Everyone Works Hard

I have recently seen a post that goes its rounds about how hard teachers work. Here is the post:

“Every school in America has teachers working for free on a daily basis. Go by any school parking lot early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or even at night or on weekends, and you will see them. No overtime, no bonuses or promotions on the line- just doing it for their students! Teachers are using their free time, and often investing their own money, for children’s literacy, prosperity and future. Repost if you are a teacher, love a teacher, or appreciate a teacher.”

I am not trying to bash teachers, but I also do not believe their job is any more important than anyone else’s. I also do not think their job is any less than anyone else’s. They play a vital role in our communities, but then so does the mailman.

I will use my own husband as an example. My husband is a salaried worker in the construction field. He has put in 80 hours this week and will work tomorrow. He is out of town working and will not be home until tomorrow night. He will get home around 5-6 pm. He is dead tired. He will be back up on Monday morning at 3:15 am and will leave by 4 am so he can be on the job by 7 am. (An almost 3 hour drive) He’s been working Mondays from 7 am- 8 pm (and this means after he got up at 3:15 and drove almost 3 hours prior to working) and from Tues-Fri from 6 am to 8 pm every night. He is only being paid for 40 hours (expected to work 48).

He is making sure a building gets built properly so no one will perish in it because of faulty workmanship. He oversees the installation of electrical, HVAC, framers, plumbers, roofers, masons, painters, drywallers, pavers, graders, and landscapers. He must know how to read and fix blueprints, know everyone’s jobs and whether they are doing their job right.

He must deal with the city and feds in the form of permits, inspectors, and OSHA. He is responsible for every person working on his job site and their job performance.

He is also held accountable for anything that might go wrong and must make sure it gets fixed. His role is crucial for the well-being of those who are working in the building (their safety) and for those who will use the building he is erecting.

He also sometimes takes people to lunch on his own dime. He sometimes takes in coffee and donuts.  If a group of painters are staying late to get some work done, he will buy them pizza out of his own pocket.These are expenses he does not get reimbursed for. These are expenses that can run into the hundreds of dollars per year that he pays out-of-pocket.

He works 255 days per year (280 if you add all the extra Saturdays). Teachers work an average of 200 days per year (225 if you count Saturdays). He does not get summers off, nor does he get a Christmas or Spring Break. He does not get overtime or promotions (he is at the top in his field where he wants to be, just like a teacher). I have seen tenured teachers whose pay is equal to or even much higher than his pay, even within our county. He does not have a guaranteed pension plan through the state (He has Social Security).

He also does not have to continue to go to school every so many years (thankfully! And I don’t think teachers should have to either!), though he has taken many classes over the years from the Builders Exchange in order to have accreditation in many areas of work. He has also taken CPR classes.
His work is mental and physical. He keeps a log book, takes pictures, and often catches up with paperwork in the evenings after work.

If you go by his job early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or late in the evening, chances are you will see him there- working for free so that he can not only get a building done on a timeline, but so that others can also work.  He is contributing to the economy and to the prosperity and future of others.

My point being teachers may work hard and put in long hours, but so do many other people in other fields of importance. I am not trying to denigrate teachers, but most of them do not work that hard (physically), though I admit their job can be emotionally hard. I just think it is wrong to put some people in society up on a pedestal and think they are more valuable than others because of their job.

My husband’s work is not more valuable than a teacher’s, but it is also not less valuable than a teacher’s. Everyone who works hard deserves to be recognized for what they do. If one works in fast food, a warehouse, a factory, an office, at a school, in construction, in a hospital, a ditch, or a nursing home: YOUR JOB IS IMPORTANT. Our society could not work without your contribution. ALL jobs are important!!!! There are not tiers of importance in this country. Yes, some people get paid way more money (CEO’s, Actors, Sports figures) than what they are worth, but it is the Capitalistic way our country operates. I have no problem with this since these people are paid from money earned by the companies that hire them. What I have a problem with is when some people try to make one job sound more important than anyone else’s and worth more in (taxpayer) money than others. As I said, all are important- including teachers.

I can appreciate all the hours and work load a teacher puts into the students under their care, but I can also appreciate the 10 miles per day that my mailman must walk, whether in the rain, snow, sleet, or high heat of the day, while carrying a heavy pack on his shoulder. And mailmen do this six days most weeks. Mailmen deliver important things and are an important necessity.

Can we all agree that anyone who works, whether it is someone who cashes us out at the local burger joint, or the mailman who delivers our mail, or the teachers at the local schools (and homeschool moms!), or soldiers, that they all deserve our kudos for a job well-done and for keeping our lives running smoothly.  I appreciate all hard-working people and find all of you deserving of a job well-done.

Thank you for letting me rant. My rant is over. 🙂

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Grease, Wax, and Ammonia

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Dad’s console was similar in style to this one, though his was much nicer.

When dad first learned we were getting our apartment he went out and bought some new furniture. I am not positive where he went, though I believe it was Glick’s, over across from Town & Country Shopping Center. He bought a couch, easy chair, two end tables, a Sharp (brand name) color tv with stand, and a kitchen table with four chairs. The only piece of furniture he owned was a console radio/record player that he had hauled to Florida and back.

We still had a few dishes, some silverware, a few pots and pans,  mine and Kim’s bunk beds, and some other small items. These were all things that had fit in the bed of dad’s pick up truck when we had gone to Florida in June 1968.

Once settled in the apartment, we figured out real quick other things we needed, things such as a dish drainer, a plunger for the toilet, waste baskets, a metal kitchen cart with wheels, a toaster and a griddle. Dad would eventually buy a deep fryer, a vacuum cleaner, some new dishes, and all the odd and end things people need such as brooms, mops, and buckets.

To this day, I cannot remember where our dressers came from. I can’t remember if they were ones we’d owned, or ones dad bought used. I know they were not new. Mine was long with three drawers, and Kim’s was tall with four drawers. We had bunk beds with the wagon wheel design on the ends, but we did not put them together as a bunk, but set them on opposite walls from one another in our ‘own’ space. Kim and I were very careful to lay out which side of the room belonged to each of us!

The kitchen was a galley-like space, with a window at the end, and an exhaust fan built in the wall that opened directly outdoors. A large, white porcelain farmhouse sink near the window, some counter top space, a stove, and a refrigerator with the freezer built into the refrigerator section, so that when you opened the door to get your milk, you opened a small metal door on top to reveal the freezer section. And of course, it was not frost-free!

It seemed I was always having to defrost that thing! The compartment was not very large to begin with. We would pack it full of frozen goods, but the ice would grow thick all around so there would be less space for food. Dad would get mad and hack at the ice if there was not enough space, and sometimes he would defrost it before we went shopping. Most often than not, I would defrost it myself, Kim helping occasionally as we worked together, one picking, another pounding. Once in awhile I’d come home and Kim would be in there pounding ice to eat (yes, we both did this, being careful not to get any metal pieces off the sides), or she’d be chipping away to clear it out. Kim and I both wanted to make sure there was enough room for the foods we liked to buy when we went with dad to the store.

Dad always took a hammer and a screw driver and chopped ice off in chunks. The screw driver was put under the ice as close to the edge as possible, then the hammer was used to beat on the screw driver to wedge under the ice and break some loose. I became rather adept at chiseling off the ice and getting it all off in a timely manner. It was also a job I hated.

The yellow kitchen cart dad bought was put in the corner opposite the sink. The toaster went on top, and we had other food items and kitchen tools on the shelves. An old wooden school desk was against the wall opposite the stove, and on this is where dad kept the griddle. It was a full sized griddle and dad used it to fry hamburgers, bacon and pancakes, though mainly hamburgers and bacon. The bad thing is the griddle was next to the wall, with maybe an inch or less of space between the wall and the griddle. None of us thought to protect the wall, so grease would splatter up and cake the wall behind the griddle. Once in awhile I would take the spatula and try to scrape grease from off the wall, but a golden hue became permanent above the griddle. In retrospect, we should have taped foil on that wall, or bought a large cookie tin to keep behind the griddle to catch the grease, but we did not. I bet till they tore that building down that they could never get the grease completely off that wall, or get it completely covered with paint.

Kim and I just did not know to do these things properly. We were just nine and ten when we moved in, and dad was clueless.

The living room furniture dad bought was a floral pattern with a shimmery grayish green background. The flowers themselves were an iridescent goldish-green with some other muted colors such as pale yellow and light peach interspersed throughout. Not exactly what I would have chosen, but dad did not take us with him to choose furniture. Instead, he chose what he liked, and he was proud of what he had bought. The couch and chair were a matched set, and the end tables were just simple wood stands with a lamp on the one in the far corner near the window where dad would sit to read the newspaper.

As soon as you walked in the door dad’s console sat flush with the wall. It was a really nice console of a walnut finish, with reddish-orange cloth panels over the speakers. Dad loved to turn on the radio to an easy-listening station while he read the Journal or the Dispatch. We also kept our old standard black telephone on one end of the console, the phone books under the phone for easy access.

I was supposed to clean the house, and Kim and I were both supposed to keep things cleaned up, but we had never been taught how to clean properly. In fact, no one had ever taught us how to do much of anything. So we hoofed it the best we could, waiting till things got pretty well out of control, or until dad would yell at us to clean the house. We really never tossed our clothes about, except in our bedroom, but we also did not keep the dishes up as we should have. Or cleaned off the tables. Or picked up our books from school. In other words, the house could become quite dirty. And I am being nice about it.

It’s a wonder our house stayed as clean as it did because we really were green at keeping house. We got better as we got older, though mine and Kim’s bedroom was almost always trashed. I used to get mad because I did not have my own room as I would have kept it clean. It would not be until we moved to Pataskala in December of 1972 that dad saw that I really did keep my room clean!

Dad would decide to clean. He would get us organized to pick up and sweep, then he’d mop and wax. The floors were 12″ tiles of a brownish hue, which he thought needed waxed occasionally. About twice a year he’d decide the wax needed to be stripped off the tiles and he would haul all the kitchen and living room furniture out into the hallway leaving a small path for people to walk through. The couch would go under the stairs and against the wall where our door was. Out would go the tv on its stand, and the chair next. Then the end tables, the lamp and console. The kitchen table would also go out with the chairs piled on top.

Dad would keep the door wide open and beginning in the kitchen, he’d pour straight ammonia on the floors in small amounts and begin to scrape. Everyone in the building knew what he was doing as you could smell the ammonia everywhere. He’s spend the afternoon stripping, then mop and re-wax, before hauling all the furniture back inside where it belonged.

I can remember a few times when the majority of the furniture spent the night in the hallway as dad would not get done in time. The next day he would be back at it, and the house would be put to rights. The neighbors would sigh in relief as the hallway was finally opened back up and the smell was gone. At least for a few months until he got the itch to strip wax again.

Whether the house was messy or not; regardless of that awful grease spot on the kitchen wall that I tried in vain to clean; no matter how rough and tumble life could be at times, these were the best years of my growing up and I would not trade them for the world. Dad loved us, grandma was a phone call away, and Kim and I learned to do whatever needed to be done, which made us resourceful. I look back with happy thoughts and laugh at the silly times, remember the happy times, and give thanks that I had such a great life and family.

The Best Baby Sitter

Mrs. Harvey, holding my brother, Roddy, June 1963, outside our apartment.

Mrs. Harvey, holding my brother, Roddy, June 1963, outside our apartment.

For three weeks in September of 1969, Dad would to take us from our grandparent’s house in Gahanna and drive us to the Manor to drop us off at Mrs. Harvey’s. We had started school at Broadliegh Elementary and were waiting on the apartment right beside Mrs. Harvey to be vacated. We would move in on October 1, so for three weeks dad had to get us to the Manor for school.

Mrs. Harvey’s given name was  Marie, but we would never have thought to have called her by her given name. It was unthinkable. We either referred to her as Mrs. Harvey or just Harvey, which is what Alice mainly called her. This was not meant as disrespect, but as a nickname, but Kim and I almost always called her Mrs. Harvey out of respect. Since Alice was her contemporary and friend, she had this privilege, but since we had never been offered to call her Marie, Mrs. Harvey it was for us, and would be until she died.

Scotty lived right upstairs in apartment 6, and Mrs. Harvey was his babysitter, too.  We attended school together and hung out a lot. Before long, his family moved across the hall from apartment 6 to apartment four, which was directly above ours. We would be in and out of their apartment and Mrs. Harvey’s for the duration of time that they lived in our building.

Mrs. Harvey was no-nonsense, though she was fair. She had a son, Denny, who lived at home, though he was five years older than I was. He could not be bothered with Kim and I, and just thought we were pests. We bothered him occasionally, as we would get bored, but for the most part, he ignored us.

Mrs. Harvey also had Gail, who was married, her husband was in Vietnam; and two other sons, Don and Dick. They came often to see their mom; we had known all of them since we were youngsters. I always enjoyed the time I spent with their family as they were like an extension of my own.

My dad paid Mrs. Harvey to watch us, which included her making breakfast for us in the mornings before school. Mrs. Harvey often made a large pan of oatmeal, along with toast made in the oven. She would butter one side of the bread and put it in the oven to brown. It would be crispy brown on top and moist underneath. She usually made the toast with cinnamon and sugar. Since she babysat Scotty and Angie, she made enough for all of us to eat. It was cheap, easy, and nutritious. At home, Kim and I sometimes made toast for ourselves in the same manner, as we loved it.

Almost every morning Mrs. Harvey would go out into the shared hallway and sweep the floors. If there was paper or other debris, she would sweep them up in a dust pan, but if it was just dirt or bugs, then she would sweep them all out the door into the back stoop. She often made Kim and I help clean up, and to be honest, some of it was our mess.

In May and June, when the June bugs were active, every morning there would be thousands of them dead on the floor of the hallways in the building. All three floors would have bugs, with the greatest concentration of them on the basement floor where we lived. Mrs. Harvey, broom in hand, would be out there every morning sweeping all those offensive bugs out the back door. Because it was so warm, the doors would often be left open at night, the hallways lit up, and so the bugs were drawn inside by the lure of the lights. Even with the doors closed, some of the bugs found their way inside.

It would be impossible to walk without stepping on them, the crunch of their shells breaking underfoot. Mrs. Harvey, sporting a dress, sometimes with an apron or sweater, would go out into the hall, and beginning under the stairs, she would begin to rhythmically sweep her broom, bringing all those bugs into a large pile that continued to grow. She would make a large sweep and push as many as she could towards the door, then make another wide sweep, gathering more, moving them ever closer to the outside. We would avoid going out the back door as there would often be piles of them, though Mrs. Harvey would most often pour them in bags and haul them outside to the trash.

Scotty thought it great fun to terrorize Kim and I by picking up June bugs and chasing us with them. We would scream bloody murder, head for Mrs. Harvey’s house, where he knew better than to come in with bugs in hand. To this day, I am terrified of June bugs and do not want them on me.

Mrs. Harvey was a woman of few words, at least with us kids. And though she would end up watching us through 1969 and into 1970, I don’t think I ever really knew her as I had never sat down and had a real conversation with her one on one. This was in a time when most people thought kids should be seen and not heard. She was quiet and kind; a Christian woman.

Dad had begun to drink a lot from the divorce and the separation of us kids. He would often go over to the Coachman Lounge on E. Main St., then come home drunk. Alice or Mrs. Harvey would see dad come in, and they would hustle Kim and I off on some errand that they would come up with: run upstairs to Alice’s apartment and get something for her, or Mrs. Harvey needed us to run to the store for bread, or we’d be sent out to find Angie and make sure she was okay. It didn’t matter the errand, as long as they could get us out long enough to get dad into bed. When we came back inside, we’d be told our dad was asleep as he was so very tired, so we were not to disturb him. We were either ushered out to play, or headed off to get ourselves ready for bed.

We were completely shielded from dad’s drinking. Between Mrs. Harvey and Alice, Kim and I never saw our dad drunk, never knew he drank regularly, and never had to grow up in a drunken home. I am eternally grateful to both of these ladies for keeping Kim and I from the effects of this dysfunction. Even though our dad was a ‘happy’ drunk (I’ve been told dad was never angry or mad, but always goofy and happy), I am so glad we never had to deal with seeing him that way. My dad would completely stop drinking in 1976, two years after I’d left home. I knew he sometimes had a drink, I just never knew he’d get really plastered. I was in my 20’s before I found out how much he had drank, and how it had been hidden from us.

There were times when Kim and I didn’t listen, we’d sass back, and Mrs. Harvey would get strict with us. We sometimes resented this, but kids often resent it when adults tell them what to do. I know she was just trying to make sure we did what we were supposed to. Kim and I could be on the wild side and she was making sure we didn’t disrespect her.

Sometime in the spring of 1971, Mrs. Harvey would move over to Napoleon Ave. near the Kahiki, and I would not see her much after she moved. Alice, Scott, and Angie soon followed, as Alice needed a babysitter for Angie. Kim and I would be left on our own, with little adult supervision once they moved out of our apartment building. It was odd not having either there, as we had been as freely in and out of their homes as we had been in ours. It seemed empty with them gone, though Kim and I also liked the freedom it gave us of not having adults watching over us all the time. But we missed them living close by.

Dad and Alice got married in May 1974, and we moved into her townhouse. I walked down to see Mrs. Harvey a couple of times that summer when I would be walking that way, either by myself, or with Alice. But most of the time I was having too much fun hanging out with my friends.

In January 1975, pregnant for my son, Mrs. Harvey hosted a baby shower for me. I am sure Alice had asked her to do this, but it was still very nice of Mrs. Harvey to host this. I have a few pictures of those who came, and I am so very grateful for the gift of this party. It was another extension of her kindness.

In many ways, Kim and I were like two little orphan kids,  but we had many adults whom God put into our lives to help us. I am forever grateful for having Mrs. Harvey in my life. Without her, we’d have been much worse off. Between Mrs. Harvey and Alice, we were not left alone to raise ourselves more than what we ended up doing. They gave us some guidance, protection, and security in a life that had been turned upside down by divorce and division.

The Only Planned Child

Carrie, sitting with Rona on grandpa's front porch in 1982.

Carrie, sitting with Rona on grandpa’s front porch, July 4th, 1982.

I had been working in a factory, long 10 1/2 hour, hot, sweaty days, and they were miserable for me, but in all this, I felt the twinges of wanting another child. Timmy was over two years old and I felt the need to have another baby in my arms.

Both me and my then husband were working at the factory and we both thought another child sounded like a good idea. I have no idea why we thought this, since we were pretty broke, even with the both of us working,  but my ‘mommy’ gene had kicked in and I knew I was ready to have another child.

I’d been on birth control pills, had read it could be hard to get pregnant when you’d been on them for awhile, and so when I went off of them in June, my then husband and I thought it would take awhile for me to get pregnant.

Wrong! I got pregnant that same month! I was excited and also worried as I’d just gone off the pills in the same month, and this was a no-no. But all seemed fine. The throwing up at all times of the day, the queasy feeling when I first rolled out of bed in the morning, and the way some foods would make me feel sick by just looking at them, these were all confirmations, that yes, I was expecting again!

My planned pregnancy happened almost as soon as I wished for it, almost as though I’d been granted my wish even before I knew what I really wanted. I was excited, scared, and glowing, as only one who is pregnant can glow.

I wanted a girl, and felt in my heart that it was a girl. I would have been disappointed had she been a boy, or so I say, but I know that once I looked into that  sweet face, whether girl or boy, I would have been enamored. That it would not have mattered, but I really wanted a girl.

I also knew I would name her Carolyn after my grandma. My then husband wanted to name her ‘Jill’, but no, she was going to be Carolyn. Someone had earlier in the year called me ‘Sunshine’ as they said I was always happy, and being pregnant made me happy, so if I had a girl, why not name her ‘Carolyn Sunshine’ as having her had made me happy. My husband was not amused. He was not having a child with the moniker of ‘Sunshine’.  I argued, but to no avail, and so our ‘Carolyn Sunshine’ became ‘Carolyn Christine’, for which she is eternally grateful to her father for standing his ground!

Carrie was born on a warm March afternoon. I had what was then called ‘Rooming In’ where the hospital allowed moms to keep their babies with them most of the day and night (an issue for an other post!), and was so happy with it as I had been denied this with her brother.

Carrie was brought to me in a bassinet, the kind the hospitals have that look to be made of acrylic and are see through. Carrie was wide awake and alert when brought to my room, and as soon as the nurse rolled her in and around by my bed I said something about her being awake, and Carrie looked at me and continued to follow me wherever I walked or moved. When I commented on how she was following my movements, the nurse poo-pooed it as nonsense, telling me that all newborns are pretty much blind and could only see shadows.

I knew better. Carrie would follow me with her eyes no matter where I walked, so I knew she could see me. I finally went over and picked her up and cuddled her, looking deeply into her eyes. I was in love.

Timmy came down with chicken pox the same day Carrie was born, and of course, she came down with chicken pox when she was 10 days old. She had a very mild version, no fever,  just a few spots, maybe 15, and she has had lifetime immunity. I did not have the money to buy film or bulbs as I so wanted to take her picture! It would have been a cute reminder.

Carrie was so different from Timmy in so many ways, not just because of gender. From the beginning, we called her Care Bare, and it eventually evolved into Care Bear, which was way before the actual stuffed toys came out. By age 2, we would also call her Grizzly Bear or just Grizz Bear, as she would go down for a nap and wake up grumpier than she had been when she had gone to sleep! Just like a grizzly bear waking up from hibernation.

Carrie had her own vocabulary, and I cannot remember all of the words she used to say. I wish I had written them all down. A wash rag was a ‘drag’, her family was her ‘flammy’, toothpaste was ‘pisstaste’, and a Cabbage Patch doll was a ‘Patch the Patch’. I would tell her to go get her brother and I would hear her calling, ‘Brother! Mommy wants you” She would call him ‘brother’ all the time, at least until she was 4-5 years old.

Like I said, she had other funny words, but with the fading of time, I cannot remember the others, and so I urge all parents to write things down as you will forget! You don’t think you will, but you will.

Carrie’s hair was short and curly when she was young. Because I was so broke, she often wore her brother’s old hand-me-downs; often we would hear, “What a cute boy,” and I would have to correct them. As she grew older, her hair grew long and wavy, a haven of rats and snarls which I was forever trying to get out of her hair.

Carrie loved to follow her brother around, getting into the same things he did, and not thinking about what she was doing, but overall, she was such a good child and rarely got into things she should not have gotten into.

At the babysitter’s, she would often go with them to the grandma’s house, and the grandma called her ‘Catfish’. I have no idea why the woman called her this, but Carrie would answer to it. It was just a nickname.

Cheese was not safe in our house as Carrie would get into it and eat it all up. I used to have to hide the cheese so I would have it for when I needed it. One of her favorite meals was homemade mac and cheese.

One year for Christmas, Carrie got a Ronald McDonald doll and she actually screamed and jumped when she opened it up. We all laughed, as we did not know it was so important for her to get one, even though she had asked for one.

I used to haul Carrie all over the place with her on my back. I would bend down on my knees and she would climb up, hanging on to my neck. I used to walk everywhere with her this way, as it evened out the weight. On Friday nights, during the 1980/81 winter, Timmy would go spend the night with his dad (we were separated) and I would bundle Carrie up, put her on my back, wrap a blanket around her, and walk the mile to a friend’s house in the dark. We would get to my friend’s house around 7 pm, then walk back home around 9 pm. This saved me gas, gave me exercise, and Carrie loved the walk to and from in the snow. She was almost 3.

In summers, I would walk down Black’s Rd. and pick black raspberries. I would divide them up, giving some to my then father-in-law, and Carrie would wolf down the rest, her mouth a purplish-red, her fingers stained, with lines of juice that would travel down her hands onto her arms. She loved those berries and never seemed to have enough or tire of them.

I have so many memories, but Carrie eventually grew up, had her family, and now, closing in on 40, she is leading a happy and satisfied life. I am proud of her and love her, and happy with how she has turned out. She was 37 years old the 29th of March. And I hope she has many more 29th’s of March

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The Cabin In The Woods

Kim, Roddy and I outside the Cassill cabin, November, 2009

Outside the cabin at dusk, with Kim, Roddy, and I, November 2009.

When my grandpa, John Wayne Freeborn, passed away in May 1969, my sister Kim and I were enamored of the old cabin that sat on property where my grandpa was buried. This old cabin was where my great grandma Nelson (John’s mom) was born and raised, along with her four sisters. In 1969, we’d been told that the old homestead was still used as a summer cabin by some of the sisters.

We had walked about an eighth of a mile from the cemetery, on a dirt lane that ran across a meadow, and down the hill between the trees to get to the cabin that sat nestled and hidden in a hollow. There was a small front porch, the wood rickety and old, that led to a doorway that entered into a kitchen. An old white enamel sink sat on an old wooden base against the far wall, with an old wood stove to the side. A wood table, its white paint faded and chipped, a galvanized bucket that had seen better days, and other items were in the kitchen.

The cabin had five rooms, which was a lot for a log cabin that had been built in the 1800’s, if not before. I am sure it had begun with one room, and then additional rooms had been added. There was the kitchen, a small living room, a small bedroom, the stairs going up backside of the fireplace, and two bedrooms upstairs. We were not allowed upstairs as skin sheddings from copperhead snakes had been found.

The cabin was small, compact, and cute.

The living room boasted a brick fireplace, the only heat source besides the wood stove. An old green chair sat near the fireplace, a doll propped upon it as though waiting for someone to play with it. My sister Kim reached out for it, but my dad pulled her arm back and shook his head no, telling us not to touch anything as nothing belonged to us. It was hard for us not to want to touch things as there was the doll, books, and other items of interest sitting around as though someone still lived there. And we could see a bed made up through the bedroom door.

We never forgot that cabin, and sometimes would speak of it and wonder if we’d ever get to see it again. In May, 1979, I took my two kids and headed down to Hamden, Ohio to find my grandfather’s grave. I drove all over Hamden, but came up empty. I stopped at a gas station (now gone) and asked the clerk if he knew where the Cassill Cemetery was. No, he said, but there is an old man (he told me his name, but I have forgotten it these many years) who lives down on the next street, turn left, and his house is the big white house on the NW corner.

I drove over to this man’s house and knocked on the door. A big, tall, robust man who looked to be in his 80’s, came to the door. I introduced myself and told him I’d been sent to him as I was looking for my family’s cemetery. When I asked him if he remembered the Cassill’s, he laughed and said, yes, he remembered the Cassill sisters quite well. He also told me how to get to the cemetery, which I would never have found on my own.

He told me, go back north on 93, turn at St Rte 683 at the Marathon, go down past Lake Rupert, and the first road to the right, turn. You will see a small stream with a lane to the right, stop there. If the gate is closed, you have to walk. If it is open, you can drive in and up to the cemetery, which sits about 1/8 of a mile or so down the lane in the woods.

As I was on my way down St Rte 683, I rounded a corner, and there on the a small hill to my left, I recognized my aunt Turah’s house. I had not seen that house since 1969, but I knew it when I saw it. I pulled in the drive and got out of the car, telling my kids to stay put. The house was empty, a for sale sign on the lawn, flowers growing everywhere. I walked up and looked in the window and it looked just as I had remembered as a child, the rounded doorway leading from the living room to the kitchen. The ‘hill’ my dad used to roll down with Kim and I looked puny, and not at all as I’d remembered it to be.

It is amazing how much one can remember from their childhood, and how accurate those memories can be, and then how distorted they can become.

Back on the road, I found the lane, and of course, it was gated. The kids and I got out and began to trek through the watery spots (it had rained the day before), the weeds beginning to grow up, and the trees and bushes that lined each side of the lane reaching out for us. We walked and walked, me carrying Carrie on my back, up a hill, then down, then up a hill, and then finally, there was a clearing and the graveyard on the side, enclosed by a small dilapidated metal gate, which I pushed open and walked through.

What a beautiful place. Lost in the woods, no one would know it was there. I saw my grandpa’s grave, took a picture of my kids sitting on stone that lined the grave, and walked around and looked at all the other stones and their markings. I had not remembered so many graves when I’d been there as a child. I had brought a small notepad with me, and so I began to write down the names and dates of all the grave markers so I would have the information.

The kids and I walked out, shutting the gate behind us, going further down the lane, deeper into the property, then we crossed the meadow just to enter the woods again. I had no idea where the cabin would be, or even if it was still there. It was spring, and not all the leaves were out deep and tight as they are in summer, but there was still a lot of green.

We kept walking and I kept looking. Then I saw the light of the sun reflect off something shiny. There it was, the tin roof of the cabin, hidden down in the hollow. Had the sun not reflected off the roof, we might have missed it.

Timmy went running down the hill and I told him to stop and wait on Carrie and I. He had seen the cabin, too, and it looked too inviting for him to just walk down to see it. It was old. Built up on large rocks for a foundation, the tin roof mainly rusty, and the chinking between the logs cracked in many places. The small wooden porch walkway was beginning to fall in places, and the door hung open where someone had not shut it properly.

I was appalled as soon as I walked in the door. It was obvious that this was the local teen party hangout. I had already seen a few beer cans strewn here and there outside in the yard, and the same was evident in the house. The wallpaper was falling off the walls, huge sheets bowing down, much of it already on the floor in shreds. A rusty bucket was laying on its side in the kitchen, the pump on the sink looking broken; a metal bed spring lay in the middle of the living room floor, and there were clothes laying all over where it looked like someone had just tossed them  in piles.

It was very obvious that vandals had destroyed this cabin.

I walked partway up the small stairs, peeping my head up into the room, and looked in the loft that was full of pandemonium, too, with rubbish all over the floor.

Back down in the living room, I noticed that the bricks to the fireplace were loose in places and some had been removed. There was nothing of value left, nothing that would remind me of the cute little summer bungalow we’d seen just ten years before. It looked as though the local vandals had had a hey day tossing things about helter skelter. Had there been anything of value, someone had walked away with the booty.

The kids and I walked back outside into the fresh spring air. Dozens and dozens of daffodils bloomed merrily to the left side of the cabin, some marching uphill. What had been a small building was to the front and side of the house, about 50′ away, so we walked over to give it a look. It did not look very safe to enter, so I warned the kids to not go inside. I could not tell for certain what it had been, perhaps a place to keep a horse? Or maybe a milk cow and a horse?

The building had a lower level, like a basement, but with what looked like a couple of low shelves, but not as deep, and the building itself was not that big. Most of the wood was gone, just a shell left behind, huge gaps open where the boards were gone, and absolutely nothing inside but leaves, branches, and dirt. Had anything been in there, it had long since been taken away. My best guess was that this had been a barn.

I looked around at all the trees. Had someone taken their pocket knife and drawn in the bark? But no, there was nothing to be found, and I was highly disappointed to not find any trace of my ancestors who had once lived here.

We walked out behind the cabin, a small opening that must have once been a backyard, but had since become very overgrown as the woods were encroaching closer and closer to the back of the house. I looked everywhere, but no outhouse in site. Had there been one, it was long gone, too.

I could see the sparkle of the lake through the brush and trees. I did not realize the lake was that close to the cabin. I would find out later that the lake was a man-made lake that had not always been there.  That at one time, my relatives had been able to walk from my aunt Turah’s house across the field to the cabin, but now, the lake sat where the field had once been, and one could not access the cabin except down the lane from where we had come.

I would return many times to the land and cabin. I would take my kids and walk around the area, wondering what the people had been like who had built a house so deep in the woods, far away from any roads or other people.

A year later, I returned with a friend, and digging through the wallpaper on the floor of the cabin, I found a few old Valentine’s that had been sent to my great grandmother back in the 1920’s. I also found a math paper with my uncle Charles’s name on the top, the date from October of 1927, the same year his father had died. I mailed the Valentine’s and math paper to my great grandma in Michigan. I could not have kept them as they did not belong to me.

About five or six years ago, my brother had come up from Florida, and he had never seen the cabin or gone to the cemetery, and he never knew our grandfather. I had a funeral to attend down that way, and so we took a trip to the cemetery and cabin, though it had been raining furiously that day. I was not worried as I knew the grass would make it all passable. Was I in for a surprise! Someone had clear-cut all the trees up to and around the cabin! It was a muddy mess. My distant relatives must have sold off some trees.

I’ve been back to the cemetery, but not the cabin. The cabin is only accessible in the spring and fall when the weeds are not six feet tall, the insects are not out in full force, and the lane is passable. I am hoping to take a trip sometime in the next two months, and I wonder if the cabin is even still standing.

I’ve always felt a deep connection to this land; to those who once lived there. And I am glad I have a physical piece of my family history I can go visit every year when I attend the family reunion from that side of the family. Everyone should be able to go back to some of their roots occasionally, and I am glad I have had this physical place to go to, this small, dilapidated cabin in the woods.

Grandma’s Treasures

Some of my grandma's treasures.

Some of my grandma’s treasures.

Back when I was in 8th grade, at Watkins Memorial HS in Pataskala, Ohio,  my friends and I would often talk about a variety of things during study hall. One of the things we discussed in April of 1973 was how many kids we each wanted, and what names we liked. This might not sound like a conversation that many 13 year old girls would have, but we were not typical as most of us were rather mature, and we often discussed our future.

When my friends and I were discussing names, I had said that my very first daughter was going to be named Carolyn after my grandma. My grandma Matheson was still very much alive at the time, and I knew that one day I wanted to honor her by naming my first daughter after her. She was my grandma, mentor, and hero, and she still is.

My second child was born in 1978, a girl, and so I named her Carolyn, just as I said I was going to do, but we called her Carrie for short. My grandma had been named after her mom’s sister who had been named Carolyn, but who went by the name of Carrie. Carrie was an opera singer who sang down in Cincinnati. In April of 1910, Carrie performed in an outside arena near the Ohio River and came down pneumonia, which caused her death. She was just 33. My grandma was born 2 years later and named for her.

My dad, sister Kim, and I had lived with my grandparents for 16 months in the late 60’s. Kim and I sometimes would go through grandma’s top drawer in her dresser when she would be mending or changing the bed. Kim and I loved to go through grandma’s treasures that were kept in the right side drawer of her 1930’s dresser. Grandma had a few pieces of jewelry, some old scapulars and rosaries, a small miniature St. Christopher who stood about an inch and a half tall and was in a small plastic tube with a flat base so it could stand up, a wooden post card, some small mementos from bowling, and some S&H green stamps.

What a fun privilege we thought it was to handle these treasures. Grandma was always rather private and not much for kids going through her things, but she might open a drawer and we would begin asking a gazillion questions, picking up a piece and wanting to know where it came from, whose it was, where did you get this, and can I play with this, grandma. We would reluctantly put the items back when grandma was done in her room, but we knew not to argue as it would do no good. We would wait patiently until the next time, when grandma would allow us to go through her treasures, as it was such a treat and privilege.

Grandma would later on give me her wooden postcard, her St. Christopher miniature (though the plastic case has long since broken), some scapulars and rosaries, and a couple of pins. After her death in August of 1980, my grandpa gave me grandma’s crystal necklace, which I have worn with pride on several occasions, including to my grandpa’s funeral.

My grandma never knew the woman whom she was named after, and my daughter does not remember my grandma, whom she was named after, but the memory of these long gone ancestors lives on in stories, memories, mementos, and names. Their stories need told and passed down to the generations so they are not forgotten. Every family has a story, but many of these stories have been forgotten and have not been passed down. I want our family stories kept alive, and so I will occasionally tell stories on here about the things I remember. I will also see what stories I can get out of my dad and uncles. It is our story, part of who we are,  and we need to remember and honor those who have since passed on, but who shaped our lives in so many ways.

Everyone has a story. Have you ever thought to gather your family’s stories together so they will not be forgotten in the cobweb of time?

Homemade Salve

The cast of characters

The cast of characters

When I got up this morning it was pouring the rain. I was hoping it was going to be a bright, sunshiny day, but I guess it beats snow.

I took a small walk around the yard yesterday and have noticed all the plants coming up: crocus in bloom, tulip leaves are up, iris leaves up, hyacinth beginning to peak through the ground, vinca, chives, oregano, and many, many weeds such as ground ivy, chickweed, dandelion, plantain, and more.

I want to start some seed soon as I want to grow flowers in pots and at end of the porch where the root system from the pine tree makes it hard for many plants to survive, but most flowers seem to do well. I still need to buy some seed, but will have them this week, I hope.

The plants I want to start are Calendula, Arnica, lavender, hyssop, St. John’s Wort, chamomile, rosemary, peppermint, and maybe some marshmallow, though marshmallow is related to hollyhocks and grow tall, so I will have to find a place for them to grow in a protected area that is both sunny and open.

I want to be able to harvest and dry these plants so I can use them in salves, tinctures, teas, and capsules. It will all depend on how much I can grow, and how much I am actually able to harvest, as to what I do with them, though they are definitely going in salves, no matter what.

I will also wildcraft various weeds from my yard for this purpose: dandelion, plantain, chickweed, oatstraw, nettles, and whatever else I can find that I know would be good for salves. All of these plants are good for various issues of the skin and are most healing.

Salves are so easy to make that I am surprised more people do not make their own. I want to make a variety of salves this year for specific purposes for myself and so I can sell them to others. But in the meantime, if you decide you want to get crafty, here is a salve recipe for you to try.

Calendula and Chickweed Salve

Need:

1/2 cup dried Calendula flowers

1/2 cup dried chickweed

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup beeswax pastilles

1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil (this can be bought in most pharmacies)

10-15 drops Essential oil of your choice, though lavender works well

4- 2 ounce tins or 2 ounce mason jars or 2- 4 ounce tins or mason jars

labels of your choice

Directions:

Place 1/2 cup dried calendula flowers and half cup dried chickweed into a clean quart-sized mason jar. Cover with one cup of olive oil. Cover and set in a dark cupboard for a couple of weeks or more, shaking once a day.

After 2-4 weeks, strain herbs into a cheesecloth over a bowl so the oil can be collected into it. Squeeze all oil from the cheesecloth and dispose of the plants.

Place the oil in a pan, along with 1/4 cup beeswax pastilles and melt. Once melted, add essential oil of your choice (I like lavender, but others can be used), and a half teaspoon of vitamin E oil as a preservative.

Pour into 2-4 ounce tins, or 2-4 ounce jars of your choice (small jelly jars will work).  These will set up quickly. Cap, label, and date. If you are selling them, the ingredients must be listed on label.

All botanicals and tins can be purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs (click on name to the right side or go here: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/).

Easy peasy.

Now you have nourishing and healing salve for your hands, feet, elbows, or anywhere you need some moisturizing and relief from cracked, dry, sore skin.