52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, Week 20: Another Language

Growing up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, we were surrounded by apple orchards and farms. Our little town of Winchester had National Fruit Products which made such delights as applesauce and apple butter…the aromas permeated the town. I lived in a white and blue collar neighborhood. I spoke with a Southern accent, and my speech was peppered with many idioms and colloquialisms.

Every summer, we would travel to my grandparents’ farm in Alton, Osborne County, Kansas. My Gramps and Grammy were Andrew and Isabella (Boultinghouse) Storer, my mom’s parents. Their farm seemed vast to me with acres of crops, outbuildings, and animals. A river bobbed along the edge of the property. When we visited there, I heard another language being spoken. What did some of those phrases mean? My grandfather would talk about checking out the Angus on the north forty. Angus? North forty? When he feed the pigs, he would yell out words that sounded like “Sue Whee” with a high accent on the second syllable. Those porkers would come running for slop. One time, he mentioned how flat the land was…but then he spoke about how the Kansas mountains were lined up from town to town along the highways. Living under the shadow of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, I certainly could not see those Kansas mountains. Little did I know, but they were another name for grain elevators.

Alton4My grandmother also spoke in another language. Each morning, she told us that she had to go milk the nannies. I was instructed to gather the hen fruit and bring it to the kitchen. I asked what trees it was on…she laughed and told me to go to the chicken coop with a basket…I would spot it in the little nests in there. My grammy also kept egg money  in a can in her kitchen, and she said she could use it when she went to town on Saturdays…all gussied up she would be.

My grandparents had a strange phone number which wasn’t numbers at all. Their number was two longs and one short. Their neighbors had similar numbers made up of different longs and shorts. We were to answer the phone on the wall only when their longs and short sounded; otherwise, we would be hearing people talk on a party line. That would not be polite.

My mom understood completely what all they were talking about, but I am sure that my dad was also puzzled. My dad was from Philadelphia, and he was a city boy with Polish immigrant parents. Did it take him long to catch on to this Midwest lingo?

I miss my grandparents and parents. I wish I could once again walk on that farm, gather eggs, drink goat’s milk, slop hogs, and get all gussied up on Saturdays.

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52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Mother’s Day

In our little town, a church’s billboard reads: TO ALL OF OUR MOTHERS IN HEAVEN, YOU ARE LOVED AND MISSED. How true with many of us as we greet this Mother’s Day! Memories flood and swell inside our hearts as we imagine and remember our mother’s voices, words, actions, and images. We embrace how our moms grew from those strong, young women to those delicate yet iron-willed senior ladies.

 

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Falls Church, Virginia   1950

In honor of my mother, Merna Mae Storer Slabik (1924-2014), I would like to share some of the lessons that I learned from her… I bet many of these resonate with you also.

  • “I will teach you to be independent.” My mom wanted me to be able to do things for myself even at a young age. She wanted me to develop my own talents. She wanted me to be my own person.
  • “You cannot change that person so do not even try.” Mom longed for me to enjoy each person in his/her own way. We all have different personalities…accept everyone.
  • “Go ask your father.” Mom did not want anything to be a deal breaker between herself and my father. She was leaving it all up to him in that particular case.
  • “We are huggers.” Mom wanted to leave each person with a warm hug and a warm smile.
  • “You have to earn that…you will do chores for an allowance…you will save.” It started at the age of five when I asked for roller skates. Mom told me that I would start to dry the silverware (age appropriate) for a nickel a week. I got the skates, but I learned to work with a goal in mind. That lesson would be a premise of my being.
  • (Message on my answering machine at least once a week) “Hi, it’s me Mom. Give me a call back when you can.” I wish I would have saved one of those messages!
  • At the end of each visit and phone call, my mom would say, “Remember that I love you.” Those three words taught me more lessons than any combined.

I love you, too, Mom!

 

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks: Close Up

In a classic American film, the main character beckons, “All right, Mr. Demille, I am ready for my close up!” The character poses as if acting in a silent film. The scene is just a snippet of the movie, but it eludes the faded charism of that character. Classic and not forgotten…

My father’s mother, Anna Mroz, died two months before my parents were married so I never knew her. My father and his sister would speak of her in endearing terms and phrases, such as “My mother always…” They spoke of her with respectful and reverential admiration, but she was not mentioned often. As a child, I never even so much as saw a photo of her or visited her grave. She faded into the background of my awareness…my babcia (Polish for “grandmother”).

When I became interested in family history, she was one of the first persons entered on my family tree. (I wrote about this grandmother in a previous blog entry, The Case Of The Baffling Babcia.)  Who was she? What could I discover about her? Who would know anything? Where could I look? At that time, my father’s sister was still living. When my babcia was debilitated by cancer, she and my dziadek (Polish for “grandfather”) lived with my aunt and her family. I turned to my aunt for help but learned very little. She did pass on two pictures of my babcia…one with my dad when he was a little boy and one with my dziadek. In both pictures, I could not really see her face the way I wanted.

In time, I kept thinking of places where I might find records of her…marriage license and certificate, funeral card, naturalization record index. What could I glean from this information? I sent for Anna’s naturalization papers, and I had read that these papers would contain a photo. Maybe at last, I could see her face close up. I was ready for her close up! When the papers arrived, I was not to be disappointed…there she was…I could see her clearly. There was even a physical description of her…oh, my goodness…we have the same body build.

How glorious, dear babcia, to see you close up…classic and not forgotten! One day, I will meet you face to face as we live together in God’s kingdom…

Anna naturalization