Old Toys

Presents come and go, you play with the toy for a while, then it’s relegated to a lesser favored pile.   There are some presents that survive despite the odds.   These are a few of the favored.

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This doll was a present to my mom in the mid 1930’s.   The doll had a perilous existence on the reservation.   She lost a few fingers to Joe, the dog (I think Joe was aided by Mom’s brother!).   They did not have electricity, so she was safe from that.   Much later I played with her and put the makeup on her.   She is wearing a dress made by my grandmother.   I’m not sure when she moved to the city, possibly my grandmother sent her for me.

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This book was a present for my father-in-law on his birthday again from the 1930’s.   It was probably his only present, because his father had died unexpectedly and they did not have a lot of money.   My father-in-law lived on a ranch ( 1 1/2 sections) in a very tiny town, where they raised a few cows.  (A section is a square mile, and the town doesn’t exist anymore.)   Standing next to the book is Howland Owl (probably mid 1960’s) from the comic strip Pogo.   He was the prize in a cereal box and perhaps my husband played with him, although my husband’s favorite toys were little green army men.   Howland survived because my mother-in-law would not throw away a dead skunk (and I love Pogo).

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These cardboard army men were in my husband’s grandmother’s basement.   She gave them to me because I collect toys, but they don’t really fit in with my collection.

I still have one of the many dolls I got for Christmas, but unfortunately she is hiding in a box somewhere.   I used to have her on display, then she escaped.

Traditions

The enduring part of any holiday is the traditions that accompany it.   There is a soothing quality to personal and family rituals.   Christmas traditions are a mixed bag.   Stores playing Christmas music starting November 1 have definitely worn out their welcome by December 1.  If I hear “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” or “Rum pum pum pum” one more time I may become homicidal.   Gift giving is fraught with peril, the ideal is to know a person well enough to select something that they like, want or need.   The reality is sometimes “you thought of me and got this?”

Part of what we think of as traditions is deeply influenced by Dickens and his accursed novella “A Christmas Carol”.   It was popular when first written and because the copyright has expired it has been endlessly made, re-made and parodied.  I saw a list that rank ordered versions of the story.   This made me wonder “what exactly is Scrooge’s crime?    He has a love of money, perhaps influenced by his early experiences.   But he is a hoarder, he’s not using the money for personal comfort and he’s not spreading it around in his neighboring retail establishments.   So with his transformation perhaps Scrooge is the patron saint of Christmas shopping, all because of his fear of ghosts.

My favorite part of Christmas traditions are my personal rituals.   It is hard sometimes to muster up enthusiasm on the short, dark days as the year winds down, but I somehow do it every year.   I always loved the Christmas tree and lights, there was something magical and extraordinary in them.   GA called the ornaments “vessels of emotional memory”, we see them and are carried back to the Christmases of the past and those we shared them with.  There is some idiosyncratic reason that we love certain ones and a reason we carry the memory.   It’s always nice to see them come out of their box for a brief visit.   I love cooking the foods of Christmas, ham, St. Louis gooey butter cake and steamed apple/cranberry pudding are essential and other foods make a short debut but don’t make the final team.    I love to keep traditions, yet it will still be a memorable Christmas even if I forge a completely new action.

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Hillbilly nippers

Here’s a picture from about 1934.   Seated is my dad and standing next to him is his half-brother.

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This was the big family secret that I only found out years after he died, that they were only half-brothers.  My great uncle told me the story when I said my grandmother had told me that my grandfather was “the handsomest man” that she ever laid eyes on.   This was a puzzler as no one would describe my grandfather like that.  So my great uncle told me the story:  the mystery man worked with my great uncle, he met my grandmother, they got married (?) and he left her before my dad was born.   Later my grandfather had moved to the city and lived next door to my grandmother.  When they married he made her a deal, she would never speak of my dad’s father, and would have no contact with his family.    She kept the deal, except for that stray comment.

My dad lived with his grandparents when he was little and was a native Russian speaker.  He was a boxer, an artist and a bum.  He died in 1992.

Reservation Nippers

Following the lead of GA I’m posting these pictures and a little story about their lives.

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This picture was taken in 1905 and it is of students at Tunassassa Indian School.   This was  a Quaker run boarding school for Indians.   My grandmother is the girl above the left shoulder of the matron in white.   My grandmother married another student from the school and had three children with him.   After he died she married my grandfather.  He had gone to Thomas Indian School.  They had two children, my uncle and my mom.

One of the many things my grandmother learned in school was how to quilt, and she is the reason that I became a professional quilter.

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This is my aunt in the raggedy dress that she had to wear at Indian School.   She was 14 years older than my mom and married when she was 18.   She had a stepdaughter and four children.   The other people in the picture are my grandmother and Ernst, who died in 1930.

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This is my mom.   She attended the local school, and went away to college where she met my father.  They were married for 43 years until his death.  She had seven children, me and my brothers.  She died after a long illness 2 years ago.

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She attended a one room school house, then went to high school with white students.  She hated to have to wear braids, and when she went to high school she cut her hair and never wore it long again.

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This is one of my cousins.   She was only a little younger than Mom and they grew up together.   She married, had children and lived next to my aunt on the reservation.  Her husband was the only native speaker of Iroquois that I ever met.   She was an elderly woman the last time I saw her when I visited the reservation.  Because we lived so far away, we did not get to see these relatives very often, although I did spend a summer with my aunt.   My older brother moved to the rez before he joined the Marine Corps and met his wife there (she was a friend of my cousin Jenny).

 

Winter sky

Because the mountain sits to the west of town, the sun goes down pretty early in the winter.  But we sometimes get fabulous skies because the sun is still shining on the clouds.  The sky lights up in golden splendor until the sun sinks a little lower into darkness.

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

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Deer – Real and Fake

We have a lot of deer in the city.   They come down out of the mountains and like what they see,  plenty of watered landscaping,  streams, and not too many predators.   They live in town year round.

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They’re pretty secure and not really afraid of people.   However, they might reconsider once they have seen this:  the invasion of the fake deer.

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Just like the recent invasion of giant spiders they seem to be taking over!   I hope the real deer band together to fight this threat.

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She turned her head so she didn’t have to look at the fake deer in the garage!   😉

Holiday

Thanksgiving

I’m not sure if the real holiday is Thanksgiving or Black Friday.   Thanksgiving has it’s roots in the Christian idea of having a special feast to give thanks to God.   Pilgrims are usually cited, although a possible prototype is the 1621 feast put on by the Native Americans for surviving English Dissenters.   It was not declared a federal holiday until 1863 by Lincoln.  He declared the last Thursday in November to be a national day of thanksgiving.   Franklin Roosevelt moved this to the fourth Thursday in 1940 to give an economic boost to the country (another example of his fuzzy thinking, perhaps he is the father of Black Friday).   It has become the official kickoff to the Christmas shopping season.   The Black in the name is not supposed to be ominous, it means that stores are out of the red ink and into the black.   So everybody has deeply discounted sales and there is a mad crush to scoop them up.   The sales used to start at midnight, but now they have crept into Thanksgiving Day itself.

Thanksgiving Day involves massive quantities of food usually eaten with family while watching American football.   Many years ago only two teams were willing to play on a holiday, so now they always get to play (and make the extra TV money).  My Thanksgivings are patterned after my paternal grandmother’s feasts.   She loved to cook but always complained about how much work it was.  When she had her house built, there was an “nice” main level with a formal dining room topped by a bowl of wax fruit (if you consider plastic runners on the carpeting and old towels that covered the furniture to protect it ‘nice”, ) and a finished basement with a kitchen.  So we were always relegated to the basement.  One thing that she said to me which sums her up is: “Gee you look fat, come in and have something to eat.”

Mr. Google said that the most requested recipe in the state is something called “frog eye salad”, which has round pasta, coconut, pineapple, mandarin oranges, miniature marshmallows and whipped topping, but no actual frog’s eyes.   It will not be on my menu.

Me and Miss Dog will have roasted turkey, mashed potato and gravy, Waldorf salad, my grandmothers salad, corn pie and pumpkin pie.  Her birthday is celebrated on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so she’ll get an extra feast then and a new squeaky toy.

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Fly tippings

I started keeping little books of quotes I liked a couple of years ago.   They are interspersed with little drawings, grocery lists and phone numbers.   My friend the librarian told me that such things are called ‘commonplace books’.  The quotes are quite idiosyncratic, just whatever struck my fancy at the moment.  They are things that I read, and lines of dialogue from movies and tv that struck me as funny.  GA sent me a link on fly tipping and that started me on a new conceptual art project.

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Rita Mae Brown in some novel.

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This quote is either by Ian Rankin or a TV writer and was from an episode of Rebus.

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Neil Gaiman in “Sandman”.   These skeletons and roses were a present from the teacher in a sewing class.

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I don’t remember the source or why I wanted to use this, but here it is.

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And this quote is for you GA, from Dennis Severs in “18 Folgate Street: A Tale of a House in Spitalfields.

I was at the store and some young clerk asked me what I had been up to today.   He was rather surprised when I said ” making art”.   I guess I don’t look the part.

I was excited about doing a new project, so thanks for push GA.   I expect that I will do more of these later.