Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Week 40 of 2017 - Halloween on Fritz Drive

We had a neighbor lady, Miss Collins, who never married and lived alone accept for a small dog that she had...a little ankle biter and the breed of the dog now escapes my memory. It was a barker I remember! She was an avid gardener and her yard was the best yard in the neighborhood to hide in for Hide and Seek but her dog often gave you away or she did did when she yelled at you to get out of the yard because you were making her dog bark.....but all that is for a different blog. 

Miss Collins seemed to like the neighborhood children and we liked her too. We often visited her on weekends...several Saturdays afternoons before Halloween, she would invite all the neighborhood kids over and we would make our own Halloween treats. Not all of the kids came but each year six or eight of us did! The first Saturday we would arrive promptly. She would have the taffy all made and it would be ready to pull. “Go wash your hands! “ she would remind us. So we all lined up at the kitchen sink and while standing on a stool we washed our hands. She divided the taffy into child size balls and gave each of us one. “Be Careful, it's still warm but we need to start pulling it." she would tell us.  It was a bit like playing with Stretch Armstrong (who came along many years later). We pulled and pulled until the taffy cooled and changed from a rather transparent color to a cloudy one...As you pulled it, it became harder and harder to pull as it cooled. Miss Collins knew when the taffy was perfect and with one last pull we would hand over our strings of taffy and she would get to work cutting the taffy into bite size pieces on a butcher block! Sometimes taffy would shoot across the room as she cut it. The kids would burst into laughter as we scrambled to find the piece. She had wax paper cut into squares so we could wrap the taffy pieces as she cut them. Looking back on it she had a fairly small kitchen for all the neighborhood kids to pack into... For never having children of her own she sure was patience with us all! She would put the wrapped taffy in a bowl. We could hardly wait til the next Saturday when we would come to see her again!

The next Saturday, she would have a couple of roasting pans over flowing with pop corn and a large pot of taffy like candy cooking on the stove. After we arrived and washed our hands, she instructed us to get some butter from the butter dish and rubbed it all over our hands. And as kids always do, we teasing each other with our greasy hands! Next she would pour the hot candy liquid over the pop corn filled roasters. She stirred it up a bit trying to coat all the pop corn and let the candy cool some with six or eight kids with greasy hands who can't wait to dig into the pop corn mixture. When it was cool enough we all gathered around her table grabbing a hand full of pop corn at a time and making balls out of them. As is always tempting with kids, you just wanted to throw that pop corn ball when you got done shaping it but we would wrap each ball in wax paper instead. We would make enough pop corn balls for all the kids in the neighborhood. She allows us to pick our favorite and she marked them so that we were sure to get the right one.

On the final Saturday before Halloween, Miss Collins would have us come over again. This time we were to help her stuff the Halloween bags that she would hand out to the neighborhood kids on Halloween. When we arrived, she would have lunch size bags open on her kitchen table all ready for us to stuff. Each bag got a pop corn ball, taffy, chewing gum, a sucker and a plastic Halloween spider ring or wax vampire teeth or a similar Halloween themed item. The kids who participated wrote their name on the bag that they wanted and then we wrote names on the rest of the bags for each of the kids in the neighborhood!

Now we patiently or not so patiently waited for Halloween. There was still lots to do. If we had not gotten our new mask, it was time to do that. We did not get new costumes each year. We did get a new plastic mask and found clothes that we had in our dresser draw which completed the costume. A black cat mask with black pants and a black turtle neck sweater was my favorite costume when I was six or seven. I was a clown several times too. Mom had a tendency to steer us away from scary costumes and toward the happy fun ones. 

Matt and Mark - Halloween 1966
And then there were the pumpkins. On the Sunday afternoon before Halloween, my Dad would pile all the kids in the station wagon and take us to a local farmer or fruit stand that had pumpkins. We would pick out the biggest one we could carry!!! That was the key...we had to be able to carry it.

Mark trying valiantly to carry his own pumpkin and Sharon helping Matt - 1966
Keeping a close eye on their pumpkins while waiting to pay for them - 1966
After we selected and purchased our pumpkins, we took them home to carve them. Dad supervised the carving and gave us ideas when we had none. He was extremely creative!  

Jan, Sue, Matt, Mark and Sharon all carving pumpkins on newspapers on the Family room floor - 1966
We all had Halloween parties at school during elementary school so we took our costume to school and got to put it on for a Halloween parade and a party. It was not a very productive day at school since every kid wanted to get home to go trick-or-treating.

When we arrive home on the school bus and all we could think about was trick-or-treating. We only went in our neighborhood of about twenty houses and only to the houses who had the porch light on (and of course they all did). There were no street lights but we had to patiently wait for it to get dark before we could head out. And everyone had to eat a good dinner or you could not eat your candy! While we waited we decorated a brown grocery bag to use for collecting our candy. You made sure you put your name on it so everyone knew it was your bag of candy!

Eventually, Mom could not take anymore “Can we go now? Can we go now?” and she would send us on our way. We ran across the lawns from house to house yelling “Trick-or-Treat!!!!” impatiently waiting as Theresa Randall or Dee Hughes or Dee Jacobsen to give candy to each kid standing at their door! The amazing thing was that they knew each child so if you pushed to the front of the line you would be in trouble! Miss Collins was usually one of our last stops since we knew what we would get from her! and then it was on up the hill to Ludkey's house. 

After an hour or so we would go home and dump our candy on the living room floor to see what we had. We often tried to barter with each other...for our favorite candy....I'll trade you a black jack for a bit of honey or sucker for a tootsie roll! I remember the year that Sweet Tarts came out because we all wanted them.   It was often a losing battle because we all like the same candy and no one was about to give up their favorite candy. Almost no one handed out chocolate when I was a kid.

So I hope this blog gets you thinking about your fondest Halloween Memories. Happy Halloween!

Love, Jan

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Week 36 of 2017 - Angel on my Shoulder.

It is Week 36 already...wow...

This week I have been very busy with the garden. We have had a cool summer this year but we had rain on a regular basis. So as you can see the garden is flourishing! I purposely planted later in the spring so all the produce in the garden would not be ready during our late August vacation this year. Now that it is the first week of September the coolness of fall is in the air. My beans are just starting and the tomatoes are getting red but very slowly. 

The tomato plants are weighted down with lots of green and light orange fruit. The fruit is so heavy that sometimes they fall off too soon and drop to the straw covered ground beneath the plants. So my patio table is full of tomatoes in all stages from green, light orange, dark orange and red with green spots! I place them there for a few more days of sunshine hoping that they will ripen just a bit more.

We, the tomatoes and I, are hoping for some more summer warmth and sunshine. My gardening skills I got when I was a strong young woman in my twenties. I had a neighbor who had an acre of land between my house and his. He grew a large garden on it and one year invited me to help him. Looking back, the things I learned that summer were life altering lessons....that is for a different blog. My garden is smaller and I am older. That is good.

I have to try to rein myself in when planting time arrives. I see all the empty space between the rows and I try to convince myself that I can fit one more row or one more squash mound!  I try to plant too much in my small space. I have plenty of room but I need to use it wisely. 

So this week I am preserving all the produce from my little patch of heaven. Some of you probably think I am crazy because it is a lot of work but it is rewarding. Each year as the fruits of my labor appear, it take me back to a time when my Mother canned everything she could get her hands on and made jam that we would eat all winter.

In the 1950 and 1960's it was not easy to feed a household of eight. So you learned how to buy, barter or just obtain the extra (or as in my case, grow...) bushels of fruit and produce that you in some way would preserved. I remember sitting at the table licking the spoon of foam that was carefully scraped off the top of the strawberry jam when Mom made it. When we got older, we were recruited to go pick berries with her for her jam making adventures. We were instructed that we could not just pick and eat!

Later in the summer she would buy bushels of fruit. We especially loved that time of the year because we would sneak fruit from the baskets as they waited to be canned. I vividly remember a year where someone ate so many plums that they ended up spending the next day on the toilet. Ops...learned that lesson. That was also the year when Mom figured out that we were snitching from her baskets! Plums were a favorite along with peaches and pears. For years she threw the peach pits and the peels on the same spot in our side yard and before we knew it we had our own peach tree. She did not realize it but all the fruit and vegetable waste she put on that pile made for a perfect place for that peach tree to grow. Mom was not a gardener but she knew how to put thing up for the winter.

Fast forward to the 1975...alright, you don't have to go too fast...I have my first little cracker box of a house and a wonderful neighbor who, as I said, had this big garden. I am helping him...really he is teaching me. I have two children and all the produce I could handle and now what do I do? My Mother came to my rescue! We collected jars, lids and rings from every source that we could find but especially garage sales and estate sales. She helped me find the tools I needed; a water bath canner, jar lifters and a canning funnel. In the spring, she showed me how to make jam, her famous strawberry, after we picked the berries ourselves. I saved up enough money to buy a second hand freezer so that we could freeze what we could not preserve by canning.

Raspberry Jam
By midsummer, the neighbors raspberries were ready and we made jam again. I had never eaten raspberry jam before and it soon became my favorite. We never had enough peas to freeze because my children ate them fresh out of the garden before I could get them to the house. Once the beans started, Mom showed me how to blanch them and freeze them. Then we went on to the tomatoes....lots and lots of tomatoes. We had so many tomatoes that we bartered tomatoes with the neighbor to our south for pears from her pear tree. We each did up a bushel. Mom had not canned much since our moved to Imlay City. Her family was shrinking as the older three girls married and move out. Now they were a family of five. We found peaches at a good price so we did some of those too. I think we had that water bath canner boiling for about 5 or 6 weeks canning everything we could get our hands on. 

Pickled Beets

 Stewed Tomatoes

At this time of the year as I am canning things from my garden, I hear my Mom telling me how to do it...”don't forget a little salt...” she would say when we canned tomatoes. “Get all that air out of that jar.... clean off that rim before you put the lid on...make sure the lids and jars are hot...be sure to let them cool on the counter ...make sure the hot jars don't touch...” 

 All through the process, I have a little Angel sitting on my shoulder, who reminds me of all the things I learned from her and all the fun we had that year.  So just maybe that explains why I do this every summer and fall. I certainly can afford to go to the store and buy jelly, tomatoes, fruit and vegetables but I would miss the visit that I get from my Mom! And the store bought goods do not taste as good as my preserved items!

Love you Mom...we are at it again this year!

Love, Jan

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Week 32 of 2016 - Shooting Stars and Meteor Showers

We lived on 29 Mile Road and Mound Road from the time I was an infant until 1968 when we moved to Imlay City. We played out doors a lot...all the usual day time and night time games; Hide and seek, Red Rover, Touch the porch, Tag....and many others. Back then 29 Mile Road was a dirt road...I have picture of when they paved it... On hot summer nights like tonight, Mom would let us stay outside a little longer. I suppose that was because it was hot in the house and we would probably just complain about it. If you were lucky you had a big box fan that you put in a window and sucked the cool air in after the sun when down.

Often on these kinds of hot summer nights, you could only run around and play so much tag and hide and seek before you were sweaty and exhausted. So we would plop our hot sweaty bodies down in the grass and look up at the stars...This is when my love of star gazing began. We found that the ditch across the street from our house was just deep enough to support our backs just like a recliner. It would be dry as a bone by August. We never thought of how critters and bugs were joining us...We just mashed down the talk grass and laid on it! There were no street lights so nothing to interfere with the stars. It was not unusual for six or eight kids (Smith girls, Randall kids, Trombley kids, Hughes girls) to be laying in the ditch along side of the road watching for shooting stars. We would get so disappointed if a car came along which would mess up our eyes for a while.

I did not know then that it was a meteor shower that we were watching. I can not remember that I specifically watched them on my birthday. It was just an often occurrence in the summer when Mom would let us stay out long enough. Eventually she would flip on the porch light and we would have to come in. I was always so disappointed!

I remember being disappointed after we had moved in town in Imlay City to find that I could not see the stars most nights because there were just too many lights. By then I was more boy crazy than anything and star gazing got put on the back burner. 

 So about twenty five years later, I am living in Arizona. I am newly divorced and it is my 38th Birthday. All over the news they are talking about this Perseid Meteor shower which was suppose to be at storm level. I had ordered a made “special for me” cute Ford Ranger pickup, on Memorial day. Low and behold, it got delivered and was ready for pickup a couple of days before my birthday. My best friend, Miriam and I were looking for something to do to celebrate our birthdays which were a couple of weeks apart. My children are headed to spent time with their father so we headed for the desert north of Phoenix to see if we could see a Meteor shower. We found a dark location off of Happy Valley Road. (which today is totally built up!) It was a perfect location because there was a small ridge of hills that block the bright lights from Phoenix. We loaded the cooler with a couple of beers each and a couple of blankets to lay on... (lay on the desert floor at night? What were we thinking?) We found our little piece of desert and parked the truck. Brought down the tail gate and sat in the dark night letting out eye adjust. We both had to work in the morning so we could not make it too late a night but we had to have it be dark enough to see the stars too. 

It was about eleven o'clock or so when we saw our first shooting start. SO we laid back in the bed of the truck on the blankets and let “Mother Nature's” show begin. We literally saw hundreds and neither one of us wanted the night to end. We kept saying “ Just want to see one more big one streak across the sky and then we go! ” To this day when I talk about that night I get goosebumps. I had never seen anything like it.

I have chased this meteor show all over the country, from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, to Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui to my sisters driveway in Harbor Beach and it has become the best birthday present I could ever have. I have experienced it with all the most special people of my life.

So I hope you find time to slow down and enjoy the show sometime this week! The Meteor shower begin in late July, builds to the peak on the night of August 11/ morning of August 12, and unwinds again until about the 24th of August. So there is lots of time to view it!

Making more memories!

Love, Jan

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Week 17 of 2016 - Moments in Life that Define You...56

I have a couple of "moments" that come to mind, both involving very special people in my life...my dad and mom at the end of their worldly lives.  My dad, Harold, died on August 30, 1996, one day after his 68th birthday. Full of life, loving his occupation with small town retail stores and cherishing his faith, family and friends, Dad was the picture of health.  He died instantly of a massive heart attack on Friday of Labor Day weekend, as the town was already filling with visitors and family for the last holiday gathering of the summer.  The weather forecast was perfect, the parks full and there was excitement in the air.

 Everything came to a complete stop for the Smith family as we stumbled around in grief, trying to understand how our Dad could be gone.  Our two businesses, Harbor Beach Variety and The Corner Store were shuttered and marked with black ribbons and signs of explanation.  We would be closed until further notice.  As word spread quickly through our small lakeside community of Harbor Beach, Michigan, condolences, tears and stories of remembrance began immediately.  I just could not pull myself together that first day, until a family friend pulled into the driveway with her sister.  Judy had a flower shop in town next to our Variety Store, and Dad and Judy often worked together on projects, her family became special friends to Mom and Dad and it was not surprising that they were bringing us food gifts and words of love and reassurance.  I don't remember what I said, but I'm sure I was a total mess.  Her words of love to me are something I have never forgotten, have used numerous times since and were perfect for me at that time and still this year, which will be the 20th anniversary of Dad's death.  She simply said, "Please remember that you are not alone in this journey.  There is no way anyone on this Earth..never in all of time, not years before, not today and not in the future...can anyone live life without losing someone...many someones...that they love.  Please know that others love you, can help you through this and in time you will help others when they feel the way you feel today.  God's love through others will comfort and heal you."  It meant the world to me then and still does today.  I hope that Judy Sweet and her sister, Nancy Krueger know how much they helped me on the day my dear Dad passed from this life to the next.  I will never forget it.

My defining moment with my sweet Mom, Leah Smith, happened 11 years later.  Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May of 2007, we Smith kids had our world rocked by another realization that life as we knew it was going to change.  My sister commented through her tears, "We are going to be orphans."  While I remembered what I always preached about not being alone in this part of life...everyone loses people that they love...I could not come to grips with the challenge that presented itself.  We needed to care for our dying mother with no experience...medically, emotionally, mentally, physically...it was going to be an on the job training of the most difficult kind.

Our days were immediately filled with all kinds of appointments, all of which were happening 2 hours away in a larger city hospital and clinic where we could receive the specialized care of a gynecological oncologist. The Corner Store, which my Mom and I ran, was put into the hands of our very competent staff and I went on auto-pilot most days...and nights.  Our three sons were concerned, not only for Grandma, but for me, their mom, who seemed to be losing her own life in grief and despair.  I'm not sure if the three boys consulted on a plan of action, but our oldest, Brad, then 34 years of age and with a family of his own,  made a call that would change my whole attitude forever.

"How's it going, Mom," he'd ask, knowing full well that I was a disaster.  He'd let me try to explain, ask another question and then hear me plead again..."Why, just why?  Why God?  Please....?"  So, finally, my wise son asked if I would just listen and think this through with him.  "Just hear me out, Mom.  If this isn't something you can work with and question what God's plan is, that means you are taking it into your own hands.  This also means that you get to decide how your mother will die...what will be her final journey into eternity.  What do you choose?"  I was stunned, and stammered out loud.."Well...uh...I can't do that!"  Brad continued, "Of course you can...you do not want your Mom or my Grandma to have ovarian cancer.  You pick what she should have."  I continued to ponder his statement feeling totally frustrated and even angrier.  Finally, in desperation, I answered.  "I guess I'd have her go quickly...just like Dad did.  That was awful, but I don't think he suffered."  Brad replied, "Great. Perfect!  Now...you pick the time, Mom.  When is this going to happen?"  I was speechless....for a long time.  My comment...finally...was, "Okay, Brad.  I understand.  This is God's timing and perfect plan, not mine or anyone else's.  I am not capable to handle what God does so well for us and with everlasting love."  I don't remember much else about the conversation after that.  I have remembered it with distinct clarity ever since, however.

My oldest son, reversing the roles and becoming the parent at age 34 to help his Mother get back on track with a beautiful "defining moment."  Love you, Brad!

Week13 of 2016...Accidents and the Lessons Learned

ACCIDENT....me?  I can't believe my sister would pick such a topic and then assign me such a task. What does she want....a volume?  or a Blog Post?  There are people that have accidents and then there are folks that are an accident waiting to happen most of the time.  I'm not that bad, but I've had my share and yes, there are lessons to be learned.  Isn't that how we learn?  Of course it is!  The only problem we have is when we repeat the accidents and don't learn on the first...or second...or third time.

Let's make a list...

A.  Food
B.  People
C.  Automobiles
D.  Others

Food was always a topic of discussion in the Smith Family...and the Semps are no different.  SO..do we want to talk about the triple batch of cherry finger jello that Brad pulled out of the refrigerator to see if it was done.  NOPE, it wasn't...and my carpeted kitchen floor was never the same.
LESSON:  ALWAYS position a pan of liquid jello on a high shelf when you have little ones!

Have you ever spilled anything in your car?  Like a crockpot of Nacho Cheese or Goulash Soup? Wouldn't one think that after having a horrible mess like spilled cheese, I'd always put a crock pot in a box or suitable, stable spot?  NOPE...I do it several times before I figure it out.  The only way to clean cheese out of a van is to open both sliding doors on the van and take it to the carwash that has a hand nozzle to get in all the cracks and crevices.  And you know, we finally had to inject odor neutralizer with a syringe into the carpet.  Every time the van was warmed by the sun, it smelled like sour milk. LESSON:  ALWAYS put soupy or liquid foods in a box, please.

Ever seen a bottle of red pop dropped by a youngster explode and spin in circles with the spray coating the grocery store aisle with red, sticky pop?  LESSON:  Hopefully, the adult will put the pop in the cart from now on.

Raising three boys was a circus from time to time...well, most of the time.  Moms of all boys should understand going into the experience that there will be rough housing, wrestling, breakage and tears...usually in that order. It didn't matter who was chasing, but at one time or another, the chasee got hurt.  We had pressure bandages on huge goose eggs to the head, black eyes, broken nose, collarbones (yes, more than once), many bags of ice in washcloths, skinned knees, legs and arms. Did one incident teach me how to prevent the next....hmmm...probably not.  LESSON:  Some accidents just happen when you have kids no matter how you try and prevent them.

Automobiles and other machinery help us in daily life...accidents happen and the damage can be repaired or replaced...at a cost.  My parents always said "better a thing to fix/replace, rather than a person!"  However, some of life's biggest and earliest lessons are with automobiles that do not belong to us...but are on loan from our parents.  Totaling our family station wagon at 17 was devastating to me, and my family's mode of transportation for a few weeks.  I swore I would never drive again, but my wise father said that my best therapy was to drive the car back home from the repair shop. One moment of not paying attention, resulted in rear end damage to the car ahead of me, pushing that car into the back of a brand new car being driven home from the sales lot....all on M53 with the Eastern Michigan Fair on my left and McDonalds on the right...witnesses all over the place gaping at the chain collision AND my folks green Ford station wagon was totaled because the frame was bent.  A ride home in a police car was the culmination of that days lesson.  Costly, but a very effective LESSON for life!  However...not the only accident I have had!

If you could ask my father, Harold, he'd have a couple of additional stories along with a huge grin and laughter...now...but not then. One of the best ones involved the Harbor Beach Post Office which in years past had two postal boxes out front...one for local mail and one for out of town mail. On a rainy day and not wanting to get out of Dad's famous big blue van, I pulled in just so, getting the oversized side mirror of the van, caught right between the two boxes. I could not get the van out, and so I went inside and explained to the Postmaster that I was stuck and would just pull away, likely pulling the mirror off, but in that attempt was not trying to damage " US Postal property."  That's exactly what happened.  Dad was not so understanding and made me drive him back to the Post Office and show him exactly how I could have accomplished such a thing.  LESSON:  While the design and engineering is horrible for the drive up box in Harbor Beach, (its on the wrong side of the road for the driver of a vehicle to use it) one should just get out of the vehicle and put the mail in the box in any kind of weather.

Did you ever roller blade?  If so, you know that just a pebble or a twig can cause you problems if you aren't paying attention while on roller blades.  I was very fortunate in all my years of roller skating and rollerblading to enjoy the exercise with relatively few accidents.  I wore protective gear, controlled my speed and was careful at corners and crosswalks.  However, one day I skated through fresh asphalt...or tried to.  It does not work and no amount of compensation can correct it.  I was down for the count.  LESSON:   Make sure the city hasn't repaired a water main break where you are skating...it messes up your skates, bruises your ego and maybe your derriere.

And one more, not of my doing...some of you reading our blog posts know of my sister's love of nature, animals and such.  Susie had quietly collected a full coffee can of tree toads..(tiny little toads about as big as your little fingernail) one Sunday, while we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa Smith.  Our Sundays usually included a car ride and maybe stopping to visit other relatives.  With a two door sedan packed with 4 girls, Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, the entire back seat was packed with the "women."  Susie's toad collection in the covered coffee can was on the floor of the car, but only a mile into the ride, Grandma Smith, promptly took the top off to see what was in the can.  Before Susie could even respond, the back seat was filled with dozens..maybe hundreds of little toads hopping everywhere. With squeals, giggling and maybe a few tears from Susie,  Dad stopped the car and he and his Dad had a great laugh from the front seat, while Susie tried to gather as many as she could and put them back in the can.  LESSON:  In our family, make sure you carefully open a container that Susie has had in her possession..or don't touch it in the first place.

So...our life lessons are many...difficult, easy, sad, happy...but all are a part of the learning process. May you never stop learning and be blessed with an abundance of laughter with your lessons!

Week 18 of 2016 - Collaboration Between Siblings....

When my sister Jan and I talked about blogging, I enthusiastically agreed we need to document the stories of our life to keep for our grandchildren and even great grandchildren.  I guess I didn't think about how much "I" would learn.  As the oldest, I assumed I had a good grasp on things...you know, "looking at it from the eldest point of view" and "being around longer than all the others..."  WELL, there is much to be learned, while I still have the opportunity.  Jan's account of collaboration in this weeks blog was very much NEW NEWS to me.

I collaborated with my two younger sisters very effectively, but most often it was to my benefit, if you know what I mean.  I organized chores on the weekends to make sure it was all accomplished and sometimes there were a few bribes.  Yes, I did my share, but I made sure they were on task and completed as I wanted it. I'd get one of the girls helping me and then convinced the other to do something for both of us.  Collaboration?  Or control?  Clothes were also a topic.  With three girls, if we shared we had that many more outfits.  Working with Sue, then Jan would fall in line with it, too.

Neighborhood games?  I was the oldest...a position of control then...(now they never let me FORGET it).  In our growing up years, we had a small neighborhood of maybe 15 homes involving 50 kids of all ages.  Days and summer evenings were filled with games of all kinds but I wanted to be run with the older kids and be selected for the boys baseball and kickball teams.  If Sue would hold back with Jan and keep her happy, I was free to play to my hearts content.  Sometimes, magic had to be performed to convince them they didn't have to tag after big sister or keep up with her.

This is all well and normal for families of our 1950-60s era...except when it came back to haunt me on a beautiful, summer day.  Sister Sue was a huge animal lover...of all kinds of creatures. She's always loved furry pets, even big furry animals, like cows.  I remember the day our Mom looked out the window to see cows loose in the field next to our house and no one other than daughter/sister Sue herding them up with a big stick.  She couldn't have been very old, could have easily been stepped on or trampled, but she had them on the move.  We were at a pig farm one day with my dad...another good story for another time....I was scared to death.  Not Sue...she'd been right out there with them if Dad would have let her.  She also liked bugs, rodents and reptiles.  That's where I draw the line..especially, the slithery kind.

 The story goes that she...and now I find out Jan was involved...gathered up the s kind and kept them in an old mailbox, which had been sitting on the seat of our homemade sandbox.  We used to play there and use the mailbox as an oven for mudpies, a refrigerator for sand "sundaes" or just a cupboard for our sand toys.  One day, she decided to trick her big sister and surprise her with the new collection she had gathered.  I was sent to get something out of the mailbox and when I opened the door, dozens of  the creatures poured out and went in all directions.  Now, one can only imagine with that many in one rural road mailbox, how quickly they would try to escape.  ONE S was bad enough for me...let alone a couple of dozen s's.   I was one terrified older sister...flying to the house calling for retribution on those horrible sisters.  I really can't remember what Mom thought, or what she told Dad when he got home from work.  WHAT I CAN TELL YOU...still to this day, I have a fear of s... that I probably need professional help for.  I have also "collaborated" with my baby sister, Sharon. She has the same fear. I have always blamed Sue for my issues...I had no idea that Jan AND Sue were involved with that "collaboration"...one that affects me to this day.   Hmmmm...I just wonder what else is out there that I never knew about our growing up years.  Probably plenty to be discovered through the Smith Family Memories...to be continued and I hope you are enjoying our chatter!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Week 18 of 2016 - Collaboration Between Siblings

There is this really awesome benefit to having a lot of siblings.  The first and foremost, there was always someone to play with.  In Romeo, we lived in a small neighborhood full of young families with small kids so there were many playmates.....Everyday was a play day... Times were different.
My sister Sue and I were very close!  

When my mother got pregnant with Matt, it became obvious that our small house was bursting at the seams.  So my Dad, planned an addition which would add a large family room, increase the size of the one bedroom that all four of the "girls" were in and give him the garage he always wanted. No more digging out the car so you could go to work in the winter or scrapping frost or ice off the windshield.

So he got the plans going and before we knew it we were breaking ground for the footings.  The day they dug the footings, my sister Sue and I rescued a salamander which the crew dug up in the process. We named it and put it in a cage and were bound and determined that we were going to keep it. I believe it was that day that we decided that cold blooded creatures were not so bad after all. That evening, Dad convinced us that we should let our new pet go after he asked us, "What will you feed Sandy( the salamander's new name)?" Of course we did not know. "You don't want it to die do you? You would have to feed it .... and your mom will never let it come in the house.  It will freeze in that cage outside...." his list of reason why we should not keep it grew.  He convinced us that it was OK for us to have played with him all day but now it was time to let it go.  So very reluctantly we did. I am sure that "Sandy" was happy to be free once again after being played with all day!

I can not remember if the footings  and concrete slab were pour in the fall of 1963 and the building was set to start in the spring or if they poured the cement early in the spring and then we had a snow storm...but in either case...Here is the tiny house on Fritz drive ..... footings poured, slab in, 2x4 delivered, rafters....

Snow to hamper progress...

The garage and the family room going up...

The next spring and summer, Sue and I, along with many of the boys in the neighborhood, discovered a swampy woods to the east of our neighborhood to play in.  We found the swamp had a very large population of cold blooded reptiles which we decided would make great pets.  So we started to adopt them.  The boys in the neighborhood made catching them look really easy so we gave it a go.  After all, if you are playing with boys...you need to learn how to do what they do and you can not act like a girl!   At first we tried stepping on them just behind their head... before we tried picking them up... Occasionally it worked but most times they slithered quickly away. Then the boys showed us how to use a forked stick to catch them and then it got really interesting and much more successful! 

At first we brought our new pets home one at a time...One in her pocket and one in mine!   The next time we went to the swamp, we took a brown lunch paper bag.  Then a brown grocery bag... Then it was a shoe box.....All the while we are filling old hamster cages, old aquariums, boxes and old mailboxes... I don't remember whether we clued mom in on our new rescue mission or not.  They were outdoors not in the garage.. Often in the morning we would go to see how our pets were doing and they would have all escaped...but we had become really good reptile hunters so we would head back to the swamp and do it all over again. 

One day we decided to put some of our newest pets in our mailbox for the mailman to find.  As you can well imaging we did not think this thru very well....Then we got this hair brained idea to have Pam go check to see if the mail had come.......Oh now that was a truly bad move.  To this day she is traumatized by this event.

She went flying into the house screaming and in seconds flat Mom came flying out the door.  "Janet Lou and Susan Lynn, get in this house!"  she yelled.  Funny how you always knew you were in big  trouble when Mom and Dad used your whole name when they called you! We could feel it...It was going to be bad. " Go to your room and stay there!" she commanded.  "Just wait til I tell your father about this!" she scolded.  This was the first times that I remember Mom saying,  "Just wait for your Dad to get home..."

Well, we went to our room and waited... and waited and commiserated as we awaited our fate....Before long I am telling Sue ..."it's your fault cause it was your idea."  She said, " well you thought it was a good idea too..."   The truth is both of us knew better....We knew not everyone in the neighborhood liked garter snakes like we did. 

Dad finally came home.  We stood in front of him and neither one of us ratted the other out.  We both equally took the blame and the punishment for our little stunt.  Go tell your sister you are sorry and you better mean it!  We were instructed to go let out all of our pets and never bring one home again.  Ever! 

It is my belief that this is the first time, that we learned what being a sibling was all about...I could have blamed her for it but I didn't, she could have blamed me for it but she didn't... There would be  times as we became teenagers that one of us did something we probably should not have and thought that it would slide by and no one would be the wiser...Dent or scratch in the paint of the car...taking the car when you were not suppose to....going someplace that was off limits when you were suppose to be at your friends house....I am sure that you all have little infractions from when you were  a teenager too....  Times that we could have blamed each other for or someone else but...we never did.  Dad would line us up  and say who did this?  And we would not rat on each other...We all got punished...  The innocent ones were not very happy with the guilty party but that was a good system of checks and balances.  It did not happen often but when it did we stood by each other.

We have many story of sibling collaboration to share so until the next time.....