The Difference Was Roses Not Marriage

How much did children change from Grandma’s generation to mine? Based upon our two autograph books, I would say that the differences were minor. Upon examining what my friends wrote to me in 1968 when I was a seventh grader and what Grandma’s pals/chums (that’s what they called each other) wrote when they were in fifth and sixth grade, I observed that bad poetry was a constant in both.

I smiled when I opened the book and saw that the first entry was written by my grandmother, who had lived in the house next to us for many years. When she wrote her poem to me, she was living with Aunt Marian and recovering from a twenty-eight day hospitalization for a ruptured appendix that nearly killed her.

Grandma Carey

A few pages later I saw an autograph from Grandpa’s brother, Pete, who was visiting us from California. That may be the only time he visited us. I never understood why, after being separated from his family for so many years, Uncle Pete moved to the other side of the country.

Uncle Pete

I had a huge appetite as a kid and was known to eat as many as four hamburgers (dipped in applesauce of course) at one time. Grandma would encourage me to snack before supper, hoping it would spoil my appetite. I guess that explains what she wrote to me. Sadly, Grandpa did not sign my book.


Aunt Ar was my only sibling to grace the pages of my zippered, pink autograph book. Jamie will not like the poem she wrote to me, because it clearly shows that my nine-year-old sister felt that teachers were overpaid.


Among my friends, roses, rather than love and marriage, was the favorite topic. It was discussed by 25% of my junior-high friends, each with their own twists of the popular poem.

My friend Robin mentioned the popular sweetener saccharine (in the little pink package), which is Dad’s favorite sweetener that he uses only in tea. (For coffee he uses the blue package.)


Debi had conditions on our friendship with her take-off on the famous poem.

Debi Weeks

Sandy, who was the friend who had the first sleepover I ever went to, where I was levitated by some of the other girls at the party, wrote a more unfriendly take-off of “Rose are Red.” She did apologize, though. She wrote on a second page, but this time, she mentioned bourbon (Four Roses) in her clever little arithmetic post.

Sandy SiragusaSandy 2

I believe some of the less-friendly little ditties were not serious in their negativity, because no one who wrote in my book were my seventh-grade enemies. This next one was written by my friend, Ruth, who ended up buying my grandma’s old house.

Ruth Morris

The final “ roses poem” was not altered at all and was written in it original form (actually not really true)  by my friend Dale, who was Jamie and Kelly’s gymnastic teacher at the YMCA.

Dale Banta

These various take-offs made me wonder if Dale’s version was as it was written originally. It turns out it was not. The first rendition was written in 1590 by a man named Sir Edmund Spencer, and has little resemblance to the poem we have all grown to know and love:

          It was upon a Sommers shynie day,

          When Titan faire his beames did display,

          In a fresh fountaine, farre from all mens vew,

          She bath’d her brest, the boyling heat t’allay;

          She bath’d with roses red, and violets blew,

          And all the sweetest flowres, that in the forrest grew.

Two hundred years later, it morphed into something more familiar:

          The rose is red, the violet’s blue,

          The honey’s sweet, and so are you.

          Thou are my love and I am thine;

          I drew thee to my Valentine:

          The lot was cast and then I drew,

          And Fortune said it shou’d be you.

So there you are. Can you agree that little changed between the time Grandma’s pals wrote in her book and my friends wrote in mine? Also, now you are all ready for “Roses are Red” trivia. Next, I will reveal the rest of the posts.





Looking for a Blended Life

When I look back on my childhood and compare it with yours, I see how much has changed in just one generation. Let’s start with elementary school.

We did so many dangerous things back then which would never be permitted today.  The first example which comes to mind is our playground.  We had swings, a slide, see saw, and the killer metal gym, all of which were on hard asphalt, not on cushy wooden or rubber mulch. Fortunately, I don’t recall anyone suffering serious injuries on my school playground. On the flipside, the soft crumbled rubber seen on playgrounds today may prevent a broken limb or head, but safe as they may appear, conversation on the Internet suggests the possibility of toxicity. So what’s a parent to do?

Grandma and Grandpa were not worried about allowing us to walk alone to school, twice a day no less, since we usually came home for lunch except when the weather was bad. As I mentioned previously, I began the practice of walking to school at the tender age of five or six, which none of you would consider with your children today.

As a teacher, Jamie is particularly aware that her behavior can be questioned by a parent at any time. That rarely happened during my childhood and probably never during Grandma’s youth. Teachers were second to God. That was why the toothpick punishment happened. (Third Grade Stunk) No one called to complain, and I do not believe parent-teacher conferences even existed. You just got sent to the principal’s office, your parents were sent a nasty note about your poor behavior, and then you were in big trouble!

I enjoyed gym class in elementary class, but I question whether one of my favorite games—war—would ever be permitted today. In the game of war, there were two teams and one rubber ball. The object was to throw the ball at someone on the opposite team at warp speed, and if they were hit, they were eliminated. If the targeted child caught the ball, the “thrower” was eliminated. The strategy was to give the ball to someone with a powerful arm, someone who could inflict the most pain and speed so their ball would be impossible to catch. Would children even be allowed to play such a violent game in today’s schools where parents are so quick to contact the principals, and schools are so fearful of lawsuits when it comes to school safety and their precious babies?

Several of my teachers in junior high disciplined by fear much like the nuns of Grandma’s day. Our reading teacher, Mr. Winklehofer, loved to calm the class by banging on a desk and counting (never let him reach ten!) until our united fear quieted us all down.

Our music teacher, Miss Kennedy, was another scary teacher at that school.  She was a screamer, had a nasty temper and also disciplined by instilling fear. It was rumored she was later fired for hitting someone with a ruler.

I did learn about music despite my anxiety before and during her class.  I recently thought of Miss Kennedy when I heard Janis Joplin singing a song called Summertime, which I first heard as a song in an opera called Porgy and Bess during Miss Kennedy’s class. So I guess if I recalled that song after all those years, then something good did come out of her class. But would the helicopter parents of today be emailing the principal if their little princes and princesses had Mr. Winklehofer or Miss Kennedy?

Miss Kennedy was also director of the chorus. I was member, and in case any of you care, I was an alto. In today’s world, every year it seems, we witness the chatter of people discussing how to properly greet the man on the street during the holiday season. Personally I don’t care what someone says to me as long as they are nice. Wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Ramadan, Happy Holidays, Happy Labor Day. I won’t slug you. If your good wishes are accompanied by a bag of plain M&M’s, I am your best friend.

When I was a kid, no one cared about hurting the feelings of our non-Christian friends. I don’t even think it occurred to any of us that we may have offended our Jewish friends. During our Christmas concert, we sang The Little Drummer Boy and The Messiah.  We didn’t even sing the Dreidel Song. In fact, I never heard of a dreidel, gelt, or potato latkes until way into my adulthood. Are public schools these days even allowed to sing such religious songs these days?  Back then, no one seemed to care about the feelings of Jewish people. Such a different world back then! Now I realize how wrong it was.

So do I long for those carefree days when our parents didn’t have the same fears and worries  that the parents of today face every day? Of course I do, because as a parent, I just want to wrap a protective cocoon around all of you. I want to protect you from crushing your skulls at the foot of all those jungle gyms, but I clearly can’t anymore. But do I want to revert back to a time of insensitivity to my neighbor, to the days of not acknowledging our Happy Hanukkahs alongside our Merry Christmases or Happy Holidays? Of course not, because I enjoy my Christmas cookies as the dessert to my dinner of potato latkes.

I guess I would just like to put my past into a blender with my present and turn the speed to high.