Thursday, January 9, 2014


We still have stories for you, but as we round up pairs and submission forms, we will take a brief hiatus.

We look forward to bringing you more stories beginning 

Saturday, February 15th!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

High School Fashion Is Painful

Nancy, 80, and Helga, 79, reminisce about the literal and figurative pains of high school fashion.

Bad Hair Day - Helga, 79

My sister, Rosemarie, had read about a new beauty rinse for after shampooing your heair.  She was eager to try it, and she talked me into it.

“You must be kidding,” I said.  “I heard of lemon rinses or vinegar, but beer?”

“Sure.  It’s especially beneficial.”

Very soon after that, she sneaked into the kitchen to sneak some bottles away from my stepfather’s stash.

“What are you girls doing in the bathroom for such a long time?” My mother knocked at the bathroom door.

“Oh, we’re just doing our hair, Mom!” we shouted back, pouting more beer over our heads and licking the liquid that had spilled over our faces away with our tongues.

“Did you bring the hair curlers with you?” I asked Rosemarie, wobbling on my feet a little.  I felt kind of dizzy and the beer smell coming from my hair was really strong now.

After I rolled up my hair in rollers, I turned on the hand-held hairdryer and blew the warm air right over my head.  My dizziness grew worse, and I felt kind of tipsy.

My sister seemed to get infected, too, by this special hair rinse and started to giggle.

My hair was dry by then, and I tried to take the curlers out of my hair.  But my fingers were all of a sudden very clumsy.

I touched my hairdo, but it was hard as a board.  I couldn’t even comb it out with a come, but the cork-screw curls sprang back like wires.  I cried.  I looked horrible.

“Are you sure you read right that this beer rinse was good for your hair?” I wailed, pulling on the hard locks.

“Well, maybe we should have followed the beer rinse with more warm water rinses,” my sister admitted.

School Days - Nancy, 80

When I entered high school in the fall of 1948, Christian Dior was already famous as a clothes designer.  His "New Look" had taken the fashion world by storm in February 1947.  Women's clothing was more feminine, featuring sloping shoulders, a full bust, and a cinched-in waist above full, long skirts.  Seeing other girls wearing the long, full skirts prompted me to tell my mother I needed new skirts so I would fit in.  Mom disagreed, probably because she couldn't afford to buy me a new wardrobe.  Besides, as she firmly stated, the clothes I had were in good condition.  It really bothered me when it was time for the class of 1951 to pose for a group picture, and I--in my just below the knees jumper--was put in the middle of the front row, where everyone could see I was not dressed in the newest fashion.  Somehow I survived, and although I have followed style trends through the years, I no longer care that I am not on the cutting edge of fashion.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Helga, 79, and Bonnie, 69, recount the changes time makes.

Who’s in the Mirror Behind the Door – Bonnie, 69

I walked past the mirror, and what did I see?
Someone looking back at me!
Who is this lady?  I’m not sure.
She lives in the mirror behind the door.

I look and look and I can see.
This lade kinda looks like me.
She’s older though, of that I’m sure.
The lady in the mirror behind the door.

Time Will Tell! - Helga, 79

T i m e - just a snap of fingers in evolution.
              The only thing to count on in revolution.
              Time's fascination and obsession,
              Entertaining plaything and possession.
              Perpetual is the search of time.

T i m e - keepers are sun-dialed, spring-wound, never static,
              Mechanical, technological and automatic.
              Atomic time is accurate precision.
              Time is computerized, waterproofed acquisition,
              Inventive is the pendulum of time!

T i m e's enigma undetected,
              Painstakingly researched and dissected.
              Time's carved in bedrock and in trees,
              In sand dollars, urchins of the seas.
              Hidden is the very depth of time!

T i m e - light the fundamental measure,
              Future revealing at telescopic leisure,
              Chronology of past and present,
              Illuminating, iridescent.
              In the universe - time and light are one!

T i m e - lost forever, never recovered.
              Time's money, teacher and no lover.
              Time heals all wounds and wounds all heels,
              Is always in motion, an eternal wheel.


Monday, January 6, 2014


Roseann, 61, and Linda, 52, share their memories of influential teachers in their lives.

Me and Miss Pero - Linda, 52

Me and Miss Pero

Were to meet at the Junior/Senior High School
Me, a Seventh Grader
Her, a Seventh & Eighth Grade Geography Teacher.
The student grapevine rumors were "Pero is mean & tough."
Looks like this year is going to be rough.

The bell rang for my second period class.
As I made my way down the hall. 
"Pero" looked about ten feet tall!
In reality, she was quite small.
She greeted me with a smile
As my eyes looked down at the tile.
Oh, how big is her room,
And I am filled with dreaded gloom.

The bell rings signaling second period is over.
She's not bad...I think I like her.
The days that follow prove the rumors wrong.
As, because of her teaching, I became strong.

One day as I entered her class,
Things all changed with a surprising blast.
Miss Pero said, "I saw you brought your friends with you today."
Oh, good I need relief from this bad scene.
For today I wore a gathered skirt,
Made by my mother's hands.
Not from a fabric roll, but from an old feed sack.
The background was deep blue.
With a border print of old hounds sitting all around,
As if calling attention to every passerby.

All I want is to get through the day unnoticed.
No attention to me.
But that was not to be.
For Miss Pero greeted me, "I see you brought your friends with you today."
Although I didn't want to be seen, she was very keen.
She saw that I was embarrassed by her greeting.

From that day forth, she took the extra step
To take me under her wing.
She encouraged me to excel,
At the sound of that second bell.

I learned more than just geography that year.
She taught me I had value.
For without my knowledge,
Miss Pero entered my geography project in the Buhl Science Fair.
I was awarded a second place ribbon in front of the whole
School (seventh to twelfth grades).
I was stunned and not with a gun.
But by the action of Miss Pero, she proved to be my hero.

Again in the eighth grade, she helped me find my voice.
And it wasn't by my choice.
There was a vote taken by the teachers and my peers
For a student to receive the American Legion Award that year.
As the recipient, I was to give a speech on Memorial Day
at the cemetery on the hill.
Oh, that gave me such a chill.

The crowd would contain the whole marching band,
Veterans of several wars, and many spectators too.
Again I was facing the big guns (just a pun).

Miss Pero spent her spare time with me after school and
At lunch, teaching me how to publicly speak.
I was such a geek.
I memorized John McCrae's poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

...The torch: be yours to hold it high
If you break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
And Miss Pero really put me through the drill.
"Breathe here.  Raise your voice there.  Lower it here.
Look around, not at the ground." (Inflection was the direction!)
All the while, Miss Pero munched on celery sticks or bananas
Covered with peanut butter.  This was strange to me,
But, oh, gee...
Miss Pero was doing this for me.
I often wondered why
She would spend her lunch,
Teaching me just so...

Seems I learned much from her.
I hope I made her proud
Because Miss Pero taught me more
Than just speaking to the crowd.
I hope someday to see her again,
And be able to thank her much
For taking a shy, self-conscious girl
And growing her up.

Two Very Different Teachers - Roseann, 61

For second grade, the school district moved me from Center to Renton Elementary School.  Mrs. T. was my teacher, and I learned to tell time.  She used a wind-up, Big Ben face clock on her desk and taught us by moving the hands.  She used to read from the Bible and pray first thing in the morning, but I didn't understand the old-fashioned words.  I felt uncomfortable.  I could not relate the words in the book she was reading to the personal faith my mother had taught me.  This was 1958, so she also drilled us on what to do in case of a nuclear attack.  "Everyone kneel under your desk and cover your head with your hands," she barked at us.  She lived close by in the Renton community, and one day she complained about the paperboy walking across her lawn because he was ruining her grass.  "I will turn you over to the Communists if you don't behave," she threatened us.  I feared her.  One time she cracked my knuckles with a brown wooden ruler for some offense I don't remember.  Another time the classroom got very quiet, and, when I looked up, she was walking down the aisle toward my desk.  I must have been concentrating on a book or paper when the rest of the class saw her look at me.  She didn't say a word but reached under my chair and pulled my legs from where one had been crossed behind the other.  She had warned me about this once or twice, but I guess I was in the habit of sitting that way and didn't realize I had done it again.  I felt my face turn red, and I was humiliated.

Fourth grade was also spent in Renton School, and I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. M., another gray-haired lady who was patient and warm.  I loved her, and she was the only teacher to whom I gave a Christmas present.  I convinced my dad to buy her the beautiful porcelain bowl I picked out at Woolworth's.  White with painted flowers in red and blue, trimmed with gold around the edges, the bowlwas worthy of a special dais in her china cabinet--in my opinion at least.  "Thank you very much, Roseann, for the lovely bowl.  It is the perfect size for my salads.  Sincerely, Mrs. M.," her thank you note read.  I was worried that the paint would chip after exposure to vinegar and a bit disappointed that she didn't preserve this bowl for display only, but I did not say anything to her.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


Toney, 54, and Elizabeth, 37, share what mothers mean to them.

Not Your Mother's Grace - Elizabeth, 37

“Do you want a cup of tea?” Mom asked.
No, I really wanted to say.  I’d rather have a hug.
But Mom’s not a hugger, and, truth be told, neither am I.
“Sure,” I said.
“Since you’re right there, why don’t you start the water?”
I grabbed the electric teapot, the third or fourth of its kind, by its plastic handle and carry it over to the Brita filter.  Mom can drink straight tap water for herself, but she swears the filtered water makes better tea.  Tea is all important in our family, just as it is for Mom’s own mother and, in a strangely shared moment, for my father’s mother as well.
I carefully poured the water into the pot, thankful that the flip top metal lid has already been lost and I don’t need an extra finger to keep it from flipping closed under the stream from the pitcher.  Then I plugged the pot in and stood beside it, waiting for it to boil.  A watched pot may never boil, but an unwatched pot whose whistle has already broken will not only boil, it will spit hot water all over the counter as well.  While I waited, I put down our cups and tea bags. 
As always, Mom has a precise order to her tea making procedure.  Years ago, she used to simply put a bag of Lipton original into her favorite mug, pour the water, and then remove the bag after exactly two minutes.  I didn’t use to think that she timed it, but now, knowing her background as a nurse and having watched her check the second hand of her watch, I remember those swift wristward glances and am certain that she did.  Exactly 120 seconds.  Then she carefully measured in a teaspoon of sugar and stirred until there were no visible crystals.  Exactly the same, every time.
Mom no longer drinks her tea that way.  Instead, she uses Tetley’s British Blend.  She fills up the cup until it is five-eighths of an inch from the top.  Then she measures in one teaspoon of Splenda mix and two packets of Truvia.  Add to that three teaspoons of Nestle’s Coconut Crème sugar free sweetened coffee creamer.  There’s a medicine cup beside her mug to ensure precision.  When everything is added, a mere eighth of an inch remains between the top of the hot liquid and the brim—just enough to allow stirring and transporting without spillage.
But Mom, for all of her meticulousness, is not making the tea today.  I am.  She’d probably prefer that I leave the bag in for only the desired two minutes, but she knows I’ll stop making it if she insists on it.  I’ve been accused of leaving a tea bag in until my tea gets up and walks away.  Anyway, Mom is flexible enough to handle imprecision on that point.  The other stuff needs to be just so. 
I bring in our tea.  Hers just so, made to the specifications above and mine with just a slosh of milk.  We sit next to one another and talk.  I don’t tell her yet what’s bothering me.  She’s never been where you go for a sympathetic ear.  It’s not her strongpoint, and it never has been.  She’s more likely to ask, “Well, did you deserve it?” than to say, “Aw, you poor thing!”  And in Mom’s opinion, hardly anything is completely undeserved, and if I can’t take that cool logic in my present mood, I know not to bring up the problem.  I cannot make my mother something she is not.
So we sit, talking about things but not talking about any real issues, and I slowly gain strength from just the sharing of the cup of tea.  Mom doesn’t have the hug to give.  She doesn’t have the sympathy in this case.  She would die for us, yes.  She loves us absolutely.  She doesn’t have the soft cuddly warmness of the stereotypical mother. 
But that’s okay.  God never promised my mother’s grace was enough to supply all my needs.  I’ll get my hug somewhere else.  For now, I’ll take comfort in the tea and her presence, and, when I’m ready, I will appeal to her logic because, once I’ve sorted through these emotions, the logic will get me out of this mess.  But not yet.  In this moment, we’ll simply sit together, pretending everything is normal, sipping our tea.

What Mother Means to Me - Toney, 54

She’s the one who kept me clean
and made sure that I was fed;
The one who washed my clothes
and always made my bed.

She’s the one who cares more than anyone
and if I said differently I’d be a liar;
The one willing to make
any sacrifice that is required.

She will stand by me
until the very end;
my most trusted and faithful friend.
If the Devil’s rain would fall,
without fear,
she would take a mop and dry it all
so it couldn’t hurt me.

She is goodness.
She is kind.
She’s the answer when I’m in a bind.
She is comfort.
She is love,
She’s my gift from the LORD above.

My Ma

Saturday, January 4, 2014


Jamie, 47, and Elizabeth, 37, share their childhood stories of Halloween.

Halloween, 1987 - Elizabeth, 37

Finally!  The phone was ringing!  I was certain I now had a new cousin.  I was already wondering if she would like the nursery my aunt and I had arranged together when I visited that summer.  Okay, maybe Aunt Karen did most of the arranging, but I was there, and that had to count for something.

Anxiously, I hovered at the edge of the kitchen.  I wanted to be close enough to hear my mom’s side of the conversation, but not close enough to get sucked into washing the cups and silverware that were collecting in the sink.

“Hello,” Mom answered.

“It’s a girl!” I imagined my uncle saying.  I had become an expert on imagining the other side of the conversation because Mom never deemed us worthy of all the details.  Or at least that’s what I thought then.  Now, I know Mom just doesn’t always like to reiterate them all again, regardless of how old her audience is.

“No, we don’t have too much going on at the moment,” Mom said.

Wait.  Shoot!  No baby. I almost walked away, but what Mom said sounded like there could be an invitation happening.  An invitation to what? I wondered.  A Halloween party?

“I’m alone with the kids, so I can’t leave right now,” Mom said, “but Beth could.  She could call us when it’s time, and we could bring them both back here.”

Who was she talking to? I wondered.  Where was I going?  I often ran to neighbors to pick up something and then ran back home, but I never had to call first.  Was it too heavy to carry by myself? 
“I’ll see you shortly,” Mom said and hung up.

Great.  I was volunteered for something, as usual, without anybody asking me if I wanted to do it.  Typical.  Mom hung up the phone and came to sit next to me.

“Beth,” she started.  “I need you to do me a favor.  Grab your coat.”

I thumped down the stairs and grabbed a thick sweater.  Mom looked like she wanted to argue, but decided against it.

“The youth pastor and his wife have to go somewhere suddenly, but Dallas (their two-year-old son) really wants to be a cowboy and go trick-or-treating.”  She paused in her explanation and looked at me.  “Don’t you want a different coat?” she asked.  Maybe mothers just can’t help nagging.

I shook my head, and she continued, “We’ve agreed to take Dallas with us, but he’s still napping and his Mom doesn’t want to wake him up.  The youth pastor is going to pick you up and take you over.  You sit through his nap and call us as soon as he wakes up.”

“Are you asking me to babysit?” I asked.

“Well, yes,” Mom answered.  “But only for an hour.  You won’t stay there long on your own.  As soon as he wakes up, you need to call us. We’ll come get you and bring you both here.”

“But a real babysitting job,” I said. 

“Just an hour,” Mom repeated, as if I was getting a bad idea in my head.  “And call as soon as he wakes up.

“I’m really babysitting!” I yelped.

“Call right away!” Mom said.

Finally.  Finally.  Finally.  Someone was going to call me a real babysitter.  I had been watching my brother and sister for years now, but I’d never been thanked (or paid) for it.  I’d never actually had a real babysitting job.  I was ready for some recognition for the work I was putting in.  It was Halloween 1987, and as an eleven-year-old sixth grader at Adlai Stevenson Elementary School, I felt ready to take on the challenge.
The pastor picked me up in his car and drove me back to his family’s apartment.  Dallas was asleep upstairs.  The pastor’s wife was grabbing together all of the pieces to Dallas’s costume—a bag for treats, jeans, a checked shirt with pearl snap buttons, a bolero, a brown cowboy hat, and a pair of little boys’ cowboy boots that were just a little too big—and stuffing them all into a plastic department store bag.

“Here’s everything Dallas needs for tonight,” she said, shoving the bag into my hands.  “The number where we’ll be is on the refrigerator.  Thank your parents for me!”  Of course, I thought.  Thank my parents.  I was still stuck on that thought when she and the youth pastor flew out the door, and I was left alone in a dark, cold, very quiet apartment.

I looked around.  Sitting down by myself in somebody else’s house didn’t feel right.  I stood back up.  I didn’t really want to turn the lights on.  That didn’t feel like something strangers did in houses that weren’t their own.  Ten or fifteen minutes later, I walked upstairs and watched Dallas sleep.  He laid so still I had to creep up really close and bend over before I noticed the comforting rise and fall of his chest.  Thank goodness! I thought with relief.  For one split second I had imagined trying to explain that I had killed the baby on my first babysitting job. 

Dallas must have noticed the strange steps because moments later he was up.  Luckily for me, he just smiled and stretched out his arms to be held, unfazed that his parents weren’t around and that a kid he only knew slightly was left to look after him.  Maybe all pastor’s kids are that way.  After all, they are constantly passed between congregants of any given church.  He only asked, “Up?”

So I lifted him up, perched him on my hip, and headed downstairs to call home. Dallas chattered happily in my ear the whole way, “And they wear boleros and cowboy boots.  Cowboy boots can do anything.  You can make a horse go fast with cowboy boots.”

I picked up the phone and dialed my home number.

“You can climb up mountains in cowboy boots.”

Beep.  Beep.  Beep.  Busy.

I hung up the phone and dialed again.

“You can kick bad guys with cowboy boots.”

Beep.  Beep.  Beep.  Still busy.

“Cowboys shoot guns,” Dallas added.  “But they have to do it wearing cowboy boots.”

After the fourth time dialing home and getting a busy signal, I tried to put Dallas down, but he just tried to climb back up, saying, “Cowboy boots are good at climbing.”

Come on, Mom, I silently begged.  This kid is getting heavy.

Finally, half an hour later, I got through.

“YOU HAVE A COUSIN!” Mom screamed without saying hello.

“Really?” I shouted back, not so much out of excitement but to be heard over the cowboy boot commentary.
“A little boy!  They’re going to call him Joe.”

“Great,” I said.  “We’re ready to come home.”

“Daddy will be right over.”

I grabbed Dallas’s bag of stuff, and Daddy showed me how to lock the door on the knob without a key—but only after we’d checked and double-checked that we had everything.

Weekend Halloweens are terrible because you have to wait all day for trick-or-treating.  You’re not allowed to break into the candy early or get dressed at noon. 

By the time, trick-or-treating was upon us my mom was ready to make ghosts of us all.  I can’t remember exactly what I was—probably a princess of some sort—besides angry. 

“Put it on or stay home,” Mom said.  “It’s supposed to snow.”

“But then you can’t see my costume!”

“You’re going to freeze.”

“What’s the point of dressing up if no one can tell who you are?”

“Fine.  You can hand out candy.”

“I can’t!  I have to hold Dallas’s hand.  After all, I’m babysitting.”

Mom rolled her eyes.  “Then put the coat on,” she said.

I grudgingly slid my arms into my thick winter coat from the year before.  It still smelled musty since Mom had only just pulled it out of the coat closet—pulled it out while I was wearing the sweater she didn’t like babysitting.  She always got the last word.

So we headed out:  Dad, my sister Lisa (9), my brother Jon (4), and Dallas.  Usually for Halloween, we walked out the back door and stopped first at the house behind it where an older lady lived with her two daughters.  The older woman was always looking out of her window and calling my mom if anything seemed amiss.  She checked over our gardens, commented on new plants, tattled on my sister and me, and even let the dogs back into the yard when they wandered off.  Naturally, we should visit her house before our costumes fell apart and we were whiny.  Besides, they always had good candy.  After that, we usually headed down one side of Catskill as far as the hill and then turned around and came back the other side.  We joined the crowd of coated costumed kids.  Batmen, Supermen, Wonder Women, Mario Brothers, all were covered by coats.  Only the Pac Men had escaped their mothers’ nagging, if only because the coats didn’t fit.  Then we walked down our short little block of Surfside between Catskill and Rainier before crossing and walking back up Surfside on the other side until the hill got steep enough that we began to whine.  Then Dad would make us cross the street and head back down toward home.  This year, though, I held Dallas’s hand most of the way and helped him up the stairs.  I helped him slide back on his cowboy boots again and again.  It wasn’t bad at first, but when it started to snow, the swirling flakes got in his boots.  Then they melted, and Dallas’s wet feet got cold.  So we started home a little early that year.
Truth be told, my legs had been cold since the neighbor’s house on Catskill, and now they were red and itchy.  But I would never admit that to my mother, and if I wouldn’t have had to carry my coat myself, I would have taken it off entirely.

I still remember that final walk back to the house.  Tiny snowflakes circled around us.  Dallas held my dad’s hand with one of his own and mine with the other.  His boots were slipping, and his dark eyes were filled with tears brought on by the cold wind.  Once he fell.  “You made me do that!” he cried to us.  “Don’t let go of me!  Cowboy boots aren’t so good on hills.”

Walking into the house from the front this time, we all climbed up our steps, past my mom, who was handing out candy, and into the living room.  Dad made us separate and dump our candy in front of us.  Then Mom closed the door downstairs, and the two of them began to examine each piece for possible tampering.  Mom was a nurse, so she’d worked in a hospital and was aware of all the ways kids could be hurt with candy.  She scrutinized every seal and flipped back flaps looking for needle holes.

Once everything passed the yearly inspection, we would be allowed to eat it.  At eleven, I thought I should be allowed to examine my own candy, but Mom wasn’t buying that one bit.  She grabbed my candy and commenced looking over every Necco Wafer, Milk Dud, and SweeTart.  Occasionally she’d throw one off to the side.  I hoped she wouldn’t throw out too many of the chocolate ones.  I loved the York Peppermint Patties and Three Musketeers.

They weren’t done going over everything when the youth pastor rang the doorbell.  Dad went down to answer the door, and I grabbed Dallas and his candy while Mom found the plastic bag that now held Dallas’s old clothes.

“Bye-bye!” I waved to Dallas as his dad hoisted him up.  Dallas waved back, kicked one foot, and lost a cowboy boot, which my dad quickly retrieved.

“Thanks, guys, for taking Dallas with you,” the youth pastor said.  “And thanks, Beth, for watching him at our house.”

He had said them, the words I had waited so long to hear.

I don’t think I could even say, “You’re welcome.”  I just nodded.  I was too happy to simply be acknowledged.