Saturday, March 17, 2018
To cut down on possible spammers, hackers and plagiarists, you may have noticed that I don't leave my posts up too long anymore. I try to take each month down about two weeks into the following month. To lessen the clutter on my blog, I normally take links down after about a week, usually a little less. Also, memes only stay up about three days, sometimes only two. Feel free to steal the memes, as I get them from Facebook. Be forewarned, I sometimes steal some of yours and put on Facebook, occasionally with a link, but usually just the meme. I often link interesting articles you folks post on your blogs on my Facebook page, even if I don't link it on my blog. Since so many of us read each other's blogs. Incidentally, there are sometimes funny pictures and cartoons mixed with the memes, if that interests you.
Also, I understand why many of you don't like Facebook; I don't really like it myself. However, I've learned that PITA's are usually our own faults for tolerating them or their friends. As a result, I show no mercy about getting rid of trouble-makers, so I have a pretty good bunch of folks remaining.
I post a LOT more memes and links on Facebook than I do on my blog, partly because my goals are slightly different for the two platforms. While there is a lot of redundancy between the two, if you wish to see more links and memes, please consider friending me on Facebook. To avoid feeling spammed by my incessant sharing of the posts of others, you might want to friend me, but unfollow me, so you can just check my page when you so choose.
Just giving you folks an explanation, an invitation and an additional choice. Thanks fro following my blog, and please keep posting on yours. You make my life more interesting!
Friday, March 16, 2018
One of the earliest things that Marie DeVeau could remember from her youth was reaching through the white picket fence that surrounded the United Brethren parsonage at Carpenter, West Virginia, and pulling the red curly hair of the little boy next door. She couldn’t remember why she found his red hair so fascinating. Her mother had red hair, so it wasn’t anything new to her. She was reprimanded several times for her wanton cruelty, and perhaps even spanked a time or two. (She couldn’t be sure about that either.) However, she recalled that she was never completely broken of the habit during the year that her father filled the pulpit in the little river village between Newport and Hunterstown.
There were other memories, but the first of any consequence was the death of her mother when Marie was only two years old. The void in her life was only partly filled by the supreme effort that her older sister, Iva, put into making her life as enjoyable as possible. It was filled a little more when her father, Reverend H.G. DeVeau, remarried about four years after the death of Marie’s mother. She bonded almost instantly with her stepmother and soon called her “Mommy” with heartfelt affection. Still, when she referred to the woman who had first filled that role, it was always in reverence as “my mother.”
Many of her memories centered on the things that country kids did to entertain themselves in those days even before radio. Cider making was often turned into an autumn social event as those farmers with cider mills congregated at one farm after another to turn piles of ugly or excess apples into the delicious amber liquid. Taffy pulls were a common winter-time excuse for a get-together at church, school or home. And, there were always the options of walking on barrel-stave skis or sliding down snow-covered slopes on homemade sleds or even pieces of roofing tin.
Concerning the latter sport, the really daring children would start at the front steps of the one-room German Ridge School, jump their tin toboggans over the stone wall at the lower edge of the schoolyard, scoot across the snow-covered dirt road and then sail down through the neighbor’s pasture field gate and down the hillside nearly to the hollow. Though they were flying downhill at a breakneck speed, they had to bail off the speeding tin before they reached the woods at the bottom where all felt that certain death awaited them. Marie was one of those daring young souls.
Marie was crushed when her sister, Iva, married a good-looking dandy with a fast horse and a derby hat who made his living in the oilfields. At seven years of age, she just couldn’t understand why Iva would want to leave their happy home. She began to feel differently when her sister and new brother-in-law made it clear that she was welcome to visit them as much as her father would allow. In time, she grew to love and respect Cump Day as much as she did her own brothers.
Marie eventually learned why her sister left her childhood home when she found a love of her own. He, too, was a good-looking fellow, but her father wasn’t as impressed by him as he was with Iva’s husband. His family wasn’t the worst in the neighborhood, but neither was it the best. Considering the lad’s background and personality, her dad expressed the fear that Marie’s suitor would eventually prove unfaithful and have too close of a friendship with John Barleycorn. Still, he wouldn’t go so far as to forbid their marriage. Knowing that her pastor father had a seemingly unerring instinct on judging the direction of people’s lives, she didn’t tell her suitor “no;” but she did tell him “not yet.”
Her father’s instincts proved correct. Before long, the young man was seen wooing other young women in the area and showing up at area dances “three sheets in the wind.” Marie’s young heart was broken, so she strove for its healing by throwing herself into helping with Iva’s children as much as possible and with her stepmother’s children (her half-brothers and half-sisters) when needed. She’d been doing so for years but, after her heartbreak, she seemed to take it as an occupation. It seemed to her as if it was her calling in life anyway, for she dearly loved children.
Marie enjoyed telling an amusing anecdote about a conversation that occurred in her father’s house (near the time of her heartbreak) when the United States officially declared war on Germany during World War I. Several neighbors from German Ridge were at the DeVeau home discussing the news in that day’s paper. One of them thought to ask an elderly German fellow, not long removed from the fatherland, what his take was on the situation. To their eternal delight he responded, “I tink veer gonna vhip da hell oudda dem Jurmans!”
Marie’s life was nothing if not active. She lived with Cump and Iva the rest of her life after she finished eighth grade, but she would also move back into her father’s home for a while when there was a new half-brother or half-sister added to the family. Then, when her stepmother got back into the swing of things, she would return to living with Iva and care for her nieces and nephew. She also frequently went to Penn’s Station, a small oil-boom town in Wealth County to visit with aunts, uncles and cousins from her mother’s side of the family. Occasionally, her stays would extend to two months or more.
Each of us has some special interest in life, and after her family, Marie’s passion was quilting. The aunt and uncle with whom she stayed at Penn’s Station soon learned that the surest way to prolong her visit was to put a quilt in the frame and ask her help to finish it. Of course, one of the most important aspects of working on a quilt with another person was the conversation that flowed between those cooperating on the project.
Marie’s skill at sewing also played a role in her popularity as a helper on quilting projects. If you looked carefully at one of Marie’s quilts, you’d see that the stitches were as small and neat as if made by a machine. Such work not only was nice to look at, it also held the batting inside the quilt in place much better than large, loose stitches.
Quilts could only keep her away from home for so long, though, and she’d board the train and return to Newport and the farm on Waddington Creek that she considered her home. There she’d be greeted by the happy voices, hugs and kisses of the relatives who had missed her.
Cump felt guilty that she’d apparently devoted her life to helping his family while getting very little in the way of monetary reward. Since few other options were open to women of modest means from that era, he offered to send Marie to nursing school or secretarial school so she could learn a trade which would allow her to have a financial life far better than he and Iva could offer. She declined, telling him that she felt that helping her family was her calling in life and that no amount of money could replace the joy she got from being surrounded daily by the people she loved. Iva, too, tried to “talk sense into her” on the subject, but with no more success than Cump. They finally gave up and thanked their lucky stars to have her.
Most confirmed single people tend to have a few quirks that may partly explain they’re singleness. One of Marie’s oddities was that she steadfastly refused to attend weddings. The first two weddings that she had attended as an adult both ended in divorce (at a time when divorce was nearly unheard of). For some reason, she then felt she was a jinx on the newlyweds when she went to such ceremonies, so she never again joined in such festivities. Some folks suspected that the memory of her own ill-fated romance might have had some effect on her decision.
Funerals were another story. Coming from huge clans on both her mother’s and father’s sides of the family, there was always some relative or friend of the family departing this life for the next one. It just wasn’t proper, in her mind, not to show your respects to the dead and your concern for the living. Her presence was something that could be depended on as surely as the sunrise unless she was dangerously close to death’s door herself. (That only happened a couple times in her life, once due to an influenza epidemic and once due to appendicitis.)
Her regular clothes weren’t numerous but were adequate. Her “funeral clothes”, however, were of best quality and contained proper attire for each season. The color, of course, was black and black alone, but there were clothes of the right weight and weave for windy spring ceremonies, sultry summer funerals, nippy autumn internments and icy winter wakes. A couple of her winter coats even had fur trim to keep her cozy during all but the worst blizzard.
The younger family members teased her by telling her that she might not share the happy moments of their lives, but if they croaked before their time, they knew there’d be at least one person at their funeral. She laughed along with them, but she never budged on her refusal to attend their weddings. But don’t think for a moment that she was morbid; in fact, she was just a tad ornery in her own fun-loving way. Nor was her grief insincere or her well-wishing of newlyweds tainted by jealousy. Everyone knew she meant the very best; she was just a trifle odd; but they loved her anyway.
In spite of taking in very little money, she always had some to spare, for neither did she spend much. When occasions arose where Cump and Iva’s budget was stretched to the breaking point, it was often Marie that came to the rescue. Such was the case when Cump needed a workhorse for the farm. It was Cump and John that used the horse, but the receipt for the seven-year-old strawberry roan showed that Marie was the purchaser at $200. Cump paid her back, but they never bothered to “change the title” on the horse.
Marie loved Iva’s children as if they were her own, especially John. However, another young fellow became the apple of her eye when Cump and Iva’s youngest daughter, Flossie, got married. She quickly got pregnant, just as quickly got divorced and then moved to a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. to find work. She left her infant son, Nick, in the care of her parents, which in reality meant Marie. Except for one short and ill-fated attempt by Flossie to include Nick in her new household when she remarried, he remained at the farm on Waddington Creek, abandoned by his mother and remembered only at Christmas and on his birthday by his flask-toting father.
Marie doted on Nick the way only an old maid can, and Nick considered her “the mother he never had.” As older women often do, Marie made a bit of a sissy out of Nick. He proved to be a good student and a likeable fellow, but melodramatic and given to storms of emotion.
When Nick discovered that his new stepfather hated Catholics, he quickly became one. After a while, he became quite close to a young priest who was in the habit of befriending young boys. That was about the time when most males his age were suffering from raging hormones and getting girl-crazy. Nick never seemed to experience that for some reason. He preferred the company of his little circle of buddies at the Catholic school and the young priest.
Eventually, Nick grew up and moved away, found work in a northern city and joined the local amateur theatre there. A few years later, he met a truck driver and spent the next couple decades seeing America from the passenger seat of a semi before the two of them finally settled down to regular jobs in New Orleans. Marie was glad he’d found a “friend”, and in her preacher’s-daughter innocence, never suspected the true nature of their relationship. It was probably for the best, since she always remained proud of “her boy.”
It wasn’t long after Nick moved away that Cump, became bedfast. Marie and Iva continued to raise a small garden out back of the house, and Marie continued to hand-milk a couple cows for the use of what kinfolk lived nearby. She also ran some of the milk through the old DeLaval cream separator and used the cream to churn butter for their use. Increasingly, though, her time was demanded in helping to care for Cump.
The near constant activity began to tell on Marie. Her work was compounded by the fact that Iva’s health was also on the decline and Marie had to shoulder more of the workload. Another problem was that Iva, was diabetic, severely overweight and required food and medication at the right times to avoid sickness. Marie not only had her inside and outside work to do as well as help care for Cump, she also had to keep Iva on schedule and medicated. Marie had always been thin, partly because she purposely watched her figure, but her eyes started to darken and she began to lose weight. While it was a great loss to the family when Cump finally passed way, for a while at least, it gave Marie a little more time to rest and to get her work done.
Her respite was short-lived, as Iva’s health took a turn for the worse within a year of Cump’s passing and Marie’s time was tied up nearly 24 hours a day. Iva’s weight and age combined to make her nearly an invalid. As a result, she called for Marie to do every little thing for her. Iva had to be helped out of bed, helped to the bathroom and helped in and out of her rocking chair. Marie fetched water, administered medication, bathed Iva and performed every needed task in the home. Worst of all was that the second that she left Iva’s sight, Iva would start calling for her with some task or concern, real or imagined.
Marie had to give up her last milk cow for lack of time to care for it. A year or two later, she quit trying to raise any garden. She did her best to maintain Iva’s flowers, but they didn’t mean to her what they did to her sister and Iva would hardly let her out of her sight anyway. When Iva’s next to oldest daughter, Corrine, passed away unexpectedly, Iva seemed to completely give up on life. Marie’s life was increasingly more difficult.
Despite being a preacher’s daughter, Iva sat for hours at a time mumbling, “Poor Cump.” or “Poor Corrine.”, as if she didn’t realize that they were in a better place than she was. Perhaps her mind no longer grasped the idea that she would see them again soon. As she pined away for those that had gone ahead, she rarely stopped to think that many of her loved ones still remained and were concerned about her, (except for those times when they were actually there speaking to her). And always, Marie was at her beck and call.
The day came when Iva slept more hours than she was awake. Marie’s load eased a bit, but it finally became difficult to rouse Iva to eat. For Marie’s sake, Iva’s children put their mom in a nursing home. For several days, Marie could do hardly anything but sleep. However, she gradually began to feel rested and would occasionally take her cane and walk up the hill through the pasture to John’s house for a visit.
For the first time in her life, Marie was living alone. Some folks can’t handle that sort of a change, but Marie seemed to adjust fairly well. John stopped in to see her every day, and Bill visited a couple times a week, as did Delvin and Bertha. A few other friends and relatives dropped by as they could, so she had as much company as she probably wanted. Little by little, she started socializing again and went to visit family members that, for a few years, she’d only seen when they stopped in to see her and Iva. The family knew she was going to be okay the day she put a quilt in the frame—the first for nearly three years.
Iva passed away about a year from the time she’d been placed in the nursing home. Of course Marie put on her best black outfit, went to the funeral, and then to the graveside service at Mount Zion Cemetery. Afterwards, the family met at the house Marie had called home for the past 50 years or so, except this time, Marie didn’t have to do any of the cooking or dishwashing. In spite of the circumstances, being with so many of her family did her good. That was in December, so Nick was in on his yearly Christmas visit and able to help her through the sadness of losing her closest sister. Soon after New Years, Nick took a plane to wherever was home at the time and Marie went to Penn’s Station on a two-month visit with the aunt she hadn’t seen in four years. Her body and spirit were definitely on the mend.
When she got back home, she also made occasional week-long visits with her half-sister who had moved into the DeVeau family home on Mud Hill. When there, her friends and relatives from out German Ridge would often stop in to see her and talk about the old days and their kids and grandkids. She would catch them up on the news about Iva’s kids and grandkids and take every chance to brag on Nick’s thoughtfulness in writing to her faithfully and flying in for a visit every Christmas.
It really was surprising how well Marie adjusted to life alone. During nice weather, she puttered in the yard, raking and weeding around the edges and in the remnants of Iva’s flower beds. (Male members of the family always mowed the yard for her.) She sometimes took her grubbing hoe to the hillside above the house and cut filth on the steep bank of pasture where the cutter bar of John’s farm tractor wouldn’t reach. If the weather was too hot for her to work during the heat of the day, she’d get up a little early to work in the morning dew or wait until it was nearly dark of an evening and work a little while until the mosquitoes drove her in.
On rainy days and during the winter, she’d concentrate on her quilts, working with memory-invoking recycled fabrics to make new memories for births, birthdays, graduations and weddings. Every quilt had its own story to tell and came with a handwritten note pinned to the quilt top telling that story.
Marie never wanted a television in her home; she said they were nothing but racket-boxes, yet she played a radio most evenings “for company.” Like many folks who grew up with oil lamps, she often spent evenings sitting in the growing darkness without bothering to turn on a light. In springtime, she sat in the dark sun porch of the house and listened to the frogs in the nearby swamp. In summer, she’d watch the lightning bugs fill the low pasture and listen to the crickets, locusts and katydids as they sang their way into autumn.
There were only two things on the radio which consistently brought a stop to any of her other activities. The first was a Cincinnati Reds game—a DeVeau family tradition since the games had first been broadcast. The second was the Metropolitan Opera. She never listened to an opera until Nick had shown an interest in them during his teen years. His interest continued into his adulthood; and when he visited, he made sure to catch the opera on the radio. Marie didn’t understand Italian, but she could appreciate the talent required for such singing. More importantly, when Nick was gone, listening to the opera gave her a feeling of connection to him, for she knew that somewhere, he was listening to that same broadcast.
In John and Bill, she often had company at the day’s end—someone with whom to discuss the “old days” and tell the stories from a generation or two before. Together, they would relive the family history, joke about funny happenings of friends and family in days past and ask each other those “Do you remember when…” questions common to folks who’ve lived in the same area all their lives. As darkness claimed the valley, the visitor would usually leave for the hilltop and the supper and evening chores that waited there. Marie would then spend the remainder of the evening making do with the single light bulb glowing in the kitchen and the faint glow of the radio dial from its place on the Victorian sideboard in the dining room.
One would have expected Marie to have been afraid, living by herself in a world that seemed to be rapidly changing for the worse. With the late sixties and early seventies, madness and mayhem arrived in Newport as drugs became common and the local “heads” looked for ways to support their habits. Murders and robberies were no longer as rare as they once were. Marie seemed to thrive in her aloneness, though, in spite of one attempted break-in and one completed one.
The former occurred during the heat of Dog Days one summer when each window in the house had been raised and an adjustable screen inserted in the opening to allow the cooler night air into the home. The doors were all open with their latched screen doors providing little security. It was one o’clock in the morning when Marie heard someone rattling the window screen in the kitchen while someone else was trying to cut the screen on the kitchen door to unfasten the latch.
In a flash of anger, Marie grabbed her heaviest cane and shouted out in the darkness for the culprits to “Get out of here!” Marie’s cane was carried for protection, not necessity, and despite being a kind and loving person, she wouldn’t have thought twice about beating a thief severely about the head and shoulders. Something in her voice must have communicated that fact, for the next sound she heard was the sound of two people making tracks through the night. She had to chuckle when she heard one of them hit the electric fence surrounding the pasture below the driveway.
The thieves may have thought that no one was home or that no one even lived there. They had no way of knowing that for one of the few times ever, Marie’s “boy”, Nick, and her niece, Gussie, and were both there for a summertime visit.
The “successful” break-in also occurred during the heat of summer, but about five years later when Marie was visiting her aunt at Penn’s Station. The farmhouse there sat on a rise in the valley and caught more breeze than the one where Marie lived, which was tucked under the hill. When her aunt invited her, she decided it might be cooler for her to spend the summer at Penn’s Station rather than the farm on Waddington Creek.
It was near the end of her visit when Marie awoke about 2 o’clock on a Saturday night in a near-panic to get back to her home. She finally calmed herself down, but decided that she wouldn’t extend her visit as her aunt was hoping. Unknown to her, about the same time that night, John, sleeping in the farmhouse on the hill, also awoke thinking of the home where he had been raised. Uneasy about the place, he went to take a look around early the next morning and discovered the back door standing open and a window that had been jimmied.
The house had been ransacked—every drawer and bag and box hurriedly looked through and the contents dropped on the floor. The first things he noticed missing were some depression-ware and carnival glass pieces on the sideboard and the mantle clock in the dining room. Later, it would be found that the thief had found a few silver coins and a gold double eagle in an upstairs chest of drawers. Little else of value was taken, for there were few small things of value in the home.
After some internal debate, John called Marie and told her the upsetting news. Figuring that the damage was already done, she decided to wait until her planned day of departure to return home. She never again took such extended visits. The following year, her half-sister at Mud Hill sold the family home place and moved to Winchester, Virginia to be with her daughter. A couple years later, her aunt at Penn’s Station died at the ripe old age of 97; of course, Marie attended the funeral.
For a few more seasons, Marie continued to live alone, leaving her house only to attend a family get-together with her siblings, a Sunday dinner with John and his family, or a funeral. Eventually, her niece, Bertha, inherited the house at Gussie’s death and unceremoniously kicked Marie out of the home she’d known for most of 60 years.
Marie then moved in with John and Eve, whose children had long been raised, and found herself again living in the first house she’d lived in when she left her parent’s home six decades earlier. It was a hard blow for her to see the farmhouse in the valley torn down with all the years and the people it represented in her memory. It was a crushing blow, indeed, when John died the following year.
Alzheimer’s reared its ugly head soon afterwards, and she became forgetful and a bit childlike. Eve, not handling her own grief well, was often less than kind with the failing shell of the once sharp-minded woman who shared her home. Still, she took care of Marie several years until the time came when a nursing home was the only possible option for her continued care.
She wasn’t there long. A fall broke her hip and sent her to the hospital. Bill had the medical power of attorney and hesitated a day or so to decide whether to have them do surgery on his beloved great-aunt who obviously lay dying in her hospital bed. He chose to allow it when he saw that even nearly comatose with pain-killers, she was still in misery.
She slept well after the surgery, though she never really became fully aware of what was going on around her. A few days later, the nurses had her propped up in bed when she looked upward slightly, her eyes widened with recognition, and with a glowing smile she said, “Mommy! Mommy, I’m comin’ home!” With that, she quietly dropped into a sleep from which she never awoke.Copyright 2008