New Days as a German Instructor

Holding books and papers in my arms,
enough for a class of thirty new students,
I entered the classroom, wide grin on
my face and eyes sparkling. I began

the new quarter as I was accustomed:
speaking only in German, greeting my
new students, gesturing with my arms as
I walked from around the desk.

All sixty eyes were focused in anticipation.
Making eye contact with them and showing
confidence, I continued telling them
how pleased I was they were with me.

Bulging eyes widened and met mine.
Glances and flinching of some in the
class. One tentative hand shot in the air.
A shaky, soft voice, hesitatingly spoke,

asking Are you sure you have the
right room and class? Verbalizing my
shock at discovering I was standing before
a class of Spanish and not German,

my face and ears flushed. I mumbled
something all the while wondering, this had been
my room last quarter. I gathered my books
drew in a breath and moved to the

German class. Why hadn’t I paid
closer attention to classroom numbers?
Overcoming my embarrassment, I began anew,
speaking in German and relieved.

I chalked this up to being a new college
instructor. Would anyone notice how
visibly shaken I was? The foible of
being the new kid on the block!

Posted in new German instructor, teaching a new quarter, university teaching | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

Dashed Hopes and Miracles

The long-awaited nurse’s cap and graduation brochure
from my mother’s 1937 registered nurses’ graduation
had finally arrived. But wait!  The size was odd.
Perhaps my sister had downsized and included an

electric keyboard without telling me? What
had my sister sent me? I finally dialed
her phone in Washington state and asked
about the contents. Her answer did not surprise.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”
I sent photos. Still mystified, both of us laughed.
I suggested the mailing labels might have
been switched at the store. My label said the

weight was 1 lb. which it clearly was not.
My husband guessed it to be about 30 pounds.
Dimensions of the box: 7″X16″by 40″ indicated
it might contain a very heavy nurse’s cap for

a giant perhaps! I mentioned someone may
have left the big box at the store where it, too,
was incorrectly labeled. My sister phoned the store asking
what had happened to our mother’s nursing cap.

The person at the store apologized and said an irate
customer had phoned earlier demanding to know why
this shoe-size box had been mailed instead of the
equipment he had dropped off, presumably to

be used for a new trade show on the East Coast?
Still irate, the customer in New Jersey wondered
if this was a joke. Our initial laughter
turned to anger at what had happened.

The heirloom was destined for our daughter who
is a Registered Nurse just like her grandmother.
How does one place a value on a family heirloom?
Given an 800 number to call, I was told to

take the box to the store and pay for its return.
Excuse me? That can’t be correct.  My
sister was livid with the answer I was provided.
She phoned the company again asking

for a new return label. A few phone calls
later, we were assured the nurse’s cap was
on its way back to Washington State from New Jersey.
The manager was in hot water with company

headquarters for this mix-up. On a  Monday,
I lugged the unwieldy,  heavy box for the return
trip back to Washington and then to New Jersey.
Company rules. Having mailed boxes from

this store to New York, I observed too many people and
employees overworked and distracted. What happened,
although understandable, was mind-boggling. The odyssey
commenced mid-January and ended six weeks later.

The precious family heirloom is still
in mint condition in its own box
safely returned to my sister who
has decided to hold on to it for now.

This time a tragedy has been averted. The painful
incident gives one pause about mailing packages.
Miracles do happen, however, and there was a happy ending.
Thank you, Mom, for making our miracle happen!

Posted in a keyboard?, an odd package, graduation program, happy ending, miracle, nurse's cap, unwieldy and heavy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Caterpillars, Climbing Trees, Children

Who knew our daughter would miss
her childhood memories of climbing
that birch tree? Neighborhood friends
used to join in collecting the caterpillars
from the tree. It was not a particularly
tall nor difficult one to climb.

There were comfortable limbs to rest
against as one carried on quiet
conversations with friends. As she
became a teen driver, it was not
so funny to have all those “things”
from the tree fall on the car.

Oh, how our children laughed about
bird droppings I cleaned off the car,
all the while complaining. It wasn’t
so funny when it happened to them.
The birds have new places to perch
in the young trees we have planted.

And my husband remarked he would
have to find a new spot to read
outdoors. Gone was his shade from
the birch tree. Life moves on.
We have tried to be good stewards
of our property. It is an ongoing pursuit.

Posted in Birch Tree, caterpillars, climbing trees | Tagged , , , , | 31 Comments

Fierce Winds Blow

Tuckets heralded the long-awaited arrival.
Birds chirped and flitted from branch to
branch. Spring, however, had to bow
once more to Old Man North Wind.

What did I spy this morning?
The tree. The tree brought back
to life some twenty years ago with
ground fertilizer plugs. Now rotten.

One big gust like blowing out
birthday candles and Old Man North Wind
had an easy task of blowing an entire
limb down. We’ve talked some two years.

Now the decision has been made for us.
In anticipation we planted new trees
and must patiently wait for them
to grow. So sad when the old ones die.

Just like humans past their prime.
Now slowly but surely one branch
after another decays and falls. Life
cycles for all of us. The tuckets

will have to return another day
when spring is actually here. Some
of the birds brave our winter and
peck at the house of bird seed.


Posted in bird seed house, decay, fallen tree branch, North Wind, spring | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments


Frozen Silence

Frost this morning
covers the ground,
hides my tears.

No longer hear his
shoes on the hardwood
floors after work.

Life at a standstill.
Trying to recall
him on the piano keys.

Gone some time now.
Too cold to breathe.
I utter silent prayers.

M A age 20001

Posted in frozen ground, him | Tagged , , , , , | 31 Comments

The Box of Treasures Arrived!

I picked up that penny on the ground,
smiled and thanked my Mom and Dad.
Yes, even though they are now both
in heaven. I recall feeling rich in
my younger days with a penny
which could still buy some sweet treat.

When I answered the phone, the
man on the other end asked to
speak to my father. I was married
with children. Did my voice sound
like that of a child? A slight pause,
then a laugh as I explained that

would not be possible unless he
had a direct line to heaven. Uncertain
as to why these memories remain, I
frequently communicate with my
deceased parents for, after all, the
words from my mouth sound like them!

When the package arrived yesterday, it
contained treasures from the past: vintage
linens our mother collected, piano music
I used to play and two skirts and blouses I
wore for 4-H and the Colorado Junior Miss
contest and still giving off the wonderful

scent of Old English Lavender soap from
the drawers where they were kept. I played
that music immediately and read about Chopin.
A lifetime ago and yet yesterday. I remember
being in a glass-enclosed kitchen at the
Colorado State Fairgrounds for four hours as

I cooked a meal for four, served it to the judges,
and won the State Championship for Food
Preparation. This was good since my family
had to eat that same meal for two weeks as
I prepared for this contest. They were sick
and tired of it. 4-H rules allowed $2.50 for

all the ingredients. How amazing I reflect
today. The music boasted prices of $.75 and
$1.50 for the pieces I learned. Many of the
publishers are still around today. The other
outfit I apparently wore for the Junior Miss
competition. My waist had been that small?

These are fashioned from quality fabric and
have remained a testament to how clothing
was formerly manufactured in the U.S. Self-fabric
belts too! I gazed in awe at how much
fabric the hems and seams have and edges
so finely finished. Those were the days!

I still hear our mother sitting at the piano
in our living room playing and singing pieces of
music. The words of the song “Autumn Leaves,”
swirled in my head. All this magic and family
history came from one box sent from my sister.
Nostalgia. I was transported for a few hours.


Posted in 4-H, Colorado Junior Miss Contest, Colorado State Champion in Foods Preparation 4-H, penny, piano music, treasures from the past, US made clothing, vintage linens | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Nurse’s Cape: a Symbol of Strength

The Massachusetts Memorial Hospital Nursing Class of 1937 picture shows the newly graduated nurses standing in front of the Nurses’ Residence Building. The photo holds many memories for our family.  Standing in the second row on the right side, my mother graduated as a Registered Nurse and commenced her work in Boston as a private care nurse and Public Health Nurse.

To be protected from the elements, she wore a navy blue wool cape with double tabs, a mandarin collar and a lining of red wool.  Embroidered on both sides of the cape are the initials MMH representing the hospital affiliation.  The cape is impeccably tailored.

As I researched this vintage treasure, I noted the label had the New York Manufacturer’s name as Altro Work Shops whose NY address was  1021 Jennings Street.  Black and white photos can be found via an online search.  The manufacturer provided nurses’ uniforms and military uniforms during the early 20th century and WWII time frame.  Also below the label is a second one with a double M and probably the hospital logo at the time.  Our mother’s maiden name was Mary Mooney and also a double M.

After she died in April of 1994, I recall seeing my mother’s wool cape hanging in my Pueblo, Colorado closet enclosed in plastic, fastened with a wooden clothespin at the top and a loose knot at the bottom of the plastic bag to protect from moths. I received the cape from one of my sisters living in WA state.  Amazingly, it remained hanging as our mother had left it.  There was even the dry cleaner’s number inside affixed with a safety pin.

What a journey this cape has had! Manufactured in NY, purchased in MA and worn for work in the Boston area, the cape moved to CO where we lived and  was kept lovingly protected even though our mother did not work outside the home when she married.  The cape’s journey continued to WA state where it remained safely ensconced it its man-made cocoon until it make the journey East in a UPS box and arrived in mint condition.

Our daughter, now an RN, visited recently for my husband’s birthday and inherited this heirloom in pristine condition. It has come full cycle and is of such good quality material and construction that it can be safely worn and stored for another 82+ years.  My mother and her sister both graduated from this nursing school  having lived through  The Great Depression.  Both strong females, they were role models for women everywhere.

Our mother eventually received college credits for her RN degree and graduated with honors and a Bachelor’s Degree from college where she was the eldest in her graduating class.  The younger students wondered how our mother had the highest grades.  She quipped that she spent her free time and weekends studying and not dating since she was happily married.  A voracious reader and excellent writer, our mother began studies to become a librarian.  A true Renaissance person, she was talented at the piano, studied tailoring and fashioned fine winter wool coats and suits.  Her poetry inspired.  The cape is symbolic for the value she placed on education and for a woman who had her own profession.  Thus, education held high value in our family. You and your cape symbolize strength, fortitude, perseverance and beauty.  You have been an inspiration to us.  So proud of you, Mom.  Thank you.

Posted in Altro Work Shops, Boston private and public health RN, Massachusetts Memorial Hospital, Renaissance person, the Cape's Journey, The Great Depression, The Nurse's Cape | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments