Archive for December, 2009

When I was a child, New Year’s Eve was the second best day of the year. Christmas day comes first, of course.  We anticipated New Year’s Eve with almost as much enthusiasm. My parents were married on New Year’s Eve, and every December 31st we celebrated their anniversary as a family.

Scan Photo Slides

Mom and Dad on their wedding day - December 31

Beginning in the morning of the last day of each year, my father would start by telling his version of their courting years and the day they got married. My mother had her version of stories as well and it seemed like the only story they had in common about that day was that it was very cold outside. As they waited outside the Justice of the Peace’s office in Valpraiso, Indiana, a snowstorm blew through and my father offered his coat to my mother and then wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm.

My Mom had a son before my parents were married. They dropped him off at a sitter’s house and then drove to Indiana to get married. There was no waiting period for a marriage license there. My father was a man who pinched pennies and it occurred to him that if he married my mother the last day of the year, he could get a great tax deduction. Because my mother had a child, it was a double bonus for that tax year. He did not marry my Mom because of the savings, but he did marry her the 31st of December instead of in January to take advantage of the tax situation. It was a running joke throughout their marriage about my father’s great deal.

Preserve Family History

Family Photo after Wedding

My parents were 33 and 32 when they married. They met at a diner where my Mom was a waitress. She worked there during an economic slump at the factory (see: Living on the Edge ). My father would come into the restaurant to eat, but after a while he dropped by just to see my Mom. During their courtship, Dad would go to her house after she got off work and visit with her and her son. Later, because my Mom had a child and couldn’t afford a sitter, my Dad would leave and go out on the town with his friends. It bothered my Mom that he left her to go out with his friends – instead of staying for the whole evening. They argued about it and when he left, she told him “not to let the doorknob hit him in the a**”.  After she refused to see him unless he fully committed to their relationship, a few weeks later they decided to elope.  And my father adopted my mother’s 4 year-old son. My father re-told the story about the doorknob throughout the years. He admired my Mom’s spunk and his eyes twinkled when he told this story.

New Year’s Eve was the only day of the year that our family went out to dinner. It was quite a gift from my father to agree to the extra expense. (see: My Dad – the Original Organic Gardener ) His treat for my mother to spare her one day a year from cooking dinner. We usually went to a restaurant called FAYLI. It was a diner that was near a highway in town and was often frequented by truckers. We found out later that it stood for “Food As You Like It.”  They had a large booth in the corner and all 7 of us could fit in there. We were allowed to order what we wanted. Every year, my mother ordered chopped beef  with mashed potatoes and gravy. I remember that each of us kids would order a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake. My Dad would order whatever they had on the special menu varying from liver and onions to corned beef and cabbage. He interacted with the waitress, telling her the reason for our dinner and we would often get extra cherries in our milkshakes or a free dessert. My mother was unusually giddy at these dinners and I remember much laughter and more courtship stories coming from our corner booth.

Preserve Family Story

My parents on their 25th Anniversary

After dinner, we would return to our house and my Mom and Dad would have a cocktail – usually Seagrams and Pepsi. My parents never drank and it fascinated us to see them drink alcoholic beverages on New Year’s Eve. We also never had soft drinks at our house, let alone potato chips and other snacks. This one time a year though, they splurged and we had our chips with homemade potato chip dip, and  as many soft drinks as we wanted. They brought out the Tupperware tall plastic glasses that were used only when company came and we put ice and Pepsi in them. I still enjoy a soft drink out of a Tupperware glass as it brings back memories for me. Sometimes their friends would come over to our house and they played pinochle at the dining room table while the kids watched TV or listened to our records on the turntable. Other times, when their friends didn’t come, we would play our favorite marble game called Aggravation with all of the kids old enough to play.  Because my Mom only drank once a year, she would often fall asleep on the sofa for a short time during the evening after her two cocktails. I don’t remember watching the ball drop on Times Square on TV, but I do remember watching my parents kiss at midnight. They weren’t usually publically affectionate, so any physical interaction was memorable.

New Year’s Eve was a special day at our house. When I think about details about that day in my family, it reminds me of an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” which always had a happy ending. I love that my parents celebrated this day with us and took the time – and money – to make it so special for all of us. I play my own black-and-white memory video in my mind of my happy childhood and episode one is a typical New Year’s Eve day with my family.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime.

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Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.


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My Mom made all of our clothing. She purchased underwear and socks, but used her Singer sewing machine to stitch together everything else that we wore. It was the only way to cloth a family of 7 for under $10,000 a year. Our family “made do” in many areas to survive having little money (See: My Dad, the original organic gardener).

It was always a big family outing to go to the clothe store. We marched into the  store and always started by opening the large catalogs with all of the photos of models in  various finery. These books were more like wallpaper catalogs than the Sears and Roebucks variety. They were heavy, very large, and sometimes required two of my sisters to turn a page. They were on tall counters with stools underneath that tipped easily. We precariously balanced ourselves on the stools while choosing our next outfit. We had to use our imagination when perusing these catalogs as the finished product would not be the same as we viewed in the photos of the models. The material we would chose was the mystery ingredient. Hondo Crouch, the Texas journalist who started Luckenbach, Texas called himself an imagineer. We were definitely “imagineering” when we designed our next school outfit.

The quilt Mom made for me

After choosing a pattern that we “imagineered” would suit ourselves (pause for pun . . .), we would write down the pattern number, and then proceed to very large drawers that contained the actual patterns. We picked our size from these heavy drawers, deciphered how many yards of fabric we needed, and then marched off to the fabric aisles. If we found a desirable bolt of material, we would pick it up and carrying it around to show Mom. Imagine a 9-year-old carrying around several bolts of fabric that were almost as long as we were tall. We received much help from the fabric store employees during this process. In retrospect, they were probably trying to preserve the contents of their store.

It was a complicated ordeal process, compounded by having 4 of us vying for our mother’s attention all at the same time. We gave the list of how many yards we needed of each fabric bolt to the store employee, then proceeded to  pick out buttons, thread and zippers as needed. It was a day’s work to get it all collated at the fabric store. It was several weeks work for my mother after we returned home. I don’t believe that she enjoyed sewing all that much. It was an activity that was necessary for our family.

Prom dress - made by Mom and me

Unlike taking my children shopping and coming home to have them try on everything, we had to wait a number of weeks to try on our new outfits. Usually we tried them on several times before they were completely finished. We had our own personal tailor – Mom – who made adjustments for fit all along the way. We learned early to sew buttons on, put in a hem, and eventually learned the whole process so that we could make our own clothing. In high school, I didn’t go shopping with friends to find my homecoming dress. Instead, I visited the fabric store and purchased the makings for the ideal outfit. There were some mistakes along the way, but when you make your own clothing, you can’t take it back if it doesn’t fit. You just figure out how to fix it or just live with it. Thanks goodness the 70’s were wild with patterns and colors. Some of our mistakes were not so noticeable.

In the fall of 1976, I left for college, my brother moved to Arkansas, and my younger sister got married. My mother’s household went from 7 to 4 instantly. Her workload was reduced immensely and I think it was a shocking, but welcomed,  change. She suddenly had some time on her hands after years of making our clothes and canning all our food. And she had yards of leftover fabric from her sewing adventures over the years. She started quilting.

My clock dress - Made by Mom

I received a quilt from Mom for Christmas the first year of my marriage. It was a patchwork quilt containing all of the material that made up my clothes from my childhood. I loved it! Each square brought back a memory of years past. My favorite was a block that had different clocks in the 12-inch squares. Each clock had a different time on it. I remembered my dress from age 6 and using that dress to learn to tell time. I laughed to see the material from the 70’s contained in the quilt. Paisley and pastel polka-dots were definitely from the 70s era. My plaid homecoming suit – worn on a homecoming date with Paul – was another memory. My mother helped me finish the suit in time for the dance – I had trouble with getting the zipper sewn in correctly.

My mother made her quilts like she lived her life. She took whatever scraps were available and stitched them together as best she could.  This quilt from my mother gave me comfort and warmed me with memories of her love for me in my childhood. It was appropriate that this quilt was made of pieces of my childhood memories. Being loved still brings me a richness to life that nothing else can bring. I have my memory quilt to prove it.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime.

Picture This! http://www.picturethisaustin.com

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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