Finally Free to Blow Ourselves Up

I was driving home from the store recently when I spotted a sign in front of a local church, which I found to be quite disturbing.

Fireworks for Kids

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a state where it was not legal for fireworks to be sold at the local supermarket, church, or (I am not kidding) gas station as they are here in South Carolina. The last location is the most mind boggling to me, because I cannot understand placing fireworks just feet away from the gas pumps, but such is life in a fireworks state I guess.

Every year, these temporary pyrotechnics stands pop up before the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. If you live in one of the nineteen states that are very comfortable with their citizens blowing themselves up, you are probably familiar with what I see in my state.

When I was young, I remember standing in my grandmother’s backyard with my cousins on many a summer night holding punks and sparklers. Punks were these very thin sticks, about the size of a sparkler, which someone lit and they emitted a small stream of smoke. I don’t recall them ever doing much more than that. Until now I just assumed one of my uncles purchased them legally.

Sparklers, as you all know, are much more exciting, since they are more like fireworks on a stick. Looking at the map, I am not sure if you used them illegally in New Jersey or were not exposed to them until we moved to North Carolina where any firework which does not leave the ground is legal.

So I checked out the history of fireworks in New Jersey and learned they were all banned—ALL—in 1937 after a very bloody Fourth of July when 927 people were injured or killed. The ban passed by a unanimous vote. The fireworks laws in New Jersey are so strict that possession of any, even those which you purchase legally across the border in Pennsylvania, can result in a fine or jail time.

So if you used them in New Jersey, we could have all been thrown in the pokey! (I didn’t know!!!)

Still, I simply cannot understand the “Fireworks for Kids” sign. What are they thinking?

Happy Anniversary to Me

Can you all believe that it has been one year since the publication of my book? Now that it is done after so many, many years of writing and researching it, I am wondering if you thought I would ever complete it.

What are your opinions about the story—not the quality but what you learned about Grandpa and the rest of his family? Did it explain anything about the way he acted knowing now what you do about his life, and did it alter your opinions of him?

For me, it certainly explained why he did not want to go on that family cruise and why he never hesitated to pick up the phone and call anyone—even Uncle Mart in the middle of a job interview. It makes me understand why I never knew his politics until he was much older.

Thank you for taking the time to give me suggestions on how to improve the book during the writing process and to read it in its entirty once it was done— even though you had read it in pieces over and over so many times.

What are your thoughts about me trying to write another book? Do you have what it takes to go through the process of listening to me discuss it once more, and do you have any thoughts on what you would like me to write about this time? I have thought about turning Mommymeanderings into a book about stories of the Baby Boomer Generation. Although it’s just a thought, I am considering this as an option.

But back to my book. As someone who you all know loves competitions I can play by myself, beginning on Thursday, May 25 and continuing until June 4, I will be doing my second Goodreads Giveaway for people in the US, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I targeted those countries based upon where I know this blog is being read and where I have friends. (I’m so worldly!)

As someone who loves competitions with myself as exemplified by my license plate game, I am turning this into another game. (See Mock Me if  You Must for Details) The goal is to beat the number of entrants to my other Giveaway of 961 people.

Game on!

 

Grandma’s Thoughtful Craft

When Kelly was around one, Grandma noticed how much she loved looking at babies. You all did.  On one of our visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, Grandma gave Kelly a gift which she had made for her, knowing of that interest in little people.

I was touched, because I don’t remember her making anything before this little craft. As the working mother of five children, she didn’t have a lot of spare time at her disposal.

Kelly was thrilled by that gift, which was a photo album filled with pictures of various sizes and shapes of babies, which Grandma made by cutting out pictures from magazines. It was her favorite “toy” for a while. While not a difficult project, it took a lot of time, and it was extremely thoughtful.

Jamie and Casey (and probably most babies) shared that love of looking at babies, so when Kelly outgrew her album, it became theirs to enjoy.

I wish I had saved it, but I am confident that it eventually fell apart from overuse. Now when Lily comes over, she grabs the two albums because she just loves looking at herself and her brother. Kids are really the same—no matter the time.

She Should Have Used the Tape

I’d like to discuss a topic of interest to many people—something you either have or don’t. Something you care deeply about, or something you try to ignore, because it’s just not important to you. Maybe you even try to get rid of it, but if you have it, it’s a never-ending daily battle because it just keeps returning.

I’m talking about hair. For me, it has changed over time, and I don’t just mean the color. When I was young, it was fine and straight. Now it has lost its youthful sheen and has become wavy and frizzy.

There is so much to discuss about hair, but today, I would like to focus on bangs.

As you know, Grandma took my hair into her own hands by giving me a home permanent when I was only three or four. In addition to giving me curls from a box, she bought a pair of hair scissors and cut bangs.

During the 50s and early 60s, very, very short bangs were in fashion, which was great for do-it-your selfers like Grandma, who needed to worry about mistakes. Her method was to start with them a little longer than the final desired length, and then continued to cut them until they were fairly even. She’d cut, look, cut, look, cut, look—until we were either unable to sit still any longer or she would just give up.

Here is an example of what I looked like after she trimmed and evened my bangs so many times that there was nothing left to cut, and still, they were crooked.

Eventually by the mid-60s, either I voiced my opinion or she got tired, because the days of the bangs were gone for me.

If only she had seen this ad for Scotch tape, maybe she would have done a better job and I would still have had bangs in fifth grade.

 

“I Hate Kids”- But We Know That’s Alt-Facts

I have the best mom, and as the oldest (and favorite) child, I had her all to myself for four years. I have memories of going on outings alone before any of my siblings came along and forced me to lose my title of “only child.”

Grandma used to take me to the Sweet Shop at Del’s Village for ice cream sodas. I especially liked coke floats. I can remember sipping on my drink while sitting on the revolving stools. I felt so grown up.

Like all of you, I loved going shopping with her. There was a store in Rockaway—Robert Hall–where I would hide under the racks while Grandma picked out my outfit. Back then, she probably laughed, because in those days, a child disappearing at a store for a few minutes was not cause for a lockdown.

Almost every day, I would come home for lunch, except when the weather was bad. Some of my favorite sandwiches were ham and cheese, and on Fridays, tuna fish with diced apples—a very weird combination, but tasty nevertheless. I loved it when the lunchbox got warm, and the cheese would be all melted and gooey. In those days, Grandma could put mayonnaise on our sandwiches without worrying about any dangers of it being unrefrigerated because food poisoning was not invented yet.

When the days grew hot near the end of the school year, she would have my lunch ready on the ladder of the pool so that I could cool off before going back to my sweltering hot classroom. I felt so lucky to have a mom who would do that!

After school we would often come home to some nice treat she would bake for us, such as cupcakes or her world famous brownies. I would sometimes do that for all of you, and I remember at least one of you asking, “Don’t you have anything healthy to eat?” I responded by saying, “What’s wrong with you kids. Can’t you enjoy junk?”

I have fond memories of our dinners. How she fed seven or eight of us on their income I do not know, but they were great meals—no kidding— even though it will sound like I am joking. We would have hamburger night, and I was known to be able to eat as many as four burgers on her homemade rolls (dipped in applesauce, of course). My appetite was unstoppable in those days.

Grandma would encourage me to snack before dinner in the hopes that it would spoil my appetite. Meatless Fridays were always special. With her “fondness” for fish, it is a surprise that she didn’t convert years ago. Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks were a common Friday meal, but the best was creamed tuna on toast, with baby peas mixed in for added nutrition. I would have that with applesauce, of course. I truly enjoyed that meal.

We were always a meat and potato family. No Chinese, Thai, or Mexican ever.  I remember Grandpa carving up a single nice chuck steak into seven or eight pieces, and it wasn’t until Dad made a steak dinner years later for me that I surprisingly learned that some people got their own steak at a meal. (“I get my own steak?! I have never heard of such a thing.”) I didn’t know any differently, so I never felt deprived.

As you know, our vacations were simple—a week at the Jersey Shore and the remainder in the backyard making whirlpools in our above-ground pool. Air travel was never a consideration.

Grandma always worked, and in those days, that was much less common than it is today. But dinner was always ready to be heated up, most of the laundry was done, and somehow, the house was in order. I don’t know how she did it, and I never, ever remember her being a big complainer. (Except that she loves to say, “I hate kids.”) As a child of the Depression, she helped support her family, so when she had her own, it was just a natural progression.

I never felt as if she were not there for us. She had her 24-hour job as a mom, her evening job working as the switchboard operator, and still, she found the time to bake cupcakes if someone at school asked her to do so, and proofread my reports.

When Kelly and Jamie were born, Grandma was determined that they know their grandmother despite the “great distance” between us (about sixty miles), so she would come often to visit us. After Kelly’s birth, she stayed for a week or two, since Dad was traveling.

After a while, we were able to move back to New Jersey, and we chose Montville, just under six miles from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. It was so nice to be near them. You all loved having your grandparents nearby and enjoyed being able to visit them in the “city”.

It was great being able to invite them to Grandparents Day as well as those very long, boring dance recitals. (It’s true. It was painfully long, and we all had to endure watching everyone else’s kids waiting for the five minutes before Jamie and Kelly tapped onto the stage.)

When we decided to become vagabonds and start our tour of the Southeast, I know Grandma in particular was really unhappy, because now we were really going to be far away.

For a while, she didn’t know how to contact us, because she didn’t even know what state we were in, let alone the town since we moved so much. I miss having her so close, but I do not miss the cold. I have learned to like grits, like Dad, and crawfish, and actually enjoy being called “ma’am” once I realized that even all of you girls are addressed in this manner.

Thank goodness that long-distance telephone calls are a dinosaur of the past, so we can all chat often.

So have a Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and thanks for all the memories.

Do the Hustle

I do not believe I have discussed the music and dances done at our wedding. Before you laugh too much, you must remember we are talking about the 70’s, and I am sure at least one of these dances is still done today. (This is where I defer to our family photographer for a comment on this.)

In anticipation of the reception, I got together with several of my friends to practice ahead of time. Saturday Night Fever had come out the year before, so disco dancing was big. I pulled out my copy of the movie soundtrack and we all practiced our moves so we would be ready for the big night.

I would like to mention that this dance was not too difficult to learn since we had already mastered “the hustle,” a similar dance based upon a song which came out in 1975. Do the Hustle by Van McCoy. (Click the link. You’ll be glad you did!)

I am not sure if both the hustle and the song from Saturday Night Fever were played at our wedding. We did not have a DJ. Instead, we had a really awful band recommended by Grandpa. While we had listened to them ahead of time, on the big day, a few substitutions were made, so the band that played was not exactly the same as the band we heard ahead of time. All I know is that we have the photo of us dancing to prove we did our little routine.

In addition to the hustle, I am quite certain we did another line dance popular at that time known as the Alley Cat. (Come on, kids! Check out this link too.)

Next time we are together, perhaps this summer in New Jersey, I can demonstrate it with my sisters so you will see what you missed. It may not be Shout, but it was a biggie back then. (Shout, by the way, is is my guess for the only song still played at weddings forty years later.)

Returning Those Pictures Home

Last year when I drove to New Jersey, I took the opportunity to check out the storage unit, which was filled with  boxes placed there after the sale of Grandma’s house. Some contained familiar dishes, glasses, holiday decorations, and lots of old photos. You all know which boxes I grabbed.

I spent a lot of time after that trip making amateur-ish attempts to market my book, so I had hardly looked at the contents.  In March, I had my hip surgery, so suddenly, I had lots of time on my hands to really examine those old albums. Many are falling apart, so I am hoping to remove many of those photos and place them in a new one in time for my July visit.

There is one album in particular that I have been having a lot of fun viewing, because it contains labeled photos of her World War II pen pals. How sweet! Since most are just random people rather than family, I decided it would be fun to return them to the men in the photos or their relatives. They would be more meaningful to them than to me or Grandma.

Using the tools I use to build my family tree, I set to work. If the person was deceased (which I could find using the Social Security Death Records on Anestry.com, I usually was able to find an obituary, which almost always listed the surviving family. Most were on Facebook, and when I reached out to them and explained that I possessed wartime photos of their father/grandfather/brother, all wanted the originals. No one asked how I found them, which I thought was especially interesting, particularly when the names did not even match.

The Boonton Facebook page—You Just Might be a Boonton-ite If…—was very helpful in locating family members. Six matches were the direct result of that page.

One match was a daughter of Grandma’s pen pal, who told me that my cousin Billy was her seventh-grade boyfriend.

Another picture was sent to the daughter of Grandma’s eighth-grade boyfriend. She was thirteen and he was fifteen. His daughter had never seen any pictures of her dad and that age. He grew up to be a brilliant man who has been honored on the Boonton High Hall of Fame. Grandma recalled that Uncle Rich didn’t like him because he was so smart.

A second album contained mostly family members . I found a living first cousin of Grandma, whose parents died when he was very young. I was contacted by his daughter on Facebook after posting a note to his wife. When I initially sent the digital pictures, she showed them to him and she told me that “He is sitting there crying with emotion.”

Apparently he had a massive stroke, so I was told that “He just gets very emotional now and he is touched someone remembers him.” Grandma enjoyed hearing about her long-lost cousin, and she shared a few memories of visiting him after his parents divorced.

The album from Grandma and Grandpa’s courtship through their return from their honeymoon contained the photo of a couple and their one-year old daughter, who had recently died. Her obituary lead me to her sister, who informed me that her dad was still alive and living not far from Grandma.

He and his wife met Grandma and Grandpa in Texas when they both were called back to service during the Korean War. Joe is 93 now, and in great shape. I told him where Grandma was living, and one day, he and his daughter paid Grandma a surprise visit. Although Aunt Ar worried that Grandma would not recognize him, that was not the case. Grandma told me that Joe hadn’t changed much—“he has the same nose.” Joe told his daughter the exact same thing about Grandma. We both thought that was very cute.

So about once a week, I return to those old albums looking for more matches. I found two more this week! It is a win-win project because I am cleaning up my house and, at the same time, making someone happy in the process.