"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.
That myth is more potent than history.
That dreams are more powerful than facts.
That hope always triumphs over experience.
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death."
~ Robert Fulghum

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cute As A Monkey?

When mom left her home and family in Arizona to join daddy in Greece letter writing, almost daily, became mom's connection to them.  I think they said, "I'll write you every day" and took it literally.  I am talking books, on some days.  When Grandma Shaffer, mom's mother, "cleaned house" for one move, she gave mom what had been saved of those letters.  When I first started working on the "Hidalgo" genealogy and assembling pictures, bibles, stories and the like I stumbled on these letters.  What a find, right.  Okay, now 10 years later and having the time to reorganize and sync all of my notes, I am putting these letters in page protectors and reading them.

They wrote on tissue thin writing stationary with fountain pens.  All of the letters are in perfect condition.  They are somewhat hard to read.  Oh, wait ... not because of the fountain pen on tissue paper.  My mom's cursive is somewhat small, but stretched and seldom can you see white space in her "e", "s" or "a".  Just hard to decipher, I should say. 

Letters were dated and denoted place:  "Up In the Air", "On the B & O", "New York", "On the Atlantic", "Athens", "Germany" ... and wherever else they might be when writing.  Letters generally started with something about "writer's cramp" or "not doing anything" ... seriously ... they were living in Athens.  While nothing had been done one day, another letter was penned the next day - oh, a letter to mom's family and one to daddy's family.  

Funny ... mom described hotel rooms and restaurants in detail, to include how clean the place was.  She would have made a great critic for the travel and restaurant industry!  During one rainy week daddy complained his tan was fading (I wonder if "tanning" is a genetic thing). Daddy remarked on a picture of mom's brother and how he had bulked up from using bar bells - he thought he "might be too old" to use them ... he was 23.  

Some phrases that caught my eye - 
     "... she's (Cindy) growing like a bad weed" 
     "... she (Cindy) climbs on everything ... sometimes I think she's part monkey ..."
     "... we don't buy steak at the commissary as it is $1.45 a pound"
     "Ordered a '52 Chevy, 4-door ... cost $1,605 ..."
     March 12, 1953 ... "after dinner we went to the theater to see Gone With the Wind ..."
     "... Cindy and I will just sit tight ... I will go get Nadine and Michael Charles ..."     
     "... she's (Debbie) getting as cute as a monkey ... take after the Hidalgo ... bald ..."
     "... Debra's got quite an extensive vocabulary and chatters all day long ..."

I had one question for my daddy.  Exactly how cute is a monkey with no hair?  Daddy told me, "As cute as I want it to be".

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Had Sugar Plums ... Now Look It Is Christmas Eve

Picture this - four kids - ages seven, six, four and two.  We lived in Omaha, Nebraska and in the winter there were snow/ice drifts everywhere.  At Christmas we felt it necessary to have a snowman in the front yard - I guess we thought Frosty needed a friend.  Quite honestly, I could have cared less ... he was made of snow, you had to touch it to make it round and I hated cold weather and snow.

Sorry, I had squirrel for a minute.  Mom had to bundle each of us up - wool pants, sweater, boots, wool coat, scarf, mittens and cap - times four.  Cindy, Marcia and Mike actually had fun in the snow.  Mike, at two was just fascinated with the snow.  The three of them would have snow ball fights, make snow angels and just have fun.  Seriously_  Lay down in the wet snow and flap your arms up and down ... no thank you!  I mean, we were buttoned up with so much on, our arms stuck out away from our body.  We could barely walk, much less fall into the snow to make angels.  Now, when we moved back there from England (I was in the eighth grade) I would walk out there for "guppy freezing" contests, but that is another day.

I know you wonder why bother to get all bundled up if I did not go out to play.  Well, it was not because I thought I looked pretty ... no, I had to say I helped.  So, once the snow was transformed into Frosty the Snowman's new best friend, I would venture outside.  The snow would crunch under my boots and the wind whipped across my face as I made the long journey to the snowman.  Finally there, I would look at the snowman's face like a clean palette for me to paint my picture, or in my case, find the exact center of the round face to place his nose.  Cold and barely able to bend my little hands around the carrot (mittens, remember) I placed it on his face.  I would look at my work ... then turn around and make my hasty retreat back to the house.  I would knock on the door (who could turn the door knob with those darn mittens), mom would let me in and she would take the coat and winter wear off of me.  "Look mommy, I helped build the snowman".

Time mom spent dressing four kids ... way too long.

Time I spent outside ... less than five minutes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oh My Goodness, Four More Days 'Til Christmas!

Some of the best memories of childhood, for anyone, are stirred by the smell of something baking ~ that warm, yummy sugar smell.  Mama did not bake with a recipe and I remember seeing mom watching mama prepare something and all the while she wrote down what she saw.  That got me thinking ... mama must have put "secret" ingredients in when nobody was looking and recipes we try just do not taste like when mama baked them.

Another smell that reminds me of Christmas is that of burning the cane before harvest - no it did not ruin the cane, rather it burned away a lot of the trash so that there was a cleaner harvest.  After the burning they would cut the cane and put it in the trucks that took it to the refinery.  You could see kids chasing after the trucks as they pulled off the plantation road onto the highway to the refinery ... going after the stalks of cane that fell off the trucks.

Back to my sweet memories ... they were still burning the crops during Christmas season ... ah, that smell.  Oh, okay, back on track.  Whenever we were visiting for Christmas we could be sure that some of the workers (probably because papa asked them) would come get us (girls), take us by the hand and walk with us by the cane crops.  We would stop, they would sickle off stalks of cane, clean the bottom edges and hand us each our own stalk.  They would take our hands again and we would walk with them while we sucked on the cane like lollipops - getting out all that sweet cane juice.

That got me thinking (yes, again and as we must have when we were little) ... we didn't chase no stinkin' trucks!     

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Only Five More Days 'Til Christmas!

Christmas mass was always eagerly awaited - well we got to show off our pretty new clothes - but, as with other outings, it had its challenges!

Catholic mass - if I remember correctly -  was still said in Latin and was never shorter than one hour.  It may still have been a "high" mass ... or maybe we were (mama always treated us to cafe 'ole in demitasse cups - lots of sweet milk with caffeine - yeah, it was us).  I wanted to set the stage for you.

Well, you know how little girls, when showing off, will take the end of their skirt and sort of lift it and move from side to side (as if sass-shaying to "oh I'm pretty, oh so pretty ...").  Oh, not me ... or Cindy!  I like to think we knew better.  Nah, it was because we were in Louisiana - small town, small church - we were sitting real close to mama and we were in the very front row. More stage.

Well, Marcia must have felt particularly pretty and was turned facing the congregation (yikes!).  Mama quietly, no not quietly - mama was not quiet - told Marcia to turn around, stay still and pay attention to mass.  One, two, three seconds Marcia stood still.  High on sugar and wanting everyone to see how pretty she was, she took up showing off again.  In her defense, she did stay facing the alter.  

Mama was the boss when we were visiting her - she really wanted everyone to see how well behaved we were (okay, and cute).  Mama leaned down and lightly pinched Marcia on her ruffly panties and again told her to behave.  Well, a little embarrassed, Marcia looked up at Mama and very loudly said, "Mama, don't you pinch me on my hinnie in church."  You really could hear a pin drop and very quickly the priest picked his jaw up and continued the mass (a little faster so he could be done).

I would say the pinch was nothing (she was not allowed to go outside to play).  We went back to mama's after mass and changed clothes.  It was kind of quiet around the house.  Cindy and I went outside to play.  We raced up to the levee, then to the top of the levee, we  looked back at the house - and then we played ... on "the other side of the levee".  Nobody else would be getting in trouble on Christmas day.  Yay!  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Six More Days 'Til Christmas!

Christmas in England has special memories for me!  We went to London to see Peter Pan starring Mary Martin as Peter Pan.  (It was not until Dallas became a popular show with Larry Hagman as J.R. that we actually knew who she was.)  Mom knit in the dark of the theatre - to finish our Christmas presents.  

When mom and dad went out and about with our neighbors, the Watas, they left the four of us with Joel and Lindsey.  Joel and Mike were the same age and fast friends.  Lindsey was probably three and followed the boys around wanting like crazy to play with them.  

So, the little ones were off "playing" Peter Pan and Cindy, Marcia and I were doing our own thing - whatever that was.  We were not paying particularly close attention to the terrible three.  We knew they were behaving, as were we, because it was that time of year (you know - that "naughty or nice" thing).

The parents came home, so we girls immediately scampered around and upstairs to let the other three know (and so it looked like we were "watching" the other three).  We walked into the room, with the parents behind us, as Mike and Joel were telling Lindsey, "You can fly, Lindsey.  Just like Tinkerbelle.  If you believe - you can fly."  Mike and Joel had Lindsey by the ankles ... holding (well, "swinging" would actually be a better word)  her out of a second story window.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My 9 Days of Christmas

Well, ever since the last "update" on my computer I am unable to download any pictures - for my blog or onto my Facebook.  I will have to figure that out later. I need to do my "memory" for today - then I am going into work with Marcia and leave there to finish Christmas shopping.  We have done most at ".com", but there are just a few that we are stumped on.  Anyway ...

When we lived in England base housing was fenced along back separating the housing from a huge farmer's field.  There were also big signs telling us "No Trespassing".  Well, you know how that is, especially to little boys.  It is like an open invitation to jump over the fence, stand on the other side and jump back over to home base ... when there was not a "farmer" and his tractor in sight.

Well my little brother, Mike, loved those balsa wood glider planes.  One Christmas that was at the top of his wish list.  Santa left Mike a couple of them.  Of course we girls were curious why he should get "some" when he asked for "a" glider.  Maybe we had better behave around Christmas.  Nah, we were good ... enough.

We (us girls) never paid much attention to Mike when he was playing, except to witness Mike's fear of the farmer?  Dad and Mike put together one of his gliders and Mike went outside to play.  The wind carried the plane in its graceful decent  and it did its perfect landing ... in the farmer's field.  Well normally that would have been a quick jump, retrieve and back.  However, this day far in the distance was the farmer on his tractor and he was headed toward Mike.

Mike waited patiently until the farmer was in ear shot and Mike started his plea.  "Oh Mr. Farmer.  My plane landed in your field, just over there (and he pointed).  Can I come get it?"  Mike repeated it several times.  The farmer stopped, just short of where the plane rested.  Mike called out to the farmer again.  The farmer started up again, looking at Mike, then the plane.  He looked at Mike intently, just as the plane crunched under the tires of the tractor.

Well, no wonder.  Santa knew there was a mean Mr. Farmer.   

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My 10 Days of Christmas

Daddy was stationed in Greece, at the American Embassy, when Cindy and I were born.  Mom and dad had a Greek housekeeper who cleaned, cooked, shopped and taught Cindy Greek.  Cindy was very international.  Christmas rolled around so mom and dad took Cindy to see Santa Claus.  There was a nice long wait, but Cindy saw all the other kids go up to the big, jolly man.  She saw them sit on his lap.  She saw that they had pictures taken.  She saw the other children laughing.  She saw them get off Santa's lap and walk away with their family with a big smile on their face and a candy cane in their hand.

Cindy, mom and dad waited and waited.  Finally it is Cindy's turn to sit on Santa's lap.  Mom picked Cindy up, placed her on Santa's lap and turned to step back.  Wait, screaming child - what did she call Santa?  "Ba-boo, ba-boo", she screamed.  All the other children staring, probably wondering why that little girl was screaming at the nice man.  Cindy's use of the Greek language was surprising.  No, come to think of it, she spoke Greek first.  Mom and dad had to coax English out of her.  Hmm.

Cindy called Santa  a "Boogie man". She would not sit on his lap.  She did not want her picture taken.  Come to think of it, the only picture I remember seeing to mark the event was one of Cindy crying, being handed to mom.  Oh well, maybe next year.

(A little disclaimer here - I have no clue how to spell "ba-boo" in Greek, nor could I make any sense of it when I tried to use an online translator.  Mom told us this story a long time ago and she told us what Cindy screamed and what it meant.)