1977: Transitions

Sometimes I look to the past and think about how an event was “so many lives” ago. In this context, a life is just the length of time it takes you to feel as if you have become someone new, someone distinctly different from your prior self. The first time I can draw such a line between lives is in the summer of 1977, when so many things changed for me, never to change back.

The most obvious change in my life was that my family moved — out of the gentle edges of the city into the green and decidedly fragrant countryside. We changed houses, schools, counties, and friends. My parents must have been preparing for this move for a long time, because I remember going along on visits to several houses that were for sale. I loved inspecting the empty rooms while my parents asked serious questions of the real estate agents. My brother and I explored closets, basements, garages, back yards. I don’t remember visiting the house we bought in Orient before we actually closed the deal, but I do remember taking the long trip to it via Grove City, and the whole family being absolutely overwhelmed by the stench of a road-kill skunk as we approached a small town that was no more than a stoplight and a sign. The sign read “Pleasant Corners.”

Century 21 logo

During the time that my parents were house-hunting, one of my father’s brothers was trying out a career as a real estate agent. It was his company’s sign that was erected in the front yard of our Westgate house, so I assume that he was the selling agent. He was, however, less than impressed with the property that we ultimately purchased. Someone’s sanity was definitely called into question. The acreage was more than we could use, and the parts of the yard that weren’t overgrown were covered in cow manure, goat droppings, and/or chicken…manure. Electric fence ran almost all the way to the house from a cinder-block barn that had basic electric service but no running water. The house itself had one bathroom and two bedrooms for a family of four, a basement that took on water after a hard rain, and lights that dimmed when we made toast. My father rented something called a “bush hog” to clear the land — though he did let us take a few whacks at the tall grass with a rusty sickle — and started improving everything that he could.

The house also came with a dog, Toby, who was the son of the dog of the folks who lived next door. At the time, my romantic mind thought him to be a Gordon Setter based purely on his coloration. His mother Pookie, however, was a tiny scrap of brown and black fur that looked like a Yorkie, and his father could only be imagined. Toby was a real country dog who didn’t hesitate to challenge the local groundhogs, snakes, and raccoons to combat. It didn’t matter — I finally had a dog! Maybe this “moving to the country” thing wasn’t going to be so bad after all.

And now…I even looked different. I had loved my long, thick hair and putting it up into ponytails that flew out behind me from under my baseball cap when I ran the bases, but my mother gradually complained more and more about how hard it was to take care of. One evening before we moved, she sent me down the street so a family friend could cut my hair. I wasn’t in on the plan, and cried when my long waves were cut off and the remaining hair sprang up into tight curls. I didn’t recognize myself, but there wasn’t much that I could do about it.

Niagara_Falls_1_1977

That 70’s vacation.

And now I was ten years old. We had taken our summer vacation to visit Niagara and Horseshoe Falls and make a brief trip into Canada. We were on the road on my late-June birthday; a waitress brought out a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on a ceramic plate that rotated and played “Happy Birthday,” and I was embarrassed at being the center of attention. But on the same trip we visited what must have been a corner drugstore, shopping for road food or other supplies. I wandered over to a newspaper stand and picked up a copy of the local paper, and the store owner snapped at me to put it back, as if I were a thief. My parents didn’t hear him. I felt scared and didn’t know what to do. I put the paper back. I was furious at having been falsely accused, and it was decades before it occurred to me that the storekeeper had probably been the victim of young shoplifters and was just looking out for his store. He probably couldn’t imagine that I just wanted to read the newspaper.

Pickaway Darby Twp 1937

The ‘new’ gym was added in 1937.

And now we had a different school to attend. My mother drove us there in the early August heat and let us play on the playground while she attended to the administrative details. My new elementary school, where I would be in fifth grade and my brother would be in second, was an immense brick structure built in the early 1900s as a K-12 institution (replacing a school built in 1886). There was a large central staircase that, supposedly, had been made wide enough to accommodate girls ascending and descending in hoop skirts. The story was utterly credible. In my single year there I wasn’t brave enough to explore much but I found three staircases. I wouldn’t have been surprised to be told there were more. The whole place was a woodworker’s dream, with hardwood floors and walnut-stained railings. But once school started I had a lot of adjustments to make — the new school used different reading books and no one was sure which level I should be in. My classmates all seemed to be related to each other somehow, and even if they weren’t, they had still known each other since they were born. Their country accents were so thick that sometimes I didn’t understand what they were saying, and some of them made fun of me for doing my homework in class instead of taking it home. I became more shy and withdrawn, hesitant to either make a mistake or do well.

static1.squarespace.com

And there weren’t Camp Fire Girls in the country — just Girl Scouts and 4-H. I had heard of 4-H groups as the ones who trained seeing-eye dogs, so that was what I picked. Luckily, there was a much wider range of activities under the 4-H umbrella, and it was a good organization for me to join. I took projects to the county fair in birds, cats, dogs (attempting to show Toby in the middle of the sheep barn was a memorable experience), photography, and creative writing over the next several years.

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And the next year…I would be off to the middle school, mingled with kids from the other two elementary schools in the county. Our teacher promised that everything would be harder. And I’d have to make friends all over again.


Knitwise, I finished and gently blocked the Olympic cowl. The colors were bleeding while I was working on it, so I did some Internet research and gave it a cold-water vinegar rinse before laying it out to dry on an old towel. We’ll see if that does the trick. It’s a pretty thing, and now it’s soft as well.

39101812720_cfbcc503ef_k

See? I really do knit.

Then I started to collect yarn for a future project: Nakia’s Infinity Scarf, which is designed by Jeff Giles, featured in “Black Panther,” and free on Ravelry. I have NOT started this project yet, as I have not yet finished the project I said that I would finish before I started my next project. Sheesh. All I did was print out a new pattern and buy one LOUSY FREAKING SKEIN OF YARN and put them in the same project bag. (Okay, it was Noro.)

Nakia Shawl

Gotta finish some stuff before I start some stuff. And I’m in the mood to start some stuff.

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1973: Here, kitty kitty

When I was little, I desperately wanted a dog. My near-neighbor and default best friend, Joe A., had a succession of dogs: an elegant Collie named Princess and her unworthy and hyperactive successor, a Shetland Sheepdog named Kipper. Though Kipper was probably the right size for a small city house, there was unfortunately no flock of sheep for him to herd. Each time the doorbell rang he flung himself into action, barking furiously as he turned quicker and quicker laps on a short track comprising the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen.

I still wanted a dog. I watched Lassie and Rin Tin Tin on TV — so intelligent! such faithful companions! — and continually lobbied for a dog of my own. Of course I was far too young to think about the more practical concerns of where a dog would stay and who would take care of it. I petted Kipper — when I could catch him — and played with my Ohio grandparents’ dog Simon whenever I visited. Simon liked to fetch but he didn’t like to return whatever it was he had been fetching, so I had to go out into the back yard with two tennis balls at a time: one to throw initially, and a second one to throw to trick him into dropping the first one. Fetching sessions continued until the tennis balls were too wet from dog slobber to try to pick them up.

My West Virginia grandparents had a pair of dogs at this time, but since I only visited a few times a year there was not much satisfaction to be gained. Mickey was a scruffy black terrier mix of some sort, and Annie was a Dachshund. Both of them were getting along in years and not terribly fond of playing with a girl whose other source of fun on vacation was skating on the concrete sidewalk on metal strap-on roller skates.

The memories of my childhood are highlighted by encounters with unexpected dogs — the English Bulldog that Joe D. brought to school for show and tell, the Boxer we found in the park and who waited stoically in our back yard until his owner came to pick him up, when he sprang ecstatically to life. Real dogs, cartoon dogs, storybook dogs, movie dogs — they were all fine with me. I read a book called Follow my Leader that not only offered me practical tips for coping with unexpected childhood blindness but also made me wish, for decades, to raise a seeing eye dog for the blind.

But the dog above all dogs, the dog of my heart, was a Collie. I don’t think Joe A.’s dog was as responsible for this desire as much as the ubiquitous Lassie was. If there was a smarter, friendlier, more beautiful companion on earth I couldn’t think of it, and it seemed a great travesty of justice that I could not have a dog when others could. (Come to think of it, this attitude probably led to my great empathy with Fern Arable in Charlotte’s Web, at just the age it should have.)

Somewhere in the midst of this canine adoration, my father came home one day with a pair of kittens in a cardboard box. They had been left outside the hardware store where he used to work. (Did he still work there every once in a while? Dad always had several jobs as a time, and I’m not sure when some left off and others began. However, when he took me with him to Hilltop Hardware, he was clearly familiar to the current owners.) The other abandoned kittens had found homes, and these last two littermates would be ours: Boots, a grey female with four white paws and a white bib, and Bounce, a male orange tabby. Bounce wasn’t ours for long, as he spent too many of his waking hours climbing up the draperies and being generally incorrigible. But Boots was ours for keeps.

One problem with your first pet is that you tend to assume that its qualities are the qualities of all pets. It turns out that Boots was an unusually jealous animal, exacting a calculated revenge for each infraction you committed, such as petting another animal. Revenge usually consisted of her peeing in an inappropriate location, such as under my bed on the hardwood floor. If you followed her rules, she settled into a kind of benevolent queenship. (Hmm. Now that I think about it, perhaps Bounce was framed!)

Oddly enough, Boots and my father didn’t get along well. She slept on my parents’ bed until one morning when she didn’t get up as usual and my father suspected the worst. “Vickie,” he said, “the cat’s dead. Get a bag and I’ll put her in it.” When the bag was brought over she leapt up with a scream and ran out of the room. They didn’t seem to trust each other after that, and for years the only thing I heard my father say about Boots was, “When that cat dies, we’re never getting another.”

Bootses

Boots and a boot. Get it?

Boots occasionally went outside in the back yard, and though she had all her claws she really couldn’t climb trees. If something spooked her she would race up the nearest tree trunk, then look around as if puzzled at how she came to be there. I’d have to go out and unhook her from the tree to bring her down.

She had an epic confrontation in that same back yard. Both sets of next-door neighbors were retired couples, but while the Meginnesses let me come next door to practice on their piano and sit with them to watch the “Lawrence Welk Show,” the Millers were on the grouchy side. Doc Miller surprised us with his acquisition of an English Springer Spaniel, a young purebred whose name was Sonny. I’m sure that as an active child with neighborhood friends I was an annoying neighbor to Doc Miller, but Sonny was insufferable. Every time he was let outside he would race up and down the Millers’ short sidewalk, barking at everything in existence until he was let in again. Usually I would give up first and go inside to get away from him. One afternoon, however, I was in the backyard with Boots while Sonny was out. Boots sat on the sidewalk that ran up the center of the yard, facing the white picket fence that separated her and Sonny as they fell into a staring match. With the tension at its peak, Boots spat at the spaniel, something I never saw her do before or since. Sonny erupted into a fury of barking, lunging ineffectively at the fence while Boots got up and walked to the house with the calm demeanor of a matador.

Boots went on to tolerate a pet goldfish and a pet hermit crab and, after we moved to the country, our own succession of dogs (none of them Collies, alas). But they were outside dogs, and she ruled the interior. She settled into being jealous only of other cats to which we paid attention, and enjoyed the rare indulgence of a sudden romp down the hallway that recalled her more active kittenhood. When she wasn’t dozing in a sunbeam, or surviving the winter’s cold by seating herself directly over the furnace vent, she accompanied me as I wrote my way through high school and college. I have had other cats and now enjoy the company of a dog, but there will be no cat like Boots.

Boots in drawer

Circa 1987.

Published in: on February 19, 2018 at 10:13 pm  Comments (1)  

My Secret Shame

1981

Awww…. isn’t he cute?

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow Live!

Even Now

One Voice

Barry

Here Comes the Night

Oh, Julie!

Manilow (RCA)

Because It’s Christmas

Ultimate Manilow

The Greatest Songs of the Fifties

The Greatest Songs of the Sixties

15 Minutes

 

And here are some pictures from last night’s concert in Chicago, at the Chicago Theater. One bucket-list item, checked off!

———

The text above is from a draft post I started writing just over three years ago. I did have a ticket to see Barry at the Chicago Theater, but he ended up cancelling the show when his recovery after some surgery was coming along more slowly than he had anticipated. I didn’t know the show was cancelled until I was already in Chicago to see him, and it turned out that quite a few strings were attached to my ticket and my attendance. I did enjoy my walking tour of downtown Chicago and my dinner at a Top Chef alumni restaurant, which I did blog about (see From the Bucket to the Sprout), but overall the weekend was rather emotionally tumultuous. Enough said about that — it’s in the past and it can’t be changed.

A couple of months ago I was browsing Facebook when Barry made the announcement that he would be touring in 2015, for the last time. It was time for me to get another ticket. And I did. I’m going to get to see and hear him live this Tuesday night in Milwaukee, and all I have to do is figure out how to get there myself and where to park the car and have dinner.

I don’t always wait 35 years to see someone in concert. But when I do, I’m over the moon.

This might be one of the three kindest Barry Manilow memes on the Internet.

This might be one of the three kindest Barry Manilow memes on the Internet.

Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 6:49 pm  Comments (4)  

Name This Post

I have already written posts titled “sorry” and “hiatus” and “mea maxima culpa,” so if nothing else you should have a clear picture of me so far. Sometimes, I don’t post. Even when stuff is happening.

I’m sorry I haven’t written. Between the flooding and Ravelry and, oh, Ravelry…. Ah, crap, I’m just a bad girl, not keeping up the blog. You know how you get so overwhelmed you can’t find the energy to try to get un-overwhelmed? That’s me!! **(waves to Radar)**

Floods. The waters are starting to subside, the Jefferson County Fair is this week, summer school did start a week late after all but will end on time. The post-flood mosquitoes are nasty but small.

Family. I think everyone’s been injured at least once. All have recovered. Except for our poor dog Chili, who was diagnosed with a spleen condition that was most likely cancerous. He had other issues ahead of him, and a happy life behind him, so we made the hard decision and said goodbye.

Travel. My husband and my brother circumnavigated Lake Michigan by motorcycle in mid-June and not only lived to tell about it, but got back on time. Some of the small parts of their bikes didn’t quite make it, but it was a Learning Experience — their first tour of any length, solo or team. Unfortunately they learned the wrong lesson and want to circle Lake Superior next year. Anyone want to send their husband along with them next June?

Knitting. Did I mention knitting? I finished a testknit scarf, and am doing some Doctor Who knitting now for a project that will go to cast & crew. SQUEE! (Had to get that out of the way, sorry to hurt your ears.) I tried to do some finishing off of stuff before the Who project started, but it didn’t work out that way. Now I have a second mitten I have to half-dismantle due to screwing up the amount of plain knitting between the increase rounds. Lucky me.

Otherwise I’m actively working on an alpaca triangle shawl for myself (deadline: Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival), a pair of socks for DH (I’m next), and … apparently a bunch of other stuff. My WIPs literally fill a laundry basket right now and the exposure is rather embarrassing.

Spinning. No more spinning for a while now, but I do have another wheel, an antique with some missing parts. We acquired it on Saturday. SQUEE! (oops)

Computer. Got my Mac back. Unfortunately the data were gone. I’ll still be working on the statewide craft store guide since I have all the info in hard copy form, but at a more leisurely and thoughtful pace. And I’ll be making backups. I swear to God I will. Losing all my digital pictures of the yarn and the kids has taught me that, the hard way. I hope I can get back the ones I uploaded to WordPress.

I’ve also fallen terribly behind on my blog reading, so if you’re on my blogroll and feel neglected, I’m sorry about that too. (I apologize a lot, don’t I? Sorry!) This summer vacation thing is kicking my butt big time.

One more thing: Happy Birthday (today! oops, now it’s yesterday) to my dear Mr. Beth. He’s happily rowing curragh with the club, then going out for a beer (or more) with his brothers. Permission for that was the least I could do for someone who likes to bring back nicer yarn from his business trips than I’m willing to buy for myself at my favorite LYS.

Which I should be able to visit on the 18th for Late Night Knitting. It’s been about three months and I really miss everyone!

A couple of advantages

…to not being able to post new pictures yet….

It sure is easy to work on Secret Projects! And about that We Shall Speak No More.

It forces me to concentrate on my writing and my word choice.

It makes me wait for Something Worth Writing About to happen before I post.

Usually. Right now I’m just trying to move forward to post 199. This happens to be post 197. So peek into your knitting basket and figure out the birthdays of your UFOs. On post 200, as I mentioned before, comment with a link to your oldest UFO. Oldest project wins some Wisconsin swag — local yarn or a made-by-me knitting bag. Plus a couple of the usual-type goodies I like to throw in.

So, what am I up to? A Secret Knitting Project, the Red Scarf, and measuring for mittens. It’s getting cold up here, folks — a few days ago we went from a high of 86 to a high of 49 with a 40 percent chance of rain. I do have the scarves I knitted last/previous year for the kids to wear, but they need mittens, too. And it seems a shame to be sitting on Yarn Mountain, in the middle of Needle Forest, and have kids waiting for the bus with cold hands. Yesterday I took hand measurements for the Wonder Twins and myself. Still have to swatch in the round to see what gauge I’m getting with my thrift store yarn.

And here’s a question…what would you knit for a growing puppy for Christmas? My brother and his [knitting] girlfriend have adopted a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy. I haven’t seen him, but my mother reports that he’s the size of a small bear. I want to knit something cute for him (NOT a felted bed!) but I’m not sure what. Actually, I do have an idea, but I don’t think it’s as good as yours. So, what would you knit for the big lug?

Published in: on October 12, 2007 at 12:36 pm  Comments (9)