Thursday, January 28, 2010


As I wait for our short winter to end here in SC, I think back to those NY winters. I spent my whole life there until I moved here nearly three and a half years ago. I know about winter weather, and I like it....for a short while.

Unlike today, when the schools close at the first report that snow is coming, when we were kids, schools would be open, and remain so, until there was a good amount on the ground. Since we lived within the 2 mile bus limit, we had to walk home. I didn't mind, most times, but I remember a couple of times when I'd arrive home, bone-chilled, with tingling cheeks and knees and wet, chapped legs. School dress codes said that girls had to wear dresses to class, so unless there was notice of snow coming, the pants were not available for wearing home. One particular day, by the time I'd walked from the school on Newtown Lane, to the end of Conklin Terrace where I'd cut through the vacant lot to my street, the snow had gotten to mid-thigh height on me. It dropped into my boots, wetting my feet and I thought my legs would fall off before I made it home. But, make it I did, and lived to tell about it.

As kids, we'd spend a good deal of time playing outside in the snow. There were times when we'd go sledding...always at 'the Orchard'...the hill at the farm in Amagansett on Stone Highway. It was a good clear hill, and steep enough to get quite a ride. It was a gathering spot for most of the kids we knew, and we'd often have races to see who'd get the farthest distance in the fastest time. If we weren't sledding there, the neighborhood kids would go over to the hill behind the Mott's house on Cedar St.

There was much fun to be had at Town Pond, too. Sometimes we'd walk to the pond, but since we were nearly frozen by the time we arrived, more often one of the parents would drive us, and sit in the car, waiting, with the heater running. Some of the girls in the neighborhood had skating skirts of cordoroy, which were worn it warm tights and heavy socks. There were other 'musts' too, for the skating outfit. We all had pom poms for our skates, and hoods for our heads, with long ends, like scarves, to wrap around our necks. We were dressed...and ready to hit the ice...
which is most often exactly what I did! I had as many failed attempts as I had successes, but it never dimmed my enthusiasm.

There's not enough snow and never ice strong enough to skate on where we live now. I might attempt sledding, even at my age, but my skating days are done. I'll spend my winter days remembering those teenage years when the muscles hurt from the winter activities, but the joys etched themselves into the memory.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Meeting up with old acquaintences and friends on Facebook has certainly sparked some memories. Like sleeping dogs and babies, some things are better left alone, but there are other, long buried remembrances which are pleasantly rising to the surface.

As I came into contact with a former schoolmate, I thought of the school dances and they way they were done when I was a student. All of our dances were held in the gymnasium at school. A committee of students and a few teachers would form and plan the event. The gym would be decorated in the theme they'd chosen, and the fun would begin.

The girls wore short semi-formal dresses, better than church wear, not as long or as formal as the prom attire. The boys would wear jackets and ties. Proper attire was required, or there was no entry to the dance. The boys would buy corsages of flowers to be worn by their date, and the girls would buy boutonniers for their escorts. I enjoyed dressing in a way more 'glamorous' than usual, and I'm glad that we had dress codes during my school years.

Proms were for the Junior class, and the Senior class had a 'Ball'. Underclassmen had dances, too...the Sophomore Hop and the Freshman Frolic. These dances were open to other classes, and tickets were sold. I don't remember any trouble ever occuring at these events because of interaction between the different age groups. Music was provided by bands generally made up of our own local students. When we became Seniors, we had the Senior Ball in the gym, as well as a Banquet which was held at an off-school site. This event was only for Seniors and their dates and was somewhat more formal. Tickets were more pricey, as the venue, music and dinner had to be paid for.

There were no limosines rented in those days. Some students drove themselves in the family car, or parents would drive us to and fro. In my case, my high school boyfriend and I walked to the school dances and then walked home again, unless it rained, and then my Dad would be our chauffeur.

Things have certainly changed since my school days, when things were simple and far less expensive. There was no drinking, at least not in my circles, and there were curfews set by parents which all of us, but the very rebellious, met without question.

I'm happy to say that I prefer the way things were done when I was young to what happens these days. We had good fun, we dressed neatly, and we lived respectfully. Having the boundaries, rules and adult supervision kept us in line at school, at home and in life.

Friday, January 8, 2010

New Project

This new year finds me involved in a new and challenging project. It's one that has been lying on the surface since 1971, and it's just now begun. It's not something that I procrastinated about. It's actually a project which belongs to a friend of mine whom I met in that year. Since that time we've talked about it from time to time, and for many reasons have put it on the back burner. It isn't one that I could have taken on alone, but it is something I am willing to give every ounce of my being to in assisting her.

So it has begun....the search for her birth mother. With very little information in her possession, we step out in faith that our efforts will fall in the right places, and new clues and facts will show up. We've already found just the right person, a volunteer 'angel' who has knowledge and experience about how to go about these searches and the agencies and folks out there who should be contacted. She has had successes in finding birth mothers and birth children. So this trio of women go forth with confidence and hopeful that things will result in good things.

We are about to begin opening doors to the past. That is a bit scary for my friend. When one opens the unknown, it could go any which way. Since she's not, at the moment, concerned about meeting her birth mother, but wants to know other information for health and heritage reasons, it isn't as frightening for to enter this endeavor, knowing that she could be rejected. But, there is always a possibility that we won't find her answers, which would be a huge disappointment. On the other hand, there is a real chance that we will find answers! There is an assortment of "what if's " associated with that scenerio, as well. There could be genetic or health issues that might not be what one would hope for, but would still be very important knowledge to have.
The also might be siblings that she has on idea of right now. She finds that to be an interesting thought, but again is not sure she wants to meet or know them. These potential relatives might not be people she would care to know.

The search is on, and we will progress as we can. Hopefully my friend will be able to ride out the emotional roller coaster until the end of the line. I can't imagine the depth of her trepidation and her excitement. She was brought up in a home with loving adoptive parents, but there's always been the question about who she really is. Noone shared her birth information with her, and had she not stumbled over the name of her birth mother and the hospital in which she was born, she'd be forever in that state of limbo. Her adoptive parents have both passed away, and the files and paperwork that they might have owned was destroyed by her stepmother.

This will be a challenging effort, and hopefully one that has a happy ending. In any event, our reconnection through a social network, after years of being physically distant has been a great thing. We can "speak" every day, and working together on this project has brought us into a new level in our friendship, drawing us closer. We wander into this 'unknown', holding on to each other for encouragement and support, and I'm glad to be sharing this with her, no matter how it turns out.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Heating Systems

Having lived in a variety of houses in my lifetime, I've experienced quite a number of heating systems. Some were efficient, some provided more than the required heat to be comfortable, and some not enough, but each one seems to have had its own distinctive traits.

My grandparents little house was heated by a huge furnace which sat in the living room and was fed by kerosene that flowed through a small tube through the wall from a metal barrel. I remember being warned to stay back from the monster machine, so I imagine it was hot to the touch, though I don't recall. My other grandmother's house had a large wood/coal stove for cooking and heating in the kitchen. Above it was a small iron grate with a pretty swirl pattern. The grate protected the whole in the ceiling, which allowed the heat to access the second floor bedroom areas. I was awfully young, but I remember that stove. We moved from East Hampton when I was four years old, and returned when I was seven, and during that time central heat was installed.

The house I spent my teen years in had a floor furnace. That was a horror. This rig was hung on the basement ceiling, with a hole in the floor above it which was covered by a grate. In our case, the grate was approximately 2 1/2 feet wide by 3 1/2 feet long, and it was located in the small hall area in front of our bathroom door. I don't think that was the best location, but I personally wouldn't have had such a dangerous thing in my house if the choice was my own. When it was on, it blew hot air and heated the home. But, it also caused the metal grate to get so hot that it would burn grid marks into the soles of our slippers, so we quickly learned to wiggle our way around the edges, without stepping on the metal. If we were really cold, we'd do our best to straddle it, allowing the hot air to penetrate our bodies until we were warm. The trouble with that was that the minute we walked away from the blowing hot air, we were cold again. Another problem with the floor furnace and grate was that things were always being dropped through the gridwork, and it sometimes wasn't obvious until there was the odor of a burning plastic toy. My parents later put in and oil fired furnace and hot water baseboard heat.

After I was married, we spent our first year in an apartment which had old steam radiators. They worked fine, but were noisy, with water banging and hissing and bubbling through the pipes. There were covers over a few of the iron units for safety reasons, as they would get awfully hot.

When we built our first house, it had an oil-fired furnace in the basement with a blower that sent hot air through ductwork in each room. At the age of twenty, what did we know about heating systems? We built our second house two years later, and being not much wiser about machinery, ended up with the same type of system in that residence. After living there awhile, we discovered that it wasn't as efficient as we'd like. It blew warm air when it was heated, but it blew cool air while it was 'revving up'. It was dusty, and it blew dust with the air. The small grates in the floor were intriguing to children, who liked to deposit coins or other small things through the slots. It was a constant job to clean those grates and keep them free of baseball cards or the like.

At some point, we attached a large, cast iron, custom made enclosure to our wood burning fireplace. It was very efficient in its provision of heat, but it was very dry and very dangerous with five small children in the house. Also, we discovered that it actually burned so hot that the brickwork on the exterior of the fireplace (but inside the iron box) had actually cracked. I think we used that system only rarely after one winter.

We lived in a log cabin when our kids were teens. There was a rectangular, iron woodstove set in the open room used as our living room and dining area. We used the stove a lot, as it was efficient, sending out enough heat to warm the whole, two-story place. The surface of the stove was such that we could place a kettle of water on top to combat the dryness.

When we moved south, we purchased a house with heat and air conditioning. There are two heat pumps which are outside and duct work in the ceilings of the house. Though I'd vowed to NEVER have a forced air system again, guess what? The house had just that, with the grates in the ceiling. It's wonderful in the summer, for the cool air comes from the ceiling and falls toward the floor. But, we all know that heat rises, so in the winter, it's not as efficient as we'd like. The living room is where the thermostat is located, and it's the coldest room in the house. If we set the temperature at a level of comfort for the living room, then the rest of the first floor is unbearable. So, we've got a small electric fireplace in the living room which brings the temperature up about four degrees, just enough. While I'm still wishing that I had a wood burning fireplace in this house and, perhaps hot water baseboards rather than blown air, I am pleased to have the air conditioning in the summer. The fact that this entire house is electrically run makes it less expensive than other heat providers. The square footage of the house is more than twice the size of our old house, and our highest electric bill for heat, hot water, cook stove and two electric fireplaces has never been higher than one month's oil delivery bill in NY.

I guess I've seen it all, regarding heating, with the exception of space heaters and that very expensive under-the-floor tubing. As far as I'm concerned, each system has it's annoyances or dangers, but I can overlook them, as long as they do the job they were intended to do...provide heat when asked.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


As I sit before a blank screen with a head full of early-morning fuzz, I was going ot make a complaint about the cold weather we've been having here in the southland. Then I turned on the early news and there was one of the newscasters, standing on-screen, bundled to the hilt. He was on assignment in International Falls, Mn. where the temperature was 28 below zero! Ok...I'm blessed to be here where it's 28 above!

I feel the chill in the house. The thermostat is in the coldest room on first floor, where there is also a two story entry from the front door. In order to get the room to a comfortable heat level, all the doors upstairs must be closed (which doesn't hurt anything, as the heating system is two-zoned) Unfortunately, though, if we turn the thermostat on the first floor up enough to heat the living room, the rest of the lower level gets unbearably hot. So, we've agreed that we'll cause the kitchen and bedroom to heat to an agreeable temperature, and just put on sweatshirts and warm socks in the living room. Chill or no chill, I'm blessed to have heat in my house!

As I gaze around the house, remnants of Christmas remain. It's a bit of a mess, I must admit, and it's time to deal with the packing up. The tree is shedding it's needles, and the branches are weakening, dumping the ornaments, one at a time, to the floor. Ok, so the house is a mess. It's not like that can't be changed. I'm blessed to have this house to keep in order (or not, at times)
I'm blessed to have the choice to sit and look at clutter or to get up and fix it!

I'm also pleased to say that as I struggle with aches and pains every morning when getting out of bed, I can get out of bed! And I have enough energy and health to be able to do what I need to do, without relying on someone to think of me, to come and help me, or to do it for me. I'm blessed.

There are so many things in life that we take for granted. There are so many things for which we should give thanks, rather than complain about. There's a quote that says something like "I complained about the hole in my shoes until I met a man who had no shoes." There's always someone who has a story worse than our own. I'm blessed...and I know that.

So today, as I wander out in the cold air to send a package to my granddaughter, I will not complain about the cold. I will remember, instead, to be grateful for my grandchildren to whom I can send gifts, that I have the ability to give gifts, that I have the car to take me to the post office and the knowledge to drive it. I will be thankful for the beautiful drive through the wooded roads from home to the wonderful little town of Pendleton, where the Square still has the decorated tree standing. I will thank the postal clerks, who are always so courteous and friendly. I will be grateful for all things, because I am truly blessed.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tubbin' It

Boy, it's cold! It's this kind of weather when I endulge myself, filling the garden tub to the hilt with steamy, hot water and bath salts. I lie in it for as long as I can stand it or until the marrow of my bones warms to a natural temperature. I honestly do not like my garden tub. It's not built for comfort, regardless of what builder's tell you. The faucets are about a foot from the right hand corner, as you face the tub, and they're in the way of sitting on the edge and getting into the bath easily. I have trouble enough climbing over the wall nowadays, without an obstacle course to contend with.

We also have a walk in shower. The size is good, but it has two benches molded into the unit, so that cuts down on the floor space. I will admit that I prefer it to the upstairs bath, however, which is a normal tub and shower combination.

What I wouldn't give for my clawfoot, cast iron tub! It has a new owner, the ones who bought the old house. It's one of the two things that I really miss from that place. (The other is the wood fireplace.) When we built that house in the late 1960's, it had the usual tub-shower combo. After a few years of attempting to lie in that thing which looked somewhat like a shoe box, I told my former husband that I wished we had a deep claw-foot tub like my grandmother had. Eventually we found one, and it became a birthday gift. We paid more to have it installed than we did for the tub, but be that as it may, it was just what I wanted.

When I soaked in it, the hot water stayed hot, due to the composition of the tub. The water came up to nearly my shoulders and would completely cover all by my neck and head when I reclined against the comfort of the slanted end. Oh the joy! I must have spent a good deal of time in that place, as one of my girls wrote as one of her most vivid memories of me that I was always in the bathtub! Well, a gal has to find a release from stress somehow, does she not?

There was a day when my middle child came in as I was bathing. She was three years old, dressed in Healthtex plaid overalls, and she was holding saltines to her eye. trying to look through the little holes. She told me that she had cracks in her eye. Then, she began to break off tiny crumbs and place them into the tub. I asked what she was up to, and her answer? "I'm feeding the ducks." Now, that's one of my fond memories.... a sweet little girl, keeping Mommy company while Mom soaked in a saltine polluted bath! Ah well...

I digress. I miss that tub. Not just for my own comfort and warmth, but for ease as a Mom. It would hold two or three toddlers easily...and we would laugh our way through bathtime while we formed strange horns and hair dos on sudsy heads. We'd giggle as we recited Shel Silverstein's poem...'There's too many kids in this tub. There's too many KIDS in this TUB! I just washed a behind I'm SURE wasn't mine, there's too many kids in this TUB!"

Who else do you know who can wax poetic over a silly bathtub? And who else do you know who misses one so much that it nearly brings her to tears? In my NEXT house, whether here on earth or "over yonder", you can be sure that there will be a comfortable, cast iron bathtub that sits on claw feet!