Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Memoir Monday: My Mom

My Mom

This is a day early because today would have been my mother’s ninety-seventh birthday. Margaret Louise Witt was born on February 19, 1920, the eldest child of Robert Witt and Lula Belle Wilcox Witt in the small town of Irvine, Kentucky, pronounced “Irvin” by the locals. Although her hair was curlier, her early pictures look a lot like some of mine, a big-eyed rather serious looking child. When grown, she was about 5’5” with a slender but feminine figure. She had luminous pale blue-gray eyes, very much like her father’s, and dark auburn hair.  Although perhaps not a great beauty, she had very sweet and pretty face and could certainly be called attractive. When she was happy her face glowed with a lovely joy from the inside.

She was always bright and did so well in school that her teachers skipped her ahead twice, passing her over second and eighth grades. This put her in an awkward situation socially and since she was naturally a very shy and somewhat self-effacing person, I get an impression from her sporadic diary that she was often a bit lonely and not happy. She was also a talented musician and learned to play the piano early and quite well.  She graduated from Irvine High School in May, 1936 and from college (Eastern Kentucky in Richmond was her alma mater) in 1940. She always made honor roll level grades and in college had a dual major in math and music. She played some recitals during college but basically quit her music as an adult. After college she became a medical technologist, studying and working at a Catholic hospital in Lexington and sharing an apartment with some other young women,

In Lexington spring 1942
It was there that she met my father in the spring of 1942.  Although he was born and raised in Missouri, by then WW II was going on and he was involved in some ‘hush-hush’ electronic communications projects since he had been an amateur radio operator as a youth and young man. They had a brief courtship as many did during those uncertain times and married on July 6, 1942. All the photos in those early years show her glowing with happiness. I am sure she was very much in love and apparently delighted to become pregnant right away and provide the first grandchild to both sides of the family. Although Dad had two older sisters, both were involved in teaching careers and never married or bore children although his younger sister did a couple of years later.  Of course that first child was me.
In KC, MO winter 42

I am pretty sure Mom had no idea how her life was going to turn out and her vow for “richer or poorer” etc. led her through some very difficult and I think often painful times as the years went by but she stuck it out and remained married to Dad until his sudden death in an accident in March 1989. She bore him two more children, Charles Michael in November 1951 and Robert Alexander in May 1959.

I suppose it is mainly due to her self-effacing nature and to Dad’s personality but she gave up almost all of her interests and pursuits once she married. She had written poetry, played the piano and enjoyed embroidery and reading but much of that was abandoned as the years went by. After Dad’s death, she did read a lot and continued to walk daily and collect “pretty rocks”, a trait which I took on early also.  She spent a lot of time in Kentucky with her father after her mother’s and only brother’s deaths. He outlived her by almost two years.

Then in 1993 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and fought it valiantly for three and a half years, finally succumbing in November 1996.  Although she died in her family home in Kentucky, after a normal funeral with viewing etc. she was cremated and I brought her ashes back to Arizona where my brothers and I had them interred the following spring beside my dad. They both rest in the small cemetery in Duncan, Arizona where they lived their last years together from 1977 until Dad’s death.

 A rare shot-Mom with a mule
out in the mountains
I regret that as a teenager and even later, I did not relate to her or even show her the respect that I should have. After Dad’s death, we did grow closer and I am most thankful for that. My main regret is that her health did not allow her the peaceful years she deserved when we might have grown even closer as we shared widowhood and aging. There are often things I would like to ask of her or share with her yet today, over twenty years later.

Yes, my birth certificate proves that I share her first name; I have never used it as it does not seem to fit me as it did her. But I am not ashamed or unhappy to share it in honor of her memory. She was a kind and caring person, the best mother she could be, and strong in a quiet way that was sometimes hard to recognize or understand. She was a product of her times and did her best to raise me to be independent and yet remain a lady, as she was to her last breath.  Go in peace and harmony, Margaret Witt Morgan, with my heart’s love until we again together.

Mom and me, 3 wks old
Clarkdale, AZ 1959

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Memoir Monday-Stitching In Time

My first exposure to sewing came when I was in fourth grade and got into 4-H for a year. As far as I recall there was no sewing machine in our home so anything I did—a pincushion and maybe a dresser scarf—was done by hand. I was not real thrilled and my stitches were very awkward and uneven. Skip ahead four years.  Now I was in eighth grade and had a mandatory home economics class. There I had to learn to use a sewing machine. My teacher was—at least to me at that time—an old harridan and martinet who demanded we cut all those notches in the pattern we chose to make, baste everything and all the other traditional non-labor and non-step saving “rules”. Despite that, I quickly developed a fascination. My project was a simple gored skirt and the fabric I chose was white with red roses and printed stitch lines to look quilted. There is a scrap or two in my first quilt I mentioned awhile back. Other than getting the side zipper in, I did not have a lot of trouble.

Peasant blouse and broomstick skirt 
By now there was a sewing machine at home, an electric portable, probably from Sears or Montgomery Wards. I think Dad had gotten it for Mom, definitely not at her request, but because since his mother was an excellent seamstress and all three of his sisters sewed at least some, he figured every wife and mother needed one. My maternal grandmother was also an avid sewist but the gene seemed to have skipped Mom entirely.  She had no interest and little skill in it.  She did a few patching jobs and occasionally darned socks or reattached a button. That time was still close enough after the Great Depression and World War II so almost everyone at least tried to be thrifty, still not used to have mostly enough money and reasonable supplies of most commodities.  She also embroidered a little and taught me a few stitches but I did not get into that for many years.

However, once eighth grade and the somewhat onerous class were behind me, I got the sewing machine out and proceeded to become a maker of garments and household items! Although my grandma and her sister, the same ones who created the wonderful quilts, kept me in nice outfits for school, as I slipped into the teens, I developed a real interest in clothes! I was never quite a fashionista but I had my favorite styles and colors. I liked full skirts, ruffles, peasant style blouses. Purple, turquoise and red were my favored colors. I know I soon made some more skirts and then tackled a dress or two, gradually getting into more complex and challenging patterns. I ended up with some ugly and ill-done things but some were wearable and my skill improved quickly. I guess it was motivation and heredity. 

About this same time, I got deep into any and all things western and decided the epitome of cool clothing was a western style blouse or shirt with my jeans. They were not cheap, even by that day’s standards, and the regular patterns for them were mostly for men. Not to be foiled, I got a men’s pattern in the approximate size and modified it to fit my very slim but feminine frame. It wasn’t long before I was making a lot of them—all styles of sleeves and collars, different yokes, and my own designs taken from that basic pattern.  I had a whole wardrobe of shirts before long and wore them all with pride. Two of my creations appear at left

By the time I went to college, starting four years late after our horse and mule business finally crashed, Grandma was losing some of her sight and getting severe arthritis so I was pretty much on my own keeping a wardrobe available. I was aided and abetted by three aunts, Dad’s sisters, who were all getting heavier as they aged and outgrowing clothes which they often passed on to me. I restyled things, took them apart and used the larger pieces to devise new garments and also did some thrift store shopping for clothing I used the same way. The only thing I did not make was slacks or jeans. Pantsuits were starting to become acceptable about that time  so I got some ‘riders’, the fitted and flare-bottomed western pants for women, in my favored colors and had a variety of styles and kinds of tops to wear with them. I continued with this after I started to work for the U.S. Army after I graduated.

Then I became an over-night mom when I married and went on sewing, making school dresses and outfits for my daughter and some western shirts for my husband and son. I still made some clothes for myself as well and finally got a pants pattern that fitted—a very simple one with an elastic waist and casual fit. Then sadly the sedentary life—office work and long commutes—took their toll and I followed in my aunts’ footsteps, outgrowing clothes. That was disheartening and I tolerated it far too long. I ended up buying more matronly styles in the sizes I then had to wear. Lots of pull-on pants and skirts, loose tops and shapeless dresses—ugh!! I did not like myself too well then. Not until after my husband had passed away did I finally drop almost 25% of that weight but by then I was back to my tomboy ways and no longer a clothes horse.

I still made curtains for my houses and ended up making my daughter’s wedding dress and then a grand daughter’s graduation dress for the eighth grade—one more mature and fancy than my own high school graduation dress that Grandma had made! Times were changing. By the time those girls graduated from high school they dressed either in slacks or sexy gowns that looked to me appropriate for a showgirl or hooker! Ah well.

I still have a closet full of nice clothes—some long gowns I wore at some of the writer’s conferences I used to attend, broomstick skirts, western blouses and vests and so on but my uniform for 99% of the time is jeans or jean shorts with a t-shirt or pop-over sun top and flannel lumberjack shirts when it is cooler. Most of my sewing today is patchwork projects, a few home or decorative items and an occasional repair job. The old fascination is just not there. I have made a few things and then decided the styles I used to love re really not appropriate anymore; I have just outgrown ruffles and flounces and full, full skirts…. Shoot!  However if my eyes and hands allow it, I will keep sewing as well as making jewelry and other craft stuff until I am really old and not just edging toward it.

These are the 'fancy' efforts I mentioned in the next to last paragraph. Sadly I think my daughter's gown turned out better than her marriage. That sad tale is partly covered in this post:
https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8176952721081512220#editor/target=post; postID=3925097277387754565;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=105;src=postname  or skip back to Sept 23, 2015.

Detail of sleeve, headgear

Down the aisle with Dad

8th grade grad-Denise Petty