Thursday, January 16, 2014

Generation Gap?

Yesterday I was visiting with my Mom, and I noticed that she was wearing a pair of brown, orlon socks. Those socks had been my Dad's.  That may not seem significant to you, but my father left this earth in 1985, twenty-eight years ago!  I remember him wearing those socks, that  were probably bought at Brill's store, on N.Main Street in East Hampton.  The store is long-gone, but those socks live on, albeit with a hole in the toe!

I came home to remark to my husband about those socks.  As one thought  lead to another, we both remembered learning how to darn socks. Nobody knows how to darn a hole in a sock any more. Mom taught me how to do it, I think when I was in the Girl Scouts and working on a Homemaker's badge.  Mike's Grandmother taught him the skill, although, having seen his mending of old jeans from his days as a single guy, I can't imagine how skilled his work was!  There was a tool ....little wooden 'eggs' on a handle...called darning eggs. It would be placed inside the sock behind the hole. First you  would surround the hole with small stitches. This prevented the sock from 'unraveling' further, and secure the place to begin the darning. Then you would begin the 'patching of the hole' by passing the needle, loaded with 'darning cotton' thread from one side of the circle to the other without pulling the hole closed.  After the circle had been covered with these threads going in one direction, you would turn the hole, so that the threads ran 'top to bottom', and you'd begin to weave the needle through the vertical threads in a horizontal manner. When you were done, the hole was patched.... not terribly comfortable to wear, as I remember, but patched, none the less.

The 'darning' gave us conversation of other things.  My Grandma had a 'rag bag', a handmade fabric bag  which held bits of old clothing, soft cloths, etc. which was used for cleaning or dusting purposes. It was hung on a hook on the inside door trim of the living room closet.  Sometimes I'd be sent to fetch a rag from it for some household job. Other times, I'd pick through for a pretty piece to practice sewing stitches on.

There were rag rugs in my Grandma's house, 'scatter rugs' they were called then. They were about the size of a door mat, made of strips of cotton fabrics that had been rolled to give them body, and then stitched together  to form small rugs to put in doorways or in front of the kitchen sink.  They'd be taken outside daily and shaken to free them of dust and dirt.  I don't remember, but I would imagine they were washed now and then, and hung on the line to dry.

Oh yes, and clotheslines! They are nearly a thing of the past. Many subdivisions don't allow them, which is an awful shame, I think.  There is nothing like fresh air drying for things like bed sheets!  Everything smells better when hung outside to air in the breeze, and white things are so much whiter when hung in the bright sunlight!  Grandma had a clothesline in her yard....a square that was formed by four old tall posts,  which were probably once growing locust trees.  The rope was hung high on those posts and strung from one post to the next, and tied taut.  Since the rope always seemed to stretch under the weight of wet clothing, there were long poles that  had a fork at the top to catch the ropes and were then propped on the other end against the ground, lifting the clothing to prevent any reaching to the ground.  We kids learned early to stay away from the clotheslines!  Dirty hand prints on the newly washed sheets was frowned upon.

Laundry day wasn't as easy as it is for women today. There was a galvanized wash tub on Grandma's back porch wall. It was filled with boiling water and things were scrubbed clean on a wooden framed, rippled glass, 'scrub board'.  Not only did the wash get scrubbed, so did knuckles!
Grandma had another large kettle that was placed on the stove, and in it went white things to boil. When they were clean, they'd be lifted out with a long stick, and rinsed a few times in the tub of clean hot water, then wrung out by hand, and hung out to dry.  When it was dry,  the wash was folded and most things had to be ironed.  Grandma had electricity, and an electric iron, but whatever was in the basket to be ironed had to be 'sprinkled' .  There was a bottle used for that purpose, with a cork at the top, with a cap with small holes in it.  You shook the bottle upside down, allowing a 'sprinkling' over the items, then they were rolled, so that they were damp, but not wet, all through the item.  Then they'd be unrolled on the ironing board and pressed free of dampness and wrinkles.

Things aren't the same today, for sure. For all our complaining, women have it easy today. We throw holey socks away. They don't even go in the 'rag bag'. Who even HAS a rag bag for cleaning? We have paper towels, or Clorox wipes to do the job of a rag. We rarely do hand washing, and almost never hang laundry outside anymore. Would a teen of today know what a 'sprinkling bottle' was used for if they saw one? Do they ever iron anything these days?  Life moves on.... bringing new gadgets that kids adapt to quickly, amazing things that some of us 'oldies' wouldn't know what to do with....or want to.  Generation Gap... well, I'll say!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Old House, Part 2

A few times a week, on the way to or from work, I'd drive by my childhood home to see whether someone new had bought it and moved in. Eventually, I saw things happening at the place. It wasn't things I liked seeing, nor was it anything I dreamed would happen.

A huge piece of  heavy equipment was parked in the yard.....some sort of bull dozer. The house had lost its shingles, and it had been stripped of the tar paper that used to be between the shingles and the plywood that formed the outside walls. Over the next few days, windows were removed, then plywood came off the studwork, leaving a skeleton of the house.  Just as I had watched the construction from the ground up, I was now watching a process of deconstruction.  It was upsetting.

A few days later, I noticed that there was a new block foundation on the dining room end of the house. Now what? It wasn't long before I saw that the structure that I knew as "Home" was gone. Everything about it...gone. The building,the weeping willow,  the 50 plus year old Azalea bushes, some of which had been moved from our former home to the new one, the Lilacs, the beautiful Crab Apple tree that bloomed so profusely in the front yard each Spring, all destroyed and carted away. The tall pine trees in the back yard where Daddy had fixed a long bar with swings hanging on it for my kids to play on had been demolished. The large, prolific, bright blue Hydrangeas that had been in near the house and the border of the property, crushed by the machinery.  The sunny spots where Dad had his garden and compost piles had been erased.  I felt as if my life had been eradicated.

In time, a new house was built...from the ground up. It, too, was a long, narrow, one story structure. They'd added to the foundation, but used the old one to build upon, but it sure didn't look a thing like the home I'd lived in. My curiosity got the best of me one day, and I tried to peek inside the windows.  All I could see was that the house was open from the front wall to the back one. It didn't tell me much.   Sometime later, after work, I saw that there was a workman at the house. I bit the bullet, gathered my nerve, and knocked on the door, telling him I'd lived in the former house, and wondered if I could see the new one.  He let me in, let me wonder through the unfamiliar areas.

The front door had been moved. The wall of the living room, where our TV used to be, now was the location of a lovely fireplace. On the other side of that wall used to have three bedrooms, now it was two larger ones.  The kitchen had been moved, and the house was very open. You could look through front windows clear through to look out of the back windows.  Everything was so different. The views to the back yard showed that the property had been cleared of all vegetation to the boundary lines, still marked by orange neon painted stakes left by the surveryors.  There, smack in the middle of the lawn where our picnic table sat in the shade  and where the grill had been used, was a rectangular, turquoise, vinyl, inground swimming pool. 

Yes, it was all lovely....but still, heartache filled my chest.  I left that day knowing that changes had taken place...transformations that I couldn't undo. Over time, before a new family had moved into that building, the house was sold again, and the vinyl pool  was replaced with a gunite one. A step up  patio was installed in the front of the house, forward of where Grandpa's room once stood. Then privet was planted around it, for privacy.  A garage was built on to the front left of the house and a driveway moved to that end from the other side. Today there is a tall privet near the street, blocking the house, almost completely from the road.

No longer do I worry about the changes in my childhood homeplace. Changes take place in everything. My life had taken many turns since the days I lived on that property. A marriage, a family, a divorce, grown children, a new marriage, a move to another state.  Not all changes are bad things, some bring real happiness. The days and events lived in that small ranch house my Dad built will always be a part of me, no one can change that. It is my hope that the memories made in the new residence, for the new occupants, will be as good for them as mine are for me.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Memories of the Old House

Inspired to write this morning, by the blog entry of a friend. He took a trip back to his childhood home and wrote of his feelings about it all.  My own experience was somewhat different.

The home I spent the majority of my young life in was built when I was about ten years old. It was a simple ranch house, three bedrooms and a bath. It was a typical model of the late 1950's and later.  It wasn't fancy, by any means, but it was our home and many memories were made there.  A few years later, a separate dining room, another bathroom and a bedroom for Grandpa were added on. My Dad and my Uncle Ros worked tirelessly after their day jobs and every weekend to complete the addition. 

The building of that house brought about the building of  new friendships in  our neighborhood, friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Preteen days found me spending much more time with the girls in the group than with my family members. It was the dawn of a new day for me...seeing more of how other people lived than what I knew at home. I didn't appreciate all that I saw, or come to realize until years later, how much better things were for me than I knew.

 Then came those confusing years as a teenager, new lessons to learn, new ideas to explore. I was struggling, like most teens do, to figure things out. My parents were wise and their lessons were taught to me from their wisdom. Again, I didn't always appreciate the strict rules and fact that I wasn't given permission to do what many of my classmates did on weekends.  I wasn't so rebellious as to go against what I was raised with, so I missed out on what I thought must have been the best of fun. It caused resentments, but I got over it, and came to understand that though I was kept on a rather short leash, it was for my own good.

The house was the place I introduced young men to my parents before I went out on dates with them.  It was where my first husband proposed to me. It was where I prepared for my wedding, and where I brought home our first-born child a little more than a year later, as our new house was under construction.  It was the place I ran the house and to my parents' advice when things were rocky in my life. It was where we spent our first days mourning my Dad's death.
This was the home that enveloped me while I learned about beginnings and endings.

Many years and events later, my widowed Mom decided it was time to sell that house. It saddened me. It was yet another loss for me.  What would happen to that house? I hoped that another family would move in and enjoy making their own memories. It did not happen that way. A single woman, an investor bought it, and did absolutely nothing with it for a year, when she sold it at a profit. Again, I hoped for a new family.....and again, I was disappointed. 

With a sense of grief, I came to realize that it was not 'our' house any longer. Life brings changes of all kinds. Some of them take us to places of sadness.  This  realization was one of those times.  
I watched the house to see what changes would come along.  *Watch this site to find out what those changes were. Tomorrow, it will be revealed.*