Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Dutch Twins live on

Earlier this month, my older sister Mary and I took a jaunt to Florida to visit some of our far-flung family members.  Our last stop was on the west coast of Florida, where our cousin Katie graciously put us up for two nights.

In one of Katie's guest rooms, I found some old friends: The Dutch Twins, along with a half dozen of their companion "Twins" books, all by Lucy Fitch Perkins. Mary and I were both thrilled to see these familiar books again. They have done some travelling, these books, back and forth between our families, as each successive batch of early readers grew into them.

My mother's maiden name is the first one in this book: Henrietta B. Holmes. I note that she wrote her name in pretty decent cursive for a second grader. I estimate she would have been in second grade around 1925-26.

My maiden name, Barbara Coombs, is stamped in the upper right. There is no date there, but I think I read this same book around 1957. And my cousin Tad Kinsley, the youngest of our generation, seems to have stamped the book in 1972.

I know that The Dutch Twins was the first of the series that I read and that I loved it dearly. I can't really tell you why. I knew even then that it was a bit dated, but it charmed me. I read all of the other Twin books that I could get my hands on, but none equaled my first love, even though many were enjoyable.

Oddly enough for a children's book series, these were not all light reading. I remember finding The Belgian Twins deeply disturbing. It quite literally gave me nightmares. Now, thanks to the internet, I know why it was so terrifying: it was based on the actual stories of real children during World War I. In this book, the Belgian twins become homeless refugees, separated from their parents, hiding and fleeing ahead of the invading German army. It had lots of convincing details, I remember, such as the children's struggle to find food. Hmmm, maybe this book should be reissued for all of us adults to read now.

One book that had originally been part of our families' "Twins"collection has, quite understandably, disappeared from the group. I think my mother must have tossed it out before she passed the books back to her sister Jane for the Kinsley cousins to read, once I had outgrown them. I hesitate to even name it, for these days, it would be seen as outrageously racist. In fact, I think I will not name it here. If you are curious, you can google Lucy Fitch Perkins. I don't think you will have a hard time figuring out which book of the series I am referring to. But I don't think Ms. Perkins was at all racist. In fact, she wanted children to know and understand different cultures. But the view of these things was different in the 1920s and 1930s.

In my family, we now have a set of real life "twins" of our own, sweet grandchildren, a boy and a girl, just as in each of these books. Our twin grandchildren are only two years old now, but when they are older, would I have them read these books? Maybe. Certainly The Dutch Twins. They had a very wise and loving grandparent:

"I think I'll be a sea captain when I'm big," said Kit.
"So will I," said Kat.
"Girls can't," said Kit.
But Grandfather shook his head and said:
"You can't tell what a girl may be by the time she's four feet and a half high and is called Katrina. There's no telling what girls will do anyway. 

                                                  ~The Dutch Twins, originally published 1911.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013


In they all swooped, our wonderful, messy, blended, extended family.

Just how each of us is related and connected to each other doesn't seem to matter much anymore. Step-children and half-siblings and assorted husbands, current and ex, they've all morphed into just plain grandpas and cousins and aunts and uncles, without asterisks and explanations.

It has been too long between gatherings. Our children have grow up and two have married and moved far away.

But for a few days, we were all under one roof. Cousins were meeting for the first time, picking out Hot Cross Buns on the ancient piano that doesn't mind sticky fingers.

There was a lot of hugging and cuddling.

There were quiet one-on-one conversations when and where we could snatch them.

There was my happiest moment: having all three of my children in one spot, relaxed and reconnecting, now that they are grown and independent. They are different now, from the youngsters they once were. I am glad that they are getting to know each other again.

My former husband Dan, pictured below, was around a lot, enjoying his grandchildren. You know who gets credit for this? My current husband of 29 years. Bob is an awfully good step-dad, in my opinion. He has always wanted Dan to be welcome in our home, especially when John is around. Divorce is hard enough on children, even grown children. Bob has always kept us focused on trying to be a smoothly blended family. He should give lessons. Thank you, Bob.

There were aunts and step-grandmas and lots of shared meals.

There were moments when everyone was tired of Mom's endless picture-taking and just wanted to eat in peace.

 There was a lazy afternoon when vegging out held great appeal. Grilled cheese sandwiches and a kids' video seemed like a good idea.

Cousins shared a quiet moment, trying to learn cat's cradle together.

And a parents' night out together gave Grandpa Bob an armful for fairy tales in front of the fireplace.

But then the first batch had to depart. Pumpkin glasses helped keep the farewell on a light note. Margie sure missed Lexi when she had gone.

And on the last night, there was one more aunt to get to know over a story book.

The little 'uns slipped away from the final gathering of grownups, to horse around until the commotion reminded everyone that the kids needed an early night.
And then -POOF- it was all over. That's all folks, Margie seems to be saying.

Up before 4 AM this morning to get everyone to the airport for an early flight.

The house is too quiet now. I am already missing them all.

But, my oh my, what a good week. Thanks for coming, my dears. It was wonderful to see you all. Come back soon!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

For January 12: Happy Birthday, John!

By age seven, you already loved to cook. Your Aunt Mary gave you a chef's hat and apron for Christmas that year.

As soon as you were old enough, you eagerly took your first job. Here you are at age twelve, returning from your paper route. That's our pup Rencor in your newspaper bag. You both grew a lot bigger very quickly.
 And now you are about to open your second restaurant in Bend, Oregon.
I think this was in the cards all along.

Happy Birthday to my oldest son, John: a good cook, a hard worker, and a great dad.

We couldn't be prouder of you and your beautiful family.

With lots of love from Mom and Bob


Friday, September 2, 2011

Simple Things

There was a time when I did quite a lot of baking. I guess with just two of us at home now, I've gotten out of the habit. But today, I felt like making bread.

The house fills with a terrific homey smell when bread bakes.
 When the bread comes out of the oven, I let it cool on its side for a while.
 The recipe I used today came to me via my former, and now late, mother-in-law, Marjorie Machell. There's not much on the recipe card. You would have to know a bit about baking bread for it to be of any use. (The stain proves it's been a well-used recipe. Never trust a recipe card without stains, I say.)
 Today, I used a mix of unbleached wheat flour, whole wheat flour, and some oatmeal to make up the needed 15 cups for four loaves.  It's a pretty forgiving recipe.

 My oldest son, John, who like his grandmother is a very good cook, taught me this kitchen tip. John labels everything in both his home kitchen and at his restaurant. The label tells what's in the container and/or when it was opened. Very handy for things in my home
like salad dressing, when I'm wondering just how long it's been sitting in the fridge. I need to do this more rigorously. Waste not, want not.

Which brings me to this: I was thinking about Marge Machell today as I mixed and kneaded the bread. She was great at making a full life out of simple things: sewing, knitting, quilting, cooking, family. She and many of her generation, including my own parents, lived through the Great Depression and were formed by it. They were pros when it came to waste not, want not habits and skills. My own mother darned socks and sewed her own curtains. My Grandfather Coombs ate mostly what he grew in his own garden and the fish he caught from the sea. My Grandmother Holmes put up jellies and jams and did beautiful needlework. Bob's stepmother, Florence, could make fabulous soup out of practically nothing. I don't think any of them missed a thing by not having cell phones or computers linked to the Internet. They read, they talked, they made things from scratch. 

As the economy continues to slow, I am glad I have inherited some of these simple skills from my parents, in-laws, and grandparents. I only hope that I have taught my own children enough of them.

P.S. The Handsome Husband just came home from work and has already devoured two thick slices of bread.
"It's very good," he says. (Me: modest smile.)