Young girl views of admirable women

Years ago, when I first heard the news how Alice Funk, an old friend of my parents, passed away, I had an instant memory of this remarkable woman.

Every time I’d accompany the folks to Clarence and Alice’s house, it seemed we either went before or right after the noon meal – which in those days was called “dinner” and was the biggest meal of the day. If we went before, it was likely because Dad couldn’t resist Alice’s cooking. If we went after, it was with regret because we missed out.

Regardless of when we arrived, I remember what Alice’s table looked like. She always served everything family-style – where the bowls and platters would be passed around to each and every person.

And I, for some crazy reason, remember her dishes. She had a colorful collection that was a mix of Melmac and crockery. She always served the most wonderful mashed potatoes in the same bowl which I recall having a red stripe around it. And if she made cucumbers and onions (which I remember always accompanying the potatoes and gravy), they were always served in the same bowl that had little green and yellow flowers (with maybe a hint of some orange).

As I thought about Alice’s table, I realized how strange it was I couldn’t remember I had an appointment that morning at 9 a.m. – but I could remember how Mrs. Funk served her delicious, homemade farmhouse meals.

It’s really interesting to me how childhood flashbacks last with a person, as we observed the world from the knee-high view. I wonder if the adult women in my childhood era had any idea of the fond impressions they were making.

I also wonder if I’m just an oddity in the world who remembers such strange, intricate things.

Take my Grandma Irene, for example. If I think about her, I instantly see her polishing a wood floor until it was slick as snot.

I think about a neighbor lady named Alys Kruger – who had the most incredible flower garden. That woman could grow marigolds the size of my head.

When I reflect on Mrs. Schrunk who lived south of us, I remember her making homemade split pea soup. I had never had the green goo before I tasted it at her house, which talked to my tastebuds in all the right ways – and today, it’s one of my most favorite dishes in the world.

Marlene Henn – she had the best Christmas lights in the neighborhood and highest tone of voice when calling for her husband, Floyd.

Diane Ahlers – this neighbor lady could take a box of Chef Boyardee pizza mix and turn it into a gourmet meal which made me want to find a reason to eat supper there.

Great-grandma Petsche – she always wore saggy pantyhose which collected around her ample ankles.

Dorothy Ahlers – the lady who let us swim in her creek and baked the most wonderful raisin cookies (even though I really didn’t favor raisins at the time).

Joyce Knievel – she was the first human being I ever saw use a melon baller and I loved to watch her construct the most beautiful fruit bowls.

Aunt Susie – she held the world record time for folding cloth diapers.

Aunt Linda – best pie maker in the land who also believed how eating pie could solve any problem on the planet.

Aunt Michelle – the teenager who had the biggest collection of TigerBeat magazines known to man and a crush on Leif Garrett to match.

Aunt Jan – my uncle’s girlfriend who had the most meticulous hair and makeup . . . as well as the best bell-bottoms in all the land.

Grandma Onie – the lady who stored uncovered Twinkies in her cupboard and believed ice was a treat.

Pam Kruger – this neighbor always carried a six-pack of Dr. Pepper in her purse.

Donna Elliott – the woman with the most beautiful handwriting who taught me penmanship.

Jeannie Knievel – she had the first, best and most extensive collection of Tupperware in the county.

Aunt Hilda – she smelled like lilacs, believed in the mandate that pizza must be eaten with beer, and according to her, everyone’s name was “Whatchamacallit.” She was also the first person I ever met who wasn’t a Catholic.

Elaine Thoendel – our country school teacher who loved to eat cold, boiled eggs and punished students by making us sit “Indian-style” for 10 minutes if we misbehaved. (Must be the reason my hip still mysteriously clicks from time to time).

Elaine Hubel – the lady who patiently taught me piano lessons and put gold stars on the song pages I’d conquered even though I’d neglected my chords that week.

Joan Pofahl – she was tiny but mighty; swore like a man but loved like a woman; and believed that anything was possible as long as you had a dollar in your pocket, a Rosary in the car, coffee in your cup and a cigarette in your purse.

As I think about all these incredible women, I wonder what kind of impression I’m leaving on young girls around me. I can only hope they will come away with comedic recollections surrounded by a hint of inspiration.

Fortunately, those are the things I gained (and so much more) from observing these amazing adult women – at the random knee-high view as a young girl.



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