Wake up World, It’s Easter Again

When I was a little girl, waking up Easter Morning was the second best time of the year for me.  Right between Christmas morning and the First Day of School.  The night before, we put our Easter Baskets by the front door, and in the morning they were gone, hidden somewhere in the house.  Anticipation of the goodness waiting for me, if I just searched hard enough, made my stomach jittery like too much coffee does now.

Forty days and forty nights ago, all the statues and the crucifix got covered in purple cloth and the little bowls of holy water at the back of the church got emptied.  I thought I’d never remember to forget about blessing myself when I came in and out of church; no point with an empty blessing-cup.  Finally, no holy water was normal and then comes Easter morning:  Surprise, everything is changed again;  bright and wonderful.  At church, it was glorious ’cause everything was like brand new.

Easter was when I got to put on my new hat, and the brand new dress Mom made just for Easter. All the girls and women had on new straw hats, with flowers in the ribbon, and the dresses looked like a field of flowers: pink tulips, red roses, yellow daffodils, and purple hyacinths.  Starched stiff, with bows tied straight across behind all the girls dresses, just like we were freshly wrapped presents.  Even Father looked like sunshine with his white vestment embroidered with a crucifix across the whole front and back with golden rays of sun just a-shooting out of it.

The whole church was full of Easter Lilies, and the  two sets of three candles were lit on the altar, not just the one lonely candles on each side like all during Lent.  Most of the time, I held my breath when the my friend Mike’s big brother Bob, who was an altar boy, came out to light the candles.  Girls couldn’t be altar boys, ’cause only boys can get to be priest, that’s another one of those rules.  I guess when he was building the church and making up the rules about who could run things, Peter forgot all about the Marys and Veronica, who stayed right by Jesus when he got tortured and nailed on the cross and died.  Mom said that a smart woman lets the man think he’s running things, ’cause then his feelings don’t get hurt.  That was another one I had a hard time catching on to, like keeping my lip zipped.

All during Lent, just one candle on each side got lit, that was a low mass:  pretty quick.  If three candles got lit on each side:  high mass, never during Lent.  High mass meant gobs  of singing in Latin, on and on, Ed come spur tutu, oh and dominoes Nabisco, until I thought it would never end.  I thought it was polite how Bob sent out a little signal with the candles like that, then I knew whether I had to get ready for the long haul with a bunch of day-dreaming.   On Easter, right behind the gospel side of church, stood a brand-new-taller-than-me Pascal candle, which Bob had to reach way up on tip toes to light.

On Easter it was always high mass, except it seemed like it was so long ago that Father did a high mass that all that singing, one note over and over, then everyone changing it up a bit all at the same time like they learned to sing that way when they were still up in heaven before they got born, made my stomach feel all relaxed and happy, like after having a cup of hot chocolate.

The singing, all the hallalulias and hosannas, and the bell ringing  for the high mass just got me reminded how empty all of Lent was, and now it was like everything woke up and came alive, just like Jesus did.  God sure picked a good time to make the most super-duper miracle of all, ’cause the whole world was just like a big rock got rolled back and rose from the dead.

Happy Easter Everyone.

A Girl and her Cow

One day in the early spring, our cow, Belle, gave birth to a perfect little heifer.  She was mine.  It was my job to train her, feed her, and clean her.  In August, I would show the world just what a capable 10-year-old I was.  This was no ordinary calf, she was a registered Holstein.  She needed a name that would befit her lineage.


This is my niece. She’s growing up on the same farm that I did.

I named my first calf Tiny.  That was a good name for a calf, but not so good for a grown cow, besides there was only one Tiny, and this new little wobbly-legged calf was not her.  This new calf looked a lot like Belle: mostly black with just the perfect amount of white marking across her back, up her feet and legs and under her belly.  Belle never even saw my calf’s father.  That’s because Dr. Friese came over with his little frozen vial, and that’s how Belle got pregnant.  It didn’t take any love or marriage for cows, ’cause cows didn’t have souls.  They were still God’s creatures, that’s for sure, but they never ate apples from that tree in the Garden of Eden, so no rules, and no sins. ‘Course there weren’t any cows in heaven either, so that was the down side of all that freedom.

Dad was really good at picking out names; he picked out all the girls names at my house, except for Mom’s of course.  Any Dodo bird would know that.  Dad even helped me name my doll, Jonesy-Belle, so for sure he would be a good help with this new calf of mine, the only one, besides Belle who was a genuine, registered Holstein.  Me and Dad put our heads together for days, trying to come up with names.  Dad helped Bonita name her calf Black Eyes; that was easy, she was mostly white with a few giant black blotches, and big black circles around her eyes.  Besides that, Dad called Bonita his black-eyed Susan, so Bonita loved calling her calf, Black Eyes.  Bonita was too little for 4-H and Black Eyes was just a regular old Holstein calf, not a registered Holstein, like mine.

One evening, while Dad was milking Belle, he said, “I got an idea, let’s name her after someone in the Vice-President’s family.”  He rested his head against Belle’s belly, and turned just enough to look at me. Continue reading

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.



Ladybird, A Blue Ribbon Heifer

Emblem of the 4H organisation.

Emblem of the 4H organisation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August is 4-H fair month.  I ran into some new friends who have daughters in 4-H and of course that got me ruminating about my experience.

The year I turned ten, in early spring, our cow, Old Belle, gave birth to a perfect little heifer.  She was mine.  It was my job to train her, feed her, and clean her.  In August, I would show the world just what a capable 10 year-old I was.  This was no ordinary calf, she was a registered Holstein.  She needed a name that would befit her lineage.

I named my first calf Tiny.  That was a good name for a calf, but not so good for a grown cow, besides there was only one Tiny, and this new little wobbly legged calf was not her.

My new calf looked a lot like Old Belle: mostly black with the perfect amount of white marking across her back, up her feet and legs and under her belly. There really is such a thing as a perfect look when it comes to Holsteins.  Too much white is bad, no white is bad too.

Old Belle never even saw my calf’s father.  That’s because Dr. Friese came over with his little frozen vial, and that’s how Belle got pregnant.  Dr. Friese came to the door and asked for a tea-cup of hot water.  That’s how I knew a cow was gonna be pregnant pretty soon.  I had to stay in the house, I never got to watch, just like when the pigs got castrated. Continue reading