I often wonder what happened to all the cool stuff that Grandma had left over from her Maternity Home days - stuff like the breast pump I saw once - a real antique version if I ever saw one! It was made of glass, I think, the 'horn' part that went over the areola, and the pump part made of rubber I think was rather old and brittle. I saw it once when snooping in her bathroom, I think it was in her sewing machine cabinet that was in there at the time...I think I saw a bedpan and maybe even a urinal (but that may have been for Grandpa later on...) I also always wondered why in the world she had a prism like they would have in a scope in a submarine, in her buffet drawers!


When attending Bible College in the late 1970's, we were required to do two things in addition to our studies - something called gratis (non-paid work to support the campus like kitchen duty, janitorial, library work, etc.) and service (community volunteerism of some sort...) On the service side, I visited the elderly at area nursing homes. Mrs. Tawes (pronounced tayvs) recounted 3 husbands to me, the first who died by a freak accident early on; the other two she also outlived. She told me the first was the love of her life. She also said that when she looked in the mirror it seemed like a stranger to her, because she remembered what she looked like when she was young, and to her that was the real her. She said that she still felt 16 in her heart and mind, despite what the body was. I have never forgotten that.

I've been listening to stories recorded by regular people like myself across the USA, in mobile booth run by StoryCorps, stories like this man who, like Mrs. Tawes, feels young, despite being old.

I've been doing as much documentation of ordinary people and places from my own life experience as possible. I want to share with my friends, family, and even strangers who we were, what we were, and that we all have much to offer one another in one way or another...


'Uncle Mark Miller' brought me from the station with his ancient buggy and what he calls his 'generous purpose' horse. He is a nice old man and gave me a handful of pink peppermints. Peppermints always seem to me such a religious sort of candy -- I suppose because when I was a little girl Grandmother Gordon always gave them to me in church. Once I asked, referring to the smell of peppermints, 'Is that the odor of sanctity?' I didn't like to eat Uncle Mark's peppermints because he just fished them loose out of his pocket, and had to pick some rusty nails and other things from among them before he gave them to me. But I wouldn't hurt his dear old feelings for anything, so I carefully sowed them along the road at intervals. When the last one was gone, Uncle Mark said, a little rebukingly, 'Ye shouldn't a'et all them candies to onct, Miss Phil. You'll likely have the stummick-ache.'
- from Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of the Island

The 'pink peppermint', or the English mint as it's sometimes called, is actually flavored with wintergreen. It was a favorite of mine and it seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth now.

I will forever associate them with my Grandpa Fitzpatrick, and how he fed them to me...along with whisker rubs and sloppy kisses, calling me his 'little girl'...
"I'm so tired of gray worsted and sensible things. Of course I can't have a tree, an' I don't suppose I really want it; but I'd like somethin' all
pretty an' sparkly an'--an' silly, you know. An' there's another thing I want--ice cream. An' I want to make myself sick eatin' it, too,--if I want to; an' I want little pink-an'-white sugar pep'mints hung in bags. Samuel, can't you see how pretty a bag o' pink pep'mints 'd be on that green tree? An'--dearie me!" broke off the little old woman breathlessly, falling back in her chair.

Ella was the first to speak. "It's too bad, of course, but never mind. Mother'll see the joke of it just as we do. You know she never seems to care what we give her. Old people don't have many wants, I fancy."

Frank stirred suddenly and walked the length of the room. Then he wheeled about.

"Do you know," he said, a little unsteadily, "I believe that's a mistake?"

"A mistake? What's a mistake?"

"The notion that old people don't have any--wants. See here. They're having a party down there--a party, and they must have got it up themselves. Such being the case, of course they had what they wanted for entertainment--and they aren't drinking tea or knitting socks. They're dancing jigs and eating pink peppermints and ice cream! Their eyes are like stars, and Mother's cheeks are like a girl's; and if you think I'm going to offer those spry young things a brown neckerchief and a pair of bed-slippers you're much mistaken--because I'm not!"
- From Eleanor H. Porter's When Father & Mother Rebelled

I found this link today on a Canadian site I will try. I am abound and determined to track them down...



My great grandparents emigrated to Canada from Ireland. I was born in Canada (to Americans, and raised in USA…) I attended university in Canada. I vacationed there. I learned many things about different cultures, foods, and ethnic groups there that were not available where I grew up in a tiny rural village in northern Minnesota. I hope to visit again, especially the Maritime provinces such as Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, two places my ancestors arrived and first lived in…


On my Dad's side of the family, his mother being Norwegian, he attended Lutheran churches as a child, what little he did attend. His mother was the one who saw to it, when she could. His father was a very profane, abusive, and unreligious man, right to the end. He could be somewhat pleasant, but even I, who knew him not that well, was never very comfortable around him. Everyone else who did know him better, including his own son my father, painted a very negative picture of him. At one point, when my Dad was still at home but was a young man, he had to lethally threaten his own father to prevent him from beating his mother to death. My Dad is a sweet guy - he could have been a wife beater himself, but turned out just the opposite - a kind, thoughtful, inquisitive, funny, inspiring man.

However, I learned later in life that my Dad may have had a dark side.

My daughter and his granddaughter, Eva came to me in 1989 when she was around 10 years old after kids club at church one night. She slowly told me with great difficulty that my Dad had been molesting her.*

I supported Eva and gave her the benefit of the doubt from the very beginning. I felt to do otherwise would not only break trust with her, but put her at a very possible further risk. In my heart, I couldn't be sure, but that said, I couldn't be sure either way; with my Dad's family history, it's quite possible something like this behavior could come out for any number of reasons.

I reported it to the authorities, and my father was notified by his local county sheriff that my county was aware of the allegations. However, since I was not pursuing a private action, it was not up to me to file charges, but up to the local county attorney where my father lived. They chose not to.

I did use my church and they used their church, setting up a meeting in Grand Forks midway between us with both our pastors present. We talked many things out, and aired concerns, but I never did get a definitive denial OR admission of guilt from my father.

Dad cried a lot, wanting to know if I would ever forgive him. He was very broken up about it, and concerned about my love for him. He asked specifically if I had lost my love for him.

I wrapped my arms around him, and said that even if I never knew the answer, I can live with it. That was my way of allowing him not to have to admit it, right or wrong, I just let him off the hook. "God knows, and you and Eva know. I forgive and yes, I love you."

I put parameters on Eva's being alone with them. For a year or so, she was never allowed near him. Then we visited together. The next two years she spent a week or two alone with my folks during the summer, and she felt OK about that.

It was very hard for Eva to tell me because we had lived full-time with my folks for 18 months in 1985 to 1986, and had lived near them when she was a toddle, so she feels very close to them.

Eva has told me long ago that she forgave her grandfather, and she feels similar about her own Dad (another long story, for another time...); I was concerned for her that she may have been negatively affected in a way that would affect the rest of her life. However, so far she has risen above it with her love of learning, excelling academically, and finding a wonderful life partner in her husband Meran.

She deserves it, God bless her...

* While it never went to full penetration of any sort, it did involve heavy fondling of the lower body and digital penetration, which was plenty traumatic enough...


Circus Train

The greatest show on earth...

One of my early memories is one night my father working a late shift at the depot, and calling Mom to hurry and come over there. Very unusual for him to do. Mom didn't tell me why, wanting to surprise me.

When we got there, he took us out back, onto the platform by the tracks. It was pitch black, but a clear night with stars twinkling overhead as I looked up. As my eyes adjusted, I looked straight ahead and noticed a stopped train. I could hear the engine down the line idling, and once and awhile I could hear a car shift and bang against the next one. I soon could make out smells like a farm, and colorful pictures on the sides of the cars.

"It's the circus train," my Dad said, a smile in his voice.

"Really?" I exclaimed, all wide-eyed.

"Yep...it's the Barnum and Bailey, Ringling Brothers, too - the Greatest Show on Earth - see it on the train?"

There it was, in large bold letters, along with pictures of elephants and clowns and horses.

"Can we go closer, Dad?" I asked.

"Sorry, but it's just made a quick stop before going into Canada. You can't board, and it's too dangerous to go closer."

I was disappointed, but that passed quickly. Just to get a chance to see the train was magical. I knew it even then...


I grew up in 'the church'.

Someone from the area I grew up recently asked me,
"...One of the things I have been dying to ask you is how you were able to transcend the narrow world view of the Evangelical Free Church. My sisters are members and it seems to be a narrow, constricted and very boring way to live. I cannot imagine myself going to a Bible College or even spending one hour with this group. I really resent the way that the Republicans use the evangelicals. I cannot imagine how JC would be giving tax breaks to the wealthy, plundering the environment, or really any of the policies. How have you been able to find the balance and have an interest in books, art, etc. other than the Holy Book? My sister [censored] in particular sees everything through that lens, but [censored] at least does not press it on me. I would like to understand more about how one can be an evangelical and see other dimensions of life."
I answered him after some thought...
"I admit I'm not your average joe in the EFC church, but I know there are others like me in the church. I am not 'in' the church anymore, but still consider myself a Christian of sorts. Mostly out of habit, I admit. I mostly tell people that nobody knows anything and to say otherwise is pure arrogance. I think atheists are just as bad as fundamentalist anything else. 'Believers' can be very narrow-minded no matter what their agenda. One thing I liked about some of the stuff I grew up with was that there was truth in some of it that made sense to me then and now - 'all have sinned' - ain't it the truth!"


As we grow older, even as we face our parents' mortalities, we face our own.

I was reading about the home funerals movement tonight, and it made me think about how ever since my Dad passed away, and I was involved in helping with his 'arrangements' for the funeral, it has made me rethink everything I ever assumed about the end of life and how it is handled. I've spent a good deal of time researching what the laws are on how bodies can be handled, what are the legal methods of disposal of a body, and what rights I have as an individual to have a say in how my body is disposed of when I die.

I've taken steps to have my body used, then disposed of, in what I feel is the best way possible. I want to share anything useful of my former 'house' before it rots and is no more, by donating anything that can be reused for others whether that is an organ or tissue or whatever. I want to spare unnecessary and wasteful expense by having my body either donated for a medical student to dissect, or if nothing else, cremated. After reading the article on home funerals, I can imagine how nice it would be if people had a chance to really meet and say goodbye to me, to have a chance to heal, to be 'up close and personal' with my old body, macabre as you might think that sounds.

Personally, I find it comforting to have the chance to be near someone I love after they leave their body. I watched as my own father died, the life going out of his body even before the last breath was drawn, and I could easily see he was long gone, to where, no one knows, because once you are 'there', you don't come back to tell anyone. Anyone that says otherwise is just guessing, don't let them fool you. Some hope for the best, prepare for the worst, while others ignore it. Whatever you believe, it's just that - a belief, and not a fact. Time will definitely tell...


My Grandpa Fitzpatrick curled. I never had a chance to see him on the ice - at least I don't remember him on the ice - but I do remember at least once being taken to the St. Vincent curling rink on a very cold winter day, and sitting on some low bleachers, with glass separating me from the lanes of curlers. I was very small, and thought it would be heated, but it wasn't. I was so busy trying to keep my little hands warm in my mittens (knitted by my Grandma Fitzpatrick), that I didn't watch much of the action. At least that's the way I remember it.

The rink was only a block away from my grandparents' home, down the same road that if you took if a few block more, led to my own home. My home used to be their home; they built it, in 1906. Later, they sold it to my parents, and moved 'uptown' to a house on the main street of St. Vincent, Minnesota, our little village. The town pump was right outside the curling hall, and there were times, when I was small, that Grandma had me fetch a pail or two of water from the pump. Sometimes, it would take many pumps to get the water going. Other times, it was stubborn; that was when Grandma taught me about 'primeing the pump'. Like magic, water would come forth again...

Later, after Grandpa died, I would spend more time with her. Grandpa's old bed in the porch, that he took naps on, was now passed by on my way into the main house to hang out with her while she baked, or outside while she hung clothes, or gardened. Grandma loved to putter around her yard, especially her sheds, and create useful things out of leftover lumber and other parts.

A memory I'll never forget is how she included me a wee bit in creating a homemade wooden wheelbarrow, and then made a larger one for herself to use around the yard to haul trash, tree cuttings, weeds, etc. to be burned or whatever. She used old tricycle and baby buggy wheels for the wheelbarrow wheels, making her own frame, handles, wheel assemblies/axels all by hand, out of wood scraps. You could tell she was a daughter of an Irish carpenter. I still have his carpenter's saw box, and use it to hold books I'm reading. It's dark with age, but still strong. His old saw is with me now, part of what I inherited from my parents after they broke up housekeeping in 2001. The wood on the handle has a soft glowing patina from many years of use. Great Grandpa Fitzgerald married a Prince Edward Island wealthy farmer's daughter, took her half-way across a continent to America, where they did whatever they had to, to make a living. All I know of him besides his carpentry is that he died drunk, run over by a train, ground to pieces and decapitated, 5 years after his wife died shortly after giving birth to their 14th child. R.I.P....