Childhood mysteries I will never solve

Childhood mysteries I will never solve June 16, 2024

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Dad has passed.

Mom has dementia.  At this point it is severe enough that she says only a few words, but it’s been quite a while since she has been able to say particularly much and even longer still since she has been able to tell us much about the past.

And this means there are questions about my childhood I will never know the answer to.

Exhibit 1:  my childhood bedspread.

Yes, what you see here is a bedspread made by sewing together two sheets with a layer of batting in-between, and with knotted embroidery thread at intervals to hold it together neatly.  This was my comforter throughout childhood.

What I wish I knew:

Did mom make this because she thought it would be a special gift to have a handmade cover?

Or did she make it because it was more economical than buying a bedspread and money was tight?

For that matter, when we emptied out the basement after my parents moved to their retirement community, we had boxes and boxes of old fabric, patterns, and needlepoint kits.  Some was donated, a lot was too damaged with mice droppings to be usable.  As far as I can tell, at some point, she just stopped sewing, crocheting, needlepointing, and so on.  I didn’t even notice it at the time, but now I wonder:  did she lose interest?  Did she stop when she started working more hours as we kids got older?  Did she enjoy these crafts in the first place, or was she just doing what she was “supposed to do” as a stay-at-home mother of the 70s?  Or was it all contingent on there being a tangible “purpose” to the project (the needlepointed dining room chair covers, the quilt, the crocheted afghan) and when those projects ended she couldn’t find others?

Exhibit 2:  beef tongue.

I remember being served tongue as a child.  I don’t remember how it tasted, just that it was exotic.  Likewise, we had liver — and this I do remember as being dry and gristle-y.  At the store today, neither of these meats are particularly bargain-priced.  But I ask myself: were these meats more affordably priced, relative to steak, in the 70s or early 80s, even though that’s no longer the case?  Was this just a part of the side of beef that I remember being a Christmas present from my grandparents one year?  Or did my parents think of this as a special gourmet treat?

Exhibit 3:  cars.

Another item we uncovered in emptying out the house were Mom and Dad’s slides, which we used a slide digitizer from the library to digitize, but by the time we did so it was too late to ask either of them questions about the slides.

I shared some of these on twitter/X, and tagged these #DavesCarIDService, and Dave, that is, @iowahawkblog, indeed responded.  I’ve pasted the responses at the end of this post because it’s otherwise a lot of scrolling, but the bottom line is that one was a 1930s hot rod, one a Mustang, and the third a Camero.  Was Dad a hot-rodder, or did he just take a picture of a friend’s or neighbor’s car?  Did they actually own a Mustang or did they just borrow it for the honeymoon (based on other pictures)?  And what’s the deal with the Camero?  Mom used to complain occasionally (somewhere between jokingly and truly resentfully) that when my older sister was born and they needed a family-friendly car it was she, not Dad, who had to give up the car.  At the same time, the only car I remember my Dad owning as a child was the Corvette, but it turns out he didn’t buy it until the early 70s,  used, so he himself would have also had to have sold his prior car.   Was that prior car the Camero, which I had assumed at the time I shared this picture, to have been Mom’s car?  Was the Corvette a move-up or did they think of it as a practical, economical purchase?  After all, they simply did not splurge with their money in any way that I am aware of, growing up, at least.

I had written in the past about my father, both when he passed, and much earlier, when a serious injury got me reflecting on his life.

But I’ve come to realize that Dad, with his stories and his interests, was very much in the center and Mom was in the background.  When Mom retired, we tried to encourage her to find new hobbies or re-establish old ones, without success. As Mom’s dementia worsened, we struggled to find ways to engage her, activities which would resemble in some form beloved hobbies or which would remind her of them, and never really succeeded.

So what’s my point?  I’m not sure.  Readers, do you have similar experiences?

Anyway, as promised, here are those vehicles:


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