Sunday, March 12, 2006

 

Sunday, March 12th, 06

Hi everyone. I received this story from one of the sites I receive e-mail from. I sent it off to our wonderful friend Lina and she suggested I post it for others to read. So, here it is along with another memory from my past that I added at the end.

The Brick Baby Story Editor:
by David McLaughlan Joyce Schowalter
Ayrshire, Scotland

Sorn is a pretty little Scottish village. Nothing more than a few rows
of cottages and a post office, nestled in a restful valley. That's where
I met Jimmy and Morag Wilson. The Wilson were shepherds from a long line
of shepherds and we fell to talking about a way of life that has almost
disappeared from memory.

Reminiscing, Morag recalled her home, a single roomed "bothy" in the
middle of nowhere with flag-stone floors and a thatched roof. Back then
her father was paid the equivalent of a pound a week, or $100 a year,
plus a sheep! So luxuries were scarce.

"How did you celebrate Christmas, out there in the hills?" I asked.
"With prayers and hymns," Morag replied, and the sweetness of her smile
brought a lump to my throat. "It wasn't much about gifts," she
continued.

"We might be given a sugar mouse and a piece of fruit. But, oh, one year
I got hold of a catalogue. There was a baby dolly in there I wanted so
badly. I was only six, after all. Well, of course Father and Mother had
no money for such things. So Father made a pram from an apple box and
some wheels and mother wrapped a brick in a baby blanket."

Morag's gaze seemed to leave the here and now as she thought back across
the years.

"Oh, I loved my Brick Baby so much and I was as proud as can be, pushing
it along in my new pram."

Well, that story stayed with me. How could it not? I wrote it up and
sent it in to a Scottish newspaper. Not knowing if it would be
published, I neglected to tell the Wilson's about it.

It published in May 2005, but I missed it. The first I knew was when
Morag phoned me the next day. It seemed Jimmy had been taken into
hospital. It wasn't a serious problem but meant an overnight stay. Morag
was at a loss, she was worried for her husband and couldn't remember the
last night she had spent without him by her side.

Before going to bed that night she sat beside her coal fire with the
paper, hoping it would distract her from the lonely ache she felt. She
was surprised to find the story of her long-ago Christmas in print but,
as she read, the tale of her Brick Baby brought back the security and
love of her childhood days. Her worries were replaced for a while by
warmer, happier thoughts.

She slept soundly that night. I doubt if Morag's mother and father could
have ever imagined that their homemade gifts would bring comfort to
their little girl in her old age, so long after they were gone.

I'm happy to report that Jimmy is back home and Morag is happily fussing
over him. And I'm left thinking about the power of a kind, loving act
and its ability to warm a heart more than eight decades later.
----------------------------------

Now for my memory that this story brought to mind.
When I was just a young girl, there was one Christmas when money was really scarce. My parents had great Hosp bills and it was in the late 30`s-- probably around 1938 or `39.
That Christmas my younger bro was asking for a toy rifle. Any of you who were around back then might remember that most small boys had toy guns. That was before the world decided that playing with guns gave kids the wrong expression. Funny thing is we seldom heard of anyone getting shot back then unless a hunter forgot to remove the bullets from his hunting gun before bringing it back into the home. Today the cowboy pictures are forbidden because of the guns that were fired, but then they started producing movies with cops and others using guns. We were happy playing cowboys and indians with fake guns. Today kids play for real with real guns that are so easily found along with the bullets.
Well, to get back to my bro and his hope for a rifle. I was about 7 or 8 at the time and he was just 2 yrs younger than I was. I was old enough to understand that money was scarce, but what does a 5 or 6 yr old realize?
I was talking to my father in the garage and noticed a piece of wood about 1inch or maybe a little wider. I could see that it was as long as the toy rifles. So, I asked my Dad if I could have the piece of wood to make my bro a rifle for Christmas, and of course he said yes. He showed me how to place the wood in his large vice, using old rags to protect the wood from marks. Then he gave me his shorter hand saw and told me it was my project-- so to go ahead and start cutting. I used his wood marking pencil to draw what I thought the shape of the gun should look like. When I finished I asked my Dad, and he said it looked ok. So, I started sawing along the lines the best I could. When I think back, I remember how my Dad kept all his tools cleaned and sharpened, so the saw cut nicely. Hard work, and it took me a few days to have it all cut out. Dad showed me how to use sandpaper to remove any places where hands might pick up a sliver.
Next problem was how do I cut out a trigger place. I knew I needed to leave a tiny section of wood on the outside and couldn`t see a way to cut a hole. Dad got an old piece of wood, took his hand drill and drilled a small hole in the wood, then he handed me the drill and told me where to drill it at the end of the gun barrel. ( I still have both of his hand drills as he gave them to me when I was teaching Cub Scouts). So, now I had a hole to slip a finger into, but I wanted a trigger in the hole. Now that was where the harder work was. My Dad got his hand coping saw with the tiny saw blade.
I remember thinking he was going to cut thru that edge piece that I wanted to leave there.
You can imagine my surprise when I watched him removing the blade. Was he ruining the saw, or what was he doing now. Well, I soon found out as he slipped that saw blade thru the drilled hole and then replaced it onto the coping saw and showed me how to use it. It took me quite a while to cut out around a trigger section. I was sure I was going to mess it up, but my Dad seemed to think differently. When I finally decided my finger would fit in the hole on the trigger, I figured so would my bro`s.
Then I asked my Dad if he had any paint I could have. He handed me the same black paint can he had given me months before to use for the large metal can I had made my mother a paper basket with as a project for third grade. We needed something to make a basket for our Mothers Christmas gift. I still remember that can that my Dad had gotten from a filling station. He told me the station got it filled with candy and was tossing it away, so he brought it home. He figured it would come in handy for something someday. He had helped me use a file to smooth the top edge so it wouldn`t be sharp. He had given me the black paint to paint it with. Then he gave me some red and some green paint which I used to paint a stem, a green leaf off each side of the stem and lastly came the big red tulip. I painted this on each of the four sides. I knew my Mother liked tulips because she was growing them in her flower garden. We had that paper can sitting under the kitchen sink for years. Those days, the large sink was on a standard ( no cupboard under it- just an open space) and the hand pump sat on a shelf at the end of the sink. I can still remember that old metal pail with that long handled dipper sitting it it. We all used the dipper to get a drink and we were taught that the last of the water in the pail was not to be used as it was needed to reprime the pump to pump more water from the well. Noone ever worried about getting germs from drinking out of the same dipper.

Well, to get back to the wooden rifle, my dad hung it on a heavy string from the ceiling of the garage so I could paint all sides at the same time. I never would have thought of that. I remember always thinking what a very smart man my Father was. Once the paint was dry, there was just that teeny spot where the string touched it by the trigger ( heavy string or it might have been cord- I can`t remember for sure). It only took a speck of paint to touch up that tiny spot. Even back then I was self conscious about what something should look like.
When my bro came downstairs that Christmas morning, I rushed to see his face when he saw the gun. He loved it and I can still remember him running around our yard pretending to shoot with his toy rifle. Even then our Dad told us to never point the gun at anyone or at any animals. That sounded funny since I knew it couldn`t really shoot, but my bro said he wouldn`t.
Maybe thats why when my bro was older and would go hunting with friends, they always said he would never shoot at any animal. Bur neither would my Dad.

I lost this special bro back in 1994 from Heart problems. We were so close that we often could finish what the other was starting to say. I have two other older bros that I love dearly, but there was something special between the younger one and myself-- maybe it had to do with our only being 2 yrs apart and the middle children of 7.
I bet none of the other bros or sisters will even remember that paper can or the rifle. Well, they might the paper can since we used it for so many years-- but do they remember that I made it??? One of these days I just might think to ask them.
I bet other can remember things they made for their parents when yhey were younger, or some special gift they received for Christmas.
I still remember the dolls that a younger sister and I received that same Christmas. Mine I had named Joan,. It had a four peice pink snowsuit on it consisting of the coat, hat, snow pants and muff. There was fake fur around the coat collar and the pink muff for putting it `s hands into. My sisters was smaller with a one piece snowsuit with attached hood. I wonder if she remembers her doll. She was 4 yrs younger than I was, so she might not remember. Funny how one Christmas stand out over all the others. Maybe it was because with money so short, I really didn`t expect much for Christmas that year. Guess that when you don`t expect much, you seem to appreciate what you get even more.
What Christmas do you remember the most??

Comments:
Those were both great stories.
Giving gifts are not what is the most important on xmas.
It's the people, family friends and the love everyone has for each other that matters.
The best gifts are the ones made with love rather a machine.

I guess my best Christmas would be any one I spent with my kids.
 
Walker, I feel the same way. Remember those smiles and all the noise you would hear all the way to the bedroom on Christmas morning? From it we knew they had spied the toys from Santa and truly loved them. Then the excitejment began as we passed out each gift to each child. When the oldest ones were small, I didn`t own a camera- so I missed saving those times in pictures to show them. But many memories remain- such as the year the twins were almost 2 and we bought them the large Coke and the large pepsi trucks with the small cases holding the soda bottles. They played on the floor with them all winter and took them to the outdoors sand pile all summer. That was Christmas `56 and we bought those trucks at a filling station. They would probably be worth something if they still existed today. I have no idea where they disappeared to.
Then I kept each gift they made in school for Christmas or for mother`s day. They meant a lot. I love the gifts they made, plus the ones they brought back from their vacations. Have a lot of large gifts, but the smaller ones have more memories with them.
 
Ms. Dot, thank you for visiting my blog over the weekend. I love how you tell a story on here. I'm hooked!

My prayers go out for your grandson. The entire time my son was in Iraq I was in turmoil. I remember something my mother said when I told her I wished I could trade places with her and be a teenager from the fifties and know that my child would not go to war. She said, "No, then you would have a grandchild over there."
So Ms. Dot, my prayers go out to YOU as well. Take care. :)
 
What a fabulous story teller you are. I especially loved what you did for your brother. How wonderful to give something that brings so much joy to someone else...something that you've made with your own hands.

The best gifts aren't the ones that cost a lot of money...they're the ones that show the love we have for others by making them ourselves. You obviously learnt that from a very early age.

Great post :)
 
thanks monica. My grandson is back in Virginia now, but if he signs up again he will be sent back overseas. I am glad your son is also back home. I keep thinking of all the other ones over there and wish they were all back home with their families. It`s soo scarry.
I also enjoyed reading your blog and will be back again soon. Had to stay off earlier as we had a thunder storm. Sure glad it is over and the sun is trying to shine-- still pouring out. All the best to you.
 
Thanks Lisa. But I think I get even more fun from making things for others than they do getting them.
Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day.
 
Although I like the part about you making the gun for your brother, I love even more how patiently your father taught you, even though back then, it was probably very unusual for a father to teach a daughter such things. It's times like those that form a close-knit bond.
 
very good post dot. now i know where you started to get all your talents for carpentry. when you started to talk about xmas i remembered one year i got a portable hi fi record player. when you opened it the speakers came off and you could seperate them and they both had a long cord. back then there were a lot of 45's out and that was a special xmas. i also remember at xmas my father was the one to hand out whatever presents were under the tree. we just could not go under the tree and start opening the presents by ourselves . he had to open them. well i was going to go outside and do some painting but it is only 39 degrees this morning so i will have to wait.
 
that was really wonderful, it was heartwarming. i dont have any brothers or sisters, so i do not have any memories to share. but i must congratulate u, it was really thoughtful of u.
 
thanks Skye. I do know how very lucky we were to have such wonderful parents. There was mostly my younger bro and myself that enjoyed watching our Dad when he worked or when he just puttered as he would say sometimes.
Our mother had this saying to us younger ones " go ask your father". And most of the time Dad was in the garage- usually working on someones car or truck. He was a machinist at the mill days, but an auto-machanic evenings and week-ends. I made it a point to always ask him what he was doing before asking him if I could go someplace. I usually learned something that way. Dad always said " I don`t care if your Mother doesn`t". Back to the house to tell Mom that dad said he didn`t care if your don`t". Later, sometimes after we got home we would hear our Mother telling our Dad what she thought of him saying ok. He usually would say " If you didn`t want them to go then why did you send them to ask me, why didn`t you just say No". That usually ended that confersation.
But Dad had lots of patience even if he was in the middle of something he wanted to finish. Rarely would he ask me to wait till he finished, even though he always knew I would wait without complaining. I sure pestered him lots when the kids were little and Walt was working nights. If the water pump stopped or the furnace stopped, call Dad for advice on how to fix them. he would explain so clear that if not after the first phone call, then by the second phone call, his suggestions always worked. I could always count on him.
 
Skye, Thanks for the lovely words.
 
Mr Haney, We could look at the gift from Santa, but had to leave the rest alone till our parents got up. We were always up way early and then had to wait.
I think I know those portable Hi Fi`s with the two removable speakers like you mentioned. Sounds a lot like the one we bought for one of the sons when he was young. He still loves music today. I still own many of those 45`s and I can still play them on my older sterio. Still have the 8 tracks with the 8 track player that I connect to the newer sterio set, plus still have the car 8 track, but didn`t put it into this last car. They both work like new and i have used them for a good many years.
Our Dad handed out the gifts when we were young, then after 1975, my Mother was alone to hand them out. For many years I used to do the wrapping and have Walt hand out the gifts, but like my Mom I am now alone to do both.
One year we bought the step-son one of those radio kits where he had to build the entire radio. Boy it had an awful lot of parts. He almost gave up once till I started helping him figure it out and then he got working and finished it himself. It actually worked great.
39 degrees- we have gotten colder again too. Had snow yesterday, and small hail stones today. Strong cold winds making it feel like back in the teens. Feels real cold after having about 3 days up in the 50`s.
 
thanks Amrita and welcome to my blog.
 
Sounds like you had the kind of relationship with your father that most of us hoped for but never had.

I think sometimes that that could change for me now, but with over 40 years of history between us, and both of us set in our ways, it's hard to know how to go about correcting it.
 
Dot
That was wonderful !!

Congrats for sharing it.
 
Skye, I have a suggestion for you. fathers day is coming soon. Maybe you could send him an early father`s card and add a note telling him you would like to see him. Tell him you would like to take him out to a restaurant for a meal for Father`s Day. Give him your telephone No ( even if he should already have it, still give it to him again), if you work, then give him times when you can be reached and ask him to call and tell you when would be a convient day and time for you to either pick him up, or meet him at the restaurant.
Just a thought. Who knows, maybe he woule also like to see you. If you don`t hear from him by a week or so, then call him. Tell him you were wondering if he received your father`s day card and note. This time ask him over the phone to join you. If he says he fdoesn`t care to go to a restaurant, don`t give up, just ask him if he would be willing to join you at your home on a certain day and time.
The most he can do is say no, so you wouldn`t be any worse off than you are now. If it makes you worried or uncomfortable, then you could include another family member to join you both at the restaurant.
I finally did phone the step D. Took three calls before I found her home. Talk was a bit strained, but it did open the door between us. She found out she has cancer in her GI track, so that explains her suddenly wanting to get in touch with the family after 19 years. I will always have hurt feelings that she never came to her own father`s funeral three yrs ago. But I could honestly tell her that i wouldn`t wish cancer on anyone. She ended up saying Thanks for calling me.
Good Luck
 
hi everyone, i am having computer problems and need to get my comp checked.
Right now i am on my old computer and it doesn`t work that well.
So, If I don`t post as often you will know why. Hope to have the good comp fixed next week.
 
ummmmmm...Dot? Guess I haven't been explaining myself real well...lol. I see my father almost every week, we just don't talk, except for maybe saying "pass the potatoes" while eating dinner. The awkwardness comes when trying to get past the superficial stuff.

Now that he's older, he occassionally pops out with a story about something that happened to him when he was younger, which is something he never used to share. So, I'm just waiting for him to do so again so that I can throw in a question that might lead to something deeper.

Hope you get your new computer back soon!
 
I hope you get your computer fixed soon and get back :)
 
Just waiting on your return...like the rest of them. Hope you're well and we get to hear from you soon :)
 
Dot
Come back soon.

I have posted some thing for you, on your request, in my blog.
 
Skye, So sorry for mis-reading your meaning. Do you know how your mom and Dad met, or even your grandparents? They might be subjects to open up for hearing more. Or start asking him if he remembers somelittle thing that you did while in school, that can iopen it up so you can ask him what he remembers most about his school days. I wish I had asked my parents lots more. I sure wish someone had suggested to me about asking them. I was so busy raising my family and never even though about the day when too late I would wish I had learned more.
Skye, I am so happy to know I was wrong and wish you and your Dad many many more wonderful years of memory making together.
 
Thanks
Walker
Lisa
jac
Skye and everyone else who stopped by- thanks for thinking of me. Does seem good to have the better Hp fixed and now working ok.
 
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