Tag Archives: yesterday

Grandma Helen. The Early Years

Well hello my friends.  

It’s been a sad couple of days, because Friday afternoon my Grandma Helen passed away.    She died peacefully in her home as she had wished, less than a month before her 99th birthday.  During her long life,  Helen endured many difficult days, but she always maintained a positive outlook and a cheerful attitude.  She inspired many with her engaging personality, keen intelligence, and caring love for family and friends.    She will be greatly missed.   I am so grateful to have had her in my life for fifty-one so many years, and  in her honor I am posting  this three-part story about her life, which may remind you of a story  I posted here a couple of years ago.  I was lucky to spend some time with Grandma in her later years, and wrote this series after several interviews with her. 

Rest in Peace, my dear Grandma Helen. 

Helen Norman,  March 11, 1913 – February 17, 2012. 

“Cheri, we’re wondering if you can come to San Diego in the Fall for a week,” my Uncle Steve said one July afternoon in 2010.  “Susan and I will be out-of-town in October and it would be great if you could be here to check on Grandma.”

I was happy to help.  Grandma was 97, and though her arthritis made it difficult for her to care for herself, she wanted to continue living in her home.  So Uncle Steve and his wife Susan graciously cared for Grandma–   they drove to her house every day to make her meals, help her shower, change her bedding and keep her company– and they had done this for several years now.

“And if you get around to it, there’s a box of old pictures in the spare bedroom closet,” Uncle Steve said.   “You and she could go through it if you like.”

I liked his suggestion.   I loved organizing, and I also wanted to learn more about Grandma’s life.  The pictures might trigger some memories.  She rarely talked about her childhood, but lately Grandma was opening up more.  I tried to ignore my next thought:  I can talk to her before it’s too late.

“That sounds great, Uncle Steve,” I said.  It’ll give us something to do together.”

In October I walked into  Grandma Helen’s family room.  She was lying on the sofa, wearing one of her five navy blue flannel robes.  A blanket covered her legs.

“Hi Grandma,” I said, leaning down to give her a kiss.

The room was dark, so I opened the vertical blinds at the sliding glass door, and pulled on the lever to the one-inch slatted window shutters to let in some light.

“It’s a pretty day.” I said.

Sunshine entered the room and I looked around.

The family room looked just as I remembered from countless visits over the years.  It never changed.   Grandma Helen and Grandpa Clyde had moved into the house in 1960– the same year I was born.  The furnishings were like a time capsule from fifty years ago:  lime-green shag carpet, woven wallpaper, huge table lamps with large cylinder lampshades, and a nubby tweed sofa.

Funny, I thought.  Since Mad Men had revived an interest in all things ‘sixties, the room would have a current vibe if the furnishings weren’t so worn.

“How about some poached eggs?” I asked Grandma.

“That sounds good, honey.”

I made poached eggs with spinach and toast, two for each of us, and placed the plates on the coffee table in front of the sofa next to Grandma.  She called the sofa a “Davenport.”   In the past few years the Davenport had become Grandma’s bed because she liked being in the center of the house with the television and telephone nearby.

“Grandma, we’re going to go through some pictures,” I said after she’d eaten a few bites of the eggs and toast.

“Okay Honey,” she said.

Grandma was particular about a lot of things;   she liked two pillows,  her meals home-cooked, and a splash of brandy in her Ensure.

But for some reason she was easy-going about the pictures.

I retrieved the cardboard box from the back bedroom closet, and carried it to the family room.  I plopped it beside us and pulled out the top picture.

“It’s been so long I don’t think I can remember who’s who,” she said.

“You’ll remember, Grandma,” I assured her.  “I bet the memories will come flooding back.”

The Early Years

The picture was of a young woman holding a child.

“Who is this?” I asked.

“That’s me and my mother,” she replied.  “Her name was Elsie Marie Johnson before she married my dad, Homer Lowry.  That picture was probably taken the day I was baptized in 1913, because it looks like I’m wearing a white baptism outfit.”

“Your mom was pretty, Grandma, and she looks like she was nice.”

“Yes, she was.”

“Do you know why you were given the name Helen?” I asked.

“I have no idea why my parents named me Helen,” she said.  “But Mom named me Isabelle after a good friend of hers.”

Helen and her mother, Elsie Marie Johnson Lowry, in 1913 on Helen’s Baptism Day

“Do you know what your heritage is?” I asked.

“My mother was Swedish, and my father was Irish,” she said.  “My grandfather, Frank Lowry, came from Ireland in the 1800’s to start a farm.”

“Do you know why he left Ireland?”

“I’m not exactly sure, but it had to do with the potato famine,” she said.  “There were lots of problems in Ireland, so my grandfather had to leave the country.  But he had no money, so he came to the United States in the boat’s steerage section.”

No Family or Friends

“Tell me about your family,” I said.

“I don’t remember any extended family members living nearby, as our home was quite isolated,” she said.  “The nearest neighbor was five miles away.  I didn’t have any childhood friends, so I looked forward to the two weeks out of the year when my mother’s relatives came to visit.  I loved my mother’s family,”  she said.  “It was always so much fun to play with my cousins, too.”

Sisters Pauline and Margaret

“What were your sisters like?”  I asked.

“I spent all my free time with my sisters Margaret  and Pauline.  Margaret was four years younger, and Pauline was six years younger.     We lived on a 150 acre farm in Byesville, Ohio.  Woods surrounded the farm, which we loved to explore.  We climbed trees all day long and nobody ever worried where we were.  It was so different from today, with parents hovering over their children all the time.”

Grandma lowered her voice to a whisper, like she was telling me a secret.    “Growing up it wasn’t much fun playing with Margaret,” Grandma said.  “Margaret was a heavy child, and she couldn’t run very fast or climb trees.  The only way she could climb a tree was if I pushed her up,” she sighed. “Her heaviness was a big problem, because climbing trees was all we did.”

Grandma looked at me.  “But things changed,” she continued.  “For the rest of our lives,  I got heavier and Margaret got thinner.”

We laughed.  “Payback’s a bitch, huh Grandma?”  I patted my thick thigh and winked.

Grandma’s head bobbed up and down and her piercing blue eyes crinkled.  Hearing her laugh made me laugh more.   This was fun!

Helen, Pauline, and Margaret with their dad, Homer

The House

“What was your house like?” I asked.

“There were no bathrooms in the house, and we had to go outside to use the privy,” she said.  “We used the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs as toilet paper in the outhouse.  The catalog paper felt slick.  I hated to go in the middle of the night.  If you didn’t want to go outside to the privy you had to keep a pot in your room.”

“Did you have electricity?” I asked.

“No.  There were no telephones or electricity, only oil lamps.   We had an organ, though.  My mother knew how to play well, and my little sister Margaret could play too.    And  the sitting room  had a pot-bellied stove in it.”

“What else did you do to pass the time?”  I asked.

“We would sit with our grandfather on the big porch surrounding the house and look at the clouds.    My grandfather was nice,” she said.    “He had an understanding of kids, and he would tell us stories of his childhood.”

She continued her musings about those evenings on the porch.  “And we would catch lightning bugs.  I’d put mine in a jar so they’d light up my room.”

“Hmm,” I murmured, thinking how I loved catching lightning bugs as a kid too, when we lived in Virginia.

“The lightning bugs were my electricity,” she said.  “That was my entertainment.”

Getting into Mischief

“What kind of mischief did you get into, Grandma?” I asked.

“Cheri!” Grandma gave me a long look.  “I don’t know if I should tell you about that.  Plus, do you know how long ago that was?”

I smiled my most charming smile.  Grandma gave me a defeated look.   I waited, and soon she began to talk again.

“My sisters and I used to tease a bull.   We would wave something red in front of him to make him charge us,”  she laughed.  “He would run toward us and I remember running away as fast as I could to jump over the fence and save ourselves from getting killed.”

“My God, Grandma!  I’m glad I was not your mother!”

“My mother had no idea what we were up to, Cheri,” she said.

“Did you ever get punished?” I asked.

“Always, but it was my father who punished me.   I got a lot of switchings.”

“Really?”  I found this interesting, because Grandma didn’t seem like the trouble-maker type.  “Tell me about that.”

“My father would yell, ‘Go pick the finest little branch you can find, and come back in here!’  So I would go outside and find a branch, and go back inside to get my switching.”

“How awful, Grandma.”

“Yes, and it hurt.   Those tiny branches would leave little welts,” she said.

“What did you do to deserve such punishment?”

“Most of the time it was because I tore my bloomers.”

“Really?” This shocked me.  “What a trivial thing to get punished for.  What did the bloomers look like?”

“They were big, black, billowy things—just horrid!”

Toys and Things

I moved the subject away from Grandma Helen’s father, because she didn’t seem to want to talk about him anymore.

“Did you have any toys or things growing up?” I asked.

“I didn’t have many material things.  I never had a sled or a bicycle, but I didn’t mind,”  she said.  “There was no place to ride them anyway.”

But she did remember one toy.

“One year for Christmas I got a doll that my mother made,”  she smiled at me.  “I loved that doll.”

I smiled at her.  “Was that the only gift you got at Christmas?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.  “And I was happy.  And the next Christmas, my mother sewed clothes for that doll.”

“Your only gift?” I asked.

“Of course!” Grandma replied, shocked I asked.  “My mom was a really good seamstress.”

“Tell me more about your mom,” I said.

“She had the tiniest waist, and my sisters and I would try on her clothes in the trunk in her bedroom,”  Grandma said.  “And we loved to brush her hair, which was long and wavy.”

She paused, thinking about something.  She was frowning.

“Go on, Grandma,” I said softly.

“Sometimes my father would say, ‘why don’t you brush my hair?’”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“We refused,” she said.  “Nobody ever wanted to brush his hair.”

And that was the end of that subject.

The Animals

I took a drink of the diet coke I had found in Grandma’s garage refrigerator, then lifted up the glass of cranberry juice I had placed on the table and put it near Grandma’s chin.  She pulled the straw into her mouth and took a long drink.  The years of golfing in the sun had taken its toll;  age spots covered her face and hands and a yellow cast colored her fingernails.   But her mind was sharp and she showed no signs of wanting to stop talking, so I asked another question.

“Did you have any pets?”

“No.  But we had nameless dogs and cats that roamed the farm.   There were gobs of cats.   And there were little kittens everywhere.  There were so many cats they became a problem, and we had to get rid of them,”  her eyes filled with tears.

“What’s the matter, Grandma?” I asked.

“To this day I resent my dad because he would drown the cats,”  she said.  “But in some way,  I understood it.   Nobody wanted the kittens.  And it was over pretty fast when my father put them inside the rain barrel.”

Chores

I pictured Grandma’s father drowning helpless little kittens, and felt sick.

I tried to change the subject.  “Did you do any chores?”

“Of course.  My primary chore was to tend the chickens.  I had to feed them and take care of them.”

She paused and turned to me.

“The funny thing is,  my dad would bring the chicks into the house, so they wouldn’t get cold and die.”

I thought about that.  “That’s interesting,” I said.  “Why did he save the chicks but not the kittens?”

“Because they were part of the food chain.”

“Hmm,” I nodded, in understanding.  “So what other chores did you do?”

“My dad would send me to get the mail, usually at dusk.  The mailbox was a mile away, and I would run through the woods, which was terribly frightening.    My family said they could hear me screaming the entire time I was gone. The woods were scary at night.  There were all these noises!”

“Oh Grandma, how awful!”

“Yes, and to this day, I have a fear of the dark, perhaps because of those scary runs to the post box.”

Allowance, Church, School and Birthdays

Gosh, I thought.  Grandma had some pretty awful memories about her father, but she never talked about any of this when we were kids.   Why was she talking so openly now?   I knew the answer, but pushed it back, choosing instead to think of more questions to ask her.  I needed to keep Grandma talking.

“Did you receive an allowance?” I asked.

“Never.” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done with money anyway; we were miles away from everything.”

“How about  church?” I said.

“Occasionally, on Sundays, we would dress up and go to the Presbyterian Church, ten miles away.  But we didn’t go often because it was a big chore hitching up the horse and buggy.”

“What was school like?”  I asked.  We were on a roll.

“We really did have to walk five miles to school and back,” she said.  “It was a little country school, eight grades in the same room.  I  learned a lot from the upper classes– when I was in the lower grades I listened as the teacher taught the upper grades.    I did  well in school.   Reading was my favorite subject.

I looked around at the stacks of magazines and books and newspapers in neat piles around the room.  “That makes sense, Grandma, because you are the most well informed person I know.”

Grandma waited for me to ask another question.  She was enjoying this.

“So, how did you celebrate birthdays?” I asked.

“I don’t remember ever celebrating a birthday when I was a kid.  Our family usually ate dinner together at a big oblong table.   When I was nine, my mother was just starting to teach me how to cook a few things.”

I was curious to hear more about my Great Grandmother, but I had been there several hours and Grandma needed some rest.

“Wow Grandma, you did a good job remembering so much,”  I said.  “Let’s see.  All this happened in the early 1920s.  You’re memories are ninety years old!”

“I guess my mind is still okay.”

“Yes, Grandma, it is.  And you also did good eating your eggs.”

I helped her to the bathroom, and while she was up I changed the sheet on the Davenport.  I walked  her back to the family room, got her settled, and gave her a kiss.

“I’ll have more questions for you tomorrow, Grandma.”

“Okay honey,”  she said.  “Sweetheart, before you go, can you turn on the patio light?”

I looked out the patio door and saw it was dark outside now.  I had almost forgotten;  Grandma always liked the back light on because she was afraid of the dark.  I flipped on the switch, put the wood pole in the sliding glass door track, gave her another kiss, and drove back to Uncle Steve and Aunt Susan’s house, where I was staying for the week.

Coming Up Next:  The Tragedy that Changed Helen’s Life

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Pregnant Mom vs. Toddler: Showdown in the McDonald’s Balls

Trevor in his "Terrible Twos." Doing my best to smile through it!

It is 1993. My son Trevor is two and I am nine months pregnant, and we go to McDonald’s for lunch. It is a sunny, warm day, so we sit outside by the jungle gym, and after he eats his Chicken Nuggets, Trevor crawls inside The Balls.

He plays for nearly twenty minutes, mesmerized by the thousands of blue, red, orange and yellow plastic spheres the size of softballs. But when I tell him it’s time to go, Trevor refuses to budge.

I try to be tough.

“Trevor honey, it’s time to get out.”

Trevor ignores me.

“We need to go.”

Silence.

“Time to get out NOW.”

This time, Trevor looks up at me and says one word.

“No!”

Oh God, not this again.

“Trevor, time-out if you don’t get out this instant,” I threaten.

“So.”

I look around. Three moms are enjoying their Quarter-Pounders and Fries with their toddlers, grins on their faces, trying not to stare at me but obviously entertained by this fight between a very pregnant mother and her very stubborn two-year old.

My mothering skills are now on display. I need to show those women my kid who’s in control.

I take a deep breath and climb on the tiny platform under the circular orange opening. My belly makes it impossible to kneel, so I crouch through the opening, obviously designed for small children– not hefty women. I jump into the pool of plastic, and close my eyes as the colorful spheres fly everywhere and hit me on impact. I land with a plop on my back and lay there, spread-eagle for a few seconds, to catch my breath. I gained 45 pounds during this pregnancy, and my huge belly sticks out like a volcano in a colorful sea of plastic.

Trevor moves away from me to the other side of the pen. I struggle to get up and make my way through the never-ending wave of balls to go after him.

I must look like a fool. Oh well, I always wondered what it’d be like to play in the McDonald’s balls, and here I am. Times sure have changed. We didn’t even have Happy Meals when I was a kid.

The balls create a resistance that makes moving forward difficult. I swing my arms back and forth to get some momentum. Trevor scrambles the other way. But my high school track experience comes in handy, and I gain on him, corner him, and grab him by the shoulders. He kicks and flails his arms and yells in protest. But I am strong. I put my right arm around his waist and lift the boy into a football hold and storm back to the circular exit like an NFL fullback. I push Trevor through the hole, and he lands on the ground with a thud. Then I use my arms to pull myself through and somehow manage to crawl out after him.

When I finally get out and stand up, I smooth out my shirt, which has bunched up to expose my huge belly. I glance at the other moms, hoping they’ve lost interest. But they are all staring at me, just as I feared.

How embarrassing. They saw it all.   I look like a whale and my kid is acting out and they must think I’m a horrible mother.

But they do something that completely takes me by surprise.

They put their hands together, and clap.

Tears come to my eyes. I am really embarrassed now, because all eyes are on me. But it is a satisfying feeling, knowing I did what it took to handle my boy, and these young mothers can relate.

I smile back at the women, and bend over in a slight bow. And then I realize Trevor is opening the door to the restaurant. I salute my audience, and stumble after my toddler.

I’ll show that kid who’s in control. He’s in for an extra long time-out, that boy!

And when we arrive home, I break the timeout rule of one minute per year, and set the timer for . . . three minutes.

Trevor sits in his corner patiently. And after that, he never stays in the McDonald’s Balls for too long, again.

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Grandma Helen. The Orphanage and Clyde.

In my last post, I talk about Grandma Helen’s Early Years as part of “The Grandparent’s Series” in this blog, which I am doing throughout the month of March. Today I talk about the next phase in Helen’s life: “The Orphanage and Clyde.”

Helen was just beginning to learn cooking skills from her mom. But a tragedy occurred that would stop the lessons in their tracks and unalterably change Helen’s life.

The United States was in the midst of a terrible flu epidemic. Helen’s mother Elsie Marie caught the flu, and then pneumonia. Elsie died in 1922. Helen was nine, sister Margaret was five, and sister Pauline was three.

This is Elsie Marie Johnson holding Helen.

“I remember my mother being surrounded by white lilies after she died. I hated the smell. To this day I can’t stand lilies.” Three little girls were too much for Homer Lowry to handle, so Helen lived with an aunt for a few years. But at the age of twelve, Helen– and her sisters– were sent to the Oesterlen Home, an orphanage in Springfield, Ohio.

The Orphanage

The orphan’s home “wasn’t too bad,” Helen says. They provided a bus to take her to and from school, so she didn’t have to walk five miles to and from school anymore. And it was at the orphan’s home that she met Clyde Norman. “Clyde’s mother died when he was young. There were eight kids in his family, three girls and five boys. Martha, his sister, was in the orphan’s home too; she was a good friend of mine.” Clyde and Helen met in the orphanage’s basement. “The older girls would make peanut butter sandwiches for all the kids in one room, and the older boys were in wood shop in another room. Somehow or another we met each other.”

Dating Life

Clyde and Helen never went on dates, because the boys weren’t allowed to see the girls. “The closest thing to a date was one year on Christmas,” she says. “The orphan’s home took us on a bus to go caroling. On the bus Clyde held my hand.” But Clyde didn’t let the orphan home’s rules keep him from seeing Helen. He would sneak out of the boy’s dorm and climb to the 2nd story of the girl’s dorm and sit on her windowsill. “That was our date.”

This is Clyde and Helen (middle and right) with a friend, in front of the Oesterlen House in Springfield, Ohio. 1930.

No Proposal

The late night windowsill “dates” would eventually lead to marriage. Helen says, “I don’t remember any proposal. We just decided to get married after college. Both Helen and Clyde received academic scholarships to Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.  After Wittenberg, Clyde went to medical school at Ohio State University. “He lived in Columbus and I lived with a family in Springfield and we wanted to be together. So we just decided to get married,” says Helen. They went to a Justice of the Peace, and there was no wedding dress. Helen moved into Clyde’s place, which had one room and a kitchenette, while he went to medical school. “He was a really good student.”

Helen’s Secret to a Successful Marriage

Does Helen have a secret to a successful marriage? “Patience,” she says. “You need to put up with someone who’s different. Be patient with all the things they like.” During their marriage, which lasted until Clyde’s death in 1972, Clyde “ruled the roost. Whatever he wanted to do was what we did.” She admired one particular quality: he was reliable. “You could always depend on him. If he said he’d do something he’d always do it.

That was important, “because life was difficult back then.”

Coming up in the next post: Work and Family Life.

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Grandma Helen. The Early Years

During the month of March, my family celebrates several important birthdays. Grandma Helen turned 97 on March 11. My dad Ben turns 74 on Saturday, and my mother-in-law Paula has a birthday on the 19th. In their honor, I’m doing a “Grandparents Series.” You’ll learn more about these amazing people through their stories and pictures. Enjoy!     

First up:  Grandma Helen Norman, my maternal grandmother. 

The Early Years

Helen Isabelle Lowry was born March 11, 1913.  She has no idea why she was named Helen, but Isabelle is after a good friend of her mom’s.  Helen was born in a house in the country, in the township of Byesville, Ohio.  

This is Helen in her mother’s arms, probably the day she was baptized. Mom is Elsie Marie Johnson Lowry.

Helen’s grandfather, Frank Lowry, came to the United States in the 1800’s from Ireland to start a farm.   She’s not exactly sure why her grandfather emigrated here.   “It had something to do with the potato famine,” she says.  “There were lots of problems in Ireland.  My grandfather had no money, so he came in the steerage section of the boat.” 

No Family or Friends

Helen does not remember any other family members living nearby, as the home was quite isolated.  The nearest neighbor was five miles away.  Helen didn’t have any childhood friends, and she would see relatives from her mom’s side only a couple weeks a year.  “It was always fun when my cousins came!”

Sisters: Pauline and Margaret

Helen spent all her free time with her sisters Margaret, four years her junior, and Pauline, six years younger. (Margaret passed away March 12, 2010 at the age of 93; Pauline still lives in Ohio) “Growing up it wasn’t much fun playing with Margaret. She was a heavy child, and she couldn’t run very well,” she says. “She couldn’t climb trees, and I had to push her to get her up on the tree limbs.” This was a bad problem at their age. But things changed. Throughout the rest of Helen’s life, “I got heavier and Margaret got thinner.”

This is Helen, Pauline, and Margaret with their dad, Homer:

The House

There were no bathrooms in the house.  “We had to go outside to use the privy.  We used the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs as toilet paper in the outhouse,” she says.  “The catalog paper felt slick.  I hated to go in the middle of the night.  If you didn’t want to go outside to the privy you had to keep a pot in your room.” 

There were no telephones or electricity, only oil lamps.  Helen does recall that they had an organ.  Her mother knew how to play, and her little sister Margaret could also play a little bit.  She remembers a sitting room that had a pot-bellied stove. 

On the Porch

To pass the time, the family would sit on the big porch surrounding the house and look at the clouds.  “We didn’t like our dad very much.  We couldn’t talk to him.  But my grandfather was nice,” she says. “He had more of an understanding of kids, and on the porch he would tell us stories of his childhood.”  Other times they’d catch lightning bugs.  Helen would put the bugs in a jar and they’d light up her room at night.  “The lightning bugs were my electricity.  That was my entertainment.”

Earliest Memory

When asked about her earliest childhood memory, Helen retorts, “Do you know how long ago that was?  97 years!”  But a memory does emerge.  She and her sisters used to tease a bull.  They would  wave something red in front of him, and then run over the fence when he came charging.

Getting Into Trouble

The 150 acre farm was surrounded by woods, which she loved to explore. “Nobody knew where we were during the day!” She climbed trees all the time, tearing her black bloomers, which she describes as “big, black, billowy, bloomy things—just horrid!” Helen was always getting into trouble, and her father was always punishing her. He would pick the finest little branch he could find, and give her a switching. “That hurt. And it would leave little welts,” she says.

Playtime

Helen did not have material things growing up. She never had a sled or a bicycle. “There would be no place to ride it anyway.” She remembers only one toy, a doll she got for Christmas. The following Christmas her mother Elsie Marie would sew clothes for the doll, and that would be her gift. “My mom was a really good seamstress.”

“I remember my mother had the tiniest waist, and my sisters and I would try on her clothes, which were stored in a trunk.” Helen liked brushing her mother’s hair, which was quite long and reached to below her waist when she let it down. But while Helen and her sisters were brushing mom’s hair, their father would say “why don’t you brush mine?”

But nobody wanted to brush his hair.

The Animals

The family didn’t have any pets, but nameless dogs and cats roamed the farm. “There were gobs of cats. And there were little kittens everywhere.” There were so many it became a problem, and we had to get rid of them. “I resented that my dad would drown the cats. To this day I resent that.” But in some way, she can understand it. “Nobody wanted the kittens. And it was over pretty fast when you put them down in the rain barrel.”

Chores

Helen’s primary chore was to tend the chickens. She had to feed them and take care of them. Ironically, she remembers that her dad would bring the little chicks into the house, so that they wouldn’t get too cold and die. “They were part of the food chain.”

Her dad also sent her to get the mail. This usually happened at dusk. The mailbox was a mile away, and Helen would run through the woods, which was terribly frightening. “The family said they could hear me scream the whole way. The woods were scary at night. You’d hear all these noises!” To this day, she has a fear of the dark, which she theorizes may have originated from those scary runs to the postbox.

Allowance

Did she receive an allowance? “Never!” she says emphatically. “I don’t know what I would have done with money anyway; we were miles away from everything.”

Church

Occasionally, on Sundays, the family would dress up and go to the Presbyterian Church, ten miles away. “We didn’t go often because it was a big chore hitching up the horse and buggy.”

School

The school Helen attended was five miles away. “We really did have to walk five miles to school and back!” she exclaims. It was a little country school, eight grades in the same room—she remembers learning a lot from the upper classes. “The lower grades were supposed to be studying while the upper classes were being taught.” Helen liked reading, but she says she was “no good at math.”

Family Meals

Helen does not remember ever celebrating a birthday when she was a kid. The family usually ate dinner together at a big oblong table. “My mother was just starting to teach me how to cook a few things.”

Coming Up Next in @Home with Cheri: The Tragedy that Changed Helen’s Life Forever

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Don’t blink.

It happens in the most random of places. Perhaps you’re in the grocery store check-out, and your child asks you to buy a pack of lifesavers. Or you’re at the donut shop, and your toddler is pointing to a pink donut with sprinkles. Or you’re at a park, sitting on a bench watching your kid play on the jungle gym. And from behind, you hear a stranger say wistfully, “cherish these days. They grow up so fast.”

Truer words were never spoken. Wasn’t this yesterday?

Don’t blink. The next thing you know she’s a teenager, constantly checking her phone.

One day he’s smiling at you, all goofy and happy and sweet.

The next, he’s a gentle giant.

Cherish the moments, because they soon become days, then years.

That it will never come again
Is what makes life so sweet.
~Emily Dickinson

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