Vintage birthday card

Found this at the Elgin house. Uncle Verne and Aunt Norma (my dad’s sister) gave it to my Grandpa Patrick.

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Echt Email

I once owned a charm bracelet. I think my Aunt Ginny gave it to me. It was silver and had a few charms. The only charm I remember is a Christmas tree, but I probably had 4 or 5 charms on it. It was lost when my jewelry box was stolen when we lived in Pittsburgh.

I must have worn it in front of Jeremy, because he sent me a charm from Germany. I still have it — mostly because of the note on the back.

This has been sitting around for years, waiting to be blogged about. Well, here you go…

I don’t speak or read German but Professor Google tells me that Echt Email can mean either “Authentic e-mail” or “Authentic enamel.” Since I got this in the 1970s, I will assume it means the latter.

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Two bottles of “Evening in Paris”

When I was very young, my folks didn’t go out all that often, but when they did I knew it by the smell. Mom would put on either Topaz or Evening in Paris fragrances.

While Mom’s bottle of Topaz is long-gone, I have two empty, but still fragrant, bottles of Evening in Paris.

Occasionally I open one of the bottles and take a sniff. I can still feel that weird, I don’t want you to leave, emotion I had when my parents would go out for the night.

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The truth about the girl in the photo

Unknown girl

My folks inherited my Grandma Patrick’s china cabinet and throughout the years objects came and went from the cabinet. I found a box full of things that I remembered having been in the china cabinet over the years.

Some of the things were old photos. One photo in an ornate oval frame was in the china cabinet for the past several years. The photo was of a young girl holding dried flowers and wearing a lace cap over ringlets. I don’t know if I ever asked Mom who it was, but I assumed it was either her mother or Dad’s mother when they were very young.

When I brought it back to Bethesda I began to get suspicious because it looked like neither of my grandmothers’ other childhood photos. I took the photo out of the frame and was not terribly surprised to see that it was not printed on photo paper, but plain, shiny paper — the kind that comes with frames.

I don’t know how long that photo with the stock photo of the long-ago young girl sat in Mom’s china cabinet, but it did give me a laugh.

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Guilt, grief, grandpa and golf balls

Me, the following summer.

I spent much of the summer before I turned 16 with Grandpa and Grandma Green in their lake house in Chetek, Wisconsin just as I had done previous years. I spent my days reading and writing letters to my friends.

Sometimes I helped Grandma with things around the house and sometimes I spent time with Grandpa.

Grandpa Green had a few hobbies — reading, playing solitaire, drinking beer in bars and golf. One day he asked me if I would like to learn to play golf. I don’t remember if I was actually interested in playing golf, but I was interested in spending time with him, so I said I would like to learn. He took me to Chetek’s golf course and I acted as his caddie while he played golf with his buddies. I remember mostly being bored and hot and the golf bag was heavy.

When I told my mom about it, she said that the reason I was in Chetek in the first place was to spend time with Grandma when Grandpa was golfing. While that was news to me, I had no problem telling Grandpa that I didn’t want to go golfing with him when next he asked. I could tell he was disappointed, but I didn’t want to tell him that my mom said I should spend time with Grandma instead. I told him I did want to learn, but just not that day.

Before I left for home that summer, he gave me three golf balls and some golf tees. Maybe he thought I might try to golf in Elgin? I am not sure, but I thanked him and put them in a bag and took them home.

That November Grandpa developed a blood clot in his right leg and had to have it amputated. Besides being afraid for my Grandpa — someone I loved as much as I loved my own parents — I felt guilty because I’d declined to go golfing with him after the one time. I knew he would never set foot on a golf course again despite people telling me that when he got his prosthetic leg he’d golf again if he wanted to.

The next summer he developed another blood clot and had more of his leg amputated, but he suffered a heart attack during the amputation and died a few days later, on July 9, 1973. He was 63.

When my mom, who was at the Mayo Clinic with my grandparents, called to tell my dad about his death, I listened to Dad’s end of the call through the door to my attic bedroom. I sat on the steps, sobbing while holding the bag of golf balls and golf tees that Grandpa had given me. I cried out of grief, but also guilt because I told him I didn’t want to go golfing with him the previous summer.

I still have the golf balls and golf tees. I keep thinking I should just get rid of them, but I cannot do that.

 

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An ear-full of waxwings…

…or a museum if you prefer.

Cedar waxwings

Many years ago (eons in Internet age) I searched for an Internet name that suited me. Because I was into birding, I focused on avian handles. I tried “chickadee” but it was already taken in the places I wanted to join. I considered “painted bunting,” a bird I longed to see in person, but the name seemed a little suggestive. I finally settled on cedar waxwing because it was probably my favorite bird at the time, one I’d only seen a precious few times and one whose looks always made me smile. Cedar waxwings look like they are wearing cat-eye sunglasses.

Luckily for me no one else used the name “cedarwaxwing” or “Cedar waxwing” or even “waxwing” on any of the social media sites I was interested in joining. This continued for years, although I don’t think I was able to score a cedarwaxwing account at gmail. I did register a waxwing account there though and it has been my general email account since September 2004.

Over the years I have received a fair number of misdirected emails from people or companies that I had nothing to do with. Not of the SPAM variety, but genuine mistakes.

I have gotten emails from travel agencies with other people’s itineraries. I have gotten emails from personal trainers with complete workout instructions attached. I got an email thanking me for nominating a cyclist for an award.

I usually respond to the email and explain that they have the wrong email address. I rarely hear back. But recently I have had pleasant conversations with strangers concerning the mistake.

Elizabeth, for instance has sent me (thinking I am Kim and Jess) Easter, valentine, fourth of July and general catch-up emails. I responded each time, explaining I was not Kim and Jess. I never heard back until this year when I replied to the entire group, explaining that I was becoming concerned that Kim and Jess were not getting all the well-wishes. I immediately received an email from Elizabeth’s sister explaining that Elizabeth was not all that worldly when it came to emails. She promised to talk to Elizabeth and figure out Kim and Jess’ real email address. Elizabeth replied later, apologizing, but also saying she’d been using my email address for Kim and Jess for 10 years. That was Valentine’s day. I got another Easter email and just left it. Poor Kim and Jess.

In late February I received a confirmation of an order made by Kenneth of Swansea, Wales, UK for some light bulbs. Because there was no way to contact Kenneth by email since he used mine, I wrote him a letter and mailed it to him. I promptly forgot about it and was surprised, and touched that Kenneth sent me an email explaining the situation a couple of weeks ago:

Hi Dona,

Please accept my sincere apologies for the mix up when I used the wrong email address. You were very kind in taking the trouble to write to me.

Unfortunately, I mislaid your letter which had only now come to light.

I am a very keen birdwatcher, who, sadly has never seen a Waxwing. The bird has fascinated me since childhood so it seemed opportune to use it as an email address. You had beaten me to it with Google, so I added a “my…”. However, I recently bought a domain where I can use Wax.wing. I must have mixed things up when creating both the order and the separate history site. Sincere apologies again for causing you this trouble.

I hope you have managed to see Waxwings!

Regards

Paul

(In Wales, it is common to give your child two names, but use the middle one, hence I’m not known as Kenneth)

I replied that I’d forgotten that I sent him the note and that I had, indeed, seen cedar waxwings. I also sent him a photo of a cedar waxwing that stopped in my yard.

The day after I received Paul (aka Kenneth)’s email and while I was waiting to board a plane for Seattle, I received an email from “Jerry’s Rogue Jets, Oregon’s one and only mail boat tour, delivering Fun Since 1895!” I was confused since we were headed to Oregon as soon as we picked up our rental car and thought that perhaps Clare had booked a mail boat tour (whatever that is). I checked the invoice and saw that it was another case of someone using the wrong email address. This time it was a woman named Amy. Luckily her telephone number was also on the invoice so I called it and left a message. She replied with a text message about an hour later, just as I was boarding the plane.

Hi- thank you for the heads up on the invoice. Corrected. Sorry for the trouble. You are the original waxwing! I’m #26.

Some people would not bother setting people straight about email address mistakes, but I think it is the right thing to do. Not that you have to go overboard, but just because waiting for an email can be a pain. The replies I have received have always been pleasant and the people have always been thankful and I have had, albeit brief, conversations with these people with whom we share a love of one genus of bird.

I am sure I will continue to receive misdirected emails and I am sure I will continue to reply.

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In which Arthur and Benedict bring me JOY!

As some of you know, my mother died last August, three days after my 60th birthday. She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years before she died, and I suspect she’d had it for even more years before the diagnosis.

I stopped sleeping well about two or three years ago – waking up at night worrying about my mother and feeling guilty that I was not helping out more. After her death, the feelings of guilt stopped, but other worries took their place, so I continued to wake up at night worrying about this or that – work, the election, and other things I don’t want to discuss here.

Whether or not it was the general feeling of anxiety, grief over my mom’s health and death, or a by-product of not sleeping, I must have been in a state of situational depression for some time. Not that I always felt unhappy – but I never felt completely happy and some things that used to interest me didn’t interest me anymore – birds, reading, cooking…

I’d vowed to get back into reading – especially books that interested me. Most of the books we’d read for book group were fine, but only a few really caught my attention and made me want to stay up reading them all night. Two of those books were about men of my general age who for different reasons discovered new things about themselves in the course of the books. One book was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and the other was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Cover of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. A man sitting on a sofaAmazon recommends books based on books you buy and in March a book called The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick was recommended and was on sale for $1.99 so I purchased it. It looked like something I would like, but I didn’t start reading it until last week. I liked it immediately and early in the morning on July 11th I was halfway finished with the book. Sitting on our back porch, I put the book down, took a sip of coffee, looked out through the screen at the bird-filled backyard and I felt something I’d not felt in a very long time. I felt JOY! All Caps with an exclamation point and bold font JOY!

It took me by such surprise and I realized that I could not even remember the last time I felt pure JOY! that I began crying. I cried because there were so many times over the past few years that I should have felt this way – when I saw my daughter after a long absence; when my brother married the love of his life; when my son graduated from Oberlin. I cried because I’d wasted so much time on being angry or resentful or guilty or scared or despairing.

Then I wondered where the feeling came from. Coffee? No, I drank it every day. Sitting on the back porch? No, I did that every day too. Hearing birdsong and watching birds? No, again, that was a daily event. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper? Bingo, it was Arthur Pepper’s search for who his wife was before they met that did the trick, I am sure of it. In fact, I’ve been on a similar search – I’ve been going through items I brought back from my mother’s house and trying to find meaning in them. Why did Mom have them? Where did they come from? Who had them before she did? I think I suddenly realized that even though I’d lost my mother in August (really, years before that) I’d not lost the memories of her and could make more memories because of the items from her house. I mean, I have not even got to the letters and have only touched upon the photographs.

Cover of Rise & Shine Benedict StoneSince that epiphanous Tuesday, I’ve been able to sleep through the night (with a slight hiccup this week because of a work issue) and have been able to deal better with things that would have made me angry, resentful, or despairing before that Tuesday. Maybe I am done with the grief – the grief that I told everyone, including myself, I didn’t feel.

This morning as I sat on the back porch drinking coffee, watching the birds, listening to bird chatter I once again felt JOY! This time, the book I’d just put down was Rise and Shine Benedict Stone, Phaedra Patrick’s second book. Coincidently, I am halfway through it.

So this is not a book review but a too-long, twisty-turny open thank-you letter to Phaedra Patrick who I hope continues to write charming, witty, life-changing novels. And no, I don’t believe we are related but it would be cool if we were.

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New Blog: A Complete Library of Entertainment, Amusement and Instruction

Another item I brought back from my mom’s house is a book called A Complete Library of Entertainment, Amusement, and Instruction. This book is all one needed in 1903 to be entertained, amused and instructed. For instance, it gives detailed instructions on how to throw dozens of socials, from an advertisement social to a bird social to a beheading social. It also provides guidance on throwing parties including a progressive soap bubble party, a children’s Valentine party and a brownie party. It gives instruction on how to play ping-pong, how to do various exercises and explains both American football and English football rules. Several of the socials, parties, and instructions are accompanied with “full-page half-tone images” and others are paired with simple line drawings.

Three women dressed in warm clothes for a "Northern Social"

An example of the images from the book

I remember looking at this book various times in my life, but it never caught my attention until I took a closer look at the images and some of the content.

So, thought I, what a great idea for a NEW BLOG! Maybe I will actually keep this one going beyond a few posts!

I’m slowly adding content to the new blog, with little, if any commentary. So far you can learn how to put on a Carnival of Nations or a Reunion of Characters from Charles Dickens’ novels. You can also learn how to host a Cat Social, a Bird Social, an All Fools’ Social and a Broken Hearts Social.

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Hyman Herron’s Spelling Book


On my desk sits a 1906 beat-up copy of Reed’s Word Lessons by Alonzo Reed, A.M. The front endpapers are covered in childish writing: numerals 1-9 and the initials H. H. in small and large writing. The end endpapers have more writing: the number 15 in three places, Hyman Hernw, the name Patty and, in much nicer handwriting the words confectionary, confederacy, corb, coterie, dau, and daguerriolyn (which doesn’t seem to be a word). On a page that may have been reserved for notes is the name, Hyman Herron. Hyman also wrote his name on the edge of the book, across the pages.

The book itself is a spelling book for “the higher primary, intermediate, and grammar grades”. It contains 289 lessons starting with the “long a as in hate” and ending with prefixes and suffixes.

I don’t know when Hyman used this book. Perhaps when he was 15? I don’t know how this book came to be sitting on my desk. But below are some clues as to who Hyman Herron was.

Hyman was born in New York City to German (Prussian) immigrants, Issac and Fannie Herron on either December 25th or 26th in either 1895, 1896 or 1897, depending on what source you believe. His sister, Esther, was born in New York when Hyman was 2. By 1900 the family had moved to Elgin, Illinois. They lived, along with an Irish family, at 58 State Street, Elgin, Illinois. In 1910 they lived at 115 West Chicago Street in Elgin, which seems to be the Beckwith Building, built in 1888, according to Google Maps. Hyman’s father’s occupation is listed as “Fruit store” in the 1900 Census and Confectionary in the 1910 Census. Issac died October 23, 1910.

In 1917, Hyman registered for the draft. He was 21 and lived at 411 Prospect Street in Elgin and worked as a chauffeur for W. A. Kerbru (?) in Elgin, Illinois.

Hyman lived as a roomer at 310 Spring St. in Elgin, Illinois in 1930. The homeowners were George H. and Addie E. Rutledge. Dr. George H. Howell, a dentist, was also a roomer at this residence. It is possible Hyman paid $18 for rent. The home was worth $10,000 according to this Census report. His listed occupation is “Shipping Clerk” at a thread factory, which later information suggests was Collingbourne Mills.

In 1940, Hyman was still a single at 43, living at the Kelly Hotel in Elgin, Illinois. and was still working for, probably, Collingbourne Mills.

In 1942, Hyman again registered for the draft.  He was 45, living at the Kelly Hotel and still working at Collingbourne Mills. Harold Rule, also of the Kelly Hotel, is listed as someone who would always know Hyman’s address. Hyman’s telephone number was 6086.

Hyman’s mother, Fannie, died March 23, 1962, and is buried in the Elgin State Hospital Cemetery. Her gravestone also contains the numbers 771.  Interestingly Fannie is listed as Lena in the 1900 census, but Fannie in 1910. It could be two different women, but the age seems the same.

Hyman’s grave marker indicates he died on June 22, 1975, was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, in Elgin, Illinois.

This leaves me with more questions — how did Issac die? Why was Fannie at the Elgin State Hospital? How long was she there? Was she also Lena or was that another wife? What happened to Esther? Did she marry? And how did this book end up on my desk?

The only connection, besides Elgin, is Collingbourne Mills. My grandfather worked there as a traveling salesman when he met my grandmother. Perhaps he knew Hyman Herron from work. Hyman was about 12 or 13 years older than my grandfather. My grandfather probably worked at Collingbourne Mills in the early 1930s. Did he give my grandfather the book? Or perhaps there was no connection and this book ended up at my mom’s house with a bunch of other stuff from an antique store.

At least I’ve given Hyman and his mother (and sister and father) some thought today.

 

 

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Bible stories in words of one syllable

Christmas 1936, my 8-year-old father was given a book of stories from the Old Testament. I don’t know how much he read it, the spine is still stiff. Growing up I’d seen this book around the house but never really looked at it. It wasn’t until I pulled it out of my “to blog about box” this afternoon and saw that it was not just a book of stories from the Old Testament, but a book of stories from the Old Testament written in words consisting of only one syllable. Or so the title claims.

Before I opened the book I wondered if the author shortened all the names in the book to make them one syllable. Noah = No? Moses = Mo? What about place names? Garden of Eden = Yard of Ed?

In reality, there are words with more than one syllable in the book, but the author hyphenated them or, in the case of names, used an apostrophe between the syllables which I think is cheating. (Actually, it was probably really hard to do this.)

 

 

 

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