Monday, June 6, 2011

Aunt Lorena Again

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I'm thinking about my Aunt Lorena lately because I'm going to the Creasy family reunion in West Virginia at the end of this month and she'll be there along with my cousins. She's in her nineties now and the last of my dad's 10 brothers and sisters. This is a great picture of her looking out over the hills of WV. What was she thinking about?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


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I'm 16 in this picture and am half cut off over to the left. I notice I'm pretending to drink coffee - the mark of an adult as far as I was concerned. My grandpa had passed on at this point and my grandma is old and crippled by arthritis. That's her there in the front with her walker. I notice, though, that she still has a cheery smile on her face. I think she's amused by my bratty little sister goofing around across the table. Also in attendance (clockwise from left) my cousin  Janet Jo and sister Shirley, my Uncle John Roy, Uncle Charles and Rhoda (an older woman hired to care for my grandma). I think Aunt Lorena is taking the picture. Where are my mom and dad?

So what are we having to eat? Yum. I see fried chicken and mashed potatoes, bread and green onions. I can't quite identify anything else but am especially curious about the dark stuff in small bowls by eveyone's place. I notice there's ketchup and cow's milk, as we used to call it. 

This is a sad picture of my Uncle Roy for me. He's older now and his face is closed off, his eyes sort of vacant and staring. So different from some of his younger pictures when there was still hope for him to have a normal life. I want to speak to him across the table and the years. What would I say?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The New Mexico Years: Missing West Virginia

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When I was almost six, my father decided we needed some adventure, so he accepted a job teaching a college biology class in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Top photo is of me and my mom and sister taking a break from driving out there. It was a huge trip then (1950) with no interstates and took us three or four days. The school picture is of me in first grade in the same shirt. Let's hope I had another shirt.

The move was a big shock for me because I had grown up with the green of West Virginia and where we lived was flat desert - dry cracked earth, spikey plants like yukka and cactus, scorpions and rattlesnakes. There were mountains but they weren't the rolling and tree-covered rain forests of WV. I missed the green lushness. I missed my grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. I missed the farm in Nicholas County with its farm animals. 

But there were bright spots because I was a kid and kids are always ready to have a good time. Some of my classmates were American Indians and Mexicans and that was a revelation. My dad took me to White Sands and we collected various rare rocks, minerals and gems just lying around in the sand. We camped in the Rockies and had a horse that roamed the desert but came to our door each night during dinner to beg for handouts. We took a family trip to Indian pueblos and saw a woman baking bread in a large, outdoor adobe oven. I had horned toads for pets and ate chili for the first time. We bought Indian rugs by the side of the road, two of which I still have.

But at the end of two years, my dad had had enough and we began the long trek home. And he never left again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Creasy family from Nicholas County

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This picture, taken in 1927, shows John "Bunny" William Creasy and his wife Rose Zanna Brown Creasy at the far left. All of the rest are their 10 children - six boys and four girls - except for the little girl being held in the middle who is their first grandchild. Imagine raising 10 children!

Some of these Creasys figured prominently in my first book Mountain Girl: Grandma and Grandpa, of course, but also the little girl standing in the front who is my Aunt Lorena. Also important in the book is my dad William at the far right and last but not least, my uncle John Roy hunkered down in the front.

A grand group. Dear to my heart.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Aunt Lorena

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Happy Birthday to my lovely Aunt Lorena. Here she is as a young girl but she just turned 91 at the end of February (hope she doesn't mind my telling). She was a character in my novel Mountain Girl and has always been a favorite person in my life. One of her best qualities is her sense of humor - no matter what was going on when I was a girl on my grandparents' farm, she got a laugh out of it.

She was born on the last day of February in a leap year and so only has a birthday every four years. (How sad...I used to think when I was young.) She really looks like an Irish lass in this picture. The Creasys were Irish descendants and my grandpa "Bunny" Creasy had black curly hair and light eyes, which was called "black Irish" as opposed to those who had red in their hair. A grand lady!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grandma's Grave

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My grandma, Rose Zanna Brown Creasy, is buried in her beloved mountains in the cemetery at Alderson Church in Nicholas County, West Virginia, not far from where she raised her 10 children. This is me a few years back visiting during a family reunion. (Also see the 11/03/10 post.)

Graveyards were more important in the past. They were a place to visit the memory of family members that have crossed over, to reflect on the circle of life, to rest and meditate and pray, to mourn, to tell family stories, to recharge. And they were right there - not set apart, but outside the church window as you worshipped each Sunday. Just part of life...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Childhood in the Mountains

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That's me in the center at eight years old with my hand on Snowball's bridle and my arm around my sister. And those are the neighborhood kids, Becky and John Miller. This is what we did for fun on my grandparents' Nicholas County WV farm - hung out and messed around. No TV, no phone, no handheld games, no computers. Just us and 50 acres of rolling hills and farm animals. It was a ball!

Looks like today it's pony time and John gets the first ride. I'm guessing this was after church and we begged my mom and their mom to let them stop and play. My sister and I changed clothes but Becky's still in a dress and her good coat and it looks like it might be late fall but a sunny day. In the background, you can see the little house I wrote about last time.

This is childhood at its best. I'd love to jump into the picture for one more lovely day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Grandpa Making Molasses

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How the heck do you make molasses and what is it anyway? First you grow sugar cane, of course, then the stalks are fed through a mill, the liquid drained off, cooked down and put in glass jars. It makes a sweet, syrupy, dark liquid that can be used as a sweetener. Here's a great WV blog out of Beaver with people that still keep up the tradition: (You'll need to paste this in your URL.)

Notice their mill was turned in the author's childhood by a mule walking in circles and today is powered by a tractor. I'm wondering what my grandpa used. I do remember molasses, though...on biscuits and pancakes and in gingerbread and cookies. Yum!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Little House in Nicholas County

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Look at this cute little house. One year when I was a girl, my dad built a house down in the low meadow on my grandparents' property. It was maybe half a block from their farm house. I say "half a block" because I live in Chicago but no one said that back then. Maybe they said it was "down aways" from the big house. Because I was a girl, I thought it was farther than it actually was, so I might have said it was a "fur piece" from one house to the other.

But imagine this, that my dad built this house on his own - wired it, put in the plumbing. Amazing! Just whipped it up. I remember it had a "breezeway," an open area between the main house and the garage where we had a swing and where breezes would actually waft through. And we seemed to always have kittens frolicking there too. Not to mention that I could go out the back, climb the fence, jump the little creek and go up the hill to visit grandma.

It's still there today.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Grandma's Bible

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My Grandma's faith was an inspiration to her 10 children and 25 grandchildren. My sister has one of her bibles, marked at the top of each chapter with a number of hash marks - one for each time she had read that chapter. The Bible I remember had a stub of a pencil hanging out of it by a ribbon so she could underline and keep track.

I'm sure her faith saw her through tough times, raising kids on a WV farm. I remember her up before dawn making biscuits in the kitchen, preparing breakfast for the men who would come in after milking. I remember seeing her canning enough fruit and vegetables to hopefully see her family through winter. She made lye soap and fashioned candles, sewed everyone's clothes on a treadle sewing machine. Makes me tired just to think of it!

One of the best things she did, though, was to pass her faith on to us, so during tough times we have it there to lean on and the Bible for comfort and inspiration. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Visiting the Cousins

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I loved visiting my Uncle Dan's house near Craigsville, WV. It's funny how visits were back then. There wasn't a phone at grandma's house so we just got cleaned up and drove the few miles to their house. And they were always home. My Uncle Dan in this picture looks like all the Creasy boys did - handsome, tall, lean. He worked in the mines but at home did a lot of woodworking and at one point made gun stocks from scratch. That's Aunt Lena beside him.

Those are my cousins on the right. Ruth was know as The Marilyn Monroe of Richwood High when she was in high school because she looked so much like her. Sue (second from the right) was closer to my age so we hung out more. She taught me to Jitterbug in their living room and I always went home with one of her hand-me-down dresses. I loved putting up hay with her at grandma's and she was the model for "Cousin Patsy" in my book Mountain Girl.

The living room here is near and dear to my heart. The flowered wallpaper was just like that in my grandma's house. The blankets, pillows, curtains and heavy, dark furniture are so familiar from that time. I recognize the picture on the wall as one by that famous cowboy artist. (Do you know his name?) I'd like to step into the photo and hang out for a while.