Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Shoe Full of Babies

(double click for a larger image)

Mother Goose taking care of her many babies.

This picture is especially meaningful to me, because it hung over my crib when I was a baby. To this day I can still remember gazing up into it as a baby and thinking I was in that picture playing with the other babies.

Exactly how my mother obtained this print and from where remained somewhat of a mystery to me until a few years ago when I researched it on the Internet.

In the early 40's my mother took advantage of an advertising promotion offered by Lever Bros. maker of Swan Soap. She mailed in the number of soap wrappers required and, in return, the company sent her this print which she hung over my crib. The artists were Albert Staehle and Louise Rumely. Mr. Staehle painted the goose and Ms. Rumely painted the babies. Swan Soap, which is no longer manufactured, was known for its ability to float.

After my husband and I started our family, I hung this print over the crib of each of our children. When our grandchildren started coming along, I had the print professionally matted and framed. It has hung over the cribs of several of our grandchildren.

When I look at this picture my mind fills up with other memories of my early childhood. For instance, I wonder if any of you remember how large a dinner plate looked to you when you were four or five years old. I do. I remember how close my chin was to the top of the kitchen table when I sat down to eat too. Sometimes I was given a boost at the kitchen table with the help of some catalogues my parents stacked up for me to sit on. I don't think they had booster seats back then.

I remember how big grownups seemed to me, too, and what it was like to be short and have to look up at them all the time. It wasn't all that bad being a little kid though especially since I was the first born child, the first born grandchild and the first born great-grandchild on my dad's side. This first born status won me lots of attention and loads of accolades for my singing abilities. It was lucrative, too, when Great-Grandpa David came to visit. He paid me a nickel for each song I sang for him. Two nickels in the palm of my hand and I was rich.

I remember learning nursery rhymes: Jack Sprat could eat no fat....; Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle....;Three blind mice....; Humpty Dumpty. I must have learned them all.

I remember the summer days back then and the time I spent playing in my sandbox which my dad built for me. I recall the downy hair I had on my arms and legs and how the summer sun would bleach it blond. I will always remember the many holes I dug in my grandmother's vegetable garden trying to get to China.

I remember standing on the wooden platform of the train station in my home town one particular day when I was five years old. I watched from a few feet away as my parents hugged each other and cried. It was toward the end of WWII. Daddy was taking the train to Chicago for another physical. The Army was desperate for men to serve and was determined to pass him this time around. But he failed the physical for the third time. It had something to do with his heart. The Army left him alone after that. Grandma and Grandpa were so happy that they bought him a restaurant up on Main Street and called it Don's Cafe after him. At that time I was still an only child and my sister still just a gleam in my dad's eye.

The tastes and smells of that restaurant are forever imprinted on my mind especially those of the morning. Coffee brewing. Bacon and eggs frying. Assorted donuts, jelly filled bismarks and frosted long Johns made their appearance early each morning, delivered by a local bakery, and added their luscious aromas to the restaurant. The donuts back then far surpassed in flavor and texture any donut you can buy today. It must have been the lard they were fried in. I had my pick of the donuts in the morning. I had my pick of everything. I could eat anything I wanted, and I helped myself to many a candy bar behind the counter where the cash register was kept. I was the Eloise of Don's Cafe, the slightly mischievous princess roaming around sampling this and that and doing just about whatever I pleased. The restaurant business was spoiling me in other ways too.

The grownups in my family, my parents and grandparents, were busy waiting on customers, cooking their food, and cleaning up afterwards. This left me to be pestered and teased by well-meaning adults, who were only being friendly, and teenagers, mostly boys, who had picked Don's Cafe as their official hangout. It wasn't long before I started to develop a mouth on me for self-defense purposes. I became mildly cocky and a bit of a smart aleck with the patrons. I acquired a small repertoire of comebacks for those who teased me too much. Problem was my parents did not appreciate my new verbal skills at all. Unlike some of the patrons who got a chuckle out of me, my parents did not think it was cute.

The grownups sold Don's Cafe about a year later. My parents were still determined to be restauranteurs though and went into business with my aunt and uncle and opened the 54 Diner a few months later. That's a whole 'nother story involving my cousin Jimmy and me and our adventures as restaurant orphans.

Not all my memories of my early childhood are happy or funny ones. I remember with pain the day my little dog was hit by a big truck. Mother was painting the small concrete slab at our front door and I was playing in the front yard. Suddenly Blackie ran into the street just as a big truck was about to pass by. I remember seeing her hit. I remember feeling a rush of adrenalin wash over me. I could not speak. The words would not come out of my mouth so that I could Mother, who had not seen the accident, what had just happened. I could not catch my breath. Finally I remember how the red satin ribbon which I had put around Blackie's neck moments earlier was all wet with her blood after the accident.

But there were other pets in my childhood that gave me many happy memories such as Pansy, my grandmother's dog, and her litter of puppies. How good it felt to me to cuddle the puppies, to smell their puppy smell, and to kiss their little wet noses.

As a child I was sure no harm could ever possibly come to me as long as my daddy was near. I thought my daddy was strong. I remember his muscles. I remember, too, drifting off to sleep at night to the soothing sound of my parents talking softly to each other in the nearby living room. I felt safe.

I have many more memories of my early childhood, but all good things must come to an end eventually including this post. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my memories.


  1. You are really cookin' or should I
    say, crankin' them out. I'm glad to
    see that spark of energy.

    I thought about my little Cocker that was also hit in front of our house when I was probably five. I too was in the yard and the one who was there first. I'm not sure I'm still over those feelings.

    On a lighter side, just today I was
    thinking about all the pure joy I
    felt the first time I rode the ponies my grandfather had gotten for me and my sister. Finally they were old enough for me to ride. They were just three months old when we brought them home.
    I went around and around in the barn and felt like I was riding Fury across the open plains.

    I'll think about your kind invitation.

  2. Great job, Susie, your creative juices are flowing today! Your descriptive memory of your childhood kept me reading with anticipation. I look forward to reading more...

  3. Sharon, yes, I've been cookin' with gas the past few days. I hope I can come up with a post like that once a week.

    I miss every one of the pets I had as a child and as an adult. They were all special to me.

    You had a pony when you were little? My gosh, how I wanted a pony back then. I was in love with horses as a kid, I guess from watching all those western movies at the theater. I can just see you a little girl riding that pony around and around in the barn.

    Please do consider working something up and being a guest contributor here.

    Nancy, thanks, I am glad you enjoyed my reminiscing. I want to record these memories for the sake of my grandchildren. It is my understanding that blogs are there forever. They are somewhere in the Internet forever. So it seems like a good place to record my memories.

  4. Gosh Susie, you sure do remember a lot about your childhood. I remember some things and have forgotten many others. I do know that with advent of the internet I solved a long standing mystery about a train wreck. I remebered the wreck and found out how old I was at the time when I found out the last digit of the four digit engine number. That lead to finding out what year the wreck happened. I was three years old and the year was 1980 Ha-ha you know the story ;-)Nice post Susie.

  5. What a great story with an artifact from your life. You know this is my kind of post.
    I took my daughter to the train station in Holland (MI) this morning. She, too, was headed to Chicago to visit some college friends. As we were there on the boarding platform, the train whistle blew in the distance and I said something like, "There's just something timeless about this setting and feeling. Airports don't have it." Then I jokingly said, "Do you want me to walk along side your window waiving like the do in the WWII movies?" She just laughed and said, "No, Dad. Don't do that."

  6. JG, once you recall one thing about your childhood, this opens the door in that part of your mind where other childhood memories are stored. Pretty soon several things come to the forefront of your mind.

    Yes, I do remember the story you told me about the mysterious train wreck. The way you went about solving the mystery is interesting, I think.

    Tom, trains are romantic. I suppose this is because so many WWII movies had scenes in them of men and women hugging and crying and saying good-bye (or hello) to each other during the war.

  7. Hi Susie,

    That's a wonderful collection of memories you have here. I love hearing stories like these.

    Thanks so much for your visit. Yes, the ending to the story could have gone in a few different directions. But I met an thoroughly unpleasant quilter recently...I sew myself and usually we are a fairly nice bunch of I couldn't resist doing a hillbilly Madame Defarge character. Don't know if I'll take her further.

  8. I guess you're making me think, in line with my own blog theme lately, how there really must be something special about the minds of children. Those early impressions are so strong and indelible. And about the print - I think those sorts of rich illustrations, whether on the wall or in children's story books, really stimulate the imagination. I have some similar recollections. Well done illustrations evoke powerful imaginative responses in kids.

  9. Hi Rosie,

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Regarding your story about the decrepit old woman, I was expecting you to point out her redeeming qualities in the end.

    I like the homespun, down-home style of your blog. My maternal grandmother came from the hills of Kentucky. Your blog reminds me of her so much. She sewed, too. She would make dresses for herself out of flour sacks. And BISCUITS! You ain't never tasted biscuits as good as hers. She used snuff too. One of these days I will do a profile on her at my blog.

    Paul, your children and spirituality series was the inspiration for my post about my early childhood memories.

    Oh,Paul, children have such beautiful little minds. Yesterday my husband and I were with some of our grandchildren. Rachel, who is seven, asked me if I knew who the person was who first started using language. Of course, I did not know. Then she proceeded to tell me her theory on how language use got started. It was precious.

  10. Hi Susie,
    Followed your comment over here from Nancy's. I loved reading about your childhood memories. Those are one of my favorite types of posts to do as well!
    I'll be back to visit you again. Stop in and say hi if you get a moment :)

  11. Susie,
    I'm a little behind, but wanted to take the time to thank you for sharing little Maddy's website with us. It's absolutely breathtaking and you're right - something like that would be another good outlet for us.
    I also enjoyed reading about some of your childhood memories - what a treasure for your family to have!

  12. SUSIE: Thanks for stopping by. I've read some of your comments at Nancy's blog also. I will definitely make it a point to visit your blog. Look for me there in the next few days.

    JULIE: Next time I talk to my niece I will be sure to tell her that you stopped by little Maddy's memorial site. Just like your blog in Emma's memory is helping you and your husband to heal, Maddy's memorial site is helpng my niece and her husband to heal. God be with you as you deal with your pain.

  13. I couldn't read your post with the attention that I wanted. I will return. My home Pc is wickedly decrepid. At school I am too busy. I look forward to returning!

  14. Wow, those are some good memories...Even the sad ones teach us about life.

    Sounds like you had a very loving family...

  15. Wreckless: Please do return. I know my post is a long one. I just have too many memories.

    Lucy: Yes, we had a loving family. I have such good memories of my grandparents who I will write more about as time goes by.

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