Memories from the Table

After moving we stored things we couldn’t use in a shed until we could figure out what to do. One of those things was an antique Duncan Phyfe dining room table from my aunt Kate – my Grandmother’s sister. My aunt Kate had been married twice and couldn’t have children. Her first husband was a miner that passed away young. She had gone on to marry an older widower who had children. She was married to my Uncle Ralph by the time I was born, her first husband Freeman had been gone many years.

They lived in a beautiful house on Logan. I loved playing in that house. It’s now painted blue and has been turned into a hair salon, but at the time it was a two story Victorian with a wrap around porch, basement and several rooms upstairs too. The hair salon has enclosed the wrap around porch (I haven’t been inside to see what else they have done). The dining room was huge with two doors onto the porch, my aunt kept two matching desks across from each other as well as her quilting frame in that room in the section with the doors. There was even a fireplace with what I seem to remember had green marble on it. Their bedroom with a private bath was off of the dining room. The living room had a bay window and I remember a large photo of Niagara falls (It may have been another falls) over the fireplace. My uncle was an photographer in his free time and they would travel all over the United States. They had visited the entire 48 states (that’s how many there were at the time) and collect photos and post cards. The entry had a large stair way that led to the second floor.

I would always venture upstairs where there was a bedroom with a large walk in closet. I can remember a vanity that included a brush and mirror set that I can still see clearly, and a rounded mirror. Across the hall was a large two room ‘apartment’ type bedroom with a bath and a separate kitchen area. I was never sure why it was set up that way, but I suspect the hair place has it set up as a rental now.

I remember during my childhood getting to stay at her house. It was one of my favorite places! We would get dropped off there when my parents needed a babysitter. Most of my memories of the house involve the dining room and getting to explore the upstairs. Later my aunt sold the house as it became too much for her to take care of. She moved to a rental apartment by the park in the same town. I’m not sure what happened to most of her furniture, though at the time the dining room table went to some of my cousins. The cousin’s over-time put it in a shed where I was able to find it upon setting up our house about 30 years ago. We still have one of the matching desks here – my brother had gotten the other and I have no idea if he still has it. My aunt had taken such care of that table. I even have a few of the specially made covers she had made to take care of the top. My cousins had lost the leaves that could extend it, but my husband and I had made some that we used throughout the years. They were slightly warped and always added something unique to our meals. The table when stretched out seated over 12 people. The table has a lot of memories, which were brought up recently because people trying to get other things out of the shed broke the legs off the table without telling me. I just happened to find it while going in to put away a little more of my stuff. Another table would not be the same. It was that table!

My aunt went on to live with my grandmother and we are using my grandmother’s table in our current house. Because my aunt developing Alzheimer’s she later went into a nursing home and passed away there. She and my grandmother though were the two that got me my first computer (my father thought they were unnecessary and useless). It was a Commodore 64. My first paid job was an inventory system for a small company that was using a commodore 64 to manage things. It was in the middle of the 80s. I spent my senior year in high school on that computer with my cousin from Westville Chris McDowell and a few other kids from the area. It was one of the first times I felt like I fit in with a group and I had a great time. DACC had a bulletin board system, and we all left messages for each other at all hours of the day and night. I know my aunt and grandmother had no clue anything about the computer but they supported me.

My aunt also got me started with quilting. I still have an old hat box that has all the little pieces of fabric she gave that were scraps from pieces of things she was working on. My grandmother would piece quilts together and my aunt would quilt them. My grandmother would knit and my aunt would crochet. The two were frequently together. My grandmother had 9 brothers and sisters, but my aunt Kate and my Lena were the two that my grandmother was the closest to.

The bottom picture shows the table in use, though it’s covered by a table cloth. The chairs are old chairs that were much older than the table. My grandmother had recovered them. My grandmother is holding me and it also includes my Aunt Kate, Aunt Lena, Uncle Ervin, and My mom and dad.

Things I remember on this table include birthday parties – throwing a surprise party for my husband with my grandmother there and finding out that 40 candles burn really really hot! The day that I walked out to find my middle son sitting in the middle of the table with pieces of broken leaded glass in his fingers where he had broken a wedding gifts top from my godmother. She had worked so hard to bring that gift to us, since airport security couldn’t xray through the leaded glass and it ended up involving unwrapping it and rewrapping it on the way to the wedding. There were a lot of family parties around that table. It was a drop leaf, so it folded up smaller and it also extended out to become large.

I’m not sure how the guys that broke the table bumped it given where it was sitting. They had to go out of their way to break the table, but my mother who didn’t really like my table to start with has said that she accepted their apology. I’m not completely sure if the table is even worth fixing as the legs will still be unstable after and they have placed it on the top which has probably scratched up the top. One of the cool things about the top was the finish that I could never figure out how it was accomplished. It was glossy, but it was an amazing finish!

Father’s Day

I’ve said it before, it’s tough when your father is in that in between land of suffering.  You haven’t lost your father – yet your father isn’t really there.  You can be with your father, but not share memories.  What you really have is a physical shell of your parent….  Friends post about missing their fathers and wouldn’t understand if you mention that you miss your father too.. but friends with their father’s are in that position where they don’t understand either. Unless you have been there you really can’t know what that limbo is like.

This year I helped my mother print a poster of my mom and dad to hang in my dad’s room. I’m hoping it will help my dad recognize my mother easier when she visits.  His eyes are in bad shape from macular degeneration and the small pictures aren’t the easiest to see.  We were able to email a picture to Staples and get a poster that is 2 foot by 3 foot printed in half an hour.  Yeah!


Talking about growing up, I was describing to a person online the task of walking beans.  Walking beans involves walking down each row with a hook and cutting each weed.  I was so excited the first year I was old enough to join my dad and the ‘boys’ that worked for him in the field.  I still remember the first day.  My mom had taken us to swim lessons for the first time at the YMCA and I was in either 4th of 5th grade….  I wanted to go out and walk with those high school boys so bad.  The first day was hot, but being just out of the pool I didn’t even notice. Mom had dropped me at the field on the way home.  The field that was by where my  cousin Judy’s house was later.  We finished that field and the next day we were ready to move on to the field next field closer to my Aunt Margaret’s.  My dad started the day early, while the beans were still wet.  We took off down the rows and I remember one of the boys kept stepping on the corn hook and running it into his shoe.  Of course my mind kept going to what would happen if he ran it into his foot!

Next thing I knew I ended up passing out.  I’ll never forget waking up to find myself thrown over my father’s shoulder.  Every step he took cut into my stomach and he was walking back to the truck.  I remember saying something about being able to walk and my dad refusing to let me…..  He put me in the truck, took me to my Aunt Margaret’s house nearby and made my mother come and get me.  I was then BANNED from helping for the rest of the summer.  I remember begging and pleading… telling them I was fine… but nope, I wasn’t allowed to work.  Years later I would have done about anything to get a break from walking beans, but that year I wanted to so bad…

Now thinking back I can’t imagine how scared my dad must have been when I collapsed in the field.  Around that time I had a habit of passing out.  The reason was never found, but I passed out in a few odd places, off stools into laps, at school in the aisle (I got up to tell the teacher I was going to pass out), and even once in the vet’s office).  I’m not sure if this was the first time, but now I’m sure my dad’s reaction was fear.

I wish now I could ask him about that day, it’s something we never talked about other than that summer with me begging to walk beans and my parents telling  me no….  That’s one of the tough things about dementia….  you still have the person but the memories are locked in their mind forever to be lost…..

Memorial Day Weekend

To me this is a weekend to reflect back on the family we have lost (Especially

close family).  My mother goes around to each of the graves and puts flowers on the graves… which is comforting to her – knowing that there is one day out of the year that the graves are decorated.  For me this is more a long holiday where at some point I reflect on the family I have lost.   My close family are in my memories every day, so it’s hard to say that one day is any more special than others.

Memories of my grandmother come to me when I sew, when something special happens in the boys lives (especially Kristopher), even certain foods I make.  I miss her all the time!  Big things like the fact that she never met Konnor or little things like that she will never make him a sock monkey….  this next weekend and that she will miss Kris’ graduation.

Barbie outfit

A barbie wedding outfit my grandmother made that I have displayed in a shadow box.

My grandmother was wonderful at sewing, I really wish I had taken the time to listen when she had tried to teach me…. and let on more that I was listening.  She explained grainline, I don’t know how many times.  I’ve since looked it up to refresh my memory, but I remember her trying to explain it – and my ‘Why does it matter?’  As for the sock monkeys, I’ll never forget her story of taking them to my cousins in Texas and her luggage getting lost.  – “Is there anything unique in your luggage that will help identify it?”  – “Yes, There are three monkeys in my suitcase”.

She survived two husbands and all her brothers and sisters, and was still in her right mind when we lost her.  Just one day she was here, and the next she wasn’t.  She did everything from own a bar to teach kindergarten and was the only one of her siblings to go to high school.  Yes, I think she was pretty amazing.  My grandfather drown when my mother was about 3 and my grandmother had left her job as a teacher to marry him.  So she was forced to move back home with my great grandmother.

My mother tells the story of my grandmother meeting my second grandfather.  He saw her waiting bar at the bar she had bought…. and he told my Uncle Ervin he was going to marry her.  She told him ‘Like Hell you Will!”.  She said she was married to one drunk and she wasn’t going to do it again.  My grandfather Wakeland then cleaned up his act and she married him.  (By cleaned up I mean not around her, there was a story about my grandmother trying to bean him with a marble ashtray when he came home drunk once).  I also remember something about a footrace but that story I don’t remember clearly.

I would say that I miss my grandmother the most each day, but on days when I reflect back I miss my close aunts and uncles too.  Most of my other grandparents were gone before I was born other than my grandfather Richter and he died when I was younger making my memories of him much slimmer.


Things that Make You Smile (food)

It’s funny the things that make you smile from your childhood (this time I’m talking about food).  A few of mine revolve around memories of my grandparents.  I was recently reminded of my grandfather Richter when I bought a package of Little Debbie Oatmeal cookies.   The little Debbie Sandwich cookies that I love and also the crust off of Chicken Pot Pies are two of my favorite things that remind me of him.  The final thing is the Concord Grapes (white) that grew out front of his house.  – The grapes are pretty impossible to find in seedless. I’ve found them once and savored them.  I rarely have pot pies, and almost never by the cookies – but when I do it’s a really special event.  Grandpa Richter passed away when I wasn’t even a teenager yet so there aren’t that many memories, but I do remember him sitting at his kitchen table giving me his pot pie crust from those Banquet Chicken Pot Pies.  At the time I was such a picky eater that’s all I would eat of the pot pie – and forget the crust that had touched the gooie stuff. 🙂   I do remember cookouts at the pond, but food isn’t what sticks out in my mind from those.

I also can’t pass up Turtles when I get the chance, but they are a memory of my Grandmother Wakeland.  She would get Turtles for each of the grandkids each Christmas.  I think it started back when the schools would sell Katheryn Brach products as fundraisers.  She would buy a tin each year (so would my mother) and we would eat one every few days.  I think it’s now a different brand, but my mother has taken on the tradition of getting my brother and I a box of Turtles at each Christmas.   I think my kids just view it as a Christmas tradition, but for me it’s a memory of childhood.

I also remember my father making fudge.  I’ve never found a similar fudge and my dad doesn’t make it anymore.  I think it was the only thing he made and it was a special treat when he made it.  It involved him mixing together a mishmash of sugar and ingredients (none of which were measured) and then heating them.  He would get a cup of water and drop a little in every so often, until some magic time when it balled in the water.  Then he would pour it out on the wax paper.  We would cut pieces every so often and have a small treat.  (We also got Chocolate bars that would sit on the counter and cut off small pieces every so often as a treat)  I’m not that big on Chocolate, but if I ever find that type of fudge (or a recipe) I’m going to make it for my kids. I keep thinking one day I’ll convince my dad to make it for me one more time (and I’ll pay attention this time to the recipe).

Not all my memories from childhood revolve around food, but there are some foods that trigger great memories!