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The Love of Reading

When my daughter was young, I would read to her every night before bedtime. She would run to her bookcase and pick the book(s) she wanted read that night.  Most nights meant more than one book before she would fall asleep.
I don’t believe there was ever one true favorite…she loved them all…but a few come to my mind.  When she was very young, a small book about “Farmer Brown’s Birthday” comes to mind…I read that book over and over and over again.  To this day, 25 years later, I remember, “tra la, tra le, lucky me.” coming from that book! ( I was even reading that book in my sleep!  I finally hid it for a while!)  A sweet book from England was a favorite…”Mogg and Bunny” about a red cat and his bunny toy.  “The Christmas Tree Cat” about a red striped cat named Pickles who always got into trouble…she loved this book and name of cat so much that when we adopted a kitten ( she was three years old), she picked a red one and named him Pickles.  Two of my favorites to read were “The Giving Tree” about a tree that kept giving everything it had until it was no more(more of a book for adults I realize now) and “The Velveteen Rabbit” about a toy rabbit who became “real” because his boy loved him so much.
One of my cherished possessions is a picture my daughter drew for me when she was in 1st grade.  They had to draw a picture of the person they thought was special and why they are special.  She wrote, “I think my Mom is special because she reads to me.”
When many of her friends’ parents would play games with their children, I always told my daughter that I didn’t play games.  I grew up with my brother’s children, being ten years older than them, and they played games incessantly.  I grew to detest playing board games.  I would read to my daughter and I would do all kinds of crafts with her…but no games.
When she was 8, my parents needed help and she and I moved over to be with them.  That Christmas, I had bought her a small cassette player and several taped books for children…the kind that you would listen to the tape and read the book at the same time.  She escaped through those books.  And I believe that was the final step in what enabled her to become the reader she is now.  I still read her books at night but they were now more of a chapter book variety and my mother would listen to them as well.
In Middle School and High School, her hunger for reading increased and her reading speed as well.  The first Harry Potter book was read aloud at night…and from then on, each new book was devoured in record speed…til the last one (I believe it had over 700 pages…) was read in one 7 hour day…she locked herself in her room and only came out when necessary.
She graduated from college with an English Lit and Art degrees and now makes her living writing.  I like to think this all started from the simple joy of nightly reading aloud. Never underestimate what a small pleasurable habit as reading aloud at bedtime can accomplish.

Til next time…Eva

 

Icons

country roads 001aA friend of mine wanted to go down to a college town about an hour or so away to check out whether it would be a fit for when she and her husband want to move.  He commutes over an hour to that general area and had told her it was getting old and he would like to live closer for the last years before retirement.

We went down to check out what the housing situation looked like, any local shops and restaurants/coffee shops/bakeries, etc., and generally the ambiance of the area.  She picked a college town for the possibility of cultural activities on campus that are open to the public.

We had a gorgeous day…the drive down through the country side couldn’t have been better planned.  Blue skies with fluffy white clouds, the farm fields filled with tall corn stalks and hay, cows, sheep, horses and llamas…a real Pennsylvania Dutch countryside.

We drove around the town looking at the possible homes for sale(there was one simply amazing one…a stone rancher built in 1952 with massive trees out front…one acre of land.  When I got home and checked out the photographs, the inside was just as attractive as the outside…only thing not attractive was the cost…

Ate lunch at a nice coffee shop(a tuna wrap and coffee) and checked out the various stops…she adores vintage and antique shops and inevitably found a few items to take home.  On the way home we stopped at a farm market and I was finally able to get some ripe peaches…too bad my daughter wasen’t home this week because she loves peaches as much as I do. (when I was pregnant with her, the two things I craved the whole pregnancy were peaches and soft pretzels!  Two of her all time favorite foods are…you guessed it…peaches and soft pretzels!)

On the home stretch there is a diner that has been there for as long as I can remember.  My mother and I used to go there quite often when we would go down to Myerstown to shop for plants at Laysers and quilting fabric at Martins Fabric store.  The diner, Kumm Esse(Come Eat), hadn’t changed since the 50s…and it felt like a time warp with everything…the food was real home cooking(my favorite of Vegetable Beef soup…made from all of the leftover vegetables from the day before…with a lovely roll and butter) and their Fresh Strawberry Pie was famous.

As we passed by, I just noticed that the strawberry sign wasn’t there…thinking maybe they were getting a new one, I then noticed there were no cars in the parking lot nor was there any lights on in the diner.  It was then I saw the sign saying “Coming Soon…”…NOOOOOOOO……  An Italian restaurant…

My heart is heavy tonight.  Another icon from my childhood is gone.  I hope I can find a recipe for the strawberry pie….

til next time…Eva

The Piano

The year my brother graduated from High School, he opted to go to Denmark for a year before going to college(he was four when he and my parents emigrated to the US) so that he could develop his sense of the Danish language as well as being with our remaining family members over there(grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins).

I was 8 at the time and I remember that year as being difficult for all of us left at home.  In a way, it was like being an only child that year…kind of the calm before the storm.(after he came home, went to college and got married and two children after that…)

It was decided that I was going to take piano lessons and I would have a half hour lesson every week at the Braun School of Music in town…an imposing white Southern Style Mansion with massive marble pillars out front.  My teacher was Miss Stephens…she was always dressed in  high necked black dresses, hair pulled back in a severe bun and cats’ eyes glasses.  Always equipped with a ruler.  Her voice was high pitched and her mood(and pitch of her voice)  depended on the student she’d had before me(I often felt sorry for the student after me!).

I must be honest, I was no musical prodigy.  To be really honest, I still don’t understand why my parents had this fixation that I needed to learn piano…I was severely hard of hearing.  What I would have really enjoyed to do was take dancing lessons or art lessons. ( I think about it now and wonder if my godmother was behind all of this because she was an accomplished pianist and singer…)

I could not read music very well…ok, I couldn’t read music to save my life back then….  I memorized all of the drills and my mother would go over all of the new music with me…what she didn’t know was that I’d memorize it.

I would go for my lesson and Miss Stephens would stand and watch if my fingers hit the wrong notes…she’d whack them with the ruler…being hit with a ruler became more and more painful during the lesson.

There would be a recital every year…I don’t remember having more than one recital…all I remember was how nervous I was…and I remember really messing up my piece, I can still remember looking over at my mother and seeing her pained expression while still trying to smile…

In later years, I tried again.  In High School I took lessons from a band leader and learned chords.  Later still, I decided I was going to practice the classics on my own and the metronome.  I still have the piano but haven’t played it in years.  Maybe its time to give it to someone who honestly has the talent and desire to put it to good use and I can finally bid these old ghosts farewell.

til next time…Eva

The Mangle

mangle   My mother HATED to iron…seriously hated it with a passion.  I can remember getting a small play iron with ironing board…child sized that actually worked and got hot too(wouldn’t be allowed in today’s world…)

She started me off on hankerchiefs and by the time I was 6 I was doing shirts!  I loved doing it most of the time…except when my older brother would complain(now that I think about it, how come he didn’t have to do his own shirts?!)  Anyway, he was complaining about how there wasen’t enough starch on the collar and cuffs…I decided to give him something totally starched…I starched under the arms as well…trust me, that shirt was so starched it could stand by itself!  He never complained to me again.(when he got married, he complained to my sister in law when she ironed his shirts…he complained one time too many and she then had all of his shirts sent out to be done).

At some point, my mother convinced my dad that she needed a contraption called “the Mangle”…my brother and I always called it “the Mangler”.  The Mangle was a large rounded iron that had an attached roller.  You’d sit in front of it and you’d have a lever at the outside of each of your knees.  The one lever would bring the roller up or down and the other lever would cause the roller to rotate.

She’d sit there and everything would get permanent creases…everything, shirts, pants, tablecloths…everything.  My brother was in High School at the time and would always complain about the sharp creases that were in the front and back of his pants(usually khakis).  Mom always said unless he wanted to iron his own pants, he had to put up with the creases.  Until one day…the mother of one of his classmates came into the bakery and while there asked how Mom did my brother’s pant creases because her son wanted them(apparently quite a few of the boys wanted them) and he told her she didn’t do them right!   My brother never complained about the creases again…

til next time…Eva

Goldenrod

009a   When I was in my freshman year of college, I opted for a college 3 hours away from home.  I had two room mates…Kac and Weezie…a trio of ill suited girls couldn’t have been more determined.  I was an Education Major(Elementary), Kac was a Music Major(Piano) and Weezie was a Home Economics Major.  My taste in music was Englebert Humperdinck at the time(yeah, I know, what can I say?), Kac’s was synthetic music and Weezie’s was “The Beach Boys”!

We were in room 410 of North Hall….the oldest building on campus…  An opposing building built of brick and creaky wooden floors.  The room had the three single beds, three dressers, a walk in closet…let me rephrase that…a SMALL walk in closet, one desk and chair, and ONE…let me repeat…ONE electrical socket!  (This was the age before computers and cellphones).  This meant that you could have two items plugged in at any one time…the record player and a lamp were the usual two for us.

One bathroom per floor and that was in the center of the floor…we were at the far end close to one of the staircases.  There were two showers, the toilet stalls and sinks(six of each).  Outside of this area was where the phone booth was, the mini kitchen and television room(stove and refrigerator…this was before the microwaves).

Telephone calls to home were usually once a week because of long distance charges.  We would sit on the floor along the wall waiting for our turn.  The reception was poor and I was frustrated every week and usually in tears.  We each had a mailbox and in those days, we communicated best by snailmail.  My parents would send me a “goody package” every once in a while with baked goods.  I would get a letter from Mom once a week with a little postscript from Dad :).

Having two room mates was a challenge.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we never out and out fought with each other, we just never became close.  We “tolerated” each other.

Weezie had a routine every night…she’d take her shower, put curlers in her hair and wear this bouffant cap, put some wart remover on her warts, take her nail polish off and put a different one on, and then reach into her drawer for her peanut butter and spoon while studying.

Kac was studying piano and would spend a lot of time in the piano rooms on the top floor of our dorm.  I kid you not, there were bats up there(when you would come back from an evening class etc., you would see them circling the dorm) and sometimes there would be a dead bat on the piano.  She was also into fitness and on weekends when Weezie would go home(she lived fairly close by), she would wake me up at the crack of dawn and insist we go on long walks and hikes.  Her hobby was decorating her underwear…she would sit on her bed adding lace, beads, and flowers on her underwear.  I would embroider and knit.  I belongs to the Newspaper staff  and the Radio staff and spent much of my spare time there.  I also belonged to the German club because that was my minor.

The cafeteria food was awful…especially on the weekends(mystery meat).  So, we’d go to the local pizza/sub shop in town.(oh yes, the college was out in the boonies…the town consisted of 1 grocery store(A and P), bus stop, a 5 and 10, a Dutch Pantry restaurant, and the pizza/sub shop).  I always got a turkey sub with extra mayo.  (I read the year after I left, that the shop had been closed by the health inspector…).  I ate a lot of oatmeal that year…it was easy to cook in the kitchen..thinking I was helping myself…it didn’t matter, I gained the amount of weight anyway.  There was a candy and soda vending machine that was my downfall many times during test time…especially the Reeses peanut butter cups…

So, to get to the title of “Goldenrod”…well, I took my walk today and saw the goldenrod was blooming everywhere…and it triggered the memory of my freshman year…thus this post.  I had gone walking on a Saturday in the autumn and had picked a bouquet of goldenrod because of the vibrant color.  I put it in a vase and set it in the room.  While I was at dinner, Weezie had come back from her weekend and unknown to me, she was highly allergic to goldenrod.  As she came into the room, she sneezed and saw the goldenrod, pinched her nose, opened the window and dumped the contents of the vase.  I came back to both windows wide open and the empty vase with a short terse note from Weezie!   Amazing what can trigger the memory…just to see the goldenrod blooming!

til next time…Eva

First Friends

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   Last night I was enjoying a cup of coffee after dinner out on the deck…surrounded by my cockatiel Zowie and the two cats, Beast and Kitty.  The cats were mesmerized by something over by the neighbors and as I looked over, I noticed the little 3 year old boy running by(I could only see his chubby little legs) and shortly after, another set of chubby little legs chasing him.  At first they were throwing a little ball back and forth(well, lets just say they were throwing the ball but the other one wasen’t catching it…) and I could hear an adult now and then.  I guess the adults decided they were going to be ok and went inside for a little while. 

   At some point, the one little guy noticed there were cherries on the tree.  I could see them jumping up on the branch trying to get some of the cherries.  The only thing that accomplished was that the branch broke…  A set of chubby little legs then dashed by and next you see the one coming with a plastic milk crate and the other with a sand bucket.  Mr. Milk Crate then plops the milk crate under the branches, climbs on and proceeds to reach for the branches.  Mr. Sand Bucket is jumping up and down as well.  No cherries.  They mumble together and Mr. Milk Crate then searches for something else…comes back with something that looked like a plastic helmet, puts that on the crate and proceeds to balance on that…at this point I am starting to get a little nervous.  He does ok, is able to finally reach some cherries and gives them to Mr. Sand Bucket…who incidentally has put the sand bucket 10 yards away and has to run back and forth to put the cherries in.  This goes on for quite a while until I hear the adult mumbling again, he scrambles off the milk crate and they both rush up with their treasure of cherries.

   This took me down memory lane…towards “First Friends”.  Do you remember your first friend?  If you were lucky to have siblings and cousins around who were close in age, you might not have had outside friends til preschool or Kindergarten.  Since I only had one sibling who was 11 years older than I was, my first friend was Patti.   Our mothers were both in the “International Women’s Club”…at that time there were a lot of women who had been war brides and had come over to the US.  Patti’s mother was from Belgium and her father had been stationed in Belgium during WW2.

   Patti and I were together from when she was 1 and I was 2.  She had curly brown hair, big brown eyes with the long lashes, sweet face and disposition…I was the light blond with blue eyes and also easy going…and together we made a formidable team.  Whatever the one thought of, the other would gladly go along with.  Trouble was our middle name! 

   One incident I remember quite well(and there were several, trust me), was when we were around 3 and 4.  They lived in an apartment that consisted of 2nd and 3rd floor.  There was a bathroom on the second floor and Patti wanted to play in the water in the sink one day.  We filled the sink and put the toys in and all of the sudden, I see Patti stand up on the tub edge and lock the door. 

   “Knock, Knock, Knock”…”Girls…what are you doing in there?”…we hear Patti’s mother, trying to be very calm.  No answer.  “Patti…why is the door locked?”  Her voice isn’t very calm now.  I went over to the door and tried to unlock it.  “I can’t open it.”  “please try again…”  By this time Patti’s mother is getting a frantic sound to her voice…  Patti is still playing in the water…singing as well…

   No more sounds coming from the door.  So I went to play in the water too.  Looking out the window, we watch Patti’s mother down below dragging a very tall ladder up to the wall of the house.  She looked disheveled and desperate at this time.  Whomp…we see the ladder resting again the wall and slowly her mother is climbing the ladder…she is now at the window, rips off the screen with a strength I have never seen in her and pulls up the window(thank heavens Patti haden’t figured out how to lock that!) and jumps into the room.

  “Are you ok?  Are you ok? ”  I was crying at this point because I knew this wasen’t going to be good…Patti was Miss Cool and just walked over to her mother, clung to her and all was well with the world.  My mother was called and I was picked up because Patti’s mother had visibly had enough of that play date…

   Patti and I went on to have many escapades over the years…and we also had many times when all we did was play with our dolls.  We loved dressing up and pretending.  Her mother also would pretend she was a witch and chase after us…I think of that now and truly wonder if we pushed her over the edge some days!  

   Patti and I stuck together until I would say Junior High or High School…things changed too much then and we went different directions.  Not that we didn’t keep track of each other but somewhere along the way we lost each other…

   Seeing those two little boys last night brought back Patti to me…wonder where you are Patti…you were the best first friend ever…miss you.

   til next time…Eva

  

  

F-8

I was looking through a fashion magazine yesterday and saw an ingredient for a facial cream called vitamin C-8(actually a small 8 but I couldn’t do that on my computer). Not that I have a clue what they did to vitamin C to make it an 8…but anyway, when I saw that, I took a small trip down memory lane to my Freshman year of High School and my German 1 course.

When I was in High School, if you were in the College Preparatory Curriculum it was mandatory that you take two language courses(it might have been 3, I can’t remember). I took German because of Danish being a Germanic language as well…thought it would be somewhat similar. (My brother was a German teacher at the time in another school and I also thought if I had trouble he would be able to help me).

Frau S was a small, formidable woman well past her retirement years(at least that’s what we all thought at the time). Memorization was our basic means of instruction and I must admit, I can still recite what she taught us. The girls were Fraulein and the boys were Herr while we were in class. Quizzes were numerous and the monthly tests were sheer torture. Frau S had a unique grading system and no matter what grade you received, if you had any questions wrong you were required to come after school to her room and correct them.

The grading system was A, B, C, D…all normal so far…then came F, F1, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, F7 and F8.
The people who had A, B, and C would be in the after school session for maybe 5 minutes or so, correct their mistakes, take them up to her and have it approved. She would mark it corrected and smile at them as they left.

D took longer and the various Fs…well, I hate to tell you, but I was one of the poor souls who got F8 on tests sometimes…it was sheer torture. Every afternoon after school I would have to sit in her room and correct my mistakes and really not knowing what I was doing. I would take what I thought(and hoped) was corrected…she would look at it totally exasperated…NEIN, NEIN Fraulein!!!!! and would send me back to my seat. One time it was two weeks of daily torture of an hour each day…I grew to hate the smell of mercurochrome because she would wear that like cologne. I would sit there and watch my classmates leave one by one…looking back at me in pity.

At the end of our Freshman year, Frau S announced that she was retiring that year and the next year we had someone straight out of college…Mr. H…Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome himself…did I say he was single as well? The poor man…every girl in the class had a crush on him…and we continued taking German…did I get any better at it? Well, I went on to take it in college and actually had my minor in it…why I ever continued with it I have no idea…but that’s a whole other story.

til next time…Eva