Tomorrow afternoon, many of the people I love will be dancing together at a family wedding. Thinking about what to wear for the celebration made me think of the petticoats we used to wear to weddings in the 1960s. Which is why this Fantastic Friday I’m engaging in one of the bouts of the petticoat envy that have plagued me since watching the first episode of Mad Men in 2013.
The show’s been hot for several years, but I didn’t start watching it until lately. It didn’t take long to get hooked, since the show’s first season is at about the time my first childhood memories kick in. We were a from a family of teetotalers, so I can’t speak for the drinking. But the hair styles, the furniture, the technology, and the unrestrained smoking are truly a blast from the past.
So are the petticoats.
And that is something I can speak about having been a bit of a petticoat connoisseur way back then. Though that may not be strong enough word to describe my preoccupation with petticoats. My heart’s desire was to have a petticoat poofy enough to make my dresses stick out like the dresses on the front of the patterns Mom bought at the dry good store.
But, to get that kind of poof required several petticoats. My sister and I each had one petticoat like the one pictured below. Rows and rows of gathered netting were stitched to the cotton outer petticoat. But to get quality poof, a second half-petticoat of almost pure netting could be slipped (hence the name slip) under the full petticoat.
Our family, like many others, couldn’t afford two petticoats per daughter. So our full skirts, along with those of most of the girls we knew, had more droop than poof. And that returns the conversation to the subject at hand. When those Mad Med actresses wear shirtwaist dresses with wide skirts, their clothes exhibit maximum poof. We’re talking not just two petticoats. But three. Maybe even four. And I covet every one of them.
Because I have petticoat envy.
And I’m not ashamed to admit it. In fact, if the show was casting extras for a crowd scene, I would audition in a heart beat. And I wouldn’t care if it was a non-speaking part. I wouldn’t care if they edited me out of any shot I was in. I wouldn’t care if the pay was lousy. Or nonexistent. As long as I walked away with a picture of me wearing a dress with enough petticoats to achieve maximum poof, I would be happy.
And resolved never to wear an under-petticoat again.
Because, if memory serves me right, those gathered layers of netting were extremely scratchy. So scratchy they went out of fashion and never made a come back. Except as an outside layer of foo-foo, a style which is way cute on a 6-year-old, but not nearly so cute on a 56-year-old.
Then again, it wouldn’t hurt to try one on…
Today’s recipe comes compliments of my sister. She passed it along a year or so ago and reading it reminds me of how easy life is today compared to the lives of our grandparents and their grandparents. I haven’t tested this recipe, and don’t plan to. But if you take a crack of it, come back after you’ve had a few days to recover and leave a note about how it worked for you.
Grandma’s Washing Receipt
- bild a fire in the back yoard to heet kettle of rain water.
- set tubs so smoke won’t blo in eyes if wind is pert.
- shave one hole cake soap in bilin water.
- sort things, make three piles: 1 pile white, 1 pile collord, 1 pile work britches and rags.
- stur flour in cold water to sooth then thin down with bilin water.
- rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard. Then bile. Rub cullord but don’t bile—just rench and starch.
- take white things out of kettle with broom stick handle then rench, blew and starch.
- spred tee towels on grass.
- hang old rags on fence.
- pore rench water in flower bed.
- scrub portch with hot soapy water.
- turn tubs upside down.
- go put on cleen dress—smooth hair with side combs—brew cup of tee—set and rest and rock a spell and count blessins.
This is an authentic washday ‘receipt” in its original spelling as it was written out for a bride in 1900. Donna Barlass, Church Cookbook, Lenark Illinois
A week ago today I visited the home where my family lived from 1961 through 1965. The molding above the front door where my sister and I posed in our Christmas best was still there, more lovely than I remembered.
The corner where a Westmar college student snapped a photo of us in front of the best snowman ever is framed in bushes, but the memory of that day remains.
The side yard where Grandpa supervised my sister, brother and me while we swam in our inflatable pool…
…the same yard where my one and only birthday party was held, looked smaller than I remembered.
The house looked smaller too, much smaller, when we went inside. When my cousins and I were very young, we never noticed how completely we filled the space between the door to the upstairs and the kitchen table. Now in our fifties, my cousin and I both commented on how small that space was. I marveled that Dad had been able to right angle his wheelchair around two corners to get to the bathroom from either the living room or his bedroom.
Scanning the living room, I wondered how we crammed the upright piano, the TV with rabbit ears, the fold out couch, grandma’s walnut desk, and an upholstered chair with a large footstool, and found room for company.
I thanked the present owner for welcoming into her home and allowing me to take pictures to show Mom and my siblings. Leaving with my cousin, I realized that our family of five–and Grandpa Stratton for a few months–filled the house to overflowing and then some.
Ever since, my thoughts have overflowed with memories of the years on the street where I once lived.
- Dad sailing down the hill by our house in his wheel chair with one of us in his lap.
- Doing dishes with my little brother in the kitchen…until Uncle Jim came in and said, “John, that’s women’s work,” and Little Brother went on strike.
- Learning how to make snickerdoodles with Mom.
- Her pride in the new Singer sewing machine in the dining room corner.
Small memories of a small child over a handful of years. Indescribably precious. Forever held dear. They live inside me and warm my heart.
Today’s post comes from a very distinguished guest blogger, who also happens to be my sister, known to anyone who reads the comment section of this blog as “Sis.” Sis recently wrote this ode to our family vegetable, and gave me permission to publish it here. Reading it makes me as greedily hungry as a hobbit for mushrooms. You?
Some families have distinguished, ancient crests with lots of regal history; other families have members who have accomplished great things which allows their relatives to bask in the glory of all that star-dust; and some families, like mine, have a very real and symbolic vegetable. It is a vegetable worthy of a family crest.
My maternal grandparents, bearing the last name of Hess, lived on a farm near Pipestone, MN where they raised eight children during the Great Depression. Grandma and Grandpa grew most of their own food to feed their large family. The vegetable garden was immense, even after the children left to start their own families and gardens. Each spring they planted a row of carrots and a row of kohlrabi for each of the eight children. The child was to seed the row, thin the seedlings, weed it, then harvest it, meaning he or she could eat the carrots and kohlrabi any time he or she wanted.
These eight children produced 39 grandchildren (I am number 20), Grandma and Grandpa continued the tradition of planting many rows of carrots and kohlrabi for the grandchildren. The grandchildren trained each other to love this veggie. During a summer visit to the farm when I was about 8 years old, my cousin Jean Marie,*** who was age 7 and who lived right there on the home farm, taught me about the joys of kohlrabi. She led me to the kitchen to swipe one of Grandma’s many salt shakers, then we sneaked out to the garden.
“Don’t let Grandma see us,” Jean Marie instructed as she yanked 2 kohlrabi out of the dirt, stripped the leaves from it and broke off the root. “Grandma will be mad if we leave the salt shaker out here. And we are NOT supposed to eat these!”
I took this seriously. I did not want to be in trouble with Grandma.
Then Jean Marie headed for the row of peonies which were large enough to hide both of us. There she demonstrated how to peel the thing with her teeth, salt it, and eat it like an apple. It was a delicious secret treat, crisp, delicate and salty. I wanted another. I crawled behind the peonies to the nearest kohlrabi row where I imitated Jean Marie’s techniques of pulling, leaf-stripping and peeling.
Years later I told Grandma about this. She knew. Of course she knew. She knew all of us did this. That was why she planted them—to get us to eat vegetables. She knew they were sweeter if we thought they were stolen.
If I was to create a family crest it would include the family slogan, “One Mell of a Hess” and include a regal kohlrabi. Like so.
When family reunions roll around, a cousin or two arrive with a bowl of home grown kohlrabi harvested the morning of the reunion, a half dozen paring knives for peeling, and salt shakers. We snack on sliced, salted kohlrabi all day.
***Names have been changed to protect the family members who have not agreed to have their names included!
What would you include on your family crest?
Tomorrow the Man of Steel and I are taking Mom to a family reunion where many cousins will gather to catch up on each other’s lives and to reminisce about our parents and grandparents. As we talk, the realization will come upon many of us, myself included, that we are becoming more and more like our parents and our stalwart grandparents, Vernon and Josephine Hess. This Fantastic Friday post from June of 2009 offers a picture of what that means.
A few years ago my older sister, who hit fifty long before I did, said she was getting more like our Grandma Hess (our mother’s mother) every year. “Maybe it’s happening to you,” I thought, “but it won’t happen to me.” I was so wrong! Since turning fifty almost three years ago, I have developed some strange quirks that can be traced directly to Grandma. The most notable of these traits are:
- A growing belief that oatmeal deserves its own food group, should be eaten for every breakfast and added to all baked goods.
- A penchant for big, flower-patterned, cover-up aprons.
- The habit of spitting on a tissue (though Grandma used a hankie) and using it to wash the dirty face of any child related to me.
- Wintering over my geraniums, rooting geraniums, planting geraniums in my garden, etc.
- Ditto for asparagus ferns, vinca vines, and philodendrons.
- Not wanting to spend money unless it’s really necessary, and nothing is really all that necessary.
- A need to check my flower gardens every day, pick flowers for bouquets whenever possible, and put the flowers in the vase (see photograph above) that belonged to Grandma’s mother.
- Thinking the best way to celebrate any winter event is to cram everyone into my house and serve a heavy meal.
- Thinking the best way to celebrate any summer event is to have a family picnic.
Some of Grandma’s traits I haven’t picked up yet and hope the Man of Steel or my kids chain me to a wall before I do are:
- Taking all the sugar, creamer, catsup, mustard, and any other condiment packets, along with as many straws and napkins that will fit in a purse, from restaurant booths.
- Buying cheap clothes, worthy of wearing at my own funeral, at Crazy Daze and putting them in the back of the closet until the big day arrives.
- Watching Lawrence Welk every Saturday night.
- Knowing the life story of every entertainer on Lawrence Welk and relating them to my grandchildren.
- Asking my kids to cut my toenails when I can afford a podiatrist.
- Requiring kids to wait thirty minutes after a meal before they go swimming.
Unfortunately, a few years ago I would have told my family to chain me to a wall if I snored, spit on a tissue or wore a flower-patterned apron. So I’m probably doomed to pick up a few more Grandma quirks every few years. But if the Lawrence Welk oddities come last, I’ll be eternally grateful.
A-one, and a-two, and a….
Funny, isn’t it, how our preferences change over the years? As a kid, a day like the one described below would have been a dream come true. Today, even more than 7 years ago when this story first posted, the thought of 3 McDonalds meals in 1 day turns my stomach. How about yours?
Wednesday morning, my brother and mom picked me up at 6:15 to attend my uncle’s funeral. We spent most of the day on the road. In the course of the trip, we realize a dream that would make most seven-year-olds salivate. We ate three meals at McDonalds.
In our family, this accomplishment is earth-shattering news. My siblings and I spent most of our childhoods begging to eat at McDonalds. Since the closest one was 25 miles away in Sioux City and money was tight, our pleas fell on deaf ears. Except, of course, when Mom had saved up for a big city shopping trip. Then, if we were also running short of the straws for Dad, we ate lunch at McDonalds with strict orders to save the straws, ketchup packets, plastic spoons, extra napkins and anything else not nailed to the floor.
Our taste buds have changed in the intervening years, so we weren’t thinking of Golden Arches when we started out Wednesday. Later, my brother said he did have the Clear Lake McDonalds in mind since his mother-in-law would be there with her breakfast gang. She was, and we had a nice visit. My yogurt cup was delicious.
We arrived at our destination around noon. With the post-funeral light lunch three or more hours away, we decided to get something to tide us over. Pipestone, Minnesota’s dining options are limited. Once again, we chose McDonald’s. Their side salads are pretty good, I discovered.
At the church, Mom had time to visit with her sister-in-law before the funeral. The service was sweet and touching, a good end to my uncle’s life lived long and well. The cemetery was beautiful with dozens of fern peonies buds opening to the warm and welcome sun. During lunch back at the church, we chatted with relatives more than we ate and didn’t leave until after 5:00. By 8:30 we were close to Albert Lea, hungry as bears. Mom suggested we stop at the travel plaza that housed several fast food places. We agreed, but we weren’t hungry for Pizza Hut. We were hungry for Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, but after quick waistline checks we shook our heads.
Our third option was–you guessed it–McDonalds. I ordered a salad with grilled chicken, then caved and added a large fries to split with Mom. As we carried our food to the car, my brother said, “I think this a new record. Three McDonalds meals in one day.”
At that moment I realized we are getting really old. Forty years ago, a day like this would have thrilled us. These days it makes us green around the gills. No doubt about it, we’re slipping. I have proof. We didn’t even save our straws.
What childhood dream would be a nightmare for you now? Leave a comment.