A Christmas to remember

Retired Ruth

December 1957.

The Christmas that I received the least is the one I remember the most.

My parents were in their mid 30’s.  I was 7, my brother was 12.  We lived on a small farm which we farmed “on the half” with the farm owner. We had milk cows, a few hogs, chickens and eggs, and we grew corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, and sugar beets.  My Mom worked alongside my Dad milking the cows and driving the tractor.  In addition she did all the mom chores…. gardening, housework, childcare, canning.   My Dad also worked third shift in a local sugar beet processing plant and I  remember Mom getting up early and going outside to start the chores.   Feeding, milking, cleaning out stalls.  She knew Dad would be tired when he got home and wanted to have things pretty well finished when he arrived home from work.


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Birthday Party Dress

“You shouldn’t put the dress on this early. You will get dirty before the party!”

Despite the well-intended advice, Mom zipped up the dress in the back. “This will probably not fit when school starts in the fall; you better wear it to Sunday School all summer! ”

I smoothed out the skirt and vowed to stay clean until my friends arrived. It was July 1959, the first birthday party I had ever had. A few classmates and girls from our neighborhood had been invited.

The dress had been handed down to me from my cousin Carol. It was blue cotton with a scoop neckline and tiny flower print all over the bodice and the skirt. A wide solid blue sash went around the waist and tied in the back with a bow. It really wasn’t all that fancy as far as dresses go but around the neckline was a row of diamonds…..really, they were just tiny rhinestones. They sparkled in the sunlight and I thought it was the most beautiful dress I had ever owned. I felt like a princess!

We played clothespin drop, tag, and circle games in the backyard. Hide and seek and then my favorite chocolate cake with caramel icing, ice cream squares and Hawaiian Punch. There were gfts but the only one I remember was a soft round bath sponge on a stick that came with tiny rose shaped soaps.

Everyone loved my dress, especially the diamonds. I’m sure I made a point of asking everyone. When school started in September, I was disappointed to find that I had outgrown my special dress.

As I recall that happy moment from my childhood, I can’t help but compare it with birthday parties today. No designer cakes, no clowns or entertainment, no fancy decorations. It was just a simple celebration but the impression it made on me was enough to last a lifetime.

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farmhouse style


If you have to hang a sign in your house that says “Farmhouse”, then it probably really isn’t one.

I like the farmhouse style of decorating that is trendy now.  It makes me reminisce about the farmhouse style I grew up with in the 50’s and 60’s.  For awhile my family lived in a house owned by the landlord of our farm, so there was little freedom to decorate the house or even make minor changes.  Why fix up someone else’s house since there wasn’t much extra money to spend anyway?

Despite this, Mom found ways to make the house a home.   I remember her down on her hands and knees sponge painting the cracked linoleum on the kitchen and back porch floor.  It was a definite improvement but a far cry from the wood floors and laminate floors that are used today.   The places in the floor that were hard to camouflage could easily be covered by a throw rug… usually a rag rug style.

The farmhouse sink, with the apron front, is all the rage now.  My first memories of a kitchen sink was a hand pump (like you see as garden decorations nowadays)  I was four years old when we finally got running water in rented home.    I’m sure Mom was delighted to finally have hot water that came from a faucet.

pump sink

I admire the “shabby chic”  projects that so many DIYers work so hard to achieve.  Let me tell you, it had no place in my childhood.  If a piece of furniture was chipped or distressed, you tried to cover that up or refinish it.  You certainly didn’t make it look that way on purpose!  In fact, painting furniture was a last resort… if you could not make it look good… you painted over it.  Reclaimed barn siding?  Not a thing at all.  It belonged outside… on the barn.  The same could be said for exposed beams.  Or sliding barn doors….Not in the house!

White, white, white and neutrals are what farmhouse styles call for today.  White was to be avoided on the farm when I was growing up.  Plain and simple, it showed the dirt!

Despite the differences in style over the years I enjoy looking through Instagram and seeing the “farmhouse” styles that younger families are using in their homes. They are clean looking and cozy and full of vintage looking accessories that take me back.  It really doesnt matter if you step outside your front door into Suburbia or into the Back 40…you can appreciate your farmhouse!

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Valentine’s Day 1957

The wooden classroom floors were scuffed and worn from first graders hard-soled shoes skipping, jumping, occasionally walking, and dragging mud and snow in from outside. By the time it was my turn to be a first grader in the old brick building, the floors creaked with each step.

Teacher's Triple Trouble

Wooden desks, attached in four rows were bolted to the floor and eliminated any rearranging of the room.  Flip top desks and flip up seats added to the familiar noises of the creaking wooden floors.   Inkwell holes were in the right corner of each desktop (sorry left handers… you lose again.  There were six or seven seats in each row as I remember.  Each seat was assigned on the first day of school and adjusted throughout the year by the teacher.

First grade was full of “firsts”.  First packed lunch, first bus ride, first recess, first friends that were not my cousins, first Christmas gift exchange, first skinned knees on the playground.  I remember the first Valentine’s Day exchange.  I liked it better than Christmas.  Everyone decorated a shoe box, or a paper bag with red hearts, doilies, crepe paper or aluminum foil… there were no elaborate designs like you see today, but good homespun boxes with your name clearly on the box and with a slot for valentines to slip into.

My teacher, Mrs. Gassman, wrote everyone’s name on the chalkboard and we copied the names on yellow tablet paper with our fat primary pencils, along with the location of our seat.  Shirley   Row 2.  Seat 5.   Everyone must bring a valentine for each student.VALENTINE 2

Finally the big day arrived.  One row at a time, we distributed our valentines into our classmates boxes.  Mrs. Gassman was pretty crafty.  She made Valentines Day into a reading, writing, and sorting lesson like no other.  After every card was passed out (including a special one for the teacher)  we opened our boxes and tore  open the tiny envelopes.  Most of the valentines were simple messages, some were home made, and one or two had a lollipop attached.  It was simple but it was fun.  I treasured my Valentine’s, keeping the box and looking at them over and over throughout the school year.  At some point, my mom probably made me throw them out but they were special and even the simplest little message meant a lot to me.VALENTINE

I’m sure there were cookies or cupcakes and Kool-Aid afterwards, but the tiny Valentine cards were enough for me.








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The Adventures of Ralph, The Presidential Dog (Part 2)

Retired Ruth

Ralph as a pup....Ralph as a pup….

One summer, we decided to go away for the weekend.  We were heading to Lake Erie and Cedar Point, an Ohio amusement park.  Ralph knew his way in and out of most of the barns on the property.  So we left plenty of dog food and water for him and headed off  with the kids.   When we returned home, Ralph was nowhere to be found.  That was unusual because he was usually our greeting party.  We all thought the worst.  He might have gotten hit by a car or a truck.   We searched the ditches along the road, we searched all the barns, checked with neighbors to see if they had seen him.  There was no sign of him anywhere.   The kids were heartbroken.  So was I.   But we were tired, so I got everyone into bed.   The next morning, we hoped to wake up with Ralph waiting outside…

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A chicken wing

FlorenceChristmas Dinner. Meet the parents. After three years of dating it was finally happening.  I carefully chose a white angora sweater and a blue plaid Bobbi Brooks skirt; it was 1970 and people still dressed up for holiday dinners.  I was nervous.  Not only was I meeting the parents, but three brothers, two sisters-in-law, and a niece and nephew.

Roger’s Mom, Florence, made everything for dinner from scratch; fried chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, pies, and yeast rolls.  I had no idea if others helped  but I doubted it.  Florence looked like she was in charge.  I offered to help and was told to scrape the bowl of the Sunbeam mixer filled with potatoes.  I then watched Florence heat milk and butter and slowly add it to the potatoes to make them creamy.  The rest of the family steered clear of the kitchen and soon Florence shooed me out as well.

Soon we all gathered in the dining room and everything was on the table.  Pass to the left or to the right?  I watched to see what everyone else was doing.  I was seated next to Roger’s dad, Henry.  I passed each dish to my future father-in-law.  The platter of chicken started with me.  I wish I had gotten this one last.  I didn’t want to seem greedy and take the best piece of chicken.  I carefully searched through the heaping pile of chicken and pulled out a wing.   My father in law was watching me the entire time. I placed the wing on my plate and handed the platter to him.

He pounded his fist on the table and said, “Dorma,  you’ve got some competition… she took your favorite piece!”  My heart sank, dreading to look at Dorma who seemed a little forbidding anyway.  Then the whole table burst into laughter.   Evidently it was a joke.  Because seriously…. how many people really want the wing?

The rest of the day was kind of a blur. Presents were opened, brothers fell asleep on the floor, the women helped clean up.  There was a loudness to this family that was nothing like my own soft spoken family.  Lots of shouting, a few arguments, and a lot of laughter.  Conversations centered on neighbors, friends, and some local gossip.  Roger’s little brother, still in high school, got the biggest laugh after a particularly long conversation about a local scandal.

“I wonder who’s sitting around the table talking about us?”



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Everyone else was looking at the moon that night.  A celestial event, which made the whole thing even easier to pull off.

She quietly removed the lace curtain from the rod, twisted it,  and tiptoed across the room to the sleeper in the twin bed.  Just enough space between his neck and the mattress for her to slip the cloth underneath and wait for the right moment.

The seconds ticked off slowly and at the exact same time the fireworks were to begin, she yelled, “Surprise!” and tightened it with all her strength. She wanted him to see her face.


photo credit to Gah Learner

A 100 word story inspired weekly by a photo prompt and hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields.  Click the link to read other stories.

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