Saturday, March 24, 2012

Attack of the Bumble Bees!

Attack of the Bumble Bees

This is one of my most vivid memories of my childhood. I was six and Linda was eight. I was a great fan of a lot of the westerns on television and as a result, kept begging my dad to get me a horse. One day he told me that our friend’s mother, Imogene, told him to bring me over to ride her pinto pony. I was so excited.

The only other time that I had ridden a horse…well, it was a pony…was at the drive-in movies. They had ponies connected together in what looks like a big wagon wheel…a pony at each spoke. I was probably five years old and in love with that pony. I remember as I held the saddle horn, wishing that we did not have to be walking in a circle. I think every child was probably wishing the same thing…but for some reason, my pony got disconnected and began trotting through the aisles of cars. How exciting for me. I was giggling and loved the sound of my voice as I was bouncing on the saddle. People were grabbing for the pony from their cars and there was quite a commotion behind me as people on foot were chasing us. Of course, the pony was eventually stopped and my wild ride was ended. My dad had to assure the men in charge of the ponies that his daughter was not traumatized and would probably want another similar ride.
I found a picture similar to the pony ride at the drive-in.  I don't remember
the one I rode having a fancy seat on the saddle like these have.

 Anyway, back to my next ride…this time on a real horse…not a big one, but for a five year old he looked gigantic. Dad put my sister on the saddle first and walked her around the field while my mother and I watched from the fence. I hoped that he would let me ride on my own and not hold on to the halter, but I knew he wouldn’t. Linda’s ride was over and it was my turn. How wonderful! I felt so tall and grown up as I looked down at everyone. Dad told me to relax and hold the reins but that he was holding the halter since I did not know yet how to ride a horse. He told me the horn was really not to hold onto, but if I felt like I was going to fall to grab it. He told me a lot of things about how to ride, but what I really wanted was for him to let me do it on my own.

Suddenly, the horse started dancing sideways and trying to rear. I grabbed that horn and was quite thankful that Dad was able to get the horse under control…although it was still dancing. That is when we saw the bees! The horse had stepped in a nest of bumblebees. They were swarming around us in a fury. I will always remember my dad’s words.“Jackie, sit very still. Do not move. We are going to slowly walk to the gate. When it is opened I will take you off the horse, and you must walk slowly to the house and get inside. Do not make jerky moves or the bees will follow you.

”He saw Linda and Mother at the gate and told them to open it and head to the house. Linda got wide eyed and opened the gate. She waited for me and we went to the house. The last thing I remember is my mother running through the field. She was screaming and rolling on the ground. She looked like a cartoon character that was being chased. We were so frightened, but Imogene rushed us into the house and would not let us out.

 We finally saw mother crawling up to the house, worn out. Her pants were wet where she had actually peed her pants. That really scared us. If you know Maxine, our mother, she always looked perfect in her clothes….now her blouse was torn and dirty, her glasses were gone, and her hair was a mess…yes, her hair was a mess.

“Are you all right, Maxine? How many stings do you have?” asked Dad.

“My glasses, my glasses, you have to go get my glasses!!” That is all she panted out as she crawled up the steps to the porch.Dad went back out to the field and got her glasses after he made sure the horse was safe in the barn.

 Mother was sitting in the kitchen with us surrounding her in great concern. Imogene asked each of us to check and count our bee stings. By this time Dad had returned with the glasses and checked Linda and me. Linda had a bee sting on her eyelid and her eye was already swollen shut. She had another sting right where her arm bent and it was swollen too. I don’t remember having one sting, but Linda told me later that she thought I had at least one.

 We all looked at Mother to see what damage the bees had done to her.“How many stings do you have?” my dad asked

.“I don’t know…I don’t think I have any,” she said…a bit sheepishly. We all looked at Dad and realized that he had so many stings we could not count them all…most of them on his head. Imogene put a baking soda water mixture on the stings, but we knew he would probably have to see a doctor. I don’t know how he did it, but he drove us home….and I think he went to bed.

 The doctor came to our house and was quite concerned that there were so many stings in my dad’s head. My dad missed at least a week of work…which was quite unusual for him. I don’t remember much about his recovery, except that we tried to be very quiet and that his room was kept dark. Maybe Linda can add something if she can remember. After everyone was back in good health we were able to look back and laugh at the whole thing. It was remarkable that Mother did not have one sting, yet she was the one we were all concerned about. She never was able to live down the jokes we made about her crawling up the steps to the porch. Somehow, I knew that if I asked to go back for another ride on that beautiful pinto pony, the answer would be NO…so instead, I found that riding Mr. Walker’s (who lived down the road) steers…was almost as good.

My parents, Maxine and Mort....many years later.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stop Thief!!

Stop! Thief!

My mother, Maxine, died two years ago today. I posted this on my Facebook page and decided to write another “Maxine” story. The first thought that crossed my mind was when someone snatched Maxine’s purse….so that is the one that I will write.
Anyone who knew Maxine knew that she liked to shop.

  Whenever she would visit friends or relatives for a weekend, she would need a new outfit. She wasn’t like some people who buy a lot of clothes and never wear them. She just never had to wear the same outfit for weeks. She also liked to shop for fabric which she used in sewing more clothes…designing her own patterns or changing patterns she bought so that all of her clothing had the “Maxine Touch.”

One early evening my mother and her friend, Betty, drove to Franklin Park Mall. They often returned empty handed, but made sure to enjoy a treat while out….usually a hot fudge sundae. Betty stopped by my mother’s house as she was the one who usually drove. Maxine was not comfortable with her own driving skills (this is a whole different story….her driving escapades) so Betty wisely chose to be the driver. Mother had only gotten her driver’s license after my father died….she was 67 at the time. (This does not count the short time she had her license in Indiana when we lived in the country and I remember at the young age of five crouching on the floor of the back seat praying that we would make it home in one piece.)
Maxine and Betty

So, back to the story. Betty and Maxine were out for the evening. By the time they got back to Maxine’s house, it was dark. This was not unusual as they never felt unsafe, even though many women their age might want to be home before dark. They were both in their mid-seventies…Betty two years older than Maxine.

Betty drove up the short driveway; Maxine got out of the car and turned to walk up the steps to the house. With no sound to warn her, someone came from behind, grabbed her purse, ran down the drive, jumped into a waiting car and sped away. Mother screamed.

   “I never thought I could make such a scary, guttural sound come out of my mouth,” she would say later. “I’m sure I sounded like some wounded or trapped animal. I must have screamed out all of my fear because the next thing I remember is jumping back in the car, looking at Betty and saying, ‘STEP ON IT!’ as she was wheeling out the drive.”

“Let’s get ‘em!” Betty said as she kept her eyes on the tail lights in the distance….hands gripping the steering wheel, and leaving rubber as she put the car in drive and began the chase.

“Don’t get too close, or they will know we are following them!” Maxine said. “Oh no! They just turned. We can’t lose them!”

Betty turned, gunning the car so that she would not be stopped at the light that was just turning yellow. And it is here that I would love to embellish the story with a car chase through the streets of Toledo…but I can’t. It would not be right to change the story (although, I think Maxine might have made it a bit more exciting). What you read is what really happened.

They were approaching another light and the thieves were going to get stuck at the light too…still unaware that they were being followed by two “little old ladies.”

“What should I do, Maxine? Should I ram them…smash into their car?”

“Oh my, no! You can’t ruin your car. Sneak up slowly and let’s get their license tag number. You remember the letters and I will remember the numbers.”

And…this is what they did. The light turned green and they watched the thieves drive away. Betty returned to the scene of the crime, where mother’s neighbor, Harriett ran out her door to see what had happened. She had heard mother scream, but by the time she had opened her door, she only saw Betty’s car speeding down the road.

Mother began to shake as the realization of what had happened returned to her. Harriett and Betty walked her into the house where they called the police.

A policeman arrived, took down the information. He said that there had been other such purse snatching incidents…that the thieves would follow women as they left the mall and one would get out of the car, grab the purse while the other was in the getaway car. He gave instructions of what mother should do and expect. She was not to go pick up her purse or any of its contents if someone called to say it had been found. She was to tell the person that she could only pick it up at the police station…that the police would come to get it.

In the next month, two people found items from mother’s purse…her license and some credit card and billfold with no money in it. The police told mother that they traced the license tag of the car and found that it belonged to someone who said he had loaned his car to some friends that night. Mother thought that that would be the end of the investigation and was glad to at least have her license and credit cards.

Two months later, Mother got a call that said that the thief had been apprehended. There was nothing else that she needed to do, but they wanted to inform her. Soon after, she received a letter from the police department. I don’t know the exact wording, but this is part of what it said.

“Although we are grateful for the information you gave us to apprehend the two men who stole your purse, we do not encourage citizens to take such risks as you did.”

I know she kept the letter, and I will probably find it as I finish unpacking all of the boxes I still have stacked in the closet. She was quite proud that she and Betty probably saved someone else from getting robbed by these two men. Betty and Mother would often tell this story…laughing at the split second it took to decide whether they should ‘RAM ‘EM’ or not. I’m glad they chose to take down the license tag number…but I, too, am proud that my mother and Betty had the courage to act and be a part of catching those two purse snatchers.

This story is in memory of Maxine, who died two years ago today, and Betty who died earlier this year at the age of 94. Two incredible women with lots of spunk, energy and adventure…especially on that eventful night.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wild Animal in the House!!!

Wild Animal in the House!

It sounded like a wild cat!

My mother did not call me often while I was at school. (I was a guidance counselor in a middle school.) So, when I got a call from her and heard her frightened voice, my ears perked to attention.

“Jackie, there is something in the house,” her quivering voice whispered through the phone. “I don’t know what it is, but it is growling and hissing.”

“Are you sure it is not one of the cats?” I asked. I guess that was a silly question, but it filled in some time for me to figure out how to handle this call. I did not want her to panic any more, but I was concerned. I was twenty-five minutes away and could not be of much help.

“No, the cats are upstairs with me. Oh there is goes again!” I could even hear it…a low growl that sounded like a trapped, scared animal.

Before I write more, I need to describe the condo. It had an open design with open stairs going to the top floor. The top floor had two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Of course, there were doors to these rooms, but there was no door at the stairs. The middle level had the living room, dining room, kitchen, breakfast nook and half bath. The open stairs divided the living room and dining room. There was an enclosed patio outside of the breakfast nook and a deck overlooking a ravine outside the living room. The open stairs to the lower level also had no door and went directly to the family room where mother had her sewing area on one side and I had my computer on the other.
This room had a patio where we could walk out the sliding glass doors and enjoy the beauty of the ravine. There was also a stand-alone fireplace…one of those cone looking ones standing on a tiled area. That whole side of the room was a series of huge windows where we could each sit at our sewing machine or computer and view the trees and wild life. There was another bedroom and bathroom on this level and in the back was the laundry room and storage area. The condo was perfect for us…lots of space…lots of windows…we could look out and feel we were living in a forest.

Mother spent many hours in the family room creating new outfits with her Bernina sewing machine. She even got comfortable using the computer for email and sending instant messages to my sister and Maggie and Nathan.

“Oh no!…Aztec is going downstairs!!” These words got my brain back in action. Aztec was our male cat and I was sure he was headed down for a fight.

“Mother, call Kevin!” Kevin lived about ten minutes away, but he was always available when we needed a helping hand. That was still ten minutes where she was in danger.

“Jackie, I already called the Condo Association and they told me to call the Pest and Animal Control. I talked to a nice lady but had to hang up because the growling started again.”

“Mother, call Sally. She lives next door and she can come right over. Maybe you should go to her place until Kevin gets there.”

Just then there was a loud screeching that sent shivers up my spine. “Call, Sally and Kevin now and then call me right back.” I hung up the phone and wondered if I should drive home or wait. One of the science teachers, Andy, happened to come to my office and I told him about the wild animal. He lived out in the country and knew a lot about wildlife so I asked him if he had any ideas of what it could be.

“We see raccoons, squirrels, deer, feral cats, groundhogs, and foxes that come up from the ravine…but we have never had any attempt to get into the house. Maybe Mother did not close the door completely. She often sweeps the patio in the morning…but still, why would a wild animal come inside!”

The phone rang again. It was Mother.

“Sally is on her way and so is Kevin. It’s kind of quiet now.” Of course, the minute she said that, another hissing and growling sound came from the basement. I had Andy listen. His face looked as puzzled as I felt.

“Here comes Aztec running up the stairs with his tail all puffed up!” I felt so sorry for Mother. Her voice was shaking…so unlike her. “Sally’s here! She has a broom! I’m going to hang up now and call you back later.

So there we were, Andy and me, looking at each other wondering what to do.

“Jackie, it could be an opossum. I just haven’t heard a raccoon sound like that. Do you want me to get a net and go over there? I could find someone to cover my class.”

“Thanks, Andy. Kevin is going to be there too…so let’s wait. I’m sure Sally will get mother out of the house. I’m just concerned about the cats…”

Andy went back to his classroom and I stayed in my office staring at the phone. I was getting ready to leave for home when the phone rang. It was Mother.

“It’s okay, Jackie,” she said light heartedly. In fact she was chuckling making it difficult to understand what she was saying. Finally, in her own words:

“When Sally got here the growling from the family room was loud and scared her too. She decided to wait until Kevin got there so that they could work as a team. Kevin got here and was carrying a shovel. He looked so nice in his suit and tie. We waited for the animal to growl again, but this time it screeched. I could tell that Kevin was surprised and that he had probably thought I was exaggerating…but now he knew. He said he would head down the stairs first and Sally could follow if she wanted to. He would try to get to the door and open it so that the animal could run out.

  “HISS GRRROWL” Oh the poor trapped animal…I just wanted it out of the house. Anyway, Kevin slowly descended the stairs…one step and then rest…one more step…rest again…trying to look into the family room without getting attacked…all the time holding the shovel for protection. Sally was close behind him with broom in hand. It was like a choreographed scene…they moved together in time…one-step rest…one-step rest. I could not just stand and watch them so I joined….but carried nothing for protection. I was gripping the handrail tightly as I watched Kevin get to the bottom step and move toward the sounds.

  It must be in the fireplace. Remember, Geoff opened it last time he was here and there was a dead bird? But no…the fireplace was empty of wild animals. “SCREECH!!!!” I feared the animal was about to attack Kevin, but instead he started to laugh.

 ‘Come here, Maxine,’ he said to me. I went down and saw the cutest little Siamese cat on the computer monitor jumping around and chasing a mouse. It was the screen saver that Jackie had gotten the night before. “GROWL” again came…but this time it was from the speakers. But why would this screen saver sound like a wild animal!

  Kevin solved that. “Maxine, you have the volume at full blast. When I turn it down, it sounds like a normal cat.” I explained to him that I always turn up the volume when I am not in the room so that I can hear if someone sends me an instant message. We all just sat down and laughed as we snacked on some banana bread and coffee. It was at that time that the Animal Control people called me to tell me that they were sending a group to capture the animal. They were quite concerned because I had hung up and when they tried to call back, the phone was always busy. The woman sounded quite relieved when I answered but I have to admit, I felt a little foolish telling her to call back the cavalry…that the wild animal was just the computer.”

So, that is the story of the wild animal. Oh how I wish my Uncle Frank were still alive so that he could draw a comic of Kevin, Sally and Mother creeping down the stairs…one holding a shovel, another holding a broom and Mother bringing up the rear with a look of fright on her face. He would have the computer monitor out of their sight with a growling sound coming from it. I can at least have the picture in my mind even though I don’t have the talent to draw it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Snowbound by Ruth Elinor Heston


On this one particular bitterly cold and wintry January day, Mark left at four thirty in the afternoon to fight the elements on his way home from work. Three inches of new fallen snow made driving hazardous and it was a bit of relief for him to pull in their driveway and leave the Envoy to fight the elements on it's own. Marie was still at work and Brandon, their son, was in the basement playing games on his iPad. After just a few minutes to change his clothes, Tweety their cat, sat watching Mark relaxing in the hot tub from inside on her third story 'hangout' by the double glass doors overlooking the hot tub on the deck. It was beginning to get dark and perhaps getting restless from watching Mark in the hot tub, Tweety jumped down from her highrise and did a big 'no no'. Among all of her toys, Tweety finds it far more fun to play with the wooden handle that is an added safety feature to lock the glass doors at night. And this she did! By now it was quite dark and when Mark got out of the hot tub to make a mad dash for the door, he found he was locked out of his house. He got back in the hot tub to 'thaw out' and to rationalize his predicament. He came to the conclusion his only alternative was to get back out of the nice hot water and run around the side of the house, unlock the gate to the fenced in back yard and run to the front door using the keyless entry. He was barefoot, just in swim trunks, no towel, soaked to the skin, and must have come in the house looking like a bug in an ice cube. Tweety nonchalantly was yawning from her third story 'penthouse' trying her best to look innocent of the whole episode. After a nice hot shower and getting dressed, knowing Mark, he probably went to Tweety with a smile and a treat. That is his way.....

Mark Eugene Heston, grandson of Amanda (Carlson) Burkland ~ story written by his mother, Ruth.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My First Vacation

My First Vacation

You may wonder why I have a picture of a cabinet and another of two vases for a blog about my first vacation. At the end I will give you the answer. 

It is difficult to describe my first vacation from the eyes of a five month old baby, so I will have to put together all of the memories that were told to me from various family members. I’m not sure whose idea it was to travel to Canada with a baby, my almost three-year-old sister, Linda, my grandparents, Nana C. and Papa C., Aunt Marge, and of course, my mom and dad. But, my father packed the Oldsmobile on one July day in 1951 and thus began this family journey from Indianapolis, Indiana to Canada. We were on our way to Niagara Falls.

I am told that the first day was uneventful. My grand parents, Nana and Papa, and my Aunt Marge sat in the back seat. My father was the driver. Mother sat in the front passenger seat, but would trade places with Papa whenever they stopped for meals or a fill up. Linda was somewhat of a wiggle worm. This was before child seats were used and so she would sometimes sit between my parents, but preferred to sit on Papa’s lap. She was also quite proud of her potty seat on the floor in front of the front passenger seat. It’s hard to imagine that there was room for all of these people plus their luggage and a cooler full of food for lunch times…but those old cars were much roomier than what we drive today. Nana and Aunt Marge took turns holding me because Mother was quite busy with Linda.

Some time the second day, I began to cry…the kind of cry that puts everyone on edge. Everyone tried their magic cry cures but none of them worked. It was at this time that Linda wanted to try her portable potty…and of course, could not wait for my father to safely stop along the road. I’m sure that Mother was more than frustrated that our Norman Rockwell family vacation was beginning to unravel.

Linda was informing everyone that she made a stinky…I was still crying at high decibel levels…and Dad was trying to find a safe place to pull over. Mother could not wait, rolled down her window to throw out Linda’s stinky…not realizing that Papa’s back window was open. Mother heard Papa yelp, turned around to see Linda’s stinky dripping from Papa’s nose…his whole face wet. Linda looked at him and laughed, saying, “You’re funny, Papa!”…and everyone was able to laugh as Papa washed his face with one of my clean diapers.

By the time we got to Canada my grandmother knew I was crying because I was sick, so they had to find a doctor. I don’t know where we were, but it must have been a small town. Nana told me later that a real Indian woman held me and agreed with Nana that I had an ear infection. She also told Nana that I was a beautiful baby! My parents got medication for me and for the rest of the trip I was fussy, but not howling like I had. I remember, when I was quite young that I felt special to have been held by a real Indian, and that she thought I was beautiful.

I have not found any pictures of this trip, but there are still a few more boxes of pictures for me to search. The only other souvenirs of the trip were two vases that my grandmother bought….and there is a story about them that will answer my beginning question. What do these two pictures have to do with a story about a vacation? My grandmother loved these vases and had them sitting in a special place in the parlor. One day, my grandfather bumped one of the vases, breaking it beyond repair. He cleaned up the pieces…walked out the back door past Nana’s garden, past our play area by the garage, and stepped into his workshop.

Papa’s workshop was one of my favorite places to visit. I love the smell of paint, sawdust, turpentine and wood that permeated the room. It was here that he made the cabinet that is pictured in this blog. This is one of many pieces of furniture that he built and I am glad to have it to display my crystal glasses…and of course, the two vases. But how do I have two vases when Papa had shattered one of them? If you look carefully at the picture of the two vases…you will notice that the vase on the left is duller than the other. It is the one that Papa made to match the real one. It is made of wood and painted the exact color as the other. It is almost 60 years old, so the paint has dulled, but at one time it was difficult to tell the difference between the two. When he finished making this duplicate vase, he set it next to the other one and waited many weeks before Nana discovered what had happened. And…instead of being angry that he had broken her beloved vase…she was grateful that her husband was so talented and “repaired” the damage he had done.

Linda just read this and has an added something she remembers from the trip. We also went to the New England states where we stayed in little cabins in Maine. Linda had her own little suitcase that she carried with her everywhere. She also loved bing much so that she had to be cut off from them. Now she says that she will have to find an equally disgusting story to write, with me being the star. oops