Aprons, a journey into our pasts–

I recently visited Forks, Washington during their Hickory Shirt Days celebration.  To my delight, the walls of the new Rain Forest Arts Center were adorned with aprons.  Not just a few but lots of aprons.  As I wandered along the walls I realized that aprons provide a journey into our pasts.

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My maternal grandmother always wore an apron.  She used it to gather eggs from the hen-house, lettuce and spinach from the garden, and to protect her Sunday dress while she prepared Sunday dinner.

My paternal grandmother also wore aprons. But, for her making aprons was an art form. She made gingham aprons with fabulous cross stitch designs and she made embroidered aprons with birds, flowers and all manner of kitchen utensils.

My mother also had her collection of utility aprons, but she didn’t live on the farm like Grandma Bochman and she led a much more social life than Grandma Jensen.  Mother’s aprons included aprons made for special occasions.  She had little sheer aprons that were a rectangle of net or organdy with a ribbon tie.  These were often used to serve punch and cake at weddings or Woman’s Club teas.  She also had aprons made from holiday prints. Aprons of reds and greens were always available for anyone who came to help with Christmas dinner.

My favorite apron is a crocheted apron made by my late Aunt.  It is far too pretty to wear.  But it is a wonderful reminder of growing up in the 1950’s.

What memories do aprons conjure up for you?100_2324

 

 

 

 

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Sentence Structure, Observation and Detail

The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtail to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks…..

From the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

 

Lately I find that I analyze what I read in a different way than I used to.  I think that might be because I am doing more writing than I have in the past.  As I read a novel, I find that I am consciously looking for techniques and patterns that will improve my own writings.

A few weeks ago I reread the works of some well-known authors of the past, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck and The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald.  Both of these books forced me to think about sentence structure.  The authors both use complex and compound sentences extensively.    Using a combination of complex and compound sentences mixed with shorter simpler sentences gives each of these pieces a sense of rhythm.    This observation has forced me to look at the sentence structure and the rhythm of my own writings.

In both of these novels, compound and complex sentences are an effective means of providing the reader with descriptive detail.  To write this kind of detail, obviously requires the writer to be acutely aware of his environment and experiences.    It requires accurate observation as well as intimate memory of the details.

As I journal daily I am trying to be more aware of the intimate details of what I see, hear, smell and touch, as well as how the daily experiences make me feel.  I hope that by this increased awareness and attempting to write these experiences in better compound and complex sentences I will improve my writing.

A Side Note:  I was surprised to realize that these stories, (not the piece itself, but the basic story line) especially The Grapes of Wrath, could be applicable in todays economic climate.

My quote for today:

               Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.

–John Steinbeck

 

 

 

The Mackinaw

I remember the first day I met him, only because it was my first day in the office and I didn’t know what was expected of me.  The day I met him however, is very different from the day I noticed him. The day I noticed him came later.  He had just come from Hurricane Ridge where he had been preparing the slopes for the weekend skiers.  He wore a red plaid mackinaw wool coat and his prematurely silver hair was still damp from the mountain’s exposure.

He stood at the reception desk just outside my office so it was easy for me to scrutinize him without his knowledge.   He wiped the moisture from his glasses before the receptionist sent him in. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to work up on the mountain all alone isolated from everyone else.

I grew up in a warmer climate and I never learned to ski.  Knowing that he often spent hours up there grooming slopes and maintaining equipment made him seem a bit mysterious to me.  I could tell that he loved the job, even if he never admitted it.  He was so faithful to it.  It wasn’t unusual for him to slip into the office late in the afternoon,  to pick up payroll or payroll reports, just before we locked the door.  I’d quickly instruct him about deadlines for mailing whatever report was due and he would be on his way–at least in the beginning.

I’m not sure when I realized there was something important happening between us.  I should have been aware sooner than I was.  He’s a very observant sort of guy.  One day he came in to the office and I had my hands wrapped around my coffee cup to keep them warm.  That year at Christmas he gave me gloves.  I’m guess I am a little dense, because it wasn’t until many years later that I realized that was really a very personal gift.   Even the first bottle of perfume didn’t send up my sensors.

Had I noticed him?  You bet I had, but he was nice to everyone.   I figured I was just another bookkeeper to him.  And there’s a bit of an age difference so I didn’t expect him to pay any attention to me.

Then one day he took me out to lunch.  Of course he was wearing that red plaid coat.  I, in my isolated little world, thought of it as a business lunch.  And it wasn’t until several lunches later that I realized –oh, this is more than just a business lunch.

I hadn’t planned to ever marry again.  And for a long time, although I was attracted to him, I saw him more as an escort than anything else.  My job included membership in a number of professional organizations.  That meant there were often social functions to attend.  Social functions can feel pretty awkward if you always have to go alone.  At those times he traded the red wool coat for a sports jacket and he became a great escort.  Not only is he interesting and charming, but in the early days, nearly everyone in town either knew him from his work on the ski lifts or from his construction business. He often knew more of the people at the event than I did.   He is such a social person that I never had to wonder if he was having a good time.  He could and still can start a conversation with anyone, anywhere.

I can’t pinpoint when I realized I wanted more than an escort.  But I have to admit there is nothing like new love.  I will always cherish those early days.  Days when he would show up at the office at noon or at closing time with a couple of sandwiches from a deli or fast food restaurant and we would drive out to Ediz Hook and watch the waves bounce off of the rocks or watch the sea gulls fight for crumbs.  During the colder months he always wore that red plaid coat as we walked along the beach and talked.

There was a time when, in the mornings before work, we would meet for coffee at Birney’s.  In the winter it always made me smile when he came in wearing his red plaid coat.  We’d hold hands across the table while we read the newspaper and the time to go to work always came too soon.

For years winter months brought out that red plaid coat.  Our lives together have grown, but when he retired it was as if that coat retired too.  It seldom comes off the hanger now.  Every time I clean out the coat closet, I think, it takes up a lot of room, but it makes me smile.  And I can’t imagine not seeing it there when I open that closet door.

Three word Wednesday:  Faithful, isolate, scrutinize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things I’ve Discovered

Three words for three word Wednesday:  Amplify. Criticize. Moan

I haven’t deserted you my friends.  I’ve had a problem with my arm that has limited some of my activities; writing was one of them.  I chose to use my writing energy to work on my novel.  I don’t plan to amplify my story of woe, or moan about the injustice of it all.  And I hope you won’t criticize me for my choice.  Now, my discoveries–

I have learned some interesting things these past three months.  One of them I found most interesting.  There seems to be a belief that a story with a woman protagonist is a story of interest only to women.

My novel has a female protagonist.  She is a forensic accountant.  In other words she investigates events such as embezzlement.  The accused is male.  I have been told that this will attract only female readers.  Personally I have more faith in men than that.  I believe that if it is well written, a story of ethical choices shrouded in a bit of mystery, will entertain men as well as women.

The second thing I have discovered is that women, of a certain age at least, are less likely to share their passions. They will tell you about their children’s and grandchildren’s lives, but not what their personal dreams are.  Why is that?

I have also discovered that if you share your passion with some of these women, they will find some way to scorn your dream as unattainable.  In the past I have let these things stifle my progress.  But for today I vow to ignore all of the naysayers and all of the critics.  Instead I plan to enjoy the writing process wherever it takes me.

A Good Weather Day…

One thing in life that you can usually rely on to surprise you, sometimes even shock you, is the weather.

Last year (2012) summer in the Pacific Northwest was gray and dreary, but our autumn weather was lovely.  I remember it well.  In October I was walking several times a week on the Discovery Trail.   I didn’t need an umbrella and I seldom wore a jacket.  In the middle of October the vine maples were still as colorful as a child’s coloring book.  Large leaves were just beginning to descend from branch to ground.  I photographed wild flowers and roses still in bloom.  By the end of October the mushrooms were just starting to appear in patches at the edge of Bagley Creek.  And occasionally a morning fog chilled the air.

In contrast, this year the summer was lovely.   I try to capture the memory of those days to help sustain me now that I know that summer is gone.  For some unknown reason summer left us in a hurry, hasty to shine its warmth on some other patch of the world.  In the Pacific Northwest this year our autumn weather has been dreadful.  Well maybe dreadful is a bit strong, but there have certainly been a lot of very wet days since the first day of fall.  Several mornings I have awaken to the rhythmic drumming of the rain on our skylight, not a simple pitter-patter but a turbulent composition that said wake up and check the drains and close the windows.  The leaves have been blasted to the ground and the rain and winds have already swept them aside.

It should come as no surprise therefore, that I expected Sunday, October 6, 2013, to be more of the same.  But it was as if the weather had decided to surprise us all.  A wet and threatening fog greeted us in the morning, but as the day progressed the sun cleared the fog away.  Although it wasn’t a warm day it was a comfortable day.  The temperatures have dropped and our mornings are cooler now; but on Sunday Avon got to celebrate his 90th birthday with good friends, family and lots of sunshine.

Written for Soup Night and Three Word Wednesday.

The three words from Thom were:  hasty; sustain and dreadful.

Thom posts three word challenges every Wednesday.  Check out Thom’s site and see what others are writing:   http://www.threewordwednesday.com/

 

Happy Birthday Avon–

Avon Miller of Port Angeles will celebrate his 90th birthday this month.  He was born in Port Angeles to Charles and Mary Miller in 1923.  He grew up in the Beaver and Sappho Logging Camps in the west end of Clallam County.  Avon attended Beaver Elementary School and graduated from Quilleyute High School (Forks) in 1941. 

Immediately after graduation he enlisted in the Navy where he served aboard various vessels in the Aleutian Islands and the Pacific.  During World War II he was a signalman and part of Admiral Halsey’s Flag Allowance.  He was aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 and watched the signing of the treaty with Japan.

  After leaving the Navy in 1946 he attended classes at Seattle Pacific College; worked as a merchant marine; worked for Middleton Motor Parts; and built a boat and tried his hand at commercial fishing; before joining his brother, Claude Miller, in Fairbanks, Alaska where they both worked for Benson Montaigne.  This is where he met and married  Geraldine Awe.  They moved back to Port Angeles in 1951.They have two children together, Leslie and Scott.  Avon worked for Aiken Oldsmobile (now Ruddell Motors) until 1955 when he started his own business.

Avon ‘s construction company worked on various projects throughout Washington State including water systems and fish hatcheries;  the road to Hurricane Ridge and the tunnels when that road was built; and various projects for the National Park and Indian Health  Services.

In 1965 Avon and Ted Simpson purchased the ski lift equipment at Hurricane Ridge from Larry and Tom Winters.  Originally they serviced the Sunrise, Bunny, Intermediate and Bowl Slopes.  In 1970 Avon aided in the organization of Olympic Ski Lifts, Inc.  This corporation sold shares to finance improvements, including adding the Pomalift.  He assisted Glen Brown, the contractor, with its installation.  For several years Avon continued as the operations manager for Olympic Ski Lifts, Inc.

In addition to skiing he enjoyed years of hiking in the Olympics and fishing in the Straits.  In 1985 he married Mary Ann Davis and added her children, Vincent and Judy Davis, to the family.  After his retirement from the Construction business in 1991 he and Mary Ann made several trips across the United States visiting with family and friends.

Today he spends most of his time having coffee and conversation with friends; working on projects in his woodworking shop; and writing short stories about growing up in the logging camps at the West End during the 1930’s.

Avon claims four children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Happy Birthday my dearest friend.

 

The Farm

I know I have not posted much lately…more on that later.

I thought I would share with you the short memoir that I wrote and that J T Weaver generously posted on his site last month…here goes.

The Farm

There is a large two-story farmhouse that sits across State Route 50 from the little town of Avon, South Dakota.  Over the years it has been substantially remodeled and although it sits on its original foundation there is little about the house or property to remind me of the farm I remember from the 1950’s. My grandparents lived and farmed at this location for many years.

 “Working from sunrise to sunset” was not a cliché for them it was their way of life, their livelihood.  I was raised in the city so as a child I did not realize how hard they worked.  There were no three-week vacations for them; no nights in fancy hotels, just days of chores repeated over and over.  Electric lights and running water were their luxuries.

Early in the morning, sometimes before the sun was up, and again each evening, Grandpa lead his cows into the barn, lined them up in a row and secured their heads in stanchions.  The cows were content to eat the hay or chew their cud while Grandpa went about the milking. If we entered the barn before the milking started the smell of freshly tossed hay would tickle our noses and make us sneeze.  The cows however never seemed to mind.  They just stood there, swishing their tails back and forth like a row of metronomes, and started their daily chorus with a low rumble increasing volume until they reached their peak.  Then the volume would decrease before their mooing surged again.

Grandpa would grab a bucket and balance himself on his three-legged stool.  Then with hands made strong by daily labor he would manually extract the milk.  After emptying the pail into the separator he would move down the line until all of the cows were milked. Sometimes he let us try.  He would wrap his weathered hands around ours and gently squeeze until the milk flowed freely into the bucket.  When the milking was done Grandpa ran the milk through the separator and filled freshly washed quart jars, readying the milk for the daily customers.

Normally Grandma gathered the eggs, but occasionally she would hand us the big brown basket, the one filled with straw to cradle the eggs, and send us to the hen-house.  There was no harmony in the hen-house.  When we opened the door there was a flurry of squeaking and squawking and of wings beating.  Straw and feathers filled the air.  It was a good thing Mother always went with us because there was sure to be one old hen not willing to relinquish her eggs.  Mother would prod her gently until she flapped her wings in defeat.

Late in the afternoon, when the summer sun still baked the fields, Grandma might hand us the bucket from the counter in the kitchen and send us out to the pump.  Although pipes for City water had been extended under the highway and connected to the house and then to the faucet in the kitchen, my Grandparents still pumped their drinking water from the cistern on their east porch.  We would stand outside and pump and pump.  Then we’d say, “But Grandma it doesn’t work.”

Grandma would say, “Keep pumping.”

And suddenly “Splat,” the first splash of water would hit the pail.  We’d stop pumping and the water would stop running, so we’d pump some more.  When the water started to fill the pail we would pump and squeal with excitement not realizing we needed to stop before the water reached the top.  When the water reached the rim it gushed over the sides and slithered along the wooden porch until it found the openings between the slats.  Then it ran freely on to the ground below.  It always took at least two of us to transfer the pail from the porch back to its spot in the house.  Nothing ever tasted as good as a long cold drink of water drawn from a pail we had filled ourselves.

By the end of the day my Grandparents fell asleep early, worn out by their daily chores.  We, too, fell asleep early, worn out by our daily adventures.  But early the next morning when the light came through the window we crawled out of bed and tiptoed to the window.  We listened for the melody from the birds that lived in the big old tree that sat in the corner of the yard.

It is different now.  The hen-house was dismantled years ago.  The barn too, has been torn down.  There is no longer a faded red porch or water pump on the east side of the house.  Even the tree where birds used to sing has been removed from the yard.  It saddens me when I look at that spot, where once was a farm, an adventurous plot, for today there stands only–a house on a lot.