Saturday, December 6, 2008

When we lived in Jackson, every year about this time, the students of Mrs. Beatrice Baker Thorpe would be invited to the Westwood Mall to play for the shoppers. It was a big treat and people came from all over to see the kids, bring the kids, shop and hang out. Generally, it was on a Friday evening.

The photos above have Nina and Annie, top, and Annie, bottom in the front row. The older children got on stage first and played the harder music, then stepped back. Then younger children would get on stage, play some less hard music, then step back. And so it went until the youngest took the stage and played the Twinkles. It was always the last song, from Motorcycle, to Just Plain Beautiful Twinkle.

Nina must have been one of the youngest when she was on stage, because it seems very crowded and Annie is behind her. Lauren is not there, so it must have been before she mastered all of the Twinkles. You had to be able to play the Twinkles, all of them, at tempo before Mrs. Thorpe would invite you to play in the group.
The fellow at the piano had been her student years before. At this time, his daughter was among the children on the stage. He accompanied all of the recitals and concerts. Mrs. Thorpe sat in the front row and watched. You were all trained to listen to the piano and start on cue. It was amazing though. I have seen many concerts and Suzuki groups play with far less success than Mrs. Thorpe's students. She was very precise and demanding, but she loved the kids.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Remembering the holidays

The holidays were always a big deal when you girls were little. We made gingerbread houses, cookies by the hundreds that were given to friends, teachers, and sent to family. The stories of Monkey Joe, and trips to look at lights and surpising Santa, and explaining it all will wait for another week. This week, I want to tell you about when you older girls were about the ages above.

During this time, Dad's job was tenuous at best. Every other Friday, there were engineers laid off. Dad did his best to stay on projects that needed his particular skill set. He is and has always been an excellent engineer. Things were pretty somber at his job. So, we tried to lift his spirits when he came home. We baked, cooked, decorated and tried to be as happy as we could.

This one particular Friday, Dad came home without a smile. We made chicken soup, and biscuits for dinner and about 100 holiday cookies that afternoon. Annie, being the observant one, noticed that Dad was not smiling, so she grabbed a cookie and followed him to the closet where he was hanging up his coat. She offered him the cookie and he smiled and took it. They sat down on the couch and shared it, while talking about what we had done all day.

The pall around work did not go away that day. We worried many, many weeks that he would lose his job. But Annie showed him that she felt his sadness and wanted him to feel better. Nina and Lauren joined in as they could - they were still pretty little. But they followed Annie's example and let Dad know that they loved him.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Maran's Visit Part 2

The thing that I forgot to mention in the previous post was about the mailman. You guy often would sled in the front yard when you were young. The mailman would get sooo upset because it caused the walkway and the surrounding lawn to be slick as ice and he had to walk up it. After a while he stopped complaining and just walked through the grass/snow. I felt bad for him but not bad enough to tell you not to sled on the front walk. It was just too good for sledding!

Bob and Mary Helen's visit to Marshall

In the early 1990s, Bob and Mary Helen Maran took the trip to visit us in the middle of winter. Their kids, Sarajane, Ninamarie, and Julieanne had never seen snow. While they were with us, Uncle Charlie died and Dad and Mary Helen went to Chicago to attend the funeral. You kids were not in school. So, Bob and I were alone with 9 kids! Good thing that we had a big house!

On the day that we took the pictures in the snow, you were showing the Maran girls how to sled. You also had an outdoors tea party. I don't know why.

Dad and Bob built a barrier at the street, so that if you went too fast you would not end up in the street. There used to be a tree in that location, but the city had taken it down the previous spring. You all stomped up and down the walkway, then swept it smooth. Then it was ready for sledding. Jackie Ullman came over, too. The Maran girls did not tolerate the cold well even with layers of sweaters, socks, snowsuits and boots. They played for a little while, but it was too cold. However, you kids had a blast!

Bob discovered Louie's. He took walks down there at least once a day. You kids were thrilled to death because there was always Louie's in the house. He even would take any child who was ready to go with him. He took the sled sometimes and tried to coerce his girls to go with him. They liked the Louie's but the walk in the cold, not so much. Most of the time, he went alone. But there were times that one or all of you were willing to take the walk with him and show him the sights of Marshall.

I don't remember much more about the Maran girls during that visit, except that when Julieanne got angry, she slammed doors. I was glad that they were solid oak! Also, they did not know what to make of Snowy. Mary Helen does not like cats. Snowy was pretty shy as I recall, except when Mary Helen tried to sit in her chair. She was having none of that!

All in all, it was a good visit.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Summer time on Ottawa

We lived in the house on Ottawa St. for less than a year. It looked like Dad's job was secure, and the market was getting stronger, so we decided to buy a new house. It had to have 5 bedrooms, some land, and be in a good neighborhood. During this time, we did the "pig smelling expeditions"as we looked at a house that had 25 acres, a barn, and was near a pig farm. We settled on this house because we especially liked the neighborhood.

It was a quiet street. There were a few young families and some older folks who had raised their children in the neighborhood. We were at the back of a circular road, so the only people who came back there were neighbors, mostly. One time, I was outside doing something and Johnny was riding his hot wheels. He was using the driveway and then moved on to the street. At one point, I looked for him and found that he was riding his bike down the street with a car following him. This patient driver, a neighbor, just laughed and waited for me to grab him. I don't think that Johnny even noticed the car behind him.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Thundering Herd

When the big kids were little, we had a little house on Westminister in Jackson, MI. When Mom called the kids and the Dad for dinner, the pitter-patter of little feet was heard heading toward the kitchen. As the kids grew and we moved to a house large enough to hold us all, the pitter-patter gave way to stomping and crashing. It was not nearly as cute.

I don't remember the exact day, but we lived in Marshall, when the term "The Thundering Herd" was coined. I called out that dinner was ready and almost immediately, the sound from the fartherest reaches of the house could be heard, like a low rumble. Then the feet hit the wooden stairs in the front of the house and the sound became a loud roar. Always accompanying this sound was the voices of the ones in the back of the pack. I don't remember the words, but it seemed as though the hungriest of the bunch ended up at the back of the pack. Don't know why or how. Making the turn from the stairs into the dining room brought more tumult as there was a bit of a bottleneck at the doorway. Inevitably, someone would fall, hit the door frame, or otherwise be squeezed to the back.

I remember considering lessons on how to come when the group was called, but I just could not bring myself to do it.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Johnny-boy at about 10 was a trip! This picture is from Easter of 1995. He wore this suit to church and the teenaged girls just loved him. They told him how handsome he was. How mature he looked in his suit. One girls told how much of a "fashion plate" he was. He just ate it up! The sisters, of course, rolled their eyes. He was just the Johnny-boy!
Beth and Johnny were about the same age and the same size. When Johnny went too far with his boyness, and teasing her, she would simply slug him. I scolded her one time and she told me that hitting him was the only way to make him stop. Not the best solution to the problem. But, he seemed impervious to the "shadow" punishment, and/or the "hugging" punishment.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vacation in New Jersey and Philadelphia, August, 1995

Remember this vacation?
We went to Philadelphia for a couple of day to see the sights and visit my brothers. We went to the Ben Franklin Insitute, Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell. We saw recreaters who dressed as Ben Franklin, Minutemen, and signers of the Declaration of Indpendence. We went to the room where the Declaration was signed. We stayed at a Holiday Inn near Nashaminy Mall and drove into the city. The ride down US95 had some bumps that we all enjoyed.We took the subway downtown, and walked up JFK Boulevard. We saw the tall ships moored by Front St. on the Delaware River.
We had dinner with my brothers, Jim and Ed and Ed's wife, Sue and her son (whose name I forget) at a resturant in Old Town and then walked around a bit to see that historic section of the city. We saw the old brownstones that have been there since the 18th century.
We went to the neighborhood where I grew up, Juaniata Park and saw the school and church that I went to and walked around the Carl Mackley. I wanted to visit my Aunt Agnes, but she was not well. She died a year later. Eddie brought me Aunt Mary's writing desk and we took it home with us.
Then we went to New Jersey to visit Dad's family. We stayed with Tommy in Edison. We visited Grandma at the house in Cranford where Dad grew up. Dad gave us a tour of his town: where he went to school and church. All of us, Jimmy, and his kids, Chris and Carolyn, and Tommy and Janet, and Grandma went to Liberty Park in Jersey City and took the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue Liberty.
On Ellis Island, we saw where the immigrants came in, and how they were treated, and where they stayed. There was a granite monument with the imigrant's names engraved on it. We found my grandfather's name, John McGarrity, on it and took a rubbing of it. On Liberty Island, some went up the statue and other remained in the park and looked at lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers dominated the skyline. We took the ferry back to Liberty Park and then drove into Chinatown in New York City. We were able to find a parking spot on the street, but the garbage was piled so high that the kids had to be lifted out of the van. Everyone was totally grossed out by the smell despite the fact that the boxes were wrapped as presents. We walked a bit to Chinatown and had dinner at Hung Fat's. There were 13 of us. The man at the restuarant shooed us back outside and said, "you wait outside!" We were finally seated, and had a great meal.
Another day we drove to Fairhaven to visit Jim and Marion. We loaded eveyone in the van and went to the shore at Sandy Hook. We met Tommy and Janet and Jimmy at the shore. Tommy brought a kite. He, Dad, Jimmy, and the kids took turns flying it on the beach. Then we all hung out on the beach and watched the boats on the horizon and went for swims in the ocean. Bethany had a terrible time with sand in her bathing suit. We went back to Jimmy's house and Grandma met us there for dinner. Jimmy had just finished an addition to his house. Sara Christine played the piano for us, as did Rebecca.
Music was great way to pass the time. Lauren helped us out by writing on the fly:
The first is sung as a round to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat:

Ride, Ride, Ride in the car
Down Route 1.
We're going to New Jersey to see family,
My butt just fell asleep.

The second is sung to the tune of One Hundred Bottles of Pop on the Wall:

A hundred miles to Uncle Tommy's house,
A hundred miles to Uncle Tommy's house.
There goes a mile that we just rode,
Ninety nine more miles to Uncle Tommy's house.

The last song is sung to Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer:

Sarah Christine, a girl that I know,
Uncle Jimmy, Sarah's dad,
Christopher and Caroline, they are her siblings.
Aunt Marion is their mom.
Uncle Tommy is real cool,
Aunt Janet is very funny.
Grandma is at the top of the family,
And that brings us back to Sarah, Oh! Oh! Oh!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Remembering the Early Days

Ran across this photo some time ago, and decided to scan it. This was taken under the Sycamore tree in front of the Westminister house around Halloween in 1983. It must have been a Sunday, judging from the dresses. That house was 900 square feet, 4 bedroom, 1 bath, and no basement. We paid about $30,000 for that house, and after living in it for 9 years, we sold it for just a bit more.

I remember baking a lot, making jam, and canning. The girls and I would do all sorts of crafts. But baking was probably the favorite activity because it could be eaten when done.

One year at Halloween, Annie was a princess. Her costume was an old prom dress that I found at a garage sale and modified to fit a 5-year-old, with a crown and scepter that Dad made from cardboard and tin foil. Nina was a kitty. Lauren was a mouse. These costumes were made from the same pattern. They were all so cute when we went out!