Sunday, May 23, 2010


Today is May 23rd, and it seemed a good day to talk about my sister, Rosalee. Today is her birthday - 39, I think. Rosey was always my oldest sister, although there were two girls older, I never knew them, so Rosey seemed like the oldest. I remember she always liked to have nice clothes and liked boys. She babysat a lot. One time she was babysitting next door for the Marshalls and tried to light the gas oven and it blew up. She came running home with singed eye brows and wasn't very happy. To be exact, I think it scared the devil out of her. In high school she took a live-in babysitting job in Flackville. I missed her being around. She was a senior while I was in sixth grade, and didn't let me borrow her clothes very much, although I had grown big enough to fit into some of them. But one day she let me borrow this outfit that I just loved and thought it made me so much more grown up. It was a black and gray plaid slim skirt with a matching vest. I was thrilled. After she graduated, she moved to Syracuse and I still missed her. That first summer I went to Syracuse to visit for two weeks and she bought me a short set - it had orange shorts and an orange and white plaid crop top. I loved it, as I didn't get very many new things - not with two older sisters. I wore it over to the park nearby, caught the seat on a slide and tore a 3-corner tear in the shorts. I was heartbroken, but not much could be done except stitch it up. I know she didn't make a lot of money and it was probably a sacrifice for her to buy it for me. After she was married, I started visiting with her every summer at her new home. She always tried to show me a good time. After I graduated, she helped me get a job at the same company she was working at, and we had many good times driving back and forth to work. One guy had this little GM convertible car and we thought we would look really good if we had one - bopping around in it with the top down and our hair blowing in the wind. Never happened though.... She was my matron of honor when I was married (Joanna was the bulge in her tummy). And quite a few years later, I stood up for her when she married Chuck. When she lived on the farm and I lived on our farm, we had a standard phone call. I would call her and say "It's my turn" - and proceed to tell her which kid did what to end up at the emergency room. Then she would call and say "it's my turn" and tell me what happened to one of her kids that ended up at the emergency room. It really did seem like they took turns.

Living 45 minutes to an hour away we don't see a lot of each other, but when we do we always have a good time. She has always been there for me - loaning me money on occasion, using her van to transport kids to college, giving me mental and emotional support when I needed it. She thinks she's a Rosalee now, but she will always be Rosey to me. Sisters are one of the best things in the world!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So sad

Yesterday an older farm house about a mile down the road burned until there was nothing left but a shell. The people who owned the house are good friends of ours. We had a dairy farm and they had an apple orchard and moved here just shortly after we moved here. They have four children, the exact same ages as our four older ones. Their Rich is the same age as our Mike, their Karen is the same age as our Joel, their Michele is the same age as our Alison and their Mike is the same age as our Brian. The kids went to school together and grew up together. They lost everything - the most important being the pictures and the things we accumulate that help stimulate our memories of all the happy days we have lived while raising our families. It makes us stop and think. What would we do in a circumstance like this? No one was home and no one was hurt and that's the most important thing. Household items and furniture can be replaced. And I suppose we still have the memories. But, oh, I can't imagine losing all the things we have accumulated through the years. My heart aches for them.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Will He Ever Go Home?

A couple years ago Rick bought some heifers from a guy in another state. The guy was an older man, never married, and his cows were his life. He lived alone and was your typical old bachelor, with a hillbilly flavor. He actually had tears in his eyes when we loaded the heifers and drove them away. He was a talker though and since Rick is also (he was voted most talkative in his senior class and forty years hasn't changed anything), they had many conversations in the following months via the telephone. He still owned some heifers and last fall he told Rick that the place they were staying weren't taking good care of them, so Rick says - "what the heck, bring them here and we'll take care of them." So he did. However, he came along with them last fall to make sure they had a good ride and got settled in. Rick said he was going to stay a couple days. When he came through the door with four suitcases, I looked at Rick and mouthed "How long?!" Two and a half l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng weeks later, he finally decided he should head for home. Rick and he continued to have phone conversations on and off, and earlier this month he showed up on our doorstep again to check out his girls. He only had two suitcases this time, so I thought that was an improvement. A couple days went by and still he was here. Every night when he came through the door he would say "What's for dinner?" Then I would hear comments like "I don't know if I can eat that, if it's tough my teeth aren't very good." or "I never eat that" or "Did you ever try doing it this way?" A week went by, and still he was here. The girls at work asked me everyday if the hillbilly was still here and then they laughed. My eyes went to the top of the refrigerator every morning when I got up and night when I got home to see if his notebooks were still there where he had put them. I called Rick every afternoon and asked if he had good news, but each day he said he was still here.

My washer is broke and he commented he was running out of clothes, so I thought that was a good thing. He'd have to go home. But no - he went to the laundermat and washed them - so he had a whole clean fresh supply. He commented he had to go home mid-week. Wednesday came and went, Thursday came and went, Friday, Saturday..... Finally this morning, Sunday, I heard him moving around and when I got up, his truck was gone and his books were finally gone off the refrigerator. Hurrah! I did a little dance around the kitchen! Then I noticed the note on the table. As I read it, my hands came up to my face and my mouth opened into a big round O and I must have looked like that kid in 'Home Alone'. The note read: "Dear Mrs. R, Thanks for everything. See you in a couple weeks."

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An All Day Trip to Nowhere

Last Saturday my sister, Rosalee, and I heard that our sister, Jane, was ill and had been in the hospital for some time. We decided to go visit her on Sunday (even though it was Mother's Day) and make a day of it. So bright and early Sunday morning, I got up, packed up my puzzle book and crocheting, and started out for Rosey's house about 7:00 AM. After a stop in Lafayette to get some gas, I got there a little before 8:00. We then got in Rosey's car and started out for our visit and gabfest. Rosey drove the first leg and we had a good visit - discussing all the important things in life, such as our sister and brothers, our kids, my job, her redecorating, my unwanted company (that's another story in itself), and so on - and the time just seemed to fly by. We got to Watertown in due time and decided to stop and have breakfast. We went to Perkins and while Rosey dined on oatmeal and fresh rolls (yeah, really), I enjoyed french toast, bacon and hash browns. After eating as much as we could, we headed back out on our trip. I drove this leg of the trip. It took me a few minutes to get used to driving a van, which was sort of different than driving my regular car. But we were bopping along, still thinking of lots of things to discuss. We passed the Fort Drum exit, then passed the Theresa exit and was almost to Alex Bay. We were laughing about the time many years ago when Rosey was driving and took the wrong part of the Alex Bay exit and we couldn't figure out how the river got on the wrong side of us. We even thought for a second that we must have crossed the river and didn't realize it. It WAS night time and hard to see. But what we really did was head back north towards Clayton. Anyway, we were bopping along and all of a sudden the van started slowing down. I pressed down harder on the gas and it didn't work, it just continued to go slower and slower and we were just coasting along. We saw a state trooper ahead of us just sitting there on one of those turnarounds waiting to catch somebody going too fast. So we coasted right up next to him and stopped on the side of the road. (I'll bet there were a lot of motorists happy that we occupied that trooper for the next hour or so.) The van refused to start again. We looked under the hood, but of course that was useless - we had no idea what was wrong. Rosey called Chuck and it was decided to call a tow truck and have it towed somewhere and Chuck would come and pick us up. Sorry, Jane, no visit today. The trooper very generously volunteered to call the towtruck (after he checked out my license and Rosey's registration, of course). And in due time, a huge almost-looking new truck pulled up. We climbed into the backseat of the club-cab and visited with the tow truck guy's new wife while he loaded the van onto the back of the truck. In that short time, we found out she had grown kids, was newly married to tow guy and they each still had their own houses while building a new house for them together. She was quite talkative and made our situation a little easier. I thought it was cute that she sat in the little middle seat next to him - oh....newlyweds! Mr. Tow truck driver turned around and drove us back to Theresa where he dropped us off at Trickey's diner and carried the poor van off to the van hospital. We thought the name of diner was interesting as we have cousins named Trickey, but upon questioning the young lady who was working there, she said her grandfather owned the diner and he was from Albany, so we determined we were no close relation anyway. We spent about two hours there. There was a group of older guys in the diner who were having a lively conversation that made Rosey and I just look at each other and roll our eyes every once in a while. One was very vocal about his new girlfriend, which was sort of difficult to really believe. It was obviously a hangout for these guys - enjoying their morning coffee even though it was well past noon by this time. After sitting there working on our puzzle books and listening to the boasting and dubious conversation, we decided we were getting the munchies even though we hadn't had breakfast all that long ago. So we ended up having dessert - mmmmm, I had a delicious piece of lemon pie. Rosey was trying to get hold of Chuck again all this time, but no luck. Chuck finally called - he was in Alex Bay looking for us. Sorry Chuck, you went too far. So he got back on 81 again and headed back to Theresa. And eventually he showed up. Come to find out, he had a new phone and couldn't quite figure it out yet. He decided he needed a bite to eat and ordered a well-done hamburger to go. We waited for his burger and finally got in his van and headed back to Syracuse. Poor Chuck took one bite of his burger and found out Trickey's Diner was full of tricks, as his burger was almost raw and inedible. Poor Chuck was still hungry. But in due time we made it back to Rosey's house. I got into my car and headed home - arriving about 6:00 or 6:30. It was a really long day for a trip to nowhere and I was sound asleep in my bed by 9:00!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Living in The Doghouse

I have always liked dogs well enough, but was never a real dog person. We had a couple farm dogs that stayed in the barn and I made sure they were fed and so on. I occasionally petted them and talked to them, but I was never a real dog person.

Then after raising six children and having numerous other kids around, my husband and I found ourselves alone in a big old farmhouse that seemed way too quiet. So I said offhandly one day "I ought to get a dog or something to liven it up a little around here." Well my youngest son took me at my word and for Christmas he brought home a beautiful golden retriever three-month old puppy. It was a little furball and cute as can be and definitely livened the place up right from day one. I started kicking around names trying to decide what to name her. I worked in an office that had a hearing impaired person who had a golden retriever hearing aid dog named Dougie. So I was thinking about the name Dougie and thought Daisy sounded pretty good with it. My youngest daughter came home later that same night and said that her boyfriend had a golden retriever named Duke and she was thinking Daisy would be a good name. We couldn't believe that we were both thinking of the same name, and Daisy she became. We all fell in love with her, but we lost an awful lot of shoes to being chewed up and cleaned up a lot of paper that was shredded and found that having a puppy was a lot of work.

Time went on and by the next summer, my youngest son was living at home again and working in the city near here. One day he was working on a phone tower and noticed that next door there was a box of puppies that the people were giving away. By the end of the day there was only one little puppy left in the box - a black lab little boy. He had bumps on his hind legs right at the ankles and no one seemed to want to take him home. My son couldn't resist him and Roscoe moved in that night - an irresistable little black ball of fur. (The vet said the bumps were probably from getting his feet caught in a door.) So now we had two dogs and we absolutely adored them - babying them, talking baby talk to them and treating them like regular members of the family.

Time went on and when Roscoe was nine months old, he discovered Daisy was a girl. Now I didn't think he was old enough to get those kind of thoughts, but that just goes to show you how much I know. Two months later Daisy delivered an adorable seven little puppies - 2 were black, 3 were red, 1 was blonde and 1 was all white with a little black nose and little black pads on her paws. She looked like a little polar bear. It was no problem finding homes for all the puppies - labs and retreivers are very popular. The little white one, which we were calling Polar Bear, had been claimed by a guy I work with. I was holding and cuddling all the puppies so they would be used to people and make good pets, but I cuddled Polar Bear more because I wanted the guy at work to be really happy with her and yes, because she was so doggone cute! But the guy at work backed out on me and decided it was not a good time to get a puppy. By this time Polar Bear had won my heart and I couldn't bear to give her to anyone else, so Po became my little girl. As she got older she has remained white on her belly and legs, but turned slightly darker on her back to a pale blonde. So now we had three dogs and boy were they a handful. They chewed on everything, ripped up everything, stole food every chance they got and caused general havoc continually. My youngest daughter adopted one puppy and named him Bernard, because he had such a big head that he resembled a St. Bernard.

Then the following summer we somehow didn't manage to keep Daisy and Roscoe apart again, and Daisy delivered ten little puppies this time, although one died the first night. So we had nine little cuties traveling around - five black and four reddish ones. There was one who was definitely the leader of the pack - he was always out front leading all the others into trouble. He was the biggest like Bernard had been, so my daughter claimed him too and called him BJ - for Bernard Jr. He stayed with us until he was six weeks old, then my daughter took him home. But she quickly learned how much work and trouble two dogs could be and she wasn't home enough to train BJ, and so after two or three months, she let her brother adopt him. Now you say, what is wrong with that? Well, the brother lived at home, which meant BJ moved back here and now we had four dogs living here - raising heck and making messes and at times driving us crazy. Now my son has moved out again, but guess what, the dog is still here.

So here lives my husband and me, Daisy and Roscoe and Po and BJ! Help - they're driving me nuts! I go to work all day and come home and have to sweep up the mess they made every night. They love to get up on the kitchen table and look out the window to wait for us to come home. They love to chew up the sofa cushions. They love to chew shoes - I have lost count of how many pairs they have managed to ruin. And they love to bark at people walking by which has cost us a ticket because we have a leash law in this town even though it's the only town in Onondaga County without zoning! I don't know why the people complained - why should they be afraid of four dogs that weigh 70 or 80 pounds each standing on the edge of the lawn barking their heads off?

But then they look at us with those goofy smiles and big eyes and give us a kiss or cuddle up to us and lay their fuzzy faces against ours in a hug, or run like crazy after a ball to see who can get it first and bring it back and we just melt. They are our at-home family now and I don't know what we would do without them. They are just like kids though - way too many but how could we choose who to give up? We couldn't. So we try to forget the extra work and the chewed up shoes and concentrate on the good times. And my daughter still likes to tell Roscoe he was the last one in the box......

Living in The

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Little Sister

I am the youngest of 13 children. However, I will forever have a baby sister. Her name was Dixie and although she was born eleven years before me, she will always remain a toddler.
She passed away when she was not quite two, and all I have to know her by are the few pictures of a toddler. My brother, Leo, wrote about Dixie on his blog and I found it interesting to find that his remembrances and the story that my mother told me several times were very much the same, but also different. Memories can be like that. Here is my version of the story as told to me by my mother. It is actually an essay I wrote for an English class in college. I had to write about things from my past that affected me today.

One of my most profund memories really wasnt about something that happened to me. It happened to someone else, but the telling of it to me many times left me feeling as though I was a big part of it and it left me with some very strong feelings. It is a story of a little girl -
Dixie Rose. The time was 1942. It was shorty after the depression era and times were hard. She was born into a farm family - the eighth child. First there were two boys to help their father on the farm, then a girl to help the mother with the household chores, then came four boys in a row to help around the farm with the lighter chores and to frolic through the yard, then came Dixie Rose. After this string of frisky boys, Dixie Rose was a delight to them all. A tiny little girl with white-blonde hair, she was adored by the whole family. In the fall of 1941, the family finally realized their dream of buying their own farm - a place of their own for the first time. On Halloween, the family moved into their new home, leaving dear friends and neighbors behind about ten miles away. Not a long way by today's standards, but back then it was a considerable distance. Everyone was so busy trying to make a living that there wasn't a lot of time for visiting. Thanksgiving came and went and the family was very grateful for the blessings they had received that year. Christmas came and although the children didn't receive a lot, they were happy with the trinkets Santa brought to them. Her mother remembered the children waking up in the early orning and running down the stairs to see what Santa had left. Dixie Rose had received a box of little tin dishes, and she was thrilled with them. She couldn't wait to take them to show Mommy and Daddy, and her tiny little 22 month old legs slowly and carefully carried the little box of tin dishes up the stairs to show them, bumping the box on each step. Her Mom laid in bed and listened to the clink-clink as the little dishes rattled in their box with each step. On January 2nd, the family was surprised by a visit from the next door neighbors they had left behind a few months before. Mom was overjoyed to see her friend, and Mary, the older daughter was just as happy to see her dear friend from the past. They had lunch and the two women were cleaning up dishes and making things neat. Mom told Mary to take Dixie Rose and the next youngest, Leo - who was four - up to their beds to take an afternoon nap. I never knew why Dixie Rose wasn't in her bed. Did Mary in her eleven year old excitement of seeing her friend forget to put her into the bed or did Dixie Rose at 22 months figure out how to get out? Anyway, she and Leo decied to explore a little. Dixie Rose climbed up onto a chair and found a box of matches that had been left on a dresser. The house had no electricity yet and the family had to depend on oil lamps for light. Dixie Rose began to play with the matches and figured out how to light them. She would light one and then hold it down for Leo, who was standing on the floor, to blow it out. But suddenly the flame from the match caught at the hem of the little nightgown, and in the days before inflammable materials, the little nightgown flared instantly. The mother heard the child scream and went running up the stairs, and as she turned the corner at the top of the stairs she saw her precious child coming down the hall towards her - covered in flames. She grabbed the child and put the flames out and they rushed her to the hospital, but the child was seriously burned. Mother stayed with her for many hours, but there were seven more children at home and farm chores to be done. The nurses at the hospital assured her that Dixie Rose would be OK until morning and urged her to go home to her other children and to get some rest. So the mother did. Before she went to bed, she had a strong desire to call the hospital and check on Dixie Rose, but she was afraid she would be a bother to the nurses and she knew they were busy. So she went to bed and tried to sleep. In the night, the phone rang, and the nurses at the hospital told the mother that her precious little girl had died.

This story was told to me many times as a child. You see, Dixie Rose was my sister, a sister I never knew. She died nine years before I was born. To me, she was a small child in a handful of pictures we had of her. She was always the "little " sister, even though she had been born several years before me.

I was afraid of matches. I lit my first match when I was sixteen, and even then, I was afraid.

My mother told me to be careful what I wished for in life. Many times she said that because Dixie Rose was so sweet and adorable she had wished she didn't have to grow up, and she didn't.

One time my mother and I were having a conversation about a girl I knew from high school who had gone out and partied and came home after drinking and went to sleep. Her baby spit up during the night and choked and died. My mother said she felt sorry for that mother, that even though it was an accident, she would never forgive herself. I knew when Mom was saying that, that she was talking about herself and Dixie Rose.