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)…

Permanent Solutions…

This stems from something I read not long ago. In my case it happened decades ago but not many questions were asked or third degree. Just to be sure I asked Hubs what he remembered about the months in question and he explicitly said no one talked to him about it besides me. First, some background.

Shannon was # 1…

We were nearing our 9th anniversary in 1978. Parents of two, Shannon was 7-1/2 and Joshua was 3-1/2. I no longer had to pack diapers and extra outfits every time we left the house. Although I asked him a thousand times a day, Josh had to go potty as often as a parched camel needed a drink.

I hadn’t been feeling very well. Nothing specific, just a tender belly. I trudged to my OB/GYN who ran some tests. When I returned for the results he said frankly, “you’ve been taking this birth control pill too long (about 7 years total). You need to stop immediately.” I frowned, “but there’s this issue of not getting pregnant. It’s been a great form of birth control.” He hammered his argument home. “This pill is much stronger than we’re prescribing now. It’s causing complicated issues with your normal cycle. Honestly, I doubt you’ll ever ovulate again.”

Joshua # 2, 1976…

Well this was a conundrum. Hubs and I hadn’t really discussed adding another child to the mix or doing anything permanent to prevent it. John knew since our dating days I didn’t want a baby after I turned 30 but I was only 27. He hadn’t offered to have a vasectomy which would have been ideal. After all I’d taken care of the birth control during this marriage for 8 years and counting.

I was concerned and uncomfortable enough to stop taking the pill, accepting doc’s theory regarding another pregnancy as highly improbable or impossible. And I did feel much better within a couple months. I thought we’d take a few months before deciding on what to do to prevent another pregnancy or maybe add to our family. You know where this is going, right?

Yup, a couple months later I was feeling mislick (Dutch slang for lousy) and headed back to the doctor. I was light headed and queasy with black spots before my eyes, so not really shocked when the pregnancy test came back positive. Doc acted embarrassed like it was his fault. Ewww. I wasn’t very happy but that was just me being selfish for a nano second, seeing my short lived freedom heading south for a few more years. Hubs was ecstatic.

Adam, # 3, “hey mom I’m stuck.” 1980…

Soon I was shopping for some new fangled one-piece T-shirts (onesies) in pastel colors and realized I was excited about becoming a mom again. Started seeing the doctor every month for my prenatal checkups and brought up the subject of a permanent solution for birth control. I hesitated bringing up the idea of a vasectomy again to John, but short of forcing him thought that idea wasn’t gonna fly.

“Doc, this is my third baby and I’m done having kids. What do you suggest?” “Well, at 28 you’re awfully young to do something permanent. Why not try a lower dose birth control pill?” Giving him my tried and true patented stink eye, “Because it’s not a permanent fix. How can I word this? I DO NOT want to go through another pregnancy and have 4 children. After this baby, I’m done having kids, no matter the outcome.”

The doc suggested choosing something less permanent a couple times before the end of my pregnancy, but he lacked enthusiasm on the subject as did I. When he realized he could not persuade me to try another birth control pill he suggested a tubal ligation the day after the baby was born, which would require one extra day in the hospital. Now this was an idea I could endorse. A couple of times he tried to change my mind because of my young age or me changing my mind later but he never once broached the subject of talking about it to Hubs.

Josh, Adam, Shannon, Christmas 1979…

One of my (way younger) Facebook friends recently posted this: “let women get their tubes tied-no questions asked,” which is the reason I started thinking about that summer of 1979 when I was last pregnant. Ugh, I’m old.

I was shocked and saddened by some of the comments on the ‘tubes tied-no questions asked’ issue. A couple women said their doctor required them to ‘get’ written permission from their husbands before scheduling a permanent birth control solution. One gal said she went to six (yes, 6) doctors before one agreed to tie her tubes because of a serious health concern. Another married gal had 3 children, didn’t want anymore children but the doc was reluctant because she was under 25 when she requested to have her tubes tied.

Amen…

Three young woman wrote, “my doctor risked her license to give me a hysterectomy when I was 20. I had to get my husband’s signature too. This was medically necessary since I had gone through puberty.” Second gal, “I wanted my tubes tied after having my son and I knew I was having a C-section, but my insurance company said no and my doctor said she could lose her license because I wanted permanent birth control.” And lastly, “this should be as easy as a vasectomy. If a woman doesn’t want children it’s a good solution vs birth control which is known to fail.”

I’ve never been the gal who’s happy discussing controversial issues. I believe in something wholeheartedly and you believe in the exact opposite, but just as fervently, which is each of our rights. But this struck a chord with me since I willingly and (forcefully) went through it decades ago. But it was my decision alone to make, not anybody else’s…

The hiding place…

I grew up in a small, northwest Iowa town, a few miles from the South Dakota and Minnesota borders. We knew snow, ice, sleet, blizzards (snow storms with 20-40 mile an hour winds) and below zero temps for a couple months a year, plus enough hot, humid, rainy and gloriously sunny days the rest of the year so our farmers (not me, I was a townie and didn’t know what a stalk of corn looked like) could grow beef, hogs and the best crops (corn, wheat, oats, soybeans) to feed the world. We didn’t know any other way of life. This was Iowa. Weather was part of the deal. Just happened to be where we lived.

Iowa, Iowa, that’s where the tall corn grows (tall enough to hide kissy-faced teens in cars)…

During our frigid winters it was commonplace to see multiple cars parked diagonally in our downtown (2 or 3 blocks long) area or the grocery store parking lot, completely void of humans, but every car was running while a few necessities were being bought or charged (no, not with a credit card, some families had a small line of credit for groceries and paid their bill every month). It took several minutes to warm up your car when it was 25 below zero and not worth turning the car off for a ten minute shopping spree. I don’t ever remember one car being stolen during this strange winter phenomenon.

A few flakes in Iowa during 1960…

When the Hubs and I started dating he had his driver’s license (I did not) but he wasn’t allowed to drive often. His oldest brother Jimmy (13 years older than John) GAVE him a 1958 4-door, green & black Ford Fairlane in 1964 but their dad made John give it back. He just didn’t want Johnny driving for some reason. It had nothing to do with extra expense like gas and insurance because John would have had to pay for all that.

Visiting Johnny’s house, 1965…

When I was at his house for the evening and we were experiencing inclement weather, if it wasn’t too late (say 10ish) John’s dad would give me a ride home otherwise Johnny walked me home (about a mile), then walked back. When we weren’t with another couple those first couple years, we walked everywhere. There were definite advantages to knowing our way around town-on foot.

When we couldn’t see each other, we spent hours connected to this odd device…

My parents were not big John supporters. They felt I could do better. He wasn’t part of the holy reformation in town. The First Reformed, Netherlands Reformed, Calvin Christian Reformed and Christian Reformed. I mean he could have picked any one of them and probably got their blessing. But no. Worse, he was a Methodist and they only went to church (gasp) once on Sunday. Our off and on again high school dating years was met with open hostility and mom and dad’s express disapproval. They tried grounding me which didn’t work. The more they fought me on something, the harder I fought back. True, I was a brat, but they weren’t being fair either.

Now Calvin Christian Reformed would have been acceptable…

Mom and dad were strict and I was not the best follower of rules in general. Many nights I ‘got out of the house’ under false pretenses, something I excelled at. Said I was going to Char’s, or a group of us were doing something together-completely innocent at someone’s house, but mom and dad always seemed to know when I was up to no-good. So I’d sneak to meet John at the Bowling Alley but we couldn’t stay there-right out in the open, we might be seen and my folks would find out where I was before the hour was up. I swear they had a whole network of ‘confidential informants’ tracking my whereabouts. Dang, they were good, but so were we. Still hope that cost them some coin.

Rock Valley had no Wells Fargo but during the winter this is the where we stored our snow-right on Main Street…

Johnny Wayne and Neese had the means of hiding in plain sight around our little town, and nobody was the wiser. When darkness blanketed Rock Valley we moved about freely, you just had to know the right places. Certain blocks had more trees, darker coverage, families too busy to pay attention to a young couple copping ‘feels’ while freezing their watusi’s off walking past.

A car like this is where we should have been making out, but John’s dad made him give it back…

When mom and dad got ‘this feeling’ I was out & about, one of them would get in the car and start cruising the streets, fervently hoping to catch us walking along, holding hands (or worse). Fat chance! Often we would watch them back out of the driveway and snicker. “They’re at it again. How long before they come back to 15th street?” John would say, “Well, they have to go past The Cue, then the bowling alley at least twice to see if they can spot you through the windows. Then past my house before they come back this way. We got some time.”

We had an ingenious hiding spot half block from my house. This block was home to 3 buildings. A very large Catholic Church, a smaller building which had been a parochial school but now was a teen hangout called, Cloud 9. The only other building was the parsonage for the priest. Although there weren’t a lot of trees, this whole city block was quite dark. The back of the church faced north and had an indented ‘notch.’ The perfect fit for 2 sinfully, hormonal teens.

Where the sinners gathered in back to make out…

Most of these ‘hot dates’ took place when the weather was not. I knew what I was in for and dressed appropriately. Johnny invariably ‘forgot’ his gloves and begged to warm up his hands elsewhere on my anatomy. Hahaha. When we were lucky enough to beg, borrow or steal a set of wheels for the night we utilized other hiding places (parking spots) around town, namely fields out in the country. It’s where I finally familiarized myself on the difference between corn and boybeans, I mean soybeans that Iowa was famous for…