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Talented art critics…a short story by Linda Claire

Linda Claire by original art work…artist not known

Mary Lou was the first to admit she was eccentric. Some of the things she routinely experienced were considered impossible, unbelievable, and as some would say they were downright strange thoughts with no basis in reality. She was an odd ball. She was not an artist even though that was the general assumption that people had made of her. But she was extremely well regarded in prestigious art circles. When she was published, she laid claim to the title ‘world renowned premier art critic.’

Society accepted Mary Lou’s mysterious ways because her insights and opinions
on valuable art creations were legendary. Her memory for various artists and
their paintings astounded even world-class leading art authorities. If asked
about a painting, she could describe it in a way that was almost intimate. The
various colors, styles, subjects, and themes were masterfully described. There
was something beyond that too. There was some way in which you could say she just
knew the painting. She saw a painting and she experienced the painting. She knew
them in such an intimate way that her reflections were more heightened than the
artist’s own perceptions about their paintings.

Mary Lou knew why she had this talent and why she had been able to establish
this level of authority. She knew, but she dared not tell a soul why she had
this talent.

Mary Lou did, however, end up telling me about her hidden insight because
she could recognize that I was in possession of the same ability.

This is where I should introduce myself. My name is Claire. I am a single senior citizen
who has loved the visual arts since childhood. I am not famous like Mary Lou
and I have never publicly critiqued any painting or artist. Instead, I have a
habit of going to flea markets and secondhand stores where I rummage through
various paintings and prints. I also surf the net and explore paintings with
various themes.

Are you wondering if Mary Lou and I are women with extra sensory perception?
ESP is thought of as receiving information from what is sensed rather than felt
through our physical senses. I do not know if that definition exactly fits the
talent that Mary Lou and I have. Maybe thousands of people have our skill but they
have all remained quiet about it for fear of being shamed or given a label
of strange, odd, and a little touched in the head.

Now that I am an old woman, I have decided to explain the gift that I have
and that Mary Lou has mastered because it might open a door for others like us
to come forward and have discussions and work in concert to give a more
bountiful vibrancy to the art pieces they encounter.

And because I think this will open a door for others to immerse themselves
more fully into the visual arts, I will speak now and ask that as I tell you this secret you remain quiet and perhaps close your eyes and open your minds. Prepare. I will now reveal to you the secret of being a great art critic. This should open a door for you, or
perhaps you are already gifted with this talent.

First, imagine any painting that comes to your recall. Next, walk into it.
Yes, that is the pure secret to the gift. If you walk into a painting you check
it’s textures, see if the shadows are in the right place, picture the subject
as a first hand observer, and walk through the painted landscapes or open an
old wooden door. Stay in the painting. Touch the garments and the grass. See if
the artist has captured the light playing on the water. Then continue to
concentrate and see yourself there inside the painting. Do not judge, just
observe. Turn your head, look up and down, look for secrets, look for meanings,
examine your feelings and emotions. Stay inside the painting until you are
gradually ready to leave. The memory of that painting and all of it’s
particulars will remain with you forever.

You see, the gift that I possess is the ability to be there. To be in the painting.
Maybe, I have opened a door so that you can walk into a painting too. Just be
there.

The Moon. A short story by Linda Claire

The summer night sky was sparkled with stars and a bright full moon. The little girl was seated in the backseat of her grandfather’s Chevy station wagon as they traveled the dirt roads towards his home. It was special for her to be out this late and it made her feel almost like an 8-year-old instead of the mere 7-year-old she was.

“Grandpa, I think the moon is following our car.” She made the declaration with great and serious consideration.

“Hmm,” he replied and then continued, “What makes you think that the moon is following us?”

She became more animated. “So, every time you make a turn in the road, I can still see the moon right there. It has to be following us otherwise we wouldn’t be able to see it when we turned those corners.” And when she explained this to her grandfather, she felt even a wee bit older still.

The old man adjusted the rear-view mirror a bit to glimpse his lovely granddaughter. He felt again the joy of grand parenting. He loved being let into her innocent childish thoughts, so he replied to her comment with a challenge. “Should we take the long way home and make a lot of turns and really check out your theory?”

“Oh yes Grandpa” she was thrilled.

The old man veered about and made many turns so his beloved granddaughter could continue to test her moon theory.

“Grandpa, it’s working. It is still following our car.” She exclaimed and then asked, “Do you think there is a man in the moon, Grandpa?”

“Well, I don’t know about that. What I can tell you is that the moon has always been a good friend to me. I call this friend Luna. And, I think Luna can be your friend too.”

“Luna” she said the word with some reverence, and she was delighted to know that the moon could be her friend. “Grandpa, does Luna ever talk to you?”

He gave a serious reply, “Oh, not in the usual way. But Luna does listen, and she sends a light out for our path. In fact, when I was in the great war, I talked to Luna right above the decks of our Navy cruiser right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Oh Wow!” she exclaimed and again thought to herself what a super grandfather she had. She had seen the pictures of him in his sailor’s uniform and remembered the impressive photos with the big machine gun ports. She would have to remember to ask him to show her the photos again.

The Chevy station wagon neared the old man’s home.

“Grandpa look your house is right here and Luna followed us the whole way. She even got here a little ahead of us.”

Once they were in the driveway, he waited for her to get out of the car and then he took her small hand in his. The moon was indeed bright this evening. The breezes were warm.

“Grandpa, can we just look at Luna for a while?” she implored.

“Pumpkin let us do something else. OK?” he replied.

“What, what else should we do Grandpa? Should we talk to Luna?” she wanted to know.

“Nope, turn around and let Luna be at your back.” He answered.

“Grandpa, that is funny. You are the one who told me we don’t have eyes in the back of our heads.” And again, she felt quite mature.

“Look.” he said. “Look at the tops of the pines. Do you see it? The moon beams fall right along the tops of each pine. Look all around you and carefully. Can you see Luna shining on any other objects that we usually do not pay much attention to in the light of day? This is what it means to see things in a different light. It really is one of the best lessons Luna taught me.”

“I do see it, I do!” she replied. And then she told her grandfather the words he loved the most. “I love you so big.” When she said it, she held out her little arms wide to each side.

“I love you to the Moon and back” he told her.

“Grandpa, did you mean you love me to the Luna and back?” Then she smiled broadly, and the old man could barely hold all the love he had in his heart.

A train ride and a life lesson. A short story by Linda Claire.

View from the Wolverine Line- Linda Claire

I wiggled around in my seat and got ready for the train ride that would take me on a visit to my grandchild. I certainly did not need a mirror to know that I was smiling and filled with an abundance of joy and anticipation. As the train departed the Ann Arbor station, I grabbed my camera so I could photo document the trip and the views. Life was good. The train raced past meadows, along Main Streets, through wooded acres, past homes, and through factory yards. I kept busy with my camera. After taking several photos, I pushed the camera buttons that were necessary to review my photographs. “Drat,” I thought to myself as I looked at this recent series of photos they were all blurred by the motion and speed of the train. “It’s all a smear.” I disparaged. “Yep,” I thought, “my own life is going by so quickly that my memories are like these streaked photos.” A train in motion and my life in motion too. Then the lull of the train sounds caused me to think, “I am a grandmother, I am a grandmother,” and I kept repeating this to myself in perfect rhythm to the wheels. I tried to think where all that time had gone since I was holding my own babies. Where?

The gentleman across the aisle took me away from my thoughts when he started to address me, “Good Day, are you on vacation?” he asked.

“Something much better.” I replied and then I explained, “I am going to see my grandchild. I am really happy.”

“I could tell you looked pretty excited.” He said. I decided right then that I liked him. His company and conversation would be fun. “My name is Dave.” He stood up and reached over to shake my hand.

“My name is Claire.” I shook his hand and looked at his kind eyes.

The next half hour was filled with him showing me a train app on his phone. He showed me exactly where we were on the tracks and our current rate of speed.

Eventually, our conversation became more personal. “I am 59 years old and I am so happy to be a grandmother.” I told him. “I guess I am an old woman now.”

Dave said, “Well, I am 79. I am so old that you could ask me anything and I would know the answer.” He finished that zinger by giving me a genuine smile.

In life, you do not always come up with a quick retort, but this time I certainly did. “Ok Dave. So, I can ask you anything, but how much do you remember about everything?”

His belly laugh startled some of the other passengers. I started laughing too.

Then,I got a bit more serious. “Ok, if I can ask you anything, then how about this one? What is the meaning of life?” I said it with a smile, but his answer was profound.

“Oh, I’m honored to be the one to tell you that the entire meaning of life is to love. I suggest loving as many people as you can. I suggest that you spend time with your grandson and love him. I suggest you spend time with your elderly widowed father and let him know your feelings. Keep falling in love with life.” He looked over at me. “Just love.” He concluded.

I was filled with emotions. I understood. I met a stranger on a train and I finally understood. It was not my job, not my house, not my appearance, not my intellect or humor. None of those was what we refer to as the meaning of life. It was so obvious and simple now. Just love.” I smiled and smiled.

And then, just like that, Dave stood up and told me that we had reached Battle Creek and it was his stop. He wished me a pleasant visit with my grandson, and he was gone.

“It’s like that with the people in our lives who we like, cherish or love. They have different journeys. But we had shared a moment.

I learned a lesson about life on a train and I wanted to share it with you. I wanted to tell you to Just love. Oh, and “Go ahead, ask me anything!”

Games – a short story by Linda Claire Groshans

photo credit- Linda Claire Groshans

I think we could almost measure joy by watching children involved in playing games. If you try to picture a little girl on a sidewalk hopscotch grid, there is a certain whimsey and a smile that graces your face. Try holding a handful of antique marbles and you will become transfixed by their colors, patterns, and sizes. Picture the giggles that a good old game of Mouse Trap can emote. And then let your mind wander to the chaos of Musical Chairs, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or Duck, Duck Goose! Did you spend part of your childhood asking questions like, “What time is it Mr. Fox?,“ or “Mother May I?”

Many of our precious memories can be built around our recall of board games played with our friends, siblings, and parents. Some of my favorites were Clue, Go to the Head of the Class, The Barbie Game, Yahtzee, and Life.

My mother and father had an on-going score card for Scrabble.  My father was a brilliant scientist, but it was hard to beat my mother because of her mastery of words and her ability to use the score points printed on the game board to her advantage. I loved their laughter as they played and their serious concentration and competition.

My grandson liked Hide and Seek. As a grandparent, I have been guilty of setting up games to make sure my grandchild will win. I purposely did a poor job of hiding behind the shower curtain and was always the first to be found out because I planned it that way. I would feign indignation to him that I had been found so quickly and praise him for his stealth at finding me.

After my divorce, I went bowling with my new boyfriend Bob. I had never bowled more than a few games in my life. I nailed one of the highest scores of the evening the first time he took me to Colonial Lanes. Bob thought this meant that I was a natural talent. He rushed out to buy me my own bowling ball. It was a purple with sparkles and came in a fancy tote bag. Turns out that the 1st game of bowling I played was also my best. That ball ended up shoved to the back of the attic.

My mother was part of a bridge club. As a little girl, I would sneak down the stairs and hide behind the china cupboard to watch the fancy ladies play. Every woman had her own little dish of bridge mix. For those that do not know, Bridge Mix is a delightful chocolate assortment. Little handmade tally cards looked glamourous and the women were all dressed ‘to the nines’ for the evening. Their conversations were filled with great stories and much laughter.

The year now is 2020. I am no longer a girl hidden behind a china cupboard. I am a mature 66-year-old single grandmother. This year we struggle through a pandemic. This disease is like an angry ugly person shouting at us, “I’m not playing games.” Last week, I began to worry that I might not even be fun anymore because fun feels so elusive now.

This is also a year where I feel especially called to righteously stand for Black Lives Matter and to support the “I can’t breathe” protests for equality.  

I wonder what memories and lessons will be carried away after this year. I want us (all of us) to win over this pandemic and the racism that has plagued us. I want to play hard to make this difference. I am not sure how I will do it, but I am sure going to try.

A sidewalk in my neighborhood. Photo credit- Linda Claire Groshans

I can travel in time… a short story by Linda Claire

My superpower is time travel. For several hours every day, I travel back in time. I might spend an hour in the 1990’and then go back to the 1890’s an hour later!  While I am traveling in the past, I stay busy collecting information there and insight to bring back to the present and to share with others. I might spend my time travel in Europe, Colonial America, an Amish farm in PA, Salem, MA during the witch trials in the 1600’s, or even on the Mayflower. 

I build pathways for others to travel back in time too. 

There is a name for the superpower that is used for the many people like me who travel backwards in time. We form a group called genealogists. Ta da…Super Granny Genealogist! That’s me! 

It is a bit odd to come up with a superhero name for myself. I did come up with a name for my website and I was a bit surprised that it was an available choice. It is called Telling Life Stories. Org. The website becomes a door for others to hear the stories of their ancestors. Like a river, we flow from the experiences and stories of our ancestors. It is a gift to know their stories.  

Some people have a hard time finding their ancestors and I try to help those people. My story is humanity’s story and so it is important for me to use my superpower to help others connect to their direct roots.  I am pretty good at my superpower. I have a lot of tools and memberships in ancestral websites that help me. But, my superpower is far from perfect. I often try to find information from the past, but it is elusive. I could not find the birth parents of my friend Beth. I could not find out who Jennie’s grandparents were. I did find records of Jennie’s Japanese mother who had arrived in America as a wartime bride from Japan, but was unable to trace the family further back.

Because there are many people who have my same superpower, there are others who have helped me find my direct ancestors and even photographs of them. Just think how it feels to see a photo for the first time of your 2nd great grandparents. Or, imagine seeing the photo of the farm in France where my children’s great grandparents had lived. 

In January of this year, I traveled to France with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. We went to the village of Sundhousen to meet a gentleman there who is also a genealogist. We had found out about each other through my website. He found my website while researching his grandparent’s story and it turns out that his great grandmother and my children’s great great grandmother were sisters. Think how it felt to arrive at Gerard and Josette’s French home to spend a weekend delving through the past together. Imagine how it felt to see photos of my children’s ancestors on the wall of the guest room provided to me during my stay. Imagine coming home from that trip with copies of dozens of photos of the Groshans family from France. And best, we met and dined with family we did not even know we had. My 7-year-old grandson was delighted to find out that his family now included this extended family in France. 

I love my superpower. I love sharing my power and helping others gain the power of time travel too. Finding ancestors, hearing their stories, knowing the history and events that faced them are all part of something that we call a tree. A family tree.  

Chauncey Commodore Hitt 1812-1874

Photo found on multiple websites including Ancestry and Family Search

Chauncey was the 3rd Great Grandfather of Eugene Norbert Wiesner.

Here is how they related:

When Chauncey Commodore Hitt was born on August 23, 1812, in Delaware, New York, his father, Isaac, was 27 and his mother, Anne Moore Hitt, was 25. He married Frances Elizabeth Walter in 1839. They had seven children in 15 years. He died on November 14, 1874, in Door, Wisconsin, at the age of 62, and was buried there.

Here is a photo of Chauncey’s wife Frances Elizabeth Walter Hitt that I found on Ancestry and Family Search web sites.

photo from multiple web sites including Ancestry

Stories of Chauncey’s life are told in a publication called: “History of Door County, Wisconsin: the county beautiful” Chauncey is listed as one of the first persons to buy land in Door County.

From some of my other research, it appears that just shortly before Chauncey’s death he bought a boarding house attached to a saw mill and turned it into a tavern and saloon to be run by his son Charles. I believe the property was named the “Eagle Hotel.”

These are very small print, and I only have dates and not the names of the newspapers:

9 October 1873
26 March 1874

I found these death notices:

From Find a Grave
28 November 1874 Green Bay Weekly Gazette, Wisconsin

This is a link to Find A Grave information: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/59413496

Bunny Paw Prints – a short story by Linda Claire

photo by Linda Claire

Years ago, on a summer morning, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my mother. She loved doughnuts and I had brought along a box of Tim Horton’s pastries for the visit.  I also had brought cups of black coffee that were aromatic and steaming hot. I felt so grateful for this fine morning and the company of my sweet mother. Afterall, I was sitting in the company of my mother who was also my best friend. 

Mom and I sat together. We didn’t talk much. We spent quite a bit of our time just looking out the large front kitchen window.  She didn’t get outside as much now, but she loved the nature views out her windows.  

“What kind of doughnut do you want?” I asked her as I opened the box to display our choices. 

She gave me her sweet cute coy smile and said, “Oh, you pick one out for me. I like them all. In fact, I might fancy a taste of each one!” 

I was happy. I got up to go over to the cupboards to collect plates, silverware and napkins. I looked over my shoulder and saw her peeking at the doughnuts just like a little girl excited for a special treat. This simple moment, a cup of coffee and a collection of doughnuts to share with my mother. This was a good day.  I clattered the plates a bit on purpose so that she would look over at me. No matter what I did, no matter how old I got, her gazes towards me were always admiring. I knew that I was very loved. 

“I just hope you don’t want a piece of the long john because that is the one, I picked out for myself” I kidded her. Oh, how we both loved to tease. 

“No, I don’t like that type,” she said while looking a dramatically disappointed. 

“Liar!” I said and then I cut her a big bite of the long john along with some other samples. We are both smiling because our little joke had amused us. 

As we began to eat our treat, we looked out her window. 

“Mom, look…look now.” I urged. 

Right there in the middle of the driveway was a bunny. The morning light was misty, the grass beside the drive was full of dew and a bunny had arrived for our entertainment. The bunny who was obliviously content to sit on the cement driveway of all places! 

“Mom, do you see that bunny?” 

“Yes,” she replied. “It comes here quite often about this time of day.” 

We both sipped our coffees and continued to watch the bunny who now appeared to be frozen in place at one spot in the very center of the driveway. Then, just like that, it hopped away. Gone. 

“Mom, look! It left little wet pawprints on the driveway. He must have been on the wet grass before hopping here.” I was so taken by the visual image of those little dew prints that the bunny had left behind. 

And then in just seconds, I said: “Mom, the pawprints are disappearing!” I felt disappointment for the end of that fleeting scene. 

“The doughnuts are disappearing too.” she coyly stated and smiled at our plates. 

“No Mom, not the doughnuts, the pawprints. They are almost gone they are disappearing so quickly!” I wanted to express how things can disappear, how special moments shared can end too quickly.

The sun was getting brighter and filtering light across the grass and the drive. The sun was erasing the little bunny pawprints. It had also started to dry the dew drops on the grass.  

“The sun erased the prints.” My mother said gently. She reached out to touch my arm and continued talking, “Prints don’t last long, the sun erases them.”  

I continued sipping my coffee as her words played in my mind. My mother was a wise woman. “The prints don’t last long; they are erased by the sun.” 

She is right. Prints don’t last long.

Even the prints in our lives that are our sad mishaps don’t last long. In fact, in the scheme of life, all the prints or moments are fleeting.  

I got up and squinted out the window looking again at the concrete which was now dry and full of dappled sun patterns. The day was turning out to be fine. The birds were starting a morning concert. Our coffee was gone.  

“I love you.” I said as I hugged her before leaving. “Want to have a picnic soon, we could ask everyone over?” I asked her, but I already knew that she would be thrilled.

I got into my Jeep to leave, and as I drove past her front door, I could see her standing there and waving at me. She always tried to make each moment together last.

On my drive home, I thought about how the sun had illuminated the day. I thought about how delicate those little paw prints looked and mostly I thought about how precious my aging mother was to me. 

Years have gone by since she passed away. Every day, she is in my heart and mind. Her gentle nature and joy for the little things and her unwavering love for family. She was and will always be my hero. 

Take A Hike…a short story by Linda Claire

Take a Hike

photo by Linda Claire

It was 1995 and an anti-depressant called Prozac was becoming a commonly used drug. I wanted some. My friends had it, and I needed it too. Afterall, the stress of my on-going divorce while also facing single parenting, handling my spiraling financial concerns, and knowing that I would need to return to the workplace, it was all too much. I was depressed and I wanted to take the pill that would make it go away. No problem, I just needed to go to my primary care doctor. Certainly, he would understand pain and give me some Prozac and maybe some Valium too. I needed my pain to go away. I wanted to stop thinking about losing my marriage, I wanted to stop thinking about my husband every minute. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to go on with life and clearly all those scientists in pharma laboratories had come up with a solution that I needed.

I arrived at Dr. T’s office on a Monday morning. I was guided to the exam room where a nurse took my blood pressure, weight and temperature and recorded the results. There was clearly no test for a broken heart, a failed marriage.

After a brief wait, there was a knock on the exam room door and Dr. T entered with a pleasant smile on his face.  Since I wanted to be convincing about needing the pills, I certainly could not smile back.  It all hurt, so I used a little bit of my drama training and my real pain and twisted my facial expression to one of horrible agony.

“So, what’s going on?” Dr T asked.

I guess my answer spanned several minutes. Afterall, I had been rehearsing this moment for a few days. My voice ended by saying, “So, I must have the pill that makes this all stop.”

“There”, I thought. And I waited for him to type up the pharmacy order. This would be the day that the pain would start to ease.

“Why is he still sitting there?” I asked myself. Dr. T. was reaching for my hand and patting it gently while he leaned forward on his stool.

The moments ticked away. “Come on, get on with it” I thought as I tried to will him to give me the cure.

Yes, “Dr., Dr., give me a cure, I have a bad case of lovin’ him”

Still nothing. The room was silent. I hurt, I really hurt and without using any drama I started to cry softly. The tears dripped down my face and I looked for something to wipe my nose. None of this was funny. My life was a wreck and I could not cope.

That is when he started talking again. “Claire, you need to get out in nature.” He said and he looked compassionate.

“Buddy,” I thought to myself. My unspoken voice continued my response to him silently “I don’t need nature, I told you that I need pills.”

“Take a hike, cut the grass, garden and just be outside in nature.” He said.

My mouth dropped open, it was beginning to appear that the pain was going to continue and would probably last forever.

“I’m paying you”, I thought to myself. “Give me the darn pills. I hurt” I wanted to scream, but I kept quiet.  Did he tell me to take a hike? That was about the same verbiage my husband had used.

I left the appointment with nothing more than some half-baked idea that going out into nature would release me from my agony.

I guess it was a couple days later that I decided to weed a flower bed. I kneeled on the ground and I cried. I cried so loudly that my neighbor came running over. “Dear, what is the matter?” she asked.

“I don’t know which ones are the weeds. I don’t even know how to garden.”

“Oh, that is simple” she replied. “The weeds are any of those plants that you don’t like.”

Then softly, she continued talking to me and then asked me a question,  “Hey, I am going for a little hike around the block, want to come with me?”

I wiped my tears and pulled myself up. “Yeah, I would like that.” I said.

The healing had started…

On the shelf…a short story by Linda Claire

I met Mrs. Schoop only once and it happened 52 years ago. I was a young girl of 14 years old and it happened when I was on a vacation with my girlfriend Mary and her family. I had traveled to Mary’s cottage on Mullett Lake in Cheboygan, Michigan. The word cottage was a not really a good descriptor. For my house guest’s home was truly was a grand lake side home.  

At 14 years old, one of my earned titles was “Book Worm.” I felt pride in that. No hard feelings about the stereotype, just bring me more books.   

On the second day into our stay at the cottage, Mary’s family was gravely disappointed that it kept raining outside. But, because of that day of rain, I had two experiences that have made lifelong impacts on my life. 

The first of those was a found a basket of comic books I found in a window seat. When I earned the name “Book Worm”, it was certainly not because of reading comic books. I read novels, classics, and poetry. I had amazing parents, but they were not parents who allowed comic books in my library. I had seen the funny pages in the paper on occasion, but never a full comic book! While the rest of Mary’s family played the board game Clue, I made my myself comfortable on a soft pillow and grabbed a stack of those comic books. It was a story of true love. I particularly fell in love with Archie, Veronica, Betty, and Jughead. I read the stack and then read it again and again. 

The other event that happened because of the rain that day was Mary’s mother suggesting we meet the woman in the cottage next door. All I knew before walking into her door was that she was a proper old lady who did not like nonsense. “Oh great, an old spinster” I thought.  Yes, words like spinster were very much in my vocabulary thanks to the books Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables.  

Mary’s mother wanted us to dress up a bit for the visit. It had been arranged that Mrs. Schoop would provide us with a full tea party at her home. Mary’s mom had us practice our manners, but I was comfortable in this subject, I even knew how to curl my little finger while drinking.  

As we approached Mrs. Shoop’s home, she stood guarding her back doorway. She perfectly fit the look that I had put together in my imagination. Tall, stately, white hair in a tight bun, a shawl around the shoulders and a cane. She did not smile but offered a little wave instead.  

“Oh swell” I thought, “this is going to be a horrible day.”  

But, once my foot passed over the threshold of her back door, I was in a new universe. One that I would model later in my adult life. I was ever so familiar with the phrase, “do not judge a book by its cover” and this was certainly the case now. Mrs. Shoop was much more than she appeared at the first glance. 

The tea party was set on a table with fancy frilled linen that was printed with a strawberry pattern. There were teacups, fancy china, creamers, and sugar bowls all shaped to look like fanciful strawberries. The wallpaper was a beautiful border of budding strawberries, the rugs were shaped like enormous strawberries and the chairs had a similar pattern on the fabric seats and backs. Of course, the tea party included fresh berries and large strawberry milk shakes. “This is so cool”, I thought to myself while remembering my manners and waiting for Mrs. Shoop to be seated before I sat and placed my strawberry linen napkin into my lap. We had our party. And then, Mrs. Shoop suggested that we might like to take a tour of her home.  

The first room upstairs was a train room. The room was complete with train tracks built around the walls, and little trains chugged past us overhead. The lamps, chairs and all the décor continued the train theme. 

I was beginning to understand that Mrs. Shoop might become one of my favorite people. The amount of creative talent expressed in her decorating had such appeal. It allowed her guests to be in an almost reverent awe of her creative expressions.  

What would the next rooms hold? As it turns out, I would then see a room of pigs…yes fancy porcelain pigs that were large and walking right across the center of the pig room floor. There were flying pigs moved by large fans on the ceiling. From room to room, we continued the tour of themes. 

Many years later, when I became a single woman again after my divorce, I had my own time and place to decorate as I saw fit. I started by making my living room fit for any sea captain. The walls had great nautical art and word art about the seas. A large shipping chest sat in the corner. A sextant with mermaids sat on my shelves. She was a beauty.  

Friends that I entertained, loved the feel of the room. They said that my house gave them the sense that they wanted to memorize and find each of the treasures. I expanded to a family room bedecked with Little Red Riding Hoods…antique illustrated books, cookie jars, all sorts of treasures. The Red Riding Hood art pieces on my walls were both contemporary and classic paintings. 

Eventually, I downsized, and all my theme rooms got packed up for the taking. I have ended up living in a tiny house. No longer in need of so many possessions sitting on shelves anymore. The creativity that I have still finds room for expression in writing, photography and art.  

That being said, ALL of my current artwork in my tiny house is of my favorite animal…Elephants. In fact, a large Vietnamese porcelain elephant is a corner piece in my living room and even my pillows are shaped like elephants.  

I don’t have shelves for display items anymore, but needless to say, if I did have a curio cabinet shelf, I expect you would see a very fancy and fun shelf of elephants on display. 

Hendrick Jansen Oosteroom – a direct ancestor from the Netherlands.

Hendrick Jansen Oosteroom was my 8th great grandfather. Here is how we relate:

When Hendrick Jansen Oosteroom was born in 1630 in Netherlands, his father, Jan, was 25 and his mother, Claudina Relyea, was 24. He married Tryntje Lubbertse VanBlarcom and they had five children together. He then married Geesje Jacobs on May 23, 1666. He died in 1670 in Poughkeepsie, New York, at the age of 40.

Here is a photo of records regarding his 2nd marriage:

His name later became Hendrick Jansen Ostrom. A comment made on Family Search.org reads: “The Dutch of New Amsterdam did not use surnames until 1664 when British took control & renamed New York. The surname “Oosteroom” as entered here has seven alternate spellings as seen on records of time frame – whoever could write spelled & wrote what was heard, not what was meant to be heard”

He was also called Hendrick Van Schalwyk which used the place of his birth as his name.

In 1654, there are records of him receiving a land grant for 25 mogens of land in Kill van Kull, the site of what would later be, Bergen New Jersey. Because of problems the settlers were having there with the Native Americans, it seems that Hendrick later took a lease for unsettled land in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, NY. which was a part of British Colonial America. From familysearch.org “He was apparently living in New Jersey when the Indians forced all white persons living west of the Hudson to retreat to New Amsterdam, where his second child was born in 1657.”