September 15, 2014–foreign language

She’s been more subdued the last two times I’ve visited.  Today, when I asked her if anything special had been going on–visitors, performing groups, etc.–she said she didn’t think so, but she couldn’t be sure.

“Most people here speak a foreign language.”  It was all I could do to keep the giggles out of my voice.

“Well, Mother, most of them are country people, and we ARE in Georgia.”  But oh boy, I could identify.  The first year I lived in Charlottesville I often felt the same way!

I asked her to tell me a story.  Maybe about sledding down the hill?

It seems she and her step brother/cousin Bob (4 years older) used to stomp snow into the ruts on the side of Grandpa Schmidt’s barn.  This made for a wider path so they could get a running start, holding their sleds, then belly flopping onto them at the top of the hill.  Sometimes the wind would blow the snow up into their faces on the way down so they couldn’t see, and would crash into each other.  Great fun!

Phyllis and Willie (9 and 11 years older) were working, and had other things to do on their days off.  Phyllis worked at the grocery store, and Willie worked for EveryReady.  She wasn’t sure what he did, but he was observant and a quick learner, and his bosses circulated him through all the departments so he would know how to do everything that was needed.

She (Esther, after high school) worked for the George Worthington company.  She didn’t know what it did or made, but her job was to pick up the canisters from the pneumatic tubes and get them to the right person.  (Note:  I remember those from working at the Charlottesville Daily Progress in 1966–it was how the stories got from the news room to the print room.)  She did some typing and shorthand, too.

We talked about how some job skills are lost now, unneeded and outdated.  Buggy whips and coal shovels, party lines and telephone operators that say “Number, please.”

It was a pleasant afternoon.  Both dogs jumped in her lap and stayed there, even Mozart, who is usually such a wiggle worm.

I wrote the following 12 years ago in honor of my late mother-in-law.  It is apropos here.  I wonder if it will also be true for me someday?


She couldn’t foresee

how the parade would end—

Mardi Gras beads,

tossed in a drawer,

The confetti of dreams,

consigned to sweepers,

repressed longings

crunched underfoot.

Carefully she’d crafted

a lifetime of memories.

But in the end,

her mind failed.

And only we,

who knew and loved her,


© JEC, 2002


About estherfromolmsted

written and maintained by Tina
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