When my husband and I were living together with my parents, Mom and I would often take turns cooking or cook together. We always ate together as a family and with little exception we made group meals. One night Mom made dinner. I don’t remember if she made the whole dinner or if I made part and she made part, but I definitely know she made the mashed potatoes. We all sat down to eat the meal, said grace and then dug into dinner. Richard and I immediately realized something was wrong with the mashed potatoes. Dad did not…Dad doesn’t always have the most discerning palate.
So we asked Mom what was up with the potatoes. After a process of elimination we finally determined that she had forgotten to put milk in them. That can effect the taste of mashed potatoes from scratch, but it REALLY effects the taste when they’re instant mashed potatoes. Whoops! We teased her about it for years.
One of Mom’s favorite places to go is to Dawes Arboretum in Jacksontown, Ohio. For many years we lived close to this place and it’s beautiful gardens, ponds and trees were like moth to a flame to Mom. I can recall numerous times that we went here during my childhood. One time we were even fortunate enough to stumble upon a gorgeous wedding be held at the Japanese Gardens. She even liked the old cemetery they have their and we would get out and read some of the tombstones on the way out. Mom loved it so much that I contemplated having a memorial bench placed there, but I didn’t like some of the policies in place for such a large donation. But I do make sure I get back there from time to time and since my son was born we make it a habit to take photos of him there each year. I hope he grows up to love the area as much as Mom and I did.
Another one of Mom’s favorite games was Boggle. We even had several versions of it and we played them all. I have great memories of playing Boggle with her on the weekends. She had a huge vocabulary and loved English. A lot of people took her intellectual side for granted because she never received her high school diploma or went to college, but she was way smarter than what many people thought. Her strengths were less in math and science and more on the language and creative side. She loved to quote her favorite poems and pieces of literature. She was an avid reader and routine went to the library and brought home a bag full of books. She read lots of different genres, but her favorites seemed to be biographies, mysteries and historical romance. She helped me and my siblings with more school projects than I can count, including a Science Fair Project in which I not only scored a Superior rating but I was chosen to move on to the regional Science Fair. That project would not have been nearly as complete if it weren’t for Mom’s knowledge and creativity.
One of Mom’s favorite games was a board game called Aggravation. I remember visiting with friends and family more times than I can count so that Mom and Dad could play Aggravation. It got to the point where they even decided to make wooden boards, both for them and their friends, so that the game would hold up better. Dad would get plywood and even cabinet doors to make the boards out of. Dad would then trace the pattern onto the board and drill out the holes and then Mom would paint the boards to be specific for the family that would receive them, typically full of her sense of humor and creativity. I still have these two boards. The first one is one that Mom made when I was the only child left in the house, it was Mom and Dad’s personal game board. The second one is one Mom made for Richard and I after we got married. Mom was always on the lookout for large quantities of marbles and dice to complete the game before she gave it as a gift.
When we were living out in the country, Mom woke up one night to a loud scream from my sister, Shari. Of course Mom rushed in and Shari was freaking out by what appeared to be a very large rat on the floor. Mom, assuming it was one of my stuffed animals, told her it was just a toy and to go back to bed. That morning though when they turned the light on, she discovered not only was it a rat, it was a huge sewer rat that managed to get in the house and die in Shari’s room. It seems our neighbor was having her septic tank cleaned at the time and the best we can figure is that it came from there. Shari never let Mom forget that the rat was real and not a stuffed animal.
So now I’m going to share a story that was told to me many, many times over the years and in the process tell on my brother, Billy, a bit. While Mom was pregnant with me, my brother had his bedroom in the basement. His responsibility while in the basement was to pick up any ‘accidents’ the dogs had in the basement. Mom was very pregnant with me at the time and was not making trips down to the basement to make sure this was being done. One day, however, she did go down to the basement and what she found was a mess, to say the least.
This is when Mom hatched a plan to teach Billy a lesson. See Billy had a habit when he came home from school of running down the steps and jumping into his bed. So Mom put newspaper on his bed and then piled all the dog poop on top of the bed, went back upstairs and waited. When Billy ran down the stairs, Mom started counting back….5….4….3… As Mom told it, she didn’t get to 1 before she heard a blood-curdling scream come from Billy. Least to say, Mom never had problems with Billy not picking up after the dogs. 😀
So I already told you about what happened at Johnson Shut Ins during our vacation to Missouri back in the 80’s, now I’ll tell you about another memory I have of Mom from that vacation.
While we were in Missouri we went to a theme park called Silver Dollar City. Silver Dollar City is located in Branson, Missouri and has an 1880’s theme. It’s about 2 1/2 hours away from where we were staying, so it was definitely an all day trip. Mom was really looking forward to visiting this park as the rustic, primitive theme was right up her alley. There are rides but also lots of artisan displays and throwbacks to yesteryear.
While we were there mom fell in love with these wood carved mountain men that she had seen in the area. She was hoping to get one while she was there and really wanted a large one to use as decoration at home. The one she wanted was about 2-3 foot tall, beautifully carved and painted….until she saw the price tag. I don’t remember exactly how much it was, but I’m thinking it was around $200 and that was the value back in the late 80’s, it would be even more now! Least to say, Mom and Dad couldn’t afford to spend so much money on one souvenir so Mom settled for buying a key chain of the mountain man and affectionately renamed Silver Dollar City to Million Dollar City.
I just posted a memory of a mishap my mom had at a state park in Ohio which got me thinking of another mishap she had at a state park in Missouri. Mom loved the water but evidently didn’t have good luck with her bathing suits. So here’s the story. When I was a preteen, we went to Missouri on vacation to visit my half-sister Kim and her husband at the time. They lived in Rolla, Missouri. I actually went out first as Kim had come to visit us in Ohio and I went back with her a week or two before our official vacation was to be to spend extra time with Kim.
Once Mom and Dad arrived, we did a variety of activities with Kim and her husband. One of the places we visited was Johnson Shut Ins. As previously noted, it’s a state park in Middle Brook, Missouri (about an hour and 45 minutes from Rolla), but to hear the name you would think it’s some sort of convalescent home or something (or at least that’s the joke Mom used to tell). Actually it’s a beautiful park with a river that flows down into a more shallow rocky brook. It was a popular place to go innertubing, and that’s just what most of us did. Over and over again. However, Mom was more interested in the rocky brook and found a rock to sit on and just take in the beauty of the area.
I don’t know how long she sat there, but I know it was for a while as we all played in the river and around the rocks. What I do know though is that when she got up she discovered that the rock that she thought was comfortable enough to sit on/lean against had tore a hole in the bottom of her bathing suit! Again, Mom took these embarrassing moments in stride and it became one of those stories she told over and over again.
Mom loved Lake Hope. It’s a lake located in Zaleski State Forest in McArthur, Ohio. The lake has a well maintained beach with several amenities including paddle boats and a snack bar. The water is pretty clear because they d0n’t allow gas powered boats on the lake and so many times we would look down and see the little fish swimming around us. It is free to go there so it was often a great destination during the summer as it is within an hour drive from Lancaster. Sometimes we would go as a family and other times extended family or friends would come with us.
One time in particular, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Jerri came with us. Mom would often wear her bathing suit under her normal clothes so she didn’t have to use the changing rooms when we got there. This particular time just as she was pulling off her shirt so she could go swimming, the swim shirt she was wearing pulled up too and she ‘flashed’ everyone at the beach. Luckily there weren’t many people there and they weren’t looking in her direction…but Uncle Bob got an eye full. Mom took it in stride though and it became a story that was retold over the years. I’m sure it was embarrassing at the time for her, but she just laughed it off.