This is for Photo 101: Connected
The family is our first connection.
This is for Photo 101: Connected
The family is our first connection.
AN ELEGY FOR MY SISTER
She was the youngest of us
Together we numbered four
She had a smile for everyone
Her endearing ways I remember
In fact, I will never forget
The times gone by and the times we had
We never will see again
Her body is gone but her spirit lives on
To keep us in good cheer
I’ll never forget what joy she brought
To those of us who knew her
All the time she was here.
This Elegy is for my sister, who passed on in October of this year. She will be missed.
A Day Like Any Other
It was a day like any other, a Sunday, only different because everyone was off work and it was quieter than usual out on the street. Traffic noise was at a standstill, nothing was going on because a lot of people go to church or to brunch or just out for coffee at local coffee-shops. I arose at my usual time and staggered to the kitchen to put on the tea kettle. Can’t do much without my tea in the morning. I usual have about three cups before the old brain waves kick in.
My favorite tea being green tea and now they have so many flavors of green tea, it is hard to pick one. So every time I go to the store, I pick up a different flavor. Sometimes its green tea with white tea added, which has a very smooth taste and I like it a bit better than the others. Others have a fruity flavor added to the green, like mango or peach and then there’s green with jasmine. It’s always a decision for me in the morning. Sometimes I reserve the chamomile for the evening, it is so soothing.
After breakfast this morning I go to the computer and check out the news of the day, which of course is never good and sure enough there’s been another school shooting. I don’t know why I even check the news at that time but it is pretty much in your face when you turn the computer on and I tell myself that I need to have a news free day at least once a week.
My family is usually busy with other things on the weekends, so it is just Lady and myself and she enjoys the extra lap time, while I write my morning notes. My morning’s writings can be just anything that happened the day before or plans for the day or if I remember a dream I had, I try to jot more of it down and figure it out. If I am really feeling creative I start a story, short or otherwise, maybe a poem.
By the time I am finished with the notes, it is usually time for lunch and today I am feeling very hungry. On Sunday I sometimes have a muffin with cream cheese, one that I got at the Farmers Market on Saturday or a scone I got at the same place. Mostly I buy veggies at the Market but a few local bakeries have stands there and are hard to resist.
When I am done with lunch, Lady usually gets on the bed on the pillows of course, in the sun and she’s off into dreamland for several hours. Today I have elected to go for a walk downtown for some much-needed exercise. So armed with sunscreen, a light jacket and a hat I take off. I take a few dollars with me in case I see something I may like in the several thrift stores on the way.
It is really sunny when I get outside and the hat and sunglasses come in handy. I go in a few thrift stores but do not find anything I like or need. Oh well, next time, I tell myself.
About an hour later I find myself back in my apartment and ready for a nap myself. So I find my book and lie down on the couch where after reading for a while, I fall asleep for at least an hour. When I wake up, it is time for dinner, so I fix myself a light salad and after I am finished it is time to watch a movie. Time is sure flying by today, I think. As I am just getting into the movie, the phone rings. It is my daughter.
Her voice sounds funny and it dawns on me that she has been crying.
“What is it?” I ask.
“It’s Kay,” she chokes.
“What’s the matter?” I am really concerned now.
My mind races with all kinds of scenarios, Kay, my sister had just emailed me a few days before and everything was fine.
“She had a heart attack.”
“What,” I gasp.
“Kay had a heart attack and died.”
Story about what happened on one day in your life.
For Writing 101
I decided to carry out Paddy’s orders because he seemed very angry. So I marched out to where Anna and her friends were standing and gave her the news. She, of course, was not happy with the orders, especially in front of her friends. She told me to tell him,”He knows what he can do!” And she and her friends proceeded to take off, shouting back to me as they were leaving, that they were going to a coke place which was one of our hang outs. In fact, I had just started working at this place a few weeks ago.
I went back into the house and told Himself what Anna had said, word for word. I wasn’t very good at thinking things through in those days. What the heck, I was still just a kid.
Well I thought Paddy would burst a blood vessel as his face got beet red and he couldn’t talk for a few minutes. I thought it best to leave the scene, so I went upstairs and got ready for bed. Soon I heard Mother and Himself arguing and it was getting louder and louder. I heard Anna’s name mentioned several times. I kept my ear pressed to the floor in case Mother needed me. In fact, I was falling asleep in that position. I figured it wasn’t going to get violent or I think I would have heard the noise. Paddy wasn’t really a violent man and I only remember one time that I had gotten a beating from him but with his belt.
I had just gotten into bed when Anna came crawling in with me asking me how things were going? I told her I didn’t know but there had been a lot of loud arguing going on and it was best that she wasn’t there. We managed to get to sleep and got a few hours in before getting up early for breakfast and facing the music.
The next morning Anna and I hurried and dressed, had some tea and toast, and were out the door before Himself was even up. He usually got up late because he didn’t have to go to work until 3 pm. Mother seemed a bit tense but said nothing about the night before so of course neither Anna or myself mentioned anything.
We had decided to meet a few friends early and go to one of our local hang out places for a few hours before we had to be at work. Mother had no objections to this, in fact it seemed she was anxious to be rid of us. So Anna and I took off for parts unknown and was glad to get out of the house.
Now Anna’s birthday was drawing near and Mother had promised Anna that she could have a big birthday bash in the cellar. We called it the cellar even though it was just remodeled a bit so the landlord could rent it out for different business’s. While we were there it was empty so we used it as a storage area and it was perfect as a party site. Mother had promised Anna this before Paddy came back to live with us.
There was a lot of animosity between Anna and Patty lately, and he was trying to assert his authority in the house. So a few days later when he found out about the party, he told Mother that he did not want Anna having the party, since she was behaving so badly towards him. Mother tried to explain that she had promised Anna she could have the party before he had returned. But he was adamant that his word would rule and they got into an argument about it.
He made it clear to Mother that if she let Anna have the party, he was leaving! This was the moment Mother was waiting for because she had been getting pretty sick of him herself. And after her taking him back, here he was bossing everyone around, including herself, just as though he was our lord and master! She told him that Anna was having the party and if he didn’t like it, then he could leave! He did just that, packed his bags and took off and no one but Mother was there to see him go! I only saw him one time after that and it didn’t end well.
Meanwhile, Anna’s party took place and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. The food and soft drinks flowed and the dancing to the big bands was heavenly.
I want to thank all my followers, commenters and likers and especially the input I received. It really helped to know that you were listening to my story and hopefully enjoying it! There will be more to come in the future and I hope you will be around to read and listen! So stay tuned!
We knew when Paddy was out of the Army because that’s when our allotment ended. After the war was over and he was back home, his family, meaning his mother and sisters at least, wanted him to go back home to his wife and children. In fact they were trying to come up with ideas to make this happen. I guess they did not want to be supporting him anymore.
So one day not long after Paddy was home, Mother got a call from her brother-in-law, who was married to one of Paddy’s sisters. The brother-in-law was one of the few in Paddy’s family that Mother actually liked. He wanted to set up a meeting between Paddy and Mother and I guess he was pretty convincing because a meeting was set up for the following week.
Now Mother, for some reason, did not disclose anything about the meeting with us kids. So we were completely in the dark. On the scheduled meeting day, which happened to be a Sunday when we were all at home, Paddy and his brother-in-law arrived. Paddy was in full regalia, his Army dress uniform no less.
I heard voices from downstairs drifting up to where I was doing my homework in my bedroom. Not recognizing the voices except Mothers, I just continued with what I was doing. Soon thereafter, I heard Mother come to the bottom of the staircase. She asked me to come down, saying there was someone she wanted me to meet. Now I had no idea it was Paddy, so I told her I was busy doing my homework.
But she kept insisting that I come down and I thought I’d better go down or else she would keep on insisting. I walked slowly down the steps and lo and behold, there was Himself in his Army get-up with a big smile on his face. My first inclination was to run back up the steps But Mother was saying, “It’s your Father, aren’t you going to say anything?” He approached me and planted a big kiss on my cheek. I put my hand to my face and wiped the kiss off and ran back up the steps. I could hear Mother making excuses for my behavior but I was too angry at the time to care. How could she do this to us?
A few weeks after Paddy had moved in with us, we kids were still not happy about it. At least we were warned beforehand but It was still really tense even though Mother tried to make everything seem normal. She started cooking big meals and had fresh coffee whenever Paddy wanted it. He and Mother took the back bedroom and us kids had to make do with whatever was left. He found a job at a defense plant on the night shift as a security guard. It was so very strange having him there and working; it took quite a while to get used to it.
But after a few months, I at least and the younger kids got used to having him around. In fact, he started having his buddies over on the weekends for poker and beer. Mother did not seem too happy about this. Soon I was joining Himself and his buddies, to listen to the war stories and maybe have a sip of beer once in a while. Anna at sixteen and in the tenth grade, decided to quit school to work in a factory and was earning a pretty good salary. She never became acclimated to having Himself there. She could not accept the fact he could tell her what to do!
So there was tension in the air between Paddy and Anna on a regular basis. Anna worked the late shift also, getting out at 10 pm. Father was home early that night; he usually did not get home from work until 12 midnight. When he noticed that Anna and her friends from work were standing outside the house talking and laughing, he sent me out to tell her to “get in the house right now!”
To be continued.
Mother found out about the details of the allotment from a reliable source and it only made her despise Paddy more than she already did. First of all, Himself got drafted into the Army at his age because he had deserted his family and he had never made an attempt to contribute anything to their welfare.
There were records from when Mother had taken Paddy to court to try to get child support from him. And the Army had access to these records. He had not only refused to pay child support, but when the judge ordered him to get a job and pay his fair share; he said he would quit the job rather than pay child support. The judge at that time told my Mother that he was just no good and that she would never get anything out of him.
That’s why when we started receiving the allotment, not only was Mother shocked but we were all surprised. Although what she found out didn’t surprise her. It seems when Paddy was drafted and the Army officials told him why they were drafting him at his age, he wasn’t happy about it. He asked that his allotment be sent home to his mother who would put it in savings for him when he got out of the service.
The Army however had other ideas, they told Paddy that they were sending his allotment to his wife and children who desperately needed it. He would get a small stipend to use for himself. Unfortunately for us, Paddy wasn’t in the Army long enough. We were hoping for at least two years.
The end of the war was rapidly approaching when he went into the Army and much to our chagrin, he was being discharged too soon. That’s what it seemed like to us at least. He was in the service about one year.
The war in Europe came to a close on May 8, 1945 and there was celebrating in the world. Victory in Europe was called, V-E Day . I was fourteen then and Anna was sixteen. We were in high school and very independent then. That night, Anna and I and several of our friends piled into a truck belonging to one of Anna’s boyfriends and drove to the next town where there was a town square and we joined with hundreds of other people who were singing and yelling and kissing and even dancing. Music was coming from a band in the middle of the square. We stayed there until the wee hours of the morning, and then had breakfast at an all night diner and went home. It was a happy time, especially so for the families who had husbands and sons coming home.
In the time Paddy was in the service, we for the most part were enjoying life more than we ever had before. We were receiving his allotment and Mother was working several days a week. Even Anna had a part-time job and was contributing to the family. Things were really looking up for us for the first time in a long time.
To be continued.
We were enjoying our new house and it was great except for facing Main St. with the traffic out there, and in the back of the house there were railroad tracks. And since Anna and I had the back bedroom, we were awakened every night in the wee hours when the train came by with the blinding light on the front of the train. It shined right in our eyes as it went by. Of course they always blew the horn as they were passing. We got to know the engineers on the train though and they waved whenever they passed in the daytime.
Time seemed to fly by after we moved into the new house. It seemed no time before I was eleven years old and Anna was thirteen and Anna at least, began noticing boys. They still weren’t that interesting to me. But other things were going on in our lives and in the world.
We were getting the newspaper now and Mother always read the paper and listened to the news on the radio. It was 1941 and we, in this country, were completely unaware that Japan was planning an attack on us! So when the attack came, we were so unprepared it was tragic, with massive loss of lives, and ships and planes in and around Pearl Harbor. All the young men in the country were anxious to join the Armed Services and go to fight for their country.
Our family’s lives were not interrupted that much if at all, mostly because there were no boys in the family. The rationing however was another story; it affected us greatly and it was put in place for the duration of the war. Gasoline was of course rationed but since we didn’t own a car, it didn’t bother us. The thing that did bother us was the sugar and butter rationing. We did a lot of candy making, fudge mostly, and we were good at it. Paddy taught us how to make fudge, of all things; it was his favorite and he usually added peanut butter to it. So good! And Mother made cakes and cookies and pies and they were also very good, especially the huckleberry pies. We would go into the woods near our house, with Mother leading the way and pick as many berries as we could without passing out from the sun. And depending on how many berries were left when we got home, Mother would make one or two berry pies.
So of course we would run out of the ration stamps for sugar and butter very fast and then we would have to wait until the next month to get another book of ration stamps. Well, we weren’t too happy about having to go without our goodies for that long a time. So Mrs. D., our friend in need, came up with a plan to stretch those ration stamps. And while it wasn’t exactly kosher, we didn’t think it was that bad. After all, we had to have our sweets. They actually made life worth living especially for us kids.
I am not sure exactly how we managed fixing the ration books but I know glue and scissors were involved and a “C’est la vie” attitude, which we certainly had. At least Mrs. D. and I had that attitude. My Mother washed her hands of us when she found out what we were doing.
There was another benefit about to come our way because of the war but it didn’t come about until a few years later.
To be continued.
After looking at Anna’s head, Mother and Mrs. D. decided they needed to do something and quickly! Anna was moaning softly when she actually felt like screaming! I had slipped out of the house, hoping no one would notice that I was gone.
The women decided that Vasoline would be the thing for Anna’s head. She had blisters all over her head and they were huge. Vasoline was good for everything and every family kept a big jar of it on hand. Mother knew it was good for burns so while Mrs. D. was comforting Anna; Mother was applying the Vasoline. She was doing it very gingerly. They were all hoping that the stuff would work miracles so that Anna would be able to perform in the play the next evening.
So with the Vasoline on her blisters and a big towel wrapped around her head, Anna tried to get some sleep that night. I crept into the house just before dark and everything was quiet. Mother was not happy with me, even though it was an accident, which I tried to explain, but she was having none of it. She told me to be quiet so that Anna could sleep and that there was a plate in the oven for my dinner. So after wolfing down the food, I decided my best plan would be to go to bed and hope for the best.
The next day was cold in our little shack and especially so since it was Winter and a new layer of snow was added during the night. Mother had kept the fire going though and had hot tea and oatmeal for us before going to school. Anna was staying home of course while Mother checked her head to see if she would be able to be in the play. As Anna came downstairs, her eyes were red and swollen from crying, not because she was in pain, although there was some of that too. She was crying because she was thinking she wouldn’t be able to be in the play.
Then, after checking Anna’s head, Mother announced that her blisters had gone down and were smaller now and not as red as they had been. Anna said they weren’t as painful either. Now they had to figure how they would get her hair in shape so that it would be glowing for the play. Mrs. D. came over early to help come up with an idea to make sure Anna could be in the play. She suggested they use dry shampoo on her hair and said that she would go to the store and buy some.
Against all odds, Anna appeared in the play that night, a lot of the credit going to Mrs. D., who insisted on going to the play with the family. The play was a success and Anna’s hair looked very good considering what happened. “She sang like an angel,” Mother overheard someone in the audience say. Anna received many compliments that night and was very happy!
It was 1939 and a lot was happening with us, not only did we move to a nicer house, it was a two story duplex and we had an indoor toilet! There was no actual bathroom with a tub or sink but the indoor toilet was a godsend for us. We had two bedrooms upstairs with two of us kids in each room. Mother had to sleep downstairs on the couch but she was used to that. And the roof did not leak and also the wind did not whistle through the cracks in the walls. We thought we were in Heaven!
Things were happening in the world also, none of it being good. Hitler was on the march in Europe and the war drums were getting much louder! It seemed that Roosevelt and Churchill were constantly in touch now!
To be continued.
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
Anna was in fourth grade and I was in second grade. We were in Catholic school of course and it was all nuns in those days. The nuns were nice to us for the most part. But of course there was always the strict, you will follow all the rules to the letter, nun. She was the one who cracked your knuckles with a ruler. I, personally, never had my knuckles cracked and I was always grateful for that!
The nuns in the lower grades all thought that I was a timid soul who would burst out crying if I got yelled at or got my knuckles cracked. So I let them go on thinking that way, because it worked for me. It was in second grade that I decided I was on the road to hell for what I had done.
Now the sisters were always trying to drum up ways to make money for different causes. It could be for something they needed for the convent, or for the Missions and the poor children in other countries, or any number of things. Sister name in second grade was Sister Innocent. She was very sweet if a bit old. Well Sister Innocent started a lollipop business or suckers as we called them then. They were all flavors and were really good as I recall. I know I loved them! One of the Parish women made them in her kitchen and also sold them from her house. She always donated some to the school.
First thing in the morning Sister Innocent would ask who was going to buy a sucker? She wanted those who were getting one to pay first and collect the sucker at lunch time. Never having any money I knew I couldn’t have one. So one day when lunch time rolled around, Sister announced that the boys and girls who had paid for the suckers, come up to her desk and pick one out.
Thinking she would never know whether I paid or not, since she didn’t keep a record and her memory wasn’t that good, I marched up with the other kids and picked out a sucker. My heart was pounding and I was really nervous but I really wanted that sucker! I relaxed after I realized Sister was none the wiser. I went on with my life of crime for some time without being caught. I never knew whether Sister was just letting me get away with it, or didn’t even notice, assuming we were all honest. Each time I did it I was nervous but it didn’t stop me from getting that sucker! I don’t remember how long that continued.
Things at home were going along well until Paddy showed up one day asking to come back again. He wasn’t working and his mother had thrown him out telling him to get a job and go back to his family. He was very pathetic and Mother caved in and let him come back. I think she thought he would be a help to her and she was so tired of being alone with only the kids for company.
So he behaved himself for a while but soon enough he was having his friends and his brother over for poker and beer. Which was alright Mother said if he was working. He could not seem to find a job though and I think he actually was looking for work. But the effects of the Depression were still plaguing the country and even though Roosevelt was doing many good things to get the economy going, it was going to take some time before there was a significant turn around.
After Father was home a few months, Mother found out that she was pregnant again! Needless to say no one was happy about this.
To be continued.
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