Thursday, September 16, 2010

From Pets to Post People: a Mishmash from My Youth -- Chapter 15

I thought it over and decided that I was not going to be able to wrap up college and meeting my husband all in one last post, and that I still had some things from childhood I wanted to write about, but hadn't quite fit into one year or another.  So this chapter will be about aspects of my childhood that spanned several years.

Prinny with Aunt Pat and Emily
I was not a kid that asked my parents for a puppy for Christmas.  In fact, I never really remember asking for a pet.  But when we GOT the pet, it was very exciting to me!  Our first acquisition was a kitten -- we got her when I was about 7, I believe.  We named her Peaches because she was a tabby cat with spots of peach, though people were often puzzled by her name because she didn't stay very peach.  We called her "Pish" and all manner of other silly names because we just thought she was adorable.  She slept on the end of our bed, and Anna and I took great comfort when Mom told us that she would be our little fire alarm if there were ever a fire (I was very scared of house fires).  Peachy had the habit of sleeping on a kitchen chair, and pretty frequently was disturbed from her naps by a kid pulling out the chair and nearly sitting on her.  After we moved to Green Bay, she had kittens (we got her fixed after that), much to our joy!  5 little cute kittens that we named after food:  Oreo, Fudge, Marmalade, Stroganoff, and Toast.  We gave away Marmalade and Stroganoff to our friends the Schuhs, and Oreo ran away (oh that cat had MEAN back claws).  Anna would put Fudge in a doll stroller and feed him cat food made soggy with water with a spoon.  That cat let her put doll dresses on it -- which is sort of the cat every little girl would want.  We had Toast the longest.  He lived in 3 states with us, and was in the tiny airplane when we flew from Montana to Illinois.  Sadly, Peaches ran away when we lived in Green Bay, and probably was living happily among the cows at some farm.  Anna was broken-hearted when we had to move, and Dad took her around to all the neighboring farms looking for that cat, but was unsuccessful.  My sisters got other cats later on, but those were the cats that really were part of my life.

We got a Border Collie when we moved to Green Bay, and named her Princess.  She wasn't all pampered or anything, so her name didn't actually fit super well.  We usually called her Prinny (people probably thought we were saying "pretty").  She was a very good dog, largely due to the training school my mom took her to.  She obeyed simple commands well, and never dreamed of jumping on the furniture.  When we told her "Prinny, go lay down", she'd trot away, panting happily at you, just in case you changed your mind and wanted her to come back so you could scratch her head.  She was a great dog to have in the country because she sounded the alarm if ever anyone drove down the driveway.  I'm sure she protected us more than we knew.  When I was a teenager, I enjoyed going for walks into town, and I was only allowed to go alone if I took Prinny with me.  She was a great walking buddy.  Mom walked with her for years, and I walked with her for a few years as well.  Early on, she wore her leash all the time, which we thought was normal.  Apparently most people don't leave their leash on their dog in the house.  When we had a pool in Montana, Prinny had to stay inside where she couldn't see us, because she'd freak out, thinking we were drowning.  In fact, she made her little feet pads all sore from running around and around on the cement by the pool, barking at us to get out of the water.  Poor dog had cancer while I was in college, and Mom had to take her to put her down when I was a junior.  That was the only dog I had. 

Mom was a great one for teaching her kids to work.  We always helped with stuff around the house as long as I can remember (for instance, I recall washing dishes standing on a chair).  There were several eras in which we had EXTRA work to do, when we were moving, and showing the house frequently, when Mom was pregnant, etc.  There were long stretches of time when the 3 of us older kids woke up, made our beds and tidied our own rooms, wiped down a bathroom each, vacuumed and dusted our assigned rooms (I had living room), all before breakfast.  It actually went incredibly fast because we did it every day so it never got horribly dirty.  We also had several experiences with "once a month cooking".  Mom wanted to have meals planned out for several weeks when she was pregnant, so we helped in the kitchen ALL DAY on those occasions.  That was probably when I really learned about cooking.  Before that, I learned small things, and even "made dinner" a few times, but when I think through knowing about food and ingredients, it's those "Dinner's in the Freezer" events that stand out in my memoryIt was so smart of my mom to teach us that!

When I think of chores, I cannot help but tell about "post people".  Mom had seen this idea for making little people to stand by your front door, you know, decorating the stoop, and decided for herself and the 3 of us to begin a little family business.  Mom had taken some woodworking classes and built a quilt hutch, so she was all about saws and things.  This business began when we lived in Montana, where we mainly made scarecrow post people (for fall decor).  The body of the scarecrow was made from a telephone post cut down to 3 feet or so, and his appendages, including a crow were all painted separately and attached.  Anna and I did the majority of the painting after Mom showed us what she was thinking.  Nate did a lot of the woodcutting and sanding and assembling.  Mom painted the details, like faces.  These sold incredibly well.  Think about the early '90's and the craft/country craze!  We added snowmen, Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Angel to our Christmas collection. . . all sold well.  We did Uncle Sams in the summer -- he was the dreaded order because you had to paint striped pants and a jacket and vest which was way more work.  I tell you I could paint a Santa beard on a telephone post in my sleep to this day.  When we lived in Illinois, we used the basement as our primary work area (the saw was in the garage, so Nate worked there).  Some days, right before big events or rushes, it felt like we stayed in the basement from morning til night. . . Anna and I got a little loopy from the paint and the hours (she was staining the bases, so I'm sure she inhaled more fumes, haha!).  I invented this idea that a creepy "Mole-man" lived in the crawl space off the basement, and lurked there watching us paint (he was very white because he did not go into the light).  Surely he was the one who left paint cans open or forgot to rinse the brushes, right?  The Mole-man legend has endured over a decade, and just so you can truly imagine him, his voice sounds like Joe Paterno (can you tell I was into college football when I invented him -- haha!).  Our business did pretty well, and we all had decent money in our savings accounts from it.  We sort of halted once Nate and I got jobs at the IGA, but the post people and the Mole-man live on.

Vintage Clothes
One really fun thing that I did as a teenager was model vintage clothing for the parks district.  We would wear these outfits owned by one of the employees and she would talk about them at lady's teas or WWII vet lunches.  Since I LOVED history, and LOVED experiencing other eras like this, it was a fantastic experience for me.  When I went through my heavier phase I was limited to wearing only certain gowns (this one green suit from the Victorian Era was one).  My friend Misty had a teeny waist and got to wear the bicycle bloomers outfit (which everyone ADORED) as well as the corset/undergarments (which everyone freaked over).  No fair!  After I slimmed down, I could then wear cuter 40's suits and things, which I loved very much.  Anna and I and quite a range of our friends all modeled together at some point, and started buying some vintage things ourselves.  Enter my love for red lipstick and nail polish and cat-eye sunglasses.  Once Susan (the lady who owned all the clothing who we volunteered for) took us on a big shopping trip to these places she knew had amazing collections of vintage clothing.  It was seriously one of the best shopping trips ever.  We tried on 50's wedding gowns, depression-era formals (almost had Mom convinced to buy it for me!), and gobs of DRESSES.  I have had many dreams about those stores in my life.  I bet the clothes didn't even cost too much, it just seemed like it to us because we were broke teenagers who shopped at Goodwill.
So I have REALLY enjoyed this journey with Mommy's Piggy Tales.  In fact, I just am not able to end it here.   So this 15th post, which is supposed to be the last, will be followed by at least 2 more.  If you want to continue to journey with me in my youth, feel free to check back the next couple of Thursdays, even though I won't be able to link up at MPT! *** EDIT: during the young adult memories version of Mommy's Piggy Tales, which I will be linking up to on Mondays starting Oct 11th.  I promise to tell some college stories (got out the college scrapbook. . . yesssssssss.) and the story of me and Josh. :)


Eos Mom said...

I love these stories, especially about the vintage clothes--sounds like so much fun! I love history and mid-1900s fashions--what a neat experience!

Ginny Marie said...

I always wanted a pet when I was growing up, but my mom and dad wouldn't let us get one! Your dog was just adorable, and I could totally picture Peaches when I read your descriptions!

I'm so glad you enjoyed Mommy's Piggy Tales! I did too, and I loved reading your posts as often as I could!

I will be guest hosting "Young Adult Years" on Mondays at Mommy Piggy Tales, and you can link up more stories! We are going to start on Monday, Oct. 11. Please email me if you want to sign up! lemondroppie (at)gmail(dot)com.

MommaHarms said...

I must admit disappointment about not hearing your love story - I watched it very much from afar since we weren't great friends in our college days. But, I did enjoy hearinmg about the vintage clothing!

Anonymous said...

LOL post people! painting the santa beard in your sleep...they did get a little sloppy after fifty million. ;) PISH! I called Rogue Pishy the other day and it just fell out of my mouth! I remember Peachy being coiled up in the rocking chair on that blue cushion. THE BEST! we could smooch on her all we wanted! Great memories. ;) Remember what dad said when we fought over her the day she arrived? "if you don't stop fighting over her, I'll put her back in that yella car".


Janette@Janette's Sage said...

This is fun...I too have felt I left so much out...but since I am so old it is funny that I am remembering all of that.
It has been such fun to read your Mommy Piggy Tales...seeing life through another generation has been great!
Enjoy finishing it your time table!!!

Emma said...

Enjoyed this post greatly...except it brought back some unpleasent memories...

One night, mom and dad were gone and the three of you were babysitting us. You usually worked on post-people during the day in the basement, but this particular time it was evening and you guys were working in the kitchen. Probably because it was a general rule that Abby and I weren't allowed down there which was torture for me. Anyway, I remember you guys started singing that "Hey there little red riding hood..." song...umm yeah. That song creeped me out to no end, and just added to the stress that I felt with mom and dad being gone. Whew...wolves... which I also though Prinny was.

Anne@LittleSproutBooks said...

Excellent way to add a handful of extra memories in your last chapter - wish I would have read your post as I was agonizing about mine...
Your story of the post people is hilarious! What a fun memory to have with your siblings!