Pops had big hands.(Picture is of Pops, and my mother in front, and her youngest brother,
John behind her. ) Wide and strong and they would sweep me up and hold me over his head. His silver gray hair was always Bryl-creamed back. He had eyes that twinkled when his granddaughter walked into the room. A train engineer, his hats lined the stairs to the basement. They were gray, striped and much too big for my head when he fitted them on me, pulling them over my eyes.
An immigrant from Germany at the age of 14. Pops survived world war I in Germany and became a patriot of America during World War II. Later, he ran for office in his small town in South Dakota, and became a county commissioner. He loved his family, his five children, his wife and my best memory of him is sitting on my sofa in my teenage years, clasping the hand of the wife who loved him for forty-plus years.
I loved going to their house – the yellow Sears & Roebuck box house in Mobridge, SD. The one with the two attic bedrooms – one for the boys, and one for the girls. I would bury myself in the clothes hanging on the pole along the pitched roof, emerge with vintage shoes and purses, my imagination stirring. They had a pitched cellar door that led to the basement: I loved to slide down it when it was closed, and it fascinated me that it led into the depths of their home when opened. Mumps (Pops' name for her), had a roller dryer that she fed the wet clothes through, then hung them on the line in the backyard. I feared that my fingers would turn to hamburger between the rollers.
Mumps and Pops had a stove that had a little warming tray for toast, and in their back room … an organ. In the closet in the back room they also kept an old fashioned picture viewer – the kind that came with double postcards that fit into a slot. I would curl up on their sofa – the one covered in plastic – and spend hours peering at the black and white postcards of The World's Fair, Chicago in the twenties, and images of the sea.
As I write historical fiction set in my favorite era, the 1940s, I often return to the little yellow house, the taste of my grandmother's chocolate chip cookies crunching in my mouth (she kept them in the freezer to deter quick consumption), Pops' smile as he came in from his walk downtown, holding a paper. Or, in the early days, coming in from the train station, green thermos and black lunchbox in hand. He'd set down that lunchbox and scoop me up…in his big hands.
What memories do you have of the generations that came before? The ones that set our course and shaped who we've become and the society we are today?
Share your stories for a chance to win a Memory Prize Pack! Visit the SHARE page at the Sons of Thunder website!