Tag Archives: Memoir

First Snow Adventure

I grew up in Southern California during the 1950’s.  It didn’t snow in our neighborhood.  The rare sleet or hail storm was almost as exciting for us as the snow is for children here in the Pacific Northwest.  I remember at least one time that our Church took us to the mountains to play in the snow.  This was supposed to be a rare winter highlight for us.  I must have been ten or eleven years old because it was before we moved into the Poppy Way house.

Mother packed sack lunches for my younger sister and I containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple and two cookies.  Then she dug out our winter gear.  We had mittens, not gloves.  Mom attached our mittens to a length of yarn and strung it through the sleeves of our coats to make sure that we didn’t lose them.  I was old enough to find this embarrassing, but now realize how practical that was.  We didn’t have fancy jackets or waterproof snow suits like those commonly seen today.  Instead we donned our brothers hand-me-down plaid flannel shirts, pulled on a pair of pajama pants under our regular slacks, and put on two pairs of socks.  We packed a change of dry clothes into a bag, added our boots, coats and scarves and we were ready to go.

We joined our friends at the church and were assigned to a car.  Parents drove in those days.  Our church didn’t have a bus or van.  The trip seemed to take forever.  As we made our way up the mountain pass the rain turned into tiny snowflakes that spotted the windshield.  We had never seen it actually snowing.  Anyone living where they have winter weather wouldn’t have considered what we saw as snow. It melted as soon as it hit the glass.  But for us the excitement was almost unbearable.

It took forever before the driver in front of us pulled off the road into a little turnout.  Not a parking lot, just a little turnout.  Our driver followed.  Soon we all piled out of the cars and put on our coats and boots.  I remember that at that time I didn’t have regular boots, I had overshoes instead.  They were just a rubber slipper that slid over my shoes.  They didn’t even cover my ankles.  They were designed for walking in the rain, not playing in the snow.  I considered my coat as really luxurious.  It had a faux fur yoke and collar.  The body and sleeves were “wine” colored corduroy.  It was long enough that it reached my knees.  Most of the kids had some kind of knit cap, but my sister and I had scarves to tie around our heads.

At first we made snowballs.  We didn’t have enough snow experience to think about a snow fight.  We tried to make a snowman, but none of us really knew how and none of the adults seemed interested in instructing us.  We didn’t have  a sled so we just sloshed around in the wet snow.  What had resembled snowflakes on the trip up the hill soon turned into a torrential down pour.  Our inadequate gear left us defenseless against the moisture. We had been in the snow for less than half an hour when the adults nudged us back into the cars; the girls in one and the boys in the other.  We were happy to submit to their commands.  We all changed our clothes right there inside the car, first sliding off our wet shoes and pants and replacing them with our dry ones.  Next we slid our arms out of our coat sleeves and slipped off our wet shirts while still covered with our jackets.  We replaced the wet tops with our dry ones before we removed our coats.

Our coats were too wet to put back on, so we sat shivering inside the car while we ate our lunches.  Then the adults drove us back down the hill.  Perhaps it should come as no surprise that as an adult, I don’t really get too excited about going out in the snow.

Written for  Three Word Wednesday   words:  highlight, instruct and submit.

Also written for The Short and the Long of It:  Three words:  plaid, moisture and defenseless.

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NICKNAMES, SILLY LABELS and other Conventions

What my photo album revealed….

JoAnn and I cropped 2

 I opened my photo album and my younger sister, Jo-Ann, appears. July 1949, she isn’t yet six months-old.  I am no more than a year-and-a-half.  She has hair.  I don’t.  Well, mine is very light and it appears as if I have very little.  This image doesn’t make me shrink with disgust.  I know that I am en route to a discovery.

The next picture of me was taken sometime later.  I am big enough to sit on a backless stool.  I have no more hair than I had in the first picture.  Today, this one doesn’t make me pout like I did for the photo.  Instead it makes me smile.  It reminds me of why Dad nicknamed me Butch.  Butch is such a silly nickname for a girl.  But yes, he was right.  When I was small I didn’t have much hair.  Dad never used that moniker maliciously.  He never called me that in front of my friends.  It was instead a special endearment that seldom went beyond the family.  I wish he were here today to call me Butch just once more. September 3rd would have been his 99th birthday.

As I continue through the album, I come across numerous pictures of Jo-Ann and I dressed alike.  Unfortunately the quality of the photos is so poor that I cannot scan most of them in and share.  And alas, I do not have the technical ability to scan them and improve them.

 My favorite is of the two of us standing in the yard.  It reveals so much about our childhood.   It was probably a Sunday morning.  We both have our short blond hair curled in soft curls, parted on the left and combed to the right.  Hair barrettes hold our hair out of our faces.  That in itself is a reminder.  Bangs were not permitted in our household.  Never! They reminded Dad of a really mean little girl from his school days.

We both wore white ankle socks.  I know there was probably a stitch of blue embroidery thread in each of Jo-Ann’s and a stitch of red in each of mine.  Each Monday the laundry was done and sorted.  All of our clothing was labeled.  I am not sure why it was so important that we each had our own clothes and never wore the others.  As we grew, items were always passed down from one of us to the next.  And when we were quite small we were always dressed alike. However  I am grateful that we each had our own things.  I know a lot of kids didn’t.

Our brown sandals reminded me of another part of the family tradition.  Brown, not white.  Brown could be polished and didn’t get scuffed up as easily as white..  Oh how I wanted Saddle Oxford’s for school when I got older.  But my folks often bought Jo-Ann and me shoes from the boy’s department; because that was the only way they could get brown or black shoes for us.

In the snapshot we are both wearing checked cotton dresses, with puffed sleeves, and ruffled skirts.  Jo-Ann’s looks neat and tidy.  Mine looks wrinkled.  (Hmm, I wonder if there was more to that nickname than just my lack of hair.)  I am not even half-of-a-head-taller than she is.  I can tell which one is me because my shoulder is higher than hers…and my skirt is shorter.  Her skirt almost reaches her knees.  I must have been in a growing phase.  My skirt hem and knees had separated company.  That was another family must…Skirts are to be worn halfway across the knees.  Can you imagine how much stress that caused when I was in my teens in the 1960’s and the mini-skirt was popular?

We both have little purses with long straps that reach across our bodies from one shoulder to the other side.  That is how I know it was Sunday.  There was, no doubt, a handkerchief with a few pennies for the collection plate, tied in the corner and stored within those bags.  We are both looking at the camera and smiling.  And best of all, we are holding hands.  Today we live in different states.  I wish she was close enough that I could reach out and hold her hand today.

Now let’s recap this photo.  We had the same hairdo; the same socks and shoes; the same dresses; matching purses; and we are just about the same size.  I guess I don’t have to wonder why people thought we were twins.

Jo-Ann was nicknamed Jeep.  One of the most popular stories was that she was standing up in the back  of the car on one of our outings.  A Jeep vehicle had cut Dad off, or some such thing and he said, “Get out of the way Jeep.”  At this point Jo-Ann ducked, she thought he was talking to her.  From that day on the family says she was called Jeep.  But as I look through the album I wonder if there might be an additional reason.

In the album I find several pictures of Jo-Ann and me dressed alike.  The big difference is that in one I am admiring how cool I look; and she has a wad of her skirt twisted up in her fist, and she is crying.  In the next, she has her hands bawled up into little fists, and yes, she is crying.  I am just standing there looking at the ground.  And on and on they go.  She always looks ready to be on the go and not happy to have to stand still.  She wasn’t a sit and do nothing child, unless she was ready to fall asleep.  And now I wonder if that is why Dad affectionately called her Jeep.  She was like a Jeep–always ready to go.

As I continue I discover a photo taken in 1955.  This is a picture of me with both of my sisters.  We are dressed in matching blue dotted nylon skirts.  Other than the 1955  photo matching outfits seldom show up in the photo album after we started school.  The pictures that appear are instead pictures of us under the Christmas tree with three identical dolls; or on Easter Sunday with different dresses, but wearing identical hats, bags and sandals.

It is amazing that we grew up to be such different personalities.  We are compatible, but different.  Just the way it is supposed to be.

 

This was written for Three Word Wednesday.  The words:  disgust; pout; wad.

Also written for my monthly memoir group.  Topic:  Something from your childhood.

 

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Today Is Different — A Story for Write Your Memoir

I am the fourth of five living children.  It seems I am always “too little” for whatever the big kids get to do.  But as soon as Momma says I’m “big enough” to do something, Jo-Ann gets to do it too.   And she’s a whole year younger than me.  It doesn’t seem fair.   But today is different.

Today is my first day of school.  Not the first day of school, but my first day of kindergarten.

Momma is going with me today.  We left Jo-Ann with old lady Wagg across the street.  (I don’t know why everyone calls her old lady Wagg instead of Mrs. Wagg, but we all call her that.)

It’s just Momma and me.

I am so excited I want to run, but Momma has a firm hold on my hand.  And Momma don’t run.  So, I just merrily skip along.

I am being real careful.  Momma let me wear my Sunday school dress and sandals today.  My dress is blue-green nylon and it swishes as I skip along.  If I’m not careful I’ll scuff my sandals.  Momma will not be happy if I scuff my sandals.

We are walking because Momma hasn’t learned to drive yet.  But it’s not really too far.

I can see the school now.   “Grand Avenue”, I think.   Momma had told me that is the name of my school…”Grand Ave”.

I have to remember that, she said, just like I have to remember that my full name is Mary-Ann Jensen and I live at 516 9th Street.

Momma is carrying my blanket for nap time.  It is white with blue ribbon on the ends.  She stitched my name on it so everyone will know that it’s mine.

I can see Grand Avenue School clearly now.  The kindergarten is separate from the rest of the school.  It is a building in the corner of the school.  It is all fenced off by itself.   Momma says that is so the big kids can’t bully the kindergarteners.

Momma opens the gate and tells me that I must always remember to close it behind me when I come through it.  One more thing I must remember.  “Close the gate!” I say to myself.  “Close the Gate.”

Miss Isabell meets us at the door and tells us who she is.

“Miss Isabell” I think, as I repeat her name to myself.  She is the teacher.  I like her.

The classroom is full of kids and Mommas.  Miss Isabell gives Momma my name tag and tells her to pin it to my dress.

“This is not right”, Momma says somewhat disturbed.  “Her name is Mary hyphen Ann, not Mary.”

Miss Isabell smiles.  She picks up her crayon and adds “– Ann”.  Now my name tag reads Mary-Ann just like it should and Momma is happy again.

My nametag has a red flower on it.  I like red.  Miss Isabell tells me that all of my things will have that red flower on them.

She tells Momma and me to go find the cubbyhole with that same red flower on it.  That is where I will store my things.

Momma helps me find my cubby hole and we put my nap time blanket in it.  Next we must find my table and chair.

The room excites me.  I let Momma look for my flower on the table and chairs as I look around the room.

The chalkboard is black and covers most of one wall.   Big colorful letters hang above the chalkboard.  I know a lot of them.  I read “A, B, C…”

Momma interrupts my thoughts.  “Over here, Mary-Ann.”  The look on her face warns me that she is not happy with me.  She thinks I daydream too much.

Soon we have all found our tables and chairs.  Us kids are all sitting in our chairs now.  Most of the Momma’s are standing in the back of the room.

One little girl is crying.  I think her name is Susan.  She looks scared.  Her Momma is on her knees on the floor beside her.  I don’t understand why she is crying, but then I am just a little kid, so I guess I don’t need to know why she’s crying.

Miss Isabell starts talking to all of us.  Once again I start looking around the room.  There is a wall with a big red apple, a large yellow banana, an orange…

This time Miss Isabell’s voice breaks into my thoughts.  She is leading us outside and wants us to line up into two lines; one for the boys, one for the girls.  She is telling us that this is where we will meet before school and that we should line up when the first bell rings.

Oh my!  One more thing to remember.  Line up when the bell rings.

Soon Momma and I are at the gate again.  Momma reassures me that she will walk me to school next Monday when classes really start, but I must wait by the gate for my brother Leo after school.  He will walk me home when school gets out for the day.

As we are walking toward home I think, “Today is different.  I go to school.”

I grin as I think, “Jo-Ann is still too little.

This story was posted for write your memoir:   writersdaybook

It was the first memoir piece I wrote.  I wrote it as an adult, but wanted to share the way I felt as a child.

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I Always Thought I’d Live in Colorado

In the summers before freeways crisscrossed the country from short to shore and border to border, when major highways remained unpaved, and before pollution grayed the skies of every major city, our family used to drive from Southern California to Granddad’s farm in South Dakota.  Late on a Friday afternoon when Dad arrived home from work, he would load the footlocker into the trunk.  Mom would add the little leather suitcase that held everything we would need overnight, if we stopped, although we seldom did.  Then a thermos of coffee and a jug of ice water were added to the floor up front by Mother’s feet.

Dad liked to leave in the evening so that we could drive across the desert in the cool of the night.  He would drive straight through to South Dakota, or at least until his eyelids could no longer remain open to navigate the curves and hills of the country roads; or until a nighttime summer-storm rendered the windshield wipers useless.  When that happened he’d park the car in the gravel lot behind a market or tavern that was closed for the night.  He would lean the car seat as far back as he could, without crunching a child, and close his eyes until the sun once again appeared on the horizon, or the early sounds of daybreak  disturbed his sleep.  Then he’d drive some more.

Sometimes, while Dad slept we would wake up in the dead of night and hear phantom creatures crunching the gravel around the car and be afraid to open our eyes for fear some flaccid being would be outside staring in.

During the early morning hours we would stop at a diner or café where one pancake filled the plate and milk was drawn from a machine.  But soon we’d be on the road again.

There were times when we would arrive at the farm in the wee hours of the third day.  Our bodies no longer agile, Mom would lead us from the car, into the house and up the stairs to the comfort of a bed.  Other times we would wait in the car until Granddad headed to the barn for early morning chores.

Week one was Mother’s vacation.  There would be one day each for each of Mother’s four sisters.  And Sunday always meant church and family dinner.  If we were there for the Fourth of July we’d have a massive family reunion at the farm, with fireworks and homemade ice cream.  It was a busy time.

Week two was when Dad’s vacation began.  There was a little gypsy in Dad.  He liked traveling from place to place and exploring parts unknown to him.  We visited National Parks and explored underground caves and other oddities along the way.  But the year I remember most is the year we drove through Colorado.  We had never been in Colorado before, I don’t know why we’d gone that way on this particular trip, but that is where we were when the car broke down.

We had traveled along just outside Denver.  We had driven through trees, up and down grades; and stopped for a soda.  When we got back on the road I could hear a strained conversation between my parents.  I wasn’t sure what it was about, but it was clear that something was wrong with the car.  The car whirred when Dad tried to change gears.  The engine sounded like it was overloaded.  It became more and more difficult to maneuver the hills and curves.  Finally we arrived on the outskirts of Denver.  Dad stopped at a garage near a small motel.

Dad went to the garage and Mom checked into the motel.  We had one room with one bed and a tiny kitchenette.  At night we would stretch out the big bulky quilt we carried for a mattress and add two sheets and our pillows.  For the next two or three nights that was where my two sisters and I slept.

When Dad returned he was upset.  It was going to cost more to repair the car than it was worth.  My parents decided to have the garage owner take Dad into town to look for a replacement car.  Dad found a car that afternoon but we had to wait for three days for the bank to approve the loan.  There was absolutely nothing the folks could do but wait.  I don’t know what happened to the Rambler the folks had been driving, but all of our travel gear was removed from the car and squeezed into the tiny motel room.

I am sure that my mother was frantic about how she was going to keep us entertained for several days in a 12 x 12 foot space.  The motel clerk told Mom of the park just a block away.  I remember the walk to the park.  .  We had peanut butter sandwiches, cookies and apples in a bag.  Dad was busy making phone calls when Mom led us to the park.

It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.  We inhaled the clear clean air and ran from tree to tree wrapping our arms around the massive trunks of large cottonwoods that were spread out on grassy mounds;  their large crowns created canopies that shaded us from the sun and provided the perfect picnic spot.    Later Dad joined us and spread a blanket on the ground and napped in the afternoon shade.  We played make-believe roller derby around the trees, the cool grass gently caressing our feet as we raced around each other.

A little creek danced along, the water doing pirouettes over the rocks and singing a bubbly little song as it went by. We removed our sandals.  Slowly we slid our dusty feet into the babbling brook.  The shiny rocks made us slip and slide as we tried to walk across.  I loved the cool feeling as the water cleaned the dust from between our toes and splashed upon our legs.  Back on the bank, we tried to catch the leaves as they floated along, but the current was too fast.  To grab them would have caused us to fall in; and we knew that mother would not be happy if we got our shorts and sun tops wet .  We remained content to watch the leaves float along.  Someone picked up a stick and tossed it in.  When Dad joined us he picked up a rock, gave it a low toss and we watched it skip across the creek.  We all tried it.  My younger sister was pretty good at it, but my older sister and I were dismal.  It didn’t matter.  We tried and tried again, just enjoying the moment.

When the sun hid behind the trees and the air-cooled we walked back to the motel.  Mom and Dad went inside while the three of us sat on the step and played count the out-of-state license plates until the sun was gone.  Inside Mom had placed our bedding on the floor beside the bed. We snuggled in, tired from a day of sunny play and ready for a night of pleasant dreams.

Mom and Dad left the room once we were tucked in and walked to the tavern to have a well-earned cold beer.  I heard them when they returned.  In the dark they quietly navigated the detour around our feet to enter the bathroom to brush their teeth.  And soon I heard their soft breathing that told me they were sound asleep.

I always thought I’d go back, not to visit but to live in Colorado.  But now I believe it was the serenity of the time and place that I was seeking.

Written for Three Word Wednesday:  agile; phantom; flaccid

And for Soup Night…Topic : Where I would live.

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I miss the ice cream truck

I miss the musical jingle of the ice cream truck.  When I was a child it would come down our block playing its merry tune and all the kids in the neighborhood would suddenly stop blowing bubbles and appear in the street.

Most of the time there wasn’t money for our family to buy frozen concoctions, but when we could it was such a treat.  Buying actual ice cream was out of the question, but frozen flavored sugar-water bars called popsicles were just fine with us. A lot of popsicles came with two sticks.  Often we would buy one to share.  We’d break it down the middle and then we would lumber back to our own yard.

I also miss the bread man.  He drove his truck down our street once or twice a week. Mom used to buy day old bread and once in a while day old doughnuts.  We never ran out of bread even though Mom didn’t drive and couldn’t make a mid-week trip to the market.

We also had twice weekly milk delivery.  We would go out in the morning and find the fresh bottled milk sitting on our porch.  We never ran out.

But this past week I think I missed the coffee truck most of all.  We had Standard Coffee Company when I was very young and later the Jewell Tea Company had a truck that came down our block when I was older.  They also sold coffee, spices and other desirable products.  Last week I really missed the coffee delivery truck.

Last week it snowed for several days.  Each time the plow went past our house he piled up icy snow in front of our driveway.  It is an uphill drive out of our driveway to the road.  When we reach the road it is part way up a small hill on the road.  Getting out requires shoveling.  And if the roads are icy there is always the chance of getting into a wreck.  If I don’t have to go out when it snows, I don’t go out.  By Saturday I was out of coffee.  We had to shovel to get out to go buy coffee.  Oh yes, last week I missed the coffee man most of all.

Written for Three Word Wednesday:  bubble, lumber, wreck.

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Ring! Ring! RI-I-I-NG! Ring! Ring RI-I-I-NG!

Ring! Ring! RI-I-I-NG!  Ring! Ring RI-I-I-NG!  Two shorts and one long ring.   That was our ring.

In the 50’s, at our house,  the telephone was still a fascination.  It appeared to be nothing more than a shiny black box with a rotary dial and long cord running into the wall.  Each hole of the dial, except for the one and the zero, had three letters and one number.  Our number was LA2-1309.  I couldn’t understand how the telephone knew if mother was dialing LA or JB.

We were on a 4-party line.  Recognizing the ring was important.  Not everyone had phones in those days and if you did, it was common to share a line with two to four other homes.  Occasionally Mom would pick up the telephone and have to wait to make her call because the line was busy.  However, in the 50’s telephones hadn’t yet become an external part of the body.   She seldom had to wait long.

The phone in our house had a special stand.   It sort of resembled a school desk with the chair attached sideways.  It was shiny dark walnut and had a cubby-hole to hold the telephone book.  The top of the desk area was just large enough for the phone and mother’s desk calendar.

Although our telephone was fascinating, when we visited my grandparent’s in South Dakota their phone intrigued me even more.  It was a wooden box that hung on the wall.  The mouthpiece was black with a brass ring behind it.  It had two bells on top that you could watch vibrate when the phone rang.   It had no dial.   Grandma lifted the earpiece, cranked the handle on the side and the operator answered.  She would say something like “162W”.   Well Grandma wouldn’t usually say that because that was her number. But she gave the operator the number she wished to call and waited until the desired party answered.

Telephones were treated  differently then.  In our home the telephone was a tool for adults.   As children, we seldom used it.  If mother was there, she would answer it.   We answered it only when she was away. And we never answered the telephone at Grandma’s house.

One evening, however, when I was nine, the phone rang while Mom and Dad were grocery shopping.   “Answer it!” my older sister commanded.   She was a very meek 13-year old and didn’t want to answer the phone.  “Answer it!”  She commanded once more.

So I carefully slid onto the vinyl seat of the telephone stand and gently lifted the receiver to my ear.   I expected to hear the voice of one of Mom’s friends.  But I didn’t recognize the voice at all.

“Is the LA2-1309?” inquired the stranger.

“Yes it is,” I replied.

“Do you have your television on?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Does it fit?” with that comment from the stranger, hysterical laughter filled the air.

I quickly hung up and told my sister about the call.

She thought it was pretty funny, but we decided we wouldn’t tell Mom and Dad about the call because they might not agree.

It wasn’t long before “Ring, Ring, RI-I-I-NG.  Ring, Ring, RI-I-I-NG.  The phone once again began to ring.

“Answer it,” my sister once again demanded.

Now I wasn’t a very worldly nine-year-old so I picked up the phone.

“Hello,” I chimed.

“Hello,” again a strange voice on the line. “Is your refrigerator running?”

“I think so,” I replied.

“Well you better go catch it!” Again hysterical laughter filled the earpiece.

“Who are you?”  I demanded.

The phone went dead.

My sister thought it was pretty funny.   When we told our folks– yes we told our folks– they found it annoying.   Yes annoying, not harassment as it would be called today–just annoying.  But in the 50’s the telephone was a tool not an attachment to our bodies.  Six-year-old children did not carry them to school.  Telephones did not sing and show movies.  They had no ability to send a text message.  They simply transmitted one voice to another.  It was a much simpler time.

The nuisance calls of the years have gone downhill.  Now the callers are freaky, not funny.  Some of the pranksters don’t have a sliver of conscience to control them.

 

(Three word Wednesday:  freak, downhill, sliver.

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The Cookie Cutter

I don’t know when the tradition started in our family, but every year the week before Christmas we would have a baking day.  Mom would put Christmas music on the record player and gather us together in the kitchen.  We would spend the entire day baking goodies and singing along with the music.

I find it amazing that, events from so long ago still paint a vivid image in my mind.  In my earliest memories of baking day we still lived in the little house on Val Verde.  I can see Jo-Ann, a dish towel tied around her neck, standing on a chair in front of white metal cabinets.  I was kneeling  on a little wooden stool wearing a pink apron, one I made entirely by hand in a Blue Bird meeting.  Carol-Ann was also posted at the counter nearby.

The Director, that was Mom, stood ready to hand out recipes, help with instructions and remind us to be neat and tidy.  Over the years the venue changed but baking day prevailed until I married and moved away.

Without realizing it we learned about fractions as we halved and doubled the recipes.  We learned to read a temperature gauge as we boiled various candy concoctions to the proper stage.  And we learned to tell time as we timed the cookies in the oven.

We picked our favorites from recipes scrawled on 3 X 5 cards, torn from magazines or flagged in favorite cook books.    We weren’t passive about which recipes we wanted to measure, mix and bake.  We all had favorites.

Our family peanut butter cookie recipe had to be started early in the day.   The dough was mixed, rolled into a couple of long rolls, and put into the refrigerator to chill.  Later in the day the rolls were removed from the refrigerator and sliced and baked.  I liked helping with the peanut butter cookies because I knew they were Dad’s favorite.

We stuffed dates with walnuts and rolled them in powdered sugar.  We melted marshmallows and mixed them with Rice Krispy cereal.   One year we might make fondant candy, another it might be some kind of candy made with butterscotch chips.  But certain treats always found their way into our agenda.

We always made cocoa fudge.  We used the recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa can.  In later years we could afford to shell walnuts and add them to the fudge.  To this day, I prefer fudge made from the cocoa recipe better than all of the other quicker and easier methods that have evolved.

Mom always made divinity.  I can remember the year she thought she had cooked it long enough, but apparently she hadn’t.  No amount of beating would make it stiff.  We dropped it from spoons full onto waxed paper and it had to stay in the refrigerator until we were ready to peel it off of the waxed paper and eat it.

My favorite part of baking day, however, was making sugar cookies.  Early in the day, one of us always mixed up multiple batches of dough.  Like the peanut butter cookies, the sugar cookie dough had to be chilled.  Near the end of the day, after the dough had sufficient time to chill and our other baking was complete, we sifted flour over the pastry cloth and the covered rolling-pin.  We removed the cookie cutters from the jar.  And only when everything was ready, did we remove the first ball of dough from the refrigerator.

We lined up the cookie cutters; the star, the stocking, the Christmas tree and Santa.   We would have made all Santa’s and trees if Mom would have let us because they were the biggest.  We discovered that if we mixed up the order that we cut them out, Mom didn’t realize that we were making a lot more Santa’s than anything else.

After the cookies were baked and while they cooled we cleaned up the mess in the kitchen.  Then it was time to ice our cookies.  Our icing recipe was a simple one.  It consisted of a little milk, a drop or two of vanilla and a lot of powdered sugar.  We divided the icing into at least four bowls.  We poured green food coloring into one, yellow into one and red into one.  The largest batch remained white.

The trees were iced green and sprinkled with something called ‘Decorating Decors’—little balls of colored sugar–to represent Christmas ornaments.  The stars were usually just yellow, but the Santa Claus got the works.

We carefully cut raisins in half, one half for each eye.  A little bit of red icing colored his cap.  The white was added last.  We sprinkled coconut on his beard to make it look hairy.  The cookies were really pretty primitive, but we thought they were works of art.

After I married I moved away from my family.  I bought a Santa cookie cutter so my kids could have the Santa tradition, complete with raisin eyes and coconut beard.  It was a smaller cookie cutter and never quite made the grade for me.

Years later when
my parents decided to move closer to me, I asked my Mom about the Santa cookie cutter.  She told me she thought that Jo-Ann had it.  But she wasn’t sure.  I was bummed.  I really wanted that cookie cutter.  I finally asked Jo-Ann if she was using it.  She told me she had never had it.  I was heart-broken to think that our special Santa was no longer part of the family.

In 2003 my Mother passed away.  During the sad chore of cleaning out her apartment I discovered the Santa cookie cutter tucked in the bottom of a bucket of miscellaneous baking items.  I now have possession of all four cookie cutters that we used as children.  Recently I discovered the original recipe sheet from Swift’ning (a brand of shortening from years ago) in mother’s old recipe box.

I have no children or grandchildren living near so I seldom use my Santa now.  It is old and the sides are wearing away, but I wonder if my friends would like a Santa Cookie.

Maybe this year I’ll bake some Santa cookies in memory of Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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