Category Archives: Childhood

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 – actually, decades – 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. I remember 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 and 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 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. So Laurie arranged for me to sleep over at her house one Friday night. Laurie knew her parents went to bed at eleven o’clock every night. The plan was that at midnight we would sneak down the stairs and into the kitchen where 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 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 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 ran 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.

So to pass the time, we whispered to each other so her parents would not hear. We whispered all kinds of things that little girls whisper about. I also remember Laurie had a flashlight and showed me how she 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 descended—there were thirteen stairs exactly. I remember sitting side by side with Laurie, sliding down those stairs. 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 into the kitchen. 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 began to whisper into 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 we didn’t notice Laurie’s mom walking down the hall. 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 did try 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




All Grown Up

growing up 1When I was growing up. I did have dreams, just like any other kid. I went through the normal stages of imagining all the different things I could be –  a movie star, a singer, a ballerina, a doctor, a teacher, even a nun. I dreamed about all the places I could go, and all the things that I could do once I grew up. But at the same time, I was always pretty realistic about my dreams. I knew even then that there were bound to be limitations, because you don’t always get what you want and that you must be learn to be happy with what you receive. Perhaps this stemmed from the fact that I grew up in a family of seven children and believe me, when you grow up in the middle of that many kids, this is a lesson that is well-learned!

But I must say that life as an adult truly is pretty much as I imagined it would be when I was growing up. I’m happy, and as far as I’m concerned, I think I have a lot to be proud of.

I have the best husband in the entire world. Mike means everything to me, We’ve been together since 1974 and have been happily married since 1976. I’m proud of our marriage and of the love we have for each other. It is everlasting, and our bond can never be broken.

Our children are beautiful. Each one is unique in his/her own way, and I love each one of them. Joe is our oldest and our only son. He’s a college graduate and has made an excellent life for himself in the business world. He is kind, compassionate, and caring. He’ll make one woman a wonderful husband and he’ll be an excellent father. Sarah is our oldest daughter, and the middle child. She is outgoing, loving, and sings like an angel. She’s married to a wonderful man and was born to be a mother. Stephanie is our baby. She’s an introvert and is passionate, loving, and kind. She’s a very talented cellist and will be starting on her master’s degree in music performance in the fall. I’m proud of every single one of my children. As a matter of fact, I would say that my children are my greatest accomplishment in life. I would lay down my life for any one of them.

What else am I proud of? I’m proud that I went back to college after ten years and received my nursing degree. I’m proud of the fact that I worked in the operating room for over twenty-five years, and was the charge nurse of the entire department for six of those years.

I’m proud of the fact that I learned how to play the flute in my twenties and the organ in my thirties and now in my late fifties I’m learning how to play the piano and loving every minute of it. I’m proud that I used to be a soloist in our church choir, until one of my recurrent laryngeal nerves was damaged during surgery and I couldn’t solo any longer. But I didn’t give up and now I’m back as a member of our church choir and I’m glad that I can give praise to my God in this beautiful way.

I’m proud that I honed the craft of making quilts.

I’m proud that I quit smoking in 1999 and have never looked back.

I’m proud of my organizational skills.

I’m proud that I’m an American.

I’m proud that I’m a woman.

I’m proud to be me, and that’s not always easy.

And last but not least, I’m proud that I was able to grow up. It wasn’t always easy, but then again, life isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be, is it?

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  ~ E. E. Cummings



The Aromas of Childhood

Did you know that our sense of smell is our most powerful sense? One reason is that smell and memory are closely linked. 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.

lilacsWhenever 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-colored blooms. The blossoms had a fragrant odor and were so cheerful to look at. As soon as you came upon her house, the aroma would drift all around you, assailing your senses with the sweet smell of springtime. On Sundays, Grandma would always arrive at our house for Sunday dinner, her arms laden with lilac blossoms, and she’d say to my mother, “Here’s something to grace the table.”

Now whenever I smell 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 enjoying their sweet fragrance.


My other favorite smell which I find comforting is that of cookies baking in the oven. This particular aroma brings back childhood memories of my mother baking cookies in our kitchen. She always seemed to bake the cookies especially on the frigid Minnesota winter days when it was too cold for us children to play outside. The delectable sweet aroma of the cookies baking would waft through the house, making our mouths water with eager anticipation for that first bite. I remember how difficult it was, always having to wait because Mom would say, “You have to wait until the cookies cool off first.” We’d all wait patiently until she’d hand them out, one by one, and we were never disappointed with our first taste.

There are other fragrances and aromas that I enjoy, but it is these two that I mentioned above that make me smile and remember the nostalgic days of my youth, and yes, also make me wish sometimes that I could return there for just a little while.

 QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.”  ~ John Betjeman


Tomato Soup, Felix, and the Beach

While I was growing up, the elementary school that I attended was located approximately four blocks from our apartment, so I’d walk to school every day. And it didn’t matter whether it was raining, sleeting, snowing, or whether it was sweltering hot or freezing cold – I walked, no matter what. After all, we were living in Minnesota, and we were used to all kinds of weather. We simply dressed accordingly and adjusted our attitudes as well.

My elementary school did not serve hot lunches, either, nor did we eat lunch at our school. As a matter of fact, all the studentstomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich lived within walking distance of the school; therefore, at lunch time, we all returned to our homes for lunch and then came back to school following lunch for the afternoon school session.

As I said, it didn’t matter if the weather was inclement; we walked no matter what the circumstances. And my mother would serve just the right lunch, too. For instance, if it was a blustery winter day, I knew that when I came home for lunch, she would have a piping hot lunch waiting for me. And my favorite hot lunch was tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. Whenever I ate my mom’s hot tomato soup, it always made me feel so warm inside, and the grilled cheese sandwich was always the perfect complement to the soup.

I loved going home for lunch. It meant that I could watch my favorite television program called “Lunch with Casey Jones.” This was a kids’ program that aired at noon in the Twin Cities during the 1960’s which featured a railroad engineer called Casey Jones played by Roger Awsumb, the host of the program. The show consisted mostly of cartoons, skits, special guests like animal handlers from the zoo, birthday greetings, and the occasional musical segment.

felix the catAs I think back to these long ago school days, memories of these cartoons flash through my mind. I can see the images of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester Cat, Tweety Bird, Elmer Fudd, Roadrunner, and Pepe Le Pew as they looked to me when I was only six years old. Then there was Lulu, Tom and Jerry, Porky Pig, Speedy Gonzales, Yogi Bear, Popeye, Olive Oyl, Baby Huey, Wile E. Coyote, and Yosemite Sam.

And even though I loved all these cartoons, my favorite of them all was Felix the Cat.  I absolutely adored Felix the Cat. There was just something about him that I really liked. I loved the way he looked, the way he acted, even his high, squeaky voice. And no matter what impossible situation he found himself in, he always, always managed to get himself out of. For some reason, I identified with him, and I’m not even sure why.

At the end of every episode, Casey Jones would read the birthday list for the day. Parents would send in the names of their children whose birthdays it was for that day and then their name would appear on the birthday caboose as Casey Jones read them on the air. After he read the names on the birthday list, he would sing the birthday song: Happy, happy birthday to every girl and boy; We hope this very special day brings you lots of joy. We hope the birthday presents you get from Mom and Dad; Makes this very special day the best you ever had! Each year, I could hardly wait for my birthday and to see my name on that caboose and to hear my name as Casey Jones read it on television. It was one of the highlights of my birthday.

And then, when lunch was over, my mother would make sure I was bundled up in my snow pants, winter jacket, scarf, hat, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmittens, and boots, and I would wave goodbye as I trudged off to school again for the afternoon session. I was content, having watched my favorite television show and being full after having eaten my favorite lunch. But… with the cold Minnesota winter wind blowing in my face, in the back of my mind, I’d be thinking, I can hardly wait for summer. Then I can walk up to McCarron’s Lake with my best friend, Laurie and we’ll go swimming or maybe we’ll just lie on the beach, side by side, each on our own favorite beach towel. Let’s see…how many more months will that be?

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “If  you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.”  ~ Tom Stoppard



The Reason I Was Born Into The World

I have often pondered the question of why I was born into the world, as I am sure many of my earthly brothers and sisters have. After all, I was born into a family of five other sisters and one brother, so why was I added?

As far as birth order is concerned, I am the middle child. But there were seven years between my older brother and I, and I have three younger sisters; so in a way, I am also the oldest child of the younger set of children. I therefore have the attributes of both a middle child and an oldest child.

My parents were poor and could ill-afford so many children, but being the good Catholics that they were, I imagine that any formal birth control was out of the question. Many years ago I came to terms with the fact that my mother was not excited by the discovery of her pregnancy with me. But again, being one of the faithful, she learned to accept what the Lord had given her, not to mention the three children who came after me.

I think I was born to make my mother proud. She always used to say to me: “Cindy, I think you can do anything that you set your mind to.”  She was always so happy when I would receive special awards from school, when I graduated with honors, and when I decided to go back to nursing school.

I think I was born into my family to act as a peacemaker. I was always the one who would try to make things better. For instance, if two sisters weren’t talking to each other, for whatever reason, I would be the one to step in and try to get them to make up so everyone would be happy again. And if there was an argument, I never took sides, no matter what. I just couldn’t do it. I never wanted any trouble to start up because of me, and I would do anything to avoid it. I would try to keep the peace at whatever cost.

I think I was born into my family to be a good big sister to my three younger sisters. I remember I always tried to teach them things that I knew how to do, like when my great-Aunt Emma taught me how to knit, I taught them how to knit. I also taught them how to play games, like Jacks and Seven-Up. As we grew older, I would take them to places like movies. I remember taking them to see The Sound of Music, and they still talk about it to this day. We made some lovely memories together that warm us now that we’re older, and it feels good to think that maybe I was a good big sister.

I think I was born into the world to help people. I was a nurse for twenty-five years and worked in the operating room. During that time I must have assisted on literally thousands or surgeries—surgeries that made people’s lives better, surgeries that cured people, surgeries that actually saved lives! I’m proud of that, and I thank God every day that I was able to do this wonderful work for all those years.

I think I was born into the world to meet my husband, fall in love, and raise a family. I believe that my husband is my soul mate, and if I had not been born, maybe he would be alone right now. Because I was born, there are three wonderful adults in the world who are our children, and the world is lucky to have them. I don’t think the world would be the same place without them. I’m so proud of them. And some day maybe they’ll have children who might grow up to find a cure for cancer or AIDS or do something else important for the entire world. And all because I was born. You never know.

But you know what? When it comes right down to it, does anyone really know for sure why s/he was born? Probably not. It’s only guesswork. Only God in His heaven knows for sure. But I am sure that I’m truly glad I’m here.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:  “By virtue of being born to humanity, every human being has a right to the development and fulfillment of his potentialities as a human being.”  ~ Ashley Montagu ~

My Beloved Mother

Today is my mother’s birthday, and although she is no longer with us,  I know that she watches over her family with love from heaven.  She has always remained alive in our memories and in our hearts. This poem is for you, Mom. I love you.




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I remember my Mother lovingly,
My memories of her are crystal clear.
I remember her acceptance and her love,
Memories which are so dear.

She married my Father because she loved him,
Then seven children did she bear,
It didn’t matter how many children she had,
Because she always showed me she did care.

The house she kept was immaculate,
Not a speck of dirt was in sight,
She set me quite an example,
As she worked both day and night.

She encouraged me to do my best,
Whether it be at home or at school,
She taught me how to get along with others,
That I must obey the golden rule.

She showed me how to do unto others,
As you would have them do unto you,
That I needed to be kind and caring,
And to myself I must always be true.

She brought me to church each Sunday,
And she taught me to love our Lord,
How to cherish and care for others,
That in Heaven I’d get my reward.

My Mother was my helper and guide,
She was my teacher and friend.
I loved my Mother with all my heart,
Until the very end.

My greatest regret is that she’s not here,
To meet my children today,
To be their Grandma and show them her love,
Or guide them along their way.

Yes, my beloved Mother is in Heaven now,
She is with the God she adores.
I know when I die she will be there,
To open wide Heaven’s Doors.

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The Librarian and the Bookmobile

 I have very special memories of first grade.  What I remember the most about this time is it was the year I learned to read.  Learning the alphabet was exciting in itself; but then the magic began.  I learned how to put those letters together and form words.  This meant, of course, that I could read; and there was nothing better — at least not in my book! (please excuse the pun)

Reading presented a whole new world to me.  All I needed was to open a book and I could be transported to another time, another place, another event – or I could be someone else instead of just me.  Not only was reading the most valuable lesson for me, it was also the most rewarding.  I became a bookworm (as my mother called me).  I would read everything I could get my hands on — from the backs of cereal boxes to the book of fairy tales my aunt had given me for Christmas.  I had discovered a very special world — the world of reading.

Our family lived in a low-income housing unit.  My father was disabled from working and my mother had seven children to care for.  We did not have a car – we took the city bus everywhere, including to church.  My problem was I had no way to get to the downtown library.  My mother would not allow me to ride the bus alone, and everyone else was too busy to take me to the library.  I was sad —  no library — no books — no reading.  I had an ardent desire to read, but there were no books to read – except at school.  I fervently wished there was a library in our neighborhood.

Another two years passed and then my wish became a reality. Our neighborhood was chosen to have the bookmobile come to our area.  Never heard of it?  Let me tell you about it. The bookmobile resembled a big bus; but instead of seats, it had shelves – shelves and shelves of wonderful books. I felt I was the luckiest girl in the world because the bookmobile was coming to my neighborhood.

Once school was out for the summer, the bookmobile would arrive on Wednesday of the next week.  I could hardly wait! When Wednesday arrived, my mother brought me and my little sisters to the bookmobile.  We walked three blocks to  where the bookmobile was parked.  I could hardly contain my excitement.  Then we arrived, and there it was – big and shiny and white.  By the looks of it, this bookmobile was brand-new.  There was a line full of children and their mothers waiting to go inside the bookmobile, We took our place at the back of the line, and I anxiously awaited our turn. It seemed to take forever.  Finally it was our turn to go inside.  I was so excited that I stumbled on the top step.  If not for my mother catching me at the last minute, I would have tumbled out of the bookmobile and onto the ground.

We were greeted by the librarian, who introduced herself to us as Miss Marge.  She was tall and thin, with short, curly black hair.  But what I remember most about her is her eyes.  They were golden brown and were framed by a pair of wire-rimmed glasses.  I took an immediate liking to her.  She had a low-pitched voice and spoke softly and kindly.

“Hello dear – what is your name?”  she asked me.

“My name’s Cindy,” I replied.

“What grade are you in, Cindy?”

“I just finished the third grade,” I announced proudly.

“Are those your sisters?” she asked as she pointed to my little sisters.

“Yes,” I nodded.  “They are my little sisters – I have two big sisters, too.”

“Hmm .. I think I have just the book for you,” she said.  “Come with me.” Her eyes twinkled as though she were keeping a secret.

I followed her down the narrow aisle toward the back of the bookmobile.  She stopped at the second to the last shelf and removed a book from it.

“Here you go,” she said as she smiled at me.  I looked down at the cover of the book and read the title: Little Women. by Louisa May Alcott.

Cover of "Little Women (Unabridged Classi...

Cover of Little Women (Unabridged Classics)

As I opened the cover she said, “It’s a wonderful story about four sisters and their mother and father.”

“Really?” I answered.

“Yes,” she nodded her head, “This is just the book for you.  I think you will  enjoy it.  Let’s go back to the desk and check it out for you.  Do you have a library card?”she asked.

“No,” I replied as I shook my head.

“That’s okay.  We will make you a brand-new a library card.”

I followed her back to the front of the bookmobile and waited as she sat down behind the desk.  She asked for the rest of my information so she could prepare the card.  As she was doing this, I read the first page of the book and I knew it was going to be a wonderful story.  As I was turning to the second page, she handed me the library card.

I held the card tightly in my hand, as though it was a special key — and indeed it was — the key to acquiring  more books!

“When you finish reading this book, then come back next week and you may check out another book,” she smiled at me.

“Thank you,” I grinned. I was filled with so much happiness I thought my heart would burst.

My mother and three younger sisters were still in the back of the bookmobile, looking at books for kindergartners and preschoolers.  As I waited for them, I read three more pages and by then, I was lost in another world.  At last my mother and sisters finished.  I could hardly wait to get home so I could read more.

I think I skipped all the way home.  I held my book close to my chest, as though it were a precious treasure I had just found and did not want to lose.  When we arrived at our house, I immediately headed for my bedroom.  I closed the door to my bedroom and lay down on my bed.  I opened the book and began to read.  Soon I was in the world which Louisa May Alcott had created, and I never wanted to return.

All through the summer, on every Wednesday afternoon, you could find me at the bookmobile.  Miss Marge always knew which were the best books for me.  I remember reading Little House On The Prairie, Pippi Longstocking, and Betsy and Tracey.  Sometimes my friends and I would have reading parties.  As soon as we returned home from the library, we would spread a blanket beneath the big oak tree, and there we would lie on our stomachs, reading our books.

I had no desire to watch the television; I found reading to be much more rewarding.  At bedtime I would smuggle my book under the blankets and while holding a flashlight, I would read until my mother would catch me in the act and say, “Cindy, it is time for sleeping, not reading.”  But she always had a little smile on her face, even though she was trying to be stern.

Ever since then, I have always been an avid reader.  I love reading about new places, new people, and new stories.  I’ve found that I can let my imagination take me there, inside the book.  I taught my children to read before they entered kindergarten, and to this day, each one is also an avid reader — bookworms just like me.

I believe that reading is a very special gift.  It is a gift which every child should be given.  It is a gift which will always remain with you, and no one can ever take this gift away from you.  When I think of all the people in the world, children and adults alike, who cannot read, I am saddened.  Reading is so special.  Reading is the key to knowledge.

When I look back upon those days, I realize how very special they were to me.  The bookmobile will always hold a special place in my heart, as will Marge, the librarian.  I will never forget her.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:  “One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.”  ~ Carl Sagan ~

A Visit With Great Aunt Emma

It was a lovely Easter Sunday in April. Spring had come early this year and all one needed to wear outside was a light jacket or sweater. We were visiting Grandma and Grandpa, just as we always did on every Easter Sunday.

My sisters and brother were out in the backyard playing, but I decided to stay inside and talk with Grandma. Before they left, my mother warned them to be careful not to get their clothes dirty. We were all wearing our brand new Easter outfits.

“Cynthia,” my grandmother was speaking to me.

“Yes, Grandma?”

“Cynthia, why don’t you go visit your Aunt Emma? She’s upstairs and she’d probably like to have some company. She hasn’t seen any of you kids for a while now.”

“Okay, Grandma, I’ll go see her.”

So I made my way up the stairs. My great Aunt Emma actually lived in the attic of my grandma’s house. She had a couple of rooms up there, and they were really quite nice. I had been up to visit Aunt Emma before, so I knew who she was, even though there was an air of mystery about her.

I climbed the third flight of stairs to the attic, and then I knocked on her door. After a minute or so she answered.

She opened the door just wide enough to see who it was on the other side.

“Hello, child.”

“Hi, Aunt Emma. Could I visit you?”

“Yah, of course. Come in.”

She opened the door wider and I walked through the doorway.

“Now, which one are you? There are so many of you, I can’t keep you all straight.”

“I’m Cindy, Aunt Emma.”

“Oh, yah, Cynthia.”

“Yes, Aunt Emma, but you can call me Cindy.”

I could never figure out why my Grandma and Aunt Emma simply refused to call me Cindy. It didn’t matter how many times I said they could call me by my nickname; they always called me Cynthia anyway.

“Yah, yah. Come in and sit down, child.”

She pointed to the wooden rocking chair. She sat down in a big chair covered with a fabric which had beautiful pink flowers and blue birds in flight on it. Before she sat down she picked up her knitting, which had been lying on her chair, and then sat down, placing the knitting in her lap.

“What are you doing, Aunt Emma?”

“Well, I am knitting a blanket, see?”

It was beautiful, with hues of blue and green and golden stripes in a zig-zag pattern. I had never seen anyone knit before. My mother was too busy to knit, having to care for seven children. I had seen my mother darn socks before, but I had never seen her knit.

“Could I watch you knit, Aunt Emma?”

“Haven’t you ever seen anyone knit before, child?”

“No, Aunt Emma. But it looks like it would be hard because it’s so beautiful.”

“It’s not so hard once you practice. Let me show you, child.”

I watched as Aunt Emma deftly worked the knitting needles between her fingers, the yarn disappearing into the blanket as she knit.  It was so fascinating to me that I didn’t say a word.

After ten minutes or so, Aunt Emma ceased her knitting and looked at me.

“How old are you, child?”

“I’m eleven, Aunt Emma.”

“I think you are old enough. Would you like to learn how to knit?”

“Oh, yes,  Aunt Emma. I would love to learn how to knit!”

“Yah, I think that would be a good idea. I will teach you. I have plenty of extra knitting needles and yarn around here.”

She opened the big wooden chest which was next to her chair. When she opened the chest, I could see a wide array of many colors of balls of yarn, one on top of the other. Next to the balls of yarn was another box which, when opened, displayed several pairs of knitting needles made of steel, wood, and plastic. She took out a pair of steel knitting needles and a ball of blue yarn and closed the chest.

“All right, child, let’s get to work. First you must learn to cast on.”

I spent the next two hours with Aunt Emma, learning the basics of knitting. Aunt Emma decided my first project should be a potholder made from baby blue yarn. As we knitted together that day, we talked of many different things, and I got to know my Aunt Emma a little bit better. We had a lovely chat. She also gave me sugar cookies and milk when we took a break from our knitting.

Soon my mother called for me on my Aunt Emma’s phone. Our cousins had arrived, and it was time to eat supper.

“I wish I didn’t have to go, Aunt Emma.”

“I wish you didn’t have to go either, my dear. But you can come and visit me the next time you come, yah?”

“I will, Aunt Emma.”

“Yah, that is good. Now let’s give you some yarn so you can make more pot holders. The next time you come I will show you how to make a scarf. Then, after you have mastered that, we will think about knitting an afghan, yah?”

“What’s an afghan, Aunt Emma?”

“It’s a blanket, just like the one you watched me knit,” Aunt Emma said as she gathered several balls of yarn of different colors together.

“Let’s see, what should we put all this in?”

She thought for a moment and then said, “I know. Wait here.”

She went into her other room, and after a moment she returned, carrying something in her hands. It was a dark blue canvas bag with a beautiful tapestry design on the front of it. The handles on the bag were wooden.

“This will work,” she said as she stuffed the bag full of the balls of yarn. She also gave me an extra set of knitting needles.

“There you go, child. Now you can make lots of pot holders. When you come back, bring them with you, and you can show me, yah?” she said, smiling as she handed me the bag.

“Oh, thank you, Aunt Emma! Thank you for teaching me how to knit, and for the yarn, and the needles, and the pretty bag, and for the nice talk we had. I’m so glad I came to visit you today.”

“Yah, I am glad too. We had a nice time. You come back next time, too, yah?”

“Yes, Aunt Emma, I will. Bye.”

“Auf wiedersehen, Cindy.”

For the first time ever, Aunt Emma had called me Cindy. I gave her a hug and then, holding my knitting bag close to me, skipped down the stairs.

It was one of the nicest visits to Grandma’s house that I ever had.

There were many times after that when I returned to visit my great Aunt Emma, always bringing my knitting for her to inspect. We had some lovely visits, she and I, and they are visits which I shall always treasure in my heart.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:  “Everything is nicer when shared with an aunt.”  ~ Author Unknown ~

A Simpler Life

I come from a family of seven children: six girls and one boy. We were born in this order: Theresa (Terri), followed a year later by Margaret (Marge), followed a year later by Leonard (Len), followed seven years later by Cynthia (Cindy) – that’s me, followed two years later by Diane, followed two years later by Rebecca (Becky), followed two years later by Janice (Jan). The six of us sisters are still very close, but sadly, our brother passed away at the age of 40 in 1989. Our parents are also deceased.

As you can well imagine, growing up with a family of seven children meant that we did not live in the lap of luxury. As a matter of fact, we spent most of our childhood living in a housing project in St. Paul, Minnesota due to the fact that our father was ill, and our mother not only had to take care of a sick husband,  but seven children as well. But when you grow up not knowing what you’re missing, wearing the hand-me-downs from two cousins and two sisters before you seemed to be a normal way of life, and you didn’t even mind it when your mother patched over the already-there patches on your favorite pair of jeans. It’s just the way life was. We made do with what we had, and if we went to bed with our tummies not quite full enough, we didn’t mind so much, because at least we had each other to commiserate with. Not that we ever starved—but let’s just say we never had leftovers!

But the day of the week we all lived for was Sunday because Sunday was the day that Grandma and Grandpa K. would visit. These were my mom’s parents, and they were German through and through. As a matter of fact, they had both immigrated from Germany, which I guess made my mom first generation German, right? Anyway, I remember how my Grandma and Grandpa would always speak a smattering of German words, and the only word I can remember my grandma calling me is “Liebchen.” There were other German words they used, but I can’t remember, for that was so very long ago. My grandpa was a trickster. He loved to chew snuff, and he would hold out his snuff box to us kids and say, “Want some? Here, it’s candy.” And then he would get this sly grin on his face, and if perchance one of the kids would actually try to take him up on his offer, he would pull the box away and say, “Too late, too late,” and then he’d shake his head and hobble away on his cane with a wicked grin on his face.

Grandma and Grandpa, 1944

Grandma and Grandpa, 1944

However, we kids loved Sunday the most because after Sunday dinner, when all the dishes were washed, dried, and put away, Grandpa would give each of kids a dime. Now I know that today a dime won’t buy much, but fifty years ago, it bought plenty. My mom and grandmother would take us children for a stroll down to the local candy store. It was then that we each were able to spend the precious money that Grandpa had given. I think my mom went just because she was happy to get out of the house, but we kids definitely went solely for the candy!

Grandpa and Grandma, 1957

When we would arrive at our destination, each of us would peruse all the candies displayed on the shelves lined behind the glass showcase they were in. There were so many choices, so many ways to mix and match! I was always very thrifty with my dime and tried to get the kinds of candy where you could buy two or three pieces for a penny, thereby ending up with more than just ten pieces of candy by the time I had spent the entire dime.

penny candy 1Remember the little sugary dots of candy that were stuck to the paper? That was one of my favorites. I also loved the root beer barrels and the sugar babies. And of course, anything chocolate! I was a chocolate fiend even back then! There were so many other kinds of candies that you could purchase for only one cent such as: bubble gum, licorice, pixie stix, sixlets,  candy cigarettes, jaw breakers, malted milk balls, peppermint sticks, tootsie rolls, lollipops, suckers, candy corn, red hots, candy necklaces, wax candy, sour balls, bit-o-honey, mary janes, and caramels. Then, when we each ordered which candies we wanted, the candy man (that’s what we called him) would pack up the goodies in a little paper sack, smaller than a regular lunch bag, and we would  hand over our dimes. We each had our own separate bag, which was a good thing, or else I’m sure many an argument would have occurred!

I think about those days often, and there are many times when I wish I could have them back again. Life was so much simpler back then. If only I had known then how precious those days would be to me now, I would have savored them even more. But I must say I will always be forever grateful that I come from a big family. Even though there has been some heartache, as there always will be, because with all those different personalities there are bound to be misunderstandings, underneath it all lies a deep abiding love which forever binds us together, for we are family.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:  “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”  ~ Alex Haley ~

A Special Connection

A couple of months ago I received some very sad news about my Uncle Kris. I was told that he has lung cancer. He’s well into his eighties, and though he’s lived a long and prosperous life, it still saddens our family to think that it won’t be long before he won’t be with us anymore.

The other night, for the first time ever, I had a dream about my Uncle Kris. It was such a silly dream, but it was strange, because in my entire life he’s never been in my dreams. It gave me pause and has caused me to believe that the time has come for me to blog about him; for after all, he is someone who is dear to my heart, and I never before realized how much until I awakened from my dream.

My Uncle Kris was married to my Aunt Gert, who was the sister of my mother. My mother, my Aunt Gert, and my father are long gone now, all having departed to their heavenly reward years ago. But the memories I have of my parents and my aunt and uncle sitting on the porch watching while all of us cousins laughed and played together on my cousins’ swing set or played tag or kick ball are still vivid to me. Another memory I’ll always have is of my parents, grandparents, and Aunt Gert and Uncle Kris sitting around the table, drinking their beer, and playing cards. Oh, how they loved to play cards together!

My mom and her sister, Gertrude, were very close, having been the only two children that my grandparents had. Our two families would always get together for the major holidays; as a matter of fact, our families were together even more often than that.

A good part of the time we had the gatherings at my Uncle Kris’ house because they were the only ones who had a large enough space to accommodate everyone. After all, with their four children, my parents’ seven children, plus my grandma and grandpa, it was quite a large gathering. Yes, even though it was a little crowded and somewhat noisy, we were always happy, as long as we were together.

     A family get-together when we were young (Uncle Kris took the picture)

Besides that, we loved going to Uncle Kris’ house because they had a swing set in their back yard. Not only that, but their basement was finished off, complete with a pool table and record player for the older kids. We thought it was the greatest place to be, and we were always sad to go home.

I loved my aunt and uncle like they were my second parents, and I still love my Uncle Kris in that way. When I was young, I used to stay overnight at my aunt and uncle’s house because their daughter, my cousin Sandy, was only two weeks younger than me. As a matter of fact, if she had been born before me, her name would have been Cindy and mine would have been Sandy, but that’s another story entirely.  I enjoyed staying overnight at their house. And I used to think that if I could live anywhere else in the world except at my own house, it would be at my Uncle Kris’ house. Uncle Kris always was and still is to this day my favorite uncle.

Let me tell you about him. To start off with, he is Norwegian. He even speaks with a bit of a Norwegian accent, especially when it comes to phrases like “Yah” instead of “Yes.” He was always a pretty soft-spoken man, especially if you compared him to my Aunt Gert, who was quite outspoken, to say the least. He’s also kind-hearted and generous. I remember when we were young kids, he’d always be the one to give us nickels and dimes when Aunt Gert wasn’t looking, and he’d say, “Now don’t tell anyone where you got this from, okay?” and then he’d give a wink and a smile. I even remember how he used to push me so high when I was young and swinging on their swing set in their back yard. And oh, how he loves to laugh! He’s always the first one to laugh at a good joke, and he loves to tell one, too. His favorite phrase is, “Is that right?”

My dear uncle doesn’t have long left in this world, or so the doctors say. It’s only going to be a matter of months, maybe even weeks, but only his Creator knows for certain. All we know for sure is that it will be a sad day for us when he leaves us all behind. I know that I will miss him very much because I love him.

Not only that, but he’s like a special connection to my mother and father—one more connection that I don’t want to let go of. And that may be the hardest part to bear . . .

QUOTE FOR THE DAY:  “An uncle is someone special to remember with warmth, think of with pride, and cherish with love.”  ~ Author Unknown~

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