My Mom was a neat-nick. There was no clutter in our house. Her early American furniture was polished, hardwood floors dusted on hands and knees daily. Window washing was a weekly task, unless horrendous weather prevailed. She used some concoction with vinegar and newspapers to dry them. Because newspapers left no streaks.
|Mom catching some rays in California, 1961…|
That’s not to say our house was empty. Quite the contrary. She had a lot of stuff. She was a clothes horse. Every closet was full. But neat. Always neat. And she had several collections. Milk glass, cut crystal, blue Delft, Black Hills gold, turquoise and silver jewelry. Yet the house had a more of a minimalist look. Because she knew how to display, store and hide things. Which is why I shouldn’t have been surprised by anything I found after she passed away. It was up to me to go through every inch of the house, getting it ready to put on the market. We packed up what dad wanted to keep, doled some out to family members, donated a lot. I kept what I wanted and hauled it to Michigan.
|Disneyland memorabilia, 1961…|
But surprised I was. Not so much when I was doing all the decision making on what and what not to keep. I was on auto-pilot and didn’t have or take the time to really reminisce. Years later, even after Dad had passed away. The stacks of containers continued to grow and now they were all mine. Still not much was done. It wasn’t until our first move in over 20 years when the sheer magnitude of how much of their stuff I had. With wonder, I have been amazed at what my Mom saved.
|Hand sized crate of orange bubblegum from Knott’s Berry Farm, 1961…|
There are really only 2 meaningful things I was unable to locate when I went through their house. One was Larry’s baseball cards. Since Larry was born in 1946 and was died in 1958, his collection of baseball cards had to be freaking awesome. I hope he used the less famous player’s cards in his bike spokes to make cool noises when he rode. But the players like Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Sandy Kolfax were all rookies during the 1950’s. Alas the house held no baseball cards. I think Mom and Dad might have given them to one of his good friends.
|With Dad’s sister Wilma’s family in California in 1961…|
The other item I never found was one of my jackets. A special one I can’t imagine Mom would have thrown out. It was during our big California vacation, the summer of 1961. Larry had been gone for 3 years. Mona was married. We drove our 1958 Chevy, 2-door Canyon Coral Biscayne. All the way from Iowa, through the summer heat. Without air. Squished with 5 people. Mom and Dad in the front, 2 paying customers (an elderly neighbor and one of her grandchildren) and me (a high maintenance brat who really wanted the back seat all to herself), stuffed in the back. The trip was fabulous, once we got there. Our goal was visiting a lot of family. My Dad’s sister, Wilma, Mom’s only sib, twin brother Floyd, Mom’s uncle on the Berghuis side and some family friends.
|Dad almost done taking down a building, mid’50’s…|
We went to Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, a Dodger’s game, and a trip to Tijuana, Mexico. While in Mexico, Mom bought me (I was 10) an exquisite wool jacket. It was red and had beadwork and sequins all over the jacket. The back was decorated with a very fancy sombrero. Mind you, from that trip Mom managed to keep the Dodger ticket stubs, a small stuffed (but very much alive at one time, kinda gross) alligator, a crate of orange bubblegum that resembled a crate of real oranges, and a newspaper with the Gerritson name in the headlines made at Knott’s documenting our visit there. But the jacket disappeared. How come it’s the one item I pine after? I would venture Mom gave it to someone with a daughter or granddaughter whom she worked with sometime after I outgrew it. Does not really sound like her though. She was always sentimental about my clothing and mementos. She never mentioned to me what happened to the jacket.
|The plain 1958 Chevy Biscayne…|
Do you know what I did find in a closet when I was packing up the house after it sold? Mom kept the dress I sewed in home economics class. I might have been in 8th or 9th grade. To me, the dress had complete failure written all over it. Mom thought it worthy of closet space, however. And in that old house of theirs, closet space was at a premium. I somehow managed to sew one of the dress sleeves on backwards. Three times. In desperation, my home ec. teacher, Miss Weiner finally plopped herself down at my sewing machine (my sewing machine is a term used loosely) and quickly sewed the sleeve on right. Miss Weiner’s way of ridding herself of this annoying girl who couldn’t sew. And could care less about sewing in any form.
|My baby doll highchair, 1956…|
When I was young Dad did odd jobs around Rock Valley. I think it was a 3-part equation. Money, he enjoyed putzing, and it got him out of the house. For a legitimate reason. He was often hired to take down a building. Not the building in Hawarden he was taking down when Larry was killed though. In this particular empty building was an old wicker doll buggy. He brought it home. The results of having that buggy in the house was 2-fold. Mom always said it was mine. But she never really let me play with it. I was no longer a toddler who would have run helter-skelter up and down the sidewalk. But I was a doll fanatic, and surely would have had it outside much of the time. Giving my babies rides. And maybe letting other kids run with it up and down the sidewalk too. She bought me a steel stroller and high chair for my babies, so I’d leave the wicker antique one alone. She did not trust me with my wicker stroller until I’d been married several years. Guess she also wanted my kids past the point of running it up and down the street. Thanks Mom. Because of your steadfast hope that I not ruin the buggy, it remains in pristine condition.
|Wicker buggy with doll quilt Bessie Jacobs made for me, 1957…|
My dolls. I don’t know exactly when the first Barbie doll was produced, believe it was late 1950’s, but I never had one. Mom bought me one fancy lady doll. From the Council Oaks store on Main Street. Council Oaks was a grocery store, but they had quite a few toys before Christmas. This doll had nylons with seams in the back and a fancy dress. And boobs. I’m pretty sure Mom put her on lay away and paid about fifty cents a week until Christmas.
|My fancy lady doll from Council Oak store, about 1958…|
Then I had a walking doll, named Cindy. She was not much smaller than me when I got her. She was supposed to walk along beside me. But she was a klutz. I figured it was because she couldn’t see properly and my Mom wouldn’t buy her glasses. So I cut her hair and bangs. I’ve not been able to find the white pinafore that goes over her faded blue dress since we moved. The whole thing was beautifully smocked. I took it off years ago when Shannon, much later Ari were little and played with her.
|Cindy with very short bangs and missing her smocked pinafore, 1955…|
My favorite doll was my baby doll. I had a bottle, rubber pants, and cloth diapers for her. She wet after I fed her. Mom had some seamstress gal make a bunch of clothes for her. I vividly remember heading to the variety store with some change clutched in my hand. The purpose of my shopping venture was to buy a bottle of Johnson & Johnson Baby Lotion. The pink stuff that smelled like a newborn. I believe they still make it. Honest, I would glop some on my little hands, and put it on my baby doll, Lori Jean. Do you want to know how long it takes to rub in lotion on a plastic/rubber doll? That lotion does not absorb very well in plastic. I’d just rub and rub, making enough friction to ignite her hair! But she was my baby and her plastic skin needed to be soft. She’s still soft after all these years. Thanks Johnson & Johnson.
|Lori Jean with the soft plastic skin, 1956..|
But there was something that Mom had saved that I had completely forgotten about. A tiny metal jewelry box, lined in red cloth. Bottom of it says Japan. Inside was my charm bracelet. What a delightful surprise! Just looking at the bracelet flooded me with so many memories. The tiny stagecoach with a tag from Estes Park, Colorado during a vacation in my mid teens. A charm pennant from the Rock Valley Rockets in orange and black, signifying my allegiance or something I got as a cheerleader. A tiny replica of a class ring. From Hubs. A charm that has my birthstone (December) in the middle. A flat disk with 2 intertwining hearts that declares, “going steady.” A rotary phone because talking on the phone was a teenage girls life. A key and a small heart. Aww. And a cross, anchor with a small heart and red stone in the center. Don’t remember what that’s about. But religion would be my guess. Even the bracelet is very nicely done. I probably bought it at De Vries’ Jewelry store. I loved going in there, talking to Mrs. De Vries with her silver and black hair. Mr. De Vries, who I remember as very tall would sometimes walk out from the back of the store. He had this magnifying eye piece thingy on the side of his glasses. Wow, something I hadn’t though about in decades. This has been such a neat trip down memory lane. Simply charming…
|Rediscovering this brings a big smile….|
|I never thought much of this until now…|