The Longenecker Sisters’ Road Trip, Part 1

Girls’ road trips are part of the landscape of American pop culture. Who can forget Thelma and Louise? Wanting to take a short vacation from their dreary lives, Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) head out from Arkansas to the Grand Canyon in a 1966 Ford Thunderbird. They stop at a roadhouse and it’s all downhill from there. Crime and mayhem ensue until finally the gun-toting girls and their car zoom over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Both Davis and Sarandon received Best Actress Academy award nominations (1991).

Image courtesy Wikipedia
Image courtesy Wikipedia

And what about Oprah and friend Gayle who took off in a much ballyhooed road trip documented on TV and watched by millions . . .

Image Huffington Post
Image Huffington Post

Here’s how the Huffington Post encapsulates their excursion:

In 2006, Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gayle King embarked on what became a much talked-about (and hilarious) 3000-mile road trip across the country. When they weren’t cruising the highway in their red Chevy Impala, the two joined a local game of Bingo in Wichita, met some real-life cowboys on the range and crashed a wedding in Tulsa, surprising and amusing nearly everyone they came in contact with.

In spite of an anxiety-ridden moment on the George Washington Bridge, Oprah and Gayle completed their trip unscathed. When they returned to Chicago, Oprah handed over the keys to that Chevy to a deserving woman named Reola Holdaway.

The Longenecker sisters, Marian, Janice, and Jean are not movie stars or TV personalities. None of us has owned a gun much less aimed one at a policeman as Thelma did. But as siblings, we have done many other things together — playing and fighting as children, working in the tomato patch in Bainbridge, PA, even singing in a trio at church, sometimes with less than perfect results.

Scred Trios_final_7x9_300

The last time any of us can remember vacationing together was back in 1977, the year Daddy broke all sales records at Longenecker Farm Supply, won a free trip to Jamaica and took the whole family including his married daughters and son Mark. We left our husbands and young children behind and frolicked in Ocho Rios for a week — just Mom, Daddy, my sisters and brother Mark.

As married women with children, we have met at least once a year at the Longenecker homestead in Pennsylvania. Recently, we have been clearing out the house after Mother’s death making decisions about her possessions together. And now, as a pause in our separate journeys, we celebrate with a road trip. So, you see, it’s high time to make more memories.

Whee!

The plan: My sisters and I, with two of our daughters, are gathering from Florida and Pennsylvania for a Merry-May celebration in Charleston, SC. We’ll get there by car and I’ll record our adventures here in two installments. It won’t be the Italian Riviera but we can refresh and renew our sisterhood close to the Charleston harbor inlet leading out to the Atlantic Ocean. And it won’t be Thelma and Louise, or Oprah and Gayle, but it will be Marian, Janice, and Jean.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

In the meantime, have you and close family members taken a road trip together recently or long ago? Tell us about the adventure here.

Aunt Cecilia is 100 Years Old Today!

A centenarian! That’s what my Aunt Cecelia is today. Born March 28, 1915, Aunt Ceci is one-hundred years old. According to one source, only 7347 U. S. citizens are now 100 years old, and today my aunt has joined their ranks. Special things will happen to her today. Aunt Cecilia Risser Metzler will receive a letter from President Obama. Friends and relatives will send her cards. Her family is planning a reception in her honor. Who knows what else is in store for her.

Last May, when Mother was still alive I wrote a post about her and her sister-in-law Cecilia, then both nonagenarians. You can read it here. Aunt Cecilia is my last remaining aunt on my mother’s side of the family. She’s IT. And what a life she has lived!

In an article that ran in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal (Sept. 20, 2004) journalist Lori Van Ingen listed all the volunteer service that has spanned Aunt Cecilia’s life time. Mother sent this article to me with a sticky note referring to her own volunteering at C. B, Choice Books.

2004_0920_The Intelligence+note

Her Service

  • Pastor’s wife with my Uncle, Rev. Clyde Metzler at Hernley’s Mennonite Church near Manheim for 31 years (1943-1974) where visiting members and volunteering got into her blood, where it became “her line of work, really,” she says. She sent out 15-18 birthday cards monthly for many years.
  • Partner with her husband at Mount Joy Furniture Hospital, Mount Joy, PA
  • Volunteer at Nearly Nu Thrift Shop in Manheim, PA.
  • Kitchen Assistant for 5 years for Meals on Wheels where she created menus and was involved in daily food preparation.
  • Served at Mt. Hope Dunkard Brethren Home in Manheim for 7 years, feeding residents, pushing wheelchairs, writing letters for them, and doing some mending. She also played the harmonica for residents, a skill she learned from her dad.
  • Volunteer at The Mennonite Home for 8 years where she fed and read to the residents, worked in the thrift shop at the home and helped in the laundry.

Some Losses

The life of Cecilia Risser Metzler, volunteer extraordinaire, has not been a bed of roses unless one considers that roses have thorns. Her youngest daughter Eunice, engaged to be married to Robert Keener, died suddenly of complications from a congenital heart condition. A few years after Eunice’s death, Clyde and Cecilia drove from their home in Pennsylvania to Goshen, Indiana to attend Robert’s subsequent wedding to Rhoda, but not without misgivings. The Metzlers both had considered Bob a member of the family, so it felt awkward to attend his marriage to someone else, another reminder of the loss of their precious Eunice. In the course of time, however, Bob’s wife Rhoda learned about the death of Cecilia’s husband Clyde only 4 years after their daughter’s death and wanted to know more about Cecilia as a real person, and not just the mother of Eunice, her husband’s former fiancée.

Uncle Clyde and Aunt Cecilia Metzler attending the wedding reception of Robert and Rhoda Keener in Goshen, Indiana - March 18, 1972
Uncle Clyde and Aunt Cecilia Metzler attending the wedding reception of Robert and Rhoda Keener in Goshen, Indiana – March 18, 1972. Illustration in the article “a friendship that might not have been” by Rhoda Keener in Christian Living magazine

Rhoda writes of Cecilia’s strong faith and of how she coped with two losses by organizing a group of seven other widows to do volunteer work, eat out together — even play Pitch and Putt Golf. This jolly group went to the mountains and seashore at Cape May regularly. One year Cecilia attended a Super Bowl game.

Game Girl / Cheerleader

Did I mention Cecilia is a game girl too? Competitive and exuberant by nature, Cecilia loves playing board games, card games, dominoes – even computer card games. She paused long enough in her game of Tumbling Numbers on the computer to have her photo taken with my sister Jan, brother Mark and me last November at Landis Homes.

AuntCecilia

Besides a game girl, some would call Cecilia a cheer-leader too. However, she doesn’t need a short, twirly skirt or megaphone to root for the Phillies’ baseball team or the Philadelphia Eagles. She admits to not quite understanding football though her son Clair has given her some pointers. In her home town, she was also an avid Manheim Central Barons fan because she was a close neighbor of coach Mike Williams for 25 years. When the state champion Barons had their parade in the fall of 2003, Cecilia “took her place in the square to cheer their accomplishment. When Williams saw her, he stopped the parade, got out of his convertible and gave her a big hug.” She said:

I was so amazed, stunned. I thought he’d wave, but didn’t think he’d stop the parade!

Coach Williams also dropped by her Landis Homes apartment to autograph her Baron’s snow globe (quoted from Intelligencer Journal, cited above.)

Words of Wisdom

“What is your secret of a long and productive life, Aunt Cecilia?” we wonder. She has shared two bits of wisdom to overcoming the rough spots in life. Remember this, she says:

  1. Life is a struggle, and
  2. Life is a struggle

“Once we truly know that life is difficult and we truly understand and accept it, then we are no longer overwhelmed by it.”  (Reference: “A friendship that might not have been,” by Rhoda Keener in the Christian Living magazine)

Aunt Cecilia, I think there might be a parade of family and friends coming by your residence at Landis Homes today. Through God’s help, you have triumphed through the dark valleys and inspired us from the mountaintops of your rich experience. And we thank you!

Happy Birthday!

Daughters Erma and Orpha with Aunt Cecilia in 2012
Daughters Erma and Orpha with Aunt Cecilia at Oregon Dairy in 2012
Aunt Cecilia, grand-daughter Tana, daughter Dorcas, and great=grand-daughter __________
Four generations: Aunt Cecilia, grand-daughter Tana Hey, daughter Dorcas Martzall, and great grand-daughter Rosa Hey

Do you have elderly relatives that have hit the age ninety mark? Have any reached 100? What words of wisdom have they given to you?

Coming next: A Robbery, Sad Friday, and a Clump of Daffodils

Moments of Discovery # 4: A Flash Bulb and a Doll

A snapshot of a baby boy dressed as a girl and an old flash bulb. Those are some of the items we find clearing out Mother’s house. Last October my sisters and I began the arduous task of sorting, saving, or recycling the accumulated store of her possessions having lived in the same house for over 73 years. You can read about it here.

BoxesPacked

Today’s post features snapshots, both photos and artifacts, from both Mother and Daddy with a surprising find at the end.

MOTHER: Some of what I found from Mother could be filed into 3 categories of nurturing:

Feed

Our metal lunch pails carried many a bologna sandwich, usually Baum’s Bologna from their shop north of E-town. After Mother pulled back the burlap, she sliced thick rounds for sandwiches on buttered bread – always butter . . .

Mother L_balogna sandwiches

Read

Every picture, every story seems familiar in this Bible Story Book with pages, crackly brown with age. Sniffing into the spine, I roll back in time to the little girl on her lap. I loved the art work then. Now I love its charm even more. Did Daddy read these stories to me too? Maybe so, but I can’t remember.

BedtimeCoverBedtime Preface

Remember

Cameras freeze time, preserving memories. Mother didn’t write in a journal, but she consistently recorded our family’s story over time. The old box camera is long gone, but here is a “flash” of memory possibly from her last camera . . .

FlashBulb

DADDY  Some of what I found representing my father was surprising:

Although I have several photos of Daddy holding me as a baby, my father was a man’s man: a tractor-driving, motor-fixing, field-plowing, deer-hunting guy. He even hammered on the piano keys. His work clothes were of black moleskin cloth, matching the grease he was in close contact with at the shop. I am certain he never wore pink. Yet here he is posed for the camera in a dress, flanked by his parents, Henry and Fannie Longenecker, my Victorian grandma not yet attired in Mennonite garb that would characterize the rest of her life. Daddy’s dress is not a christening outfit. There was no christening among Mennonites. I suspect that babies of both genders wore dresses to make diaper changing easier.

Henry and Fannie Longenecker with son Ray
Henry and Fannie Longenecker with son Ray

Needlework

Our scavenging took us to the attic chest filled with treasured quilts. My sister Jean and Mother tagged each one a few years ago, so there would be no doubt as to their provenance. Apparently, Daddy drew his needle through a white quilt, stitching animals in red. I see a camel, sheep, chicken, pig, duck, an elephant. Even an ostrich.

Here is just a teaser. (Look for Daddy’s full quilt on a later post!)

Quilt with animal stitching by my father, Ray M. Longenecker
Quilt with animal stitching by my father, Ray M. Longenecker

Nickname

Daddy’s nickname for me was Pocahontas, not so much because I looked native American, but probably because of my thick, dark braids and big eyes. When I found this doll, I decided it shouldn’t be given away, sold, or recycled. It now sits on the dresser in our bedroom with “strubbly” hair, not braided!

Pocahontas

Marian w braids_K-

Final Note: A Curious Find   On our first visit to Mother’s house in October after the funeral, we saw a wicker basket on top of a hallway chest with a poem entitled “Safely Home,” something we had never noticed before. Were we blind to it earlier? Having a premonition of what was to come, did Mother put it there for us?

SafelyHomeBasket

I am home in heaven, dear ones; / Oh, so happy and so bright. / There is perfect joy and beauty / In this everlasting light . . . .

 (Anonymous, Osterhus Publishing House)  . . . a mute but eloquent affirmation


Your turn: Are you holding on to something you treasure from a loved one? A photograph? A small gift? 

A Grief Observed – Missing Mother

We’re having lunch at Mother’s house today: home-grown tomato sandwiches, Silver Queen corn on the cob, and fresh tossed salad with a wrapped-up cucumber found left in her refrigerator. There is also a boiled egg she cooked recently, but Mom is not here. She is gone, left this life on July 28 just five days after her 96th birthday.

We (my sisters, brother and I) were together in June and had a high old time with Mother, eating out, making butter, playing Uno. In her boxy, blue l989 Dodge Spirit she drove herself to the July Christian Women meeting at The Gathering Place in Mt. Joy, went to the drive-through at her bank and wrote out checks to pay her bills. She attended the Metzler Reunion at Lititz Springs Park shortly before her birthday. A church bulletin in her Bible is dated July 20, 2014. Mom was even up to having lunch on July 23 with Nan Garber from church, who shares the same birthday week. But after that, she began feeling un-well, attributing her sickness to possible food poisoning. However, a pernicious bacteria was taking over her body, which no medical treatment could touch. Her death has stunned us all. We are in shock.

BedroomEmpty

Yet we are grateful that after a long life of good health and sound mind, her suffering was brief though her influence eternal.

Indeed, the quality of her life was A+ up until the very end. Some snippets from her 3-day hospital stay:

Optimism: “We are having a sunny day today.”

Acceptance: “Whatever the good Lord wants for me . . . .  I am ready to go.”

Wit: As she is moved from her hospital room to ICU she quips: “I want my glasses on, so I can see whether I’m going in the right direction.”

Gratitude: “It’s nice to have a loving family.” And finally . . .

Love: “I love you too!”

Among the songs sung at her funeral a cappella in 4-part harmony at Bossler Mennonite Church was “The Love of God,” a song she requested as she planned her memorial service years ago.

For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

                                    Romans 8: 38, 39

MarianMotherCrista's

* * *

Psychologists tell us grief involves several stages. According to the Kübler-Ross model, they include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance–eventually. These stages are not always experienced in linear fashion, and they are usually recursive, cycling through body, mind and spirit in relentless waves, unpredictable and strong.

But the death of a father or mother hits its own particular nerve in one’s psyche and heart as I observed traveling to see Mother for the very last time in this life:

Sad poem

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything,” notes C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed.

Jane Howard, in A Different Woman probes the pain inherent in one’s separation from a beloved friend, partner, father or mother:

The death of my mother made me feel like a deck of cards being shuffled by giant, unseen hands.  Parents, however old they and we may grow to be, serve among other things to shield us from a sense of our doom.  As long as they are around, we can avoid the facts of our mortality; we can still be innocent children.  Something, some day will replace that innocence, maybe something more useful, but we cannot know what, or how soon, and while we wait, it hurts.

 

How about you?

Have you experienced loss, gradual or sudden? How have you adjusted to it?

 

Blurry Images: The Mothering Instinct

Looking at indistinct footage from 16 millimeter home movies of the 1950s has invited me to examine from a distance the much younger, and in many ways different, version of myself. Not surprisingly, I appear in the “mothering” mode in many of the shots. I have always assumed such behavior was because I was the first-born child.

But where does the mothering instinct come from? Is it inborn? Learned from one’s own mother? Are some born without it? Who knows. The jury is still out on the answers to some of these questions.

Mother guiding me with pigtails for the photo shoot with Grandma
Mother positioning me with pigtails for the movie shoot with Grandma

My mother was not the firstborn in her family but she was the oldest girl, so when her own mother died when she was nine, there were high expectations for her including milking two cows in the morning before she went to school. All too soon, she became a little mother alongside the house-keeper, nurturing her two younger siblings.

In the sit-com Everybody Loves Raymond, “Mother-ish” is the word Mama Marie Barone has used to describe her modus operandi.  Although I cringe to compare myself at any age to meddling mama Barone, it did seem natural for me to take on such a mothering role in my family. After all, I was the first-born, always ready to “tend” the younger ones.

Big sister helping little sister Jean to walk
Big sister helping little sister Jean to walk

Even looking straight ahead, I was aware of wiggly little sister, who would spoil the photo if she crawled away in this video clip:

*  *  *  *  *

Several years later, with a prayer covering almost as big as my mother’s and with motherly aplomb, I held my baby brother Mark.

13-year-old "mother" holding baby brother Mark
13-year-old “mother” holding baby brother Mark, with sister Jean

Alfred Adler was one of the first theorists to suggest that birth order has a profound effect on personality. However, his ideas about birth order have been repeatedly challenged by other researchers, like Cliff Isaacson, who argue that birth order is not a fixed state but subject to other influencing factors. Other studies (Scientific American) claim that family size, rather than birth order, is a better predictor of personality than birth order. Yet the concept of the take-charge, bossy (did I say “mother-ish?”) first-born persists in popular psychology.

Question Mark w border1_1x1_300

I wonder where you are in your family’s birth order: first, middle, last, or an only child?

Do you think this has influenced your personality at all?

Thanks for replying. You will always hear from me and probably learn from other commenters too. The stories continue!

Neat vs. Messy

                              Delight in Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress

Kindles in clothes a wantonness.

A lawn about the shoulders thrown

Into a fine distraction;

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthralls the crimson stomacher;

A cuff neglectful, and thereby

Ribbons to flow confusedly;

A winning wave, deserving note,

In the tempestuous petticoat;

A careless shoestring, in whose tie

I see a wild civility;

Do more bewitch me than when art

Is too precise in every part.

The British poet Robert Herrick writes a fine sonnet about the allure of the slightly askew, the saucy, the off-beat–the messy in dress! Well, he has a point, but I don’t agree in general. I like neatness and appreciate the beauty of orderliness.

Too precise hand-writing Hanger, EMC college days
Too precise hand-writing
clothes hanger, college days EMC

Mother was a neatnik too, every hair in place under her prayer covering, the whole house scrubbed clean every Friday, a place for everything and everything in its place. On the other hand, my dad, who was precise in the mechanics of fixing machinery in his farm supply business, was by nature messy, messy, messy–in his office, inside his truck, on the porch of his shop.

Dad's Office

Brother Mark before sale of business
Brother Mark before sale of business

Daddy’s messy manner drove me crazy. Besides, it was embarrassing! In the middle of the village of Rheems, the shop faced Harrisburg Avenue with two main sections, one behind the other. The front part housed dozens of storage bins for nuts, bolts, screws, odd implements and, curiously, a Victrola sitting squat right beside the door to the sales office. During planting season, bags of Royster fertilizer for sale would be deposited off to the side near a loading/unloading door. As you walked to the rear, a long wooden ramp led to the back section where the dirty work was done, Daddy and his helpers fixing disk harrows, plows, or welding broken parts. Behind the shop was an assortment of implements stored Sanford & Son-style from which the mechanics harvested parts.

Occasionally, when Daddy said, “It’s time to sweep the shop,” I shuddered because I would be working in the cold with piles of stuff everywhere. Spritzing soapy water from a bucket to settle the dust, I watched charcoal-grey pustules of dirt and grease bead up on the cement floor, then tried to push-broom the filth into a dust pan, often an exercise in futility.

Though Daddy was messy, he had a strong Pennsylvania Dutch work ethic. At the shop six days a week, he caught up with office work and telephone sales in the evenings. “I worked like a Trojan today, and still didn’t get the Fox Harvester ready for Phares Weaver in time,” he’d say to Mother as he walked in the door. And he did so well in sales, dealerships would send him and Mother as VIPs on all-expense paid trips to Ohio, Florida, or Arizona to learn about new farm equipment. Once his sales were so high, his whole family, including three married daughters and son enjoyed a week-long vacation in Jamaica.

Daddy in his later years, taking a breather
Daddy in his later years, taking a breather

So there’s neat and there is messy. “God is a God of order!” shouts one. The other camp retorts: “But you can’t be creative and neat at the same time!”

This post began with an homage to the slightly slovenly, the off-kilter. It ends with a writer lamenting her neat freakiness.

Being A Neat Freak

Being a neat freak, is certainly not a
blessing! No one enjoys, being this
way. When I find everything thrown
all around, on impulse, I have to put
them all away. I have always lived by
the creed, there’s a place for everything
and everything, in its place! It’s
aggravating, dealing with this, but I
know it’s something, I’ve got to face.
I’ve often wondered, how does a
person, get to be this way? It didn’t
happen over night, or in just a day.
Perhaps, it’s what we learned, when
we were young. And frankly speaking,
I’m tired of hearing people say, try not
to be so high strung! I’d like nothing
better, if I could let up, just a little bit,
by not letting myself become so
perturbed. Upon giving this some
thought, I realize, isn’t all of this, quite
absurd!

Now it’s your turn: neat vs. messy — Can they co-exist?
Is it possible to find a middle ground?
Thank you for sounding out on this topic. Your thoughts please. They keep me going! And I will always reply.

Mom’s vegetable soup, good for what ails you

When our children were little and our family visited Mother and Daddy in Lancaster County, PA , we could always count on an enamel-coated refrigerator drawer full of soup–either chicken corn or vegetable–to get us revived after a long car trip from Florida. Even now after an exhausting flight, we open the fridge and find home-made soup in one of the drawers, ready to heat up.

2002RuthPotatoes_small

Mother has seldom used a recipe and when she does the proportions are often not included.

MomVegSoupRecipe2_layers_4x3_300 The recipe shows “potatoes” crossed out, but sometimes she adds them.

After a couple of stabs at it, I coaxed Mom into being a little more precise about measurements for her savory vegetable soup:

Start with 2 1/2 pounds of chuck roast. Sear the meat and then bake it at 350 degrees until tender. It should be nice and brown and fall apart when you jab a fork into it! Save drippings.

Cook separately:  Carrots, celery and cabbage. Then add green beans, peas and corn. Be sure to keep the vegetable broth.

Now add a quart of tomato juice (preferably canned from fresh tomatoes or tin canned crushed tomatoes.)

1/2 cup Heinz ketchup. Then combine beef, cut up, into vegetable + broth mixture and simmer.

*  *  *

What comfort food to you associate with your mother? Another relative?

Your comments welcome. I will always reply.

Coming next week! First in a Series: Moments of Extreme Emotion with Original Art by Cliff