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 and 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

Celebrations fit for a King: Giving from the Heart

I often wonder why so often families have such a hard time getting together for the holidays.  Somehow all five of Dad’s brothers and his sister got together over the Christmas holidays.  Of course, they did all live within sixty or so miles of each other.  Still, I think it was important to them to get their families together.  Besides that, they all seemed to like each other so much.  So did all the kids.

Grandma loved Christmas.  She sewed and embroidered and crocheted away all fall, just to have something nice for everybody.  She made me pajamas for my doll, Jonsi-Belle, a dresser scarf and lots of embroidered handkerchiefs, and once she gave me a little triangular box that fit right in the corner of my dresser drawer.  My nose dripped all the time, which is probably why she thought I needed hankies, but those things were tough on the nose, especially the way Mom starched everything.  I kept a handful of Kleenex in my pocket instead; those were way softer.  That little corner box was great, though.  For one thing, red was my favorite color. For another thing I had all kinds of  treasures to keep in there:  my rosary and scapula, my key to the box Grandpa Z made for me, some convex and concave lenses, and that rock Dad told me was a petrified potato.  That last one turned out to be Continue reading

Extinction of the Shivaree

A tradition came to an end, after I was grown and had a few Little Kids of my own.  I lived  in the Upper Peninsula, or maybe I was over in The Thumb; I only heard this story, it belongs to the Little Kids.  They were, well, still little girls (and boys).  The tradition is the Shivaree.  To those readers who are unfamiliar with Shivaree it is a surprise party, in the middle of the night, at a newlywed couple’s home.  Neighbors, friends, and relatives get together outside the unsuspecting bride’s and groom’s home, bang pans, blow trumpet and raise a hullabaloo, until the sleepy couple let the revelers into their home.  Great fun, until Aunt Annie and her new husband, Dave put an end to the fun.

When Deanna was a new bride, she and her husband, Mike, lived in an apartment near the city.  That didn’t stop us.  I gave Bonita a leg up unto the balcony and she pulled me up, while I stood on Julie’s thigh; together we pulled Julie, then Johnny up.  The rest of the family and friends hung around below the balcony or took the inside stairs to Deanna’s apartment to bang on the door and walls.  Bonita blew her trumpet, and I banged on the sliding glass door, shouting “Shivaree!  Shivaree!”

Apartment lights popped on all around Deanna’s place until at last, Continue reading

Sucker Fishing

I told you before about my mean Uncle Gene.  He wasn’t always mean.  Sometimes he could almost be my favorite; especially when he goofed around with Uncle Kenny.  If I could only figure out how to read him, and know when he was serious and when he was joking around.  He always played it straight, all serious, never cracking a grin; and his eyes stayed steel cold, so there was no way for sure to tell.  Still, one of my favorite memories is when he took me and my sister Deanna sucker fishing.  I think Bonita was just learning to walk.  We were all out on Grandpa Z’s boat.

Grandpa made his own boat out of wood and paint and lots and lots of resin and beeswax to keep the water out.  Mom said Grandpa built boats even back in the olden days when she was a little girl.  He was really a fireman, but he had lots of extra time on his hands for building and inventing stuff.  That’s ’cause fireman worked and lived at the fire station about half of their time and the other half, firemen stayed home looking for keen stuff to do, ’cause back then men and boys weren’t allowed to do certain things, like clean house, do laundry, cook, or wear shorts or sleeveless shirts in the summertime.  Grandpa did all his making and inventing on days he stayed home from the fire station.

Grandpa built a safety plug in the bottom of the boat that let the water out if any leaked in. Just in case.   All he had to do was Continue reading

Slippery Through the Ice

Dad and his brothers were fine story-tellers.   Uncle Glenn told me how the bunch of them caught Catfish  in the river near their house.   Uncle Gerald, the youngest of the brothers, loved that fish, named it Blue, and taught it tricks.  Uncle Gerald even trained that fish to walk on dry land and roll over and beg like a dog.  Grandma wanted to cook that Catfish up for dinner, but Uncle Gerald cried so hard, she didn’t have the heart to do it.  He kept Blue around in a bucket of river water for a few day, and then one morning the pail was empty:  the fish got so good at walking on dry land, it up and walked back to the river.  Anytime Uncle Glenn told that story, Uncle Gerald would nod in agreement, and one of the six brothers would say, “Yup, that Blue was the smartest fish I ever saw.”  Six sets of blue eyes sparkled like stars and six lips pulled up in the corner in almost the exact, same way.  Aunt Barbara just looked down at her folded hands and shook her head, then the corner of her lip started to twitch up too.  My uncles were darned good story-tellers, and they never let on which parts were true and which were tall tales.

I caught myself a pet fish when I was a little girl.  As near as I can tell, this story is all true.  Still, I was a very little girl, almost before memories had language.  I caught that fish on the one and only time I remember ice-fishing outside a cabin at a lake I barely recall.

Mom bundled me up in woolen snow pants, coat, hat and mittens.  She pushed and prodded to help me with my red rubber boots; I stamped down hard to push the last couple inches of my heel my boot.  In a few short years, I’d be helping Little Kids the same way Mom helped me then, but of course Continue reading