Those 70ish girls…A story to tell..part 5

The Attic…

It was all a little overwhelming. Aunt Marti had come to me in some sort of dream and informed me that at 3:00 o’clock that afternoon, I would be given a letter explaining why she was leaving her house in Pleasant Run to me.

It was only noon. I had 3 hours before the other cousins would arrive for the reading of the will. It seemed a little strange that all of this was happening so quickly. Aunt Marti had only passed away the evening before and there had been no discussion about anything. I was guessing that the attorney arranging the meeting would also be informing us of Aunt Marti’s wishes regarding her funeral.

Since I had plenty of time before everyone arrived, I wanted to do a little more exploring. I decided to start at the top of the house with the attic. I had remembered seeing what looked like a drop-down ladder in the hallway. I pulled the cord and was excited to see a substantial ladder unfold. Halfway up, I reached the cord to the light and continued to the top. What I saw was typical attic decor. a discarded table and chair set lined one wall and some dressmaker paraphernalia was on another.

In one corner, there was an interesting looking chest. I was excited to find it wasn’t locked. Inside, there were several boxes and a long narrow tin box that had a padlock on it. I opened the largest cardboard box and pulled out a man’s army tunic and trousers. It looked to be from the WWI era. Possibly an English uniform.

There was a manila envelope under the uniform with the words, “From Bernard.” scribbled on the outside. Inside, I found several typewritten pages…

On 12/24, 1914, in the dank, muddy trenches on the Western Front of the first world war, a remarkable thing happened.

It came to be called the Christmas truce. And it remains one of the most storied and strangest moments of the Great War—or of any war in history.

British machine gunner Bruce Bairnsfather, later a prominent cartoonist, wrote about it in his memoirs. Like most of his fellow infantrymen of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, he was spending the holiday eve shivering in the muck, trying to keep warm. He had spent a good part of the past few months fighting the Germans. And now, in a part of Belgium called Bois de Ploegsteert, he was crouched in a trench that stretched just three feet deep by three feet wide, his days and nights marked by an endless cycle of sleeplessness and fear, stale biscuits and cigarettes too wet to light.

“Here I was, in this horrible clay cavity,” Bairnsfather wrote, “…miles and miles from home. Cold, wet through and covered with mud.” There didn’t “seem the slightest chance of leaving—except in an ambulance.”

At about 10 p.m., Bairnsfather noticed a noise. “I listened,” he recalled. “Away across the field, among the dark shadows beyond, I could hear the murmur of voices.” He turned to a fellow soldier in his trench and said, “Do you hear the Boches [Germans] kicking up that racket over there?”

“Yes,” came the reply. “They’ve been at it some time!”

The Germans were singing carols, as it was Christmas Eve. In the darkness, some of the British soldiers began to sing back. “Suddenly,” Bairnsfather recalled, “we heard a confused shouting from the other side. We all stopped to listen. The shout came again.” The voice was from an enemy soldier, speaking in English with a strong German accent. He was saying, “Come over here.”

One of the British sergeants answered: “You come half-way. I come half-way.”

What happened next would, in the years to come, stun the world and make history. Enemy soldiers began to climb nervously out of their trenches, and to meet in the barbed-wire-filled “No Man’s Land” that separated the armies. Normally, the British and Germans communicated across No Man’s Land with streaking bullets, with only occasional gentlemanly allowances to collect the dead. But now, there were handshakes and words of kindness. The soldiers traded songs, tobacco and wine, joining in a spontaneous holiday party in the cold night.

Bairnsfather could not believe his eyes. “Here they were—the actual, practical soldiers of the German army. There was not an atom of hate on either side.”

And it wasn’t confined to that one battlefield. Starting on Christmas Eve, small pockets of French, German, Belgian and British troops held impromptu cease-fires across the Western Front, with reports of some on the Eastern Front as well. Some accounts suggest a few of these unofficial truces remained in effect for days.

By the time winter approached in 1914, and the chill set in, the Western Front stretched hundreds of miles. Countless soldiers were living in misery in the trenches on the fronts, while tens of thousands had already died.

Then Christmas came.

Descriptions of the Christmas Truce appear in numerous diaries and letters of the time. One British soldier, a rifleman named J. Reading, wrote a letter home to his wife describing his holiday experience in 1914: “My company happened to be in the firing line on Christmas eve, and it was my turn…to go into a ruined house and remain there until 6:30 on Christmas morning. During the early part of the morning the Germans started singing and shouting, all in good English. They shouted out: ‘Are you the Rifle Brigade; have you a spare bottle; if so we will come half way and you come the other half.’”

“Later on in the day they came towards us,” Reading described. “And our chaps went out to meet them…I shook hands with some of them, and they gave us cigarettes and cigars. We did not fire that day, and everything was so quiet it seemed like a dream.”

Another British soldier, named John Ferguson, recalled it this way: “Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!”

Other diaries and letters describe German soldiers using candles to light Christmas trees around their trenches. One German infantryman described how a British soldier set up a makeshift barbershop, charging Germans a few cigarettes each for a haircut. Other accounts describe vivid scenes of men helping enemy soldiers collect their dead, of which there was plenty.

Just how many soldiers participated in these informal holiday gatherings has been debated; there is no way to know for sure since the ceasefires were small-scale, haphazard and entirely unauthorized. A Time magazine story on the 100 anniversary claimed that as many as 100,000 people took part.

The sound of the doorbell brought me back to the present. I rushed down the ladder and to the front door. When I open it, I saw Tara standing there. She was holding a leash. At the end of the Leash was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

“Mr. Bairnsfather wanted to come home for tea.” Tara said.

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell..part 4

The house…

I had just asked Aunt Marti if there was a reason, other than the 10 year age difference, that she and my mother had not been close.

“We will talk about all of that in good time,” Aunt Marti said. “But right now, I must tell you a few things concerning what will be taking place here this afternoon. My hope is that all of my nieces and nephews will be present at the meeting that Tara has been good enough to arrange. She was given some directions from my attorney. You will all be given a letter from me and you will be reading my will.”

“According to Tara, all of the cousins will be meeting here at 3:00 pm,” I offered.

“Perfect,” Aunt Marti said with a dramatic flash of her eyes.  I had seen that same expression many times on my mother’s face. As if reading my mind, Aunt Marti continued. “Your mother was different from the rest of us and sometimes the things she said and did didn’t set well with me. As the eldest of 4 children, I always felt as though the other girls’ behavior was more or less my responsibility.”

“Speaking from my own experience of living with Mom, I said. “I can understand your comment. Mom’s behavior sometimes pushed the envelope.” (I was secretly amused by my mother’s outlandish ways, but I didn’t share that with my aunt.)

“I must leave you now,” Aunt Marti said as she rose from the chair and picked up the tray with the tea and muffins. “But before I go, I need to tell you that I left you this property. I do hope you will give staying here in Pleasant Run a lot of thought before you get the news formerly at the meeting today. This house has a story to tell, and I believe it will tell you all of its secrets.”

“I don’t know what to say, Aunt Marti. Why would you give me your house?” I was surprised, to say the least.

“It’s all in the letter,” she answered. “And you can say goodbye.”

A story to tell..

Those 70ish girls…Mother’s Day Way by Valerie Halla

I was talking with a friend recently about how our children can be so different. She has two daughters. The oldest turned out to be a true joy. So the oldest married well and has several homes plus comes to help her Mother often. The other adult child is the opposite and has a drinking problem plus the older sister supports her. My friend thought maybe without realizing it, she gave the oldest one more attention and the second one was just coming along so closely in age that it wasn’t a big deal. Another baby? We’ve done this before.

I asked how she was so fortunate to have her oldest daughter be so kind, helpful and financially well off (her husband is a successful dentist). She said, “Well, I had the best mother, as an example. Plus, I was given a good education.” Coincidentally she’s the youngest of two daughters also but she turned out to be a responsible and caring person. I then mentioned that my mother also was the best and influenced me a great deal. I agreed that having a caring supportive mother guide you through your early years is important.

Mothers show us the way through examples, talking to us, cooking certain foods, sharing their stories, interacting with relatives, and a myriad of other ways. Which brings us to Mothers Day. My kids ask what I want for this special holiday. I’m of the belief that every day is Mothers Day. It should be. I’ve been lucky all through life, knowing fantastic grandmothers, aunts, cousins and friends who are mothers and set good examples for me.

Mother’s Day! What should we do? But then I am torn between thinking should I ask to be taken out for lunch or dinner or should we just eat at home, barbecue or fix a fancy meal? Gifts? Please, don’t spend your hard earned money on gifts. I don’t need anything. (Hmm, a new Lexus sounds perfect!)

Maybe you’re feeling the same. Mother’s Day can be a bit stressful and frenetic with your kids being extra nice because it’s required on Mother’s Day. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the day. All 3 of my adult kids can’t be here, they live far away, but one of our sons will drive here and spend the weekend. The other two will call. So just having them give me some of their time is the best gift. We gave them a gift also by showing them the way. Sure, we weren’t perfect moms, but we tried and learned as we went through motherhood. It’s not just one day out of the year. Your job as a mother never ends. Have a wonderful Mom’s Day and even if you’re not a Mom, remember yours.

My Mom is the tallest one with her 3 sisters on the farm. Don’t know gal in ruffle bonnet.

Me with grandson and Ninny dog.

My Mom with me taken above SANDERSONS Store in Murdo.

My three wonderful kids with family dog, Chase.

Those 70ish girls…Coronation ruination

MG: Hi Lav! Are you all ready to fly across the pond to attend King Charles the III’s coronation?

LAV: I’m really nervous (Lav will write her own story outlining all the trouble she is having preparing for the biggest event of her life, so far.)

MG: Oh pshaw, Lav. We’ve been across the pond a million times. That’s why Windy and Airy are still on the payroll. We’ve been waiting our whole lives for this. I’m going to hang up right now and call them to make sure they remembered to gas up the plane. Last time we flew across the pond, we had to land on a ship because we ran out of gas? That admiral guy was kind of upset when we came out of nowhere. You’d think he’d never seen a nose-dive before.

What time does the invitation say we have to be there?

Windy Berg and Airy Heart landed us safely on the unsuspecting ship

LAV: What invitation? I thought you had the invitation.

Been checking my mailbox

No invitations in here!

LAV: I think the Coronation was yesterday but I was eating tacos at a Cinco de Mayo celebration. I’m not even ready to go to England! What the Royal heck would I wear? Don’t you have to dress up in robes and sashes and wear crowns, MG?

NINNY DOG: And aren’t those Royal Corgis pretty yappy and uppity?

Windy just called to tell us that Prince Harry wanted to hook a ride across the pond with us because our carbon footprint is so small. We hardly emit any carbon unless the airplane backfires…

Get Around in a Healthy Way by LAV

You know it’s time to drop those pandemic pounds and start getting around without huffing and puffing. Start slowly by exercising a bit more and eating good stuff. Eat half if you can, of your normal portions. That way you won’t feel like you’re missing out on your favorite foods, yet you’ll be cutting down on calories. Portion sizes and calories go hand in hand and we often think we should eat like we’re still 25 but we do not need as much sustenance nor calories in our 40’s, 50’s and on and on in years. Lav recently consulted a nutritionist. They are professionals with great advice and meal plans. Choose one who will follow through and stick with you to monitor how you progress.

Lav was trying to lose weight on her own. Later, she found out that a nutrition expert is the best way. Let’s check in on her.

Monkeys eat bananas. Have you ever seen an overweight monkey?

It’s easier getting around when you carry less weight, but pink ones are quite stylish.

I’m going for a walk now. That’s another great way to stay healthy. If you can’t get outside, just do an indoor walk. Keep moving and grooving!

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell..part 3

Cousin Valerie and I are going to be featuring a few different things on the blog. Val and I will still be writing about our daily lives, both factual and fictional, plus I am going to be continuing on with the story about Aunt Marti and her niece, DeeDee.

We love interaction with our readers. Please leave us a comment when you can.

Tea for Two

Aunt Marti had made a delicious breakfast of fried cornmeal mush and bacon. She looked the same as she had twenty years before, which was the last time I saw her. I had come to Pleasant Run hoping to spend time with her before she completely succumbed to the stroke she had suffered. According to my cousin, Tara, Aunt Marti was not expected to recover. The stroke had left her weak and confused, which, considering she was 99 years old, was easily understood.

While I was enjoying my breakfast with Aunt Marti, I answered her house phone, and it was Tara. You can imagine my confusion when Tara told me Aunt Marti had gone home in the night. She had not meant to her house. She had gone to her home in heaven.

Tara was still on the phone waiting for me to respond to the news. “Sorry, Tara I said. “I had a dream about Aunt Marti and it was so real. It was like I got to see her one last time after all. I’m really sorry she is no longer with us, but I must say, in a way, I think she’s still here in her home just waiting to spoil us.”

“That sounds like a great dream, Dee. I also wanted to let you know that our cousin, Drew, is coming in from Montana today. My husband, Tom, will pick him up at the airport. Grayson, and Tonja, who, as you know, are the other 2 cousins who still live here in town, will all join Drew, you, and me at Aunt Marti’s house this afternoon around 3:00 pm. So, you have the morning off. Rest up.

“That all sounds good, Tara. Will Drew be staying here at Aunt Marti’s house?” I asked. There is certainly enough room here.”

“That’s a good idea. I’ll shoot him a text and ask him if he’d like to stay there or at the hotel. You know how men are. He might feel more comfortable in a hotel. I don’t know Drew that well, so we’ll wait and see what he says.”

Now that a plan for the day was taking shape, I decided to grab a shower and then explore the house. Even though I hadn’t eaten breakfast at all, because it was a part of a dream, I wasn’t hungry. I did, however, brew a cup of coffee to take upstairs with me.

The first room in the old house that I found myself exploring was the library. Aunt Marti had been quite the reader. The shelves were filled with everything from children’s books to mysteries. Maybe that’s who I inherited my love of reading from. I had started to peruse the children’s section of books to see if I could find any of my old favorites when I heard someone say, “Gulliver’s Travels.”

I swung around to see Aunt Marti standing there. She was holding a tray with a tea service on it and some delicious looking muffins. She was dressed in a peach colored shirtdress and wore an apron. I couldn’t remember Aunt Marti without her apron, except when she hastily tore it off before we all sat down to a meal.

“The few times you visited when you were small, you wanted me to read Gulliver’s Travels to you. It’s there in alphabetical order by the author’s name. You hardly ate a bite of breakfast this morning,” she said. “I thought you might be ready for some tea and my special cranberry-orange muffins. Don’t look so shocked, dear. You are not losing your mind. I wanted to spend a little time with you. My other sisters and I were close, and I saw their children often, but your mother and I were so far apart in age, with her being the youngest and me the oldest. Well, we never spent much time together. Ten years is quite an age difference. Anyway, I’m here in spirit, as they say. You are the only one I’m here to see, and our time together will take its own course.”

I didn’t pretend to understand all of what Aunt Marti was saying, but I did not question whatever phenomenon was occurring. I wanted to spend time with my aunt. I knew she and my mother hadn’t been particularly close. Mother had very seldom spoken about her oldest sister. I had only recently become curious about the whole family dynamics myself. Mom had died two years earlier, and with her death, my whole worldview had begun to change.

“Aunt Marti, I’m not going to question why or how you are here. I’m just happy to be spending some time with you. Is the ten year age difference, the only reason you and my mother weren’t close? I’ve recently become curious about that.

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell…part 2

If I knew you were coming…

I unpacked all of my things and slipped the suitcases under the bed. When I was growing up, my mother had often chastised me for shoving things beneath the bed. “That’s what God made closets for,” said.

I was tired to the bone. I flopped down on the window seat where I had flung my handbag. The one with the sour cream and cheese chips in it. Surely, they didn’t really mean the bag held 3 1/2 servings. Whatever! I finished them off and ate the little pack of airline peanuts that was in there as well. All that salt made me thirsty, so I made my way downstairs to get a glass of water. Considering how sleepy I felt, I was glad I had declined Tara’s invitation to dinner. I changed into my pjs and crawled into bed. The sheets smelled like they had just been pulled off the closeline after drying in a fresh spring breeze. The down comforter was not too heavy and not too light. Feeling as if I was in heaven, I drifted off to sleep.

I slept soundly. I wasn’t even fully awake, the next morning when I was aroused by the aroma of fresh coffee brewing. Who could possibly be here this early. A quick glance at the clock told me it was 6:00 a.m.

Next, I heard a sweet voice singing a cheerful song. “If I knew you were coming, I’d have baked a cake,”

Was Tara already here? I grabbed my robe and rushed down the stairs, stopping short as I reached the door to the kitchen. I saw a diminuitive figure toiling over the stove as she sang. The little lady was none other than Aunt Marti.

“Oh, come on in, dear,” she said. “Sit down, and I’ll pour you a cup of coffee. I’ll get you some fresh orange juice to drink while I finish making you some bacon and fried cornmeal mush. I remember how you like it… with real butter and lots of Log Cabin syrup on it.

“Aunt Marti!” When did you get here. I thought you were gravely ill. When did you get out of the hospital? Sit down! You shouldn’t be doing all of this.”

“Nonsense, DeeDee,” she said as she poured cream into my coffee, which I would have preferred black. “I’m as right as rain. A cab brought me home from the hospital. I knew it was time to go home, so here I am.

Aunt Marti was in the middle of her explanation when I heard my phone (which I had put in the pocket of my robe), ring. It was Tara.

“Tara! I said without waiting for her to say anything. “Was this the right time for Aunt Marti to go home?”

“Yes,” Tara replied. “She passed away during the night. The nurse said her last words were, “It’s time for me to go home.”

I listened to what Tara said and then turned to look at Aunt Marti. She was gone, and there was no sign of the fried cornmeal mush, bacon, coffee and juice that she had prepared.

“Hello,” Tara said. “Dee, are you there?”

Those 70ish girls – Poetry Schmoetry by Valerie Halla

My cousin, MG, is a great wife, mom, grandmother, writer, blogger…geeze, auto correct wrote “booger”…and a camper, and when younger, a runner. But a talent that amazes me and shocks me is that she is also a poet. She writes lots…gobs…of touchingly funny, witty and lovely poetry. Honest.

If you have never ever read her poetry, I suggest you purchase one of her books of poetry. It will blow you off…uh…away. One I personally like is titled: A Whimsical Day. How many people use the word “whimsical”? Maybe 6? It does have a musical ring to it. Sounds better than A Musical Day. I’ll give her that. Bet you can find many poems in Rhymes For All Times that you will like. How does she do it? It all works and even better- her poetry rhymes! You will be caught up in her story, even His Story, her journey through life, her emotional experiences.

As I said earlier, she was once a dedicated runner. She ran marathons. She ran in competitions. She ran for fun. She looked super thin and fit. AND when we met last year in Rapid City for the All School Reunion later in Murdo, she looked like a svelte, fit and healthy youngish ex-runner. In short, MG looked great. How can she be a poet on top of all that? It’s not fair.

Some people just have loads of genes in their cards that make them successful. MG was dealt a good hand. Every bet she placed paid off. Almost. So I guess you’ve gathered that I am jealous of all her accomplishments. Who wouldn’t be? No, I am not jealous. Much. But we should all try to be more like her. I’m starting today. Pretend it’s yesterday. Yesterday was Mary Day. No, sorry, May Day.

Lastly, I have decided to gather my wits, whatever is left of them, and try a poem. I am dedicating this to my cousin, Queen MG, with due respect and regard for her work.


My cousin inspired me. You might know her name, MG.

My old plan was bombed and blown apart … kinda like Napoleon Bonaparte

Eating was my Waterloo, bet you’ve been there, too.

I’m trying to lose weight and right out the gate, I tried a new diet! You might wanna try it.

You just eat the same and you’re not to blame.

Hey, believe me it won’t sting, so here’s the truthful good thing:

Just eat one half of everything.


Slice it down the middle.

I’ll take half.

I bet she’ll eat all that and more.

Some of MG’s interesting books. (Btw: she did not paint that artwork on the wall, I think.)

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell, part 1

“As soon as we hang up, I’ll call and see how soon I can get a flight out. Will you be able to pick me up at the airport, or should I rent a car? I know it’s a long drive.”

I was talking to my cousin, Tara, who had just phoned to tell me our Aunt Marti had suffered a stroke. She was at the ripe old age of 99 and things weren’t looking good.

I knew without a doubt that I wanted to go there. I had to say goodbye to the last of my mother’s siblings.

“What?” Tara sounded incredulous.”I never thought for a moment that you would want to come. You haven’t been home in twenty years!”

“Can you pick me up or not?” I asked, a little too impatiently.

“Of course, Dee. Just let me know when you’ll be arriving. I can’t wait to see you, and the long drive back to Pleasant Run will give me a chance to bring you up to date on everything. Small town or not, you’ve missed a lot.”

“Okay, I’ll make arrangements and call you back either this evening or first thing tomorrow…and Tara, thank you for calling me with the news. Give Aunt Marti my love.

One day later, I was on my way. It wasn’t until I had boarded the plane that I finally asked myself the question that Tara hadn’t asked. Why was I going? It wasn’t as if I had ever been especially close to Aunt Marti or anyone else in that town except for Tara. Still, I knew I wanted to be there.

I had asked Tara to make a reservation for me at the local hotel, but she informed me that I would be staying at Aunt Marti’s rambling old house. “It’s just a few blocks off Main Street and within walking distance from where Tom and I live,” Tara had reminded me. “Aunt Marti very well may not be coming home, but regardless, she has plenty of room.

Commerce City was much larger than Pleasant Run, but the airport was small. I had no problem recognizing my cousin Tara, who was standing inside near the little baggage area. She was a fabulous older version of her fabulous younger self. Suddenly, I felt frumpy, but it was a little late to worry about that. As it was, I was trying to stop thinking about the half-eaten bag of sour cream cheddar cheese chips stuffed away in my handbag.

The years melted away as I returned Tara’s smile. It was hard to believe we were both 70. We had gone through twelve years of school together, and then I left Pleasant Run and Tara stayed. I had been back a few times to attend class or family reunions and my parent’s funerals, but all counted, I hadn’t been there more than 20 days in 50 years. And as Tara had mentioned, it had been twenty years since I had been back to my hometown at all.

“Good grief.” Tara said when she saw my bags. “You must have been rather indecisive when you packed. If I’d have known you were bringing this much stuff, I would have tried harder to get my grandson, Jeremy, to come with me.”

“Oh, come on,” I teased. “We can get it all in one trip. How much time do we have for you to catch me up on things in Pleasant Run.

“It’s a two hour drive,” Tara said as she slipped into the driver’s seat. I’m so glad you’re here, Dee,” Tara said as she drove down the desolate highway toward Pleasant Run.

By the time we pulled into Aunt Marti’s drive, my head was spinning. I probably wouldn’t remember half of what Tara had told me, and in a small town, people expect you to remember names and faces not to mention which gossip was okay to repeat and which was not.

I’ll come in and show you where your room is.” Tara said when we arrived. “This is an old house, but I think you’ll be very comfortable. Remember how we loved coming here when we were little?”

My room was lovely. I took the time to hang up my things in the very generous armoire. I was glad I came. This was exactly where I needed to be. I prayed that Aunt Marti would be able to come home. I needed to spend some time with my mother’s sister.