My Mother was Superstitious ~ The #13 ~ Tales from the Dark Side

I thought I would spend this month leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

My mom was a Triskaidekaphobe. What is that you ask? It is the “Fear of the number 13”. If you have been following this series of Blogs about my life with a mother who was plagued with Superstitions, you know that she had several “Fears of” things. Some had been passed down to her through her Ancestors and some she just developed on her own. I have no idea where she got this particular Superstition. All I know is this fear made life a little difficult.

This fear of the number 13 was pretty well ingrained in my mom. If we went to the grocery store and her purchases came to a total that had the number 13 in it, she had to either buy one more item or put one back. If we went into a building, and we had to take the stairs to another floor she would stand at the foot of the stairs and count the steps before walking up them. If there were 13 steps we had to take the elevator or leave. She would not do business with any store that was located on 13th street or avenue or one that had the number 13 in their address. When my Dad built the enclosure for our patio he used long 2 x 6s horizontally placed around the cement area. When he was finished my mom came outside to see it and after looking at it for a few minutes told him he had to either add one more 2 x 6 or take one away from the one side. Why? Because there were 13 boards. She also had the habit of staying in bed on whichever day the 13th of the month landed on.

Mary aged 10

I learned early on that I was not my mom’s favorite child. She never paid much attention to me and was always harder on me than she was my older sister. There was none of this “Isn’t she cute, she’s the baby of the family”. Looking back now I can assume it probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was born on the 13th of January. Not only that, but my first and last names had a total of 13 letters in them. Growing up I do not remember ever celebrating my birthday at home on the 13th. It was always the day before or after. My mom had imparted a lot of her fears unto my sister, Mary. The number 13 happened to be one of them. Mary loved parties, especially birthday parties. She would throw a tantrum because she didn’t receive any gifts so my mom would go out and buy her something. Mary knew that the chances of me ever having a birthday party were slim because of the date, so she thought she would try having one on a different date. My 6th birthday had fallen on Friday the 13th that year! So not only was the party planned for a different date, but it was in an entirely different month as well.

This year my sister threw me a 6th year birthday party on June 10th. The problem was she forgot to inform my parents about the party and to make things worse my brother was home on leave from the Air Force! So at 2 pm the doorbell rang and there stood the 4 kids from next door standing there all dressed up, each with a gift in their hands. My brother invited them in, he had no clue what was going on. Next thing he knew the doorbell was ringing again and in came more kids. When Mary told him and mom what was going on they were both upset but didn’t want to spoil the time for the kids that had come to the “party”. As my brother went to the grocery store, my Mom pulled down the pin-the-tail on the donkey game, and we started playing games. When my brother returned there were prizes for the games, ice cream, cake and even a gift for me. Mary decided to have a talent contest. The winning prize was a large chocolate candy bar. Since she was not only a participant in the contest but the only judge she won and got the candy! Even though it wasn’t really my birthday, I had a great time. It was the first and only birthday party I had until I became an adult.

I have always loved the number 13. After all it is my birthdate, how can that be unlucky?

Here are some more Superstitions that my mother had:

Ivy growing on a house protects the inhabitants from witchcraft and evil.

Cover your mouth when you yawn, or your soul can go out of your body along with the yawn.

Rosemary planted by the doorstep will keep witches away.

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ Stop Clowning Around!

File65After the death of my Dad in 1974, we decided to move back to Tucson AZ. We moved into a new mobile home on the far west side of town. In the park where a lot of families with young children. I quickly made friends with several of the young mothers and I would help them with their young children. One of these women kept insisting on paying me for my help but I kept refusing. One day I was helping her clean out her storage shed and we came upon a large box of old Halloween costumes. On the very top was a clown outfit she had made several years before, complete with a detachable neck ruffle and gloves. I guess my face lit up because she asked me if I would like it and I said “Yes!” I had always wanted to be a clown and I had even thrown together a rather ugly clown outfit about a month before and I drove to the local K-Mart and had my picture taken at their photo studio.

Within a month I had sewn large blue pockets on the suit. I practiced File108putting on makeup, which was the hardest part. I went to the library and checked out books on magic tricks. I learned several that were fairly easy but they me as clownwere hard for the observer to figure out. I loved dressing up and going to the malls and just entertaining the kids there. It wasn’t long before I was booking parties and events. My first one was a birthday party. It was so much fun that I felt guilty accepting the money for it. I continued to stay pretty busy being a clown.

File64In October of this year, I was asked to put on a performance for all of the children who lived in the park. It was to be held in the large clubhouse. I thought, “no big deal” since it was just a few kids. Well, I was in for a surprise. Not only did every kid in the park show up but also their parents and lots of the older residents came with their grandchildren! There were almost 200 hundred people there. I was so scared! I guess my performance was good because everyone seemed to love it and I got more bookings for parties.

File151Over the next few years, I entertained at school functions, birthday parties, and carnivals. I had a blast. After I got married in 1977 my husband hated it so I stopped. I really missed it. In 1986 my husband committed suicide. A few years after that I began doing parties again. However, I seemed to have lost my excitement for it. So over the next 13 years, I occasionally put on my suit. Once when I was working at a paper company they had a contest for Halloween. We were all supposed to dress up for work and the employee who got the most votes from the customers got a $100 prize. IFile26 wore my suit and performed card tricks for the customers and I won the prize. My last time I wore my clown suit was in 1999. Our church was putting on a large event and had me and 2 other girls dress up and entertain the children. Not long after that, I donated the entire suit to Goodwill.

On occasion I get the urge to try to “clown around” but it passes really quickly. I have had lots of fun doing my card tricks for the grandkids and watching their faces light up in excitement and amazement. To my dismay, none of them like clowns. They had watched all those scary clown movies and they are frightened of them. I guess I will have to just accept that I will be the only clown in the family!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ A Parakeet named “Red”

5th grade 2I wrote in a previous blog about when I was young, one thing that brought me solace was listening to the Turtle Doves cooing while I ate my breakfast outside early in the mornings. I believe this is where my love of birds came from.  From the time I was in 2nd grade, I asked my parents for a bird. Not just any bird, a blue parakeet. I had read all the books at school about them, how to care for them, how to teach them tricks, and even how to get them to mimic words. For every birthday and every Christmas, I would ask for one and each year I would be disappointed.

It was not that my parents didn’t like birds or pets. It was just that I wanted one. My Blue parakeetsister, who was 4 years older than me had already had 2 dogs, a hamster, 3 cats, and a guinea pig. She would be excited about them for a couple of weeks, then she would lose interest. At least until I paid attention to her pet! So, imagine my surprise when on my 10th birthday my dad took me to the pet store and told me to pick out my bird! I immediately found my blue parakeet and I watched in fascination as the young man grabbed him quickly and placed him gently in the box. We then picked out the cage and accessories and headed home.

The first thing my dad said to me was, “What are you going to name him?” I sat for a few minutes and then told him, “His name is RED!”  I don’t ever remember my dad laughing so hard. Then he told me my mother didn’t know about me getting a bird, so I needed to be prepared. Let us just say my mother was less than thrilled and my sister threw a fit and leave it at that.

My mother hated the bird. While I was at school, she would leave the cage door open and let him fly all over the house. She would even leave the front door open in hopes that he would fly away. Thankfully, he never did. I would rush home every day and spend all my spare time teaching him “tricks”. He would jump on my finger, sit on my shoulder as I walked around the house, and I taught him to whistle. Before bed, each night I would cover his cage and repeat “Red’s a pretty bird” over and over. It took him a couple of months. but he finally started saying it. I actually taught him about 5 different phrases. The one thing I didn’t teach him was a love for music. That came naturally. Most days I would spend an hour playing my clarinet. I loved it and I was good at it. I was first chair, first clarinet all through school. Red would fly out of his cage and sit on the end of the instrument and bob his head with the music. He would bend forward and look up into the clarinet like he was trying to see where the sound came from. I loved that bird!

55 chevy bel air pink and grayWhen I was 12 years old we moved to Missouri. We loaded up our ’55 two-toned, gray, and pink, Chevy Bel-Aire, and headed off. About 3 hours after crossing into New Mexico we were driving down a steep mountain road when my dad lost control of the car. The U-Haul we were towing started veering back and forth making the car veer in the opposite direction. My mother was hysterical, and my sister was in full panic mode. I just grabbed the birdcage from the middle of the seat and hugged it tightly to me. I do not know what happened but the next thing I knew I was waking up and we were sitting by the side of the road extremely close to the edge of a cliff. The birdcage had totally collapsed, and I could not find Red. I started to cry, then I felt him light on my shoulder. I was so relieved. I reassembled the cage the best I could and put him in it.

We lived in Missouri for almost 2 years. My mother still left the cage door and the front clarinetdoor open in hopes of getting rid of the bird. One day after school I put my clarinet together to practice for an upcoming school program. I got everything set up and I started to play. Red took his usual place on the end of the instrument. After a few minutes, my mother asked me to play a hymn from the hymnal. She got up and went to the bookshelf and got the hymnal then came back and sat on the couch. I found a song and I started to play. I kept glancing around waiting for Red to take his place at the end of the clarinet again, but he never did. I started to get worried when I saw that when my mother had gone to get the hymnal, she also opened the front door. I jumped up knocking over my music stand and yelling “Red, Red!” My mother got up to help look and that is when I saw him. He was laying on the couch with his neck broken!! My mother had “accidentally” sat on him, killing him. I cried so loud and for so long the neighbors across the street and next door came over to see what was wrong. They thought there had been a death in the family, and they were right. I went to my room and got a shoebox and I slowly lifted his lifeless little body off the couch. I put him in the box and carried him out to the back yard. I got a shovel, dug a hole, said a prayer, and buried Red. I then marched inside, gathered my things, and locked myself in my room. When my dad got home from work, I ran to him jumping in his arms and crying on his shoulder. He had me get in his truck and we went to the hardware store and he bought a small section of a white picket fence that was made for a garden. He then bought two small white boards and a tiny can of red paint. When we got home, he helped me put the fence around the grave and he made a cross with the two boards. He found a small paintbrush and had me write “Red” on the cross. This little ceremony helped to calm me down. Until the day we moved to California I would pick flowers (except in the winter) and placed them over him.

I don’t know for sure if my mother sat on him on purpose or if it was an accident. I do know she never apologized or acted like she cared. The day after this occurred I came home from school to find the cage, food, toys, and all the accessories that belonged to him were gone.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.






A Man of Great Character

Dad 1955I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. The only stability in that home was my Dad. He was the person who influenced my life the most while growing up. He showed me unconditional love, even through all the craziness of my teen years. I never really appreciated him until after he was gone. In honor of this remarkable man, this blog is to celebrate his life on what would be his 102nd Birthday.

Benjamin Douglas “Doug” Hughes was born in Pettis County, Missouri, August 18, 1915. The day he was born his Uncle who, was blind, died. His parents named him after this uncle. He was the 8th of 11 children born to Charley and Virginia Bell (Hayes) Hughes. They lived on a farm in rural Lexington, Missouri, raising all their food, and raising cows and award-winning horses. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s they were fortunate enough to not suffer as others did because they were self-sustaining. They shared what they had with others in the community and I believe this is where my Dad developed his giving spirit!

My Dad worked his entire life. He worked on the farm, planting and caring for the vegetables and fruit trees. He tended and milked the cows and he helped his Dad train

Dad and his horse

their horses. In 1934-35 my Dad participated in the Civilian Conservation Corp implemented by President Roosevelt. He served in Lake Tahoe, California. Here he learned to work with wood and stone masonry. These skills helped him the rest of his life. After the CCC he worked as a coal miner, worked on the railroads, he was a butcher and for the last 19 years of his life he worked in the construction field.

He was married 3 times; the first was when he was 22 years old in 1937. He married Mildred Shockley and they had a son Benjamin Benjamin died at 2 months old from Typhoid. Mildred was placed in a sanitarium and died 3 weeks later from the same thing. My Dad wasdad, mildred, lola devastated. He married a second time in 1944 to Mildred McQuillen. She had a daughter name Loretta whom my Dad accepted as his own. They never had children and I don’t know what happened but they divorced sometime before 1948. The third time was my Mother, Emmajane Smith in 1948. My Mother had a son, Gordon and once again my Dad took him as his own. My Dad and Mother had known each other for over 10 years because my Dad’s youngest sister Margaret and my Mother were best friends! My sister Mary Leella was born in 1951 and I was born four years later.

We left Missouri when I was 11 months old and moved to Southern Arizona. My parents bought a house on a corner lot in a new subdivision just outside the Tucson City limits. My Dad took pride in the yard. He taught me all I know about plants and landscaping. I loved spending time doing yard work and helping him build things. He laid bricks for planters, he built a large trellis for the patio. He poured the cement for the patio, he even made the lawn furniture and picnic table. I just loved being with him. He was always ready and willing to help any of our neighbors with whatever they needed. Everyone liked and respected him.  When I was 12 years old my Mother had a mental breakdown and the next 7 years were pure hell! My Dad refused to have her committed and he took care of her even through our moves back to Missouri for 2 years then out to California for 5 years. He showed me that you don’t give up on people because the situation is not ideal. He showed strength of character and resolve that I have always admired.

In the Fall of 1973 my Dad went to the doctor for a cough that wouldn’t go away. After many tests and x-rays we were told he had lung cancer. He had surgery to remove his right lung then endured several rounds of chemo and radiation therapy. He lived for 9 months and he passed away at home on June 24, 1974. He was 58 years old. This was 43 years ago and I still think about him every day. I still strive to be the kind of woman, wife, mother and Grandmother that would make him proud. I know that I am proud to be his daughter!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on and You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.