RED HAIR


I always wanted to have red hair.  From the time I met a little girl in the first grade who had lovely red hair, dimples and freckles, I could imagine myself with bouncing red curls.

I had hair which could only be described as ordinary.  A number of years ago a friend told me it was mouse-colored.  I retaliated by making a sculpture of a very large rat and leaving it beside her fireplace when she was gone.  We remained friends.

During my early tap dancing days Grandma gave me a perm to replicate Shirley Temple’s adorable curly top, but each time I went to stay with Aunt Georgia she would take me to the barber shop to have a Dutch cut.  You know, like the little Dutch Boy on the paint can.

My cousin was born when I was ten years old.  We had recently moved from California to Connecticut, and the family was ecstatic to have a baby after so many years with just me.  Grandma sent pictures of the new little one, all dimply and cute, and with the treasured red hair!  Some people have all the luck!

By the 4th grade my hair grew and I wore pigtails which hung to my waist.  I hated them so much that one day I grabbed a pair of scissors and whacked them off.  It was so ugly my mother gave me another home perm and  was so curly that I stayed home from school for 3 days to avoid the ridicule.

In high school, I rinsed my hair in a bucket of chamomile tea to turn it red, but it didn’t work, so I bleached it blonde, and found that blondes do have more fun!

My hair has been bleached, colored, hidden under a wig and otherwise mistreated, but strangely I never knowingly dyed it red.  Once. through an accident of home care, it turned into a brilliant copper frizz, much like Harpo Marx, and I recognized that red was not my most attractive color.

A Freudian psychologist could probably make a lot of my lifelong dissatisfaction with my hair.  I have always felt that since we have it, we may as well have fun with it.  A grandson once asked me if it were blonde or grey.  I told him to take his pick.

 

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LOOKING BACK


No, don’t look back.  Things were never as good as they seemed at the time.  Some of the friends you chose in high school did not continue to be the friends you would keep or would choose to keep after you became a “thinking” human being.  However, in contrast, some people you chose to overlook at the time became dear as the time passed.

Class reunions give occasions to reevaluate your friendship scale.  Being easily impressed, one friend I chose because she was voted the prettiest girl in my senior class, and I thought the glamour would rub off on me.  It didn’t.  We were both military “brats” which gave a certain point of departure, she being army and I proudly proclaiming my navy heritage.  Her chin was permanently pointed toward the sky, and she obviously saw her father as at least a 3-star general instead of his lower rank.  I on the other hand, was well aware that I was not the admiral’s daughter.  However, I did choose her as my maid of honor when I married, and she certainly dressed up the receiving line.

We corresponded from time to time throughout the years, and I was delighted to see her across the room at a subsequent reunion.  But when I approached to greet her she looked uncomprehendingly at me, checked out my name tag, and effused “Oh Kayti!  I didn’t recognize you!”  I didn’t know whether to be insulted or pleased to think that I had perhaps changed for the better in her eyes.

Some high school friendships do continue and become more precious as time goes by.  Dr. Advice was fortunate and blessed to have a number of that sort.  He made the acquaintance of his dearest friend at the tender age of 5 when they shared a naptime mat in kindergarten.  They were also neighbors a few houses apart.

  They shared their affection and confidences throughout their lives until sadly, fate decreed otherwise.  His longtime friend departed too soon, and left gaping holes in the hearts of his family and friends.

At reunions, you table hop, laugh and compare notes from the years in between–it’s compulsory behavior.  As the years pass you’re afraid to ask the inevitable question: “whatever happened to…..? ”  You realize that though the stories you tell may begin on a jaunty note, in spite of your good intentions, can turn a little sad at the end.  You only think you have control of the story you’re telling.

THE PERFECT WOMAN


I had a reply to my cake-baking post from my cousin saying she had our grandmother’s White House cookbook from 1910.  It made me remember that I too had a White House cookbook so I began pawing through our library, and found a 1922 edition of the same cookbook.

Mine had not belonged to our maternal grandmother, but to the stepmother of great-aunt Hazel on my father’s side of the family.  Her name, Mammie Whipple, was unfamiliar to me, so I began reading my father’s geneology, written by a cousin of my father.  There was no mention of her except the line on the first page of the book, stating her relationship to a known relative.

Every blank page in the book was filled with her handwritten recipes—all of which strangely enough, are recipes for booze!  One side of my family were teetotal, the other was not, so that explained why Mammie was on my father’s side!  There are recipes for every kind of fruit wine imagineable, also a very detailed recipe for 15 gallons of beer, which included boiling 3/4 pound of hops!

I once picked hops in Grants Pass, Oregon during the war when field help was unavailable.  The entire town closed down until the crop was in.  School was delayed, banks and retail stores closed for several days.  It took a very large amount of hops to weigh 3/4 pound!

Whether Mammie was a good cook I cannot say, but she certainly knew her liquor!  Since Prohibition began in 1920, it would not be a stretch to imagine that there were many households brewing their own in that period.

Alongside the White House book I found another I had not looked at for some time—The Perfect Woman.  It is a large, musty volume dated 1903, with my grandmother’s name in it.  I imagine it is a book which I suspect may have been given to a young lady to guide them in the ways of womanhood.    It announces itself as “Perfect Womanhood for Maidens, Wives Mothers,”  and as a book giving full information on all the mysterious and complex matters pertaining to women.  A voluminous subject covered in 448 pages.

It includes  subjects such as “The Body, the Temple of the Soul”, on through the wedding night, Heredity and How it May Be Overcome” , “Graceful Development of the Body”, child rearing, constipation, and how to cure unimagineable ailments.  A few letters are tucked in here and there from friends giving home recipes and remedies for various childhood indispositions.  One very long letter of 8 pages explains how to cure worms!  Her child, Ralph. suffered terribly from the malady, and when she described what she gave that poor child I wonder if he ever grew to adulthood.

With all those terrifying and unseen dangers lurking for a poor innocent unsuspecting woman, maybe Mammie had the right idea for curing all our ills!

What The Hell!

KSR

WHAT THE HECK IS A DOLLOP?


Cooking is a book of life I can refer back to.  I love looking through my grandmother’s old cookbooks, or to rummage through yellowed scraps of paper with scribbled notes of treasured “receipts” from friends.

What I don’t understand is their terminology; what is a dollop?  A pinch or a smattering?  It seems that a handful of chopped nuts was enough, and you could just add a sprinkle of something to finish it off.

I became hungry for a taste of Aunt Georgia’s Hot Milk Cake the other day and found the recipe she had written for me when I was about twelve years old.  I tucked away everything I have learned through the years about baking and began.

The milk is heated until hot but not too hot.  OK, I’ve got that.  The usual flour, sugar and baking powder were pretty clear too.  Boy, is this going to taste good.  Then add butter the size of a walnut.  What!!  Using my skills as a sculptor, I carefully molded a walnut.  That is not easy ecause I buy my walnuts already cracked.  When we were poor I promised myself that when I could afford them I would never sit on the floor and crack a bag of walnuts again.  I’ve been buying cracked walnuts for a very long time now.

After putting all the ingredients together in what looked like a cake batter, I dipped a finger in and tasted it.  It was blah, so I added a little vanilla, and it was much better.

When I went to put it into the oven, the instructions told me to bake it in a “nice warm oven until it was done”.

I took out some old recipes of Grandma’s, and one sounded as if it might be a good sauce on the cake.  She wrote in her own hand in red ink several different versions of cherry sauce.  Then she wrote” spiced cherries are nice too—no recipe though.  At the end she wrote: “Don’t let me forget to send you my black berry jam.  It’s in the Kerr canning book.”

Her notes are still so dear to me, and she did turn out some delicious food—-written measurements or not.

And by the way, the cake was pretty lousy.  Not at all the way I remembered it from my childhood.  Maybe you had to be there.

I think every generation has memories of warm kitchens with our mothers, grandmothers and other women we have loved cooking the food which nourished not only our bodies but gave us memories to last all of our life.

 

GO WITH THE FLOW


I love the watercolor medium.  The look of color flowing over damp pristine white paper to become another color as it blends with a neighboring hue is so exciting to me.  Oil painting of course has its own virtues, but to watch one color flowing into a shadow on the paper and bringing a sort of mystery to a dark fold in a garment, or the bark of a tree, is a delight which can never be repeated.  That is what makes watercolor by far the most difficult of the paint mediums.  It cannot be copied, nor can that particular flow happen again.  It has a sensual quality to it.

Great oil paintings command great price.  Far more than a watercolor, as they should.  The simple watercolor never claims to be great art.  But the sometimes astonishing movement of colors mixing on the paper makes it all worthwhile.   Just go with the flow.

It’s a good motto for life too.  Rivers flow, and if there are no reasons to divert them, then let them flow.  They know where they’re going.   There are a lot of occasions when the best path is to do nothing.  In the sixty’s someone came up with a great catch phrase:  “Don’t sweat the small stuff; and it’s all small stuff.”

So when you find your knickers getting into a twist over nothing, just go with the flow.

 

JANUARY PEOPLE


Who are “the January People”?  My friend, 90 years old, has shown up at her gym daily for as long as I can remember. (Maybe that’s why she is 90 years old).  She obviously has missed out on a lot of late parties, but you can’t argue with the results of a daily workout.  According to her, the January People are the ones who begin showing up at the gym right after New Years, dressed in new colorful workout clothes made of spandex, and each clutching her blue yoga mat like a security blanket.  They all sat down on New Years day during the football game, making their New Years resolutions, and a daily workout headed the list.  They attack each exercise, eyes never leaving the instructor except to look and see what the other people were doing.  They begin drifting off as the month begins to wane, until there are only a couple left by Feburary.  These are the January People.

Years ago a group of us began jogging on a daily basis.  We began with 2, and several others joined us at 5:30 in the morning.  We ran for a couple of miles, working up a good sweat, went home and cooked breakfast for husbands and kids.  Gradually, one by one, the group dwindled down to my friend and me.

Resolutions are like that.  They look good on paper, but they are hard to keep.  Most people by nature, are procrastinators.  Dr. Advice in contrast, is the only person I know who believes in tackling a problem head on.  I have learned for instance, not to mention  a minor repair just as we sit down at the dinner table, because he will gladly leave a hot meal growing icicles while he makes the repair, the phone call, etc.  He will leave a TV movie, no matter how interesting, to finish a job.  It is a great quality, and one I wish I could share, but my nature is to take it easy, if it’s here today it will still be here tomorrow.  I’ll admit, if the house were on fire I would grab my iPad (if I had one) and my dog and run like hell.  My secret weapon is “I don’t make the resolution in the first place.”

NOT MY KID!


When we hear of teenage drug abuse who of us is not sure and happy it  is “not my kid”.   Don’t be too sure.

Children are accomplished secret keepers, sometimes for years.

Drug abuse can begin at an age we think our kids are still playing at childhood games.  And  they somehow know this is not something to share with their  parents.

The reasons are many, beginning with “all the cool kids do it”, but often triggered from a need to belong; to have someone notice them, to care.  Sometimes a divorce, with parents who quarrel, which often puts a mindset into a child that they somehow were the cause of the breakup of their life, can cause a search for something to take the place of the what they perceive as the loss of love.  Sometimes it’s “just for fun”.  They try it, they like the feeling it gives them, and who’s going to know?  It doesn’t take as long as you may think to need that feeling.

How do they pay for all this?  I  asked  a number of people this question, and their answers were the same: the drugs are always there.  They take some, sell the rest to friends, buy some more with the profit, and so on.  Unfortunately, as the need becomes fiercer, the price goes up, and the addict gets money any way they can.

Many single mothers do well raising their children, holding down a job and coming home to the jobs of both parents.  My grandmother was such a woman, running a boarding house and raising my mother and her sister.  My two daughters raised my four grandchildren as single mothers, in one case through their entire childhood.  Some mothers simply cannot cope.  The need for a life of their own becomes too great, and their child feels that loss.

The news media sends out messages that makes it harder to raise decent kids.  They face greater challenges and they’re on their own .

We know the consequence of drug use on the user, but what of the family upon realizing that their child is an addict?  The heartbreak, the feeling that surely they must have somehow failed are enormous.  Freequently they learn about the abuse when it is too late to stop it.  A child’s mind and body are still unformed, their brain wiring is still in the process of becoming.

I need to say that drug addiction is not limited to the lower class, indeed, it has spread into all levels of our society, and at a much earlier age.  It affects boys and girls alike, scholars and athletes alike .

Several years ago, we sadly discovered that our precious great-granddaughter has been addicted since she was eleven years old.

She is now a tall, movie star beautiful sixteen year old, who spent most of last year in rehab, depriving both herself and her family of the pleasure of her early teen years.  The pain is indescribale to realize that she will always be a recovering addict.  She is learning that some lives have to struggle a little harder than others, and that the message of rehab  “one step at a time” is true.

The cruel paradox of addiction is that it transforms a source of pleasure into an inescapable insatiable need.