Posts Tagged ‘Dale Espy Little’

“I’s not a leetle boy. I’s a leetle geel!”

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

Someone in my past — my mother? my grandmother? — used to give a deep sigh about whatever was annoying her and say, “This will be the bane of my existence!”  I do believe it was often my wretched curly hair which one or the other of them was trying to subdue into “proper” Shirley Temple style corkscrew curls.  One or two portraits of me at age five or six demonstrate their success, but mostly my hair has continued to be “the bane” right up to present days.

Not that I’m longing for corkscrew curls, mind you!  In fact, I sometimes wonder if my life (and my mother’s)might have been greatly simplified if she hadn’t been so intent on those curls.

Helen-Dale, Edwin, Willard c. 1914

Perhaps it all hearkened back to her own childhood when her curls were cut short and, at least before she started school, she wore rompers similar to her brothers’ and they all hung out together — Edwin three years older and Willard eleven months older than she.  In fact, the family all remembered that Dale (my mom) was the only girl among thirteen boys in town of a similar age.  She said that she was often the “tag-along” that the rest of them were trying to lose as they raced through the woods or along the bayshore on their many adventures.

Dale at 16, 1927

When adults mistook her for another one of the boys,  three-year-old Dale’s indignant response was:  “I’s not a leetle boy.  I’s a leetle geel!”  Apparently, the census-taker in 1920 didn’t ask.  Instead of listing her as “Helen-Dale, a girl” she went into the public record as “Allen-Dale, a boy.”  I wonder if she ever knew about that listing.  I don’t think I ran across that bit of misinformation until after she had died.  But, I must say, I was indignant on her behalf!

By the time she was sweet sixteen, though, her hair behaved as her mother had always hoped.  Sorry, mom. that I didn’t follow in your footstepsl  It would have saved us all a lot of angst!



Navy Blue Eyebrows and the S. of O. A.

Sunday, December 4th, 2022


Mom at Sweet Sixteen

It’s with that first glance of myself in the mirror each morning that I often hear my mother’s sighing whisper — “Oh, the Secrets of Old Age.”  Though she never revealed exactly what those were, I find that I am, by now, discovering a few for myself.

Take the time, years ago, that Jan Erikson was doing nails… My mother was leaving as I was arriving for my appointment and Jan said quietly, “Did you notice?”

“What???” I was gormless, as usual.

“Your mom’s eyebrows were navy blue!”

Mom at 86

We discussed whether I should mention it to her and I finally decided not to in the “This too shall pass” frame of mind.  It did and she was soon back to her usual (and not so unusual) fashion statements.  She was always dressed to the  nines and I can still here my dad saying to her when she readied herself for a special occasion, “You look like a million bucks!”

It wasn’t until I was in my late sixties and mom, though deep into her own world of dementia, was still making fashion statements at the Nursing Home, that I discovered my very first “S. of O. A.”  I could no longer distinguish between my navy blue socks and my black ones.  Cataracts were the culprit — and I was so sorry I hadn’t spoken to her about those eyebrows.  She did in fact, have cataract surgery later which helped for a while.

Mom at 92

All that also put me in mind of a boyfriend I once had (we might have even been engaged for a minute) who told me with great self-confidence (he was an artist) that my mother wore too much makeup.  And by the way, he told me, “so do you.”  Well, all I can say is that with those statements he revealed some of his own secrets.  I didn’t stick around long enough to see how he would weather into his own old age…

On the other hand, I do very much admire women of my own age who have never worn makeup at all.  They look fabulous — great skin tones, everything in sync, and they probably don’t have S. of O. A. thoughts with that first glimpse in the mirror each morning.  Hindsight.  (Maybe that’s another one…)

My mother set the bar really really high!

Monday, September 19th, 2022

Dale’s Birthday Crown – 1998

I’m not talking about the beverage bar here — although mom had a fair hand at managing the little wet bar in this house after Dad (the main bartender) died.  I think she was making up for the years that she (and Dad, too) were pretty much teetotalers.  Those were the years before her own parents died and, though Mom and I never discussed it, I do believe she didn’t drink out of respect for their beliefs.  But, she made up for lost time in her own old age and liked nothing better than to entertain her friends with cocktails and her inventive appetizers.

Dale On Her Way To Vespers

But, the bar that this blog title refers to has to do with her fabulous wardrobe.  From hats to shoes, dresses to suits, jewelry to gloves, she could create an outfit for any occasion and loved every opportunity to do so.  Among her keepsakes are some great pictures of mom “dressed to the nines” sometimes on her way to a special function, but often for a “usual happening” like Vespers or a meeting of the Community Club at the schoolhouse.

My earliest memories include mom’s trips to her dressmaker.  No matter where we lived, she found someone who could whip up a new outfit or alter an old one for her.  She was never without something “new and fashionable” to wear.  By the time I was in fifth or sixth grade, I was included in these dressmaking sessions and how I hated them.  My fondest wish was to buy the perfectly fitting item off the rack, preferably without having to try it on.  That, of course, never happened, and as soon as levis became the rage, I was in them as often as I could manage.

Dale – A Symphony In Black and White

I think I was a great disappointment in that regard to Mom.  But she never gave up on me.  Periodically, when she could afford it, she would take me on a shopping spree and get me “outfitted” — usually for some specific occasion.  When Charlie and his Dad and I went to Europe for a year, Mom took me to I. Magnin’s and bought me several warm wool suits and a few dresses that stood me in good stead for years.  And again, when I accepted a teaching job up here in the Northwest some twenty years later, she took me to Portland to get me “properly outfitted.”

I think she finally realized that I was a hopeless prospect.  But she never chided or even mentioned any disappointment.  As I look at these picture of her now, I wonder if I did my part by telling her how beautiful she was and how proud I was to have such an elegant mother.  I hope so.

Coasters For The Cocktail Hour

Monday Evening, March 23, 1931

Sunday, September 18th, 2022

Bright Angel Trail

Letter from my dad, Bill Little, to my mom, Dale Espy, during Spring Break when they were both college students at the University of Redlands.  They would soon announce their engagement and would be married on September 22, 1934.

Bright Angel Camp
Grand Canyon National Park
March 23, 1931

William “Bill” Woodworth Little, 1932

Dear Dale,
I am a total wreck – physically at least.  Bob and I went down the Bright Angel trail —  and if there were Angels on that trail, the Devil made ’em — to the river.  It’s a seven mile hike each way — 14 miles in all — and a drop of 7,000 feet in the 7 miles.
Well, it only took us 2 hrs 40 minutes to get down.  We rested for an hour and a half and started up.  We made the first half in 1½ hours and the 2nd half in 3 hours!  How we made that last mile of the trail — 2,000 feet up — I don’t know.  But we are here — loafing in front of the fire in the lodge room of the Bright Angel Camp.
We have a cabin here — all furnished for $1.50 each day.  Tomorrow we’re going to loaf and see the places around here where we don’t have to walk!
We are running out of money and we aren’t going to come back by Zion Park and Las Vegas — the roads are reported as terrible  —  but are either going to stay here until Thursday and get home Friday night — or come back starting next morning by way of Phoenix, Yuma, San Diego stopping for Friday night and part of Saturday with Dr. Love…   I’ll write you tomorrow night and let you know how we’re coming.
At any rate, we’ll land in Redlands on Sat. afternoon and I’ll see you Sat. night and I’ll be broke!
I miss you now — I was too tired this afternoon to miss you.  I didn’t miss anything except a comfortable chair.  There’s one thing wrong with this Canyon — there’s no elevator to the ground floor!
                                       Love    you, Bill
Bob sends his “stiffest” regards —



Can hope exist without memory?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2022

“Happy 96th!” Sydney and Mom, 2007

Some years back, when my mother was still living at the nursing home up at the west end of Pioneer Road, we had an incident which I’ve never forgotten,  Nor have I ever quite come to an understanding of it.

It was one of those pouring down January evenings — cold, pitch black, but not yet dinner time.  Nyel and I had gone to pick up mom and take her home for fried oysters or clam chowder or another of her favorites — I’ve sort of forgotten.

Mom looks at Dear Medora with Nyel, 2007

She was smiling as the nurse’s aide brought her outside and she stood with me patiently under the overhang as Nyel brought the car as close to us as possible .  He leaned over, opened the passenger door, and  I quickly manuevered her into the car.  But not quite quickly enough.

As soon as the rain hit her face, she began to scream.  And then to cry.  “It’s okay, Mama!” I kept saying.  “Get in the car.  It’s okay.”  But she was terrified.  It was cold.  It was wet.  And she had no idea what it was or what was happening to her.

We all — Nyel and I and the aide — understood that she did not “recognize” the rain — had no memory of it.  Or of much else.  And when I kept repeating, “It will be all right,” those words had no meaning either.

Once in the car, of course, she began to calm down. And soon all was well. When we got home, Nyel cleverly drove directly into the garage and we were able to get her into the house without going back out into the rain.  But I’ve never forgotten her fright.  Nor have I ever forgotten the realization that without memory, there can be no hope.

By Thomas Bulfinch, 1867

Last night, I re-read the story of Pandora and her box (or jar as the story is related in Bulfinch’s Mythology). When “she slipped off the cover and looked in, forwith there escaped a multitude of plagues for hapless man — such as gout, rheumatism, and colic for his body, and envy, spite, and revenge for his mind…”  Only hope was left at the bottom of the jar…

No mention is made of memory, at least not in the story of Pandora and her jar.  And when Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, is spoken about later (as mother of the nine muses) there is no connection made between memory and hope.  I’m sure that must have been an oversight…

The Wrong Holiday? Maybe not.

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

I know that love stories are usually associated with Valentine’s Day more than with the upcoming Thanksgiving season, but this one that I ran across “amongst my souvenirs” reminded me a little bit of  both.  It was a story written  by my mother in the early 1970s  and reprinted in the Chinook Observer after Charley Nelson’s death in 1978.

In memory of Charley and
Deane Nelson: a love story
by Dale Little

Dale Espy Little – “Mom” 2010

(Editor’s Note:  The following was written a while ago as a tribute to Charley and Deane Nelson, pioneer family of the peninsula who lived at Nahcotta. Both have recently passed away.)
“I saw you coming,” Charley said, as he opened the door.  I was late, and he was probably beginnng to wonder if I had forgotten to bring him his dinner.
Friends and well-wishers always tried to see that Charley was well taken care of when Deane was having one of her bouts in the hospital.
Charley is ninety-two and has begun to fail noticeably over the last year.  Even so, though he can hardly see and his hearing is becoming more and more difficult, he keeps his priceless sense of humor.
He and Deane — his 88-year-old wife — are certainly the most beloved of all the people on our isolated peninsula.  They are childless, but have an abundance of friends and admirers.  I seldom drive by their place that they are not having visitors.  Though Deane has been a cripple for forty years, up to this day they have never had help in the house.
They are both so independent, it is difficult to do much for them.
Right now Charley says, ” I’ve always taken care of her and I can do it this time.”
As I went in I said, “I guess you’re happy, Charley that Deane will be home tomorrow.”
“It will be one of the best days of my life — that and the day I married her,” he said.  He had come near losing her this time.
Then he added, “What is Pledge?”
“If you are talking about what I think you are, Charley, it’s a furniture polish — what did you want it for?”
“I want to squirt it around to freshen the air.  I’ve been cooking bacon and eggs and I want the house to smell good when Deane gets here.”
“Show me where you keep it, Charlie, and I’ll see if I’m right.”
He took me to a back utility room — everything was in apple pie order.  He pointed to a can on the counter and said, “I know Deane uses that, but I didn’t know for exactly what.”  It was Pledge all right.
I said, “If you let me look, Charley, maybe I can find what you want.”  He pointed to the cupboard.  I found the air-freshener without any problem and handed it to him.
“This is what you want, Charley, it’s the tall thin can, but you had better keep it out so you won’t have any trouble finding it.”
As I had entered the utility room I had noticed two beautiful bouquets — evidently just picked.

Charles and Deane Nelson c. 1970

“Did you go out and get the flowers yourself, Charley?  I love apple blossoms.”
“Yes,” he said.  “I wanted to beat the rain.  I proposed to Dean under an apple tree out on the old Andrews place sixty-nine years ago this month.  I loved her then — she was beautiful — and I’ve loved her more each year since.  It’s been love all the way.
“I’m going to make her one of my big mulligan stews tomorrow.  We both go for one of my big stews — two gallons of it.  I cook it all day.”
“What do you put in it Charley?”  I was curious.
“In the old days we had to use canned beef because we hardly ever had fresh meat unless someone had just butchered, but now I use regular stew meat, but I put everything in it — every vegetable on the market.”
I went away worrying at first about Charley managing the stew without being able to see and then I realized that it would probably taste better to both of them than any meal they ever had.  They were together again — still together after 66 years of love and being loved by all who know them.








And up popped my mom again!

Monday, March 15th, 2021

My Mom, Dale Espy Little c. 1997

My mother was “quite a character.”  We all said so when she was living (1911-2009) and, probably, so did she.  She loved to dress up, almost always completed her costume with a hat (often one she, herself, had made), entertained frequently and in grand style, and had a gazillion friends from all walks of life.

She was social to the max — which might have been hard on my more reclusive dad.  But, whether or not he wanted to participate in whatever she was doing, he was always at her side, often with a bit of a bemused and admiring expression as he looked at her.  None of us were ever surprised to go to a restaurant or an opening or an intimate luncheon and find that she was there as well.

Mom and “The New Look” 1948

But, when Mom popped up unexpectedly the other day in my dining room,  I was surprised, indeed!  Not in the flesh, you understand, but in a photograph.  She turned up tucked into a stack of magazines lent to me by a friend.   She looked great — dressed to the nines in a tuxedo, of all things!  I am guessing it was after my dad passed away.  She looks to be 84 or 85 which would put it in the late 1990s.  But where?  Perhaps at the Ark…

Was she with someone?   Or with a group?  Probably.  In any case, she looks as though she was having a great time!  I’m so glad to have this reminder of her when she about was my age!  What a gal!

about teeth and siblings…

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

“Do you still have all your own teeth?”

Dale Espy Little, “Mom,” and Her Million Dollar Smile, 1928

After a prolonged absence, it was the first question my mother and her brother Willard asked one another when they’d get together — especially as they aged.  Willard died in 1999 at the venerable age of 88 and, as far as I know, his answer was still “yes.”  Ditto for mom who was eleven months his junior.  She lived until 2009 and, but for a fall in 2007 which knocked out a front tooth, she still could have answered “yes,” as well.

Willard “Uncle Wede” Espy, 1981

I thought about the two of them and their teeth questions the other night when I bit down on a lemon drop and broke a molar.  It had been filled probably 60+ years ago, so I really can’t complain.  It has lasted through a lot of chewing even though compromised all those years ago.  It is also one of the teeth that the clasps of my lower partial cling to — more stress no doubt.

And it’s not the first tooth I’ve lost — starting with nine front ones in that 1961 auto accident when I broke my mouth on a steering wheel.  Although I lament the teeth, an even greater lament is that I never had a brother or sister who would have cared.  But I’m so glad Mom and Willard did.  And who’duv thunk that teeth would become a point of pride between siblings as they entered their dotage?

Mother’s Day Thoughts

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

Mother’s Day 2011

To me, Mother’s Day always seems a bittersweet celebration.  Even when I was young, not yet married or a mother myself, I was well aware that my own mother’s thoughts were not so much on the flowers I gave her on her special day, but on her own mother who had recently died.   And so it is, even now.  How can we help but focus on our own mothers, whether or not we are mothers, ourselves?

Oddly, I dreamed about my mother last night.  Dad and Nyel were with us and we seemed to be on a trip.  We were eating lunch in a very crowded second-story restaurant and, when it came time to leave, there were extra coats and luggage to carry which Nyel and I managed for the folks.

Dale Espy Little, 1999 — “Mom at 88”

Apparently, the plan was to go next door and make our hotel reservations for the night but when we arrived at the reception desk, Mom wasn’t with us.  I was dispatched to find her.  It didn’t take long.  She was down the street, shopping for a spring bonnet!  Try as I might, I couldn’t convince her that assuring ourselves of a place to stay for the night just might take priority over a new chapeau.

I woke up smiling and thinking, “Typical!  Mom never would have chosen the practical over the enjoyable or the mundane rather than the flamboyant!”   And, I was sure that if the dream had come to a conclusion (which they never seem to do), she’d have had her hat and a room for the night as well.   Things would have turned out just fine for her!   They almost always did.

So on this Mother’s Day 2020, as beloved as my own children have made me feel, my thoughts, too, are with my own mother  (who would be 108 in her new hat!!!) and to everyone who is celebrating this day with their own bittersweet thoughts.  Stay safe, stay well, and count all your blessings!

Weather, Climate Change, or Deer People?

Monday, March 25th, 2019

This year’s first camellias, March 25, 2019

For sure the Deer People (as Nyel calls our hoofed ruminant friends) have been super active in our yard this year.  We know that because they have left their calling cards EVERYwhere and have eaten every bit of deer candy within reach – roses bushes, apple twigs and branches, primroses, camellias, tulip (we only have one – a volunteer who didn’t know better) and probably a lot of other stuff we’ve not yet discovered.  The only thing that I really dislike sharing are the camellias… they have a special place in my heart.

We have two very old camellia bushes – probably dating from my grandmother’s time.  Ever since I can remember, each year’s very first bouquets from those bushes were presents given to me on my birthday, February 28th, by my mother.  Some years, that was the only gift.  Some years it was in addition to something else.  No matter what, it was my favorite gift of all.  “Here they are, Sydney!” she would announce.  “The first of the season!”

This year I gathered the first bouquet today – March 25th!  Almost a month late!  On the other hand, in 2015, the first blooms came in December!  Go figure!  I’m not sure what any of that portends.  I only know that from 1947 when I celebrated my 11th birthday here in Oysterville rather than at home in California, until 1997, the last year mom was able to live in this house, the first camellias came on my special day!  For fifty years!  And, as my mom would say, “That’s quite a many!”

I know that weather cycles come and go.  I know that we are in the midst of serious global climate change.  And, I know that the deer people are more prolific now than they were in my childhood here.  Undoubtedly, one of those factors has to do with the blossoming time for our camellias…  I don’t really care about a definitive answer… yet.  As long as they keep blooming, I can celebrate my camellia birthday after or before or during my natal day.  Whenever it is, I’ll think of my mom!