Tag Archives: family

An Easter Memory

It's Easter! My sister, Charlene, and I share in Easter as little girls. We've finished our egg hunt and slipped the eggs into our baskets.

It’s Easter on the farm in Iowa. My younger sister, Charlene, and I share in Easter as little girls. I see a couple of colorful eggs in our basket!

Whenever I open a bottle of vinegar, the scent immediately draws me back to our annual Easter egg coloring. While our two children were young, it was great fun to enjoy a tradition that has been savored across the generations.

With the hard-boiled eggs resting in their cardboard carton, excitement was in the air as our two children sat on their knees upon chairs at our kitchen table. Newspaper covered the table and a row of small clear bowls was placed within reach of our little artists! Each bowl received its portion of hot water and vinegar. Deftly, parental grips squeezed the plastic McCormick-brand food coloring bottles while our son and daughter counted the drops, drip…by…drip. Big smiles appeared when almost like magic the colors came to life, much like a rainbow: blue, red, yellow, and green. Then carefully calculated color mixtures provided purple, orange, pink, spring green, and teal.

Crayola crayons were strewn across the table where chubby fingers reached for them to write a name, draw a bunny, or create patterns. There was nothing quite like using the special metal dipper to create an egg of two colors as one half of the egg was dipped for a period of time and then the egg was switched around for the additional color. Another favorite technique requiring extra patience was to dunk the egg a little longer to achieve a deeper color.

Each child had their allotment of eggs to color, yet despite this arrangement, it seemed there were never enough eggs, for they could have dyed eggs the whole day long. At the end of our artful session, the egg carton was filled again, but with beautifully decorated eggs. Then the carton was slipped into the refrigerator, awaiting the Easter Bunny’s innate ability to hide them in places only a special hare could manage.

The next morning, a cheer of “Happy Easter!” rang through the house as my husband and I were pulled from our slumber.  With pajamas still on and little feet slipped into shoes, baskets swung from eager hands. Squeals and shouts filled the air as the race began around the yard, with our two little ones peering beneath bushes, stepping among blooming crocuses, or balancing on tippy-toes to reach into branches.

Almost as quickly as the egg hunt began, it was finished. In the morning chill, we ushered the children back into the kitchen, where one by one the eggs were returned to the carton. Alas, the moment arrived where we each selected an egg, cracked the shell, slipped it off, shook a little salt onto the egg, and ate it! The rest made great egg-salad sandwiches or deviled eggs! What great memories of Easter with our kids. What are some of your favorite memories? Feel free to share them in the comment box below or by contacting me through the “Contact Diane” button above.

Happy Easter!

Be My Valentine: It’s All about Love ❤

“Will you be my Valentine?” is a popular question that is posed to those we love on this particular day. While many people think that the Hallmark card company had a hand in creating Valentine’s Day, it has actually been in existence for centuries in many forms and legends. Perhaps check out this link to read more about it: http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day  In the 21st century, Valentine’s Day continues to be observed on February 14 as a day to express one’s love and affection towards another.  Hearts, flowers, chocolates, candles, dinner dates, cards with touching sentiments, or quiet evenings at home all flow through my store of memories.

My Grandparents, Horace and Geneva, were married on Valentine’s Day in 1918. They married at the home of my Grandmother’s parents, which was customary at the time. I often thought Valentine’s Day would be a special day to be married. As part of our first Valentine’s Day together in 1974, Steve and I dressed up, joining another couple to go to the Joffrey Ballet which had a performance at Iowa State University. Steve and I met only three months prior at a dorm party and the chemistry between us became more evident on that special evening as we went out to dinner and watched a beautiful ballet.

On our first Valentine’s Day as newlyweds in 1977, I recall how Steve walked past countless storefronts through downtown Des Moines until he found Fannie May Chocolates. He carefully selected a red cardboard heart-shaped box filled with melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, each candy identified on the inside of the lid. On the top of the box was a small black stuffed-animal Scottish terrier. As I had grown up with a brood of Scotties as part of my mother’s kennel business, Steve sensed this was just the box for me.

A particular Valentine’s dinner will always be a treasured memory for Steve and me. We arranged for a babysitter to watch our six-month old son while we went out to dinner at Red Lobster. Unfortunately, Red Lobster did not take reservations, so we soon discovered after our arrival that we would have an hour’s wait on this very popular evening. Fretting about the time we gave our sitter for returning home, we discussed whether or not to stay. Within ear shot was a couple, probably the age of our parents at the time. They approached us and asked, “Would you like to join us at our table? We’re next on the list. In fact, we insist.” Amazed, Steve and I accepted their offer. It turned out to be one of our more memorable Valentine’s dinners as we became acquainted with this kind couple. When the check came, Steve reached for his billfold, but the gentleman put his hand out and said, “Please. We would be honored to have you as our guests tonight. Our children live out-of-state. It has been such a pleasure to have you join us tonight.” We didn’t exchange addresses or phone numbers, so we never saw them again. But, we will never forget their graciousness that evening.

One Valentine’s morning as a child, I awoke to a surprise at my bedroom door. Mom had knitted royal blue slippers with pom-pom tassels, leaving them at the bedroom doorway and placing a couple of chocolates in each slipper. The night before we siblings sat circled around the kitchen table carefully writing the name of each classmate on a Valentine and signing our names. I reserved the most sentimental card in the packet  for the cutest boy in class, hoping that it would affirm to him how special I thought he was. I imagine, though, that I wasn’t alone with my heart-throb crush, since many of the girls in my class had similar affections for him. And, always, there was the “teacher” card, although a couple of my teachers really didn’t match the verse on the card, posing a dilemma on which card to give!

When our son and daughter were in grade school, it was fun to watch them make their Valentine mailboxes out of shoeboxes that were reserved in the garage attic for the occasion. They eagerly set to work using the tools of the trade before them: colorful construction paper, Elmer’s glue, Reynolds aluminum foil, heart-shaped stickers, and a rainbow assortment of markers. Most importantly was creating the mail slot on the lid for their classmates to easily slip their cards into the box. It was always fun to have them sit with me at the end of the school day and go through their Valentine’s cards from their classmates and have them tell me about their Valentine’s parties at school.

As a preschool teacher in recent years, it was fun to relive some of my memories and those of my children while my little 3- and 4-year old charges carefully crafted their boxes or heart-shaped pouches with handles. Pink cupcakes or heart-shaped cookies were coveted treats for the classes, thanks to generous parents who loved to bake. I hope the children have memories of their first Valentine celebrations in a classroom setting.

Valentine’s Day brings many stories to mind for us. May we stop to consider that it would really be lovely to focus on loving one another every day of the year, not just on February 14. What memories of Valentine’s Day do you have? Feel free to share your story in the comment section or contact me directly through the “Contact Diane” tab on the website.

 

 

 

 

Special Delivery

This true story is dedicated to my parents, Chuck and Betty McLennan. They were clever and creative, always embracing the child-at-heart in all of us, despite our age. Mom and Dad created an endearing custom that we enjoyed from the time I could first remember until the youngest of the five of us was probably in high school. How I miss my parents and thank them for their zest for live. Enjoy this Special Delivery story. Merry Christmas!

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Snuggled together on my twin bed and sitting alongside me were my sisters, Charlene, Laurie, and Susan with Mama Betty holding our little brother, Charles, on her lap. Our evening bedtime routine often included storytime, but during the weeks before Christmas it typically involved listening to traditional Christmas stories. Saturday night baths were finished, everyone’s hair was neatly combed and pin curls or brush rollers carefully placed for us girls since we had Sunday school in the morning. Each of us had donned our flannel night gowns or pajamas that Grandma Geneva had sewn for our Christmas gifts the prior year. Hand-knitted slippers that Mama made last Valentine’s Day were keeping our toes cozy-warm.

There was a distinct chill in the air as the winter wind whistled through the pine tree windbreak to the north of the house. Located near Belle Plaine, Iowa, our two-story clapboard farmhouse was built in 1899 by our Great-Grandpa Patterson, so despite its former sturdiness, the years since had taken their toll. Therefore, a cold draft had a knack for creeping through the slightest crack in the old window putty, moving the white Priscilla curtains ever so slightly on the interior-side of the windows and sending a shiver up our spines.

Listening intently to Mama’s soft voice as she read of Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Vixen, and of course the most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph, we were quickly startled by something strange outdoors.

“Rap, rap, rap,” came the pounding from the porch door.

“Ho, ho, ho!” boomed a low bass voice.

“Jingle, jingle, jingle,” rang out the deep clang of sleigh bells.

Without skipping a beat, the five of us kids sprang to the window and Mama carefully drew up the shade. Through the Jack Frost etching on the second-story window, we could make out a tall figure dressed in red, cap blowing in the wind, and black boots leaving tell-tale footprints in the fresh fallen snow down the front sidewalk.

“M-e-r-r-y  C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s!” shouted Santa as he waved and jumped the white picket gate at the end of the sidewalk.

Excitedly we jumped up and down, shouting, “Santa came!”

Without any coaxing we clamored single-file out of the bedroom to the top of the stairs, Mama leading the way with our toddler brother in her arms. She slowed our pace, saying, “Don’t slip on the stairs in your slippers now and hold the railing.”

Once on the main floor we zipped to the porch door where thrusting it wide open the surprise was revealed. In unison we shouted a resounding, “Yippee! Santa brought our Christmas tree!” There leaning against the worn wooden siding stood the most beautiful pine tree with a fragrant scent of Christmas. This fragrance also brought a rush of memories of our campsite in the thick pine forest of Point Beach State Park in Wisconsin where we camped just four months earlier but only during the oppressive heat of summer.

“Oh no!” announced Mama with sadness. “Daddy missed the excitement. Let’s go find him.”

We shut the porch door, walked into the warm kitchen, and heard a familiar noise.

“Clang, clang, clang…..scrape, scrape, scrape,” echoed the sounds from the basement. Daddy was stoking the furnace with corncobs, coal, and wood.

We threw upon the door to the basement and called to him, “Daddy, come quick. Santa came with a Christmas tree!”

“Just a minute, I’ll be right there,” he responded. Soon Daddy came walking up the old basement stairs from the musty confines of the furnace room and brushing coal dust from his hands. He was beaming from ear to ear and working to catch his breath. Daddy followed us to the front door where he caught his first glimpse of our Christmas tree brought magically to our home in the country.

“Wow, Santa brought a perfect tree again!” cheered Daddy.

An acknowledgement stirred in my eleven-year-old soul as the eldest child of us five. For I recognized the extra twinkle in Daddy’s blue eyes and his quick wink directed at Mama. I closed my eyes, knowing in my heart of hearts the secret of Christmas, and whispered to myself, “Thank you, Santa, for our Special Delivery!”

Circa 1955, Our Special Delivery Christmas Tree After Decorating