“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”

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‘Unless, of course, they come with a chocolate bunny’

That quote up top is from Thoreau. I don’t know much about little Henry David’s family or what they did for Easter, but I’m thinking he may have felt a tad better about new-clothes-requiring occasions if he’d had a nice mommy who sewed him a sport coat. Not to mention a Bunny to leave him an Easter basket.

Younger Brothers Scott and Roger and I show off our Easter finery, which was most likely made by our mother. No, that’s not the Easter Bunny. That’s Sandy, the Dog of Our Youth

Last weekend was Easter. It was also my Youngest Brother Doug’s birthday. Since he is waaaay younger than me, and I wasn’t around for many of his Easters, I don’t have a photo of him lined up with the rest of us wearing Easter duds. But I do have this shot of him in his (almost) birthday suit.

Doug, looking clean and shiny and very proud of himself indeed. Maybe getting ready to dress himself for Easter. (Note string tied to bathroom door as an escape mechanism in case the latch caught)

Easter was a big deal when I was growing up. Not as big a deal as Christmas, of course. But when we were kids, any occasion when adults insisted that Jolly Old Elves or Big Bunnies were going to sneak into the house and leave you gifts was pretty darned exciting. The Tooth Fairy was cool, too, what with the money left under your pillow and all. But nobody, as far as I know, has made a chocolate effigy of the Tooth Fairy. Maybe because of the tooth thing. But probably just because nobody knows what the Tooth Fairy looks like, except kind of like your dad, in pajamas.

An early Easter. When the crowd of dressed-up Henry Kids consisted of, um, me. Good thing I was too young for Dad’s Tooth Fairy duty; he was away, doing other duty off in Korea 

And any occasion that required new clothes was also a big deal. Easter was a biggie. Mom usually made our outfits as well as her own. She famously made my brothers sports coats — and matched the plaids. Which, if you sew, you know is very hard to do. I made my own clothes too, when I got big enough for my foot to reach the treadle. Where we grew up, sewing kind of came with the territory. Especially if you wanted to wear anything, well, trendy. My HS BF Norma sewed a ‘granny dress’ but she got in trouble wearing it to school because it didn’t meet the dress code — it was too long.

Nope, it’s not Paris. It’s me at another new-clothes-requiring occasion: Prom. I’m with High-School Hunk Brad, wearing a dress I made myself. Thank goodness it had dots, not plaids

But back to Easter. On Easter morning we’d wake up to find an Easter Basket by our beds. It didn’t matter how old we were; this happened every Easter. Even when I was a Hulking Proto-Adult home from college on Spring Break, I would wake on Easter morning to find an Easter Basket by my bed. And I bet if I’d been back home for Easter this year I would have found one there too.

There were little foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in these baskets, plus a big old chocolate bunny, but no dyed eggs. The dyed eggs were for hiding. They were hard-boiled eggs dyed in the kitchen with our Mom, using food coloring (these being the days before those dying kits with dissolving pellets, and way before the advent of those horrible pull-apart plastic eggs). We used to draw on our eggs with white crayon — our version of batik — the crayon wax would keep the dye from ‘sticking’ to the designs, and we could create some pretty nifty effects.

Our Mom — or in later years, the Big Kids — would hide these eggs. I have to confess that I much preferred hiding to finding. It was a blast to think of clever places to put the eggs. I remember one in the crook of a tree that remained undiscovered for weeks. (Our family liked to put things in crooks of trees; my Dad once put the ‘portable phone’ — remember those? — in a tree crook, and no one found it for months.) Besides enjoying the hiding, it was also super fun to traipse around on Easter morning behind the Little Kids going ‘you’re getting warmer…cooler…warmer again! You’re hot! very hot!’ while they searched.

And what did we do with these eggs? Well, we didn’t eat them. Eating was for the chocolate eggs. And the big ole bunny. Our family was divided between the eat-the-bunny-right-now faction (my brothers) and the save-some-bunny-for-later group (pretty much only me). As a ‘saver’, I would nibble on, say, one chocolate ear, then hide the rest. Of course, my smarty-pants brothers knew where to look and would eat my bunny as well as theirs.

As years went by, I got better at foiling them, though. I once hid a big pinwheel lollypop I got at the Clinton County Fair so well that I forgot all about it. Till I heard scratching and squeaking coming from a dresser drawer where a family of mice had established a sort of rodent condo — with my sweaters as their bed and the lollypop as their pantry.

Anyway, about those dyed eggs. Even if we hadn’t had the chocolate eggs to distract our taste buds, we kids weren’t overly fond (if at all) of hard-boiled ones. Especially dyed hard-boiled eggs. If you’ve ever shucked yourself a home-colored HB egg, you’ll know that the dye tends to seep into the egg itself, and a blue-tinged egg can be sort of a deal-breaker when you’re, say, seven. Even adults find purple egg salad a tad off-putting. So, as the Little Kids found the eggs, they’d slip them to our Dad, who would rouse himself from his supine-on-the-couch position to peel them and pop them whole, Cool Hand Luke-style, into his mouth.

Oh, when it rained, we didn’t cancel the hunt; we just hid the eggs in the house. One year, about a week after Easter there was this horrible smell in the living room. Turns out one of the eggs had been hidden too well, and was still buried beneath a couch cushion. We didn’t give that one to Dad.

Jump ahead to Easter with The Child. Even though we are not what you’d call ‘religious’, we did get a kick out of dressing up and going to church with Aunt Eleanor. That’s because Aunt E went to the Methodist Church, where they sang awesome Easter hymns. Really resoundingly good ones, like that one that goes ‘Christ the Lord is risen to-daaaay…ha ha ha ha HAH lay-eh ooo ooo yah!’ We would drive home from the service with the sunroof open ‘hallelujah’ing our hearts (and lungs) out.

Ready for some Easter-hymn bellowing at Aunt Eleanor’s church, headgear and all. I’m ashamed to admit I did not make The Child’s dress, though I did knit the sweater she’s wearing in that shot at the top with the giant chocolate bunny

This post is getting about as long as a Lutheran hymn (six or seven verses, all sung in a mournful minor key, even the joyous Easter ones), so I’ll wrap this up with another cute Mom-and-Child Easter photo. I didn’t make The Child’s dress. Like the one in the picture above, The Child’s Doting Aunt Linda bought it for her. And no, I did not make my suit. Don’t tell the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Tradition continues, sans hats. But definitely with Easter baskets (not shown)

New York City. April 2017

“You bet your sweet bippy!”

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‘”Screen time” in the Olden Golden Days’

Even more of a shock to me than Chuck Berry’s recent demise was to open the Times and see an obit for one of the Really Cute Girls who used to dance in bikinis on Laugh In.

Remembering Chelsea Brown — and Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne — ‘go-go’ dancing their little hearts out got me to thinking about how much fun we used to have watching TV back in those days.

See, TV back then didn’t mean streaming a show on your iPad with your earphones in. It meant sprawling on the living-room floor, consuming huge cereal bowls of ice cream (usually vanilla, but sometimes a flavor called ‘Neapolitan’; the green stripes being my favorite) or sharing a giant washtub of popcorn (Littlest Brother Doug was the designated Popcorn Chef; he popped it in a battered aluminum pot on the stovetop, shaking it energetically and listening carefully for the last ‘pops’ so it didn’t burn).

Littlest Brother Doug (with Major Moseby) taking a break from his corn-popping duties

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Kangaroo walks into a bar

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‘We got a million of ’em’

Last week’s silly family sayings (see ‘What’s not to lichen?’ for some nifty examples) seemed to strike a chord, so I thought I’d regale you this week with some equally silly family jokes.

(I was going to write about late March snowstorms and sprinkle the story with some extremely cute photos of kids hiding in snow forts and whatnot, but I can’t get my darned scanner to work. Oh well, maybe it’s for the best. Snow — even funny stories about it — seems so over now that’s it’s finally Spring, don’t you think?)

Speaking of regaling, the photo at the top of this post shows The Child wowing the crowd at my Dad’s retirement party (that’s Dad,  making the introductions). She had two guaranteed-to-crack-’em-up jokes at that age, and she told them both. Here’s the first one: Continue reading

What’s not to lichen?

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‘When it comes to family humor, everything is relative’

If that title up there involving a “composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi in a symbiotic relationship” tickled your funny bone, then maybe you are a long-lost Whitmore cousin. Puns featuring obscure scientific terms tend to run in The Dude’s family.

In addition to the lichen pun, which is recited every single time a patch of it is crunched underfoot on a hiking trail, there’s the one featuring euonymus. You’ll be out riding in the car some fine fall day when The Dude, spotting this fiery red bush alongside the road, intones in a sing-song voice “I wanna miss, they wanna miss…you wanna miss”. His Dad did the same thing. Cracked him up every time.

The Dude’s family, cracking each other up. ‘Smile and say euonymus, everybody!’

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That’ll teach you

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‘My high school field trip to the state penitentiary’

So I was having my hair cut last week and telling Anthony about last week’s post — the one about driving and road trips — and had gotten to the part about how in my high school the Drivers’ Ed teacher was always the same guy who taught gym and something called ‘social studies’.

Drivers’ Ed/Gym/Social Studies teacher Mr. K

We got to talking about how different high school was way back when, even in Brooklyn, where he grew up. How we had classes like Industrial Arts (AKA ‘Shop’) and Home Economics (‘Home Ec’) and organizations like FFA, which stood for Future Farmers of America.

I don’t know whatall went on in Shop (except that it looks a tad oily) since Shop was strictly for boys. In fact, boys were required to take either Shop or Agriculture. Girls had no choice, but were similarly required to take the aforementioned Home Economics. I don’t know where the ‘economics’ came in, since basically we were taught cooking, sewing, setting the table — all skills designed to make us better wives and mothers. Interesting note: Home Ec was taught by a Miss Ford, who was neither. Continue reading

“Drive,” she said.

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‘On the glories of the Open Road’

Last week’s tribute to my Male Parent and his napping powers included a memory of Dad piloting us on those long drives up to Gramma’s house. (Oldest Younger Brother Scott remarked that Dad was the only person he knew who could ‘simultaneously nap and smoke a cigarette while driving.’)

So true, Scott, so true. But I failed to mention why Dad would get so sleepy on those drives. It was because it was at least six hours to Gramma’s — on charming-but-small-town-clogged two-lane highways — and we wouldn’t start the drive till he got home from work. Sometimes, I remember, we would pull over to the side of the road so everybody, not just Dad, could sort-of-safely sleep. I remember that when we lived in Memphis, and the trip to Gramma’s was more like twelve hours, we had a mattress in the back of the Ford station wagon for the kids to crash on. Very Joad-like, but that’s the way it was. Continue reading

Let sleeping dads lie

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‘Remembering my Dad, who took napping to a whole new level — mainly horizontal’

Last Friday would have been my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary. I say ‘would have been’ not because they didn’t stay married. No, it’s because my dad, alas, is no longer with us. Dad made it to 80, which made him pretty happy. But just barely, which made the rest of us pretty sad.

The last photo my Dad ever took. That’s Older Younger Brother Scott — and Me — at Dad’s 80th Birthday Party. Taken with my camera, by Dad

Anyway. This past January 13 got me thinking about my Dad. And if you too knew him, whether as ‘Dad’, ‘Uncle Dale’, ‘DJ’ or ‘Deej’, ‘Henry Dale’ (which is how his mail was often addressed and how our friend Regina insisted on addressing him), or even as ‘Scotty’ (he apparently had a tartan plaid fixation as a child), you know that you can’t think about him without also thinking about some of his, well, ‘quirks’.

Yes, quirks. Dad was full of them. For example, he couldn’t stand the sound of crunching. Raw vegetables being consumed in his presence made his head spin around. (Ice? OMG.) He hated crunching so much that when he went on a trip to drum up business for the civil engineering firm he helped found, the still-going-strong Henry, Meisenheimer and Gende, we Stay-at-Home Henrys would take advantage of his absence to go crazy chomping down on every raw carrot or celery stick and/or pretzel or cracker we could get our teeth into. Continue reading