Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ginger, not the Gilligan's Island Gal

My mother-in-law Ginger has a birthday on April 27. This post will honor her through the letters of mother-in-law.

She's known by a few names, Virginia being her given name, but she answers more to Jenny and Ginger. When I married Chris, it was easy to call her Mom. Maybe because mine had already passed away, but I know my mom Stella would approve because she too was Mom to more than just her biological kids.

Online dating. When Chris and I got engaged only after knowing each other for two weeks after meeting on, Mom said, "What took you so long?" Can you imagine any groom's mother saying that? Probably had something to do with her experience on Yahoo Personals and conversing with James for a few weeks, finally meeting him in person, and then marrying him about a week later.

Thanksgiving, Mom's favorite family get-together. She hosts it with all the fixings, but her pies steal the show. If we're there on Wednesday night, we eat pie. We have a piece for breakfast the next day. Then one for dessert after the noon mealwhich just might be at 9:30 in the morning. Then one for a snack and another for dessert with supper leftovers. If we're not heading home until Friday afternoon, we usually find room for another slice or two. One year I gained five pounds!

pies, pies, & more pies ~ Thanksgiving 2013

Hair. Hers is white. Pure white. Strangers ask her for the name of the color, but it's natural. Maybe her white hair is where my husband Chris gets his little grey strip. He too gets accused of coloring it.

Ginger and her pretty white hair with her late husband James.

Empathetic. She understood my plight of step-mom-ness because she was one too.

Resilient. Her life story is one of triumph and overcoming. She said, "Regardless of what I've gone through, I have always known that God had a plan for my life." What a testament to her faith in Christ providing for heroften in ways she wasn't aware of at the time. Her spiritually strong heart keeps on ticking, and and for that, we are thankful for her 74th birthday.

Intelligent. She's an avid reader whose stacks of books impressed me the first time I entered her home. Now she reads a lot on her iPad by checking out electronic copies from the library. Yes, she's tech savvy.

Needlework. Mom used to do quite a bit of crosstitch. Now she's back to quilting and other crafts.

Love. Her prayers, Facebook communication, and phone calls let us know we are not far from her heart and mind.

 my mother-in-law Ginger with me a few days before her birthday

Approved of me. She told me shortly after Chris and I got married that he must really love me because she thought he'd never leave Bartlesville. I took that as her acceptance of his choice. 

Words. She likes to play Scrabble, but be prepared to play by her rules. That means looking up the words in the dictionary before playing the tiles.

What positive words would describe your mother-in-law? What traits does she possess that you admire? What makes her unique?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What I Never Knew About My Parents' Wedding

At the start of it all, Mom knew Dad was a night owl when she married him. For weeks leading up to their wedding in 1944, Dad would visit her at 10 o’clock at night. Mom lived miles away in Doland, South Dakota. She worked at the Northwestern Public Service office and had graduated from high school the spring before in 1943. 

Mom, 18-years-old, on her
wedding day when Dad, 19, came to pick her up

My dad’s dad, Grandpa Pete, had died a month earlier (I’ll explain more in future post) on March 18, so at the age of 19, my dad became the man of the farm near Hitchcock with plenty of work to do. Grandma Elizabeth, Dad’s mom whom he lived with on the farm and whom I wrote about here, didn’t like the late night visits, so she encouraged them to get married.

Stella & Waldo's wedding portrait

The ceremony took place on a Sunday morning after the main church service on April 16, 1944 at Ebenezer church. It was the custom for the woman to go with the man, so that's why the ceremony wasn't at Emmanuel, Mom's church. Dad drove to Doland during the Sunday school hour to pick up Mom, her mother, and one of her sisters. They had no car.

Back in the day, men and women sat on opposite sides of the sanctuary in the Mennonite Brethren Church, but for this occasion, the bride and groom sat up on stage in front of the minister, Reverend DJ Mendel (Smoky Joe's dad), with their backs to the congregation. It was just a regular church service until the end when a short marriage ceremony was performed.

Dad said he has no idea what the sermon was about that day. The entire service was in German and rather than say “I do,” they said, “yah” to commit. And there was no kiss-the-bride announcement either. Dad doesn’t remember where their attendants, Aunt Bina and his cousin Miller Glanzer, were during the ceremony.

He does recall; however, tears rolling down his cheeks when my mom's other sister, Aunt Grace, and neighbor lady Ruth Decker sang "Blessed be the Tie that Binds." Click here to hear the lyrics and various renditions of the old hymn.

Dad & Mom with their wedding cake on the south side of the house

So the ceremony was simple and short without a lot of hoopla. In fact, his sister Mary Ruth and mother just made sure all the important parties were in church that day.

Grandma Elizabeth invited the minister and his wife Katrina and other close family members to the house then for a celebration dinner of noodle soup. Dad remembers my cousin Judy running around and estimates she was around 3-years-old. Cousin Cynthia was there too, but younger. Maybe my cousins can fill in some blanks here by commenting on the blog as to what they remember.

Mom's family makes a visit.
Aunt Bina, Aunt Grace with Cousin Judy in front, Grandma Katie, and Mom

What about the opening of gifts? Dad doesn't remember that part. Seems Grandma Katie, my mom’s mom, gave Mom a wardrobe for a wedding gift, but it was too tall for the room, so they had to take it back to Doland. Dad doesn’t know about any replacement gift. He doesn’t remember how the item was transported either or when the exchange was even attempted.

There was no honeymoon. Dad said the next day Mom was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor in the front room upstairs. Sounds like Mom. Work before play. Always. I am a lot like her.

Sure wish I’d have talked with Mom more about this sort of thing when she was alive because she had a photographic memory. But I’m glad that on his 71st wedding anniversary, Dad still remembers a few precious details of the day he married the only woman he'd ever kissed.

Any interesting wedding details in your families? How about the circumstances of your parents' wedding?


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Musical Round of a Different Kind

Guest Post 
by Amy Wallace
Musical Round of
a Different Kind

Family history can uncover fascinating facts and interesting connections. A single piece of furniture, a musical instrument, brought our families together beginning in 1950 and again in the early 1990s.

The First Owners—Claude and Myrtle Wallace

In 1950, Claude and Myrtle Wallace were living in Kingman when they purchased a brand new Wurlitzer piano. Myrtle had a Stephen Foster song book and played a lot of his music. Her favorite song to play, however, was the "Blue Danube Waltz.”

Claude & Myrtle Wallace, the original piano owners

Their only child, Dean, took piano lessons for about a year or less. He stopped lessons when his teacher began playing the piano for the Meade Theater before movies. Around 1960, Claude and Myrtle moved to another home in Kingman, and the piano didn’t make the move. It was sold or given to their neighbor, Mabel Chase.

Dean standing in front of Mabel Chase's home. They were neighbors.

The Second Owner—Mabel Chase

Claude and Myrtle’s neighbor was a widow by the name of Mabel Chase. Mabel is my great-grandmother. She had one child, a daughter named Mary Elizabeth who went by Beth. After Mabel acquired the piano from her neighbors, the Wallaces, she passed it on to her daughter.

Mabel Chase, my great-grandmother.

The Third Owners—Beth and Don Jones

Beth married Ray D. Jones (Don) in 1948. They briefly lived in Kansas City, Kansas, before moving into her mother Mabel’s home on March 31, 1950. Beth and Don are my grandparents.

Their daughter Peggy was gifted at playing the instrument. During her growing up years, her parents never had to ask how her day at school had been. They could tell her mood by the piece she selected and how she played it.

Far right: Don and Beth Jones pictured shortly after they were married.
They would become the third owners of the piano. 
 Photo in front of Mabel Chase’s house with Wallace home in the background.

The Fourth Owners—Peggy and Jim Graber

When Beth and Don's daughter Peggy married Jim Graber in 1973, the piano was given to her as a wedding gift. Peggy and Jim are my parents. It was moved to their farmhouse near Belmont where Mom played it nearly every day. She played for her church, Kingman Mennonite, accompanying the congregation, playing special music, and directing the children’s choir. As the years passed, Peggy and Jim had two children: Amy (that’s me) and Jake, who both took lessons.

This is me, Amy, trying my hand at piano at the age of one.

Here I sit with my mom Peggy who was the fourth owner of the piano.

In 1991, I began dating Sean Wallace. One day we took his grandmother, Myrtle, to my parent’s home. As soon as the 93-year-old woman walked in the door, she spotted something across the room. “That’s my piano,” she said.

Sean and I exchanged a confused glance. How could a woman this age whose eyesight is less than perfect have any idea what piano this was? But she was determined. She walked directly to it, looked it over, and touched the wood and the keys.

“This was my piano,” she said again. And she began to talk about the piano, the sale of it, and the story began to unfold. It had been almost 38 years since she sold that piano to her neighbor Mabel.

The Fifth Owners—Amy and Sean Wallace

In 1996 Sean and I were married. For several years the piano remained at my parents’ home in Kingman where Mom continued to play it, and the grandkids enjoyed having recitals on it. In the mid-2000s our oldest daughter Macy began to take lessons, and my parents gave the piano to us. We moved it into our home in Cheney.

My children with the piano in
its current home in Cheney, Kansas.
When Claude and Myrtle sold the piano back in 1960, I imagine they assumed they would never see it or hear about it again. But it ended up in the living room of their grandson and then played by their great-grandchildren.

Back in 1950 their families were connected by nothing more than geography. But today their families are united by love, marriage, and family.

What an amazing legacy they left for us.

Do you have any special family heirlooms? What is the most interesting story you have learned about your family history?

About Amy Wallace

Music has always been a part of Amy
Wallace's life. As the 1995 Miss Kansas runner-up, she
sang a solo for the talent portion of the pageant.  This
professional woman, wife, and mother of three
continues to perform musically for her church,
work, and community. This is her second
Circle of Life story for the blog. To read
more about Amy and to read the first  post, click here.