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Friday, May 6, 2011

A Mother's Day Tribute

This is me! Gotta love the bangs!
This is me at eight (I think)

I grew up in a medium size city in southern Indiana.  It was located on the Ohio River, a bridge away from the Kentucky line. My family lived out in the country about 7 miles from town where the houses were far and few.  I had 6 brothers and 2 sisters.  Back in the day (1950) big families were the rage as were pink and black colored push button DeSotos with big fins in the back, black and white TV's, and scratchy sofas with black with silver threads running through it.
The house I grew up in.

We were lucky because we lived next door to our great grandparents, George and Anna (Annie) for short and just about 20 steps from the house our grandparents built, lived our grandparents, Willard and Margaret (or Maggie as grandpa use to call her...she hated that nickname) even though we didn't see many people we always saw our great grandparents and grandparents almost on a daily basis.  Because there were so many of us, I saw my grandma nearly everyday...coming in to help my mom with all of us.  The first five of us were approximately 1 year or less apart so you can imagine all the diapers, and feedings going on.  I don't recall a time when I saw my mom without a "bun in the oven" HA HA
Guess which one is me?

We were a rowdy bunch always running around barefoot in the summer with grass stained feet and shirtless (you could do that back in the day).  Everyday was an adventure from a treehouse located in the middle of a small grove of green apple trees (which we got sick on and where my brother blew his first smoke rings from a cigarette taken from my mom) to stolen moments of play in the neighbor's hayloft in the barn across the street (which we weren't allowed to play in).  Yes, I would have to say, "All for one and one for all" applied to us MOST of the time.  We never told on each other except when we thought we could get something we wanted from the one who was going to be in trouble, like say, a really cool steely marble, or their portion of candy or dessert.  It was just something kids do, you know.

Back then, we didn't have watches to tell us the time, our stomach's told us when it was time to eat and rarely were they ever wrong!  We always had a large garden in the summer which my grandpa over looked for us and I don't remember a time when he wasn't pulling weeds and keeping everything watered and taken care of. We always had tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce.  With that said, I also have to mention the countless hours my mom and grandma would spend sterilizing and canning the fruits of the garden for the winter months.  We didn't have air conditioning back then and I remember going into the kitchen and watching my mom and grandma up to their elbows in scalding tomatoes, bushel baskets of green beans and canning jars with sweat pouring off of them.  I can remember always having garden canned tomatoes for soups and spaghetti in the coldest part of the winter and never tasting anything so good.

Imagine if you will, 9 children living in a three bedroom house with one bathroom. It would not have been possible if not for the creation of bunk beds (how great was that)!  In our room, we had two sets and with the three of us we had an extra bunk for a guest.  In my brothers room, there was also two sets of bunk beds and a baby's bed in Mom and Dad's room for the new addition.  The worst part was trying to get into the bathroom and have a bit of privacy.  Because there weren't any keys to lock the doors, you had to always be in a hurry because someone was always having to use the bathroom.  It was like a swinging door, someone always opening it and someone ready and begging you to hurry.  Maybe that is why I to this day don't spend much time in the bathroom. HA

There was never a time when something dramatic didn't happen from knocking out the glass of windows from playing baseball (and it seemed that there was always a broken glass somewhere), to someone having to have stitches, or shattering the base of a lamp playing marbles in our living room.  I remember having to go to the Dr. to get our immunizations to start school.  At that time there was only 5 of us and usually one would start elbowing one and then the "move over, I don't have any room" would ensue but on this occasion, we all sat quietly because we knew we would be getting shots.  After we had gotten out of the car, my oldest brother decided he did not want to get his shots and locked the doors in the car.  Every time my dad would take the key and unlock the door my brother would push the lock down before my dad could pull the door handle open.  This continued until my dad threatened to spank my brother if he did not open the door which he finally did because when my dad said you were going to get a spanking he kept his word.

What I remember best about growing up in this large family is the smell of the lilac bush outside our bathroom window in the spring and the sweet smell of the honeysuckle vines in the summer.  I remember eating watermelon and spitting seeds and eating homemade vanilla soft serve ice-cream in a cone.  I remember the Clark candy bars my grandpa would bring out to each of us and spending the warm summer nights with our door unlocked sleeping on our front porch.  I remember the sun shining on the water of the nearby creek making it sparkle and  playing tag, and hide and seek in the late summer evening hours when the fireflies were out.  I remember and making necklaces out of clover and swimming in the Ohio River on a sandbar with my tennis shoes on.  But most importantly, I remember all the kisses and hugs my grandma gave me and the love and care that my mom put into everything she did for me from making our Easter dresses to fixing us a big breakfast on Saturday morning of eggs, bacon and toast.
My Mom (far right) with Grandma (next to Mom) and Sister-In-Law and friend.

My mom and grandma are no longer here now but none of this would have been possible had I not had the both of them in my life.  This tribute is for you.  Happy Mother's Day girls!


  1. Wonderful post, Kris. I grew up as a military kid, but alot of what you remember about the freedom and simplicity of life in those days, I do too. You were so lucky to have the extended family so close. Kind of sounds a bit like the Waltons! LOL. My husband is the oldest of 7 kids from a very low income family. They all put themselves thru college and sent money home in the summertime! Such stories to tell. As for tomorrow, we are invited to brunch along with my son, his wife and her parents. Will visit my 86 yr old mother as well. When will you be in Houston again?

  2. And happy MOTHER'S DAY to you!

    In Germany we also have Mother's day tomorrow!

    So have a nice day!

  3. Wow! The fun you must have had! How lucky to have your grandparents and the greats next door, so much love.

    Don't you love how the smell of lilacs can take you right back to summer days and ice cream! Not to mention, having to be "Quick Draw MaGraw" in the bathroom!

    Beautiful post... such amazing women!


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