Back when I was a wee tiny tot, I received a Lionel train for Christmas. And for the next 25-years it ran around the family Christmas tree.
While it could still run around the rails with the best of them, for the last four years it has been on display in one of the two photo and memento units in the living room. In other words, like me it is still chugging along … but at a slower pace. (Note, two of the passenger cars are still in storage for safe keeping. After all, they are almost 75 years old.)
This is an extremely rare family photograph. I don’t have a lot of photos of my brother and I with our father. He was the guy who always handled the camera. (As you can see my mom had a bit of a focus problem when she was holding the old Kodak box camera.) This picture was taken in late 1945 or early 1946 on the front steps of our home in north Saint Louis. Notice the bright white steps courtesy of a weekly scrubbing with Old Dutch cleanser. He had just arrived home, and yes, he always wore a hat. And when he didn’t, he wore the standard 1940s cap.
My photo countdown to the celebration of Christmas … Day Three!
Actually, the first decorations I put up this year was my pair of Christmas Trees. They sit on a pair of shelved openings between the dining room and the living room. The trees are identical except for the decorations. Also they are pre-decked, so all I have to do is remove them from their storage containers and plug them in. It also seems like every year a new decoration is added to the trees thanks to two nieces who are very crafty. When I was a kid we always had a live tree that went from floor to ceiling. My father was basically Father Christmas personified, and he always came home with the tallest and roundest tree on the lot. After he passed, I tried to maintain his traditions, but the availability of Christmas Trees just wasn’t the same. “Humbug!” he would have exclaimed! “They want an arm and a leg for a twig that’s not even a sapling!” I actually bought a large artificial tree that could have passed for one of his select live trees when fully decked out. But after putting it up and taking it down by myself for ten years, I packed it in a storage box and moved it to the shelf in the basement. It sets next to the box of tissue wrapped glass ornaments that my mother collected for over more than eighty years. She died when she was 96. It was right before Christmas. I haven’t opened her decoration box since then. Times change as we grow older, but the memories go on forever.
About a half-lifetime ago, I used to travel around the country a bit producing radio and television commercials for the St. Louis shoe company where I worked. On these trips to distant cities, I got into the habit of picking up an unusual looking rock and bringing it home to my mother who would add it to the aquarium that housed her terraium garden.
Mom passed away more than eight years ago, and with my lack of green thumbs the terrarium soon followed. And it has been sitting out on the sun porch ever since. Last week in one of my clean freak breakdowns, I cleaned out the assorted rocks and shells and dumped the potting soil in a hole in the lawn. I also washed the rocks and shells thinking I might give them to my nieces for craft projects with their young children.
I found it one Sunday afternoon while walking through Central Park in New York City. The reason I brought it home to Mom was because it looked like her dog Nickie who died of old age shortly after Mom did. A second look at the rock convinced me that now it looked like my canine companion Mlle. Renee when I adopted her seven years ago.
If I must be honest, I guess Renee did look like a young Nickie when she picked me out at the Animal Shelter. But that was almost seven years ago, and Renee’s muzzle seems to be greying up a bit these days.
Well, you be the judge.
Since this is Christmas Eve … a renowned magical eve … I figured my photo post for today would be exempt from the usual wordless state of posting. This is because without the accompanying Christmas Story, the photo would have no meaning at all.
Let me begin by saying that my mother was the original Mrs. Clean. In other words, her house never was dusty or out-of-order. This was a miraculous feat considering she was raising three sons. But every Christmas she would begin a full house cleaning that would take an entire week. This always started with washing all of the windows in the house … inside and out. Taking down and washing all curtains and drapes and then ironing and rehanging all of them. Washing and waxing all floor surfaces, and then cover the now clean surfaces with newspapers. (This was back when newspapers were printed using hot type instead of today’s offset printing and the ink did not rub off or smudge any surface that the paper touched.) And finally ended up by dusting and polishing all wooden furniture with Old English Scratch Remover/Furniture Polish.
I am not the housekeeper that my mother was, and occasionally I don’t get around to washing the dinner dishes until the morning after. But I usually do attempt to keep a somewhat bachelor-style tidy house. (Mlle. Renee is the one who always leaves her toys lying around on the floor.) This year I decided to give the house a first class mom-style cleaning from ceiling to floor. And frankly, I wore myself out doing it. I had to empty my new super-sucker vacuum six times just sweeping the wall-to-wall carpeting. (Mlle. Renee has big dirt catching paws.) To complete the cleaning process, I even went into the basement to look for mom’s bottle of O.E.S.R./F.P. — and surprisingly not only was it still there, it was still usable!
So I brought it upstairs, found an old cotton sock and started working on mom’s antique dark stained end-table. (I know it is antique because it is three years older than me.) Since I hadn’t polished the table in a number of years, it took a lot of work to bring it back to full luster.
In a place of honor on the table there are two historic mementos. The bride and groom from the top of mom and dads 1937 wedding cake, and the picture of my mother that my dad carried in his wallet for over 25 years. Mom took it out when he died and carried it in her prayer-book. When she died eight years ago I took it out and put it into an antique picture frame and added it to the table as a tribute to her. Yes, I guess I’m just old-fashioned and sentimental.
In today’s challenge, show us what “gone, but not forgotten” means to you. It could be a photo of a faithful canine friend who’s chasing squirrels in a better place, a spot in your city, town, or village that reminds you of a relationship now over, a talisman that reminds you of something that you can never get back, a photo of you in your smashing 70s silver lamé jumpsuit, or the crumbs that remain from the delicious cheesecake you baked. (For more information go HERE!)
Today, I looked out the window to see the doom and gloom another late fall rainy day. So what do I miss most? What else but the bright colors of summer! And a single blossom can really tell a big story!
I have always spent Thanksgiving surrounded by family. And this year was no different … I was again invited to share the bird with my younger brother and sister-in-law and their children and grandchildren.
Naturally, Mlle. Renee didn’t like the idea of being left home alone with a few of her favorite play toys. Notice the fearful look on the stuffed fallen star who had just seen the unstuffed squirrel and bear. He wasn’t too keen about staying home with Renee and her unstuffed pals either. But, after promising to bring a bit of turkey home for her I was allowed the get dressed. So as an unforecasted snow began to fall, I packed up my contribution to the family feast (fresh-baked dinner rolls and Carrot/Pineapple Orange Jello Salad) and headed off into the woods of the far western burbs.
I arrived to discover my great-niece and great-nephew working in the Kiddy Kitchen cooking up a storm of their own.
Don’t know what they were cooking, but apparently they had to wear safety goggles to cook it. My sister-in-law was a bit luckier as her dinner was either in the oven or on the stove taking care of itself. Also, she didn’t have to wear goggles to do her cooking. She was also able to take a break for a little family game session.
It was the velcro strap on my lazy-man shoe, and he began to open and close it for just about 479 times. Thankfully, the dinner finished cooking itself and we prepared to eat. We were seated at two different dining tables.
This one was rather historic because it celebrated its 77th birthday this summer. It was the original dining table of my mother and father. My brother restored it several years ago. (They made furniture to last in the 30s.) I was seated at the other dining table with the rest of the family. Which is why I didn’t take a picture of that table.
“That’s all, folks!”
This Thanksgiving dinner story starred one brother, one sister-in-law, four nephews, four nieces, two great nephews, two great nieces, Mlle. Renee, one very big turkey and me.
This is the first photograph ever taken that shows a human being. I did not take this picture. I wasn’t born until a hundred and one years later.
1838 IMAGE: PUBLIC DOMAIN
“I have seized the light. I have arrested its flight.” LOUIS DAGUERRE, 1839
The picture, the earliest known photo to include a recognizable human form, was taken in Paris, France, in 1838 by Louis Daguerre. The human in question is standing in the bottom-left of the photograph, on the pavement by the curve in the road. He is having his boots shined. The exposure time for the image was around seven minutes and although the street would have been busy with traffic and pedestrians, everything was moving too fast to register on the plate.
However, the oldest known photograph of me was taken one hundred years later by my father. It too, had to be taken out-of-doors, because they hadn’t invented a flash attachment for the Kodak Box Camera of that era.
1940 IMAGE: FAMILY ALBUM
“That’s my boy! And he sat still for this picture.” LEO B EDLER, 1940
In case you are interested, this was the camera that took all the family pictures throughout the 30s, 40s and early 50s. Don’t you just love that deco design?
For Christmas in 1955 I was given what would become the NEW family camera. The Kodak Hawkeye Camera that finally used flashbulbs.
It took all the family photos until I finally bought my first real camera … actually made in Germany. OK, East Germany.
That was when I set up a darkroom in the basement. But that was when a camera actually used film. Since then I’ve gone through a number of different cameras. And yes, I even had a Polaroid. BRIEFLY!
My most recent photo!
Yes, yesterday was that time again! And yes, I’ll admit it … I’m growing older!
And that kid hanging on the fence wasn’t even invited to the party.
Over the years, I’ve collected a list of famous and/or infamous people who also were born on September 5. From the high-born King Louis XIV of France (aka. The Sun King), Freddie Mercury, Jesse James, Michael Keaton, Raquel Welch, Bob Newhart, Jack Daniel, George Lazenby, Dwezzil Zappa, John Cage, Carol Lawrence, Werner Herzog, Bill Mazeroski, Jack Valenti, Loudon Wainwright III, and also me. Only one person on the list was born on the same day and year as I was though
As a Virgo born on September 5th, we are known for our great organization skills and will power. Even in hectic situations that would overwhelm others, we can always find a way to bring control and order. Our skills become especially evident in group settings, where our understanding of others allows us to naturally take on the leadership role. When dealing with challenges that we find particularly important, our friends and family are amazed at our ability to do whatever necessary to get the job done. I also doubt if anyone on the list is very humble.
And yes, I am no longer thirty-nine, but to borrow a few song lyrics from Bob Merrill …
The Moon has a few new wrinkles
It shines a bit more silver now than gold
I’m stayin’ young, I’m stayin’ young
But everything around me’s growin’ old
The house has the creaks and trembles
And winter leaves her shiverin’ from cold
I’m stayin’ young, I’m stayin’ young
It’s wonderful the way I hold my own
When everything surrounding me has grown so old
I passed on an invitation to go to the Japanese Festival at the Botanical Garden today. Mainly because we were being threatened with dire forecasts of storms throughout the entire day. There’s nothing soggier than a Japanese maiden in a rain-soaked kimonos. So when the overnight thunderstorms failed to appear by 8:00 am, I decided to get up and cut the overgrown back lawn. I suspect that twelve-inch tall crab grass qualifies as overgrown and even over-groan. I didn’t cut it at the normal grass height since the grass was too tall for that. So when I finished cutting two hours later, the grass was cut to the normal height it is when I decide it is time to cut the lawn. So if the promised thunderstorms and /or tornadoes fail to show up today or tomorrow, I can cut it all over again!
Labor Day never meant much to me. When I was a kid, it was always the day before I had to go back to school. Remember back then school didn’t have to start the last two weeks in August, because we didn’t have anything like SNOW DAYS. Rain or shine, sleet or snow … we didn’t get off because the school buses couldn’t run, because we didn’t have school buses — we walked to school.
It meant a lot to my father though, because he was a laborer in a steel manufacturing factory. He made doors. I was never a laborer though. My first job was an as office boy or mail boy. Then after I got through college, I was able to work myself up to traffic director and copywriter trainee in advertising. So while I worked, I never really labored. Using your brain and being creative never did count as laboring.
My mother never really worked either. She was a house-wife which put her and other women in the same category as beasts of burden back in those olden days. She was always one to note that one Labor Day back in 1939, she did labor most of the entire day. I was born in the early hours the next day. She said she never worked so hard in her life, but I was worth it. Guess, that’s why I took care of her until she was 96.
September 4, 1939 — It was Labor Day — it was the day after the invasion of Poland and the start of World War II — it was the day my dad was going to take her to see the Wizard Of Oz at the Fox — it was the day she spent her 27th birthday at St. Louis Maternity Hospital in labor waiting for me to arrive.