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By Stacie Clifford Kitts
I can hardly believe it’s already 2015. A new year, with new possibilities, some new tax laws, and yet another holiday season spent without Mom. Last year my daughter and I flew to Kansas City, and as people do at those times, began the chore of cleaning out Mom’s things. We cleaned closets, packed boxes, took things to goodwill, filled trash bins and marveled at some of the things she kept. And when we ran out of time, we packed up boxes with what remained and shipped them home.
Yesterday, as the new year started, I decided it was time….time to stop delaying and find out what those last boxes contained. And….fine, I admit it. I had this slight hope, okay fantasy, that maybe there was something really interesting and even noteworthy among what remained of Mom’s things…like, I don’t know, a key to a mysterious safety deposit box with instructions to open after her death.
I know. I’m an accountant, okay. And although I do get a thrill out of structuring a good tax plan…you see where I’m going here…discovering a deep dark family secret would certainly liven things up a bit!
But as luck would have it, what I found was much better. Not a deep dark family secret…but a secret non the less. Mom wanted to be a writer. I found pages of notes, beginnings of chapters, and short essays about her uncles and her grandparents…But as interesting and wonderful as this find is, I am sad that she never had time to finish what she had started. I read the things I found and cried when there was no more.
Vic & Velda Van Hook (Mother and Pa)
By Patricia Kennedy
My grandmother was 36 when I was born. She didn’t want to be called Grandma, so she insisted that I call her Mother. And of course there was Pa, and everyone called him Pa, so they were Mother and Pa to me. I didn’t realize this growing up, but Mother was a very pretty woman who loved pretty things.
Mother was a talker. She would start on something and keep going and going and going. Pa would sit there swinging one crossed leg, reading his newspaper, and flipping cigarette ashes into his cuffs until suddenly he would say, “Be quiet Velda” and then she would.
Mother was stubborn and liked to get her way. She wanted to name me Sally. Although, I was named Patricia, that didn’t keep Mother from calling me Sally sometimes. I think she did that mainly to irritate my mom.
Mother taught me songs. “The Doors Swing in – The Doors Swing Out”, “Please Mr. Conductor Don’t Throw me off the Train”, and many more. I could have “stumped the band” on the Johnny Carson Show.
Pa was so quiet that you didn’t realize he was in the room. He left every morning for work and came home every night for dinner.
He loved fried foods, bacon, chicken, pork chops, and even the pork fat normally used when cooking beans, which he would cover with mustard and eat.
Mother always had coffee cans of bacon grease that she saved for the whole family and when Pa died, the doctors said he had the heart of a 20 year old. Cholesterol? Go figure.
Pa loved wrestling. I don’t remember why, but he would occasionally take me to wrestling matches. I still remember Gorgeous George with a head of blonde curls. He would throw gold bobby pins into the audience. Pa would watch the matches and chew on his thumb he got so excited.
By Patricia Kennedy
My uncle Kenneth named me, Patricia. He taught me, among other things, how to skin a frog, bait a hook, tie a string to a beetles back leg and baste an egg. When I was a little girl growing up in Springfield, sometimes he’d come home with a burlap sack full of watercress, poke, doc greens and perhaps sweet corn acquired from the unknowing generosity of a farmer.
He brought me two wild baby rabbits when he accidentally killed their mother mowing a right-of-way. He knew grandma Van Hook wouldn’t be happy. But he did it anyway because he knew it would make me happy.
He taught me to sing all the verses to “Froggy Went a Courting” and a song about a tattooed lady that I wasn’t to sing in front of my mother.
I learned cribbage by watching him and Victor. And when I was older, he became a fun opponent at poker, even if he did say I was the luckiest blankety blank person he knew.
Just before I got married, he taught me how to baste an egg and said, “Now you and Joe won’t starve”.
He could be gruff and sometime loud, but he was good hearted, kind, and loved.
By Patricia Kennedy
Uncle Donald was very artistic and funny. I thought he was the greatest artist ever. I remember some ballet dancers in harlequin costumes that he painted and I remember thinking they were beautiful. Once he saw me tracing out of a coloring book and he told me, tracing is fine, but you should try to draw free hand, and so I did.
Don and Jack would sometimes walk the three blocks to my elementary school and carry me home on their shoulders. I told everyone at school that they were my brothers.
Don would come over to my Grandma’s house and she and Don would put their heads together and come up with unbelievably beautiful things. The one I remember the most, is the Christmas tree they did together. They took the tree into the back yard and skillfully decorated it. Then Don stood on a ladder and sprayed snow over the tree covering the lights and the ornaments. When they brought the tree back into the house and the lights lit up, they twinkled through the layer of fake snow. It was really beautiful.
Don’s house always looked great. He could decorate on a dime and he could find antiques anywhere. He would make trips and find some farmer with old outbuildings and say, “I’ll give you $5 to look in that shed.” And when they would let him, which was most times, he would find something worth restoring. He and grandma worked on a chaise lounge that was lovely. He was able to make beautiful things out of what other people thought was junk because he could see what was beneath.
Love you mom.