The Table

My Grandparents, Orville and Ruth were married in 1917.  They raised 8 children together, the fourth one being my mother, Marjorie.  I don’t know when the oak pedestal table joined the family but I bet it could tell some awesome stories.

The table leaned against the wall of our garage for several years  Mom had  it refinished and from then on it was used at every family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Like my mother and her siblings, I did homework on the table.It held my high school graduation cake. My wedding bouquet rested there briefly on a hot August afternoon, and baby carriers with grandchildren were placed on the table while we took off our coats for a visit.

The history of the table started long before I was around.  Orville and Ruth’s eight children were Dean, born  in 1917, Mildred in 1919, Leota in 1921,  Marjorie, my mother, in 1923, Burdeen in 1926, Glen in 1931, Paul, in  1935, and Norman, in  1936.   There were two  upstairs bedrooms in the old farm house; one for the boys and one for the girls.  Four in a bed meant some adjustments.  Mom would tell of sleeping on the floor sometimes when sisters disagreed or the older sisters pushed the younger ones out.  It was probably even worse in the room across the hallway although the oldest son may have been already gone by the time the younger brothers slept upstairs.  Everyone was forced to get along just to survive.  It defined my mother’s personality.  She was always extremely conscious of intruding on others; always careful not to bother anyone. Lessons learned in survival mode.

Thomas Family 03072017

Back row:  Burdeen, Leota, Mildred, Marjorie, Dean  Front Row:  Norman, Orville, Glen, Ruth, Paul.

Everyone had work to do on the farm.  There were cows to milk, chickens to feed, eggs to gather, and hogs to feed, sell, and butcher.  An old draft horse, Queenie, was still around when I was a small child, reminiscent of the days when farming did not include tractors and high technology.  Grandpa Thomas was a hunter and a trapper as were many farmers in that era.  It meant extra money and extra food.  The sons all followed this tradition as well. Everyone worked hard, and all eight children also earned a high school diploma.

The old oak table was used hard and long. There are three leaves to extend the table which meant it probably took up most of the kitchen.  It fed all those hungry children and provided a place for them to work on homework or maybe play a game of checkers.  I am amazed when I look at it today to see what good shape it is in.  After my parents were no longer able to live on their own, it traveled to my home.  Following tradition, it has been used at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for the next generations, has been used as a craft table for my good friends and grandchildren, and is a reminder of loved ones, family get togethers, and days gone by.


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My Grandparents’ House

I knew my grandparent’s house as well as my own. I spent many hours there, especially in the summer when my Dad would go to help Grandpa with the farming.

Dad would park the truck out back and look for Grandpa in the barn.  I headed into the house to see Grandma. Just outside the back door was an old cistern and a tiny unique tricycle.  It didn’t have pedals; you pushed with your feet back and forth to make it move.   I was so disappointed when I outgrew that trike.

The back steps were typical of old farm houses. To the left were steps to the basement. If you continued up the steps it was a place to pile wood, old paper bags, a broom and dustpan – a catch all.  The basement was dark and cool, crocks of sausage covered with lard awaited preparation for a meal.  Jars of maple syrup.  Canned goods from the garden.  A little bit too scary for  me; I never stayed too long and was not encouraged to go there.  Then up the steps to the kitchen.  As you entered the kitchen, a distinct smell filled the entire house.  Dad said it was the hickory wood they burned in the wood burner down in the basement. Even now  that smell takes me back.

To the right of the back door stood an old blue dresser.  I’m not sure what was stored in the drawers, but the top was covered with Grandma’s seasonal floral arrangements and nature collections.  There were flowers from her garden (or from her sister Martha’s garden) arranged in old coffee cans or glass jars.  Dried weeds and flowers were things of beauty to her and she brought them inside to enjoy.  Hanging over the window sash was a collection of wishbones.  In bowls and old pie pans were pine cones, hickory nuts, buckeyes, milkweed pods, and more assorted items from the back yard or from the woods.  In the fall there were piles of colorful leaves and goldenrod as well as teasel, wheat, oats, and tall spindly, sticky weeds on long stems.  She somehow managed to arrange them into beautiful works of art.

Next was Grandpa’s bedroom which was always dark.  I’m not sure if there was a window in the room or not, but it was not a place where we were supposed to be. Of course we would sneak in just to take a look but there wasn’t much to see.  A bed, a dresser.

The kitchen table was always cluttered with small dishes that held mints or hard candy.   A newspaper or magazine was usually lying on the table as well as a sugar bowl and salt and pepper shakers.   The actual kitchen area was pretty small and consisted of a sink, stove/oven and cupboards above and below.  There were small shelves above the kitchen sink/window facing east,  On one of the shelves was a small plastic cow the you could submerge in water.  It would fill with water and you would pump its tail up and down and water would come out from under the cow into a small plastic bucket.  Milking the cow was always on the agenda when I visited.  Also tucked safely away in one of the cupboards near the stove was a piece of  dark blue Shirley Temple glassware. My older cousins tell me there was once a window in the north wall that could be opened and you could crawl into the hidden room at the front of the house.  It was boarded over eventually.

The living room was next to the kitchen at the front of the house.  Here is where Grandpa sat in a wooden chair with leather padding, next to a table that held his radio, a beautiful globed oil light which had been electrified, newspapers, his chewing tobacco and often a bottle of beer.  The radio was on most of the time, but the volume was up when he was listening to the Cleveland Indians or the Detroit Tigers play by play.  He always wore a pair of dark blue denim bib overalls.  In the summer he was shirtless and hairy chested, which always kind of freaked me out.  In the winter he wore flannel shirts or work shirts under the bibs.  On the floor next to his chair was a coffee can which he used as a spitoon.  A couch with wildly patterned upholstery and another easy chair, a couple of lamps rounded out the decor.  There was no television set for a long time.  I am guessing it was the mid to late 70’s when Grandpa bought their first TV.  The TV was seldom on, but he never missed a baseball game.

The next room was Grandma’s bedroom complete with a Jenny Lind bed and chenille bedspread, later replaced by a quilt  She had a small dresser next to her bed with a mirror and in the corner was a box of toys for us to play with.Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish, Dominoes, and Tinker Toys rounded out the collection along with some beautiful yarn cats that were made by my Aunt Martha.  It was enough to keep a little one busy for awhile and Grandma always found time to play a game of Go Fish or Chutes and Ladders.


My grandparents house was also where my love of music began.  Grandma had an old upright piano in her bedroom which she played quite well.  She would always allow me to pick out tunes on that piano. It was here that I discovered I could play by ear. As long as there wasn’t a baseball game on the radio in the next room, I was free to experiment on the piano.  My mother took note of this and signed me up for piano lessons when I was nine years old.  Eventually,   Grandma and I played duets as my skills improved… my favorite being “Fairies Dance” which we discovered in an old Etude Magazine.  I played the treble melody, while she played the bass ooom pah pah waltz.  I can still hear that duet in my head and have searched unsuccessfully for it over the years.


In the hallway that led back to the kitchen, there was an old long buffet where all kinds of treasures were stored.  The one thing I remember was the stereoscope that my cousins and I would always ask to see when we visited.  Pictures of Niagara Falls and early century bathing beauties turned into 3D images like magic.


Like most farmhouses of that era, there was a substantial front porch and the east wall of the porch formed one wall of the hidden room or as I liked to call it “The Secret Room”.  To the front of the house, a window was the only access to this hidden room.  I never remember ever being inside of it.  There was a scratchy bush in front of the window and it was too high off the ground for me to get a good look inside.  My older cousins brag about climbing inside of the room but I was too timid to attempt it.  Instead I stayed outside on the porch and made up stories in my head about why the room was no longer being used.

There was a stair door in the kitchen, with a removable step that stored old books and magazines.  The stairs were steep, the upstairs was not heated and all in all was pretty primitive.  There was a bed or two upstairs in the first room and boxes of vintage valentines and magazines which I loved to sort through.  One room was never finished with any type of wall covering.  Pelts and skins from my grandpa’s trapping business were hung to stretch and dry and later would be sold to help support the family.  Another room had the door always shut but held old furniture and books, papers, drawing, certificates, and old toys.  An old secretary with curved glass door was  a place for storage in that room and when the furnishings were distributed after my grandparents’ death, I was lucky enough to bring that secretary to my home.

I often drive a few miles out of my way when I travel north just to drive by the house.  It doesn’t look quite the same. There have been two owners since it was sold years ago.  But the bones of the place are still there and the memories have not faded.





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Wait for me


photo credit Peter Abbey

Forty seven years.

It seemed like yesterday. A long narrow walkway leading to a cage. Captive.  Treated like an animal. Hot steamy days, long dark nights often interrupted with cruelty.  He could feel his heart constrict with fear as he walked it one more time.  The only thing that got him through were the thoughts of what was waiting at home.  He turned and looked at her and saw the young girl with long silky hair and bell bottom jeans.  She took his hand, no longer smooth, but in a familiar clasp.  It had been worth the wait.


Thanks to Rochelle for continuous hosting of Friday Fictioneers.

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Why the Salesman Couldn’t Make the Sale….

Retired Ruth

It wasn’t the product.   The shiny vacuum cleaner fit neatly in a small box.  But when the salesman took all the pieces and parts out of the box and starting snapping, fitting, and twisting them together, it overwhelmed me.   I’ll never be able to put it together, I joked.

He flashed me a wide grin.  He was young.   Good-looking.  Well dressed.  And he knew his sales pitch well.   So well, in fact, that it slid through his lips at an alarming speed and I found myself asking again and again, “Would you repeat that?”  He could. He did.

Let’s start at the beginning.  I was outside cleaning the patio on a gorgeous autumn day, bemoaning the fact that I would soon be putting all the furniture and outdoor accessories away for the next season.  Almost out of no where, but actually from behind  a beat-up old…

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My Favorite Weed

Retired Ruth

I know what you’re thinking.   My favorite weed.  Me-a child of the 60’s.

Well nothing could be further from the truth.   Yes, I dressed like a hippie and listened to all that psychedelic music.  But weed?  Nope, never tried it.

My mother would have killed me.

The weed I have always been enchanted with, obsessed with, in love with is none other than the lowly milkweed. Asclepias.

As a child, I was fascinated by the milkweed pods.  Inside each pod were feathery seeds which floated on the wind when released.  I didn’t even care that the stems and outer parts of the milkweed was sticky and gooey and all that goo was hard to remove from my hands.  I just loved popping open the pods and releasing the fairy-like, wispy seeds into the air.   They were magical.   It was like blowing on a dandelion after it…

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It was Friday and class was unusually  small, probably because it was a beautiful fall day and some had taken off for the weekend. The water was a little cool, but we all adjusted after warming up with water walking and our aquacize exercises.  Maybe because it was a small group, our leader  led us into a circle and asked us each to  recall a high school memory as we exercised.

We remembered slumber parties and fun pranks played on each other.  Lots of memories of skipping school and sometimes getting caught. Some of the senior members of our group (we’re all seniors, actually) recalled not having a lot of school activities because of WWII and gas rationing.  Bob, who was in high school during the 40’s revealed he still had the scooter that he rode around town and it still runs!  We also learned that Bob was quite an athlete in his day and probably broke a few hearts.  

Many of us have been together in this class for several years. After we shared our memories, I don’t think I was alone in the feeling that we knew each other even better than we did before.  It was great exercise in sharing and listening to each other and led to a few other conversations about where we attended school and how we met our spouses.

I look forward to aquacize class.  One, because its great exercise for my aging body.  But it’s also the positive social interaction that I need.  We discuss local news, health issues, politics, and many class members meet outside of class.   Making new friends and renewing older friendships is great exercise for our minds and our souls.  aquacize

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0903161930b.jpgMy friend Deb and I knew that this could be our last visit with Pat.  On the way to her house we cried together and Deb prayed for the right words.  As we drove into the driveway, we somehow regained our composure.  Her husband, sister, and brother-in- law stood by, as they had for the last few weeks, months, and years.

We entered her room and received a big smile, just like every other visit.  But this time it was accompanied by tears.  We hugged. We cried. We sobbed.  We had been Lucy and Ethel  for her every other time.  But not this time.

We talked a bit about some favorite shared memories, how much we loved her and she loved us.  Deb told Pat that she wanted to come back as a cardinal…only one who couldn’t sing.  We giggled about that.  Then Deb asked Pat what she would come back as.  Without hesitation, she said, “A yellow finch bird.”  She pointed to a lovely picture directly across from her bed of a yellow finch.  Obviously she had given this some thought.  Deb and I both knew we would be ever vigilant for yellow finches from that moment on.

We talked a little more, held hands as tears rolled down our cheeks.  Finally Pat said, “I’m really tired now.”  We told her we would sit for awhile after she fell asleep, and if we were gone when she awoke.  we were gone physically but our love was with her forever.

She left us peacefully on a Tuesday morning.

 Just a few hours later, Deb took her mother to a doctor’s appointment that had been scheduled the day before.  Not her mother’s usual physician and not Deb’s either.   Hanging on the wall was a calendar.  Deb snapped a picture of it with her phone and immediately sent it to me in a text.



Rest in peace, Patty.  You loved and were loved by so many.  Your life was spent serving others and the Lord. We will all be watching for the yellow finch.











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