Tuesday, October 21, 2014


a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck

I come from a long line of gamblers card players and have spent a lot of time sharing my love of card playing with my children and grandchildren.  I like other games, too, just not as much.

My grandmother taught me several games, but we mostly played 31 (also called Scat or Blitz according to an Internet search) or Gin Rummy.  In the summer after dinner, we would gather up our pennies, three each, and head to the porch swing.  Actually, I would head to the porch and patiently wait until my grandmother would finish saying her evening prayers, which also included saying her rosary--which from my point of view took forever.  

We would play and swing and wait for the ice cream truck.  All the neighbors would also be out on their front porches because that is what community looked like in the olden days. 

To this day, summer break at my house is ushered in when we clear the dining room table to make room for card and domino playing--which sometimes lasts way into the night.  Our favorite card games are Phase 10 and 500 Rummy.  

I will forever remember Nate perfecting his shuffle the month before the accident and the elaborate design he made with his dominos when he never picked up a tile that enabled him to start his train.  He just made his own fun instead of getting aggravated.  As silly as it sounds, those are two of my favorite memories.

Monday, October 13, 2014


an outdoor area provided for children to play on, 
especially at a school or public park

I attended St. Sylvester's Catholic School in Brentwood, Pennsylvania from second grade until fifth when my dad got mad about something and pulled us out and sent us to public school.  I am pretty certain that whatever he got mad about had something to do with me and a lay teacher.  Pretty sure.  The details remain a bit foggy tonight, but they may come back to me. 

My school was shaped like a U with the playground in the middle.  At the top of the U was another building, the convent where the nuns lived.  The basement floor of the convent, which housed the laundry area for the nuns, was at playground level.  Children would take a break from their playing to peek in the window to see what the nuns were up to.  It was shocking to see nuns doing something so "normal" as laundry.  It was even more shocking to see a basket of their undergarments.  

Nuns in those days were covered head to toe in heavy black habits.  The only skin exposed was that of the face and the hands.  No one even saw their ears. They were mysterious and sometimes scary, and definitely did not seem like "real" people who put on underwear!  

I am participating in the Nester's 31 Days.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


a story or event recorded by a camera as a set of moving images and shown in a theater or on television

The memories of things that were big deals or special to me as a young girl were things that happened rarely.  That's what made them so memorable.  Sometimes I wonder if this generation of children will look back and deem anything all that special given today's access to everything and their excess in everything. 

When everything is special, nothing is special.

Hmmmm, maybe they will, in fact, deem a home-cooked meal memorable.  Oh, dear.  Back to the topic.

One of the most anticipated family events when I was a child (according to reliable Internet sources as well as yours truly) was the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz.  If you remember, the movie starts out in sepia tone or black and white and then changes to color when the house lands in Oz.  To this day, it is still a magical moment.

In the days before we owned a color TV, my father would actually make arrangements for us to watch the movie at the home of his friends, Jack and Marg McAllister. This is probably so memorable to me because I can only remember a few times that my father actually went out of his way to do something nice for us.  I'd like to believe that it was his idea, but I know better.  I am sure that Jack and Marg extended the invitation knowing how much we kids would enjoy it.  They were very kind people.

My brother, sister, and I were relegated to the living room where we were glued to the set while my parents visited with their friends in the kitchen way down the hall.  So it was . . . a sibling magical moment:  watching a movie we would never forget--with munchkins, witches, flying monkeys, and all.

I am participating in the Nester's 31 Days.

Friday, October 10, 2014


an institution for educating children

When I was in first grade, I walked ten blocks to school.  Sometimes I would stop off at a friend's house on the way and beckon her to join me--I really mean beckon.   I would stand on the sidewalk outside her house and yell in a singsongy kind of way,  "Calling on Cindy."   I have no idea if this was a Pittsburgh thing or what.  That is how we invited our friends to come outside to play or to walk to school.  Why we did not just knock on the door, again, I have no idea.

Sometimes, on the way home for lunch--yes, we also walked home for lunch--my grandmother would have me stop off at the "baker" shop for some freshly made and sliced bread. And sometimes, I would just have to steal a few slices to eat along the way. 

Imagine a first grader walking ten city blocks to school and doing some grocery shopping on the way home.  

Times sure have changed.  
first grade (1963 or 1964)  sporting another incredible hairdo 
by my mother, the neighborhood beautician

I am participating in the Nester's 31 Days.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


enjoyment, amusement, lighthearted pleasure

The thing I remember having the most fun doing when I was a very young girl was rollerskating.  In the road, up and down the sidewalks, and in the steep alleyway between the houses, I was pretty adept.  As a matter of fact, I am convinced that I was the best roller skater in the neighborhood.  Truth or not does not really matter since I still feel that I was.  

That's the thing about doing what you love.  Operating--or  in my case, rollerskating--in your giftedness or within your passion or skill set is energizing and builds confidence.  It does not mean that you never fall down; it means that you are always willing to get back up.  The bumps along the way and the cracks in the sidewalk just slow you down; they do not paralyze you.  

My skates were metal and I loosened and tightened the grippers on the front with a key.  Just like in the photo below, the key was put on a cord, and it was worn around my neck.

And when that key was not around my neck, it was hidden away for safekeeping.  What fun memories I have of the hours and hours I spent on my roller-skates.

I am participating in the Nester's 31 Days

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done

My best childhood holiday memories surround the 4th of July in Brentwood, a suburb of Pittsburgh, where I lived from about age 7 until 14.  

Festivities began early with families gathering their lawn chairs and coolers and laying claim to "their" favorite spots along the route.  No one in my family would ever miss the parade, even my father, who traditionally missed just about every family event.  

To say that this parade was and still is epic is quite the understatement.  Even today, over 40,000 people show up to enjoy it.  That is a lot of people converging on a town with a population of under 10,000.  

Children started decorating their bikes weeks in advance, and spent the time before the parade reached their areas riding up and down the route.  And some chose to be in the parade, riding the whole thing.  Of course, there were street vendors and clowns and a gazillion marching bands and fire trucks--lots of fire trucks. Oh, the magic of it all.

the next generation of cousins at the Brentwood parade in 1990
back row:  Kelly, Ryan, Michael, Brandon
front row:  Matthew, Rachael, Justin, Greg

After the parade, my parents made their way back home to get the picnic going, but we kids headed to the park for the races.  It seems strange to me now that our parents did not join us at the park festivities, but at the time it was our normal.  

The park was within walking distance of our house, so we went there frequently to play ball, swim, or just hang out.  My parents would purchase pool tags for us each summer (metal tags with numbers on them that had to be sewn to our bathing suits to allow us entrance to the pool). Because of its proximity, the park just seemed to be an extension of our neighborhood. 

Anyway, there were all kinds of races held at the pool and in the stadium on the 4th of July, but the one that I remember so vividly was the slow bicycle race.  The winner, of course, was the last one over the finish line.  So many kids fell off their bikes while inching across the field. The suspense was palpable.

The races were not the only reason to make our way to the park after the parade.  Every child in the town was give tickets that could be redeemed for items at the pool snack bar like Jaw Breakers, Boston Baked Beans, snow cones, and frozen Zero bars.  We would not have missed out on that for anything!  
Back at home there were hotdogs and black potatoes (potatoes cooked right on the coals) and sparklers.  We always had sparklers.  

The night concluded with the fireworks in the stadium; and once again, everyone in the family went.  Oh, how I love fireworks--the louder, the better!  My dad parked in his special spot, away from the crowds, which allowed us to zip home as soon as the grand finale was over. 

The 4th of July was about as close to perfect as a day could get.

Who knew how that would change to the complete opposite so many years later?

I am participating in the Nester's 31 Days

Tuesday, October 07, 2014



My grandpap had an impressive city garden.  The yards on Eureka Street, where we lived across from my grandparents, were not very big; but he somehow managed to stake claim to a portion of his for his hobby.  My grandmother dedicated the grassy area of the yard, which my gandpap kept trimmed with a hand mower, to the hanging out of laundry.  

In his garden, Grandpap grew flowers like daffodils, tulips, and snapdragons.  And in the spring, he would allow me to take some to my teachers.  

In the summer, Grandpap grew tomatoes--big, juicy tomatoes.  In the summer, I ate a lot of those big, juicy tomatoes.  They were yummy!  There is nothing like a tomato fresh off of the vine.  I loved those tomatoes so much, that I would even eat the ends that my grandmother cut off to discard--core and all.

Sometimes my grandmother would make us tomato sandwiches; but mostly she would just slice them, adding a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

When we did not have my grandpap's tomatoes to eat, we would have to buy some from "the huckster."  The huckster was a man who drove through the city neighborhoods selling produce out of the back of his truck.  Also visiting our neighborhood regularly were an ice cream man, a milk man, and a man with a small carousel on the back of his truck 

Those were the good ol' days.  

I am participating in the Nester's 31 Days.  Check it out!

Monday, October 06, 2014


of or at a low or relatively low temperature, especially 
when compared with the human body

Back when I was in elementary school, girls were not permitted to wear pants to school. On very cold days, elementary-aged girls were permitted to wear pants under their skirts or dresses for the walk to school or for the time standing at the bus stop.  Once at school, though, pants had to be removed.  

I remember feeling so cold while waiting for the bus on those wintery mornings in Pennsylvania--even with pants on under my dress.  Sometimes my hands and feet would go numb--especially if the bus was running late or if it broke down or school was cancelled after we left our homes.  

Occasionally we would be invited into the home closest to the bus stop to wait or warm up.  And occasionally a parent, not mine (because my mom did not drive), would let us warm up in their running car. 

Snow rarely canceled school in Pennsylvania.

I also remember worrying about how cold I would be when I was out out of elementary school and no longer permitted to wear pants under my dress while waiting for the bus--which is another perfect example of worrying for nothing.  By the 70's, we not only were allowed to wear pants, but the rules relaxed so much that my high school even provided a smoking area.  How nice of them.  Times sure changed, and not necessarily for the better.

I am participating in the Nester's 31 Days.  Check it out!