Friday, October 29, 2010

The shops on Grand

We had the typical shops of the 50s and 60s in our quiet Mac-Groveland neighborhood in St. Paul. I wrote about Dory's corner grocery store in the "Boxcar Children" post.

Our weekly allowance was most often spent at Dory's, on the corner of Grand and Prior. There we'd find shelves of penny candy or two-cent Tootsie Roll pops; or Popsicles and Dreamsicles in the freezer.

Dory was a fat, grumpy old guy. He was always clearing his throat. We could almost hear him groan as we approached the store. Not a friendly shopkeeper at all.

So we would request candy from the very bottom shelf where the penny candy was kept: Double Bubble or Bazooka gum, root beer barrels, or candy buttons on a paper roll. Then Dory would lean over with his fat body, hold his back with one hand, and grunt as he retrieved the candy.

But then, when he straightened up, we’d change our minds and select something else instead: candy lipstick, Lik’M’Aid, a wax pop bottle, or a marshmallow cone.

Then he’d have to lean over, groaning, again.

This sounds so cruel now. But I can’t help but wonder: Why didn’t he just put the penny candy on the upper shelf in the first place?

Besides Dory’s, we liked to go to the dime store further down on Grand Avenue. There, the rotund owner, Mrs. Stetson (we named her Stella), and her mouse-like clerk, Mrs. McBride (we named her Minnie), watched as we perused the selections of construction paper, scrapbooks, black photo mount corners, rubber cement, wedge-shaped erasers, colored index cards, finger paint sets and protractors and compasses.

The wooden floors creaked and there was a large black heater vent in the middle of the store that we liked to walk over. If we were lucky, the heater fan would kick in, sending a blast of hot air to blow on our bare legs.

Next to Stetson's store was the Grandview Theater. The local neighborhood theaters (indeed, all theaters then) had only one screen and one feature movie that played for weeks.

My mother took my sister, Christine, and I to see “The King and I” and also “Rear Window,” though I can’t for the life of me imagine why she’d take us to an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

I already mentioned Lacher Drugs in the "Corner drugstore" post, on the corner of Grand and Fairview where you could sit at the fountain and drink phosphates or cherry, vanilla or lime Cokes, and buy magazines and comic books.

Across the street on Fairview was Strandy’s Bakery. Mom would send me and Christine there to buy bread. It was so fresh, yeasty and warm, and we’d always eat the crusts on the way home.

Next to Strandy’s on Grand Avenue was a supermarket under various ownerships. Originally a Klein’s, it became Krogers, then Piggly Wiggly. You could get Klein bars for three cents, and small jars of pickles or maraschino cherries for a dime. Yes, we would buy dime jars of pickles with our allowance and eat them on the way home.

Next to Strandy’s on Fairview was the Dairy Queen. On occasion, Dad would take us all for five cent ice cream cones. Of course, the Dairy Queen was only open in the summertime and only had one outdoor window, unlike the fast-food restaurants they are today. And though it was only a block away from home, it was a rare summertime treat to go there.

Today, Grand Avenue remains dotted with small shops and, for the most part, except for a Subway where Lacher's was, has escaped the chain-store invasion. I believe that a concerted effort on the part of the neighborhood association of residents and business owners has been responsible for this. They have been outspoken in their protection of the quaintness of Grand Avenue and, to their credit, have thus far been successful.

If you visit Grand Avenue now, you'll find a neighborhood that has remained pretty much as it was when I was growing up there. Yes, Dory's is gone (a small bicycle repair shop took its place), Stella Stetson and Minnie McBride are no longer there, Lacher's has closed, Strandy's is now a cafe, and the Dairy Queen has been razed.

But Grand Avenue has been well cared for by its inhabitants and shopkeepers. And the heart of Grand Avenue is the same.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Boxcar children

When my childhood friend, Kathy Jones, came to my house to visit, we often chose to play Boxcar Children.
~ Kathy and I, 1956

Boxcar Children, one of our favorite books,
is the delightful story of four children who run away from home. Their parents have died, and they don’t want to be sent away to live with their grandfather.

They don't actually know their grandfather, but they conclude he must be mean, and he certainly doesn’t love them, since he's never come to see them.

Kathy and I became the poor, needy, but brave, orphans in the book, venturing into the woods and making beds of pine needles.

When we discover a boxcar to hide in, we scavenge a nearby dump for dishes and furnishings. Finding some old utensils and some metal bowls, we clean and polish them with sand.

This game appealed to Kathy’s innate sense of adventure, and my "nesting" instinct, preferring to pretend things that were homey, safe and comforting.

We had the perfect spot for Boxcar Children: a little clearing in a vacant lot off the alley on Prior, between Lincoln and Grand Avenues, in back of Dory’s corner grocery store.

Kathy and I would hide out in our little clearing off the alley, hoping we wouldn't be discovered. We were, after all, surviving, on our own, escaping being sent to our wicked grandfather.

Only, in the story, Grandfather turns out to be a loving man, playful, generous and very kind and gentle. When the children are finally discovered and he sees how much the boxcar has meant to them, he has it moved to his farm as a playhouse for them.

But Kathy and I never got to the end of the story. It was too much fun to hide, fear being found, and remain brave while trying to stay sheltered, warm and fed.

Of course, after awhile, we Boxcar Children would head for home.

Exhausted from our adventure. And most likely in time for supper.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Making potato soup

Today I am making Barb's potato soup.

I haven't seen Barb since we worked together twenty years ago. But I often make her soup, and each time I think of her.

More than working together, we became friends. She was also, at that stage of my life, a good advisor to me. Barb loved to cook and I was the fortunate beneficiary as she shared her "leftovers" at lunch time.

I also make Barb's graham crackers, Linzer bars, and, with my granddaughters, a tradition started with my two older ones, homemade applesauce in the fall. Ava and I made some last weekend.

Isn't it funny with recipes? You collect them and forever after refer to them by the name of the person who passed it on. For instance, I make Mary Kay's beans, Christine's spaghetti sauce, Judy's caramel rolls, and Lorraine's grainery pickles.

But then there's Teddie's apple cake. I have no idea who Teddie is. The recipe was given to me many years ago by a friend. And her name isn't Teddie.

In our family, we have made "Clare's beans" for decades. They are known as Clare's beans. But nobody knows who Clare is, or was. The recipe was given to my mother by someone named Daisy.

Go figure.

But anyway, as I make Barb's potato soup, I do think of Barb. It's a good day for soup.

And maybe I'll even give Barb a call.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remembering Chuck

A year ago, we lost our son-in-law, Chuck Holsworth, at the early age of 57.

He was a most special person. To us and to many, many others.

Fishing at their summer cabin, and football, were Chuck's life's passions, second only to his family.

Chuck was a caring, thoughtful, and devoted husband to my husband's daughter, Bonnie. High school sweethearts, Bonnie and Chuck settled in North Branch, Minnesota, where Chuck taught high school and was their football coach.

His football career began in high school and continued on through college at Gustavus Adolphus college in St. Peter, Minnesota, where he played defensive tackle and helped the Gusties win two M.I.A.C. Championships.

After graduating, he accepted an invitation to try out for the Dallas Cowboys. Not reaching the NFL, Chuck returned home and became the linebackers coach at Gustavus before becoming the head High School Football Coach at Gibbon, Minnesota.

He later accepted the Head Football Coach position at North Branch High School, where he coached until the early 1980's. In the mid-1990's, Chuck returned to coach the offensive line at North Branch, coaching while his sons, Matt and Chris, played on the team.

Chris followed in his Dad's footsteps, attending Gustavus and earning a starting spot on the offensive line his Junior year. His Senior year, he earned All-Conference honors while being named a Captain by his teammates.

Chris Holsworth and his very proud Grandpa

Bonnie went on to become an elementary teacher and teaches first grade in North Branch, earning her Master's degree last year.

Daughter, Heidi, also teaches in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she lives with her husband, Chris Tertipes. Son, Matt, is in the Army reserves and works for UPS in Texas.

A few weeks ago, Gustavus honored Chuck's accomplishments by designating funds given in memory of Chuck for a special football recruiting room.

Both Chuck and Chris are featured on this "wall of fame."

The room and a plaque were dedicated in a special ceremony held at Gustavus before their Homecoming game was played. My husband and his family were there, along wth Bonnie, Chris, and girlfriend Kristin.

We are all so proud of this wonderful and gentle man we lost way too soon. Our family is less without him.

Chris and Heidi Tertipes, Bonnie, Matt, and Chris Holsworth

But we're always remembering Chuck. We all miss him. And we'll never forget him.

Special thanks to Chris Holsworth for writing assistance and photos.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Catching the big one

During these waning days of warm weather, my husband is trying to get in all the fishing he possibly can.

Besides, the water is cold now, says he. And the fish are at their best for eating.

So most of these autumn afternoons, especially late in the afternoon, you can find him down on the dock, wetting a line. Sometimes the neighbors, also avid fishermen, join him.

It is fun for me to just watch them. I try to imagine their conversation. That is, if there is any...
The pros and cons of live bait. Wax worms versus leeches. Sucker minnows. Lindy rigs and bobbers. Tales of past fish caught. How much the big one fought the line. The struggle to reel him in.
At any rate, it's nice to see them enjoy each other's company and their mutual passion. To see them relaxing together and bonding; if, indeed, men do that.

A few days ago, George caught "the big one." A 12-plus-pound Northern.
And, wouldn't you know, there was nobody around to see it. I had gone to do some errands, and it didn't seem anyone nearby was home.
So he brought the fish up to at least snap a photo of it before he released it back into the lake.

He had to walk around the condo and to the end of the hall to finally find a neighbor, Bea Nelson, at home. She readily agreed to come take a picture. He could hardly wait to tell me about it when I returned home. I really wished I had been here to share in his excitement. And, of course, to see this big fish.

Yup, these days are coming to an end. Soon it will be too chilly and the remaining portion of the dock will be pulled ashore. The lake will begin to freeze. The fishing equipment will reluctantly be stored with a sigh.

And my husband will dream his sweet dreams of next year's fishing. Can he top an 11-pound Northern?

In his dreams, I bet he can!

Friday, October 15, 2010

A me day

Everyone once in awhile, I take what I call a "me" day.

If you've never done this before, you do not know what you're missing. I urge you to try it.

It is a day where I do something special.
Just for me.

Either a little adventure by myself, or a day of pampering. A pedicure, shopping for nothing in particular, or just allowing myself the luxury of a quiet day at home.

Last week, on a beautiful warm autumn day,
I decided it was time for a me day. A little adventure this time.

So I left the house mid-morning, steering my car along Interstate 35 and I-494, past the airport, past the Mall of America, and proceeding on to Highway 7 West. This took me along a beautiful drive leading to Minnetonka, and my favorite stitching shop, Stitchville USA.

Alas, it is the only stitching shop for miles around.

If another shop like it even exists in a two-hundred mile radius, I don't know about it. Stitchville is worth the 100-mile round trip drive from Lindstrom to Minnetonka.

So I arrived there and was treated like a queen by owner, Debbie Clarke. I'm guessing she knew it was a me day, because she gave me her undivided attention, selecting fabric,
a heart charm, and framing for my granddaughter, Ava's, French country heart piece. She even sewed on the charm for me.

See? She did know. Such service. Such a beautiful shop. So inspiring.

From there, I went next door to Old Chicago restaurant, to get my favorite sandwich, their Italian melt. Mmmmm, so good. Because it was a me day, I ate slowly while reading a bit of my book. Then I splurged on their warm apple tart for dessert. Yum....

No worry about calories because it is, after all, a me day.

Then down the road on Highway 7 to the Minnetonka General Store.

You haven't seen a gift shop until you've seen this place.

It is loaded with gifts: kitchen, bath, seasonal, children's, Minnesota items, Christmas, candles, books, frames, and more, more, more. Hours are whiled away there and you have no idea where the time went.

But again, it's a me day so I don't care.
At this point, I called my husband and told him what leftovers were available in the frig for dinner. Then I got a praline ice cream cone at the country store. And continued shopping. Even splurging on their new cookbook. For who else? Me.

The day was beautiful: friendly people everywhere, the weather perfect, the fall colors and scenery along the way absolutely gorgeous.

I arrived home so relaxed and feeling so special. What a great day. A perfect me day.

And, best of all, a day spent with my best friend. Me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Traveling the world over

Last week, I was a world traveler.

I went to Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. I traveled via a book I read, Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan.

It wasn't a particularly pleasant journey.

In Kenya, I met a family living together in a makeshift shanty. It is Christmas time, and the family was scrambling to find any scraps they could give as gifts. Prostitution was their teenage daughter's means of supporting them all.

In Rwanda, a young girl's family attempted to maintain a facade of normality amid unspeakable acts. A brother and sister were dealing with their uncle's attempt to sell them into slavery, for a shiny motorcycle and a false promise of riches. The brother escapes; the sister does not.

I met a busload of refugees fleeing from the religious persecution of Christians in the north of Nigeria, learning during the treacherous ride that the south was no better, and so they were enduring the horrible trip for nothing.

The most poignant story was that of childhood friends in Ethiopia and the Christian-Muslim conflict that forces them apart, though they don't understand why. Forbidden by their parents to see each other because of their differing religions, they develop a secret language that requires no words. They merely stand at their apartment windows which face each other, give themselves a squeeze with both arms and mouth the words, hugzee, hugzee: in this way, giving each other a hug.

Our Book Group discussed this book at last week's session. We all agreed that while it was a depressing book, it was worth reading for the eye-opening experience that it was. We talked about child slavery amidst the cocoa bean fields, and how rampant this and other crimes against children are, yet they are seldom talked about.

They are also most often cloaked in religion. Religious differences are at the core of the hatred in these countries, and they justify their heinous acts through religion.

Then on Sunday at church, I traveled, at least for an hour, to Tanzania, Africa. What a relief!

It was Tanzanian Sunday : a day set aside to honor and celebrate our mission partnership with Mtera Church in Iringa, Tanzania. How wonderful, after reading of the region's poverty and religious conflicts, to travel to Iringa during that hour and feel at one with them. They are a delightful, gracious and spiritual people from whom we can learn much.

During the service, the Mtera congregation sent their greetings to us. A Swahili Bible was presented to us from them, along with a beautiful wrap-around robe for our own Pastor Mona from Pastor Lufygila at Mtera; and a "talking stick" (the person holding it is allowed to talk; it is then passed to the next person who wishes to speak). Music was played all through our service from a concert recorded by the Iringa choir when they toured here a few years ago.

We closed the service with the Lord's Prayer in Swahili and English:
Baba Yetu, uliye mbinguni
Our Father, who art in heaven.
Jina lako litukuzwe
Hallowed be thy name.
Ulfalme wako uje, mapenzi yatimizwe
Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done,
Hapa duniani kama mbinguni
On earth as it is in heaven.
Utupe leo riziki yetu
Give us this day our daily bread.
Utusamehe makosa yetu, kama sisi tunavyowasamehe waliotukosea
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Usitutie majaribuni, lakini utuokoe nayule mwovu
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Kwa kuwa ufalme ni wako, na nguvu, na utukufu hata milele. Amen.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

On many occasions during a service in Mtera, offerings of food, baking or garden produce are given. These are auctioned at the end of the service.

So we followed this custom and bid for jars of homemade jam, butternut squash, cookies, an African basket, a beaded purse, and so on. I had so much fun with this, I would like to see it repeated on a regular basis. The proceeds, of course, went to our Mtera ministry.

There are bad things in the world. There is ongoing religious persecution. But there is much more good.

People joined together in love and spirit.

It does make the world go 'round.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The wisdom of the seasons

The leaves on the tree outside my window are gently falling as I write.

The chrysanthemums and marigolds are in full bloom. Front porches on my street are decorated with pumpkins, gourds and bales of hay. A basket of sweet honey crisp apples adorns my kitchen counter.

It is autumn. In all its splendor.

The seasons are wise. Either they follow the signals of our bodies, or we follow them. Whichever the case, there is harmony in honoring each season.

For example, we seem to come alive in the springtime. The sun warms the earth, and the days grow longer. Flowers bloom, trees bud, there is color everywhere, and love is in the air. We are energized.

Summer brings a combination of adventure and a bit of laziness. Lounging on beaches, sipping lemonade, planning vacations or weekend get-aways. Parades, town festivals, barbecue grilling and dining on outdoor patios, S'mores at dusk, fireworks.

Winter is often dreaded where I live in Minnesota. Icy roads cause treacherous driving conditions, and our entire wardrobes are based on layers of sweaters, coats, boots, scarves, mittens.

But the beauty of freshly fallen snow, frosty window panes, and snow settled on evergreen branches is magnificent. It's time for fireplaces, cocoa, marshmallows, afghans. There isn't a better time for knitting or scrapbooking, stitching, or curling up with a good book.

Since I am a spring and summer lover, I always looked at autumn as the end of things; a signal that winter was approaching. In Minnesota, it can be a very long winter. For ski lovers and snowmobilers, it is most welcome. But not for me.

Then a friend very poetically told me that the real beauty of autumn, aside from its glorious colors of red, oranges and yellows, lies in the earth's ability to rest. And to know rest is needed. Like every living thing. Like everybody.

Now, when I see the leaves gently falling from the trees, I look at the bare branches and think: rest, o weary one. You have endured wind, rain and sun to provide shade. You've provided birds a place to nest, squirrels a place to climb, and a place for them to get nutrients to sustain life. And you have shared with us the beauty of your greenery.

And it gives me permission to rest. To wind down a bit. To prepare myself for yet another year of seasons. To start over again.

All of the seasons are refreshing and new each time they come around in their cycle. I think it is a marvel.

Wherever you are in this world, whatever your season: pause and enjoy. Each season. Each day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Twins

In case you haven't heard, it's been a great year for our Minnesota Twins ball team. We have a good chance of seeing them play the World Series this year.

But the twins I speak of here are my sisters. Formally, Edith and Judith. To us, Edie and Judy.

Like many twins, they were competitive as they were growing up. Vying for each others' friends and their own popularity, they would sometimes deny that they were twins; and if it could be believed, even sisters.

Edie was outgoing and assertive; Judy introverted and passive. Edie, the leader. Judy, the follower.

In this photo, Judy (right) had been crying while Edie (left) had been smiling.

My mother says by the time they got Judy settled and got a smile out of her, Edie got bored and quit smiling. Guess you can't win.

But you should see them today.

Bonded like glue. Joined at the hip. Sharing the same heart and spirit. Sharing love as I think only twins can. It is really amazing and touching to see.

Judy has had many health problems over the past year. Colon resections, blood clots, the loss of a foot and leg below the kneecap. Colonoscopies, dilations of the colon, blood thinners, blood tests, mesh inserted in her neck to filter the blood, physical therapy, prosthetic fittings, wheelchairs and walkers.

Edie has been with her every step of the way.

A registered nurse, living in Ohio, she has been by Judy's side, taking family medical leave without pay, taking a second job to pay for airline tickets. Holding Judy's hand; making her laugh like nobody else can. She is Judy's best medicine and most effective therapy.

Edie arrived home today, in time for Judy's colon repair and colostomy surgery tomorrow. She is with her now, keeping her upbeat, not allowing her to feel discouraged or frightened. Playing Scrabble; telling jokes and funny stories.

Of course, we are all praying for a successful outcome for Judy. And as we pray our petition, we add a prayer of thanks that Edie is home. Judy will be okay because Edie is here.

My twin sisters. Love, strength and blessings to both.