Oma Sue's Blog
Hi – I’m Sue Reyzlik. I recently realized my life-long dream of building a writing hut in the backyard. The writing hut serves as a creative space and home office for Oma Publishing. This blog will be intermingled with family history, varied experiences and insights on being a Grandma (Oma), creating my special backyard space, as well as, my “retirement” career as a self-publisher of children’s stories. And perhaps a little bit on the 32 years I served as Executive Director for Keep Fremont Beautiful and the wonderful people who are sharing this adventure.
My Mom Alyce and my Aunt Joey, were the first matching couple... just saying...
My mother’s sister passed away recently – she was 91 years old. Aunt Joey was my mother’s younger sister. Peggy was my mother’s older sister and she passed away a few years ago. Aunt Joey was the last remaining family member from the older generation of the Fremont Green family.
Aunt Joey married Mel Schwanke right out of high school. They celebrated 70 years of marriage and raised three wonderful kids. The two older girls were like sisters to me. Jo and Cindy were my earliest playmates, and we grew up together in the family business. We took our turns at being delivery bunnies during Easter and we helped out at the store downtown on Thursday nights and on weekends.
We spent holidays together and at Christmas, we three would open up our presents together – the same exact doll for all three. I remember one year Grandpa Joe made a wooden kitchen hutch for me to stack my play dishes… it was really cool. He made one for Cindy and Lynny – they had to share. I thought it was kind of nice that I didn’t have to share my little kitchen hutch with anyone – sharing wasn’t my thing.
One of the favorite things I remember about Aunt Joey and Uncle Mel is they would include me and brother Billy for special events. One summer there was a florist picnic in Columbus and Aunt Joey had made a special top for each of us girls - Cindy, Lynny and Me. She had spent hours smocking the upper third of the breezy light-weight tops. Mine was blue gingham, I think Cindy’s was pink and Lynny’s was light green. The edging along the sleeves and hem was a thin crochet lace. I absolutely loved mine and was so happy to be included in the “Family Dressing” ritual.
Dressing the girls alike – was a Green thing and even probably an Olson thing. There are old, old, pictures of Grandma Lil and her sisters all dressed in matching garb… it was a tradition that had been carried on for generations…
Grandma Lil (Olson) Green would dress my mom and Aunt Joey in matching outfits. Peg was tooooo mature and opted out of the sameness thing fairly soon. Mom and Joey continued on with the twin routine for years. Lynny turned out to be tooooo mature too, and soon gave up on matching outfits – she was a lot like Aunt Peggy – an individualist.
Another aspect of the “event” memory were trips to the family shows at Aksarben and getting loose meat hamburgers at B&Gs in Omaha - that was special. There were day trips to the State Fair in Lincoln and there were numerous times that Billy and I tagged along with the Schwanke's to see newly released movies.
When Mom got sick back in the 1950’s – Billy and I were shuffled from one friend’s house to another. Aunt Joey finally had enough of that chaos and declared it over… Billy and I would stay at their house until Mom was well.
A lot of memories about my aunt, center around food. She was a fantastic cook and I looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas each year – knowing that I would get the most wonderful home cooked meal. I loved her turkey gravy. She always made it look easy cooking for a crowd and her tables were set to perfection. It was a treat to eat at my aunt’s home. Oh and baked beans – there was nothing like Aunt Joey’s baked beans!
In the summer when I was a kid, I enjoyed going over to eat at Aunt Joey’s - especially when she was serving shish kababs – the beef and vegetables grilled outdoors were the best I have ever eaten… it was a true delicacy. The bed of wild rice… well that was something unheard of at our house… we didn’t eat fancy stuff like rice! My Aunt was always coming up with something unique and delicious to eat. One time she served a key lime pie and that was it… I was hooked. Key lime pie became my absolute favorite dessert of all time. She made it for me when I craved it while pregnant with Sara.
I went shopping for a wedding dress, in between taking classes that summer in 1972. I found a simple dress but it didn’t have a veil. I took the dress to the greenhouse to show my mom. Both Joey and my mom thought it was perfect, and Joey said not to worry – she would make a veil. Cool – that was easy. The veil was perfect!
Also, when I was pregnant with Sara, Aunt Joey hosted a baby shower. She always did that for new mothers. And when Evan was two months premature and was baptized at the hospital… she still knitted a christening gown for him… for later… for when we could do it right.
When I divorced Dan – she was fine with that – she never really liked him anyway. And when I married Randy – she thought that was a great choice. She and Mel weren’t going to be in town for the wedding, but they loaned us the use of their house (my Great Grandparents house) for our wedding. My Grandparents had gotten married in that house, my parents had gotten married in that house and I seriously wanted to get married in that house – I figured I wouldn’t have too many opportunities to do that. It was meaningful to me and I so appreciated their generosity. Joey and Mel supplied all the flowers for the wedding and reception – that was a surprise… and a very happy, sweet and treasured memory!
We kept it secret when Randy and I decided to try to adopt a baby. We weren’t sure it would work out and we didn’t want to explain it to a bunch of people. Aunt Joey was thrilled when we announced the adoption of Ramie! She hosted another baby shower – the first big event in her new house. Right next door to their old house!
Aunt Joey and my mom were great friends throughout their lives. They got into trouble together and they helped each other out. They shared a love of the greenhouse and their heritage. Aunt Joey was three years younger but she was always the boss… she took care of my mom. When they were kids, my aunt Joey would make sure that mom would eat – mom was too skinny and frail as a child.
As adults, Mom and Aunt Joey were pregnant at the same time. Billy was born in July and a few days later Jo was born in August. I’m sure they would have been dressed as twins had they both been girls! Mom got pregnant with me way too soon… something about when you are nursing, you aren’t supposed to be able to get pregnant. I was born 18 months after Billy. Cindy was born 9 months after me. Several years later, Aunt Joey got pregnant with J and mom lost twins. Eventually Stacy was added to our family and the Green Girls stopped at three children each.
There was some competition between the two – a sibling rivalry. Aunt Joey could make a fantastic turkey for Thanksgiving and Mom could turn out a wonderful prime rib for Easter. I loved Aunt Joey’s key lime pie but Mom’s Strawberry shortcake was a close second. I seriously loved that little smocked top that Aunt Joey made for me that one summer but I also loved that mom had a problem finding the house needle for repairing that loose button. Joey could make a corsage in her sleep but Mom could whip out a “Father” “Mother” or whatever in fuzzy wire for a casket - spray behind her back… Mom admired Joey and Mel for their devotion to the family greenhouse and appreciated their efforts in growing the business. Mom enjoyed working at the shop part-time but also enjoyed going home at the end of the day and not thinking about the business. I know that she was grateful that Jessie was willing to continue the “Bell Street” flower corner into the future.
I will always hold in my heart, the memory of stopping at the greenhouse and both mom and Joey would stop what they were doing and pay attention to my story or help me solve a problem. I find comfort in the memories of growing up at the greenhouse and being surrounded by people I loved and who loved me. I feel blessed to have had the most caring, loving and wonderful mother on the planet and I feel blessed to have had a spare. Rest in peace Aunt Joey…
I'm sharing a few pictures of my Mom and her sisters... also sharing a few pics of the rest of the family. Feeling a little nostalgic and missing those who have gone before!