Archive for November, 2008

By Bob Chrisman

Mom, October 1927 (age 12), all rights reserved

Mom (1927), author Bob Chrisman’s mother in October 1927 at age 12, all images (unless otherwise noted) © 2008 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

On November 30, 2008 my mother would have observed the 93rd anniversary of her birth. In her life she witnessed many things. Sometimes we lose ourselves in the muddle and mire of our everyday lives. We rarely step back to see the sweep of history that has unfolded during our lifetimes. Here are some of the things my mother experienced.

Mom, circa 1919, all rights reservedMy mother came into the world in a little rented house in rural northwestern Missouri. Most women didn’t have babies in hospitals. Her family lived in a three-room house heated by a coal stove. They had no indoor plumbing. The outhouse sat out back. The water pump stood in the side yard. They heated water for baths and bathed in a washtub placed next to the stove. In the fall, they dug a hole in the backyard, lined it with hay, and stored vegetables and fruits. They lived off that storehouse during the winter.

Mom, 1944, all rights reservedShe and my father bought and paid for a house in the 1940s, only four rooms, but they owned it and it had indoor plumbing. She kept the refrigerator-freezer packed with food bought at grocers, then markets, then supermarkets, and finally at SUPER marts.

She rode a horse to the one-room school house. She quit school in the 8th grade to work at the local switchboard with her sister, Faye. Her parents needed help. She made sure that both of her children attended high school and college.

The wall-mounted box phones of the 1920s turned into heavy black things, like the one she had for 57 years. She never liked portable phones or cell phones. They belonged in science fiction movies or the Dick Tracy cartoon strip. Not everyone owned a phone. When more people did, they had party lines, not private ones. She had the last party line in St. Joseph.

Her first radio sat in a huge cabinet filled with tubes. Only one person could listen to it through a headset. Radios shrank to portables and then transformed into transistor radios until they virtually disappeared into matchbox-sized squares.

Mom, 1954, all rights reservedShe bought a black-and white TV in 1957 “for the kids.” The colors on the first color television hurt her eyes so she didn’t buy one until the late 1970s.

Music progressed from popular music, played by ear by her youngest sister, to records shared by friends. Records changed from brittle 78 rpm platters played on hand-cranked machines to thin, plastic 45s and LPs played on systems. She listened in high fidelity and then stereo. Records became 8-track tapes, then cassette tapes, and finally compact discs.

She used a wringer washer, which was a great improvement over the washboard and wash tub. She never owned an automatic washing machine. When a wringer broke in the early 1990s she tried to buy a new machine. “Bob, they told me they stopped making those about 20 years ago.” She never bought another washing machine. She discovered the laundry mat.

Mom, mid-1960s, all rights reservedShe line-dried clothes, outside in nice weather and inside in the kitchen during inclement weather. She bought a clothes dryer in 1969 when the amount of laundry generated by my invalid father required quickly dried clothes.

She went from Lou Levin’s “Happy Days Are Here Again” to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” She endured “Scotch and Soda” by the Kingston Trio, a favorite of my sister, to Aretha Franklin screaming “Think,” my favorite. She never stopped loving Bing Crosby and Big Band music.

The first time she saw a car and an airplane, she thought how odd they looked. She never learned to drive. She flew for the first time in the early 1960s. She watched animals go into space, followed by humans, and then Americans who landed and walked on the Moon.

Mom, Christmas 1973, all rights reservedShe lived through the numerous conflicts in which America engaged: World Wars I & II, Korea, and Vietnam. Her life ended with the nation at war in Afghanistan and Iraq (the sequel). She saw enemy nations become friends and then enemies and sometimes friends again.

She didn’t worry about who became president. She survived the administrations of 16 presidents: Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, FDR (three times), Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. She never missed an election. Besides, she couldn’t complain if she hadn’t voted.

Women won the right to vote during her early years, but she never saw the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Despite her lack of equality, she ran the household. She joined other women who ran their households, churches, and school and civic organizations. She knew that women ruled the world. She lived to see women lead nations and corporations and go to Congress.

Mom, early 1980s, all rights reservedShe saw Blacks fight for their rights as citizens and she supported them. She believed that ALL Americans were created equal and should be treated equally by the law. She supported the equal rights of homosexuals. During “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” she wrote letters to her Congressional representatives. “I told them that ho-ma-sex-yalls and lespians should be able to serve their country. If we had more of them in the service, we wouldn’t have all those illegitimate children running around overseas.” An argument I have never heard expressed by anyone else.

She survived the flu epidemic of 1918 that killed millions of Americans. She protected her children from polio during the 1950s. She watched advances in medicine that eliminated so many diseases, yet never cured cancer or AIDS.

momapril2002-200She made it through the Great Depression, the Red Scare, and the anti-war movement. She saw the assassinations of JFK, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy.

Hemlines rose and fell, the same with empires, nations, religious leaders, and the stock market. She outlived her parents, her sisters, her cousins, and some of their children. She experienced a lot of life in those 92, going on 93, years.

Take some time and reflect on your life. What have you seen change in your lifetime? For 10 minutes, go.

Mom, 1999, taken by the author's friend, photographer Sandra McGuire, photo © 1999-2008 by Sandra McGuire, all rights reserved

Mom (1999), taken by the author’s friend, Sandra McGuire,
photo © 1999-2008 by Sandra McGuire. All rights reserved.

Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother and his childhood. The first piece he published on red Ravine, Hands, talked about his mother’s final days and her death.

His other red Ravine posts include Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, and The Law Of Threes.

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MoonRise Near The Bridge, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

MoonRise Near The I-35 Bridge, July Thunder Moon masquerading as November’s Frost Moon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Frost Moon haiku

hawk moon, beaver moon
freezing river maker moon
red fire in the heart

November Frost Moon
never saw the camera
appears in July

Note:  Though I closely watched the Frost moon rise and fall throughout the month of November, she eluded my Canon. I never got a good shot of the November moon. Looking back through my archives, I decided to post these shots from the July Thunder Moon.

It was a beautiful summer night. I was walking across the 10th Street Bridge in Minneapolis with a couple of friends. We stood across from the I-35 bridge (still under construction) at the exact point where the middle was about to meet. When we turned around to walk back, the sun was setting; the Thunder Moon was rising in the East.

Many of the names for the November moon reference flowing rivers about to freeze over from the approaching cold. The Mississippi was warm on this July night, another winter yet to come. I am nearing the end of a year of posting these Moonwriting practices. One more — the December Solstice Moon is just around the corner.

10th Street Bridge Moonrise, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Moon Curve, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved

10th Street Bridge Moonrise, Moon Curve, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, November 29h, 2008

-related to posts: PRACTICE – September Harvest Moon – 15 min, Against The Grain (August Moon), The Many Moons Of July (Digging Deeper), winter haiku trilogy, PRACTICE – Wolf Moon – 10min haiku (one-a-day)

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Two cottonwoods, old majestic trees and geese in Albuquerque’s north valley, Thanksgiving Day afternoon, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

it rained all the day
from morning to afternoon
then the sun came out

-related to post: haiku (one-a-day)

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turkey love, two heritage tom turkeys in perfect silhouette in the Rio Grande Valley, NM, November 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

♥♥♥♥                                         ♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥                               ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥                     ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥           ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

For the ones we love and the ones who love us.

For this moment, and hope for the future.

For inspiration, practice, our mentors.

For our health and our work.

For beautiful turkeys.

For one another.

For all of you.


QM and yb

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My mother-in-law made this…

Happy Thanksgiving, handmade card from Celia, Thanksgiving
2009, image © 2008 by Celia. All rights reserved.


                                                         …which made me think of this…

Hand Turkey, remembering how we used to draw turkeys when we were kids, image © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

…which kind of looks like this…(although not really)…

Gray Tom, one of tom turkeys counting his blessings before Thanksgiving, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

                                            …and which looks nothing like this!

Black Tom, glad to be the clever turkey he is, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Will you be eating

             one of these handsome guys

                                   (well, not exactly one of them)

                                                                  this Thanksgiving??

*The Bald Eagle is the symbol of the United States, yet one person believed that the Turkey would have been a more respectable bird to represent our nation.

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I’ve been preoccupied the last few weeks. By the time my head hits the flannel sheets, I am out like a light. It’s near Thanksgiving, the time of year when I should be giving thanks. Yet it seems like there is so much wrong with the world. Bad things happening to good people. Why?

I’m thinking about the flannel blankets we had growing up, how Mom used to swaddle my two younger brothers in rectangles of blue flannel. It wasn’t plain blue though, there were little pictures of pacifiers or teddy bears or rainbows on those blankets. Think of the word swaddle, swaddling babes.

I recently ran into a letter I had written my family back in 1968. Or was it 1969? I was with 3 of my siblings in South Carolina visiting my step-dad and his wife. I must have been 13 or 14, a brooding teenager. Yet the letter was so tender.

I described a typical day in the sweltering Southern summer, then talked about how much I missed my two younger brothers, only babies at the time. I was entering junior high when they were born. I felt very nurturing toward them and the love I felt was obvious in the letter. I really missed my new family life in Pennsylvania.

Flannel — it reminds me of how quickly things can change. From summer cotton, to winter flannels. The jeans I used to love with the flannel lining. Warm, soft to the touch, against dry winter skin.

Last night, we were watching a documentary on Ernest Thompson Seton, a New Mexico naturalist who waged war on wolves in New Mexico in the late 1800’s. The head of the wolf pack and King of the Currumpaw, Lobo, was too smart for him and evaded his poison and steel traps. Finally, in desperation, Seton shot and killed Blanca, Lobo’s life mate, in order to catch Lobo. Liz and I cried.

Later, Seton would have a change of heart and let Lobo go. But it was too late. Lobo died of a broken heart. It broke Seton’s heart, too, and from that moment on, he never hunted another wolf. He went on to write Lobo’s story in the book, Wild Animals I Have Known, spearheaded the environmental movement, and helped found the Boy Scouts.

At the rolling credits, eyes red, peering over the top of the down comforter, Liz asked if I was a romantic. I smiled and nodded. It was a rhetorical question. I knew she knew the truth.

“What about you?” I asked. “Are you a romantic?” “Hmmm, sometimes,” she said, taking another bite of her sub. I smiled. “Yeah, you’re half and half.” She laughed. By the time my head hit the flannel sheets, I was already dreaming.

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – FLANNEL SHEETS

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Fresh flannel sheets on the bed last night, I closed the top to my computer and crawled in with ice cube feet and the sheets were like warm layers of cotton. Sometimes when my feet are cold I’ll take them and rub them on Jim’s legs, try to insert little feet between shins or thighs the way I used to with Mom whenever I had leg aches.

Leg aches plagued me more than other ailments as a child, maybe lack of great nutrition—I liked candy necklaces and sugar straws—although I think it was hereditary. Mom’s parents took her to the healing waters of Ojo Caliente and soaked her legs in the pools to drive away the demons.

We sleep with a set of flannel sheets, a blue herringbone blanket made for a double bed not queen (Jim always pulls it too far over, or I do), a quilt Jim’s mom made him in 1981, has a simple rising sun design and a sewn inscripton, Happy Birthday Jim, Love Mom. He loves that quilt. Then a bed cover I got at Linens-n-Things, which Patty C. calls “Sheets-n-Shit.” They’re going out of business.

I like down comforters, Jim dies of heatstroke in them. His mom gave us one for Christmas long ago with a white eyelet cover, pretty and delicate, and when it finally died and the feathers aggregated in thick clumps in the corners, we let it go with one of our annual spring cleaning purges.

I remember most the bedding at Grandma’s house, layers of homemade quilted blankets and bright afghans. There was never rhyme nor reason to her colors. I have an old blanket of hers now with angled edges that Mom sewed where it had ripped and gave to me. Pink checkerboard, lime green, bright orange and red. I see two patches of patterned cloth I recognize from the simple dresses Grandma wore in the mornings while frying bacon, potatoes, and eggs. Each section held with thread in the center, the ends popping up like errant hairs on a chin. I love that blanket, I lie on the couch and cover myself with it whenever we watch movies. Em always gravitates to me during those times and I spoon her the way Mom spooned me, tiny legs tucked into big.

But the thing I remember most about Grandma’s bedding is how it held me down, the weight of it all, pressing me into my dreams. How later on whenever I got X-rays at Dr. Thurman’s office and they placed that iron-like blanket over my small body it would remind me of reams of color, patches of Grandma’s dresses and crocheted yarn, weighing down on me, not like a burden but a release, allowing sleep, finally, to come.

-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – FLANNEL SHEETS

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