I don’t remember my first birthday.
Can anyone recall that far back in time?
But I do remember the highchair because all four of us children used it.
And I remember the backyard at my parents’ house, the clothesline, and of course the outhouse, in later years guarded by a mulberry bush.
My Aunt Ruthie’s diary fills in some detail of those early years.
Friday, Cloudy, cleaned, trimmed some yard. In corn field & pulled weeds this P.M. A Promise of plenty of work for tomorrow. Marian can say all of Humpty Dumpty and most of all other rhymes. She insisted on having a big paper clamp on each pigtail.
I say, what is the use of cleaning? Who’d ever know I scrubbed both porches, Washed up & waxed the kitchen and bathroom, washed all the windows, etc. etc? The dog tracked up the porch. The ducks messed up the walks, some one spilt ground [dirt] on the steps, etc.
Sunday Hot – HOT! Down to see Aunt Ellen & Anna this eve. Played croquet with Ben & Mary Emenheiser, Anna & I. Today was Ruth’s [my mother’s] birthday.
Marian’s birthday and quite a day for her. As for me – not so wonderful. At 6 I tied Baa [her sheep] around & he was nice as could be. At 9:30 came home from Ray’s & there he lay – He must have eaten night shade or something. I’m done!!!
Note: I wonder if Aunt Ruthie bought another lamb. I was three at the time her sheep died, and I may be older than three in the photo below. (I suppose more searching in the diary could solve the mystery.)
Intentionally or not, imitating the style of British diarist Samuel Pepys, Ruthie records the weather and mundane activities but sneaks in what (to me) are some gems here and there.
July 21, 1945
Beans, beans, & weeds I pulled this A.M. & some this afternoon. – At 3:30 Myra, Ethel Anna & I left for Doylestown. We’re visiting Esther, Anna, Maggie and Emma Histand. Did I ever see some beautiful evergreen trees. This has been a beautiful day.
July 22, 1945
We were at Doylestown church. These girls surely are friendly. At 3:30 we left for home in some rain. But we never realized what we were coming to. At Lanc. Bridge the water was over the road about 2 ft & at Mt. Joy 4 ft so over water & finally drive around by E. Petersburg. E-town really was flooded. There was much damage, Diner [Clearview?] was moved across the road etc.
July 23, 1945
Mon. cloudy this A.M. had cleared some this P.M. working away on Bookkeeeping & that says all.
Tues. cloudy but cleared some. Ma washed & I ironed most everything tonight. Received an invitation to [Phares] Jr. Longenecker’s shower on Aug. 4 & today Marian was four. I got her a sweat shirt & she insisted on wearing it in all this heat.
Do you recall early birthdays? If so, do share an anecdote.
Twice my aunt’s diary uses the word “insisted” referring to my strong will. What personality traits surfaced in your early years? Did you hear about them through conversations? Letters or diaries?
In the July 22, 1944 entry, the diarist complains of the futility of cleaning. What parts of her lament can you relate to?
As a child, did you experience the death of a pet?
It’s OK Marian, we don’t think you’re as strong willed now.I think most children go through a phase of wanting to exert their will and see what it gets them. What a shame about the pet sheep, as lawnmowers they’re quite efficient but it seems none too choosy.
xxx Huge Hugs xxx
You give a generous explanation for my feistiness as a child. And you get points too for being first responder today. Huge hugs back to my favorite Welshman, Sir David!
Happy birthday, Marian! I always enjoy taking a peek into Aunt Ruthie’s diary. That’s sad about the sheep. Growing up, we had a toy poodle named Princess. She lived a long life and died of old age. I remember the house feeling so empty after she passed. We never got another dog, only gerbils. Ugh…I could write a blog post about that experience. Needless to say, they displayed cannibalistic behavior that terrified me and my sister. To this day, gerbils give me the willies!
I faintly remember Baa, but vividly remember Aunt Ruthie’s succession of doggie pets including an Airedale. After that she stuck to Schnauzers, a whole bunch of them all of them named Fritiz I, II, III, and IV. I hope your book launch is doing well. I’m hoping to find my copy in my “held” mail from the post office very soon. 🙂
Good morning, Marian. David beat me to first responder spot–and how wonderful to see him here. That diary is a gem!
That was sad about her sheep. I agree with David about the children–that you insisted on wearing a sweat shirt when you were four seems pretty typical. Ruthie doesn’t sound upset about it–I felt like she might have been chuckling as she was writing it.
And Happy Birthday, again. The FB photos seem to show you had a beautiful setting in which to celebrate it.
BTW, did you ever read A Midwife’s Tale, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich? It’s a history book that goes through the diary of a late 18th-early 19th century midwife in Maine. Her accounts were sort of like your aunt’s–the weather, farm stuff, her children, etc. There’s also this Web site about it: http://dohistory.org/home.html
Thank you for your understanding comments. 🙂
We are enjoying the Blue Ridge mountains as I write this, but leaving today. I have not heard of A Midwife’s Tale, but it sounds tantalizing. I follow Call the Midwife on PBS set in 1950s and 60s, so this may have similarities but in an earlier setting.
Thanks for the enlightenment once again, Merril.
No, this book is nothing like Call the Midwife. 🙂 It’s a historian analyzing a midwife’s diary. Enjoy your vacation, Marian!
Ah, a piece of historical research: I get it! Today was “travel home” day, so my comment was written on the fly. I clicked on the website you mentioned. Thank you for introducing me to this, Merril . . . and for both comments, of course.
I hope you had a happy birthday, Marian! Your aunt’s diary is a treasure. (How awful about her sheep!) I know what you mean by Samuel Pepys. I had to read The Diary of Samuel Pepys in college.
Best ever birthday, Marie. Thanks for the good wishes! Yes, Pepys’ Diary is standard fare in college classes, often freshman lit. Like Pepys, my aunt mixes the good with the bad, just like life.
Happy Birthday Marian! And many more! Seems like a grand time was had by all! Thanks to Cliff for the lovely pictures! How lovely to check out Aunt Ruthie’s diaries from so long ago and around about this time.
No, I don’t recall any birthdays and I have no letters or diaries of parents that give an indication of my temperament as a child. Only my siblings who in later years say how obstinate I was .. (faulty memories I am sure:) )..But I do have my own diaries from age 16 on …
Cleaning? And 5 minutes later it looks as if nothing was done? Who doesn’t? No I don’t recall the death of any pets as a child, though I do know we had dogs. One sausage dog we adopted when living in Zimbabwe, we thought had escaped from the Congo …
You touched all the bases in your comments: Thank you, Susan. About your sibling’s description of your temperament. Perhaps obstinacy (if true) translates to persistence later on in life.
Again, I will convey your appreciation to Cliff. He’s not on a payroll and does this amazing restoration work gratis – ha!
I like the comments mother put in my baby book for my first birthday, something along the lines of “Had hired men here for dinner and your first birthday.” Since it was winter, they must have been helping with some project on the farm–perhaps cleaning chicken houses?? Birthdays were not a big deal–which I think is true for most of our generation when we were small.
And it looks like you’re having a great and special birthday in the state you lived in for a number of years. Enjoy!
The young woman I toured the States with shortly after college said her dad kept a basics-only type diary and on the day she was born stated, “Got some of the wheat harvested. And have a baby girl.” What’s so intriguing about this cryptic comment is that she followed 5 brothers, last in the birth order.
Yes, we love western North Carolina, where we honeymooned many years ago. I taught at Charlotte Christian School and was married at Calvary Presbyterian. You are a great noticer, Melodie. Thank you!
I need to correct myself above: actually dug up my baby book last night and my mother wrote in for my first birthday “Did absolutely nothing. No cake even.” It was my third birthday where we had 3 of Dad’s friends for dinner, and they were definitely work horse friends. But we had a cake. My fourth birthday Mom listed the presents I got and what my sisters got me–a little dimestore watch (I do remember that!) and my older sister got me some little toy kitchen tools, which I also remember. I don’t think I remember much from age 3 but definitely age 4 and up.
This post helped you reminisce but also required time/effort to verify. I hope you enjoyed the “dig,” rather like archeology, perhaps (archivology, a word I made up just now!)
Thanks for returning with this update, Melodie. 🙂
I love reading these diaries and feel so bad for Aunt Ruthie coming home to see her dear pet sheep dead. My daughter had a pet pig who ate some dry cement and died. She was devastated and still gets misty eyed when she talks of Otto. I have pictures of my early birthdays on the farm. Being the oldest, my highchair was used by all three of my brothers and later by my son. I hope you had a wonderful birthday!! All the best! xo
Darlene, I wonder if you could work the pet pig named Otto into one of your books and have him come alive again. Ha!
How wonderful to have photos of early birthday days on the farm and a vintage high chair your son got to use also. Yes, my birthday was over the top, spending two days and nights at the Biltmore estate, lovely this time of year, especially the gardens. Thanks for asking!
Happy Birthday Marian! Sorry about the sheep. We had a hamster and later a dog when I was a kid. Have also had schnauzers and a gorky but none at the present. Haven’t had the luck to come across any old diaries to read. I can remember some things about my childhood but not many. Always a pleasure though reading the stories you write about. Thanks for sharing.
That was to read yorkey as in Yorkshire terrier.
You’re welcome and thanks for checking in again, Irwin. Yes, I did get that you were referring to your yorkey.
I’m happy to share this memorabilia. After I publish my memoir, I may try to tackle the diaries in a less piecemeal fashion, who knows!
Marian — “She insisted on having a big paper clamp on each pigtail.”
Inquiring minds want to know… what is she referring to?
I wore my hair in two braids, each fastened with a rubber band. On Sundays, Mother tied white ribbons on top of the bands. Why I insisted on having a big paper clamp on each pigtail, I have no idea. Maybe I wanted something different . . . maybe I thought a clamp was more important looking. Your guess is as good as mine, Laurie. Thanks for asking!
Marian — Or a young sense of your own style. No matter how you slice it, you were showing your independence 🙂
Ditto what Laurie Buchanan asked. I had some goldfish that died. I don’t feel that I was scarred for life by not having a proper funeral service for them. But who knows? Could explain a lot about me now and I just don’t know it…
Your comment made me laugh, just the medicine I needed after a long day of travel (9 hours)! Thank you, Ally Bean! 🙂
Hi Marian! This was fun reading! With my birthday being on Halloween I don’t remember celebrating my birthday! But we sure had fun trick or treating!
I enjoyed reading your aunts diary! I have my grandma’s. and I enjoy reading through it but she only wrote facts! No details to make it interesting, such as: “wash day”, “went to the show.” What show??? I want to know what movies she saw! On the day of my birth: “Anita Gail Williamson”, not anything more! Oh well, I’m thankful for what she wrote and that I have it today!
I had a bunny who died. I was so sad. I told about it in a blog.
Thanks for sharing with us!
If it’s any comfort, I think a generation or two ago, many kept diaries of bare facts. I wrote about one in reply to Melodie (above). You certainly have a pretty name. I especially like that you have a middle name like Gail. My middle name is my mother’s maiden name, Metzler. Not very feminine sounding.
My sisters and I had two bunnies, Marilyn and Carolyn. They died too perhaps because we fed them cow’s milk from a doll baby bottle. Thank you, Anita!
Yes, I’m also wondering about the question Laurie posed. Would that be a paper clip? Must have been cute.
I love your Aunt Ruthies diary! And hope you had a wonderful happy birthday!!
Yes, Joan, when I think of paper clamps, I think of something metal, but I have no idea what I may have been insisting on at such a young age. And, yes, I felt well celebrated this birthday, much of which is documented on Facebook. After so many family illnesses and deaths, it felt wonderful to have a good time. Thank you!
Instead of “she persisted,” your life motto, as named by Aunt Ruthie, can be “she insisted.” 🙂
I hope Lydia, Owen, and Julia some day find my diaries and see me trying to do what Aunt Ruthie did for you — pay attention to the individual soul emerging from its chrysalis.
Happy birthday again.
According to Joanne Hess Siegrist, a mutual friend, many Mennonite women of this era shunned showing feelings. Both my grandma and aunt shared the bitter and the sweet. My mother’s letters in college were equally emotive.
Your phrase “pay attention to the individual soul emerging from its chrysalis” is choice. You are doing that superbly with all of your grandchildren. Note the diaries and frequent visits. Brava, m’lady!
I can totally relate to the futility of housework and only cleaned once a week (besides daily washing up) when I had my house. How sad about the sheep and I expect you must have been very upset. It must be odd to read about yourself knowing Humpty Dumpty: so sweet!
We never had a pet as there were too many of us at home and had no garden and we didn’t have parties for birthdays, just some nice home cooked pudding or cakes from the bakery.
Your aunt Ruth’s diary entries are lovely and I am sure she would love the thought of you reading it and sharing it with your followers. 👍
Aunt Ruthie is/was a private person, but when I showed her my blog posts about her, she didn’t seem offended. In fact, she smiled for she knew the value of history.
I’m with you on the futility of housework too. It’s repetitive and not particularly creative. Thanks for commenting here, Fatima. Happy and safe travels!
Marian, Your blog is a rich historical legacy. I think most readers can find some kind of connection with your life and family. Thank you!
You’re welcome, and you’re right, making connections with others is the joy of blogging. Man of these blog posts have turned into chapters in my memoir in progress, also about leaving a legacy.
You do the same thing on Facebook, another type of social media. I am simply dumbfounded that you have so many photos from the era I remember. And I always enjoy the music. Your heritage has definitely left an imprint on your soul, Conrad. Thank you!
A comment I often heard was said by my aunt (who never minced any words) about me in Low German: “Nu es se aul wada beleidicht!” Trl. “Now she has her feelings hurt again.” I must have been a sensitive child, but I recall that this aunt could be particularly rude!
So good that you have your aunt’s diaries to help you where your own memory fails. My diaries are rather personal and I’m not sure if I should keep them.
My aunt doesn’t appear to sugarcoat her feelings in the diaries, but I doubt I will find any salacious material though I’ve barely begun. I wonder whether your Low-German-speaking aunt offended other nieces and nephews. Surely you must not have been the only one.
I appreciate your slant on topics here, Elfrieda, coming from a background that is both similar and different from my own.
Strong willed just like you, Marian…was my label as a child…:) It was lovely to read your aunts extracts from her diary and it helps to fill in the gaps 🙂
And look where a strong will has got you, Carol. Take that as a compliment! Thanks again for reading and commenting too.
Thank you, Marian..I will accept the compliment graciously 🙂
Happy birthday again Marian. Sorry about the sheep, but you were such a cute little girl. 🙂 I had no pets nor any outstanding memories of any birthdays as a child, so it’s nice to hear stories about others. 🙂
I know something of your disappointing childhood, but you have spun much of this into gold, P.S. I Forgive You comes to mind. Thanks, Debby!
Thank you, Marian. 🙂
What a blessing to have your aunt’s diaries, Marian. I wish I had something like that of my parents or grandparents.
I can relate to the futility of cleaning. I have 5 sons & when they were young I cleaned the house every day. Now there is just my husband and me, I clean when there is a need for it. 🙂
“I clean when there is a need for it” resonates with me too, Linda. Maybe you use the gasp-and-clean method. When sunlight spots dust on the furniture or lint on the floor I gasp and then am forced to clean. The past few years I’ve solicited help from hubby. After all, you can’t be a decent writer and also keep up with homely duties. Right? 🙂
So right in all respects, Marian! 🙂 And although hubby can’t vacuum, he can do the dusting! 🙂
Dusting is my nemesis, but I also need help with vacuuming because of back problems. I guess we both need the cleaning fairy to come calling. Thanks for returning, Linda.
I think the cleaning fairy is overwhelmed, Marian! 🙂
So many treasured memories. I remember one of my sisters burning her nose as she blew out the candles on her cake.
What hurt at the time may seem funny now . . . at least it is memorable. Thanks, Fiona!
Happy Birthday Marian. I met a teacher years later (one who never actually taught me) and she described me as a “determined little girl with rosy cheeks”. That sounds suspiciously like stubborn, strong-willed or “insistent”! But I can’t imagine facing some of the harsher realities of life without it! lol
Rosy Cheeks with Moxie might be a foxy memoir title, Jenn. Just sayin’! Your last statement is powerful; I definitely agree. Thanks!
These diary entries are so precious, Marian. Not only is it an interesting peak in the life of your aunt and of the 1940s, but to read about yourself through someone else’s eyes is incredibly special. You are right, I don’t think many of us would remember our lives before the age of three or older. So, all these accounts are fantastic. Too bad my mom or any other older family member of mine kept a diary! I also like how your aunt documented her life, and, of course, how you were a part of this.
The only pet I remember dying in our household was when I was in my early twenties and our dog passed away while my parents weren’t home. Traumatizing. Since then, I have had pets pass away, but that one was the first. Poor sheep. I guess they never found out why it died?
I had no knowledge of Aunt Ruthie’s diaries until we delved into her painted chest. What a gold mine this is! Yes, it is interesting to read about myself through someone else’s eyes. I realize now what a privilege it is to have this . . . and more discoveries ahead.
Our family was traumatized when we had to put our pet dog Me-Too to sleep. I couldn’t walk down the pet aisle in the grocery store for a long time. No more pets after that either.
About the poor sheep. My aunt guessed that it ate nightshade, a poisonous plant. She was done with sheep after that but had a series of dogs she loved. Thanks for stopping by to comment, Liesbet!
Happy Birthday, Marian!! A little late. What a sweet post and I have one more to read to catch up. I don’t remember any early birthdays because my mom didn’t do much to celebrate them. Did she do anything at all? I don’t know.
The sheep photo got me. I loved bottle feeding my grandpa’s orphaned sheep when I was about the age you are in the photo. Sad for Aunt Ruthie and you. I was protected from how those lambs or bunnies ended up being for dinner. I remember being startled by that connection, but I don’t know how old I was. Probably under 5.
My grandma’s diaries were similar. I thought I’d found a goldmine when I inherited them, but didn’t find anything other than the most mundane reflections about going to the farm or seeing her sister. I was disappointed. It was completely impersonal and scant–not something that captured her attention or mine.
I’m so glad you had a stubborn streak from childhood. With my daddy sick from the time I was two, I knew my job was to be a good girl and later I was told I rarely cried or caused trouble. That all changed in high school. Another story…
I have a photo I’ll never publish, so help me God, because it shows an obscene photo of my cousin Janet and me. We are both wearing sun-bonnets and hold aloft skinned rabbits that must have been cooked for dinner one day. Ugh!
About the diaries: Both my Grandma and Aunt Ruthie didn’t withhold the disappointments of life. One historian asserts that many Mennonite women did just the opposite, painting their lives as sunny, hiding the shadows because they thought it was wrong to show vulnerability or reveal pain.
You mentioned my stubborn streak. I showed that mostly at home; I was a model student and obedient to church rules until I strayed in my early twenties. Your “other story” intrigues me. Although you tell about letting loose when you met Vic, I don’t know many tales from high school. Hmmm . . .
Thanks for commenting and taking care of those monarchs, Elaine!