Monthly Archives: May 2012

Letter to Dad, part 2

Dear Dad,

Guess what. It’s fruit fly season again and you know what that means. We’re inundated and you know how happy that makes me. But I have to thank you for taking Fred under your wing and teaching him the fine art of fruit fly food production.

Last night I arrived home to find Fred preparing assorted berries for a pie he planned to bake. As soon as he had that in the oven, he admitted that we now had a “little fly problem”. Something in the back of my brain kicked in and I could see your grin light up your face and hear your gleeful, “Oh goody, time to make fruit fly food.”

I remember all too well those hot summer days, coming home from the pool to find you stirring something on the stove….it usually turned out to be that thick syrupy concoction. Standing on the counter nearby was a bottle with a paper cone taped to the mouth, just waiting for you to fill it with…yep…fruit fly food.

So anyway, there was Fred, pouring goop into a tall bottle with the all-too-familiar cone…with that RFP evil scientist grin down pat.

Lo and behold, this morning, the fruit flies had abandoned the countertop and windowsills for the syrup and there they were, trapped inside. Gorging, no doubt.

Dad, you taught us so many useful things, like how to trap a fruit fly, how to back a car into a tiny campsite, how to give a really good foot massage, how to watch tv and grade papers at the same time, how to make the perfect angel food cake, and how to remove the tiniest splinter from a screaming child. I still have your forceps.

I’m sure you knew, but I’m sure I never said it enough. Thanks.

Love you,

Mary

Advertisements
Aside

When I was a kid, it seemed as if my parents were always doing something new to the house or yard. As I got older, I wondered if they’d ever stop. Would there ever come a time when all of … Continue reading

Tschantz-Pannabecker “Friendship Quilt” on display at Sonnenberg

Much as I hate to admit this, I guess I’ve inherited yet another trait from my parents –difficulty parting with “things”. Over the past few years, though, I’ve begun to whittle away at this extra stuff…piece by piece.

When my mom moved from her condo to an independent living apartment, she was forced to downsize her belongings. A few years earlier, she’d created a written inventory of what she owned, listing the provenance of antiques and other valuable items.

She provided us with the list and asked us to indicate which items we’d most like to have. Amazingly, between my four brothers and I, and our spouses, children and grands, there were no real arguments over who would get what. Each of the grandkids seemed to have a special affinity for specific items, often stemming from some childhood incident involving Grandma and/or Grandpa.

There were, of course, some family heirlooms, including some quilts, several of which most of us had rarely — if ever — seen, and some of which we didn’t know even existed.

One of the quilts had belonged to our paternal grandmother, Sylvia Tschantz Pannabecker, who taught school at Boone School in Wayne County, Ohio. The hand-embroidered “Friendship Quilt” was made by her students in the class of 1912-1914. In 1931, it was presented to my grandmother when she and Grandpa and their family returned to the United States while on furlough from their mission post in China.

About a year ago, a board member of the Kidron (Ohio) Sonnenberg Heritage Center, asked whether I would be willing to lend the quilt to them for one of their exhibits.

Like my dad, I don’t make decisions quickly or easily, and turning over something of such sentimental value brought out a part of me that I didn’t recognize. I needed to know whether it would be protected from harsh lighting, secure, and most of all, that it would someday be returned — intact — to my family.

Because truthfully, I didn’t see it as mine to give away. My grandmother had kept it safe for all those years before turning it over to my parents. Mother had eventually hung it for display so that others could enjoy it.

Turning it over to virtual strangers wasn’t easy. I consulted with my sister-in-law, director of Kauffman Museum in North Newton, Kansas, because she has expertise with similar exhibits and dealing with donors/lenders of family heirlooms.

Suddenly, I realized I was making this way too hard on myself. If a quilt wasn’t made to be used on a bed, then there must be another reason for its existence. Like a painting or sculpture, this quilt is a piece of art — one that deserves to be enjoyed by many.

And so today, my grandmother’s quilt, is hanging on display at the Sonnenberg. If you’re in the Kidron area, stop by to enjoy this piece of Tschantz-Pannabecker history.

What I learned from my mama

So…it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t remember much about Mother’s Day when I was little. I don’t think we ever fixed her breakfast in bed or took her out for dinner. The truth is, she probably cooked for us on those days, but I could be wrong. You’d have to ask her.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of us don’t come to really appreciate our moms until later in life when we finally realize what all they taught us.

My own mother turns 90 in about five weeks. 90. Wow. That simply amazes me. This is the woman who is still teaching me new things nearly every time I’m with her. She might not realize this, because often these are things that I learn simply from watching her and listening to her.

Yesterday, I called her at 8 a.m. and began to apologize for waking her up. She just laughed and said she’d been up for hours and was out walking “way out here in Birch Court”, which is probably a good half mile from her place.

So there you have it. One of the things I learned from her is the value of exercise — at any age, and despite whatever aches and pains might be nagging at us.

My mom and dad raised five kids on a small college professor‘s salary, supplemented by her earnings as a piano teacher. She sewed, gardened, preserved the produce, and knew how to stretch a dollar. And while I learned to sew and garden, the one thing I regret never really learning is how to budget. It scares me. But I did inherit her tendency toward thriftiness — also known as “cheap”. 

When I reflect on the many things I learned from my mom, the one I value the most is the ability to sew. Because of her, I’ve always made clothing for myself and my daughters. One of the first things I remember making was is the early 60s when wrap-around dresses were popular. These resembled the hospital gowns that have three armholes. She made one for herself and one for me, and I made one for my doll.

And that was how I learned the art of sewing. From doll clothes, I progressed to simple clothing for myself. Of course, this is also where I learned my propensity for perfection. If I made a mistake that had to be ripped out and begged her to fix it, she’d fix me with a look and say, “Nope, you do it.”

That drove me nuts. It often resulted in my throwing the item down and running off to do something else. But eventually, I returned to complete the project. As a result, I can read nearly any pattern, change whatever parts I don’t like, and alter just about any item of clothing to fit me.

Now that I’m thinking about this, I’m pretty sure I’ve never thanked her for teaching me to sew, to look at a ready-made clothing item and instead of buying it, thinking that I could make it for less and know it would fit better.

So Mother, thanks. I love you. For many, many reasons.

Duck, duck, goose

My early morning runs along the local bike path take me past two quarries and usually involves sightings of ducks, geese, a heron, and — on very rare occasions — a bald eagle.

The ducks that hang out at the Buckeye quarry often sleep curled up in the grass near the bike path, and their close proximity sometimes distracts me from running. It’s impossible for me to pass up the chance to try to make friends with the cute little guys and girls?

With spring comes the extra fun of watching for baby ducklings and goslings. This morning I watched mama and papa goose shepherd their four little goslings across the grass. One little guy kept lagging behind and then had to run to catch up. I managed to take a photo of part of the family.

Later, as I was heading out on my bike through our back yard, I saw three male ducks wandering through our yard. I actually saw one of them sitting in our tiny fish pond (just big enough to hold one duck at a time) but when he saw me, he hopped right out and waddled off after his buddies.

Because a creek runs along the back of our property, ducks have become fairly regular visitors to our neighborhood. I suppose some homeowners might not appreciate them — especially their droppings — but hey, who can complain about such entertaining and beautiful birds?

Most hated word: The envelope, please?

There is a word that I absolutely abhor. In fact, I have difficulty convincing myself to write it, let alone speak it. For the longest time, I couldn’t admit this to anyone. If I heard someone use it or saw it written down, I’d cringe with horror. I am not making this up.

Ask my husband and daughters. Until now, I’ve never admitted this to anyone but them. In fact, I don’t remember how or when I admitted it, but it was long after my mother-in-law (who I loved dearly) first said it in my presence. This would have been more than 30 years ago, so obviously I’ve been hiding my feelings for a long time.

I’ve long suspected that there is a Freudian explanation for this. My brother-in-law, the psychiatrist, probably could explain it to me. On the other hand, maybe I’d rather not know.

So here’s the thing. My family knows this word irritates me, so they use it selectively. Sometimes they whisper it furtively in my presence, sneaking glances at me to see how I’m reacting. Or they say it really loud just for fun.

Well. I have been vindicated. It seems I am not alone in my disgust for this word. In the New Yorker‘s “Culture Desk” blog, author Ben Greenman asked readers for the word they’d like to see zapped from the English language. My word came up most frequently.

If that’s not enough proof that I am in good company, I am now one of 3,229 members of a Facebook page dedicated to those who shudder at the mention of this word.

THE WORD? Ugh. Okay…deep breath…here we go…moist. Yep, that’s it. Can’t stand it. Can’t stand the sound of it, the sight of it, the feeling that I get when I hear it. This is one of the first times I’ve actually written it down and quite honestly, I wasn’t sure I could spell it correctly.

Sadly, my word was not the word chosen to be eliminated. That word was “slacks”. What’s up with that? How could they have chosen “slacks” over than “moist”? Makes absolutely no sense to me.

So now I’m really curious…what’s your word? What word would you like to zap from existence?