Tag Archives: family


As I was getting ready to head out for the evening tonight, I noticed that the water pressure in my house was much lower than usual. With temps in the single digits and lower, I quickly guessed the problem.

How I spent my Saturday night

This pipe had been in my garage. When I found it, the water was coming out fast and furious, enough that I could hear it from the other side of the door.

I lucked out, in that it wasn’t near anything important so the gallons of water that sprayed out of it didn’t cause damage, plus it was easy to find and accessible for repair.

And I really lucked out when it turned out that my brother-in-law, who can handle basic plumbing tasks like this, was home and could help. He came over, took stock of the situation, headed to Home Depot for supplies, then came back to make the repair — including an extra cut-off valve to help prevent another such problem in future. Hooray for Mike!

Here’s to lucky breaks.

The cheering squad

Yesterday for the Steelers-Chargers game, my two-year-old niece wore her Steelers cheerleader outfit. We said the Steelers needed her support and she should give them a cheer.

She started shouting sounds. “Ah! Oof! Whoa! Ack! Yeah!”

We all stared. After a minute, my brother realized that she was imitating us — those were the sounds we made while we watched the game.

Which is absolutely true. Whoa!

Rachel says Go Steelers!

Older posts on football and the Pittsburgh Steelers:

The very best Steelers song EVER (Jan 24, 2006)

Drink of the Super Bowl: No. 43 Trophy Cup (aka The Polamalu) (Feb 3, 2006)

“We tried everything to give that game away, but they darn well wouldn’t take it” (Jan 16, 2005)

A child’s view of Worsley’s

I’ve been scrambling to wrap up projects for work before the holidays and the end of the year. My apologies for the light posting here as a result.

Here’s one of the things I did: It’s a short promotional video I created as part of Butler Downtown, a revitalization effort for my town. Each month, we feature a downtown business, and this month our featured business is Worsley’s. Worsley’s is well-known for selling hardwood furniture, paints and wallcoverings, and other home items; but they also have an amazing collection of toys, dolls, and games. My niece loves it there, so we decided to take some photos and make a little video.

Are you ready for super-cuteness?

I figured I’d note which toys she liked and buy the one she loved most as her Christmas gift. She loved so many that it didn’t narrow down my choices much at all.

Also, did you note that Barbie is friends with Frankie Sinatra, the Star Trek crew, and Rhett Butler? That girl knows everyone.

We’ll resume the Kooky Christmas Countdown this weekend; prepare yourself for massive doses of strange and wonderful holiday music.

Envelopes full of history

Letters from my grandfather to his parents

Letters from my grandfather to his parents, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.

I have in front of me a letter in my grandfather’s handwriting, postmarked July 18, 1944. It begins like this:

Dear Folks,

There is not much time now. Just one week from to-morrow, Tuesday, I report. I entend (sic) to quit work on Wednesday so that I will have Thursday to fool around and clear up last minute details. Friday I will drive up to Scranton with Susan and come back Saturday nite. I guess Ruth will be very lonesome Friday nite.

When World War II began, my grandfather had avoided being drafted by taking work hadn’t been drafted because he was working in a military-supplier factory. By 1944 that work was drying up, and he had chosen to enlist so he could train as an officer. My grandmother was pregnant with their second child — she would be born just days after this letter was written — and their first child was a year and a half old.

UPDATE: My mom sent an email to correct what I’d written earlier.

Grandpop was working for Budd before the war started and didn’t take the job to avoid the draft. He took the job when he got out of college and stayed there because he was doing work for aircraft for the war effort. In fact he was anxious to do his part as were most of the men at that time. It was a very different attitude than it is today.

I’m really glad she corrected me. I didn’t mean to imply that Grandpop had intentionally tried to escape the draft; I wrote that late at night and it came out all wrong. I apologize for the mistake.

This letter is one of dozens of letters, handwritten and typed, that my grandfather sent to his parents while he was away at war. No one can find the letters he wrote to my grandmother or my mothers and her sister, although Mom remembers receiving them.

The letters we have are written in a voice and style that I never heard from Grandpop in life. It’s candid and loose, sincere, open. I mentioned in an earlier post that I remember him as quiet and reserved; this is a different guy.

As soon as I found out we had these letters, I said, "I want to scan them all and put them on Flickr."

My sister Laura’s reaction was just as immediate and must as strong. "No way. They’re private. Why does everything have to be on the Internet?"

I said I wanted to post them because they’re interesting and a website is the easiest way to share them with the family. We wouldn’t have to share them with the rest of the world. Laura seemed unimpressed with my reasoning.

To try to sway opinion, I read a couple of the first and last letters, from 1944 and 1946 respectively, aloud to my mom and some of her siblings. They kept interrupting to add to the story, explaining background details and reminiscing, recalling photographs that reinforced the details in the text.

"Why can’t you let them read them first, to see if there’s anything private before you put them online?" Laura asked.

"Because they’ll never find the time," I said.

There was a pause. "You’re right about that," my uncle said.

So we decided, over Laura’s concerns, that I’ll set up a protected site and post the letters, one by one, for the family to read and comment on. We have also a huge pile of tiny photographs, including shots from Grandpop’s arrival in Manila (including, I am told, one of General MacArthur), and the destruction there, the men, and more.

I am vibrating with the thrill of not only having access to these letters, but also of being able to collect the family members’ reactions to them. This is a chance to capture the kinds of stories that are on the verge of being lost, as our relatives all age and pass on. Using the web will allow us to share and extend these stories any time, not only at big events like funerals and weddings.

I hope eventually I’ll be able to share all this with folks outside my family, but I recognize Laura’s concern about throwing every little thing up on the Internet, to be used who knows how. We’ll see how this all rolls out, and how we each feel as we discover more.

Ruth in Springtime

Grandmom Gallagher as a little girl

Grandmom Gallagher as a little girl, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.

In my mother’s family, certain photos are highly prized. One is "the hat photo" that I posted Saturday; another is this picture of my grandmother as a little girl.

I think of this photo on days like today, when all the trees and bushes are covered in blooms and the weather is warm enough for short sleeves.

At the funeral this week, I’m going to try to find out when and where this picture and the ones I posed earlier were most likely taken. At our funerals, someone also usually makes a slide show of great pictures of the deceased, and maybe I’ll be able to find a few more gems to share.  

RIP Joseph Gallagher

Ruth and Joe Gallagher

Ruth and Joe Gallagher, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.

My grandfather passed away this morning. I wasn’t close to him; he was not noticeably guarded, but he was what one might call a private person, not given to outbursts or sharing.

He was a kind person though, and very religious. He was also an enthusiastic bridge player, part of a tournament league.

The photo above is from some time in 1945, when he returned from the Pacific Theater of WWII and my grandmother traveled to the west coast to meet him and accompany him back to Philadelphia. Grandpop was over six feet tall; Grandmom was about five foot one. They are so beautiful in this photo it breaks my heart.

Grandpop was sometimes told that he looked like Robert Mitchum, but I’m told he never liked the comparison. I’ll guess this was because he disliked the characters Mitchum portrayed.

The Gallaghers and their store

Here’s another photo of Grandpop, with his siblings in from of the general store the family ran. I think that’s him on the right. (Click the photo to see a larger version.) His expression here shows a little more of his attitude to life; he had a wry sense of humor and awareness of the world around him. CORRECTION: Mom tells me (over the phone, hilariously, rather than posting to the comments below) that this photo is of my great-grandfather and his siblings, and that my great-grandfather is on the left. See, this is why it’s important to gather with family at life events like births and deaths and weddings: to get the story straight. 

Fun fact: The Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company later became the A&P. (My family didn’t own the whole thing, so we’re not incredibly rich. I don’t know why I’ve never asked more about how everything fitted together in the family history. I will ask at the funeral this week; funerals are good for reminding us to have that sort of discussion.)

Joseph Gallagher was a man of strong ethics and private views. I’ll miss him.

Maybe she will trade one for a real house

Paper clips in the doll house

Paper clips in the doll house, originally uploaded by cynthiacloskey.

My niece, being my parents’ first grandchild, is regularly showered with gifts and has a lot of toys.

She has puzzles; toy musical instruments; a doll house with Mommy and Daddy and Baby and little furniture for them to live with; Thomas the Tank Engine; many cars; a farm with animals; Noah’s Ark, stocked with animals two by two; and Dancing Elmo. And that’s barely half of it.

Lately, she has found a new kind of toy, one that absorbs her for hours. The toy is a little pile of about six paper clips. She moves them, one by one, from one place to another, she carries them around in her purse, she puts them in a bowl and dumps it out and puts them in again. She’s getting good at counting up to six, and she can go higher too if she has more clips.

In the photo, you can see one of the paper clips in her doll house. She puts the clips through the window, then goes around the other side of the house and takes them out one by one and drops them on the floor.

For hours.

It’s a little disconcerting, but my mom assures us that my siblings and I each had little obsessions too.

Actually, "had" is a poor verb to use: I often sit quietly, clicking little square keys and moving letters around on a screen. For hours.

(NOTE: The title of the post is a reference to the web phenomenon of One Red Paperclip.)