. . .
Women today really don’t appreciate
great they have it when they complain about how busy they are. Imagine working
a full-time job, having to wash your clothes in a wringer washer, hang them to
dry, cook from scratch because prepackaged food didn’t exist, do the dishes,
iron the clothes because EVERYTHING needed to be ironed, keeping a spotless
house; while raising seven children because there was NO BIRTH CONTROL!
Impossible you say? Well, my Grandmother did just that.
It’s a wonder to me how she did it. I’m
sure her days were long and difficult. Up at dawn and not sleeping until
whatever needed to be done was done. She had no help from her husband who, when
not working, was usually found in the local run down, dump of a tavern.
Eventually, she divorced him; at a time when divorce was unthinkable, and
became a single mother ... this plus the burden of being a full-time working
While each new school year was a
relief, summer break was a bit more of a challenge. They were all assigned
chores, but they also had free time that left them to their own devices. My
Aunt Jackie, the eldest, who was about 12 or 13 years old was in charge and
stayed at home with the youngest, my Aunt Susie. This left the other five to do
as they pleased.
This at times, had disastrous results. Once,
my two uncles were to watch my Aunt Nancy. They decided they both didn’t need
to watch her at the same time and taking turns was deemed fair. My Uncle Tom
says it was my Uncle Pat’s turn, who is deceased and unable to defend himself,
thus we’ll never know for sure, but off Uncle Tom went to play. It’s unclear how
it happened, but Aunt Nancy wandered off. She went for quite a few blocks when
the police pulled up and put her in the squad car. They took her down to the
station and eventually discovered where she lived. They gave her a small toy
police car and bought her an ice cream cone and took her home in a squad car.
What had started as a scary excursion, turned out to be a rare treat for her
and the boys, got into trouble for losing their sister.
Playing hospital was another favorite
pastime. During one episode, Mother’s doll had developed a grave illness. Doctors
and nurses were unable to help her. After what was a brief, but violent
illness, the poor dolly died. A “nurse” turned undertaker, took Dolly away. A
shoe box fixed up with some fabric from the patch bag made a fine casket. Once
ready, the funeral was held. The “doctors” were now a priest and an altar boy,
while the “nurses” traded their nurse’s caps for lace doilies as befit chief
mourners. Dolly laid in state while the mourners keened.
At this time period, the Catholic
Church still held mass in Latin and the Priest didn’t face the congregation. A
living room became a cathedral where there was a crucifix on the wall. The
“Priest” faced it, mumbled until he got to “In
nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.” Which everyone knew by heart. The
mourners said “Amen”. He then led the congregation out of the “church”.
funeral procession proceeded to the cemetery (backyard). The gravediggers had
already done their work. A small grave waited for the casket. Once it was
lowered into the ground, the mourners each threw a dandelion on it, the Priest
mumbled again, ending with “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti.”
With the required “Amen” following. The former doctor/altar boy now turned
grave digger, shoveled the dirt onto the casket and placed the cardboard headstone
above it. No doll had a finer funeral.
Months later, my mother missed
doll, so she went out and dug it up. But ohhhh, the pitiful thing! The casket,
had completely disintegrated, bugs had been chewing on her. She had been made
of cloth, so she stunk! No amount of washing would remove the stench! The doll
was ruined and had to be thrown away!
The love for playing hospital came from
their living close to the local hospital. Kitty corner from the block their
house was on, was the Community Memorial Hospital. Obviously, the proximity of
the hospital, was a place of great interest. Why wouldn’t it be? With ambulances,
visitors, coming and going and death bringing hearses, there was a lot of
bustle to fascinate anyone.
The raggedy kids were not immune to
this. In fact, they were, more than most, drawn to the hospital like bees to
flowers. They explored the entire grounds. From the front doors to the
buildings out behind the hospital. All was an area that needed their
inspection. Their rag tag appearance as much a part of the grounds as the
The groundskeeper was forever chasing
them off the lawn and out of the parking lot or the back alley. He didn’t have
to do much, he was frightening to look at, at least to children. He was a tall,
older man, with an unpleasant disposition and a slight limp; a bit wall-eyed
(as they called it those days) and they said he drank! A stern look and a sharp
“Hey you kids!” sent them running scared.
On one such day, they noticed the
groundskeeper coming out of the shed behind the hospital. To them, he looked
suspicious. They were sure he had been up to no good. Out of curiosity, they snuck
into the shed. They looked around and in the corner, were some gardening tools.
They looked at each other in horror! On the edges was rust and what they were
sure was BLOOD! The groundskeeper must have murdered someone!
Gathering the tools up, they marched
into the hospital and asked to see the hospital administrator. The lady at the
front desk smiled and took them to him. Talking all at once, an explanation of
their find was made to him saying that he must call the police! He had them sit
down and picked up the phone. What excitement, they all looked at each other with
wide eyes, he was going to do it! They would be heroes. Maybe even get their
picture in the paper! Imagine their surprise and disappointment, when they heard
him call their mother and politely ask her to please keep her children off the
hospital grounds because they had just accused an innocent man of murder.
He kindly but firmly told them it was
wrong of them to do what they just did. The tattered little group were escorted
to the door and seen out. Their heads hanging, they walked the short distance
home. Sitting on the front steps, heads in hands, the forbidden playground now an
off-limits vision. A collective sigh was let out by them all.
Take heart, these little ragamuffins
who were so poor when they were young, grew up to be fine men and women who
went on to have children of their own. My grandmother was proud to have 19
grandchildren! She presided over big family gatherings, where they would sit
and talk about when they were young. Laughing about the makeshift games and
shenanigans they got into. My grandmother sitting in the middle of all the
hubbub smiling. Being the arbiter when certain facts were questioned. These
times are the bright jewels in the tapestry of our family.
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Yes, that time is fast approaching us! Lughnasadh, also
known as Lammas is the Celtic festival that heralds the end of summer. A time
to start harvesting the first of the crops. The harvest period is a long one.
According to pagan beliefs, as the corn is cut, the corn mother’s energy
retreats into the last strands of grain.
The Deities of Lughnasadh are Danu
(Anu), the Mother of
Gods and Men, and Lugh, the patron of scholars, craftsmen, warriors and
magicians. Lugh is also known as Lugh Samildánach (the Many Skilled) and Lugh
Lámhfada (Lugh with the Long Arm). It is disputed among authors whether this
refers to Lugh's magical spear or to the rays of the Sun. Lugh seems to have
been worshipped, like his Greek and Roman correspondences Hermes and Mercury,
mostly on elevations, hills or mountaintops.
Colors for your altar: Orange, gold, yellow, citrine,
Stones: Yellow diamonds, adventurine, sardonyx, periot,
Animals: Roosters, calves, stags, phoenix, griffins,
Plants: Corn, rice, wheat, rye & ginseng
Herbs: Acacia flowers, aloes, calendula, cornstalks,
cyclamen, frankincense, heather, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, sunflower,
Incense: Aloes, rose, rose hips, rosemary, chamomile,
passionflower, frankincense & sandalwood
Foods: homemade breads,
corn, potatoes, berry pies,
barley corn cakes, wild berries, apples, rice, roasted lamb, acons, crab
apples, nuts, summer squash, turnips, oatks, all grains and “first harvest”
foods. Traditional drinks: Elderberry wine, ale, & meadowsweet tea
are of course getting outside for picnics and
all-day celebrations as the harvesting is done. Ending with a bonfire at night.
If you don’t live on a farm where harvesting is being done, don’t worry, just
go out and have a picnic and enjoy the day in the sun with a fire pit for a
May your month of Lughnasadh be fruitful
my darlings …
Goddess of the Cosmos, Queen of the Faeries, Mistress of
the Dragons, Lady of the Mist
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