Why I Don’t Wish Friends Happy Birthday on Facebook

Another year has begun, and with it another round of birthdays. And another round of deciding which birthdays will I acknowledge, and which will I ignore.

Kids get recognized—that’s a given. (Or it should be.) My younger nieces and nephews will get a card and a gift. The recognition may come late, but until they’re in their teens somewhere, they’ll receive some form of acknowledgment from me that they are growing up. One group of youngsters has a cluster of birthdays—they’ll all get their presents in the same mailing. Another niece has a birthday right after Christmas. She’s the only one guaranteed to get an early gift—I put in it the Christmas box. But they all get something.

And until they’re of the age of reason, they’ll probably get a token gift when their siblings have birthdays also. If only to minimize the squabbles their parents have to deal with.

Adults are another matter. I have a list of family birthdays, and my siblings and their spouses get cards. Ditto on my husband’s side of the family. Grown-up nieces and nephews probably get cards. Most years. When I remember. I do get laxer as people age and family ties weaken.

But what do I do about friends?

My mother was very good about sending all her friends birthday cards. She was a more regular customer of Hallmark than I was—and I worked for the greeting card company and got my cards at a discount. She shopped at least once a month for cards for the next few weeks, wrote a long newsy letter to each person, and got the cards to her friends and relations on time.

One of the worst symptoms of her Alzheimer’s for me was when she started forgetting to send cards. My father tried to take over for family birthdays, but among my saddest birthdays was the year neither of them remembered the occasion.

Weeks later, my father said to me, “I forgot your birthday, didn’t I?”

Yes, he had.

And then a year or two later, he wasn’t there to remember it at all. A sadder birthday yet.

When I worked in Human Resources at Hallmark, I sent many, many birthday cards. And company anniversary cards.

I hadn’t realized that recognizing such occasions was one of the obligations of Human Resources managers, but I quickly embraced the habit. My administrative assistants kept lists of employees with upcoming celebrations, and I sent cards to the people I knew. They deserved that recognition—an opportunity to say congratulations and to thank them for the work they did. I enjoyed writing those cards.

Now I am retired. No more lists of colleagues’ birthdays and anniversaries. No more stock of note cards in the supply cabinet.

But there is Facebook. Facebook tells me when many of my friends have birthdays.

What should I do?

Somehow, it feels disloyal to Hallmark to simply type “Happy Birthday” on someone’s social media wall. If I don’t go to the effort of finding an appropriate card, writing a personal message, addressing the card and mailing it, does it really count?

So I usually choose to ignore the reminder from Facebook. And to ignore all the other birthday wishes my friends are receiving. I don’t post my own birthday, so my friends won’t be placed in a similar quandary.

If Facebook is the only way I have of contacting someone, then I might chime in. I rationalize that if that is the only method I have of recognizing the occasion, the convenience and minimal thought it takes is acceptable. But otherwise, it feels too trite.

So don’t take it personally if I ignore you. In my own way, I am preserving tradition.

Yet many of my Hallmark friends appear to disagree with me. I see them commenting on birthdays left and right, regardless of the impact to Hallmark’s bottom line when they do not send cards. Or maybe they’re sending cards also.

Of course, my position is somewhat silly. I’m not sending cards or writing on Facebook walls—I’m ignoring the occasion altogether. Right or wrong, that’s the position I’ve taken. At least I recognize my hypocrisy.

What do you think? Would you rather have me type Happy Birthday so you know I’m thinking of you? Or shall I continue to ignore Facebook and preserve a tradition I generally do not follow?

Random Photos: Ironing

With my ironing board from Santa, circa 1959

Despite an early exposure to ironing (Santa left me an ironing board when I was just a toddler), I have never liked it. In fact, I’ve done whatever I could to avoid it.

I’ve owned an iron since I was married, but I didn’t buy an ironing board until sometime after I had two kids. I remember buying it, thinking everyone should have an ironing board, but knowing I didn’t really want one. A towel spread out on a bed or counter had always been adequate.

Theresa ironing, November 25, 1977

What brought this topic to mind was finding a picture of myself ironing a shirt the day before my wedding. I found an envelope of snapshots taken the weekend of our marriage. I know I’ve seen some of these pictures before, but I had totally forgotten them. I didn’t remember the photo of me ironing.

There are only two times in my life that I have agreed to iron my husband’s shirt—and only once that I actually did it. That was the day before we were married, Friday, November 25, 1977.

At the rehearsal dinner, fiance in dress shirt I’d ironed

He said he needed his dress shirt ironed before we went to the rehearsal dinner. So I agreed to do it. This photo was taken in my parents’ basement, where I set up my mother’s ironing board and went at it.

I must have done an acceptable job, because he wore the shirt to the rehearsal dinner.

The other time I agreed to iron his shirt was Friday, May 10, 1985. How do I remember that date? Well, the day is memorable for many reasons.

I had spent that week in an executive development program in Lawrence, Kansas, with other managers and professionals at Hallmark Cards. I left Lawrence about noon on May 10, 1985, to go to my obstetrician’s office. I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant. After I got home, I called my husband to let him know I’d made it back. We were scheduled to go to a social event sponsored by his law firm that evening. He asked me to iron his shirt. I sighed, but said I would.

Then I went into the family room to lie down on the couch. After all, I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, and had an evening event to attend. And a shirt to iron.

As I lay on the couch resting, my water broke. Contractions started immediately.

I called my husband again and told him I would not be ironing his shirt.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because we’re having a baby tonight instead.”

What will you do to get out of ironing (or other detested tasks)?

Bowl Game: Another Road Trip from Hell

I wrote about one road trip from hell—a 2007 trip to New Orleans for my daughter’s law school graduation that involved Southern heat without air conditioning, floods, and a broken bone (mine). Over New Year’s weekend from 2009 crossing over to 2010, I took another road trip from hell—this one to Houston.

The planning began a few weeks earlier, when we learned that the University of Missouri football team would be playing Navy on December 31, 2009, in the Texas Bowl in Houston. Wouldn’t it be great, someone suggested, if my husband and I took his mother to see the game? She is an avid Mizzou fan, and my husband is an alum of the Naval Academy. It seemed to others that these alliances would lead to a good time being had by all.

Well, it might have been a good time, if either my husband or I liked football. I grew up watching football games on television with my father and brothers—that was all there was to do on weekends during my childhood. I understand the rudiments of the game. One team of big, burly men tries to get the slippery, odd-shaped ball across the goal line while the other team of big, burly men tries to stop them. The players fall down a lot. Flags on the field are bad, unless they are timed strategically to magically transform fifteen minutes into an hour.

One problem with football is that it is played when the weather is cold. I managed to never attend a football game during high school, and only passed through the stands briefly during one game at college. I don’t like being outside in the cold—at least hockey is played inside.

My husband was forced to attend football games when he was a student at the Naval Academy. In uniform. And often marching. He didn’t mind marching, but he didn’t care about the football games themselves, and he did not follow his alma mater’s standings after he graduated. People would ask him about the Army/Navy game, and he had no clue when it was or who had won.

Nevertheless, on December 30, 2009, we found ourselves on I-35 South driving from Kansas City to Houston. I was retired by then, but my husband was still practicing law, and he wanted to make a quick trip of it. So we planned to make the drive in one day.

The three of us—husband, his mother, and me—left our house in her car at 8:00 am. We arrived in Houston at 11:00 pm. Fifteen hours on the road, which alone made it a trip from hell. My husband and I don’t do well on long car trips together, not when there is any time pressure involved. He stops too frequently and drives too slowly for my taste. And his mother travels faster than I do.

I had anticipated we would arrive at our hotel around 9:00 pm, but by Oklahoma City it was clear we wouldn’t make that. We ate dinner somewhere around Dallas (which we reached during rush hour) and still had hours to go. But we got there and went straight to bed.

The Texas Bowl itself was on December 31, 2009, which was a cold day for Houston. As a Navy alum, my husband had tickets to a Navy tailgate party where we ate lunch, then we found our seats in the stadium. It was colder than I had anticipated, and I spent quite a bit of time in the concession area where I could warm up.

Surprisingly, once the game started, my husband got interested and rooted for Navy. His mother, of course, rooted for Mizzou. Navy won decisively—35 to 13. The Mizzou players seemed as uninvolved in the game as I was, while Navy displayed a solid, workmanlike approach to scoring. However pleased my husband was by the result, his mother was about twice as disappointed. Since the trip was a present for her, it would have been nice if she had seen her team win.

On New Year’s Day, we played tourist at the Johnson Space Center, the U.S.S. Texas, and the San Jacinto Memorial. I enjoyed learning something of Texas history, but wished I had brought a heavier coat as I shivered in the wind.

We ended the day at a pizza joint somewhere near our hotel—the only restaurant we could find open on the holiday. That’s when the trip turned to hell. As with the New Orleans trip, I seemed to be the weak link in our family chain.

I became deathly ill that night—upset stomach, shakes and chills. Whether it was the pizza or a virus, I have no idea. I didn’t care then, and I don’t care now. I just know I felt bad. Too sick to eat, too sick to drive, too sick to do anything but moan.

Regardless how I felt, I had to endure a fifteen-hour car ride back home on January 2, 2010. I curled up in the back seat and tried to ignore everything—the conversation, the terrain, the world. All I ate that day was hot tea and a couple of saltines.

About Wichita, we hit a snowstorm. We had heavy snow all the way from Wichita to Kansas City—a three- hour drive in the dark. Every time a truck went by it threw snow across our windshield.

Once again, our travels ended about 11:00 pm, when we arrived at our house. At least by then I was feeling better.

And I’m happy to report that this was the last road trip from hell I’ve made. There was the time in 2013 that I drove my daughter from Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle after she broke her leg. But that was a shorter trip, and I wasn’t the one suffering.

When was your last road trip from hell?

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

I wrote two years ago about going to see Santa Claus at Lloyd Center in Portland, Oregon. I’m pretty sure the year was 1961. When I wrote that post, I couldn’t find the picture of my brother and me with Santa.

Well, now I’ve found it:

I hope Santa brought you everything you want for Christmas this year, and may 2018 be your happiest year ever.

Merry Christmas!

My Last Gift from Santa

In my birth family, Santa Claus brought presents to children through their high school years, but that was it. Because I was the oldest kid in the family, the parameters around childhood experiences developed as I grew up. I’m not sure when the End of Santa rule was determined—if Santa announced it to me in advance, or if I only found out when he no longer left me anything. I seem to recall some discussion leading to a mutual decision between Santa and me.

But in December 1972, the year I was a senior in high school, I knew Santa was still planning to show up for me, as well as for my younger siblings.

I wanted a typewriter that year. An electric typewriter. After all, I would be heading off to college the following September, and a typewriter would be useful—maybe even a necessity.

I’d taken a typing class the summer after I was in the eighth grade, thinking that I’d have to type some papers in high school. I was dreadful at it, but summer school classes didn’t count in my high school GPA. I think the fastest I ever typed that summer was 35 words per minute, and those words were full of mistakes. I didn’t improve through my high school years, though I did type some of my longer assignments.

The only typewriter we had at home was an ancient manual machine my mother had acquired when she was in college. She wasn’t a very good typist either, and my father couldn’t type at all in those days. (Though he took to it after he retired, when he started using computers regularly, and became a pretty good four-fingered typist.)

By contrast, my maternal grandmother, Nanny Winnie, was an excellent typist. She had been to a year of business college (basically, secretarial school) after high school, and she was very fast. She was so fast that she usually typed her personal correspondence with friends and family. Which was a good thing, because her handwriting was barely legible. I remember visiting her when I was quite small, and she clattered away on the keys typing letters while I played on the floor beside her.

By high school, I was too old to sit on Santa’s lap. To let Santa know I wanted a typewriter, I typed most of my papers the fall semester of my senior year. That meant I had to draft them early enough before they were due that I could slowly peck out a final version on my mother’s old typewriter.

“Why are you typing everything?” my mother asked me one evening as I pounded out a term paper. “Is it required?”

“Not really,” I said. “But I think it looks nicer.” I continued to hunt for those elusive keys, hoping Santa would get the hint.

Santa brought me two suitcases like the one pictured above and the soft carry-on, but not the smaller hard-cased carry-on.

On Christmas morning 1972, I followed my usual practice of sneaking from my bedroom to the living room in the wee hours before dawn. Some years, my brother accompanied me, but that year, I spied alone.

There, under the tree, was a set of luggage—two green Samsonite suitcases and a matching carry-on tote bag. Those must be for me, I thought. I’m the only kid going anywhere this year.

And there was a Smith Corona electric typewriter. At 5:00am, I couldn’t take try it out, but I vowed to be up again as soon as the rest of the family began to stir.

A Smith-Corona typewriter, just like the one Santa brought me

When the appointed hour for children to arise came, I was back in the living room with my typewriter. It had a manual return, but electric touch in the keys.

Unfortunately, owning this machine didn’t improve my typing skills. I managed through college and law school on that Smith Corona, but I didn’t improve as a typist until after I began using a personal computer in the mid-1980s and got a lot more practice. Perhaps that will be the topic of another post.

What was your last gift from Santa?

Mother’s Silver Souvenir Spoons

My mother collected silver souvenir spoons from foreign countries. Some showed national symbols and some were specific to a major city. There didn’t seem to be any particular theme to the spoons. Their purchase was more opportunistic.

I think my mother’s parents started the tradition when they traveled in Europe in the early 1960s. When my father went on business trips a few years later, he brought her back spoons as well. She made her first European trip with my father in about 1968 and found a couple more spoons for herself. All in all, she collected about fifteen of them, maybe more.

For years, they hung on a rack in a corner of the dining room in the house my parents owned from 1962 until 1980. We never used the spoons, not even on holidays. They simply hung, mementos of various trips taken by family members.

Some of the spoons I liked better than others. The Dutch spoon sported little wooden shoes (actually, they were made of ceramic) on its handle. The spoon from Ireland had a shamrock on it made of real blarney stone. Some of them I didn’t care for, though I can’t remember now where those were from.

When I went to Europe on a People to People trip during high school in 1970, I looked for a spoon to buy my mother. But either buying such a memento wasn’t in my limited budget for gifts, or I didn’t see any spoons from new places not already represented in her collection.

My parents dining room hutch, where we found the spoons

After my parents died, my sister, brother, and I cleaned out their house. It was February or March 2015. We came across the spoons, now hidden in a drawer in my parents’ dining room hutch.

“Do you want them?” I asked my siblings.

My sister and brother shook their heads. “What would we do with them?”

I didn’t want the spoons either. I didn’t care to hang them on a rack in my dining room, as my mother had. They would just end up in a drawer somewhere.

So we left the spoons where we’d found them, ready for the estate sale agent to price and try to sell.

A couple days later on that house-cleaning trip, as I was packing up the things I wanted to ship to my home in Kansas City, I went through all the drawers in my parents’ house one more time. I came across the souvenir spoons again. I still had no use for them.

The six spoons I kept

But I kept six. The ones from London, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Heidelberg, and Switzerland. The ones I liked the most.

They are stashed in a cupboard in my dining room now, and I doubt I will ever use them. In fact, I’ll probably rarely look at them.

I wish I’d kept the spoon from Scotland also. It had a thistle on the handle.

What useless family mementos do you treasure?

My Great-Grandmother Ada Jane Lewis Hooker: Was the Clock Hers or Not?

My maternal grandfather’s mother, Ada Jane Lewis Hooker, died when my grandfather was still a child. My grandfather died when I was not quite ten, before I started asking any stories about prior generations. In addition, sons don’t talk much about their mothers and my grandfather was a taciturn man. So I never heard much about Ada Jane, and I know little about her.

My grandfather’s clock — from Ada Jane’s kitchen to my living room

And yet, I have her Seth Thomas eight-day pendulum clock in my living room—this clock is the only possession I have inherited that I know belonged to any of my great-grandparents. I call it “my grandfather’s clock,” because my grandfather (Ada Jane’s son) was the first person I remember owning it. But it came from his mother. Or so I was told.

The story goes that this clock sat in Ada Jane’s kitchen in her home in Dallas, Oregon, when my grandfather was young. She kept it on a shelf above the stove, and over time the clock became coated with grease and other cooking residues. But it has always looked clean and beautiful to me, for as long as I can remember it, back to my earliest childhood days when the clock was a fixture in my grandparents’ house. Someone along the way—maybe my grandfather?—must have had the clock restored to its original late-19th-century glory.

I don’t know how old the clock is. I’ve looked for similar Seth Thomas clocks online, and my clock appears similar to 1870s models, though I have yet to see pictures of any other clocks with the same style wood frame or metal painted face. I used to fantasize that my clock came across the plains in a covered wagon along with my ancestors. Ada Jane’s relatives arrived in Oregon sometime in the mid-1800s, and her husband’s ancestors, the Hookers, arrived in 1848. But after some investigation, I doubt the clock dates back to the 1840s or ’50s.

I.A. Hooker May 1875

My research shows that though the clock was in Ada Jane’s kitchen, it probably did not come from her birth family. It was probably purchased by the Hooker family she married into. Inside the clock, behind its painted face, are the words “I.A. Hooker May 1875,” handwritten in pencil. Ira Allen Hooker was my grandfather’s grandfather, Ada Jane’s husband’s father. Ira was the first of my Hooker ancestors born in Oregon, the child of the Hookers who emigrated to Oregon in 1848.

Thus, it appears that Ada Jane got the clock from her in-laws, and most likely it was purchased in or not long before 1875.

Thomas B. and Ada Jane Hooker

Other than the clock in her kitchen, all I have of Ada Jane is a picture of her with my great-grandfather, Thomas B. Hooker. I know very little about her ancestors, only that her maiden name was Lewis.

There are records showing Lewises coming to Linn County, Oregon, as early as 1846, and other Lewises in Polk County, Oregon, by 1847. But I don’t know which of these Lewises—if any of them—were related to Ada Jane. I don’t know where her ancestors came from before they emigrated to Oregon.

All I know about Ada Jane’s life is that she was born on April 6, 1883, married my great-grandfather Thomas B. Hooker (but I don’t know the date of the wedding), had two children, and died December 12, 1917, when she was only 34. My grandfather Robert Eugene (called Gene) was the older of her children, born on March 15, 1905, and he had a younger sister Gwendolyn, born on September 18, 1906. So Ada’s children were only twelve and eleven when she died.

Ada’s obituary reads:

“Mrs. T.B. Hooker, wife of Deputy Sheriff T.B. Hooker, passed away at her home in this city [Dallas] Wednesday after a lingering illness of several years caused by cancer. Mrs. Hooker, who was one of Polk county’s native daughters, was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Lewis, pioneer residents of the Lewisville neighborhood, and was born on April 6, 1883. She is survived by her husband and two children, Eugene and Gwendolyn of this city, her father and mother and ten brothers and sisters. The funeral services will be held this morning in the United Evangelical church of this city and interment will take place in the family cemetery at Lewisville.” Capital Journal, Saturday, December 15, 1917

I don’t know what kind of cancer Ada Jane had. Her son, my grandfather, developed colon cancer in his last year, though he died of a stroke. He lived longer than her 34 years, but he died relatively young at age 60.

Grave marker for three Hookers — Ada Jane Lewis Hooker, Thomas B. Hooker, and Winona Grace Lewis Hooker

After Ada Jane died, her husband Thomas married her much younger sister Winona Grace Lewis. Both Thomas Hooker and Winona survived into my childhood. Nona, as we called Winona, was born in 1897 and lived until 1987, or seventy years after her sister Ada Jane died. Nona had one child, Thomas B. Hooker, Jr., who was many years younger than his half-siblings/cousins (my grandfather and his sister). In my current work-in-progress, I write about a widower who married his first wife’s younger sister. That idea came from this detail of my own family history.

Ada Jane was originally buried in Smith Cemetery, but her grave was moved to the Dallas Cemetery prior to World War II. Now all three of them—Thomas Hooker and his two wives, Ada Jane and Winona—are buried under the same headstone in the Dallas, Oregon, cemetery.

I wish I had more of Ada Jane than her picture and an old family clock.

What do you wish you knew about your ancestors?