Thursday, December 15, 2011


 My grandmothers were such a wonderful, profound part of my life.  They always loved me, and they taught me a lot.  But some of our time together was very special.  I remember one summer when I was about three years old my Mom was busy with something, and hadn't the money or space to hire a full-time nanny.  So I spent half the the summer with each of my grandmothers.

My Dad's Mother was in Wisconsin Dells.  Most of my cousins were living in this summer resort.  I was in the middle of the cousins age-wise.  Grandma Kimball, my Dad's Mom, would pick berries and I ate as many as I could.  In later years I would pick along side her.  She picked at least twice as fast as I was, even when I was in college.

I remember that my Mom called her Mom "Ma" but my Mom wouldn't allow me to call her Ma!  Gramma Long lived in a very small village, and there was an outhouse.  It was a novelty, but not my favorite thing to use.  She cooked over a wood-fired iron cook-stove. And I can remember her skill.  She made donuts, which I had never had before that time.  There was a dog, and lots of cats.

My most vivid memory of that summer is about my hair.  I have lots of very thick, curly hair, even today.  Now, of course, it is short.  But until late in grade school it was mostly long.  My Mother would put it into ringlets after the weekly hair washing (I hated it!).  And each morning she brushed and tamed my hair into shape.  But the Grandmothers hadn't the practice that Mom had.  I don't remember how well, or not, they were at taming my mane.  But I am sure it was a challenge!

I had gone to camp the summer I was two.  My parents were teaching, and I was with a group of children of various ages. The counselors were very strict about keeping the children together, and not allowing them to sit with parents. We had meetings in a large tent, and I could see my Mom and Dad.  I escaped and went to sit with them, but someone came and got me.  I don't think I dared cry.

So . . . that week my hair went unbrushed.  My Dad tells me that he saw me with the group, my hair wild and tangled.  I don't remember what it took for Mom to get it back to shining orderly curls.

I also had an "Auntie."   Auntie Anna Esau wasn't really an aunt.  Though she was almost old enough to be a granny, she never married.  We had a wonderful friendship.  Anna adored me and I adored her.  Often people would stop and comment on how beautiful my hair was.  At the time I was less than five years old. I didn't know better when I went up to passersby and said, "Isn't my hair pretty?"  And, of course, they said yes, probably with a chuckle.  My Mom was mortified, but Anna just laughed and said, "She's just telling the truth!"

These days, I have a wonderful friend who has hair a lot like mine.  He has a hair salon, and tames the curls, now short, and makes them beautiful.  Thank you Ward Wicklund!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Music of Ireland

Today I listened to the "Irish Priests", one of my Christmas favorites, even though it isn't really Christmas music.  Dad heard the music and asked for the CD to listen to, and we got into a discussion about Ireland.  I think my Irish blood is about 4 or 5 generations back.  My Irish ancestors were part of the Long clan.  My Grandfather on my Mother's side was Vern Long.

My Dad has been to Ireland and I haven't - yet.  He learned quite a bit about Ireland however, when he went there.  He told me about a book:  How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill.  Cahill argues a case for the Irish people's critical role in preserving Western Civilization from utter destruction by the Huns and the Germanic tribes.  The Wikipedia entry is skeptical.  I would guess that there were many factors in European civilization, including the Irish monks toiling away at copying books. 

 We do know that Ireland has a long history of avoiding death as a penalty in any case.  We also know that St. Patrick brought Christianity, or to be precise, Catholicism, to Ireland.  Whether he got rid of the snakes is a very different question!  We also know that the Irish have music in their blood.  My Grandpa loved to sing, and it was one of the few ways of entertainment on the farm when my Mother was growing up.  Not so long before my Grandpa Long went to the nursing home, I went to where he lived, along with my Mother and her husband.  We all sang, even Grandpa.  It was quite wonderful.

No one can dispute the music and dancing of Ireland.  Both music and dance have been important for me as far back as I can remember.  I can't dance anymore in my arthritic body, but I can sing, and I do!  I love to hear beautiful music, especially if it is meaningful and/or fun.  And someday soon, I will visit Ireland in person.