I have been quiet for some time, but I have been dealing with a lot of pain. I don’t seem to have a regular schedule for a blog post, so bear with me. I also wasn’t sure about a topic. If you want to hear something, please comment and ask! Inspiration is always a great motivator to get me started on a subject!
Do you ever wish you could just have a scent that reminds you of someone special? I find it intriguing that scents remind me of occasions in my life. Do you find that to be true for you? Scents can be a very powerful trigger. For example, Lemon Pledge and Windex are big on that list. When I was a child, whenever the first winter thaw would occur, my mom would get “Spring Fever,” and throw every window and door open in our house, and start cleaning like crazy. She would put on a Sandi Patty record, and we would get out the Windex and Lemon Pledge and clean everything we could reach. Those two cleaning products are still my all time favorites, and I still faithfully use only those brands.
It is funny to me, how the ‘little things’ make the most impressions on my memory. Those little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make our family unique and memorable. We even have our own language of people, places, and things. Not only that, but our family has their own ‘call.’ Whenever we want to get attention from one of our family members from a distance, we yell, “WOO-oo-WOOT,” and we know it is one of our own. Some friends of ours even know it is from our family, and come to find us in a crowd! Nicknames like, “Animal mamminals,” “Vermin,” “Susie Q,” “Susie Homemaker,” “Dupa,” “MaHo,” “Ga-MaMa,” “Ya-Ya,” “Mennie,” “Sissy,” “Bud,” “Dutch,” “Greek Girl,” etc. are all used frequently in our house.
Our family also has many traditions, especially during the holidays. One of the cutest qualities I love about my mom is that she is really big into holidays, and I have carried on that proud tradition. She goes all out to decorate for every holiday. The cute part is that she forgets to take down the previous holiday’s decorations; or she changes them to fit the next holiday. A family friend told us that she loved to come to our house, because every holiday of the year is represented around the house! lol
A prime example of how quirky our family traditions are is Easter. The “Easter Bunny” starts a long time before the day actually arrives. She puts colored plastic eggs on our Forsythia bush, gets the deocrations out, putting bunnies, chicks, eggs, whatever Spring stuff she has acquired over the years, and the house is awash in pastel colors and greenery. Our Easter baskets had the traditional Marshmallow Peeps, chocolate bunnies, foil covered chocolate eggs, brightly colored marshmallow eggs, and fruity jelly beans. We also had non traditional items, such as a puzzle book or game, a pinwheel, kite, bubbles, or other outdoor toy; and the odder items: socks and underwear for the men, and nylons for the girls, always from the brand, “Leggs,” because they came in a big, shiny egg. My favorite activity of our personal “Easter Bunny,” is knowing that she takes a painstaking detail to hide money filled eggs all over the yard.She uses different colors and types for different age groups, and my siblings and I have body checked each other to get to the eggs! The biggest issue with this is that she hides the eggs; and then, forget where they are! Being the gardener of our house, she has found many a long forgotten egg somewhere in the flower beds! Every year, I tell her to put GPS trackers in them, or some kind of map! lol
Easter was always as big a deal at our house as Thanksgiving or Christmas. It was the start of Spring, the beginning of being out in the backyard, and they joy of knowing we have a Risen Savior. Despite being Greek, French, Irish, and German; and having a great grandfather who was a Greek Orthodox priest; and Roman Catholic grandparents, I am half Dutch; and, “if you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much!” No other holiday brings out the “Dutch girl” in me than Easter. The Holland Tulip Parade and Klompen dancers were a huge part of that heritage; but the biggest part was my Dutch Christian Reformed Church upbringing. My entire maternal family is Dutch, and my grandparents and family were devoted to Faith Reformed Church, then on Milham Road in Portage. I loved that church so much. My grandparents were members, and my mother and her brothers grew up in those pews, as did I. One whole side of the A frame style sanctuary had rectangular panels of stained glass, and the glow from them over the Sunday evening service was the best “Warm Light” I have ever had in a building. My grandmother played the piano and organ, and my grandfather was an elder, and put the Easter Lilies on the cross every year. One year, he fell off of the ladder, putting up the lily cross. Our church family stepped up; bringing groceries and helping with yardwork. Whenever anyone joined the church or was baptized, we would reach across the aisle in each row of pews, holding hands and singing, “Family Of God.”
We would always have brand new outfits for Easter, from head to toe. These outfits were sacred, feminine, and not to be touched until Easter morning. My dad would carry on the family tradition, buying the girls corsages of lillies or asters or carnations; and we would have ruffle dresses, black patent leather Mary Janes and white pocketbooks with lace gloves and frilly hats. The night before, we would do ‘beauty treatments,’ with nails and lotion, and the dreaded curlers in our hair that we had to sleep in, which came out with much angst and Aqua Net the next morning. The rush to get to church on time was never more urgent than Easter morning. My mom was always in a hurry to get there, and we had a difficult time, getting grumpy and fighting in the car, and my mom giving us “The Look” and my dad giving us the “Let’s be on our best behavior” talk while making stern eye contact through the rear view mirror at us, making us sit very still in our seats. More than once, my dad has tapped the brakes or stopped the car suddenly! lol
However hectic and moody we were on the way to church; all was well, once we walked through those doors. Amy Grant, the recording artist, has said, “I have often said that I can’t remember a single church sermon of my childhood, but that the messages of hope and love written in the hymns have stuck with me for years.” The hymns of Easter Sunday were especially thrilling. “Because He Lives,” “How Great Thou Art,” “In The Garden,” “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today,” and “Victory In Jesus.” The latter is a personal favorite, because it is the song my grandfather loved best, and my mother played it at his funeral. “Christ Arose” was so exciting to me, because the rich bass and baritones of the men would rattle the ground, as the alto and soprano female voices would echo to the rafters! What an exciting experience, and something I will never forget.
After the Sunday service, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my family would all go over to the house that my grandfather built. My aunts and grandparents would be bustling in the kitchen, while my uncles would set up the table as the kids ran between the adults’ legs and up and down the stairs. We would all sit around the long tables, and bow our heads while my grandfather, the true patriarch of our family, would stand and say, “Grace.”
Now, my grandfather was a man of few words; (mainly because Grannie Annie did all the talking!) but,when he spoke, everyone stopped to listen. He looked like Abe Lincoln, and walked like John Wayne. He was a carpenter, like Jesus, and highly regarded. His careworn face and gnarled fingers would change, and a reverence would fall across his countenance. Immediately, the gaity would change into a hush, and we would all bow our heads, holding hands and quietly repeating in our minds, his words to his Savior. We would all say, “Amen,” as one. Then, the food would be passed around the table, and the china plates that we used for years was covered from edge to edge. Brown sugar ham with cloves, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, Dutch cucumbers, Dutch lettuce, and all the rest of what was the best of comfort food, was enjoyed with relish. Our very loud and boisterous family got really quiet, once the food was passed! Afterwards, the uncles tore down the tables and brought in the dishes to the kitchen, while the aunts and grandparents washed and put away the dishes. A bunch of hands, working together, made chores seem more fun, and we kids were able to play with my uncles’ Matchbox car collection from the 1950s and 1960s. I have always had a love for cars, so I found it so much fun to find out which had “chrome” rims, a “T” top, and trailer hitches. The best “finds” were the cars that had doors, hoods, and trunks that would open-the very best!
I would sit on my grandfather’s lap, and he would tell me stories. He never said, “I love you,” but I knew it every time he held me; sometimes, so tightly that I couldn’t breathe. He knew there was no way that I could “escape,” and he would take his face and rub his whiskers against my skin. His whiskers were as tough as steel wool, and my face would be nearly raw after, but I would not change a thing. I would give anything to have one more visit with him, one more time where I sat on his lap while my grandma played the organ in the living room as the sun set.
I am the eldest grandchild on my mother’s side,and my memories are better than that of my cousins, because they are so much younger than I. I have been working on my genealogy for over a year, because I don’t want to forget these precious memories. I feel that working on my family history is so important, because I don’t want to lose these people and memories to the winds.
Thank you for reading, and listening to me ‘babble’ about my family traditions. I hope to hear about some of yours! Happy Easter, everyone! He is Risen!