Brian and I were married in 1978, then started housekeeping in a furnished mobile home. Once my husband earned his school-administration credential, then landed his first related position, we moved to a new community and rented a farmhouse.
There, we gathered all the free furnishings we could: a well-used sofa from his folks; a table and chairs from his brother; my childhood four-poster bed sporting Grandma’s much-used mattress (the most comfortable one I ever slept on; wish we still had it) and a small, antique rocking chair from Mom. We didn’t have a lot but we had everything we needed. We were happy as ducks on a country pond.
The move meant I could commute to college full time. We paid cash tuition, leaving us with no college debt, but also with no funds for new furniture nor for much else besides food, rent, and utility bills. We didn’t mind one bit. We had a keen sense of building our future.
Once I finished college, we started feathering our nest with our own choices over what others handed down: a new sofa and matching chair; a new bedroom set the year after that; then in 1985, a new dining room table with two leaves and six chairs. It was pricey and in style.
Never mind that we had no dining room. I barely noticed nor cared about that minor detail. We had space in our rented farmhouse’s family room with its paneled walls and red-brick fireplace. Country-decorating magazines called these spaces “gathering rooms.” At least that’s what I called ours whenever I remembered the term.
When I looked at that dining room set, I saw the rest of our lives spread before us. As we sat down to the table when company came, I imagined all the meals and people who would gather there in the decades ahead. We sat there with baby Sam on his first birthday with his cake and Brian’s parents seated around the table.
Fast forward to that same table holding his high school graduation refreshments, and later, assembling there for holiday dinners and more birthdays with our now-adult sons. Last month, my church life group sat around two-leaves’ worth of table. Three days later, four writers spread out their paperwork and chatted there with one leaf in place.
The other day I thought about how our dining room table is dated now, not a style you see in furniture stores. It wouldn’t bring much at a garage sale. But it holds our history, and still serves us well.
Another realization occurred: that table played a large role in directing where we would live, what school our boys would attend, the friends and babysitter we would know. How is that even possible?
When we moved to this area of the state for Brian’s job, we looked at houses. We rejected the one we liked best for a single reason: no place to put our dining room table. Had we moved there, our sons would have gone to a different elementary school than they did, played with kids in another neighborhood, and been influenced by a different roster of people in classrooms and in community roles; all due, when you think about it, to a dining room table.
The table is a reminder that throughout life, we never know what ordinary, even trivial decisions we make, people we meet, or places we go, that change our lives in ways we can’t foresee or imagine. Several seemingly random circumstances resulted in me interviewing at The Courier-Times nearly 32 years ago to the day. I feel it was meant to be.
I think there’s a tendency to think that by the time we’ve reached the workaday finish line at retirement, our lives are set in stone. I found that concept a challenge to overcome as I approached retirement. I vowed, however, that no matter what happened, I would find new material, new experiences, and new purpose in these years.
My retirement began in a peculiar way: caring for an ill husband. No matter how badly he felt last winter, he insisted that I find ways to be around people, and enjoy life beyond our circumstances—even if it meant a trip no farther than to our study for a Zoom session or to lunch dates with friends at Café Royal.
Now, more than eight months into this new era, I’m finding that life is not set in stone! It continues to evolve. New things are happening; new goals emerging. This year alone I co-founded a small writers’ support group called Writer Chicks; became a new member of a church service group; joined a gym, and am working on a big project you’ll hear more about later.
No matter our age or situation in life, we need new connections, new material. No telling where the decisions we make now can lead into the future as we continue to explore this uncharted path called our lives – our next chapters.
On my agenda today? Picking up some flowers at roadside farm stand with an honor box. I’ll put the flowers in a Ball jar at the center of that aging dining room table. They’ll look great there, at least to my eyes.
Some things are worth keeping. Others are worth changing or starting or joining. God gave us such freedom to make interesting decisions throughout life.
This Next Chapter column recently appeared in the New Castle Courier-Times, Shelbyville News and Connersville News-Examiner. Continue the conversation via email at email@example.com.
Lawns, we’ve had a few.
As a kid growing up in the country, it was my paid job to mow the lawn. True, that pay amounted to a buck a week, and even that was seasonal, but hey, a dollar went further back then, right? And the lawn looked pretty afterward as I gulped a big glass of Lipton Instant Iced Tea, admiring my handiwork.
When Brian and I tied the knot, he became our primary lawn crew. I didn’t mind, and didn’t even need to pay him a dollar. That continued at the houses we rented, but once we bought our home, we shared mowing duties.
After our second son arrived, I worked part time, and Brian’s career typically required 60-hour weeks. A Friday “day off” might mean I would mow, clean house, make a grocery run, and prepare supper before before heading to someone’s Little League game. Full day but no big deal. Life.
I would have been in my 30s and 40s then. It feels so long ago when I think of it in lawn years and energy levels.
Before he retired, Brian assumed all the mowing-and-trimming work. It became a point of pride for him not to need a rider to get the job done. He didn’t even use a self-propelled model. In his 50s and through his middle 60s, Brian considered it exercise.
Before I ever gave spring grass cutting a thought during Brian’s chemo winter, the topic had appeared on his radar. He knew his energy level wouldn’t allow push mowing this summer.
We discussed hiring it done—words my fella finds more difficult to swallow than I do.
“They’d probably charge 50 bucks a week,” I said. “At that cost, we could have a chunk of a rider paid for in one season.”
In March, the John Deere rolled off the delivery truck. Son Ben was there for the occasion as the three of us gathered in the garage, all smiles, watching the green machine ride down the lift and roll into our lives.
Soon, when the grass did what grass does, Ben showed up again to launch mowing season. Brian and I sat on lawn chairs on the back porch, clad in winter attire, watching Ben lap the lawn and cheer him on each round, as though he were a rookie in the Indy 500.
I figured one or the other son would appear weekly and get the job done. But before that could happen, one day I looked up and what do you know? There was Brian, buzzing around the lawn on the new ride! He hadn’t nearly regained his strength, but there he sat, riding tall in the yellow saddle. I posted the special moment as my Facebook profile photo. A glimpse of normal felt amazing.
I kept telling Brian that he should teach me how to use the rider, and explain the meaning of each knob and pedal. Being the fully capable woman that I am, I would take over the task—that was my pitch, anyway. Besides, I knew I’d enjoy it.
For years I’ve heard friend Sandy Moore speak of how some of her best thinking, planning, and praying are done while lapping her large, farm lawn on the mower.
The good thing about being married almost 43 years is that Brian and I have lived a lot of life together. We know each other’s stories. But knowing each other’s stories has a down side.
I knew why my husband was hesitant to turn me loose with a riding lawn machine. He was fine with me driving a load of baseball kids to Arkansas, Michigan, or Ohio for tournaments back in the day, but mowing our lawn was a different animal.
He couldn’t quit thinking about an incident of 40 years ago.
I almost put my dad’s new three-wheeler into the farm pond. With me on it. And I mean, it was close.
Dad hadn’t given me enough instruction before letting me take his new toy for a spin. That, or I got foot-tied when I went roaring confidently through the barn lot, and forgot how to stop.
A mere few feet away from pulling an Eva Kineviel and taking it airborne before splashing down, I found the brake.
Guess you can’t unsee something like that.
One day Brian mowed in the backyard while I worked on the porch, minding my own business. He motioned me over.
“Wanna mowing lesson?” he asked.
“Are you serious?”
It was the senior version of, “Hey, baby, goin' my way?”
He walked me through it, even though I mentioned that there is a pond on the other side of our back fence. Just a moment of full disclosure.
Guess he figured it would take a lot of horsepower combined with very little horse sense for me to crash through the fence to get there.
Pleased that I didn’t destroy any property or christen the mower that first slow-motion outing, Brian believed I was ready for prime time. He had a plan.
“With you on the rider and me trimming, we can knock that yard out in 20 minutes,” he said, fairly beaming.
He’s said it more than once, as though we’re on a stopwatch, and that some kind of productivity boss is standing by with a clipboard and hardhat. I didn’t ask the question on my mind: Why does it matter how long it takes? We’re retired!
Sometimes it’s best not to say a word, other than to offer support.
“Yeah, I bet we can!” I responded.
The truth is, I think we make a pretty good team.
Donna Cronk’s Next Chapter column appears in the New Castle Courier-Times and Shelbyville News the second and fourth Saturdays each month. It runs in the Connersville News-Examiner the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Connect with her to continue the conversation via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
GOING FOR THE GOLD THIS SUMMER: In my own backyard, that means marigold style. Mom used to grow them on the farm but only this spring did I realize how easy they are to grow and how low-maintenance and happy they stay all summer. Next spring I'll plant even more. They also offer quite a pop of color around the old farm bell and skirting the back porch. Retirement means time enough for many new pursuits, even simple ones such as this.
Note: Earlier this month my new column about adventures in and observations on retirement began. I've been asked if I would share it, so here goes the kick off to Next Chapter. I need to give the newspapers first dibs before I repost but once they have run, I will do so.
I'm grateful to newspaper readers who have reached out after this and my second column were published.
I'm enjoying this new era and confirming yet another life cliche to be true: I don't know how I had time to work! Mostly, I'm trying to live each day with complete gratitude. Each one is truly a treasure.
How to begin again, and a new column
In the 37 combined years I’d been on the payrolls of two newspapers, I saw a lot of people come and go in every department—typical of the news business. I’d also seen a good number come, go, and come back again. With this column, count me among those who return.
In my case, I’m back only as a columnist. For many years one aspect of my payroll job included regular slice-of-life columns. Writing the column felt like sitting down over coffee with readers at Café Royal. What I proposed is that kind of column, only with a theme about this new phase of life—retirement.
I don’t like goodbyes, and so today, I want to say hello again!
When I turned in my office key on the eve of last New Year’s Eve, what bothered me most about that day was anticipating that final walk out of the newsroom, into the back shop, and through the back door. The moment of leaving weighed on me.
So many memories were made in the newspaper office and throughout Henry County. Leaving felt like a cold-turkey way to give up something I loved. Would those memories overwhelm me as I left the building? If the tears came, at least no one would see “the ugly cry” once I climbed into my vehicle and hit Indiana 38 West.
The thing about that back door was that once it shut, there was both literally and figuratively no opening it again as the employee I had been for over three decades. Even if I freelanced, I had clocked out for good as regards my long-time payroll job. I didn’t stick around to contemplate the moment, and felt relief when my eyes somehow remained dry.
I turned 62 last year, old enough for Social Security, but young enough that just barely. Claiming it then would be something to discuss with our financial planner; just one of many things to learn about the new era ahead.
For much of my life, I had been the younger person in life settings: the youngest child in my immediate family (by a long shot); the younger daughter-in-law married to the younger son in Brian’s; the youngest among our best couple friends; and on occasion, the youngest where I worked, notably before coming to the C-T.
But “young” wasn’t what or who I was anymore and hadn’t been for a long time. “Young retiree” might work, but not really. I found that out in a hurry as I went about telling people my retirement plans. Not a single person said, “No! You’re far too young for that nonsense.”
Turns out I fit the part! How did I get there? Besides the obvious accumulation of years, 2020 had been tough in our household not only due to COVID in the pandemic sense, but with multiple personal losses of loved ones in various ways unrelated to the virus.
As the year unfolded, I became convinced that I should retire after clearing that 62nd birthday. I didn’t know what came next in any regard, only a personal whisper that it’s time for a new chapter.
Little could I have known when I told Travis one year ago about my plan, that days before I left the building, Brian would take his first chemo treatment for bladder cancer. After the chemo came surgery, and then dealing with complications from all of it. As I write this today, he’s doing well. I believe God knew that I needed to retire so that I could concentrate on caring for him during those difficult months.
I am deeply humbled and saddened to think of those who are unable to retire or leave work to be home with their loved ones who are going through hard things. I’m grateful for the privilege to do that, and now, I’m getting more than my feet wet in this retirement thing.
Already, I have a lot to say about it. I’m grateful to Travis for the go-ahead to put these thoughts on paper and share them with you. I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts about anticipating or living out this era of life, or just to say hello or continue the conversation.
I want to age with grace and gratitude—despite whatever circumstances I must face. The cliché is so true: aging is not for sissies. Also, I plan to share the joys and opportunities, insights and obstacles of this time and place.
We’re blessed if we’re able to get to this next chapter. Welcome to mine.
Continue the conversation by emailing me at: email@example.com.
For a quarter-century now, summer means that Gay and I head off on an adventure. We've been to New Hampshire twice (hi Joyce), Michigan (more than once), Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and all over the Hoosier state together. Last year we missed out (thanks COVID) and this year we took a day trip that felt like more to Indy.
We headed to Indy to the Mass Ave. area to create our own scented candles at Penn and Beech, 747 N. College Ave. The company was founded by a pair of sisters who started making candles in the basement. Now they are in a cool area of Indy. The shop has been there three years and is such a hit they have one now in Carmel and three more in Columbus, Ohio.
When you walk in, you're greeted with a staff pick. We liked the scent. Then it's time to walk around and sniff the various options along the wall, recording on a card which ones strike your fancy.
Why, yes, of course I'll sniff the bubble bath scent. It was delicate ...
So strong I could have ordered a cup ... to drink. I'm not complaining though.
OOOH...I liked this scent a lot. It was one that Gay selected.
Gets my vote for best scent title. Hard NOT to select this one. Oh, the power of suggestion.
After narrowing her likes to three, Gay thinks about the mix ratio of gingerale, leather and pear.
My four selections, mixed and ready to pour into the hot wax.
Our helpful candle associate and team leader, Shelby, said her favorite combo is bonzi, champagne and goji berry. The shop changes scent options seasonally and fall will likely bring such satisfying choices as a smores scent, combining dark chocolate, whipped cream and campfire. Or the perennial favorite of pumpkin spice or maybe autumn leaves, nutmeg, cloves, or rain.
It takes an hour to create the candles and for the experience and a candle, typical cost is thirty bucks. You can spend more if you choose a pricier vessel, but I'm happy with the white one.
A fun hands-on girlfriend or sister experience. Would make a great birthday gift for a pal, or something special to do with your bridal party, mom, or anyone else. Even by your lonesome.
While the candles cured for two hours, it was off to explore the unique shops in the area, and The Bottleworks Hotel. The Art Deco one-time home to Coca-Cola execs is now a luxury hotel. Across the street is The Garage, also related, it appears, to the former Coca-Cola operation. It is now a food court featuring international fare and a quirky gift shop. Love the repurposing of local landmarks.
We enjoyed convenient on-street free parking not far away and a thoroughly enjoyable summer's afternoon.
Meanwhile back home, Brian and Rick enjoyed a nice visit and trip out to lunch into Pendleton at The Bank restaurant. We ordered Pizza King for supper and an evening of conversation, porch-sitting and the scent of a Pear candle (Brian's favorite candle scent) burning in the background, brought from Penn and Beech.
For more about this local business, hit www.pennandbeech.com. Also on several social media sites of your choosing. Thank you Kirktons for a relaxing day trip and for setting up the experience and driving down. Thanks to their daughter Katie for the recommendations as well.
In 1971, if you were a girl in Union County, Indiana, your mom probably stitched you up a calico skirt or dress with matching bonnet. She probably wore a pin exactly like the one above. You both had the pioneer spirit!
How well I remember that fall and the county's sesquicentennial festivities on the courthouse square.
When you live in UNION County, with a county seat named LIBERTY and your high school mascot is a PATRIOT, patriotism runs deep.
Turns out it still does. On Wednesday, I experienced one of those rare-air moments when life seems to come full circle. Just like that, fifty years had passed and Union County is now celebrating its bicentennial. The pin had been in Mom's jewelry box since 1971, and then mine after her passing.
Nancy Huntington put together an extraordinary tour of numerous standout homes, farms, gardens and other sites. She asked me to serve as one of the bus hostesses. I looked forward to the day for weeks and it turned out even better than I could have dreamt. About 70 "tourists," consisting largely of current or past residents, gathered at the middle school to load buses and tour the townships. Here's my bus buddies:
Between stops, we sang several patriotic tunes, including "The Star-Spangled Banner." When we belted that one out, our capable bus driver quietly removed his ball cap and put it back on following the song. I was touched by the young man's gesture.
We also sang "Back Home Again in Indiana." The state song is actually "On the Banks of the Wabash," but man. That song is SAD. It makes me cry like a baby. (Check it out.) I also prepared some trivia questions for the group. Of course there were prizes.
The following are some additional photos from the day. I have three times this many images, but here are a few to give you an idea why this farmgirl is forevermore a Liberty Belle. I want to thank Nancy for inviting me to host a bus. It was my honor. I would tell you to hit me up for the 250th but I'd be 112. The pin will, however, remain in my jewelry box for as long as I'm still kickin.' Thanks Mom, for saving it.
On the second floor of this stately Brownsville landmark, the 1876 Masonic Hall, is where the meetings took place until the Brownsville Lodge No. 70 closed and consolidated with the Liberty Lodge No. 58 in 2019. It was a special treat for me to see this second floor as I had never seen it before and it is unlikely that I ever will have that opportunity again. Downstairs, the building was rented to various grocers from the early 1900s to 1976. Grocers included L.J. Cully, John Winters, Lorel Ross and William and Isabel Brandenburg.
Darlene and Jim Kaufman were asked to be on site to answer questions about the town. With them is tour organizer Nancy Huntington, right, who did a fantastic job, along with husband Howie, of locating properties for the tour. Jim let guests inside the lodge building for a look and also pointed out the former Brownsville State Bank and the current U.S. Postal Office. There has been a post office in Brownsville since 1819.
It was a splendid day to see the homes, history, and historic barns and properties of Union County as residents and former residents celebrate the county's 200th birthday this year. Happy Independence Day everyone!
Do you see it?
No, not a bird.
No, not a plane.
It's a leaf! Leaves, actually.
Ash and you shall receive! Yes, that's our backyard ash tree. It has been the prettiest tree by far on our property for years. I planted it with two others not long after we moved here in 1998. They say you plant trees not for the present but for the future.
I didn't know that our future would include the emerald ash borer beetle. But then, who did? That green insect and his buddies have taken quite a toll. Just look out along highways and into woodlands and you'll see the skeletons of once-beautiful trees such as this one.
I thought the beetle family had found us last summer. We had two huge limbs on the left side of the tree that were dead. Brian said we should just take the tree down if death is its destiny. There were other trees in our backyard that could use a good pruning. What to do?
I said if the tree would live a few more years, let's keep it.
We made a deal. We would ask our tree man, Rob Tuttle. If Rob said our tree still had some life left in it, we'd keep it and let him trim out those dead limbs, as well as prune our other trees.
Rob said leaf it alone. No he didn't. But he did say keep the tree.
On a gorgeous November day, with autumn-hued leaves still on the ash, Rob and crew showed up and did their thing.
During the rest of the fall, winter, and early spring, I kept watch over our backyard, wondering what all six backyard trees would look like when the leaves appeared.
So this spring the other trees gradually turned green as the ash remained utterly barren of signs of life. I watched that ash as though it were a spectator sport.
Finally, I saw what appeared to be buds of things to come, and then it turned quite cold. Would the chill nip things in the bud?
And then ... this past week, I noticed the tiniest of leaves. Now they are filling out a little more each day. It appears that Rob was right! I don't see any new dead limbs, even.
Those who know our story know that this has been a difficult period around our homestead with Brian's illness. We had company this past week, three days' worth, even, filling the house with chatter and laughter and stories and life and some of our very favorite people on the planet! We loved every moment. They made our home feel something like normal.
These leaves on our trees make our lawn feel something like normal, too. Sometimes "normal" is the best word in the English language. You don't know that until you do.
And this is why you have no idea how happy I am that Rob Tuttle was right.
Brian and I have gotten some lovely greetings and well wishes in recent months pertaining to his health battle and my career retirement. But recently, a one-of-a-kind affirmation hit the mailbox.
It was a beautiful card and sweet letter from Geneva, a lifelong mentor, Sunday school teacher, Sunday school superintendent, and all-around reigning queen of my little hometown church!
You may recall a post I did way back decades ago--I mean October--when we attended the Geneva's 100th-birthday celebration.
I want to thank my little church in the wildwood, better known as Brownsville United Methodist, and those who reach out to us weekly with prayer and cards and care. Special thanks to Pastor Shelley, to card maven Marie, to friend Lois, and to the incomparable Geneva for the special attention. Thank you also to Geneva's sweet granddaughter, Evelyn, for her part.
It's not every day you hear from a centenarian, and certainly not every day that the First Lady of Brownsville sends her best.
Whenever the calendar turns to March, it's as though a switch has flipped in my brain: SPRING! I'm fully aware, after being a Hoosier for more than six decades, that we still can, and probably will, get more snow. Even if we don't, the temperatures will still be ridiculously cold. But still. I'm ready to wear sandals even though snow boots might be in order.
But I also know that good things will happen this month. We will spring forward. That means more daylight at day's end. And yes, spring will arrive.
March came in if not like a lamb yesterday, at least with promise. Billy Bowman of New Castle arrived with his Screenmobile business and installed several new window screens and frames. This had been a chore we've needed done for a few years now, and we're happy to have this finished and off our to-do list. Shout out to Screenmobile! We're happy to recommend them.
Then word came that our new rider lawn mower would be here today. It's funny how the men in the family have been excited about this new vehicle and yes, I was in the garage watching as it was unloaded and rolled into its new digs. We're ready for green grass. Grow baby, grow. We'll mow! In fact, I think there will be several takers for the chance to do this chore for a while.
All six trees in our back yard were trimmed by Tuttle Tree Service last November. I'm looking forward to see these barren limbs fill with leaves in the weeks ahead.
Today I had my third Zoom in four days. That's the story of our lives for about a year now.
It's time to put away the winter decorations, iron my rabbit-themed tablecloth, and get out the Easter decorations. If I'm early to the "Spring has sprung" party, so be it.
We can use a little spring in our step. How about you?
His mercies are new every morning ... that message from Lamentations 3:22-23 comes to mind when I see a sunrise. The one today, while not jaw-dropping, is nonetheless beautiful as I started my day in my writing chair. I probably had just missed more colorful moments that only the earlier risers see. But I'll take this one.
I was asked yesterday if time slows down when you're retired. That is one of those "it's complicated" answers. This winter is layered with not only my new season of retirement, but three other seasons: winter, COVID, and cancer.
Winter comes every year in Indiana--nothing to see here about that--but life is harder during this period when it's cold, there's less light, and the complexities of both. The season of COVID is certainly getting old because we have a vaccine and we're still wondering how much longer we need to mask up to go anywhere, when will it be safe to return to our usual activities, and will those even be there going forward (I'm thinking of a pool-exercise class I adore, and a return of a local Weight Watchers class that isn't offered on site locally right now). When can we trade in the Zoom for seeing our people in real time in the same rooms? When will we be safe?
Then in my life, there's my husband's illness, and the process of getting through that.
I realized last week just how much I miss people, and quite specifically, missed being INVITED TO DO SOMETHING SPECIFIC! Cathy, a writing acquaintance, delighted me last Thursday by inviting me to join her at a library Zoom event on the topic of home organization.
I was in the grocery store when the invite came, and I jumped on my answer: YES!
In fact, I looked so forward to that Zoom session of viewing something totally non-essential and frivolous that I fixed my hair and wore makeup. I even put on perfume. The best part was that she thought of ME. It wasn't an impersonal group invite. It wasn't an opportunity to sell me something. It was a simple, This is happening. Wanna come?
Man, we should all do that more! Invite people into our world! Whatever it takes!
I asked Cathy the next day WHY she invited ME? She mentioned my interest in home organization that is conveyed online, but beyond that, she said she really didn't know why she invited me. I maintain that it was a Holy Spirit whisper because He knew I needed a little something-something perk. (And I do love home organization, although please don't open too many drawers or doors in my home. You'll be disappointed.)
We're so grateful that Brian is finished with his treatments, feeling stronger and more himself every day, and the sunshine this week has spurred us to address some nagging to-do list items. For example, what do you do if you have small holes in your window screens? (Not computer screens; I'm talking about old-fashioned house-window screens).
Last year Brian found these little patches that you put on the holes and he went wild with them. Well, they did the trick of closing the Pearly Gates for the bugs, but -- I'm sorry -- they look too much like Aunt Bee has patched Opie's worn-out jeans.
So he found a mobile business (God love small businesses!) where they show up and replace your screens. Bonus: For just $10 more a pop, they will build a new frame if you have bent ones. Yes, we have those, too. So Brian figured up what we need, and we have ourselves an appointment. Woo, hoo!
Now the clever and talented among you might suggest that we do this ourselves with bulk screening and a special tool. So easy, they say. So affordable, they say. People: If you can do this quickly, easily and do it well, good for you. But for some of us, there's a reason that God selected Noah to build an ark and not us.
You might even suggest using some matching thread and sewing up the unsightly screens. (See above paragraph.) We're just happy to have this little thing about to be done. I was so happy that I went around and cleaned the insides of the windows and the window panes. You don't see that every day!
I guess you could call it a little spring-cleaning preview! With that, I'm going to close this puppy down and sweep the kitchen and master bath. After all, we might actually have some company by the time we turn 85.
Happy Hump Day and onward to one of my favorite days of the year -- Spring Forward Day.
Through the years, I've weeded out my extensive collection of cookbooks, but there were two I planned to always keep, one a hardcover, the other soft, Farm Journal's Timesaving Country Cookbook (Nell B. Nichols, Editor / Doubleday). I would keep them for no other reason than they were on my mother's shelves before they came to mine.
Besides church cookbooks that I also have, Mom didn't have any other cookbooks besides these two. She had a large collection of recipes cards, and clippings from magazines and newspapers, and I have all those, but other published cookbooks, no.
Yet here's how time gets away from us. The hardcover volume, for example, was published in 1961. So I've had since then to crack it open--and haven't . Until last week.
I wasn't even looking for a recipe or seeking a trip down memory lane. No, it was about staging. I wanted to redo the contents of the tiered shelving alongside our kitchen cabinets. So I was looking for some cookbook props whose size would fit the narrow shelf space.
I took the sun-faded dust jacket off Mom's book and what do you know? It suddenly looked as though it could have been published yesterday. Pristine, crisp, and with an attractive red spine that would go well on the shelf.
Okay! I liked the results. But before placing it, what I liked even more, was inside inside the cookbook.
It was a gift from my mother: An envelope taped to the inside blank cover page, holding clipped recipes from magazines for Hungarian Fruit Squares and Snappy Beef Stew. The outside of the envelope contains Mom's own personal table of contents for recipes that stood out to her.
Interesting. Ha, there's one for Lard Crust. You don't see that anymore, do you?
Inside, Mom paperclipped a section of pages together. There's no comment, so I don't know what that means, but I'm leaving the clip there.
I've found it to be true when it comes to old family Bibles--be sure to look inside them for all manner of information about births and deaths, clipped obituaries and other little surprises of clippings and poems and stories that your ancestors thought enough of to store what turns out to be securely, inside the family Bibles.
But I hadn't even thought about the cookbooks. Hungarian Fruit Squares don't float my boat (not a fan of apricots) and putting cheese in beef stew doesn't quite work for me either. But I'll check out the Porcupine Meat and the Salmon Scallop. Maybe.
When I need a Mom fix, I'll look inside the cover and see my mother's handwriting. My mother, who passed at 92, would be 108 this year; almost now beyond the possibility of anyone her age still being around.
She'll forever be in my heart.
As for the second cookbook, oddly enough, it was the paperback version of the hardcover. I'm wondering if one of these books belonged to my Grandma Jobe and was so well liked, they both had a copy. I didn't keep the softcover.
Who knew? Guess it turns out I can't keep everything.