Scenes from a Family – #JusJoJan 2023

Welcome to day twenty-six of Just Jot It January for 2023. Today’s word is family.

Scenes from a family

Everyone reads in silence.
The only sound is the crackling fire where tiny sparks fly onto the hearth and turn to ash.
The old upright piano sits silently on a slightly warped wooden floor.
Granddaddy’s handmade rockers fill the room. I choose the one with the rockers that make me fearful I will tip over backwards.
I never do.

My grandmother sits in the red leather recliner.
Her dress reveals the edge of her stockings rolled at the base of her knee.
An old pie tin rests crooked on her apron-covered lap.
She pares the apple, the peel in one long red ribbon that never breaks.
We sit around her feet, each waiting for our slice.

Mom and Dad laugh and show us how beatniks dance.
Dad changes the album.
Chubby Checker’s voice emanates from the small blue record player.
We all do the Peppermint Twist.
Round and Round and Up and Down

My brother and I squat on the dusty gravel lot.
Cardboard from an old Mallo Cup wrapper makes a great road.
Little metal cars with bent axles
Navigate the bumpy twists and turns.
There are miles and miles yet to go.

Written as part of Linda Hill’s JusJoJan.

Prompt word today (family) submitted by J-Dub from J-Dub’s Grin and Bear It.


In Search of Aunt Lizzie

Aunt Lizzie lived at the top of the steepest hill in the Valley. The half-gravel half-dirt road leading to her two story white clapboard house crisscrossed the hill to reduce the steep incline. Of course, in 1906 when the house was built, there were no cars but it would have made it much easier for both humans and horses to climb as well.

I was never sure why I called her my aunt. I guess because it seemed everyone referred to her as Aunt Lizzie. When my sister needed a costume for the school play, she borrowed one of Aunt Lizzie’s long  dresses. Likewise, when I dressed like a witch one Halloween, my grandmother had me go to Aunt Lizzie’s to borrow a long black dress. Of course it was much too long, cinched up with a belt, but it fit the bill nicely.

My earliest memories of Aunt Lizzie are sometime around 1962 after her husband passed away. I was about eight-years-old when I started going to her house. By this time, her bed had been moved downstairs to the living room as she was in her late 70s. I remember the bed well. The mattress appeared somewhat lumpy although always made to perfection. The small bed with its rounded metal headboard was tucked into a corner away from the front window where a view of the entire Valley came into view.

The front window was silhouetted by faded white lace curtains. An old wing back chair sat beside the window across from a small black and white television. It was there Aunt Lizzie sat every afternoon and watched her “stories” – a common reference to the old soap operas. I can still remember the intros for Guiding Light and As the World Turns playing on the small black and white screen.

Of all the houses in the Valley, this is the one house I recall visiting frequently. I would trudge up the hill, step onto the front porch and tap on the screen door. Sometimes Aunt Lizzie would be napping and I would just let myself in and wait for her to wake. Most of the time, however, she was already seated in her chair by the window. I would sit near her and watch her stories with her. I cannot imagine what we talked about, a 77 year old woman and an 8 year old girl.

Sometimes Aunt Lizzie would ask me to get her something from the small kitchen at the back of the house. She often had a small pitcher of water on the sideboard and sometimes a cookie to share. Those were the only rooms I ever entered. I would often stare up the grand staircase and wonder what beautiful things must be in those rooms no one ever saw. I imagine if I never saw them then surely no one else had either.

Last night my curiosity piqued. Exactly who was Aunt Lizzie? With the help of Ancestry, I dug into her background, working backward. Surprisingly, I discovered she was my Aunt. More specifically, she was my Grand Great Aunt – a half sister to my paternal Great Grandmother. Her name change after marriage is what made me think we were never really related. It made me wonder if my grandmother (her niece) sent me to check on her or take things to her. If she did, those memories have escaped me.

I try not to be regretful looking back. She may have known all the stories about what life my Great Grandmother lived and why her family ran my Great Grandfather out of town. If only I had been older and knew more and if I had been more curious. I am still content, however, remembering that 8 year old girl sitting in that huge house at the top of the hill, watching Aunt Lizzie’s stories taking for granted the view splayed just outside the window.

Blog, throwback thursday

Throwback Thursday #60 – Hello/Goodbye

I am in Florida visiting family and I fly home tomorrow. I am already dreading saying goodby to my family. These thoughts are what inspired the topic this week.

This week’s prompt is: Saying Hello and Goodbye

I will give you some questions to help you along. Or, free write if you would rather. You can either respond in the comments or link back to this post. My response will follow.

1. Did you live close by or far away from close family or grandparents?

2. How often did you see or visit extended family?

3. Was the coming together cheerful and celebrated in some way?

4. Which relative did you enjoy seeing the most? Why?

5. Were there relatives you dreaded visiting? If so, why?

6. If you were the visitor, was the trip short and easy or was it a journey?

7. Were your visits short or extended? If extended visits, where did you sleep? Bed, sofa bed, couch, floor?

8. When it came time to leave, was it difficult to say goodbye?

9. How often do you visit extended family now?

10. If you could see a relative who is no longer alive, who would it be? Why?

We were the family that moved away from the home place, so visits back “home” were always a treasure to me. When we moved to Florida we had no family visits. We only lived there a year, so it wasn’t too bad. We moved to Ohio when I was in sixth grade, so we made frequent trips back home to visit our grandparents.

Our trip from Ohio to Virginia was always a long trip. At that time, it took about twelve hours. I75 was in progress but not yet completed. (My dad loved to sneak on the highway and drive it before it officially opened. That always made me nervous!) Much of the final leg of our journey was across mountain roads. We always traveled the West Virginia turnpike, too, and I remember being amazed at the underground coal mine that was always burning and smoking as we passed it. Mom always packed lunches and snacks, and she always had a big  bag of orange slices and pink mints for the ride. We always arrived at my grandmother’s late at night. My grandfather had already passed away by this time, so there were four bedrooms upstairs to accommodate the six of us. I always loved being in the Valley again, so leaving was always hard. Our departure always seemed to be in the early hours of the morning and I always felt so sad to leave.

At my maternal grandmother’s house, there were also four bedrooms upstairs. Where we slept depended on how many cousins were there visiting. My grandmother had a big featherbed made of ticking she would pull out of the closet and toss on the floor for the grandkids to sleep on. I can still remember feeling the end of a feather poke me and slowly pulling the feather out of the mattress.

I always hated leaving my grandparents. The drive to see them was fun and exciting, but the ride home was sad and the trip was not near as much fun returning home. I often cried leaving my family. I am still very much the sentimentalist today. Leaving those I love is never easy. I try to be strong within sight of my grandchildren because I do not want them to be sad. I always try to part with the promise of another visit soon.

It is hard to say which relative I would want to see again. I would love for my parents to meet their grandchildren and great grandchildren. I have so many questions I would love to ask my grandparents that I was too young to even consider at the time. And my sisters? I wish they could be here more for their children and grandchildren than for me. I’m not sure I could choose.


My Mother’s Daughter

Mom in the Smokies

This morning my mind drifted to my mother and her two sisters. Everyone said my mother and one of her sisters looked alike – they didn’t. They did favor one another, but they looked very different. My other aunt looked much different than her other two sisters.

One of my aunts was a school teacher. One summer I spent some time with her, but we never really established a strong connection. She was a lovely woman, but was more focused on things being just so. She took me to her gym – I remember sitting on a machine of moving rollers designed to eliminate cellulite I think. I was about ten or eleven. It was all a strange experience to me. Her life was far removed from the way my mother lived.

My other aunt was a chemist. She was very smart and very unassuming. She was married but never had children. Looking back, I think she was a bit of a hoarder, but was surrounded by the things that made her happy – books and family letters and memorabilia. I do not think she ever threw anything away – especially not letters or pictures from family. She made most of her own clothes, maybe from the same pattern. She lived on a dairy farm and led a simple life.

My mother fell somewhere between the two. She was a hard worker. There was no money for her to finish college, so she spent her life doing blue collar work. Her last job was working for the post office as a mail carrier. She had a foot route and she loved it. She got to know the people on her route and she loved being outside and getting exercise. It was a hard job, but she really did enjoy it.

This morning it struck me just how much I am like my mother. I did not get to go to college right out of high school. I joined the Air Force instead. My mother had already been diagnosed with terminal cancer so having a job was important. My mom never put on airs. She was herself in all situations and places. She loved to be comfortable and was happy in jeans or sweats. On occasion she would dress up and put on makeup and jewelry, but it was rare. Her family was everything to her.

She was always a country girl at heart, and I guess I am, too.


What Material Belongings Do You Cherish?

This morning a comment came across my phone that spoke of things you may have lost during your life that you wish you still had. It got me thinking not only about keepsakes that were lost through the years, but also about the things I have that I cherish.

When my mother-in-law’s home was ravaged by flood waters, her loss was palpable. Everything was such a mess. It was so hard to watch her struggle and try to account in dollars what she had lost for the insurance. How does one even remember all you have collected and held onto for a lifetime. I do recall she was most worried about a small child’s tea set that had belonged to her mother. Thankfully it survived, but so little did. She felt as if her life had been washed away.

When I think back on my own life, there are some big things I could grieve over. Like my grandmother’s house. But more than that, it is the odd little things that were somehow lost or destroyed over the years that I wish I still had. Like the rolling pin my grandfather made me.

My sister was relocated by the Air Force several times during her career. When the military moves you, it is a well oiled machine that moves quickly!  When her furniture arrived at the new location, the lamb cake mold that belonged to our grandmother was gone. It was the cake pan that produced the cakes we all had for birthdays, a lamb covered in coconut with raisins for eyes. She was devastated.

Years ago, my sister bought our mother a Cameo ring. When mom passed away, the ring was given back to her. It was one of her prized possessions. When my sister passed away, the ring was never found. I have often wondered if she made a decision to give it to someone while she was alive to witness it.

Hubby and I have a few family heirlooms, but most things have no intrinsic value. They are all simple and unremarkable items, but all wrapped in memories. Those are the things we cherish.

I once asked my daughter what things she might want once we pass away. I laughed at her response. She wants the pan we always cooked our potatoes in when we got together for the holidays.

I think for me and my brood, it’s the memories that bring the value.