Reflections on a large family

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Today, Tuesday the 5th is a big day at our house. Grannie Annie’s birthday, her 81st. Typically for her we will celebrate along with 24 or so volunteer workers out in our garage backing boxes to send to one of “her” chaplains deployed overseas. This particular one is stationed in Egypt with a UN multinational peacekeeping force. Fifty some boxes filled with Christmas cheer, cards and letters, personal items, snack food, Hard Tac and other forms of jerky, the list goes on. Most important will be good feelings of those on the receiving end knowing that people back home care.

This year our community will be sending a total of 320 care packages, one Chaplain requested only 20, to Grannie Annie’s seven adopted chaplains. All paid for by donations, both money and items to send, from the generous hearts of the good people in the expanded community of this town and Southwest Nebraska. What a wonderful place to live—caring wonderfully big hearted people. Kudos also to the local post office employees who cheerfully do the extra work of processing all those packages coming in large groups.

How better way to celebrate Grannie Annie’s birthday? Doing what she loves to do with people she enjoys and sharing fresh coffee cake and a big birthday cake all given by special friends as a finale. Grannie has always made it a practice that refreshments were not a part of packing day but gee we have to make an exception to honor the special lady on her special day. Grannie Annie is adamant that this will be her last year of celebrating her Adopt A Chaplain program but I think that I heard the same last year about this time. We will see.

Your old columnist received a wonderful reflection this week. A young man, a teacher in the McCook school system, was delivering Christmas cards to send to the troops. Christmas cards written out by his Junior High students. He asked if I used to write for the Gazette? He then explained that as a child he would visit with his grandmother in Benkelman. Grandmother would sit him down and have him read one of my columns and then she would have him explain to her what he had read and make comments on it. Pretty sharp grandmother meaningfully shaping a child’s life. Young child and now a teacher---I guess that I have been contributing a rather long time. So rightfully I can boast of being old!

I wrote some three weeks ago of Ann’s best friend Connie Padgett suffering a massive stroke and passing away. Tomorrow we will be having a memorial service and celebration of life for the lady that was so successful in life. Her remains will then be buried in the Wallace Cemetery alongside her parents near the wonderful small town that so shaped her early life. May she rest in peace.

Connie grew up in a large family, ten children, in the small town atmosphere of Wallace, Nebraska. Her two sole remaining siblings, two gentlemen both successful in life are here cleaning out her possessions, the lady had excellent taste, and are preparing her home for sale. In slack times they reminiscence about what it was like living in a two bedroom home remembering three brothers all sleeping together in one bed. One would move and the smallest among them would pop up and down.

Mother would cook and meals were served on a long table with benches on each side, not unlike a picnic table. Kink (how would you like that name given because of his kinky bright red hair?) had a strong liking for creamed corn so when the serving dish went around he would empty the dish on his plate to savor. Somehow the siblings objected!

In those days a branch rail line ran through Wallace. Salesmen and other passengers rode that local train along with freight and mail. One peddler of watches, wrist and pocket, had a rather unseemly reputation and was feared by the young children of the town. One day, a put up deal, the Padgett dad was showing his new wristwatch to the mother with Kink listening in. Mother asked what he had paid for it and Dad’s response was that he traded Kink for it. All the peddler had to do was catch the child in town and take him away. Kink told that for the next couple of years whenever he heard the whistle of an approaching train he made a bee line for home and stayed there until the train was gone.

Child abuse? Nah in those days such antics by parents was seen as character building.

Tom the older brother told of going off to the Army and when he was home on leave before departing overseas he gave his mother a dime sized watch. He’d given up an entire month’s pay, $70, to buy the watch because as a child he heard his mother often saying that she’d love to have a dime sized watch some day. Tom also gave the family a toaster, the first that the family ever had.

The nearest doctor was thirty miles away. Whenever one of those kids would suffer a cut the home remedy was to place salt on it. My own mom used iodine and told us that if it didn’t hurt it wasn’t healing.

Lots of stories but in the present day large families are few. Children are treasured and pampered and perhaps we are missing out on the character building that comes with having a large number of siblings to shape young lives. For sure it is a different way of life. Good or bad? Only time will tell.

That is how I saw it.

Dick Trail

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