Monday, October 31, 2011

Cats for Caroline

Caroline, seven years old (and almost eight).  You know the history of the cats from your house, and, like lore masters of old, the history of the cats your mother knew.  You are the keeper of a picture of Boom Boom that we thought is the only picture of him, but today I found an album of pictures of important cats, and one of them is Boom Boom.  And pictures of other cats you know about, but didn’t meet.

Boom Boom

Boom Boom was a gentle old fellow who came to live with us in Mentor, maybe around 1974.  Your Aunt Janice lived with us then, your Mom and your Aunt Shelly and me.  We had two little kitties, a grey one and a black.  The grey kitty ran away from home and the black one cried and cried.  Aunt Janice found another kitty to keep him company.  Even when he was a little kitty he had very large feet to grow into and we called him Boom Boom because we joked he shook the house when he walked.

Your mother’s best friend, Christina lived next door.  Christina’s parents liked dogs and had a poodle.  They did not care for cats.  One day Christina’s father came to see me.  He told me he had gone to the front yard to see why the little dog was making so much noise.  He got there just in time to see Boom Boom jump on a very big rat that was ready to spring on the dog.  Christina’s father ran to get a shovel and it took both the shovel and Boom Boom to dispatch that rat, it was so big.  Christina’s father wanted me to know that Boom Boom was a very brave cat and much appreciated.

Phoebe Snow

Someone found Phoebe Snow and gave her to me.  She was a very little kitten.  We named her Phoebe Snow, which is the name of a blues singer, who took her name from the line of the Phoebe Snow, a coal railroad line in Pennsylvania.  We called her Phoebe Snow because she was a white kitty, but there is an allegory in the story of the singer Phoebe Snow.  You might look it up some day.

One day your mother found Phoebe Snow on our deck and unable to move.  She smelled like kerosene.  We think some really awful boys in the neighborhood poured it on her.  We rushed her straight to our wonderful vet, Dr. Kroh, who said “Well, she’s still breathing.  Let’s see.”  He kept her for weeks.  He reported on her regaining movement from her front feet to her back, a little at a time.  Finally we could take her home.  She was very wobbly at first, but she tried and tried and tried and in the end was just fine.

Otis and Frankie

I called them the incredible two headed cat; they were always together.  Frankie got sick and he died and is buried in the garden in Mentor, but Otis came with me to this house.  Otis’ whole name was Otis Elevator because when he stood up he could reach the second floor.

When Brian boarded with me he would come into the living room after he ate his supper and bring his glass of milk and a double stuff Oreo.  One night Frankie jumped on the arm of the chair, snatched the Oreo and ran off.  “Did you see that!”  Brian was indignant.  “Why are you laughing.  He took my cookie.”  “It’s not the cookie,” I gasped.  I pointed to his other hand where Otis was drinking the milk.


I got Scotty from a co-worker of your mother, who knew I was one cat low after Frankie was gone.  Scotty’s name was Butterscotch, and he was that color.  Scotty had a wry tail.  The tip had been broken before he was born, and his tail never grew longer than when he was a kitten.  The tip of it pointed up at a right angle.

Scotty was very happy here and was our studio cat.  Even though Scotty was a grown up cat when we came here, and Pasha was just a kitten, he took good care of her and taught her how to find mice and chipmunks.  Scotty slept on the top of my bed and Pasha slept at the end.


Pasha was the black and white kitty from next door to Aunt Janice and Great grandma Lytle, before they moved here.  She didn’t exactly live there, she was brought there from the dog pound, together with her mother and litter mates, by a mean man who liked to see what happened to kittens who wandered into the pens of his white German shepherds.  Pasha was the smart little one who led her siblings through the fence, up the back steps at Aunt Jan’s house, through the dog door and up to the dog food, where they filled their tummies.  All the other kittens would run back outside if they were startled, but Pasha would go see what the noise might be.  She came to be on speaking terms with everyone at Aunt Jan’s house.

One day I was at Aunt Jan’s house and Pasha came up to my car to see who I was.  Grandma Lytle picked her up, put her in my car and said “This little one needs to go to the new house.”  And that’s how Pasha came to live here.  She slept at the end of my bed until Scotty was gone; they she moved up and slept where Scotty used to. 


One morning as Aunt Janice and I were leaving to go to a show we could hear a kitten crying.  It said “Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma.”  We looked and looked and finally found it in the field by us.  When we called, Jett ran right up my leg crying “Ma, Ma, Ma, Ma.”  She was so happy to be found.

Jett was your Aunt Jan’s most especially favorite cat.  They talked to each other.  Jett got a very rare kind of cancer and is in the veterinary text books now.  Our vet here, Dr. Mike, was very kind to Jett and kept her happy as long as he could.  When she was too sick, he put her to sleep and now her ashes are in a little wooden box on a special shelf your Aunt Janice has.


There is no picture of Willie.  We found her under a cabbage leaf.  Uncle Tom heard her crying in the middle of the night and went out with a flash light and found her under a cabbage leaf.  Willie lived here a long time.  She was Grandma Lytle’s cat, and she ran to Grandma about everything!  After we didn’t have Grandma any more, Willie just got mean.  Like it was our fault.  She fought with Pasha and put nicks in her ears.  She kept Xenia up a tree for three days and then bit a hole in her tail when Xenia came down.  Willie wanted to be the only cat, and decided she would do that by eating all the cat food so the other cats would starve to death.  We changed all the food to senior citizen obese cat food and Willie still ate it all up.  She got diabetes and she died.  We figured she just wanted to be with Grandma.

Toe Toe and No Toe

I found Toe Toe and No Toe in a pet shop in a mall in Columbus.  They were litter mates put out in front of the store in an open box and all the children in the mall could pick them up and handle them and throw them back.  That made me very sad, so I bought them for far too much money and brought them home.  They were so alike it was hard to tell them apart.  But, Toe Toe had an extra dew claw, and No Toe didn’t. 

When they were about six months old Toe Toe had epileptic seizures.  Gran mal, the vet said.  He prescribed phenobarb, and Toe Toe knew he needed to take his pill every morning.  But one night when the two were out there was a terrible rain storm.  No Toe came home in the morning, but Toe Toe never did.  We looked and looked, but never found him.

No Toe was devastated.  He didn’t know what to do without Toe Toe.  He moped.  He went off for days.  He stood in front of a car and got hit.   Since he didn’t die, like we think he hoped to do, he came home.  He became a lonely cat, and a new cat did not cheer him up.  We got Purrl to play with him, but No Toe would have nothing to do with Purrl.  He would disappear for months.  One day our neighbor solved the mystery.  “Your orange cat lives in my barn a lot.  But the little calico comes up and visits him.”  We swore to No Toe we would not get another cat in his life time, and we didn’t.  And, he came home to live with us until he became an old man and went to be with Toe Toe.

Xena, Warrior Princess

The little calico who visited No Toe.    My friend Ann still lived in Cleveland, but was about to be married and live in Wisconsin.  She was working late at her company, training the person who would take her job when they heard shouting and yelling from out in the factory.  They went to look and found several men, bleeding, with a tiny kitten they were mistreating, just because they could.  The tiny kitten was hissing, scratching and biting.  They tossed the kitten to Ann and said “Here.  She’s worse than Xena.  Take her.”  So, Ann did.  But she was not sure her new husband to be would welcome a cat.  As it turned out, he would have been just OK with it, but she didn’t know it then.  So, Xena came to live with us.  She grew up to be a big, beautiful calico cat with a magnificent tail.  She tried very hard to make No Toe feel like a special cat, and I’m sure she did him a lot of good.  He hung out with her when he did come home.  But she had to go into the big woods when she went to visit No Toe in the barn.  One day she didn’t come back.  When Uncle Tom went looking for her all he found was her magnificent tail.  He buried it right up there by Uncle Skip’s barn.

And so, Caroline, there is your history and lore of all the cats right up to the ones you know now.  Only Kitty and Neighborhood are missing from my story, but they were your mother’s cats, after all.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bekka ventures

My oldest granddaughter is Rebekah; she graduated high school last June and started college courses in September.  As you’ve noticed from her tractor driving, she has spent some time down here at grandma’s and Aunt Jan’s.

On my way to the box of slides I intend to scan, I came across three albums of pictures.    Here is one of Bekka’s first ventures.

Grandma on the business end of the spinning wheel; Bekka assists.

But this takes the prize:

Beka climbs up for a hug and a kiss from Aunt Janice, but then gets interested in looms and rug weaving.

Easy.  She can handle the shuttle and get that second beat when the shedd is changed.

Change the shedd, Aunt Jan.  Another shuttle to throw.

See how it's done?

We're getting into it now.

Thanks for giving me room to work here.

Probably has journeyman papers in her back pocket.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Repressed visions

It was fun to go through the DVD of my dad’s slides made from the VHS made from the slides and look at the several hundred pictures I had selected for that narrative from the thousands dad took.  I had a pretty good idea of which ones I would concentrate on when the scanning began. 

I’ve been days figuring out the scanner.  I was so discouraged I was going to give it to a school so kids who know more than I do could get some use of it.  But today, with the aid of a flashlight, I located and pressed the last two secret buttons that released the “protective cover” and revealed a second light source required to scan film.  This stuff is not intuitive, no matter how often the manual says it is.  There was no parts list with a number and arrow pointing to a protective cover.  The manual says remove it, but doesn’t bother to say where it is or how it’s removed.  But right on the front page someone wrote the device is so simple a novice can use it at once.  Liar, liar, pants on fire.  Enough blowing steam out of both ears.

When I took the slide boxes off the shelf I had no idea which had the VHS slide project, so I just started.  The first four boxes went quickly as I realized they were the discarded flora and fauna pictures.  My dad was a superb photographer; those slides could be in calendars or travel brochures.  But, enough, already.  I did look through every one of them in the event I’d missed something, and I did.  

 The parachute.

 The parachute, the monster and the station wagon in which the parachute is a boot extender for the station wagon.

1961 in the Blue Ridge mountains.  Backs of Mom and Jan; then counterclockwise, Mel, Dad, Walt and Joanne.  Oh, I don't know which I loved more, the glasses or the blouse with the tuck pleated front.
I’ll be in a hole and pulling it in after me for the next little while as I scan  good memories.  I am so amused there was no picture of the parachute or the army tent on the VHS!

A comfortable old house

When Jan and I went looking twenty odd years ago for a house with a studio we looked at a lot of properties.  It was quite the slog through northeast Ohio.  “Outbuilding” turned out to be house trailers scattered around.  “Near turnpike” was actually under it.  Imagine the noise!  One beauty was feet from the Cuyahoga River.  I imagine there were several hundred feet of front lawn when the house was built. 

Jan did a drive by of this house on the way back from an afternoon of house hunting and called me the minute she was back in Akron.  The street actually was on her way home, before the highway was built.  She told me it might be the one and seemed to be Poppy approved; he’d barked as soon as she turned into the street.

I arranged with the realtor to see it the next day.  We came up the front steps into a foyer and through another door into a tiny living room and through that to The Studio.  A room empty except for a pulpit and a wood burner.  A huge room.  The two young men of the house were home, one was at my elbow.  “How much is this house?” First words out of my mouth.  My realtor jumped in, “We don’t do it this way.”  So, we suffered a complete tour of the house we wanted.  A small house with a big empty room.  In need of a total renovation.  Except for the big room.  We bought it from the parents of the two young men.

Making that big room into a weaving studio and then a quilting studio has been another serendipitous chapter in the life of this house.  Only three families have lived here, and every child who lived here has come back to visit the house and share some memories with us.

The house was built in 1940 by a man named Amity.  He called it Amity Acres and liked it so much he put a sign announcing the name up on the corner.  Way before zoning in the township, but the trustees asked him to remove the sign, and he did.  His son, who was twelve when his dad bought the property to build the house has stopped by twice to look over the old place.  He helped his dad dig the basement and build the house. He brought his half brother, who was seven when the house was built, the second time he stopped.  He told us his dad was an old skinflint who taped newspapers to the windows not to buy curtains.  He certainly built a sturdy house.

Originally the house was an old cape cod style, four rooms on the first floor and a finished attic that was made into a suite under the eaves for his grandparents. The grandparents didn’t like the accommodations, so it was a rental unit until the house was sold.  His dad did add the front foyer which allowed for another room under the front eaves.  There were two front entrances to the house, one for the upstairs apartment.  When we bought the house the two front entrance doors remained, and there was an entrance to the very steep stairwell from the living room, too.

The next family also lived here twenty some years and raised two boys and a girl.  The father was a contractor and a lay minister.  The father built the addition as a gathering room.  The Fisher wood stove at the end of the room remains the only source of heat in the room.  We’ve heard about that from people who gathered here!  The two boys, Matt and Adam, intended to purchase the house from their parents, but it didn’t work out.  I think Matt’s fiancée really wanted a home of her own.  It was perfect for us. 

After some work.  We had to upgrade the electric, the plumbing, septic, replace the bathrooms.  We tore down the wall to the foyer and the staircase,  to make a small room look larger.  We replaced the steep staircase to the upstairs with normal steps.  The steep stairs to the basement couldn’t be adjusted, so they remain.  We redid the kitchen.  New wallboard and paint and wallpaper everywhere.   Tore up five different kinds of carpet and refinished the original oak flooring.  About 15 years ago the roof of the back end of the house was pushed up.

The outside was several colors of yellow, so new siding went up with the initial remodel.  That was when we noticed Matt’s red truck going down the hill and coming back up (dead end road), so we waved him down and gave him a tour.  He was pleased with the changes.  He admitted he had been concerned, but he approved. He brought his new wife.  Months later he appeared with his sister and her children, asking if it wouldn’t be too much trouble…………So, we gave her a tour.  In the front bedroom she told her children, “This is where I laid on my bed on Friday night and watched for your dad to come down the street.”  She and Matt had a little consultation and then asked if they could bring their parents the next time they were in town.  Apparently having a contractor for a husband/parent is a little like being the shoemaker’s child.  Their mom’s kitchen cupboards had been on the floor in the gathering room until Matt and Adam put them up just before they put the house on the market.  They thought their mom might like to see how the house turned out.

When the parents were brought to inspect the work, the mother was quite shy at first, but the dad was plenty jolly and they took a grand tour.  At the end the mother said, “I could have had a house like this all along.”  The dad reminded her they had retired to a nice little house, she agreed, and said she was pleased and happy with our work.

That visit was years ago.  But over the summer another family came to the door.  It was Adam, his wife and his two teen age daughters.  The women were shy and even embarrassed, but Adam seemed like he needed to be there.  He noted the changes to the living room, but was drawn to the studio.  I explained to his girls the room had only a pulpit when we first saw it and was perfect.  Adam told them this was where his ministry had begun.

As they were leaving I pointed out the fossil in the fireplace to the girls.  Adam had never noticed it in twenty years.  Tom Amity had told me his dad had split every stone for the fireplace and just that one fossil had turned up.   He told me he figured it was a crustacean, like his dad.  It’s probably a trilobite, but I have trouble remembering that when I think about a crusty dad.

  Fossil on the right

Fossil on the left

Thursday, October 27, 2011


The wonder drug of our childhood.  On the chest, on the back, a quick wrap up in a flannel strip and you’d be cured in the morning.  I think the cure was effected because kids didn’t know they were sick.  Mom had a vaporizer, too, and some brown stuff put out an interesting smelling steam. 

Mom never quit the Vicks©.  She subscribed to its simplicity.  She never took more than aspirin for pain, either, and I doubt she took more than ten of those in her life, in spite of arthritis.  She wouldn’t take anything “stronger” because some day, she knew, she would be in pain and wanted whatever “they” gave her to work.

Sorting through the meager supply of meds she left behind, I found her beloved blue bottle.  What the heck, I put it in the cupboard.  That was fourteen years ago and I’m sure it was already old then as she only had herself to doctor with it.

One day Tom came back from a trip to the drugstore.  His dad had requested a real jar of Vicks©.  Apparently the jar is no longer glass, and his dad knew it was a sham; not the real deal.  Tom spent an afternoon studying jars with no luck.  I remembered the bottle mom left and produced it from the back of the shelf.  It must have hit the shelf one time too many; there was a spiral crack running right around the glass of the half full jar.

But wait.  Tom had an old half full jar from his childhood.   Careful disposal of the old bottle, a satisfying schluupp into the intact jar, on went the lid and there was a jar of Vicks© for dad.  It was delivered more than a year ago, with instructions to use it sparingly as it was the last jar to be found.  Dad is being very careful with it.  Tom was the only son who could even locate the stuff, and it is the very last blue bottle to be had.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why the subwoofer is wasted on me

You remember Linda.

The one with attitude.

I  have less attitude only because I’m shorter.

We’re good friends for a lot of reasons, not the least of which, we have stood together in the aisle of a show and said “May God strike me dead if I ever do this show again.”  That was twenty-five years ago at a show in Harrisburg that will remain nameless.  I may have to write about standing in the same aisle at the same show one other time, ten years later, with Linda, and saying the same thing.

Linda sends me emails about events I should never forget.  As if.  But I see she has no intention of ever starting a blog of her own so I’m happy to tell on us.  She called about something last night that ended in a friendly argument about SPAC.  Of course I was right; my memory is infallible.  I had to send some follow up information by email attachment, so all I put in the header was Ray Charles.  Shorthand for “I’m still right.  Take that!”

I came home from a hard and stressful morning at work (no possibility), and found a return email with a newspaper attached! Header:   James Brown.

SPAC is the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga, New York.  They have an annual jazz festival.  There also was, but no longer may be, The Art Show at the jazz festival, a show produced by Vermont Craftproducers and Charley Dooley.  A great venue of shows in southern Vermont and parts of upstate.  I exhibited at the Hildene shows, and at the SPAC jazz festival and others.

The SPAC festival was totally unlike any other show I did.  The grounds were packed with music lovers from the start to the end of the festival.  It was its own little community.  Do not be in the path when the gates opened; you’d be bowled over.  People attending had their own plan for securing prime real estate for the day, which involved sending the fastest runner in first with a blanket or a chest or a chair to stake the claim.  The rest followed in a wave and the temporary housing set up for the day ranged from a blanket on the ground to dining tents with fairy lights and recliners.

Between sets the Art Tent would be busy; when a headliner performed we had lulls to breathe.  We could not begin loading out until the last performance began on Sunday night, generally after 10:00 pm.  And, quietly, quietly, no disruption to the listening audience. 

Linda is a music lover, I guess.  She goes to operas.  She goes to concerts.  She plays the piano.  She likes me in spite of my tin ear and the bucket I can’t carry a tune in.  The waste of all that SPAC jazz on me did bother her no end, though.  She never exhibited at this show, but one year she volunteered to be the roadie so someone could appreciate the venue.  And, I don’t think she believed me about being run down by jazz lovers. But from her side of the tree she took a picture of me on my side of the tree.  We did not get back to the art tent soon enough and the gates had been opened.

We worked two long hot days at the show, and Linda heard and saw jazz musicians everywhere.  In the big arena, on big screens overhead, break out sessions on wooden platforms all around the grounds.  I think she was in jazz heaven.  It got to be Sunday night, and the headliner started around 10 pm, just as the art show organizers came around and told us to begin quietly packing up to leave.  I was my usual hot, tired, hungry and ready to start the two hour load out.  The headliner was on the big screens and singing away.  I could hear him and if I looked up, see him.  I kept on packing and toting. 

Poor Linda.  “I’ll never see him live and in concert again!”  “But we can hear him!”  “No, it’s not the same.”  I kept on packing and toting.  Now she tells the story of the night I wouldn’t let her see James Brown.  “No, Linda, it was Ray Charles.”

On the phone last night she said I needed to write about the James Brown night.  “No, Linda, it was Ray Charles.”  Just to rub it in, I put Ray Charles in my subject line when I forwarded whatever she wanted. 

Here’s the newspaper she sent me.  Ray Charles performed on Saturday.  James Brown on Sunday.

Here’s a You Tube tribute to the Godfather of Rock and Roll she sent me. 

Linda, you can leave any comment you want, you earned it.  You worked on this one as hard as those fans charging through the gate.  At least I know who Ray Charles is!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


The twenty years I was a weaver I lost track of the world of computers.  I bought a new computer in the late 1980’s, about the time Bill Gates was taking over operating systems and my world of DOS was being edged out by icons.  Not today’s icons; those icons were identical and only identified by the title printed under them.  It was maddening, frustrating, stupid, I didn’t have time in my life for icons.  I made my son-in-law put my brand new computer in DOS mode.  I had my accounting program, I had Lotus©, I had weaving draw down software, I was happy.  I skipped Windows 96 and 98.  Then Y2K was upon us.

To fall for it or not.  The accounting program people assured me their software would not be affected.  Good.  On the other hand, the computer was more than ten years old and showing its age.  The dial up internet access was not always reliable, due, according to the very young techs I spoke with, to the age of my operating system.  A new computer it would be.  But what.  How to figure it out.

 I turned to the younger generation.  This time to my other daughter’s fiancée.  Bill, I need a new computer.  Get on the Dell website and pick it out for me.  I watched over his shoulder as he put everything I would need in a shopping cart, whatever that was.  OK.  OK.  OK. 

The new computer arrived in a lot of big boxes.  Another young friend came and unpacked it.  Then she plugged a cable from the old one to the new one and slid all our brains right down the line.  Magic.  Bill and Beth were around from time to time and I’d get one or the other to tweak things about Windows 2000, but on the whole is wasn’t too bad.

One day Beth looked up.  “What’s up on that shelf, Ma?”  “Don’t know,” I replied.  “It came with the computer.  Bill put it up there.”

“Why does my mother have a subwoofer?”

I have upgraded from Windows 2000 to Windows XP to Windows 7.  I still have my subwoofer.  The young techs who work on my computer now are amused. Every mother-in-law should have a subwoofer.  Every mother, too, I imagine.  If I used my speakers I’d probably know what it does.  Beth and Bill gave me the cat to sit on it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Eating on the road and on the curb

Or, what I found on the way to dinner.

When I commenced doing shows on my own I was not as young as the youngsters and didn’t have access to twice the muscle power of couples exhibiting at shows. So, I streamlined my act to the shortest time between zipping down my tent and going to bed.

I’ve never been a fan of making a meal.  I enjoy a good meal, but wouldn’t go out of my way for one.  I settled into a routine of cheese sammies and cooking a simple meal in the motel room.  This was great when I was on the road with Lucy.  She valued a good night’s sleep before tomorrow as much as I did.

At my kitchen counter one night before leaving early the next morning, I was two slices of cheese over for my cheese sammies.  Brownberry had reduced the size of a loaf by two slices, but the price was still the same.  The dirty rats.  I put two slices of cheese back in the cheddar container and made do with two less sammies.  Fixed them.

Being on the road with Ann was as easy as with Lucy.  Ann knew how to set up a show and work a booth long before she came into my life; her father conscripted her for his trade show booths when she was a child.  We only went to a restaurant for dinner if there was no good alternative on the way back to the motel.  I remember a great summer when we went straight to Ben & Jerry’s Full Vermonte in the grocery stores.

Beth hopped on the bus with me from time to time.  She was a harder sell.  She travelled the country round for her company and was an expert in nosing out good and interesting restaurants.  She had become accustomed to good dining on the road.  I do recall a Thai restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland where our fellow exhibitors filled their tea cups from brown paper bags under the table.  A brand new Irish pub in Louisville.  Another one in Baltimore with a rollicking Irish group singing.  Fortunately we walked from the hotel.

Then there is Linda.  Every Italian restaurant in most cities know her by name.  Every sports bar in the rest of the cities.  She always wanted to go into a biker bar, but, as a former biker, I drew the line.  One time we both got in pretty late for set up at the Corn Hill Art Festival in Rochester.   It was dusk when we gave it up for the night and still needed to go on to her nephew’s, half an hour away, where we were bunking down.  I was starved.  I was dirty.  I was tired.  Linda was ready to find a restaurant.  I walked to the corner and found a pizza shop.  Closing for the night.  I literally had my foot wedged in the door.  To get rid of me the proprietor gave me the rest of the pizza in the warming tray and sold us enough beer to wash it down.  “Now what,” Linda asked.  I sat on the curb, beer between my feet, and invited her to take a seat.  Good supper.

There’s one weekend’s eating Linda will never forget.  The year after I retired I went with Linda to the Quail Hollow New Paltz Art Show in New Paltz, New York.  I exhibited there for probably fifteen years and knew every inch of New Paltz.  Linda hadn’t done the show, so she took my word for it.  Beautiful town, packed with seasonals.  Don’t expect to find a place to park an extended van in town and don’t expect less than a two hour wait to get into a restaurant.  But, there’s a great organic grocery on the way out of town, great deli, we’ll get something there.

We set up her booth at the fairground and were the appropriate tired, dirty and hungry.  Two tired, dirty, definitely past retirement age women. I was the roadie that trip, and didn’t want to add to Linda’s expense any more than necessary.  So, at the deli counter of the organic I started ordering up sandwiches while Linda investigated the really delightful store.  The young girl asked if I wanted this cheese or that?  “Does it cost more?”  “No.”  Linda came around the corner, loaded with stuff we’d only find in a post hippie town in upstate.  “Linda, we really don’t need any of that.  You should put it back.”

“What kind of vegetables do you want?”  “Do they cost more?”  “No.”  Linda came back with just a few items.  “We really don’t need anything extra, Linda.”    To whatever the young girl had asked, “Does it cost more?”  Linda went away.  I turned back to the counter.  On top of the first layer of meat, cheese and vegetables was a new layer of meat, cheese and vegetables.  Then another layer of meat, cheese and vegetables.  Each sandwich would have weighed in over five pounds.  She wrapped them up in white paper, wrote $4.50 on each paper and handed the two old bag ladies enough food for three days.  As it turned out.

This post is for Linda, so she won’t forget why she’s retiring after next year.  And for Ann and Beth and Lucy and Jan and Mom and everyone who helped me down the road.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mom's Turkey Track Quilts

You may think mom only quilted.  Not so.  She helped dad build everything that got built, which was a lot.  She worked in the garden, which was substantial.  You’ll hear about my brother Mel weeding the strawberry patch with a pick ax, some day.  Or the year she went on vacation and I canned half of her garden’s forty bushels of tomatoes.  After work.  After going to another county to pick them.  Mom canned every tomato in sight and a lot of fruit.  The years there were no fork holes in our peach halves were the years there was a kid or grandkid in house with a hand small enough to fit in a quart jar and place a peach half.  We had grape juice year round from the grape arbors mom and dad planted in the back yard.  Current jelly.  Raspberry jam (to die for!).

But mom always picked up hand work in the evening.  Crochet.  Lace edging for pillowcases and scarves.  Knitting.  Four kids to keep in sweaters, plus the occasional stray neighbor kid.  I remember the quilts most of all.  As wedding gifts for each of her children she made Turkey Track Quilts.  She bought enough of a red print to make a different Turkey Track variation in the same fabric for each of her four children. 

Here is my red Turkey Track quilt, and a matching baby quilt she made for the red crib.  Did I mention mom loved red.  So do I.  These quilts have been passed along to Beth.

She had to eke out Jan’s red Turkey Track with a great yellow; there wasn’t enough of the original left and it could not be matched fifteen odd years later.

These are not Turkey Track, but I’m running out of categories.

Bias cut fabric appliquéd to the background.

 In the ‘70’s we girls in the family embroidered a lot of quilt blocks and mom quilted them.  I made one in purples, my sister-in-law Hazel made one or more.  Mom embroidered this one.

Mom offered to make Beth a quilt of her choice to take to college.  Beth selected a new technique; this quilt is folded fabric to resemble a dahlia.  Mom and Beth quilted it; the petals were lifted and a circle quilted around each row.  The quilting on the back of the petal blocks is concentric circles.

The last quilt mom made was for her granddaughter Michelle, Melvin’s daughter.  Michelle picked out the pattern and the fabric.  It was another new technique for mom, rotary cut pieces and blocks assembled on the sewing machine.  Mom was fascinated.  What she could have done!  She was quite ill when she put it together; Jan had to help her shift the weight of the fabric as the quilt grew larger.  Mom admired it, and said she was sorry she would not live to quilt it.  “Come one, Ma, we’ll help.”  But she ran out of time.  We had it quilted by an Amish family that was saving for a train trip to visit their son in Wisconsin.  Mom would have liked that part, too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The last lost quilt

Mom liked Sunbonnet Sue quilts.  These are appliquéd doll figures, generally popularized by Kate Greenaway in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Sue’s round figure and bonnet encompassed head became a popular redwork figure, too, together with equally rolly overall boys.  There are so many Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Boy variations that a Death of Sunbonnet Sue movement had patterns featuring her bizarre death.  Entered in a Kansas show, they were hung face to the wall in protest.  They were a part of an exhibition at the Regan Library, but removed after protest.

Mom’s earliest Sunbonnet Sue wasn’t Greenaway’s round little cherub, but a slightly more mature little girl with a watering can.   This quilt came out of the metal box and Jan attributes it to mom because of the motif, which we came to know well in her later quilts, and all the embroidery detail defining the little girl.

Mom went on to make many, many Sunbonnet Sue’s.  But, these young ladies had slender waists and pantaloons and embroidery detail of watering cans and flowers.  They remind me of the parasol ladies, another variation of appliqué dolls.  I’ve not located a watering can teenage Sunbonnet Sue pattern on the internet, but she existed once, in my mother’s pattern book.  Remember Dick and Jane, Down the River Road?  It was a large cardboard bound primer we used in first grade.  For reading and math.  Mom used mine to file all her clipped out patterns and her tiny waisted Sunbonnet Sue resided there for years.

She made a yellow Sunbonnet Sue for my friend Carol when Carol was married.  Mom made a Sunbonnet Sue for each of her granddaughters.

Beth’s is purple,

Shelly’s is green. 
Michelle’s is blue.  It's in Atlanta, and I don't have a picture of it.
Mom left a set of blocks in a box.  Enough for a quilt for another granddaughter.  Always prepared.