Monday, December 23, 2013

Prompt 16 - Message In A Bottle

I worked with a woman who did find a message in a bottle once. It was from a person who lived in Australia and they had launched their message during a cruise. My acquaintance had found the bottle while walking on the beach in Florida. She wrote to the author of the message and they were able to meet in person. It is something that I have thought about and considered what I would put into such a message.

I think I would give a very short description of my life and provide my address, both physical and email. I would love to be able to launch my message in the Ohio River where it passes my hometown of Wellsville, Ohio. I would hope that my message would be found by someone that would read it and respond in kind. What I would hope for is to begin a dialog by mail or email that would last for many years. 

Prompt 17: Toys and Games

The earliest toy I remember having is a rubber doll whose arms and legs did not even move. It had a squeaker in it and was very similar to toys that my dog plays with. It was fine for a little girl to cuddle and it kept me company at night. I do actually have memories young enough to have still been sleeping in a crib. For someone that describes themselves as not being a “girlie girl” I loved dolls. I had a Tiny Tears doll that would drink from a bottle, cry tears and blow bubbles with a bubble pipe. Later I moved on to Barbie and Tressie dolls. I gave my dolls away to the daughters of one of my mother’s friends. I am sorry that I did so and wish I still had my dolls to pass along to my granddaughter.
My early playmates were my brother and sisters. Later I would play with neighborhood children, some of whom were my cousins. We did not play board games very often. When we did we usually played Monopoly or card games like Fish, Old Maid and War.

The fun part of being a grandmother is having children who will allow me to play with them. I have a new set of games that are ready for visits.
Marta with Christmas loot 1956

Monday, December 16, 2013

Prompt 9: Halloween

The events I remember on Halloween when I was a child were the two nights that we would trick-or-treat in Wellsville Ohio. That’s right I said two nights. We don’t know how that came into existence but we children made the best of each night. There was a citywide costume contest each year but I only attended that once. For those two nights of trick-or-treat we would pass the word to each other where the best candy could be found and who was passing out apples. One house you had to be sure to visit and the other house you had to bypass.
The earliest costume I can remember was a nurse’s uniform that my mother made for me. I was 5 years old and my big brother accompanied me. He was dressed as a hillbilly wearing my father’s old work overalls and carrying a moonshine jug. In later years I would take my mother’s friends’ children out for trick-or-treat. The most memorable night was the one when I ran into a rural mailbox face-first while accompanying my young charges. I was wearing two black eyes the next day and didn’t have a decent story to go with them.
We went by the rules that if there was no porch light on that meant that the house was to be bypassed. It was possible the owner did not celebrate Halloween, or they simply didn’t want to be bothered or they had run out of candy.
There were some who did take advantage of Halloween in a negative fashion by going out to steal bags from smaller children. We kept an eye out for those ruffians and tried to protect each other from them. You could always tell the serious trick-or-treators were the ones with a pillow case instead of a shopping bag to collect the candy.
Over the last 30 years I have missed Halloween. My house was set 300 feet from the street down a very dark driveway. It was the perfect atmosphere for Halloween, but no one seemed to want to risk the trip.
My son Sean getting his make-up for Halloween

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Prompt 7 - Grandparents

I thought I knew a lot about my grandparents before I started doing my genealogical research. Since starting I have learned quite a bit, but I have also added to that knowledge through a Facebook group that contains memories of those of us that grew up in the village of Wellsville Ohio. I’ve learned more about the history of the village from others that grew there and because of it I realized how it was that my grandparents came to live in that area.
Joseph Hughes, dating in 1923
My paternal grandmother Mary Gillespie emigrated from Ireland at the age of three with her mother, her twin sister Rose and her brother Lawrence. Her uncles Thomas and James had come to this country several years previously to earn money as coal miners. They had purchased farm property. When my great-grandmother and her children arrived there was a farm in place. I don’t know if my grandmother’s brother Lawrence went to work in the mines straightaway or if he worked the farm for a couple of years first. But I do remember my grandmother telling me stories of her mother clearing rocks from the fields in her apron. I do know from stories my grandmother told that their home was near the railroad and I have since been able to find maps that showed they are holding and where the railroad ran. My grandmother got to know the schedule of the trains that went by, so she would be out hanging up laundry or doing other types of womanly work around the farm when the locomotive my grandfather was driving went by. She would wave to him because she thought he had beautiful curly hair. I learned later from my cousin that he would write notes to my grandmother and wrap them around rocks and toss them out of the cab of the locomotive as he’d go by and now way they were able to keep in touch with each other. I don’t know how they actually did meet in person but they did and were married in 1912. My grandfather had grown up on a farm in southwestern Ohio and I don’t know what it was exactly that drew him to Eastern Ohio, but it was most likely the railroad. After all young man needs to work a few years before he reaches the status of being an engineer on the locomotive.
Katharyn Muessig, dating in 1923

My maternal grandmother was born in Brooklyn and led a rather sheltered life as a young woman. Fortunately for her parents did send her to secretarial school so that she was able to earn a living, but of course was never allowed to move out of her parents’ home. Her sisters left home simply because one of them had gotten married and another sister had gone into the convent. My grandfather was born in Wheeling West Virginia and his father became very active in establishing the Operative Potters Union in Eastern Ohio. My grandmother knew both of my grandfather’s sisters Catherine and Eva. They had decided their brother was old enough that he should be married after all he was in his 30s. They played matchmaker and introduced their brother to their friend Katharyn and the two married in 1924.

Joseph H. and Mary Rawlings wedding picture 1911

Prompt 6: Journals and Diaries

During stressful times of my life, I do keep a journal. I use them to be able to handle my feelings. I kept a journal while my sister Zoe was terminally ill. It was a time of conflicting feelings. Writing helped me to at least get my feeling on paper. There were many nights that I was able to sleep only after writing in my journal.
I keep all of my journals. Sometimes I do go back and read them, especially if things are rough. I am not keeping a journal right now, but I probably will if I find myself under stress again. I don’t think I would ever destroy them. They are not something that you write intending for other people to read. If my son reads them after I pass away, he may find them to be of value or they may be junk. I will leave that to him to handle in the future.
I handwrite my journals in pen (gel pen is easier when one has arthritis in their hands) and just use small size spiral-bound notebooks. They aren’t pretty, but they help me get through the days and weeks.

Prompt 5 - Your Childhood Home

When I think about my childhood home, there is not a specific building that comes to mind but there is a village that is a very big part of my memories. Wellsville, Ohio is approximately 50 miles west of Pittsburgh, PA. The village is on the Ohio River. The location is due in part to the railroad. When trains where still pulled by steam locomotives, they needed a refill of water every 50 miles. My grandfather Joseph Henry Rawlings had moved from the southwestern corner of Ohio to Wellsville to work on the railroad. He became an engineer on the steam locomotives. Having a fairly well paid profession my grandfather was able to buy a house for the family in 1912. That house was my grandmother’s home until she went to assisted living in 1983.

Wellsville, Ohio still feels like home, even though I moved away when I was 13. During the last couple of years a group was formed on Facebook for residents of Wellsville and former residents to “get together” and remember our childhoods. Since the group was formed I have learned more about the history of the village than I learned when I lived in Wellsville.

The first residence I remember was a 3rd floor apartment. My parents would put my playpen on the roof outside the kitchen so that my mother could watch me through the window. They would put the family parakeets outside with me in their cage. When I was 4 we moved into a house next door to my grandmother’s house. I never realized then that we were living next door to my father’s boyhood home. Eventually my parents bought a house. It had been converted to a duplex, so the first thing we needed to do was to convert it back into a single family house. We lived there for 5 years. When my father passed away, my mother sold the house and we moved away from Wellsville.

Even though I have not lived in Wellsville since 1968, it will always be home to me.

Grandma Mary with me behind her house
Marta on the roof with the parakeets
Sisters Barb & Zoe next door to Grandma Mary's house
Christmas in the only house my parents bought
Zoe & Marta playing in the snow

Monday, December 9, 2013

Prompt 4: Favorite Season(s)

I would have to name spring and fall as my favorite seasons. They are both fairly mild and in my opinion the most colorful seasons. During the spring I mark the passage of time as the buds develop on the trees and then the blossoms begin to open. In the fall there is also a lot of color change. The leaves of the oak and maple trees change to such wonderful colors. It is the main reason that I have fond memories of my wedding even though the marriage ended in divorce. It was October and the trees were at their peak color in Ohio. My cousin and I carried bouquets of fall-color flowers. I also loved the marquee at the hotel where the wedding dinner was held. It was rather humorous not only in its wording, but also in the fact that my now ex-husband hated all music produced after 1950!

Prompt 3: Your Physical Self

I have battled my weight for most of my life. Right now I have maintained this approximate weight for 14 years. I would describe myself as “dumpy”. The medical establishment may even call me morbidly obese based on my Body Mass Index.

I am not a “girlie” girl. I am just me. I prefer jeans and t-shirts to any other clothes. I think the last time I wore a dress was at my nephew’s wedding in 2000. I have tried wearing make-up at various times, but it itches. I wear lipstick when I leave the house now. That is I wear lipstick, if I remember to put it on.

I know most people are uncomfortable with their bodies, but I keep thinking that I deserve to be uncomfortable more than most. I started having pain in my legs when I was 8, started developing breasts at the same age, have had surgery 16 times so far, suffer from chronic pain, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 47 and have Psoriatic Arthritis. I try to do yoga to keep my body moving, but I would rather bird watch.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Book of Me, Written By Me Prompt 15: Snow

I made a conscience decision to move away from snow in 1978. My then husband and I moved from Ohio to Georgia. I always joke that I moved here to get people to understand the spelling of my first name more easily since the Atlanta transit system name is the same as mine.
I was a summer baby so I probably did not see snow until the age of 5 months. I may have even noticed it, but just don’t have any memory of it that first year. I probably remember the next winter. I do remember a dark blue quilted snow suit, but my family could not afford boots for me so I remember my parents putting old bread bags over my shoes and then placing rubber bands around my ankles. I wasn’t doing a lot of walking so it didn’t make any difference. I do remember making a snowman with my brother and 2 sisters. Winters did not become clear in my memory until about the age of 5. By then we lived next door to my paternal grandmother and I rated a pair of snow boots. Most of our neighbors had coal furnaces so the snow did not remain white for long, but was quickly speckled black with soot. I thought for years that snow had an odor, but I think it may have been the smell of burning coal.
I vaguely remember someone riding a sleigh through town, but it was a very rare sight. What we did see and we members of the memory pages on Facebook discuss often was sled riding. I don’t think any of the streets were officially closed off for sledding, but I think people realized they would be very unpopular if they ruined our sledding hills by driving on them. There were injuries every year, but it was a given that some would suffer for our fun.

When I grew up I learned the work that Ohio winter brought. I was very happy to escape to Georgia. Now I get to see videos of the excitement of my grandchildren when we have rare snow or ice in Georgia. I don’t think they will suffer for not having the same winters I did as a child.