Long Distance Calls and A Pending Interview

Phone chats with my grandmother are some of my happiest minutes, especially when the minutes turn into hours.

As I child, I loved time with my mom’s parents, as they were easy to love, patient beyond what I deem normal, and had pretty wild imaginations. From “Honky Tonk’s Pizza Parlor” (see an early post dedicated to this) to the jaunts to a local lake in the summer, and basement billiard lessons, they really were a bag of surprises.

As close as I felt to them growing up, I would have never imagined that as a 30-something, I’d be lucky enough to still have regular, lengthy, important, and grounded conversations with my now 93 year old grandmother.

Tonight on my trek home from Kentucky, I chatted with her for more than an hour, and as usual, we covered recent news in about ten minutes, and then launched into the good stuff—old stories from a time I can only stretch my mind to imagine as I hear the age in her voice, her childlike laughter over old valentines she found from 1915, and the jagged cracks of emotion when she retold something about grandpa.

I sometimes feel guilty for moving away, because I only visit a couple of times a year, and there’s never enough time in a dinner or evening with her. But the truth is, it was the moving away that instigated the phone chats, and I imagine we talk a lot more than we would if she was right under my nose. It’s easy to say I’d visit all the time, and maybe I would, but I wouldn’t trade anything for those long distance calls.

I made a laundry list of questions that I want to know about her younger years, her marriage to grandpa, her perspective of the egg business, etc. and asked her tonight if we could “schedule” some interview time. It’s selfish, really…I want to capture as much of her spirit as I can; I lost this chance already with grandpa and don’t want to squander the present with her. So her interview begins this weekend (especially if she’s snowed in–I’ll have a captive audience!) 🙂

At work last week, the trainees were asked to think about our motivation–why we want to be successful, and what our goals are. When thinking about what motivates and inspires me, I saw her face in my mind and remembered her voice on the phone a couple years ago when I was telling her about my master’s degree. She told me she was proud of me for working so hard–and that’s a moment I’ll never forget.

I can’t wait to start her interview, as I know it’s more time I get to hear the great stories of our family; more importantly, it’ll be a document that can outwit time.

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Fish Filet Lessons, Rocke Style

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When I was kid, I was pretty “squeamish,” as my mom would say.  I hated the sight of blood, despised butchering day, and wouldn’t even consider touching a worm long enough to get it on my fishing hook.  I suppose this is probably par for the course for most girls, but as a “farm girl” with three brothers, I think the expectation was that I should be a little tougher.

This summer, my youngest brother, who is the closest person I’ll ever know to a real cowboy and professional fisherman, was catching and filleting fish in mass quantities at my sister’s lake house in central Illinois.  The family was all in town for the 4th of July, and what I assumed would be a leisure day in the hammock, turned in to a blood bath of catfish and walleye.

I kept watching Jeff skillfully turn a flopping lake catch into two fine filets of dinner, and decided I really  needed to know how to do this, too.  I think he thought I was kidding when I asked him to teach me–my white ruffled skirt was trimmed in delicate lace, and I had a pretty fresh manicure, but I was ready to take over the knife.

I’ll spare the bloody details, but after a few rounds of coaching, I did a pretty decent job of prepping a good size catfish for the fryer.  It sounds terrible, but after I did a few, I wanted to filet every fish that was unfortunate enough to be hooked that day.  We dredged filets in this yummy cornmeal called “Fish Fry” and golden-fried fish all day.

I know I didn’t master something crazy hard, but I was oddly proud of myself, and felt like I added a “skill” to my arsenal that I just may need some day.  You know, just in case I ever get stuck in the wilderness with a stream and a knife.

I still have a pretty weak stomach and am certainly not signing up to help with butchering day ever again, but the next time we’re all gathered and fishing at my sister’s, maybe I’ll give the knife lessons. 🙂

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Hodel’s Eggs and Chicken Candy Dishes

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I was thrifting with my mother in law the other day and had an awesome discovery. I found a chicken candy dish, just like the ones that once that littered the coffee tables and dressers of both sides of my family. I’m not sure why my dad’s side ever embraced chickens because his dad was a bee keeper and decorated with all things honey and bees; it’s my mom’s side that has a fair explanation. My aunt, uncle, and cousins lived across the field from my parents and ran “Hodel’s Egg Farm” with some 10,000 chickens; my Aunt Janet was/is pretty hard core about her chicken accessories. I’ve been told that my memory isn’t as perfect as I think it is, but I’m pretty sure she even had chicken wall paper in her kitchen.

“Hodel’s Eggs” was a huge part of my childhood. My brothers and I used to ride our mustard yellow three wheeler through the pasture/field to my cousins to gather eggs a few days a week. It was my first job, as there’s no age minimum for collecting eggs at the bottom of the wire coops, pushing a cart full of egg trays, and sledging through a couple inches of chicken poop when the pits ran over. (The slope at the end of row three was always the worst.) At any rate, it was a smelly job and regardless of how I scrubbed when I got home, it was almost impossible to get that stench out of my skin and hair. (And I thought I didn’t have boyfriends because of my homemade clothes…)

The smelly chicken house has since been renovated into “The Coop,” a snazzy gathering place for our families that smells quite fresh and clean in spite of its former inhabitants. I’m thankful that gathering eggs is now a distant memory and smell, but appreciate that for a mere six dollars I have a chicken candy dish for my coffee table as another reminder of the farm(s) that shaped me. (Insert Miranda Lambert song here).

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