Thursday, September 16, 2010

Summer 2010

Now that I've been back to work for a month (ISU) and three weeks (SHS), I am truly appreciating my lazy summer. Mom and I went to New York in June. We did all the fun tourist stuff Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island tour, museums, Broadway plays, shopping....I need to write a blog about that trip sometime. Tyson, Neil, and I visited Ashley, Ryan, and family in Oregon in July. Tyson has been working and going to college steady the last few years, so it was very nice to have him with us. He is the best person with whom to travel--fun and flexible. We spent much time at Island Park at Duane's cabin.

More on Birdie Ritchie

The entire family worked together herding and milking cows, raising gardens and canning. Work was hard to find, but Alf worked whenever he could--sometimes herding sheep. The entire family took time to play too. Alf and Birdie would put a dollar in a box and then wrap it with crumpled newspaper. They would then fill a large box with crumpled newspaper; the kids would search until they found the prize. Birdie even took time out of her busy schedule to wash Shirley's hair with lemon soap to try to keep its golden color.

Alf had inherited the gene for polyps, and gradually he got sicker. When he passed away, Birdie was left with six children to raise. The industrious little lady rose to the challenge. She and her family planted gardens, milked cows, canned everything available, and stored vegetables in a root cellar.At a time when many kids were going hungry, she made sure that her kids were well fed. Donna said she can remember coming home from school hungry and cold to find Birdie taking fresh bread out of the oven. She would make some excellent dishes including beans, her famous homemade cottage cheese, rice pudding, and potatoes. She would let the kids choose what they put on their plates, but once it was there, they were expected to eat it. Her children were in definite agreement on Birdie's wonderful cooking abilities.

Birdie managed her money carefully. Fred commented to me that she may not have known where she would earn dollars, but she always knew where she planned to spend them. She was a giving person. Fred recalled that when he was just starting out on his own, he was really needing some money. While he was visiting one day, Birdie pulled out five dollars and said she wanted him to have it. Another time she gave him some new shoes that she had a feeling she should buy. They fit him perfectly and at that time he really needed shoes.

Donna recalled Birdie saving soup labels for a long time so that one Christmas she could get Dorothy, Donna, and Ruby lighted snowmen.

As her own children grew up, married, and became independent, Birdie started raising a whole new generation of grandkids. We loved her little house and large lot in Ucon. Lynn and I spent countless hours perfecting the art of hut-building. She would let us use all the scrap wood about her house, but we did not have nails. We worked on our design until we could build a hut that would last for years without nails. We would pretend that we were pioneers, and when we got hungry we would head for the "general store." That was our nickname for Grandma Birdie's house. She would break out the Welch's grape juice and gingersnaps, and we would visit about the olden days.

After living through the depression, Birdie liked to save everything. She believed in recycling way before anyone else. She would let her grandkids use material that she had saved. For example, we would play store using old mail that she had kept--although we could never figure out why it was addressed to Wilhelmina.

When she irrigated, we would wade through the water and, in a particularly creative moment, found that we could use her old wash tubs as miniature boats and float down the ditch. After Nancy had Layne, he created a new name for Birdie--Great. When Nancy was attending school, Great helped tend Layne and Lisa--thus mothering yet another generation. Donie and Layne loved to tease Great, but she would tease them right back.

If Birdie had one unlucky area, it was in traveling. In 1963, she was traveling to Great Falls, Montana, to see her brother Will. Eva and Grace were traveling with her. The car slid on some oil and crashed; Birdie ended up in a strange hospital with a dislocated hip. She missed out on the entire visit. Annette remembers helping her when she got home. In 1970, Boyd was taking Birdie to Virginia to visit Dorothy. Birdie had gall bladder problems and ended up in a strange hospital in Kansas. When she was well enough to travel Joy, Harold, and Ruby brought her back home.

She did have some good trips to Montana and California to balance these out. However, in March of 1977 this traveling bad luck struck again. Birdie was in a serious car accident; nearly every bone in her body was broken. The doctors did not expect her to survive, but then they did not know about her determined spirit. One doctor, amazed at Birdie's will to live, said, "She must come from good stock." Birdie slowly healed and amazed the medical profession by learning to walk again. She lost some of her independence after this accident, but none of her love and determination. She made the best out of a difficult situation--making crafts and new friends including a checker pal maned Max. She loved to visit with anyone who came to see her. She commented that it was challenging to raise so many children but she was glad to have them as she herself faced challenges. Towards the last years of her life, she needed more care. Donna devoted countless hours to this, saying that she found it a source of comfort and that she gained true appreciation for her mother.

Some lines in Ecclesiastes read: To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

Speaking as one who love Grandma Birdie, I can think of no other woman who so fully has exemplified living through all the seasons of life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I have not posted to this family blog in quite a long time. We are on Spring Break, so I had some extra time and decided to post a new blog dedicated to my Grandma Birdie. Now that I am a grandma, I realize how wonderful grandchildren are. I was lucky to have a grandma whom I loved deeply. This is a copy of the beginning of the life sketch I gave at her funeral. I'll finish in the next blog:

In 1889 on the first day of December, William Ezekial Price married Ellen Joyce. They lived in Draper, Utah, and were blessed with many children. They loved giving them long formal names including both royalty and Presidents in their choices. While in Utah, they had Henry Ezekial, Pearl, Frances, William, Olive, Beatrice, and Wilhelmina Constance Birdie (my Grandma Birdie).

When Ellen was expecting Birdie, Willian travelled to Idaho and obtained some homesteading land in the Milo area. He left Ellen behind in Utah so that she could safely have her new baby. Birdie was born on November 29, 1901, and in the spring she moved to her new home in Idaho. There more brothers and sisters joined the family including Grace, Marcus McKinley, Wallace, Russell Poosevelt, and Cora Goldie.

Birdie had a happy childhood growing up in Milo. She usually walked to school; however, sometimes the Price children were able to take the horses. Birdie loved horses; she believed that you could tell if someone was really a good person by the way he treated his horses.

Birdie's formal schooling ended with the eighth grade, but she retained all she had learned at the Milo School and continued learning all her life. As a grandmother, she could still recite poems that she learned in school fifty years before. My favorite poem that I loved to hear was "Somebody's Mother."

When I asked how Birdie met and decided to marry Alfred Ritchie, I discovered that Fred knew this story. He said, "Daddy came along with his fancy horses and buggy and swept mom off her feet." According to Fred, there was no chance for Birdie's other suitors. I am sure that Alfred's kind and loving personality and sense of humor contributed to her decision, but the horses helped.

On October 21, 1917, Birdie married Alfred Coop Ritchie, but she always called him Alf. They started their life together on the old Ritchie homestead. Birdie loved Alf with all her heart. I remember teasing her about getting married so young, and she looked at me very seriously and said, "Vickie, I'm glad I did; he passed away so soon I had that many more years with him."

This young couple faced some real challenges the first few years of their marriage. They lost their first two babies, Harriet Ellen, born August 11, 1918, and baby Ritchie born April 20, 1920.
However, on May 19, 1921, they had a healthy baby boy. They named him after his father Alfred Ritchie. They called Alfred, "Fred" to avoid confusion, and he was the joy of their life. Birdie watched over him carefully. When someone said she was spoiling him, she replied, "I don't like to hear him cry."

Alf was equally proud of his new young son. He invented a carrier made out of a diaper that he could attach to the harness of his horse. After Birdie had fed Fred, Alf would take him out and let him enjoy the rocking motion of the horse. Little baby Fred would get mad when the horse ride ended. Anyone who knows Fred, knows how much he loves horses; now you know one of the reasons why.

Once Birdie left a young Fred inside the house and went outside for awhile. When she returned inside, Fred was nowhere to be found. She and Alf frantically looked for the child. There was a big ditch by the house, and they searched the length of it. Finally, they returned home in despair. At home they found a sleeping Fred. Birdie had a long cloth covering her sewing machine. Fred had curled up inside this "tent," oblivious to the anguish he was causing his parents. Birdie later told Fred that was one of the worst scares that she ever had.

A couple of years later on March 17, 1923, the couple had a beautiful daughter named Dorothy. Donna said she can remember her mom saying that she always held Dorothy's hand tightly when they went out because Dorothy was so pretty she was sure someone would steal her away.

In January of 1926 another daughter was born; the baby was premature and the midwife, sure the child would not survive, did not fill out a birth certificate. She took the small two-pound infant, wrapped her in cotton, and made an incubator out of a warm oven. Against all odds, Ruby survived and was given a birthdate of January 10th.

Three more daughters would be born to Birdie. Donna Mary born November 15, 1928; Joy May born July 13, 1931; and Shirley Jane born August 11, 1935. Shirley's birthdate was the same day as Birdie's first little daughter--only seventeen years later.

Birdie loved her children; she was a strict mother and an immaculate housekeeper. She believed in mopping the floor until the rinse water was entirely clean. "No use putting wax over dirt," she would say. Alf expected his children to treat their mother with respect. Sometimes if they did not, Birdie would tell them that when dad got home he would take care of this.

Birdie and Alf had a farm in the Coltman area, but then the Depression struck with full force, and times were very hard. they had to sell off equipment, horses, and land. They took the money they had left and bought a two-room house and two lots in Ucon. This small house was a home filled with love. Birdie was an excellent cook, and the kids loved her homemade bread and cinnamon rolls. She said the secret was in letting the dough rise twice. She had a bread pan that would make three loaves at a time. The kids would choose if they wanted bread with or without crust. Alf was an expert with sourdough. He made the world's best sourdough biscuits. ...

Well it is 12:30. Ryan is flying home tomorrow, so I need to head to bed, so I can make it to the airport tomorrow. We are all happy to see him. Aisha thinks he has had a LONG day at work. Keeley thinks he lives in the computer now.

I'll finish the Grandma Birdie life sketch in the next blog.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Year.

I spent most of November and December having Eye Surgery. I just went to Dr. Wallace today and had my final check up. He said my eyes look great and I have perfect vision. That is pretty cool considering I have two artificial lenses.

We had a wonderful Christmas. We were able to open presents together as a family before Tyson went to work. Then we went to Ryan and Ashley's and saw what Santa had brought the kids. We also gave them our presents. Then onward to Wayne and Marcia's for delicious coffee cakes. For our family dinner we had ham, potatoes, fruit salad, green salad, meatballs, little smokies, Texas Road House rolls, green bean casserole, and other assorted goodies. We played Loaded Questions and Mexican Train.