My Other Life …


Seven impossible things before breakfast ...

The first recollection I have of this “other” life was the year I turned seven. Several major events date back to that hallmark age. Oddly, it is the seventh year of each decade of my life that major upheaval and change occurs. But that is another story.

Hobbies? It didn’t exactly start with my first hobby. It started with my first “job.”

This other life of mine began  because I was a rather hyper-active child. Born on springs they would say. I had Mexican jumping beans in my stomach I was told. The head slaps didn’t work, the sting of the wooden spoon on my shins hardly phased me.

However, she and the big guy did notice that when I was engaged in something thought-provoking, and not getting into mischief, I could sit quietly for hours. Reading, doing puzzles, scrambling her eggs or fetching. I was a master fetcher.

“Hand me the Phillips  screwdriver,” he instructed.

Gleefully, I ran to the tool chest and presented him with the needed tool.

He smiled, “How did you know which one?”

I puffed like the happy bird I was. “Dad told me once.”

And thus, I became the family’s premier fetcher, and soon was hired for my first job at exactly ten empty bottles a week, or twenty cents.

Starting the summer before second grade, and two months before my seventh birthday, my mother decided I was old enough to do most of the household errands. Of course, she was not always sure exactly when I would return, or if what I returned with was all in one piece.

There was Benny’s grocery down the street, Tony the butcher, Sal’s fish market around the corner, Tomasino the baker and Steve and Joe’s vegetable store on Fourth Avenue.  Between 39th and 40th Streets on Fourth was the Chinese Laundry, the dry cleaners and the TV repair shop, and the biggest thrill … across Fourth Avenue … the big A&P supermarket.

Off I skipped with list in hand. Up to the avenue for a head of lettuce and down the block for a bag of eggs.  Of course, I always remembered to tell them to put it in the book.  It was odd to shop with money back then. Only when I had to go to the A&P would she pin a five or a ten-dollar bill to the inside of my jacket or pants pocket.

I was never fresh or mean to Benny’s mom who made funny noises as she sat and rocked in the back of the store. Knitting sweaters or blanket squares, she yelled in Italian for Benny to watch that crazy Fois kid doesn’t break the glass on the display again. Which wasn’t my fault, ‘cause Louie pushed me into the display case with a bottle of ketchup.  I never called her names like the other kids or tried to steal soda from the big soda box in the front of the store the way the boys did.

Soda “pop” was not in cans with flip tops or plastic bottles with twist off caps.  They were not encased in glass refrigerators, or sold in cardboard six-packs.

They were kept in a large “coffin” sized box, with the bottle opener on the side.  The box was filled with ice-cold water and multi-colored glass bottles of Orange Crush, Grape Nehigh, Root beer, Cream, small pale green bottles of Coke-a-Cola, long clear bottles of Pepsi and green glass bottles of Seven Up all standing in the cold water.

I loved to look at the bottles glistening below in the water and put my arm down to feel the cold and hear the bottles gently clinking together as you moved the water around.

It felt really good in the summer.

I digress.

When there were no errands and my boundless energy wore down her last nerve, my mother became creative. That summer the middle one took me to the morning summer program at our local public school, where I learned crafts for the first time.

This must have lit a light bulb above her head. Harried and rushing to fix our supper, she sighed. “Baby, why don’t you do one of those things for your father.” Her nose wrinkled. “You know those things you did with the plastic string?”

“I got some left over in a shoe box.”

“You have some left over,” she corrected. “And you could use them to make a nice Christmas present for your father.”

That was the first. Next she went to the Woolworth and bought those stretchy pieces of cotton you loop over and under for pot holders. “Why don’t you use this and make pot holders for your aunt?”

Her best friend, and my angel, Beatrice, decided to get in on the act. “Honey, come over here and I’ll teach you how to use the embroider hoop and you can make a nice hanky for your mom for Christmas.”

From the age of seven until late last night, each and every one of them comes back to me like streams of hot colors across the sky.  You know? When the summer heat becomes so dense, the air threads across the horizon in iridescent streams of colors?

The colors of my presents … the ones I would start each July and rush to finish each December. The colors of the special boxes and handmade cards that had to go with the gift I made. The colors of the baskets I filled with sundry delights and wrapped in bright cellophane and ribbon. The colors of fabric, yarn, ribbon, paint or varnish.

My other life has had other incarnations. It was once called Boxed In … for the special boxes I made for gifts … a gift inside a gift.

In the eighties it was called Basket Case, as all my craft projects and gifts were contained in baskets, willow and grave vine woven in shades of earth tones, filled with handmade treasures.


A Wrinkle in Time

Later, it became A Stitch in Time … two-fold … an homage to the book … and to the lady who first taught me to embroider, to knit, to crochet and weave yarns into hundreds of things for someone to wear, to warm them.

A Stitch in Time for the thousands of yards of fabric that have run under the needles of over a dozen machines, slipped through my fingers and gathered with my hands.

Now this other life joins her twin sister … fOIS In The City … to become … Finds of The City.

My twin, my alter-ego and the purveyor of this other life comes with her own tales of mischief and mayhem, of learning hundreds of tasks … to keep busy … to make something pretty.

How lucky am I that I was not only hyperactive, but that I learned so early … the gift you make yourself … be it those cookies you give in a pretty jar … or the needle-point you fashion for months … be it simple or complex … those are the most precious gifts you can give.

I mean … pa-leeze … anyone can go to a department store.

Etsy.Two 011

Finds of The City

Join me here each Friday for the tales of my hobby crafts, my crazed collecting, the haggling in thrift shops, the tales of “working” the streets during the lean years.

Here on Fridays you will learn exactly what Finds of The City, I have unearthed … and like the man said once … “There are eight million stories in The Naked City,” and this has been one of them.

Are there secret passions you hide? Skeletons anyone?

What treasure would you put in that box and who would you give it to?

fOIS In The City

Finds of The City


Filed under Random Thoughts

20 responses to “My Other Life …

  1. I was crafty when I was little. Nowadays, not so much. I loved embroidery and sewing. I learned how to sew by making my own barbie clothes because my parents never “wasted” money on such things. Your fetching story reminded me of being the “tool hander” for my dad when he worked on his old cars. 🙂


    • Brinda, I imagine there are many who remember trying to make those tiny Barbie clothes. My attempts to make clothes for my dolls was dismal at best 🙂 And being the goffer in the house became my one claim to fame as a kid. Thanks for the memories@


  2. I remember two cent refund on pop bottles. I used to hunt them on the side of the road – carrying them in my wagon or my canvas newspaper bag. I remember when they raised the refund to three cents. I thought I was going to be rich.

    Great entry.


    • Thanks, Steve. When I started doing errands for the neighbors that is how I was paid. I roamed the streets with my brother and his Radio Flyer and we usually made enough for Saturday afternoon at the movies with a bit to spare for a bottle of pop.


  3. Oh, Florence, you mischievous little darling, you.

    Had I lived in your neighborhood, we could have done so much with that boundless energy of yours. However, I’m not certain you would have been trusted to carry out the “fetch and return” tasks.

    I was crafty when I was young, too. But in a different sense of the word.

    I do remember making potholders. I remember the spools of thread with nails on the top for “knitting” long strands of what-do-I-do-with-this-now. I remember speed-chewing gum, so I could fold and braid the wrappers into (again) strands of what-do-I-do-with-this-now.

    I had to make my own clothes through my teen years. While my perfectionist sister looked on–speechless–I once sat in the middle of a pattern to cut the material because the pins weren’t where they belonged, and was too rushed to look for them. My quilt-making Nana once watched me hem a skirt. I was always in a hurry, so my hems got as few stitches as I could manage without having the fabric dip. “You know, Gloria, it’s best to have your stitches closer together,” she said. “Yeah, but then I might need more thread and I’d have to rethread the needle.” My prom dress? Hemmed while I sat in the stylist chair on prom night.

    This peek at you as a youngster was so poignant and telling. I absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to read more of your Finds of the City posts.

    Great idea!


  4. Thanks so much, Gloria. I always see you as a Pippi Longstocking kind of kid. I think those bright red braids would have been so cool on that cute little face of yours. Believe me … being left-handed made everyone think I’d never learn how to do any crafts that were not lopsided … are you left handed?? I enjoyed your memories and hope you come back for more of my new feature 🙂


    • How did you know I love Pippi Longstocking?

      Especially nice because they’re short and I can read them while browsing the children’s book aisles at B&N. Junie P is another fave. The folks at the in-store Starbucks might find my read-so-you-don’t-have-to-buy choices odd, but I’m used to those kind of looks.

      Nope! Right-handed all the way, and I have a Handwriting Certificate to prove it.

      Trust me. I’ll be back.


  5. I remember the pot holders. Although inept at most things crafty, I could do those. To this day, I find it relaxing to mend and hem by hand.


    • Ah yes, LIndsay … the hands in motion give the mind a much needed rest. I love that I can combine the mental stress with the hand work … it gives the balance I need in my day 🙂


    • Um. Lindsay? From a totally altruistic viewpoint, I could add some relaxation to your days if you’d send me your mailing address.

      Ok. Off now to find someone who finds ironing relaxing!


  6. I was never crafty and still am not. I started reading books at around age 7 and never stopped. That’s what I liked to do in my spare time – read then read some more – my craft, what I was good at.
    My daughter has the “craft gene” and so I am now the recipient of pot holders and bracelets and hand-made marbles. I consider myself lucky to have her creations surrounding me all over our house.


    • That’s wonderful for you, Patti. Mine are avid readers and lovers of music like myself … and my daughter has developed a keen eye for photography. It must give you joy to look around the house and see the things she made with love and care 🙂


  7. christicorbett

    Oh how I smiled when I saw your mention of the loops to make potholders on the small plastic loom.

    I bought that same set for my daughter for Christmas, and she made five potholders in one day. She would have made more but she ran out of loops.

    A problem I’ve since rectified.

    Love this new addition to your blog!

    Christi Corbett


    • It’s amazing, Christi … those things we remember from our childhood are not always there when our kids are growing up … I’m glad the hoop lasted. Remember, once she gets on a roll … you and your family will be set with potholders for the decade 🙂


  8. I’ve never been a very crafty person although I do appreciate the personal aspect of handmade gifts. In recent years I’ve been making my own greeting cards (to give for Christmas and birthdays, etc.) but that’s about as personal as it gets.

    Looking forward to your future Friday “finds”. 🙂


    • Thanks, Carol. I believe most of your creativity has gone into your writing and your wonderful photography. They are both close to the spiritual part of you that shines through in your blog. Thanks for the visit 🙂


  9. I love to scrapbook and make cards, but don’t have the time for it these days:-( I wasn’t very crafty when I was little, but boy did I love scouring the neighborhood with my cousins for bottles! When I lived in MI, they gave us 10 cents for each!!! Of course I’d waste it all on candy–never saved up for something better. But honestly, what’s bettter than candy when you’re a kid?!


  10. I’m looking forward to your Finds in the City, Florence. I wish I could make things, but I’m sadly lacking in that talent. Our youngest son inherited his day’s ability to make anything and as a kid, he made many “treasures” that we’re beautiful beyond his years. I can bake (not cook, but bake) just about anything, so I often package up baked goods for my mom and my inlaws.


    • Thanks, Sheila. I hope you enjoy Finds … and how wonderful that you have the lovely things your son makes for you to enjoy. BTW making baked goods is one of the nicest ways to give a little “sweet” bit of yourself to those you love 🙂


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