A berry good week…

The feeling was familiar and reminiscent of a couple years ago BI (before inflation). Me, the grocery shopper extraordinaire, now a hesitant shopper because every time I walk in Meijer a hundred dollar bill flies out of my wallet. For 3 or 4 plastic bags to carry to the house. But the last few days felt like 2020.

Hubs gets irate when I give away what he considers ‘his stash’ of strawberry jam

Last week a post on Facebook advertised, Friday & Saturday at Meijer, Strawberries, 99 cents a quart (while supplies last). I love them and eat a bowl of strawberries every night when I can afford them. Strawberries aren’t something I can buy ahead because they’re extremely perishable (if you frown they’ll rot on the spot). They don’t have a long shelf life, which means going to the store every few days to buy a couple quarts. And if they’re more than $2.50 a quart I can’t justify keeping them in the house.

Hubs doesn’t care for fresh strawberries but when they’re canned into jam he has a smidge on toast with peanut butter almost every morning. Until there was no more strawberry jam in the cupboard which he’s reminded me of daily. So I bought 12 quarts, 3 to eat fresh and 9 to wash, remove stems, slice into quarters, then smash and freeze for jam. They’re really a pain in the butt to get ready for jam. They don’t smash easily but fight tooth and nail to stay in their original shape (wish I had that much willpower to stay in my original shape).

So we tried something different this time. Still had to remove the stem, rinse and quarter them but Hubs put small batches in the food processor and pulsed for a second. We still wanted pieces of strawberry in our jam just without the tedious process of using my pastry cutter or potato masher for an hour. I packed 5 cups each in ziplock bag and laid them flat in the freezer to save room.

Raspberry Jam…

A few days later I noticed Meijer’s new post on Facebook. Friday & Saturday, fresh Raspberries, 99 cents per 6 ounce carton. Well 6 ounces of raspberries doesn’t amount to much. A batch of raspberry jam takes several cartons to make 5 cups of smashed fruit. Still, a far better price than they have been which is about 9 dollars a pound-yikes! So I bought 21 cartons for 3 batches of raspberry jam, minus one big berry per carton-to make sure they were delicious. Pretty good deal for fresh fruit but pectin is up 75 cents a package (I needed 6) and 10 pounds of sugar is up from $5.49 to $6.59 (needed 2). Still haven’t figured out how inflation is up 9% when my sugar is up 20%, and that’s not an oddity with foodstuffs but the norm or lower than some of the price hikes.

Luckily I have oodles of jars, rings and lids I bought on fall clearance a couple years ago because rings and lids have nearly doubled in price. It’s almost cheaper to buy new jars which includes rings and lids than just the 2-part tops. Crazy. Brought up all my canning supplies, washed everything on Friday night to get an early start Saturday. Ok it was 10 a.m. before I was sufficiently motivated but I was done by 3 which included a half hour to eat my BLT.

Made some Peach Jam a month ago. Couldn’t afford apricots, my favorite…

The sum of my 5 hour canning fest was 54 half pints, 27 of each. Nothing was brought back downstairs but the kitchen was fairly clean, dishes were done and floor was mopped. I usually wait overnight to wipe, label and make sure all the jars have sealed.

An easy supper of nachos was on my agenda when Hubs decides he’d rather have tacos. “Fine, get a container of taco meat out of the freezer.” I’m dotting my chips with nacho meat, adding cheese and throwing them in the oven for a few minutes while I cut tomatoes and shred lettuce for both of us. Did I mention how small our kitchen is, especially when there’s 4 dozen jars taking up valuable counter space? Hubs is making tacos and placing them on his plate, which is sitting on top of a dozen jars of jam. Precarious right? Slid right off the counter, flipped upside down on the floor. Sigh.

I didn’t say one WORD. All his delicious food on the floor (formally recognized as clean). He gets the broom, dust pan, sweeps up the whole mess, plops it in the garbage while I scrub the floor. Again. My nachos are now lukewarm while he scrounges the fridge for leftovers and settles on 2 brats, buns and tops them with sauerkraut. We’ve both seen enough of our kitchen for the day.

Some of my African Violets are blooming like crazy…

The jam is now downstairs, the countertops are clear and the floor is presentable. Still want to can some applesauce, pickled beets, cranberry sauce and make a couple apple pies but the Northern Spys are not ready, neither are the beets. That’s ok, I might need a few days…

Skipping School…

My childhood home is in a small town in northwest Iowa. Kinda rural and secluded. The closest ‘big’ city was Sioux Falls. But like many rural areas, the countryside (which wasn’t farmland to feed the entire world) was dotted with numerous small towns/hamlets/villages within a 50 mile radius, some of which were in South Dakota. Rock Valley’s near Inwood, Fairview, Hudson, Hull, Sioux Center, Boyden, Doon, Rock Rapids, Ireton, Hawarden, Canton, Sheldon, Sanborn, Le Mars, Maurice, Orange City, Larchwood, Lester, Alvord, Carmel, Lebanon, Perkins Corner, Alton, Hospers, George, Newkirk, Akron and so on. Guess Rock Valley wasn’t as isolated as I thought when I was a kid.

I ‘heart’ Rock Valley…

Through most of my youth, it was just me, mom and dad. My 12 year old brother was killed when I was 7 and a couple years later my older sister got married. Mom started working after I was in school (not kindergarten because I went half days). By 5th grade mom and I routinely went shopping (during school hours). Yup, I skipped school with mom more often than I ever did with friends, and it was usually her idea. Yay me! Heck, I was game.

My afternoon kindergarten class. I’m in the top row on the right…

I walked home for dinner everyday (except cinnamon roll day or turkey dinner) because school was a block and a half away. Dinner was at noon and should not be confused with supper which took place between 5 and 6 o’clock at night. Most days mom came home for dinner so we ate together. Every few months she’d say, “do you want to go shopping this afternoon?” (Heck yes). And off we’d go.

My school. These buildings are long gone…

It was surprising how small a neighboring town might be yet still have some decent retail shopping. I remember going to Doon (very small) when I was very young. Dad probably had to go to Lem’s auto salvage for something. We’d stop downtown (I’m being generous with the term downtown) and he took me to a general store. He bought me red plastic high heels which were killers but I was so cool, and once he bought me a tiny wooden case/shelf that held a real china tea set). Having some shops/stores in every town had a lot to do with the weather. Our winters were wicked so it benefited everyone in town and was a boost to the economy. Mom decided where we were going, I just didn’t know it yet. If she were seriously looking for a good church clothes it had to be Sioux Falls or Sioux City. There was not enough selection in small town boutiques. Mom didn’t want to walk into church service and see anyone else in a dress like hers. Gasp! Those 2 big cities ensured mom she’d not likely see a duplicate outfit on Sunday morning.

But if she were shopping for work outfits (less dressy pantsuits, she was decades ahead of Hilary) or me we were prone to go with the smaller shops in nearby towns for the afternoon. Two of her favorite shopping towns were Le Mars and Sheldon. I think the name of her favorite spot was called The Fashionette in Le Mars but that was a few miles further away, so we often opted for Sheldon which was 30 miles away. The downside was Sheldon smelled ghastly-most of the time. Sheldon had a business that roasted soybeans after the crop was harvested (a huge Iowa crop). It may sound like a fabulous fall day of roasting marshmallows for S’mores over an open fire but do not be hopelessly romantic or fooled. It smelled horrible and made you gag.

The great little towns of northwest Iowa…

We’d start our shopping adventure at a small restaurant with a 3 sided, U-shaped counter seating on the corner of main street because they made homemade pies. We both had a thing for banana, coconut or lemon meringue. But first we’d order a meal. My ‘go to’ meal was a hamburger and French fries while mom ordered a bowl of their homemade soup and a side dish of pea salad. (Looking at those ice cold peas ladled in a mayonnaise based dressing with cheese chunks, onions, chopped up hard boiled eggs was harder to take than the soybean plant’s odor). Hahaha, now I make that exact same salad often and love it.

Our favorite dessert. Something delicious under that meringue…

It was usually a pair of shoes that drew us to Sheldon. Didn’t matter if the shoes were for work, high heels for church or a casual pair to wear around the house, this particular shoe store always carried what mom was looking for. I think there was a great department store in Sheldon where we could find something cute for me (maybe Wulf’s?). We’d walk through the downtown area which included lots of window shopping envy, but most often left Sheldon with something new for both of us. A couple of our shopping excursions were disastrous but for the most part I have good memories about skipping school with mom…

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Play by play…

I was making a salad this week when out of the blue the name Skip Caray popped in my head. Where on earth did that come from? I haven’t thought of him in years. He comes from a family of sports announcers which included his dad, Harry and Skip’s son Chip. Skip announced Brave games on TBS for years. After becoming a rabid Cub’s fan when Chicago had an ‘off day’ and I was craving a baseball fix, I’d watch Atlanta for a few innings, although Skip was not the most sparkling personality to call a game.

Go Cubs go, go Cubs go, hey Chicago what’da say, the Cubs are gonna win today…

From 1982 through 2016 (half of my life), I was obsessed with baseball. Kinda a fanatic really. Before baseball, (BB) I dabbled my love between pro football and college basketball. Mary Ellen, one of my dearest friends when we moved to Davenport convinced me to take a bus trip to Chicago’s north side to watch a game (during the day because there were no lights at Wrigley Field for a few more years) of one of the fiercest rivalries in baseball. The Cubs and the Cardinals. When Mary Ellen was young, her grandparents lived in Wrigleyville and she visited them a couple weeks each summer. By the time she was 7 she was keeping game stats for hits, RBI’s, BB, walks and SO’s.

Steve Stone and Rick Sutcliffe…

It was a perfect summer day for baseball, I loved the atmosphere, the ivy, Wayne Messmer singing his (splendid) rendition of the National anthem, Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ to intro the game and the organ music. From that day forward I was hooked on the Cubs. America’s lovable losers. Although it would take more than 30 years before they won a World Series, (the last one was in the early 1900’s) the ball club was making strides. Landing their share of quality pitchers (Rick Sutcliffe), players and a few good rookies (Raphael Palmeiro/Jerome Walton) although not all their acquisitions were appreciated or prudent (Ron Cey). Oy vey.

One of the best-Pat Hughes…

But not all games are enjoyed in person. WGN carried about half of the Cubs’ 162 game schedule on TV. Since Chicago was 150 miles away I could ‘catch’ all their games on WGN radio. Who knew how fickle I was concerning certain announcers?

Thom Brennamen…

During my Cubs’ ‘MVP’ fan tenure, there’s been a revolving door of announcers. Many I found engaging with a great knowledge of the game. Some, like Ron Santo were revered and admired because of their playing days and their obvious loyalty to the Cubs. I believe my rookie season’s games were announced on the radio by Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau and I loved them both. Many announcers had great voices, other’s with voices that grated on my last nerve. Steve Stone, Milo Hamilton, Dewayne Staats, Thom Brennaman and Pat Hughes were fabulous announcers with in-depth knowledge and love of baseball.

Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for decades…

And now about the enormous elephant in the small booth. I’m in the minority about this ‘beloved’ guy but I couldn’t muster up fondness/empathy or patience for the man. He held absolutely no appeal for me. He slurred his words and spent half the game trying to pronounce a player’s name BACKWARDS which was pretty annoying since he mis-pronounced most of their names frontwards. He did have a nifty way of calling what he assumed was a home run with, “it might be, it could be, IT IS! Holy cow.”

Chip, Harry & Skip Caray…

Harry Caray started working for WGN and announcing the Cubs games on TV about the same time I became a fan. What are the odds? I learned to adapt. Harry did the first 3 innings on TV, then switched to the radio side for innings 4-6, then back to TV for the last 3. So I listened/watched the game the opposite way. On the radio for the first 3, watching TV for the middle 3, then switching back to the radio. Or I used the mute button. Harry & Skip Caray, Vince Lloyd, Lou Boudreau, Ron Santo, Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell are all playing or announcing in The Big Sky League. No one’s subjected to getting hit by a pitch, bad calls by the umpire, the injured reserve, trade deadlines, contract disputes or rain delays…

Nosey receptacle…

Some things I hold dear are odd because they appear neither meaningful nor nostalgic. I’m probably the only person who saved their parent’s handkerchiefs from the donation bag after they passed away. Is it possible to be emotionally attached to hankies?

One of mom’s hankies…

It would have been beneficial to dad’s overall health if he’d hadn’t worked for the Iowa State Highway Commission. During the winter he drove a snowplow over the hazardous roads between the South Dakota border and Sheldon, Iowa. Ice, snow, accompanied by a 50 mile-an-hour westerly breeze, producing blizzard conditions, missing suppers, working late into the night. It was part of his job and he rarely complained about it. Besides there always was a spot for the overtime pay he got during storms. But it was the months of April through October that bothered dad’s physical health.

After Larry died and Mona got married, I got the bedroom down the hall from mom and dad’s room, approximately 15 feet away. Born to a family of early risers, mom got up at 5 to start work at 7. She’d shake out the throw rugs (letting the front door slam a half dozen times), then dust the dining room and kitchen floors on hands and knees using a small rag. She’d gather all 47 grains (she did this every morning, how much dirt could there be from the 3 of us) of sand between her index finger and thumb and carefully place them in the dust rag.

Dad’s lunch pail…

Mom started a pot of coffee for dad’s lunch pail, wrapped his banana in waxed paper and set his thermos on the kitchen table. The rest of his lunch (in waxed paper) was in the fridge which dad packed before he left. Then she’d wash up and get dressed for work (after she’d worked for 2 hours). Dad didn’t get up until 6:30 but his day began much earlier from April-October. I didn’t have to get up until they were both out the door but when mom and dad’s day started earlier-so did mine. If slamming the front door and the whack/whack from shaking out the rugs wasn’t enough, dad had a early morning ritual that drove this preteen crazy.

The reason dad should have worked elsewhere was allergies. During the spring, summer and fall dad drove a huge mower on Highway 18 & 75’s shoulder and in the ditch. Dad suffered (causing me to suffer) the worst hay fever/outdoor allergies I’ve ever seen. It was like clockwork, every morning, starting before 6 (no alarms were needed in our house).

One of Dad’s work hankies…

Significant amount of sneezing. If I was awake I’d start counting to see if he could break his own record (I remember days when he topped out over 40). Mom, downstairs with the front door slamming shut every other minute and dad upstairs doing his morning reps of multiple sneezing. I don’t think he ever doctored for his allergies and never took an over the counter medication.

After 15 minutes with no respite from his barrage of sneezing, dad would wander downstairs to start the day. I’d hear them talking in hushed voices (no reason to wake up Denise yet-hahaha-but their quiet conversations were the only part of their morning I wanted to hear). In between her cleaning projects and his sneezing fits, I’d just lay in bed, waiting for the house to be quiet again. Then it was time for me to rise and shine, pick out an outfit, eat some cinnamon/sugar on Hillbilly toast and trudge the block and a half to school.

They were called ‘spit curls’ for a reason-hahaha…

I’m not sure when the first laundromat opened in Rock Valley but before mom become their regular customer she did our laundry using a wringer washer in the basement. Then she lugged heavy wash baskets of wet laundry and hung up everything on the clothesline outside-winter and summer. White clothes first, (the water was super hot and clean), sheets, colored clothes, towels and dad’s work clothes last. Dad wore blue overalls and long sleeved chambray shirts year round (plus longjohns 10 months a year). His hands up to his wrists were dark brown from that radiant Iowa sun but his arms were whiter than the snow drifts he plowed.

Shannon & Poppa 1973 (the overall, blue shirt and brown hands-priceless)…

The clothesline made everything smell wonderful but our clothes were horribly wrinkled (and stiff as a board during the winter when mom brought it in). After waiting for the clothes to thaw and dry, she made most of it wet again. Crazy! She’d sprinkle the clothes with a green glass 7-Up pop bottle, using a cork with tiny holes so the water would daintily dampen the clothes, rolled them up like a burrito then spend an evening attached to her ironing board to get rid of the wrinkles.

Which brings me to their hankies. Mom bought white hankies with various colored tatted edge or crocheted borders using fine thread. She didn’t carry a purse but always brought a clean hankie to church where she knotted a couple pink peppermints in one corner for her noisy, bored youngest kid. Plain white hankies for dad when he was dressed in ‘church clothes’ and red or navy paisley ones for him at work. Mom kept hankies in our car’s glovebox at all times.

Now that’s gonna leave a mark…

Mom didn’t press our sheets or dad’s work clothes but she ironed everything else. The pillowcases with a crocheted border (which left ‘indented marks’ on your face for hours after you laid on it), her white work uniforms and dad’s dress shirts. Can’t forget the hankies. Dad used one before he left for work and another couple during the day. After washing up and eating supper, he’d changed into ‘good clothes’ to do the Lord’s work (which required a white hankie, so he went through 3 a day! Mom ironed 25 hankies a week.

Mom saved the hankies until last when she ironed-maybe because they were easy or her eyes had glazed over and she could do this blindfolded. She’d unplug the iron (this was before steam irons and they stayed hot for as long as it took to iron 2 dozen hankies) and laid one flat on the ironing board. Ran the iron over it, folded in half, pressed, folded again the long way, pressed and folded it four times for a nice square that fit easily in dad’s pocket.

Undershirt, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt under the overall and I wonder where I got my cold arms…

I didn’t save all their hankies. Some of mom’s fancier ones were divided up between the girls in our family. I use dad’s hankies to clean my glasses and keep several around the house, my makeup case and purse because a smudge on my glasses drives me bonkers. Although I grew up in a home with a full assortment of hankies, I never use them for my nose (that’s why God made Kleenex). Definitely not a hankie snob but I’m kinda snotty about my hankie stash…

Banking on it…

Recently I blogged about the only bank in my hometown when I was a kid. It’s been closed for many years and the beautiful corner building remains empty. Mom did our family banking at that facility because direct deposit or drive through did not exist when I was little. The focus of my story was this odd ‘perk’ the bank offered. Valley State Bank supplied several local businesses with unlimited blank checks bearing no one’s account numbers! If you were grocery shopping and short on cash, you filled out a generic check. The business and bank honored it.

Valley State Bank building…

As a senior I’m constantly warned/hounded/scared straight about having my identity stolen, grifter’s after every penny in my savings, scammers enticing me to buy products I’ll never see, fake IRS agents calling for my SSN or account numbers, a warrant out for my arrest from some fake courthouse/judge in another state, or someone I care about has been arrested for a crime and needs 8 thousand dollars rushed by Western Union from me for his bail. Plus my favorite, the extended warranty on the last 5 cars I’ve owned-everyday.

I’m astounded to think how trusting mom/dad/the bank was about their money/accounts back then. (Maybe we were more honest). After I published the story, I got comments that this strange banking practice was not limited to my quaint little town but was used all over the Midwest. What? Most of the store’s cash registers and bars where beer guzzling guys bellied up, it was common to see a pack of blank counter checks waiting to be haphazardly written out to ‘cash’ and no one thought anything of it.

Lori Jean…

One of my neighbors during the 1950’s was Lori. She and her family lived 2 houses away. She was a couple years younger than me but we were best friends and played together most days until she moved a half hour away (different town and school) a few years after we moved on the block. Her older brother Rod was closer to my age but he was a boy. We didn’t ‘play together.’

Rod…

Through the miracle of Facebook (one of their best features), Lori, Rod and I reconnected a few years ago. We make comments on each other’s posts/blogs and generally keep track how each other’s lives are going. Apparently we have many of the same interests by the stuff we post. Blog readers know I enjoy antique oak furniture, rustic wooden boxes, old advertising gadgets, toys, reading and baking. We all still have a soft spot for our hometown.

One of my favorite wooden boxes advertising ‘original mottled German Soap’ from Proctor & Gamble

Lori’s a dog lover and fiercely loyal to her family. Rod’s (still) an avid antique collector (unlike Hubs and I-we have no extra room, so we’re no longer on the prowl for that perfect piece of furniture we need to make our lives complete). Rod likes Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and owns a nifty old car named Nadine. Hubs has owned/refurbished several old cars during our long marriage and is now working on a 1962 Studebaker pickup. So there’s some common ground between old neighbors/friends.

Hubs 1962 Studebaker Champ…

A few days after I published the ‘blank check blog’ I got a package in the mail. It was from Rod. Oh. My. Goodness. The box had 14 pieces of miscellaneous cut cardboard stuck everywhere to ensure nothing got dented or bent. Once I got past all the cardboard there was a small green, metal file rack from VALLEY STATE BANK! In perfect condition, absolutely perfect.

Look at this neat piece of memorabilia from Rod…

Now my task is where to showcase this advertising file. It should be on/in an antique oak roll top desk, which I do not have, (but Rod, if you’ve got one, I will find a spot). For now it’s going on the roll top desk I do own. I’ve had it since 1983 when I bought it at an estate sale in Davenport Iowa. Inside was paperwork which documents it had been used in the lower elementary grades of Davenport Public Schools during the 1920’s. It’s cute but the chair is more suitable for a 5-year-old, not the best place for me to write checks. But, for now it will suffice. Thanks so much Rod, I love it! And now you know the rest of the story…

I never realized Valley State Bank had more offices…

The bank business…

There were things I never questioned growing up. Maybe I was naive, simply accepting most things in my life were normal and part of everyday living in a small town. Looking back I still have a hard time accepting these everyday practices happened anywhere but northwest Iowa in the 1950’s-1960’s. This is how I remember it.

Mom & dad in the mid-1940’s…

Mom and dad used cash for most everything. Besides their house payment which was on a land contract, I don’t remember them having loans, even for cars. They just saved until they had enough to buy a new car, but to mom’s precise specifications. Her idea of necessities for a car consisted of an engine, manual transmission, manual roll-up windows, 4 tires, wipers, heater and defroster, no air conditioning or radio but was paid for when they drove off the lot.

Mona, mom and Larry in 1948…

In our tiny kitchen was a cupboard above the fridge which was useless. It was too high to keep any needed utensils or dishes for everyday use because you had to be 6 feet tall and have the wingspan of Kareem Abdul Jabar to reach above and over the fridge. Well guess what? Mom was 6 feet tall and so was dad. That useless cupboard was home to mom’s electric knife (to keep it out of the hands of her wayward child) but it also held a tattered box with slips of paper used as dividers which each held different amounts of cash. (Maybe their cash stash was also kept up there out of my sticky finger’s reach-hmmmm). Separate compartments for IPS (utilities), De Boer’s Station, where mom filled up, Doc Ver Berg’s, where dad filled up. (Why they regularly bought gas at different gas stations 2 blocks apart remains a mystery). Before mom and dad had our home heating system switched to natural gas the furnace used fuel oil, which was delivered from De Boer’s, so that bill would have been much higher during Iowa’s winters. Mom paid each bill every month in cash-and in person.

Rock Valley’s Main Street. Valley State bank was just before this intersection (and our one-stoplight) on the left…

There was a section for tithing to the church (they never skimped) groceries, telephone (Ma Bell) and maybe something miscellaneous like a medical bill from Dr. Hegg or our dentist, Dr. Schroeder. (Me and my sore throat’s & fragile teeth). Mom always carried cash in her billfold (hahaha-she didn’t carry a purse until she was in her 60’s) and dad did too (I mean had cash on him, not carrying a purse).

Where mom and dad tithed for 50 years…

This was small town living at its finest. Many of our local stores offered some kind of charging, allowing families to ‘go cashless’ for several weeks or a month as long as they paid their bill on time and in full, but besides gas and fuel oil bills, neither of my folks charged much. Years later mom got a charge card for Sears & Roebuck and JC Penney but paid them in full each month when she used them.

During my aforementioned childhood years, our little burg (1,500 farmers and townies) had one financial institution, Valley State Bank. A beautiful, old stately (stone/cement) corner building. The tellers knew everyone, voicing greetings to all who entered, even me when I tagged along. Mom would cash her check or sign HER name to DAD’S CHECK, deposit some in checking, plus bringing the red leatherette book along to record her savings deposit, then take the rest in cash to be divvied up in the skyward cupboard in the kitchen.

Mom & dad in the backyard 1960…

But here’s an odd thing about my quaint little town of Rock Valley. Occasionally mom would spend more than she anticipated or didn’t have quite enough cash in her wallet at Koster’s market, Council Oaks or Western Auto. Since she never carried a purse or checkbook, she’d either have to ‘charge it’ or write a check. Most of Rock Valley’s main businesses, grocery stores, hardware, clothing, gas stations, even the bars carried universal Valley State check blanks WITH NO ACCOUNT NUMBERS ON THEM. Hard to believe right? Mom would ask for a check blank, write out the amount, sign it Mrs. Richard Gerritson, (before she became a hip women’s libber), later signing them, Mrs. Florence Elaine Wanningen Gerritson (which took up 2 lines). I’m not sure she wrote Koster’s on the top either, think maybe the store filled that in and I never saw her add their personal account number to one of those free-for-all-checks.

Mona, me, Spitzy and Larry, 1957…

I don’t remember her recording those spur of the moment checks when she got home. I’m not sure she ever used a checking account ledger. I can’t swear she never bounced a check but I’d be surprised if she ever had. Never witnessed her reconciling a bank statement either, although she perused it carefully. Sometimes I’d hear her chastising dad after the monthly bank statement came because of the checks he wrote while he was out (doing the Lord’s work). Not because it was a large amount and they’d be in trouble with their balance, but because he had written out 3 checks totaling less than 10 bucks (which drove her nuts, “use cash for those small purchases.”) His little spending sprees usually involved something biblical like gospel tracks.

Larry behind me, Mona & dad, 1956 on a day-cation…

Did this unusual banking practice cause hours of added work and stress on the Valley State bank employees? Were they all experts in knowing how every Rock Valley adult signed their name on the account-less checks? Fraud or forging a signature (unlike mom’s signing dad’s checks) never entered the equation? Was my little town really that wholesome back in the day? (Yes, I believe it was) No shysters lurking about, ready to swipe, write and try to deceive local retailers, using a dozen checks? Almost too ‘Mayberry RFD.’ Perhaps I’m all mixed up about this strange phenomenon but relatively sure this is the way my small town did business sixty years ago. You can take that to the bank…

My broken sole…

Knew it was coming and thought I was prepared. I stewed about it, wrote about it, got my head screwed on straight about it and still it tripped (a pun perhaps) me up. This all started about 15 years ago.

Pencil sketch of Rosemary…

I was tending my own little flock as Parish Visitor. Seeing to the needs of the older population from our church who no longer attended Sunday services. A young woman from the congregation was suddenly added to my list (she didn’t fit the mold). Not quite young enough to be one of my kids but pritnear. She was single, successful and just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mom had died in her early 40’s from cancer and Rosemary kinda felt like ‘it’ was coming.

My friend Robert was on my Parish Visitor list which was more typical…

She was determined to fight cancer like the warrior she was, hard and head on. Initially the cancer was found in one breast, but Rosemary decided on a double mastectomy plus had her ovaries removed as a preventative measure. After surgery and a few chemo treatments she was deemed cancer free. She went back to work and by all outward appearances was doing great. This grace period lasted about a year, then she started coughing. The cancer was back (everywhere, lungs, brain, leg) with renewed interest and a vengeance.

Rosemary on vacation in Hawaii…

For the first time in her adult life Rosemary no longer ‘dressed for success.’ Her business suits found their way to the back of the closet. She needed to be comfortable and warm (common complaint about chemo is feeling cold). She was enamored with my sandals (not at all dressy, kinda clunky actually) which didn’t surprise me. I lusted/coveted them for a spell prior to buying because they were expensive, but exactly what I was looking for. Really a pair of shoes, sporting well placed holes (so they looked great with shorts or capris) with covered toes and a comfortable foot bed. There were many styles/colors to choose from so my first pair was my favorite color-navy.

I was high on the list of Rosemary’s support team during her second-go-round with cancer. Her lengthy chemotherapy treatments were more potent this time which kept her nauseous fighting the side effects. But there were several days in between where she felt like a ‘normal early 40’ish woman’ and wanted to do what other young women did-go shopping! So we headed to the mall. She bought some expensive makeup and then we went shoe shopping. The Keen sandals she chose was similar to mine but black. Afterwards we stopped at her favorite Mexican restaurant. She was freezing (from the mall) and asked if we could sit outside that day to eat. It was hot, humid and in the upper 80’s.

Rosemary’s beige pair and her black Keen’s are on the left, the rest were mine…

Rosemary loved her Keen’s. A few days later when I picked her up for chemo she gushed she’d ordered 3 more pair online. She wanted so badly to normalize her life instead of cancer dictating what she could and couldn’t do. She had many good days but the cancer was spreading and the side effects were taking a toll, physically and emotionally.

The chunk that fell out of Rosemary’s sandal this week…

She’d lost a lot of weight and was conspicuously frail. She fell a couple times, tripping on a throw rug. Her oncologist told us to remove the rugs because she’d developed neuropathy in her feet (tingling/pain and numbness). He ordered insert braces for her shoes to help with her balance, but the braces didn’t fit inside her Keens. One day when I brought over lunch she set her black Keens next to me. “Can’t wear them anymore. I want you to have them-no arguments.”

This is how Rosemary’s Keens looked when she bequeathed them to me…

Rosemary passed away several months later on September 21, 2010. I’ve been wearing her Keens since 2009 and think of her every time I slip them on. They can hardly be called black anymore, now sort of a dingy, faded brown/grey. The waterproof material separated from the covered toe bed so Hubs re-glued them. The sole of her left sandal cracked all the way across near the ball of my foot, so Hubs re-glued and clamped it, but the crack was back (bigger) a month later.

Now faded to a dull brownish color and literally falling apart…

It’s not that Rosemary’s Keen’s are the only thing I’ve got to remember her by. I use her Fiesta Ware blue sugar bowl everyday. I drank coffee from one of her mugs daily until it cracked in a sink of soapy water. After scouring the Internet I found the guy named who crafted her coffee mug and wanted to buy another, but it’s not from a pattern he uses anymore.

Still use her sugar bowl but broke Rosemary’s coffee mug-ugh…

My navy Keen’s, 2 years older than Rosemary’s pair are still perfect. Guess I should have thought of that before wearing Rosemary’s 6 months a year for a decade. I searched the Keen site for the exact same sandal but there’s been some minor changes. (Well it has been 14 years). I ordered a pair but they’re not the same. Rosemary’s tattered sandals continue to fall apart. The loose cracked sole now has its own slapping sound whenever I take a step, plus it’s missing a huge chunk I found on the rug this week. Hubs walked through the room, shaking his head as I was trying to figure out how to preserve what’s left of her/my favorite Keens. “Have you ever thought having Rosemary’s Keen’s bronzed?”…

These are my mom’s but not such a bad idea for Rosemary’s Keens…

$12.71…

If you’re familiar with my blog, you know I love grocery shopping. Can’t explain/don’t understand exactly why but ever since there’s been enough money where I didn’t have to fret whether or not to buy a half dozen porterhouse steaks that happened to be on sale, I enjoy shopping for the food we eat.

One rotisserie chicken made at home…

I go once or twice a week depending on what’s on sale. Fresh fruit like watermelon or strawberries will beckon me more than twice. If there’s a certain quantity allowed at a good price I’m not above stopping a couple extra times to get my limit. We rarely eat out but we eat very well at home, so I spend more than most at the store, usually Meijer (Midwest franchise akin to Walmart but better) although I do my fair share at Kroger and Polly’s.

Tuesday I headed to Meijer but decided to make a quick detour to Kroger because their new sale ad starts on Wednesday and I wanted 3 things before this week’s sales flyer ended (why can’t they do Sunday through Saturday like Meijer)? Bacon, whole chickens and strawberries. At Kroger you have to use their own curtesy card which entitles you to sale prices or you won’t get the savings (not a fan but I do it).

My favorite store for groceries…

So I bought 1 chicken, 2 cartons of strawberries and 2 pkgs. of bacon. Before I left the store I thought the total was higher than it should’ve been. Yup, the checker didn’t scan the bar code for the chicken. Instead she rang it up by hand totaling $8.08. But the bar code (and the discount card) are needed to get the sale price of 99 cents per pound rather than the $1.49 per pound, so I was charged the full amount. Turned back to the curtesy desk, waited in line and explained the mistake. She races from her counter to check out the chicken prices. Comes back and laments, “I can’t find 99 cent a pound chickens back there. Are you sure it’s not in tomorrow’s ad?” “Nope it’s this week’s, that’s why I’m here today. Check the ad, Heritage Farm whole chickens, 99 cents.”

She spots the fowl sale price and asks her supervisor to help get my price adjustment. She owes me $2.71 for 15 minutes of my time I’ll never get back. On to my favorite store, Meijer and I’m not gonna dawdle cause I’ve got bacon and chicken in the Jeep.

Homemade fruit salad for lunch…

My list isn’t long but weird stuff that’s kinda hard for even this Meijer world renowned expert shopper to find. Oyster sauce, powdered milk, fresh Parmesan, minced ginger. I get the big Meijer ad in an email on Friday, a much smaller version in Sunday’s paper. The big ad had this deal: buy 30 dollars worth of Brawny, Clorox and Northern and get 10 bucks off instantly. So they had Brawny on sale (8 double rolls) for $14.99, Northern bath tissue (12 mega rolls) for $13.99 leaving me $1.02 short of that coveted 30 dollar mark (sneaky business people).

You gotta check your receipt-every time…

I mosey around looking for Clorox and bought what used to be a gallon, now 117 ounces (11 shy for those who need a refresher course in how many ounces in pints, quarts and gallons). Hoisted the jug in my cart, got in line, checked out and shuffled my way to the Jeep. As I’m waiting for the air to cool I check my receipt. No 10 dollar discount for my Brawny/Northern/Clorox. Turn off the car, walk back to the curtesy desk, stand in line. My turn and explain missing the 10 dollar off my total. She looks through the flimsy ad and says, “no I don’t see that advertised this week.” “But it was in the big ad in my email. You want me to get the tag hanging on the shelf that explains it?” “No I’ll call someone.” More waiting.

My curtesy person answers her phone, listens, mumbles and hangs up. “There is a sign by Northern, I don’t know why your 10 dollar instant savings wasn’t recognized (sneaky) on your receipt.” “Well I wasn’t sure what kind of Clorox to buy and thought there might be some weird scent or size I had get. I just wanted ten dollars off my total.”

She opens the cash drawer, grabs a ten spot, hands it to me with my receipt. (I don’t know how she plans to justify that transaction but that’s not my concern). I tossed the 10 in my purse, thanked her for the help and walked back to the car before my goose (chicken) is completely cooked. Fairly pleased and smug I start the Jeep, then this thought hit me: I just made $12.71 for a half hour’s work. Dang, that’s more money (per hour) than I’ve made in years. I think I may have a new calling…

A dozen…

It’s been a long time without you-exceeding sixty plus years. My memories of you remain vivid. Family, life, laughter and tears.

Larry 3…

You were older-but never ignored me, spending quality time with your sib. You rode bikes, played marbles and baseball while I was still wearing a bib.

The time we spent being children, life on the west edge of town. Consistently stroll through my memories, so I keep writing them down.

Larry, 4…

The gap in our age didn’t hamper, the friendship that we shared. You made the choice to play at home, showing me how much you cared.

The years we spent together didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. After you were gone from our presence, we were left struggling to cope.

Larry 5 by our playhouse…

The result of this tragedy for us, your loss was too much to bear. A dense fog drifted in and lingered. Suffered alone-not willing to share.

Assumptions are made for a long healthy life-sprouted with faith from above. But things in our lives often don’t work out-no matter how hard we have loved.

Larry 1st grade…

Your life was gone much too soon-we were so lost without you. Holidays bore no special appeal, birthday’s seemed meaningless too.

There’s only so many candles-that fit upon your cake. Some celebrate numerous birthdays, others deprived their own fair shake.

My favorite…

The last birthday we shared when you were still here-was in July, 1958. Mom added a dozen candles on top, not knowing-this would be your last cake.

Happy Heavenly Birthday Larry! July 24, 1946 to October 11, 1958…

Playtime…

I’ve been reminiscing about growing up during the 1950’s. Seems like I was always busy (playing was hard work). The going’s on in the life of Neese. My world expanded once we moved to 15th Street. More kids, more houses, close to downtown with lots of stores (soon I could walk and shop with my nickel, all by myself). There’s not much I regret about my childhood.

My own little house…

My playhouse was the bomb. Dad built it on the west side of town and moved it to our new (old) house. That playhouse provided me with endless hours of fun using my imagination. It had a real house feel and looked authentic with a front door, 2 windows, chimney and furniture. There was quite an age difference between me, Mona and Larry, so after we moved, I considered the playhouse mine. All mine.

Cindy (those bangs-hahaha) and Lori Jean…

I was doll crazy for years. My favorite was my baby doll, Lori Jean. I had a combination plastic pink bathtub/changing table where Lori was bathed, swaddled and slathered with baby lotion. I fed her bottles and changed her diaper. Mom had several undershirts and diapers made out of flannel with snap closures by our phenomenal seamstress, so my motherhood days were more realistic. The changing table had small compartments on the top to hold all my real baby products needed to keep Lori smelling great and free from diaper rash. My kindergarten sized walking doll Cindy, topped out about as tall as me. Mom wasn’t happy when I gave Cindy a haircut but she needed her bangs trimmed really short like mine. Yikes! A couple years later I got a lady doll with a fancy dress and black seams down the back of her nylons. During the summer I hauled them all outside to the playhouse, including the bathtub which I filled with the hose. Lori never complained about taking a cold bath like I would have.

Just like the one Lori was bathed in (minus the mold)…

Dad made a contribution to my early motherhood days. He had been “taking down a building,” for extra money. Inside this building he found an old wicker doll buggy which he brought home. The buggy held no interest for Mona or Larry, but since I was too young mom ‘saved’ it for me. Had I been allowed to play with it I’m sure I would have climbed inside or pushed it down the stairs. By the time she gave it to me I was halfway responsible and ‘played mommy,’ pushing it down the sidewalk with Lori inside. I still have the buggy.

My antique doll buggy that dad found…

Summer days mom would sit outside with me when our errant hollyhock’s were blooming. She taught me how to transform a blooming flower into a beautiful doll. It was during these crafting sessions with mom (neither of us were ever really crafty) when I discovered our huge rhubarb patch by the hollyhocks. I don’t remember how I got addicted to eating peeled, raw rhubarb with SALT, but that summer tradition continues to this day. Mom rarely salted anything, so salting my rhubarb and fresh tomatoes remains a mystery. When the drive inn became popular in Rock Valley, I ran my own drive inn from the window of my playhouse. No matter what the carhop wrote on her order, the chief cook and bottle washer (me) supplied my guests with a bowl full of fresh cut rhubarb with salt water broth. Made you pucker, yet still makes my mouth water. Yum!

Mom & I made flower dolls out of hollyhocks…

After I learned to ride a 2-wheel bike when I was 6, my world doubled. Soon I was allowed to go several blocks from our house although I usually rode on the sidewalks around town. Some of that ‘freedom riding’ was rescinded after my 12 year-old brother Larry was killed while riding his bike. I didn’t understand mom & dad’s logic but on this one subject I gave them very little grief.

Me, Larry w/ baby ducks & Mona in 1956…

Black walnut trees. Our driveway was long and straight consisting of a combination of gravel with weeds/few blades of grass in the middle of the tire’s natural path-all the way to the alley where our garage sat. In between our driveway and Kooima’s was a half dozen, huge walnut trees. Mom and dad never parked in the garage so our car sat by the side of the house. Each fall when the walnuts matured, these green discolored tennis sized balls fell on the driveway, staining the car and leaving tiny dents. Mom paid me to pick up walnuts and throw them in a bucket. She’d peel off the outside yucky green part, leaving the dark shell until it dried out, then she’d shell them. Their aroma and taste was much stronger than the mild walnuts mom bought at Koster’s. Still she used her freebies in baked goods and candies, although you could tell the difference by their distinctive taste. We weren’t there very long before dad had the trees removed. Because black walnut trees were sought after to use in making furniture, dad sold the trees and I lost my good paying job.

Dad with a couple walnut trees lining the driveway…

I played with dolls until I was 10. After my bed was made in the morning (topped with my pink ballerina chenille bedspread) it was literally covered with my stuffed animals. I had a black & white Panda that was heavier than me and took more room on my bed at night than I did. I kept them around for protection from the apparition who lived in the attic and sought to do me harm. (Nightmare when I was 8)…