Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Family Hero

Emil William Evenson

Family stories surface in these quieter times, and I have recently learned one I would like to share.  So, allow me to introduce my father, Emil Evenson, who was a first responder hero during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

Wait... I hear you... you're asking the same thing I asked.  How old could he have been?  How could he have helped? (At the same time, you probably begin to wonder how old I am? Haha! I shall not tell.)

My dad was born in 1904, so in 1918 he was 14 years old. The third wave of Spanish flu stretched into 1919, when he turned 15. Any way you look at it, he was just a kid.

My dad's dad, Otto Evenson, owned and ran a restaurant in Spring Grove, MN. Grandpa Otto also owned one of the few automobiles in town, but he had not learned to drive. (In fact, he never learned to drive.) When the influenza struck, the local doctor was no doubt inundated with patients, both in town and in the outlying farms, so apparently Grandpa Otto offered his car. (This is where the story gets hazy.) For reasons unknown, 14-yr-old Emil was called upon to drive the local doctor on his rounds.

Emil Evenson circa 1922

Before you gasp, remember... it was a different time. Children were not afforded the sheltered childhoods we now expect. Historians remind us that children have always "worked." In hunter-gatherer societies, children gathered firewood and picked berries. In farming communities, children were expected to sweep floors, feed animals, gather eggs, etc. Our early mills employed children as young as 7, and it was not until 1938 that the U.S. passed child labor laws. Most parents simply could not afford to raise children without some compensating labor. So in 1918, a boy of 14 driving a car was not unusual. Few cars were on the road. Mud, ice and snow, and horse-drawn vehicles were greater dangers. 

 Spring Grove baseball team, circa 1907
My grandpa Otto backed some of the team,
that's Otto in the middle with the bow tie.
My dad was the bat boy.

Even more dangerous was the proximity of the influenza. We don't know if Daddy went into the homes with the doctor, but he may have. Daddy told my brother about one farm where everyone had become so ill that several members had died but no one in the family had the strength to bury them. What a somber impact on a young man. For protection the doctor carried a bottle of ethanol and he and my dad swabbed their faces and hands after each visit. That was forward thinking at the time.

Check out this article to learn more about the 1918 influenza pandemic:

Our world today would look like science fiction to my dad and my grandpa. And yet, we share the experience of pandemic.

Mama, Daddy, me and brother Bobby at a picnic

I salute those on the front lines today, and I am proud to know that my dad was one of the heroes on the front lines during the 1918 influenza, a time of scant medical resources. I'm thankful that Daddy did not become ill, nor did anyone in his family, but what a scary and sobering experience it must have been. Until recently, I had not heard this story of courage and selflessness. Now, I sit up a little straighter each time I consider it.

Friday, April 24, 2020

What I've been doing...

I had a nice chat with a friend last night, comparing notes on what we've been doing during this time of "sheltering."  Several people have told me that they are enjoying this time. Are you? I can't say that I looove it, as one son did, but I am pleased to have dedicated time for working on this quilt. What do you think?

These many triangles have challenged me, so I'm happy to have the triangle portions done. I have another step or two and then I'll find a long-arm quilting service to do the actually quilting.

Yesterday I had another nice surprise; my cousin Jacque sent me another photo of my Grandma Grace Masters Pierce. This one is a professional photo taken of Grace and her Masters siblings.  I am SO delighted to receive it! A huge thanks to Jacque, who also provided this information:

These are all the children of Grandma Pierce's parents, Henry and Margaret Masters. From left to right in back - Guy and Frank Masters
Middle row - Jennie, Addie, Grandma
Front - Iva

I feel like I can sense their personalities from this picture. The shy one, the romantic one, the one who organizes everything... and don't you love Frank's mustache? And the clothes?

This poem by Luci Shaw spoke to me this week, taking a look at small blessings. So important...

by Luci Shaw

In time of drought, let us be
thankful for this very gentle rain,

a gift not to be disdained

though it is little and brief,

find the rest of the poem as well as more about Luci here.

April is Poetry Month, and every Friday is Poetry Friday, so come on over to Christie Wyman's blog,
Wondering and Wandering to see all the poetry activities she's been involved in. Mind boggling!

Take care out there...

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Memory and a Recipe

Some things never leave us. For some reason I've had a song from long ago in my head.  Here are the words as I remember them:

Fried ham, fried ham
Cheese and baloney
And after the macaroni
We'll have onions
Pickles and pretzels
And then we'll have some more
Fried ham!  

Where did it come from?  Anyone know?  Was it a camp song?  Was it on the radio? Was it part of the musical Oliver? I don't know. But it keeps popping up in my head lately, and I think I know why.

We're cooking every meal at home, right?  And we're looking for easy meals. After a while, the simplest option is the best.  So... here's our brunch today:

Looks good to me, how about you?

So I thought I would share a very simple yet yummy idea for a meal, in case you are running out of ideas.

#1 - Some day ahead of time, bake a bunch of potatoes. Bake more than you will need for your immediate meal, and save some in the fridge.

#2 - Dice some onion and green pepper and saute them a little while (1 min?) in a pan with oil.

#3 - Cut up a baked potato or two (peeling is optional) and add to the pan with onions & peppers.

#4 - Dice some fully cooked ham and add to the pan. Stir and cook until hot. 

#5 - Eat and enjoy!

That is it, ladies and gentlemen!  I commend this meal to you as nutritious, simple and delicious.

This song is all the poetry I can come up with under the circumstances... the circumstances being that my hubby's computer is going on the fritz, he hasn't fully decided on a new one yet, so we're sharing. Heh heh. More togetherness fun. 

All that aside, it is Poetry Friday.  Find the round-up at Molly Hogan's Nix the Comfort Zone. She has a post that will make your mouth water and bring a smile to boot.  Thanks for hosting, Molly.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Amazing Egg

I have found it a challenge to focus on my blog. What should I, or could I write about? Finally, late last night, I landed on an idea that should have been obvious.  The egg!!! It's spring, the time for birds to lay eggs, hatch from eggs, steal eggs or hide their eggs in another's nest. For Christians, it is a time to celebrate Easter and new life, and eggs have been part of that celebration for many years.

I have purchased a few fancy eggs that I get out each year. 

 This one is a from the Eastern European tradition called pysanky. Making one of these requires a steady hand. These are made by applying hot wax to the egg and then dying it several times. It is hard to see, but this egg has both yellow and red. 

 This one is a modern version of pysanky. I think it was also made with layers of dye and wax.

This one is made with colored wax, carefully and beautifully applied.

We can readily put poetry together with eggs. We all know Humpty Dumpty... but a little research taught me that this poem was first published in 1797.  The words "Humpty Dumpty" also referred to a kind of brandy which was boiled with ale, suggesting a reason for Humpty's clumsiness that I had not considered. (I hope this hasn't tainted your favorite Mother Goose rhyme.)

Of course there were earlier versions:
James Orchid Halliwell’s, published the poem as: 
Humpty Dumpty lay in a beck.
With all his sinews around his neck;
Forty Doctors and forty wrights
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty to rights!

But do you know this version?  It always makes me laugh.

If Walt Whitman Had Written Humpty Dumpty

O Humpty! O Dumpty! You've had a fearful spill,
You've tumbled from the stony height,
     you're lying cold and still;
Your shell is cracked, your yolk runs out,
     your breath is faint and wheezy;
You landed as a scrambled egg, instead of over easy;
     The king has sent his steeds and men
           to mend you if they can;
                I pray that they did not forget
                      To bring a frying pan.
                                            - Frank Jacobs

I'll end with one last egg, this one made with sugar, the inside scene made with a type of frosting. My mother's best friend made eggs like this, and I had a nice collection until a younger sibling stuck his finger inside every one and broke the figures out. I'm over it, though. I'm over it.  Totally...

Many blessings to you during this time of spring renewal. In 1939, C.S. Lewis gave some excellent advice to his students about maintaining courage during trying times. You can read about it here.

It's Poetry Friday, join the fun at Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's The Poem Farm.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Spiritual Journey: Solace during CoronaVirus

Whistling swans poem by Mary Oliver

Whistling Swans

Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look
up into that blue space?
Take your choice, prayers fly from all directions.
And don’t worry about what language you use,
God no doubt understands them all.
- Mary Oliver   (see the rest here.)

I listen for the earth's songs these days. Mourning doves have resumed singing their lament. Coo-ah-coo coo coo. Coo-ah-coo coo coo. Geese fly over, bickering loudly in tones both amusing and wistful. The bluejay flits in from time to time, an imposter yelling Thief! Thief! Thief!!! Robins are busy stalking worms and floating their cheery tunes. Goldfinches in bright yellow plumage stage aerial flashdances through the neighborhood.

I've been watching the trees.  Many still raise bare branches in supplication, but the maples have knitted fuzzy red knots on their branches, and the magnolias take my breath away with their graceful blooms, like full-length silk gowns, eager for spring prom. When it comes to spring, New Jersey excels.

In spite of the beauty out our windows, it has been a hard week. I share the prayer below from the Celtic Daily Prayer book, a calming prayer:

Circle us, Lord.
Keep patience near
and discouragement afar.
Keep peace within
and turmoil out. Amen

Circle our families, Lord.
Keep protection near
and danger afar.

Circle our ill ones, Lord
keep strength and hope within
keep despair without.

Circle our healers and leaders, Lord
Keep light near
and darkness afar.

Circle those who suffer loss, Lord
keep peace within
and anxiety without.

The eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit
shield us on every side.

Donna Smith is graciously hosting our Spiritual Journey Thursday found-up at Mainely Write.  Feel free to visit her there.