THE HOUSE I GREW UP IN

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IMG_0364 I bring you another glimpse of the past, the house that I grew up in. Probably its not too interesting to anyone who never lived in a Midwestern town, in a house that was built by my father during the Great Depression of the 30’s.But as time goes by the old memories seem to be coming back to me and I marvel at how resilient my parents and their friends were.
The Great Depression affected everyone, at least in the world that I lived in. The pictures of men standing in long lines waiting for a chance at one job where thousands were hopeful are a haunting memory that shows up on the internet even today. If you were extremely lucky you might get hired for the WPA, but often you had to leave your family behind and go to another state to use a shovel or drive a truck.
In Michigan there had always been numerous factory jobs and that is where most young men started their work life. But after the stock market crash in 1929 work began to disappear. Jobs that had always seemed safe no longer existed. My father was one of the ones that lost his job. There was nothing to be had anywhere. He had always been a hard worker and couldn’t stand to stay home and have nothing to do.
So he decided that he was going to build a house. He and my mother and I lived in an apartment upstairs in my grandparents home and my mother had the patience of a saint, I do believe. My grandmother was an extremely religious woman of her time and she didn’t believe that women or girls should wear slacks or pants, and she didn’t mind telling you so. My mother was young and modern but she was a stay at home mother like other women, and so she was under watch all of the time.
My father borrowed $200.00 and decided that he was going to dig the basement himself. The house must have been about 24′ by 24′, or so. In Michigan you need a deep basement for your furnace and your water heater. Our basement also had to hold a coal bin. So he started digging, and digging, and kept at it until it was accomplished. My parents are no longer here to tell me how they got the money to start the actual house, but somehow they did. It was a two story, and they finished the lower level, where there was one bedroom, but the upstairs had to stay unfinished. So my brother and I had the whole floor to ourselves. The two by fours were up to show where the walls would be later on. I was on one end, with two younger sisters showing up eventually. And my brother had the little room on the other end because it wouldn’t do to have boys and girls together.
So for years this was my bedroom and I spent many hours, reading under the covers late at night, with a flashlight sometimes. I would also sit by the window where there was a streetlight that helped out some. Since my parents were downstairs I got away with it a lot. My sisters were 8 and 10 years younger so they had cribs and youth beds in our room and I hated that.
After growing up, getting married and going with my husband to Ft Carson, Colorado where he was in the Army, my dad put on a big new addition to the house and all of a sudden everyone had a lot more room. He was so proud of that room and being able to do it for his family. Eventually he built a much larger house for he and my mother, but this time he didn’t have to do any digging.
Looking back at how all of our lives have changed, I marvel at how people like my parents, Marjorie and Truman Strong, were filled with resilience and pride in their accomplishments. Our generation has much to be proud of, and I hope that we can pass this on to our descendants.

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THE DREAM

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img_0055Early this morning I had a dream. Not just an ordinary dream, destined to enter my sleep, erupt my thought patterns and leave just as swiftly as it had come.
No, this was a full-fledged dream, and as I awoke, I remembered the warmth and the glorious feeling of it all surrounding me in my warm bed. You see, in my dream I had a brand new baby, she was mine, and I held her and felt the incredible miracle of how a brand new baby feels, the cuddling and the softness of her skin, and the delight of being a mother. I marveled at how big she was and remembered that all of my babies, all boys, had been so big. But this was a girl and I was overcome with joy! I realized that we must give her a name and at first I thought of Elizabeth, my favorite name as a teenager. But then I thought of my mother, and the name became Leona, in my mind. My mothers middle name had been Leone. That was it. I hugged her and said “my sweet Leona”, and knew the joy of being a parent again as I held her and caressed her. I felt the certainty of it all and never realized I was dreaming.
But then I began to wake up. Remembering how vivid this experience had been to me, I began to wonder. Was it a dream or was it an experience? As I sit right here writing I can still know that something amazing happened to me, and in my mind I can still feel and see it. Who is to say what really happened? I know that dreams usually fade away, but I also know that writing this down will keep it fresh in my memory. In this strange and mysterious world of ours how are we to know what is real and what is imaginary? Years from now the scientists may tell us for sure that dreams fortell our experiences, either past or future. Maybe I was remembering an event of long ago in another lifetime.
What triggers a dream? Could it be all of the pictures of babies I see every day on Facebook, being held by granddaughters or grandsons or nieces? I don’t know.
All I know is, it felt so vivid and so real that now I know I must keep watch wherever I go in my daily life. Maybe this warm and beautiful little girl exists somewhere watching over us and I was lucky enough to hold her in my arms for a little while. But I will be sure to remember my sweet Leona, wherever she may be.

Mothers, Mother in Laws, Step Mothers

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It’s Mothers Day! The day that we share all of the love and affection that we feel for the women in our lives.

“Mothering” is the term that we bestow upon anyone, mostly female, but sometimes male, when we want to show empathy or caring for another person.

There are lots of kinds of mothers, who come in different sizes or shapes or colors. The term “mother” is applied to many different types of women in our life.  There are many women who will never legally wear the title, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do the mothering. We all know women who are the mothers to their brothers and sisters, or their patients as a nurse, or students as a teacher, or just about anyone they care about.

Being a mother can be difficult, but it has its own built in rewards. Many poems and odes have been written to glorify mothers, to show how much we care about them. Thinking of our mothers can bring beautiful smiles on our faces just thinking about them or remembering them from long gone days.

But I would like to add two more names to this select group. Mother in laws and step mothers. When I started thinking about this I was amazed at how many of the women in my life are at least two of them, and some of them are all three, as I am. When you become a mother there are all kinds of classes to help you learn how to do the job. You have the experience of your own mother as a backup.

But when you become a stepmother or a mother in law you are in uncharted waters. You want to succeed with all of your heart and soul. But there is a sense of competition when you add the phrases, “step” or “in law” to the mixture.  Someone else has already held the position that you now hold, and you are determined to do your best. Always there is a period of adjustment for every one involved, and it usually doesn’t happen as fast as giving birth.

But mothers, no matter what kind, have a way of bringing forth the nurturing ways that are inherit in most humans, and these are the ones we are honoring today.

So today while you are remembering your mothers with love and honor, I know you are also giving a “shout out” for those “other” mothers, the ones who have your best interests at heart, but came into your life at a later date.

Women, the odds are pretty great that someday you will be a mother in law also, and maybe even lucky enough to be a stepmother. We are all in this world to learn from each other, and these are pretty rewarding positions. Love and compassion and understanding are among the qualities we revere in our mothers, no matter in what form they show up.

Happy Mothers Day, everyone. Have a wonderful day, no matter where you are.

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MY MOTHERS WASHDAYS

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One of the most prolific things that we adults of a certain age can relate to by searching our memories is the memorable term entitled “Washdays.” Being in that age bracket myself now it is quite easy to go down memory lane and pull up some pretty amazing stories of the days when we actually did our washing of clothes on a certain day of the week, Monday morning. It was a lengthy process, whether you had a houseful of active children, or were just starting married life. You didn’t just push a couple of buttons, you planned your whole day around it. At our house we started nagging at all of the family members pretty early, to throw the dirty clothes down the basement steps where my mother would sort huge piles of all sorts of clothes. Woe be unto you if you didn’t get your duds down there, it was a long time to the next Monday. Then mother filled the washer with a rubber hose, while the steam rose in the air all around us.

First came the whites, then the coloreds, then the darker things. We didn’t even wear jeans at the time. That came a lot later in life. It was a wringer washer so Mother had to be really careful she didn’t catch her arm when running the clothes thru it. We also had two tubs full of water, for rinsing, and she would swing the arm of the wringer around in a circle to complete the process. In the wintertime the clothes got hung on clotheslines strung all thru our basement. The lines were about two feet apart. One of my most vivid memories is rollerskating all around the basement in between the rows, wet shirts hitting me in the face as I raced from one row to another. I loved to skate and looked forward to it whenever I could. The skates were metal clip-ons, and we used a key to tighten them.

My mother also did washing for a local batchelor every two weeks to earn some extra money when I was quite young . She had four children to raise, very limited income altho my father always worked every day. Active in her church, always busy, involved in the local PTA, I look back now and marvel at what a wonderful life she made for all of us. When I was 16 she and I did the Mother and Daughter tributes at our church. I can never remember a time when she wasn’t busy in all of the important things in our lives.

When I was about 8 or 9 years old I developed scarlet fever and was out of school for many weeks. At that time it was believed that anything that came in contact with the fever should be discarded. I was an avid reader, owned many books, and she was told they had to go because they were contaminated. The doctor told her that if she put the opened books in the sun and turned the pages every few hours that they could be saved. So for weeks my mother turned pages, no matter what else she had to do. I remember being so grateful but I don’t ever remember telling her how much I appreciated it at the time. In my world this was what mothers do for their families, go the extra mile, and she always did it for me.

This essay started out to talk about Washdays but it changed into something much more precious, the memories that I have of a mother who would do anything for me, and who did. My siblings can all tell the same feelings altho their stories are somewhat different.

So happy washday to you, and all of your mothers, the unsung heroes of our lives. We are so fortunate to have had them to guide us.

 

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THE GIFT TO MYSELF

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Dec. 4th, an auspicious day for me. Today is the day that my #2 son, Randall Wm. Jager, reaches the magnificent age of 60 years.  And tomorrow, Dec. 5th, my #3 son, Alan Wayne Jager, becomes 58 years of age.

It doesn’t seem possible, of course, that I could have given birth to men of this age.  Not to mention the number #1 son, Stephen Jay Jager became 62 years on Nov. 9th. And trailing behind them in years only, is Martin Earl Jager who reached 55 years on March 27th.

Thinking about all of them and how alike and yet how different they all are, has brought back a lot of memories.  They are all good dependable men, have their own place in society, and are sons to be proud of.

Steve is the oldest – he got to go first on everything, to be the boss to his brothers, and the one to set an example. He excelled in school, became an Student Council member, and graduated with honors. He has been a father to both children and stepchildren and a successful workaholic all of his life.  He has a great job on an oil rig in Pennsylvania and other states. He is an avid reader and we all know where he gets that from, me. And when you want something worked out you can depend on Steve to figure it out.

Randy also did very well in school. He then enlisted in the US Air Force where he was chosen to be one of the four airmen that lived in underground missile silos where they guarded our country, a great honor. Randy has always been our loner – takes after his mother that way. For years he has been a gold prospector in California, and for a long time I had trouble keeping up with him.  But besides that he has become a truck driver all up and down the Western States. He and I have a great relationship via text most of the time.

Alan is #3, and when he was very young he was always the goof off in our family.  The one who could make you laugh or drive you crazy. He could fix anything. He evolved into a very hardworking oilman, saved his money, built a house, started a great business that he took over from his father, Preston Jager, and became a staunch business man.  He raised a wonderful family that we are all proud of, and he even became a politician.  Now he has just taken on a new job as Holton Township supervisor in Michigan.

Finally, here comes Marty, the youngest. As did his brothers he did well in school but his life took on another meaning when he joined the US Navy, where he rose thru the ranks and made us all proud of him. Marty also took on the care of both children and stepchildren and has done a wonderful job of it. Now, after retiring from the Navy, he is employed as a mechanic in Florida. He is a very thoughtful and loving person to all who know him.

When I think of all four men I think of how proud their father, Preston Jager, was of them. He too was a hardworking, intelligent, family man, and that has carried over unto all of them. All four of them have been wonderful to their two stepfathers, Gary Bosley, and Bob Rider.  Both fathers made a great contribution to the loving men that my sons have become.

My “boys” are loving, courageous and dependable, and how much more could any mother ask for than to have sons like these? They will always be boys to me.  To know that they love me and care about me is the greatest gift of all.

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HEROINES

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From the vantage point of being a mother, a grandmother, and even a great grandmother now, I would like to talk about some of the heroines of our current day.

At one time, a long, long time ago, the place of the average mother was in the home.  There is no doubt that she was a hard worker and seldom had much spare time for herself. She was the one who kept everything running on a day to day basis, with some suggestions from her hard working husband. When children were ill, or needed clean clothes, or someone to go to PTA meetings she was the one in charge.  Our mothers, aunts, and grand mothers all did their part in this process.

But somewhere along the line things began to change.  Mothers still did all of these things at home, but now they began to go out into the workplace in addition. Life became very hectic for women as this world gradually began to accept and then to expect them to be workers in business.

Since women had learned the skills that were necessary to do a good job they were welcomed as additions to the outer world.  They brought their organizing skills right along with them.

So now it is a whole new prospect.  I would like to nominate my heroines, the young women we know who are doing double duty and showing us how capable they are. They work at home and they work in the community. They find new ways of earning an income by sales or crafts, or even by politics. They are showing their children that women can do whatever needs to be done, and they go wherever someone needs them.

And yet they still are putting their children and their spouses first, as women have always done.  It is a wonderful thing to see our younger women taking over for us.

I salute them all, they are my heroines, and I am so proud of them!

 

JUST THINK WHAT 35 YEARS CAN DO

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Every once in a while a new experience comes along that has the effect of making a very different way of looking at our lives.
Bringing forth four sons, living with them thru a tumultuous twenty five years or so, surviving the ups and downs of daily life as they grew and wrestled each other for their place in the family order is something that is not for the faint hearted. I can proudly report that I did survive it.
When the last one to leave rode off into the sunset I didn’t waste too much time or breath missing the constant uproar that had been going on for the past quarter of a century. Wives came along, and then grandchildren, and a whole new style of family living. Everyone ended up with a chance to make their fortune on their own. We knew what each other was doing, roughly speaking, but their lives were their own to make.
Time went by. We often lived in the same towns, like Cortez, CO, Lawton, OK, Holton, MI, even Wyoming and Montana, but we didn’t stay in each others houses overnite. We had our own homes and our own spaces.
Fast forward.
We are wintering in Florida in a retirement community, and guess what. Son #3 and wife are arriving for nine days! We are all excited, hoping for warm weather. I begin to plan things, and then I realize. I haven’t lived in the same house with #3 son in over 35 years! I don’t know what he really is like on a day to day basis! What does he like to eat, what kind of TV does he watch? What are his every day habits?
For twenty years I took care of him, knew him as well as anyone in my life, and now a relative stranger is coming for nine days. How is it going to work out?
Wednesday noon. I hear a car door close, then another, and they are here! Looking as great as they always do, smiling and hugging, and it is like the years have all flown away and we have our children back again.
There are some obvious differences. I notice that now they tend to take care of us, instead of the other way around. As they are showing us new pictures of their life I realize anew that they are grandparents also, and in the prime of their lives. They have their own friends and their own business interests. Their lives are full and I am so proud of them.
I finally realize. They are grown up. They don’t just need us but want us also.
The days fly by and all too soon the alarm rings at 2AM, and off they must go to the airport. And we return to our quieter life, thankful that we have had a great time renewing our friendship with our children. We can rest assured that we did our job and they are part of the living proof of it.