The Permanent Family Record
Saturday email from DebK of Rosemount: “A few years back, somebody virtuous recommended the Lenten discipline of avoiding trips to the grocery store by preparing meals as much as possible from the contents of one’s home freezer and pantry. I’ve nibbled around the edges of this plan for half a decade, but this year I’ve taken on the challenge wholeheartedly. The timing could hardly be better, given the current national preoccupation with staying ‘to home,’ as Grandma Bobzien would’ve put it.
“In the course of exploring the nether regions of the big freezer, Taxman unearthed a mother lode of berries: raspberries and strawberries grown here at the farm and blueberries purchased (‘on special’ and in vast quantities) from our preferred grocer. This being Pi Day, a holiday apparently sacred to accounting majors, Taxman lobbied strenuously for the baking of a three-berry pie — something I agreed to, providing he would locate the best recipe, which I know to be on a disgracefully splattered page of Mom’s 1965 ‘Farm Journal Pie Cookbook,’ which I stole (along with her pet pie pan) from her when I went away to college.
“When I absconded with Mom’s beloved ‘pie bible’ in the fall of 1969, I did so mostly to ward off homesickness, for every blank space was filled with pencil drawings rendered by my youngest siblings, whose subjects tended toward many-fingered persons of indeterminate sex, enormously tall daisy-like flowers, smiley-faced suns, and snow-capped mountains, which always struck me as odd, given that none of us kids had ever seen a mountain.
“But back to today’s pie-baking. Shortly after we struck our agreement, Taxman descended to the canning kitchen, where the oldest of my cookbooks reside. He came up several minutes later to report that the pie bible was nowhere to be found. Taxman is known to suffer from can’t-find-it-itis (likely terminal), so I issued my customary threat: that there would be hell to pay if I went down there and found the cookbook exactly where I told him it would be. Except, this time, I didn’t (find it).
“A frenzied search of the entire house ensued. I am now of a mind that our Florida Kid made off with my treasure when she and her family were here for Christmas, for I clearly recall that she spent half a day or so rifling through my recipe books and files. Culinary theft runs in the family, after all. While the faulty gene undeniably came to Florida Kid through me, I’m nonetheless miffed. Especially since the substitute recipe I ended up using was a disappointment.”
This ‘n’ that
LeoJEOSP writes: (1) “Subject: Larceny or peace of mind?
“I was a rock-&-roll person and worked at Zenith Radio TV one summer. One morning, all of us inspectors were introduced to the new inspector. The new hire had very long hair, and we assumed he was a rock-&-roller. He had been quite a party guy, but an evangelist had got him on the road to redemption. He was very convincing, and I went downtown to a bookstore near 4th and Pierce in Sioux City. A very nice leather-bound St. James Bible caught my eye. I picked up the Bible and thumbed through it. Suddenly, the fire alarm went off and smoke was coming from the back room, and I, as well as everyone else, ran outside.
“A quick thought ran through my 18-year-old brain: I could very well just walk off with this leather-bound New Testament. Twelve years of Catholic education took over my larcenous brain, and I thought that stealing a Bible was some sort of major sin that would haunt me for the rest of my life. I went to a store employee, and I said: ‘Stealing this Bible would surely haunt me for the rest of my life.’ He had a quizzical look on his face, but accepted the book.
“I have not been constantly reminded about stealing the Bible and have had room in my brain for more good stuff for 47 years.”
(2) “I went to a Catholic high school, but if I had gone to a public high school, it would have been Leeds High (Sioux City, Iowa).
“These Leeds High students formed a 73, commemorating their future graduation year. A new high school was opening in the fall of 1972. North High School had over 2,000 students, which was a change from little Leeds High. The photo was titled ‘the class that never was.'”
The little treasures
Mounds View Swede: “Thank you for posting the old school class photos. I don’t know anyone in them, of course, having grown up in a northwestern-Chicago suburb, but they bring back good memories. I never left school until retiring from education in 2005 and loved being there.
“I do have an old photo I would like to share. No old cars; just two young ladies who were the best of friends, and who became my grandmothers.
“Grandmother Olivia is on the left, and Grandmother Anna is on the right. Both of them meant a great deal to me from the time I was a baby.
“As it turns out, I have the facial features of Grandmother Olivia and the skin and hair coloring of Grandmother Anna, along with her knobby joints.
“When I was meeting a cousin in Sweden for the first time in 2007, related to me through Grandmother Anna, she had the same knobby joints I have and similar skin coloring and much the same nature of my Grandmother Anna. Even though we were first meeting, it felt like to me that we had known each other a long time already.
“My grandmothers’ love for me was so important to me . . . and there is a story with that:
“I never remembered this until I was seeing a psychologist for depression in 1980, when I was 37. One of the things he asked me to do was to recall my earliest memories. I am sure he was wondering if something happened then that would be affecting me later.
“I thought about this during the week, and my earliest memory was of a feeling: how I loved to be held by my mom’s mom, Grandmother Olivia. Being in her arms was the best place in the world for me. (I was 21 months old at the time.) With that memory came another one: I knew when she died . . . I could feel her leaving me — and I was afraid she would be alone, and I wanted to go with her.
“It was like a dream: I was crawling down a dark hallway trying to reach her. She was ahead, all in white, and a group of others all in white were joyfully greeting her. I knew she wouldn’t be alone, and then the understanding was given to me: ‘Not yet!’
“That part of my ‘dream’ ended. I was then looking down from the ceiling of a room where my other grandmother was seated, wearing a dark gray dress. I am being carried to her by ladies wearing dark skirts and white blouses, and one said: ‘Maybe this grandmother will be as good for him as the other one.’ I could hear my mother’s voice say, with doubt in it: ‘I don’t know. . .’
“When I am put into my other grandmother’s arms, the dream stopped.
“I never knew what this meant. My mom never spoke about her mom and dad all the years after this. I told my brother what I had remembered, and he told our mom, and she said: ‘He’s not supposed to remember things like that!’
“When my mom was dying from ovarian cancer in 1989, I asked her to tell me about her mom and dad, especially the weekend they died. It was Easter 1945. My sister and I, mom and dad were at Grandpa and Grandma’s house in Lemont, Illinois, for the weekend. Saturday afternoon, my dad and Grandpa were talking in the living room, and my sister and I, mother and Grandmother were in the kitchen. Grandpa had a heart attack, and when he came into the kitchen, Grandmother looked at him and said: ‘Oh my God! This is a bad one!’ They phoned for the doctor to come.
“While waiting, Grandmother was at the kitchen sink washing things and talking to my mom. She said something like ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do. . .’ — and as she spoke, her voice became thicker. She was having a stroke.
“When the doctor got there, he took one look at Grandma and said: ‘We have to get her to the hospital right away!’ He told Grandpa to sleep that night on the cot near the kitchen and not to go upstairs. My aunt came from across the street to baby-sit my sister and me, and everyone else headed to the hospital.
“During the night, around 2:30 a.m., Grandpa had another heart attack and died. There was an announcement of this in the church bulletin Sunday. The funeral would be held in the home the following Friday.
“Tuesday, Grandmother died from her stroke. People were very surprised when they came to the house and saw two coffins instead of one!
“My mom told me that when Grandma died, I became very sick. I was running a high fever and stopped breathing. They thought I was going to die. When I was put into my Grandmother Anna’s arms, I started breathing again. Those who saw this were very impressed. I was always treated very kindly by those who were there. It must have been the day of the funeral, when my Grandmother Anna and my great-aunts and other family members were at the house and dressed for a funeral, when I saw this from the ceiling as I was coming back to my body.
“I loved being with my Grandmother Anna. When they came to our house for Christmas Eve and spent the night, I always insisted that Grandma sleep in my bed. I would sleep on the floor to be in the same room with her. As we got older, my sister and I each got to spend a week with Grandpa and Grandma in the house in Lockport, Illinois. And I got to sleep with Grandma! Being close to her was so important to me, and they honored that.”
The little treasures
Plus: The Permanent Great-Grandchildrenly Record
Both from The Gram With a Thousand Rules: (1) “My Colorado great-grandchildren may not be practicing social distancing, but they sure as heck seem to be trying to get a grip on the situation.”
(2) “My sister Raye was 4, and my brother Johnny was 2 in this photo of him cranking Dad’s Model T.
“When I came across this photo, I wished that I had found it when my siblings were alive so I could ask them about it. Then I remembered: Their memories are still very much alive in their writings. I have two 5-inch-wide loose-leaf notebooks filled with stories written by all five of them. (Thanks, guys, for letting me in on all the crazy laugh-filled times before I tagged along.)
“Raye wrote of the fun they had with this automobile. She said that when Dad had a building job in the neighborhood, Daddy would leave the car at home, and she and Johnny would sit inside it and take turns at the steering wheel. She called Johnny ‘Father,’ and he called her ‘Mother,’ and they pretended they were exploring out West. Mom said that whenever Dad came home and saw them sitting there, he would smile and say: ‘By God, aren’t they just the damnedest cute little blankety-blank kids?’
“Raye said that a couple of years later, they moved to a different house in the neighborhood; it had a garage and lots of climbing trees. Daddy filled the garage with boxes of ‘good stuff’ and parked the car alongside it. He hung trapezes from the tree branches, and the kids became quite the acrobats, but they still loved playing in the old Model T. Raye said they really had fun on the days Daddy left the canvas roof in place. Then they would climb up the tree which was close to the garage, leap across to the roof, and from there they could jump onto the Model T’s canvas top, using it for a trampoline. She said one time she was happily inside ‘steering’ the car and Johnny was jumping on the roof when all of a sudden, he crashed through and plopped down alongside her. Without missing a beat, Johnny nonchalantly said: ‘Hello, Mother.’
“Raye didn’t mention Dad’s reaction when he came home and saw what his ‘blankety-blank cute little kids’ had done to his ‘beeyootiful’ automobile, but I’ll hazard a guess that he wasn’t smiling.”
Today’s helpful hints (sought) (responsorial)
Grandma Dee of Moorhead: “Subject: OTD from NSP, re: De-Cluttering:
“Do it now! Since two significant downsizing events in my life, I find the whole process of decluttering so mind-blowingly freeing that it drives my mother nuts to hear me talk about that motto for getting rid of stuff.
“Assisting my parents was the more difficult of the two downsizing events. My parents lived in a very small house, but I discovered that a small house can hold a great deal of stuff. Before my father passed, it seemed important for him to have the garage cleaned. I helped him get rid of a great deal of tonnage from that garage through two massive garage sales. He seemed to be relieved that many of those precious items went to family, friends and strangers.
“After his death and through the sale of the house, as my mother transitioned to an apartment, I moved more tonnage than I can describe. It is a tale that evokes nightmares on how much stuff there was and the responsibility for deciding what to keep or throw, because all of the items had a story. For my parents from the Depression era, all of the stuff was important.
“I physically get anxious now when I see too much stuff, and I consciously think about anything I buy to make sure I have a spot for it or am really going to use it. My motto now is to keep what you use (a pickle dish for those special occasions, or a glass bowl for salads, is OK; six relish dishes is overkill)): keep what brings you happiness and you can display; and keep or pass on family heirlooms of significance, so history is not lost.
“I am not perfect at minimizing, but I keep monitoring my stash. It is the family-heirloom type of stuff that creates the most angst: How many doilies or crocheted curtains does one keep or use? And then family photos/slides create the most work, but I persevere in digitizing.
“Regrets: Out of all the tonnage downsized, I have regretted getting rid of only one item: a childhood doll that had gotten moldy during storage. It was the right thing to do, but I still feel like I abandoned a very dear childhood friend.
“The silliest item I kept was an old potato-bin metal grate. My father commented: ‘I don’t understand why Clifford (his brother) didn’t want that potato grate.’ My dad described how he could still hear that potato-grate sound as he placed or removed potatoes from that bin. Oh, the childhood memories that often return through smells or sounds. I use that potato-bin grate now as a trellis for some flowers and honor that small memory for my father.
“But in summary, my advice on decluttering: Do it — and do it now!”
This ‘n’ that ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other ‘n’ the other
All from Kathy S. of St. Paul: (1) “Subject: Why we need teachers.
“On March 10, a local TV news show announced a St. Paul teachers’ strike. Words below the picture announced ‘Tecahers on Strike.’
“Teachers are obviously needed, right here in River City.”
(2) “Subject: The Zen of un-owning.
“OTD from NSP needs to declutter things that no one wants. I am not a pro on this; I think the woman who grooves on the Zen of folding T-shirts might be on crack. But I have some suggestions:
“When we emptied our parents’ house, I took as much useful stuff as possible to a charity. I almost kept their vintage cocktail shaker, which I mentioned as I dropped it off. When I asked to get it back an hour later, it was gone. I think that is the only item I regretted donating — because folks are into cocktails again.
“Things that might be wanted: old stereo record players and record albums — which are more in demand now. And the type of items and clothes sold as ‘vintage’ on Etsy. And any Mid-Century Modern things like lamps and furniture. Especially items of solid wood. Particle-board items are iffy.
“I would donate or throw many dishes and glasses that would die in the dishwasher. Because washing them by hand is a pain. Decorative items may be fun to keep, but everyday dishes need to be washed every time they are used. And dishwashers may clean (sanitize?) them better.
“I myself have gone back to Corning-type cookware and dishes, because I think they don’t interact with hot food. To microwave, I put frozen entrees into rimmed china bowls with a plate on top as a lid. I do not use nonstick-type cookware at all, because I think it affects the food. But I would keep cast-iron pans and old Dutch ovens.
“One plug: I find it easier to give away treasured items if they are needed by my neighbors. My favorite local charity for good, usable household items is Bridging — because it gives them to families transitioning from homelessness. Periodically my church has blanket drives for them. The thought of kids without blankets haunts me.
“Good luck with this transition, OTD from NSP. If it helps, please remember: This, too, will end. And a project of a hundred boxes begins with the first one.”
(3) “On Saturday, I tried to make one of my elderly neighbors back off a few feet while we talked. Which she did, before she inched forward to the distance she is used to — virus or no virus. I gave up and left.
“Overnight, I decided to use a cardboard fan on a stick. The kind people get at a fair. If I hold it in front of my nose and mouth, folks and I can talk without breathing on each other.
“No scientist has told me that a fan like this works, but life might be better if it did. And artists would have a field day making them. The first one made would probably carry the message ‘If you can read this, you’re too close.’
“When life gives you lemons, add some sugar!”
(4) “Folks are getting frantic over toilet paper this week.
“I suggest that we all dig out the song ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ by Simon & Garfunkel. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it on TV, and bought the album for $3.27, I believe.
“We are facing a lot of troubled waters right now. Here’s hoping we soon find some good bridges across them.”
(5) “Just saw a video of a man waving a sign that says ‘Toilet Paper Won’t Save You.'”
(6) “Found this the day the TP shelves in Lunds were 100% empty.
“I think the game is Oregon Trail.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Here is one completely unexpected result of this coronavirus pandemic:
We happened to notice (we don’t usually even glance at BBonward.com’s statistics) that the Bulletin Board post of August 14, 2017 has lately been attracting numerous visitors. As of late morning Tuesday, 91 people had called up that post in 2020 — 85 of them in March, with readership rising daily! Only 58 had checked it out in all of 2019.
The headline on that post? “How long does a roll of toilet paper last in your house? How about a couple of 18-packs?”
Turns out, we discovered, that if you Google “How long does a roll of toilet paper last,” BBonward.com comes up very high on the list — just behind reddit.com.
Fifteen nanoseconds of cyber-fame.
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: THE NEXT LEVEL OF THE APOCALYPSE.
“All the stores will be out of toilet paper, and so will all the restrooms, so if you are lucky enough to have some, you will need to carry it with you wherever you go.
“I am looking for investors to fund development, production and marketing of ‘Toilet Paper Holsters.’ Our motto will be: LET’S ROLL!”
Could be verse!
A timely “timerick” from Tim Torkildson: “‘The front page said: “Run out of loo paper? The NT News cares. That’s why we’ve printed an eight-page special liftout inside, complete with handy cut lines, for you to use in an emergency. Get your limited edition one-ply toilet newspaper sheets.” — Fox News’
“When toilet paper goes extinct
“the likelihood is quite distinct
“that other products must be found
“to keep the world from being browned.
“Catalogs may do the trick,
“but frankly they are way too slick.
“That glossy feel reminds me of
“a doctor’s prying latex glove.
“And leaves from any plant or tree
“will crumple inconveniently.
“The French, of course, have found a way,
“by spritzing with a cold bidet.
“But such a geyser often leaks
“and leaves you with red soggy cheeks.
“I think that newsprint is ideal:
“It’s soft enough so you don’t squeal,
“yet has some grit to thus insure
“our derrieres are clean and pure.
“Perhaps subscription rates will soar
“as newspapers print more and more.
“The power of the press, you see,
“lies in its blot-ability.
“The Sunday New York Times could keep
“a fam’ly clean for months so cheap!”
Now & Then
The Astronomer of Nininger: “Subject: Built Like a Brick Outhouse.
“This past weekend, the Good Wife and I went to a local representative of bathroom appliances to purchase replacement parts for our decades-old, oversized whirlpool bathtub. This quality tub had been manufactured in a neighboring state in a city bearing the same name as the appliance maker itself. We needed to replace some cosmetically blemished rims of the pressure jets and the polished-brass cover of the control panel.
“While there, we saw some newer bathroom appliances, and I began to consider how things have changed and improved over the years. This old tub is 100% functional as designed, but I could not help thinking about the advancements to indoor plumbing.
“Thoughts turned to times when, as a boy, we visited a farm in rural Illinois where the occupants still used outdoor plumbing. (That was a long time ago.) Indeed, they did have ‘chamber pots’ for use at night, but other than when clad just in bed clothes, you were expected to use the outdoor facilities. I do recall there being more than one seat, and while real ‘toilet paper’ was available therein, a Sears catalog was also lying on the floor for reading purposes only. Shiny paper is just too slippery for other uses. Perhaps daydreaming and purchase planning was a secondary activity while one was sitting down.
“Now, I also remember my father, whom we called the ‘Governor,’ talking about the mythical Brick Outhouse. He used it to describe something built sturdier and more long-lasting than another similar object — or to describe women with certain physical attributes. A dear friend of mine, also a contributor to the Bulletin Board, shared with me in confidence that her father used it to express his pride in how effective a farm worker she was. Some people don’t say ‘outhouse,’ but are more expressive in the description of intended activities.
“My neighbor still has one of these Brick Outhouses, and, as I understand, occasionally uses it.
“That farm has been there a hundred years, and the outhouse has been there for a lot of them. Oh, the stories it could tell.”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division
Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: Two good suggestions.
“My friend Jim called my attention to this one.
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:
“‘WASH YOUR HANDS &
“‘SAY YOUR PRAYERS …
“‘BECAUSE JESUS AND
“‘GERMS ARE EVERYWHERE'”
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Received this email from my youngest child (daughter)”:
“As I was out walking yesterday, I saw a lawn (campaign) sign:
“‘Any Functional Adult
“‘I laughed out loud. That person has my vote!'”
Otis from Inver Grove: “Times are tough for everyone.
“Spotted these two young gentlemen washing down their worries at the local watering hole.”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Vertically Challenged: “Seen on a Yukon at Walmart: ‘Poo Poo.’
“A nickname? Or that’s a nicer way of saying how well the car runs?”
Out of the mouths of friends
Rusty of St. Paul: “Two weeks ago, my wife and I and another couple stayed at a cabin on the Gunflint Trail for some cross-country skiing and other enjoyments.
“Joe kept us entertained with his comments.
“Several hours after using seldom-used leg muscles snowplowing down icy hills, he announced: ‘My drumsticks are sore!’
“We worked on a challenging jigsaw puzzle for a few days and eventually had to rely on shapes rather than colors. He and Sue had names for the various standard shapes: ‘Look for a dweedle bonk’ — referring to that shape that has a projection that looks like a spade on a playing card.
“One morning when Sue got up and entered the living space, Joe said: ‘How are you doing this morning, my Little Wiggle Butt?’
“It was a nice break from discussing politics and coronavirus, and it is nice to have a friend in our lives who keeps us in much-needed chuckles.”
Band Name of the Day: Many-Fingered Persons of Indeterminate Sex — or: The Little Wiggle Butts
Website of the Day: