Why I Decided Not to Smoke Cigarettes in the 60’s

I turned 13 in 1963 – a teenager at last. It was time to be rebellious, or at least a little adventuresome.

My parents and my friends’ parents smoked cigarettes, and I watched aunts and uncles smoking at family gatherings.

Smoking was obviously an adult thing to do. They smoked in restaurants, in grocery stores, in movie theaters – just about everywhere. Commercials on TV and ads in newspapers and magazines made it look very attractive and sophisticated.  Even doctors smoked!

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At 13, I was on my way to adulthood, so I had to choose whether to join friends in having a first cigarette.

I chose not to.

I will admit that I inhaled cigarette smoke a couple of times, but I was never really serious about getting started.  (As an 18 year old college student in 1968, I definitely inhaled the other kind of cigarettes – but that’s another story).

When I think about it now, there were at least three reasons I decided not to smoke.

First, around that time, my Grandma Coyle told me that she would kill me if I ever smoked.  I loved her, but she was a tough lady from the hills of Kentucky who could be a little scary.

Second, the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was released in 1964 and created some buzz about the possibility of lung cancer and heart disease as a result of smoking. Without today’s fast communication options, the buzz didn’t go far the first couple of years. But in 1966, the federal government mandated that cigarette packs have a warning label on them.  I remember dad being pissed off about that since he was a staunch Republican who felt that “big government should stay out of my business.”

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But the third reason is the one that really kept me from becoming a smoker. The habit was just too dirty! One of my jobs around the house was to clean the plates after dinner, plates that often contained remnants of my mom or dad’s cigarette butts.  There were ashtrays in just about every room of the house that smelled bad, whether they were full of butts or empty.

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There were always ashes on the floor, on the furniture and on the porch. I watched my dad pick pieces of tobacco out of his teeth.  And speaking of teeth, both mom and dad’s teeth were yellowing over time, and they had an unpleasant smoker’s breath.

I remember that they both told me and my brother not to smoke, but neither of them made any attempt that I can recall to stop smoking themselves after the warnings. By that time, they were hooked and even smoked unfiltered Pall Malls “because they taste better” even though filtered cigarettes were available by the 60’s.  (They later switched to filtered, reluctantly.)

When they got hooked in the 40’s as teenagers, smoking was touted in the media as good for you. They bought into it fully and had a hard time believing the 60’s “hype” about how bad it was, even though both of their fathers were developing health issues around that time. I remember my Grandpa Coyle being diagnosed with emphysema and having a difficult time climbing stairs. I can still see him stopping every few steps and hanging on to the banister. (Yes, that is the reason for my grandma’s death threat).

I remember calling my parents on the phone later in my life and listening to my dad coughing when he tried to talk to me. I told him I was concerned and that I wished he would stop smoking. “I have to die of something!” he’d say with a laugh.  Well, he did. He died at age 61 of coronary heart disease. He would probably not have admitted it, but I’m convinced that smoking was the key culprit in his widowmaker heart attack.  I lost him much too early.

And my mom? She quit smoking not long after my dad’s death and lived for 17 years without nicotine. But it was too late. She developed emphysema, which worsened over the last 10 years of her life and ultimately killed her at age 78.  I asked her once what she most regretted in life and she said without any hesitation, “Smoking cigarettes all those years. It made my later life hell”.

According to an analysis published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA), eight million Americans avoided premature death as a result of the tobacco control efforts launched in 1964 and life expectancy over time increased by 30%. But it also estimated that 17.7 million Americans have died since 1964 from smoking-related causes and that 1 in 5 American adults still smoke today – that’s 43 million people. Source here.

I don’t know many people in my circle of friends or family who smoke these days, but I continue to see teenagers puffing on cigarettes or the newest fad, e-cigarettes.

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I’m tempted to ask them why they don’t think it’s harmful, even with so much easily accessible information, warning labels and fewer ads.

But what I’d really like to know is if their parents smoked and if they had to clean up the dirty dishes!

Cathy Green

PS. I was reminded about smoking when I enjoyed watching Good Night and Good Luck last week… a 2005 movie about Edward R. Murrow in the 1950’s and his impact on the Senator McCarthy hearings. Murrow had a cigarette in his hand throughout the entire movie  –  apparently he was never without one – and everyone else in the CBS newsroom was smoking too.  It was jarring to be reminded about how prevalent it was back then!

Who Says Fabulous Isn’t Jealous?

OMG, what more can I say?  I often feel this frightening thought each time I realize it is MY turn and not Cathy’s to write a new fabulous blog post.  It is especially hard when I write the week after one of her blogs hits another high point for our blog readership.  Yes, dear fabulousover60 readers, our most read blogs are written by Cathy Green, not Patty Gill Webber: just the facts.  Her last terrific success was Right On! Teenagers in the 1960’s had the Best Slang, which I loved as much as all the other readers so you don’t need to explain to me why it was so “hot”.

Please do not write to us saying that mine are just as good – while your kindness is appreciated, if readership is a judge, mine are not as universally welcomed.  However, I would suggest each of you that love MY blogs just get 100-1000 of your nearest and dearest women friends to read one of my blogs in the future. Maybe one that looks to have a better shot at fame since it is titled something like: “Why Trump’s Election didn’t shock fabulousover60 creators”; or, “Why women over 60—and not just fabulous ones have the nation’s best sex lives”.  The problem is, I never want to write things like that.  But that implies Cathy does write low life blogs like that which OF COURSE she DOES NOT. Being jealous makes you look and actually become a bit of an ass.

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OK, I admit it, I want what she has: the power to pick GREAT topics people care to read about.  I who consider myself rarely if EVER jealous of any other woman am feeling a tiny tiny bit of green when those numbers are reviewed.  So why not write about how it feels to be jealous of one of your dearest friends?  That is interesting – and, as I reflect upon it, potentially powerful, original, or even mysterious.  Millions of you have been waiting for a jealously blog.

Jealousy is a part of life – like taxes and insane politicians. So if I can share about my bout with jealousy, then maybe that will help you with your next bout with jealousy.

Here goes.  Well, speaking of petty, I feel plenty petty about resenting anything good that comes to another (especially Cathy).  I am a believer that life is very much an individual journey and that each of us has some good, bad and ugly – if not wildly great points, and sad as hell downers.  I also know life isn’t fair, life’s a game, transformation is possible and desirable and we all pretty much get what we give – just to name a few of my favorite clichés.  But being jealous?  That is just too base for me.  And if there is anything that is part and the heart of being fabulous it is this: do not be base and in the gutter about anything, don’t stoop to the lowest denominator—reach for the highest and best in yourself and others!

Blah blah blah –this “advise” about my being jealous is not helping you deal with yours is it?

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OK, here’s another way of looking at it.  Maybe if you have never been jealous, even a tiny bit, you aren’t being honest with yourself.   There are so many fabulous women  to be jealous of that being jealous actually makes sense: their hair, their accomplishments, their mega brains, their ability to rise above things, their bodies, their perpetual Zen state, their genius, their fame and/or fortune, their children, their car, their amazing partner, their saintliness, their honesty, their integrity, their clothes, their vacations, their health, their optimism, their plastic surgeon, or even their courage and willingness to give all they have to a meaningful and truly important cause. Come to think of it, it is amazing we aren’t all a great deal more jealous than we are.  And so that’s my gift to you – realize that if the biggest thing you do badly is feel slightly envious of someone you loves’ luck, energy, success or break in life, good for you – it is a minor thing really.

While I admit this piece is highly unlikely to win any awards, it was fun to write it and funnier still to realize how easy it is to stop being fabulous in any given moment.   I guess what I learned from this blog post is profoundly simple: it is harder to be good all the time – to be truly fabulous – than it looks. Especially when you do so many other things as perfectly as I do.  Cathy – it’s your turn!

Patty

Remembering What My Mom Taught Me

I had a pretty amazing mother.  If I think about what people most admire about me, or what I most admire about myself, the answer is clear.  My mother taught me the good stuff that people admire and those things I admire in myself.

My mom didn’t stop moving.  My sister Wendy and I laugh that we never saw her resting or taking a nap – something we both do regularly.   So clearly she didn’t teach us every good thing we now do.  But we both believe, she taught us our central values – to be loving, to be kind, to be a giver and to be a doer.

My mom worked when others mother’s didn’t.  She modeled being self-sufficient, motivated and focused on many important things, not just being our mommy. A strong work ethic and a drive to be successful in a meaningful way was the result of that.

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Patty’s Mom in the mid 1940s

My mom was older than other peoples’ moms – she had me at 40 in 1950 (slightly younger when Wendy was born) – considered highly risky if not down right disgusting from conventional wisdom of the time.  She worked into her 70s and was very lively and fully fabulous over 60 – some of her most productive years. Ditto us Gill girls.

My mom loved great food and great clothes.  Hard to have these two passions – one tends to make wearing the other tougher.  But somehow I do love pasta and wine even as I work like hell to keep myself in shape and wear great clothes – and not the same ones – my mom was fashionable for a long time and I picked up that drive to look stylish in a current way.

“But the greatest of these is love”. From first Corinthians, the Bible and my mother said it over and over. It stuck. If I have a choice of calling a sick friend, or finishing my new book; remembering someone’s birthday or having an early cocktail – it is my mother’s words and life that made me the women who makes the call, writes the note, or tries to be helpful and useful to others.

My mother drove me insane at times.  She wanted perfection in some ways I just could not accomplish.   She wanted standards adhered to that I came to see as ridiculous.  But I wouldn’t trade my Mom for anyone else’s.  She made me who I am—the kind woman who is still a bit compulsive.  And while not a biological mother myself, I do a good deal of mothering I think.  And any good I do, I owe to her legacy of thoughtfulness that helped me create my own version of being there for those I love.

I still miss her.  Not all the time of course.  But on Mother’s Day, I have to pause and remember how lucky I was in the “mommy lottery”.  Someone once told me my grandchildren had won the grandmother lottery getting me as one of their grandmothers.  I hope that is true, and if it is, I owe most of my great grandmothering skills to Magdalina Maria Manganiello or Mrs. Gill as she loved to be called.  I realize now at 66 I didn’t always appreciate her, and in some ways I feared her.  And, I never did get her feelings of certainty about all things.  My mom was different… and special.  I feel she made me, and Wendy, the same way. Thanks to my mom and to yours – they did a very fine job.

Patty

Right On! Teenagers in the 1960’s had the Best Slang

Being a teenager in the 60’s was really groovy!

Groovy was a way cooler word than “cool” or any other word meant to describe the best of the best.  Evolving from the word “grooves” in vinyl records, we even had groovy songs like:  “We’ve Got a Groovy Kind of Love” by The Mindbenders in 1965, “We’ve Got a Groovy Thing Goin’ by Simon and Garfunkel in 1965, and Groovin’” by The Young Rascals in ’67.

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Groovy may have been the best word, but here’s a walk down memory lane for all of us 60’s teens.

  • We told our friends to be there or be square. We got bummed out if things didn’t go our way.  We claimed dibs on things we wanted.
  • We dreamed about having our own pad and bread, didn’t like anyone who was a spaz, a dip-stick, a square, a candy-ass or a fink.
  • We knew some greasers with their slicked-back hair, and knew that there were some girls who were fast and might even go all the way.
  • We weren’t above a little making out and swapping spit at the drive-in Passion Pit, however, and even got to cop a feel once in a while if we were going steady.  An occasional hickey was kind of funky too.

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  • We would talk on the horn for hours with the twisted cord pulled taut around doors for privacy, especially about hunks or skirts or the skuzzy kids or ditzes we didn’t like.
  • We tooled around town and then peeled out of parking lots in our cars and sometimes did a Chinese fire drill at a red light just for fun.
  • We told our little brothers, who were a pain in the wazoo, to flake off and quit bugging us. We told our Old Lady and Old Man not to be so uptight or go ape or freak out.
  • Some of us were hippies and flower children, or at least wanted to be. We were laid back and snuck a toke once in a while. And sometimes we even got blitzed.

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  • If we were girls, we wore thongs on our feet and covered our zits with make-up.
  • If we were guys, we wore our shades while checking out the choicest girls to hit on.
  • Everything was cool or neat. Awesome things were bad. Incredible things were far out. Disgusting things were raunchy. Strange things were kooky. And anything we didn’t like was lame.
  • We spun our vinyls to listen to I’m a Believer, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In. Outta Sight, man!
  • We watched Bonanza, Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke and What’s My Line on the boob tube, and were lucky enough to see the Fab Four on the Ed Sullivan Show.
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If you need a caption for this one you likely are a spaz

  • We didn’t take criticism well. Tough toenails if you didn’t like what we were doing. Go ahead and call the fuzz!
  • We greeted everyone with “what’s happenin” and waved “later” when we beat feet.
  • We bummed a smoke and told our friends to lay it on us when we wanted to hear the scoop.
  • We had a blast, we hung loose, we mellowed out, we complained about living in Nowheresville, we booked it when it was time to leave, we pigged out on fast food and we flipped the bird when we got insulted. It was a gas!

Yes, some of these great words and expressions snuck into the 60’s from the 50’s and even earlier, and some have carried on through later generations.

But in my humble 1960’s teenager opinion, we had the coolest and grooviest and hippest slang of all time.

If you agree, say Right On!

If you don’t, shut your face!

Cathy Green

P.S.   I used over 70 words/phrases in this blog. What’s really neato is that I could have used even more.  What a generation of creative wordsmiths we were! Groovy, huh?

Reconfirming what’s important in my 60’s: Sedona Reflections

I’m at the center of world – energy wise – I am literally in Sedona Arizona.  Sedona is home to the bright red and orange sandstone formations and many spiritual paths to inner (and outer) health, wellness, peace and balance.  For many years people have come here for inner renewal.

Of course I am having a privileged time (like most things in life, gaining peace and serenity and an awesome massage continues to get more expensive every year) with Bill and a couple of our special friends who with us are thrilled to be surrounded by the intense beauty and calm of this place.

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Sedona is fabulous.  There is no doubt about it.  Over 4 million people visit Sedona each year: 60% indicate it is for a spiritual experience.  That is all I need to know to make it fabulous.  If millions come here to find deeper calmness and roots, it is more than doing its role in helping humankind everywhere.  The newly calmed and centered people make the world a better place.  Many of you likely would like to reserve some calm and centered people for your church, club, synagogue, or canasta group.  You can’t help but leave Sedona with improved intentions about all that is good.  My guess is most of us slip quickly off the wagon of resolve – but we are, despite ourselves, still better than we were before our chance to grab this energy.

Yes, it belongs on your/my new Fabulousover60 List! (See below).  This is my name for a subset of the Bucket List (see movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson) that focuses on those experiences, ideas, people and places that seem musts for any fabulous woman over 60 who wants to keep the journey and being fabulous going.

This resolve to create a new FabulousOver60 List is increasing.  It is striking me weekly if not daily, that aging gracefully and being an internally/externally beautiful, good, centered, living in the present moment person is 100% harder than it sounds – and harder than ever to achieve as you age.  Here’s my solution: by creating a new list of places to go, books to read, reflections to have, joys to share, ideas and experiences that are just better as we age, it seems I will automatically feel better about all the work that continuing to be fabulous entails.

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Once I leave Sedona (tomorrow) my resolve to get the list going may fade.  But I don’t think so.  I have this crazy feeling, confirmed by a strong tingling vortex vibe I felt this morning on a hike, that we all owe each other a hand to keep feeling and being fabulous.  As the world spins, we need each other’s good energy and good ideas. We also need to work together to make sure as many of us who want to continue to be that beautiful centered caring and daring woman we continually dream and strive to be can be a wider reality for more women – not just those very privileged.

New List for staying FabulousOver60:

Entry one: Don’t quit caring about yourself in the special way we all deserve.

Entry two: Do quit all the things you know you need to quit – just stop it.

Entry three: Come to peace with losing things that inevitably come with age – but keep looking for new gems of wisdom and ways to have fun to support the continuing journey.

Entry four: Go to Sedona sometime – or at least look it up and think about it.

The list continues . . . just like we do.

Patty

Working Out At the Gym: Can You Guess What I Hate the Most?

This morning, my personal trainer, Chuck, told me that I had cat hair on my black workout pants. Sigh.  It reminded me that I wrote a blog in 2013 about what I hate most about working out. Here it is again!

Twice a week, I have breakfast, make my bed, get dressed in my exercise clothes and drive 10 minutes to a gym to work out with my personal trainer, Chuck. I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t exercise if I didn’t have someone waiting for me who had been paid to be there.

I work out with weights, ropes, bands, balls, a baseball bat (don’t ask) and, occasionally, boxing gloves. I groan (lots) and sweat (some) for about an hour… then Chuck makes me stretch my aching body so that I can walk to my car.

Do I work out to get thin? That would be nice, but there’s little chance of that happening at this point. No, I work out to stay as flexible as possible, to deal with impending over-60 balance issues, and to keep the flab under my arms from drooping so much that I can’t wear anything that doesn’t have long sleeves.

I definitely don’t work out for pleasure and I probably wouldn’t do it if there was a pharmaceutical alternative. However, I have to admit that I feel better about myself and have more energy when I work out than when I find excuses not to.

There are many things I don’t like about the experience, but what do I like the least?

  • Is it the drive to and from the gym?
  • Is it the aches and pains of calf raises?
  • Is it the 200th squat of the session?
  • Is it the tiresome trainer saying “just 3 more”?

No. All of these are on my top 10 list, but the thing that really bothers me the most are the mirrors.

All gyms have mirrors. They cover most walls. They are big and unavoidable.

Trainers will tell you that it’s important to have correct “form” to achieve maximum benefit from your exercises and that mirrors are the way to check your posture. I don’t believe it. Mirrors are for the trainers, body builders and 20 and 30 year old exercise fanatics to admire their sexy bodies in their body-hugging “fitness attire”.

Mirrors are definitely NOT for 60-something women who show up at the gym with baggy black t-shirts and wild hair pulled back in a scraggly ponytail. (While working out with Chuck, I am often shocked when I inadvertently glance in one of the mirrors – where did that old lady come from?)

I know what I’m talking about. I was a gym regular in my 20’s and 30’s (and even into my 40’s) and wore the latest, most fashionable and colorful gear I could find. Remember stretchy wrist bracelets, scrunch socks and head bands? Here’s Cher in the 80’s in case you don’t:

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In my younger years, I often checked out my exercise “form” … which really meant checking out my thin and toned body in my great new clothes. Mirrors were my friends.

Not anymore.

So, Chuck, please don’t tell me what the mirrors are for. I know what they are for and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Point me toward a wall and earn your money by making sure I have the right “form”, OK?

Gyms are never going to take down the mirrors or provide curtains that can be pulled shut over them, so I guess I will just have to continue to “suck it up” (in more ways than one).

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Cathy Green

Can We Save Our Grandchildren?

My grandgirls (age 10 and 7) were here for Easter week.  Great fun and many laughs. And some moments of shaking my head and wondering if these gorgeous, brilliant, athletic, sensitive and caring girls (I did mention they were MY granddaughters right?) were growing up in a wildly paced technological world I would never understand.  A world that could warp their values and twist their minds in some way leaving them totally materialistic, often without a moral core, confused, over stimulated and indifferent to everyone but themselves.  Hmm, do you ever think these crazy thoughts about the current youngest generation?  Sure you do.  Maybe it’s the Tang and Tab we drank, the Tareyton’s we smoked, the Beatles and Stones we listened to or the free love and/or non-medicinal marijuana we shared that has made us wary of today’s mysterious culture.

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I got up one morning last week and both girls were intently playing with their Kindle Fire tablets. They were so quiet I was partly thrilled (I remember being quiet as a child – am I just delusional or were we actually half as noisy?) and partly worried as I realized I had no, yes, no control over what they were watching.  Or, what they were thinking or evolving into based on what they were watching.  After Reagan noticed me she was anxious to show me a “show” on YouTube she really likes – Miranda Sings, a sort of Pee Wee Herman for the current 4th grade set.  It was rather odd to say the least – in a sort of young tween age gross, disgusting sense.  This quick look into today’s girls’ world started my serious reflection on how I could counter some of these new cultural influences.

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Miranda Sings – YouTube character

Here are my conclusions:

  • I am right that I have little idea what is going on in my granddaughters world in terms of fashion, TV, media, nature of the culture and most things they interact with and observe daily
  • This is not the end of the world
  • The reality is, the people our children and grandchildren become are only partially impacted by the culture they experience. They are MORE, MUCH MORE, influenced by the homes, parents, and family (including us) that surround them and interact with them as they grow up
  • We remember mainly standard things our parents said frequently – which included these and their variations:
    • Why are you heating the outdoors? Close the door
    • We walked x miles to school/church etc. with bad shoes/light shoes/no boots
    • If that is what the teacher/the Rabbi/Father John/Reverend Bob or the librarian said, then that is what you are going to do!
    • Don’t have such a swelled head
    • And their favorite as we grew to be teens and young women: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?!?
  • Likely our grandchildren will remember the new equivalent of those messages said by our children to them, including these and their variations:
    • Believe in yourself
    • You are wonderful and deserve the best
    • Stop doing that or eating that – it will result in something awful that the government should ban
    • We don’t do that in this house
    • Time out/inside voice/STOP
  • Our grandchildren will likely NOT remember much of anything we say – BUT, and here is the BIG INSIGHT for this fabulous grandmother:
    • They will observe and mimic the things we say that are funny and unique. I expect Reagan and Morgan to talk with a banana in their ear while having breakfast with their children or grandchildren just like I did. As well as call every insect and animal Mr. or Miss whatever – Mr. Ant, Miss Bear, Mr. Chip, Miss Fish – they already do
    • They will observe and worry or not about someday getting older based on how we are handling it right now – they are already telling our daughter they want her to be an “active” grandma like me
    • They will understand love, money, success, generosity, kindness, intellectual curiosity and honesty based on what we DO with/to and around our children and them

Since this analysis, I am not nearly as worried about saving my grandchildren from the culture anymore.  I work extremely hard on modeling values I want them to incorporate in themselves.  I do not lecture or advise.  I have few if any opinions and respect the boundaries around them and their parents who they see I love dearly.

“Shit”, I said after doing something not quite right in the kitchen.  Morgan and Reagan reminded me of two things.  First, I said a bad word (damn they listen don’t they?) and “it’s OK grandma, we love your meatballs.” Where did they get that from?

Don’t worry about YouTube. They’ll be fine.

Patty

Time Ain’t No Beauty Specialist

This piece was submitted by guest blogger Ginny Callaway. Send us your story or short article and we’ll contact you if it works as a guest blog. Click here to share.

105 year old Aunt Zipora Rice from Sodom, North Carolina once said, “Time might be a great healer, but it ain’t no beauty specialist.”

That woman knew what she was talking about. As I march closer to the next era after our Fabulous 60s, that simple statement is proving truer by the minute.

Do you remember how we decorated for the prom with crepe paper? At seventeen, crepe paper was the sign of a good time. All the rich colors to choose from. We could twirl it and drape it from the bleachers to the stage, tie it in a bow to decorate the front of the punch bowl table and wrap it around the basketball poles, a simple camouflage.  Crepe paper could change a gymnasium into a magical, memory-making ballroom. If it got stretched out and lost its shape, you’d just throw it away and grab a new roll. Presto, a fresh start.

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Who knew crepe paper would eventually become part of our anatomy? Yeah, that ugly, crinkly-looking skin that has moved in and forced its taut, firm predecessor to vacate the premises. I’m talking about the triceps area, the inner thigh, the back of our hands and the most ubiquitous of all, the turkey neck.

 

Short of going under the knife, a fresh start is not a possibility. Even with firm, toned muscles hovering just below the surface, the crepe paper effect persists. Just wave at a friend and those “Hi, Helens”, those “you who’s,” that free-wheeling skin dangling from our triceps gives us away. So halter tops, cute sleeveless sun dresses and strapless evening gowns have found their way to the Goodwill. I now welcome turtlenecks, long sleeve tops and slightly longer shorts. So be it.

Time ain’t no beauty specialist when it comes to our faces, either.  When I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I’m startled. Who is that looking back? That’s not me. I’m twenty-two, thirty-four, forty-eight. My skin is firm and smooth, no divots between my brows or red and brown blotches. My eyes are clear and open without folded layers of skin on my lids that make me look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s first cousin. My smile is defined by pearly white teeth and full red lips, not deep-set grooves shaped like parentheses on each side and a string of quote marks curved across my upper lip.

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Who is that in the mirror?

Now I remember.

Each line was born.

I came by them honestly.

Those lines springing from the ends of my eyes are reminders of the hours of laughter shared with my sisters until tears covered our cheeks and our sides hurt.

From squinting in the sunlight as the catamaran skimmed across the incredible blues and greens of the Caribbean Sea.

The parallel trenches engraved across my forehead are reminders of the fear I felt the Halloween night a sheriff’s car pulled into our driveway at 2:30 in the morning. Was our son okay?

The fear I felt the night I heard an enormous explosion in the direction of the airport just as my husband’s plane was scheduled to land. Was David okay?

The grooves bordering my mouth like a set of large-text parentheses are reminders of the years my mouth forgot how to smile. When grief pulled down every inch of my face, of my being, like a boulder around my neck. My daughter was not okay.

Yes, time has a split personality. It can heal and it can leave its footprints. Aunt Zip had it partially right. Time can also create a unique beauty that only years of living to the fullest can polish. When a friend says, “you look terrific,” I don’t say something to diminish or qualify that statement. I say “thank you” and let myself feel beautiful.

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105 year-old Aunt Zip

I sometimes wonder about the clothes I relinquished to Goodwill. Hopefully a young girl is enjoying them. Maybe someone getting ready for the prom.

Ginny

Easter in the 50’s: Candy, New Clothes, Church and Grandma’s House

Growing up in the 50’s, Easter was my third favorite holiday after Christmas and Halloween. I especially liked the fact that it came around in springtime, which meant that Cincinnati’s long, cold winter months were really over.

I also liked that everyone in the family got new clothes so that we could dress up for Easter Sunday church services before visiting my two grandmas’ houses.

But the most exciting thing was having an Easter basket full of chocolate bunnies, coconut cream eggs, dyed Easter eggs and jelly beans show up on the dining room table on Easter morning. Baskets were left by the Easter Bunny, we were told, although we weren’t quite sure who that was or why he brought us goodies. And, do rabbits lay eggs, we wondered? We weren’t stupid, though, and happily went along with the bunny stories.

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The days leading up to Easter Sunday were filled with anticipation for me, my sister Chris and my little brother Tom. First, there was Lent which began on Ash Wednesday and lasted until Holy Saturday. As good Catholic children, we had to give something up for those 40 days in order to repent for our sins. Since the three of us were all under 10 years old, we didn’t have much to repent for or much to give up, either.

Candy or ice cream or cookies were the obvious choices. I usually chose candy and then salivated for 40 days every time I saw a friend eating a candy bar. Such torture! But as far as I can remember, I stuck it out and didn’t eat candy until the basket showed up on Easter Sunday morning.

I remember the strong smell of vinegar a couple of days before Easter when we would open up our egg decorating kit, drop purple, red, green, blue, orange and yellow tablets into coffee cups of vinegar and then dip our eggs into the cups with a spoon because the metal dipper that came with the kit never worked.  My mother would try to minimize fighting by having us take turns with the colors.

Sometimes we would draw on the eggs with a “magic” wax crayon before we dipped them. I’m sure that was when mom realized that that none of us had any artistic promise.

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Or, we would wait until the eggs were dry and then select a design sticker from the kit and hold it in place with a towel. That was supposed to imprint the image on the egg. The trick was holding it steady enough and long enough that it wouldn’t blur.  When you are under 10, you don’t have much patience so that didn’t work very well either.

I remember two popular songs about Easter in the 50’s. They were all over the airwaves (yes, we listened to radio in our homes back then).  One was Easter Parade, written in the early 30’s, but made especially popular when Judy Garland and Fred Astaire performed it in the 1948 Easter Parade movie,

The other was Here Comes Peter Cottontail, recorded by Gene Autry in 1950. We knew every word.

About my new clothes: I don’t remember going to a store to buy a new dress for Easter until I was in my teens, so I think my mom went to the store on her own or had our dresses made by a neighbor. I don’t remember being picky, but when I look at this photo, I think I should have been.  Check out the puffy sleeves and the weird “Easter bonnet”.

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Cathy, Easter, circa 1958

Here’s another photo of me and my sister. I’m on the right. No, we are NOT twins. She is actually a year older. But obviously, my mom found it easier to buy us the same clothes. And, unfortunately, this wasn’t the only year she dressed us alike.

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Christine and Cathy, Easter, circa 1956

Did you notice the gloves? They were a big thing in the 50’s.  And the cute little bobby socks were, too. I have no idea where that center part in my hair came from, but I think in this case an Easter bonnet would have been more attractive.

At church, everyone was in celebration mode. Not only had Jesus risen from the dead, but weren’t we all looking great?  Shades of pink, yellow, blue and green were everywhere. New dresses, hats, shoes, and purses were overtly checked out, sometimes with envy and sometimes with snickers.

After church, our family would drive to one of my grandma and grandpa’s houses, where we were met with oohing and aahing, posed for Kodak pictures, and ate lots of food and candy. Next, we’d drive to my other grandma and grandpa’s house where there was more oohing and aahing, more snapshots, more food and more candy.

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Mom and us kids, Dad always took the pictures

And then, Easter was over. In a few days, all of the candy was gone and the eggs were too old to eat.

After Easter, there were no more imminent kid-friendly holidays.

The only thing we could do was to look forward to summer vacation, think about what we would wear on Halloween, and glance over our shoulders to see if Santa was watching.

Cathy Green

Spring Cleaning Must Be In My DNA!

People who know me would never call me Mrs. Happy Homemaker.

I’ve never watched Martha Stewart on TV, I’ve never constructed a table arrangement after a visit to a craft store, the one and only cake I tried to bake was a total disaster, and Ray would prefer that I stay away from knives when I’m helping him in the kitchen since I never know which one to use and am prone to vegetable-cutting accidents.

The house stays clean with help from Laverne, my occasional housekeeper, and I’ve learned to keep everything straightened up and tidy in order to live in harmony for 26 years with my neatnik husband.

However, when late March rolls around, I get the urge to start “spring cleaning”. I begin looking around the house, considering what to get rid of and planning some major dust and dirt extraction projects.

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I overheard Ray tell his brother that when I mention getting rid of the couch or some of the junk in the garage, he tries to stay out of my way. He’s afraid, he said, that he might get on my list of stuff that has to go. Such a funny guy, huh?

But he’s also a smart one.

I asked him a few days ago why his trout fishing waders have to hang in the garage. He wisely answered that they really didn’t have to and that he would move them to the basement.

I then mentioned that I was thinking about either getting rid of our bedspread or getting it cleaned. “Whatever you want to do is fine with me”, he said, although I know he doesn’t have a clue why the bedspread needs to be cleaned.

Officially, spring begins on Sunday, March 20. But since daffodils have been blooming in our yard in Asheville for a couple of weeks already, my spring cleaning urges obviously started early.

I remember my mom in the 50’s tearing the house apart around April of each year. Everything would come out of the closets so that she could clean (not just dust or sweep) all of the shelves and floors. The kitchen and bathrooms would be thoroughly scrubbed, too. Draperies, rugs, appliances … nothing was left untouched. Newspaper ads like this spurred her along.

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My dad – a smart guy like Ray – would keep out of her way and we kids would make ourselves scarce. She never asked for help. She preferred doing it alone because she liked to throw things out and didn’t want any second guessing. Our garbage cans would be overflowing.

In later life, I asked her why she hadn’t kept some of my old toys, like my Barbie doll or my Chatty Cathy. She just looked at me and said all that needed to be said: “Spring cleaning”.

I am sure that her mother, and her grandmother and her great grandmother and her great-great grandmother also performed the spring cleaning ritual. And I’m sure that if I had had a daughter, she would be carrying on the tradition.

So, where did the tradition come from?

One explanation is that the concept of cleaning and preparing a house for the coming of spring dates back to the Persian new year, Iranian Nowruz. They called it “shaking the house”.

Another theory is that spring cleaning came from the ancient Jewish practice of purifying and cleansing the house before the arrival of Passover.

Others say that the Chinese are responsible since they would dust, sweep and organize their houses to prepare for the Chinese New Year, inviting good luck into their homes.

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Regardless of where it started, it seems to be a common practice throughout many cultures and countries.

In the old days in our own country, people would keep houses shut up tightly in the winter and the heat produced from coal, oil and wood would make things quite dirty and dingy. Spring was the time to open windows and doors and clean houses from top to bottom.

Today’s climate-controlled homes make this less of an issue, but we still have lots of dust and chemicals that supposedly get trapped over the winter. So, a great spring day with sunshine and a light breeze beckons us women to open things up and clean things out.

By the way, although I can’t prove it, I bet that at least 90% of spring cleaning is done by women, who then delegate some of it to reluctant men.

So, it’s spring cleaning time at the Green residence.

The bedspread is going to the dry cleaners, along with several area rugs.

I will be thoroughly washing the shelves and cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.

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I’ve already started to fill bags with old towels, sheets and clothing for Goodwill.

And, I just told Ray that he needs to tackle the garage and basement…soon.

Smart guy that he is, he just smiled and nodded.

Cathy Green

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