Tricky Valentine

I had originally meant for this to be last week’s Treasure Chest Thursday post, but the snow interrupted my plans. This being Valentine’s Day though, it all worked out. Below is a Valentine’s Day card I found among my mom’s things several years ago:

The butterfly’s wing pops up and everything. The card was still in its original envelope with a postmark that appears to read Feb 12 1950 — my mom would have been a month shy of her first birthday on Valentine’s Day of that year. On the back of the card is the following inscription:

The above reads “To Marcia with love from Grandmother Hayes.” But the return address on the envelope is in El Paso, Texas. That doesn’t make any sense because my Great-Grandmother Hayes lived in Tennessee and, so far as I know, never set foot in Texas (let alone El Paso, which is so far west in Texas, it’s practically in Mexico/New Mexico).

I’ve got my work cut out for me to try and solve this mystery!

Bonus Xmas Memories

I’m watching “Home Alone” as I write this. I remember going to see it in the theaters back in 1990 with my mom and my best friend, Heather. Heather and I were freshmen in high school at the time.

I love this movie for many reasons. It’s funny and clever; it includes all the fantasies (and fears) kids have about being on their own (eating junk, sledding down the stairs*, etc.). I also love this movie because it reminds me of my mom.

I don’t remember during which scene my mom pulled this (maybe Heather will), but at some point, my mom anticipated the climax of a particularly scary moment in the movie. Just at the right moment, she grabbed my arm and gasped, “Boo!”

Of course, I jumped and cried out, much to the amusement of Heather. I was embarassed at the time, but it’s a fun memory for me now.

*I did sled down the stairs of my house in either middle school or high school (Heather can probably confirm the timing on this too). I improvised a sled using a very slipper sleeping bag. And lived to tell about it.

Holiday Travel

This is post #13 in the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Growing up, we almost always drove from Silver Spring, Md., to Alexandria, Va., on Christmas Day, to spend the afternoon and evening with my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. The drive was maybe 30-40 minutes back then. Sometimes Mom would take us through downtown Washington instead of swinging around the Beltway. I loved driving past the Pentagon and the lights of the monuments on the drive home at night.

Mom and my sister moved to New Mexico after I finished high school and so then I started flying for the holidays. I remember many dicey flights on Northwest to Albuquerque. After one harrowing landing on an icy runway in Minneapolis that caused the plane to buck and fishtail, one of the flight attendants announced over the intercom, “That, ladies and gentelemen, is why you wear your seatbelt.”

I’m actually surprised, looking back, that I didn’t experience more delays and problem flights given how much I was flying in winter weather between Washington-ABQ and then eventually Boston-Knoxville. Also, in all those years, I had only one lost bag.

Which reminds me of the time I arrived in Knoxville on Christmas Eve so famished that I begged Mom to take me to the Chili’s in the airport before we drove to her house. Halfway through my margarita, I was surprised to hear my name over the airport speaker system — I’d forgotten to claim my bag at the baggage carousel! Friends who’ve known me and my stomach know that it’s not unusual for me to have a one-track mind when I’m hungry.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Christmas Gifts

This is post #10 in the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

My Christmas morning “Red Rider BB Gun Moment” came when I was 16 years old. I had always wanted a TV of my own, but I never even bothered to ask — I could list the litany of reasons this was a bad idea on my own, without prompting them from my mom.

So, when I saw the TV box with a bow on top nestled under the Christmas tree that year, I just figured it was for my mom’s room or for her office. As my sister and I took turns reaching under the tree for gifts to unwrap, I didn’t give that one a second glance. No way that one was for me.

After the last of my gifts had been unwrapped, I remember being pretty satisfied with that year’s haul. But I don’t recall what else I got that year because of what transpired next. My mom pointed in the direction of the TV box and said, “Aren’t you going to open that one?”

“WHAT? For me? Are you serious?” was all I could say. Many “thank yous” and “I don’t believe its” then followed. It dawned on me a short time later that I knew exactly when my mom had gone to buy the TV — two days after I had picked her up from the hospital following surgery on a herniated disc, I chastised her for trying to go Christmas shopping with a friend of hers. In one of those role-reversal moments, I scolded her for trying to overdo it as she hobbled out the door. I even offered to go pick up whatever it was she was going to buy — of course, she turned down that offer.

The TV was a 13-inch — puny by today’s standards. But I spent many a night watching bad made-for-TV movies on it (we didn’t have cable). It then saw me through college, serving me and my college roomies well for our movie marathons. I still have it, though now it requires a special converter box to hook it up to a DVD player. I almost gave it away when I moved earlier this year, but there were no takers. I’m glad I hung onto it after all.

Holiday Parties

This is blog post #7 for the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Me & Grandma on New Year's Eve

My mom and dad used to have my aunts and grandma over for New Years Eve when I was real little. I remember trying to stay up with them at the age of 4 or 5. My dad would blow into a little horn (which I still have), resulting in ridiculous sounds at the stroke of midnight. I especially thought it was fun if one of my aunts and/or my grandma was spending the night.

Mom at the Holiday Table, 1985

In the above photo, the plastic Christmas tree I blogged about previously serves as a centerpiece.

Grandma Clearing the Dishes, 1985

I can only imagine my dad took these shots from 1985 because 1) it’s the kind of thing he would do; 2) he’s the only one my grandma would have stood for to take the photo; and 3) my mom and aunts all appear in similar shots from that year.

My Tragic Tale of Ol’ St. Nick

This is post #6 in the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Growing up, we celebrated St. Nicholas Day by putting our shoes outside of our bedroom the night before. When we awoke, St. Nick would have stopped by, depositing candy, coins and other such treats inside our shoes.

After crawling into bed and dozing off one night when I was 7 years old, I awoke with a start in the middle of the night. I had forgotten that the next day was St. Nicholas Day! I hurriedly pulled out my saddle shoes (part of my school uniform) and stuck them outside my door, praying that I hadn’t done so too late.

You can imagine what awaited me when I awoke: empty shoes. I was absolutely despondent.

I ran into the kitchen crying to my mom — St. Nicholas had missed me! Was I horrible child? Was it because I put my shoes out too late?

My mom had a stricken look on her face (guess who else had forgotten). You know what happened next.

It was early and my mom couldn’t think of anything else to tell me. She sat me down, hugged me and told me the truth about St. Nick and about Santa (they were both the same being and separate, in my 7-year-old mind).

Of course, then it all came crashing down. “You mean, the Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy too?” My mom just nodded and then gave me a very stern look. “Don’t you even think about telling your little sister.”

I was warned not to tell anyone at school either — my mom explained that many of the other students would still believe and it wasn’t for me to explain the truth. Of course, the notion of Santa came up several times in school between that day and Christmas. It was all I could do not to blurt out the truth.

Christmas Cards

This is post #4 in the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Today’s Advent Calendar prompt asks: “Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?”

I don’t really remember my mom sending out a bunch of Christmas cards every single year. I started doing this myself after college — I found it was a nice way to stay in touch with folks after moving away from my home state.

I went through some childhood mementos to see if I could find any Christmas cards that I received as a child. Instead, I found the gem below, which my mom helpfully labeled “Melissa’s Christmas Card to Santa 1980″ (I was 4).

Xmas Card to Santa 1980

I remember those stickers vividly — actually they were stamps and had to be licked to make them adhere to the paper. Mom used to stick them on gift tags she attached to Christmas presents. I distinctly remember licking those stamps while sitting at a tiny white table I had in my playroom in the basement of the house we lived in at that time. Perhaps I’m remembering making this exact card? I can only assume that the letters at the top were my attempt to sign my name…

From a genealogical perspective, this card has more than sentimental value. You may be able to tell from the scan that there’s also a drawing (actually, a watercolor painting, also by moi) on the reverse side. Turns out, the picture on the back and this card were made using a piece of my dad’s medical office stationary* and his office address is printed on the reverse.

After many years of buying Christmas cards that only required me to include a quick note and to sign my name, I’m making my own cards again this year. I’d like to think my technique has improved a bit — I’m still using plenty of stickers though! See below for some examples. The materials came from this year’s featured project by Creative Memories.

Handmade Xmas Cards 2009

*My parents embraced recycling early — in addition to stray pieces of stationary, my dad would bring home reams and reams of discarded EKG printouts from the medical offices where he worked. Many a drawing was done on the back of these printouts — my sister and I were still using them for scratch paper years after he retired.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Tom Kitten Trifecta


When I was preparing last week’s Treasure Chest Thursday post, I came across a set of two tiny buttons in my mom’s sewing basket that I hadn’t found before — each bearing the face of Beatrix Potter’s Tom Kitten.


My mom was an antiquing aficianado (read: eBay addict) and I can only imagine what was going through her head when she spied these. All I know is that when I was three, my parents gave me a copy of The Tale of Tom Kitten, which I still have to this day. For all I know, Mom meant to give these to me and either she lost track of them herself in her sewing basket, or she didn’t get the chance to give them to me before she passed away in 2003.


Either way, I’m so glad I found them, all these years later. Finding them caused me to pull out the book, read my parents’ inscription to me and discover the Tom Kitten bookmark still embedded in its pages. The book lover/genealogist in me goes gaga over inscriptions and lost/strange bookmarks. Rediscovering them in my own books is a thrill.