Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Olden Ways: Wash Day

There are days when I'd love to find the door to the past and walk through it, just to see how things really were. It was a slower time, but a busy one. Work was always there to do, even if it was just around the house.

My least favorite chore is the laundry. I don't know why. It's so simple to throw a load into one machine, and when it's finished churning,to toss the clothes into the other one to dry. With permanent press fabrics, there's usually little ironing to do, but I dislike the entire process.

Press rewind. We are now in the 1800's. It's Monday...and the women of the household are doing their laundry. They've built a fire and placed the huge cauldron of water on the hook of the tripod to heat. The white clothes will be set into the boiling water to keep them their whitest. The few items of colored clothing owned by the family are awaiting the strength of the arm muscles to rub them over the corrugated washboard. Then all the wash will be rung out by hand and hung on the line in the air to dry, It doesn't matter how hot the day is, the women must stand by that fire and tiring work must be done.

The garments will be stiff after the sun and wind have sufficiently dried them. The natural fiber items will be full of wrinkles too, from the wringing. One of the girls must heat the cast iron flat iron, being cautious not to burn herself, and the clothing will be ironed free of creases. It will be a full days work.

Weeks before that laundry day, a hog had been slaughtered and butchered. The fat, the lard, had been set aside for the making of the lye soap. This, too, was woman's work.

Suddenly, I'm back in 2010, and grateful to be, as it is time to do my laundry in my quiet front load washer, with the little beeper to tell me when it's finished its agitating, and the 'electric wind machine' which will dry the heaviest of my wash loads. Today, as I think back to my great-grandmother's wash day, my chore doesn't seem half-bad.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Our Stories

For the last three Friday evenings, we watched an NBC show called 'Who Do You Think You Are?" It takes one celebrity per show, through their search of their ancestors, and it's actually quite interesting. Sarah Jessica Parker discovered that one of her early great grandmothers was accused at Salem, Massachusetts of being a witch. Fortunately authorities had recently passed the witch hunts off as a hoax, so Sarah's ancestor was spared a hanging, but still, her name appears on the records of those who were accused. Last night a former pro-ball player, an African American, discovered his roots in slavery and that his early great grandmother was the product of a slave named Mariah and her slave owner, meaning that he had some white blood in his family. He stopped his search of that line with Mariah, because of his realization that her mother had more than likely been violated, and then sold off. It was hurtful to him.

These celebrities had no idea when they started their searches that their families had been a part of any historical events in America. They were surprised, impressed, and upset to find some of their historical connections. We all have histories, some may be famous, some may not be as obvious. Some of the stories may be hurtful or upsetting, some may be glorious and noteworthy.
Even though we are not responsible for decisions which brought about the events, it is passed on down the line. Whatever it is, it is ours. It happened, and it is not something we can go back and change. We must embrace it, or hide it in a closet, out of sight, if we so choose....but still, it is our own history.

In my own searches of our family lines, I've discovered many things, occupations and stories. With each new clue leading to facts on record, I am thrilled. I enjoy the investigating, the mysteries, but I am elated when I find an answer. My own family was fairly easy to trace, as the majority of us had stayed in the same area of over 300 years. When I began to work on my husband's line, it was a little more difficult. He knew nothing...he had no information past his own grandparents. But, armed for the challenges, I charged on. We were lucky to have his eldest living relative within 9 miles of us, and she was very willing to give all the information she had. Not only did she have names and places, but she had an attic full of written matter, documents, letters, photos, which aided me greatly when constructing her side of Mike's family history.

His father's side, however, still proves to be somewhat mysterious. His GrGrandfather is my 'brick wall' and I cannot get past him. I'm told he was a young immigrant, coming alone at the age of 14 from England. I have not been able to locate him on ship's passenger lists or with any groups of orphans and waifs. I have his marriage information in 1890. I do have census information back to 1900, showing what information was given to the census taker. However, other years of census does not always line up with the same information or with his social security application. So far, I have not located his parents in England or the United States or Canada. It's one of those things I'll just have to keep looking for.

All in all, I think we're lucky to have as much information as we have about our ancestors. I'm happy that we have as many momentos to place in our books, as these give more 'personality' to the faces who stare at us across the pages...across the ages. I know that it will be more difficult to gather information about our women, but that will be my next undertaking. If I cannot find actual facts regarding the females, I will investigate the times, and add things that would be common to a woman of that day.

Whatever your history, whatever your stories, pass it along. Keep it, for it is part of what shaped you into who you are.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Body Shop

Some years ago I remember asking my wonderful Dr. White if he knew of a good body shop. He understood my question, completely, and we had a good chuckle. We had just gone over my body parts with a fine tooth comb, and all was well, but I felt as if I was wearing out. I thought if I could replace a few parts where the mechanisms weren't quite as moveable, things would certainly run more efficiently.

Alas, there is no such thing as a convenient 'body parts' store, as there is an automobile parts place. You can't just run in and buy a knuckle or a wrist or a new disk for your spine and figure out a way to insert it yourself. However, the wonderful thing about medicine is that if you do actually need something like a new joint, they are available through the proper channels!

After these last few weeks of nursing my aching back, I've done a lot of thinking about 'realignment.' I believe in chiropractic, but would not even attempt the trip to the office for an adjustment, until the acute muscle pain let up. I thought of every other scenerio, though. I've never had acupuncture because I'm not big on becoming a pin cushion...or worse yet, a voodoo doll. I do believe that it works, because two people close to me have had it in the past, and it brought them great relief. Even knowing that, I cannot bring myself to yield my body to a handful of needles.

And so I remain with the remnants of pain as I rise from a chair using my knees and attempt to work to an upright posture. This morning, once again, I found myself thinking of how wonderful it would be if all the aches and pains could be remedied by an immediate purchase and a simple disconnect/reconnect of things...sort of like changing a battery in a flashlight. Wouldn't that be nice?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Forever Sister in Law

A Facebook message from my daughter gave me the news that my former, yet forever, sister -in-law had passed away in the night. It was not unexpected, but still it puts a tear in my eye.

When I became engaged to her brother, she embraced me with her kindness and accepted me into the family, more so than any of the others did. We became relatives at the wedding, and oddly, double relatives, as she was not only my sister in law, but she was married to my cousin, too. Her children were a few years older than my own were, but they connected well as cousins.
We did many family things, beach gatherings, parties, holidays and Sunday dinners. Even after both of our marriages dissolved, we both felt connected, and vowed to be 'forever' sisters in law.

As life would have it, she remarried, and much later, I did too. We didn't see much of each other in those days, but it always seemed the same when we'd meet somewhere. She worked for my doctor, my kids' doctor, so at times we saw a good bit of each other. We did live differently, lifestyles which were far distant from each other, but still, we didn't feel distant.

Today there is a sadness, a sorrow for her loss, though I'm sad to say we hadn't had any sort of communication since we moved away from East Hampton. I find myself wishing that I could embrace her daughters today, to take them under my wing, and 'be there' for them. They say they were ready for her leaving, but are we really ever ready to lose someone we love? My heart goes out to them, and to their step-father, who I never really got to know well. I grieve for my former husband and his remaining two younger brothers. They are all that is left of the family which once numbered eight children.

Life is a muddle of happiness, sadness, living, dying, and a whole bucketful of other things. While there is joy in the coming of a new baby, there is sadness in the loss of someone we love. It's all a part of life, I guess, and somehow we must accept it.

Thank you, K., for being a part of my family...a part of my life. Rest easy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Not Quite Time...

With our days reaching nearly 70 degrees since this past weekend, I find myself thinking of the gardens. I walk around the yard, daily, to watch the progress of the green shoots of daffodils and tulips, expecting to actually see them growing. They do not disappoint me. I examine the branches of the pink dogwood, and take note that the leaves are budding...still tiny and not yet ready to unfurl. But, in time they will burst, and there will be profusion of the cross shaped blossoms. The pussy willows will soon open and show their silver fuzz.

But, it's not quite time. As the catalogues of bulbs, plants and seeds arrive in the mail, I feel the call to get outside and clear the spot where the vegetable garden will be this year. I circle the items I want to order, and I want to get them into the ground. But it's not quite time yet. There is still danger of a night-time freeze, and we who plant, dare not do so until 'tax day' arrives, April 15. Then we have a pretty good chance of seeing our plants survive.

There is much clean up and preparation to do before anything can go into the ground. The horrible Bermuda grass, which sends its roots crawling into places it doesn't belong, takes over in the flower beds. It comes up between the wanted blossoms, and is a dickens to pull out. It's never really gone, but it lies under the soil, just ready to push up and take a place with the flowers. It's my nemesis as it appears to be stronger than my muscles are.

I'm waiting to do battle with the weeds and the earth. With a bad shoulder that hangs on and a strained muscle in my back that has given me excrutiating pain for the last few weeks, I must wait. It's not quite time to attempt anything that requires use of those muscles.

The Bible says, "to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven." Though my mind is ready to work, my flesh is weak, and the weather is a trickster. In light of my desire to get my hands dirty, today I will fill my four window box containers with gardening soil, and I will plant some lettuce seeds and some flowers, and set them into the sunlight in our back room. The tomato plants, the squashes, the peppers, and the corn I hope will yield, must wait for a little longer...because it's not quite time.

Monday, March 8, 2010


We moved from my hometown a little over three years ago. It saddens me that we became so frustrated with prices, crowds, attitudes and government that we felt almost 'driven' to go. But, that was the reason.

Sometimes people ask if I am homesick for the place. I usually answer that I am not, and that is true, for I do not miss those things that caused us to leave. However, I miss the East Hampton that I knew while I was growing up there. I miss the people I grew up with, many of whom have left the area as well, for their own reasons. I loved the 'old feel' of East Hampton, when the streets were quiet, the air smelled of sea, when the faces on the street were all friendly and well known.

Changes came as I was raising my children. New faces arrived and a new feeling came with them. Storefronts began to change, and certainly what was offered within their walls was different. Shop owners were no longer those who welcomed us as local patrons. We began to realize that we were going to have to shop elsewhere for our wardrobes and everyday items.

Other things began to happen. Rents were rising. Small homes were being purchased by those who began to transform them into larger and more 'elegant' places. Vacant land was being built up with very large second homes. The streets were no longer crowded for just the summer months, as they were when I was younger, but more of the year was showing heavy traffic on roads and sidewalks too. Some thought all this was good for the economy. That may or may not have been true, and my question would be, " for WHOSE economy?" Now it appears that many of those who've caused these alterations to the area have decided to move on to another playground, leaving East Hampton a virtual ghost town.

Local government changed along with everything else. Who are those people who sit in the Town Hall offices now? The majority are people I've only heard of in the last few years. What happened to those who care about the well-being of the town of East Hampton?

It will be a very long time, if ever, before things can get back on track. Local people cannot afford to rent the empty stores, nor does their employment allow for the renting or purchasing of luxury homes. What will become of my beloved home town and those who remain there?

Yes, yes, life brings many changes to our every day, in our bodies and in our surroundings. I wish with all my heart that some were not so severe.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Living in Church

Over the years, some of my family and friends have commented that we 'live in church.' Granted, we often spend a good deal of time at our church, but I've yet to actually sleep there, even during the most boring of times!

However, I have often wished we could purchase a church building after it's been determined to be no longer useful to it's congregants. I want a REAL church, not a modern, flat roofed, sprawling brick building, but one with a steeple, bell-tower. loft, and stained glass windows. If it still has old wooden pews and an alter, all the better. Why do I want such a thing? Because I dream of actually living in church.

I've seen homes on TV, beautiful homes, transformed from church buildings. I think I had the notion long before I'd seen any, though. Think of living in something with high-ceiling, and a large balcony or loft, over-looking the area below. It might be perfect to place a complete second floor above it, or around it, with some glass windows that would allow views and light to the lower level. Think of a master bath which incorporates the baptismal pool. Wow! What a bathtub or indoor hot tub that would make. The stained glass windows would add such ambiance to each room...splintered color washing over the area with warmth and reminder of age-old Biblical figures and their lives! The wooden altar would make a lovely dining table with pews as its benches...or would that use be too sacrilegious? I have no desire to be disrespectful to God in my use of the church building or its furnishings!

I do hate the thought of these lovely old buildings being sold to who knows who and for who knows what purpose when there are people like me who would live in them, knowing what they stand for and respecting and preserving them. But, I fear that this one of my dreams will not come to reality. It's probably alright, in the long run, because with all my thoughts of the beauty and wonder and 'good feeling' I have about living in such a sacred place, there's another handful of thoughts. First of all, I wouldn't be happy to live in a busy area, where most churches are built. Secondly, the cost of a building in such a commercial (usually) area would be far too high for my wallet. Thirdly, the cost of renovation would probably be equal to the selling price. On top of that, what on earth would it cost to heat the place?

All things happen for a reason. I'm just as happy to live in my home, which is nearly as sacred to me because of the love in it as a church is.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Dump, part III

This part 3 of my adventures at the East Hampton landfill and the second of my personal stories concerning the place.

When we were engaged to be married, we had long discussions and shopping trips in regard to 'the perfect' wedding rings. We finally made an agreement about them...they would be yellow gold 'wide' bands with etched edges, exactly like the ones Mike's grandparents had. When we bought them, we had engravings placed on the inside of each band. "Grow old with me. 6-15-96"

My husband was in the habit of taking off his watch and rings during his working hours. He'd place his watch on the dashboard of the truck and his rings would be put on his keyring. At the end of the day, when his tree-care or landscaping work was done, he'd put the ring back on his finger before he started the truck.

One April day in 1998 on his route toward home, he made a trip to the dump with some debris. While there, he spotted a pile of bulbs which had been cleaned out of someone's flower gardens. Not being one to leave any green, living plant to die, he began to scoop up the bulbs and put them into the back of the truck. After two wheelbarrow loads had been 'rescued' he made an unfortunate discovery. His wedding ring had slipped off. He began to search the area on his hands and knees. Three or four of the employees at the landfill got involved too, gently raking and scouring the spot where the bulbs had been, and the area between that and the truck. It was closing time, so they kindly roped off the area with yellow crime tape, and told Mike to return in the morning.

Mike came home, afraid to tell me what had happened, but I noticed immediately that his ring wasn't on his hand. Sheepishly, he told me the story. We gently took the bulbs from the truck, placing them into wheelbarrows, all the while keeping a close eye out for the precious ring. We didn't find it.

Early the next day, I arrived with my camera as the men gathered around Mike to search the spot at the dump. It was a vain effort which is sadly documented by the photos in my scrapbook.
We thanked the Town employees for their consideration and help, and both of us went off to work with heavy hearts.

On a Christmas a few years later, I bought Mike another wedding band, very similar to the first, which has not yet been engraved. I got down on one knee and tearfully asked him if he'd be my forever husband. The giving of the second ring is not the same, even the sentiment in it is not, because the first one was bought together and given together with great and meaningful vows offered on our very special day. However, it does tell the world that this wonderful man is married, and he's married to me!

Somewhere in that pile of debris on Springs Road is a symbol of our precious and long-lasting love. Someday, long after we've gone from this earth, I imagine that there will be the finding of our special symbol. Someone will discover it in the dirt, read the inside, and wonder about the people who loved each other and this size 13 band of gold that signified their union. What will they do with the ring, I wonder? Will it end up in a scrap pile of 'old gold'? No, I don't want to think about that. I'd rather think that we might be as lucky as some I've read of where a lost ring finds it's way, miraculously, back to it's original owner. Wouldn't that be something?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Dump, part II

All this talk about the dump has reminded me of two personal stories of the East Hampton recycling center.

The first is rather humorous, at least it is now, looking back on it. When my husband and I were engaged to be married, we spent a lot of time in my yard, transforming it from what I called " a desert" into what my Mom called "a jungle." Mike, being a plant-lover and a landscaper, would often get 'freebies' from customers or his nursery connections. Sometimes he'd find discarded plants at the dump. One day, while accompanying him to the dump, we drove around to the landscape dumping section. We were on a hunt for some large stones for use in the flower gardens. We found a pile of rocks and began to load some choices into the back of his truck. We realized it was nearly closing time for the dump, and decided we'd better make our way around the mountains of dirt to the gate. As we came up over the hill on the road to the dump, we saw that a man was getting into his truck after locking the gate from the other side. We honked the horn to get his attention, but it was too late. Either he was deaf or too intent to get home for supper, but either way, we found ourselves locked in the dump!

Ok....there we were, sitting in the truck, laughing about our dilemna. There was no way out with the dump truck, although a small person might be able to slip between the fence post and the gate post, which is what we finally determined that I should do. Then I walked to the One Stop Market phone booth to call the police. I happened to know the dispatcher who answered, and I made her promise not to put the story in the local paper. She asked, "why? what happened?" As I told her, she laughed along with me and then said, "Look at the headlines on Thursday!" When she finally calmed down, she said she'd send someone with a key to get us out of our lock up!

When I got back to Mike, we were still laughing at our predicament, when along came Buzzy Brown in his pick up truck and his key to the gates. We told him how we came to be inside after hours, and said, 'the police work fast around here, sending you so quickly.' He told us that he wasn't sent, but was on his daily run for metal for the junk yard. We left, without ever seeing a policeman, and with the knowledge that if we ever stayed too late at the dump again, Buzzy would eventually show up to free us!

Stand by for another blog with my second personal story in the "Adventures at the Dump."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The East Hampton Dump

You never know what will show up on a social networking website. There's one friend on my list there who, quite regularly, posts photos of 'dump treasures'. These photographs have created quite a rousing discussion of the dump at East Hampton.

Some folks are sharing the finding of 'good stuff' they've rescued from the recycling area. One spoke of some items that sound suspiciously like things we delivered to the spot while we were in the midst of a move. Others have remarked about the 'camping out' of many who seek out things in good shape which they can sell at yard sales for a little extra cash. I know one man who is a 'regular' at the pavillion. He waits for a drop off, then rushes in like a vulture at a carcass, and lays claim to whatever pleases him. He told me that he's found many old pieces of jewelry, including diamond rings, in the drawers of discarded bureaus and desks. There were great numbers of those who sat on the tailgates of their trucks, waiting all day for just the 'perfect" finds. My husband and I arrived one day with our refuse, to find a semi-circle of folks having a 'tailgate party' and eating watermelon while they waited!

There has been discussion of the entertainment aspect of the dump. Shooting rats with pellet guns, was 'big' with some young men at the old Bull Path location, before it was fenced in. It was done after dark, when there was noone but other target shooters there.

In a place like East Hampton, summer renters discard many useful things at the end of the season. There are some wonderful things to be found at the recycling center, but I don't think I am so determined that I'd sit all day in the heat eating watermelon, to get them... even for free.