Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our number three daughter

I promised to tell all about Jane. You heard about her Rosebud moments. She was the best baby ever. And I feel she must have been neglected. When I think about those days when she was new born, I wonder how did I have time to do all the things I remember. I began taking painting lessons with the vague hope to earn money to help with College costs when all four would be involved with that kind of school. And each year I made all our Christmas cards, and I made all the clothes for the girls. And who knows what else. This all sounds like bragging, but I am really admitting that I must have neglected the children. Jane flourished in the admiration of her sisters. They felt Jane was born to be their real live doll. They had a little doll baby carriage and Jane rode in it until she was a year old. And then she was walking.

Jane was very affectionate. And her laugh was infectious and she could make a whole room laugh with her. Early it was evident that she was very smart. It did not matter what or how we tested her. Numbers or colors or telling stories, nothing fazed her.
I think I told you about the drawing she made of two girls with arms and legs coming out of the heads, one of them with the legs bent at the knees. Not the way our legs bend at the knees. Strait out sideways. When I asked her to tell me about the drawing she said that is me and Anna and Anna is tired. I have that drawing reproduced on a white mug and drink my morning coffee from it. Some times I don't notice the drawing, but often it hits me how funny it is and I laugh all by myself and remember.

Jane's teachers in school soon realized how smart she was. I don't think she ever had any trouble in school for she worked hard and her red hair and her freckled nose grew on people. In college she excelled and when she met the person who was going to become her sister in law she learned what she wanted to become, a librarian. That idea might had been brewing for a long time for she had summer jobs in middle school when she worked summer jobs with the school librarian. She also worked in our local fabric store and spent most of her salary on reduced pieces of yardage that might still be buried in the bottom of one of her drawers.

Jane married Tom when she got her first degree in college. Their wedding was unusual. She an Tom wanted to get married at University of California at Davis. The wedding was out doors and her color was yellow. She was wearing my mother's unused wedding dress made by my mother in 1914. The war at that time prevented my mother and father from having a formal wedding. My sister made a beautiful crown made with 'pillow lace' and starched stiff with sugar used as starch. Jane and Tom wanted dinner served outdoors after the ceremony. They wanted several kinds of sausages and home-baked beans. It was a hot day. Gilbert visited the department which raised large amounts of yellow flowers (I forget the name but they were also called the Hawaiian wedding flower.) He asked if Jane could use them for the tables. After the wedding and after the dinner as people were leaving, Gilbert sold the flowers to the wedding guests.

Jane got her degree as librarian at the University of Oregon. The couple then moved to San Francisco where Jane was employed by the City Library. The Mayor of the City now Senator chose Jane to work with a big hot shot from Philadelphia who was hired to select the libraries to be closed because of financial shortages. It was a big feather in Jane's career.

Jane and Tom have two children, Emily who is sweet and smart and Benjamin who is a grand kind of person. I could not call him sweet and smart, but he is. I am hoping he will become a writer of renown. He showed such promise when in kindergarten.
Emily is everything she promised to be. Constantly daring fate with her bravado.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A book

First I have to report on the state of my health. Yesterday I woke up and the cold was gone. As miraculously as it arrived. I went shopping and as an after math I had a two hour nap in the afternoon.

And before I get into the book that Jane gave me when she was here, I have to tell you about our son, Gilbert, who lives in Colorado. He called and said he is coming out on May 4 and will stay 4 days. He owns the house that Sam and I bought in 1983. About five years before Sam died Gilbert bought the house at a ridiculously reduced price, with the proviso that Sam and I would live there till we died. It worked well as long as Sam lived and when I found that I could no longer afford to live there I moved. Last year. Now he is coming out to check what needs to be done before he moves in. It will be great to see him. It's been years.

Now the book. Written by Muriel Barbery, it is named THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG. I was told it was difficult to get into and that is correct. I am now on page 90 and I think I am in the swing of it. I love the language. Very elegant. She never uses a five ;etter word if she can say the same with a seven or nineletter word.

An example on page-90. "I pour the tea and we sip in silence. We have never had our tea together in the morning, and this break with our usual protocol imbues the ritual with a strange flavor.

Yes this sudden transmutation in the order of things seems to enhance our pleasure, as if consecrating the unchanging nature of a ritual established over our afternoons together, a ritual that has ripened into a solid and meaningful reality. Today, because it has been transgressed, our ritual suddenly acquires all its power; we are tasting the splendid gift of this unexpected morning as if it were some precious nectar; ordinary gestures have an extraordinary resonance, as we breathe in the fragrance of the tea, savor it, lower our cups, serve more, and sip again: every gesture has the bright aura of rebirth. At moments like this the web of life is revealed by the power of ritual, and each time we renew our ceremonies, the pleasure will be all the greater for having violated one of its principles. Moments like this act as magical interludes, placing our hearts at the edge of our souls: fleetingly, yet intensly, a fragment of eternity has come to enrich time. Elsewhere the world may be blustering or sleeping, wars are fought, people live and die, some nations disintegrate, while others are born, soon to be swallowed up in turn - and in all this sound and fury, amidst eruptions and undertows, while the world goes its merry way, bursts into flames, tears itself apart and is reborn: human life continues to throb.

Read this several times and see the words throb. I will let everyone know what happens later I think I am going to love this book.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sam's mother

Yesterday when I wrote about the trip to the hospital, it had tired me more than I realized. I did not read the blog before I sent it. If I had I would have had to rewrite it for I had made my mother in law into an ogre and I never felt that way about her. She had one weak point. She could never put herself into another's shoes. But she was kindness and politeness personified. She had not had an easy life. She grew up in luxury with servants taking care of her every wish. She was a debutante and when she met Sam's father it was love at first sight. When Sam was born, her life seemed perfect. As soon as it was possible for her to travel with a baby, she had to go back to California to Introduce the baby to the relatives. While she was gone, the Flue epidemic struck in Maine. Her husband got sick one day and died the next. It took ages before she recovered from this loss.

I think she lived at home with her mother and two younger sisters with Sam, who was an adorable little blue eyed toddler. He probably became spoiled with all these women granting all his wishes. When he was four, his mother was invited to a dance at the Burlingame Country Club by a group of her old friends, who were supposed to entertain a group of English Military people who had come down from Washington State, Fort Lewis to be exact, as a thank you for their duties in the war just passed. She met and danced with a handsome officer, whose name was Captain Leslie Shaw. Apparently it was love at first sight for soon they were married. Sam's life did not improve from this union. If you have read any English fiction you know how sweet little boys were treated in order to make them men. Caning was the usual treatment used for this transition.

The little family moved to England. Sam was sent to boarding School. Mr Shaw became a financial person, and since it was still the late twenties money came rolling in. Until one day a message came from the State side Headquarters saying "You are fired. Close the doors. We are out of business." This meant that Mr Shaw was Jobless and all savings were gone. The family had grown by three children. Sam had to come join the clan. Sam's mother who had never had the opportunity to take care of the family, suddenly had to do every thing it takes to do just that. And she did a great job when I joined their family. A cousin of Mater's had sent them money to return to California and he and Mr. Shaw started a new investment company in San Francisco. It was slim pickings for years but better times came, but never the same as before. All this history to sow how strong Mater had become. She learned how to cook seven meals and she was a good cook. I really liked her and I never forgot how open and friendly they were while Sam was overseas.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Before you read this blog, take precautions. Get a mask. I have a terrible cold. And I do not want to give any one of you this damnable afliction.

The week after Easter I had a wonderful surprise. My number three daughter called saying she was coming to see me. She came on Tuesday, spent the night with her sister and the two of them arrived on Wednesday. We actually met at the John Wayne Marina for lunch. What a perfect day. On our way home I said I wanted to stop at Costco to get a leg of lamb for it was impossible to get fresh Crab which we always have for dinner when visitors first arrive. The leg of lamb cost $16 something and after the week was over I figured out that we got 15 meals out of that delicious meat.

The leg was butterflied and when we got home I worked on the flatness of the meat, rubbed it with lots of rosemary, salt and pepper and poured red wine over it. When the time came to cook it I turned on my barbecue and cooked it on very high heat for not very long. It was perfect. We ate it with baked potatoes and a salad and mint jelly. And it was even better the next day when we ate it on sandwiches for lunch.

I have to tell you about Jane, our fourth and final child. Sam felt he had to go to the Denver area for one more serious trip before this baby was born so he could stay homme for a while and help with her and to bond with her. (we did not know if it was a her or a him) So we asked Flourine, our wonderful cleaning woman from our Burlingame days, to come to stay with me while he was gone. The first Saturday I had to drive across the bay for one of my regular prenatal visits with my obstretitian (he was also the one who had helped us get pregnant with our first the secnd one) He spent a lot of time listening to the heart beat said he needed to take a test before i left. Since the three children at home were in good hands I visited with a couple of friends on the Peninsula.

Saturday and Sunday were uneventful. Monday was normal too. I went to bed at my usual time and fell asleep reading a book. At 11.30 the phone rang waking me up. Oh, it must be Sam. It was Dr Tompkins. I am so sorry to call so late. I was home in bed when I realized that no one had called me about the test we took on Saturday. I got dressed, drove down to the office and there was bad news. Do you remember I had trouble finding the heartbeat of the baby. That's why I took that extra test. That showed me that the baby is affected by the Rh factor and you have to have the baby tomorrow. Call Sam and dtell him he has to get a reservation and fly home as soon as possible. He has to be here when you are delivered. What a shock. I had several more weeks before I was due.

It took ages before I got hold of Sam. He insisted on driving back. He said I will start in a few minutes. I had invited Sam's mother an brother for lunch on Tuesday and I told myself that I would ask her to sleep over with them on tuesday night and then his brother could drive me to the hospital in San Francisco next day. I got ready and packed early. And I asked Flourine if she would stay with the children till Sam came home. She said Mrs Stockton, I cant stay in a house where there are no locks on the doors. I said I will fix that. before I leave.I looked through drawers and found some keys that worked some doors. And at last there was one door left. I found a big two by four in the garage and some huge nails and I nailed the door shut. Now, will you? She laughed and said yes.

We were in August and the temperature was nearly 100* I was dressed in a maternity, sleeveless top and shorts When the lunch guests arrived. I did not want to tell Sam's mother about the change in the baby's birthday, so we had a leisurely lunch and when it was time for them to leave I told her that I had to have the baby tomorrow. Can I go home with you, spend the night and then ask Mike to drive me to he hospital in the morning? She looked at her watch and said, I'm sorry but I really have to hurry home to get a roast in the oven for dinner tonight. And they left. I caalled Betty on the Peninsula and said can I sleep over at your house and will you drive me to the hospital in the morning. She said Of course. Do you want to take it easy when you come or do you want to play bridge. I needed to take my mind off the adventures of the coming morning so I opted for bridge.

I got into my 1939 Green Hornet, a Chevrolet we had bought from Sam's partner. I guess I was only a few dozen cars behind Sam's mother on the way across the San Mateo Bridge.

Next morning Betty drove me to the hospilal. Tommy said :you didn't have to come so early for we cannot take the baby until Sam arrives. I said Why? If you are going to have your tubes tied he has to be here to sign a paper. Later it turned out (he didn't want me to worry) that because of the trouble with the heartbeats on Saturday we might have to agree to limiting our children to three only. Betty waited with me and around 3.30 Sam arrived dead tired from having driven all the way with a 15 min. nap somewhere. And with that everything moved.

Jane was born soon after Sam came and according to Betty, she was the most beautiful baby ever born. And she was healthy, thank goodness. She was pink like a "rose bud" and her middle name became Rosebud. She had to be tested for a long time to see that she was not building up something from the Rh confusion. Having had four children and always worried about that, You'd think I would have studied the whole problem. It is still all greek to me.

That's the way Jane was born but next time I will tell you what a wonderful child she developed into and as an adult how lovable she is.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


We were told after a few days that our father had died at sea. These were horrible days. If you don't know the facts, what you dream up in your imagination gets more and more horrible. Birgit was told that first day, but she was told not to tell her siblings. We were too young to understand.

There was an inquest to investigate his death. For some reason the inquest was held somewhere in Denmark. Mother was told that she did not have to attend. The owners of the ship would tell her what developed. But she did go, and she did attend. Father had turned up missing on a warm, calm day in the Bay of Biscay, between Portugal and France. Father had written in the log at eight am. Later in the day it was discovered that there was no other entry in the log. The crew searched the ship for their Captain and it was decided that he had somehow left the ship. Mother asked the next in command, "Did you go back to search for him?" The answer was, "No, we were too far from that." Mother asked,"Too far from what?" And the answer was a shrug of the shoulders.

All this came to my ears from listening to Mother discussing it with her friends. She wanted the shipping company to have the police investigate what had happened.

And then came the problems of the insurance companies. She immediately received money from what would compare with Workman's Compensation. And when it was time for the life insurance company to pay, it was denied. They claimed that Father had jumped overboard and committed suicide. Mother had letters that gave a different picture of his attitude at the time. It was to be the final journey for Father on this ship because the company had promised him a brand new vessel. He was elated. There were many new inventions built into the newer ships. On board was the man who was to take charge of the old ship. I think the name of the ship was SEVERIN, but that might have been an earlier ship of his. The company recommended an attorney for mother to use as she tried to get the insurance people to pay. Mother won in the first instance, and the insurance company sought a new trial. In the next trial, Mother won again and so the insurance people went to a higher court and Mother lost. She was devastated and beaten. The lawyer Mother had used was upset. But that was the end of the line for Mother.

I told you all earlier that Dr. Hansson, my mentor, was Swedish and had come from a place very close to my home village. He had gone to school with a boy who became a lawyer while he became a doctor. As I was walking west on 42nd street Dr. Hansson caught up with me. He said he was upset. A very good friend of his from school days was just sentenced to prison for many years. He had been on the take and had lost cases on purpose and then been paid under the table by whichever company he had been suing. I asked what was the name of the lawyer. It was the one who had represented my Mother.

I was eager to tell Mother. She said, "I can't fight that fight again."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


After reading the sea stories in the news papers, I am so happy to finally reach the end of the trapped captain in the life-boat. I hope he is having a wonderful life with his wife and child. It made me think about my own father who went to sea as an able-bodied seaman at the age of 16. He of course sailed because the wind was blowing. He went to school and also worked his way up until he reached Captain-hood.

I wish I could say I remember him sitting with his pipe telling stories and adventures from his sailing-days. But I can't do that for I hardly remember him at all. He died when I was 10 or 11. And In all those years I had probably seen him no more than a few dozen days. I have a clear memory of him organizing a quartet of his four children. He played the violin and we four had to act as if we were playing drums or trumpets or the base. And we had to march around the room in a line. I remember the words to the song we were marching to.

My other memory was disturbing. My mother and father were in bed and they were talking in low voices. The door between our rooms was slightly ajar, and suddenly I heard my mother crying. I had never heard a grown-up crying. What had she done? I felt it had to do with guilt of some kind. But what had she done? ( I don't know if I knew that father was leaving that day for another 18 or 24 month trip) I might I have cried too, if I had known that. But I did not really know him at all. Around 10 am he left and he never came back.

A couple of years later, the four of us were outside, not playing but hanging around. It was New Years Eve. we had been invited to play outside. Next day was my sister's birthday and we surmised that mother was preparing something for her. We were cold. I had lost my mittens. And suddenly two men arrived. They were somber and bergmanesque. Dressed all in black. They spoke to us. Asked our ages and where wee were in school. And then they left to go ring the door-bell on our house. From where we were, we could see mother opening the door and letting them in the house. And so we worried. What was going on? It seems, looking back, that there was something drastic going on. We were all cold.

Suddenly our cousin Ingeborg was there. She said" Come with me. You are having supper at our house. The mystery grew and grew. We were all scared. Birgit finally was allowed to go home, but the rest of us were not told what mystery was developing. It turned out that the men walking down our alley were men from the company that owned father's ship. The were there to tell mother that father was lost at sea. It was kept a secret for the three of us children for several days. Mother was crying daily and I told earlier that grown-ups did not cry. unless they had done something bad. What could be Mother's crime. There are consequences that developed for years. One interesting development happened on 42nd street in NYC years and years later when Dr. Hansson caught up with me and told me about a disturbing thing he had heard about an old class mate and friend of his. I will tell all about it later.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A day in this place

Our monthly calendar of events said: 11.15 AM bus leaves for lunch at THE BLUE FLAME. The blue flame is an extraordinary restaurant. When it first opened it had either saw dust on the floor, or was it hay. I don't remember. All home made furniture. Long planed hunks of wood for tables, and benches to squeeze into. A big tub of bottled soda or water or maybe ice tea. One goes up to the counter, places the order, pays, and then gets eating implements from the counter. In no time the baby back ribs or the bbqed chicken with home made cornbread, delicious salad that you can eat with your fingers, and beans appear on the counter and your name is called. There is unlimited paper towels on the table.

Ten of us, counting our bus-driver who eats with us all of raved over the food. The driver whose name is Keith is a tender man. He treats all of us as a friend and offers help where ever it is needed. We have one or two who need help with steps. And there are a few who need help reading the menu. And always e pointsout where we can go to floss our teeth. It was an amazing meal. At our table three had the medium size meal (meaning four ribs) and one, a male, had the large meal (meaning eight ribs) For desert one could have a small candy bar. Then the driver took us on a drive around. We went far up into the Olympic Mountains and we encounter quite a bit of snow, we saw several groups of deer, and then we returned to sea level. There the bus stopped at 37 flavors and we all bought a small ice cream cone for $1.11. The driver gets it for us, collects the money and we are out of there within ten minutes. We are a quiet bunch eating our cones and I think most of us are eager to get home to our safe abode, ready for a nap.

Life can be beautiful as they said in some soap-opera. But it is hard not to think of the ones who are hungry. Poverty is not the best of stages in your life. but I treasure having been poor and hungry. It made me feel that there was nothing to worry about. Much later I had to amend this thought. You can be poor, but if you are not healthy, poverty SUCKS. When Sam and I married I owned $37.00. Sam was disappointed for he was under the impression he had married a Swedish somebody. I found out I had married a Republican, on top of a fifth Ave bus in NY on our honeymoon. We were always surprised when an anniversary rolled around and we were still mostly happy. Our 55th was our last. We had been lucky for a long time. And Sam gave me a wonderful compliment around that time. He said he had never been bored.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Yesterday I watched OPRAH talking about aging. And I made a couple of changes for my future. One of the foods they discussed for a healthy long life was legumes. I love beans and peas of all kinds. The trouble was I was already marinating four boneless chicken thighs, I had a sweet-potato baking in the oven and my big hunk of broccoli was ready to go into the microwave. So I could not begin with all this immediately. And sweets were frowned upon so I would have to eat what was left of my ice-cream in my freezer for dessert . There was quite a bit left but I tried my best and actually only threw out a little bit.

And then I will lift some wheights and I will have a chair ready so that I can sit down slowly with a strait back and get up the way I sat down, as many times as i can during the day. I managed two and a half yesterday.

Last night I was listening to KGO at midnight and the woman host was speaking with the author of a book about how many beneits we are lucky to have from FDR's CCC and WPA works that came about because of the depression. It was fascinating. One man called in to say he was 108 years old and he had worked in both cathegories. He had the strongest voice and he had the most fantastic memory of the time. I hope Obama reads that book. Wish I remembered the name of the book, but I will tell our local book seller to be on the lookout for it.

All this scares me. Do I have enough DO RE MI to last me if I live to 108. Lucky I have decided to eat beans.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


This is going to be the story of our number three child who was born April 4. When we found out I was pregnant again, we were overjoyed. There had been no help from science, no medical measurements were taken. We had accomplished this wonder all by ourselves. And from the moment we found out, I kept saying to myself, THERE WILL BE NO MIDDLE CHILD SYNDROME FOR THIS ONE. We were both happy and followed her development with bated breath. It was an uneventful pregnancy, and when we finally got to meet Martha, and found out she was healthy and beautiful we were relieved and happy. Sam wanted to name her Martha after an Aunt he had grown fond of during his college years, and a Martha Eklund who worked for my mother after I was born, and who became my best friend, which friendship lasted until she died when I was about sixty.

Martha had only a few whisps of reddish blond hair in the back of her head. The rest of her head was totally bald. She had huge blue eyes. And her smile was unbelievable. And she smiled all the time. She did more for us than we did for her, for she entertained us and made us laugh out loud every time we paid attention to her.

As a toddler she was even more an entertainer. She could make the whole family happy, just watching her. She walked early and she began playing with child Jigg-saw puzzles before she walked. A good friend, who lived down the street from us used to stop in at a toystore on her way home from school ( she was a first grade teacher ) to buy simple puzzles with just five or six pieces to test Martha. How long would it take her to finish it. Martha finished it the first time she tried in just a few minutes.

One thing Martha could not do. She could not talk. When she did try, which she did constantly, she would sound as though she might be deaf. She had no consonant sounds. If she tried to say 'OK, Gilbert', she would say Oh hey Oh hey. We of course all understood her and she did not seem to get frustated. When she went to kindergarten her teacher got excited and tried to force certain sounds out of her mouth. So I decided I had to take some action. Without Martha hearing any of my preparations I consulted an MD downtown. I asked if he would put a cast on one of her arms. I had read that if the motion center in the brain was uncertain about being right handed or left handed, then the speech center was slow in developing also. He said WHAT REDICULOUS ROT. I said I will show you the article I read. And I also said we had to pretend that Martha had hurt her arm during the night. He said, Bring her in and I will talk to her.

This good friend listened to Martha talk for about twenty minutes, She sat in front of him and answered every question he asked, and he who had never heard her before, understood not a word. I had told her, when she woke up that morning that she had hurt her arm during the night. She did not remember that, but she was happy the doctor was going to fix it. The doctor had told me earlier that if he agreed to do it, he would only agree to do the left arm. The cast had to be on at least one month.

When that month was up we returned to get the cast off. And then he sat down and almost repeated the discussion he had had a month earlier. And Martha answered with consonants and clarity. He was amazed. He could not believe what had happened. And if it had not been for the teacher who got busy with speach lessons Martha would never have known about her early problem. And then she might never have become a speech therapist.

There is so much more to tell about Martha, but it will have to be a later episode.

Martha, have a wonderful Birthday. And remember I love you. And remember that you have always done more for us, than we have done for you. You are still a surprise and such a fine person. love Mom