It gives great pleasure to announce that eight members of the prolific Pickersgill Writing Group have received outstanding recognition for their work. The Silver Pen Creative Writing Contest, presented by the Baltimore County Department of Aging, recognizes writing among adults age 60 and older. The theme of this year’s contest was Reimagine Aging. Jane Seipp and Mernie Weathers were selected by the judges as finalists; and Jeanne Hansen, Pat Hoopes, June Kimmelshue, Bonnie Kramer, Carol Polk, and Charlotte Turadian received honorable mention ribbons. Congratulations to these talented ladies, its exceptional to note they range from 90-98 years of age. Please read on to enjoy their work.
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Blessings of the Elements: Wishes to Guide You on Your Daily Rounds
By Mernie Weathers
I wish you gentle breezes…
A soundless stirring of the air –
Cooling touches that pass by quickly
Yet refresh one everywhere.
I wish you days of laughter
Through your days of earthly toil.
Lush paths to wander over –
Sure-footedness on rocky soil.
I wish you shade a-plenty
Against summer’s fiery rays…
Yet warmed in the cold of winter
By glowing embers of a well-banked blaze.
I wish you cool, clear water
To slake your daily thirst –
A safe and secure shelter from gushing water
When Mother Nature does her worst.
Age – How We Define It
By Jane Seipp
Age, aging, aged, however we express it we come back to the same meaning: getting older.
A look at the beginning of our lives will lead us to understanding the steps that all take as we age. The newborn baby arrives in this world already nine months old, but the proud parents begin counting from the moment of the baby’s birth. They watch as each day their baby shows signs of advancing to more independent actions as it learns to turn, to sit up, to walk. Next come verbal skills. All of this growth is happening over the course of just a year. Each day signs of other development tell us this little one is moving on in the cycle of life. During this time we do not think of it, but aging is taking place.
The years from birth to adolescence are a period of what seems like very rapid growth. Personality is more strongly evident, along with the push for more independence. Signs of maturity are becoming more pronounced, and before long a young adult is moving on in life. You do not hear, “Oh, they are aging,” but isn’t that what is really happening?
Learning continues and intensifies, careers are chosen, and more years are added to this life span. After the age of 50, adults begins to think about their immortality. Have we made an impression in the world in which we live? What can we do to make this a better place for future generations? Up to this point lives have been busy with learning, working, loving, and deep down thinking about retirement. The body may begin telling us that it might be time to slow down just a bit, but the desire to keep going is still there, so we continue to listen to our head and pretend we are younger than the calendar says we are.
If we have been fortunate enough, by now, we are in what is so often referred to as the “golden years.” Yes, the years have accumulated, but how we embrace them determines whether they will be a blessing or a curse. Thanks to modern science and medicine life spans have increased so much that it is no longer unusual for a person to live to 100 or more. In the process of aging we have become aged. The body may ache, the brain may not be as sharp, but if we look back over however many years we have lived and can say thanks, aging isn’t so bad at all.
Transportation I Have Used
By Carol Polk
The first ride of my life was going home from the hospital where I as born. Maybe it was in a Model A, not a Model T. My memories begin with going to church. We took the streetcar to Lake Street where we would get off and wait for a car going north away from the Mississippi River. Finally we got off this streetcar and got in another that took us to the church. Attendance was good in those days, whatever the season or the weather. One year I attended Vacation Bible School so I did that ride every day for two weeks. My best friend attended a small Lutheran church which didn’t offer vacation Bible school so she joined me and those daily rides weren’t long at all. You had to be 14 to be confirmed so I rode the streetcars every Saturday for two years to reach that goal.
When we moved to Washington, D.C., there were more streetcars. I noticed several young African-American men riding together, talking and enjoying themselves. They sat each one by an open window and talked and laughed together. I thought it strange. Then either someone told me or I began to realize that D.C. was the only place they did not have to ride in the back of the bus or streetcar. This was the beginning of my education about the races. I had never seen any black people in Minneapolis but there were some, although none in my high school.
We took trains to get to Washington. The Hiawatha was the famous train that ran from Minneapolis to Chicago. We even had a compartment for our family of four from Chicago to D.C. The year we lived in a small town we saw the troop trains sometimes filled with young men laughing and waving. But you felt sad to see them knowing that some would not come home and some would come home like my dad with an arm or leg missing.
Landlords in D.C. did not want children so they looked at my brother who was 11 or 12 and in the seventh grade and said, “We have nothing for rent.” My mother remembered a friend who also married a soldier from World War I and Walter Reed Hospital and looked her up. She came to our rescue. She said we could have her second floor. She had recently stopped giving people physical therapy in her home. I was fascinated by a huge bathtub standing in the middle of the bathroom. They were able to life patients in and out of the tub. The lady had two sons, one was all academic, the other was mechanical. He had a motorcycle and invited me to attend a motorcycle race. I’m afraid I thought I was the cat’s meow as I watched the people in cars watching us. When we got to the motorcycle race I was amazed to see several ambulances poised to rush anyone hurt to a hospital. Thankfully, no one got hurt that evening. He also gave me a ride in a two-seater airplane. I remember how we lifted several times to land and I think it was on grass. It was all quite exciting and amazes me now because you couldn’t pay me enough to get on a motorcycle or in a did it, enjoyed it, and enjoyed telling his experiences, one of which was sleeping under a bridge and taking off his boots and putting them upside down so when he put them on in the morning he wouldn’t find a snake keeping warm inside. Sometime after this the motorcycle was not in its parking space one morning and he never saw it again. However, he had done this trip so decided it was just as well.
Going to Guam I sailed in a troop ship. There were only two troops, but lots of mothers and children. Since my husband was an officer, I was on the top deck with two others. One was pregnant and the other had two little boys.
Leaving Guam for Bill’s next station we flew along with the couple whose baby was born on Guam. The father of the two little boys was a pilot and was killed over or near Vietnam. It was very hard on her when the ship returned without him. She decided to stay in San Diego until she could figure out what was best to do. Sad to say, I lost touch with both women. One thing we were glad about: the parents wanted to take a trip to Japan but couldn’t find anyone to stay with the little boys, two and three years old. Bill and I thought we could do it if we could keep them at our house. So they agreed and it worked out well. They were mischievous, but we enjoyed them.
By Bonnie Kramer
What used to be…
Sharp is dim – memory
Thick is thin – hair
Clear is hazy – vision
Dry is runny – nose
Smooth is cracked – lips
Straight is bent – spine
Flawless is wrinkled – skin
Strong is unsteady – balance
Easy is difficult – handwriting
Limber is stiff – arms and legs
Painfree is aching – head to toe.
And now for the 3 Bs
What should be…
Up is down – boobs
Flat is round – belly
Firm is flabby – behind.
And they say these are the Golden Years –
I am a living, breathing antonym!
My Trip Back to the Past
By June Kimmelshue
I waited with excitement for a week. My son David and his wife Betsy were due on Friday. On Saturday morning we planned to leave at 9 a.m. for Pennsylvania to visit a former neighbor and her husband in Downingtown. He, I had never met. Betty and I lived next door to each other through my high school years. It had been the better part of 70 years since seeing each other. We had for some time been telephoning and writing, but the thought of seeing one another meant so much.
Arising early on Saturday it was obvious that the day was not going to be good weather-wise. The trees and streets were covered with ice. Mother Nature had done her work all night. There was no question that our trip into the past had to be canceled. “Well,” said Betty when I called, “tomorrow is supposed to be better, and we are free, can you come then?” My son had suggested we consider this. Things began to look brighter.
The drive was about 80 miles. We drove on Route 1 near Oxford where my parents had lived in a community called Oxford Manor, much like Pickersgill. From there we drove through Coatesville which years before had been a steel mill town. There were still signs that the town once bustled with activity, but today all was quiet. Everything appeared very old and dilapidated. We did not see one person on the street.
A few miles further and we were at my friend’s door. Betty and Fair, her husband, greeted us hospitably. David and Fair remained in the living room and discovered they had interests in common. Betty and my daughter-in-law and I retired to the family room to talk about just that, family, and years past, the coming holidays, and Betty’s younger sister, Dorothy, coming from Florida for Christmas. The hours passed quickly, and then we felt it was time to move on. Fair gave us directions to West Chester where I had lived next door to Betty’s family through high school. After those days we lost contact. I was married and Betty being seven years younger was still in school.
We arrived on Market Street in West Chester. As we drove along the streets I became the tour guide, looking for familiar landmarks. The first was the county jail where I spent many afternoons. It was a large grey stone walled building and prisoners’ yard. My boyfriend Bill loved photography and had a wonderful dark room. We could only go as far as that in the house. The jail was secured so that the family remained safe. Today, however, I found no county jail. It had probably been moved to a new, larger location.
As we approached the center of town I could not find the lovely little hotel, the Mansion House. When I was married the out-of-town guests stayed there. How time does change things!
We continued on High Street toward Wilmington, Delaware. What was once open land now had every car dealer known to man and was called “Car Row.”
We soon stopped for dinner, drove on to Painter’s Cross Road, made a right turn and were in Chadd’s Ford. This area is known for artists, especially the Wyeths. The Wyeth Museum is a known tourist attraction. We passed Longwood Gardens being very familiar with the area. My parents are buried there, and I spent a lot of time at Longwood as a child. My father worked in the DuPont mansion. Mr. DuPont (Pierre) was a very modest man and so good to his employees.
I wanted to have time to show my son the home of Herb Pennock, a great baseball pitcher of his time. My father gave my son as a young boy a picture of Herb Pennock and Babe Ruth together. My son treasures this because Herb Pennock and his granddad were close friends, growing up in Kennett Square together. However, today the family home is gone; a mall, condos and commercial property have replaced just about everything I knew to be there.
We drove into Kennett Square by Main Street. A lot of changes had occurred there, too. The fire station, bank, and hotel – gone. The hotel was owned by Herb Pennock’s father-in-law. From there we drove down South Union to see the house where I lived until I was 14. Pierre DuPont once owned the house. Today it is almost 200 years old, being built in 1834. Betsy jumped out of the car to take pictures. There was much more in the area to be seen, just not enough time.
I had a wonderful Christmas 2016 thanks to my son and Betsy.
On Christmas I received a heavy package. When I opened it there was a book by artist Philip Jamison who lives in West Chester. He and Bill, the warden’s son, and I were great friends. His girlfriend at the time lived in a big old country house. It was always open to her friends on Saturday nights. We would dance, eat, and have fun. I’ll always remember those days, and they became alive again on December 18, 2016.
My story is not complete without saying to be a child growing up in small-town America was at its best. Of course, not every child had the good things. I was a lucky one: horses; ponies; Molly, my pet lamb; dogs; cats; and chickens. Molly probably loved my grandfather best of all. His harness business was in our barn and Molly was always with him. When he would leave the barn and go “uptown” to the fire station and his friends, can’t you just see Molly following him, settling herself at his feet until he was ready to return home.
Thank you David and Betsy for a great day back to the past.
By Jeanne Hansen
When I was a little girl I had a tricycle which I rode up and down the street, never more than two blocks, all by myself. When my mother was upstairs at the doctor’s office having my little sister, I pedaled the two blocks and was told I could not go in because my mother was having a hard time with a breach birth.
When I was older, I had a bicycle, which I sometimes rode to the swimming pool. Other times I walked along the dirt path that led around the side of the hill to the pool. I could pick blackberries along the way. During my teen years I rode a bike to school. Sometimes I went to the store for my mother and brought groceries home in the basket. With a group of friends, I hiked up to 10 miles out into the country and back. Also I cycled with a girlfriend or two. Once we went down a country road and my grandfather drove out looking for us. He put the bikes in his car and brought us home. I was glad to see him. The ride back would have been uphill all the way.
There was no regular train service from Wellsboro. I recall one summer when my mother suggested that I might like to visit my grandmother and her family in Reading. The nearest train connection was 50 miles away, in Williamsport. There was no bus service. I was to take my seven-year-old sister with me on the train. This was a big adventure for both of us. It was a steam engine, winding through all the little coal towns between Williamsport and Reading, up and down hills, “choo choo” all the way, with lots of coal smoke from the locomotive coming in the windows if we opened them. (This was not my first train ride. I went to Florida on a Pullman with my mother when I was five or six.)
The Reading trip was memorable, since my grandmother allowed me to go with my sister to Carsonia Park, a local carnival. My sister had a small leather zip change purse holding 75 cents. We stood in line for a ride and I spotted one of the carnies taking Carol’s little purse out of her back pocket. I shouted “Put that back!” and he did. I was proud of myself for foiling the pickpocket. I was also a little scared. When we went up in the Ferris wheel I clamped one arm around her neck so she couldn’t fall out and held on tight. We spent most of our money but went home happily on the trolley, which took us within two blocks of Grandmother’s row house. We stayed just one week and were returned to the train station by aunts and uncles to repeat the train ride, northbound to Williamsport. We were met at the station for the 50-mile trip to Wellsboro.
The Reading trip was a rite of passage for me. Driving and flying came later, of course. So did crossing the ocean on a ship. That’s another story.
By Charlotte Turadian
It never occurred to me growing up to question whatever we were being served for a meal. I don’t remember complaining about anything except once. I did say to a grade school friend that my mother served stuffed peppers and made us eat them. My children Roxane and Allan always knew there were no substitutes and ate whatever I served.
I was served a piece of pecan pie by a Bates classmate of my mother’s, usually a treat. The pecans were so rancid, but I forced myself to finish it and said nothing. What does one do in such a situation?
Roxane made a huge amount of potato salad and dyed it blue. She must have been in high school. The egg yolks were green. No one ate it.
My daughter received a phone call from the Lutherville Fire Department. “The smoke alarm at 215 Charmuth Road is sounding and no one answers the phone. Do you know where your mother is?”
Roxane told them, “I’m in Kentucky. I have no idea!”
She called my son on his cell. “Do you know where Mom is?” “She’s sitting right here with me. We’re at the Towson Diner.” By the time we reached home they were coming out of the house. “You shouldn’t leave your house unlocked,” I was chided. “But then you would have had to break in,” I said.
I had left eggs boiling on the stove and the pot was completely dry, the gas burner still on, hard boiled eggs exploding.
A Story of True Love
By Pat Hoopes
This is a difficult assignment for me, but I finally decided to write about one of two love affairs I had with our pets: one a Chihuahua mix and the other a blue-blooded Brussels Griffon, both belonging to the miniature class of dogs. As you can already see, I am a hopeless animal lover who can be found in front of the TV every Saturday morning watching a steady streaming of animal programs like “Jack Hanna’s Wild Kingdom” and “The Wildlife Docs.”
My husband, whose mother had never allowed a pet for the children growing up, was excited to learn he had married a wife who had grown up with animals and who wanted one as soon as we had a house.
Of course we always had a dog as well as two children, and when the children were off to college and we had lost our little seven-pound Annie (an adorable sweet-tempered mix), something loving was missing in our life. Of course I knew what it was. My sister was researching small dogs that could adapt to apartment living as her husband was being transferred often at the time. Her vet told her of a breeder in Pennsylvania whose Brussels Griffon was expecting puppies and their litter was always small – one to three pups at a time. That set off a chain of phone calls to the breeder and a trip to PA when the pups were born. There were two males and one female; my sister immediately laid claim to the two males, and we were told that the female was not for sale. Several weeks went by and after much pleading the breeder relented and decided we could have the female as she was the runt and too small to be bred.
After that came 11 years with Ginger, who bonded with my husband instantly and who spent many hours lying next to him on the bed during his long three-year illness.
I’ll never forget the day I followed the ambulance to the hospital and came home alone. Ginger was there to meet me and suddenly she ran into our bedroom, circled the bed, came out and never went into the room again.
After that Ginger avoided me, would not let me pet or hold her, and only accepted what care was necessary from me. To her I had taken her best friend away and come home without him, and she could never forgive me. Ginger refused to eat toward the end and died of a broken heart two years later. Who could ever think our best friends are dumb!
The Trials of Travel
By Mernie Weathers
In the early days and weeks of 1949 I prepared to travel to Okinawa in the Ryukus Islands (near Japan) to begin the job I had taken with the U.S. Civil Service as a CAF-3 clerk stenographer for the U.S. Army, at a military base established there after World War II.
After the usual paperwork, required inoculations I bought, filled, and shipped a large trunk of personal items, notified family and friends, and took off. Well, sort of. There were a lot of miles between my apartment in Helena, Montana, and the women’s compound in Camp Kue on a military outpost in the Pacific still being constructed.
The first leg of that journey was a train ride to San Francisco, begun on Saturday, 12 February, in a snowstorm, via Ogden, Utah, past the Great Salt Lake, and over the mountains into California. But our departure was delayed six hours by the snowstorm and we later became stuck in a huge snowdrift in Western Utah. Our train had no diner – we never reached the point of rendezvous to attach one. Soon, we had no heat. The train’s generator was powered by the forward motion of the wheels. In the meantime, I had met a young woman wearing a heavy fur coat, which she shared as a warm cover for us on my lower bunk where we lay eating the small box of Velveeta cheese and crackers as our dinner. My sister had suggested taking them, commenting, “You never know if you will be delayed and need something to eat.” I believe I also had a flashlight, or someone on the train crew did. Our train was reached several hours later by a powerful engine sent out to tow us backwards into Salt Lake City, as we ate a complimentary breakfast from Union Pacific in an attached dining car…delicious (ham, bacon, eggs, hash browns), and later a lunch. [A side note: A few passengers were previously on a train that had been stalled in Rawlins, Wyoming, for eight days because of this snowstorm. Food, water, medical supplies, etc. were dropped in by airplane (no helicopters in 1949!) until the train was reached by rescue crews. The passenger cars of that train were never moved, but were burned in place for sanitary reasons.]
In Salt Lake City we were bused to a local hotel for a chance to get in touch with family and for me to contact my military sponsors about the delay, plus an overnight stay to clean up and rest.
By now, it was Tuesday, 15 February, and we were concerned about getting on with our original plans and destinations. Alternate arrangements were made for us to finish the train trip begun three days earlier. We arrived in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco at 2 a.m. on Thursday, 17 February. We were allowed to stay in our berths until 7 a.m. before being taken over to our hotels.
At this point, I had an unfortunate exposure to life in the “Big City.” When I went to claim my luggage off the train in Oakland, the clerk told me he couldn’t find it…although I could see both small, matching cases just beyond his head. Over and over he said my cases were not there; those I saw belonged to someone else. It was too much! I broke out crying – loud, slobbery sobs. Amazing turn-about…”Hush, lady, don’t cry, don’t cry”…as he placed the disputed cases on the counter within my reach. I don’t remember leaving a tip, and only realized later that he had been angling for a “finder’s fee” in advance. Nor did I especially realize that a woman’s tears could be such an effective tool in certain situations; sheer exhaustion had fueled my outburst.
Further, in my youth and ignorance of the ways of the world (22 years old), I realized I was now alone in a Big City…completely unaware that the military “takes care of its own” and I now belonged with them. I just reasoned I had very little money, a hotel bill to pay, food to buy, and that my ship had sailed without me on board. It was a time to “regroup,” take charge and find a solution to a rather serious problem. Aha – find a job! So I went up and down the streets near my hotel checking out possibilities at small eateries, and at a Woolworth’s Dime Store. No one seemed especially interested in my employment availability.
Upon returning to my hotel, there were messages asking curtly “Where have you been?” and telling me to “report in” at Fort Mason asap. The hotel clerk gave me directions and away I went, thankful it was a straight shot of many blocks. Whether I walked or took a bus, I can no longer mercifully remember.
There I was informed that a ship had been re-routed (for little ole me) to Okinawa and would leave in a couple days. I spent that time walking and walking. I went to a movie, rode the buses and streetcars, and enjoyed the ambiance of a fascinating city – especially when wrapped in a fog. I now felt secure knowing I was in the good hands of the U.S. military. I never mentioned the futile job hunt in any contact with my military sponsors – it would have meant a lack of confidence on my part in their professional personnel responsibilities.
But the trip did not end there. I reported in as instructed and awaited orders…walking about Fort Mason observing military custom and scheduling…the snappy retreat at the end of the day to lower the flag to the recorded strains of the “Star Spangled Banner”; and a summons into the chapel to act as a witness in a marriage ceremony being performed by the chaplain. I have often wondered if in later years the couple wondered just who that person was on their marriage certificate.