I’m watching my little great granddaughter, Ryan Constance, today. She’s two and a half and has already outsmarted me several times. Do you think four mandarin oranges is too many for a child that small? She can peel them herself and pull all of the little sections apart. The downside is it makes a juicy mess and I had to change her clothes and wipe up her sticky trail. (I hated to make her sit at the table, so I didn’t.)
She had a cheese stick and peanut butter crackers for lunch. (That’s what she asked for.) Now she’s eating pretzels with Nutella for dessert. I didn’t think about putting her hair in a ponytail until she looked like she had been dipped in chocolate fondue. Visions of Mrs. E who consumed a whole jar of Nutella on my watch came to mind in time to distract Ryan from suffering the same fate. It went right through the poor lady.
Once Ryan got full, I could tell she was ready for a nap. I’m still recovering from surgery and can’t lift anything over 20 lbs which makes it difficult to coax a child to sleep. She was not happy about going to bed, but I managed to get the rail down and she climbed into her crib with the use of a small step stool.
I sang to her and patted her back while she sniffled and tried her hardest not to go to sleep. Finally, she reached for a bedtime toy and turned it on. There is nothing like soft lullabies and the sound of waves to induce sleep. I woke up a little later and found Ryan was also sleeping. I was lying on the floor, so I crawled to the door, but just as I reached it, I heard the sniffles again, so I crawled back to the side of the bed and stayed there until I was sure she was fast asleep. (I was relieved that she never actually cried.)
As soon as she gets off work, Nikki will be here to pick up Ryan and sister, Skyler, who will be home from school, and take them with her to a hair appointment. I hope she’s not in a hurry because Ryan is still all sticky and her shirt needs changed again. The floor is also sticky thanks to a bubble maker that Ryan loves. I made my kids go outside with their little bottles of soap and wands. (Ryan was having so much fun, I let her play in the bubbles as much as she wanted to.) I remember how Mom used to clean the floor so before I leave, I’ll take a damp rag and push it around with my foot.
I think the day went quite well.
I was really pleased when Ryan was born, and Nikki gave her my middle name. I’m still honored by that, but it has dawned on me why we’ve all been given a middle name. It’s so our parents can drive home the fact that we’re in big trouble. When Mom yelled, “Mary Constance,” I knew I was in for it! The other day, I heard Nikki say, “Ryan Constance!” I felt like I had heard my name and my Grandmother’s name in vain. At least when Harry Truman’s mother yelled, “Harry S,” the S didn’t do any damage because his parents only used S as his middle name because they couldn’t think of anyone they wanted to name him after.
Live and learn is what I always say and grandkids are great teachers.
There’s a new motel in town named The Graham Motor Lodge. It’s across the street from us. The owners have three boys. Their names are Kim, Terry, and Kit. My cousin Andrea is in love with Terry. She comes to our Motel all the time and looks out the window of #1, so she can see him if he comes outside. Stephanie and I both like Kit. I don’t think he knows which one of us he likes best. It doesn’t really matter, because we both have fun with him.
(Not so clear photo of Stephanie and me with my horse, Governor).
I guess part of the reason we like to play with him is because The Graham Motor Lodge has the only swimming pool in town. All of the kids have been trying to be friends with Kit, so he’ll invite them to go swimming. It hasn’t worked out too well, because his parents don’t want every kid in town always in their pool. It’s for tourists to swim in. About a month ago, they hired a guy to give swimming lessons, and invited us all to sign up. A lot of kids took the lessons, but it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. We had to be there at 7:00 in the morning, and the water was freezing. My lips had to be as blue as poor Mrs. Thiesen’s. We had to tread water for about 15 minutes to pass, and that’s a long time. We were all glad when the lessons were over. I noticed Kit didn’t have near as many friends. Stephanie and I stuck with him though, and we even get to swim once in awhile.
I hate to talk about sad stuff, but the whole town is feeling bad. Kitty Reynold’s husband, Kelly died. I didn’t go to the funeral, because my funeral days are still over for awhile. The ladies in the bridge club, and all the people Kitty sewed for are upset, because her daughter from Utah came and snatched Kitty up and moved her away. No more long, red, formals, and crusty southern cornbread for me.
Mrs. Reynolds sewed for a lot of people, and she made lots of clothes for Mom and me. Once she made us matching skirts. I’m going to show you a picture of them, but it was taken a long time ago.
Uncle Wayne, Mom, Aunt Ella, Aunt Helen, Uncle Jeff, and Aunt Elna… Andrea and I (The twin skirt).
A new family moved to Murdo, which doesn’t happen very often. They live in a little house South of 16. One of the kids, (Sandra), is my age and we’re friends now. I noticed that her Mom didn’t have a lot of nice clothes. Sometimes I like to do something nice for people, so I went home and looked in Mom’s closet. I saw the skirt that matched mine. My skirt is too small now, so we couldn’t be twins anyway. That’s why I gave Mom’s skirt to Sandra’s Mom. I told her the skirt was too little for my Mom now. It might be the truth, I don’t know. Well, Sandra’s Mom really liked it.
A few days later, Mom saw Sandra’s whole family walking uptown, and she recognized her skirt. I got called Mary Content that day instead of Mary Constance. I know Mom is really mad when she calls me Mary Content. I will explain the difference.
My Grandma Francis was named Content Abbie Bottum. She later changed her first name to Constance. I really can’t blame her, because who would like to have a name like Content Bottum? When Grandma got married to my Grandpa, her name became Connie Francis. Yes…like the singer, Connie Francis who sang “Where the Boys Are.” Grandma Connie didn’t like the name Content. I think that’s why when she’s really mad, Mom calls me Mary Content. My first name, Mary, is after my Grandma Sanderson.
Grandma Sanderson holding my cousin, Greg Miller and Grandma Francis holding, my brother, Billy Francis
I guess I can’t blame Mom for being mad. The skirt was one of kind. I gave Sandra’s Mom a few other things, but so far, Mom hasn’t seen them. Next time I give something of hers away, I’ll ask first. Mom said several times, that’s the real reason she got so mad.
Billy is going to have a party in our basement. It should be fun, because he has a lot of good 45’s. The songs I like best are: Sugar in the morning, Sugar in the Evening, Sugar at Super Time, and Wake up Little Susie, Wake up. I know I won’t be invited to go downstairs, so I’ll sit on the landing and listen.
There’s another thing that’s going to be fun. A carnival is coming to Murdo next week. It’s going to be in a vacant spot on our street, but South of Hwy 16. My cousin Mark and I are going to try to think of a way to make extra money for it. Last time we took cardboard boxes and tied a rope on two sides, so we could hang the boxes around our neck. Then, we asked our Moms to give us things they didn’t want anymore, like hair brushes, makeup, and jewelry. We filled the boxes and went door to door selling stuff. We made quite a bit of money. We mostly went to houses close to the Grade School. Mrs. Peck, and Mrs. Sorenson bought the most things.
Billy heard about it and told us there’s a sign outside of town that says, ” NO PEDDLERS,” which means we could get arrested. We’ll think of something else to do this year, but it will have to be legal.
Mary and Mark – Wanted Peddlers
Well, I have to quit for now. I’ll let you know how Billy’s party turns out.
(I wrote this story about a time when life was less complicated)
The corner window
I remember sitting in this old schoolhouse. I could look out the corner window in the back and see the changes in the seasons. Since it doubled as our country church, I spent six days a week here.
In this little building out in the middle of someone’s pasture, I learned about life here and everywhere else. I learned how to count as high as I would ever need to, and I learned to count my blessings.
I learned how people survived hardship and how some did not survive success. I learned the happiest people are those who truly care about others. I learned how to pray for strength, courage, and wisdom. I learned how to be humble, grateful, and compassionate.
I learned that nothing is forever, and life would be better if I learned to embrace change. I figured out that we all come from a long line of hardworking people, and we should be proud of our heritage.
This old building shaped my life. I wouldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t come here when it was too cold, or too hot. I learned everything from how to tie my shoes by watching my classmates, to what love is and isn’t from reading 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.
I also know that learning and living are two different things. I can learn the lesson, but not live it. I can justify, argue, and spin my mistakes, but it doesn’t change the truth. Anyone who doesn’t hold me accountable does me no favors.
I’m an imperfect human being who was lucky enough to cross the threshold of this old building where I gazed out the corner window and saw a beautiful world, because that’s what I chose to see.
This is a rerun about one of my favorite childhood memories…The lady always prefaces the little Murdo Girl stories…
Well, she wanted to write about her dog today. I thought we might get away from the brother, but we weren’t so fortunate. He may have to pay for her therapy someday. In any case, I left the story about Berferd in, because it’s rather charming.
I used to have a dog named Penny. One day, she had puppies in our coat closet. My mom told me I could keep one, so I picked out the one I thought was cutest and named him Scout.
“MOM!! Billy just stuck his head in my door and called me Clara Belle Barnsmell.”
Sorry, he wants to know what I’m doing and I told him it was none of his beeswax. My cousin Trice told me her brother Blake made her eat flies before she could have a popsicle. I sure hope Billy doesn’t hear about that!
Back to Scout.
When Scout was little, I went to California with my Dad. He flew back home in a few days, but I stayed most of the summer with my Aunt Vava and Uncle Bob. Dad bought me some new clothes before he left. Do you know what a shift dress is? It doesn’t have a waist. Dad told the store clerk that he had a shiftless daughter. He bought me two.
When I got back to Murdo, I hadn’t seen Scout for almost 3 months and I couldn’t wait to see him. I went outside and yelled heeere Scout, but he didn’t come. When I told Mom he wouldn’t come, she said it was because she had changed his name to Berferd. “He looks more like a Berferd,” she said. I went outside and yelled heere Berferd. Well here came the homeliest dog I have ever seen. My dog had grown up and he had black, white, grey and brown, wiry hair. He looked like he had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. I still loved that dog.
Murdo has shows uptown on Saturday and Sunday nights. (The same show both nights.) Berferd runs all over town, but on Saturday and Sunday nights he always knows there is a show, and he always goes. He lays at the top of the aisle and Mrs. Burns, who is the usher, shines a flashlight on him so the people don’t trip over him. Mrs. Burns is also the dental assistant and her husband, Mr. Willard Burns works at the Ford Garage and also runs the projector for the show.
Anyway, I usually go to the show one night and sometimes Dad goes if it’s a cowbyer movie (that’s what he calls westerns). All the kids always go to Sanderson’s Store before the show and buy penny candy. My Great Aunt Tet works there and sells it to us. When we first sit down in the show house, we see a cartoon, then news, and after that, the show.
Berferd always goes to the show both nights and after the movie, he gets to run all around and eat the popcorn that the people spilled. When he’s done, he goes home. He usually gets home by about 10:30.
Berferd runs ahead of Dad’s car all of the time. When Dad drops me off at band practice, Berferd stays there until band is out, and then he walks me to my school.
Sometimes when Dad is driving me to school, he pretends that he is going to turn one way and Berferd takes off in that direction. Then, Dad turns the opposite way and Berferd runs that way. He yelps all the way back until he gets ahead of Dad again. It is so funny. Dad laughs so hard even with a cigar in his mouth. Dad hates cigarettes, but loves cigars. Anyway, Berferd will never ride in a car because he got car sick once.We sure do love that dog. Dad says he has personality instead of good looks.
One Saturday when I came home from the show, Mom was sitting in Dad’s chair. She didn’t look very good. She said the neighbor had been over to tell her that Berferd had been hit by a car and was dead. He put him in the trunk of Mom’s car so we could bury him someplace. It was really, really, sad. I asked Mom what time it happened, and she said it was a couple of hours ago.
I said, “Mom are you sure, because Berferd was at the show?” Well, she went right to the phone and called Willard Burns who runs the projector and asked him if Berferd was there. He said, “Yes, he cleaned up the popcorn and then he left. He should be home any minute.”
Mom said, “Then who is in my trunk?” We went out to the car to look. We couldn’t believe it. There was a dog that looked just like Berferd only he was bigger. Mom and I looked at each other and said, “Berferd’s father!!”
I was over-the-top excited. It was May 6th, 1959. I was in the first grade and it was Rally Day. We didn’t have to go to school on Rally Day. Instead, we went to the football field, which at that time was near the high school and next to the auditorium. I knew I was going to run in races, participate in the sack race, and broad jump. Billy was 14 and I had been to watch his activities but today, I was going to participate.
There was another exciting thing. My number was pinned to my shirt and it was #36. It was May 6th, Mom’s birthday, and my number was 36. Guess what? That’s how old she was that day. (I have since recalculated Mom’s real age. I was 7 yrs old, which means Mom had turned 38. Maybe the number 38 was already taken and Mom didn’t want me to feel bad.)
From left: Harriet Parish, Loretta Gustafson (Mom), Elsa Peck, and Florence Murphy.
My first grade class with our teacher, Mrs Sandy. The future class of 1970
I remember as if it were yesterday, standing in the hallway of our house, waiting for Billy to walk me to the field. I was sure he was being slow just to make me nervous. Like always with our family, we were among the first ones to get there. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I couldn’t wait to win some blue ribbons. I was hoping Billy would watch me.
We experience many firsts in our lives. Some not planned or expected. Those events usually change everything.
I never planned to live anywhere but South Dakota, yet I have lived in 5 states. I would have called anyone crazy, if they had suggested I would spend 30 years (so far) in Texas. Mom once told me she had to get a new address book because she ran out of room under our name, and she knew we would move again. We’ve lived in 5 different houses in Texas.
I was talking to my cousin, Val, and she asked me if I had gotten 2 other cousin’s Christmas letters. Another cousin, Mark, brought up two more. I was feeling sad. My family must not like me. My cousin said, “No, that’s not it…they have no idea where you are.”
Our email address has changed and I’ve lost count of all the houses we’ve lived in. We tease that we don’t do windows, so when they get dirty, we have to move. We turn the mattresses then, too. It’s my fault, anyway, because I know where all my relatives live. I did send them all the Sanderson Christmas story a couple of years ago.
So here I am…in Texas. And I have the most wonderful friends anyone could ask for. As my thoughts and memories reach back over the years, I can see I’ve always been surrounded by genuinely amazing people.
I’m sure glad I wasn’t the one running things..
My Aunt Irma Sanderson’s house. L to R: Harriet Parrish, Marce Lillibridge, Florence Murphy, Marge Bork, Evie Johnson, and Mom…They have all been in my stories. The doctor, the banker, and the dentist’s wives, and the lady whose little boy fell from the slide…These lady’s stories, like everyone’s are about changes they weren’t expecting.
They say life happens while we’re busy making plans. Our little miss Murdo Girl is experiencing just that. I’m sure as she gets older, she will have many opportunities to learn how to roll with the punches. Her parents advised her to be grateful for every second of every minute, and I think that’s pretty good advise. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.
You are not going to believe what happened!! Western Airlines went on strike. I had it made in the shade. I had worked really hard all summer, bought some Connie like clothes, and was almost ready for my transformation. All that remained was for me to get my hair cut. Murdo High School here I come! Even if Western Airlines resolved their problems, it was too late for me to make the trip to New York. My cousins would have to get to know me another time. Whew!!
Two weeks before school started the strike was over. My Uncle called my Mom and said he could get me on a flight. I could still come for two weeks, and I would only miss one week of school.
“What did you say? I would miss a whole week of school?”
Mom and Dad made the decision I should go. Mom called the Murdo High School Superintendent, Mr. Haugland, to let him know I would be missing school. Mom asked him if he thought the airplanes would be safe? “They have been sitting there for over two months,” she said.
To which Mr. Haugland replied, “I’m sure their planes will be ready to go, and they’ll be as safe as any other airplane.”
Mom said, “So you don’t think it will crash then?”
Mr. Haugland said, “Well Loretta, I’m not going to guarantee anything, I’d feel responsible if something did happen. You would say it was all my fault.”
Do you know what I did? I threw a wall-eyed fit. That’s what I did. No one was going to make me get on a broken down airplane, and no one was going to make me miss my very first week of high school.
This was not the way it was supposed to go.
Well, both Mom and Dad said I was going, and I had better appreciate every second of every minute. It was very nice of my Uncle to do this. It would be a wonderful experience they said; and that was the end of that!
A couple of days later, my Uncle called with the information about the trip. I would have a seven hour layover in Chicago, but he said not to worry because a guy he knows would pick me up and spend the whole seven hours with me. This was sounding worse and worse.
I made it to Chicago, and I wanted to kneel down and kiss the ground. My Uncle’s friend was really nice and even took me to a place called Shaky’s Pizza. It was a treat for me, because we don’t have any cafes in Murdo that make pizza. It even had a player piano and some other neat stuff. He was going to drive around and show me more of Chicago, but it was raining cats and dogs, a real downpour, and I had to get on another broken down airplane.
What do you know, I made it to New York. My Uncle Chuck met me and then told me to sit at this little table outside a restaurant and wait for him. He had to find a pay phone and make a couple of business calls before we left the airport. He asked me twice if I wanted a pop or something and I said no thank you.
Well, after he left, a waiter came and set a glass of pop on the table. It looked really good. It had a little umbrella in it and everything . I guessed my Uncle must have known he would be a while, so he decided he’d get me something to drink even though I said no thank you. I took a drink of it, and couldn’t decide what kind of pop it was, so I drank some more. About then, my uncle came back, picked up the glass, stared at it for a minute, then sat down and drank it while he made some notes on his little pad.
I think we both realized at the same time what had happened. It was his drink and it was spiked! He must have been wondering why his glass wasn’t full. Uncle Chuck didn’t say anything, and neither did I. It had been a long day, and suddenly I was so tired, I could barely keep my eyes open.
Well, my cousin’s house was really nice, and I had quite a bit of fun. We went to the Empire State Building, The United Nations Building, and a Broadway musical with Ginger Rogers called, “Hello Dolly. Abby’s room is just full of Peter Pan stuff. Did you know the one who plays Peter Pan is a girl? Her name is Mary Martin. Both Hello Dolly and Peter Pan are stories where they sing instead of talk. I didn’t know that before.
We got to go to this huge place with an Olympic sized swimming pool and tennis courts. My cousins Abby and Paul are good tennis players. I tried it once and didn’t like it, so I swam all the time.
One night, they had a guy whose name is Ron Weiner, over for dinner. He is a photographer for Life Magazine. My Aunt Barbara fixed a fancy dinner because Mr. Weiner is such a big deal, I guess. I wore my Connie like dress and shoes because my Aunt said we had to dress up.
We started eating, and I wasn’t really listening to Mr. Weiner, because I was too busy watching everybody use their utensils. I had more forks than I had food, so I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with them all. Mr. Weiner asked me a question just as I was cutting a piece of roast, and it startled me so much, my fork slipped and my peas went flying all over the table. Some of them went over the table and landed in Mr. Weiner’s lap. I jumped up, and started cleaning up my peas, and he just calmly sat there and picked the peas off his clothes. When I started to crawl under the table to pick up the peas that rolled under there, my Aunt said, “That’s all right dear, we can do that when everyone is finished with dinner.” I was very embarrassed. I had no idea peas could roll that far. These were English peas. (I didn’t know you could get peas in different nationalities.)
My cousins were getting ready for their school to start too. Abby wanted her hair trimmed so I went with Aunt Barbara and Abby to the beauty shop. My Aunt asked me if I wanted my hair trimmed, too. I thought about getting a Connie like haircut, but I chickened out at the last minute. My Aunt said, “Would you like to get a little trim?” I did, and the hairdresser cut my bangs so short, I looked like a 5th grader now
The last day I was there, they had a swimming contest in their big Olympic pool. It has lanes divided by rope and everything. Well I entered a race and I was even a little ahead of everybody for a while. I got excited and really put the pedal to the metal. I was splashing so much water I couldn’t see and veerd a little. I was in one of the side lanes, and all of a sudden I banged my head really hard on the side of the pool. I think I came in last.
So, I’m sitting on the airplane now waiting to fly back. If I survive, I’ll be going to my first day of high school tomorrow. I have a huge black and blue knot on my head that my fifth grader bangs won’t cover up even if I scotch tape them to my forehead until they dry.