Royal Tease


Please, please don’t think I am sharing this picture out of any kind of disrespect or twisted humor.

I cleaned out my billfold today, parts of which had not seen the light of day for years.  This old picture of the queen, probably from some shabby tabloid, shows much more crease lines than does her face, I am sure.  I tucked this there one day many years ago, just to remind me that no one is perfect and all of us are humans with the same human moments.

Last year, in Honolulu, I ordered some wall tile which I was to pick up the next day in the store’s office.  The clerk told me she would tell the staff there to expect me and have the order ready.

The next afternoon when I stepped into that office a clerk turned to the others and said “There she is.  Get the order.” and then called me by name.  I was puzzled and asked how they knew who I was.  And the clerk said, “Well, she told us that the woman we were to watch for looks like the queen of England.”

I’ve been told that before, occasionally, and we are in fact less than a year apart in age.  But when that  happens I can always pull out this picture to show them how alike we do indeed look . . , at times.

Have a good day.


The Precious New

I often write about aging gracefully, but I’m just as impressed with the miracle of entering earth, which we have all done but can only experience again through a new arrival.  Our first glimpse of a new infant, whether it’s ours or a relative or the child of a stranger, is an awesome moment.

I have had that inexplicably precious experience three times when a nurse presented my own child to me.  I wrote about it in a Hallmark card that became popular and was printed more than once and then was included in a book, giving me name credit.  I bought a stack of those little books and over time had one to present for each grandchild and each great grandchild in our family.

If you like, you can copy this verse and print it out for a new mother in your family or your family of friends.

Come To Mother

Here we are, my little one,
Alone at last, we two,
And my eyes are full of wonder
At the pure delight of you . .
Stretching, yawning, stirring
In your tiny flannelette,
With arms and legs like petals
Of a rose not opened yet.
I count the toes and fingers,
Touch the tender wrinkled skin,
Explore your new sweet baby scent
And lovingly breathe in.
As best I can I tuck you back
Into your cozy fold,
I kiss and gently take you up
Into my arms to hold,
From every fiber of my being
Softly calling “Come to Mother,”
As then we meet and, heart to heart,

We recognize each other.

– Doris Markland

One more thought I’d like to share.  My mother used to take up a new baby and, holding it high, say to the child “Oh my dear, you have so much to learn.”

My inclination is to hold the child close to me and whisper  “Oh my dear . . we have so much to learn from you.”



California Tour (final)


On January 1, 1927 Grandad wrote “Well, we have seen the great Tournament of Roses at Pasadena.  Most beautiful.  88 floats with millions of roses and flowers decorating them . . 28 bands . . horsemen and foot marchers galore.  They said 750,000 people were there and the parade was miles long.  Took one hour, twenty minutes, to pass.  Saw Hoot Gibson in the parade.  Never saw such a crowd in my life, and the traffic jam was fierce.”

Friends who lived in Beverly Hills took them for a personal tour in their Buick.  Grandad wrote “This is the most beautiful district we’ve seen.  Saw most of the movie folks’ estates, which were on a lavish scale . . Harold Lloyd ,Chaplin, Valentino, Fairbanks, Mix,, Theda Bara, Norma Talmidge, Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickord, Poli Negri, and others.”

On February 26 they went to the famous annual Iowa picnic, and he wrote “Big crowd.  Not much going on but visiting.  Met old friends, some not seen for 25 years.”

They visited many churches but were most impressed at the Angelus Temple where they heard Aimee Semple McPherson, the popular evangelist of that day.  Grandad wrote “The Temple is a fine edifice seating 5000 people and it was filled.  Mrs. McPherson is a remarkable woman.  She preached and baptized 108 people, many claiming to have been healed by prayer of diseases called almost incurable.

There is no question but what that winter was the most remarkable winter of their lives, and yet on March 17 Grandad wrote  “I’m getting tired of California and am ready to go home.”  Another day, in a cynical moment, he wrote “The ravens brought us half a blueberry pie, so the day was not completely wasted.”

They left March 31, as planned, and their return route took them through a petrified forest, a painted desert, Albequerque, Las Vegas, and Colorado Springs.  Like its master, the Hudson had tired.  On April 6 Grandad wrote “We left Fort Morgan at 7:00 a.m.  Satan left about the same time, as we had 3 down tires and got nine miles off the road.”  And on the last two days, they had a blow-out and two more flat tires . . in the rain.

They arrived home, live and well, on April 8, 1927.  Grandad wrote on the last page of his journal, “And so ends our trip.  Wonderful in so many ways and never to be forgotten.  Old friends look best and home the best.  The entire trip cost about $565.00.

California Tour (continued)


Chapter Two

There were lots of other Iowans in Long Beach for the winter , and many of them had relatives and old friends living in California, the Iowa migration having brought an estimated 160,000 Iowans to the coast from 1918 to 1930.  And so from the time of their arrival there were surprise visitors at the door, and also many reasons to go for long ocean-view drives  to visit friends, with stops along the way to picnic, to marvel at scenic valleys, rugged coastlines, acres of brilliant orange groves..  In the mornings the housewives did their housework.  Afternoons they strolled the streets shopping for postcards and needlework, or took in a matinee.  One day Grandad wrote that Mrs. Groves had walked downtown to have her hair “amputated.”  (This was the year the ladies had their hair bobbed.)

The men joined a club where they went to play checkers and horseshoes.  Evenings the couples invited guests for dinner or were invited out for dinner, after which they played a card game called “500.”  There were afternoons at the beach for all, and day trips by auto to Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, Laguna, San Pedro, Santa Monica, Glendale, Santa Anna, Pomonia.  Many times they swam and combed Redondo Beach for moonstones, which the ladies had polished and set into rings.

Sometimes they ate out, and Grandad wrote they were thrilled to find “a place where you sat down at a revolving table and helped yourself to whatever and as much as you wanted” for the price of 45 cents.  They went to museums and musicals.  They walked down to the pier where they toured the battleship Colorado (over 500 feet long!) and also saw the New Mexico, West Virginia, Arizona, Tennessee nd other great ships of the U. S. fleet.

Of course they took a boat to Catalina Island after which Grandad  wrote that he had given up all plans of becoming a pirate.  Another day they were guests of a land lot company on a boat ride around the harbor, a trip to the lots for dinner, and then the sale pitch (has nothing changed?)  The lots were 45 x 140 and were pruiced to them at $2100.

(To be continued)


Touring in the Twenties


Eighty-seven years ago on a cold November day my grandparents left Iowa in their 1926 Hudson to drive to Long Beach, California. I know about this trip because Grandad’s careful diary came down to me and gives great detail.  I think you will enjoy reading my condensed version of their trip.


     My granddad Jackson Groves kept a diary all his life, but the one that came down to me was from 1926, the year that he and my grandma Sarah drove their Hudson from the middle of Iowa to Long Beach, California .  Can you imagine what a trip that was?

     They were 57 that year, retired, and moved into town, where Grandad soon became mayor.  As far as I know neither of them had ever been out of Iowa, so every page of the diary reflects their awesome first view of red dirt . .cotton fields . .mountains . . oil derricks . .cactus . . Mexicans . .orange trees . . ocean.

     They rose early to a raw cloudy day, and Grandad sat down to write in his journal “We are starting a trip we have often dreamed of but hardly hoped to take.  Will we be disappointed or surprised?,  Let this little book tell as we go along.”

     They were on their way by 9:00, driving dirt roads.  Across Iowa they struggled with muddy ruts which forced them to travel at 15 mph all the way to Omaha.  There they checked into a hotel, and in the morning they were pleased to be on gravel roads for a while.  By evening they were all the way through Kansas and into Oklahoma.  They had eight more days of driving ahead of them and were pleased that the red dirt of Oklahoma made for good roads.

     In Texas they found themselves on concrete pavement for 175 miles, but were soon bumping around on dirt roads again, sometimes getting stuck or sliding off the road.  It is not mentioned in his diary, but I remember my mother telling that Grandad put several logs in the car, and he would chain them to the bumper to slow his descent from steep mountains.

      They sometimes stopped to visit with locals, particularly farmers, and at dusk they found a hotel for the night in Texas (3 times), Arizona, and California.  All stops were carefully documented with the name of the hotel and a record of the costs for the day.  No day exceeded $5.32 and some days cost no more than $3.00. 

     They arrived in Long Beach in the rain, which dimmed their first view of the ocean but not of luscious flowers and orange trees, heavy with fruit.  They were pleased to secure a very suitable apartment for $35 per month, including everything necessary, for this would be their home for five months.  After quickly settling in, they strolled to the pier for a free band concert and bought oysters to prepare for their supper.  I can imagine how good it must have felt to stretch their legs and to smell the fresh scent of the open water.

                                                 (To be continued)



Rainfall . . . Fall rain . .

I think I warned readers that sometimes I will print here things I didn’t print elsewhere . . or anywhere. . because there was really no place to go with it.  Who wants to read about a rainy day in November?  Only people who have the time to read it and who enjoy jarring their own memories.


Rain on My Parade . . Please

It comes quickly, gray clouds bubbling up on the horizon, a sudden wind, and then an eerie hush that stills the birds, those that haven’t headed south.  I step outside to feel the first large splats of rain and then back into the shelter of the open garage to watch the force build.

Straight down at first, the drops become silvery streams, slanting now in sheets that strike and power-wash the driveway then turn tame and curl in rivers down the street, taking flaky autumn leaves and any last hints of summer.

I stand in the doorway, thrilled, breathing in the delicious scent of nature’s shower, shivering a little, but not from the cold.

I’m reliving one of the strongest memories from my childhood in the 30’s, the dry years, when rain was so desperately needed in the Midwest.  Farmers watched the sky day by day, shaking their heads when rogue clouds built and frayed away, one wisp at a time, leaving us still with the plague of red dust that wasn’t even ours.

But then came a day when the sky grew angry and rumbled with promise.  We felt the tension, and so did the animals, when streaks of lightening came.  The family gathered on the lawn, unbelieving, then rejoicing at the first raindrops,  laughing and running in circles, soaked to the skin as it began to pour.  I had never seen my parents so happy.

The feeling of those moments registered with me as deliverance, the opening of a window of hope.  Rain meant relief from the heat.  It meant prosperity for the crops.  It meant a cleansing of  the lawns, the roads, the atmosphere . . and the soul.

From then on, mental images of certain rainy days were captured and stored in my mind as “special.”

Picture:  On a rainy day I could play outside in my oldest clothes, squeezing mud between my toes, running into new ponds in the driveway, deep lakes in the hollows of the lawn, laughing, rain slicking my hair and streaming down the length of me.  Click.

Picture:  My fiancée, home from the war, arriving unexpectedly to take me to work.  He comes to the door with an umbrella and a large bouquet of lilacs, covered with droplets and smelling like heaven.  We dash through the rain, holding hands.  Click.

Picture:  My son, at five, in yellow slicker and hat, turns to wave goodbye as he trudges off to kindergarten, sloshing through September puddles, grinning with pride in his new experience.  Click.

Every picture that I “saved” is there in my permanent hard drive, and on rainy days I bring them up and look at them.  It’s a nice feeling.

Other pictures that didn’t turn out so good, like the time I ran out of gas on the freeway in the middle of a storm, or the time the sky poured on my yard sale, those were not keepers and eventually I deleted them.

I remember a cartoon character saying a rainy day is a good time to put on some music, drink tea, and look out the window.

It is also a good time to clean out a closet, read a good book, simmer a stew . . or maybe just to do nothing!

It’s raining.  You must stay in . . unless you must go to work in the rain, and that can be promising too.  I think of all the movies in which the star met someone interesting in a downpour on the way to work . . or danced down the street with his umbrella.

Spring rain may be refreshing, but fall rain comes with subtle colors and a distinctive mood.  I’d call the color golden (think wet leaves and harvest moon)  I’d call the mood pensive.  One is more likely to go “in” than “out” when rain is streaming down the glass.

Soft and sentimental as it may be, autumn rain must be the instrument, together with the wind, that strips October’s trees of their last dangling leaves, baring limbs to arch against the background of November’s pink and gray sunsets.

Soon no more rain. . but maybe lots of snow.

We’ll hunker down until it rains again.

I love the rain.

– Doris Markland

Two Things We Don’t Do Much Anymore


One day I was reminded of the exercises my generation lived through while learning how to write cursive.  Not just how to write, but how to write well.  One of the tools we used was the Palmer Method of handwriting.  We did not use pencils for this, and we didn’t as yet have fountain pens, much less ballpoint pens.  Ours was a wooden stem into which we placed a small metal penpoint (which needed replacing often).  And then we dipped the pen into a bottle of ink.  Often.

In this type of writing we did not write with our fingers but with our arms. Pen in hand,  we placed the underarm on the desk and rolled on that fat/muscle to make the motions of writing . . which were either up and down or round and round.  For practice we did push-and-pulls and ovals, holding the hand still and moving the arm.  If you try this you will see it is the exact movements we use to make numbers and letters.  We filled pages of these scrolls and letters and numbers, and in time were required to submit a perfect page and we then received a beautiful blue and gold pin to wear.  That was in the 30’s.

One day, some years ago, as I stood patiently ironing a stack of my husband’s shirts, I realized that again I was making those same two movements. . . either round and round or up and down.  It came together in a poem which I promptly wrote when I left the ironing board for my coffee break.

Palmer Method 

I fall into a rhythm
With an iron in hand.
My arm, extension of my mind,
Does push-and-pulls and ovals
On the backs of shirts,
Signs cuffs and collars
With a flourish.
Shirttails almost meet
As one goes off and
One goes on the board,
So gracefully I work
Together with myself.
Thought roams free.
My fingers channel heat
To do the smoothing,
A laying on of hands
To discipline my pride
And touch my love
To wrinkled feelings
That need soothing.

        – Doris Markland

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