I Heard Someone Say “Rhubarb”

Today I bought a bunch of rhubarb at the Farmer’s Market downtown. I passed by several stands before I came to one that looked to have a very nice selection of ruby-red stalks with some green parts in between.

“This is all grown on a farm in Elk River,” the lady said to me from behind the stand.

“It looks beautiful,” I said. I thought it looked like a real bargain too at $2 a bunch. Other stands were selling their rhubarb for $3 or $4 a bunch and the colors weren’t as vibrant.

“The honey dew is a $1 each,” she said as she opened a plastic bag. My friend and I looked at the large melons, and we looked at each other and laughed.

“No, we both ride the bus, and it would be too much to cart on there. I can just imagine the melon rolling down the aisle,” I laughed.

“Well, we don’t want to haul it back either!” she said. She packed up the rhubarb for me, and away we went.

It all started about a month ago when I heard someone say rhubarb. I started to think about the rhubarb sauce my Mom used to make for us when I was a little kid. She served it to us warm over cold vanilla ice cream.  I searched recipes on-line, looked through my own cookbooks to see what recipes I could find for rhubarb sauce, but deep inside I knew that I really wanted to use the recipe that my Mom used for her rhubarb sauce.  I wish I knew I wanted that recipe way before now.

Today when I got home, I searched through Mom’s recipe box and cookbook for the first time since I became their new owner. The recipe box had tabbed dividers that said: Beverages, Bread, Cake, etc. When I found casserole recipes under the Sauce tab, I figured out that Mom didn’t divide the recipes up accordingly, so I leafed through the entire box. There I found the many recipes that I typed up for Mom when I was just a little kid. I loved to type away on the old black typewriter. It was the kind that had ink on a ribbon and you had to push the keys down so far that you built very nice muscles in your fingers. It didn’t work from any electrical energy. It was all done by manpower. Those lovingly typed up recipes were mixed in with Mom’s handwritten index cards and lots of recipes cut out of newspapers. I found a pepper enchilada recipe that sounded good, but there was not a recipe for rhubarb sauce.

I pulled down the large green cookbook from the top shelf of the pantry in the kitchen. The Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, © 1942-1946, informed me that rhubarb is a vegetable even though it is usually served as a fruit. I always wondered! Many pages are devoted to rhubarb, but page 254 explains how to make spiced rhubarb, stewed rhubarb, baked rhubarb and rhubarb sauce. My own Betty Crocker Cookbook doesn’t even have that many options! The rhubarb sauce from Mom’s book called for lots of water and cornstarch, and I knew that wasn’t right. I decided to try the stewed rhubarb:

  1. Clean and cut 2 pounds of rhubarb in 1-inch lengths. Place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and 2/3 cup of sugar.
  2. Cover and simmer over low heat 12 to 15 minutes or until tender but not mushy.
    Makes about 3 cups.

I cooked it a little too long, and it looks a little mushy. It tasted okay but not as good as Mom’s. I’ll always wonder if this is the right recipe, or did she just make it up on the way every time even though it always tasted the same. Now, for the rest of my days, I will be trying to figure out how to make rhubarb sauce that tastes just as good as Mom used to make.


State of Embarrassment

Eleanor was a lady who was about the age I am now when I met her. Both of us typed away our days on electric typewriters. Carbon paper smudges could be found on our hands and desks. The faster Eleanor typed, the more askew her black wig became, and sometimes small unruly gray hairs escaped around the edges. Eleanor pounded that keyboard and flew through it all creating words on heavy bond paper. I kept up to speed and switched out my paper just when she did.

Since it was just the two of us who had to keep the place running and stocked with supplies, I soon learned that it would be my job to go get all these things. Luckily there was an office supply store right around the corner from our building. We looked through the small cabinet which seemed to be full while Eleanor made a list of items.

I didn’t mind going off to run errands since it got me outside. That day was bright with a blue sky, and the sun made long shadows of the buildings. My high heels clicked on the pavement while the breeze swished at the skirt of my dress. I held that list firmly in my hand.

When I entered the store, a helpful salesman greeted me and kindly showed me about the place. We gathered up the supplies which included folders. The folders were a good place to balance the 20 boxes of staples that Eleanor said we needed. I thanked the gentleman for helping me, left the store, and again clicked my heels on the pavement. All the while I held steady the piles of boxes of staples on top of the folders. As I rounded the corner, I was happy about my balancing act. Just as I approached the revolving doors, my clicking heels got off beat, and all the boxes of staples went crashing down to the hard pavement. Some boxes stayed intact, but many did not. Not only were some boxes all kittywampus, but there were many staples that had broken apart from their neatly arranged rows. I stooped over to pick the mess up and knew that my face matched the color of my dress. Little rivets of perspiration made a path down my spine. I could feel the stares of the passersby as I tried to move to hide my blushing face.

As I tried to pinch the lone staples between my fingers, a nice young man came to help. I don’t think I was even brave enough to look him in the eyes, but I know I thanked him over and over again. I even told him that I was okay, and that he didn’t need to help me, but he wouldn’t listen and stayed. We weren’t able to pick up every single staple because I could only stay in that state of embarrassment for so long. I gathered up what we pinched up, thanked him again and went through the revolving doors.

When I got back to the cupboard I noticed that there were plenty of staples there already. I told Eleanor through clenched teeth that I dropped the boxes. She shrugged and suggested that I stack the new ones as best I could with the intact boxes on the bottom, and the unorganized ones on top. She thought it would be best if we used up the mixed up ones first.

I could never figure out why Eleanor thought we needed so many staples. Inside I felt she was just playing a dastardly trick on me. When I left that job two and a half years later, some of the lopsided boxes were still in the cupboard. I wasn’t disappointed that I never got to see all those mixed up staples get used.

Even though I was in a state of embarrassment that day, it was still nice to receive help from a stranger.

Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.  ~Author Unknown

Favorite Tune Still Playing!

Samantha turned the pages pretty rapidly and only got stuck on a couple of words.  She sounded the tricky ones out just fine, and I only had to help a little.  As she pulled one book out of her blue knapsack while putting away the other, she looked at me through the corner of her eye, and her mouth bent into a smile.

When she got to the last poem in one of the books, I didn’t think that the poem she read to me would be in a current book.  The poem was written just as I remembered it, and Samantha read it perfectly.  The only thing that was different about it was that it was called The Rainbow Poem.

Listening to those words brought me back to the days when Dad played albums every Sunday.  The Peggy Lee album was one of his favorites.  My favorite song on that album was Sing a Rainbow.  I bent over the phonograph, my belly feeling the pinch as I stretched.  I always counted the grooves and found the spot where I should lower the arm.  The needle almost always fell right in place.  Peggy Lee’s voice would surround the room as she happily sang the colors of the rainbow.  Once the song was over, I placed that needle right back to the beginning again.  My parents didn’t seem to mind hearing that song over and over again or listening to me sing along.

That tune stuck in my head over the years.  As I rocked each one of my babies, I sang that song to them, over and over again.  Even though they are not babies any more, I bet each one of them knows Sing a Rainbow by heart.

I didn’t think to tell Samantha that I knew that poem as she named the colors to me one by one.  Maybe I will see her again the next time I volunteer at her school.  It’s nice to know this favorite tune is still playing in other places instead of just inside of my head!

The Story of Our Lives Together

Dad and Mom arranged all their pictures in albums in chronological order. That must be why I like to have our family albums that way too. After Mom died, I grabbed four photo albums out of the bedroom closet in her house to make the picture boards for her funeral. Looking through all the pictures brought back a lot of memories. One memory that I cherish is of how I looked through all of these albums over and over again throughout my life. It was a story of our lives together all neatly arranged.

Dad was the photographer and Mom organized the photos. Sometimes she wrote the dates on the back and the names of the people who were in the pictures. A lot of times the photographer doesn’t get to be in a lot of pictures. Luckily Dad let the rest of us practice. Dad was sure to point out any errors that we made when we got the photos back. If someone’s head wasn’t in the picture or if we cut off someone’s legs or feet, he was the first to let us know since it was probably Dad that got cut off in the picture!  He patiently gave us pointers of how to improve so that it would hopefully turn out better the next time.

After Mom’s funeral, I went back to that closet, and gathered all the other photo albums. Not only did we have to get the house cleaned out, I thought the story of our albums should all stay together. Not knowing what to do with all the albums, I began to ask others what they did when they were in this situation. One person told me that her family divided all the pictures up after her parents passed away. Her sister-in-law got three boxes, one for each sibling in the family. If a person was in a picture, that picture went in their box. If they didn’t know who the people were, she threw the pictures away. At the end of the project, each sibling got a box of pictures.

I thought how that family handled the photo albums sounded like a good idea at the time. Since I was organizing our own photo albums last night, I thought about all the love and care that goes into taking a picture. We do it all because we want to hold onto the events in our lives so that it will help us remember. All those pictures make up a story and we are the main characters.

Mom and Dad’s photo albums are still waiting, and I am still getting used to the idea of taking them apart to share with my siblings. Now I don’t know if it’s the best way to share our story. Maybe some of you have other ideas that you might want to share here. What would you do?

Make Some Sort of Fun Again

There’s a large wooden shelf in the garage that holds many strings of lights and woven baskets. We took Mom’s Christmas lights and baskets from her house because I knew we would use them to make some sort of fun again. We added Mom’s lights to the ones we already had, and we have just about every kind of light you can imagine. Multicolored lights, lights surrounded by pedals to look like flowers, and large old-fashioned lights with white bulbs just to name a few. I tried to ignore the tangled mess over and over again by not looking at that side of the garage and telling myself that no one would notice. I mean, really, does anybody really care what their garage looks like? I guess I do.

The mess became a chore that I could no longer ignore. I removed the lights and the baskets from the shelves. The strings were easy to wind around and untangled pretty easily. I held the string in my hand and wrapped the cord around my elbow spinning the cord around in a circle from my elbow to my hand one end to the other, over and over again. Bunches of lights went in the baskets, and baskets lined the shelves. It was the only thing I wanted to organize that day, but then I noticed the floor.

I swept the dirt and dried leaves into a pile. I brushed away the cobwebs that held little insects that could not escape. The dirt tried to sneak back into the cracks, but I got it out and threw it away.  All that sweeping caused little rivets of moisture to trickle down my back, and I was glad the day was somewhat cool and the wind was light. I didn’t want more leaves or dirt to sneak back inside.

Photo Courtesy of

Mike and I also worked on making a pile of things that we didn’t need any more: outgrown bikes, bike helmets, Rollerblades, tennis shoes, cleats and the ugly but old comfortable outdoor chairs left by the previous owners many years ago. We stacked the things in the van to be donated to the church garage sale. I was glad I was able to find room for all the lights, and we didn’t have to donate one string. I noticed that the crazy daisy that we hadn’t used for a very long time had ended up in the pile. I felt like it was Andy from Toy Story, because I wasn’t ready to let go of it yet, but I just let it stay in the pile, and I hoped the crazy daisy would find its Bonnie. Some little kid would play with it and it would make some sort of fun again.

Picture Courtesy of NYCuty55

Now we don’t bump into things like we used to, don’t have to try to squeeze around stuff we didn’t use, and don’t have to worry about the cars getting scratched by the old comfy chairs.

I’m just trying to hold onto the things that will make some sort of fun for us again.

House for Sale

I wandered about the house looking up and down the walls to see if any nails needed to be pulled out or if any holes needed to be patched up. When I stepped across the squeaky wooden floor in my Mom and Dad’s bedroom, I stood on the very spot where I slept in a crib the first five years of my life. I even knew that I was too old to be in a crib back then especially when I climbed out of it. Mom’s closet still smells like powder, even though it’s bare.

I know the doors in our house are strong because when I was a child, I liked to slam them hard when I got mad. The harder I slammed the door, the better I felt. Since those doors could not be replaced, I often heard, “Don’t slam the doors, you might break them!” Even the doorknobs are the same as what was there when I was little.

There’s a little white door that opens up to a clothes chute in the closet in the hallway. We use it as a form of communication when we need to let the person in the basement know when the air is out of the radiators and that it is okay to shut off the water. The little stain in the carpet there shows where one of Mom’s grandkids had an accident. Oops!

The upstairs window in the hall gives a good view of all the mature trees and flowers that decorate the yards below. Mom’s flowers look so bright against the white garage, and flowers now bloom where the vegetable garden used to be. Other flowers surround the house getting ready to show their blossoms.

As I walked down the stairs, little spots of wet paint covered all the little nail holes where pictures used to hang. High school graduation pictures of my brothers and me, pictures of Mom’s grandchildren, Mom and Dad’s wedding pictures and a family portrait of Mom’s family are now in a box in the basement of my house waiting to be showcased somewhere else.

The black chandelier that hangs from the ceiling in the living room is an antique. After my Grandpa’s funeral, many people stopped by and I told them about the lake that was in a picture that used to be on the wall. Grandpa said that he used to swim across that lake and I told them so.

Since we only have two bedrooms in the house, and we couldn’t get Dad to move, the sun porch next to the living room was where my bedroom used to be, even though it just looked like a sun porch with a bed in it!

The chandelier in the dining room is silver. The teardrop-shaped blue and pink glass beads sparkle as they hang down. This room is where we laughed at our own jokes and ate until our stomachs felt so tight that we thought they might burst.

The little kitchen was where we quickly ate our breakfasts and went on our way to greet our days. It’s where we fought over whose turn it was to wash the dishes and whose turn it was to take out the garbage.

A house is a place where people come and go and a place where people make a lot of memories. When you have to leave that place where you grew up, left to be on your own, visited as an adult, brought your new husband and then the growing babies that keep getting older, you hope that all the pictures that Dad took will help us to remember all the good times.  All those good times that happened in our house that took our family to make it a home.

Talking ‘Bout My Generation

Bobby Sherman

My generation was pretty good at obsessing over boys. Not only did we have Bobby Sherman’s face to decorate our lunch boxes and posters, we also obsessed about all the guys from The Monkees. If you ask any lady who you know who is from my age group, who their favorite Monkee was, you will get many different answers. Each Monkee had their own cuteness about them, and the fans have a favorite for a different reason which does not include just being cute.


The Partridge Family was on TV back in my day, and a lot of my friends thought that David Cassidy was really cute.   We didn’t say “hot” back then.


Then there was Donny Osmond,

Little Joe Cartwright from Bonanza, also known as Michael Landon,

and the only reason I ever watched football:  Joe Namath.

Maybe I am out of the loop, but it seems like something is not right here.  Things change, and maybe it’s better for girls to not have cute guys to watch on fun TV shows.  I bet poster sales are way down now from when I was a teen.

It Wasn’t Like I Remembered

One day while shopping with the children, I saw a movie that I used to watch all the time when I was a kid.  I thought they would like to watch a movie that I watched when I was around their ages, so I bought West Side Story.  I watched this movie so much when I was younger that I memorized the words to every song.

When we got home, the kids did not seem as excited as I was.  I put the movie in the DVD player, we all settled in and got comfy, and suddenly I was sitting all by myself.  I guess the kids thought it was weird that boys were running and dancing around in very tight jeans, snapping their fingers, and looking for a fight.  I heard them utter, “Mom, this movie is weird.”  We didn’t even get to the part where Maria sings I Feel Pretty.  Not only did the movie look funny to them, it started to look funny to me too.  I decided that it wasn’t like I remembered.  I used to think that Tony was so cute, and that he and Maria made such a cute couple.  I was suddenly seeing through my children’s eyes, and I wondered what my fascination was.  I switched off the movie, put the DVD away on the shelf, and got busy with something else.

That experience brought me back to the time when we rented Fiddler on the Roof.  The kids sat down with me, and we got all comfy and ready to watch the movie.  Then they wandered off one by one muttering, “Mom, this movie is really weird.”  I sat by myself and watched the entire movie.  I did not remember it being so long, yet I watched mostly because I loved the songs.

Isn’t it strange when we haven’t seen something for a long time, and we somehow build up how much we liked it in our minds?  When we finally get around to watching an old favorite movie or show, it’s not what we remembered.  Do you think it has something to do with how the movies are now?  Do you think technology has made movie watching more fun or just the opposite?

I guess I will not even try to get the kids to watch Bye, Bye Birdie even though I think they would learn so much by watching my favorite part, the telephone scene!  If you don’t remember the scene, here’s a link:  Was it like you remembered?

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

“Dad, I was wondering if you could help me get a Christmas tree,” I asked.  It was my first Christmas in the duplex.  My first Christmas in my own place, not living in my childhood home with Mom and Dad any more.

Of course, Dad said yes.

Dad came over early Saturday morning.  We were going to go downtown to the Farmer’s Market where we used to get all of our “real” trees before Mom decided that we needed to have an artificial tree.  Mom thought it was best to get an artificial tree because it was easier, it did not cost as much, and it was less hazardous.   Right about the time I got a stuffed Snoopy for Christmas was about the time we got an artificial tree.  No matter how annoying my younger self got or how much I begged, we never got a real tree in that house ever again.

Now that I had my own little rented place, I was ready to get a real tree.

Dad was all bundled up with his dogged ear cap and chopper gloves keeping him warm.  The collar of his coat stood high to block out the cold.  The newly fallen snow swirled around in the wind and was piled in drifts around the house.

After I pulled on my boots, wrapped myself up in my black pea coat, and put on my black woolen cap, off we went in Dad’s car.

It was a short trip to the Farmer’s Market.  We passed the large, old houses on Fremont Avenue.  They towered high on each side of the street and broke up the grayness of the sky.  When we arrived, we traipsed along the snowy paths, and I saw the tree that I liked almost right away.  It was just a little taller than me, and it had very sturdy branches with plenty of needles.

We told the man that we liked that tree, and Dad paid for it, which was a surprise.  I was ready to pay, but was glad to be a kid with a Dad who wanted to pay for my first Christmas tree.

Mom had sent the old tree stand over with Dad.  When we got back to the duplex, we put the tree in the corner of the dining room in front of the bay window, so that its soon-to-be lights could be seen from the street by passersby.  I made sure there was plenty of water.  As the tree started to thaw out, it let off a piney smell that emanated throughout the entire place.

Dad wished me luck, and I thanked him before he left for home.

I put up the lights, I strung popcorn, and dangled the strings on each branch.  I placed golden bulbs evenly amongst the branches.

Days went by.  I noticed that the tips of the branches were starting to turn brown, the piney smell had faded way too fast and that the tree was not drinking any water.  Whenever I walked through the dining room, some needles would fall.  The needles clinked as they fell on the golden bulbs and the lights, and made a perfect circle beneath the tree on the wooden floor.  I wondered what was wrong.

I talked to Dad and Mom about it.  They didn’t know either.  We dubbed that tree the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.  Sadly, all the needles were gone before Christmas.  I did not dare plug in the lights.  The bare branches held a wilted popcorn string.  The golden bulbs were the only thing that sparkled.  I felt like Linus without my blanket, I was so upset.

A few days after Christmas, I quickly gave up on my dream of ever having a real tree again, and I went to Frank’s and bought an artificial tree for half price.

Many years went by with time spent with that artificial Christmas tree.  I dragged that tree into the house that I lived in with my husband.  Then, the kids got to know that fake tree too.  Nobody really liked it, except my Mom.

Right about the time that our youngest child, Matthew, got a stuffed Snoopy for Christmas was about the time when Laura, our oldest child, started asking if we could get a real tree.  I thought back to my Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  I didn’t know if I had it in me to go through the anguish of another sad tree shedding its needles one by one right before my eyes and ears.

The asking and prodding multiplied among our three children.  Over and over I heard, “Can we get a real tree?”  That question brought back many memories of my young whining self – that little girl who always wanted a real Christmas tree because it makes Christmas more real.

So off we went early one Saturday morning.  We shuffled along the paths and found a beautiful tree.  We told the man what tree we liked.  I watched him saw off the bottom of the trunk.  It was so that the tree could drink water.  That is when I realized that was what we forgot to do before my dear old Dad and I left the Farmer’s Market!  It had been so long since we had gotten a real tree, that Dad and I forgot to saw off the bottom.

Good grief.  I felt like such a blockhead!

Embrace the Curl

“Is your hair naturally curly?” a lady asked me one hot, humid summer day.

“Yes,” I said. I never exactly know how the curly hair conversation is going to go. Sometimes when people ask if I have naturally curly hair, it ends up with them giving me a compliment, and that is nice. Other times, the conversation goes in the other direction.

“The last few years my hair has turned curly and I just hate it,” she said as she tugged on her hair as if pulling it would make it go straight. “Before this curly mop, I had straight hair. I just don’t know what to do with it now. Each day is different. How do you handle it?”  I guessed that no compliment was going to be coming my way.

“It is true, that every hair day is different. I used to fight it, but now I just embrace the curl,” I said with a smile. She smiled but seemed as if she was not happy that I did not help her with her problem, and she walked away without saying thank you when I told her that I thought her hair looked cute.

There were many days when my curls frustrated me especially when I was in junior high school. At that time Marcia Brady from the Brady Bunch was the cutest girl on TV. It seemed like every girl in my school had long, beautiful, shiny, straight hair that grew and grew, longer and longer. Everywhere I turned I saw glistening hair being flung this way and that. I grew my hair. It grew and curled, and grew in waves. All my tricks of trying to make my hair straight never worked. It never ended up looking like Marcia Brady’s hair. My school pictures looked as if I was trying to think my hair straight, and it was not a pretty sight.

Marcia Brady

Then the 80s arrived, and big hair was in. I noticed that the hot and humid days were the best for curly-haired people. Sometimes the straight-haired people looked so sad on muggy days. They complained, “I just don’t have any body in my hair when it gets this humid.” That is when my hair and I became friends. People were spending a lot of money getting permanents, trying to get the curly hair look. Even though my hair and I were getting along, I thought that spending money on permanents was just crazy!

One day, I found out how I look with straight hair.  I had heard that hormones can do odd things, and I learned this on the day my first child was born. I got that spurt of energy that they say you get before going into labor, but I didn’t know that was what was happening to me. I was driving all over town, running errands, my belly so big that it hit the steering wheel and I could hardly touch the accelerator. I noticed in the rearview mirror that my hair had gone stick straight. The hair that I thought I always wanted made me look awful. Ever since that day I realized that I liked my curly hair.

Even though I can look like a puff-ball at times, and each hair day looks like a different hairstyle, I like that I have learned to embrace the curl.