Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guest Blog: Poor Hallie

My wrist has been stupid for nearly three years now. As you can see in the photo, I had a ganglion cyst that caused a certain amount of discomfort and limited my mobility. On Monday, I had surgery to have Per (that's his name: Per Cyst) removed. They gave me some loopy drugs that made me calm, but I was awake for the short 15 minute procedure. In my loopy condition I was very interested in what was going on.

"What color is it?"
"How big is it?"
"About the size of a pea; maybe bigger. Yeah, a little bigger than a pea."
"Oooooh, like a chick pea."
"Yeah! Like a chick pea."
Then they lifted me up so I could take a look at my opened wrist and the cyst peeking out. It was cool! I really had no interest in doing that before they gave me drugs.

My new wrist lives in a plaster splint until next Tuesday. I have to lift my arm funny to type (FYI: I type ALL day in my job) and my shoulder is very sore. I'm uncomfortable sleeping, my legs are hairy, and I have about 3 shirts that actually fit over the thing. *Cue the sympathy*

Sigh. I'll follow-up next week with a much brighter outlook, I promise.


Mike and I went to the bike club’s annual potluck dinner last week. I think I mentioned it to you. There were the usual pasta dishes, a few salads, no dessert. Next month the bike club holds its annual spaghetti feed. The members bring salads and desserts.

Most everyone has had the experience of a potluck dinner. There’s the church fellowship, the Scout banquet, the dinner at the Grange Hall, the bike club social event, etc., that requires you show up with a dish to share. I’ve been wondering – what’s your favorite potluck dish? Do you have a favorite covered dish you like to take? A salad? A dessert? What do you like to eat at a potluck?

I admit it – I’m not good at thinking up something to take. I used to take lentil casserole, but it doesn’t look appetizing and folks avoid it. My friend Rosemary said the same thing about lentil casserole. And I used to take an apple dessert that occasionally went well, but in my opinion, if you don’t want to carry some dessert home, take cupcakes that have something chocolate about them.

It would be fun to peek in on a potluck of the 1930s, ‘40s, ’50, etc. Someone must have written a description of a potluck dinner someplace. Do you suppose the food has changed much over the years? I’ll have to do some research on that. I remember going with my parents to potluck dinners at the Masonic Lodge in Orofino from time to time. My mother liked to take scalloped corn. Her philosophy was that you don’t find many side dishes at a potluck dinner. (Seems to me it’s still a starch.) And she would take it in her hammered aluminum serving dish with lid. That’s about the only time we used that dish.
Here's a picture of a family dinner, December 1955 (probably Christmas Eve). My dad was in to candlemaking then. And note the photos on the mantel. KW

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


When we were considering purchasing the lot where our modular home now sits, I looked up on the hill and recognized the home of a friend, Mary Jane. Here’s a picture of Mary Jane’s house (the Spanish style in the center of the picture behind the three horses) taken from my front porch. When I go to her house, I simply walk up Critchfield Road, which you can see curving in the lower part of the picture, then make a couple of turns, and I’m there. It takes me 12 minutes.

And here’s a picture of the modular home from Mary Jane’s back yard. It's the house in the center of the photo -- yellow with brown roof. It's in the center of Mary Jane's view from her kitchen window. She says she can spit at me.

A herd of mule deer roams this neighborhood. During the winter, Mary Jane has had between 5 and 12 deer in her front yard from time to time. Unfortunately they weren’t there when I visited her today, but I’m in hopes that I can take a photo of them sometime soon.

Updates: Hallie underwent a surgical procedure yesterday (Monday) to remove a cyst from her right wrist. She is wearing bandages and a splint for the next week so can't keyboard much. I think she's getting along fine but not feeling her best right now. Mike talked with Carol and Bennie on Sunday. Carol has been staying with Bennie to provide extra care. And Mike talked to Yancey last night. There are continuing issues with his ankle related to the injury incident last fall. Kelly is fine and they expect to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl soon. Maybe they'll tell us. KW

Sunday, February 24, 2008


In her life story, Ina relates that when her older sister, Ida, married Ed Patchen in 1879, her mother’s pork cake was served at the wedding dinner. Curious, I was delighted to find the recipe for "Ma's Pork Cake" in her box:

Chop 1 pound fat pork thru chopper twice
1 pt coffee boiling – pour over fat
2 c raisins
2/3 c citron
2 tbsp orange peel chopped in food chopper
1 scant tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp allspice (scant)
1 c good molasses
1 c white sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder may be added
1 lb almonds to make about 1 c meats put through chopper – scant fat a little if nuts are used

These notes in Ina's hand on the back of the card make me think she found the cake lacking in something:
½ tsp walnut flavor is an improvement
Citron, nuts, and orange peel optional
1941 – added a tsp of lemon extract and liked it better

Well, I searched the internet and discovered I’m not the only person interested in resurrecting this cake. Apparently it’s an old recipe for dense fruitcake from the South and the Midwest. The fat pork is salt pork with very little or no lean. But, at least one person noted that the cake is improved if doused with port, sherry, rum, brandy, whiskey – and allowed to sit a day or two. Perhaps this is what Ina missed -- or tried to compensate for. When I’m feeling venturesome and willing to sacrifice rather expensive ingredients, I might give Ma’s Pork Cake a try. I wonder if you can still buy pork fat. What if you just used Crisco? If you make substitutions, is the end result going to be typical? If / when I do it, I'll definitely write about it.

I tried to scan the recipe card but the old lead on the yellowed card just didn't come off. Instead, I posted the picture Hallie took at a bakery in West Seattle yesterday.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Mike and I left TaxTyme in Lewiston for the farm at 9:00 a.m., and I pulled into our Clarkston driveway at 2:00. It was a quick trip. We had the Dakota loaded with items we wanted to leave there, but in the end that was all for naught. Snow increased as we traveled up the grade. Though Dobson Road was clear, the snow in the lane was drifted and soft. We had to walk from the cable posts. We soon discovered it was easiest to walk at the edge of the field.

While we were unable to carry much in or out, we do have peace of mind knowing that things there are generally good. We saw no sign of mice in the house proper and caught only one in the attic trap. The wind had blown a chaise lounge off the porch and we didn’t find the garbage can but the lid was there – go figure! Also, we had left the canopy cover from the old truck on railroad ties at ground level and the wind had overturned and tossed it 40 feet! A vent pipe on the roof broke and will have to be fixed. The pond has a ways to go to fill. But -- the tv set and satellite came right on and it appeared the electricity had not been off. The 4-wheeler started right up and Mike picked up limbs in the grove.

I forgot to take the list of things I wanted to bring back, but of course, that didn’t matter. I had my head on straight anyway: I stuffed one of my coat pockets with bits of lace trim and the other with some old family recipes. I bundled up some of the old letters and picked up a book I wanted. We also picked up the yellow strapping Clint inadvertently left there -- I forget what he called it -- and brought it back to town. I forgot to take the camera with me when I started walking, so I just took a few photos of the lane before we left the farm. [Can you find the dog in this photo? She's the brown spot right in the center.]

Friday, February 22, 2008


Quieter times have arrived at TaxTyme. Mike was surprised with a very busy day last Monday and a busier day than he expected on Tuesday. However, it’s slow now. So, he has arranged for one of his staff to cover for him tomorrow (Saturday), and we will go to the farm -- just a quick day trip. It should be an adventure. I look forward to the opportunity to take some boxes of things up there and I have a list of things to bring back – more photos, more old letters, Grandma’s recipe box – you know, just a lot of good stuff. I hope we can get in and that there are no mice.

Last night we went to the bike club’s annual potluck dinner. I would guess there were not more than 30 there. I took tuna noodle casserole. There were lots of other pasta dishes, of course, but no desserts. What’s up with that? After 20 years of attending these meetings and dying of boredom, I finally figured out how to handle them – take my crocheting.

Yesterday I finished the baby afghan and started Jack’s. I decided I was doing it too tightly, so I started over. It doesn’t bother me to do that. Once I realized I don’t really like to finish anything anyway, I decided that starting over is not a problem. I’m much happier with the product I have going now. I don’t know why I’m struggling with my gauge these days. In the past I never had to worry much about it.

We seldom use the furnace here in the modular home. We have a small wood stove and that has been adequate. On these mild days, I keep the fire going until early afternoon, let it go out, and then re-start at dinnertime. But – the last time I ran the furnace, I noticed that the air coming out the vents seemed cool and it was taking forever to heat the house. So, the furnace guy came this morning and found a spider web in the “flame orifice,” which restricted the ability of the flame to burn. He said this is not uncommon in modular homes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Wednesday (yesterday) was shopping day. Now that we live out of town, I manage shopping differently than I did when shops were within a mile or two of my house. Now, instead of running to one or two stores per outing, I try to do as much as I can in one trip. That means – organize!

First, I’m finishing a baby afghan, so I devoted considerable thought to the next project on my schedule -- an afghan for grandson Jack (see photo right). It’s not a surprise – I told him he would be next. He said his favorite color is blue. I chose a ripple pattern from my new “Vanna’s Choice – Color It Beautiful” book. Using the color chart in the front of the book, I made a basic plan of the colors I would need, choosing two shades of blue but adding other colors for a warmer, more youthful look.

Next I made a grocery list and attached coupons, then rounded out my list according to household needs. I also made a list of everything I needed to take with me – trash for recycling, a cooler and ice, shopping bags -- and another list ordering my stops. If I don’t plan my route, I will head off according to habit instead of plan. Even so, I drove right past my first stop, the recycling bins, and had to turn around and go back.

I left home at 9:30 and was back before 12:30. I still had energy, so I cleared, cleaned, and rearranged another shelf in the pantry and crocheted on the baby afghan.

Here’s a picture of the yarn I bought for Jack’s afghan. I can hardly wait to start it. The gray piece is a shrug I made in January. You can also see the baby afghan, and the off-white piece underneath is a lap throw I made from some of Mother's leftover yarn.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The photo on the left is of Mike's mother. Her birthdate is 8-16-14; I'm guessing she's about 4 years old in this picture. It was taken in Arkansas, I believe.
The photo on the right is of my dad's younger sister, Shirley, who was born in September 1910. I'm guessing that she also is about 4 -- maybe 5. The photo was taken at the Gilbert homeplace -- probably by Ina, her mother. Note the cat at her feet.
Here in town we're seeing signs of spring. The crocus are pushing up through the soil, the trees are budding, the hollyhocks show new growth, and the little volunteer spinach plants continue to wait for warmer days. Highs have been in the mid-50s with lows in the high 20s. This morning I counted 12 mule deer in Mary Jane's yard. Yes, a herd of mule deer has made itself at home in Mary Jane's yard just up the street from us.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Clint drove to Lewiston from his home in Hagerman on Friday to visit Elisha. If you haven’t been introduced to Elisha yet, let me tell you that she was in Clint’s graduating class at Lewiston High, so they have been acquainted for a long time. And she has a daughter, Maycie, a wonderful 8-year-old. Elisha and a friend operate a day care.

Clint met with Mike on Saturday. They took care of his taxes and then shopped for bikes because Clint is interested in getting a mountain bike. Last night (Sunday), Clint, Elisha, and Maycie had dinner with us – grilled chicken breasts, cheese broccoli, baked potatoes, green salad, and cherry pie. Maycie and I looked over my old dolls, then she fell asleep cuddled up to her mom on the sofa while the rest of us watched an old Twilight Zone (1963), which was not good – not scary, not funny, not even clever. It was great that they were here, though, and it was too late for a movie. Clint is off work today (President's Day) and driving back to Hagerman.

I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of them while they were here, but here’s a picture of Maycie given to us at Christmastime. KW


What’s up with the dolls? -- several of my male readers ask. I knew when I wrote about dolls that the topic wouldn’t interest everyone. But – it’s not entirely about dolls. It’s about coming to the point in your life where you have to grapple with leftover issues – perhaps with the things of childhood you haven’t put away.

Keeping things forever is not necessarily good, you know. “You can’t take it with you,” as they say. The quality of one’s thought is what counts in life. But Mike and I were both trained not to discard anything. “Throw it away today – want it tomorrow,” my mother would say. And she could cite incidents to prove her point. The good thing (or the bad thing?) is that Mike and I don't pick on one another about the things that we keep. I would never encourage him to part with his caburetors, and he leaves me alone about my dolls (pretty much).

Mother’s philosophy – and rightly so – was that the toys of the household were to be shared with all the children – and that happened. That generosity is more important than whether or not the toys survived. My dolls are a problem for me because they have been played with, look old, in some cases are deteriorating, and I don’t have the proper storage environment for them or a place to display them. Yet, I am not inclined to dispose of them, though perhaps I should. “They should be played with,” I said to my sister, Joni, 15 years ago. “They are vintage,” she rejoined; “no one should play with them.” So -- the dilemma.
[The picture above of an outdoor tea party was probably taken by Ina about 1910. Aunt Ethel pours on the left side of the picture. I think we still have that teapot. My dad, Vance, is on the right. I can't name the other children for sure.]

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I never considered myself a good descriptive writer, but I loved to write letters. Writing letters was always an outlet for me, though I didn’t always recognize it as such. Now that we have email (and blogs), writing takes a different form, but it’s still writing. Thank goodness it’s faster.

My mother didn’t save letters beyond their time of current interest and encouraged me not to keep mine. I think she felt that personal letters share timely information and when that time passes, you run certain risks of misunderstandings developing or maybe even confidences revealed. Maybe she learned that through a bad experience. I don’t know. Consequently I have very little in the way of written material / history from my mother’s side of the family, no words written by my Grandmother Portfors (except for recipes), and only a very few letters written by my mother herself. Amongst my memorabilia someplace are the letters Chris and I exchanged in which we copied the writing style of Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte one summer (1962 or 1963, I suppose), when she was at Canyon Ranger Station with her family.

My dad’s family – now that’s another matter. I have a number of different collections of handwritten correspondence. I am now transcribing Grandma Ina’s letters addressed mostly to my dad, making that process a part of my everyday routine. I’ve wrestled a lot with the issues presented by these letters. They do reveal character, debt, disappointment, and even anguish. If I had been my dad I probably wouldn’t have kept some of those written scoldings for someone else to see.

Even so, all of those players are gone now. Times have changed, and the letters tell so many wonderful things about how people lived and managed their lives. For instance, when I hear that in 1933 farmers struggled to find a market for their crops, it’s an objective statement. But when I read in Jack’s own hand: “I haven’t found a market for the [railroad] car of beans yet. It don’t look like we are going to sell them at all. I have about 27 tons.” -- well, it touches my heart.

Friday, February 15, 2008


This is a picture of our friend Chris and her dad Harry taken on Christmas Day, 2007. It’s a good picture. I’m glad she shared it with us.

My first memory of Christine is at kindergarten registration in Orofino, 1954. We were sitting with our mothers at the VFW building. I remember being somewhat surprised that my mother talked with Christine’s mother, Mary Lou, as if they knew one another. I had never seen anyone in that place before. Both mothers spoke in reassuring tones to two little girls embarking on a new experience. It seemed to be anticipated that we would be friends and indeed friendship blossomed easily. Christine and I have always had common interests. When Chris’ dad built their home on Walrath Avenue (I’m guessing that was 1956 or 1957), she was then within walking distance of my house, and we were playmates for sure. We moved easily and safely between the two houses. Her house was just a block from the swimming pool, and Mary Lou made sure we learned to swim. She would take us to swim lessons and then take us to the pool to play and practice during family hour in the late afternoon. Because of Mary Lou, the experience of learning to swim was not traumatic for me. If it hadn’t been for Mary Lou, I might not have learned to swim. And now Chris and her husband Dan live in Moscow, and I'm happy to say that her parents still live in the house her dad built in Orofino -- one of the few remaining constants from my childhood. And the story of friendship goes on from there -- and continues. It is good!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I’m careful with New Year’s resolutions. I don’t like to set myself up to fail. But this year I did resolve to stop using plastic or paper shopping bags at the grocery store. Initially I thought I would make my own canvas bags. It seems a bold move to me. I mean, how many shoppers do you see presenting their own bags? How many shoppers do you see reusing bags, for that matter? About 10 years ago there was a brief period when the stores were pushing the recycle / reuse philosophy. It seemed to cycle away. But as I’m thinking along these lines, suddenly there seems more media hype and another spell of interest.

I notice Albertson’s, Safeway, Rosauer’s and Grocery Outlet all selling shopping bags at a nominal fee -- $.99 per bag. I probably can’t make them for that. At the same time, I wonder how that works. Can I use Grocery Outlet bags at Albertson’s? I’m sure Grocery Outlet wouldn’t mind but Albertson’s might. Why do we have to put names on bags? In the name of saving the environment, couldn’t we just sell generic bags everywhere and encourage their use? (Do I sound like Andy Rooney?)

Well, here we are at the second month of the year and I’m slow to act on my resolve. While shopping at Safeway the other day, I decided to go for it. I grabbed two re-usable 99-cent bags off the rack. When I checked out, the associate said, “I see you brought your bags,” whereupon I explained I still had to buy them. (And now I wonder – are they just going to take my word for the fact that I have paid for these bags? Maybe they don’t really care?) The associate pointed out the virtues of using such bags, including that each time I bring them to the store, they will reimburse me 3 cents per bag. The “box person” stuffed all of my groceries into the two bags and I could barely lift them. Maybe they should have suggested I buy yet another bag, which clearly I will have to do. Now I suppose I’ll have to repeat this process for each store on my route . . . or make my own bags.

Now – I just have to remember to take the bags when I go to the store. . . KW

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


An article in the Lewiston Tribune stated that we no longer have a community consciousness of the social difficulties and devastating events caused by the influenza epidemic of 1918. It was 90 years ago. “That’s true; I don’t know anyone that died in that epidemic,” I quipped to Mike.

I remember asking my mother, who was 8 or 9 in 1918, what she remembered about the epidemic. Oh, she remembered it very well, she said. There were two wood-frame buildings called cottages on opposite corners on the lot where the old school (present junior high) still stands in Orofino. One was still there when I was in high school and was used as the chemistry lab. And I believe Mother said that particular cottage was the one set up for care / quarantine of the sick. The community was organized to leave provisions on the steps – milk, food, etc. She related that she had gone with her mother to leave such provisions. She said that individuals wore garlic on strings around their necks to ward off the sickness, adding that she didn’t know the philosophy behind that practice. She thought it was largely a superstitious belief. One could surmise that the smell might keep others at bay, but since they were all wearing it, it probably didn’t have that effect. Mother thought the garlic necklace might have served to remind people to stay out of one another’s space (to use the vernacular of today) and in the end that had some positive effect in staving off the disease.

I never heard that anyone in my family suffered during that flu epidemic. But I think that my Grandfather Portfors’ partner in the Ford garage died, ending a short business relationship.

[This 4-generation picture was taken in 1955 at Harriet's house: Charles O. Portfors, Harriet Walrath Reece, Dorothy Dobson, and L.J. Reece (first grandchild.]

Monday, February 11, 2008


In my opinion, it’s just not productive thinking to worry about potential disaster, whether personal, local, or worldwide. Paraphrasing Jesus, There shall be wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled. But I’ve often wondered if I shouldn’t better organize my foodstuffs and supplies so that we could be self sufficient for as long as possible. Recent articles in the Lewiston Tribune have presented the need for household preparedness should a projected pandemic materialize. One article suggested the importance of staying home in case of contagious disease and avoiding marketplaces. In another article an LDS family provided insight as to what provisions they have stored and websites where guidelines are provided.

The need for preparedness presents challenging issues. Mike and I are not good about keeping stores in reserve. When we finish the oat bran, we buy more oat bran. When we’re out of rice, we get more rice. (You get the idea.) It seems to me the better habit is to have one in reserve; when you open that one, buy another. But it’s another mindset entirely to think of what a household needs to operate for a long stretch of time. We determined to research this matter of developing an emergency storehouse, and we should probably do that in two places – in town and on the farm. It seems to us that we would go to the farm especially in the event of a pandemic – but what if we couldn’t? Several years ago I promised Milo that I would take care of his children on the farm if need arose. If your household is two people but you want to help more people, how do you deal with that? I will need guidelines.

What about you? Have you thought about this? Do you believe in this type of readiness? KW
[Farm families were largely self-sufficient, canning not only fruits and vegetables but also meat for the family's use. Often they were generous with neighbors, sharing of their abundance. Here's a photo of the Jack Dobson family about 1918: Jack, Vance, Myrtle, Ina, Shirley and seated in front are Ethel and Irl.]

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Mother passed away on March 7, 1997 -- nearly 11 years ago. Nevertheless, her name still appears on the property notices we receive from the Clearwater County Assessor. Mike stopped by there on business some months back and suggested they remove Mother’s name from the property. They said they would be glad to -- as soon as we show them her death certificate. I asked Harriet if she had a copy I could borrow. She either didn’t have one or couldn’t immediately lay her hands on it. She believed it likely she had never had a copy, so I decided to order one. After all, it’s not a bad thing to have on hand. I’ll just put it away with other genealogical records. Since she passed away in Clarkston, I checked the State of Washington webpage which took me to VitalCheck where indeed I could order the certificate at a cost of $31.00 -- $25.00 for the certificate and $6.00p/h. A bit much, I thought, but it couldn’t be helped.

Meanwhile, a representative of Primeland contacted Harriet stating they are carrying a small credit ($12.00) in Mother’s name and would like to clear it off their books. Harriet could have the $12.00 if she would show them Mother’s death certificate.

So, last Wednesday, Feb. 6, Harriet and I agreed to meet at her house. I took the certificate and a foot-long roast beef sandwich which we shared with Bill. She made a photocopy of the certificate for herself, and then we had fun taking pictures of her doll that Mother dressed. Since this doll’s name is Rachel it was only natural that she should be Harriet’s. Apparently the doll was originally Mother’s in childhood. I hope you can see the smocking on the bodice and sleeves.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I awakened about 5:00 a.m. to the sound of rushing wind, garbage cans and lids being tossed about, and pop cans clanking and scraping. Nervous Nellie whined and jiggled her gate lock. I said, “Well, it’s not going to get better while we lie here.” So, I dashed out the back door, freed Nellie and put her in the house, then commenced to gather the garbage cans at the back door and put them in the shop. I left the strewn pop cans for someone else to pick up but looked for and found a garbage can lid that had already migrated to the street side of the neighbor’s driveway. Since Thursday is garbage day, one of our garbage cans was out at the street awaiting 6:00 a.m. pick up. The lid had already blown off, the can had tipped, and the contents were strewn. I felt fortunate to be able to rescue the receptacle and lid. By this time Mike was also up and surveying the area – difficult in the dark. We climbed back into our warm bed, but of course sleep eluded us. And Nellie kept coming in to check on us – or so I thought. When checking gave way to out and out frantic licking of my face, I finally got the message and we ran for the door. Once we were up and around, Mike checked outside for damage and picked up trash.

The radio says the valley has a wind advisory until 10:00 tonight with gusts to 45 mph. Mike says they’ve been harder than that. Despite the wind, the day is a sunny and beautiful 48 degrees -- hard to believe that our neighbors at higher elevations are struggling with snow conditions, but apparently this is the case. They announced no school in Moscow and other places.

Mike called Carol and Max in Memphis last night to ask how they had survived the tornadoes. They are fine and their property sustained no damage. The shopping mall that was damaged is about five miles from them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


It’s odd the things that limit us. And how wonderful liberation can feel!

When I was growing up, only scraps of fabric were used for doll clothes and that only with Mother’s approval. If there was enough fabric in the scrap to make clothing for an actual person, it was not used for doll clothes. (And probably not used for any other purpose either – hence mental “eye rolling” on my part). I’m sure Mother’s philosophy was wise and the training above reproach, but I can’t tell you how much fabric we disposed of when we moved Mother from the house – garbage sacks full. Except for a few special pieces, we gave away or tossed the rest. I should have called friends, but I honestly thought no one would want that old fabric. How I would love the privilege of going through all of that now. I was lamenting this as I dreamed over dresses for my little dolls.

Then it suddenly occurred to me: I can go to the store and buy fabric – anything I want. I don’t even have to look at the price tag, and I don’t have to ask anyone for approval (though sometimes that’s difficult because I can’t make up my mind!). So, the other day I stopped in at Jo-Ann’s and looked over the dressier fabrics. I chose a fresh-looking white eyelet for the little party dress, but the inner voice said, “No, don’t have it cut yet. Look around a minute.” Eventually I came to the remnants rack – and what do you know! Right there was almost a yard of that very eyelet fabric – and another pretty white remnant as well. So, you see, training dies hard and an eye to conservatism is always good.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Hallie is held by Grandma Dobson in the doorway of Aunt Nina's sewing room in Grangeville. The occasion was the wedding of Chris and Byron Naylor, December 1982. Hallie was 10 1/2 months old.

Hallie with Nick and Nellie on the backbacking trip in September 2007.

Friday, February 1, 2008


“When I’m gone,” Mother would say, “Anything I leave undone, you should not take on.” When I protested, thinking how I might enjoy finishing a beautiful afghan or some embroidery, she was insistent. She knew that it takes inspiration to move our work to completion. And as we know, there’s no such thing as “yesterday’s inspiration.” She didn’t want me to be saddled with yesterday’s work.

One of Mother’s special interests was dressing antique dolls. A number of them had come her way – perhaps five -- and in those years when she had time to herself, she dressed them in fancy period costumes. The doll in the frame is the one I inherited. Actually, she was just a doll head to begin with, and she had belonged to Grandma Portfors. Mother bought the body and selected the dress pattern. The white underskirt is of the fabric for the flower girl dress I wore in Harriet’s wedding. The maroon satin was left over from a long vest I wore in college days. Another doll was dressed in the blue satin from the dress I wore in Chris and Dan’s wedding in 1972. So, you see, she had collected fabric over the years and devoted thought to how each doll should be dressed. But – in the end she was disappointed when time did not allow her the privilege of dressing the one remaining doll -- Ruth’s doll. Mother envisioned her in a long-waisted party dress just like she had worn when she was six. “I didn’t get to dress Ruth’s doll,” Mother would mourn from her nursing home bed. And finally her plaint became, “What will happen to Ruth’s doll?” “Don’t worry about it, Mother. I’ll take care of it,” and I began to make the promise she had cautioned me not to make.

So, last summer as I set up my sewing room, I began to think of this leftover project. I found the doll stored in a box with the fabric and pattern Mother had purchased for her dress. I knew the pattern had to be altered and dreaded facing that, but when I looked more closely I discovered Mother had already drawn the alterations. She had even purchased shoes and socks. No wonder she was disappointed that she couldn’t finish the work!

It’s not a project that captures my imagination, that I relate to, that I think I’m really capable of -- but I’ll give it a try. I would much rather dress vintage dolls than antique dolls. Yes, I know I have a choice and I could choose not to, but my mother knew she could depend on me, and I can be faithful to that. And that’s what counts.