My best friend’s birthday party 1960? We were 6. Why I appear to be vogueing down there on the end, I have no idea because that is so not me. And it’s in January, got to love California
I have no good memories of Easter. Easter was torture from the outfits forced on me, to the egg hunts that were impossible for a blind kid to the hours long torture of never ending church services when I didn’t find anything useful to believe in.
Don’t I look thrilled.
Little girls in the 50’s and 60’s were forced into hideous outfits bought new for the day. Socks with lace edges that doubled as buzzsaws when they hit the other legs. Petticoats that were so new and stiff and full they threatened to pop up if you didn’t forcibly hold them down and when you couldn’t always do it you heard a chorus of “I see London, I see France”. Hats always dorky and especially dorky if you had to carry a matching handbag that had el zippo inside except maybe a hanky your grandma gave you. A Lilt permanent given the day before that stunk to high heaven and was just gross for a kid with stick straight hair. And my mom hand embroidered my dresses which now would be worth tons of money but at the time all I wanted was to wear a store bought dress. And to the piece de resistance, patent leather shoes that Dad had to take out and sandpaper the bottoms so you didn’t slide and land on your butt.
One year, this lead to an incident at Sunday School. Mom always had to buy them too big because I would “grow” into them. They were too big and since my left foot is 2 sizes bigger than my right, the right one was way too big. Somehow there was a high kicking contest and my new right shoe landed on the roof of the Sunday School building. Can you say swift swat to the keester on the way home?
When I joined the kids choir and we had to get into robes, we had to take off our hated finery or we looked like Rose Parade floats with those petticoats on. And of course, put the flaming things on again after we sang. Church was normally 2 services and an overflow. Church held about 1500 people and on Easter would be full of Easter and Christmas Christians so they had to add a third service. If you were in the adult choir which I eventually graduated to that meant sitting through 3 sermons that were longer than normal that made you start thinking you were going to gnaw your leg off you were so hungry and when you finally got home a big meal with ham or lamb neither of which would I eat.
I only got taken to a public Easter Egg Hunt at the park once. Dad thought it was a fun thing to do but somehow he forgot I couldn’t see very well. Kids were running all over grabbing eggs and by the time I finally spotted one some kid would swoop in and take it. I remember standing there in the park crying because I hadn’t found a single egg and my dad telling me I hadn’t tried hard enough. Yeah, we didn’t do that again even after I had eye surgery. We had them at home where Dad knew where they were all hidden and could help point them out.
It didn’t help that for some reason the minute I saw my Easter basket full of candy I used to have to run and get sick. No idea why except that it happened every year. The only good thing I can remember was way back in the dark ages before backpacks girls carried their books in woven lined book baskets and after I got to Junior High my Easter basket was a new book basket since by this time in the year mine would be thrashed. We all had one hip and shoulder high than the other from carrying all our books around in them because everyone in my neighborhood walked to school.
Kind of like this one but with raffia handles and lined with bright cotton fabric.
Anyway, Easter isn’t a holiday I remember fondly so as a pagan, I don’t miss it a bit.
I’m missing my daddy to day. Amazing that you can be 60 years old and still miss your dad. My dad was a really complicated man, educated but raised on a farm, was raised by one of the meanest people on the planet but still be kind. When he was mad he used his fists on me from the time I was small and yet he was the one you wanted if you were sick or hurt. He was the one who changed our diapers, cleaned our barf up, bought my sister’s and my Kotex when it came in huge embarrassing boxes. He was the one who taught me self defense and was proud when I had to use it and survived. He taught me to use tools properly, taught me to throw a baseball “not like a girl” even though I was still blinder than a bat when he did it. Took me to the park to play on the adult gymnastics equipment even though it was the men’s, like the rings and the pommel horse and the even parallel bars.
Taught me to cook the things mom was appalled at. Popcorn made with bacon fat, leftover mashed potatoes fried again in bacon grease for breakfast when mom wasn’t ready to get up. Telling us that cheese was still good when you cut the green off. Eating breakfast on the living room floor watching the farm report and then Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy and playing with Lincoln logs on the floor.
Because he was a teacher he got all the school vacations and that meant trips to the botanical gardens and all the local museums. Explaining at the Museum of Science and Industry how the chicks were going to get out of their shells, how crops grew and how steam trains worked, where bees went and how they built their hives. He gave me my first garden and helped me plant nasturtiums and radishes and got exasperated when I had to keep pulling them up to see if they were growing.
He bought me every How and Why science book that I wanted and taught me how to make volcanoes in the back yard with mom’s vinegar, baking soda and food colouring. He tried to teach me to ride a bike and even though he had balance problems, couldn’t understand that I couldn’t ride it because I had the same problem. Took me whale watching and forgot the Dramamine and laughed when I was the the first one to see a whale because I was hanging over the side of the boat. Took me river rafting on Class IV and V rivers and was aghast when I got a 3rd degree sunburn and couldn’t put my pants on to go home. He took us to see snow and how to make a snowman because he thought a Southern California girl should know how at least once. He taught me take risks.
He tried to teach me to drive and made me so nervous I stalled our automatic car and was so mad at him yelling at me I got out of the car and into the back seat and didn’t learn to drive until I was 26. Used to scream at me that I was good for nothing but I would find out much later how proud he was of my achievements. He was Jekyll and Hyde when it came to temperament and yet when he was dying he was the one that apologized for all of it when supposedly he had dementia.
He survived the Depression by becoming a hobo and left Illinois never to return and when he told me about it, he made me swear not to tell mom. He joined the CCC and worked eradicating pests in Yosemite, he became a railroad telegrapher and got one of the first SS numbers that was so low that for the rest of his life people would tell him it was a fake.
He enlisted in WWII in the Army because his two brothers were in the Navy. I get my contrary streak from him. He was in the cavalry and was stationed in Naples in Italy and all he would say about the war was that he dumped guns in Naples harbour. He came home on the Queen Mary and enrolled in UCLA and got a degree in History and Math and then went to USC for his teaching degree and would root for UCLA for the rest of his life.
He was the one that when I had to change his diapers at the end, cried and when I told him that he had changed ours and it was the least I could do, cried harder and made me cry too because I had never seen him cry before.
He had pride in his ancestors and that the first Robb here served in the Revolutionary War, that his family had been in the Civil War on both sides but that his near family were on the Union side. He was proud of his grandfather the doctor even though he was allegedly half Native American but refused to talk about it, and his father who left to build the Panama Canal. There was a picture of Sojourner Truth in the family photo album and I know from obituaries that they moved to Illinois to because they were abolitionists.
Somehow even when he was being his meanest, I knew he cared and that he was trying to defend his heart from breaking because too many others had broken it before. I will miss him and his goofy sense of humour, his taste in clothes which was way better than mom’s, his love of the out of doors and history, his love of reading and his love of sharing what he knew. Dad, I love you and always will.
He would have been 99 today
This is my favourite recipe for Macaroni and Cheese, it’s from a 1958 Good Housekeeping pamphlet and the one my mom always made.
Susan’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese
1 TBSP of salt
½ lb of macaroni in 2 ½ inch pieces or elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
(Mom used the big elbow macaroni not the tiny ones like ones in Kraft mac & cheese
1 small onion
2 TBSP of butter or margarine
1 TBSP of flour
¼ tsp of dry mustard
¾ tsp salt
Speck of pepper
2 cups of milk
½ l of Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)
¾ cup fresh bread crumbs (I leave these out because I don’t like them)
4 tsp of butter or margarine
- In a large kettle bring to boil 3 qts of water with 1TBSP of salt.
Start heating oven to 400 degrees. Grease 1 ½ qt casserole
- Drop macaroni into boiling water; boil, uncovered, stirring often with fork, about 9 minutes
Or until piece rubbed between fingers parts fairly easily.
- Meanwhile, mince onion, (about 4 tsps) put in double boiler with 2 TBSP of butter. When butter is melting, stir in flour, mustard, salt and pepper; cook until smooth and hot, stirring often.
- Slice about 3/4 s of the cheese right into the sauce; stir until the cheese is melted. ( if preferred, slice or grate cheese ahead, using medium grater)
- When the macaroni is tender, drain into colander; turn into casserole. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni, tossing lightly with fork so that all the macaroni gets nicely coated. Top with rest of cheese.
- Toss bread crumbs with 4 tsp of melted butter. Sprinkle over the cheese.
- Bake uncovered; 20 minutes.
Makes 4 servings as a main dish and 6 when served instead of potatoes.
For 2 servings:
Use the following ingredients: 1/3 lb of cheese, 1 1/3 cups raw macaroni, 1 TBSP of minced onion, 4 tsps of butter, 2 tsps of flour, ¼ tsp of dry mustard, ½ tsp of salt, speck pepper, 1 1/3 cups of milk. ½ cup fresh bread crumbs, and 1 TBSP butter. Bake in 1 qt casserole at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.