1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

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Changes and Pies

A beloved family member bids a sad farewell to the happy life she has lived in her home. Although never the same, her life slowly becomes joyful once again.

Each autumn, Dad, David, and I raked Great Aunt Mary’s leaves into massive piles beside the road. Then we burned them. Not much is better than watching leaves burn after raking for hours.

I loved visiting her home on Dean Road and seeing my old friends. I’m not certain overjoyed would be the correct word, but I’m sure that Mrs. Kill had strong feelings when she’d spy me walking toward her home from Aunt Mary’s. Like a bad penny, I kept reappearing.

Great-Aunt Mary's house twelve years earlier (1952) Mom, baby David, unknown, Aunt Mary

Great-Aunt Mary’s house twelve years earlier (1952)
Mom, baby David, unknown, Aunt Mary

I never noticed Aunt Mary kept getting older. At age eighty-five she left her home and came to live with us. She arrived with her orange long-haired cat, Sandy.

“Hey, Aunt Mary, where’s Rascal?” I asked.

Aunt Mary sighed and took a moment to compose herself before answering. “Rascal was too old to adjust to a new home.”

Silence. I knew what that meant. After a minute, I said, “Well, at least you have Sandy Cat.

Sandy was old, too. The new environment confused him and after a couple of months he still refused to use his litter box. One morning he jumped onto a cabinet and threw up on Dad’s important papers. Aunt Mary had him join Rascal and became sadder.

Aunt Mary did start smiling again, but was never the same as at her own home. She became a visitor, not for a weekend, for the rest of her life.

She had cataracts and couldn’t see well, yet she asked to do any mending needing to be done. I often threaded her needle. Everyone needs to feel useful.

I regularly made bread and clover-leaf rolls. Aunt Mary watched and talked while I kneaded the dough, let it rise, punched it down, and baked. I also made pies and Aunt Mary happily helped.

She sat at the kitchen table, peeling, coring, and slicing apples while I cut shortening into flour. I rolled the dough and placed bottom crusts on pie-plates. Aunt Mary filled the cavities with apples and just the right amount of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour. I covered the mounds with a top crust, cut several steam-holes (artistically arranged), and popped them into the oven. Shortly before removing, I brushed the crusts with a little butter; a trick I learned from my bread baking.

Five or six apple pies were standard business in addition to one or two chocolate pies for David. After I left home and Mom resumed baking, she made twice as many.

“Land sakes, I can’t believe how quickly these pies disappear,” marveled Aunt Mary. After receiving a Norton-size serving, her comment never varied—“That’s a great plenty.”

A tub of ice cream, usually vanilla or maple walnut, accompanied our pies. So did a block of cheese.

To this day, Dad never eats pie without saying, “A slice of pie without a piece of cheese, is like a kiss without a squeeze.”

One evening, David carefully cut an uncommonly small slice of chocolate pie. He ignored the tiny piece and proceeded to pick up the large portion surrounding it. His prank backfired as it folded in half and collapsed, spilling chocolate filling onto the table. He was left holding an empty crust. That was one pie that disappeared faster than usual.

Waste not, want not. David didn’t waste or want. He used a spoon on his scrambled pie.

Lesson learned: Fill your life with happy pies.

Related Posts: Chapter Seven: Blackballed Activities; Mary Reincarnated; Temporary Home; Chickens Never Forget; Farewell Performance

Now it’s your turn: Did an older relative move in with you?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. mikesteeden says:

    You know your musings still do that Dr Who thing – time travelling that is! Gentle stuff packed full of information and things that trigger memories. Wonderful.

  2. kbroby2444 says:

    Mary Barbara; your memories are truly wonderful. A slice of homemade pie is a slice of pure joy. Of course, I don’t cut a slice, I just grab a fork and dive into the whole pie.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Yes, KB, a good apple pie is always my favorite. But it can’t be one those mushy store bought things. Dad always said I made the best flaky crust. Compliments got him more pie.

      • kbroby2444 says:

        No cheese here, always ice cream if it is in the freezer. Loved the story MB – keep them coming.

  3. Ralph says:

    Hi Mary 😀 It’s such a shame that many people did not write on the back of the old photos ……who, what, where and when. It would have been so much easier for future generations. Ralph xox 😀

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      You are right, Ralph. We have tons of tintypes and no idea who they are. I’ve always made it a practice to include the subjects and date on the backs of my photos. But the digital came and I never set the date on my camera or video.

      • Ralph says:

        I have got into the habit of when I download the photos onto my laptop I put them in new renamed dated folders and rename each photo that I wish to keep. Then transfer the folders onto a memory stick. So I have very little in my laptop except items I’m using at the time. It can be a lot of work, but it works for me and I can find photos easily. 😀

      • skinnyuz2b says:

        Ralph, organizing my blog photos and personal photos is on my to-do list. Been on it for quite a while.

      • Sunni Morris says:

        I always tag my photos too as soon as I download them. I still have quite a few older ones to do before I started this practice. Then I put them into files and do as Ralph does and back them up on a thumb drive. It sure does make it easier. Otherwise, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

      • skinnyuz2b says:

        Yes Sunni and Ralph, you’ve lit the fire in me. This has been on the back of my to-do list and I’m moving it to the front.

  4. Choosing says:

    Even thought that is not the answer to your question: The beginning of your post reminded me of the times my dad and I burned old leaves and twigs… it was a tradition for us too… I loved it and felt very grown up being allowed to help handle a real fire.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Choosing – The smell of the dead leaves burning in the crisp Fall air was so great. And if you get chilled, you just move closer to the fire. When it died down to embers, David and I would poke it with sticks and jump over the edges if no one was looking.

  5. C. Suresh says:

    Like I needed to be reminded of all these sinful concoctions 🙂 I just do not have the funds to go for the next higher size of everything 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      C.S., one Thanksgiving my mother made so many pies that there were enough so each person could have an entire pie to themselves if they wanted. That’s my parents, four of us young adult kids, our spouses or significant other, and one grandchild at the time. And there still would be pies left over!

  6. Glynis Jolly says:

    I think I like pies better than cakes. Your brother sounds a lot like mine. My brother is a sucker for cherry pie. He feel cheated if he doesn’t get half of the pie my mom would make. Luckily, although I like cherry pie, I’d rather have apple or lemon.

  7. kbroby2444 says:

    Cheater recipe – just shared and taste tested. Take one box of angel food cake mix and one box of any other cake mix – mix them together in a bag. Put three tablespoons of the mix into a coffee cup with two tablespoons of water – mix and microwave for one minute. Top with icing or not. It reminds me of a book my ex bought for our oldest when he went off to college – A man, a can, and a microwave. Note – only good if you eat it right away. Unlike real pie which can last for days, or not.

  8. Sunni Morris says:

    Enjoyed your story. No, a relatiive never moved in with us. Where we would even put anyone else, I have no idea. The three-room sharecropper’s shack was too small for nine people as it was (parents and the seven of us kids).

    One of grandfathers finally came and helped dad add on another two rooms and an inside bathroom. Even then, it was wall-to-wall kids, but much better than before. The crazy thing about this house was that nothing ever was painted except the door and my paent’s bedroom, which was one of the new rooms added. The rest was left bare wood and some of it was exposed two by fours. We still had a lot of fun in that house growing up.

    Reading your stories always makes me remember those old times.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Sunni, I’m happy to stir up good memories.
      Your home sounds like one my honey lived in. Seven kids and two small bedrooms. It’s a hair salon now and Pookie goes there for his haircuts. Each time he enters he calls out, “Ma, I’m home.” I can’t imagine how they all fit in there, the entire house is about the size of our living room. But like you said, it was a happy home.

  9. That’s a great reminiscence! Yes, when I was young I remember three old aunts coming to live with us, but it wasn’t a happy experience. Maybe I’ll blog it sometime, when the mood’s right.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Fred, my great-aunt was one of those amazing people, beloved by the entire neighborhood. A few months ago, I recognized the name of a boy about nine years younger than me, who lived next to my aunt. After talking for a few minutes he mentioned that he used to volunteer to go chop wood for my aunt, and always went home with a warm batch of chocolate chip cookies.

  10. Morguie says:

    I must confess, without leaving this post and bouncing elsewhere to peek, I have forgotten where you are from…but I read recently that it’s actually a LAW somewhere that to order apple pie in wisconsin WITHOUT a slice of cheese is prohibited! lol… yes to your question…but the other way around…I actually was sent to live with my Grandma after Grandpa passed away so I could care for her 6 months of the year…my cousin took the other 6…but we were in high school and it got to be cumbersome and after a couple of years it was decided Grandma would go to live my cousin and Uncle’s family instead. I know it must be difficult for an older relative to have to concede that they can no longer go it alone. I imagine most of us will have to deal with this from one angle or another as we get older ourselves. It seems your family was most compassionate to Aunt Mary, even though the cats were unable to come with her.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      CJ, that was so wonderful of you do care for your grandmother like that. It meant she could stay in familiar surrounding for that much longer.
      I’m from upstate NY, above Albany. And I went to college in Wisconsin at St. Norberts. To all the pie with a side of cheese doubters, I say ‘Try it, you’ll like it!’

      • Morguie says:

        I have never tried the pie with cheese, believe it or not. And I worked in the restaurant biz for a lifetime before I went into the ‘other’ work… go figure.

  11. spunkybong says:

    Ah, Skinny, your memoires are gold plated. Loved this one (as if I don’t love them all). 😀

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