Monthly Archives: August 2012

This post is at the risk of upsetting my ex in-laws

13 People Overnight in a Two-Bedroom Mobile Home

I’d like to start with some background. My ex-husband and I came from very different families. I am an only child; he is the middle of seven – three boys and four girls. I was taught it is not polite to ‘drop-in’ on people (even family) uninvited or unannounced.

Since his brothers do not figure into this story, I will ignore them. To preserve anonymity, we’ll call his sisters J, L, B and F (in order of age). At the time of this story, my husband, our four-year-old son, and I lived in a 10×50, two-bedroom mobile home in Kansas City. I had just found out I was pregnant with what would turn out to be our oldest daughter. I had also just quit smoking. My mother lived in California. Sister B and her one-year-old daughter lived in Denver where she worked for Frontier Airlines. Sister J., her husband, and four children (10, 9, 8, and 6), Sister L., her husband and six-month-old son, and Sister F., her husband and two sons (4 and 2) lived in Central Missouri near mother-in-law.

On the weekend prior to this story, my mother came to Missouri and took our son to visit my grandmother.

So we start on Friday evening. I can’t remember if it was Sister L. or Sister J. who called and said, “We just put Mom on the train to Kansas City, go down to Union Station and pick her up.” (No, ‘are you busy’, ‘do you have plans’, just drop everything and do it.) “Sister B. has a pass to fly to KC tomorrow.” So my husband went to pick up his mother. While he was gone my mother called and asked if it would be convenient for her to bring son home tomorrow night. I told her fine. Mother-in-law and Sister B. will be here. But we had two double beds and a sofa-sleeper that folded out into a double bed. We have room for six people, no problem.

When husband got home, lo and behold, he had not only his mother, but Sister F. and her two sons. We are now at nine people. I was then told, “Sister L., her husband and baby, and Sister J. and two of her kids will be here in the morning.” Now there are thirteen people. “Oh, and Sister J. and Sister F.’s husbands and Sister J.’s other two kids will be here Sunday.”

The next day, I sat between my mother and Sister B. who were both chain smokers. Guess who started smoking again. That night about ten o’clock mother-in-law says, “I don’t know where we’re all going to sleep.” (You just now thought of that. God forbid any of them go to a motel). Now my mother can be very stubborn and exasperating at times and this was one of them. She said, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but my daughter and I are sleeping in her and her husband’s bed. Goodnight.” I think my four-year-old slept with Mother and me. As to the other ten, I still have no idea where they all slept and that was forty-six years ago. Although I’m willing to bet my mother-in-law did not sleep on the floor.

So Sunday we had seventeen people for dinner. While I was trying to cook dinner in my rather small kitchen, the six-month-old baby was sitting on a potty chair in the middle of the living room (because he was already potty-trained) and his mother was cutting Sister B.’s hair in the kitchen. While I was cooking.

Another flash piece

Driving Lessons

How I Learned to Drive in Traffic

I was seventeen when I moved to Kansas City three days after I graduated from high school. I learned to drive on the back roads around my home town in which the population was between 6,000 and 8,000. If you saw twenty cars at a time, it was considered heavy traffic.

I had been in Kansas City for about two weeks when my boyfriend was going to drive my roommate and me home for the weekend. He picked us up at our apartment at 12th and Pennsylvania and we headed east. My roommate sat in the back seat embroidering.

Now remember, in 1960, we didn’t have a lot of shopping centers out in the suburbs. If you wanted to shop, you went downtown to Jones’, Macy’s, EBT, etc. so you can imagine the traffic at ten o’clock on Saturday morning.

We stopped at a stop light at the corner of 12th and Main and the bf jumped out of the car, “Here, drive around the block while I run into Jones’ for a minute.” Mind you, I had never even driven his car. I can’t remember what it was, only that it was white. Thank goodness it had an automatic transmission.

If you know anything about Kansas City streets, you know you can’t just drive around one block. You come to a corner and want to turn right and the street is one-way to the left. I ended up going around four blocks in bumper-to-bumper traffic before I got back to 12th and Main. Thankfully, the bf was standing waiting for me.


How I Learned to Drive in Snow


I never drove in snow until December 1966. Either my parents or my husband was always driving when it snowed. Well, this day it started snowing around noon. They said, “little or no accumulation.” (But isn’t that what they almost always say?) I was working at GSA at Bannister and Troost and my husband worked at 21st and Forest – one block east of Troost. I was also six months pregnant with my oldest daughter.

When I got off work at 4:30, I called over to the motor pool to a woman who sometimes rode with me and asked if she needed a ride home because I didn’t want to be in the car alone. She lived a block west of Paseo around 40th street somewhere.

Cars were sliding everywhere. Going up one hill, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. My 1964 Pontiac Catalina was a big heavy car. I never stopped moving.  If a light turned red, I just slowed way down and inched along until it turned green. When we got close to the turn for Anna’s street, she told me not to get off of Paseo she would walk the block home. As she got out, I still kept barely moving.

It took three hours to drive the seventy some blocks to my husband’s office. I called Anna to tell her I made it and she said, “I’m so glad you called. I just heard on the radio that a pregnant woman had an accident on the Paseo and I was afraid it was you.”

My husband’s office was one corner of the street. Of the four ways away from there, three were uphill and the fourth was one-way going south. We went north on the one-way street to get out of there.

That was the day I decided you can’t be afraid of snow – you have to respect it, but if you’re afraid, you tense up. Just keep your wits about you and never stop moving.

White Christmas

Whenever I hear someone say they want a white Christmas, I’m reminded of Christmas 1961.

I got married in June that year and my husband and I lived in a mobile-home court halfway between Parkville and Riverside. My parents separated in September. My mother moved to the Kansas City area.

Christmas was on Monday. My mother planned to go to my home town (a two-hour drive) on Friday and my husband and I planned to go to his parents (another two-hour drive). Both towns are east of Kansas City, one a little more north than the other. About noon on Friday, it started snowing. The weather people said there would be ‘little or no’ accumulation. Mom left about two o’clock Friday afternoon.

My husband and I headed north Saturday morning. There was a little snow on the ground, but not much and the roads were clear. We got to Excelsior Springs and ran into a road block. The trooper told us we could not go any further on I-35 because there were about 200 cars stranded between Excelsior and Cameron including semis that were buried in drifts. I never thought about Mother – after all, she left early Friday afternoon. So we continued to my in-laws’ house via another route. There was still a little snow, but clear roads. We got to the in-laws’ Saturday afternoon, spent all day Sunday, and I still didn’t think about Mom.

We were just sitting down to Christmas dinner when I got a call from a truck driver I’d never heard of. He said my mother knew he was coming through the town I was in and wanted him to call me and tell me she was okay. They and about 60 other people just spent the weekend in a small bar outside of Cameron.

Later Mom told me the whole story. She was driving her 1960 Galaxy and stopped for gas in Liberty. A carful of young men pulled into the gas station. One of the men was an old boyfriend of mine who told his companions he was going to ride with Mom so she wouldn’t be alone. Mom and C. got about halfway between Excelsior and Cameron when the Galaxy slid off the road and got stuck. They were picked up by an older couple and continued toward Cameron. About three miles from Cameron, their car also stalled and the four of them made their way to a small bar.

The owner of the bar had gone into Cameron for supplies and couldn’t get back. His pregnant wife and year-old baby were alone. Like the truck driver said, in the end, there were about 60 people there. Three were babies in diapers (this was before disposable diapers). Mom said they had diapers draped all over the place drying. The only food they had was the ‘all-you-can-eat shrimp’ the bar served on Friday nights. Of course, they didn’t lack for drinks. There was a small store just across from the bar and someone went over there and got milk for the babies and some bacon and eggs. A truck driver who was carrying oranges up from Florida opened his rig and they had oranges.

So when anyone mentions a white Christmas, I remember 1961.

A footnote: at that time my mother and I wore the same sized clothes. She had borrowed one of my favorite dresses, a long-sleeved, aqua wool. After she wore it three days straight in that smoke-filled bar, even the dry cleaners couldn’t make it wearable again.

Kids and Food

A lot of kids today don’t know where our food comes from. Even some adults. I read a post on Facebook the other day telling hunters they should go to the store and buy their meat so no animals were killed. Here are a couple examples of kids who have been raised to believe food comes from the grocery store.

Cow’s Milk

When I was a child, I had a mug with a picture of Elise the Borden Cow on it. When Grandpa went to the barn to milk, I followed with my mug. Of course, now I can’t stand to drink warm milk, but I still have my milk every day.

My son was about two or three years old when I took him to the home of a friend who had a dairy farm. The farmer hand milked a few squirts and then put the milking machine on the cows. We watched as the milk traveled through clear pipes into the cooling tank. When the wife got a paper cup and tried to give my son a drink, “I don’t want any of that cow’s milk.”


Old Dead Chickens


My grandmother always raised chickens. I can remember her with a chicken head in each hand wringing their necks. She would kill and dress ten to twenty-five chickens every Friday to deliver to her customers on Saturday for their Sunday dinner. (This was in the days before Tyson).

When my son was four, my mother took him to Grandma’s for a week. Now, Grandma left the farm after Grandpa died in 1958 and this was 1966. But, she still raised chickens. They were in cages in her garage. She wrung the necks of a couple of them and cleaned them. My son asked, “Grandma, what are you going to do with those old dead chickens?” When told they were for supper, his response was, “I ain’t gonna eat any of that old dead chicken.”

My grandmother’s gentleman friend came in town for dinner. When they sat down, my son said, “John, that’s old dead chicken you’re eating.” I don’t remember if he finally gave in and tried it or not.

Grandma and the Snakes

Now, I am not afraid of snakes as long as I know they are not poisonous, but my Grandma Bennett was terrified of even a garter snake.

One fall when I was in junior high school, three of my classmates and I decided we wanted to ‘camp out’ at Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. Grandpa agreed we could camp down in the woods past the pond. Then Grandma got in on things. “Now you girls can’t sleep on the ground. A snake will come and crawl in bed with you.” So she told Grandpa to take the hay wagon down for us to sleep on. “But, don’t park it under a tree. A snake will climb the tree and jump down on them.” So Grandpa took the hay wagon down and parked it out in the open field for us to sleep on. I don’t think he realized he parked it in a pile of dry leaves.

Anyone who knows anything about teenaged girls knows a sleep over is never about sleeping. We were having a good time when, about 2 in the morning, one of the tires on the hay wagon sprung a leak. The air leaking from the tire caused the dry leave to rattle. If you can imagine four teenaged girls screaming at the top of their lungs because we were sure we were parked right in a nest of rattle snakes.

I’m surprised Grandpa and the closest neighbor (1/4 mile away) didn’t come out with shotguns thinking we were all being murdered.


I cannot believe it has been almost a month since I posted anything. I had a thought in the middle of the night last night. A couple of women in my writers’ group write what they call ‘flash fiction’ which to me read like a diary entry or a memory flashback. So I think I’ll try it. Expect the first “Grandma and the Snakes” later today.