Cheryll's Writing Journal

Musings, rants and ravings, plus gems of insight nobody wants to hear now that I've finally got them. Also neat stuff I found on the 'Net when I should have been updating this blog....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving best of the secular holidays...

This was the day I remember most from my childhood, because Thanksgiving dinner was the only time -- apart from funerals -- that my mother's extended family celebrated together. For my brother and I, isolated as we were until we moved into town proper, it was a time to play with other children, our cousins.

When I was very small, the family dinner was held in Nana's little house that she shared with my mother's youngest sister, Noma. Noma worked as a bookkeeper to support them both, and never married. She was a career woman long before that was acceptable behavior, unless, of course, one lived with one's mother... But even then, there was some talk. Small town.

As my three cousins, my brother and I grew larger -- and Uncle Nedum retired and brought my mother's eldest sister Ethel back to the area -- the meal had to be served outside in the garage in order to fit us all around the table.

The garage was a wooden shed with no windows, so the doors would have to be propped open to supplement the weak bulb hanging by a string overhead. Old carpets were spread on the dirt floor, and the dining table and two card tables brought out.

With chairs for all of us, there was literally no room for anyone to get up once they sat down! We kids could not, therefore, leave the table early and play tag out in the yard. Just as well, because we'd have kicked up dust from the sandy soil.

By the time I was about 10, there would be around the table: Nana, Noma, Mother & Dad and my brother Aaron & I, Mother's sister Ethel and her husband Nedum, Mother's elder brother Cecil and his wife Lily, Mother's younger brother James and his wife Alma and their three children - Malene, Bolivar & Bud.
There is a funny story about how Bud got his name, but I wouldn't bet on its accuracy, given the family penchant for practical joking. My Uncle James was cantankerous and his wife long-suffering, according to his female siblings. I remember him as being very fond of teasing them in ways that they always seemed to fall for.

So when Alma was pregnant with the third child and asked him what name he liked for this one, he is reported to have growled ungraciously, "Just call 'em Bud, for all I care!" And so she did.

I cannot personally vouch for the truth of this story, since cousin Bud is only about 2 years younger than I. However, since James and Alma were married for well over 50 years before she died -- without having committed the homicide other ladies in the family seemed to feel might be justified -- I'll assume they had an understanding not shared by his siblings.

Besides, this is exactly the sort of outrageous story that Uncle James would tell in company, just to tease his mother and sisters!
These get togethers were held at Nana's house, a tiny asphalt shingled cottage sitting on one corner of what had been the original family holding -- one whole city block. When Grampa died in his early 40s and left her with 5 kids and no income, Nana gradually sold off parcels until only the last corner remained.

She made ends meet by cooking for the fishermen, and anyone else in need of good home cooking, at 25 cents a meal. My mother told stories of serving supper (dinner was midday on weekends), and washing up as fast as possible so they could all go over to the theater across the street for Saturday nights dances.

For the young people, these dances would go until about dawn, when she and her sisters would rush home to cook and serve breakfast. After cleaning up from that, Mother would often take a long walk on the beach with a girl friend or her sister Noma -- since it was Sunday, a day of rest. Often this little walk would stretch from Morro Rock up to the Standard Oil pier in Cayucos...about six miles, not counting that it was a good half mile to the Rock from Nana's house.

Of course, the food holds center stage in my memories, but playing tag and hide and go seek with my cousins was important, too. Nowadays, I think listening to the grownups talk about their families and share stories from the past is most interesting.

Those stories were always exciting to me, since we kids were never told anything children didn't need to know...and then when we were adults, nobody explained anything because they assumed we knew, I guess. It can be very frustrating for us nosies who thrive on family minutia, especially since there is no one left to ask!

Sometimes the stories were pretty funny. Uncle Frank stories were my favorite. I'll write about him tomorrow...

Meanwhile, here is a family portrait taken with the first 4 of 7 children:
Left to right: Cecil, Mary, Dorothy, Ethel, Charles, Helen. James, Noma and Charles Castle were born after this picture was taken. Charles Castle died as a toddler, and Dorothy (my mother) always wondered what he died of, as no autopsy was done. She thought that was one of the reasons she went into medicine.

Another may have been that Helen, with whom she was very close, died of Spanish flu in early 1919. Everyone got sick, except my mother, who was about 13, and she took care of them all. Her father never regained full vitality, and died a couple years later of 'heart failure.'

There is a page on line with some family photos...mostly of Morro Bay, with a brief outline of the family line. It's missing some information I know I have somewhere. Marie McKennon did an extensive search on the Stocking side, back in the 1950s, 3 pages single spaced type! According to her notes, Stockings came to this country from England on the next boat after the Mayflower! Thereafter, the males seemed to alternate between army and church.

To see some more great old photos of Morro Bay...


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Why Wasn't Science Class Like This?

Remember colloid suspensions way back in chemistry class? (Relax; this is a rhetorical question, Dear Ones.)

Well, I do, and being a cook, I already know that cornstarch is seriously weird stuff...but these guys carry it way farther. And some others folks have discovered more ways to fool around in chem lab, as well.

Don't you love YouTube?


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Universality or merely commonality?

Just finished Nora Ephron's latest book, I Feel Bad about My Neck.

Okay, maybe I was just too filled with anticipation, but really, I did expect more from someone whose plays have always managed to pull the most amazing insights out of the most mundane of human activities.

When Harry Met Sally, for instance. There are no wild chase scenes, no murders, no edge of the seat suspense, nor is a metropolis reduced to rubble in this movie.

I Feel Bad about My Neck is a series of essays on how she is dealing with aging and other unmentionables, and I am expecting if not revelations, at least a new and refreshing take thereon.

The book was okay, gave me a few tired smiles and a couple nervous giggles, but essentially not much different from what I already know. Hey, I've already said a lot it, myself!

Instead of panning the book for being decidedly not new (or getting an ego boost thinking I must be pretty hot stuff if I already knew what such a famous writer had to say on the subject) I think I'll concentrate on something much more interesting:

Like, maybe the reason many of us in a certain age group have heard before -- many times! -- everything Ms. Ephron had to say is proof that we (at least my half of the species) are very much more alike than social divisions would have us believe.

Perhaps our personal responses to menopause and aging in general are a demonstration of a basic cultural commonality, if not universality of feelings.

In many parts of the world, it is still a very good and respected thing to get old. Elders are revered, or at least have respect and a role and responsibility to the whole. Their input is included in all areas of endeavor and decision making. Or so anthropologists assure us...

Not so in the recent history of the US. Perhaps as a result of 400 years of exploring, expansion and nation-building that reduced extended family and enhanced the notion of rugged individualism, our prevalent culture does not value aging. We do not grow up respecting the knowledge of our elders or anticipating our own.

Not news, you say? Well, that's my point, exactly!

So, what are we going to do about this state of affairs? [Okay, what are you all going to do about it? I'm already there, never listened well when your ages, and am much inclined to spend my remaining time engaged in having more fun that trying to fix the world. Been there, done that, now I'm retired.]

Of course, that's what the pause in menopause is all about -- taking some time out to reconsider goals, evaluate progress, analyze resources, (complain about assorted indignities that I had always figured would not be visited upon me, of all people, since as a redhead, I wouldn't age like normal folks), and share my newfound insights with all and sundry who need to know what's coming.

Welcome to menopause, Ms. have, as usual, nailed the common man --er-- woman!