Letting Go of Stuff

My mother, Gail Lee Martin, lived into her late 80s. She was the family archivist carefully preserving her uncles’ WWI helmet, her father’s moth-eaten wool bathing suit from the early 1900s, and many more items entrusted to her care as the previous generation died.

Now, I’m 70 and as a Baby Boomer find that it makes me sad to let go of the earlier generations’ belongings. At some point, one realizes that you can’t keep everything, but choosing what to preserve and what to let go is very difficult.

I saw this in The Estate Lady’s blog and it hit the spot.

The older Boomers are so traditional and as loyal as their parents; they generally have a difficult time letting go of stuff.  They may feel a profound sadness in letting go of previous generations’ things, even as they realize the younger generation no longer wants these things.  They are in the middle of making tough decisions to keep or sell these items.

Yes, these are tough decisions. Sometimes you have to decide that a photo of an item will serve to keep the memory fresh even if you have no room for the what-not shelf that your great-uncle made. It isn’t that we don’t care about these ancestors, but recognizing that integrating dozens, even hundreds of their possessions into our already full home isn’t practical.

As it is, I’m clearing out lots of stuff that I’ve bought and no longer use.  It makes no sense for me to keep my own junk like a broken vacuum cleaner that I’ve already replaced while giving up something that is meaningful in my family. Decluttering meaningless modern stuff makes some room for treasured family items.

I’m also using some of the photos in nostalgic blog posts and in making some family history books. Hopefully, even when an item is no longer in the family’s possession, they will enjoy the memories in the blog and in the books which take up minimal space. 

4th of July

Stashed away in Gail Martin’s boxes of memorabilia are tokens of affection from children and grandchildren and even from the great-grandchildren. This item deserved to be brought out for the holiday today.

nikki flag art

It probably was displayed on Gail and Clyde’s bookshelf in the living room for some weeks before being preserved in the folder with cards, letters, and other bits and pieces. Let’s see, this one is from 43 years ago. That little grandchild who wielded the crayons is now a nursing home administrator with almost gown-up children of her own.

Hollyhock Dolls

When I think of Hollyhocks, I picture in my mind a cottage garden in England with all kinds of old-fashioned flowers crowding together. The Hollyhocks with their long flower stalks stand out from the mounds of lower-growing flowers.

Gail’s sister, CJ thinks of her childhood. “When I was a youngster, I made “dolls” with the flowers for skirts.” She said that the hollyhocks were there when she moved into her home in Kansas. Her niece, that she rents from and who lived there first must have planted them.
CJ says, “I totally ignore them, and they seem to thrive! They’re extremely self-sufficient. I do nothing to or for them; they come up every year, and this year (like a lot of other flowers) are more bountiful with flowers. My local horticulturist says it is due to the weird & long winter we had. Even the maple tree had way more “spinning” seeds than usual.”
Cj-Garriott pics of hollyhocks

Photos of the hollyhocks by C.J. Garriott

Her friend commented, “I only know Hollyhocks from the song, “English Country Garden.” So good to finally know what they actually look like! They’re beautiful.”

Browsing online, I found some pictures of children making the flower dollies. They put a toothpick through the center of the flower base and use a bud for the head. Some put a toothpick sideways through the base of the flower to serve as arms.

Plants From Your Pantry

(post by Virginia Allain) Last year in the spring, I took cuttings from some sweet potatoes that sprouted in my pantry. Covering them with a little soil in my patio pots enabled them to start growing. Before long they sent out nice vines that trailed nicely down the sides of the pots.

Sweet potato vine on the patio

Sweet potato vine on the patio

Now and then, I trimmed them back so they wouldn’t get too jungle-like. It reminded me of childhood times when Mom showed us how a carrot top or sweet potato cutting would put out roots if you placed it in some water.

That fall, I turned up the soil in some of the planters to put in fresh plants. To my surprise, my trowel struck something large and solid. Digging around the object, I turned up a large sweet potato. I checked all the pots where I’d put the cuttings and ended up with about 5 meals worth of the tubers.

Cooking sweet potatoes

I boil the sweet potatoes, then remove the skin, and mash them. Then I add cinnamon, nutmeg, milk, and brown sugar before baking it in a casserole dish.

I don’t usually grow vegetables in my containers on the patio, but since it was so easy to raise some sweet potatoes, I planted more this year. My crop wasn’t quite as big, but it took only a minimal amount of effort and it was free.

Have you tried planting anything from your kitchen scraps?

 

A Card for Dad

It’s Father’s Day which can be rather sad when your father is no longer there to hug or give a card or gift to. It always embarrassed Dad to have a fuss made over him, but I think deep down, he appreciated the attention. Even though he is gone, this special day gives us time to pause and remember what a special man our father was.

clyde and father's day card

Clyde Martin and a card that his daughter Karen sent him some years ago.

The rest of the message inside the card was well-chosen. It said, “for all the things that helped me grow, the staying close, the letting go, the honesty and humor too… for being real and being you.”

Too many cards featured images that just didn’t fit our dad. The sailboats, the formal tie, the golf scenes… Sis did a good job choosing this one with its thoughtful verse and earth-tone colors. Clyde Martin was a down-to-earth sort of guy.

The last part of the verse said, “for all your love, the gifts you give, the man you are, the life you live, for all these things and so much more, you’re the dad I’m thankful for. Happy Father’s Day.” Many thanks to Hallmark for this thoughtful, not-too-gushy card. Just right for our Dad.

karen and dad

I’ve always liked this photo of Karen and Dad. They are in the side yard of the El Dorado house.

Grandma’s Grade Card

My mom, Gail Martin, was the family archivist and after her death, the boxes of family papers passed to me. Among the minutia that survived from one generation to the next were some grade cards from 1911 and 1912. My grandmother, Ruth Vining (later McGhee) seems to have been a diligent student at the Tyro, Kansas grade school.

 Tyro, Kansas – Report Card 1911

ruth vining 7th grade report card 

What They Studied

There were the usual subjects of reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and history.  I was glad to see they studied drawing and music too. Orthography puzzled me. My sister said, “Surely it’s a form of orthology? An online dictionary says orthology – the art of correct grammar and correct use of words.”

A distant cousin who’s a teacher joined the discussion. Patricia Cummings Brown -“Orthography is the study of spelling. We just call it spelling now!

I said,  “OK, orthography sounds reasonable. I think it includes handwriting too.”

Patricia said, “No it is strictly spelling.”

It looks like Grandma Ruth excelled at orthography, as well as music, history, and geography. She was never tardy, but it looks like her deportment slipped in March from 100 down to 98.

Her teacher for the Eulalia Parks and the principal was Howard Hitchcock. The Parks family were prominent in early Tyro.

Tyro, Kansas – Report Card 1912

ruth vining 1912 grade card

Ruth Vining’s 1912 grade card from Tyro, Kansas school.

It looks like the school year started in September and ended April 26th. That gives the students four months off. That’s only 150 days of school instead of the 186 of modern-day schools. In farming communities, kids were probably needed at home to help.

I’m confused over the different ratings for being tardy and being punctual. Perhaps the first is for getting to school on time and the second is for completing the assigned work in class.

For the 7th grade, the principal, Howard Hitchcock taught the class.  This year, rather than general history, the students were taught Kansas history. Drawing and writing seemed to be Grandma Ruth’s less accomplished subjects. That seems odd, as later in life, she wrote short stories and even an entry in a screenplay contest where she won a prize.

I don’t have her 8th-grade report card or at least I haven’t found it in the box that I was exploring. The schools at that time had graduation ceremonies for completing the 8th grade. This photo, I suspect, is from that occasion.

scelian and ruth vining 1911 edited by kristy duggan

Ruth Vining with her older sister, Scelia.

Lace in June

Here’s a little poem by Gail Lee Martin. She only wrote a few poems, but this one drew some appreciative comments on the Our Echo site.

Bridal Flowers

In the month of June
our thoughts turn
to love and marriage
and our God envisioned
Queen Anne’s lace 
For the wedding flowers.

 Susan Hammett Poole commented, “When I see Queen Anne’s Lace, instead of weddings, I always think of my mother. These lovely lacy flowers (akin to the carrot family, of all things) grew along the roadway about a mile from our house and many times Mama would come home with a bucket full. She’d put some red food coloring in one fruit jar, some yellow in another, and some blue coloring in still another jar. Then she’d plop the flowers into the jars and wait several hours or overnight, long enough for the coloring to soak into the stems and out into the flowerheads. Voila! She would then arrange the beautiful pink, light yellow, and baby blue long-stemmed flowers into a bouquet fit for the real Queen Anne. We children thought it was magical!

Thanks, Gail for stirring up my memory with your poem about Bridal Flowers.”

IMG_8142

“Dear Gail, I see beautiful lace all around us on windows, doilies, delicate little hankies. Whether on windows, hair or polished wood, lace is always about letting the light in. You are a beacon of light for OurEcho.” Veronica

“Lace in any form lights up my day, especially Mother’s hand made lacy doilies. When I made family books for each of my 6 children I put one of my Mother’s doilies in the inside front of each book.” Gail

family history book doily

Doily, crocheted by Ruth (Vining) McGhee, displayed on the inside cover of a Martin family history book.

[poem and comments from the Our Echo site]