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21 December 2016

Christmas Wishes of Yore

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley (c) 2016

A psychologist friend tells me that we can learn a lot about ourselves by remembering our Christmas wishes. I don’t know how he knows this, but he is smart and worked with children for years, so perhaps there is something to it.

Christmastime was a mixture of religious and secular traditions in my family. After my younger twin brothers came along, it was much more fun for me because I loved surprising them with gifts, wrapping the presents and reading Christmas tales and poetry to them. I’d even sit up late with them “waiting for Santa” — they usually fell over asleep on the sofa and we’d tuck them into their beds. 

On Christmas morning, I’d tell them how I had heard Santa’s sleigh landing on the rooftop right after they went to sleep. They were as gullible as I — believing all the stories about Santa, the reindeer, and red-nosed Rudolph. Even though we never had a house with a fireplace or real chimney no one questioned how Santa got into the house to deliver the gifts or how he could make a round-the-world trip in one night.

Mother always decorated the tree except for allowing us kids to toss some icicles on it. She was a creative and talented decorator, and it was not until I was married and bought my first Christmas tree that I realized I did not have a clue about how to decorate it. I am glad no pictures survive of my first pitiful tree.

My family was not big on giving toys, although my parents always purchased at least one gift for us to play with, but most of our presents were practical ones — you know, underwear, socks, pajamas, clothes, sweaters and winter coats. Daddy usually bought me “girly stuff” — Heaven Scent cologne and bath powder or jewelry. 

We were taught to be grateful for everything we received. I was fortunate to have several aunts who always sent me a gift or some money. I really liked the green stuff best so I could buy paper dolls and books.

I don’t recall ever actually writing to Santa and asking him for anything. Usually someone in the family would ask me what I would like to have for Christmas, but I don’t remember anything I ever specifically asked for until the year I was eight.

I spied it in a furniture store window and fell in love with it. It was a golden oak desk with a little matching stool. The slanted top of the desk raised up and inside was plenty of room for crayons, scissors, pencils, writing paper and my paper dolls. 

Santa came through and on Christmas morning, there it was next to the tree tied with a big red bow. I was delighted. Later I overheard my mother tell one of my aunts that she didn’t understand why I wanted a desk, but that was all I had asked for. My aunt laughed and said, “Well, maybe she is going to be a writer.” Little did they know.

Of course, the signs were all there about what I would grow up to be, if anyone had been paying attention. One year I asked for a camera — a Baby Brownie. Then for a Mickey Mouse watch and a few years later for a typewriter. However, somewhere between the watch and the typewriter requests, I asked for a Toni doll 

The Ideal Toni Dolls were a promotional doll, connected with the Toni cosmetic company. Toni dolls came with their own home permanent kit. Everything that a mother had to perm her daughter’s hair, the Ideal Toni Dolls had the same things. That included a permanent solution, made of sugar and water. There also were end papers and a comb, just as in the adult home permanent kits.

I gave my doll many permanents and had her until I was in junior high school. That was when my younger brothers decided to perform surgery on her. They amputated her limbs and scalped her.

About that time, I decided I wanted to be a twirler for the school band and asked for a baton. What was I thinking? My hand-eye coordination scores were probably at the bottom of the charts — most likely not even on the charts. I never even made it to tryouts as my baton was usually lost in the grass.

However, when one dream is crushed, I discovered a new one might even be better — in the long run. So I gave up the dream of wearing a white satin outfit and twirling a baton. I replaced it with a typewriter and became the editor of the high school newspaper. 

It was one of my smarter moves in life.

22 November 2016

Mayflower Links

It's that time of year, when some genealogists (and the media) turn to thoughts of ancestors who actually celebrated the event, popularly called the first Thanksgiving. While my ancestors are not among the Mayflower passengers (mine all arrived with the 17th-century Dutch, Norwegians, Huguenots, Swedes and a few English and Welsh stowaways (I suspect), plus a number of early 18th-century Swiss and Germans), my husband's line goes back to a famous couple who arrived in 1620.

Descent from Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins

John Alden (Sr.) [ca 1599-1687] = Priscilla Mullins (Molens) [ca 1602-1680/87]
Joseph Alden [ca 1628-196/7] = Mary Simmons [ca 1641-after 10 March 1696/7]
Isaac Alden [ca 1666-1727] = Mehitable Allen [1664-after 20 October 1727]
Captain Ebenezer Alden [1693-1776] = Anna Keith [1695-1775]
Abigail Alden [1721-1762] = Ebenezer Byram Jr. [1716-1762]
Mary Byram [1755-1819] = Silas Ayres [1749-1826]
Hannah Ayres [1781-ca 1832] = Isaac Pierson [1779-1859]
Byram Ayres Pierson [1801-1886] = (3) Catherine Holflick(Hossick) [1810-1890]
Isaac Pierson [ca 1847-1911] = Katherine Maybee [1850-1887]
Claude (née Pierson) Gormley [1886-1942] = Cleo (née Cummings) Endicott [1902-1975]
Leo C. Gormley 

It is interesting, genealogically speaking, to learn about some well-known descendants of this couple, such as:
President John Q. Adams →Ruth Alden = John Bass →John and Priscilla
William Cullen Bryan →Jonathan Alden =Abigail Hallett →John and Priscilla
Marilyn Monroe →Elizabeth Alden = William Pabodie →John and Priscilla
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow → Elizabeth Alden = William Pabodie →John and Priscilla
Vice President Dan Quayle → Sarah Alden = Alexander Standish →John and Priscilla
Dick Van Dyke →Sarah Alden = Alexander Standish →John and Priscilla
Orson Welles →Elizabeth Alden = William Pabodie →John and Priscilla

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours. Gobble up!

Graphics thanks to the kind permission of:

24 September 2016

Warning Words to Heed
by Myra Vanderpool Gormley (c) 2016
It has taken me a few years to smarten up, but I have finally broken the code. I think. As one of the elders of the tribe, I want to impart these things to you:
There are warnings in words. Watch out for them, such as:
·       Simple
·       Fast
·       Quick Start
·       Easy Open
·       New and Improved
Simple often appears together with instructions and when it does, run. The instructions will be neither simple nor easy to follow. You’ll be lucky if they are in English. Be prepared to spend hours, perhaps days, trying to figure out how to call someone on your new phone with its “simple instructions.”

Fast is a trap word. It is designed to snare men, but women fall for it, too. We all want to be fast in doing things and getting a project done — heck, it’s the American way. Forget it. If the manufacturer claims it is fast or you can put the product together fast — run away as fast as you can.

Quick Start is dangerous. If the regular start doesn’t work quickly and reliably, why did they have to add a “Quick Start”?

Think about that. Moreover, if the Quick Start works too quickly, you probably will not be able to follow the Simple Instructions. Just saying.

New and Improved? You mean I have to explain this one to you? That means it is still the same old product only in a smaller size and a bigger price in a new box. Improved refers to the profit margin to the company.

For anyone over 30, the words “Easy Open” should ring bells — loud clanging church bell-type. It means there is no way on this earth you can open that package without the help of box cutter, scissors, knife, hammer, lightsaber, gun or dynamite — or all of the above. And, if it also says “child-proof” no one over five years of age can open it — without big power tools.

I know whereof I speak. Following some “Simple Instructions” recently it took me three days to figure out how to input phone numbers into our new phone system. I still haven’t learned to create the “fast keys” — you know where you can punch 1 to ring your #1 kid to help you figure out something in your Quicken program because he’s an accountant.

My bank’s “fast start” wound up locking me out of my own account, forcing me to call for help. Talk about adding insult to injury. I consider myself semi-techie, having grown up with computers, and once upon a time was a pioneer road warrior carrying my laptop and accessories with me on my worldwide travels.

Once I was giving a PowerPoint presentation at a conference and my computer froze up. I just gave it mouth-to-mouth and continued. Just kidding. Actually, I flipped over the laptop, popped open the battery case and then reconnected it and it worked perfectly. That’s an old trick a friend taught me along the way.

Imagine my surprise the other day when my husband’s laptop “hung up” and I told him to do that and he says, “But, I can’t open the battery case.”

I couldn’t either.

Who on earth would think to get a toothpick and stick it in the hole above the battery case and turn it so it (the battery case) will pop out?

That’s what I learned by “googling” help for opening a battery case on a particular laptop computer.

Words and toothpicks are important. Pick them carefully.