Category Archives: Childhood

Grandma’s Lilacs

Our sense of smell is our most powerful sense and smell and memory are closely linked, probably more so than any of our other senses. Those with full olfactory function may be able to think of smells that evoke particular memories; the scent of an orchard in blossom conjuring up recollections of a childhood picnic, for example. This can often happen spontaneously, with a smell acting as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience. This is because the olfactory nerve is located very close to the area of the brain that is connected to the experience of emotion as well as emotional memory. In addition, the olfactory nerve is very close to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory; thus, the experience of the sense of smell evoking a memory. In addition to being the sense most closely linked to memory, smell is also highly emotive. The perfume industry is built around this connection, with perfumers developing fragrances that seek to convey a vast array of emotions and feelings; from desire to power, vitality to relaxation.

lilacs

As for myself, whenever I catch the scent of lilacs blooming in the spring, it reminds me of my Grandma Kramlinger. Grandma kept a beautiful garden, and her lilac bushes were her pride and joy. She not only had lilac-colored bushes, but also white, blue, dark purple, lavender, and pink. The blossoms were fragrant and cheerful, and as soon as you came upon her house, the aroma would drift all around you, assailing your senses with the sweet smell of springtime.

I have such lovely childhood memories of Sundays when she would arrive at our house for Sunday dinner. Her arms would be laden with lilac blossoms, and she’d say to my mother, “Here’s something to grace the table.” Mom would take the lilac flowers and fashion them into a lovely bouquet, put them into a vase filled with water and place them in the center of our dinner table. And there they would stay throughout the week, a reminder of Grandma, until the next Sunday when she came to visit again with fresh lilacs to replace them.

Now whenever I catch the scent of lilacs in the springtime, I wonder if the lilac bushes still bloom in her garden, and if the people who live in her house now are still appreciating their cheerful blossoms and simple beauty and enjoying their sweet fragrance.

 

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Writing 101- Day Eleven: “Size Matters”

Day Eleven – Size Matters:

* Today’s Prompt:  Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve.

* Today’s Twist:  Pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

I grew up as the middle child of seven children. I was the middle child, and there were seven years between my only brother and me. I had three younger sisters, so even though I was the middle child, I was also like the oldest of the youngest children. My father was very ill and bedridden, so we were forced to live on welfare. My mother certainly had family_mcdonoughher hands full, taking care of a sick husband and seven children. We lived in a housing project in St. Paul, Minnesota.

When you hear the words “project,” you often think of a slum, right? Well, this was not a slum. Everyone who lived in our neighborhood mowed their yards, planted flowers in their gardens, and made sure that their children were well-behaved. It was a nice neighborhood to grow up in. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even aware that we were “poor” until I entered middle school. Yes, I was naïve. But I was happy.

In our neighborhood, each apartment building looked exactly same. There were four apartments to each building, all on the ground floor, wash 300labeled with the same number but from A to D. We lived on Timberlake Road in Apartment A. Our apartment had two levels with one downstairs bedroom, three upstairs bedrooms and two bathrooms. We also had a kitchen, living room, and basement.

One of my fondest memories of growing up was wash day. My mother always did the laundry on Mondays. As a matter of fact, it seemed that Monday was the big laundry day for most of the neighborhood. As you walked through the backyards, all the clothes lines were filled with laundry swaying in the wind. And since we couldn’t afford a dryer, she’d also hang our wash out to dry. As I lie in my bed on Monday nights, I would revel in the smell of those fresh sheets.garden

Another wonderful memory is also associated with my dear mother, God rest her soul. She loved to plant flowers and every spring she would lovingly plant her flower garden, taking care to water them and weed them. She took such pride in her garden. As I stated before, many of our neighbors did the same. It was a lovely sight to see – gardens full of flowers, plants, and rose bushes. It was as though they wanted the world to know that even though they were poor, they were still hopeful that tomorrow would be a better day.

I enjoyed my childhood – it was a happy one. And even though we didn’t have much, we had what we needed, and that’s the most important thing of all – the love and support of each other. And what more can you ask for?

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Writing 101- Day Ten: “Happy Leftovers Day”

Day Ten – Happy Leftovers Day:

* Today’s Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal.

* Today’s Twist:  Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

To me one of the best things in life is to sit down and enjoy a wonderful meal, and the best part of a wonderful meal is if you are sharing it with family.

I grew up as the middle child of seven children, and we never failed to sit down to dinner together as an entire family every single day. It was an expectation. As a matter of fact, it was a rule that if the telephone rang during the dinner hour, it was never answered so that we could eat our meal uninterrupted by the outside world. And we never ate our meals in front of the television set. That would be absolutely unthinkable! Instead, we shared the details of our lives, which later became the model for me and my husband’s dinner rules when raising our own children.

We shared many special meals, especially those during the holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, but when I consider what my favorite meal is, it’s one that my mother used to prepare as part of leftovers: chicken and dumplings. My mom made the best chicken and dumplings I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste (naturally, I’m probably biased). And my favorite part of the meal were the potato dumplings.

My mother was full-blooded German, and her mother taught her how to make those delicious potato dumplings that I loved so much. I remember that whenever I learned that we were going to have chicken and dumplings for supper, I’d look forward to it for the rest of the day, and could hardly wait for supper to arrive, just so I could eat those dumplings! And eventually I figured out that whenever we had leftover mashed potatoes after Sunday dinner that the next night was the time we’d have the potato dumplings, because the mashed potatoes were the main ingredient for the dumplings. She’d mix the mashed potatoes with flour and I think she used milk and then she’d dumplingsdrop them into the boiling water. Now these dumplings weren’t your spoon-sized dumplings. They were indeed the size of potatoes, and once they had chicken gravy ladled over them, they were so tasty.

After I was married, I tried to make those potato dumplings, but they’d never turn out the same as my mother’s. I’d call her and say, “Mom, the dumplings didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to. What did I do wrong?” She’d just laugh and say, “Cindy, it just takes practice, that’s all.” Of course, she didn’t have a “recipe” for them. She just made them the way any good cook does – by memory and instinct. I never have been able to duplicate them to this very day.

And her baked chicken was always the juiciest, moistest, most tender chicken you’ve ever had. It makes my mouth water to think of it. Those two things, (the chicken and dumplings) together with some corn on the cob and hot rolls and butter makes the perfect meal.

I only wish my mom were still here to share a meal with our entire family, but knowing that she’s watching over us and that some day we will see her again makes me smile.

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My Little Blossom

Stephanie and Sarah as little girls

“My Little Blossom”

A daughter is a gift from God.
There cannot be a finer thing
Than watching while she’s growing up.
Her growth reminds me of the Spring.

She’s just like a little blossom.
A tiny bud in bloom is she.
It seems she grows a bit each day,
Like a flowering apple tree.

She’s such a darling little girl.
Her personality is sweet.
She can’t help but be so charming,
And when she smiles, it’s quite a treat.

In her world, her dolls are babies
And all of her stuffed toys are real.
She plays her games of make-believe,
While playing dress-up with such zeal.

Her hugs and kisses are precious.
I melt when she says, “I love you.”
She drapes her arms around my neck,
And then I know her love is true.

I wish that my little blossom
Could remain forever with me.
But I know that she must grow up
To become her own apple tree.

P39

 

Essence of Reminiscence – Week 3 – Siblings & Childhood Friends: “A Friend for Life”

I believe that everyone should have the pleasure of knowing that they have a best friend, at least at one time or another in their life, and I’m so fortunate that I can say that I have. As a matter of fact, I have a friend who has been a lifelong friend. Her name is Laurie. I met her in 1960 and we are still friends to this very day! We were only five at the time, and she was my very first friend.

There have been periods throughout these many years in which we have not had a chance to communicate with each other for two to three years at a stretch, but when we do, it’s as though we had just seen each other the day before. The fact that we can do this is a testimony to our friendship. It shows that the sands of time have not broken our bond of friendship, and I am forever grateful for this blessing. There’s a song make new friends 10that the Brownie Girl Scouts sing which summarizes how old friendships should be compared to new friendships, and it’s called: Make New Friends: 

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold. A circle is round, it has no end. That’s how long I will be your friend. A fire burns bright, it warms the heart. We’ve been friends from the very start. You have one hand, I have the other. Put them together, we have each other. Silver is precious, gold is too. I am precious and so are you. You help me, and I’ll help you, and together we’ll see it through. Across the land, across the sea, friends forever we will always be.

And speaking of Brownies, I will tell you my favorite story about the two of us when we were six years old and in the first grade together. Laurie belonged to the local Brownie troop. Every Tuesday she would wear her Brownie uniform to school. I was so jealous of her. I wanted to be in the Brownies, but my parents could not afford the cost of the uniform. So I had to settle for Laurie’s accounts of every meeting. One day she came home with her Brownie handbook and showed me a story about Brownies. Now these Brownies were good deed-doers, and in the middle of the night when everyone was fast asleep, the Brownies would come out in secret and go  forth to do good deeds. When the people arose in the morning the good deed would be apparent, but of course, no one knew who did the good deed. The most important part of doing a good deed was to never reveal your identity. If you told anyone that it was you who did the good deed, then the good deed would be erased out of the Book of Good Deeds.

Of course Laurie and I, being six years old, were quite impressionable and wanted to be Brownies and do a good deed. So Laurie arranged for me to sleep over at her house one Friday night. Laurie knew that her parents went to bed at eleven o’clock every night so this was the perfect opportunity for us to do a good deed. The plan was that at midnight we would sneak down the stairs and into the kitchen at which time we would set out breakfast for everyone – bowls, spoons, glasses, cereal boxes, orange juice and milk. Since we were only six years old, we didn’t think about the milk spoiling or the orange juice getting warm. We were just concerned with the task at hand – to be Brownies.

So that evening, I went to Laurie’s house at suppertime. I remember we had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I can still smell of the fresh tomatoes and the toasting cheese sandwiches. Naturally, the meal which I ate at my friend’s house tasted so much better than it did when I ate the same meal at my house. Mrs. Larson even brought out an apple pie for dessert. Mrs. Larson made the best apple pie. I can still taste the sweetness of the brownie dollsugar and cinnamon mixed with the perfectly baked apples and the flaky light brown pie crust. It makes my mouth water just  to remember it.

After dinner, Laurie and I played the usual game we always played: make-believe. We took turns playing teacher. We even managed to have her brother David and her baby sister Valerie sit in as students. We were allowed to stay up until nine o’clock since it was not a school night. But at nine o’clock we raced up the stairs to Laurie’s bedroom. We were so excited that we were going to be Brownies in just three hours.

Now Laurie’s parents had this beautiful wooden cuckoo clock hanging on the wall in their living room. Every hour on the hour the little cuckoo bird inside would come out and announce the hour by his cuckoo. If it was nine o’clock he would cuckoo nine times.  If it was nine-thirty he would cuckoo only once. This was the way we were going to know when midnight came. We decided that once we could hear the little bird cuckoo twelve times, the coast would be clear, and we would be free to sneak down the stairs and into the kitchen.

To pass the time, we whispered to each other so her parents wouldn’t know we were still awake. We whispered all kinds of things that little girls whisper about. And Laurie had a flashlight which she used to show me how to read underneath the blankets. This was a new trick to me. So we read stories. I remember our favorite book at this point was a book that Laurie owned: The Big Book of Mother Goose. There was one more book which Laurie owned and was also a favorite of ours: The Fairy Tales of Grimm.

I remember listening for the cuckoo clock and sure enough, just as Laurie had promised, we could hear it in her bedroom. The time seemed to drag by. We were so anxious to do our good deed that there was no way we would fall asleep.

Then finally, the time came. Midnight. We crept out of the bedroom, tiptoeing past the other bedrooms, hoping the wooden floor would not creak. We reached the top of the stairs. We had decided beforehand that the best way to get down the stairs quietly was if we sat on each step and then slip down to the next one, using our backsides instead of our feet. I remember counting those stairs as we slowly descended the staircase – there were thirteen steps exactly. I remember sitting side by side with Laurie, sliding down those steps. Because of the darkness it was difficult to see, but we managed by holding on to each other’s hand. When we reached the bottom of the stairs we tiptoed quietly into the kitchen, trying hard not to giggle. Of course, we had to do our good deed in the dark because Laurie’s mom and dad slept in the downstairs bedroom.brownies 6

Into the kitchen we tiptoed, as slowly and as carefully as we could. Finally we reached our destination and started whispering in each other’s ear about what to put out on the table. We set about our work, knowing that one day perhaps our good deed would be rewarded. I admit that it was hard not to giggle as we set out the bowls and glasses. We were having a wonderful time being Brownies.

As a matter of fact, we were having such a wonderful time that at first we didn’t notice Laurie’s mom when she entered the kitchen. Laurie saw her mother first and darted underneath the sink. There was no cupboard under the sink, so it was the perfect place to go. When I noticed my friend hiding beneath the sink, I knew something was up. I turned around and there she was – Mrs. Larson in her pink nightgown with her big fuzzy slippers. She was standing there looking at me with her hands on her hips. Now when I think about it, I know she was suppressing a smile. As soon as I saw her, I hurried to where Laurie was, but it was no use; the jig was up. Mrs. Larson flipped on the kitchen light and said, “Girls, it’s not time for breakfast yet. You still have about eight hours of sleep time left. Go on now. I’ll finish up in here; you two get to bed.”

We scurried out of the kitchen and upon passing the cuckoo clock in the living room, Laurie pointed it out to me. It showed the time to be only 11:15. I guess we had miscounted the cuckoos! We giggled all the way up the stairs and into Laurie’s bedroom.  We never tried to be Brownies again. But I think our good deed counted, anyway!

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”   ~ John Leonard

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This post is presented as part of the Essence of Reminiscence series. which is a weekly event presented by the WordPress Daily Post. If you’d like more information about this event, please click here:

Siblings & Childhood Friends

There’s Nothing Like Mom’s Home Cooking

To me one of the best things in life is to sit down and enjoy a wonderful meal, and the best part of a wonderful meal is if you are sharing it with family.

family eating 10I grew up as the middle child of seven children, and we never failed to sit down to dinner together as an entire family every single day. It was an expectation. As a matter of fact, it was a rule that if the telephone rang during the dinner hour, it was never answered so that we could eat our meal uninterrupted by the outside world. And we never ate our meals in front of the television set. That would be absolutely unthinkable! Instead, we shared the details of our lives, which later became the model for me and my husband’s dinner rules when raising our own children.

When I consider what my favorite meal is, it’s one that my mother used to prepare as I was growing up: chicken and dumplings. My mom made the best chicken and dumplings I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste (naturally, I’m probably biased). And my favorite part of the meal were the potato dumplings.

My mother was full-blooded German, and her mother taught her how to make those delicious potato dumplings that I loved so much. I remember that whenever I learned that we were going to have chicken and dumplings for supper, I’d look forward to it for the rest of the day, and could hardly wait for supper to arrive, just so I could eat those dumplings! And eventually I figured out that whenever we had leftover mashed potatoes after Sunday dinner that the next night was the time we’d have the potato dumplings, because the mashed potatoes were the main ingredient for the dumplings. She’d mix the mashed potatoes with flour and I think she used milk and then she’d dumplingsdrop them into the boiling water. Now these dumplings weren’t your spoon-sized dumplings. They were indeed the size of potatoes, and once they had chicken gravy ladled over them, they were so tasty.

After I was married, I tried to make those potato dumplings, but they’d never turn out the same as my mother’s. I’d call her and say, “Mom, the dumplings didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to. What did I do wrong?” She’d just laugh and say, “Cindy, it just takes practice, that’s all.” Of course, she didn’t have a “recipe” for them. She just made them the way any good cook does – by memory and instinct. I never have been able to duplicate them to this very day.

And her baked chicken was always the juiciest, moistest, most tender chicken you’ve ever had. It makes my mouth water to think of it. Those two things, (the chicken and dumplings) together with some corn on the cob and hot rolls and butter makes the perfect meal.

I only wish my mom were still here to share a meal with our entire family, but knowing that she’s watching over us and that some day we will see her again makes me smile.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?”   ~ Lin Yutang

 

Essence of Reminiscence – Week 1 – That Unforgettable Journey: “A Dream Come True”

As we sat down to supper the night that my husband, Michael, gave us the news, I could tell he had a special announcement for us. There was a twinkle in his eyes as we said grace, and he was rushing us through the prayer so fast that we could barely keep up. We had hardly spoken the word “Amen” when he began to speak.

“Okay, everyone, listen. I’ve got some really exciting news to tell you!” Then he paused, deciding he would keep us in suspense.

“What is it, Dad?” inquired twelve-year-old Sarah.

“Well. . . we’re going on vacation. . .  to a very special place.” cabins-on-a-lake

“Ooh, Daddy,” gushed ten-year-old Stephanie, “are we going to the cabin again — the one where your boat got blown away?”

“Nope,” laughed Mike,”that’s not it.”

????????????????????????????????????????“Are we going to see the mountain where the presidents are?” guessed Sarah.”

“Mount Rushmore? Nope. That’s not it, either.”

Everyone became silent, out of guesses as to where it might be.

“Okay, dear,” I said, “we give up. Why don’t you tell us, for goodness’ sake?”

“Alright. We’re going to some place that you’ve always wanted to go, some place that they call the happiest place on earth.”

“Where, Daddy? Where?” Stephanie was pulling at her father’s arm.

I gasped, looking at my husband with wonder. “Are you kidding? Disneyworld? We’re going to disney world image 5Disneyworld?”

“Yep, Disneyworld.” He grinned at me, nodding his head.

By now both the girls were out of their chairs, jumping up and down with excitement. My husband told us the story. His sister Diane had won four tickets for a trip to Disneyworld with all the accommodations which she had no use for. She offered them to Mike. He offered to buy them at half-price (which is a steal, to say the least). He couldn’t say no to such a fortuitous deal that practically fell into his lap.

Disneyworld! It was the place where I had dreamed of going to as a young girl and I had always longed to bring our children there, but we could never afford it. Now fate was handing us the chance to make my dreams come true at last. It was July and our vacation was scheduled for November. As a matter of fact, we would be in Florida on Thanksgiving Day. But we were comforted by the fact that the hurricane season would be over by then. Our son Joe, was in college, so he didn’t want to take the time off to come with us.

airplaneThe months flew by, and before long we were on the airplane, landing in Orlando, Florida. We had been fortunate with our plane tickets, also. We actually were supposed to land in Texas and then take another flight to Florida, but the airline made a mistake with our seating assignments by not giving us four seats together. When I telephoned to confirm our flight, I discovered the error and complained about the mix-up, at which time they ended up giving us a direct flight to Orlando, and not only that, we were given first-class tickets and landed twelve hours sooner than we would have originally. So Providence was on our side from the beginning.

After we rented a car and checked into our hotel room, we decided we would spend the rest of the day just relaxing by the pool at the hotel. The next day we decided to go to see the Magic Kingdom first.

“Look, girls,” I pointed out, as we came closer to the amusement park. “We’ll have to take the big paddlemonorail boat across the lake to the Magic Kingdom, or we can take the monorail that goes over the tracks high above the trees. Which one should we take?”

“The paddle boat,” shouted Stephanie.

“The train,” shouted Sarah.

“Well, Mom, I guess it’s up to you,” said my husband, as we were pulling into the parking lot.

I knew which one I wanted to take. The big paddle boat was painted white, and it looked just like the river boat right out of the movie Showboat.

“Let’s take the paddle boat.”

“Mom wants to take the paddle boat, girls, so that’s what we’ll do.”

We parked the car and walked over to where we had to pay for the park tickets. We had already bought four-day passes for a discount price at the hotel, so we showed our passes there and were each given bracelets to wear. Then we went to the dock and waited with all the other tourists for the paddle boat to come and pick us up.

When it finally arrived, the girls were so excited they could barely contain themselves.

“It’s a double-decker, Mom. Can we go on the top deck, please?” begged Sarah, pulling at my arm.

paddle boat 10“Sure, Honey, I think we could manage that. What do you think, dear?” I looked at my husband, expecting a positive answer.

“Yep, let’s go.

I grabbed Stephanie’s hand, not wanting her to get lost in the crowd, and began to climb the steps to the top deck. magic kingdom 500We had no sooner arrived on the second deck when the whistle blew and the paddle boat began to move through the water toward the other side of the lake where the Magic Kingdom was located.

After five minutes of traveling on the water, the Magic Kingdom came into view and it was so beautiful. It was even more beautiful than I had ever imagined it would be. Then some music began to play from some hidden speakers located all around us. After a few bars, I recognized the tune immediately and a lump formed in my throat, while tears threatened to spill from my eyes. The music was “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

In that moment, I thought, “I finally made it here. My childhood dream has come true at last, and I’m able to share it with my daughters, and I know they’ll remember it forever.”

I was so happy. All I wanted to do was relish the experience because I knew that this particular moment in time would never return again and I would never feel exactly the same way again. For very seldom is one able to experience their dream vacation of a lifetime —  even though it happens forty years later than it was wished for — and sometimes dreams really do come true.

wish star


When you wish upon a star

Makes no difference who you are

Anything your heart desires

Will come to you

 

If your heart is in your dream

No request is too extreme

When you wish upon a star

As dreamers do

 

Fate is kind

She brings to those to love

The sweet fulfillment of

Their secret longing

 

Like a bolt out of the blue

Fate steps in and sees you through

When you wish upon a star

Your dreams come true

 

(Lyrics by Ned Washington)

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”  ~ A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

 

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This post is presented as part of the Essence of Reminiscence series. which is a weekly event presented by the WordPress Daily Post. If you’d like more information about this event, please click here:

That Unforgettable Journey

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