Saturday, December 24, 2011

Outrage at the Eagles Club

Kids weren't usually allowed to watch the floor shows at the Eagles Club. The exception was the Christmas Show. Grampy was the manager of the Eagles Club. It was his job to hire the performers through a booking agent in Erie, PA.

I was six or seven years old and living with my paternal grandparents. So there I was at the floor show, sitting at a table with Grammy, drinking Nehi orange pop and watching the blond tap dancer. Everything was fine until she tap-danced her way over to Grampy, sat on his lap, wrapped her arms around him and planted a big "show-biz" kiss on his forehead. Everyone else laughed and burst into applause. I burst into tears. I was outraged. How dare she?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Last Christmas Together

Mother got remarried on February 15, 1947. My last Christmas with her and my sister was in 1946. We spent it with  Grandmother and Grandfather at the farm.

It was a Christmas fraught with anxiety. I was pretty sure that Santa would skip Grandmother's house because my 4-year-old sister and I had been so bad. We had kept Grandfather up every night for a week because of the noisy game we played after being put to bed. Every so often, we'd hear the swish-swish of Grandfather's slippers as he shuffled wearily up the hall from his bedroom. Subject to migraines and "face pains," he often went to bed early. "If you girls don't settle down," he'd call through the door, " I'll give you the heeby-jeebies." We had no idea what the heeby-jeebies were, but it was enough to quiet us down for awhile.  Before long, our noisy game would resume and we'd hear the swish-swish of his slippers again. Finally, he played his trump card: "If you girls don't go to sleep, I'll tell Santa not to come!' 

On Christmas morning, we stood at the top of the stairs staring doubtfully down at Grandfather in the hall below. 

"Well, aren't you coming down?" 

"Is there anything down there?"

"Come and see."

Down we went! Santa had come after all. The tall tree stood in the living room, with two of nearly everything underneath. Two dolls. Two sets of plastic dishes. Two sets of roller skates. Although there was only one doll house, my Meadville grandmother, whom I'd been living with since my parents separated, promised that I would have a doll house of my own.

The toy factories had not yet recovered from the war. The Betsy Wetsy dolls cracked apart at the seams after a few feedings. The doll house had come in the mail, unassembled. Years later, we learned that part of the house hadn't even been painted.  Aunt Jean, who was in art school, had to mix up some paints and finish the job.

The skates were the clamp-on kind that were tightened with a key. Before my mother and sister left for Florida, I brooded about that key. If Barbara took the key, how could I skate? When it was time for me to return to Meadville, I made sure that the key was hidden in my pocket. Sometimes I'd feel guilty, thinking of my sister in Florida, sitting forlornly on her porch steps with her skates and no key.  I'd quickly push that picture out of my mind.

Some years later, I got up enough nerve to ask her if she'd ever skated in Florida.

"Yes," she said. "Why?"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dress Code at the Pool Hall

We went up to Erie, PA the day after Thanksgiving to visit three of my four sisters. (Cis and her husband were with their daughter in Virginia Beach, but Cis let the out-of-town sisters, Barbara and me, stay at their house.) Margaret lives in Erie, as does Evie, who  has been confined to a wheelchair for the last ten years because of MS. Her husband, Gary, is her caregiver.

Barbara, Margaret, and I planned to take lunch over to Evie's house and spend the afternoon. Barbara, who is a wonderful cook, made a beautiful salad and baked two pies. The brothers-in-law were to take Gary out for lunch and come back later for dessert.

Off they went to the pool hall. They got back sooner than expected. After having lunch, they decided to shoot some pool. When Russ tried to make arrangements, the guy in charge told him he and his friends couldn't play.

"Why not?" he asked. The bar was half empty and a pool table was free.

"We have a dress code," explained the guy. "You can't play pool if you're wearing sweat pants." Gary was the only one wearing sweat pants. Sweat pants are what he wears around the house, caring for Evie, and it never occurred to him that he had to dress up to go to a pool hall. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Two tiny girls,
capped and mittened,
snug in a baby's sled,
Mother's boots squeaking
in the crisp, new snow
as she pulled us along,
down the hill
and through the park,
across the creaky wooden bridge.

The stream trickled slowly
as water stood freezing in the pond.
Bare branches rattled in the ice-blue sky,
clutching at winter as if to hold it close.

Spring was stirring in our mother's frozen heart.
Who was this man we didn't know?
Her smile was warm as April,
her laughter, dazzling as crystals.
Who was this man out walking in the snow?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

April Day Ohio

After Thanksgiving, we spent a few days at our cabin in Ohio. The weather was miserable. Cold, drippy, grey and dreary.  Not the kind of weather that inspires pretty poems, so it seems like a good time to recycle April Day Ohio  from  Free Verse and Worse, one of my two other blogs that I'm closing down to keep things simple. 

The stubbled fields are brown and bare,
the daffodils wrapped tight.
The cat-tailed pond displays a hundred downy tufts.

A woodpecker wraps on a distant door,
a groundhog ducks through a hole
in the abandoned kennel.
As we come near, the blue heron rises clumsily from her spot
by the stream and wings away over the cornfield.

Near the crest of the pebbled hill,
on the way to town,
we edge round an Amish buggy.
Three deer stop grazing to watch us pass.
A lone turkey crosses the road ahead.

At Reuben's farm,
white sheets tug at the line.
Denim pants and jackets
dance in the wind
with the goats in the field.
We soon reach Reuben's one-room school.
It's noon. He's playing second base.
A black-bonneted girl in an aqua dress
tags the small boy who hoped to steal a base.
A batter in a blue dress thwacks the ball--
a homerun for sure.

At Malabar Farm,
white-painted gourds atop a pole
invite the purple martins to summer there.
A white duck paddles on the pond,
his tail a saucy curve.
The Clydesdales turn away,
but Drifter, the quarter horse,
nuzzles my hand at the fence.

Whenever we're in Danville, I always pick up a copy of The Vendor at Miller's Hardware and turn immediately to the ads for Amish buggy and draft horses. This time an ad for a "10-year-old Belgian mare" caught my eye. "Well broke single or double," the seller wrote.  Her height was 16.2 hands and her weight approximately 1800 pounds. "Too much horse for me," he added.