Norm's family lived in a two-story farmhouse in which every square inch of space was utilized. There was so much always going on at Norm's place. Much of Norm's family's subsistence was self-generated. There were gardens, berry bushes, apple trees, chickens, and lots of work to do. The kids were expected to help out with the family survival. They all pitched in on the weeding, vegetable processing, gathering eggs, and canning.
But, when the chores were done, in all fairness, the kids were free to, well, to be kids. Doing what kids would do given the endless frontier of a six-acre plot full of buildings there was a hatchery, chicken coops, sheds, cats, fishing worms, and mysterious piles of things. We'd invent things, build things, pull nails from old boards in a fallen-down shed, explore along the river, go fishing. Once we built a wooden sailboat, and sent it out.
Besides his main job, Norm's father had various part-time jobs he did for people, sometimes for barter. He had been a cook in the Army. So he knew a lot about bulk foods, and how to make meals for hungry masses. I remember once he came home with a covered pail full of freshly-squeezed milk, cream floating on top.
And Eleanor made sense of it all. I called her Mrs. L---, Norm called her Mom.
Eleanor would oversee everything to do with the home. With the daily melange coming in to her pantry, she made every meal into a feast. Green beans, fresh tomatoes, huge chunks of baloney, blocks of cheese, buckets of milk, freshly caught fish, fresh eggs, chickens. She baked bread - her bread was out-of-this-world good, and would hold its own even in the 21st century where "everybody's a gourmet chef". And her cookies - "Now THAT'S a cookie!" "Have another one!" You never left her table hungry.
|Eleanor Lorenz (1920-2014)|
In the late 1960s the upbringing was put to the test when the farmhouse was almost destroyed by fire. The brothers pitched right in and re-built the farmhouse, better than ever. Two of the brothers went on to become building contractors. The sisters became teachers. Norm became a TV producer in Madison.
|Me, Norm's sister Pauline, and Norm |
serenading at the skilled-care center - 2003
Eleanor always liked music. Church music, secular music. Back in the farmhouse days, they'd gather around the piano. She loved it when Norm sang "You Load 16 Tons" for her. And "Mairzy Doats". The family would gather in her room in Skilled Care and sing for her. Even when she couldn't give voice to her feelings, you could always tell she appreciated the music, because she was tapping her toe in time. The family gathered in her room over the past few weeks, as they always have, they sang together, they held her hand. Now, Eleanor has left us. But in some ways, she will never leave us.