Place on the family tree
I’m the baby leaf on a rather cockeyed looking tree. I’m the only child that my parents had together, but I have 6 older siblings (halves and steps). My mom was three-times married and three-times widowed. My daddy was her second marriage after her first husband died from a kidney disease, leaving her with a 2-year-old son. My daddy was killed while trying to saddle break a horse on our Ohio farm. I was 2.5 years old. Mom married my step dad when I was 6, and we had him until his heart gave out in 2005. There are 18 years between my oldest stepbrother and me. I have 15 nephews and nieces, and one great-nephew.
Books you read as a kid
It is odd that I can’t seem to remember the titles, but I know I was reading most all the time. I know I read through the Little House on the Prairie and Ramona Beasley series multiple times. I can recall reading Jane Eyre in seventh grade and impressing my English teacher. I wish I had read even more of the classics.
Best family vacation
Most of our vacations were trips to Kansas to visit lots of family, but I do recall going to Florida when I was 8. My brother was graduating from college down there. We got to go to Disney World, the Kennedy Space Center, St. Augustine, and the beach. I recall the places, but my mom recalls that my sister and sister-in-law bickered the whole time.
Treasured childhood memory
The earliest thing I can recall as a child is being around age 3 and lying on the bottom step of our farmhouse stairs. I fit perfectly between the walls from head to toe. I also liked to lie in the back window of my mom’s Pontiac Lamanze while she drove down the highway. No seatbelt laws then. The memories I treasure are those of following my maternal grandpa around the farm and “helping” him work. He died when I was 7.
Then there was the winter of '77-78 when we had the blizzard and packed 9 people into a single-wide mobile home. I remember melting snow over a kerosene heater for water and building a snow cave with my cousin.
We always had animals around while I was growing up – dogs, cats, horses, cows, and a pig. I have memories of them all and related escapades. My favorite dog was Jeanna LaPoo, a poodle that was with the family just before my birth to age 12. My favorite horse was Pepper, who was gentle to ride. And I enjoy memories of helping to bottle and bucket feed a calf named Ferdinand. My brother and cousin had a knack for giving many of our animals some outlandish names. Most had first, middle, and last names.
A favorite toy or game
I was a Barbie girl. I had a whole mansion built for my dolls out of cardboard boxes and such in the bottom of our large hall closet. I recall sewing their blankets and fashioning some furniture out of clothespins and Popsicle sticks. I created rather lavish lives for them too – probably fairly soap opera like.
What you wanted to be when you grew up
I was pretty set on becoming a teacher. My mom and daddy had both been teachers. Daddy had just become an elementary school principal the year he died. I remember playing school and house a lot. I had it figured that I’d teach school a few years then get married and be a mommy. I followed the teaching courses until my senior year of college when I dropped a class in education unions and politics. I had picked out where I wanted to student teach in high school English, but I decided I just didn’t want to go through it.
Favorite recipe from childhood to share
I ate my share of PB&J (had to be grape jelly), but I preferred my peanut butter slathered on a banana. I loved bowls of cottage cheese with sugar sprinkled on top. A comfort food for me has long been cornmeal mush. I have memories of my mom stirring a big pot full in our old farmhouse – so I was probably around 4. There’d be plenty of mush to pack some in loaf pans for a breakfast of fried mush.
Cornmeal Mush with Meat Topping3 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup corn meal
1 cup cold water
Pour 3 cups water into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal, salt, and cold water until smooth. Gradually stir the cornmeal into the boiling water. Continue boiling, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened. Cover and lower heat. Cook slowly for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. While still hot, dish into bowls and serve with meat topping and a pat of butter.
1/2 pound ground beef or sausage
1/2 small onion
(Optional for added flavor: garlic, Worcestershire sauce, green pepper)
Brown meat and onion. Drain grease. Season to taste.