Mom’s Recipe for Comfort

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I. Feel. Guilty.

Today is the 10th anniversary of my mother’s passing. But for the first time it was not the first thing I thought about today.  When it finally popped into my memory later in the day, I felt guilty. It’s not as this anniversary hadn’t been on my thoughts earlier in the week, but today I forgot that it was the anniversary of January 20, 2009 – the day my mother passed.

However, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. Today it was because I had a taste for her gingerbread cake that she would often make, and so I pulled out her recipe box to find her recipe and baked it this morning for me.  While smelling the sweet aroma of that molasses baking in the oven, I recalled one specific memory I have of her gingerbread cake.

I was perhaps twelve years old and had walked home from middle school one afternoon on a snowy and frigid day in which could have been any time between January and March in Northwest Indiana.  We only had one car and Dad needed it to drive to work so Mom never picked us up from school no matter what the weather.  We always walked.

But I specifically remember that afternoon when I walked into our warm home I could smell the delicious gingerbread cake she had just pulled out of the oven.  After taking off my winter coat, gloves and boots I went into the kitchen and slid into my seat at the kitchen table and she served me a warm slice of gingerbread with butter on top to melt.  It was warm and delicious!

When I served myself the same way, I felt very close to her.  Perhaps it was good that I didn’t concentrate on her passing but instead on the warm memories that I have, and I don’t need to feel guilty.  She would be happy that I baked this today.

Truth be told…I still wish that she could be sitting here at the table with me eating a portion for herself.

If you have a loved one that you have lost, grab your laptop or paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of that loved one.  It is a helpful therapy while you are grieving.

  • What legacy did he / she leave with you?
  • What special moments did you share with him / her?

 

 

 

 

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A Glimpse of Chicago in 1969/2018

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Dad developed and printed this picture that he snapped with his latest up-to-date Kodak 126 instamatic camera of one of the day trips that Mom planned for Dad’s day off in August 1969.

Mom and I are standing on Wacker Avenue overlooking the Chicago River with the Chicago Sun Times building (built in 1958) in the background and just to the left of the building are the rounded Marina City Towers (built in 1964) barely depicted in the picture.

Fast forward 49 years later on this August 2018 morning and see the view taken from approximately the same place. On the way to work I stopped in the same area and snapped numerous pictures with my iPhone camera until I found the right angle. I filtered through, deleted the unnecessary pictures and then emailed to me the one I needed.

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The concrete fencing and Marina City Towers are the only two items in the picture that remain the same. Sadly Mom and Dad have both passed. I’m not the child anymore and, in fact, today am 17 years older than Mom was in this picture.

In 1973 an additional building with 52 floors, originally referred to as the IBM Building was built behind the Marina Towers. The Sun Times Building was razed in 2004 and replaced with the Trump Tower with 98 floors completed in 2009.

I have preserved these memories and perhaps one day my grandson will take his child to the same location in another 49 years… 2067 … and record additional changes to this area on Wacker Drive.

Pull out your family album and look for a picture of a location that you could go back to today and take another picture of the same location to see what changes have occurred years later. Then pull out your laptop or take paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of that special moment.

 

 

The Priceless Gift of Your Life Story

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My passion for recording life stories was shown this past Saturday by my willingness to travel two hours to Indy to meet five other people who carry the same passion.  We were to share what created our passion. I used that two hour drive to reflect on what ignited my passion.  In retrospect, I believe it was ingrained in me to go this path.

I wrote stories when I was a little girl. I journaled since I was 14. The first semester of my freshman year I took Journalism class and wrote for the high school newspaper the next seven semesters.

The summer of 1976 my vision expanded when I attended Indiana University’s Journalism Institute as managing editor of my high school newspaper. The guest speaker, Elliot Wigginton, was a high school educator and oral historian in the Appalachians in Georgia. He shared how he didn’t connect with his unsettled students until he began teaching in a non-traditional teaching style. They didn’t want to write traditionally so he had them interview their grandparents and other elderly people. The students took off on this and with the stories written from the interviews they compiled them into a magazine and later into their first book, “The Foxfire Book.”

The seed was planted during this session when he sparked my interest to interview everyday people and preserve their stories for future generations to read. In the introduction to his first book he wrote about the passage of a generation of grandparents who have stories to tell but don’t record them on their own because they feel future generations wouldn’t be interested.

The issue was that these grandparents were from an oral society and their stories were verbally shared generation-to-generation. Eventually these stories could be lost.

He shared, “When they’re gone, the magnificent hunting tales, the ghost stories that kept a thousand children sleepless, the intricate tricks of self-sufficiency acquired through years of trial and error, the eloquent and haunting stories of suffering and sharing and building and healing and planting and harvesting – all these go with them, and what a loss.

If this information is to be saved at all, for whatever reason, it must be saved now; and the logical researchers are the grandchildren, not university researchers from the outside. In the process these grandchildren (and we) gain an invaluable, unique knowledge about their own roots, heritage, and culture. Suddenly they discover their families – previously people as pre-television, pre-automobile, pre-flight individuals who endured and survived the incredible task of total self-sufficiency, and came out of it all with a perspective on ourselves as a country that we are not likely to see again. They have something to tell us about self-reliance, human interdependence, and the human spirit that we would do well to listen to.”

The seed was watered in 1981 when I visited my 86 year old paternal grandfather in San Antonio, Texas. He was the family historian that journaled. He  knew the importance of identifying and dating pictures. He shared with me names and critical dates of his ancestors. He enjoyed telling me stories of his life as a young man and stories of his family. I went home and purchased blank genealogical record books that I could use to hand write all the names and dates that he had proved me and continued to add to it as I talked to extended family members. My grandfather died at the age of 94 in 1989.

The first stem broke through the ground in 1985 when I audio taped my mother, and she shared her experiences as a child in the 1930’s. About that time I also began corresponding with my grandfather’s 80 year old cousin, Marie in Ohio, and she gave me valuable information regarding my grandfather’s family.  I met Marie in person in 1995, and she took me on a tour of where she grew up and my ancestors settled and gave invaluable stories regarding our ancestors. Fortunately, I was able to interview her one last time before she passed at the age of 99 in 2012 and compiled her stories and letters into a book.

Today I have a garden full of life stories and genealogical information and it is my turn as family historian. All that my grandfather and Marie shared, all the interviews that have been recorded with family members I have put into print. I have pictures and life stories recorded for future generations to read.

It was encouraging to be with these other personal historians last weekend who share the same passion and feel the same importance of preserving the life stories of everyday people. They all concurred it is a priceless gift to leave for your family, friends, community and future generations.

Do you have a family historian in your family? Are you the family historian or is it time for you to start? Now is the time for you to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your ancestors’ and have their stories recorded for future generations to read.  Where do you begin?

  • Who is the oldest ancestor that lives closest to you?
  • Is he or she willing to set up an interview?
  • Decide what part of his or her life you would want to focus on during the interview.
  • Have questions compiled to get him or her started on their story
  • Allow him or her to be silent to compile thoughts and let speak when ready.
  • Have him or her look at pictures and describe events and memories sparked from the pictures

www.keepingyourmemories.com

Pictures Simply Capture the Memories

My cousin, Susie, was born September 26, three months and one day before I was born. She was born in Missouri. I was born in Indiana.

Our first pictures of us together – Susie was 13 months old, and I was 10 months old – were taken with an 8mm camera at our grandma’s home in Missouri.

Our last pictures of us together – forty-eight years later – were taken with a digital camera at her home in Missouri on Memorial Day 2008.

I cherish all of the pictures taken of us in between.

Susie passed on July 3, 2008.

 

 

 

Good Old Summer Time

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It’s summer! And every year we welcome it with open arms! Many of us live busy lives and in between work, home, travel and scheduled events the summer passes by too quickly. Often times I wish for the long, lazy days of summer past.

I remember the long summer days back in the 1960’s when it seemed like summer lasted forever. Life was easy and days were long. As children, we didn’t have as many structured activities, and we took it upon ourselves to find things for us to do.

We didn’t sleep late and rarely stayed inside the house. There were many days we left the house in the morning to meet up with friends to ride bikes or go to the park. We came back for lunch and then would head back out again until dinner time.

We had hot days with no air conditioning. I remember endless hours reading in front of an installed window fan trying to cool off with the hot air blowing on me.

There were times, however, that we had absolutely nothing to do and that forced us to lay in our backyards looking up miles into the sky at the clouds thinking and dreaming. We didn’t have technological devices or any social media so there were days spent sitting in my backyard reading or drawing.

On Dad’s day off we took day trips to Chicago to sight see and visit museums and zoos. We spent quite a bit of time relaxing on Indiana beaches and hiking trails at the Dunes.

Perhaps this summer I will set aside my busy schedule and limited time and force myself to experience again a long, summer day relaxing, reading and sitting back to stare up into the clouds.

Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your childhood summer days by starting with the questions below:

  • What is your favorite childhood summer memory?
  • What did you do to entertain yourself when you were bored?
  • After chores were finished did you meet up with friends and hang out with them until dinner time? What games did you and your friends play?
  • What were your family’s traditional summertime events and/or vacations?
  • Did you ride your bicycle during the summertime? Were you allowed to ride your bike long distances from home?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

Moms and Bandages…Even in Spirit

1968 - Mom and Nancy in kitchen

Happy Mother’s Day! Today is a day to celebrate our mother, and we will celebrate her whether she is with us or not. Today is a day with mixed emotions spanning from my 25 year old daughter-in-law who has a fresh open wound of losing her mother only two weeks ago to me, a 57 year old who lost my mother eight years ago, to an 80 year old friend who lost her mother thirty years ago.

The 80 year old friend said she still misses her mother. When my mother passed, a co-worker told me that she had lost her mother years before. She said not a day will go by that I don’t think of her. She was right.

The first year that I was without her was difficult because I missed the daily chats we had in the past and the quick phone calls I would make to her when I had a cooking question. With time I became accustom to her being gone. Her spirit and teachings live in me, and I think of her daily and cherish the precious memories we shared together.

This picture of my mother and me in her domain…the kitchen…depicts her so well and everything in this picture stirs memories of the mother that I love dearly. My mother was happy to be a full-time housewife and mother. She spent hours and hours working in her kitchen using her Magic Chef oven to her electric Sunbeam mixer, to her metal flour and sugar canisters, to her coffee percolator, to her Sunbeam blender and to the knives she has hanging on her wall. She was also a seamstress and had sewn together the aprons that we have wrapped around us in this picture.

When I was young and had scraped, bloody knees my mom swept me up, cleaned the wound, bandaged it and then held me tight to ease the pain. I like to think that perhaps my mom continues to care for me like that even after she is gone. Her spirit dwells inside of me and continues to comfort. She eased my open wound and pain from losing her with a bandage of love that can still be felt. Every year the excruciating pain of loss lessened and the love increased.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom…Jean Belle! I’ll love you forever!

What memories of your mom come to mind when you think of her on this special day? Answering these questions below about your mother will be a start to Keeping Your Memories of her preserved in writing so that she will forever be remembered. If you’re fortunate that your mother is still with you, ask her to answer these questions about her mother also.

  • What do you remember most about your mother’s appearance?
  • What sounds do you associate with your mother?
  • What was your favorite food that your mother cooked for you?
  • What pleasant smells do you associate with your mother?
  • What special touch do you associate with your mother?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

I Write. He Paints. We Preserve History.

I write. My brother paints. We are both preserving history.

Since the early 1960’s our parents took us to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana to play in the water and waves of Lake Michigan. We hiked the trails, explored the blow outs, climbed the sand dunes and conquered Mount Tom and Mount Baldy.

It was a place for us to roam freely with acres and acres of sand dunes vs our suburban neighborhood with houses built side-by-side.

On a cold day in 1967 while we explored the beach, my brother, Jacob, sat in the sand and made sketches of an abandoned cottage that still stood on the lakefront. He later created this painting. Shortly after, the cottage was demolished. All of the cottages that once stood are gone.

However, fifty years later the memory of this cottage remains as the picture hangs in my living room. And it preserves an era of cottages that were built one hundred years ago by owners who, like us today, relished their hours spent on this beautiful lakefront.

We don’t know the original owners or history of this specific cottage, but in the early 1900’s many folks from Chicago traveled to the Indiana side of Lake Michigan to enjoy a time of recreation at the Indiana Dunes.

It was so well-liked that eventually a group of Chicagoans incorporated the Prairie Club in 1911 and two years later built a beach house for members. Members would come to spend weekends and the summer and slept in tents.

Later in the 1910’s and 1920’s landowners began renting small parcels to these Chicago folks. Simple, inexpensive one story wooden cottages along the lakefront would be built on the rented parcels.

Alarmed by industrial sand mining destroying large areas of duneland and steel company land purchased, the Prairie Club members and others began a campaign to create a state park. The cause to preserve the Dunes began in 1916 and that campaign finally came to fruition in 1926 when the Dunes opened to the public as the Indiana Dunes State Park.

In 1966 with the drive of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas to save the dunes, the park was authorized as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. With perseverance from multiple groups the preservation of more land was granted.

The Indiana Dunes today stands at 15,000 acres. What I will remember of that extensive amount of land, because of my brother’s sketches and painting, is the small portion of land where a cottage was built and an unknown family or individual’s memories were made.

I have over fifty years of good memories made of experiences at the Indiana Dunes from my childhood and with my children and eventually with my grandchildren, and I have recorded my memories on paper.

Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the Indiana Dunes or of your nature preserves for your descendants to read.

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com