Mothers Diary

pink devil Our youngest is a miniature crime wave. He was the terror of the household before he was a year old and could have poor Steve trapped in a corner of the playpen howling for help. Nothing was safe from his marauding fingers – he pulled down curtains, upset ashtrays, pushed scatter rugs around, tore magazines, broke toys and a corner of the tablecloth hanging down from a table all set for dinner was definitely a challenge to him. When he invaded the kitchen on his own, the pots and pans, oranges and onions simply flew. What he could reach was easy prey; what had been carefully put away from him just took a little longer to manage. He could climb before he could walk and I have found him on top of the piano, having himself a blissful time with the best photographs.

Since he has learned to walk, his misdeeds have multiplied themselves by ten and great is the trouble and destruction thereof! We literally do not dare leave him anywhere alone. If he is upstairs by himself more than two minutes, we know that we will go up later and find everything detachable from every room thrown in the bathtub. One of his most deplorable habits is poking small articles away in every hole and crevice he can find. Once a peculiar odor in the house had me annoyed and puzzled for days, but I couldn’t find the source until on an impulse I opened the little door at the base of the hot water heater. There was a scorched, melted mass of what was once a bar of soap! Periodically we have a grand overhauling of davenport, chairs and registers, to unearth his loot – everything from spoons and playing cards to mittens and socks. However, many things never do turn up. One of a $1.47 pair of hose disappeared from the drying rack in the bathroom. I searched everywhere and even apprehensively tested the plumbing but all was apparently in order there. I never have found the stocking. Likewise with six knives out of a set of eight and the use of knives at the dinner table was reduced to a community affair until I was able to obtain more.

I wish I could be around when the houses we have lived in are torn down so as to recover some of our property.

He is a thrower, too. My husband thinks it is good sign that he will be a famous baseball player someday, but I maintain that it is not safe to live around anyone who would just as soon hurtle a hammer through the air, as pound a nail with it. ballAnd it’s expensive, too. Five windows broken is the toll so far this fall – the latest one in the basement of the church while I was attending my first meeting of the Woman's Association. I frankly admit that I was embarrassed but all the ladies came nobly to my rescue with comforting reassurances. It is positively amazing how one child's delinquency can call forth tales of past misdeeds of offsprings in other families. It is easy to forget that one’s own child doesn’t have a monopoly on mischievousness. And it is consoling to learn from other mothers that their successful sons and daughters once broke windows and talked out loud in church.

I was in the Stoltzfus home the other day when the six o'clock whistle blew. The baby, not quite two years old, scrambled to his feet and rushed to the door, shouting, "Daddy coming now." Mercy – my children aren't that smart. They do pretty well with hammers and nails though. My husband, recalling a favorite pastime of his boyhood, routed out a couple of short logs and a hammer apiece for the boys. They spend many absorbing hours – and I mean hours – pounding nails into the up-ended logs. Two bruised thumbs and a lump on Steve's head are the only casualties so far.

I have never seen as many young looking women anywhere as I've seen in Manson. I just get some woman labeled in my mind as a young matron and am told that she has a son or daughter in the service. As my daughter frequently says, "I can’t get over it."

They let me wear an inkstained apron in the print shop now, so I guess I'm accepted as an official helper. I prowl around, ask questions, make uncalled for comments, get in everybody's way and sniff the newspaper atmosphere. And on Thursdays in spite of the bosses pointed remarks about the "speed demon" at the mailer – I love it!!

(back to top)

Mothers Diary
Our daughter visits her father in his office every afternoon in the interests of demand and supply, varying her requests occasionally, as she has discovered that it isn't good policy to ask for a nickel every day. She entered the office as usual last Friday while S/Sergeant Harlyn Nelson, home on furlough from England, and his father, A. E. Nelson, were visiting. She interrupted their conversation long enough to find out that she shouldn't wait to go home with Daddy.

  • Then, "Any mail?"
  • "No."
  • A happy thought, "Any gum?"
  • "No."
  • "Just a minute," interposed Mr. Nelson, "I think I have some," and he as he produced a stick for the blissful girl, S/Sergeant Nelson grinned.
  • "That reminds me of England," he said, "There all the English children say to the Yanks they meet, "Any gum, chum?"

This, in a small way, gives us a tantalizing glimpse into the future when our boys are home again from all parts of the world. They will be reminded constantly of little incidents and stories, and in time, we will all have definite whole pictures of lives that are foreign to us.

It seems that Mr. Woodworth, in a loyal and patriotic mood promised the members and substitutes of the football team, a malted milk each if they won the game last week. So when he came into the drug store late Friday afternoon to announce the victory and "Better start making malted milks," it threw our "coke" girls, Betty and Colleen, into a complete dither. Their rejoicing was tinged with apprehension and despair as they darted aimlessly about, casting anxious glances at the clock and jumping nervously every time a car honked or the front door banged.
"Thirty three malted milks!" they gloomed. "Won't it be awful if they all come in at once?"

We had a wiener roast in our back yard the other night. It was a bit chilly and we had to stand up to eat. The fire burned erratically and some of the wieners were burned. I got razzed for bringing out napkins, and the coffee had to be rushed back to the kitchen for reheating. The youngest was less interested in eating than he was in hurling small sticks and pebbles into the fire. It was dark by the time we got all the paraphernalia herded back into the house, but aside from all this, we all had great fun – even my husband, who as a rule, thinks it is absolute folly to forsake the dining room table for the great outdoors at mealtime.

I have always had a quarrel with advocates of "The melancholy days have come, the saddest of the year." To my way of thinking, autumn is the exact reverse of melancholy. The skies and sunsets (I seldom see sunrises, so I won't even mention them) are never so bright as now, and the flowers and trees are at their grandest in the fall of the year. Even on rainy days, there is something crisp and energetic and decisive in the air. Autumn is a revival of business, and meetings and clubs; a period of quickening interest in new and different clothes, hair-dos and make-up.
Give me autumn, with a flaming maple tree against the setting run, and the scent of burning leaves drifting down the wind.

Soldiers and their obstacle courses have nothing on me. It is mere routine for me to hurdle a string of chairs to get across the room, or to climb over boxes and baby beds and toys to get from one room to the other or to reach the stairway.
Do you have a little cherub in your home who likes to play train?

Whenever my inferiority complex is working overtime, I bolster my ego by casually mentioning my Spode. "It's the buttercup pattern." I say offhand as if Spode was a commonplace thing in my life, and listeners never fail to look impressed.
How are they to know that my Spode consists of but one gravy boat, and cracked at that!

Saying 'Thursday' for 'thirsty' is not peculiar to my own children I know. But one day Steve came tearing in the house, "I'm 'thursday' – I’m 'thursday'." Then after a couple gulps from the full water glass, he eyed me thoughtfully. "If I drink all this water, would I be Sunday?"

(back to top)

Mothers Diary
Regardless of the ironing, the children, the meals, and my regular stint at the office last week, I took to my bed with a hot water bottle and spent the whole day there. This was made possible in part by the aid of our very good neighbor, Mrs. Tom Tiernan, who came to entertain the boys for the afternoon. She provided them with cookies and apples and stories, and was in turn regaled by Steve's accounts of our family's history, past and current. (I have since informed my husband that we must, in the future, by very careful of what Steve sees and hears about our household!) Toward evening I had a tray of tea and toast beside my bed, which procedure reduced the children to fascinated awe.
The next morning, Steve pronounced himself too ill to arise and after a decent interval of calculated moaning, insisted on breakfast in bed; a breakfast, by his own personal order, consisting of a large dish of farina, orange juice, milk and bread and jelly. After this "invalid" repast had been consumed, he explained that he "felt gooder now," nimbly got out of bed, and proceeded with his usual activities of the day.

In a recent letter from my mother, she wrote, "I just got two apple pies ready for the oven, one to take to the dinner for the lodge, and the other one is for the heathen." That remark took me straight back to afternoons after school as we rushed to the kitchen for snacks. We would often find a cake, or a pie, or rolls, etc., waiting on the table, but we usually didn't get excited until we determined what it was for. Too often it was for the church, or the lodge or a bake sale, which meant hands off and frustrated hopes. One afternoon, we challenged Mother concerning a particularly delectable treat, and she told us with a twinkle that it wasn't for the church this time, but "for the heathen," meaning us, of course. So after that, it was a family joke in our house, and we were always glad when she baked for the "heathen."

I dream of entertaining at gracious dinners with gleaming silver, tall candles, perfect service, and muted, correct conversation like stories I read. But so far, dreaming is all that I've done about it. Our entertaining is always a particularly mad, hectic affair, to the tune of three children, very much seen and heard, last minute rushing, things forgotten and usually climaxed by some dreadful mishap that provides laughter for days afterward. If I'm not ironing napkins, cleaning silver, or putting up clean curtains at the last minute, I've probably forgotten to do it at all, and I don't know which is worse. Very often, the guests have to help get the food ready, if they expect to eat, and as we practically always serve buffet style, they have to help themselves too, when it's finally ready. I am not very efficient at anything, and entertaining is no exception. But the worst part of it is the terrible things that happen.
Once we had a make-your-own sandwiches buffet. After the guests had gathered their own makings and seated themselves, I came upon my husband standing plate in hand, before the table, looking a bit puzzled.
“You say we're supposed to make our own sandwiches?”
I was impatient, "Of course, you know that! Don’t be silly!"
"Well, - where's the bread?"
So I had to fly with a platter of bread to the polite but helpless guests in the living room. "Would you like some bread to go with your sandwiches?"
Another time, we had some WAVES, very attractive girls, whom we had never seen before, and as I had been particularly foresighted, everything was going beautifully, and everyone, even the children, were being very correct, refined and elegant. The girls were seated at a card table with their filled plates and cups before them. I sat down and my sister was approaching as one side of the card table buckled under, and we sat frozen, while plates, cups and silver slid to the floor and lay in a broken mass with bakes beans, sliced mat, celery, cranberries, soaked bread and pools of coffee.
"Well," I said, "Thank goodness, the sugar bowl is right side up. It was the last cup of sugar from my last sugar stamp." And then all formality was at an end, as we scurried to scoop up the remains. The WAVES invaded the back porch (that I hadn't bothered to clean up because I couldn't imagine why WAVES would find any occasion to visit the back porch) to get the dust pan, brooms and mops, and we all reset the table, and went after more food. The evening was a huge success.
One evening we had the teachers for supper and Steve went to the bathroom, and pranced back into the room with all his clothes over his arm, to be dressed again.
And then there was the time that – but I could go on and on. There are always misadventures for hostesses to agonize over. The only difference is that other hostesses can at least suffer in secret or behind closed doors of the kitchen. When things happen in our household, everyone gets involved.
But I love to entertain!
The latest quirk of Bruce, the youngest, is neatly rolling up all the scatter rugs and tucking them in a bed. No matter how often I put them back where they belong, they always seem to be rolled up on the bed.

(back to top)

Mothers Diary

I almost didn't catch the train for Waterloo Friday evening. Ruby and I got down in time to buy my ticket and park my bag with Mr. Spangler and have plenty of time for a cup of coffee at Jim's Café. As we were talking with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson and leisurely sipping coffee, we thought we heard the train whistle, and we tore out of there in a hurry. We panted up to the station to find the train almost ready to leave and Mr. Spangler peering anxiously around the corner of the depot.
"Well," he said, "I wondered if you were going to make it. I have your bag right here," and he thrust it into my hands and practically pushed me onto the train just before it pulled out. Whew! Never a dull moment with me.
But as A. G. Buckhorn says in the current Ladies Home Journal, "Monotony is the awful reward of the careful."

I really have an awful time with trains. Sunday morning in Waterloo, my sister got me to the station in plenty of time to catch the 8:30 train, to discover that it would be at least four hours late. I didn't mind that but I did mind getting up so early to no purpose.

I always say that riding on a train is just a bore and a waste of time, but this trip was profitable in that I met two people from Manson whom I hadn't known before, I had nice talks with Miss Birkey from a school south of town and Mrs. Jordan, who teaches in the Manson school. As a former schoolteacher, I always feel a special kinship with other teachers.

While my father-in-law was spending some time in the office the other day, he met Rev. Meier, and as grandfathers often do, they discussed their grandchildren.
"Somehow," said Grandpa Meier, "grandchildren are different from your own children. When my girls were little, my study was forbidden ground. If they came in, I chased them out saying, 'run along now, I’m busy.' If they ventured to open a drawer, I'd slap their little hands away. But my granddaughter sits on my lap while I'm working and takes things out of my drawers at will. Then when she leaves, Grandpa patiently puts everything all back."

Monday evening while I was busy in the kitchen, my daughter interrupted her reading by calling out, "Mother, what does this spell? 'n' with a stick in it, upside down 'n' 'n' 't' 'i' 'n' and an 'o' with a tail." I had to investigate to inform her that it was 'hunting.'Girl reading
Which reminded me of another family joke when I was a girl at home. Once when my mother was busy getting a meal and trying to supervise my sister's reading at the same time, Min asked, "What's this word?" Mother, being too involved at the stove to look at the book said, "Spell it?" and Min answered, "It's three little hills and a pigtail." This was too much for Mother so she left her cooking and also investigated. After that, at our house, "me" was always "three little hills and a pigtail."

Somewhere in the Marshall Islands Darrel Snow of the Merchant Marines and formerly of Laurens was called from mess and went outside to have a perfectly strange sailor greet him familiarly. "Hi, Darrel," The sailor, Donald Gerth, finally had to identify himself. As uncle and nephew who hadn't seen each other for over five years, they had a wonderful time getting acquainted all over again and spent some hours together talking over old time in Iowa.
Stop me if you've heard this one but it's a small world, isn't it!

After Mr. and Mrs. Donald Welch brought their brand new baby home from the hospital, the four-year-old son, Denny, inspected him thoroughly.
"Well," he observed solemnly, "he hasn't any teeth yet, but he's got the things there to put 'em on."

(back to top)