Category Archives: West Virginia

“Off the Cuff” Musings

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There are a few adages, expressions and  sayings we all use in the course of

our everyday lives. I am sometimes amused how people are not familiar with

some of them. Like someone in their twenties, the other day looked at my work

shirt as I was entering my apartment building, having been in the dusty, dirty

warehouse working all day.

I laughed at the way she glanced down at my shirt saying, “I must look like Pigpen

to you!”

She looked at me askance, like, “Huh?”

I said, “You know the character in Peanuts?”

Still a blank look, then I mentioned Charlie Brown’s friends in the different

specials, listing Halloween (with the Great Pumpkin) and Christmas.

This was more of a cultural reference than a saying, but times are changing,

some of the next generation are not going to remember the comic strip,

“Peanuts,” by Charles Schulz, sad to say…

I have included some examples of when one or more of my grandchildren

‘misinterpret’ the meanings of different expressions or put their own

little ‘spin’ or twist on them.

At the end of this, I hope you will be able to add a few of your own and

may even have a story to share about one or more of these!

 

“Kids’ Logic”

When I recently found a penny on the sidewalk, I just could not resist

saying that old Benjamin Franklin adage, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Dear Marley (age 5, in kindergarten now) looked solemnly up at me and

replied, without missing a beat:

“I think  you need to find a better job, Nana!’

 

When I was singing the “Clean Up” song, made famous by Barney, the

purple dinosaur sung at daycares and preschools everywhere to get

the boys ready for the pool. I mentioned that I like to leave the house,

“picked up” so when I get home, I can sigh in relief. My oldest grandson

asked me if I needed the song to pick up things, “Does singing that song

motivate you, Nana?” Being 10, I should get used to his witty comments

but I had to smile for that one!

 

Then, since Micah was moving slowly, just plunking one toy at a time into

one of the little containers that collects toys, Skyler ‘told on’ his little

brother that he ‘wasn’t doing his job.’

I looked at Micah and said, “Are you passing the buck?”

He said, “You mean you hid a buck for us to find if we cleaned hard

enough?”

That cracked me up!

 

When we got to the pool, I mentioned that I had 3 cold bottled waters

and two cookies apiece for our first rest break. I explained we would

buy a snack at the 3:00 break. When it was approaching 2:45, I asked

whether the boys would like pizza or what is called, a “Walking Taco?”

They both asked for this, so I headed to the snack area, telling them

to meet me back at the towels or to come meet me to carry their snack.

Micah (age 5) scrunched up his face, “You are confusing me, Nana!

Which way do you want us to go?”

 

While we were lounging in the grass on our towels, Skyler made me

chuckle,

“Shouldn’t we be walking around with our taco?”

I replied that he was ‘so corny.’

He said, “Corny is, as corny does.”

I looked at Micah to see if he was confused but to him this made perfect

sense, I am corny, therefore my descendants will be, too.

 

Later, (just FYI, my 10 year old grandson is considered a Husky size 12)

when we were walking to the car leaving the pool, Skyler mentioned

a  fact I did not realize he was aware of,

“Now, Micah, we need to take off our bathing suits as soon as we get to

Nana’s house. Remember how I got ‘chafed’ the last time I wore my suit

around the house?”

 

When we were leaving to go to my house for a sleepover, I mentioned that

we were going to be able to go to a fast food place for dinner and should

choose it now, then we could do what Skyler suggested, wear our pajamas

and play a game of monopoly.  I added since I had just been paid I could do

this, when usually I try to cook when they come over. I asked the boys,

“Where would you like to go to order dinner?”

Micah got excited and said,

“I saw a commercial for McDonald’s and the fish sandwiches are “Buy

One, Get One For a Penny!” (also true of Big Mac’s, this past week.)

I smiled and nodded my head, watching the people in their cars trying

to maneuver out of the Mingo Pool and Park area.

Micah added with a tone that sounded very ‘knowing’,

“And Nana, I will have the one that costs you only a penny!”

 

When we were in the drive-thru, I ordered salads and sliced fruit,

then asked if the boys would like to have one of the $1 yogurt parfaits

later for dessert or I could buy them cones in a cup?

When Micah made a face, as the words, “yogurt parfait” came out of

my mouth, I could see his face. Skyler could, too. I had put the car in

park, behind a line of thru. I started to describe the layered parfait

that has strawberries fat vanilla flavored

yogurt.

Sky piped up,

“Don’t knock ’em, till you try ’em!”

When we were finished ordering, I made mention that I had never

eaten biscuits and country style sausage gravy. I was looking at the

breakfast menu for the morning.

Then I remembered I had milk and cereal. No pancakes tomorrow morning

but maybe I could make them cinnamon toast.

I went on to chat about at our work there is an annual fundraiser where the

breakfast includes this item, when you buy the meal the money goes to JDRF.

(Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund.)

I mentioned that my ex-husband, their other grandpa, “Poppy,” is diabetic.

He would not even be able to eat this food they serve, though the money may

help people with diabetes in the future.

Then I asked, “Do either of you like biscuits and sausage gravy?”

Instead of answering, Skyler asked why I had not tried this breakfast

food before? I replied back that my Mom and Dad, with my brothers

had grown up in Cleveland, where there are many Polish citizens. I have

had a lot of breakfasts where we ate kielbasa sliced up and fried or bacon

with our eggs. Oh, I love kielbasa cooked up with onions and potato with

cheese pierogis, too.

I reminded them that “Papa” (another grandfather) was a West Virginia

man. They like sausage and gravy. I do know how to make hamburger gravy,

which he liked very well, served over buttered toast.

Micah then retorted, “Those are two different things, that is like comparing

apples to oranges!”

Skyler told me this is one of his newest favorite expressions that Micah picked

up at the babysitter’s. He also encouraged me to try sausage gravy, since it is

like Sam, the guy in “Green Eggs and Ham,” (Thanks to Dr. Seuss for this one!)

who eventually tried green eggs and ham and loved them both, everywhere you

could imagine.

When I was out with my four grandchildren a couple of weekends back, we

headed to first one park (Blue Limestone) and then to another one, (Mingo

Park),  went to get ice cream cones for 59 cents each at McD’s, except for

Marley who makes a bargain with me, trying to finagle something else for

more money, since she is lactose intolerant. When I glanced down at my

cell phone while we were in line, she smarted off,

“What’s the matter, do you have somewhere else you need to be?”

(She is a little parrot, has been since she was 3! You just know her Mom or

Dad said this one to someone, not necessarily to one of the kids, though.)

When we sat down with our ‘treats,’ I again looked at the phone, but

this time Lara asked me why I was checking my phone so often?

I answered, “Usually your Mom will let me know when they have finished

eating dinner out, give me a ball park time for when you need to be home.”

Landen, (age 9) said another adage, “No news is good news!”

While they had finished their desserts, I handed out gum to help remove

the food particles, they usually ask for gum often. I looked at my dwindling

supply left and said, (my frugal self often says this anyway)

“Now try to make this last!”

It could not have been more than 6 minutes of them playing on the McD’s

play tower, when Kyah, (age 3) came running over to me, her piece of gum

on the tip of her pointer finger,

“Here Nana, I know you are running out of gum, can you save this for later?”

 

When I was leaving them at home, I hugged and kissed each of them,

saying goodbye and until we meet again.

 

We walked up to the door as they entered, I reminded them to take their

shoes off, which was hurriedly acknowledged by Lara, (age 10):

“You know if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!”

 

Were any of these expressions ones you repeat often? What are some

common sayings or adages you associate with your family?

 

A Quirky Man

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Your roots can make you stronger, or they can ‘break you in two.’ This is the

story of Don Knotts, born “Jesse” Don Knotts. His birthday, July 21, 1924 and

the day he died was, February 23, 2006. This July, he would have reached the

landmark birthday of 90 years old.

Jesse was only four years ahead of my Mom, in age. But so far behind, from the

standpoint of his childhood background.

Jessie’s roots were in West Virginia where a lot of ‘hard scrabble folks’ were

born and raised. It wasn’t easy growing up in his family or that part of the

country. It was a rough time, for many people with the onset of the Depression,

not too long into Jesse’s life and all.

Jesse was raised by a father who was known to be a ‘brute’ of a man, with high

expectations of his son. (Some biographers have decided, from their research,

that his father may have been mentally ill.) He was rough on his son. So was

Jesse’s older brother. There have been stories of his father wielding a knife at

him and beating him.

The young boy, raised in the country on a farm, was often picked on at school

since he was so scrawny and his clothes didn’t fit too well either.

While in school, he was often sickly. Jesse got in the habit of becoming almost a

“hypochondriac.” Being ill deflected his Dad’s wrath and also, kept him out of

school. There were times his mother comforted and took care of him, helping

make him feel better about himself.  This and being a ‘day-dreamer’ managed

to help him survive school.

Jesse was someone who wanted to find a way to ‘fit in’ or get out of his life.

There were three brothers to be raised by his mother alone, once his father died.

One evidence of Jesse’s curiosity and use of imagination was shown in his choice

of reading and play materials. He developed a talent with utilizing sock dolls and

asking people for money for their entertainment factor. This meant they saw

him use the puppet, while throwing his voice, using varied tones to tell his

crazy stories and made up plays. He developed an early comedic timing, which

got some smiles and laughs. His hopes of being a ventriloquist was encouraged

by books on the subject he read.

One of the first jobs he got, sometimes he told people later in life, he felt he

‘deserved’ this pathetic job. He stood on a line at a chicken factory and his story

goes, plucked chicken feathers off dead chickens. This was helpful for saving his

money and purchasing a ventriloquist dummy.  Much nicer than the sock puppet!

This brought more money into his savings for his future.

Jesse graduated from high school and afterwards joined the military. He

persisted through sickness, getting recognition for his talents. Once he was

‘discovered’ to be quite lively and entertaining, he was put into the Entertainment

Corps. This helped him to become more confident. He was part of the United

States Army, from 1943 to 1946.

Turns out, this choice of joining the Army changed his life. Knowing he was

not a ‘loser’ nor ‘worthless’ meant he could produce popular and interesting

character sketches. The more people laughed, the more original his material

became. He could “make fun of himself” and make money, too.

Jesse attended and graduated from West Virginia University.

Jesse’s star would rise, up into the sky, as Don Knotts.

Using his ‘hypochondria’ and his ‘paranoia’ to his advantage, this and his

skinny, slightly unattractive and awkward looks made him even more funny

to his audiences.

Don Knotts became a ‘hit’ in the true sense of the word!

Don was on a soap opera, he was the “Man on the Streets” where Steve Allen

would conduct “fake interviews” with him, as a nervous man on the sidewalk.

He was in the Broadway production, from 1955-57, of “No Time for Sergeants.”

Don later reprised his role in the movie version. This was where he met Andy

Griffith.

The movie, “No Time for Sergeants,” was filmed in 1958 with Don Knotts

and Andy Griffith.

Their television show, followed in 1960, where the two of them were partners,

of sorts.

When he got the part of “Barney Fife,” in the television show, “The Andy

Griffith Show,” he played the deputy sheriff to Andy Griffith’s role of sheriff.

This show lasted from 1960 until 1968. Don Knotts won five Emmy awards.

There were many more movie offers for Don Knotts.

My favorite role of his lifetime was as the fish in the animated children’s movie,

“The Incredible Mr. Limpet.” I did not know him from “Search for Tomorrow,”

nor did I really like the movie, “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.” I did laugh at his

flamboyant role as landlord, in the comedy television show, “Three’s Company.”

Do you have a favorite role that Don Knotts played?

Did you like him best as the shaky, nervous Deputy Barney Fife?

He was sixth cousins to Ron Howard, who played the character, “Opie.”

Andy Griffith and Don were known to be close friends, throughout their

filming the t.v. show and later years.

Don Knotts was married three times, his first marriage lasting from 1947-1967.

He had two children, a daughter named Karen Knotts and a son, Thomas Knotts.

His last marriage to Frances Yarborough was from 2002 up until he died in 2006.

 

Making millions of dollars over his lifetime, being a ‘household name’ and his

having the record of the most Emmy Awards for television shows sure showed

his father and those bullies who picked on “Jesse” Don Knotts!

 

 

Hope Chest Story

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Opening the lid on my mother’s hope chest, I always breathed deeply

of the cedar smell and would close my eyes to really take the breath

in, feeling the memories coming. I used to love to make my parents’

bed and dust in their bedroom. I would go to the foot of the bed and

take the crocheted coverlet off the chest. I would kneel upon my knees,

stretching my arms wide to be ready to support the lid once I opened

it. There are new hope chests that have the protective hinge that won’t

shut a child’s fingers in them. This was an older, almost antique looking

chest, its sides shiny and showing the grain of the wood. The top had a

swirling pattern carved into it. It may have been engraved by an artisan

or may have been produced by a factory. I loved the way it smelled then.

Also, I loved the way the ten different items that I am focusing on, in my

thoughts, meant something. These demonstrated love and sentimental

value in their being kept in this special location, so close to where my

parents slept and held each other through good times and bad.

Beginning from the delicate top layer to the bottom “foundation” layer,

each piece piled upon the next, neatly stacked with white tissue paper

between the layers this contained a lifetime of memories.

1. Pearl seeded cap to hold the veil upon my mother’s head. She sewed

each pearl on the cap and made her veil and dress. She used a pattern

that had Elizabethan cap sleeves, with the point at the wrist and its

length ending at her ankles.

2. Irish lace tablecloth, cream colored. She toured Europe after she

graduated from college, buying exquisite purchases that lasted. She

kept carefully until a fancy dinner would be served. She used her own

money for this trip and her parents gave her a small amount of spending

money.

3. White Christening gown. Tiny flowers with x’s and o’s, lovingly

stitched into the puckers along the neckline. This was worn by my

brothers and I when we were baptized as babies.

4. Hand sewn aprons. The multicolored aprons have primary colors in

them, red, yellow, green and blue. Each one of them has a pocket (or 2)

and my daughters now each have one to use or preserve, as they wish.

5. Lacy crocheted doilies. My grandmother was very good at making

these, along with hand painting cards for Gibson card company.

6. Large English tapestry. There is a shield with a crest on it, from years

gone by. It is burgundy, deep blue and has some golden threads woven

into it.

7. Bright silk sari. Turquoise, tangerine and gold threads are woven into

this silken sari, worn as a dress by my ex-husband’s friend, Kim’s wife,

Sunny. (I wrote about her in a post and brought this home from college

in the 70’s to add to the layers.) It has an intricately designed pattern on

the edges of it.

8. Cross-stitched Alphabet Sampler. This reminds me of those old primers,

but this once had been framed but my mother took it out, saying it was

starting to get ‘sun-damaged’ and was yellowing. She gently washed it in

cold water, re-stretched it out and then ironed it on the unpatterned side.

9. Handkerchiefs. These were from my grandmothers’ (both sides of family)

purses. When I would hold them to my nose, even though they were kept

in the hope chest with cedar wood interior, they held the perfumed scents

of those dear ones. Each had a fine edge rolled up and most had a floral

design, my favorite being, while young, the violets. Now, I have to admit

I think the embroidered roses make me smile since my mother loves them.

10. And, under them all… A West Virginian homemade patchwork quilt.

My parents first trip together was to Tennessee to see a classmate of my

father’s who graduated in engineering at U. of C. While traveling the

back roads down, they got turned around and while “lost” they found

a small local store hidden in the hills of West Virginia. There was more

of a story about the way the people stared at my parents and how they

chuckled when they heard how far off the beaten path they had gone.

The elaborately chosen patchwork quilt had  the wedding rings pattern

carefully sewn into it. The forever entwined, never ending rings would

embody a marriage of almost 44 years.

The quilt became an emblem of their love, never to be unstitched as love

would have it. It held the everlasting meaning or impression upon this

young girl when I would take each layer out of the hope chest, to examine

and sometimes to be found by my mother. She would tell me the meaning

of each layer, reminding me of the time when we were small and how in

the middle of the night we would wake up because of a nightmare.

Mom told me that in our first house together in Sandusky, Ohio, they

had used this as their blanket. She would lift a corner of her sheet with

the blanket on top, allowing us to climb in with Dad and her. We would

eventually calm down, be led back to bed (or carried.)

Tracing my fingers along the stitches in time, I held my breath in awe.

Even while young, I knew there was mysticism and magic in love.

What memories can be found within your family steamer trunk, hope

chest, or Army trunk? If you don’t have those, is there a special drawer

that holds your “valuables that hold memories?”