threading needles, threading words

13 September 2011

Remembering Toots...

Today would've been my mother-in-law's 93rd birthday. After being called "Mom" for much of her life, she asked when I married her son that I call her by her nickname, "Toots." Her mother usually called her "Tootsie." Toots passed in 2002, having lived an amazing, adventurous life before health issues forced her to slow down.

To give you an idea:
  • Among her babysitters were Al Capone's croupiers in Chicago (Her earliest memory was looking up and seeing a man pacing a balcony, holding a tommygun.)
  • She was one of the youngest spectators--if not the youngest--at the Dempsey-Willard fight in Toledo in 1919. Nobody thought Dempsey could win, but Toots's parents had a hunch. They hocked everything--including their baby girl's toys--and bet it on Dempsey. They lived for a year off the winnings.
  • She dated a member of The Purple Gang
  • She won the lottery (not an obscene amount, but enough that she felt comfortable buying steaks once a week for the family)
She didn't like to have her photo taken, and I had hoped to scan a snap from her younger days, but my scanner is on the fritz. When that issue's addressed, I post a nice photo of her...

When she married Leauvett (nickname: Lutz, pronounced "Loots") Estleman during WWII, they bought an 1867 farmhouse. It didn't have electricity or plumbing, and materials for such things weren't to be had during the war. She made do, and after a young life of being hauled all over the map by a gypsy mother, she stayed put in that farmhouse for the rest of her days.

Toots enjoyed crafts and sewing, and while I was talking to Mr. E. a few days ago about this being National Sewing Month and how his mom would've loved that, he revealed that her toy sewing machine was still around somewhere. Would I like it? (Trust me, he knew the answer to that one.)


It's the little red Sew Master, parked in front of my treadle machine. Both need TLC, and I'm currently researching the proper cleaning materials to use before I tackle them. (Use the wrong stuff, and you ruin the decals.) It's still hers, really; I'm simply the caretaker. But, I know she would approve, and that means everything.

She was resourceful, and fun, and tough. She's missed every single day.

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