Posts Tagged ‘Dale Espy Little’

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!

The Anticipation Factor

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

Dale Espy – 1916

I’ve been wondering… is anticipation the opposite of memory?  When you begin to lose one, does the other disappear too?

I thought I’d check the internet to see if there might be a study or two on that relationship.  OMG!  Try dozens!  With fancy titles, too.  “Synchronization of map-based neurons with memory and synaptic delay.”  Or “The effect of anticipation and the specificity of sex differences for amygdala and hippocampus function in emotional memory.”  Got that?

Okay.  So, it seems clear that I didn’t make up that connection between memory and anticipation.  Once again, I am reminded that Mark Twain was probably right when he said, “There is no such thing as a new idea.”  I am also reminded of the experts’ proclivity for parsing and analyzing and examining every possible phenomenon to the nth degree (a mathematical term dating back to 1752, in case you wondered.)

I first noticed the connection between anticipation and memory with my mother.  In her late eighties and until her death at almost 98, she suffered increasingly from dementia.  One very stormy evening we picked her up from the nursing home in Long Beach to bring her home to Oysterville for dinner.  As always, she was delighted to see us and let herself be bundled up in rainhat and waterproof coat.

Dale Espy Little at 95

But in the few steps between the doorway and the car, as the rain pelted her from all sides, she became terrified.  She began to cry uncontrollably and we were hard pressed to get her into the car and out of the weather.  Never mind any reassuring promises and urgings on our part.  She simply could not understand that the situation would change for the better once she got into the car.  Every moment of ‘now’ was forever.  As soon as she was situated in the passenger seat, her tears stopped and she became interested in the process of getting her seat belt fastened.  Just like that!  No wailing.  No tears.  No memory of her distress.

It was a visceral realization to me that without a past, there is no future.  And when our own present becomes interminable, it behooves us to surround ourselves with sunshine and chocolates and with people we love. If we can only remember to plan ahead…

About those birds and bees — mostly bees.

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Dale Espy – 1916

I wonder if Jimmy Kemmer knows that we were supposed to be brother and sister.  Our grandparents – mostly the women I think – had it all sorted out that Jim’s father, Roy, would marry my mother, Dale.  I don’t think romance was ever on the horizon for the two of them, though.  When they were growing up in Oysterville in the nineteen teens and twenties, mom was the tag-along tomboy and only girl out of the fourteen youngsters of about the same age.

“Thirteen boys and me!” she used to laugh. “They must have grown very tired of me tagging along!  But mostly I was included in all their adventures.”

Her most vivid memory of trying to keep up was a time when she was six or seven and the last in a long line of kids running through the woods up on the ridge (where Douglas Drive is now.)  “The boys must have disturbed a beehive along the way.  They raced by unscathed but by the time I got there, those bees were mad.  I was stung all over my face!  I ran home but I didn’t cry – not until I looked in the mirror!  I thought my face would stay that way forever!”

Dale with Jim Kemmer on her 95th Birthday – 2006

Of course, it didn’t, thanks to my grandmother’s good nursing skills and mom’s own strong constitution.  I don’t know what the common remedy for beestings was then.  Years later when my own two-year-old son was stung while we were on a picnic, we plopped a handful of cool mud on the sting and that relieved the pain, but I doubt that my grandmother plastered mom’s face with mud.  Or, come to think of it, maybe she did.  My mother grew up to be a great believer in facials.

On the subject of bees – here’s a little bit of folklore to think about from the book, Akenfield, by Ronald Blythe:  Billy was one of the old people.  The old people have gone and have taken a lot of truth out of the world with them.  When Billy died, his wife walked down the garden and told the bees and hung black crêpe on the hive.  My grandfather did this, too.  He said that if you didn’t, the bees would die as well.  Bees are dangerous to some folk and a gift to others.  You’ll get someone who’ll get stung once and perish and another who’ll get stung all over and get cured of all manner of things.  There were a rare lot of bees in the village in those days.  When they swarmed we used to all rush out into the garden with the fire-irons and scuttle and bang away; that brought them down.

Definitely food for thought.

Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Dale Espy Little, 1999 — “Mom at 88”

My mother gave up driving when she was about a year younger than I.  She cut up her driver’s license and sold her car and became a big believer in Dial-a-Ride.  She also took advantage of every “do-you-need-anything-at-Jack’s” offer made to her by friends and neighbors and wasn’t at all hesitant to ask a stranger (most likely a tourist visiting the church) for a ride (most likely to the post office.)  I worried and admired in equal parts.

Mom’s leap into ‘Dependence on the Kindness of Strangers’ was occasioned by a fender bender that she had in Ocean Park.  No one was hurt and no one was ticketed but she felt it was a wake-up call to quit driving.  I have been thinking about that a lot since our own mega-mishap last week.  In fact, one of the first things Nyel said was, “Maybe it’s time I stop driving…”  Yikes!

We actually considered that possibility – weighed the pros and cons of living far off the beaten track where just getting groceries entails a 15-mile round-trip by car.  We decided that between the two of us and with a spiffy new mega-safe vehicle, we could probably manage for a while longer.  But totaling our little Prius definitely gave us pause.  And it made me think of my indomitable mother and how gutsy she was and so soon (within a year) after my dad had died and she was living on her own for the first time in all of her 80 years!

Helen Richardson Espy, 1947 – “Granny at 69”

I also thought about my two grandmothers, neither of whom ever learned to drive.  Granted, cars didn’t “come in” until they were middle-aged.  I doubt if it even occurred to either of them to learn to drive.  They had managed their households (one in Oysterville, one in Boston) and raised their families without ‘machines’ and just riding in one as a passenger was a big step.

My Oysterville grandmother did have a buggy – a used one sent to her in 1914 by her father who lived in Berkeley.  The day it arrived, she wrote to her daughter, Medora:

It is the nicest looking buggy on the Peninsula – just what I wanted – a low, high-backed seat phaeton – rubber tired, roll back top.  Eva told me it was dilapidated but there is nothing wrong except a piece out of one tire.  It is not so shining new looking as the big buggy but it looks like the city and home to me…

Mary Woods Little, c 1955 – “Nana at 75”

There are not pictures or other references to that conveyance.  I don’t know who hitched it up for her, where she went in it, or how long she had it.  I doubt very much if she went grocery shopping in it.  After all, in those days there were vegetables and fruits in the garden or ‘put up for winter’ in the pantry, there were kids at home to run to the Sam Andrews’ store just up the street for dry goods and, in the summer, Theophilus Goulter came house-to-house, once a week, with his meat wagon.

I’m unclear about my Bostonian grandmother.  She and my grandfather lived in the West Roxbury neighborhood.  Perhaps there were shops nearby or perhaps my grandfather took her into town once a week.  Whatever arrangements she made, she carried on independently in her own home, even after she was widowed.  Though I was well into my twenties by the time she died, I was too young and too far away to pay close attention to the details.  Isn’t that always the way?

A Frazzle Dazzle One Step!

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Dale at 16, Oysterville, 1927

The use of colorful language runs in our family.  Not the colorful sort that seems to rage rampant in print and behind those bleeps on television.  I mean expressive without being offensive.  My grandfather Espy, for instance was pretty famous for never swearing but for getting his point across, nevertheless.

“Dad burn it!” I’d hear him say.  Or maybe “Dad gum it!”  and I knew he was more than a little frustrated about something.  Sometimes it was “Son of a sea cook!” or “Consarn it!” or perhaps “Ding Bust it!”  But the ultimate in epithets from Papa was “Devil!” and, lest you think those are all pretty tame, you had to be there.  As those of us who knew him well remember, those words came bursting from his mouth like thunderbolts!  Not often, but certainly memorable.

Mona at 7 or 8 — Oysterville, 1911

My mother’s colorful speech was a bit different from her father’s.  She wasn’t substituting the acceptable for the unacceptable.  Far from it.  She was simply being her usual, inimitable self.  “She just wore me to a frazzle-dazzle one step” she often said after being cornered by a particularly irksome neighbor.  Or, she was known to refer to women of questionable moral character as “woo woo girls” and when I’d asked one too many ‘why’ questions, “Why’s a hen” was the only answer she’d give me.  Or when she was wanting me to make up my own mind:  “You’re the doctor; I’m only the nurse.”

Charlie at Three – Claremont Day Nursery, 1959

Too, there were many stories about my Aunt Mona’s childhood expressions – words that became part of the family lexicon.  “I piddly stimbled!” was what we all said after almost falling down.  It must have been young Mona’s way of saying, “I practically stumbled.”  The best Mona-ism, though, is what I say to this day when I’m refusing seconds after a big dinner: “My shimmy shirt and pants are full” – Mona’s little girl understanding of the colloquialism, ‘my sufficiency is sophonsified.’

My son, Charlie, was also inventive word-wise.  He worried that the water in the bathtub might overfloat, and once commented on his well-endowed grandmother as being volumptuous.  My all-time favorite, though, was his three-year-old answer to “What do you call it when two people sing the same song at the same time?”  “A coincidence,” came his prompt reply!  Spot on, say I!

The Secrets of Old Age

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016
More Words to Live By

More Words to Live By

Now that I have reached a somewhat venerable age, people have begun to ask me what my secret is. I flatter myself into assuming that they mean I seem oh-so-much-younger than the numbers suggest – “Younger than Springtime” Gordon used to say – and, when pressed, I’ve been giving answers. Of sorts.

The other day Wayne Downing asked and I rather flippantly responded that I long ago decided to “just say yes.” That’s not altogether true, of course. The ‘deciding’ part is recent. I’ve been trying for years to learn those other words to live by: “Just say no.” What my recent decision has been is to stop fighting my natural inclination to try to do it all. It’s far easier and much more me to say “yes” to almost everything that comes along (much to Nyel’s distress, I often think.)

Along those lines, for March my lovely ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ mini-calendar says, “A person has to be busy to be alive.” It doesn’t say “and vice versa” but I’m sure it’s implied. Those of us living on the Peninsula have no trouble with busy. In fact, the opposite is true. I try to limit myself by following a self-imposed rule to accomplish three things every day – two of the maintenance sort (like do the laundry or weed a flower bed) and one brand new thing. Of course, if an unexpected opportunity comes along, I don’t limit myself to three! I just say ‘yes.’

My Role Model!

My Role Model!  Mom (at 92) with Bear.

I do believe that my mother is my Old Age Role Model. She was trying new things well into her nineties. Nyel and I came back from a trip once to see her picture in the paper under the headline “Motorcycle Grandmamas burn up the Peninsula Blacktop.” And there was mom in a motorcycle helmet hanging on to Bear and laughing in delight! What a gal!

For me, the ‘new’ thing I try to accomplish each day usually has to do with writing. (I did my motorcycle thing in my 20s and 30s.) And, no, my daily blog doesn’t count. There are some activities – like breathing and brushing teeth and a daily blog – that don’t really fall under the ‘maintenance’ or ‘new’ categories. For my friend Te, it’s walking 12,000 steps a day – it’s just what she does no matter what. As I see it, those are the ‘being alive’ trappings that don’t necessarily move things along. So just do it, shut up about it.

I think the calendar says most of it – be busy. As in keep moving forward, kind of like sharks. (Oh, wait! – That’s coming up for July. “Just keep swimming” it says.) But, I think those words to live by should include ‘meaningful’ and ‘fun,’ too. And, no, eating an extra piece of left-over birthday cake doesn’t count.