The Aroma of Hope

Yesterday I  walked to the Village Hall to vote.  I’ve had the blues lately.  The walk filled my heart with joy. No, not because I was exercising my citizenship, although that does make me proud. Because my brain filled with the sights and sounds and especially the aromas of my childhood.

When I was a little girl, fall came with vivid sounds and colors and smells.  And lots of work.  Every season had work and the work always smelled different, but underneath it all, came the smell of the good earth. In fall work was dusty and musty and golden and frosty and filled with wind rustling everything it touched.  Fall filled up my nose with burning leaves and rotting pumpkins and earthy potatoes dug from the ground.  Even dried corn plucked from the stalks had that aroma of tortillas waiting to be fried.

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One year the corn stayed unharvested.  Dad worked too many hours at Ma Bell and he missed the combine trading time, or perhaps some other reason I never knew about prevented him from getting the corn in.  Corn stalks became dry and brittle and the ears hung open like so many rows of loose teeth.

“We can do it,”  Mom said.

“In my day, we didn’t have fancy combines,” Dad said, giving the dining room table a slap.  Every big decision came down with a slap at the dining room table.

I already knew about Dad’s days, ‘cuz he smiled like he just brought home an A+ history paper when he showed us kids the old-timer farm equipment at the county fair.  Of course Mr. and Mrs. T, who had a farm down Terry Lane, still used some of that old stuff. They were like people lost in time, wearing old-time trousers and farm dresses with aprons.  When Dad was a kid farms had machines with long belts attached to generators, and blades so big they had two handles, so a farmer could swing it with both hands. It’s a wonder our nation could get fed at all with a breadbasket harvested with those antiques.

But then again, we didn’t even have those old tools and if we did, Mom would never let us use them.  She was all the time worrying about one of us getting sucked up into the combine and made into pig feed before anyone noticed we went missing.  That kind of stuff happened to some kid she knew, and she never ever forgot about it.  She didn’t any kids with missing fingers or arms, and she sure didn’t want to pick one out of a combine.  Those long belts and huge blades were probably way too dangerous with all kinds of places to snag clothes, or pinch off fingers or even cut off a foot or two.

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We had buckets and mittened hands.  Yup.  We harvested that whole field by hand.

Dad gave the Little Kids flashlights to hold and Big Kids buckets.  He took a row, and I took a row, and everyone else got divided onto our teams.  Of course Bonita was on my team.  She was my best-friend-sister, so she had to be on my team even though sometimes she cried to be on Dad’s team cuz she wanted to be his favorite more than she wanted to be my best friend.

“Bucket Brigade!” Dad shouted, and off we went, picking corn as fast as we could and sending one bucket back to be dumped in the trailer.  As a full bucket went back, an empty came forward.  Sometimes the back kid ran forward with the empty, on account of passing was too slow.  The corn stalks pulled at our feet and rustled like torn apart Christmas wrapping.

“Hi-yup!” Dad said, each time a new bucket got filled.

“Go!” I’d say in the row right beside him. I never got more than a few feet behind.  Victory was close, I tasted it.

A race to the middle of the field and back again.  I started out with frost crunching and nipping and wishing be somewhere warm.  I stopped hot and thirsty and with my nose filled with corn cob dust.  We laughed all the way to the house.

Beyond the field, yellow light smiled out of lace-covered windows.  Home hit me square in the face when I opened the door; warm against cold skin and runny nose.  Just in time for a big bowl of popcorn and “My Three Sons,” or “The Donna Reed Show.”

Everyone knows about leaves turning gold and red and orange in the fall.  Cornstalks turn from green to amber, the gentle rustle turns more insistent.  Snow is coming.  Hurry.  Batten down the hatches, bring in the stores, get ready for the cold. Fields lay barren and brown, except for winter wheats green leaves reaching for the sun, forever hopeful of the spring that promises to come.

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Pearls and Movie Star Kisses

That's me in the back seat of the car.

The summer before I went into seventh grade, I fell in real love.  Of course I was in love before.  I loved Dale, the boy I never did get to kiss in kindergarten.  I loved Warren in first grade; that is, until he got a buzz cut, and that was it for him and me.  I always loved Georgie, he was my best boy-friend ever.  But John.  John was a whole new kind of love.

John lived about a mile away from me, but I never met him because he went to Catholic School.  I don’t even remember how we did meet, but I do remember he was the shining memory of that summer.  That summer when I knew I was going to the high school.  I knew it.  That was the best.  Then I met John, and the best became better.

John had a two brothers; one the same age as Deanna and one the same age as Bonita, and a little sister the same age as Vickie.  That’s the way Catholic families are: bunches of kids.  But for some reason, God stopped there for John’s family, where God just kept on giving my mom and dad kids.  Maybe it was account of John’s Mom, Mrs. G. was busy teaching girls how to be secretaries and have good manners, and never wear slacks to school.  She was super strict and grumpy as all get out.  My mom just stayed home and sewed and canned and handed out chores to all her kids and was mostly in a good mood, unless somebodies shoes got lost or she was late getting somewhere, or the house was a rip-snorting pigpen.  If those things happened, she might have a screaming banshee fit, or she might just bite down hard and swallow a lot.

Anyways, somehow me and John met and fell in love.  I should remember how we met, but I don’t.  Almost everyday, he walked across the field one way, and I walked the other way, and we met somewhere in the middle.  We didn’t have any streets to cross, or sidewalks, or backyards.  Just fields.  We talked a lot.  I think we must have, cuz what else would we do?  We were outside with no TV or radio or board games or even a bike. And no one else was around, so we must’ve talked and walked.

When we walked, we kept bumping into each other, like we never learned how to walk in a straight line.  One minute, my feet were straight, and the next minute my shoulder bumped up against John’s.  Once our hands brushed and it felt like I my heart hit up against the electric fence that kept the cows from running all over tarnation.  I’m pretty sure John felt a jolt, too, cuz he and I jumped away a little.  Still, I sorta liked that shocky feeling, so before long, we brushed together again, and after enough brushing of hands, John grabbed mine and didn’t let go.  Tingles went all over me.  That’s when I knew I was in love for real.  Not the kind of Dale or Warren or Georgie kind of love. The love I had for John was the movie kind of love.  I knew it on account of I had that same mushy feeling like when I saw those movie lovebirds kissing in the shower, or when that couple was smootching under the apple tree. Continue reading

Labor Day Laborers

Deanna, me, Bonita, and baby Vickie

Deanna, me, Bonita, and baby Vickie with Dad

When I was a little girl, Labor Day marked the beginning:  the beginning of the fall, the beginning of school, the beginning of catechism.   The beginning of hard frosts and sweaters, of hard sole shoes and dresses everyday, of schedules and memorizing.  Of course every beginning follows an ending.  And Labor Day marked that too.  The end of summer:  the end of white Sunday hats and sandals, the end of baseball.  Right on Labor Day, we had our last big family picnic of the year.   Always, always all Dad’s brothers and his one sister, Barbara, with all their spouses and all their kids.   All Dad’s brothers were laborers, except Uncle Ellis; all the wives were housewives, except Aunt Barbara, she was a teacher.  I guessed Labor Day was for men to stop working and rest a little, and for women to just keep on working, ’cause a woman’s work is never done.  Anyways that’s what Grandma told me.

Uncle Merle worked for Consumers’ Power Company and Dad worked for Ma Bell.   Those two brothers both liked to climb poles and fix things; and they both liked to tell stories.  Uncle Merle was Dad’s best-friend-brother, like Bonita was my best-friend-sister.  Uncle Merle and his family  lived in our house and farmed with Dad, until it got too crowded.  Those two had the same star-blue eyes and the same smile that tugged up the corner of their mouth when they tried to look all straight-faced and tell a joke.

Uncle Frank and Uncle Gerald worked in the Shop making cars, one for Ford and one for Chevrolet.  I could never keep it straight who worked for which, but those two were always arguing about who made the best cars in the whole wide world, Ford or Chevrolet.  Dad drove a Dodge; he said those were the best, which got his two Shop brothers all riled up and arguing, while Dad and Uncle Merle Continue reading

Camille and Melissa and Grace

IMG_4421I met these wonderful women when I interviewed Camille for the Marengo Union Times.  She harnessed her harrowing experiences as young teen to create her own anti-bullying campaign, “Cam’s Care to Be Different.”  While doing that interview, I got a chance to talk to the other remarkable women in the family.

IMG_4425Melissa is 48 years old and a Stay at Home Mom from the time her first daughter, Grace, was born. She “runs around and does things for the kids.”  She also enjoys gardening, especially flowers.  Melissa is the first-born in a family of eight!  She has 4 brothers and 3 sisters.  She’s a cradle Catholic who no longer goes to church as often as she thinks she should. Her family was very involved in the church when she was growing up, but then her mom started going to a Lutheran church. She found it less strict and perhaps a little more flexible.

Melissa has three children of her own: two girls and one boy.  She thinks the scariest thing about raising girls, and maybe the most important, is teaching them to be strong. It’s important for them to know how to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. “Girls can be vicious and particularly vicious in groups.”  Melissa wants her daughters to listen to their inner voice, not others’ opinions.

She was not particularly close with her own mom so she learned to be closer to her own kids, and tell them that she loves them. Every single day.  When she was a little girl, Melissa wanted to be an only child. All of her siblings are fairly close together in age. She wanted more attention from her mom.  If she were an only child, she wouldn’t have to share.  Plus, there would be money for the things she wanted. Now that she’s grown, she wouldn’t change it.  No one is closer to you than your siblings.

IMG_4424Camille is 15 almost 16.  She love reading and writing.  She writes all the time.  She even wrote the superintendent a three, single-spaced pages letter. But that’s not all she does.  Camille likes shopping and she loves her puppy, Frenchie. Oh and she loves Math.  She’s good at numbers and logical things. She agrees with me, Math is just another language; a language of logic.  Her  favorite color?  Purple because it’s right there between pink and blue.  Her favorite number is 21 because that’s her birthday number.

When Camille is a grown woman she wants to be independent and successful. Well, in my opinion, she already is that. Geesh, I can’t imagine speaking to a student body of 1400 in strange school about the toll bullying had on my life.  That takes guts Camille, and poise.  Camille thinks she’s more like her mom than her Dad because she is loving and caring, putting everyone before herself.  Not that her father doesn’t care, but he’s more hardworking, and he like things logical and definitive.

IMG_4426Grace  is 18 years old and starts school at the University of Mississippi.  She plans to study Business or Criminal Law.  She was a Cheerleader since she was a wee girl.  She’s a flyer, so she gets thrown around a lot.   She sad and happy that she’s leaving cheerleading behind her freshman year in college.  She didn’t make the team.  There’s always next year.  Besides, there’s so much to do at college. Grace plans to  join a sorority.

Grace’s favorite color is pink, just because she likes it and her favorite number is 2.  She  picked that number early:  Dad’s birthday is 22, and Mom’s is 2.  Maybe that’s why.  When Grace is a grown a woman she “want to be successful and happy.” Grace says she used to be more like her mom, but now she’smore like her dad because she is organized and can’t be late.

Grace was the first person to ask Camille to help end some minor bullying and back-stabbing among her high school cheerleader friends.  That’s how Camille’s confidence began to grow and that’s when she began to understand that she really can make a difference.

To learn more about Camille’s Dare to be different campaign, here’s a few sites you can visit:

The Black Tortoise

Cam’s Dare to Be Different Camille’s Facebook Page

Little Girls Then & When: Michelle, Katie, Mandie, and Emilie

20140124_185941Michelle,40, taught Special Education for 10 years, but all she really wanted to do is just be a mom. She grew up with 2 older brothers.   When Michelle was a little girl, she “played a ton outside.”  She  thinks it was easier, back then, to do that. She didn’t have sidewalks where she lived on a dead-end street, with a pond in back;  but she and her friends could ride their bikes.  She played with her friends in the neighborhood and at school.  She loved playing with dolls. (Michelle is a little camera-shy, so I cropped her from a larger picture of her and her Daisy Troop.)

Michelle remembers her first day of school as a day when she got prettied up.  She loved to wear dresses a lot.  Maybe that’s why she was Daddy’s little girl.  Just when she needed her father most, he passed away.  Michelle was just 12 years old. As a result, when many girls are pushing away from their mother, Michelle became very close to hers.

Michelle’s mother taught her the importance of being there for her children.  Married for 13 years, she lives a simple life with her husband and three daughters as her focal point.  That said, Michelle also recognizes the importance of “me-time.”  She plays softball in the summer and has a group of women friends that just go out and have a blast.

For Michelle, the scariest thing about raising daughters is all the stories she’s heard about teenage years. She was a pretty calm child herself. Her advice to mothers is “love your kids, pick your battles. Be patient and above all have fun. Make memories.” It’s so worth the time investment.

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Emilie and Mandie, best of friends.

Katie is 7, and going in the 2nd grade this year.  Her favorite color is yellow because it’s pretty and because it’s the color of the sun. Her favorite number is 100, just because.   Katie’s favorite thing at school is recess because it’s fun and she likes to play with her friends.  She’s still thinking about what she she’ll be like when she’s a grown-up woman. (That’s okay, Katie, that can be an ever-changing target at any age.)

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Mandie in and with her favorite color.

Mandie is 6 years old and in the 1st grade.  She loves purple and princesses. Her favorite subject is Art and painting. Mandie loves being with other people. She plays park district t-ball.This year she was a shooting star in a local production of Aladdin Junior.

Here's Emilie with a dress she designed for her doll.

Here’s Emilie with a dress she designed for her doll.

 

Emilie will be 8 years old in 2 weeks.  She starts second grade soon.   (Wait a minute.  Are you and Katie the same age?  Yes, indeed.  They are twins.) Emilie’s favorite colors are pink and red and purple because pink is girly, red is the color of hearts, purple because it’s the end of rainbow.  Emilie says, “I like ends of stuff: End of stories and movies.”   Her favorite number is 8, because that’s how old she’ll be on her next birthday. She loves Math and Art, and doesn’t want to decide between the two. Oh wait, make that Art, Art Art. She wants to be a Dress Designer kind artist. Emilie will need her love of math for that.  She wants the world to know she’s a really good artist. When Emilie is a grown woman she will do what I want to do. “I will eat pudding whenever I want to.”

If you or someone you know has daughters and wish to be part of my “Little Girls Then and When,”  please let me know.  I always look forward to making new friends.  My e-mail is adelacrandell@me.com.

Jumping off the Dock

Back Camera

When I was a little girl, I loved to swim, almost as much as I liked to dance.  Every summer, Mom signed me up for swimming lessons at Myers Lake.  All through grade-school I took swimming lessons.  I learned to swim the first year, still, it was loads of fun to go back each year. I’ll never been to Myers Lake.  I’ll never forget swimming lessons.

Nobody swam at a pool around my house:  there were no public pools around me, and for sure nobody had a pool big enough to swim in at their house.  For Pete’s sake, everybody knew that kind of stuff was just for movie stars and millionaires.  Around me, pools were just for the Little Kids.  Mom bought one of those, but it was a pain in the neck:  grass got kicked into it, the our dog Nikki, drank out of it, Frankie went #1  in it, I think our lamb, Jack, went #2 in it, and finally it sprang a leak and failed to hold any water at all.  Like I said, Mom bought one.  Once.

To get to swimming lessons, Mom drove me to school, where I got on a school bus with a whole bunch of kids.  My friends Daylene and Connie walked to school, so swimming lessons was the only time they rode a bus.  It was different from school.  For one thing, everybody had on shorts and jeans over our swimsuits.  No dresses, not one.  Nobody knew where to sit, cuz of lots of different kids and no high-schoolers, so everybody just got mixed up and in different seats than on the way to school.  On the way to school, it was like assigned seats with nobody telling us which seat to take; we just knew.  I liked to sit on the bump; the wheel was under there, so if the bus driver went over a bump, Continue reading

I Love Aunt Arlene

 

IMG_4297Dad and his brothers taught me a lot about how siblings love each other. They had one sister, Barbara, who was just like Grandma only she smiled all the time and said funny things. Besides Aunt Barbara, each of Dad’s brother brought an aunt along. Aunt Barbara was the only aunt that was a “real” Crandell, only she had a different last name.  Every other aunt put away their first last name, which came from their father, and took up the last name of the man she loved more than anything. All of my aunts taught me a whole lot about family.

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Aunt Arlene with Grandma

My aunts never meant to teach me anything. They were busy talking to each other and telling their kids what to do. And talking about their husbands, and recipes, and how to keep their hair from frizzing up.  Of course Aunt Barbara taught us stuff accidentally on-purpose, like not to fight with each other. She was a teacher during the day, so even when she wasn’t with students, she just taught stuff without even trying. Plus, she wrote down crazy things her kids fought about like whether the spot where the bed got wet was round or square. Aunt Barbara was funny as all get out, but still, that silly-fighting stuck with me. Every time I got in a fight with one of my sisters, I thought about whether it was one of those bed-wetting fights.

Aunt Arlene was the quietest of all the Aunts. She was super-pretty. Not in a glamorous sort of way, like Marilyn Monroe. She was more like Continue reading