In my family, we all bring different dishes for holiday meals so nobody has to do the entire meal plus get their house and table ready. That’s one of the nice things about having grown children. It’s also one of the nice things about cooking in the 21st Century where people seem to be busier and don’t have the time. But, are we busier than earlier times? Are we?

I recently picked up a book at an estate sale. It’s a big book, very big.

First published in 1887, this edition is from 1913 and has instructions for everything you can imagine with tributes to all the first ladies who have lived in the White House to date.

It truly does have instructions for preparing every kind of food you have heard or never heard of, plus instructions for homemade cleaning solutions, home remedies for every ailment, and tips on entertaining. Very comprehensive. Since we are in holiday season, I’m going to share the menus suggested for Christmas Day. Yikes!

The numbers are page numbers for the recipes. Can you even imagine having this much food on the table? Granted, the White House probably had a crew of cooks and servers, but here are a couple of the pictures they show of preparations

How early do you think they started cooking, even in everyday homes? Where did they get all their ingredients? They didn’t have supermarkets or online ordering. How long did all of this take? How hot was that kitchen? So many questions that basically are only asked because I feel such gratitude for my everyday luxuries today.

You’re probably saying that the White House is a little different from normal households. In the chapter on hosting dinners, I found this little suggestion for home dinners. What would your family think if you served this tonight?

Women in the old days spent a great deal of their time in the kitchen – all day long – from one meal to the next. It’s amazing they got anything else done, but they did. I say the women because that’s who did the majority of this work.

As you head into the final holidays of the year, keep remembering those who went before you. We have created our own hectic holidays, but be thankful for the advances that make our lives easier – at least in the kitchen!

Happy Holidays!

When I lost my 15, almost 16, year old Labradoodle Molly over a year ago, I really grieved. She was such a good girl. Well, most of the time she was. I overlooked the barking and digging and taking off when she had the chance and the chewing (when she was a puppy) because she loved me so much. I loved her too, but she was a big bundle of big love directed at me. It’s impossible to resist that. I still have my 15 year old Westie Annabelle who became my little sidekick. We were too old ladies in our routine and she was pretty easy if I overlooked the barking. Sigh.

I didn’t want to replace Molly, but I missed her and have to realize that, no matter how lively Annabelle still is, she too will be gone, hopefully before I am. I’m 76 and all the arguments for not getting another dog – or cat – are there. What if I outlive it? Do I have the patience to train a puppy? Do I want to adopt an older dog? What kind of dog do I want? I’ve had all kinds through the years so I’m open to different kinds. Do I want to spend the money it takes for a pet? What do I do when I travel? Isn’t it nice not having pet hair around?

The pandemic pups were everywhere. One friend I’ve known forever adopted two puppies as her older dog aged. Those years were some of the best with my dogs as I was home and they had me all to themselves with very few absences on my part. I made it through that period without worrying about the possibility of not having any pets.

Note here: I’ve also had fish, hamsters, lizards, birds, rabbits, ducks, chicks around the house, none of which appealed to me as a pet at this stage.

Not having any pets seemed like a good idea for about an hour. I’ve always had dogs around and cats here and there. I didn’t realize I took them for granted, but they were always there. Schmidt, Baroness, Pumpkin, Cookie, Sugar, Pepper, Salty, Guy, Tim – Dachshunds, English Setters, Pointer, Westies, mutt. black, white, brown, red. All kinds of dogs had stolen my heart. It was inevitable that I would see pics of all kinds of dogs.

My friends posted pets all the time on social media. I looked at every rescue dog and cat, waiting for one to click. I looked online for breeders and looked at mutts. I went back and forth. One day I went through the Craigslist pets for one more time and found several dogs I was interested in, all puppies. Yikes. I was going to make a big commitment to be patient, train and raise a baby although I’ve raised and help raise four children and eight grandchildren besides the other pets. To be honest, I found one online that turned out to be a puppy scam, but my bank stopped me. There was one I checked on that looked too much like Molly and I didn’t want to try and replace her and I remembered that I sometimes didn’t see her and tripped over her since she was black and hard to see at night. I remembered my age.

Anyway, I found a puppy that looked good and the price was pretty reasonable. I really wasn’t going to pay thousands for a puppy since I’ve never done that before. One dog I paid $10 for and she was a delight. Annabelle was a rescue puppy. Anyway, this puppy was meant to be. The owner called her an English Doodle, but, when I asked if she owned both the parents, she told me the mother was an English Setter and the father was a Standard Poodle, which makes her an English SetterDoodle. The ears were pumpkin colored, just like my husband’s old setter, Pumpkin, way back. I drove 1 1/2 hours with my almost 13 year old granddaughter to a small town I’d never heard of and met the owner and her young son. It was instant love. For some reason, I thought I’d change my mind, although I knew that was pretty unlikely.

I mean. That face! The pink spots on the nose, the color around the eyes. She felt like a soft cotton ball. I was all in.

Of course, she threw up after we driven a block. We stopped and took care of that and she slept in the back seat with my granddaughter on the way home. I really hadn’t thought about what I would do when I got her home because I didn’t want to get a lot of stuff and then not get the dog. She was 8 weeks old and the owners probably weren’t going to breed their dogs any more. I think they’d had two litters – not exactly a puppy mill. I think she’d only been around her littermates, her parents, chickens and goats and a little boy. Really a baby.

I had a small sack of the food she’d been eating and an extra bowl at home. Hmmm. We stopped and picked up a dog bed and a toy and headed home. I’m not a very good crate person, although I know they are wonderful and my kids have loved them. Annabelle was fine with the new addition. I’m sure she realized she was just a baby and they were about the same size.

The first night, I really was tired and didn’t want to deal with her crying so I just put her on the bed with me. Annabelle sleeps on her bed beside me until we both get up in the night and she joins me on the bed. Amazingly, the puppy did just fine. That was just plain luck.

Oh – her name. I decided that, because her ears are orange, she should have a name connected to my alma mater, OSU. I couldn’t think of a name that went with cowboys so I tried to think of any red-headed cowgirls. She’s Jessie after the red-headed cowgirl in Toy Story. Random, but it works. We like feisty girls in my house.

The first time I had to leave her, I put her in the bathroom and had to leave this pitiful scene.

I ended up getting a crate for $10 from a friend and left her in it a couple of times. Of course, Annabelle wasn’t crated, so it was a little confusing. I actually quit the crate, although it still sits in my office and Annabelle has slept in it a couple of times. Jessie is doing fine. She recognized her name right away and learned to come, although we need to work on that.

Right away she learned to sit and now shakes hands. Jessie is 16 weeks old now and has been to the vet for shots twice and to the beauty shop. She rides in the car sometimes and I finally got her to walk around the block on a leash for the first time this week. Before, she was just not going to do that. We start puppy classes this week. She’s doing ok on her housebreaking – not perfect, but good. Mostly, like a toddler, I need to take her out every time I stand up. She will wait in my office with Annabelle while I’m out and is just fine until I get back, which is amazing.

And, she’s grown. I was told she would be 40-45 pounds when grown, but we’ll see. Molly was supposed to be 50 pounds and she ended up 80. Jessie was 11 pounds at her first vet visit here and 20 pounds a month later. It’s ok. I’m all in.

She’s going to be a counter surfer unless I can get that to stop (I’m trying).

She and Annabelle chase each other all over the place. She has perked up the old dog who mainly slept and chased a squirrel here and there. Amazing. Because they are old and young, they both wear out and flop for naps. It balances out. She’s grown into a bigger baby. Like all my little ones, human and animal, I’m watching to see how she’ll look as an adult. Pretty cute so far.

Did I make the right choice? Of course. She’s more work, but she’s funny and fun and keeps me moving so that we might grow old together. She’s a bit of light in a world that seems so dark right now. She’s a bundle of love who warms my heart on the days I need a boost. The day the dogs went to the groomer, the house was deadly silent and I realized that I need to have some movement and noise, some responsibility, a living being to talk nonsense to and another warm body to cuddle.

I mean. That face.

September 1 is, or used to be, the opening of Dove season in Oklahoma, so I always think of the hunters I have known and loved with a twinge as the date approaches. Hunting goes way back in my family. My paternal grandfather grew up in Kentucky and I’ve heard stories of him as a boy going out with the dogs to bring back food for the family. They weren’t poor, but there were a lot of them to feed with the bounty they brought home.

My grandfather had three sons and a daughter and only the oldest, my father, hunted with him as far as I know. I just discovered some old home movies that show them in the fields hunting quail and pheasant. I can’t find any photos, except this one of one of the dogs, from probably back in the 40s. There’s a screen shot of my grandfather from the home movies. I remember his cute hat and watching the men leave and then come home to clean the birds for a fantastic dinner. The pheasant hunting wasn’t common, but they always hunted quail.

I’m not a gun lover in our present climate of assault weapons, but I grew up with all the rituals of hunting. Unfortunately, I never got to go out with the men because I was busy with children and my own activities, but would have if life had been different after the kids were older. My husband didn’t grow up around hunting, but he took to it immediately and he and my father were hunting buddies for years. My son because a hunter because he liked being with his father, not because he loved it. I remember him taking a gun safety class when he turned 12, back when gun organizations were more about safety and hunting rather than just guns as weapons.

The things I know about hunting and hunters are that there are so many things they love about it besides the actual hunting. First, there is just being outside, walking in the fields. They would go out in the weeks before hunting season to check out the fields, run the dogs, get ready for the new year. Whether it was hot or cold, there was always the draw of just being out there, away from their other responsibilities, enjoying the whole experience. They restored their souls.

Second, there were the dogs. We always had dogs. Watching the home movies, I had to smile at the dogs, hunting dogs. My father always taught them to shake hands, besides all the other things they had to know. Hunting dogs are lovable, faithful companions as well as working dogs. Because we lived in the city, our hunting dogs often went to kennels for the summer where they could run in the fields and keep up with their hunting skills rather than baking in the heat of the city. We always had a dog kennel and run in our yards, although the dogs were often inside with us, lounging by their owners. Training the dogs was part of the fun. They had to learn to fetch and bring the birds to their owners without damaging the birds. Pointing the birds was instinct, but they had to learn to back up the other dogs they were hunting with. Training a bird dog involved a lot of work, but it was necessary for them to do their job and be with other hunters and dogs. Here is a photo of my father with two of his dogs, Buddy (pointer) and Grandpa (English Setter). Grandpa had already been named when Daddy got him, named because he acted like an old Grandpa. He was a wonderful dog. Daddy would let him out to run in the neighborhood (this was a long time ago) and we loved calling for him. “Here Grandpa. Come here, Grandpa!” I guess the neighbors learned who we were calling.

My husband learned to train his own dogs and we had Pumpkin (English Setter), Guy (Pointer) and Tim (English Setter). After my husband died, I gave Tim (shown in photo visiting with our cat through the window) to one of my husband’s hunting buddies.

When it was time for Tim to leave, he turned to me and jumped up, putting his paws on my shoulders and looking at me, eye to eye, as if to tell me if was all ok. No wonder we loved these dogs. Here’s my husband hunting with Guy.

The next thing about hunting was the camaraderie with the other hunters. I loved hearing my father and my husband on the phone in the evenings with each other or friends, planning where they would meet for the hunt or the dog running. Usually the hunters left early to drive to the fields (often an hour from the city) for the first hunt of the day. Then there were the hunters’ breakfasts in the cafes in the small towns near where they hunted, where the places would be packed with hunters in for a huge meal before they went out again. My husband always looked pretty sharp and the people he hunted with used to tease him about how pressed his shirts were. He hunted with people from all walks of life and I used to laugh when he would lapse into a county twang sometimes after being with them. Here are some pictures from my grandfather and my husband’s hunts. Granddad’s is from a screenshot, but it’s the same vibe as hunts decades later.

While most people have fancier Thanksgiving days, it was always a hunting day for us. The men got up early to hunt and we ate after they came back later in the day. My cousin married a guy who was from a small town and owned land (always a bonus), so we started going to their house for the meal so the men could hunt there. It was a great time with all the cousins and the men (the ones who hunted) coming back in time for food and football.

Then there were the birds and the actual hunting. All the hunters I knew were great conservationists and worked with the game rangers to make sure the birds weren’t being over hunted so there was plenty for all. Many of the men my guys hunted with depended on hunting for meat for their families, so they didn’t want to deplete the fields. They all appreciated everything about the birds and their activities. Walking in a field with my husband always involved a stop to inspect the poop to see that everything was ok in the bird world. My grandfather and father hunted pheasant, as I said, but mostly quail. My husband hunted quail, once went prairie chicken hunting, tried duck hunting (didn’t like being cold and wet and sitting rather than walking), and discovered dove hunting. Dove hunting didn’t involve the dogs, but was great. He got a great recipe for cooking the meat on the grill and was happy to do so. I miss those meals!

The hunters in my life brought home the game, cleaned it and cooked it for the family. I used to cook the quail, but my husband liked to do it so I happily let him. Here are some pictures of my father (another screen shot from the 1940s) and some game from a hunt.

The changing of the season is always bittersweet for me. I’ve lost all my hunters and I miss all the things about their hunting that are such a part of my life. I love how happy they were as they prepared, cleaning their guns, laying out their gear the night before the early departures. I love how relaxed they were when they returned from a day outside, walking with friends or just the dogs, sharing their stories and their bounty with the family. Even a day without finding a bird was a good one. Just because.

Here are my son and husband after a dove hunt many years ago. The memories are still as clear as can be for me.

Happy Hunting out there!

The problem with thinking of life in chapters is that there has to be a last one. Who wants to think about that? I’ve just been pondering where I am, following the quiet years of COVID-19 where I was home more than I had been in decades. There were good things about it. I spent more time with my pets, listened to the birds, walked the neighborhood and everybody smiled and waved. Now we’re back to mostly normal, but it’s hard to comfortably move from pandemic life to whatever the new one is.

I’m 76 right now and, pre-COVID, I was going all the time. Now it seems to be moving more slowly and that’s not just due to my age. We’re easing into life at a time when I feel like I need to be hurrying so I don’t miss anything before, frankly, I just can’t do it anymore.

There have been so many chapters in my life so far, starting with childhood in the 40s and 50s. I was fortunate to have a very peaceful, comfortable life.

Then there was junior high and high school, where I changed and grew and learned and questioned.

And then there was college, where I was away for the first time and made new friends and learned more and even got married.

And then I was a wife and mother to four before I turned 30, finding a life for myself through volunteer work and family activities.

And life went on as the kids grew up and went to college and married and I went to work part-time, then full time and then owned my own business. And then the shock of becoming a widow at 52 and starting yet another chapter where I had to close my business and find work that gave me health benefits and supported me and all of that. During that time, I pushed myself into going places by myself or with friends to meet me. The first was Alaska with my high school friend who lived there. It was a big trip to take alone when I’d always had my husband to travel with.

By the time my husband died, we had the first three of our grandkids, who proved to be my next chapter and my salvation.

I could go on about each chapter, but they are all parts of a huge whole life. I had several careers that I had never dreamed of as a young wife with an English degree, but my life experiences and my ability to communicate served me well through the years and I made new friends, accomplished new goals and was amazed at what I had done when I finally retired.

My other love has been travel and I’ve been grateful for special friends who were available to travel with me as I traveled the American West, South, and back to France. I’ve taken my grandchildren on trips and explored my own state of Oklahoma and the states around us. I’m always ready to go visit somewhere.

So, what is this new chapter? I’ve lost friends who were near and dear to me in recent months and spent the last week or two at memorial services. I’m not good at funerals, but two of my favorite people lost their husbands after long illnesses and I needed to be there for them. I also lost a friend at the end of last year who was 95 and another who was 101 in the last few weeks. I also went to a memorial for a friend’s mother who was 101 – two services for 101 year olds in five days!

But those deaths and the lives of these women we were celebrating have inspired me. I have had many men I loved and adored in my life, but it’s the women who are speaking to me at this time of my life. I had strong grandmothers and a strong mother and their lives have taught me so much. These other women I adored who lived so long were as strong as anyone can be. And I look at their lives and try to find the secret of what made them the role models they are for me.

First, all of these women had to face hardships at various times in their lives, whether loss of spouse, loss of child, loss of husband’s job, loss of any support other than themselves. They all lived on and smiled and laughed and loved and didn’t just sit around feeling sorry for themselves. None of them ever considered themselves a victim. There was no drama – just life.

Second, I can remember all of their voices and their laughter so well. The memories make me smile. They all had terrific senses of humor and were able to laugh at life’s little kicks.

Third, they never quit going as long as they could. They were always curious and learning and keeping up with what was going on in the world. They never stopped growing intellectually or emotionally. Several traveled until they had infirmities that made it difficult. The 95 year old and the 101 year old read all the time. The 95 year old was still reading about a book a day until close to the end.

They all loved their families as much as anyone could. They died beloved by their offspring.

So, where do I go from here? I’ll keep traveling until I can’t, reading until I can’t see (and then there are audio books), learning several new things every day, fighting for the things I believe in and doing what I can to leave the world a better place because I’ve been here, even if my contribution is something small. I’ll keep enjoying my children and grandchildren and be here to share their lives with all the ups and downs that there will be. I’m not sad that they’re all growing older because I’m so privileged to be here to watch it all and put it in the perspective of our world and all the family members who have gone before.

So this next chapter is exciting to think about and invites new goals. Basically, I’m just going to keep on keeping on for as long as I’m supposed to. Lucky me.

In Summer 1977, I was a 31 year old mom with four children ages 9, 7, 4 and 1 1/2, three girls and a boy. I read about a movie that was getting big audiences. This was a time when I had to hear about it from a newspaper article because there was no entertainment news, internet, social media. Anyway, we went to see it and fell in love. A “Star Wars” family was born.

Before we got our first VCR, my friend got one and I had her record “Star Wars” when it came out on HBO, the only way you saw movies at home then. I also had her record “Emmit Otter’s Jugband Christmas,” but that’s another story. We soon got a VCR, which cost $1,000 and was a combo VCR/video camera. I can’t even begin to explain how all of that worked, but we were kind of ahead of everyone. The main thing was that the family was able to watch “Star Wars” over and over.

And then came the toys. Oh my. My youngest daughter tells me now that she asked for them and I told her she could play with her brother’s, but I don’t have that memory (selective on my part). Anyway, we had them all, I’m sure. My sister lived a block away and had two boys around the ages of my youngest kiddos, so we were always on the watch for the newest characters. There wasn’t the convenience of online shopping, so we just relied on word of mouth between moms or ads in the paper. However we knew, we knew. I would take the kids to school and drive to a neighboring town with the promise of finding some figure. We collected either the packaging of the characters of cereal boxtops to send off for exclusive figures. Whew.

At Christmas and on birthdays, my son got the toys. I was the one who raced to the stores to get them, then put them together and pasted all the little stickers in place, which included all the instrument boards in the space vehicles. They were tiny and you had to get them on in one try or they tore or went on crooked. There were a few of those.

From then on, I spent a lot of time picking up toys, trying to match tiny guns with the right character, keeping from breaking anything as I stepped through the floor of my son’s room. As my daughter says, these were toys that were played with. They took them outside in the leaves and dirt, built little Star Wars empires all over the yard and house. As each of the three original films was released, there were more things to find. I took it as a Mom Challenge – like it was part of my job description. My oldest daughter’s 12th birthday party was taking her friends to see whichever film came out that year. We were all into it.

We had no clue that all of this would become a huge deal, that those toys would be collectible. We didn’t keep them in their packages stored away with the first ones. As my son grew older, he did have some of the newer ones. The kids grew up and the toys were put away, but they were kept. My daughter-in-law remembers seeing the Millennium Falcon in a place of prominence when she was dating my son. She did stay with him, thank goodness.

Time went on, the kids grew up and married and had their own children, my son died of cancer at 35, and the toys were in bins in my garage. My eight grandchildren (6 boys and 2 girls) are huge fans of everything Star Wars. I remember when the first movies were re-released in the theaters for the first time and sitting with my oldest daughter and her husband while she was pregnant with her oldest son. I’m sure our excitement was absorbed into the womb.

Parents and kids watch every new variation, as do I. I’m not into all of the offshoots, but I’ve certainly been a fan of The Mandalorian, Boba Fett, and Obi Wan Kenobi.

This summer, my son’s 12 1/2 year old daughter and I were at an antique show in a small town. I asked her if she saw anything and she said she found some Darth Vader things she liked. I looked at them and told her we weren’t going to buy them because we had them at home. A couple of days later, she and I pulled some tubs out of the garage to open for the first time in however long. I spread all of the things on my dining room table and invited the family to come see.

My granddaughter’s favorite was the Darth Vader carrying case with original figures (although their guns are spread around)

My own favorite has always been the Stormtrooper transport that had different sounds. One was a stormtrooper saying, “There’s one! Set for stun!” Another one was R2D2 sounds.

Some of the original pieces, minus a few parts, are the Millennium Falcon and the Jawa transport that moved.

We found various critters and vehicles

There was most of Jabba the Hutt’s scene

I put all the loose characters, accessories and weapons in bowls. The kids knew who a lot of them were and my daughter could even match a few of the weapons.

You have to understand that my grandkids, besides the 12 1/2 year old, range from 20-25 and it was fun to see them and their parents having fun seeing the original toys from the 1970s. After a week or so, I had to pack them back up, trying to keep the parts together as I could. There is another tub from years later that has dozens of characters still in their packaging. We didn’t get into those.

I told my granddaughter I would keep the Darth Vader case and figures out so she could visit them and I personally kept the Stormtrooper transport for myself. One of my grandsons thinks he can help me get the sounds working again. We’ll try because I would love to hear it again.

I’m 76 now and looking back over 45 years of being a Star Wars Mom, as well as a fan. Here’s to the generations of moms (and dads) who have lived in this wondrous world with their families. It’s a fun place to go.

Born the end of 1945, I’m now almost 76 1/2 years old. That’s a lot of years to have watched people and events in the world, although I learn new things every single day. The observations here are based on what I’ve personally observed and lived through and I write this for those who live with the good things that have come from the past.

Growing up in the 1950s, my own childhood would be considered idyllic. We were a white family, living in a nice house, neighborhood and city, Tulsa, Oklahoma. We played in the yard, roamed freely, had advantages. I went to a lovely private school for my elementary years, a place where I was only around people like me, along with several who were very wealthy and had chauffeurs and cooks. We had a maid, but my mother worked alongside her to keep everything perfect. I think these are the “Good Old Days” that many idealize and long for. There are some things that were definitely sweet and innocent, but there is a reality that I began to see even then.

The only people of color we knew were people who worked for us or at the country club or restaurants. They all lived on the north side of Tulsa and my only views of their homes were when my mother would sometimes drive one of our maids home. My mother grew up very poor with a widowed mother during the Depression. My father grew up with a father who owned a growing business. As a small child, I only saw my grandparents homes as wonderful places to explore, but I would start observing differences early.

I was a quiet little girl who spent a lot of time reading and watching, listening and snooping around. Like most children, I saw and heard a lot more than I said. Children in those days didn’t ask as many questions and weren’t asked their opinions on much. My parents were great, but they weren’t sharing their everyday concerns and problems with us. I would now consider those days, in general, as the days of secrets and lies, not so much in my family, but in general.

After the war, women who had worked while their husbands served mostly became housewives and mothers. Men who were on the rise in companies were looked down on if their wives worked outside the home, seen as unable to support their families. If you wanted to be promoted, your wife was home building a beautiful home and waiting for you to arrive home after work with a clean home, cooked meal and children ready to greet you. My parents married at the end of the war and Mommy had worked for years so she was happy to assume this new role and teach us that Daddy was to be the center of our universe and we were to be forever grateful to him. The fact that he was a sweet man and they loved each other so much made this easy to buy into. Daddy worked hard, they entertained their friends, we had fun as a family and were picture perfect for the era.

Daddy always gave my mother an allowance. She used this to pay the maid, buy groceries and keep the household going. She handed him the bills and he took them to work and paid them. There were no credit cards in those days, but you could get a charge account at stores, with the permission of your husband. My mother was a good manager and managed to save money for herself out of her allowance. I always thought it was kind of sad that Daddy didn’t give her gifts but handed her a check through the years. I understand now that she was saving all of that until she had her own money and independence and didn’t have to ask him for every little thing. Not many women had this luxury or were smart enough to do this. I didn’t appreciate her independence until years later.

Women didn’t have that many rights in those days. Husbands had to co-sign or approve anything like the charge accounts. My mother didn’t have a checking account for decades because she had those charge accounts and cash. I remember when my husband and I were first married while in college in the mid-60s and applied for our first credit card, then a $100 limit, together. We had moved along by then to have joint accounts. Everything we ever did as a couple was in both our names. We never thought of doing it any other way. There was an incident when I was in my 30s where I was purchasing some clothing for him at a store where we had charged for years and the clerk said she would have to have my husband approve the charge. I was so angry. He couldn’t believe it. I can only imagine if that had happened over and over.

Back to my growing up and observing. While in high school, I began to notice that adults seemed to drink way too much. My mother never drank, but there was a lot of drinking. My father kept bottles of liquor in his desk drawer at work and had a drink when he got home from work. That was common. I’m sure he offered drinks to business associates who came by the office and had a drink or two when he worked late. I also began to hear things from the adult conversations. I realize now that many of my parents friends had affairs, but divorce was scandalous and the women had no way to make a living if they left their husbands, so they stayed. I watched many of them celebrate their Golden Anniversaries, knowing that their marriages had been up and down through the years.

I’ve also learned though the years that human behavior has not changed. There has always been rape, sexual abuse, child abuse, spousal abuse. Nobody talked about it. There were secrets everywhere. We know now that children suffered abuse from trusted teachers, scout leaders, church leaders, family members. Women were beaten and tortured in their homes. Before she died, my mother mentioned that one of the reasons that her mother never remarried after being widowed at 28 and left with three children during the Depression was that she was afraid of marrying someone who might harm her children. I found out as an adult that a boy I went to high school with, a handsome football captain, was beaten by his father. He actually lived away from home and snuck back before school every day so nobody would know. Brothers I met late in life were beaten regularly by their father who did everything he could to demean them in their lives. We had no idea that things like this happened in our idyllic “Good Old Days.” There were secrets everywhere.

My mother and I were talking about abortion many years ago and she told me she had one. Her doctor did it in his office, telling her she didn’t need another baby right then. She just took his word for it. She was so insightful and knew it was never a black and white issue. By the time I was in college, I had had a good friend commit suicide because she found out she was pregnant at 14, and saw girls leave school for time away with their far away aunts, where they either had abortions or had the babies and gave them up for adoption. Some of them were never able to have children after the experience. No telling how many girls I knew who went to scary people or did their own abortions. I once visited an abortion clinic when it was made legal and saw a 14 year old girl and her grandmother, a college athlete and his girlfriend, and mother of three who was alone. None of them looked anything but sad, but at least they were gently taken care of and able to go about their lives. I learned then that I had no idea what decisions people have to make and it’s none of my business.

Back to women’s issues, my college years were filled with experiences that shaped the women of my generation. My friends were very smart girls who were expected to go to good colleges and use our brains. The reality was that there weren’t a lot of career options out there encouraged for us – teachers, nurses, secretary were real choices. If you had to work, it was to take care of yourself until you could find a husband. A few were breaking out of that mold, but it was there. We were treated in different ways that the “men” we went to school with. While the guys had no curfews, we had to be in by 10 on weeknights and by midnight on the weekends. Women at Oklahoma State University were required to live in university housing (or sorority houses) until they were 23 years old or married. Many got married a young age then anyway. When I had my first daughter, I was 22 years old and the oldest new mother in Stillwater Hospital. College men were exempt from the draft for Vietnam if they were married, so there were many quick weddings. Some lasted, some didn’t.

I was not a big protester, although I certainly read all that I could. I marched for Academic Freedom, signed petitions to give coeds more rights on campus, and heard Gloria Steinem when she visited campus. Women were getting bolder about asking for their rights. When I realize now that my grandmothers couldn’t even vote until they were in their 20s, I realize how long it has taken for women to be recognized as equal human beings.

In junior high, I met my first Jewish friends. Their parents had their own country club because they weren’t allowed to join the other clubs until into the 70s or 80s. It didn’t matter how successful they were or how generous they were to the community, it took years for them to be accepted. I was proud when one of my good friends became the first Jewish President of the Junior League of Tulsa in the 1980s. Ridiculous that it took that long.

I had my first friend who was a person of color when I was in college. She was the only girl in our dorm and one of the few on campus. She was great fun and offered us insights into her life in Arkansas. Growing up in Oklahoma, you would think we knew many Native Americans, but nobody was claiming that heritage then. A friend I met as an adult told me how she was looked down on in Tulsa growing up, obviously not in my lily white neighborhoods. She earned her PhD and educated many of us on the reality of the tribes. Now everyone wants to find some Native blood in their family, a far cry from the earlier years in the “Good Old Days.”

When I was in junior high and high school, guys would ridicule each other using words like “queer” and “fag.” Talk about a big secret in those days. My mother had two women friends who came to visit us that she had known when she was younger. She just adored them and explained them vaguely, but I caught on that they were a couple. It was hard to conceive then. Through the years, I had friends who left their families as they came out, but remained terrific fathers and friends to their former wives. I remember a close friend from high school who called me to tell me she was gay. She had been through a horrific marriage and had a child. I took that announcement in, realizing how hard it was for her to tell me, and told her I was just happy she had found love in life. I got it. I had that experience more than once as friends came out and other friends found that they had gay children. Something I had not really had an opinion on was an issue I understood and could appreciate for my friends. I was learning how many people I knew who had lived secret or suppressed lives for so many years.

Religion was a mixed bag in our house growing up. I always leaned towards going to church and found it a place where I could spend time thinking and learning more about people. As I grew up and took leadership positions, it was apparent that the perfect life of church members was just a microcosm of society with adultery, lies, bullying and, we later, learned abuse. When I worked with Domestic Violence victims in the 1980s, we found that churches were one of the obstacles because they were still telling women that they needed to stay in marriages and obey their husbands and their wedding vows. Churches have come a long way. For all the attempts to be more perfect, the reality of being human is even more apparent under the spotlight of religion. I once told a grandson, who asked, that the difference in churches or congregations is in the people, the structure, the governance. You might feel most at home at one denomination in one town and another one somewhere else. They have their own identities. We are fortunate to be able to choose our means of worship.

Back to the women’s issues, the first big volunteer job I had in 1973 was to publish a cookbook as a fundraiser for an organization. The recipes were listed under our married names (Mrs. Alan C. Fraser). This amuses/horrifies me today because I had always taken pride in using my maiden name with my married name. We were young and proud to be married, I guess. In the decade to come, many of my friends found themselves divorced because their husbands had affairs and left them, unlike my parents’ friends who stayed together and probably led separate lives or made each other miserable in some cases. These women, in their 30s and 40s, found themselves with college degrees they hadn’t used and a workforce where they weren’t welcomed. I’m proud to say that many built lovely careers on their own. Actually, I found myself in the same position when I became a widow at 52 and had to build a life and career/careers. We were getting stronger and gaining more respect and resources. Women can be their own worst enemies and I’m always sad to see those who choose not to support each other.

I’m not going to talk about the diseases that ran through the “Good Old Days” and the medical breakthroughs that save people today or the children who had undiagnosed learning disabilities or the pollution caused by industries and the inequalities in pay between the workers and the executives. You get the point. The “Good Old Days” weren’t all bad, but they certainly weren’t times to return to. Sure, it would be nice to be as innocent as I was a child, but I grew up and learned and continue to learn.

People are capable of extreme good and unfathomable evil. We make strides and then fall back. As a woman, I can truly say I have watched so many advances made through the efforts of smart, determined women and understanding, supportive men. A few years ago, I thought I would be able to live out my life watching my grandchildren and their children and so on inherit a better life and world. Now I’m not so sure.

Many of my most respected friends are depressed and angry and concerned about the direction society is taking. Of course, I also have friends who are excited and even those who think we are going to go back to the “Good Old Days.” I think I’m most depressed about the polarization and the inability of anyone to sit down and find common solutions or even to recognize that some of these issues are a problem.

One thing I am sure of is that I have watched and learned over the past 7+ decades because of the people I have met who have taught me the reality about some situations in life. When I see things I believe to be wrong, I have to speak out because if I don’t, the results will be partly my fault. You can’t ignore problems and hope they will go away. Those weren’t the “Good Old Days” they talk about. They were just the Old Days. We are supposed to be getting better, or at least trying. Aren’t we?

There’s a difference in hoarding and collecting. Hoarding, in my mind, is keeping things because you might use them some day. I do way too much of this and try to thin out the stuff every year. It’s a remnant of having parents and grandparents who lived through the Depression. Or not wanting to waste things. Or keeping them for someone else. I’ll move on to Spring Cleaning soon. I promise.

Collecting is almost a blood sport. It’s in my blood because I had a father who collected stamps and cigar rings as a child and coins as an adult. His sweet mother would lean down to pick up the cigar rings from gutters for him. We rolled our eyes at his coin collecting as he bought bags of coins from people in remote towns to bring home and clean, looking for the rare penny or nickel or silver dollar. He hid them in our air conditioning vents and my mother threatened to spend them all. She wouldn’t have, but it was funny to watch him dig through them and she enjoyed the drives to meet people he heard about who would sell him coins in the days before the internet.

My mother didn’t collect until later when she started going to auctions and antique sales. I spent a lot of time going with her and learned to bid watching her go head to head with dealers to get a piece she wanted. She loved being the winner of a bid and loved even more meeting all the people who were selling items and learning about the story of the pieces. She told me that a collection is at least three pieces and she would sometimes get three of something and say that was her collection and wait to find something else. Her competitiveness was another story.

When I was a young married lady, I read that you should group your collection and did that with some things and found I had several collections or larger ones than I thought. Santas were the biggest one. I had Santas from my childhood and had always loved them. Once I grouped them for the holidays, it all exploded. Since my birthday and anniversary were also in December and I worked on several Christmas projects with craftsmen and artists, I started getting more. As I told someone, if you get ten a year and you’re in your 70s, you have a whole lot of them. I picked them up when I traveled, when I was in antique shops or at sales, and received them as gifts from family and friends. That’s what happens once people know you collect something.

Here are a very few of the ones I have. My collection includes silly ones, antique ones, artist originals, cheap and expensive ones. Whatever catches my eye. I’ve found them (or figures that look like Santa) in a flea market in Vienna and a shop in Hong Kong. The tall skinny one in my kitchen window is the one I’ve had the longest since he was there when I was a child. The Lego ones are from Denmark before they had them here and the wooden ornaments are from Hawaii. Some are from dime stores, some from fancy places. I have them all over the place, big & little. There’s no room in this story to show them all.

The thing about anything I have is that it comes with either a story or a memory. I think that is what I like most about collecting and collectors. I’m not much of a minimalist, not in any way. I like to see what people are about, what they like.

My mother loved talking to people and I’m sure most of her collections came from meeting an antique shop owner or someone who told her the story of a piece and she had to have it. We both loved buying art from artists we met on the street when we traveled or from supporting artists we became friends with. She and my father purchased several bronze statues of cowboys from a man they met and corresponded with for years. They liked knowing him and his story and supporting his work.

She also collecting things like miniature antique leather books, preferring ones with topics or stories that interested her, although she had some lovely ones in foreign languages. We both loved anything miniature and she had a fun doll house that she loved to furnish with things she made or found. She started collecting magnifying glasses, many with handles from antique umbrellas. I have part of her collection, which I have added to. I’ve found that I actually use them these days, so they’re kind of scattered around the house.

I recently found a couple of small ones to go with this one of hers with the tassel. You can also see some antique inkwells. Three of them were her collection and others are mine, one found in London and another found at an estate sale.

One of the first times I traveled to Europe, way back in the early 70s, I saw people collecting pins which they wore on Alpine hats. I didn’t want the hat, but I started collecting the pins and included some antique ones I found there. I still collect them, but have they are harder to find and so I have a magnets. It may be silly, but I get a nice feeling when I remember interesting places I have been. I must not have much of a memory because I depend on photos and things I pick up to trigger mine.

Sometimes we start collecting because we are just interested in something. This map of Oklahoma hung in my father’s office from the time I was little. I think he got it when we moved to Tulsa in 1948. He used it to map places for his salesmen to go and to find spots for his quail hunting trips. It’s yellowed from the smoke that was in the rooms back in the days of smokers. I claimed it years ago and it led to a collection of books and things about Oklahoma. I had to move some of them for space recently.

Once I was at an antique auction with a friend and there were a bunch of small English wooden boxes. We learned the word “treen” and became interested so we bid on some. I’ve only added a couple, but do love wooden or treen boxes. Note that one was chewed on by a puppy sometime through the years.

For a few years in the 80s, I worked on and chaired an antique show for a non-profit and we brought antique dealers from across the country. I listened to their lectures and stories and loved so many things that I couldn’t afford. I got interested in the little wax seals that people used to use to seal their letters and thought that was something I could look for that was affordable and a way to support the dealers. I don’t look for them as often these days, but I do see an interesting one every now and then. I love to picture people writing with their pens dipped in ink and then sealing the letters with a dab of wax and their monogram. The reddish Asian one is from Hong Kong. Supposedly, it was a Chinese version of my name, but I doubt that Karen translated very well. There’s a small one with a stag being attacked by a dog on top that was supposed to be a prop in a movie, although I always thought that was a stretch and probably just a good story from an antique dealer to sell it. It’s still interesting and antique.

Hearts are one of those things I just suddenly had a bunch of. I had picked them up in art galleries and antique stores and sales and gift shops and been given them. There is one from Tiffany that was a gift and some wooden ones made from driftwood on the beaches in Oregon. There are glass ones from the volcanic ash in Washington and artist ones from museum gift shops and I see a clay one from an artist in Sedona and another glass one from a young artist in Oregon. I had grouped my heart frames and then the hearts started piling up. Good grief. They are kind of fun though and make me smile. I have more hanging artist ones and others just kind of around. Whatever. I have a friend who collects hearts because her last name is Love and another who collects them because her birthday is on Valentine’s Day. We all have our reasons.

There are some strawberry things around my house because the name Fraser comes from the French word for strawberry, fraise, and there are strawberries in the Fraser clan badge. Not too many, just a few I’ve found.

The thing about collections is that you start to see the things you like everywhere. It gives you something to look for when you are traveling or shopping. I’ve also found that many collections lead to doing research on the item and learning more about its history, along with meeting some of the most interesting people.

I called collecting a sport and it can be. Going to auctions or estate sales or combing through flea markets and antique shops can be competitive. Sometimes you are just looking at everything, but mostly your eye stops on either something that you like or have been looking for. You see something and want to know more about it. Many collectors become experts on their collections. I have a friend who started collecting vintage hats and clothing and recently donated her collection to the Tulsa Historical Society where she has her own exhibit.

I love standing in line to get into an estate sale and seeing what everyone else is looking for. I feel like I need to race to the things I want, but most people are collecting things I would never have thought about. They have become interested in things and are building their collection. I’ve met people looking for vintage toys, pyrex ware, old cameras, certain kinds of glass. Tom Hanks collects vintage typewriters. There is a competitiveness in being the one who finds the rare item you are missing, just as my father looked for certain stamps or coins. I don’t know if there is such a thing as having a complete collection of anything, but people keep trying. People like having a piece of history, many considering themselves keepers of something that may have been thrown away but needs to been kept for future generations. I do lament the things that we tossed and would like to see again from my lifetime, even knowing that we can’t keep everything. Some of collecting is nostalgia, a way to keep memories of our own lives. Rarely do I think people are collecting because they plan to sell the items and make money, unless they are dealers.

There are people who collect sneakers these days just as there are people who collect cookbooks and first edition rare books, vintage albums, sports equipment. There are people who collect art, including photographs, paintings, sculptures. I have a friend who collects etchings and has a museum quality collection, which is lovely. She is an expert on her pieces now and knows what to search for. Another friend collects tea strainers. I have a daughter who collects Toby jugs and another who is interested in mid-century modern furniture. A son-in-law collects bourbons. There is a surge of young people (younger than I am, which includes most people), interested in antiques. One of my Native American friends collects items from her culture and an African American friend collects the kitchy kind of figures, such as Mammy dolls, sold in earlier days. They are preserving their own histories.

There is no one reason or thing to collect. I can attest to the fact that it makes you learn, leads you to meet new and interesting people, takes you to fun places and can make you smile. What happens to our collections when we are gone is that they either are interesting enough to be in a museum or display or they are passed along or they go to sales for the next generation of collectors to add to their collections and enjoy.

My son was a collector from a young age. He started with his Star Wars toys and teddy bears but moved to beer cans. I would take him to the flea market and watch that nine year old bargain with dealers over a can he spotted. He was always an expert on pop culture. He moved on to lunch boxes and had quite a collection in his lifetime. His wife still keeps them and I have one of them to remind me of that little kid who inherited the family obsession.

As I said, the things I collect usually come with a memory. Sometimes they are just things I enjoy looking at or learning about, but they almost always have a memory attached of how I got them or who gave them to me or where I was or who I was with or what they mean.

And all those memories are good.

My parents taught me at an early age to value the work of artists. My father tended towards carved wood or figures while my mother was more eclectic. When I traveled with them, I learned that we could bring art back easily since paintings could be rolled or laid flat in our bags. Since I seem to have never been able to develop any ability to create anything with paint, I also learned to appreciate those who could.

Throughout my adult life, I have met many artists through various projects who became friends. Nobody has had an impact on me like my friend, Nylajo Harvey, who recently passed away at the age of 95. When I was a young mother with three daughters, I became aware of her work and wanted to own a painting. I decided I might as well have her paint my daughters since it cost about the same as buying another piece. This was a giant splurge for me, but I knew it would be worth it.

When I met Nylajo in 1975, I was 29 and she was 48. I was happily married with daughters aged 6, 4 and 2. She had been married and divorced three times and had two daughters with one of her husbands and two sons and a daughter with another. Her younger daughter and son were in elementary school. At the time, she had a glassed room at the front of her house that was her studio. The house was over 100 years old and was located across from a popular park near my home. I herded my little ones in to pose for the first time and was amazed that she could set them up and capture their personalities in a short time. After that, I would bring them one at a time. I don’t remember having many sittings with all of them – thank goodness.

I found myself stopping by to see her when I would take the girls to school or had a sitter. Of course, I was checking on the painting, but we were becoming closer friends all the time. We would talk while she painted, even with other people stopping by to see her and visit also. She was smart and interesting and we were just instant friends. She must have had us over for dinner, because she and my husband became friends also. For Mother’s Day that year, he brought home a little painting he knew I loved at her house.

Having seen her art before I met her, I was aware that she had earlier periods where most of her work was in pastels, then in blues. When I met her, we shared a love of bright colors, which she incorporated into the portrait of the girls.

She had instantly caught my middle daughter’s impatience with this whole process, my youngest daughter’s sweet baby self and my oldest daughter’s oldest child taking it seriously attitude. It was a delight. Just before she was finished, we learned that I was pregnant again. She laughed at my husband showing up to tell her to stop the painting until we knew what to do. Our solution was to wait for the baby to be born, guessing it to be another girl, and then paint the infant into my oldest daughter’s lap. There wasn’t a way to tell very much about a baby until it was born in 1975, so we waited until November.

Amazingly, our fourth child was a boy and Nylajo said she would wait and paint him when he was older, little knowing what a trip that would be. She often told me that she liked me and my children, telling stories of hiding in the closet when some other families showed up. We all liked her, too.

By the time my son was three, he had already locked into wearing a cowboy hat every day, one that looked like the hat Hoss Cartwright wore on the “Bonanza” tv show at the time. I had bought it at Neiman Marcus because it was so cute, little knowing that it would become a worn out, dirty family icon. Nylajo wanted to paint him in the hat and asked that we bring his Wonder Horse to the studio to paint him on. Those sessions had to be among her craziest sittings as he would rock the horse wildly, sometimes sitting backwards. He was not the ideal kid to sit still for a portrait. But, she succeeded beyond our wildest dreams and captured my little one’s personality perfectly.

At some point, I had taken a couple of photography classes at Philbrook Museum and showed Jo some pictures I took of my kids. She did paintings from two of them, one of my son (again in the cowboy hat) and one of my youngest daughter. She gave those to me and I later gave them to those two.

My mother was about 10 years older than Jo and they also became close friends. When my mother found out that Jo owed about $5,000 on her house, she paid it off so that she would own the house outright. Money was always tight for our artist friend and my mother said that the only reason her widowed mother and my mother and her two brothers had any dignity during the Depression was because they owned their home and would be able to stay there even when they couldn’t pay the gas bill. I doubt my mother wanted to be repaid, but Jo gave her several large paintings in thanks. She would also give her little gifts, such as this small piece painting on a lid or something she found.

I think Jo was the one who first told me that it was a good exercise for an artist to paint large and small. I have this small painting, probably 2″x3″, that I love for the tiny details that let me know what is happening in this moment.

I have many of her paintings. I loved her images of children and have a couple of children’s parades. I also loved her portraits of women, flowers, so many. She had many themes.

Through the years, I was busy with children and volunteer activities and work, but managed to see Jo when I could, always trying to stop by her birthday parties in July or her annual show in December. She knew everyone in town, from artists to her wealthier patrons, and knew what was going on with everyone. It was always a lively party where I met interesting people through the years. Her dinner parties were special as she put together congenial, interesting groups, to enjoy her home cooked meals at beautifully set tables. She told me she also considered cooking an art as she made pots of soup to freeze, often sending some to my mother in her later years.

Nylajo was one of the most unique women I was ever fortunate to know. When my grandson needed to interview someone who had been alive before World War II for a high school project, I took him to meet her. She was 90 at the time. Listening to her answer his questions, I learned even more than I had known about her before.

Nylajo was born in 1926 to a banker father and a mother who was a teacher. She had one brother and three sisters and were a close family. Contrary to popular belief, she was not Native American. I recently looked up something to write this piece and found one of her paintings for sale online, and it was described as by this known Native American artist, which made me laugh. I always loved her name, but it is not Native American.

Jo always wanted to be an artist. As a child, she was told that she could draw better than she could write, and she took that to heart. She attended high school in Springfield, MO, and grew up loving sports, being a runner, a softball player and even playing football until her mother found out. She loved trout fishing with her father. Her first job was tinting photographs in a department store.

She won an engineering scholarship to Purdue, so she went there first. The men were all away at the war and women were being recruited. She learned that wasn’t for her, so she got a scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute and studied to be an artist. During that time, she dated the son of Thomas Hart Benton and told me of meeting him in his home.

Another story she told me was of working for an architect and meeting Frank Lloyd Wright. I later purchased a painting she did entitled, “The Night I Met Mr. Wright.” Jo was known for her thick red hair which she wore in a long braid down her back for many years. In this painting, she was young, with her red hair flowing. She described him to my grandson as being really short and wearing a black cape, really interesting.

She got married for the first time in 1948 and became a mother that year at age 22. She never had much to say about any of her husbands to me as they were all long gone when I met her. She was so independent that I can’t even imagine her with anyone.

Talking to my grandson, she told him that she learned the basics from her teacher mother: honesty, kindness and truthfulness. She also fully learned the English language. She was reading a book a day well into her 90s and spoke to me about the books she was reading the week before she died. She could talk about anything with anyone. She got her first tv when she was 62 years old.

She told us that her most important decades were the 1940s-1960s when she was raising her children and found who she was. She was a strong, loving mother. She loved to be with people and often spent time in a neighborhood bar, where one of her paintings was displayed, probably given to pay her bar bill. She was a drinker and the first person I know who was 86ed from a place, the neighborhood bar, of course. Her parties were lively and she had her drinking buddies. She partied with Leon Russell and probably other artists of the area. I don’t think she considered herself one of the boys – she didn’t need to. She was very much herself always. I don’t remember her swearing or being obnoxious, although I’m sure she could. She was extremely well mannered and a tribute to the values her parents taught her. She was honest and outspoken and funny and smart.

She never felt like she was discriminated against as a woman, probably because of her self confidence, and she didn’t discriminate against anyone. She did not suffer fools and alienated many people through the years, although many worked their way back to her. She did not change who she was – ever. She could be difficult, probably with the drinking, but she had a large group of devoted friends who showed up to help her set up her shows (she was always painting until the last minute) or to take her to the store after she quit driving or to be there for her. I was not her best friend, just a long time friend, one of so many.

Jo adored her children, speaking of each of them as if they were the most interesting people she knew. They were some of her favorite subjects in paintings through the years. She enjoyed them and was able to travel with her youngest late in life. I have no idea what kind of a mother they think she was, but they loved her.

She enjoyed her children as adults. Maybe too much. After two of her daughters had died of alcoholism, she quit drinking. Having lost a child, I understand what a blow losing them was to her.

Since I didn’t see her all the time, I never knew what had been going on in her life when I stopped by. One time she was recovering from cancer, having refused the treatment. She lived at least another 20 years. Another time, she had fallen off a ladder while doing something on her roof (two story house) and had many broken bones. Her invitations to her annual show were often photos of her doing something fun and adventurous, such as riding a motorcycle. Here she is on a boat named after her.

Through the years, her lush red hair turned gray and her braid got thinner. Here she is visiting after my mother died.

Jo was a tiny woman with a big voice and terrific laugh. She was a fabulous hostess and I loved being in her kitchen, shown here a few years ago. I’m only about 5’4″ these days, so she was tinier than her oversized personality indicated.

When I took my grandson to meet her, I was struck with how great a listener she was – not just because she couldn’t hear as well at 90, but because she always had been.

From our earliest years as friends, I had always known she would be there, always curious and always compassionate. She was my confidante through the years, listening to all the ups and downs my own life took, never being judgmental, just being there. She could comfort you by being so wise and so loving, just as my mother was. They truly were kindred souls. When I lost my husband and, later, my son, she grieved with me.

A couple of years ago, I stopped by to see her and found her uncharacteristically sad. Her brother had died unexpectedly. They had spoken every week for an hour or more and he had just been chopping wood when she last heard from him. He was in his 90s and still going strong until he was gone. She suddenly felt a huge void. For the first time, she didn’t feel like painting.

When the wonderful new park, Gathering Place, opened in Tulsa, I persuaded her to visit it with me. I drove her up to the door since she couldn’t walk as far anymore. I took her outside to see the wonderful seating areas.

I wanted her to see the beautiful architecture and designs in the Lodge, so we went inside where I caught this image of her against the wall. She was having so much fun and delighting in this new place.

I drove her around to the Boathouse and took her inside the fascinating exhibit room there. She was her usual self, taking it all in and happy to be there. We didn’t stay long as I didn’t want to wear her out.

A few weeks later, she told me she was doing a retrospective show. They called it “Nylajo’s Last Picture Show.” She had been buying up her old paintings from estate sales, so had many to re-sell along with new ones. I was shocked at first and then realized that she was outliving her old patrons. When I stopped by, she was in her usual place at her easel. I took several pictures (why had I not taken more through the years?) and one was used on the invitation to the show. I just wanted to always remember her as she was when I had first met her – painting.

The show was great fun with many local artists coming to see her. She had influenced so many through the years, more than I will ever know. My son’s daughter was about 10 and threw her arms around her, to Jo’s delight. Her eyes twinkled as she remembered my son with me.

When the pandemic hit right after this show, she was locked at home with her books and cooking. I sent her a card, a cutout of Picasso. She called me, delighted, and said she had him standing where she could see him all the time. She never failed to tell me that from then on. As time went on, I stopped by when it was safe and found her as sharp as ever, interested in me and life around her.

I went by right before Christmas to leave her some bourbon pralines and could see her curled up, sound asleep on her couch. I didn’t want to disturb her, so I left the treats. She called me later to tell me they were her favorites and to say she had not been able to sleep all night and had fallen asleep, which was something that often happened. She told me about new books and I told her I’d be back by. I was going to go last Thursday, but heard late the night before that she was gone. I hoped it had been easy since I had just talked to her, but found that she had multiple organ failure and great pain and fought it all the way. Of course she did.

Grieving for someone who lived 95 incredible years is a little selfish. I am really sad because I will miss her so much. It’s not that I saw her all the time, but that I knew she was there. She made a huge impact on my life with her strong personality, her great affection for me and my family, and the wise and witty conversations we shared for all those years. For all who appreciated her work or were lucky enough to share a little of her world, there is a gap to be filled by viewing her lifetime of work or just remembering her for who she was. When those who knew her gather, there will be new stories to share. Nobody knew all of them.

She was one of those people who only needed one name to tell you everything about her.

Nylajo

Tracking your family history is an amazing journey down so many trails leading to more names and places and mysteries that make us realize how our personal stories are intertwined with so many others as we strive to see how our present day lives evolved from the layers of our country’s development. A casual question to my mother in her later years opened my eyes to things I hadn’t even envisioned as part of my own story. I think I asked her what her father and grandfather did for a living in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Fortunately, it was so fascinating that I made her tell the story again and made a recording of her telling me all the details.

To begin the story, I have learned that my great-grandfather, E. Z. West (Ephraim Zachariah) and his wife, Hattie, moved north from around Grapevine, Texas. Hattie was born in Alabama and somehow ended up in Texas. I’m surmising that her family kept moving west in search of a better life along with countless others. She and E.Z. had three sons, the youngest dying at age 8 and buried in Grapevine. They moved with the other two sons, Ben (my grandfather) and John to the area around Ardmore. They were probably part of the “Intruder” movement of white and black non-citizens who moved onto land owned by the Chickasaw Nation and eventually quit paying the Chickasaw natives for the use of the land. I’m not sure what year they arrived, but thousands of people were coming to the area to take advantage of all the opportunities. I don’t get the impression the Wests had a lot of money and I see them in their covered wagon looking for a place to settle in this newly developing area.

I know there was a house in the country owned by the West family because I think my mother and her brothers were probably born there. At some point, they began to purchase property in the new town of Ardmore, where E.Z. built a house with a wagon yard next door. This is the part that was new to me. I knew the house because I had been in it many times as a small child when my aunt and uncle lived there. I had no idea what the wagon yard was. I asked my mother when she mentioned it, thinking it was a place where wagons were built or repaired. She explained that a wagon yard was a place where people who came into town stayed and parked their wagons, kind of an old time motel. She picked up a scrap of paper and drew me a picture of the wagon yard as she remembered it.

She was in her 80s at this time and remembered details, even though she only remembered being in it once or twice as a child. Since she was born in 1921, it was not too long before the wagon yard was leased to be a lumber yard. She showed me on the drawing where there was a store for the people to buy supplies and how there were little rooms with a fireplace for them to stay. At the same time, she drew a picture of the house, remembering what every tree in the yard was and where every piece of furniture was, what my great-grandmother wore and what she ate. I couldn’t believe I had never heard this story before, but that’s my fault for not asking sooner.

Here is a map I found later, showing the wagon yard, much as she had described it.

I looked up wagon yards and found they were probably the biggest business in town. Between 1893 and 1925, there were 39 wagon yards in Ardmore, Oklahoma, which was a major importer of cotton at the time and farmers were bringing their crops to town. Rooms in hotels were $1 a night, while wagon yards only charged about 15 cents, so they were crowded and popular. Photos of the times show the main street absolutely blocked with lines of wagons going down the street.

Here is a photo of E. Z. and Hattie with their son John from when they were in Grapevine. John died at the age of 19 and is buried in Ardmore’s Rose Cemetery along with his parents.

This mystery has taken me years to uncover – not that I was spending that much time on it. I would get interested again and the beauty of the internet would unlock another piece of the story. I kept finding out more along the way, even traveling to Ardmore to see if I could find more information in a casual way, unlocking dates on Ancestry.com, etc.

I know my great-grandparents began to purchase more property around town. My grandfather, Ben, died at 50, leaving my grandmother with three children during the Depression. My mother spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who was a widow by this time since E.Z. died in 1920. Here is a picture of my mother and her brothers with Hattie, probably around the time Ben died.

I know that Hattie left each of the grandchildren a house of their own, along with other property in town. Here I am as a child in front of the house that my great-grandparents and later my aunt and uncle lived in, across the street from Ardmore’s Central Park. Since I was born in 1945, you can see that the house was there for a long time. Today, there is a performing arts center on the property along with a law office.

My fascination with wagon yards continued and I recently found photos of a couple of examples in other towns.

But, wow! I hit the jackpot recently when I opened a book on Ardmore history and found a photo of what I had been looking for all these years, my family’s wagon yard, the largest in town. This photo was taken after E.Z. died and my great-grandmother was leasing it, but there it is. Many have referred to it as the West End Wagon Yard, but the name came from my family, the Wests.

I know this is the one because that is the address where my mother described it and where I remember playing as a child. It’s such a thrill to uncover some real family history when rummaging around so many images and so much information on the internet.

Here is an aerial map of the place today, matching everything my mother told me and I remember.

I’m proud of the pioneering spirit of my family in Ardmore and happy to bring a story to life for my own children and grandchildren. It puts a lot into perspective for me as I keep searching for stories that explain why my family is what it is. It helps me understand personalities in the family as well as what our roles in the country’s history were.

An interesting side note is that at the same time the wagon yard era was coming to a close, my paternal grandfather in Kentucky had graduated as an engineer and was becoming involved in the automotive industry, specifically the aftermarket with parts, which took him to Ohio, then Wichita, Kansas, and eventually to Oklahoma. It seems my family followed the evolution of transportation in one way or another from the late 19th to the early 20th century.

It all makes me feel a part of the story of America as I connect with my ancestors’ stories and begin to feel I know them better. There is so much to learn about the people who are the reason I came to be where and who I am before I am the ancestor story myself.

WILLIAM MITCHELL VINT

NOVEMBER 22, 1942-NOVEMBER 29, 2021

ALAN RICHARD VINT

NOVEMBER 11, 1944-AUGUST 16, 2006

Bill Vint left Tulsa, Oklahoma to study acting in New York City under Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg. Around 1968, he decided it was time to move to California, where he was accepted at Actors Studio West and studied under Sydney Pollack, Mark Rydell, Martin Landau and Lee Grant.

His brother, Alan, arrived in California soon after and was also accepted at Actors Studio West. Together the brothers presented the original play, “Bob,” which was a breakthrough writing achievement for Alan, who directed the play starring his brother, Bill.

Alan had his first big film role in “Panic in Needle Park,” appearing opposite Al Pacino. Bill had his first big film role in “The Other Side of the Mountain.”

While appearing in film and television, the brothers also continued to work at Actors Studio West.

Bill appeared in “Bob,” “Why…is a whirlpool,” a one man original, and “The New Bottom,” another one man original.

Both brothers were active in the formation of The MET Theatre in 1973. Alan appeared in “Bus Stop,” and Bill appeared in “Picnic,” both of which won LA Drama Critics Awards. Bill also appeared in “Only Game in Town” and “Laura” at the theatre. Alan later served on the Board of Directors.

Their careers spanned many years of television and film appearances with some of the great stars of the day, working with many of the top directors.

Bill was honored to be named a Lifetime Member of Actors Studio West by a unanimous vote of the Executive Committee based on his body of work at the studio as an actor, writer and director. He cherished this membership until his death.