Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Clothesline...

An abstract artist friend of mine did a fantastic painting of two women at a clothesline, gossiping.
A blogger friend wrote a piece on a childhood memory of her mother and aunt talking over the clothesline, as they hung their garments to dry. These friends have evoked a number of clothesline memories for me.

These are a dozen of the many lessons I learned about the clothesline:

1) Sheets hung in the breeze, after being boiled in a big kettle on the stove to increase their whiteness, are not to be hidden behind, wound up in, or touched by grimey children's hands, no matter how tempting they may look.

2) Garments and linens smell wonderful after being hung in the sun and slapped by the wind. They have a freshness and crispness that cannot be compared to anything making it's way out of an electric box in which they have been dried.

3) Terry cloth towels, t-shirts and jeans dried on the line have a stiffness that will rub the skin off your body more efficiently than any store-bought pumice or exfoliater ever could...better than even rough grit sandpaper can!

4) Clothing hung outside in temperatures below 32 degrees freeze faster than you can pull them from the laundry basket.

5) Fingers hanging clothing in temperatures below 32 degrees freeze to the clothespins made to hold garments to the line.

6) Clothing taken in from the line after hanging in temperatures below 32 degrees must be hung again, this time from a rack of some kind which stands in close proximity to a heat source...preferably not too close to same. (for example, floor furnaces provide a good deal of heat, and clothing standing too close, or falling on to one, sufficiently alters the garment by adding a scorched pattern of gridwork, as well as a destinctive and unattractive fragrance.)

7) It makes no sense to me to hang wet clothing in 32 degree temperatures and later remove frozen items from the outside to hang on racks to thaw. Such an act returns the garments to the original state they held when removed from the washing machine....wet!

8) It makes no sense to me that clean, wet items be hung in 32 degree temperatures so they will smell fresh. My reasoning? All freshness is left outside when clothing is hung on a rack near a heat source.

9) Likewise, the hanging of said items on a clothesline in the basement removes freshness and also adds a musty fragrance, equally as unattractive as the one offered by a too-close heat source.

10) Hanging clothing on a clothesline is time-consuming, especially when you're twelve years old and would rather do something else with that time.

11) Dawdling doesn't make the job go faster, nor does complaining about having to do the job get you out of doing it.

12) That the cons far out-weigh the pros when it comes to clothes drying.

Being a person who weighs all options, I vowed that a clothes drier would be the first appliance I'd purchase when I was married. To heck with the freshness!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Destruction, Why?

Every house has a history. Some seem to be more important than others, but each one holds it's own stories of the era and type of construction that it is, as well as tales of what went on within the walls.

It pains me when I read of homes being demolished for newer, more up-to-date residences or business buildings. I'd so much rather see these places transported to another location, than to see them fall prey to bull dozers and other machines of mass destruction. When there is a particularly old building, whether currently liveable or not, it tears my heart out. Do not those in authority recognize that these buildings have stories to tell? Do the providers of destruction permits care at all that these histories will be gone if they allow demolition?

The home that my parents built in the 1950's was one of those whose walls came tumbling down after my Mother sold it. It was hard enough to know that the home would pass to hands outside of our family, but I told myself it was ok because another family would live their lives there, make memories there , add to the history of the place. But not long after the deed was passed, the vacant residence was sold again, and thus began the horrifying tear-down. After it was transformed into a larger, more elaborate house, with a pool in the rear yard, it was sold once more, and again, added on to. Now there is a garage in front of what used to be a master bedroom, and a step-up garden of boxwoods and other plants stands in front of the area where my Grandfather's room once was. The interior is open so you can see from front to back of the house. The vinyl pool, which had had no swimmers, as the house had had no residents since Mom sold it, was torn out and replaced with a gunite one. Gone are the willow tree which stood near the driveway. Gone is the huge Crabapple tree in the front yard and the 50 year old Azaleas and old blue Hydrangeas that stood near all the windows of the house. Gone.

They can take away all of my childhood home, but they cannot take the memories that were made in the house I lived in then. The house held our history.. holidays that were spent with our family around the table together, the cook outs where the pool is located now, the summer vegetable garden that Dad tended, the clothesline where I put up and took down many icy articles of clothing in winter, the first house that three of my babies came home to from the hospital. It was the place my parents worked for and the place where my father spent his last days while he battled cancer. It is where my Mother cared for her family. And, sadly, it is gone.

My mid-century home has been eradicated, along with many others. I'm sure that our house meant nothing to anyone, except our family, but what about the various others which went back to other eras? Even if it was just the construction that revealed it's age and technique of building at the time, was that not important enough for it to preserved ?

I applaud East Hampton Town for the keeping of so many old places. But, I'm heartbroken whenever I read of another house 'biting the dust' or being handed over to the fire department for burning. Once these places are gone, they are gone.
Photographs are all that is left for the future generations. Unless there was some magnificent bit of importance performed within the walls, no one will even remember it after the walls have been forcibly crumbled.

Beside the fact that the homes are being destroyed, is there not an element of wastefulness to the destruction, rather than the moving of liveable buildings? With the moving of a house, and some up-dating or reconstruction, these places might make affordable homes for some who might otherwise need to rent houses.
Is it not wiser to donate such places to Habitat for Humanity, that wonderful organization that works to help under-priviledged families own homes?

I try to comfort myself when I read of another house going down, but I find no words with which to heal my hurting. I just shake my head instead.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A New Job, or Two...

As the first of October rolls toward us, I've taken on a new role, or two. I've recently been elected as Chairperson for the church social committee and the head of our Baptist Women's group. I'm not sure that I'm qualified for either position, but we'll find out soon enough. I do know that I'll be calling upon the former leaders to instruct me somewhat.

Six months or so ago, I volunteered to be the hostess for the October meeting of the Baptist Women. I can host it at my home or at the church hall. It is my intention to have my home completely in order again, following our Aug. 12 flood, so I'd like to do it here. Usually the hostess provides the place and the meal, and it can be anything from a full-fledged dinner to light fare. Thoughts have been tossed back and forth between my husband and myself about what to cook that will serve as many as twenty women. Since it will be fall-like weather by that time, I think I'll make a huge kettle of my thick hamburger-vegetable soup, wonderful, warm, herbed Italian bread and a green salad. I'm thinking of leaf shaped cookies, decorated with orange, brown and gold frostings, with a warm apple brown betty,topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert .

I've bought a paper mache pumpkin, which I plan to use as a container for brightly colored autumn leaves as a table centerpiece. My mind is rolling with ideas. Being a scrapbooker and card creater, I've many 12 x 12 sheets of paper with which to craft placemats, so I'm thinking of cutting leaf shapes of 'specialty' shiny papers in pumpkin and gold hues to glue to the sheets. Table cloths will coordinate with the color scheme.

Another woman will provide us with a devotional. She will be able to choose her topic, but I will tell of her of my idea, in case she wants to coordinate her talk with the 'theme of the evening'...fall and leaves. If she is willing, perhaps she will speak about the scripture verse, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." or "though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with His right hand."

None of this fussing is necessary, of course, but I like to decorate and coordinate things when I can. Think of the aroma of those cinnamon-spiced apples, and the bright colors of autumn in the house! I'd like to make it a little 'special' time for the ladies.

As for the Social committee, as the dates come close for specific events, there will be meetings for me to call together, and I'm sure that ideas will flow at that time.
For now, I must focus my attentions on pulling my house together again, so that it will be ready to return to the living in comfort....and the entertaining of friends and family.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

If Baptists Ain't Eatin'....

There's a saying in our church that if Baptists ain't eatin', they're plannin' the next time they will be. We seem to find that a truism. We have Baptist Women's meetings once a month during which one woman will host and provide a meal while another gives us food for the soul, in the form of a devotional. After that we sit together, sharing our prayer concerns and we pray together for those needs. We discuss what we can do in the form of a missions project, and we have a time of fellowship. The men's group does a similar monthly meeting.

The Social committee sponsers meals quite often. Sometimes it's a well-planned meal with a sign- up sheet, so that it's 'well-balanced'. Sometimes the meat is provided and we're invited to bring whatever 'sides' we think would go with the meat. Sometimes it's an home-made ice cream social or a dessert party after the evening service. The Old-Timers group does the same sort of thing. There is a prayer breakfast held each month, and grits are absolutely essential on the plate with eggs and home fries or hash browns.

We've always been enthusiastic about 'pot luck' meals. It's fun to see what someone will carry to the table, and here in the south, we're discovering a plethora of new palate pleasers. Banana pudding, fried okra, black eyed peas, English pea salad, collard greens and barbecued meats are some of what we've not seen on the tables of northern friends and churches. Oh...and be not deceived, northerners. Barbecued meats are not 'grilled' ones, they are things like pulled pork or chicken which are slathered in a good, spicey sauce, either tomato or mustard based. A few things I quickly found out: macaroni and cheese might be called just that, or it could be called 'cheese pie'. 'Greens' doesn't mean salad, it means collards , turnip, or beet greens boiled with a ham hock or fat back (salt pork). Biscuits MUST be served, or better yet, corn bread.

I found out the hard way that I'd better fall in with the crowd and find something that this Yankee can make that can fool them into thinking is a southern food. I once took a cherry tomato and mozzerella salad, swimming in Italian dressing, to one of the functions, and brought most of it home. I heard one woman ask her sister, 'What's up with the tomato and cheese thing?' I had to chuckle.

There may be no way to fool these connoiseurs of food. After all, they're southerners, they're Baptists. They know their table food and their spiritual food, as well. I love it...I love their food, and I love them too...even their gentle teasing about my Yankee offerings, but one of these days, I'm going to take something that just knocks their socks off!

Friday, September 18, 2009


It happens quite often. Someone will ask 'where are you from'? I offer "New York State, not the city", hoping that it will not bring the inevitable response from the listener. Unfortunately it usually does not divert them from what I expected. "Oh, it must have been awful to live there!" or "How did you survive 9/11?" or "This country living must be a big change for you." or something equally as revealing to me that they were NOT listening or else they haven't any idea that NY is a big state, with far more residential places than Manhattan.

I've had people tell me that we don't seem like New Yorkers, whatever that means. I always think that they've had a bad experience with someone from NY...something like rudeness or impatience or bad driving. I'm hoping that they mean that we don't come bearing the same reputation. I don't know. I do know that not everyone from New York is pushy or nasty or an unsafe driver. Not even everyone from Manhattan is!

Some people have told me that I don't have a New York accent. Well, sure I do! I spent almost 60 years there, so I'm bound to have an accent from there. But, no, I do not have a New York city accent (choose one of the burrows, I don't have one from any of them!) So, I put on my best Brooklyn accent and say, "D'ya mean dat I don't tawk like dis?" and they usually answer, "yes", with a chuckle.

Ahhhh... it all boils down to this, I've decided. Even when I show people a map of Long Island, and point to the far eastern end, explaining that it is some 120 miles or so from Times Square, somehow I've wasted time and breath. There's no way to explain how different small town living when I was growing up is from today's New York City. It's an exercise in futility, so I tell them, and answer their questions about sky scrapers, subways and ground zero to the best of my limited ability, all the while telling them I don't know much about the city life, having grown up so far away from it. Sigh.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Flood...One Month Later

Here we are, one month past the date of the flood which submerged the first floor of our house. I started out pretty well in dealing with it. I took the 'oh well. Let's tackle this step by step' approach to the whole thing, knowing there wasn't any other way to deal effectively with things. I made the proper phone calls and work was begun.

There has been some progress. We're dried out and the huge fans and dehumidifiers that hummed loudly for more than a week have gone. The insulation from under the house was piled in the back yard for four or five days has been taken away, and eventually the crew came to install the new fiberglass stuff. The doors and trim which were damaged have been replaced by a neat and knowledgeable elderly man. The hardwood floors that we chose, rather than carpet, was installed to the tune of the top 100 Beatles songs on the radio at full blast, while the electric hammers shot nails into the floor. The underlayment for vinyl was put in, and the vinyls have been laid. (That day the installer's choice of music was 'head banger'...loud, wild guitars playing
repetive chords. I don't call that music, and believe me...I was ready to bang my head against anything by the time they'd left for the day!) The stove is back in place, after a few take-out meals, but the dishwasher is not yet in it's location. The kitchen/dining area is void of furniture, and Mike is joking that we could just play tennis there. (By the way, neither of us plays tennis.)

The sunporch remains jam-packed with furniture, with a path from the kitchen French doors, through the sunporch, to the back door. I have a little 'cubby' hole where I can sit and compute.
Otherwise, it's a shambles. The bedroom has two bureaus, and nothing else. The carpet padding is in, and the new carpet should be here and down tomorrow. The living room still houses the TV, which we've moved from place to place throughout this project. There are two chairs in there so we can watch TV at night.

The work which has been done has been done well and I have no complaints. I have every confidence that what is left to be done, the trim around the baseboards, the painting of the kitchen, the cleaning of the house and the vacuuming of all the ductwork will be done equally as well. We'll still need to paint the living room, baths, laundry room, hall and master bedroom, but that will be done as we can....hopefully before we return the furniture to each room.

I'm so ready to have things back in shape. I'm ready to have my home back, without the constant 'trade parade' of contractors, plumbers, painters, floormen, etc. each day. And I'll be so happy to hear the silence!

the floors look wonderful.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Memories of Fright

Memories come in different forms. Some are pleasant, others are not. The ones I'll relay today are those which caused fear in my heart at various times.

Returning to memories of school days, aside from the fears caused by bomb drills, there was Nov 22, 1963. I was sitting in Mr. Marley's history class, listening as he droned on about who-knows-what, when there came a knock on the door. A teacher spoke briefly to Mr. Marley in the hall, and when he returned he told the class that President Kennedy had been shot. It was a moment of fright for me, wondering if they'd catch the man who committed an act that would change the course of our country.

Then, in later times came one of the most terrifying days in the history of the United States. On Sept 11, 2001, there were numerous attacks on our own soil. It was unthinkable that someone or a group could dream up something that would cause such a multitude of deaths, such devastation and havoc! As I sat at my office desk, I could not think clearly all day. I wanted to know what was happening and why. After awhile, it came to light that it was terrorists who were targeting us. My job at that time was at a home heating oil company, an actual terminal which supplied other companies with their oil for deliveries. Our employer was very concerned about the possibility of a terrorist act upon oil terminals, and he briefed us as to taking precautions and keeping our eyes open for anything unusual at our facility. Fear gripped us at different points of time and in various ways. It was a horrible time, and I'm concerned that many of us have forgotten how it felt the day our world was rocked by those who caused our country such wickedness.

On a personal note, another time stands out in my mind. In July, 1997, I was calmly driving my van with my infant granddaughter in the carseat in the rear. A man was running toward me, barefoot and without a shirt. His hands were held high in the air and he reminded me of Sylvester Stallone in the 'Rocky' movies. He ran in the middle of the road, weaving about the yellow line. I slowed the van, and honked my horn. He was oblivious. I thought that if I continued, I might hit him, as his path was erratic. I pulled toward the right side of the lane, and stopped. Thinking quickly, I reached over and locked all the doors and electrically rolled up the windows. I honked the horn again, as he continued to run toward me. Suddenly, even as I blew the horn, he ran directly into the front of my van, and holding on to the windshield wipers, he gazed at me through the windshield.

I prayed and begged God for safety and wisdom as to what to do. He held to the wipers and kept looking at me in an odd way. I couldn't drive forward, I could hurt him. I decided to put the car into reverse and backed up very slowly, all the while, honking the horn.

He held on for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he let go, and laid down in the road. A Volvo came along side my stopped car, passing on the right. I saw a woman passenger look back and use her cell phone. They must have thought I'd hit the man lying in the road, and I assumed they were calling the police. They pulled up the road a good distance, and stopped. Meanwhile,
the half-clothed man was up and running again, in the middle of the east-bound lane, straight into the path of the bus to the Springs. They had to pull off the road, as well. Finally, the man decided it was time to rest, right where he was, in the middle of the road. About that time, the police showed up and spoke with the people in the Volvo, then to me, long enough to tell me to stay put. The policeman went to the man, and eventually got him cuffed and into the squad car.

The officer came back to me for the story, and other officers had arrived on the scene. They spoke to the other drivers, and then took the man away. When the local paper came out later that week, the article stated that the man had been taken to Stonybrook Hospital where he wreaked havoc with the in-take office at the E.R. Apparently he was out of his mind, and they attributed it, at least in part, to some kind of drugs.

Life brings fearful moments, yes. Some of those replay themselves at times, and I go through the 'what ifs'. But, most often, I remember them, count my blessings, and move on. After all, we cannot live in peace if we allow fear to control our lives. I cannot do that. I choose to live...and to live in peace.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More School Days...

My granddaughters in NY start their year of school today. Children here in SC have been in session for a week, and my grandkids in Georgia started two or three weeks ago. I can't imagine any child being thrilled to go to school in the heat of SC summers! I remember how 'lazy' we all felt toward the end of May and into June. As the sun climbed higher and shone hotter, our minds couldn't concentrate on studies. The windows were open and the noises of the world outside were calling to us to come and join, but we were stuck in the classroom.

As I wrote yesterday and have begun today, it seems as if my opinion of school was quite negative. I believe I'm misleading you in that. It wasn't my favorite occupation, but it was the job I had to do for twelve years, and I did it. There were many things about going to school that I liked. I'd feel guilty not sharing those.

While in grade school on Newtown Lane, we spent most of the day in one classroom, but when we had art or music we would be taken, 'Indian file', through the halls to those rooms. The art room was in the basement, two flights of stairs from the main floor. I always felt that I was in a cave on the way to my favorite class. Once there, I was thrilled to get my mind and fingers in gear, working on whatever the project was for the doing. Mr. Carpentier led us through the making of paper mache heads for hand puppets. He showed us how to make clay forms, which then would be put into plaster of paris molds, how to pour those molds, and to eventually come out with a plaster sculpture. We painted with tempera paints, sometimes to different types of music. We would allow the melody to fill our ears, and move our emotions, down through the brush until the 'mood' hit the paper. I remember receiving high praise for a cemetary full of stones, surrounded by a gloomy fog. The music was a classical piece in a minor key, probably with bassoons or oboes, and it felt sad to me. Since we were working in black and white paint at that time, it lent itself to the music and the mood. I also remember a day when my beloved teacher swatted me across the bottom in front of the whole class. I'd been talking when I shouldn't have been. It was an embarrasing moment.

Other moments worth mentioning... fire drills. When the bell would ring, the class would immediately jump to its feet and file, 'Indian style' again, out of the building with the teacher as the lead. We'd go outside, stand in whatever weather there was, until a bell rang again which signaled our allowance back into the building. Then, there were air raid drills. In the fifties, there was always the fear that we'd be atomic bombed by an enemy, Russia, especially. I'll tell you, I was a scared little girl even thinking about that possibility! Today I wonder how much protection we'd have had, kneeling on the floor facing the wall, and covering our heads with our little hands.

On another day in another blog entry, I'll share some remembrances of high school days. For now, I'll conclude this with the wish that my granddaughters enjoy their first days of school in NY.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

School Days

It's that time of year again....when the air is a little cooler and Fall is in the air. It's the time when Moms are hustling to outfit their broods for the beginning of the school year.

I turn the pages in my mind, back to my school days. There was a mixture of emotions, every September, at the coming of the first day of a school new year. I was not very outgoing in those days, and somewhat intimidated by teachers and other students, until I got to know them. So, as anticipation enveloped me, anxiety swallowed me. It made for interesting 'first days'.

Each year there were a few new items of clothing....not entirely new wardrobes, as seems to be the case now-a-days. Always, though, there were new shoes. By the end of the first day, after walking to and from school, there would usually be a bit of a soreness, if not a blister, on the heel of my foot. Aside from that, I seem to remember new sweaters that my Mother had knit for me to ward off the Autumn chill.

I can remember my very first days of kindergarten. Inside the main doors of the school on Newtown Lane (now the middle school) there was a door on the wall to the right. That was my kindergarten room where I found two teachers, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Jones was tiny and fashionable and nice. Mrs. Wilson was sturdier and neatly dressed with upswept hair, and was equally as nice. It took me what seems now to be a very long time before I could keep the appropriate name attached to the correct teacher. I was not used to being far from my Mother at that age, and had not been in any sort of pre-school setting. So, my first days were spent crying my eyes out, and probably none too quietly. After awhile, I'd settle down and get involved with some toy or another, and I'd be ok until noon came, and I could go home. I remember my favorite activity was sitting at a small table with a peg board into which small wooden pieces stood to form little towns with houses, trees and cars. Other than that, the only thing about the class or the room was that there was a wooden jungle gym in there. I don't remember a single other student or learning shapes, colors, letters or numbers.

I went to that classroom for only a portion of the year, as my Father had found a job in Farmingdale, and we moved from East Hampton to Bay Shore to live. I had to start school at another school, Fifth Avenue, I believe. (It could have been Brook Ave., as I went to each of those buildings at some point during the next three years before returning to East Hampton.) Wherever it was, I wasn't immediately happy to be thrown into another bunch of strangers, and I performed to the best of my ability with tears, again. I wasn't being naughty. I was being insecure. Again, I learned before too long that noone was going to hurt me, and I settled into the
fact that I was going to be there and might as well make the best of it.

I made some friends in the neighborhood and some were even in my class, so it made things a bit more comfortable. There are only three things I can remember, though, about any of those years at Fifth Ave. and Brook Ave. One is that at recess I would stand at the chain link fence in the playground and watch the brook that tumbled over stones beneath the trees behind the school yard. I remember how the sunlight filtered through the leaves and shimmered on the water. Another thing that I was fascinated by was a set of twin boys in my class, Billy and Bobby Williams. They were African American and they were twins...possibly the first of each category I had been introduced to. Thirdly, my 'boyfriend' and neighbor was Chuckie Marasca. One day while carrying his hot lunch, he stumbled and the bowl of steaming soup spilled on his chest, and he cried. So did I.

It's funny the things that stick with you over 50 years. One of the girls in our neighborhood in Bay Shore was walking back from the bus stop while I was walking to it. She was crying. I asked her what was wrong. She wailed as she answered, "I forgot to put on my underpants!" At the time, I felt sorry for her, but wondered how anyone wearing a dress could forget the most important part of their clothing, especially when I put them on before any other garment. Now I just laugh about the whole thing.

Back in East Hampton, I returned to the school on Newtown Lane. I did the remainder of my years in that school, some classes even took me back to the room where I'd started kindergarten. By then, it was filled with typewriters and rather than an alphabet border over the blackboard, there were Gregg short-hand symbols, and a wonderful teacher named Mrs. English.

To this day, I don't remember liking school much more than I did on my very first day. I hope that my grandchildren will feel much differently, and that they will find it easier to endure those long hours when anything seemed to me to be better than spending the day in those stuffy rooms with some pretty boring subjects. I am glad that I was forced to be there, however. I loved my art classes with Mr. Carpentier and Mr. Lonero. I couldn't wait to get to my music classes with Miss Orlando. I enjoyed my years with Miss Bird, Mrs. English, Mrs. Webb, Miss Porter, Mrs. Juckett and some others. Though I'm not sure that I could recite anything I ever learned in school, I'm grateful for the education I received there...perhaps the greatest lesson being that nobody there was going to hurt me.