Little Things about Dad

Don-Marge-jewelryMy Dad often bought jewelry for my mother, but he was not one to wear it much himself. He’d put on his watch and his wedding ring and call it good. He had a 1970s man necklace — a gold cowboy boot on a chain — that my mother bought for him from the Avon lady. But I’m not sure he ever wore it. His lack of personal affinity for jewelry is one of the little things about my Dad that I find myself pondering from time to time.

My father was more of a toothpick man. After a meal he’d grab a toothpick — flat, not round — from the box in the kitchen cupboard. He’d pick his teeth with it, then chew on it for a while, thoughtful, before going back to work on our farm.

He collected what some would call trucker hats, though I think of them as farmer caps. His were likely to sport emblems of seed companies, co-ops, or farm machinery. Some were for work, some he wore to town, and many more were stored in plastic bins on his closet shelf, awaiting their opportunity to be useful.

He grew a beard in 1982, because January was extra cold that year. On several consecutive Sundays he was either snowed in or snowed under, dealing with cold and cows and calves. So he didn’t go to church and thus he didn’t shave. At least, that’s what he told me. I’d been trying to talk him into growing a beard for years, but he always remained clean shaven — until that winter, when it was his idea. Turns out he liked having a beard, and he remained bearded for the rest of his life.

Dad also liked to chew Beemans gum by the half stick, sing from time to time, and occasionally drink half a juice glass of beer. His birthday will be here again in a few days, the twelfth one since he died. So I remember the little things about him to keep his memory alive.

Laura Sternweis

** Remembering Donald J. Sternweis, March 12, 1930 – March 30, 2005 **

Channeling Madeleine Albright

When meeting with world leaders, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would signal her mindset by her choice of brooch. I don’t meet with world leaders, but I do wear pins, and I suppose my choices also reflect my way of thinking.

blue-moo-and-pinsI like odd pins, unusual adornments, the kind that most gals probably would pass by. I have pins of dairy cows and flowers, stars and snowflakes, one cowboy, one cowgirl, and several versions of Cy, the Iowa State University mascot. I have a miniature 45 record (from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), a cursive letter L (think Laverne DeFazio), and a tribute to the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl II victory (from a fast food restaurant children’s meal). And I have many more.

I collect pins from various, usually second-hand, sources, such as garage sales, estate sales, and flea markets. But my favorites tend to be those with sentimental value, like my Dad’s Land O’Lakes Indian maiden lapel pin, as well as his 1948 University of Wisconsin Farm Short Course tie tack and chain.

My pin collection got its start thanks to my mother. She gave me my Blue Moo, Avon circa 1973, when I was in the fifth grade or there about. I may have picked it out myself from our Avon Lady’s catalog or Mom may have selected it for me. I don’t remember. Blue Moo is 42 years old, but looks as good as she did in her catalog days and still sports some well-aged Avon fragrance glacĂ© in the secret compartment underneath her smiling bovine face.

My pin collection will never rate a museum showing and its claim to fame will be this blog post. But Madeleine’s? Now there’s a collection to see. You might be able to catch the exhibition of her pin collection that’s been on tour, but if not, take a look at her book, “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box.”

Laura Sternweis