Flood damage

20 Mar

A lot of areas are flooding right now, most of them south of Interstate 70. (It’s the Mason-Dixon line of Missouri.) But a lot of that flood water is headed toward St. Louis. Residents are leaving their homes, levees are in danger of being breached, communities are sandbagging.

I don’t know if you’ve done any sandbagging. I have, during the Flood of ’93. Yep, it’s a capitalized flood. Two people are required to effectively sandbag. And a pair of gloves for each. One person holds the bag open. I don’t know what they’re made of — some kind of woven plastic material kind of like burlap. The second person shovels sand into the bag, but only about half full. Then you fold over the bag and tie it shut; there’s a drawstring on the bag, made of that same stiff plastic material.

In 1993, my mother was a district manager for a farm seed company. She worked with many grain elevators in central Missouri, and knew people who farmed along the Missouri River. The rest of my family went to Norborne, Mo., to sandbag; I was working at McDonald’s at the time and missed those trips. Norborne flooded. So folks moved on to Grand Pass, Mo., which coincided with my days off. So we went and sandbagged.

hat no one tells you about before you start shoveling sand or holding bags is the blisters. It doesn’t really matter if you wear gloves, although it does help. There are blisters from the shovel. There are blisters from handling the bags, especially the tying part.

At the time, I was working at McDonald’s. I was in high school; it was a job of necessity. When I went to work the next day, blistered hands and all (no open wounds, I swear, just very tender skin), a shift manager that I didn’t like was working. He didn’t like me either; he put me in charge of the fries that day.

It was a simple job. You put frozen french fries in wire baskets, preparing several baskets at a time. You drop the basket of fries in grease and set a timer. When the timer goes off, you pull the fries out and dump them in a tray, applying a specific amount of salt and scooping them up into fry containers.

The problem was the salt. And heat. With the blisters. I quit soon after that — for another fast-food job. Oh, and Grand Pass flooded, too.

‘Congratulations on your baby girl’

19 Mar

My mother moved in with me in 2005. (She moved out in 2006. It’s not an experiment we’ll likely try again anytime soon — we’re too much alike. It only worked because our work hours were completely opposite.) Her house in rural Missouri needed extensive repairs — a former contractor was supposed to be working on supporting the house, and instead, somehow, cut the center beam. The house was literally falling in; there were cracks in the walls to prove it. So while that was being fixed, they needed the heavy furniture, including an upright piano, moved out of the house. So she moved in with me in Indiana. (Luckily, I guess, I’d bought a split-level house. I’m still not sure what I was thinking then, but I think it was a “must buy property” phase everyone seems to go through in their 20s.)

While packing things to be moved, which included everything in her house, she wanted to go through stuff in the garage. The garage is attached to the house, but sits on a concrete slab; the rest of the house does not, and has a crawl space under it. Perfect for mice and snakes to get into and find their way indoors. Ah, the charms of country life.

The garage is full of … stuff. There are some boxes of things that just didn’t have a home anywhere else. There are two lawn mowers — I think only one works. There are metal cabinets that were taken out of another house she had owned and renovated that were dumped in the garage; they are not in a place to be useful. There is a freezer, the only item that was used somewhat regularly. There is furniture and several boxes that my brother moved out of his house when he left college to join the Air Force. There’s a doll house that Eric, my father, built for my sister and me when I was in the first grade. (That doll house was really from Santa, and darn near ruined Santa Claus for me. We lived in a different house, in Linneus, Mo., and mine was the only bedroom in the basement. Come to think of it, that?s the last time I had my own room until I left the dorms in college. Anyway, Eric would hide the doll house in the back of the basement — part of it was unfinished — and at night would bring it out to the family room to work on it. Right past my bedroom. I saw him carry it past several times. I even asked him what he was building. He told me it was a dog house. Which made some sense to a first-grader — we did have a dog, but I think she already had a dog house. I managed to cling to the belief of Santa Claus until about the third grade.) And the garage also had a few boxes of files and papers taken from an old file cabinet.

In one of those boxes, I found “welcome home” and “congratulations” cards from when I was born, as well as first-birthday cards and baby shower invitations. I was a very popular girl. The cards and letters are in pretty good shape, and I took them out of the garage, put them in another box and moved them to Indiana.

And then back to Missouri when I took a job in St. Louis.

I know I have a baby book somewhere (I’m the oldest, and parents are usually most ambitious about baby books and such with their first-born), but these cards and letters didn’t make the book. Some of the people I know. Some I at least recognize the names. There are even a couple of letters from my great-grandmother, Lura Smith. (Ever tried a genealogy search on a Smith? It’s not easy.)

So my question is, how do I put those cards and letters in a scrapbook or album so they can actually be read and still saved?

Mac vs. PC

18 Mar

My grandmother switched to a Mac when she was 84.

It was at least her third computer, and her first laptop. The house that she and my grandfather built in 1963 has wireless internet access. In fact, last Wednesday night we had a laptop party at the kitchen table: I had my laptop, my mother had hers and my brother used my grandmother’s.

My grandmother was known to open nearly every e-mail she got. Especially forwards from friends, which, of course, are rife with viruses and annoyances. I told her Macs don’t have the same virus problems that PCs do. Several months ago I got an early-morning phone call — the time of day that usually means bad news, or that the caller does not know me — from my aunt asking about Macs, where to get them and what software would be needed. Grandma called me maybe twice with questions; she might’ve asked others more. (She had eight grandchildren. I’m the only Mac user, but my brother and I live the farthest away.) The preacher at her funeral brought up that she’d switched computer platforms in the last year. He’s in his 50s, and didn’t sound up to the “challenge.”

Still, it’s proof you’re never too old to switch to a Mac.

Rocky times from the past

17 Mar

I had to take “personal” days to get time off for my grandmother’s funeral/the family circus. It’s not a big deal; I had the time. But the guild contract says bereavement pay is only for immediate family members, and is three days.

My brother and I discussed that when Eric (our father) dies, we’re using those three days for a big celebration.

When I was in the fifth grade, my sister, Monica, and brother, Adam, and I went to visit my father and stepmother in Loveland, Colo. We were staying for a week, I think, and had to be back in time for the Missouri State Fair where Monica was competing in a piano contest. Eric took us to Colorado, picking us up from his mother’s house in Trenton, Mo. The visit was … OK. I remember watching shooting stars one night from the front yard; riding a bike around the subdivision, mostly out of boredom; playing Super Mario Bros. (which was fun — we didn’t have a TV or video games at home); a trip to meet my stepmother’s relatives; a trip to Pike’s Peak; a trip to an aquatic center; and getting in trouble for telling my stepbrother than Eric had been investigated by the FDIC, which was true.

After all of that fun and games, it was time to go home. But Eric wouldn’t take us home.

Now that would be called kidnapping — he was a noncustodial parent and was refusing to return us to our custodial parent, and we wanted to go home. For some reason, it wasn’t seen that way then. Eric wasn’t even willing to meet my mother somewhere half-way. My grandmother met my mother in our hometown of Marshall, Mo., and they drove to Colorado — more than 700 miles one-way. They drove overnight, nonstop, picked us up, and drove back home. I’m sure we stopped on the way home, but I don’t really remember.

That was the last time I really spent any time with my father. He came to visit when I started college in Maryville (by then he lived in Omaha, Neb., about 100 miles away). My stepmother sent cookies. I don’t think we spoke more than five words at my sister’s wedding in 2005 (she is closer to Eric than Adam or I am, but still not very close). I’d be disappointed if he knew what city I live in now.

I’ll keep you posted on those party plans.

Green milk

16 Mar

My family is not Irish. My mother and her siblings all have (or had) red hair, so everyone assumes we’re Irish. We’re not. And we’re not Catholic. So St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t hold any special place for us, really.

Except for milk.

When we were little, my mother would put green food coloring in a gallon of milk. Green milk! Because, the logic was, on St. Patrick’s Day you’re supposed to eat green food. (I’m sure we ate green beans or peas or something that was supposed to be green, too.)

Page 119 of 121<< First...118119120...Last >>