When my daughter, Corrie Petersen told me that her husband, Kevin and son, Josh weren’t feeling very well yesterday, I instinctively told her to tell them that they weren’t sick…it was just the meanness coming out. It’s a funny little saying my dad came up with to lighten the mood when we weren’t feeling well. It’s funny that even when we weren’t feeling well, that comment never failed to make us giggle…along with rolling our eyes, and the whole, normal for kids comment…”Da-a-a-a-d!!” Then, Dad would always grin and try to look innocent, while saying something like, “Wha-a-a-t?” It was just the kind of comment my dad would make. Always act like you are totally innocent in the whole thing, right.
He was always coming up with these strange comments. I remember coming in from playing, crying because I had hurt myself in some minor way. If I stubbed my right big toe, Dad would offer to stomp on my left big toe, because it would make me forget about the pain in my right big toe. It was silliness that added a light tone to the drama that always seems to go along with a house full of girls. Dad was very outnumbered in our house, because with five daughters, he was the only male in the family. I suppose that it’s possible that his silliness was, in reality, a self defense mechanism. Imagine being the only man in a house full of women, five of whom could go from playing happily to squabbling in a matter of minutes.
Sometimes it was the things that people would never expect that we, and later the grandchildren and great grandchildren really liked…oddly. Things like the Whisker Rub, which is just what it sounds like. Dad would grab us and rub his end of the day whiskers across our face. I’m sure there are people out there who would cringe at that, and believe me when I say that Dad had a full face of whickers, but once he was done, we would invariably say, “Do it again, Daddy!!” It was a great game, and he never rubbed hard enough to make it hurt. It was just another way to lighten things up around our house, even if everyone was in a great mood already.
Dad always found creative ways of making us laugh, and maybe that was the reason that we hated it when he worked out of town for a time. His laugh was contagious, and he never really grew up, so playing often included Dad in some way. The grandchildren and great grandchildren can attest to that, because of the game where he sat right by the door of the kitchen, and the kids ran from kitchen to living room and back trying to get by him before he could swat them. They almost never succeeded, but they had a great time playing the game, and Dad just laughed and laughed.
I love those great old memories. And I think it’s awesome that some totally unrelated event, like someone not feeling well, can trigger those precious memories from my childhood days. My only regret now is that we didn’t have the ability, forethought, and accessibility of the camera phone, to take pictures of those silly moments to add to the precious memories that we can only see in now our memory files. Those really were the good old days, and I miss them a lot.
When kids are small, they are happy with a penny or a nickel, because they don’t know that these coins are not really worth very much in today’s world. All they know is that with that penny or nickel, they can go to a gumball machine and buy a piece of gum, and after all, isn’t that sort of thing the extent of their buying world at that early age.
Like all kids their age, Corrie and Amy loved getting money, in the form of coins, for their piggy banks and to put in the gumball machines. They learned quickly that those little pieces of metal were of great value, and they asked for them often. Sometimes they even found money on the ground, as we all have, and then you really got to see the excitement in their eyes, and hear it in their voices. It’s funny that as time goes by, we find ourselves leaving coins on the ground where we see them, because we now understand that they are not really very valuable. My girls were living in that special time, when coins still had value.
That childlike valuation of money was never made more clear to me that it was one day when my girls and I were at home, and they were about 3 and 2 years of age. The girls were playing with their toys in the living room, as I was cleaning the house. I had been back in the bedrooms. I brought out some trash to throw in the trash can under the sink in the kitchen. As I went to throw the trash away, something caught my eye in the trash can. I really have no idea why I even glanced into the trash can that day. It was not something I would normally have done. Nevertheless, I did glance down and then looked again…more carefully. Inside the trash can, I saw one hundred dollars, in twenty dollar bills. I was totally shocked.
I turned to see the girls with some coins in their hands. They had gone into my purse and taken out the money they thought was valuable, and then decided to help their mommy clean out her purse, by throwing away the useless paper that was in the wallet. In doing so, they had thrown away the hundred dollars that was in my wallet. It would have been lost, had it not been for the glance into the trash can, that I uncharacteristically made. I can’t say for sure if it was both of my girls who got the idea to get the money, or just Corrie, who the would have shared her take with her sister. I just know that I was thankful that I had looked into the trash can, and indeed, I looked as I threw things away for a number of years after that too, because I knew then, full well that when it came to the value of money, my little girls and I clearly had different ideas.
Our New Years Eve party is a time of joyful celebration, as are most, but ours celebrates the new year and our mom’s birthday which is on New Years Day. We bring in lots of snacks, and in fact we almost compete to see who makes the best one. We clear the kitchen of the table and chairs so there is room to dance, because Mom and Dad always liked to dance. There will be lots of visiting tonight, but there will also be lots of dancing. Everyone gets in on the fun, from the littlest kids, to the oldest adults there.
The dancers have changed over the years. These parties started when my sisters and I were little kids. As the years have gone by, our spouses and kids have danced on that kitchen floor, and now it’s our kids and their spouses and their children who grace the kitchen floor. The music has changed over the years too, from country, to a little bit rock and roll, to disco, and back to country, and all the dance styles that go with each of those genres. We have seen slow romantic dances, and fast dances that were just because the dancers were feeling happy. If these walls could talk…the stories they would tell.
The dancers were festive and the music cheerful. We have had some memorable dances, such as the rubber knee, performed by my brother-in-law, Mike, and for me, it was sweet to see my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin strutting their stuff. I didn’t even know they could dance so well. The many adult/child and adult/baby dances are always dances that put a smile on your face. But, the dance that will always hold the place in my heart for the most amazing, special, beautiful dance ever is the dance my parents had after both had been so ill that dancing seemed like it would never be possible for them again. It was a dance that showed their deep, lasting love for each other. It was a dance that we all gathered in the kitchen to see. The floor was theirs. We didn’t want to dance at that moment. We wanted to watch. It was a beautiful dance…not because of the steps taken, but because of the hearts that had been joined together for all those years…hearts that would belong to each other, forever.
For as long as I can remember, going to my grandmother’s house brought the smell of potato milk soup or oyster stew. Now, don’t get me wrong, my grandmother made other foods, and was an excellent cook, so maybe that is just the memory that makes me think of her. I was never very fond of oyster stew as a child, although I like it now, but potato milk soup was always a yummy favorite. Grandma always had the oyster crackers too, and I thought those were always fun. Grandma’s kitchen was always full of great smells and plenty of food.
Grandma loved having her family come for visits. The more the merrier. And all of her grandkids would have to agree with that. We always had a great time playing at grandma’s house. She had a huge back bedroom where her kids had slept, and while I always that it was scary at night, it was a great place to play. It had lots of room and plenty of beds when it was time to put the babies down for their naps. Playing house back there was always great fun, and since my grandparents had 9 kids, there were always plenty of cousins to play house with.
I think my grandmother must have been a Popsicle person like me, because her house was warm. I was always cold, so it was nice to go to grandma’s house, because it was always warm and cozy. As a kid, it seemed like I could never get warm enough…except at grandma’s house. I suppose many people wouldn’t think that was much of a memory, but to me, it was a great memory. It never seemed to matter how warm it was in the house, I still wanted to snuggle up in a warm blanket, but at grandma’s house, I never had to get a blanket…Grandma understood.
When my grandparents moved from their old home to the new one on 3rd Street, I remember playing in the basement. It was a great place for a haunted house when we were kids, and the pool table in the rec room was a definite plus…if you could get a chance to play. It was definitely a first come first served basis, and the older the kids were, the quicker they got there, and somehow it always seemed to me that the boys got there quicker than the girls.
I didn’t really matter what we were doing when it came to going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, we always had a good time. Whether we were playing in one of the many rooms in her house, or playing hide-and-seek outside, it was always fun…mostly I suppose because we were at Grandma’s house.
How well I remember the visits to Bob’s grandparents house in Forsyth, Montana. We used to go there every year for a visit. A lot of the visit revolved around the kitchen, where Grandma always seemed to be busily cooking up something. From that first cup of coffee in the morning with real cream from the cows they milked, and fresh eggs that she went out and gathered herself, toast and real butter, to the jellies and pies and cakes she made, everything just tasted different there…special. I suppose it was because of the fact that it was all farm fresh, and not store bought, but I think it was the love that it was made with too.
We loved going out to that old house, even though it was a bit of a drive to be sure. They owned a lot of land…I’m not just sure how much, but it was a big ranch, so the drive out to the house took some time. You could see the highway from their front yard, but it was a long way off. Mostly they owned everything as far as the eye could see. I remember sleeping in the bedrooms upstairs where they raised their children, Bob’s aunts and uncles. The rooms still looked like they did when the kids were living there, complete with the pictures they had on their dressers. It was like stepping back into time, for a little while.
But the best times were spent in the kitchen. We would play cards, for as long as Grandpa (Walt, who was Bob’s step grandpa, but never felt like it to us) could keep the game going, or Grandma would call it a day. Grandpa could play cards all day if she would let him, but she has other things she needed to do. She was always busy in that kitchen. I often wondered if she was so busy because we were there, or if that was always how she was. Of course, when we were there, my girls and I would help out, which they really enjoyed. Funny how your kids enjoy helping out at someone else’s house, but will do anything to get out of work at your own house. She just made it feel like fun, I guess. The girls always felt special at Grandma’s table too, because she had these old pans, that looked like a camping skillet, that the kids got to eat out of. I suppose most people would laugh at that, but there isn’t a one of the grandchildren that didn’t get to use them, nor one that doesn’t love those old pans.
I have been thinking a lot about that old house, and the treasured memories I have from there, and wishing that those days weren’t in the past now. Grandma and Grandpa have gone home to be with the Lord, and while I miss them a lot, they will always live on in my memories…especially the ones in Grandma’s kitchen.