“I think he might be a shirt-tail cousin of mine,” my Dad said during a conversation about someone in town whose last name is Jaeger (as opposed to Jager). This discussion took place during my recent trip back to my hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota, for Christmas. Shirt-tail? Say what? My Dad always seems to come up with words I haven’t heard before, or at least haven’t heard for a very long time. For example, garlic toes, which resulted in a blog post back in 2012 about making pickles with him.
According to the Legal Genealogist on Google a shirt-tail (or shirttail) cousin is a distant cousin or someone who is “distantly and indefinitely related as in a shirttail cousin on her father’s side.” What if the cousin is on the mother’s side – is it a blouse-tail cousin?
I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my Dad and all of my family during the holidays.
This Christmas was particularly special as it was my great-nephew PJ’s first birthday, as he was born on Christmas Day in 2018. We celebrated his birthday, and Christmas, at my brother’s house, which is across the street from Roosevelt Park in Devils Lake. As we were leaving the house that evening, you could hear the whizzing and clicking sounds of a hockey puck being batted about in the dark night at the outdoor hockey rink in the park, bringing back memories of learning how to skate outdoors in the late 1960s in North Dakota. I can still picture the skates, as they had bright yellow plastic straps that affixed the two-bladed skates to my feet. Once I learned to skate, I spent lots of time skating as a kid – at least several times a week, sometimes outdoors, but more often at an indoor ice rink, the Bill Jerome
Arena, a large barn-shaped building, where I circled around the ice rink with all the other skaters and practiced “shooting the duck” and playing “crack the whip” with friends. There was general admission skating, usually somewhat crowded, and family time where there were less people, and you could get a little more creative with your skating, and I would try a few spins and fancier footwork. When the ice was periodically cleaned with a Zamboni (driving one is on my bucket list), I would get some hot chocolate and warm up in the arena entry area. I still remember it as some of the best hot chocolate I have ever had!
Also during my visit home, I was talking with sister at my parent’s house as we were standing in the room where she was staying. I looked around and said “this used to be our room.”
It still has the same wallpaper with small, multi-colored flowers – that remind me of daisies – on a white background. One of the ceilings is slanted, and there is a small in-wall storage area, where when we were little we stored some of our toys, including a Barbie playhouse. We had twin beds, and I sometimes listened to the radio as a teen-ager in bed late at night under the slanted ceiling. I usually tried to listen to the KFYR radio station in Bismarck, which is the capital in the western part of the state, even though sometimes the connection was sketchy and crackly.. I thought the station’s announcers and commercials sounded so much more “exotic” and sophisticated than the radio station in Devils Lake. I am not sure why. Maybe part of it was the commercials advertising restaurants and stores not available in little ole’ DL ND, and I liked to dream about visiting these places some day and living a more adventurous life in a city, and not in a small town.
The radio was my only source of music to listen to at night, in part because this was in the 70s before cell phones or CD players or iPods and all the technology that preceded it. Although eventually my sister and I would get an 8-track tape player, and I remember in particular listening to Devo, including their hit song “Whip It.” Now at night I listen to music on my cell phone and rarely listen to the radio at home, only when I am driving.
This was my first Christmas in Devils Lake since my Mom passed away in September 2018. It seemed so strange that she wasn’t there, as I am sure it always will be.
Written by Lisa, Dedicated Word Nerd
& Metastatic Cancer Warrior