Archive for the ‘childhood memories’ Category

Today is my cousin Lydia’s birthday. She’s the daughter of my mom’s brother. She has always lived in Texas and I have seen her in person less than twenty times in my entire life yet she is family and I try to keep in touch with her, at least by reading her Face Book posts. I feel both close and distant from her (and my other Texas cousins). I think, from things she has said, she feels the same way.

Why the distant feelings? My mom is the oldest of the three siblings so my brothers and sisters and I were all born before my uncle’s kids. In fact, my youngest sister is the same age as Lydia. We always lived in California (I’m the only one of my siblings to live outside of California and that happened in 2008). My grandmother also lived in Texas all of her life. She used to take the Greyhound bus from Corpus Christi to San Jose every summer to stay with my family. She loved us and bragged about us all the time, which as a grandmother myself I understand. This bragging continued after my uncle’s kids were born. My grandmother raised two of my three cousins after my uncle’s divorce so she was very close to them, yet when the subject of my family came up, she showed her love for us by talking about us in glowing terms. When she came to see us in California she would tell us all about our cousins in Texas. She bragged about them and had a lot of pictures of them that she showed us constantly.

What did this cause? I think that my grandmother inadvertently created a spirit of competition and jealousy. My Texas cousins were jealous of us because she talked about us constantly when she wasn’t with us. She had our pictures all over her walls. Every time one of us did something she was proud of, from school work to a new tooth or winning a contest or a race, she bragged about it. So they were jealous of us. When she came to stay with us, she constantly spoke of our cousins and the day to day things they did together. They got to grow up with her and spend so much more time with her than we did. They got to hear the family stories and learn from her. I won’t speak for my siblings but I will say that I felt cheated. Not my cousins’ fault and not quite jealousy but I did feel like they were so lucky to spend so much more time with her than we did. In a way, my grandmother created a feeling within each of us that made us feel as if we were “less than” the Texas cousins and also made them feel that they were “less than” me and my sibings. Yet, I know I love my cousins and I am pretty sure there are some strong feelings on their side.

I think this has caused us to be even more distant than the physical miles between us. l wish I could fix it. I wish I could spend time with Lydia and my other cousins. I wish I could get to know her better. This has bothered me for so long. I guess it’s upon me to do something about it. Aside from wishing her a happy birthday on her FB wall, I think I’ll make it a point to check in on her at least once a week and start some sort of dialog. The miles are great but I am hoping that the family ties are much stronger than the miles.

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My regular readers will remember reading about the not so sweet side of my dad. That is all true but I am choosing to remember the sweet side of my dad, especially now that he’s gone (he died in May of 2015).

One of these memories is of when my mom went to the hospital “to bring home” my little sister. My brothers were at school. My sister and I didn’t go to school yet. My dad stayed home to take care of us. I remember sitting in the corner of the kitchen, out of the way, next to my sister, while my dad mopped the floor. He was cleaning as much as he could while my mom was gone so she would not have to do it when she got home. So he scrubbed the floor then waxed the floor while we sat and watched. He talked to us the whole time. When he was finished and the floor was dry, he moved the chairs back to the table and we sat as he baked cookies. We weren’t used to him baking or cooking but when he did do it, we knew there were be special sweetness to enjoy. He didn’t use a recipe. He just did what he remembered. He made little bite-sized cookies for us. They had anise in them and were covered with powdery sugar. They were delicious. My mouth waters for them when I remember.

A few years later, I remember him making candy for us. He hammered a nail on the kitchen wall and when the candy was “cooked” and cool enough to touch, he hung the mixture on the nail and began to pull it into a long, thing rope, pulling over and over until it was just right. Then while it was still pliable, he cut it into little pieces, just big enough for our little mouths. It was delicious pulled taffy. He didn’t do that often but when he did, it was such a treat, not just the edible kind but the kind that made us look up to him with smile and sweet love and anticipation.

That’s the part I like to remember when I think of him. That, and dancing with my feet on top of his; “reading” the newspaper with him before I could read; having him push me on the swings; listening to the stories he told us about his childhood.

I hope you all have wonderful, sweet memories of your dad to look back on.

Happy Father’s Day.


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The other day, I went out to look for Toblerone bars to put in my grown kids’ Christmas stockings.  I didn’t want the huge bars.  I was looking for some smaller ones that are actually hard to find.  I went to three stores and didn’t find them.  Finally, at Fred Meyer I decided to get the bigger ones because I could not find the small ones.  While I was in the candy aisle, there was an older gentleman stocking up on boxes of chocolate assortments.  He was looking for one brand in particular.  I don’t remember the brand but I know it was not a brand I had ever heard of.  He put about 30 boxes into his shopping cart.  An older woman came around the corner into the aisle and made a comment about him not leaving any for anyone else.  He smiled and said there were still two big boxes  in the back and he would pull them to the front of the shelf so they would be easy to find.  He did just that as she examined one of the boxes in his cart and asked what was special about those particular chocolates.  He explained that they are made in the town where he was born and raised and he grew up with them at Christmas time so now, every year, he buys them for everyone in the family and it has become a tradition.  They all look forward to those chocolate boxes.  She put the box back in his cart and maneuvered her cart past his saying she was looking for orange sticks.  I had just grabbed a box of orange sticks (a favorite of my mom’s when we were growing up) so I showed her where they were on the shelf.  So what did she do?  She loaded up her cart with about 20 boxes of orange sticks because she can only get them at Christmas time!

I got to thinking about candy and Christmas and my childhood.  I remember looking forward to the bulk hard Christmas candy assortment my mom used to buy.  She would put them in a clear class candy jar with a lid on it (which I later learned was called an apothecary jar) and they were so pretty in there.  She would let us have a piece each day as we got close to Christmas day.  By night time on Christmas they were usually all gone!  My favorites?  I loved the candy ribbon ones but there were also some little round shaped ones that had white in the middle with a picture in it.  I don’t know what those are called but I really enjoyed those.  I can’t seem to stop thinking about those Christmas candies and it has been about three days.  I think I’m going to have to go out and buy some so I can get it out of my system.  Don’t worry, I won’t get more than just one bag.  I’ll leave enough for everyone else!

Do you have a favorite Christmas (or other holiday) candy you remember from childhood? What is it?


Christmas candy mix, photo from fijis.com

(Originally posted in December of 2014)

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Note: This was originally posted in 2008. It is one of my favorite Christmas stories because it brings back the magic of Christmas that most of us had long, long ago.

I grew up in a large family.  There were seven kids plus my mom and dad.  My dad was the only one who worked, as was the norm in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My dad drove a fork lift at one of the local canneries.  The only way there would ever be any money for Christmas gifts was for my mother to save money in a Christmas Club account at the local Bank of America where she made a weekly deposit.

One year my brother David, who was about eight years old that year, fell in love with a toy he saw on a TV commercial.  It was a cannon that shot hard plastic balls.  It was called the Mighty Mo.  The commercials showed the Mighty Mo crawling over and through rough terrain all on a miniature scale, of course, but it looked really neat.  The clincher was the footage of the cannon balls launching out of the Mighty Mo!

David had to have one but we were taught to not ask for anything, not even for our birthdays or Christmas so he couldn’t ask for one.  We lived a block away from Safeway and my mom used to send us on daily trips for the odd supply she needed before the next week’s big grocery trip.  Safeway carried a few toys then.  They placed them on the shelves high above the produce department as those shelves were normally empty.  On one of the trips to get something for my mom, David was thrilled to discover that Safeway had about two dozen Mighty Mos on their shelves!  After that day, David volunteered to go to Safeway every single time my mom needed something.

Every day David returned from his Safeway run to report exactly how many Mighty Mos were left on the shelf and every day, as the number dwindled, he gave my mom his report in a sadder and sadder tone.  First there had been two dozen then only eighteen.  Soon there were less than a dozen and when there were only four left, David was really sad. About three days before Christmas, David reported, with tears in his eyes, that there were no Mighty Mos left at Safeway.  When Christmas arrived, David was the only one of us that was not excited about it.  We all wanted him to be happy like we were but nothing got him excited.

On Christmas morning, we got up and my big brothers helped us girls get dressed and ready to go upstairs to open presents.  That’s what we did each year because it gave my parents a little extra time to get up.  When we got upstairs, David was the last one to go into the living room where the tree was with our Santa gifts unwrapped.  When he came in he found us all with huge smiles on our faces and our eyes intent on his face.  He didn’t know what was up until he looked under the tree and found his Mighty Mo with a big red ribbon on it!

We all enjoyed that Mighty Mo for several years.  David especially liked to shoot the cannon balls out of the Mighty Mo from the top of the stairs in the back yard.  It was a fun toy.  I only wish my brother David was still around to tell the story himself.

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Blogging From A to Z

Before I went to kindergarten, after my brothers and sister went to school in the morning, my mom would put my two little sisters to bed for their nap and then she would start doing all of her chores while I sat at the kitchen table and talked to her or. Later, we would watch I Love Lucy. One of the chores that took her a long time was ironing. She would set up the ironing board in a corner of the kitchen and as she ironed, she would listen to the radio. I loved listening to her sing because when she sang, her voice was strong and beautiful and she was happy.

One morning, when I was 4, as she ironed clothes and listened to the radio, I could tell she was sad. She wasn’t singing and the radio wasn’t playing music. Instead, as she ironed, there was a man’s voice, like the man that read the news over the radio, and he was talking slowly and very quietly, almost like he was whispering. As he spoke, tears found their way down my mom’s cheeks. I didn’t know what was going on but then, my mother called me over to her and we both knelt down and prayed. My mom prayed and I listened. She was praying for someone that was dying. After we prayed, we stayed kneeling on the floor, with our eyes closed, even though I wanted to get up because my knees hurt from kneeling for so long. The man on the radio whispered words and then there was silence. I opened my eyes and my mom was crying. I didn’t know what was happening. Then the man on the radio said it was over and the station started to play music again. Quiet music.

I asked my mom why she was crying and she said it was because someone had been killed; someone who should not have been killed. She said it was a man who was in San Quentin. I knew where that was because we lived near there and we drove by it sometimes when we went to San Francisco. I knew it was a place where they took bad people; people that had done bad things, so I didn’t understand why she was crying for a bad man.

Finally, we got up and she went into the bathroom to wash her face. When she came out, she put away the iron and all the clothes even though she wasn’t finished. That morning we turned off the radio and my mom let me watch Lucy and she went to go lie down in her room.

Caryl Chessman was the name I heard that morning and when my dad got home from work, they talked about how he had been killed for doing bad things and how it wasn’t right that he had been killed. I didn’t quite understand it. I wasn’t sure what it meant to be killed. I just knew that my parents were sad because someone bad had died and I didn’t understand it.

Caryl Chessman was convicted of a number of crimes committed in 1948 in southern California. After many years on Death Row, he exhausted his appeals and was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin Federal Penitentiary in the San Francisco Bay Area. His case was instrumental in the abolishment of capital punishment in California and brought worldwide attention to the issue of capital punishment. As I read about him to write this piece, I also read that moments after the process had been started to put him to death, there was a call from a judge staying the execution but the process had already begun and could not be stopped. There were a lot of issues with his sentencing as it seems that the prosecution wrongly applied a kidnapping law to the case. Caryl Chessman had twice dragged his victims away from their car a number of feet. That had been interpreted as kidnapping, making his crimes eligible for the death penalty. He was executed on May 2, 1960.

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