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.


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

A Gory Mummy Warning Comes True

A Gory Mummy Warning Comes True


Being from a family of nine kids, I can relate to Anthony’s princely feeling. Maybe all that attention is exactly why I thought it was a fun to have my tonsils out twice and on my birthday to boot!

Originally posted on mother of nine9:

Even modern mums sometimes resort to gory warnings:easton

“Come down this instant; you are going to fall and break your neck!”

“Careful with that knife; you don’t want to cut your finger off.”

“Don’t come crying to me if you fall and break your leg.

“Pay attention; you’ll poke out your eye.”

That last warning about the eyes? .

Suddenly the dramatic over statement became a reality one Sunday evening.

All the kids had simply flopped down on the Chesterfield, chairs, pillows and rug after supper. This was Walt Disney Night if you were young or Sports Night if you were a teenage boy.

The problem was that we had only one T.V. for eleven people. Half asleep, lounging on the couch, with a grin on his face, my oldest son, Matthew, had just switched the channel back to basketball yet again. In utter frustration, three-year old Lucy, who was standing up, flung a…

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Castro’s Dominoes

When I was a little girl, everybody was afraid of atomic bombs because of  Khrushchev pounding the table with his shoe.  Plus he put Castro in Cuba with Communism.  I prayed every night that Castro would stay on his side of the Bay of Pigs, and not bring his dominoes over to Florida and turn everybody into Communist, and get rid of all the Catholics.  For some reason communist dominoes were dangerous.  Not like American dominoes.  American dominoes were safe as apple pie.

Fallout_shelter_photoOur neighbor across the street built a bomb shelter.  My school had a bomb shelter too, and sometimes we had bomb drills.  My mom and dad thought there were more immediate things to worry about, like getting the garden weeded so we could put food on the table, and letting kids like me know not to poke her fingers into the tiny hole in her Keds and make it bigger, cuz money doesn’t grow on trees, and you only get one pair of shoes for the summer, and you should know better.

Nancy and Doug and Noreen lived across the road from me.  Nancy was Deanna’s age, Doug was Bonita’s, and Noreen was Vickie’s age.  Nobody was my age; that was okay, ’cause everybody let me play with them anyway, even though I was kinda in the gap between ages.  Nancy’s dad put a paint mark on the inside of the garage door that marked each kid’s height:  green for Nancy, blue for Doug, and red for Noreen.  Once a year, Nancy’s dad put a new mark above the old mark, so he could see how much each kid grew.  I guess he got tired of that, ’cause Noreen only had one mark, and it was way down there as small as my little sister Julie, even after Noreen was a big kid.   Dad said he was going to put a mark on our garage too, just one, ’cause somebody would always be that size at one time or another.  On the other hand, if he put a mark for each kid, every year, he coulda had the whole garage painted.
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Anxiety. What is it Good For?

Bonnie & AdelaWhen I was a little girl, I never felt anxious.  Sometimes I got excited.  Sometimes I got sad.  Lots of times I got angry.  Sometimes I even got scared.   My feeling came and went like the wind blowing the lace curtains in the living room.  I was never anxious.

I never got anxious about new things coming:  The first day of school, substitute teacher, or the last day of school.  I never worried about getting lost or getting home.  Every new thing was an adventure.  Even when I did get lost, like when everyone left me to wander in the Museum of Science and Industry, or when I got on the wrong bus, and went over a big girl’s house who I knew from church and said she knew my mom and where I lived and would get me home.  I never even worried about getting lost at the beach and putting my head underwater and hearing kids splashing and laughing like they were far away, when I knew all the while that they were right there above me.  Substitute teachers were a gas; sometimes they knew stuff and sometimes they needed some teaching.  Sometimes they got grouchy or stern.  That’s when Dad’s trick of giving a big grin and saying “Good Morning how are you,” worked like a charm.

I never got anxious about sad things like people or pets dying, or car accidents, or people moving far away where I’d never see them again.  Those things came out of the blue without any warning.  Sad surprises made me cry.   I was a pretty good problem solver, even when I was a little girl; that’s why Dad and Mom put me in charge so much.  But even I knew some things have no solution.  There was nothing I could do about those things, except be sad.  The saddest was when Cleta’s big sister Betty-Jo died because somebody fell asleep while driving and hit her head-on.  Old people dying, like Mom and Dad’s truck driver friend who was 45 and had a heart attack, was less sad.  They were old and had a good life, and were probably ready to go to heaven and stop working all the live-long day. Sometimes people moved away, but mostly I got to see them again some time when I least expected it.  Powie, that was like saving up box tops for a free prize and then forgetting I ordered it.  Abracadabra, it arrived like a present I forgot to think about.

I never got scared until Grandpa told me about the tornado that hit Flint.  He said first everything got still as death, then the sky turned green and the wind sounded like a train coming.  After that, the window fan on a hot summer night woke me up, making me think about a tornado coming.  I was sorta mad at Grandpa for painting a picture, clear as a bell, with his words, along with his eyes looking far off in the distance, like he could see his memory coming to life.  Lots of times people thought I should be scared when I never even thought about it.  Maybe other kids got scared about getting their tonsils out.  I never had Mom sit with me for hours at a time, only me, no other kids.  Plus other moms and doctors said nice stuff to me like, “oh, you’re so brave,” or “you poor thing, getting your tonsils out on your birthday.”  That was the berries.  I did get sorta mad about the promise of all the ice cream I could eat, ‘cuz after my tonsils came out, my throat was too sore for anything.

These days I wonder  about anxiety.  So many people suffer from anxiety:  my daughter does, my sons do, my daughter-in-law does, my husband does, some of my grandchildren do.  I never do.  Sure I get worried, but anxiety is different.  Anxiety freezes people I love; it makes their heart race and their hands shake.  It makes them unsure of what action to take next.  Anxiety sounds awful. Oh, for sure my mind races like a jack-rabbit DSC03608sometimes, imagining all sorts of horrible outcome to situations.  Sometimes, my imagination races to dreadful scenarios.  Like the time I was reading while commuting and everyone got off the “el” train because it reached the end of the line.  All the lights went out, and the train groaned and the wheels squealed against the tracks as it lumbered past abandoned cars.  My mind raced to rats and broken glass, and how would I get home, and where would we stop, and would there be dangers I didn’t even know to think about.  I said to myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?  Pay attention, watch where the train is going, compared to where you should be.  When it stops, pry the door open, get out and make your way back.  I saw more wild critters in the fields where you grew up than could be in this trainyard.”  I took a deep breath.  I prepared for the worst.  While I did all my problem solving, the train lumbered in a big circle.  The doors opened and people got on, right at the stop where I wanted to get off.  I was exactly where I needed to be.



Quiet Veterans

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008 (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

I suppose my uncles never needed an excuse to get together.  Every summer, we had picnics galore.  Starting out with Memorial Day.  That day was like the kick-off of summertime.  I never thought about Memorial Day as a day to honor veterans.  That’s because all the veterans I knew kept pretty mum about war memories.

All my uncles were veterans.  Dad and Uncle Ellis and Uncle Merle were in the Army.  Uncle Frank was in the Air Force.  Uncle Glenn was in the Marines.  All those brothers fought The Big War, The War to End all Wars.  That’s when Dad got his appendix out, on account of Continue reading

Mothers are Forever Friends

img244When I was a little girl, I never thought of Mom as a person.  I mean, yes, she was a person, but not a person who was once a little girl, or who had fears or hopes or things she liked to do other than be a mom.  She was just there to know, love and serve me.  Sure I had to share her with my brothers and sisters, but she was there for me, not the other way around.  She did know me; better than I knew myself sometimes.  She did love me; more than I loved her.  She did serve me; but she insisted I pull my own weight, too.

Once I asked Mom how she knew I liked science.  I always got science books for Christmas. She told me it was obvious.  She took me seriously; not like Dad who told me a rock I found was a petrified potato.  I went to school and told Teacher, “Look what I found: a petrified potato.”  Teacher never even told me the truth.  Mom would have.  That’s for darned sure.  She had a streak of no-nonsense in her.  Even if she did like to laugh at a lot of stuff, she never laughed at me, except when she thought I was clever, even if sometimes my cleverness was on accident.  Like the time I said, “It’s a bug, step on it.”  When we played count-the-cars on our way Up North and I spotted a VW beetle.

Mom suggested I pursue a career in science, when I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher.  Mom thought about moving the family to Chicago, so I could go to better schools.

As much as Mom knew me, she did not know me from the inside out.  That’s why she got me lipstick and nylon stockings for my twelfth birthday instead of a microscope.  Oh, for Pete’s sake.  That was the worst birthday present ever.  I never wanted to be bothered with girly-girl stuff.  Never in my life.  I wanted to spend time learning stuff and thinking stuff up, and writing stuff down,  and building forts up in the hayloft.  I was never going to wear lipstick, and especially not nylon stockings.  It was bad enough she made me wear a bra.

I’m pretty sure there was a bunch of stuff about me that she shook her head about and asked Dad what he thought.  Like the time I took a bite out of her rubber spatula just because it looked like it might taste good, or when I said I wanted to try answering the phone with a tuning fork like the murderer did on the Outer Limits.  To tell the truth, I probably could have thought those things through a little more.

When I got older, in my teens and my twenties and even into my thirties, Mom hurt my feelings a lot.  She just never seemed to understand me.  She said and did queer things:  she prayed to the patron saint of lost causes for me; she told me Dad got drunk the day I was born because he thought he had a son; she wondered out-loud what would have become of me if I never met Loved-One; she said she was tired of walking on egg shells around me because my feeling got hurt so easy.

The older I get, the more I appreciate my Mom.  Sure, I saw her through a whole different light when I had kids of my own.  I saw how she understood me in ways I did not understand myself.  I saw how sometimes the best of intentions back-fired.  I understood that Mom was human, just like me.  Yesterday, I began to understand how we got to be such good friends.   My son revealed it to me.

I know a lot about my son because I paid attention while he grew.  I know things that interest him and a little about how he learns; I know what he likes and dislikes.  I know he’s clever and has an eye for detail.  I know he loves order and predictability.  I know he’s strong and athletic.  I know he seeks peace in his life.  That said, I do not know him from the inside out.  My 40+ son told me that he has nightmares about high school.  He dreams he forgot an important assignment, or he dreams he did the assignment and left it at home. I never knew he carried school-anxiety around inside him.

Learning this new thing about my son, made me realize something.  Mom’s secret to success is three-fold:

  • You never know your child from the inside out;
  • You never stop learning things about your child;
  • The end of childhood is the beginning of friendship.

There’s probably a lot more.  I’m still learning.  I invite you to share what you learn from your mother and what you learn from your children.





I Remember You Mama


A grown-up Little Girl’s tribute to her mother. (Kimberly is my still Best Girldfriend Blogger.)

Originally posted on :

You were a gypsy queen
who sat cross legged on golden oak floors
guitar on lap, singing about being His “Flower Child”.

You wore bell bottomed corduroys
and wire rimmed John Denver glasses
making even Chicago a “country road” to home.

Your hair was straight
and long and brown, no curly grey
to interrupt its beauty. And you were just that…a beauty.

You made bean soup and corn bread
a special event, ironed cloth napkins
and all with a side of fried okra.

You were crazy in love with Daddy
treating him like the great man
that He was because of the great woman you are.

You hid behind trees, until certain
that I could walk to school
alone. We laughed about it even then.

You exude femininity and womanhood
because you make everything you touch more beautiful.
The world is a much better place for having had you.


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