Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Gladys: One Month and One Day Apart--by Aunt CB

“You and Gladys were babies and I was watching over you while your Ma was off visiting. You got hungry and as long as I could nurse Gladys, I thought I’d do the same with you, so I did!” said Aunt Lil.

As you see, we never had a chance! Bound together as babies, we continued our appreciation of one another to the end of life. Gladys and I made a pair! All through our almost seventy years together, I only remember one argument, and neither of us could tell you what the bone of contention was, but it occurred on the Caldwell Hill Road, very near where the drive to the Cemetery comes in. It was a dill! Pulling hair, kicking, scratching, and ended with my continuing on up the hill to Grandma’s and Gladys returning to the store.

Whenever we were in Center Lisle, we were inseparable, her house or at the farm, we were together! Sleeping four in a bed, crosswise, sometimes at Aunt Lil’s, sometimes at Grandma’s, made no difference. When Gladys had constipation problems, no matter, I went right along with her. Fortunately Aunt Lil’s outhouse was a two seater. A favorite one though, on the road to the farm, was Belle Barrow’s. That was a three seater, one low for little kids, and she had tons of funny papers stacked near the door way!

We never had a spare minute when we got together. We might be on the upper floor of her garage, rolling cigarettes on a machine, (a fun job) or picking blackberries at the farm. Sometimes we were “helping” Adin in his jobs, clearing the spring in the back pasture for the cows or in the woods, trimming trees.

That was where we were that hot July day when we all rested while Adin took a break. Doris and Harold were with us too. Sitting there, around an ice cold spring-fed pool, Adin noticed one of us, fiddling with our socks, rolling the top up and down. “Let’s have a club,” he said, “the roll down stocking club!” Any activity with Adin was OK with us, so we all agreed. “Now we need a password” he exclaimed. “How about Bullshit?” Again, if Adin had said, “Jump in the pool,” we’d had done so, thus and ever after the five of us were banded together in this special club!

I’m sure Harold remembers, as I do, Gladys’ first bike. She hadn’t quite gotten the knack of riding a two wheeler when we took it up to the farm to help her learn. Inspired, we decided the easy way would be for the three of us, Harold, Gladys and me to ride it down Caldwell Hill Road together. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the territory, that’s about two miles, mostly down hill!

Harold jumped on the rear wheel guard, Gladys sat on the seat and I pedaled (or braked, mostly the latter). By the time we reached the straight away, near Aunt Florence’s farm, we knew we were in trouble! No brakes at all, we’d ruined them! Uncle Elmer was not happy with us!

Still a team, the summer of 1942, we helped out by babysitting Wendell, five or six months old at the time. We were in charge while he napped the afternoon when Elliot, his father, came to see him. We’d been cautioned against a visit from him, and this time he was very definitely under the weather, drunk as a skunk and aggressive. At fifteen, I’d never been around this kind of behavior and Gladys, having prior knowledge of him on a tear, was scared to death.

We quickly locked the door and spoke through it to him. He was insistent; we resisted as he hammered and kicked the door. My only knowledge of such times was gained by reading “True Story” a magazine that Gladys received, so I said, “Do we have any black coffee?” Gladys just looked at me, laughed and said, “How are you going to get it to him, through the keyhole?” Finally he gave up and left, but ever after, Wendell was “our boy,” for we’d saved him.

Together still, in 1953 or so, Gladys and Lester bought Adin’s farm to have a go at farm work. “We are buying it on a shoestring,” she told me, and I responded, “and on the other end of that shoestring we’re buying our first house in Rochester.” Time moved on, babies came and grew and we wrote letters as we could. One of my favorites, in response to one I’d written her when she had pneumonia, included the fact that she was prostrate in bed, and were she up, she’d never notice the cobwebs in the corners, but from her vantage point they bothered her. She yearned for a gold spray paint to festoon them and cheer herself up!

She had quit school at sixteen, for whatever reason, but her inquisitiveness never left her, and led to her finally working to get her GED. As she did so, she influenced half her neighbors to do the same. Some gal she was! Not done yet though, while working full time as an aide in a hospital, she attended Community College and received an Associate’s Degree.

Yep, her sense of humor was incomparable. She said she’d have had a stepfather after Elmer died, but for the fact that the other side of her mother’s bed was covered with books! (A true Baker, or Borthwick!- reading was passed along to us all in the genes.) After Aunt Lil’s funeral, we clubbed together once more--at the church reception, and shared a piece of lemon pie. Close together, each with a fork, and one plate full of pie, Joyce Henderson’s mother said, “There’s lots of pie, you can each have a piece.” “No,” returned Gladys, “this is the way we have to mourn together.”

When I heard in the fall of 1996, that she had been diagnosed with A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) I was devastated. I received one of the last letters she ever wrote in a card for Christmas. I still have it, for it is a love letter. One doesn’t throw them away.

Regardless of the weather, we visited as often as we could, through January, February and March. Lester will always be in my “best” book, for he did everything for her, rebuilding the porch steps with a runway for her, bathing and turning her, as the disease progressed and she could do nothing for herself. Still her humor shone, we’d come and she’d have a funny tale to tell, to giggle over, until speech muscles froze.

Born April 22, 1927, one month and one day after myself (March 21). Growing up, I never missed a chance to remind her that I was the older one! As adults, she got back at me, over and over, as SHE was the younger one! Died, March 28, 1997, I am very sure that she’d have giggled once more, pointing out, “and I never became 70 years old!”

I miss my twin!

Picture One: Gladys, Lucille, 1931
Picture Two: Lucille and Gladys
Picture Three: Gladys (on the left) and Lucille, taken as teenagers at 30 West St, Geneva, 1943 or 1944--They had each made "broomstick " skirts and were showing them off [ a broomstick skirt is a very full cotton skirt that you wet and wind around a broomstick and let it dry, thus all sorts of creases!!]
Picture Four: Gladys at Center Lisle, 1976
Picture Five: Gladys


Kathryn - Oldest daughter of Gladys said...

My Mom (Gladys) would have loved this blogsite! I also know that she loved CB as a twin. You 2 were real close.
When she found out that she had ALS, she did her best to prepare Dad for what was going to happen. Being very intelligent, SHE knew exactly how it was going to end. She had her affairs in order, her funeral planned and paid for and her grave stone ordered and paid for. She even tried to protect her children from Dad's predictable temper. She pleaded with him in her will to not turn on one of us kids or Wendell. She was really something.
She and I butted heads about a few things, but I always knew that she loved me. She was a fantastic grandmother to my daughters. She was clearly proud of their achievements, and lavish with her praise and adoration.
I still miss that old bat!

Wendy said...

Everyone is (or should be) aware of the bond that mom and Aunt CB shared. Their relationship was one that very few people ever get to experience, a true blessing, not only for them but also for the people around them that shared in it. And yes, yes I know Aunt CB is really my cousin but mom raised me to call and think of her as my Aunt… so that is what she is to me!
I have met very few women that compare to my mother as far as aspiration, determination and passion oh and lets not forget that sense of humor. She was a truly remarkable woman, and I miss her so very much.
Love to all
Wendy or as mom called me "#6"
Oh and, Grandma (Lil)… Happy Labor Day!

Pat said...

Mom told me that Aunt Gladys would have loved this blog and would have been the first here to tell tales about her cousins.

Wendy--welcome to the blog! Any stories, memories you want to tell, just email me. I am #4 in Aunt CB's family, so the middle of the crew.

Kathryn, GREAT picture of our two moms. They look so confident and ready to take on the world!

Gladys and Aunt Lil (yes, Wendy, today IS the anniversary of one of her 'labor days !), can you hear us talking about you down here?

laurelamyd said...

As a daughter reading this article, I loved the pictures love the stories.
Growing up it was hard NOT to miss the closeness that the Gladys and Aunt CB had with each other.
Now, as an adult ~ WHAT were the three of you thinking? ~ you were all so lucky you didn’t break your necks on that bike!
Being spring, with the flowers coming into bloom I think of mom much more often. She was hopeful that I some day would take a greater interest in them. She of course could spend hours in her flowerbed. The beauty of her flowers shined faithfully every year with her care.
I miss her too.
Love always Laurel
P.S. Mom would be happy, I have begun to find my green thumb with dealing with flowers.

Anonymous said...

Needless to say, Gladys never had a more wonderful "garden" than her 6 kids!! She never had an easy life but they were her pride and joy! At the same time, the most beautiful garden that I ever saw was on the side hill at her house!!! Colors spilling down in a riot of shades-- I, who have no green thumb was in awe of her ability.
I know that she is with us now! Aunt CB

Pat said...


Welcome to you also!!

I also have a not so green thumb. My brother Jim manages to grow all sorts of plants that stay green--and alive!--in his house and yard.

My brother Tom keeps a garden every year and grows all sorts of normal peas, carrots, etc, along with colored potatoes--blue?

So, perhaps it is not too late for me to learn also. Our yard normally has more dandelions that tulips and crocuses, but I'll attempt to change that this year in honor of Aunt Gladys!!

Kayte said...

Her garden was everything a faerie glade should be, from the very first tree (the one with a gnome living in the hollow at it's roots, whose voice she would still offer on my request when I was 21). Grandpa Lester had made a trellis archway for her climbing roses and she had peonies and flowering oniongrass planted at the opening of the path that wound up the hill, stepped flowerbeds all along the way, carved from the land and edged with robust slabs of limestone she had gathered.

One of my favorite sights was the hill of foxglove running all along the side of the house one year, and another was the small sitting area at the top of the garden, overlooking it all. Still, the best place to be when visiting was the glider on the porch, shaded by overflowing pots of fuchsia in purple and deepest pink. I could sit there for hours and talk to her, bring out items from her cupboards and listen to the stories behind them.

Grandma was a wonderful and talented woman. She always made me feel genuinely special and deeply loved. Once, she allowed me to cut her hair before the family reunion, and she often asked me for backrubs while telling me stories about her youth. She could whistle just like a bird or produce full showtunes at mesoforte while frying up bacon and eggs for breakfast!

CB, thank you so much for teaching me more about her past. Like so many others, I miss her more than I would have thought was possible. She encouraged me in so many things, warned me about dangers I had been blind to, and never feared to tell me the truth, as she saw it. More often than not, she was right.

I talked about her a lot at work yesterday. Earth day will always be her day for me.

~Kayte (Kathryn's younger daughter)

Kathryn said...

Whew! All this talk about Ma's garden brings back memories! Every time I was there, she would take me for the 'tour' and tell me how she was planning to change things in her garden. I am OK at gardening, but no where near Ma's class. It seems like just this morning, that I had a garden tour with the commentary...wait a minute, it was this morning. The tour is now by Beth. She has been doing that for years. Her gardens are awesome. They remind me of my Mom's. So do her plans for her garden expansions. Her front yard is becoming less and less grass. She uses stones for landscaping too. Ma's green thumb went straight to Beth. Kayte is darn good too. She does not have as much area she can use tho. Beth has a nice yard and really puts it to use.