Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Family stories – Continued

Now for my mom’s side of the family:
My mother’s mother, Clara Mathilde Morrell, “Tillie” was born and raised in Sweden. In 1891, when she was 11 years old, she came to Portland, Oregon to be an Au Pair girl for her stepsister. She finished her schooling there and the first English words she learned were taught her by her brother-in-law; “Open de door.” She stayed in Portland, working as a nanny until the age of 19, when she traveled back to Sweden to visit her family.
When she returned to America, she went to Cambridge, Minnesota to stay with relatives. I don’t know how long she stayed there, but eventually, she traveled to Lyons, Nebraska to visit her cousins.
My grandfather, Andrew (A.G.) Anderson, came to this country from Sweden in the 1870s. They farmed north of Lyons, Nebraska and he was the youngest of 9 (I think) brothers and sisters. One brother had died in Sweden. Grandpa was about 8 years old when, in January, the Blizzard of 1888 swept across this continent. It became known as the “Schoolchildren’s Blizzard” because of the sudden onset of the storm, the ferocity of it, and the time of day it hit. Many school aged children were on their way home, or stranded at school and many, sadly, perished. Grandpa was in school and if I remember right, he either stayed at school or made it to a friend’s home to wait it out. His parents had no idea where he was during that whole time, but just “trusted God to keep him safe.”
A.G. was one of the cousins Tillie came to visit and Lillie Breuer, who was there when it happened, says when they met each other, it was “love at first sight.” (Yes, they were cousins, but at that time, it was not that unusual or unseemly for cousins to marry. And all four of their children were completely normal. No albinos or anything like that.) Grandma said that the moment she walked into their house, she felt like she had come home.
They were married in 1904 and my mom, Rachel Marguerite, their youngest, was born in 1918. Mom never learned to speak Swedish as her folks never spoke it in their home, although traces of it are in our family dialect. Mom always said “Ja” for yes, tho she wouldn’t have considered it speaking Swedish. She learned to count to 10 and I remember very clearly, she and Grandma both said “oj, oj, oj” (pronounced ‘oy’) instead of the more American “uh oh,” whenever they were disgusted or dismayed with something (usually something naughty I was saying or doing). I still say, “Ja” for yes, usually without thinking about it and didn’t even notice it until someone pointed it out to me.
I never knew Grandpa, except through pictures and stories as he died a few years before I was born. They farmed a couple miles north of Lyons, in the Jefferson neighborhood, and raised two daughters and two sons and then retired to a home in town.
Grandma was a very devoted Christian and said Grandpa was, too. She had her share of troubles, including a couple of nervous breakdowns, which put her in a hospital. In 1926 they took a road trip with Grandpa’s brother, Sherman, driving in a Model T to California and back. It took them six weeks.
She was one of the founders of the Jefferson Ladies’ Aid, a neighborhood group of women who met monthly for I don’t know how long – probably a century or more before they ran out of women. I like to think of them the as original MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. The group was a source of friendship and moral support for all the homemakers in the neighborhood. One of the ladies, Bertha Pearson once shared this memory about the Jefferson Ladies’ Aid: Shortly after Bertha’s son, Duane, was born, she got herself ready and probably baked a batch of brownies or cookies to contribute to the lunch and set out with the horse and buggy to attend a meeting at Grandma’s. Grandma met her at the door, with a very surprised look on her face and said, “Bertha, where is the baby?!” It was only then Bertha realized she had left Duane at home, so she drove home in a panic and found him sleeping peacefully right where she had left him.
My mom was a member of the Jefferson Ladies’ Aid when she was raising her family and I remember going to meetings with her and Grandma when I was a little girl. The names of the families some back to me through a fog of time and distance: Krogers, Pearsons, Johnsons, Inager and LOTS of Andersons. The smell of coffee, minced ham sandwiches and chocolate cake can take me right back to a Jefferson neighborhood kitchen. They usually had a Bible Study or a devotional reading, probably a homemaking lesson of some kind and then they sang, my mom played piano for them. I still have some of the songbooks they used.
In her late years, Grandma suffered from ulcerated varicose veins in her legs. She was undergoing an amputation in 1962 and died on the operating table. It broke my mother’s heart because Grandma had asked her to “please don’t let them take my legs.” But the decision was left to Mom (her surviving siblings lived in Colorado and California at the time) and I know she felt it would be for the best. And anyway, it was only Grandma’s body that died – her spirit lives on with her Saviour.
Well, I see that this posting has gone completely out of control, so I’ll stop here and TRY to get on to the next generation next time.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Movie Review

I have a new favorite movie.
Amazing Grace, starring Ioan Gruffudd, is the story of Great Britain’s MP (Member of Parliament) William Wilberforce, whose passionate persistence ended the slave trade in Great Britain in 1807. The movie chronicles his efforts as an abolitionist, which began in 1789. The amazing thing about Amazing Grace is that this movie depicts committed, repentant Christians as something other than wild-eyed, witch-burning fanatics. William Wilberforce followed God’s call on his life to use his position as MP to promote social reforms. And he did it all with – yes, AMAZING Grace. The movie touches briefly on Wilberforce’s other pursuits, including his involvement with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, presenting an accurate portrait of a man who was willing to speak for those who could not speak for themselves. (Although not included in the movie – you can’t cover EVERYTHING in two hours - Wilberforce also was instrumental in opening India to Christian Missionaries, helped found the British and Foreign Bible Society, and worked for the relief of boy chimney sweeps. He wrote a book challenging people to re-examine their Christian faith and give it its proper place in their lives.)
This is one of the most inspiring works to come out of Hollywood since The Ten Commandments – the old one with Charleton Heston. If I may digress, (and of course, I may – this is my blog) I had high hopes for End of the Spear, which was a movie about Jim Eliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Peter Fleming and Nate Saint, missionaries who were martyred trying to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Auca people of Ecuador. While the story seemed accurate, they managed to tell it all without once mentioning the name of Jesus.
Amazing Grace also offers viewers an honest introduction to other Christian men, such as Thomas Clarkson, who followed “a direct revelation from God ordering me to devote my life to abolishing the trade.” (Quote not in the movie, but in a historical document). He worked for abolition and emancipation throughout his life. We also meet John Newton, the ex-slaveship captain who wrote the beloved Hymn “Amazing Grace.” Newton was a force of encouragement to Wilberforce throughout his 18 year campaign to end the British slave trade.
Albert Finney as Newton speaks the words that are at the heart of Christian belief and in the heart of every Christian; “I am certain of two things: that I am a great sinner and Jesus Christ is a Great Savior.”
I highly recommend this movie.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Family Stories

Inspired by LaDawn at http://Clare-panton.blogspot.com

I love my great Grandpa Joel Gatewood. I’ve never met him; he died 36 years before I was born, but he lives on in the stories that come to me like gifts from those who did know him.

The most famous family legend about him is that he fought for the North during the Great War of the Rebellion (American Civil War). Great Grandpa Joel was born in Illinois. After the War, he married Great Grandma Almina (Zorn) and found his way to Decatur, Nebraska some time around 1870, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. He farmed for awhile; had a stallion named Pruitt that I assume he bred for stud fees and he piloted the Decatur Ferry across the Missouri River for many years.

One day, he went into town and got his hair cut and his long, white beard shaved off. He went home, knocked on the front door and asked if the lady of the house had any work she could hire him to do. She replied that no, she didn’t. He thanked her politely and turned to leave. As he strode away, no doubt chuckling to himself, Great Grandma recognized his gait, realized who he was and yelled to him. “I don’t like you that way! Let it grow back!” I’ve never seen a photo of him without his beard.

Joel and Almina had 11 children, among them my Grandpa; TW Gatewood. Grandpa married Agnes Connealy in 1904 and they settled down to farm near Decatur, raising registered Duroc breeding stock hogs. They had five children, one died in infancy. My Dad, John Eddie was born to them in 1912. My Aunt Grace tells me that they held a hog auction twice a year and Grandma would fix a big noon meal for the family and the auctioneers. After dinner, they brought out their guitars, fiddles and whatever other portable instrument they had and sang for a few hours. Aunt Grace hated to go to school on those days because she knew she’d miss out on the singing.

The family lost everything in a house fire, I think in the 1930s? They lived the remainder of that winter in the chicken house. In the 40s, Grandpa went to work as a Thoroughbred race horse trainer. One of the women he worked for gave him a horse named Merry Bid and said, “If he ever wins anything, you can give me $100.00.” Well, Merry Bid did indeed win, more than once and that was the start of his stables. Grandpa & Grandma traveled the racing circuit with their horses and when they got to the next event, Grandma cleaned out the back of the stock truck and that’s where they lived until it was time to move again. They traveled to Florida, Chicago, Phoenix, Denver, South Sioux City, NE, St. Joseph, Missouri, Columbus, NE and Grandpa is listed among the founders of the Aksarben race track (now gone) in Omaha. My older brothers and cousins traveled with them as grooms, but I was born too late to get in on that privilege. I would have LOVED it. Dad trained for him for awhile and some of my favorite childhood memories are of visits to the race track to watch Grandpa’s horses run. Grandma tried to teach me how to pick a winner by reading a racing form, and I remember asking her a question that just about made her bust a gut laughing. I don’t remember what I asked her, but that was the end of my racing form lessons.

In the late 1960s, Grandpa was nearly killed by a horse in an accident – he got a rope wrapped around his hand was dragged, breaking his pelvis. He was given Last Rites by a Priest at the hospital in St. Joe, but fortunately for all of us, he recovered. He was a very faithful Catholic after that incident and attended Mass and Confession whenever he could. He remained faithful to his love for horses and horseracing, but he and Grandma eventually gave up the vagabond lifestyle and settled into an apartment in Lyons, NE. One day, in 1971, he got up around 4 AM to get ready to go to the Columbus races. Grandma heard him fall in bathroom, where he died suddenly of a heart attack. Mom went over there as soon as Grandma called and saw Grandpa where he’d fallen. She said he was lying on his side with his hand under his head, with a very peaceful look on his face.

I’ll stop here with my family stories for now. I’ll move on to the following generations next time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Famous Barn: Part II

There is a new version of the Roberts Dairy Commercial circulating. (See the Jauary 18, 2007 post if you need more details).
This time, the actress appears with two children and she says to the cow, “You make us feel so PEPPY!” Again, at the end, (after she asks the cow for an autograph) you get a lovely shot of the landscape behind the cow, which features my wonderful barn along with the rest of our place.
With all this attention, I feel almost obligated to buy Robert’s Dairy products instead of the cheaper store brands.
Here is a literary contribution from my daughter, Emily. The assignment was to “make a ‘to-do’ list’.

School Daze

To Do: Find the least-dirty pair of jeans in the hamper and run them twenty minutes in the dryer to give them a semblance of freshness. Do the same, if necessary, for a T-shirt. Check off everything needed for the day and check at least three times, an exercise in futility since there will be a crucial item missing at the most inopportune time. Start the car five minutes prior to departure to give it time to warm up. Use profane and abusive language when it dies anyway.

Drive 45 miles and arrive at parking lot; drive around looking for a space. Wonder if the drivers of compact sports cars who double-park will make it into heaven. Settle for the spot furthest from the exit. Board the shuttle bus and try to ignore the couple occupying one seat, joined at the lip.

Dig around for student ID at the HPER (Health Physical Education and Recreation) Building. Find it in the last pocket searched and enter. Ignore the sign in the restroom saying “This is not a dressing room” and change into workout clothes in there anyway. Begin workout. Fifteen minutes in, begin worrying about the possibility of a healthy twenty-two year old woman dropping dead of a heart attack, however remote it may seem. Sweat profusely.

After workout, change back into street clothes. Finish essay. Print out copy and check for spelling errors that have to be there, no matter what Microsoft Word is saying. Realize that the entire document is crap from start to finish and begin debating whether to write a “mercy e-mail” to the instructor, pleading sickness, emergency or just plain stupidity to get more time to write it better. Curse a basically honest nature and turn it in as is anyway.

Eat something in the convenience store: popcorn, Soup At Hand, a Nestle Crunch, an Adrenaline Rush and spend the next half hour trying to convince your stomach that it’s had supper. Fail miserably and chew gum.

Try to stay awake in class. Attempt to contribute to the discussion and pay attention when the instructor’s mouth is moving: intelligent, important words might be coming out. Fail miserably and spend the next hour texting your friend you never see anymore but makes you laugh harder at nothing than anybody else can.

Make discovery in the women’s bathroom that your hair is an unholy greasy mess. Comb through it with fingers and curse the shortsightedness that led to the abandonment of your hairbrush in favor of a lighter purse.

RUN across campus in an attempt to be on time for the next class. Do a last skim through of the assigned reading and try to ignore the rumblings from your stomach. Try not to wonder if the instructor will fail you for what you just wrote. Fail miserably. Go buy M & M’s from the vending machine; it’s been a long day and everyone knows that calories from comfort food don’t count.

Drive 45 miles home in the snow. Sing along with the radio to stay awake, pinch yourself, chew more gum, and when all else fails, turn off the heat and open a window, because this is one time miserable failure isn’t an option. Make it home and try to be quiet upon entry. Peel the contacts off your eyes. Change into forgiving pajamas with long sleeves and a blessedly loose waist. Lay awake for an hour, trying to figure out how you could’ve done better. Make promises to do better tomorrow.

Sleep. Dream; no list required.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Todays' weather
It was just too extreme to leave a single comment on the side of the page.
When I stepped out into the predawn darkness this morning to do my chores, I was immediately made aware that I was significantly underdressed! The air temp was at 3 degrees F - the single digits I'm getting used to - but the winds were howling in from the north at around 30 mph. My goodness. It was one of those mornings that makes it hard to have a conversation because your lips and cheeks feel stiff and the wind drowns out your voice. You don't dare blink because your eyes have begun to water and they might freeze shut, so you just let the tears freeze to your cheek.
However, the barn - my famous barn - proved to be a cozy haven of warmth. I was greeted by the grateful nicker of my Bubba - who is always glad to see me at feeding time and even Lucy, my two year old who doesn't have much to say, gave me a little whinny of welcome.
Everyone should have a horse; they never expect more from you than you can give; they never chide you for being late or complain about the weather (like I just did). They carry you around no matter how badly you've gone off your diet and the most soothing sound on the planet is the nicker of welcome when they see you coming.
Because that nicker is reserved only for you.
They don't talk to just anyone, only to the person they have claimed as their own.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What’s up with that?

In an attempt to help them pursue their higher education goals without acquiring massive amounts of debt, my husband and I share our home with our two college student children, ages 22 and 24. Between us, we have seven full or part time jobs and four vehicles. (Five if you count the horse trailor.) The kids bounce back and forth between their jobs, classes and home like those little steel marbles in a pinball machine. The four of us rarely eat together. We don’t leave or arrive at home at the same time on any given weekday and everyone rises and retires at different hours of the day and night. On Sundays, we attend church services at two different hours.
So would someone please explain to me why it is, without fail, no fewer than two people need the bathroom at the same time!?
My youngest has been potty trained for 20 years now and we have never lived in a house that had more than one bathroom, so wouldn’t you think we would have mastered the technique of sharing it by now?
Here’s a typical scenario; it’s mid to late evening on an average weekday. The bathroom sits silently, just off the southeast corner of the kitchen. It has been unoccupied for the past eight hours. One person is working on the computer; another is at the kitchen table working a Sudoku puzzle, a third is in the living room watching TV; a fourth (me) is washing dishes. At some mysterious cue, that only contentious people can hear, one set of footsteps crosses the kitchen toward the bathroom door, someone else looks up from whatever they were doing and shouts, “WAIT! Can I use it before you get in there? I really need to go.”
The first party retorts, “I was here first, you’ll just have to wait your turn.” This is followed by the door slamming.
The one who is left waiting says, “For crying out loud, you always take forever!” and then begins to pace angrily.
“I was just getting ready to go in there,” says the one looking up from his puzzle. He abandons the Sudoku and sits with arms and legs crossed, scowling at the closed door. After a few minutes, he looks at the clock and begins to mutter curses and threats.
I stare into the wall in front of the sink and try not let anyone hear the water running as I continue my dishwashing.
Not soon enough, the sounds of flushing and hand washing filters through the closed door. The waiting person stomps to the closed door, pounds on it and shouts, “Hurry up! I’m in pain here! How long does it take one person to dry her hands?”
Much to everyone’s relief, the door finally opens and the party of the first part strolls out nonchalantly, pretending to be unaware of the weeping and gnashing of teeth she has caused by her visit to the bathroom.
This is followed by, “It’s about time!”
The third one leaps up and shouts, “WAIT! Can I use it before you get in there?”
This is followed by the door slamming again.
Maybe we should just let them go into debt….

Monday, February 05, 2007

It was all LaDawn's idea...

What’s in a name? It’s not hard to tell,
When you think of the people you know so well.
And for those you don’t know, you can make a good guess
From the nickname they have or their email address.

The last name of Smith gets converted to Smitty
Their first names are dropped and I say, “What a pity.”
How to tell them apart for the rest of their lives?
We usually can tell from the names of their wives:

There’s Aunt Grace’s Smitty and Smitty & Jo,
How many Smittys can one person know!?
We have Smitty & Patti and Smitty & Jane,
But our favorite Smitty belongs to Elaine.

Some nicknames are given by fancy or whim,
On the spur of the moment we call her or him
By a name that recalls a moment in life,
And it sticks forever, like cheese on a knife.

If someone falls down or bumps into a wall,
He becomes “Klutz” forever, and that’s not all;
I once knew Rochelle, everyone called her “Tootie”
Her dad named her that, he thought her a cutie.

There’s Snarfy and Plum and The Big Galloot,
Jackieboy, Feather and Tuffie and Snood.
And after a pal of mine had a masectomy,
Her husband insisted on calling her “Lefty.”

We can’t chose our nicknames; that never would do,
But we do pick the one that we use on Yahoo!
All lower case, no comma or space,
Just the requisite “dot” in its proper place.

Our user I.D. can be quite revealing,
Of the things that we treasure and find appealing.
Like cdroses and whiskeymick,
The quiltingcowgirl or themaindrumstick.

I know chuckle2 and singintherain,
Browneyedpete and justplainjane.
You can guess the pielady’s expertise,
Or what wanttofish does to take ease.

Numbers jump in every now and again
As in danfred4 and singlemom10;
Or jmrogers57
Doggie2 and bluemoon11.

To hear from OldFox is always treat,
And barkingmadmoggie is really so sweet.
But some of those spammers make me want to holler
Like herbal*viagra and shopping$$fordollars.

So what’s in a name? A lot, it would seem:
Some moments past, or our future dreams
Wrapped up in the names that we like to be called;
What’s in a name’s worth way more than gold.