Tag Archives: Family

The joke, er, goat’s on you

April Fools’ Day is a major holiday on my father’s side of the family. My 102-year-old grandmother used to love playing April Fool’s jokes, and my dad loves to tease people.

I inherited 20-some years of my grandmother’s diaries when she moved into a nursing home two years ago, so I dug through her April 1st entries in search of proof of her foolishness. Among entries about lunch, ironing, quilting and visitors, she rarely failed to note it was April Fools’ Day, though in 1998 when 7 inches of snow fell and 2009 when 11-12 inches fell, the weather trumped all fun.

I should mention that Grandma lives in north central Minnesota, where winter is six months long if it’s a day.

In the ’80s, April Fools’ Day was mentioned frequently with her brother-in-law’s birthday.

1985: “April Fools’ Day and Odin’s birthday. We celebrated his birthday with the neighbors coming, too. It was a very nice afternoon.”

In other years, she only mentioned who she fooled, not how. In 1986, it was my cousin Cheri (Grandma’s oldest grandchild). In 1991 and 1993, it was her friend Clarine. In 1992: “It was quiet although I did fool a few after church when we were having soup.” In 2004, she mentions she fooled her niece, Virginia.

In 1996, the lack of fooling got noted: “Cloudy cool day. I didn’t do any April fooling.”

But when Grandma does bother to go into detail about the day’s foolishness, I just have to chuckle.

1991: “April Fools’ … Was a nice day. The New Horizon had a goat they would deliver for $10. Mary called to have one delivered to both Jim & Wally. They blame me for telling Mary.”

Mary is my Aunt Mary, and Jim and Wally are her brothers, two of Grandma’s three sons. Uncle Wally passed away last year, but this joke reminds me of his sense of humor (and is proof of the foolishness on this side of the family!). He and Grandma exchanged pranks regularly:

1994: “April Fools’. I fooled Wally with a letter. It makes me happy. I did get him!”

1995: “April Fools’. Wally planned to fool me so I locked the garage door. He was here but couldn’t get in.”

1997: “April Fools’ Day. I never fooled anyone. Wally came when I was gone and put the bench on top of the car.”

 

For me, I think April Fool’s jokes are most funny when they’re played on someone else. When someone pulls a joke on me, well, not so much.

Researchers have found apes laugh, dogs laugh and babies laugh before they learn any other language. Laughter is pretty much the same across languages, and it has the same cadence for everyone — if you “ha, ha, ha” too fast or too slow, it’s panting or, er, something else.

So, laughter is like sleep. We all do it instinctively, and no one really knows why. Maybe it’s God’s joke. In any case, a good laugh is good for the soul, which may explain Grandma’s longevity.

May your day be filled with laughter.

Smile because it happened

 

Don’t cry because it’s over.
Smile because it happened.

~ Dr. Seuss

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Obviously, Miami Vice’s influence on fashion trends in the ’80s informed my little brother’s choice of men’s wear. Sharp-dressed man.

Given his boyish looks, he was probably dressed up for his church confirmation here, circa 1986. He was standing in front of his tree house, his pride and joy. When I was growing up, that tree house was only a bench in the crotch of the tree. Over the years, it grew and grew and grew! Look how happy he was! That smile of his was contagious.

In the background, you can see the dirt floor of a very tall pine tree, under which my brother spent many hours putt-putt-puttering with Tonka toys and plastic shovels. Who needed a beach when there was dirt to be had! He was creative and imaginative like that.

To some extent, I am guessing a bit about my brother’s demeanor, his interest in fashion and construction. Six years older than he was, I didn’t know him as well I probably ought to of. When it was important, I was becoming an adult and my selfish growing up crowded out interest in my little brother.

And then he was gone.

But I’m remembering him today, on the 17th anniversary of his untimely death.

And I’m smiling.

~ IN MEMORIAM ~
Curtis R. Wallgren
August 4, 1972~January 17, 1999

Birthday kudos to the woman responsible

Today we celebrate a man and the woman who gave him life. After all, shouldn’t we pay our  due to the person responsible for putting the “birth” in “birthday”?

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My Beloved commemorates another day on this earth today, and that means I get to party with him all day–singing, opening presents, eating–it’s non-stop celebration around here because, well, every day is a gift. I’ve written about why my Beloved is beloved before, so I won’t bother to reprint here, but to be honest, he deserves a whole book, not just a blog post (or 10).

No, today I write about the woman who gave birth to him many long years ago. My mother-in-law is a great mother-in-law, but first, she’s a great mom. When my Beloved’s dad died 30-something years ago, his mom was the only parent he had, and she lived up to the challenge. She’s a tough cookie–have I mentioned she changed careers midlife to become a registered nurse? She perseveres like that. She has loved my husband–and us now–though all kinds of clear sailing and storms. I can’t tell you how many times she’s lent her creativity and elbow grease in acts of service like painting my Adored stepson’s room, making couch pillows and bed shams, sewing my wedding gown (and more than one of my Beloved’s Halloween costumes), making dog coats and rugs, and probably two dozen other projects I’ve taken for granted. Did you know she lived with us for 10 weeks in a 1983 RV one winter? She was fun, a great cook and I loved getting to know her better. And she’s cleaned my refrigerator more than once. That’s love.

My Beloved’s birthday horoscope from Holiday Mathis seems to echo this sentiment, that a good relationship with Mom is worth more than gold:

What you put your money into is the least of your investments in 2016. You’ll attract support from those who understand that relationships are the true wealth in your life. When your time and attention help your personal life grow in satisfying directions, you’ll be on top of the world.

Happy Birthday, my Beloved! And thanks to my mother-in-law for bringing him into the world!

Grandma’s china speaks of gracious hospitality

When Grandma moved from her apartment to her new home in a senior living community earlier this year, she had quite a lot of stuff to shed.

Grandma turned 100 in March. A lifetime of household items still contained in her apartment was distributed among her four children. Thanks to Dad’s keen eye and frugal nature, a set of flatware and a collection of her china were among the pieces passed along to me. Dad rescued the flatware literally from the garbage.

Maybe some readers wouldn’t be so pleased to inherit china, but I couldn’t be more tickled. Grandma’s new china coordinates with and expands my own collection beautifully.

grandmas china

The plate with the flowery pattern on the top is from my original china collection, which I acquired upon my first marriage: Vintage Floral Splendor by Johann Haviland. All the other pieces with the platinum striping (really! platinum!) are Grandma’s: Nora by Harmony House.

The Nora plates are just slightly larger and flatter than my Floral Splendor pieces so they’ll make great charger plates or, when I’m serving a crowd, they’ll mix-and-match much better than my functional-but-not-very-elegant Longaberger pottery. Grandma’s collection includes a gravy boat (oh, joy! to serve gravy properly in a pretty boat instead of a mixing bowl with a spout) and a couple of other serving pieces that will be a treat to use at the next holiday dinner we host.

I distinctly remember eating off of Grandma’s china when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s. Grandma is a hostess bar none who appreciates a tasty side dish and a beautiful garnish. I can see in my mind that little saucer filled with a canned peach and cottage cheese, and there was always a spoonful of sweet pickles or pickled beets to accompany the ham or turkey.

Coffee with grandma is always an occasion. It’s never just coffee. At the very least, there would some sort of cake or pie and cookies (cookies are always accents, not the main dish), but usually it would also include little sandwiches, mixed nuts and one of those aforementioned pickles. Coffee with Grandma is a meal.

Served, more often than not, on pretty china.

Grandma’s pretty china is now beautifully stacked in my dining room buffet awaiting company. Can’t wait to put it to gracious use.

Again.

New phase

Twenty-one.

The magic milestone beckoning young adults who are not yet cynics about watery, dingy, obnoxious bars.

My Adored stepson turned 21 today, and he assured me, “I’m not that stupid” when I implored him not to celebrate with 21 shots.

Twenty-one.

This, if nothing else, is the barrier one crosses into adulthood. When decisions matter. When no one else is in charge.

When I was 21, I was working on getting my bachelor’s degree, which I eventually landed even though it took five years because I accepted a chance to edit the student newspaper. Living in a town I would someday return to, I missed it so much, and then began to loathe. Dating a man who would ultimately become my first husband. Some decisions better than others. But mine. Mine alone.

Stepson faces decisions of similar gravity now. Right now. He’s 21.

Here’s to you, Stepson. May your drinks and your decisions taste sweet.

Seven lilies and … a surprise! … in Aunt Helen’s garden

Lily 1

Lily 2

Lily 3

Lily 4

Lily 5

Lily 6

Lily 7

“As all must be,” I said within my heart,
“Whether they work together or apart.”
But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a ’wildered butterfly.

~ lines from “The Tuft of Flowers” by Robert Frost

Butterfly

Something I learned from my little sister

Every time I roast a chicken, I think of my sister.

For years, decades really, I refused to have anything to do with “chicken on the bone.” Besides eating it, of course. If Col. Sanders was willing to hack through all that horrible connective tissue and handle that mysterious package of squishy little pieces, more power to him: I’ll eat the delicious fried results. But heck if I was going to handle that stuff — that’s what modern butchers are for! I bought skinless boneless chicken breasts.

Then, about a decade ago (I might have been living with her briefly at the time, between marriages as I was), my sister salted and peppered a whole chicken, popped it in the oven and said something like, “well, there’s dinner.”

“Oh, I admire you,” I said. “I hate handling chicken on the bone.”

“Oh, it’s so easy,” she said, making “easy” sound like it had 12 syllables. “You really should try it.”

Pretty much up until then, I assumed I was the smarter sibling. Because I was older, see. I had more experience.

Well, not with preparing chicken, as it turned out. My sister was right. Roasting a chicken is easy.

And then, I discovered when I moved in with my Beloved, that disgusting carcass of chicken bits and bones make the most amazing chicken broth. “Amazing,” with 12 syllables.

And making chicken broth is pretty easy, too! Who’d a thunk?

So today as I was salting and peppering my whole chicken (my Beloved refused to let me use anything fancy like lemon or garlic or, God forbid, rosemary), I thought of my sister. And of the amazing chicken soup I’m going to eat tomorrow, too.