Sunday, December 20, 2009

HOLIDAY PUNCH - Don't Try This at Home

This is one of my favorite humorous holiday stories.

But first a little background:

My father was 20 in 1929 when the stock market crashed. A lot of people lost their jobs, but some bosses reduced everyone’s hours so they didn’t have to put people out of work. Therefore, when my father was a young man, he still lived with his parents and worked only a few days a week, as did several of his friends. They spent most of the winter at the Community House, which was much like a YMCA. My father became an excellent gymnast. Summers, they played tennis in an empty lot that they had rigged up with a tennis net. My father also excelled on the makeshift tennis court.
Five of the guys remained friends throughout their lives. One lived in the country and had built a picnic shelter and fireplace in his yard, so we had a 4th of July celebration there each year. Strangely, my family always held a New Year’s Eve party. I say “strangely” because my parents were the only ones who never drank or served alcohol, but since it was a family gathering with the possibility of winter road conditions, perhaps that was a good thing.


My mother worked for weeks to plan each New Year's Eve party down to the last detail. She wanted everything to look beautiful and taste terrific. She, my sister and I spent days cleaning, shopping, decorating, creating holiday cookies, and preparing snacks, appetizers, and hot food for the gathering.
The year I was about 11 or 12, my mother had a brilliant idea for the non-alcoholic punch we would serve. She found a recipe for a red punch. The day before the party, she arranged maraschino cherries in the bottom of a large donut-shaped jello mold and added just a little of the mixture she had prepared for an ice ring and froze that, assuring that the cherries would stay at the bottom of the mold and be on the top when it was turned over into the punch bowl. Then she added the rest of the mixture which was lemonade (so as not to dilute the punch) which had been tinted with green food coloring. When it was frozen, it was supposed to look like a green holiday wreath with red berries.

On New Year’s Eve, we scattered bowls of snacks around the living room and set the dining table with all manner of appetizers. We mixed the red punch in a large glass bowl and set it on the table surrounded by glass cups, but waited until a few guests arrived to add the ice ring that did indeed look like a wreath. It was beautiful in the red punch.
We served punch to the first few guests and then sat in the living room for about twenty minutes before the next family arrived. By the time their coats were off and we were ready to serve them punch, the green ice ring had started to melt.
Unfortunately, the green food coloring melting into the red punch created a shade of gray which looked an awful lot like dirty scrub water. My horrified mother wisked the punch bowl into the kitchen. We found some empty jars to store the punch, and because there was no room in the refrigerator, we placed them in an old coal cellar in the basement to stay cold. My mother quickly mixed some new punch and added ordinary ice cubes.

During the next week, every day my frugal father tried to convince us to drink the punch, but ---although there was really nothing wrong with it except the color ---it was just too awful to look at. My father told us to close our eyes. My mother suggested we donate it to the local school for the blind, but eventually, most of it went down the drain.
Anyone would have had to be punch-drunk to inbibe that swill.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Thursday, December 17, 2009


This post is in response
to a writing prompt at
Prompt: "What is one of your life mottoes?"
Click on the link to join in or view other responses.

I actually have dozens of life mottoes. After all there are many aspects to one's life, so one needs a motto for just about everything. So instead of limiting myself to just one, I am making a list, in random order, as I think of them.

Stop to enjoy the wild flowers.

You can do ANYthing you want, but you can't do EVERYthing you want.

Cleanliness is next to impossible.

"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform." (Mark Twain)

Love is NOT all you need.

Those who disagree with me are stupid or insane ---probably both.

The best way to stay healthy is not to worry about things.

Live and let live.

If you rest, you rust.

Forget what others think. Do your own thing and have fun doing it.

Virtue is its own punishment.

"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity." (Robert Heinlein's Lazarus Long)

“The thing about religion is that everybody else’s always appears stupid.” (Dave Barry)

There is no free lunch, but the best things in life are free.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrowmindedness... Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." (Mark Twain)

What goes around, comes around.

"The human race has one really effective weapon and that is laughter." (Mark Twain)

A closed mouth gathers no feet. (I don't follow this one often, but I agree with it.)

Everybody is somebody else's weirdo.

"Most married couples, even though they love each other very much in theory, tend to view each other in practice as large teeming flaw colonies, the result being that they get on each other's nerves and regularly erupt into vicious emotional shouting matches over such issues as toaster settings." (Dave Barry)

I have more of these little gems, so consider this post a work-in-progress. I will add more as I think of them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

MY MOTHER - Part 2

In my previous post, I announced the death of my 95 year-old mother. I am not a religious person, but my mother was. She left written instructions for what she wanted included in her memorial service. I did my best to fulfill her requests.

When my father died in 1982, my mother was disappointed in his memorial service. She commented that the minister had acted like he didn't know my father, said nothing personal about him, and could have said the same service for just about anyone.

When I contacted the current minister, I asked for his email address so I could type my mother's requests for the service. In addition, I wrote a brief summary of her life. I was sure he couldn't include all of the information, but suggested he include anything he thought might interest those in attendance. But he used nearly all the information I gave him, sprinkling it throughout the service, making it a very personal tribute to my mother.

Several friends and relatives who could not be in attendance asked me to send a program from the service, so I am posting the program here. Click on any image to enlarge it.

In addition to the hymns in the program, my mother requested the following hymns to be used as preludes and/or postludes:

All the Way My Savior Leads Me

Safe in the Arms of Jesus

Someday the Silver Cord Will Break

Love Divine

Abide With Me

Near to the Heart of God

Out of Ivory Palaces

Beyond the Sunset

These are the notes I sent to the minister about my mother's life:

Born: 3/18/1914 - Mt. Troy (Pittsburgh, PA)

Her mother, Selma Rotzler (of German decent) married Swedish immigrant William Swanson.

Grace was the second of 4 sisters ---and the last surviving one of the four.

Started school at age 5

Her family moved to Lima, Ohio for a while and her father called her his "little Lima bean."

Later returned to Mt. Troy.

Sickly child ---suffered from rheumatic fever, missed a year of school (at about age 10-12.)

Her father worked for American Bridge.

Her mother was the "go-to" neighbor who helped take care of children when a parent was ill, helped deliver babies, took care of people, gave food to beggars.

Grace had to drop out of school in her teens to work (during the Great Depression.)

Worked for the Clark Candy Company on the North Side.

Worked as a seamstress for a company which made one-of-a-kind gowns for "society ladies." She often told stories of women who would arrive at 6:30 pm for their final fittings while 6 or 8 of the girls would hem their gowns by hand, before the clients ran off to the opera.

Met my father Charles Peiffer (from Spring Hill) at a church conference (Evangelical and Reformed Church, which later became the United Church of Christ). On an old photo that Grace had given Charles in May 1936 she wrote on the reverse, "To Mr. Charles Peiffer from the future Mrs. Charles Peiffer." They were married in June 1940, after dating for more than 4 years. She made her own wedding dress and those of her attendants.

When I was a preteeen, she worked part-time for Kaufmann's department store selling baby clothes.

Taught Sunday school

Active in church women's "Circles"

Was a Girl Scout Leader.

Volunteered for Meals on Wheels

Active in the local Book Club

Worked on the committee that catered wedding receptions at the church

Made most of the clothes for her daughters and herself, even made prom dresses for both daughters and the dresses for her oldest daughter's (Linda, deceased) wedding

Liked to make crafts

Was very frugal ---even reupholstered her own furniture rather than buying new

Did the crossword puzzle in the Pittsburgh Press every day for decades.

Was an avid reader. Often walked with her daughters to the Shaler North Hills Library. Especially liked mysteries by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Agatha Christy. Also enjoyed biographies.

She liked to travel. She and Charles took driving trips across the U.S. and also flew to Hawaii and Alaska, visiting 49 states at least once. (They missed North Dakota) Grace and her youngest sister, Jeanne (pronounced Jeanie) also drove across the country when Grace was in her 80's and her sister in her 70's. Grace also visited England and Sweden.

A few close friends called her Mazie ---short for Amazing Grace.

Charles was the church organist (for both Catholic and Protestant services) at the Western State penitentiary and St. John's Lutheran Church on the North Side. Because we could not attend church at the penitentiary, and we had only one car, we joined the Glenshaw Presbyterian Church after we moved from Spring Hill to the Glenshaw area in 1953.

Grace was happy when Charles retired from being an organist, because they were able to attend church together for the first time in about 30 years. Charles died in 1982. Grace's older daughter Linda died in 1988.

Grace had been a member of the Glenshaw church for about 55 years.

Died peacefully in her sleep: 11/25/2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MY MOTHER: 3/18/1914 - 11/25/2009

My 95 year old mother had been on a waiting list for an assisted living facility for over 14 months. Meanwhile she had in-home help when I couldn't be there.

Her health and dementia had slowly worsened over the past five years, but she seemed to go down hill very swiftly in the last two months. Still, she could dress and feed herself. She took her medications, but someone had to place the correct pills in her daily pill organizer so she would take the right ones. Physically, she was frail, but had very little wrong with her.

Recently, she fell in her home between her day-time and night-time help. We thought she had a stroke because she was not walking and had no recollection of her fall. We took her to the emergency room where it was determined that she did not have a stroke. Although she had only minor physical injuries, they decided to keep her for observation. She was disorientated and very listless, and somewhat dehydrated. She knew she was in the hospital, but did not understand why.

Several days later, she seemed to be doing fairly well ---she was walking short distances with help, feeding herself and alert, although somewhat disoriented. However, her doctor recommended we place her in a nursing home for a month or so after leaving the hospital and we were looking into that.

However, during the early hours of November 25th, the day before Thanksgiving, she died peacefully in her sleep.

My Aunt Jeanne, my mother's youngest sister, died the day before Thanksgiving in 2006. Their grandfather died the day before Thanksgiving in 1946. If I were a superstitious person, I might worry every time that holiday rolled around.

I've been out of touch because of my mother's deteriorating condition, visiting the hospital and taking care of her home and finances. Since her death I have been contacting everyone, arranging a memorial service, taking care of matters (bills, insurance, the will, etc.) helping my niece move into my mother's home, disposing of my mothers' belongings, and dealing with lawyers and probate.

My mother left written instructions that she wanted to be cremated with no viewing, which suited me fine. I have never liked funeral homes and avoid them whenever possible. She requested only a memorial service. Since there was to be no viewing, there was no rush to hold the service. I didn't want to do it over Thanksgiving weekend. The next week, the church was busy with a large meeting and several weddings. Also a good friend of my mother's was having a 100th birthday party that week and I didn't want to put a damper on that, so we scheduled the service for two weeks after her death.

My mother was not well-educated, but she was very smart and well-read. She had many talents. Despite her many excellent qualities, she was not perfect. She had a great sense of humor but also had a dark side that few people saw. Yet, she was a caring person who was involved in a lot of volunteer work. Although she was progressive for her time, she was also a product of her era.

In my next post, I will include a copy of the program from my mother's memorial service and tell you a little about her life.

I previously wrote that I probably would not be blogging after my mother's death until January, but I've been thinking about my mother, so I will probably write some things about my mother and our family. After long months of my mother's decline, I am inspired to affirm life with some creative art and writing, too.