corner near his house, he didn’t notice the oncoming car until it was too late.  The crash was so loud it brought all of the neighbors who lived close by out onto their lawns.  One of the neighbors called 911 and they arrived soon after.  As John lay bleeding on the side of the road, with the red lights swirling around, the thought dawned on him, that he wouldn’t be able to keep that date with Alice.

To be continued.

23rd Day of NaBloPoMo/ The Laundromat

cultivate-for-illo-friday1
The cat who loves books.

THE LAUNDROMAT

As the ceremony began, John felt a lump in his throat as he watched Gloria take her vows.  She was radiant!  Paul looked happy but very nervous, which was apparent from the perspiration shinning on his face.  The lace and chiffon dress Gloria wore clung gently to her slim figure.   For some reason she  seemed very vulnerable to John.  He noticed tears in Alice’s eyes and could hardly hold them back himself.

At the reception Alice introduced him to everyone as Gloria barely had time to kiss him on the cheek and greet her other guests.  If it wasn’t for Alice, he would have been completely lost.  When he was getting ready to leave Alice came up to him, clasped his hands and told him how happy she was that he came.  She even suggested having lunch together at a future date.  He didn’t know what to think of that, but he agreed.

A few weeks later John was just settling in to life without Gloria.  Oh he’d probably see her now and again in passing but it would never be the same.  The phone ringing startled him out of his musing.   He picked it up and said, “Hi this is John, it’s your nickel.”

“Hi John, this is Alice, remember me?”

“Of course how are you doing Alice,” he tried to keep the surprise out of his voice.

“I’m fine John, I was just wondering if you would like to go to lunch next week?”

“Why um, well, I, that is yes that would be great!?  Where would you like to go?”

“There’s a little Italian place not too far from where I live, called Giovanni’s.  The food is great if you like Italian.”

“That sounds good Gloria, I love Italian, what day and time shall we meet up?”

They set the date for the next Wednesday about one o’clock, and they would meet at the restaurant.   John was flushed with excitement over the thought of meeting Alice for lunch. He couldn’t fathom why he was so excited.   ‘I must be getting old,’ he thought, ‘it’s only a lunch with Gloria’s Mother.  I don’t even know if she has a husband or she is just trying to be friendly to a friend of her daughter.’

Still, Alice was an attractive woman and still young and she seemed to like him.  When Wednesday rolled around, John was still trying to calm himself down.     Alice was more his age he thought and that calmed him some.  He told himself Alice either had a husband or a boyfriend.   ‘Attractive woman like her wouldn’t be just out there.  Would she? Here I go again’, he thought.  I got all excited about Gloria and where did that get me?’  So as he was driving to the restaurant, he had himself under control and just said to himself that he would have a nice lunch and that was it.

Giovanni’s proved to be an ideal meeting place for Alice and John’s first date.  It was very informal, with red and white checkered tablecloths and candles burning on each table.  Even sawdust on the floor to make it more authentic.  John ordered the best red wine they had and Alice was impressed.  The food proved to be delicious and since they both were good eaters  they ordered  more than they enough food.  So they each had doggie bags when they left.  They had chatted about mundane things during lunch since they really didn’t know each other.   And the afternoon passed pleasantly with no glitches by John due to nervousness.  In fact they got along great and especially for a first date, if that was what this was, he thought.  Alice invited John back to her house for coffee and dessert.  And of course he accepted.  He wasn’t ready for what happened next though.

To be continued.

Day 15 of NaBloPoMo/Aunt Anna (cont.)

 Anna continued going with Jim as the years rolled on.  Towards the end of their relationship, he was little more than a bum.  He was now renting a room and drinking pretty heavily. His mother had died some years before and he went downhill after that.  He contacted lung cancer from his constant smoking and was now living on a small pension.  Still, Anna was loyal to him and she tried to do what she could for him, seeing to it that he ate and took his medicine.

They would rarely visit us but he now sounded strange as he had throat surgery and wore a voice box but he still smoked.  My Mother would offer him a good meal but he could never eat much now.  He died soon after and Anna decided to moved to New Jersey to live with one of her two sisters who were living there.  One was single and had a good job and one was married and had several children.  She moved in with the single one since they had more in common and it was quieter.  That only lasted a short while and she found herself a room in a private house.

Soon after moving, she got a job as a hospital aide.  She visited her sisters on her days off and found herself another boyfriend.  He was an Irishman of course, and Kelly was his name.  He was quite a bit older than Anna but they got along famously.  He was a gruff truck driver and generous with his money.  He was also a widower.  He showered her with gifts and attention.  She certainly wasn’t used to this but she loved it.

Anna became the talk of the family but it didn’t seem to faze her.  The family was Irish, Catholic, boasting a priest.  And Anna was a devout Catholic rising at five a.m. to attend mass before going to work every day.  She would also walk several miles after work.  She was a Health Nut before they were popular.

She seemed unaware of the controversy surrounding her and Kelley’s relationship.  So when he gave her a large diamond and asked her to marry him, the family was surprised.  Kelly was Catholic and widowed so he was fine in the eyes of the Church.  But when Anna asked the priest in the family to marry them in the church he refused to perform the ceremony.  He was always an arrogant pain in the ass anyway.  Anna was devastated as he was her favorite nephew.  And she had showered him with gifts and money over the years when he was struggling.  He didn’t think Kelly was good enough to be in the family.

In spite of this Anna and Kelly planned a small wedding.  Just family.  Then, a few weeks before the wedding was to take place an unexpected thing happened.  Kelly had a heart attack and died!  I remember attending the funeral.  It was a very sad affair especially so since it was supposed to be a wedding.  By this time I had also moved to New Jersey with my family and lived not far from Anna.  She was sad but stoic, not showing much emotion.  But everyone knew she was that way.  No nonsense.

Anna held up in spite of her grief, getting up early and going to mass each day.  Then she’d go to work and walk miles afterward.  She never did marry!

The End

DAY 13 OF NaBloPoMo/STORY

 

MY AUNT ANNA

My Aunt Anna was a no nonsense woman.  From my earliest memories, that was the one thing that stood out.  Anna didn’t mince words.  Either she liked you or she didn’t and if she didn’t you were painfully aware of it.  I knew she liked me.  Probably because of the similarities in our dispositions.  Strong and stubborn.

Anna never married and probably just as well, my Mother used to say.  In an era where women either got married or were considered an old maid, she was the latter.  Not that she didn’t have boyfriends although no one was breaking the door down to get to Anna.  She had a steady man in her life when she was young.

That was Jim and they were together a lot.  Jim was a quiet man, not unlike Anna herself.  They would come to our house on Sundays and always bring ice cream or some other treat.  So of course we kids liked them.  They would usually sit and chat with my Mother while my sisters and I would polish off the treats.  I always liked when they came, mostly for the treats. They would never stay very long and when they left my Mother would usually say, “they are a couple of strange ducks.”  I never knew what that meant but I thought it wasn’t very good.  But as long as they brought the treats I liked them.

Anna always talked in a gruff voice and had a strange sense of humor.  She would laugh when no one else was laughing and she made a strange sound when she laughed.  She did most of the talking when they were at our house and Jim would offer a grunt occasionally.  Everyone in the family thought they would marry one day.  She had a flat in the city and he lived with his mother, taking care of her in her old age.  He was the typical Irish oldest son, taking care of Mother.  Anna and Jim went on like this for some 20 years.

She would always say to me, “make sure you marry an Irishman!”  Whereupon I would reply, “not if he was the last man on earth.  No Irishmen for me!”  I was referring of course to my Father who had left us high and dry when we were small children.  Even so, Anna didn’t like it when I rejected the Irish men out of hand.

To be continued.

Best piece of advice I’ve ever received!

Mame self portrait
Self portrait in acrylic

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received came from my lawyer at the time.  I had the same lawyer for the many times I was going to leave and or divorce my husband.  I was married and had four children at the time and my husband had this habit of flying into rages with little or no provocation.  I never knew when one of these rages were going to happen, so there was no way to prepare for it.

He mostly had a knife in his hand when he was raging and it was always close to my chest or neck.  I of course knew enough to freeze and never say or do anything to provoke him.  Sometimes I was allowed to walk away without him touching me at all, as his rage subsided.

He was usually very contrite afterwards, always apologizing and saying he would never do anything like that again.  In the beginning I believed him but after a while, when these rages would happen again and again and he refused to go for help, I could not take it any longer.  Now through all the years this had been going on, my lawyer was always very consoling but never gave me his opinion.

But after a particularly violent incident when I thought I would be killed or one of the children injured or worse, I asked my lawyer for advice.  My family had given me advice constantly to leave him but there was no help at that time or place to go, except temporarily.  And even the police would not do anything.

I had started divorce proceedings and had him (through a Court Order) thrown out of the house.  I was talking to my lawyer on the phone and I was wavering about going through with the divorce.  These words my lawyer said to me struck a cord in me that I’ve have never forgotten.  And through the process, whenever I would weaken a bit about going through with the divorce, I would hear those words.  He said to me, “Marion, think of it as an operation, something you’ve got  to do!”  Well, I had decided that it was the last time I would let this happen and never again would I let him abuse or intimidate me again.

And as far as giving this advice to someone else, I don’t think it would be up to me to pass it along.  Most times no one would listen anyway.  Everyone has to come to their own conclusions at the right time.

16th Day of NaBloPoMo

Anna and Marion
Anna and Marion

Soon after Paddy told Mother about his feeling that he would be among the first to be laid off, his prophecy came true.  And soon they were having a problem with paying the rent and even getting groceries.  Paddy refused to work in the coal mines!  That entailed physical labor, not to mention getting your hands dirty and actually coming home exhausted.  It was the only work around unless you owned your own business.

He had tried that with a friend, opening a hauling business.  They invested in a pick up truck and were going to haul blocks of ice for people to use in their ice boxes.  Ice boxes were the precursor to the refrigerator, and pretty much everyone had one.  They would haul wood and anything else people needed if it would fit in the truck.  After about a year they decided to give up on that idea, not because it was a bad idea but because they had to work so hard.  Neither of them were workaholics by any means and even though they were beginning to make a pretty good living, it was still manual labor with all the attendant problems; like getting your hands dirty and sweating and  being too tired to go out and drink beer with the guys after work.

There was work in the silk mills but that was low paying and it was women’s work and he wouldn’t do that!  Mother offered to go back to the silk mill but Paddy did not want to stay home and watch the children.   That’s when they had to move to the shack, which was the only place they could find with the rent they could afford.  We as kids were all excited to be moving to our “new” house!  Once we moved in and realized  all the problems, our excitement turned to dismay.  Mother said we could get a dog and that made us happy for a while.

Shortly after we moved into the shack, Father decided to visit his mother for a few days.  Little did we know that he did not plan on returning.  He had given Mother the impression that he was coming back but she knew enough from the past that his not coming back was a distinct possibility.  After not hearing from him for about a week, she was sure he wasn’t returning.

So she did the only thing she could do; she filed for welfare.  And in the meantime Mrs. D. helped us by giving us vegetables from her garden and whatever else she could come up with.  Even Mom came through and gave Mother some money from her savings.  But of course Mother had to listen to a tirade against Father before she received the money.  She thought it was little enough to put up with to get food for the family.  And she agreed with most of it anyway.

And so the days turned into weeks, then months, then years and in that time Father had returned for just enough time to get Mother pregnant for the fourth time.  Needless to say that no one was happy about this pregnancy!  Least of all Mom, who by this time was not speaking to Mother.

To be continued.