Wednesday, December 8, 1999

The China Doll

Christmas at Granny Devine’s house was a magical time for me when I was a child. Our close knit family always gathered in her tiny home to celebrate the wonderful holiday season. This was the time that I looked forward to all year long.

Granny’s house was very tiny, only two bedroom, a kitchen and a living room. Sometimes we felt like sardines packed into crowded quarters, but no one seemed to mind. The adults situated themselves on the couch while the children gathered around on the floor. The house was so quaint and cozy that I always felt like I could stay there forever. Fluffy pillow adorned the couch, along with numerous hand crocheted Afghans. On the plain cherry table lay a cherished black Bible, its edges bent and worn from loving use. Beloved photos of numerous children and grandchildren peered down from the plaster walls.

Before artificial trees became widely used, Granny always had a real Christmas tree. I can still remember the fresh, green Norfolk pin tree standing in the corner, its branches smelling like the great outdoors. The needles always tickled my nose when I brushed close to them. Each branch was decorated with the festive wear of the holiday season; red, blue, green and yellow lights sparkling. Hand crafted ornaments loaded the tree…crocheted angels, beadwork orbs, and quilted squares. Glittering tinsel swayed with the gentle movement of everyone inside the house.

Ding-dong, ding-dong, dong-ding-dong-ding…the faithful wall clock announced the dinner hour. Everyone stepped across the creaky floor furnace to enter the teeny kitchen. The enticing aroma of the golden, glazed turkey reached our noses. The whirring of the mixer sounded as the dreamy mashed potatoes were fluffed with mounds of golden butter. Caramelized marshmallows topped the delectable candied yams, and the mouth-watering fruit cried out from the ambrosia salad. Oysters sizzled in their sauce of butter, milk and cracker crumbs as Granny took them out of her old gas oven. The oysters were my favorite part of the meal, and my own mother still fixes them just for me every year. The sweet fragrance of Granny’s homemade stuffing wafted through the entire house…yummy! There will never be another food that signals the beginning the holiday like Granny’s stuffing.

A handmade, Christmas cross-stitched tablecloth always covered the wooden table. Four chair and two stools were settled around the table for the adults to eat from, and the children were relegated to the living room coffee table. I can still remember the sharp corners of that table when I would accidentally run into them. After everyone was settle and a prayer of thanks given, the great passage of food platt34ers began. Clink, clatter, clink…each person heaped their plate to overflowing.

At the conclusion of the scrumptious meal the men r3etired to the living room and the great clean up began. The anticipation of opening the vast number of Christmas presents was overwhelming to us kids, but it was tradition to wait until the dishes were done before the first gift could be opened finally; Granny, Aunt Ginny Ann and my Mom finished the dishes and joined the rest of us in the living room.

My most memorable Christmas at my Granny’s began with my Aunt handing out presents to me and my brother and sister I was around eight or nine years old and I couldn’t wait to tear into my package, but as usual, we had to wait until everyone had a present before we could open anything. Ready, set, go…away we went, ripping the paper and ribbons. I loved all my presents, but this year held a delightful surprise. Granny had given me a china doll…my very first china doll. She was so beautiful with black hair on top of her creamy porcelain face. She had blue eyes, just like mine, and pink rosy cheeks. Her dress was pink with tiny white polka dots and she had a matching bonnet on her head. She even had a crinoline skirt and petticoat underneath her dress. I was ecstatic! It was such a grown up present and I was so happy that my Granny thought I was old enough to have my first china doll.

When the present were all finally opened and the wrapping and ribbons cleaned up, the kids watched television while the adults talked. This particular year, I took a long hot bubble bath in Granny’s miniature bathroom and changed into the new pajamas my Aunt had given me. I was all ready to go home to bed so I could wait for Old Saint Nick.

That was 1970 or 71, but I can still remember the excitement of that Christmas Eve. Rushing my parents home so I could jump into bed, listening to every creak of the house, just know that Santa would arrive at any minute. As for my china doll, Miss Betsy, she is still one of most treasured possessions. She holds a place of honor in my glass cabinet where I can glance at her every day. All three of my daughters have several china dolls apiece, but they don’t care for dolls as much as I do. My dolls are a significant part of my heritage and, although I have had many china dolls since Miss Betsy, none will ever remind me of Christmas, or my Granny Devine, like this one special doll.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, December 1999

Thursday, April 8, 1999

Dresses of Easter Sunday Past

The Easter season is upon us gain, albeit, a few weeks early than in past years. As we are busy helping our children learn about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are also posed with the fashion question … what will we wear to East Sunday worship services?

For some reason, our society is geared toward living life like some type of fashion show and church is the runway. In a time when we should be worrying about our Sunday school lessons, and living up to the Ten Commandments, some people seem to be more concerned about whether our shoes match our skirts, or whether our accessories are the most flattering. And Easter Sunday is the grand opening of the new spring fashion season.

Now, I have never been much into fashion. As long as I have a clean pair of jeans and my tennis shoes, I’m pretty much happy. But Easter Sunday means that I must, at least, make some kind of effort to look presentable. When it comes to my children, though, never fear, they were always ready for the season’s grand display.

When my three girls were all toddlers, they always wore lace and ruffles on Easter. They would be dressed to the nines … hat, gloves, lace socks, and new Mary Jane’s. Their hair would always be rolled in sponge rollers the night before, and then brushed and adorned with ribbons the following morning. Earrings, necklace, bracelets, and white shawl would always complete the outfit. I was always so proud when they received compliments throughout the day. It would give me that warm fuzzy feeling inside.

As my girls became school age, they began having more of a say in their Easter outfits. My only requirement was that the outfit had to be a dress or skirt, no pants. Boy, I should have been pickier! We have ended up with all types of outfits.

One year, Marie wore a sundress with large colorful flowers, purple shoes and a white and purple hat, not exactly my idea of an Easter outfit, but she loved it. One year, Amber insisted on a blue jean dress with her hiking boots. I held out for a long time on this one, but I decided, that in ten years, it wasn’t going to matter what she wore, as long as she was happy. So that Easter Sunday, she was a cowgirl.

Another year, bother the olde4r girls insisted on sleeveless sundresses and open toed sandals. They were so excited, but, you guessed it, it came about four inches of snow the night before. I let them wear their outfits anyway and I felt like the worst mother ever, because I knew they were freezing. But they didn’t complain, and they were so proud of their outfits.

My mother has a few baby pictures of me from an Easter Sunday long, long ago. I am dressed in a white and blue sailor outfit with a little white hat. I think this is one of my favorite baby pictures. At one time or another, all three of my girls have worn a white and blue sailor outfit for Easter Sunday. I think they are my very favorite outfits. They looked so cute, and they were not bothered by all that lace and ruffles.

I have long since given away the oldest two girls sailor dresses, but I still have Christine’s. She was only nine months old, and her dress was more blue than white, but she was just as cute. And instead of a little white hat, she had a matching headband. One of these days, I want to take that Easter picture of myself, and one of each of my girls, and frame them together as a memento of Easters past.

This year my girls are 17, 15, and 7; and it is hard telling what they will choose to wear on Easter Sunday. They are all head strong when it comes to clothes and they all three have very different tastes.

Several years ago I have in on the requirement that the outfit has to be a dress or skirt, mainly because I hate wearing dresses. As I’ve grown older, I have realized that God doesn’t care what I wear; he only cares what is in my heart. So as long as I try to live my life the way God intended, he doesn’t care what kind of package we come in.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, April 1999

Wednesday, February 3, 1999

Granny Devine and Sugar Cookies

In Loving Memory of
Ella Belle Camden Devine
October 21, 1914 to April 4, 1986

As the mother of three daughters, there are many things that we do together, some as a family and some individually. We do crafts together, write stories together, take bike rides together and watch movies together. And, although the girls are usually around to lend a helping hand – and sometimes an unhelping hand – when I’m cooking, I can’t remember ever baking cookies together. I have always been in a hurry with baking, or else I will do it while the girls are in school, but I don’t have any memories of me and the girls baking cookies together. But I do have terrific memories of baking cookies with my Granny Devine when I was a little girl.

Side by side, Granny and I would make sugar cookies in her small cramped kitchen. I remember my Granny’s house as being very small, but very big on love. When the entire family got together at Granny’s, we were packed in, but I can never remember anyone complaining. Anyway, the two of us would be steaming up the kitchen as we made our cookies. We would mix the ingredients and beat them all together, by hand – no electric mixer for Granny. We rolled out the dough on her kitchen/dining room table to the exact thickness. Then we would cut out the shapes and place them on the parchment lined cookie sheets. You know, I can only remember one shape of cookie, and that was circles made with an old glass from the cupboard. In to the warmed, gas oven the cookies would go.

Yummmmm … I can smell it now. That delicious scent of Granny’s sugar cookies baking in the oven. I always had to have the first one immediately out of the oven, uncooled and unfrosted. What a joy! We continued baking like this until all the dough had been used up. Thirty years ago, it was okay to eat the uncooked cookie dough, and I was always sneaking a lick off the side of the mixing bowl.

Once the cookies were baked and cooled, then came the fun part – frostings all our creations. Granny would have several different colors of frosting – red, blue, yellow and green. As I got older with a family of my own, I realized that these colors came from food coloring, but back then, I thought Granny was magic! We would frost and lick our fingers until all the cookies were done. Mine never looked as good as Granny’s, but she always told me mine were beautiful. What a compliment coming from my beloved Granny. When the icing was dry, we would pack the cookies in boxes and tins that my Granny kept stored under her bed. I, of course, got to take some cookies home to share with my family

My youngest daughter already has several memories that she loves to share with me, and one memory is of her and her Mamaw baking Valentine cookies for her preschool class. According to my mother-in-law, there was plenty of mess to clean up, but my daughter won’t remember that. What she will remember is being in the kitchen and helping her Mamaw with the baking.

What wonderful memories I have of my Granny Devine! She was such a caring and loving woman. I lost my Granny in 1986, but her memory lives on in the stories that I tell my childr3en. Will my children have memories of their own to share with their children? I hope so. We talk about the past quite a bit just so they can remember things like family traditions at Christmas or fun times at the amusement parks, or picnics in the park. I want them to be able to take great family memories into their futures. And my wish for the future … I just hope that I can be half the grandmother that my Granny was to me.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, February 1999

Saturday, January 2, 1999

A Far Cry From Perfect

Well, Christmas is over and the New Year is upon us. Where did the tie go? It seems like the older we get, the faster time slips through our fingers. We are powerless to stop it. All we can do is make the best of things. New Year’s is a time of rebirth, a time of hope, and a time of fulfillment. Resolutions are all around us … just waiting to start their magic.

This year, I want to be a better parent than I was last year. I try really hard, but I’m a far cry from perfect. I help with daily homework, constantly read new stories, and help cram for those big tests. I give suggestions on improvements and advice on resources. I lend a hand whenever needed and an ear when problems arise. I am a weekly school volunteer, I am active in the PTOs, and I offer help wherever needed. I have a tendency to not be able to say no. But sometimes my patience runs thin. Sometimes the arguments between my youngest two can break a camel's back. Sometimes I yell, sometimes I scream, sometimes I cry in vain. Sometimes the back talk, from all three, will test the best of saints.

So, instead of trying to be a better parent, I will try for a happy medium. I will continue o help while controlling my temper. Maybe, mommy needs a “timeout,” sometimes, instead of the girls. Maybe, mommy needs to go to bed early, or be grounded from her favorite things.

This year, I want to be a better Christian. I try really hard, but I’m a far cry from perfect. I read my bible, I pray each day, and I attend church, but no on a regular basis. I have drifted from my religion, and I can’t explain why. My girls attend church every Wednesday, and they are active in mission works, but where am I? I drop them off every week, then I hurry hoe to catch the news. After all, you don’t get much “alone” time when you have three children. To be a better Christian, I must start from inside. I must examine my reasons for straying, and then try to pull everything together. I must remember that I am a role model for my children. Monkey see, monkey do.

This year, I will be a better wife. I try really hard, but I’m a far cry from perfect. I give my spouse unconditional love and support, and I receive that in return. Sometimes we just sit and talk, even if there is housework to do. Sometimes we will watch television together, even if there are clothes to be washed. And we always have “date night” at least once a month. But, sometimes we both get angry, sometimes we snap and yell, sometimes we just don’t listen, and sometimes we don’t seem to care. I have many weaknesses that I must try to control, because, before I can become a better wife, I have to become a better person.