Tag Archives: Katey

Our New Lives

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jen first grade

Jennifer (on the far left) with Sister Marie Eugene and her first grade class on the first day of school

The day after my daughters and I arrived on Beaver Island, in the fall of 1978, I had to get my oldest enrolled in the First Grade. The little community school was staffed mainly by Catholic nuns, who stayed in the convent during the school year, but were away when school was not in session. There had been no one there to help me with arrangements during any of our four visits to the island that summer, so it all had to be done right away.

I started with a telephone call to the convent. Sister Mary Rock, the principal, set a time to meet us at the school. Jennifer would be in Sister Marie Eugene’s room. For the first semester, grades one, two and three shared the teacher and the classroom. When the second semester started, the kindergarten class would be added. Though kindergarten was only one semester long, the students performed well. Jennifer had excelled in every area in kindergarten at Schickler School. Here, we found she was two readers behind. She was also going to have to catch up in Spanish, which they didn’t introduce at the kindergarten level in Lapeer!

Finished with the enrollment process, our next stop was the Shamrock Bar and Restaurant. I had secured a job there, and needed to let them know when I’d be available to start work. I was given a couple uniforms – two sizes too large and of horrid mint green polyester – and a schedule. Though I had never been a waitress before, no training was offered. “You’ll be fine,” the owner told me, “just keep smiling!”

Next, we stopped in to see Carol LaFreniere. She had agreed to take care of my girls when I was working and to see that Jen got to and from school safely. Carol was a pleasant woman with a keen sense of humor and three little red-headed children. My girls had met her on one of our summertime visits, so there were no surprises. I shared my schedule with her and discussed any possible problems. We were ready!

At the farmhouse, we walked the fields. I kept the lawn mowed. We ate our meals together at the big table in the kitchen. We washed our clothes with the wringer washer, and hung them out on the clothesline to dry. We read together every evening.

On warm days, we gravitated toward the water, that year more than any other. On the beach at Iron Ore Bay, the day before my husband was set to come to the island, we piled sand into giant letters that spelled out, “Welcome, Daddy!” After he arrived, on one beautiful October day, we went back there for a day-long outing. We brought picnic fare, and built a bonfire to cook fish fillets and vegetables all wrapped in individual foil packets. We wandered the beach, finding shells and stones. When the air, toward evening, was getting cooler, the water felt perfect. We all swam, at dusk, then wrapped up in towels and blankets around the fire. We drove back to the farmhouse under a sky full of stars.

Jennifer did well in the new school. She caught up quickly with the lessons; she made friends. Both Jen and Kate did fine at Carol’s house. My husband started work right away, and seemed to like it. As for me and the Shamrock, well…that’s a story all on its own!

 

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Katey

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When my daughter, Kate, was born…in the early morning hours of a wintry Wednesday morning, thirty-nine years ago…my life was in flux.

I had gotten married at eighteen and had my first child just a year later. I hadn’t thought much about what else I’d wanted out of life, but motherhood changed that. My choices affected my daughter, too, so everything seemed more important.

I thought a great deal about every parenting decision and worried over everything that might unduly influence my child.

Though I swore, when I got out of high school, that I never wanted to step foot in a classroom again, I had started taking night classes. I started with a craft class, then my mother-in-law and I took a vegetarian cooking class, then I found a writing class. It reminded me that learning could be fun, and paved the way for my eventual college education.

In anticipation of having a new baby, our family had recently moved from the raggedy little cold and unfinished lake cottage into a brand new townhouse. For the first time in my adult life, I was “house-proud.” I enjoyed decorating and entertaining and – yes! – even cleaning.

I had started challenging the status quo. I no longer embraced my mother’s deferential attitude toward men in general and husbands in particular. I began to see  reason in what the new feminists were saying. I asserted my opinion, both at home and in public. I wrote to representatives; I passed out petitions; I boycotted beef, then sugar, then all Nestle’ products.

I had learned to drive. I had started an exercise program. I was learning to cook Chinese food. I was becoming a discerning reader and a lover of good books.

Big changes were happening in my life!

Little did I know, the greatest transformation would arrive in the early morning hours of that wintry Wednesday morning on December 11th.

I didn’t anticipate how much Katey would  change my life.

I never guessed how much my heart would expand with love for her.

I couldn’t have imagined how she’d constantly surprise me with her ability to make me laugh out loud…yell in frustration…lose sleep from worry…and be grateful every single day for her.

Happy Birthday to Katey!

Tommy

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When I was a child, an envelope would arrive a few days before my birthday, from my grandparents. It contained a birthday card, of course, but also a long, newsy letter, and usually a gift of money, to enable me to pick out my own present.

For most of my childhood my grandparents were in Chicago on my birthday, both working in the city. But sometimes they were on vacation at that time, here on Beaver Island or elsewhere.  Sometimes they were in good health, other times they had issues. Always, they were busy. My Grandmother had a large family in the city, of brothers and sisters and cousins and all of their children. My grandfather had six grown children scattered around Michigan (one in New Jersey!) and twenty five grandchildren.

Yet, never-failing, that card always arrived in time for my birthday.

My grandson, Tommy, turns eleven tomorrow.

I’ve been carrying his card around for a week.

One day, I had the card, but forgot the address. The next day I addressed the envelope but then left it sitting on the dining room table. Two days I missed the post office. Another two days I ran in for my mail before going to work, but forgot to bring the envelope in to post. Tomorrow I will mail Tommy’s birthday card, without any hope that it will reach him on time.

So, today I’ve been trying to call, so far without success.  To wish Tommy a very happy birthday. To tell him that I love him. And to explain that his card will be late.

This isn’t the first time.

Though I have only five grandchildren, and I know all of their birthdays by heart, I am often late getting cards and letters in the mail.

It has happened often enough that I know the response I’ll get.

First my daughter, Kate, will say, “No problem.” She’ll have some assurance that it will be here in time for the party, which is on the following weekend, or that he has so many cards and gifts to open, better that it come later when he can give it his full attention. She’s very good at it.

Then Tommy. He’ll be happy for the call, glad to talk to his Grandma Cindy, and will mimic his mother’s “No problem.”

He’s a good, kind boy!

He deserves a more thoughtful, punctual grandmother!

Unfortunately, he’s stuck with me.

Which is very fortunate for me; I’m lucky to have this sweet young man for a grandson!

Happy Birthday, Tommy!

Reassessing 2012

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I’m thinking I may have been a bit hard on 2012.

I spoke of bad luck and hard times, and how sadly it fell short of my expectations.

How audacious of me, anyway, to decide that 2012 or, for that matter, any year – a man-made measurement of time – was going to be “my best year yet”.

I spoke it in hopefulness, and in the spirit of manifestation (which sounds, as I write it here, a bit like a plague!). I was opening myself up to wonderful things.

It turns out, I was opening myself up to disappointment.

How could any year compete with the golden years that live in my memories?

Jennifer’s second year:  we tilled up a section at the back of the driveway at the little house near the lake, and planted a tiny garden and she learned the joy of growing things; I took pictures every day of my beautiful daughter…trying on her Daddy’s work boots or in her Halloween costume, with her puppy or her plate of freshly-dug nightcrawlers; I sewed sundresses for her, and made seed mosaics and bead curtains and crocheted slippers; it seems like we walked down to the water every single day…

Katey’s first year: at the townhouse in Lapeer, my perfect little family; two daughters in the bathtub, two daughters getting tucked in at night; with Katey in the stroller, we’d go to the park…Jen would walk ’til she was tired, then she’d stand on the axle and ride along; I learned to cook Chinese food and started taking college courses. My husband would play his guitar in the evenings and my daughters laughed and sang…

That first year here on Beaver Island: the heart-stopping, joyous rush every time I rounded the corner into town and was faced with the harbor view; the seasons, each one a new adventure…When a tree fell in a storm that first winter and crushed our car, my husband and I looked at it, turned to each other, grinned and said – in unison – “Firewood!”

But, you see, I’ve forgotten all the bad parts, of all the good years.

Since my memory is selective, there is no competition.

Held up to my standard of “best year yet,” of course last year fell short.

By any other standard, 2012 was a good year.

In my family, we had weddings and births, new houses and new jobs.

In February, my sisters and I went to Florida together for a wonderful vacation. Three sisters, three nieces and I went to Chicago for a lovely Mother’s Day weekend. Three of my grandchildren and my daughter, Jen, came here for a week-long visit in July. Family and friends came to help me celebrate my birthday in August. Other friends came, through the season.

I quit my job in 2012! I could write a litany of difficulties it has caused in my life, but the bottom-line is, I enjoy what I’m doing and I feel good about it.

I have consistently written and posted these blogs through all of the past year. Knowing my habits, I know better than anyone what a huge accomplishment that is, all by itself. On top of that, it has introduced me to a world of good writers, of old and new friends, of support and love and mutual admiration.

I walked every day in 2012.

I laughed every day in 2012.

Looking at it now (eight days past), 2012 was a very good year.

Katey

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So, what is this?

I, who barely post once a week most weeks, am putting up my third post in that many days.

Amazing!

Well, not so much, really.

Today is my daughter Katey’s birthday.

She always has caused me to reach beyond my limits.

There was a time when I thought I wanted four children. When I was still in high school, I clipped a photo of four little blondes in robin’s egg blue footed pajamas posing along a bannister. I stuck it in my journal and imagined that would be my house, my family, my bannister.

That was before I experienced pregnancy and childbirth.

Then I wound it down; one child was a nice little family.

Until I got pregnant again.

And realized that was just right.

I worried that I couldn’t possibly love a second child as much as I loved the first.

Until Kate was born.

Then I realized the capacity for loving grows with the number of beings to receive it.

I thought children would grow and develop personalities based solely on what they were exposed to.

Yet I’ve watched each of my daughters grow up with their own distinct personalities, separate from me, separate from their father, and different from each other.

Unique.

Beautiful.

Much Loved.

Happy Birthday, Katey!

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