JOURNAL NO. 40
November 1986 - November 1987
Age 30

"I feel braced and hardy and capable of withstanding practically anything."





November 14, 1986
Early Friday morning

Jamie and Kacie are huddled beneath the covers in my big bed. Kyle is in his crib; Courtney, the baby that I take care of five days a week, is in the playpen in the girls' room. All four of them are sound asleep - or they were, the last time I checked. I get up very early these days; it isn't quite 7 a.m. yet but I've already been up for an hour. From my armchair here in the living room, I can look out across the courtyard of the apartment complex, to the section of apartments parallel to mine - the "D" building - and to the early morning sky, a sea of dark rolling clouds. I feel quite peaceful at the moment. We've lived here for almost a month and half, and this has been the prevailing emotion: peacefulness. I have experienced great peace of mind and spirit since we've been here.

I feel like I have a chance at life again.

Ray called last night. He wanted to talk to the girls, and to let me know he won't be coming to visit this weekend. ("I'm too broke," he said.) I was enormously relieved but tried not to let on to the girls, since they were disappointed. I feel a storm brewing here. What is going to happen when I finally scrape up the nerve to divorce Ray? This is the biggest headache I've got right now  ...  the flaw in my peaceful frame of mind. Ray isn't picking up on any of my none-too-subtle hints, and Jamie and Kacie still seem to believe that we'll all be back together again someday.  What a mess. Wait till I drop the bomb on all of them.

Kyle kept me awake for two hours this morning, from 2 a.m. till 4 a.m. He has two major nighttime waking patterns: he either sleeps in two-hour stretches all night long, waking for fifteen or twenty minutes and then dropping back to sleep, or else he wakes up just once but then stays awake forever. The latter is definitely the worst. NOTHING puts him back to sleep ... he wants to stand on my lap and "play" until dawn. The little dickens.

He is moving around pretty well these days, considering the fact that he still hasn't started using his hands and knees in a legitimate crawl. Well, he does use his knees, but he doesn't pick them up very far. Actually, it's difficult to describe the way he moves around, because frankly I've never seen anything like it. I guess you could say he drags himself around by the arms, like a little baby salamander.  He's very strong and very determined.

Other things about my son: he can sit now, unsupported, for thirty seconds or so.  He sits very well in the walker, the wind-up swing (Kelly in A-16 gave that to us) and the highchair. He eats virtually anything except baby cereal, which he steadfastly refuses. He especially loves chunks of apple, arrowroot cookies and - of course - bananas, every baby's favorite. He drinks whole or 2% milk now and likes it fine as long as it's not lukewarm.

He says this funny little thing that sounds amazingly like "HOT dog!" that I just love. (He says it a lot when he's holding his bottle, which makes me wonder if perhaps he's 'naming' a familiar and beloved object ...?)  When he wants my attention, especially if I'm inadvertently ignoring him, he goes "Mmmmmmmm! Mmmmmmmm!" His first attempts at communicating with me?

We're still calling him "Henry" all the time, which I'm afraid is probably destined to be a lifelong nickname. He already responds to "Henry" more often than he does to "Kyle." In really awful moments, I actually call him "Hen" ... !!

("Kacie put a color crayon in her ROOT-beer!")

I think his favorite thing in the entire world is standing up. He won't sit on my lap anymore: right away he begins to squirm around and try to pull himself up, and if I don't help him stand up, he shrieks in annoyance until I do. Once he's standing, he likes to grab at my face, my hair and my jewelry, or else he stands there and blows happy little raspberries at me.

This child is very definitely Mama's boy. His love for me is unwavering and singleminded. I must confess - this is hardly a secret, anyway - that the feeling is mutual. Entirely. I am besotted with my adorable son. I love his little body, his funny faces, his personality, his throaty laugh, his energy, his strength, his sense of humor ... I love all his silly hair, sticking out all over his head ... I love the expressions on his face, especially when he catches my eye from across the room, or when he wakes up in the morning and peers out at me from his crib ...



*Henry*
1986



 



This was my first serious attempt at getting sober.  

November 17, 1986
Monday morning

Kyle is laying on the floor at my feet (wearing a diaper and a T-shirt that says "Somebody in Tucson loves me"), earnestly playing with one of the toys left over from Kacie's babyhood ... now he has rolled over onto his back and is gazing up at me, upside down ... I smile at him and say "Hi Henry!," and he grins, sticks out his tongue, pushes his fat tummy up into the air a couple of times ...

Yesterday was Grandma Vert's 80th birthday, so I took the kids over to her house for cake and ice cream with an assortment of relatives (Uncle Paul, Aunt Elva, Mom, Dad & Valerie, Irene & Kurt, old family friends Tony & Midge). Other than that, our weekend was markedly uneventful. It was a relief not to have Ray here, and the only babysitting I had to do was three hours' worth of Little Tony on Saturday afternoon. I cleaned the apartment, read a Stephen King novel ("The Long Walk"), played with the baby, watched TV, talked on the phone ... a nice, normal, peaceful weekend. This morning I feel rested and fresh and filled with possibilities. Life is truly becoming enjoyable once again.


Me with the Tots at Grandma's 80th birthday party
November 1986

 

The girls 'helping' their great-grandma open her birthday gifts
November 1986       
   

I'm dieting again, incidentally, and trying to steer clear of alcohol completely, and this has been helping. I don't think I've lost any measurable amount of weight yet, but my mind is clear, and I have that good feeling of being on the right track for a change ...

(It almost scares me to feel this good. I'm afraid that if I relax and start to enjoy it, something disastrous will hit me out of the blue and spoil things again ... )

I don't even miss having a man in my life. This has been the biggest surprise of all, to me. All my life I have revolved around one man or another, beginning with Daddy and progressing through countless boyfriends right up to Ray. Whenever I was not in a relationship, I was actively seeking one. I did not feel 'whole' unless I was involved with someone. So it surprises me now to realize that I couldn't care less about being "attached." I suppose that may be because, technically, I AM still attached to someone - I'm still married to Ray - but the truth is that I feel less and less married to him, with each passing day. Rather, I think that my lack of concern over my single condition is (I hope) a sign of growth. I am very content with things just the way they are. I don't even think about it, really. There isn't that constant obsessive longing to be part of a couple ... no craving for male approval or attention ... I am on hiatus, and it is neither as scary nor as lonely as I always assumed it would be.

I like just being with my kids. I suppose that if I didn't have the three of them, I really WOULD be lonely. Maybe they are filling up some of the places in my heart that I usually try to fill with a man: they get my full love and attention and devotion, and in return I get from them companionship, love, validation, approval, a sense of purpose, a rich sense of "family." I don't see anything wrong with this  ...  for now.  I'll try not to become one of those mothers whose entire world revolves around her children. Eventually I'm sure I'll be back out in the world again, and hopefully I'll begin to care about male companionship - maybe I'll even get married again!!?! - and there will be that balance again between adults and children in my life: it won't be all one or all the other. But right now Jamie, Kacie and Kyle are the loves of my life. I am focused on them, and on myself, and on our life together. There is no time or desire for a man right now.

Jamie:  "Hi, I'm the Pugick Power lady, and I'm here to shut off your 'lectricity for six hours."

Kacie:  "I WISH I had an orange right now. I WISH."



Kacie (3) and Jaymi (nearly 5) at Grandma Beeson's house
Autumn 1986


 





Thursday morning
November 20, 1986

Pouring down rain. The apartment is warm and cozy: Jamie, Kacie and Little Tony are settled in front of the TV watching cartoons ... Kyle is laying on the floor next to them, playing with my calculator and kicking his legs. Courtney is asleep. (All children present and accounted for.)

Minor worries today: will Ray want to come stay with us this weekend? How do I prevent it? Do I wait until after Christmas to spring the divorce on him, or should I get it over with now? On the phone or in person ... ?

What kind of Christmas are we going to have this year? Will I be able to provide for the kids, all by myself?

Am I losing any weight on my diet?



 




Sunday morning
November 23, 1986

Trying to work up some momentum: the entire apartment is a mess, and I'd like to take advantage of this "unencumbered" day (no Courtney, no Little Tony) to put everything to rights. How strange - how lovely! - to be concerned with "normal" things again, like housework and laundry, after all the drama of the past couple of months ...

A few odds and ends of news to share briefly before I tackle the apartment.

My brother-in-law John (who is married to Ray's older sister Patty) has suffered a major heart attack and is in critical condition in a Tucson hospital. Judy called last night and broke the news. We're very worried.  I like John a lot.

Ray and I had a very unpleasant phone conversation on Thursday night. He announced that he was coming down for the weekend, and I said "No, please don't." At first I gave him a lot of vague excuses about how I was tired from a long week of babysitting, and how I just wanted one nice, quiet weekend all to myself.  He got huffy and said something about his "right" to be here. I tried one more time to be tactful and sensitive: I said, "Ray, you will always be the kids' Daddy."

"And I'll always be your HUSBAND!" he sputtered indignantly.

That's where I threw tact out the window. "Ray, I consider us to be separated," I said. 

"WHAT?!?" he shrieked, as though this was the first he was hearing about the separation - which it wasn't, as we all know - and a few minutes later he hung up on me, all hurt and angry. It annoyed me beyond belief. He is making this so hard. Why can't he just open his eyes and see what's really going on here? I LEFT the guy!  I packed my things, took the kids and MOVED. What further proof does he need?? Our marriage may technically still exist, but we ARE separated  ...  in my heart and head, in the eyes of the world, in every way that counts.  I'm not calling him day and night, begging him to be here with me: just the opposite, actually.  I've never once said that I plan for us to be reunited at any time in the future. Wouldn't that indicate that things have changed? Wouldn't the average person be able to pick up on the not-so-subtle clues here  ... ??


Well, anyway ... he didn't come down for the weekend, which is a major relief.

Grandma Vert took the girls and I shopping in Burien yesterday. She bought the girls $70 worth of underwear - and two darling knit hats - and an expensive pair of boots for me that I love. She has also offered to pay for dental care for us while I'm on welfare.





 



Monday morning
November 24, 1986

Woke up with a splitting headache, but otherwise I'm in fairly good spirits. This is odd, because it seems lately that the entire world is conspiring to bring me down ... Ray called again last night, full of beer and self-pity, and spent 45 minutes bemoaning his fate, threatening suicide, apologizing, threatening to take Kyle away from me, making promises, generally behaving like a horse's ass ... Judy's life is falling apart now, and she calls every day with the details ... there is no change in our brother-in-law's condition ... why then do I continue to feel so optimistic? Ordinarily all of this 'stuff' would have me in pieces on the floor. Oh yes - another thing - a sudden avalanche of media attention concerning the welfare system. Newspaper articles and TV news reports and such, all talking about how welfare is a lousy way to live, the very bottom of the barrel, and how welfare recipients are all a bunch of lazy slobs with no ambition. I just finished reading another such article a few minutes ago, in the editorial section of The Sunday Times. While it left me feeling mildly offended, I didn't take it much to heart. Things are just rolling off my back lately. Is it because the kids and I are settled and taken care of? Is it because I've taken charge of my own destiny? Or because I've stopped drinking? Or all of these things combined ... ? I feel braced and hardy and capable of withstanding practically anything. It is an interesting feeling!  A year ago, the slightest breeze of change would have simply blown me over. Now I think I could withstand a hurricane.

I took the kids over to Mom's for a while yesterday afternoon. She said - this was unsolicited - that I'm looking "VERY good." ("Specifics!" I shouted. "Be specific!!") She said that my face has lost that horrid puffiness and sallowness it was starting to get. So my dieting and abstinence from alcohol are showing results. I was ecstatic!!

I managed to get through another sober weekend, by the way. There was one bad moment: the girls and I were at the grocery store, and I found myself standing in fornt of the cold beer and wine. I must admit that I was sorely tempted. Just then Jamie, God bless her, snapped me back to reality. "No BEER, Mom!" she shouted. Several people standing nearby overheard her, and I wanted to sink right through the floor ... afterwards, though, I was amused and grateful. I've explained to Jamie that beer "isn't on Mom's diet," so she has appointed herself as the voice of my conscience. (Literally.)  It's true that staying off beer is helping the diet immeasurably, but of course my reasons for wanting to avoid alcohol go much deeper than that. I could write volumes about it, probably, but it all comes down to three things, basically: I'm tired of hangovers; I'm tired of using alcohol to deal with problems - it usually just makes things worse; and I can't lose any weight when I drink. It hasn't been easy. I miss my crutch. Drinking was like a favorite hobby, and there are plenty of moments when I feel deprived. I still long for a little alcoholic fortification before making a difficult phone call, or that nice fuzzy "lift" on special occasions. This is gonna be one tough, uphill battle. But then I wake up in the mornings with no hangover, no upset stomach, no diarrhea ... I can remember everything I said on the phone the night before ... and I feel so darned RELIEVED and glad, that it makes it all worthwhile. Or I get an unexpected compliment like the one I got from Mom yesterday, and I realize that I'm actually doing something that I can be proud of ... for a change ...



Scene From This Evening:

My frozen diet dinner is in the oven; my salad sits waiting on the kitchen counter. While my dinner cooks, I'm in the living room watching TV.  Kacie and Jamie have been playing in the kitchen for the last half hour or so. "Girls!" I say, "Please come out to the living room while my food is cooking." Jamie wanders out and sits down next to me, but Kacie is still out of sight. "Kacie! Come HERE!" I say, a bit more sternly. I don't want her playing near the hot oven.

Kacie emerges from the kitchen finally, and I see immediately that her face - her mouth and chin - are covered with salad dressing. The little urchin has been out there eating my salad!  I fly out to the kitchen and discover more than half the salad is simply  gone.  This is about the last thing in the world I need right now.  I'm tired, hungry and cranky, and I verbally land into Kacie.

"YOU DON'T LOVE ME!" she shouts, in tears, and runs down the hall to her bedroom. The door slams shut.

A few minutes later I hear a furious pounding noise coming from her bedroom. I knock on the door. "May I come in?" I ask.

"Yah!" Kacie shouts ... pound-pound-pound.  She is sitting on the floor of her closet, pounding on her old workbench toy. "I mad at you, an' I doon dis!" she says happily, giving me a look of such goony, satisfaction that I burst into laughter. She has certainly found a way to manage her anger.

"That's OK," I tell her, kissing the top of her head. "You can be mad at Mama." And she smiles at me sweetly.



 




Friday
November 28, 1986

Yesterday was Thanksgiving - Kyle's first! The kids and I rode with Mom (and Grandma St. John) down to Uncle Jerry and Aunt Jody's farm near Aberdeen.




The traditional "first turkey drumstick" photo  ...  this time with Kyle.

Thanksgiving 1986


 
L to R: me, Kacie and Jamie, at Aunt Jody & Uncle Jerry's farm
Thanksgiving 1986




Thursday
December 4, 1986

Only 6 p.m., and I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. I love the new fullness of my life, but when am I ever going to be able to write again?? Letters - entries in this journal - entries in the kids' baby books - hell, I can't even get a GROCERY list written ...



 




Friday morning
December 5, 1986

But I will persist, even if it's only three words here, three words there  ...

An interesting thing has happened suddenly, this week, to Kacie: the Terrible Twos have come to an abrupt halt. (It's about time, too, considering the fact that she's three and a half!) It's as though someone flipped a switch somewhere: overnight she has changed into this sweet, delicate, remarkably NICE little girl!!!

On the other hand, Jamie is metamorphising (sp?) into this grumpy, bossy five year old - refusing to help with anything, balking at suggestions, throwing tantrums, ordering Kacie around - half the time I feel like throttling her. I suppose I ought to be thankful that the girls are developing alternatively - when one is an angel, the other is a pill - I'm not sure if I could handle them both being at a "pill" stage simultaneously!!

Kyle has finally started getting up on his hands and knees on the floor, although he hasn't yet begun crawling that way - he's still dragging his belly around on the floor. He's picking up speed, though, even without picking himself up - he can travel all around the apartment with ease.

Last weekend the girls started Sunday School at Riverton Heights Presbyterian.  As I expected, they both adore it. They've been invited to sing in the church's Christmas program on Dec. 21, a little song called "Gospel Bells" (sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells"). It goes:

Gospel bells, gospel bells
Ring them all the day
Ring out the news that Jesus came
To take our sins away."

(Jamie sings it "Gos-mel bells" ... Kacie sings "Gossel bells.")

"Gossel Bells"
December 1986



Tomorrow Mom is taking Jamie to see "The Song of the South" - Jay's first theater movie - and the day after that, we're throwing Jamie a big birthday party in the apartment clubhouse. A bunch of the neighbor kids have been invited, along with her cousins and a couple of other people. I've spent the past couple of days gluing cotton balls onto empty baby food jars, turning them into little "Santa jars" to fill with candy and give away as party favors. I have some apprehensions about throwing my first kiddie party - how do I keep them all entertained for two hours?? - but I suppose everything will go just fine.

Tuesday (the 9th) is Jamie's birthday, and that's the night I'll give her her present from me - a kitten. We'll have a small cake and ice cream celebration here at the apartment.

Gotta go - Kyle is fussing.




(Kacie just came over and put her arms around my neck, hugged me and said "You a good Momma.")




Ray came down and spent part of last weekend with us. For much of his visit we were strangely formal: for the first time, I think, we both sense how much of an outsider he has become ... not with the kids, of course, but certainly with me ...



Kyle meets the 1987 Christmas decorations. Age 19 months.

Mom: "Look at the pretties!"
Kyle: "Whoa." (His response to anything new or pretty.)



Kacie: "Thanks GOD we got two bafrooms!"




 



Saturday, late afternoon
December 13, 1986

Over a week later. A lot of stuff has happened.

The girls are over at Peg and Don's for the weekend, so it's Kylie and I ... at least until Ray shows up ... I didn't want him here this weekend, but then he pulled his "brokenhearted" routine on the phone and I relented. He's going to watch Kyle tonight while Steph and I go Christmas-tree shopping.

My living room, even without a tree, is fabulously beautiful this evening - or it seems that way to me, anyway. I finally have some furniture! Yesterday Ray brought out the stereo, cabinet and speakers, and last night I bought a sofa and loveseat from a lady in Apt. B-9. (I gave her $50, and still owe her another $50.) With the "new" furniture and the stereo, plus the Christmas decorations I've put around the place, the apartment is really beginning to look like a home ... and I'm glad.

Kyle is laying on the floor, playing with the Infa-Feeder I got him today and watching our new kitten. He's got another bad cold - Kyle I mean, not the kitten - mand is grumpier today than usual.

Jamie's birthday celebration(s) were fairly successful. The day before her birthday I took her (and Kacie, and Courtney) to Burien and had her ears pierced at Jorstad Jewelers. She screamed bloody murder all through the procedure, but afterwards said she was "glad" she'd had it done. Her birthday party on Dec. 7th was disorganized, noisy and nerve-wracking ... she loved it. And the night of her birthday, Mom, Gram St. John and Deb came over for cake and presents with us. I sprained my ankle that afternoon, walking to the laundry room, so Dad and Valerie did me a favor and went to pick up Jamie's birthday kitten. Jamie overheard my phone conversation with Dad so she knew ahead of time about the cat, but that didn't matter - she was still thrilled with "Molly."


   
 
Presiding over her first 'real' birthday party (age 5)
December 1986




Tuesday
December 16, 1986

Fighting a cold. The kids have all been sick since Sunday, but so far I've been able to resist it ... today my throat tickles a little, though, and I'm trying to use the power of suggestion to chase it off.

I'm 29 years olf, as of yesterday. Mom came by in the evening with the only two birthday gifts I received this year - a nice little purse organizer (datebook, calendar, address book, etc.) and Kyle's pictures from the photo studio (taken Oct. 15) - they are BEAUTIFUL. She admired the way the apartment looks. (I got a tree this weekend, a nice six-footer for twenty dollars, and it is lovely.)




   

Kyle's first formal portrait
1986



 




Friday
December 19, 1986

Where is my Christmas spirit this year?

Stephanie and I were talking about this yesterday. Christmas is less than a week away, and I feel ... nothing. It's not that I'm unhappy, because I'm not - life is great right now - I just don't feel as though Christmas is next week. Steph feels the same way, and as a couple of lifelong Christmas addicts we both agree that it's a very odd feeling.




 




January 1, 1987
Thursday evening

And BOOM - just like that, it's all over. In the blink of an eye, Christmas 1986 is history and the new year has begun. Where does the time go?

There's so much to write that I know I'll never finish it all, so I might as well just stick to the most important stuff only, and be brief. Something happened last night that quite literally has changed my life - or my outlook on life, anyway. So I'll start with that.

It was New Year's Eve, and late in the afternoon Stephanie and I went to the grocery store to buy some champagne and dinner materials for our evening together. Ray was watching the kids. When I got back from the store, shortly after 4 p.m., I noticed that there was nobody on the playground. "Where are the girls?" I asked Ray, and he said he'd sent them outside to eat their Tootsie Rolls. "They were here just a minute ago," he shrugged. Not overly concerned, I walked around the playground looking for them. I found Kacie right away, but Jamie was nowhere to be seen. I walked around the complex calling her name, and then I checked the blackberry bushes behind our building ... but no Jamie. Some boys playing on the stairwell said they hadn't seen her. I was annoyed now, but still not worried: I started knocking on apartment doors to see if she was playing with one of her friends. Amanda's mom hadn't seen her, and neither had Sandy's mom. I felt the first tiny tickle of fear then. Where the hell could she be? I went home and called Stephanie. By any chance had Jamie gone over to her apartment? No such luck. Ray put on his jacket and came outside to help me look. We checked the parking lot, the staircases, the laundry room, the clubhouse. A couple of people joined us in the search. By this point I was beginning to get worried. It would be dark soon, and it looked like it might rain.

WHERE WAS SHE???

Stephanie came over to help us look, and I could sense she was as concerned as I was. Some boys on bikes stopped to ask what all the commotion was about, and when we told them that Jamie was missing, Israel said, "I saw her get into a car."

At that moment the bottom fell out of my world.

"NOOO!" I screamed, terrified. Stephanie grabbed my arm to keep me from falling down. From that moment on, I was hysterical. While the manager and other residents kept searching for her, I blindly found my way into the apartment and called the police. Then I called my parents. I have never, ever in my life been as frightened: it was the worst experience I've ever had. For nearly an hour I was in a total, agonizing panic. People tried to comfort and reassure me, but I was beyond comfort. I was sure that someone had abducted Jamie, and I was equally sure I would never see her again. What if she was being hurt (or worse) at that very moment? Wherever she was, she must at the very least be scared and cold. I stood outside in the rain, alone, and begged God to bring her home. "Please please please please," I moaned, "Let her be all right." I tried to send love and comfort to her telepathically, trying to reach her with my thoughts and let her know how much I love her. I wanted to ease her terror with my love ...

Well, the story has a happy ending. Just when I thought I was going to lose my grip completely, Kelly Smith stopped by. "Hey," she said, "I just saw her, out by my car. I told her to get her butt home or she's in big trouble." Sweet hope flooded my heart. She hadn't gotten into a car with anyone!  She was out there somewhere, maybe hiding from us to avoid punishment. And then a few minutes later, as Stephanie and I stood talking to the manager's husband, Mr. Perkins said "Hey - there she is!" I looked, and there she was, standing next to a policeman. It was the greatest moment of my life. I ran and grabbed her, shouting her name, and then I carried her into the apartment, hugging her. She was crying, and I was crying, and I was thanking God over and over again for returning her to us safe and sound.

It turns out that she was hiding from us: she was afraid she'd get in trouble because she ate Kacie's Tootsie Roll. I honestly didn't know whether to smother her with kisses or hang her by her heels. Mostly I just sat and held her. She seemed to comprehend the gravity of what she'd done, but I suspect she was secretly quite pleased by the commotion she'd caused. Policemen and everything!  She said she'd sat behind a bush and watched everybody looking for her.

She's been grounded for a few days - probably until Saturday - and we're trying to impress on her the seriousness of what she did.  But other than that, under the circumstances, it's hard to punish her for being alive and well! I just want to kiss her over and over again! This whole horrible experience has actually blessed me with a new appreciation of my family, and of life in general. I feel like one of those people who has been resucitated on the operating table after being pronounced dead  ...  like I've been given a second chance. Our close call with tragedy was a real eye opener, and for that, anyhow, I'm glad it happened. I will NEVER take my children for granted again.

After the commotion had died down, I went over to Stephanie's for an evening of champagne and girl talk. It has been years since I've had a friend as dear to me as Stephanie has become, and it feels wonderful. The way she shared my concern and fear when Jamie was gone really showed me what a good friend she is.





My resolutions for 1987 are:

1. To shower ALL THREE of my beloved children with love, attention, patience, respect and care, every day of the year.
2. To continue on my diet. My goal: 130 pounds. (Twenty lbs. to go!)
3. To put money into a savings account.
4. To resolve my marriage problems, one way or another.
5. To go back to school.



Christmas 1986 was OK. I never was able to rouse much holiday spirit this year, though, and I think that was what kept this Christmas from being anything particularly memorable. The kids had fun, though. Thanks to a couple of local charities that Mom gave my name to, there was an astounding abundance of toys, food and gifts. The girls spent the afternoon having dinner at Ray's folks' house - a dinner to which I was most pointedly NOT invited - Ray, Kyle and I spent Christmas Day quietly, cooking a turkey on the Webber (a holdover tradition from last year).



My Christmas angels
Jamie (5), Kyle (7 mos.) and Kacie (3)
December 1986


The Christmas letter:

January 1, 1987

My happy little son, dressed in red p.j.'s, sits on Daddy's lap and giggles as he clumsily claps his hands. Jamie, more precious to me than ever before, following last night's near-tragedy, snuggles next to me on the sofa, licking leftover Christmas seals and sticking them into a scrapbook. Kacie, worn out from all the excitement last night, has fallen asleep in my bed.

 Evening ... the first of the new year ... dark and rainy and cold. My resolutions for 1987 are still muddled and unformed, but the most important of them include:

  • Sticking to my diet and getting down to 130 lbs. by spring.
  • Putting some money into a savings account - and LEAVING it there.
  • Getting my driver's license again.
  • "Loving" Kacie more (spending more time w/her, being more patient, etc.)
  • "Helping" Jamie more.
  • "Loving" and "helping" Kyle more.
  • Moving forward in my plans to go back to work, so I can get off welfare and support my children when Ray and I get divorced next year.

    Christmas '86 wasn't the greatest Christmas in history, but it wasn't the worst, either. I felt an odd lack of holiday spirit, and maybe that was the problem. Can we get it back for Christmas '87 ...?

    Where will we be living in December 1987?

    Who will be important in my life then?

    Will Ray and I still be married?

    Will I be thinner - healthier - happier ...?

    I love my children. I have good feelings about our lives in 1987.

    TVP


    DAY, DATE AND TIME AS YOU READ THIS:
    Thursday, January 1, 1987, 11:30 a.m.

    GENERAL SUMMATION OF "THINGS" ... YOUR DAY, YOUR MOOD, YOUR HEALTH, YOUR STATE OF MIND?
    Deeply tired, a bit hungover from last night's champagne, but incredibly happy. Jamie ran away last night, and for one horrifying hour I faced the possibility of never seeing my precious daughter again. The fact that she was returned to us, safe and sound, was like a miracle - and a second chance. I am filled with love, thanks, relief and a renewed appreciation of life.

    WHAT STANDS OUT IN YOUR MIND AS MEMORABLE ABOUT CHRISTMAS 1985 (LAST YEAR)?
    It was our last Christmas in the Kirkland house. I just didn't know it at the time ... which is probably just as well, because it was a lovely Christmas and I might not have been able to enjoy it, had I known that the clock was ticking ...

    WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THIS HOLIDAY SEASON ('86) SO FAR?
    It was different. Not bad - just different. The kids had fun, but frankly I'm a little relieved that the fuss and worry are over.

    HOW IS YOUR MARRIAGE?
    In limbo. I expect to be divorced by this time next year.

    HOW ARE YOUR CHILDREN?
    Fine! Beautiful, healthy, precious. And -- in Jamie's case -- HOME!!

    HOW ARE YOU? WHAT IS IT LIKE, BEING THE MOTHER OF THREE?
    I'm OK. I'm healthier and happier than I was a year ago. Being the mother of three is a lot of work, but it's worth it.

    WHAT WAS GOOD AND BAD ABOUT 1986?
    Oh boy. 1986 was quite a year. The good: Kyle's birth, getting a car, making friends with Stephanie, moving to this apartment, losing weight. The bad: my in-laws selling our house, Ray losing his job, ending my marriage.



  • Best loved gifts received:

    • Jamie: Cabbage Patch Kid from Mama and Daddy; doll stroller; tape recorder from Mom & Dad; baby doll with clothes and accessories.
    • Kacie: Fisher-Price Zoo from Daddy; "My Child" doll from Mama.
    • Kyle: squeezable ball; fire truck with beads & bell; plastic blocks.
    • Me: framed pictures of Kyle, and of Mom & Ken; pots and pans from Peg; gold earrings from the kids; ceramic frame from Valerie; sweatshirt from charity group; CAMERA!! (from myself!!)









    Monday 11 a.m.
    January 5, 1987

    Back to babysitting Courtney today. Ray is still here - it's been over two weeks now  - I HATE the lack of privacy, but I have to admit that he's been a lot of help, especially with Kyle. Waiting for my damn food stamps to arrive. Thrilled with my continued weight loss. Sad that our apartment manager, Mrs. Perkins, is moving today - I really liked her a lot.

    Got my hair cut about a week ago - shoulder-length. It looks pretty nice - certainly neater. I'm beginning to feel good about my looks again, for the first time in centuries ...

    Kyle has a tooth! He cut it on Christmas Day, although I didn't discover it until the next day. (I had my finger in his mouth and he BIT me!) He is crawling very well now - also pulling himself up to a standing position with ease. His first and only word, so far: "Da-da." (He responds to and seems to recognize the words ba-ba, Mama, kitty and cookie.) Other cute things he does: sticks out his tongue when he sees us eating something ... tries to "share" his bottle with me ... bites me on the chin ... gives EVERYONE the raspberry, constantly!! ... knocks down the towers Ray makes with blocks ...

    Had my first (and only, to date) dream about Tony last night  ...  I'm left this morning with a vague, lingering yearning. I wonder where he is now? No one seems to know, not even Ray. I wonder whose sofa he's sleeping on these days ... ?



     



    Monday 10:30 a.m.
    January 26, 1987

    Three weeks later. Very annoyed this morning - with Ray, in large part - but mostly with myself. I feel that I'm losing precious ground. All that nice lovely progress I was making two months ago ... what's happening to it? It would be too easy to lay all the blame on Ray. He is ALWAYS HERE, and when he's here I slip back into all my old familiar patterns of behavior. I eat too much, I binge drink, I procrastinate, I spend my money. A month or two ago I was beginning to feel some spiritual need again: today I feel nothing. I resent him SO MUCH for interfering in my progress - for setting me back - I very nearly hate him right now. And yet I know that I'm the only one to blame. I'm the one who allows him to stay, just to avoid confrontation. I'm the one who lets it continue. If I'm losing ground, it's due to my own weaknesses ... not Ray's.

    Is it too late to start over again?? Probably not. OK, then, time to regroup. What are my priorities?

    1.) GET RAY OUT OF HERE - TODAY. I think he's planning to go back to Bellevue today anyhow. More importantly, though, I need to cut down on the frequency - and the length - of his "visits." Half the time when he stays here he's flush with Unemployment money and spends it abundantly on us   ...  the other half of the time (like this past weekend) he's dead-broke and I end up spending all of MY money, mostly on food. (I can't believe it: my food stamps are all gone for the month, already.) I obviously appreciate his occasional financial help, but I think I've got to face the facts: his "help" is costing me too much. I'm going to have to learn to do without it.

    2.) NO MORE DRINKING. I only drink once a week or so, but then I drink entirely too much, too fast, I make a fool of myself, and then I feel horrible for three days afterward.

    3.) CONTINUE DIETING. This, at least, I've been fairly good about, except on the weekends when Ray brings home irresistible things like pizza or Chinese food or big bags of Double Stuff Oreos ... I'm still being pretty "good"  3/4 of the time ... I'm hovering around 145 pounds at the moment, which means another 15 lbs. to go before I reach my goal weight of 130.

    4.) MAKE SOME PLANS FOR THE FUTURE. I'm toying with the idea of either going back to college (HCC) or else getting some vocational training. I'm resigned to the idea of being on welfare for a couple of years, but when I finally go off it, I want it to be because I've got a decent job and can provide for my kids without help.

    5.) FIND SOME SPIRITUAL DIRECTION. We need a good church, in other words. Riverton Presbyterian was OK, but I was disappointed with the Sunday School. We need something that fills all our needs.

    6.) START A SAVINGS ACCOUNT.

    7.) GET MY DRIVERS LICENSE!!

    8.) GET THE KIDS' MEDICAL/DENTAL NEEDS TAKEN CARE OF.

    OK, so those are my most immediate goals. Next what I'll do (not now - Kyle and Courtney are fussing) is put them into some sort of time-frame.



     




    January 28, 1987
    Wednesday morning 7:15 a.m.

    Been up for an hour. Cold, dark, rainy morning: Kacie and I are sitting here in the warm, brightly-lit kitchen ... she is contentedly slurping her "Cocoa Pups," I am waiting for my coffee to cool. Courtney, ever-present "binky" securely fastened to her face, lays in a pool of toys in front of the TV. Jamie and Kyle are asleep in my bed. (Ray isn't here ... thank goodness.)

    Has it really been a year since the Challenger blew up? The TV is full of the "anniversary" this morning.



     




    Thursday morning
    January 29, 1987

    (You mean I'm actually writing two days in a row ... ??)

    A little "down" this week, mostly because of money. I got my gas and phone bills a couple of days ago - $52 and $75, respectively! - and the electricity bill is due to arrive any day. I will have the money to cover them - and the rent - that's not the problem. My welfare check will probably be here on Monday (and HOPEFULLY my food stamps, too.) So the bills will get paid. I suppose I ought to be grateful for that. It's just that there will be practically nothing left over ... Stephanie just had her welfare cut off, and she won't be able to pay me for babysitting for a while ... there will be no spending money in February to speak of, and in typically selfish Terri fashion, this has got me down in the dumps. (Here Stephanie is worried about how she's going to pay her rent and feed her baby, and I'm depressed because there will be no "spending money" in February ... ?)

    Well, actually, what makes the situation so gloomy is that now I will have to depend on Ray to come through with a little money, which will once again make me feel obligated to him. The divorce is seeming more and more unlikely ... I'm letting the opportunity slip away ...

    (The other day I overheard Ray saying to Jamie, "Don't worry, we'll all be back together again, real soon.")

    Whudda mess.

    Kacie is back to being impossible again. If I so much as tell her to get her muddy boots off the couch, she dissolves into sobs, sticks out her bottom lip and wails "You don't LOVE me!" I hear this a dozen times a day, and it drives me crazy. Equally grating are her constant requests for food. She wants to snack all day long. "I'm gettin' HUNGRY," she says, ten minutes after lunch ... then again fifteen minutes later ... then again, and again, on and on, all day long. Usually I cave in and let her have a soda cracker or a raw carrot, but I'm worried about her preoccupation with food. Is she that bored and understimulated? Or feeling the old "middle child" syndrome? (Or genuinely hungry?!) Are the "You don't LOVE mes" and the "I'm gettin' HUNGRYS" interconnected?

    Jamie: "My favorite number is FIVE."
    Kacie: "My favorite number is SALMON!"

    Jamie is suddenly announcing that she doesn't want to go to kindergarten in the fall. Her reasons vary from day to day - she's upset because moms aren't allowed to stay at school with their kids  ...  she's afraid there won't be enough seats on the bus  ...  she's scared that she'll have "a MAN teacher"  ...  she's afraid that she'll "get lost on the playground," or that she'll "fall down in the mud."

    Kyle's latest accomplishments: climbing onto the couch (but not the loveseat) ... clapping his hands ... waving bye-bye in Italian fashion! ... saying "Ma-ma" once or twice (but only when he is in distress: when he's happy, he says "Da-da"!)

    I weigh 140 lbs. today!!!!!



     




    Friday morning

    Annoyed. Ray is here again ... I'm still worrying about money ... feeling "taken advantage of." I binged on cookies last night - I have no idea why -  but I've got a weird sugar hangover this morning as a result.

    Jamie (exasperated): "Kacie, this is COOPERATION. Now co-OP!"
     

     




    Friday morning
    February 6, 1987

    Just mailed my phone and gas bills. That, combined with the rent I paid on Monday, has all but wiped out my checking account balance. Oh well. At least I AM paying my bills, and on time, too. I'm proud of that.

    We're babysitting another child now, as of this week - a 16 month old boy named Terry. His mother Tammi (Apt. F-12) is undergoing treatment for breast cancer this week (chemotherapy) and next week is planning to go back to her job as an optician at J.C. Penney, so we'll have Terry fulltime. He is a sweet, quiet litle guy with a headful of tousled curls. He spends his time walking around the apartment with his bottle, wordlessly watching everything we do. I'll be getting an extra $41 to $56 a week (Tammi's work hours vary) for watching him.

    Ray is here, of course, but I won't spend any time this morning berating myself for that. I simply am (and always have been) far too lenient where Ray is concerned.

    Kyle's newest accomplishments: he says "Mama" now more frequently (and not always when he's in distress!) He also can say "no-no," and (sort of) says "cookie." He climbs on the living room furniture and the beds, but he can't get back down again. He has cut another tooth - this one is on the top, on his left side - that makes three altogether. He still loves the show "Jeopardy" - the minute it comes on, he breaks into a HUGE smile, claps his hands, bobs up and down in excitement and refuses to BUDGE from in front of the TV until it's all done. He likes to grab my toes - he looks up at me expectantly, with this mischevious little smile on his face, waiting for me to say "OW!" - then when I do, he replies with an "Ow!" of his own. He claps his hands, waves, puts a sock on his nose when I ask him to, pats his diaper when I say "Where are your PANTS?" and flies around at breakneck speed in his walker. He HATES his bath. He also hates being dressed now (he used to enjoy it). He won't eat any kind of cereal, especially the Gerber oatmeal, but he loves fruit, crackers and cookies. He is beginning to respond to music ... this morning I was playing a Talking Heads song ("Take Me To The River") and he got very excited - he was bobbing in time to the music and clapping his hands.

    He's a really CUTE little boy!



    "I'll take Stroller Hockey for $200, Alex."


     




    Thursday
    February 12, 1987

    The girls are chasing little Terry around the apartment, playing hide 'n seek ... his chubby cheeks are flushed ... he looks at me in passing and ROARS with excitement. Kyle, in his walker, struggles to keep up with the older children, but he finds it hard to maneuver his wheels around the toys on the floor: eventually he gives a little scream in protest ...

    I sit, damp-haired, dressed already (in a blue sweatshirt and new size 12 jeans), cross-legged on the sofa ... drinking the second cup of coffee of the morning ... hazy sunlight streams through the patio door and spills onto the apartment floor like lemonade. Another day in the works.

    Kacie: "I'm so HUNGRY, my tummy is just falling apart."



    Some of the questions in my heart today:

    • When will I finally get off welfare - and how?
    • What do I do about my marriage? (Is it worth doing anything about?)
    • Can I reach 130 lbs. if I apply myself? (I'm 140 now)
    • Can I really handle watching FIVE kids??
    • Where is my life going?
    • Do I know what I'm doing ... ? (Do I ever?)





    Sunday
    February 22, 1987

    Ten days later. I've been woefully unhealthy lately - pinched a nerve in my shoulder, inadvertently poisoned the whole family (AND Stephanie) with bad lasagna last weekend, and now I have a rotten chest cold. Why have we been sick so much since moving here?

    Nothing new to report, really. Life is moving along more or less on an even keel. Taking care of five kids (including my three) every day isn't the challenge of the century ... well, actually, maybe it IS ... but what I mean is that it isn't the most fulfilling job in the world, and yet it's a relatively easy way to earn the extra money we need.  So I don't mind it too much. I've been taking care of Courtney for almost five months now, and she's like a member of the family.  I have grown genuinely fond of her  --  she's no trouble at all. And Terry fits in fairly well too. They've both gone home by 4:30 every day, so I have my evenings - and my weekends - free to spend time exclusively with my own kids.

    The situation with Ray hasn't changed much. I did manage to tell him that I thought he was spending too much time here, and he agreed to cut back ... but I haven't really seen any change. Sometimes I feel very warm and friendly towards him, and other times I want to rip his droopy moustache right off his stoopid face. Stephanie says she doesn't understand how in the world I ever could have married him. I'm not sure I understand it myself. I've never loved him - at least, not in the way a wife is supposed to love her husband - not even on our wedding day. Why DID I marry him? What was I hoping would happen?

    I should make one thing perfectly clear: I don't regret the marriage, because it produced the only three children in the universe I could ever possibly want to have. I'm just not sure I understand my motives for marrying him in the first place.



     




    Wednesday
    March 4, 1987

    Where was I five years ago? Let's check the old journals and see:

    March 6, 1982

    "Jamie has a new 'friend' ... I put my plastic makeup mirror into her playpen with her, and she is fascinated with the 'other' baby! Motherhood certainly brings some fine moments. I love thinking of new things to do with Jamie, new things to show her ... "

    Four years ago?

    March 5, 1983

    "... Jay is in a chipper mood this morning, full of smiles and giggles, chattering like a magpie, dragging 'blanky' all around the house ... Baby is very active this morning, too, thrashing hugely inside of me every few minutes ... the past two nights have been sleepless ones ... I sleep in snatches, punctuated by odd little dreams. Last night I dreamed that the baby was a girl. I was spoon-feeding her applesauce while Ray fed Jamie spaghetti and meatballs."

    Three ... ?

    March 4, 1984

    "Feeling very, very good today ... it definitely feels like spring today and my spirits are high. This has just plain been a great weekend ... I felt very good and very close to my husband."

    Two ... ?

    March 5, 1985

    "... Slept lousy last night ... before bed I transferred the box of kittens from Kacie's closet to a corner of the living room. CeCe spent a good part of the night parading up and down the hallway outside our door, yowling ... Jamie and I named the kittens this morning: Coffeepot, Cocoa and Cloudy ... I tried explaining to Jay that eventually we'll have to find homes for the kitties. She was near tears. 'But dose baby kitties can live here wif us!' she said sorrowfully. So I just dropped the issue for now ... "

    (The journal entry from one year ago is too long and complicated to transcribe here, but basically it's an anecdote about Jamie's reluctance to knock on the neighbor's door and ask if her friends can play.)

    Oh well. That's enough of the past. On to the present. 

    Rainy, soggy morning - the fifth or sixth day in a row, with more rain still to come. The kids and I have opressive cases of cabin fever, and are picking at each other accordingly. ("You're a MEAN MOMMY!" Kacie shouted at me a while ago.) Even Kyle feels it. For the past two or three days he has been unbearably grumpy. Add to this the lingering colds we've all got, the additional pressure of having Terry and Courtney here all day, and all of the other problems/concerns/questions/worries on my mind ... and I feel like a time bomb, waiting to happen. (Interrupted just now by Stephanie's 9 a.m. phone call. "Trouble in paradise?" she inquired sweetly.  In response, I burst into hysterical giggles.) The apartment is a mess, my throat feels like sandpaper, the noise level is deafening, Kacie asks me for food every ten minutes ... Kyle just tipped over in his walker ... I feel incredibly pressured and resentful at the moment. How will I survive this day?!  I love these kids, and I hate it when I feel this way ... but it's just so hard, being cooped up with all five of them and not having more than a minute or two to myself, ever ... I'm scribbling this in snatches, as it is ... they don't understand why I'm not accomodating them every single minute ... they are so darned demanding. Such grasping, irritable, self-centered little beasties!!! I mean, one child ALONE is like that: imagine the annoyance factor QUINTUPLED. I should qualify for maternal sainthood here. 

    (Or - at the least - a little vacation time ...)

    Just got my new Levi's - they were delivered by UPS - the first new pair of 501's I've bought for myself since I was fourteen. (Now all I need is a pencil-yellow turtleneck and a pair of brown waffle-stompers, and it's 1972 all over again.) They are a size 11/12, and they FIT. For the past month and a half I have weighed a more or less unwavering 140, despite frequent cheating and deviation from the diet. Is this where my body wants to be? I look OK - I look fabulous, compared to the way I looked a year ago - but naturally it's difficult for me to be completely satisfied. I keep thinking that if I could just get down to 127, even if it's just for the summer, that then I'll feel like I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish. If I discipline myself, I could do it. I know I could. I probably will, in fact ... it's just hard, getting back on the right track.



     



    March 5, 1987
    Thursday

    Had a brief attack of the blues yesterday afternoon, which has returned this morning. ("I feel as though no one in the world even knows I'm here," I said to Stephanie. She nodded understandingly, even though I barely understand it myself.) I drove over to Safeway to pick up a few "emergency" groceries while Steph stayed at my apartment and kept an eye on the five kids. It had been a long day with the "little beasties," and my nerves were frayed; but instead of appreciating the brief opportunity to get away from it all and get some fresh air, I just felt more oppressed and lonely than ever ... I was very nearly in tears during the drive to the store, for no reason at all. I had my new Levi's on, and my hair and makeup were done the way I like - I looked fine, possibly even more than fine - it had stopped raining for five blessed minutes, the grocery store wasn't too crowded, there were no small children nipping at my heels - I should have enjoyed myself. So what happened? Why do I feel like I'm walking around in a fog? Why do I suddenly feel like no one in the world knows - or cares - that I'm alive??

    Ray called last night and wanted to know if he could come out today and spend "a few days." Good grief - we just got rid of him the day before yesterday! I said no, wait until Friday. (I'll be broke by then," he whined, but I held semi-firm.) I DON'T WANT HIM HERE AT ALL. He's been here EVERY FUCKING WEEKEND since before Christmas, and I can feel everything beginning to slip back into the old, comfortable, DESTRUCTIVE patterns. I feed him, I let him borrow my car, I give him money, I drink beer with him ... we are not intimate sexually, although he continues to badger me ceaselessly about it ... there's nothing overtly awful about having him here, but I just feel as though ... well ... as though he is holding me back from something. A chance at a healthier, more productive life, maybe. When he's not here I find it much easier to stick to my diet, and to avoid beer. Or maybe he's holding me back from venturing out into the world. I can't exactly begin to date (not that I've had any offers) with him here every weekend, and with our marital situation so unresolved. Funnily enough, I think that's one of the things I was feeling 'blue' about yesterday. I'm finally beginning to think about men again, just a little bit. Maybe it's because I've lost some weight, or because it's almost spring ... I'm feeling a little bit of 'spring fever,' I think ... I crave a little romance! I don't care about sex right now, but I have to admit that it would be nice to have a little male attention again. It would be nice to be pursued ... to be chased after, a little. "Little" is the key word here: I don't want a major love affair right now - nothing complicated, nothing sticky - just some sweet feelings, a little attention, a little fun. Yesterday in the grocery store I saw a couple of men staring at me, and I thought "Geez, it's been a long time since anybody's done that." I've been so fat and unattractive for the past five or six years. It feels kind of odd to be ogled again. I'm not really sure what to do with it! Part of me is flattered; part of me says "Wait a minute - there's got to be a mistake - I'm nothing but an overweight unemployed welfare mom of three, almost thirty years old - why is he looking at ME?!?" But when these men were looking at me, it reminded me of romance, and of being admired and asked out, and of the way I used to feel about these things, and I think that's why I suddenly began to feel so depressed  ...  because I know these things aren't going to happen to me, not at anytime in the forseeable future, anyway ...  not as long as I've got Ray hanging around my neck, like a ball and chain. And certainly not as long as I remain holed-up in this apartment.



     



    Kacie on her fourth birthday
    March 1987





    Thursday
    March 26, 1987

    Three weeks later. Spring is here now ... Kacie had her fourth birthday last week, and Kyle has begun taking his first tentative steps. I've regained six pounds, mostly because of Taco Time, pizza and beer. Ray is still here, although this weekend he's supposed to move in with Mike Ross out in Federal Way. (Also Mike's girlfriend Erin and their one year old son.) I'm thrilled that he has finally found permanent lodging somewhere other than here - at least, I WANT to be thrilled about it - but something always seems to go wrong with these arrangements at the last minutes, and I'm waiting until he is safely and completely moved in with Mike before I begin celebrating.

    The maintenance guy here at the apartments, Rick, is showing some interest in me, but I feel myself instinctively backing away. The idea of an actual, honest-to-goodness date makes me downright queasy. I guess I need to take this one step at a time. Let's get Ray out of here first, and get back on the diet. Then we'll see about dating.

    I'm in slightly better spirits today than usual, if for no other reason than because it's a beautiful, sunny spring morning, and I got a good night's sleep for a change ... Kyle slept with Ray in the girls' bedroom, Kacie fell asleep on the living room sofa, so it was just me and Jay in my big bed all night. I feel recharged today. Kyle, in jammy top, diaper, bare feet and rumpled hair (the kid is in dire need of a barber!) sits on the kitchen floor at my feet, eating a banana and smiling at his Mama. Such a sturdy, adorable little guy: my heart melts every time I look at him. The girls, dressed already and itching to go outside, sit impatiently watching "Sesame Street" (which is KACIE'S show now - Jamie condescends to watch it only occasionally). Terry W., Courtney and Ray are all asleep. The sunshine is so bright this morning that I can't open the curtains yet - we would be blinded! - it reflects off the water in the swimming pool, directly in front of our apartment, turning the water a gorgeous, glistening aqua. (I look at the pool and contemplate summer ... )

    Oh well. On to the business of Mommyhood.



     

    Monday morning
    April 6, 1987

    Grappling with problems. My car registration has expired - I never did change the title when I bought it last fall - and I have no Drivers License. I'm due for an eligibility review for my food stamps. All three of the kids are behind in their innoculations.

    How do I get all this stuff taken care of???

    (Kyle, this morning, was laying on the floor after his diaper change, kicking his feet in the air, and he said "Da? Da!" I said - casually, not expecting any real response - "Daddy go bye-bye." Kyle looked at me for a few seconds, then began waving his hand and saying "Da! Da!" "YES!" I said excitedly, "Daddy went BYE-BYE! Good boy, Kyle!" He was obviously very pleased with himself.)



     

    Thursday 6:30 p.m.
    April 9, 1987

    The management had my building professionally "exterminated" today - the kids and I (Courtney & Terry included) spent an endless, boring day in Stephanie's cramped apartment, waiting till it was "safe" to come back to my place.

    Ray (this week) has finally moved into the house in Federal Way. He wasn't here last night and he won't be tonight, either (although he did stop by this afternoon to pick up the last of his personal belongings). I sense reticence and sadness on his part ... and only relief (and a little guilt) on mine.

    Things with "the maintenance guy" are going nowhere fast, which is probably just as well since he's not a lot different from Ray: not too bright, no money, nowhere job. Why do I fall for this type, anyway??

    Kyle is walking across the room and back now without stumbling. His vocabulary has expanded to include a definite "cookie," "icky," "gone!" and "boom" (it comes out "gung") ... and a sort-of "god bless you" anytime anyone sneezes.

    I'm hovering around 144 lbs. still.



     

    Monday morning
    April 13, 1987

    Kyle has simply EXPLODED into walking. The faltering, tentative steps of two weeks go have given way to confident, continuous toddling. He can stop, change directions, stoop to pick up a toy and walk outside on the grassy area of the playground. He loves combs, Jamie's toy broom, spoons, the theme song from "One Life To Live," bouncy pop music, looking at his reflection in the oven door, popsicles, cookies, Kleenex, and telephones (especially RINGING ones).



     

    Monday morning (a week later)
    April 20, 1987

    Recovering from strep throat - this is the first really "human" day I've had since forever - I've had hay fever and colds all spring, one right after the other, and then last week it suddenly turned into something serious. Thursday night I had to go to the hospital and get a shot of penicillin, and I'm now on erythromycin in a determined effort to kick this, once and for all. Tired of being sick.



    Breakfast is served.
    Easter 1987





    Wearing his Easter 'basket' on his head.
    Easter 1987

    Yesterday was Easter. The kids all got four baskets apiece and all the candy in the WORLD. There was an early morning egg hunt for all the children in the apartment complex (organized by my friend Rick). Afterwards, my father and Valerie stopped by with goodies for the monkeys, and then Mom came at 1:00 and picked up the girls for an afternoon at their Great-Grandma St. John's. I didn't go because I'm still contagious. (Editor's note: here Ray has handwritten the word "DRUNK" in the margin.) The girls seem to have had a happy Easter, over all. Of course they ate far too much candy, and by dinnertime all they could manage was a bowl of soup and a hardboiled egg. But they were spirited and happy throughout the entire day.










    By unspoken mutual agreement -- and a lack of sustained interest on either side - Rick The Maintenance Guy and I have stopped calling each other. There just wasn't anything there of worth. I don't really care one way or the other. I feel like there's too much else going on in my life right now - too many VALID things to worry about - to spend any time stewing over something that wasn't even that important to me in the first place.



     




    May 5, 1987
    Tuesday, mid-morning

    Two weeks later. My life is in something of a muddle at the moment: I've been too distracted and frazzled to sort ANYTHING out, let alone sit down and write about it all. Maybe later today, if I get a chance.

    Yesterday was Kyle's first birthday. I can't believe that my baby is one year old already. Where have the past twelve months gone??? In the blink of an eye, the tiny infant with the stork bites and the wrinkled feet has been transformed into this sturdy, noisy, busy, wonderful little boy ... a little boy with opinions and humor and spirit ...

     

    Kyle's first birthday
    May 1986

    It's so amusing to watch him walking around this apartment. He's already so muscular. His back, his legs and his arms are already strong and sturdy. It looks funny, with his sweet little baby face and lumpy diaper - an incongruity - little boy on the top, big boy on the bottom? His birthday was decidedly low-key, but nice. We had a small cake that said "Happy Birthday Henry" on it, and my mom and Grandma St. John were here to share it with him. (We heard nothing at all from Ray's side of the family, incidrentally - which INFURIATES me. Dad & Valerie forgot, too.) Mostly he got shorts and tank tops and toys. We gave him a little football, a fireman's hat, some big inflatable stacking rings (Editor's note: which he bit holes in within two months), a toy telephone and a bath toy.

    His vocabulary at age one (in order of frequency):

    • no!
    • Da (Dad)
    • Ma-ma
    • ah! (hi)
    • bah (ball)
    • boom
    • coo-kee
    • ah-duh (all done)






    May 13, 1987

    "Why are men automatically put off by my three small children? They're terrific, and so am I! I'm a SWF, 29, 5'5", 130 lbs. [ha! a minor innacuracy!], brown hair, blue eyes, pretty, intelligent, talented, warm hearted and optimistic. I have a passion for 60's music, offbeat humor, Chinese food and flea markets. Would love to meet open-hearted, literate SWM, with subtle wit and good looks, 30-40. My kids don't need a daddy, they've got one already, but their mom would enjoy some adult conversation and companionship. Write F-5558 Seattle, c/o Dateline, P.O. Box 555, Lynwood, Washington."

    About two weeks ago - on a total whim - I placed the above ad in the local edition of The Little Nickel newspaper. Don't ask me why. It was just one of those impulsive things I do from time to time that sometimes winds up changing my life forever ... like that letter to Grandma Vert last summer, or moving to the East Side in 1978 ... stuff that I do on the spur of the moment, with zero forethought, usually with far-reaching results. Well. Anyway. Actually, this is the SECOND ad I've placed in The Nickel - I tried it once before, back in January, with neglible results. Most of the men who contacted me the first time were interested ... UNTIL they found out about the three kids. Then it was adios! So this time I decided to confront the problem head-on by mentioning the kids right off the bat. I mean, they're the focal point of my life right now - I love them, and I'm certainly not ashamed of having them - I figure any man who shows an interest in me darned well better show an interest in my kids as well ...

    Well, anyway. The response to my ad, so far, has been mixed. At this point I'm kind of feeling fed-up with the whole idea of men, and of dating, and I feel as though no matter what I do I'm never going to find the "great love of my life" I've always dreamed about. One man who answered my ad was promising. His letters and phone calls were witty, sincere and fun, and I was beginning to think I'd really hit it big. The only problem was that he decided to fall head over heels in love with me before he'd even met me face-to-face. By the third or fourth letter he was talking about what sort of paintings we'd be hanging on the walls of "our" house someday. He scared me silly!! And then when we did finally meet in person (we took our kids to McDonald's), I felt zero chemistry between us. It was as though the Kerry in the letters and on the phone was entirely separate from the short, balding, cranky Kerry sitting next to me. (Virtually the first thing he said to me was "Why do you wear all that STUFF on your eyes?") I was incredibly let down, and for the next few days I avoided his phone calls. Finally this week he sent me a "goodbye" letter ... the same day that I mailed him one. So that's that. Another guy who answered the ad and sent a great picture of himself turned up here last weekend in polyester cowboy clothes. Blecch. Now he's calling me obsessively - he let the phone ring FORTY FIVE TIMES yesterday before I finally broke down and answered it - and he has begun leaving things on my doorstep. Frankly, I'm worried about it. I've got a really bad case of hay fever again, and he left a get well card on my porch yesterday. I felt CHILLS when I found it. (It says: "I really am sorry I woke you up this morning. When I meet someone I like I have a tendency towards persistence" - no kidding - "which can be annoying. I enjoy talking with you because you are inteligent (sic) as well as good looking. Which is a combination I have not found to (sic) often. Once again please forgive me and call when you feel up to it. Vern.") This morning I'm actually thinking about changing my phone number, and for the past couple of nights I've taken extra precaution in locking up the apartment at night. This guy just plain gives me the creeps.

    I don't know, Journal. On the one hand, I want desperately to find Mr. Right ... not Mr. OK, or Mr. Not-Completely-Terrible, or Mr. Will-Do-For-Now-Until-Something-Better-Comes-Along ... I want to find a man who is smart and funny and good looking and romantic, someone who likes the same things I do - someone who will complete me ... but on the other hand I detest the idea and the PROCESS of seeking him out. Putting an ad in the newspaper seemed like an interesting and workable idea at the time, mainly because I am so seldom able to get out into the world, where the men are. The Internet was still a few years down the road for me.  But now it feels more like a mistake. There were a couple of other promising responses, including one guy I went to high school with (and always thought was very cute), but I'm so burned-out on the whole idea that I doubt I'll follow through on them. 

    I give up. I quit.






    Friday morning
    May 22, 1987

    Feeling optimistic again today. Not about men, or about finding Mr. Right - I've temporarily abandoned that idea - but about life in general. (Tell me something. Why is it that I'm prone to "optimism" when I have money in my purse? And prone to pessimism when I'm dead broke ... ?)

    Rainy, dismal day. (I love it, of course.) Jamie, Kacie and Terry W. are seated around the kitchen table eating breakfast (cereal, toast with jam) ... Kyle is in his highchair, eating the same ... Courtney is crawling around the kitchen floor, looking for crumbs ... Ray is in the living room watching The Jetsons. So many people in one apartment. Ordinarily I would be feeling crowded, but this morning it is oddly comforting to be surrounded by all these familiar faces. Go figure.



     

    June 22, 1987
    Monday

    A month later. (Oh my God! A whole MONTH?! I can't believe how much time I've let slip by without scribbling so much as a word in my journal ... I'm surprised and ashamed and furious with myself!!)

    Oh well. I guess there's no time like the present. I got up this morning with the itch to write something, so I'm following through on this rare burst of inspiration and motivation. The thing is, though, that I want to spend some time writing about "normal" things ... the kids, the apartment, the weather, my diet, the bills ... the normal, non-earth-shaking, day-to-day stuff. I'm tired of writing about how depressed I am, and how Ray is driving me buggy, and how I have no real plans for the future, etc. etc. etc. - that stuff gets "old" after a while. At the moment my life is in its usual state of disarray, but I just don't feel like writing about it right now. Just for a few minutes this morning, i want to put blinders on, block out the problems and the worries, and write about the ordinary, the commonplace, the regular things that make up our days and lives. So the next few pages - barring flood, earthquake or nuclear war - will be devoted entirely to ... NORMAL STUFF!!!!

    We'll begin with the state of the apartment on this overcast Monday morning. Summer officially began this past weekend, although you'd never know it by the weather ... it has been cloudy and cool for several days. I've got my first summer cold of the season - a thick, nasty, noisy affair that has depleted me of most of my energy - and the apartment looks a bit neglected as a result. Jamie & Kacie, in differing underwear combinations, are sprawled in front of the TV watching morning cartoons and singing along to toy and cereal commercials. One year old Courtney is sitting next to Kacie, wearing pink stretchy p.j.'s and swiping occasionally at her runny nose. (Kyle and Ray are still asleep in the girls' room. Ray and I never sleep together anymore. Most nights he and Kyle share the girls' bed, and Jamie & Kacie & I are in my room, with one girl in the bed with me and the other one sleeping in the crib.) I've been up since quarter to six, my usual rising time these days, since that's when Stephanie drops off Courtney. Some mornings I try to slip back into bed after Courtney arrives (it all depends on whether she's willing to go to sleep, or if she's ready to "play"). This was a "play" morning, though, so I had to stay up. I managed to catch an early shower, and now I'm sitting here at my kitchen table in jeans (too tight) and a blue plaid blouse and bare feet, with my damp hair (too long) hanging around my shoulders. My nose is raw and sore, and my face feels tight from soap, and I've got an awful cough ... but in spite of these minor discomforts I don't feel half-bad emotionally or physically. I've got a lot of things on my mind - my car, mostly, which may be officially and permanently dead - but I already said I wasn't going to dwell on depressing subjects today, so I'll skip over it. I'm always describing myself as being an "optimistic" person - probably my favorite adjective when describing myself - but you know, I have to wonder sometimes if my "optimism" is really just avoidance in disguise. I worry about things just as much as anyone, but it's rare that I ever worry obsessively about anything ... I always figure that it will all come out in the wash, as Grandma used to say. Is this optimism ... or ignorance? Hmmmm. Whatever it is, it's the thing that's keeping me from sitting here in a total blithering panic over my car this morning ...

    Sometimes I think about the way I felt when I first saw these apartments, and I'm amused at what a stuffed shirt I was. I complained about the tacky "ambience" of the place, and wondered aloud how I could ever feel comfortable and at home in such a place. Honestly! We've been here for nine months now, and I've grown to love my apartment nearly as much as I loved the Kirkland house. Well ... maybe not QUITE as much as the house. An apartment can't match a house for privacy, intimacy, comfort ... there is always this sense of other people living ABOVE me and NEXT to me and ACROSS from me, a sort of shoebox atmosphere that I will never be 100% comfortable with. I can always hear our upstairs neighbors walking around or playing their stereo or whatever, and it's creepy. I'm glad that we don't live in an upstairs apartment because I would hate to think that someone was listening to me walk around all the time. It's bad enough that everyone in the building can hear you flush your toilet or run your garbage disposal. But I'm digressing. While it's true that there are some aspects of apartment living that I've found less than appealing (the 100 mile hike to the dumpster is another), it's just not as bad as I thought it was going to be.

    I love my living room. Besides getting the sofa and loveseat last December, I've also added several other new touches: some huge bookshelves that look great, new framed pictures of the kids, a mirror on the wall next to the front door, mini-blinds on the living room window and a big coffee table I found abandoned in the clubhouse. It all looks really nice and pulled-together. The only sore spot with me, though, is the filthy carpeting. It was fairly clean when we moved in, but time and kids and mud and cats and Kool-Aid have all done their damage. I want to rent a rug shampooer, or maybe even have a professional come in and clean it, but then I know that once I went through all of the fuss and expense, the kids would probably just mess it up again, so why bother. (My other idea would be to cover up the really dirty spots with area rugs.) But except for the rotten rug, this living room looks just as good as - better, even - than anything I've ever lived in before. I wouldn't be ashamed to have anyone see it. The kitchen is OK, I guess, but it's too small. I was spoiled by the huge, multi-cupboarded kitchen in the Kirkland house: this kitchen feels like I'm cooking in a closet. But at least it LOOKS homey enough, with photos and the kids artwork and calendars and stuff all over the walls, and I can usually manage to put together a decent meal there, now that I've gotten the hang of the gas stove. The bathrooms are OK when they're cleaned up, but most of the time they're a soggy mess. And I've given up on the girls' room altogether ... they refuse to pick up their clothes and toys, Ray throws newspapers and dirty socks all over the place when he sleeps in there, and there's the playpen that Courtney naps in sitting squarely in the middle of the room, taking up space. I only go in there when it's a matter of necessity: otherwise I ignore it. My bedroom is still sort of my "sanctuary," although I never get to spend as much time in it as I'd like, and I very RARELY get to sleep by myself anymore ...

    Jamie is going through a nice phase right now: all of a sudden she has become very affectionate,  very sweet & agreeable,  very cooperative. (I just gave her a little piece of coffee cake. She looked at me, smiled brightly and said "THANK you, Mommy!" Then, when she finished eating her cake, she hopped onto my lap spontaneously for several minutes' worth of hugs, kisses and jokes.) This is not to say that she's always sweetness and light - she has her balky, horrid, mean-tempered moments, just as she's always had - but mostly age five seems to be a period of equilibrium for Jamie. She is a joy.

    Kacie has become the family daredevil. Ever see a skinny four year old shinny up a ten foot pole? Kacie can. My heart is in my throat every minute she's on the playground. She's incredibly agile and coordinated, like a little monkey - I've never seen anything to match it. She's also going through a phase of being a compulsive chatterbox. She talkes faster, louder and more continuously (even when she's asleep) than anyone I've ever known.

    Kyle is going through his first really aggressive phase - biting, pulling hair, hitting, pushing Kacie down, etc. etc.



     

    A month later, and I've thrown in the towel.

    Friday 6 a.m.
    July 17, 1987

    Lots of changes, and only a minute or two to record them.

    I've given up on the idea of divorce. Ray and I are going to give the marriage another try. I haven't suddenly fallen back in love with him or anything like that, but he IS employed fulltime again finally (SeaPak) and I have regained a little respect for him. Mostly I'm doing this for the kids - particularly Kyle, who worships his Daddy - and for myself: I want to get off welfare. Ray will be bringing in approximately $960 a month, and I figure that with my babysitting income we ought to be able to squeak by, if we keep our expenses down. THERE WILL BE SOME CHANGES, THOUGH!! I've made a list of them, and Ray has agreed to them. I don't have time to write them all down here, but the principal change is that I'm going to be handling all of the money and the bills from now on. We've also got to either get my car repaired (my brother says it'll cost about $300) or else replace it. I will never go back to the way things were in Kirkland - stuck home alone with no money of my own, no car, no phone, Ray sitting around a tavern all the time, etc.  I've told him that if things begin slipping back into the old patterns, we're finished for good. 

    More on this later.

    The girls and I are leaving this afternoon for a camping trip with Tammy & Terry W. This is Jamie and Kacie's first experience camping, and they're soooo excited!






    Jamie took this picture of me during the Greenwater camping trip
    Summer 1987




     

    Tuesday 4 p.m.
    July 21, 1987

    We had fun on our camping trip. We left early Friday evening for Greenwater (near Enumclaw) and spent two nights, arriving home late Sunday afternoon. Tammy and Terry have a nice big RV with plenty of room for everybody - the girls and I slept in bunks - we camped in the woods, next to a river. Several of the W.'s friends and relatives camped there with us; their friend Ricky was especially nice to Jamie and Kacie, taking them for rides on the four-wheelers and fishing in the river. We roasted marshmallows over the campfire, hunted for pinecones in the woods, picked wildflowers, went for walks beside the river, ate barbecued hamburgers, collected pretty rocks ... it was a lovely, special time of togetherness for my daughters and I, and we loved it. We came home mosqito-bitten, bruised and dirty - but elated.



    Above: Jamie and Kacie fishing with Ricky
    Below: The girls loved our weekend in Greenwater


       


    Some of the elation has worn off, though. I'm vey confused and a little depressed this afternoon. It's a hot, muggy, overcast day ... even my new electric fan and a Sun Country on ice aren't helping much. Ray has gone to work. In a way, I'm reminded ot the time a few years ago, when he worked swingshift at Western Kraft - when was that? 1984? - and I used to love my peaceful, "Ray-free" evenings. I still do. I love it when he's out of my apartment and out of my hair - but then I know that, come midnight, he'll be BACK ... and that is something I simply cannot seem to get excited about, no matter how I try ...

    Now that I've gone and shot my mouth off to the girls and to my friends and to the world about how Ray and I are going to "give things another try," I feel ... well ... STUCK. And I guess that now I'm rethinking the wisdom of the whole business. Another ten or twenty (or more) years of marriage to Ray? God. I'm not sure I can do it, no matter how much things have "changed," or how many promises he makes that things will be "different," because in the end it winds up meaning the same thing: me and Ray. The same old shit. 

    I don't know if I can handle it.

    The problems are the same as always. Sex is one. I'm not sure if it's because I have very little interest in it to begin with, or because I find Ray so unappealing physically, or both, but the fact is that I can't stand sex anymore. (The only times I relent are when I'm either dead drunk or else deathly hungover.) And of course he has begun to nag me about it night and day, ever since I told him I was thinking about quitting welfare and going back to the marriage 100%. It's as though now he thinks he's automatically entitled. So far I've managed to escape it - swingshift, separate bedrooms and Kyle (who insists on sleeping with his Daddy) have been effective deterrents - but the continual stream of lewd remarks, pinches on the ass and whiney complaints are starting to drive me crazy. Another problem that is older than the hills is the absolute lack of common interests between us. The kids, food, what's on TV - that's about it. I can't talk to him about anything I care about: writing, music, books, my creative projects, my plans for the future.  His eyes glaze over the minute I start to talk about any of this stuff. Another problem is money: already I can sense that he isn't taking my new commitment to frugality seriously, and I'm gearing up for the battle I know is coming next week when I attempt to repossess his paycheck. It makes me tired and headachey just thinking about it ...

    Now it's Friday morning, 7 a.m. I've been up for an hour. The kids and Ray are still sound asleep, and the apartment is eerily quiet. Courtney is the only one making any sound at all: her wet diaper rustles noisily as she pads up and down the hallway, pacifier glued to her face as always. I didn't sleep very well. I had Kyle in my bed with me for a change, and he spent most of the night rolling around, flailing little arms and legs, bonking me in the head with his bottle. (He has some new words, incidentally. "Bleah-bleah" means "splash-splash," which in turn means "bath." He throws a couple of Jamie's dolls into an empty laundry basket and says "Ni-night." And he'll kiss me now when asked - IF he's "in the mood," that is.)

    Where was I? Oh yes. Ray and I. I guess what the past couple of pages boil down to is that Ray isn't like other husbands, and that our marriage isn't like most marriages, and that neither of these things is ever likely to change. Which leaves the changing up to ME. This is one of the two reasons why I've decided to stick with the marriage - because this is my chance to do some serious, life-bettering changing. The process has already begun. This past year, I feel like I've come a long way. Finding this apartment, buying the car (which, by the way, is being fixed for free by my brother), handling my own money and keeping the bills paid - even losing weight - have all been inspired changes in my life. And now it's time to move on to the next step. I want to go back to school. I don't know how or when or where or what field to pursue - none of this has been thought out yet - but I want to try. And then I want to get a job, a decent-paying, interesting job that will get me back into the real world and rekindle some of my flagging self confidence. While I'm on welfare I can't manage school, but with Ray and I together, pooling our resources, I think I can. So I'm going to give it a shot. I'll be getting one more welfare check, which I want to bank immediately. Ray will be making roughly $900 a month, and I'll have my little bit of babysitting money. Together I think we can manage, as long as Ray agrees to allow me to handle the finances. It's going to be REALLY tight, but at least we've got a cheap place to live, the kids are still little, we're both bringing in some money and both of our cars are paid for. I'm starting out feeling fairly optimistic, at least where money is concerned. 

    Yesterday I sent away for some information from Highline College, about classes and schedules and such. I sort of think I'd like to take some sort of secretarial training. I always enjoyed working in an office, but it's been seven years since I quit my last office job and my skills are horrendously rusty. (I wouldn't know a word processor from a FOOD processor, frankly.) So anyway, that's (tentatively) the plan. Stay with Ray, go to school, get a job and move on from there.

    That's my self-serving reason for staying with him. (And yes, I have to admit that in the back of my mind is this microscopic, still-cherished secret hope that maybe, out there in the "real world," going to school or whatever, I may still bump into my Mr. Right ... )

    Now here's my altruistic reason for staying: the kids. Yep - that time-worn, classic (possibly cliche) excuse for keeping a crummy marriage intact. We're doing it "for the sake of the children." Jamie and Kacie fervently want Mommy and Daddy to stay together. Kyle passionately adores us both. Being the product of a broken home myself, I can empathize with these feelings. I want my children to have what I missed out on: a whole family. This is my gift to them. In spite of any misgivings or dissatisfaction I may feel about the marriage, it still seems a simple enough thing to do for them. I think I may even be able to keep my misgivings under wraps ... at least, I HOPE I can. (What good would giving the kids a "whole family" be if they can sense Mom's secret unhappiness ... ?)

    But you know, the weird thing is that I'm not wildly unhappy about any of this. I was on Tuesday, a little, when I first started writing this. But I think that was more a passing bad mood than anything else. Something has occurred to me recently. Thirty years (just about) of trying - unsuccessfully - to find my happiness through other people have gotten me nowhere. Maybe now it's time to find that happiness in myself.



     

    Tuesday afternoon
    July 28, 1987

    Another hour and a half of babysitting to go, and I'm wondering if I'll make it ... feeling really tired and weighted down all of a sudden ... a combination of gung-ho dieting (without much in the way of results, I might add), very little sleep last night due to a flea infestation reminiscent of the summer I was pregnant with Jamie, and a long, LONG day with five small children. My energy level has suddenly dropped from minus five to minus FIFTY-five. A little bit sorry for myself, too.



     

    Wednesday 10 a.m.
    August 12, 1987
    Ten Minutes in the Life of My Son

    Diapered, tousle-haired, pot-bellied ... plops his juice ba-ba onto the kitchen table, glares at his sisters who are standing nearby (and ignoring him), and announces imperiously, "MINE." Snatches his bottle back, swaggers out into the living room, glances at TV, comes back to the kitchen table where Kacie is playing with the See 'n Say. Watches her for a moment; accidentally loses his footing, slips, says "Don't!" to no one in particular. Regains his balance. Courtney (age 14 mos.) comes into the kitchen carrying a damp brown washcloth, which Kyle promptly yanks out of her hands. Walks around the living room wiping his face with the washcloth and screeching noisily. Looks at Mom from time to time with an "Ain't I just the dickens?" expression.

    Notices that Courtney has now gotten hold of his ba-ba and is drinking his juice! He walks over and glares at her for a moment, then shakes the washcloth at her menacingly, saying "Guh! Guh!" Still, he doesn't seem to care very much about the ba-ba right now ... he runs over to his broken riding horse, pats Horsey's head affectionately. Courtney follows him. "No no!" he says to her, warningly, and she moves away. "Gung-gung-gung," Kyle sings tenderly: it means "boom boom boom," and refers I think to his broken Horsey.

    ... Hears the opening theme music of his second-favorite TV show, "Wheel of Fortune." With a delighted roar he rushes to the TV, swinging the washcloth and shouting. Stands in front of the TV, clapping his hands and bobbing in time to the music. Then he abruptly waves, says "Bye bye!" to Pat and Vanna and stalks off. Finds his football in the dining room and starts throwing it around, laughing. Gets himself tangled in the dining room draperies, then deliberately hides behind them and shouts something that sounds like "My MY BALL!" Coming out from behind the curtains, he has his football in his mouth and is hitting it with his hands. He puts the ball into a toy wagon. An empty box catches his attention next: he puts the football into that and lugs it around for a while, until the football falls out. Kyle turns the box around in his hands and examines it. Then he notices Courtney, who is playing quietly by the toybox. He crawls over to her, and they promptly begin to tussle over an empty plastic mug. They scream at each other. Kyle grabs the mug, and Courtney bops him over the head with a baby doll. He screeches at her. She reaches over and hits him with her hand. "No NO!" Kyle yells frantically, looking at me to see if I'm paying attention. "No Courtney!" I say sternly. Kyle, buoyed by his Mama's attention, swats Courtney on the rear and says "No no BAD BOY."

    Courtney comes back and begins clobbering Kyle again, only this time he smacks her back. Soon they are both screaming like banshees, but just as I am poised to interfere they break it up on their own. Kyle goes back to playing with the washcloth, and Courtney climbs onto the loveseat and picks up a storybook. Kyle bats at the TV, swings the washcloth around some more (I'm getting really tired of writing about the frigging washcloth). Kyle laughs, says "Bad boy!" to nobody special, swings the washcloth around (sigh), picks up an abandoned Barbie and carries her out of the room, murmuring "Baby, baby, baby." A moment later he is standing next to my chair, hitting me on the leg with the Barbie doll. He pulls at my typewriter cord. "No way!" I tell him. He throws Barbie onto the floor (so there) and picks up my yellow dustpan, a favorite plaything these days. He walks over to where Courtney is sitting, and for a moment I'm afraid he intends to bonk her on the head with the dustpan. Instead, the two of them start tearing little pieces of paper out of the storybook. There is a moment of companionable toddler silence, which, sadly, is too good to last ... the next minute they are fighting over the book. Courtney hits him squarely over the head with it; Kyle, exasperated, yanks the book out of her hands; Courtney bursts into anguished tears. "Come here, Honey," I say to her, and she toddles in a rush to my arms. I hug and kiss her. Kyle is furious!

    How dare Mama show affection to this interloper??

    He runs over, grabs Courtney by the shoulder and shoves her to the floor, where she bursts into a fresh round of tears. Distressed, Kyle looks at me, and then he begins to sob. He didn't mean to get so carried away, I can tell. I decide it's definitely time for a cookie break. Tearfully, Kyle and Courtney each grab a vanilla wafer from my hand and scurry off in opposite directions ... 

     

    Kyle had a love/hate relationship with his little playmate, Courtney
    Winter 1986/1987



     

    Friday morning
    August 14, 1987

    Kacie accidentally shut Kyle's fingers in the bathroom door yesterday - the hinge side of the door - Ray had to rush him over to the Riverton emergency room and have it x-rayed. Kyle lost the nail on the ring finger of his right hand, but fortunately that was the extent of the injury. I was so frightened. (And poor little Kacie was beside herself.) Kyle is so incredibly dear to Ray and I ... seeing him hurt and scared like that was like a knife in the heart. Thank goodness today he's completely back to normal, except that his finger is very tender of course, and he keeps pulling his Band-Aids off.

    It's been raining all week. It gets a little crazy in this apartment with five tots running around.



     

    Thursday morning, 6 a.m.
    September 3, 1987
    (This entry is typewritten and glued to the journal pages)

    Stephanie drops Courtney off at 5:45 each morning. Usually I can manage to coax her right back to sleep, and then I crawl into bed and get three more hours' sleep myself. This morning, though, I didn't feel like going back to bed. I'm in the second day of my period, and I'm feeling achey and restless. Jamie and Kacie are both snuggled warmly under the covers in my bed, Courtney is in the crib. Ray and Kyle are together in the girls' room. Everyone is sleeping soundly but me. I'm sitting out here in the chilly kitchen, perched on my barstool at the kitchen counter. I can hear the neighbors upstairs, creeping around. ("Creep" being the operative word.) Except for their obtrusive presence, I feel totally alone in the world. The apartment complex, usually teeming with noise, is wonderfully, blissfully silent. I just peeked outside, through the patio curtains: everything is gray and still, and huge heavy clouds hang in the sky above the D building to the east. Summer is ending. Yesterday, for the first time in weeks, I actually had to put sweaters on the girls before they went to Sandy's birthday party. Some of the relentless heat of August has dissipated, much to my (annual) relief, and this morning I can almost feel the first twinge of autumn in the air, if I try hard enough ...

    Debating. Should I put on a pot of coffee, turn on the early morning news, and commit to staying up? I could probably type nine or ten pages before anyone else even stirred. It WOULD be nice to have some time to myself. Isn't that what I'm always griping about - never having enough "alone time"? I'm surrounded by kids all day long, and sometimes it feels like they're just going to pick me up and carry me away, like a bunch of ants carting off a picnic watermelon. Most of the time I feel completely overrun by kids and babies. So here I am, with this great opportunity to be by myself for a while and start my day in a wonderfully unpressured way, and what am I thinking about doing ... ? Slipping back into that warm bed, next to my daughters, and just laying there ... not sleeping, maybe, but just laying there ...

    See how I am? I can never make up my mind about anything.

    I have so much to say, and this seems to be the only way to say things anymore - typing, I mean. I'm very pleased to have a typewriter again, especially one this nice and quiet and portable and modern ... but I still feel a certain loss. It used to be so easy to just pick up a pen and scribble anything in my journal that came to mind. It was second nature. Now I practically have to force myself to sign a birthday card. It feels like the days of spontaneous, easy writing are a thing of the past. This just seems little more ... artificial, I suppose ...

    Oh well. If it ain't broke - don't fix it. At least I'm WRITING.

    Still slogging my way through life. One of the drawbacks of being the family financial manager is that I'm now thinking about money every waking hour. I can't seem to stop. I'll be bathing Kyle and thinking "How much in the checking account?" Or I'll be fixing peanut butter sandwiches, and my head will be ticking off numbers and dates - "$11.83 to Puget Power, due on the 10th ... " It's driving me nuts. In a way, I think I was happier - certainly less consumed - when I let Ray "handle" things. They say ignorance is bliss. Then I never knew for sure how much money we had, and I just assumed that it would all be taken care of. Now I not only know how much money we have, I've got it nailed right down to the last PENNY. What's worse, now I have to be the disciplinarian where the money is concerned. At first I thought this was going to be easy ... I figured that I could become a real miser with no sweat ... no frivolous purchases, no impulse buying ... every spare penny, straight into the bank. Tain't so. Much to my amazement (and chagrin), the instant I became the family banker I blew it, right off the bat. I would say that I probably flushed $250 right down the john last month, thanks to stupid, impulsive spending. I'm trying to do better this month. This is the last month (more than likely) that I'll be receiving a welfare check, so there's a little extra in our checking account. I'm going to try like hell to make it STAY there. Our rent is already paid, at least. And Ray is being pretty good about putting three-quarters of his paycheck into the bank every two weeks. He gripes a little, but I think that underneath it all he's relieved to have me take over. The only thing that never seems to go as far as it should are our food dollars. We never seem to have enough food in the place. No one's going hungry, and the kids are eating very well, but it just seems like we're forever running out of something, and that means another trip to the grocery store, and there I am again, feverishly tallying up receipts and bank balances in my head ...

    I suppose someone ought to say, "Welcome to the adult world, Terri!"

    9:30 a.m.

    Well, I did it -- I went back to bed, shortly after seven. Kacie was laying in the middle of my bed, with her eyes half open and her mouth ajar, sound asleep, looking for all the world like Sylvester, the petrified guy at Ye Olde Curiousity Shoppe ...

    We slept for about an hour, until Courtney woke up and started hitting the sides of the crib with her empty bottle. I kept hissing at her to "lay down and be quiet!" so she wouldn't wake the girls, but pretty soon she managed to turn on the raccoon radio that Jamie had left in the crib, so we all got up. Kacie and I pretended that it was Christmas morning, and we came running out to the living room to open our "presents." "Hey, I got a See 'n Say!" she shouted ...

    Kacie had Fruit Islands Cereal for breakfast; Jamie had the last of the Cocoa Puffs. Just as I'd finished dishing up the cereal, I heard noises coming from down the hallway - knocking from the inside of the girls' bedroom door, followed by singing. Jamie and I smiled at each other: Kyle was up! Lately Kyle has become quite the Pavarotti of the diaper set! I don't think I've ever heard a baby sing the way he does. He can actually carry a tune! His repertoire at the moment includes "I'm Lookin' For A New Love" (he sings the "yah, yah, YAH" part) and the lullaby I sing him every night, "Pretty Baby."

    After all the kids had eaten breakfast, I turned on MTV. Right away they played the new Heart song/video that Jamie and I like, "Who Will You Run To." When it was over, Jamie said "Mom, wouldn't it be funny if Heart was going around and knocking on peoples' doors and VISITING them?" I said yeah, that would be quite a surprise alright. "What would you say to them if they knocked on your door?" I asked her, and she said "I'd say, 'What the HECK??' "

    The babies (Kyle and Courtney) are in the hallway now, fighting (as usual) over toys. Courtney has become quite aggressive lately about taking things away from Henry, and despite the fact that he's twice her size - at least in weight! - he still runs to me every time and "complains." He'll give me this stricken look and babble something in Kyle-ese and have me follow him to wherever Courtney is, and then he'll look at me as if to say "Look what SHE did!" She also has started taking his bottle away from him, but he's ten times more possessive of his bottles than he is of his toys, and he won't hesitate to knock her down and yank it out of her hands. (A screaming match immediately ensues. You haven't heard ANYTHING until you've heard two one-year-olds screeching at each other. You need a hearing aid afterwards.)

    Just bits and pieces of our morning ...





     

    Friday morning
    September 11, 1987

    Cloudy, cool morning. The apartment smells of coffee and honey-date muffins; Madonna is singing "Dress You Up" on MTV. Jamie is in the tub, washing her hair for school; Kacie is sitting at the table, gnawing on a muffin and talking to herself about the picture she's drawing. She addresses an occasional comment to me. ("When all your kids are in 'cool, then you say 'I'm all alone,' and Daddy's at work, right Mom?") I hear little hammering noises coming from the girls' bedroom down the hall - I think Henry is awake ...

    I was right. He was twisting the doorknob and laughing, so I opened the door and he came scampering out, like a hamster out of his cage. Now he's seated in his highchair, solemnly working on a bowl of Alpha Bits. (Eating is serious business!) He whacks his spoon against the tray of his highchair ... grabs a handful of Alpha Bits and puts them in his mouth, chewing in slow-motion while gazing absently out the window ...

    I can hear Jamie singing in the tub. Today will be her fourth day of kindergarten, and so far she's washed her hair every morning. Last weekend my new girlfriend Cindy cut Jamie's hair for me - just a bit above her shoulders, with short bangs. After Jamie washes her hair, I dry it and set it with electric rollers. It comes out looking quite cute, sort of a "Dutch bob." Jamie leaves for school every day looking like she just stepped out of a children's clothing catalog. She's been as fastidious about her clothing selections as she's been about her hair. The first day she wore her new school dress, a purple & blue plaid; the second day, new jeans and a clean blouse; yesterday, a turquoise and white pants outfit she "borrowed" from Kacie. And just now she emerged from the bathroom wearing a crisp white blouse, skirt and white knee socks ...

    As I have predicted all summer, Jamie fell in love with school the moment she first stepped into the classroom. After months of fear and uncertainty, she has discovered that kindergarten is everything Mom said it would be - and she is filled with excitement at the discovery. It is ALL she talks about now.

    There are three other little girls from our apartment complex in her class, including her best friend Sandy, and that helps. And I went with her on her first day, which eased some of her anxiety. Her teacher, Mr. Gallagher, is young and enthusiastic and gifted with children, and the classroom is huge and well-equipped and filled with toys and books. Jamie's eyes lit up when she walked through the door. Mr. Gallagher shook her hand and introduced himself and pinned a name tag on her blouse, and then she and Sandy ran around exploring the classroom. I sat on one of those teeny-tiny little chairs in the back of the classroom, trying to be unobtrusive. (Parents were invited to stay for the first hour, but I was one of only about four or five moms who showed up.) There are probably thirty or thirty-five kids in her class altogether, but naturally I only had eyes for Jamie. She was easily the cutest kid in the class. It'll only be a matter of time before her teacher discovers that she's the brightest, too ... !

    (I'm not all biased here, of course.)




    Jamie's first day at kindergarten.
    Orange object at bottom of photo is her beloved Cabbage Patch doll, 'Christabel'  ...
    she's also got her blanky ("Liddle Diddle") stashed in her backpack.
    September 1987

     

    Saturday 10 a.m.
    September 12, 1987

    Another drizzly day. We've all got sloppy head colds. Stephanie is working today (and tomorrow) so I've got Courtney all weekend. My plans for this day include cleaning the girls' room - it's unbelievably filthy - and possibly going to the library this afternoon, after Courtney goes home.

    (Just took a picture of Kyle, sitting on his little yellow car, wearing his sunsuit and hat.)  




    The little yellow car picture
    1987


     

    Friday 11 a.m.
    September 18, 1987

    My life has undergone some major changes in the past week, but I've been too depressed - really depressed, I mean, not just one of my periodic "mood dips" - to write anything. It has felt as though suddenly EVERYTHING has slipped beyond my control. Hi Ray.



     

    October 21, 1987
    Thursday morning

    Over a month later. Waiting for my coffee to brew, watching Jamie eat her oatmeal, waiting for the deluge of children to begin ... Terry will be here in a few minutes, and later I'm watching all of Wacky Wanda's kids while she goes to pay her gas bill ... I hate this pen ...

    I don't babysit for Stephanie anymore. As a matter of fact, she and I aren't even friends anymore - a sad but irrevocable fact. This is what I was so "depressed" about in my last entry. Even now, a month later, I'm still finding it difficult to write about: the pain is still there. So is the anger. After she and I had our disagreement she fired me without any warning ... and without paying me for nearly a hundred dollars' worth of babysitting she still owed me. An entire YEAR of my life, committed to Courtney, and boom, she fires me, just like that. The "disagreement" was over the fact that she dropped by one night, unexpectedly, and caught me drunk and coked-up with Ray.  In retrospect I don't blamer her at all for firing me, but at the time I was very hurt.

    As much as I grieved for the friendship, I was also thrown into a panic about what this would do to our finances. How would we get along without her babysitting money? We're just barely skimming along by the seat of our pants as it is ...

    To make things worse, we suffered two more crushing financial blows, one right after the other: my welfare was cut off two weeks sooner than I'd anticipated - I was counting on receiving one last check, and it hurt us when I didn't - and then someone stole $300 from us, two weeks ago. I know exactly who it was, my new "friend" Cindy and her creepy boyfriend Tony, but I can't prove it ... and I can't get it back. All of this stuff combined has left me ten times more obsessed with finances than I was to begin with!!!

    A couple of weeks after I stopped babysitting for Stephanie, I managed to line up a new job caring for two little boys. Jerome is 4 (Kacie's age) and Andre is a month younger than Kyle. Their mother Erin pays me every other Friday. So far the arrangement has worked out fairly well, and Erin has been paying me more or less on time. She's sick this week, though, so I haven't had the boys for three days.

    Jamie, Kacie and Little Terry are sitting in the living room now, watching "Sesame Street" and bickering occasionally among themselves. Kyle should be waking shortly, and Wacky Wanda is due to drop off her brood any minute. Since Stephanie and I "broke up," it's been kind of slim pickings, friend-wise. There is no one female that I feel particularly close to (except for my sister, maybe, who I've been seeing a lot of lately.) I am purposely maintaining a "mostly business" relationship with both Tammy and Erin, the women for whom I babysit ... I think that a lot of the trouble between Stephanie and I, and the thing that ultimately blew up in my face, was mixing close personal friendship and a business relationship, and I'm not going to make that mistake again. Some of the women around the complex are OK, but there is no one I feel truly "friends" with. I liked Cindy, until she and her evil boyfriend ripped me off. Wanda is alright, but she's so dumb about everything that it gets on my nerves after awhile. I'm no great brain myself, but she makes me look like Albert Einstein ...

    I miss having a good friend to talk to.

    Kyle is up now. He's sitting in his highchair, contemplating a bowl of Ice Cream Cones Cereal and kicking his feet. He woke up in a good mood. ("Dih-dih-dih-dih-DIH!" he croons happily, his mouth full of cereal, milk dribbling down his chin.)

    It's really foggy this morning. Fall is here, and I've hardly noticed it this year. I miss Kirkland. I especially miss Kirkland in October. I wonder if the big tree in front of Mr. Pierce's house has changed color yet? I used to get so much pleasure, this time of year, watching that tree cycle through the seasons. It was huge, broad and leafy, and when the leaves turned gold and red it was a glorious sight to behold. There are no trees here in the apartment complex - no leafy trees, anyway, just a few anemic evergreens here and there. You can't watch an evergreen change color! Maybe that's why I've barely noticed autumn's arrival this year - because the view from my apartment window is so uninspiring - just evergreens, a swimming pool that's been covered for the winter, and more apartments ... nary a leafy tree to be seen ...



     

    Friday 8:40 a.m.
    October 22, 1987

    The next day. Jamie and I just had our first major skirmish of the morning - she threw a tantrum because I gave her Cocoa Puffs when she wanted OATMEAL. Geez. Life is so hard when you're five years old, isn't it???

    Another thickly foggy morning, but the interior of the apartment feels warm and cozy. Jerome and Andre are here today: the girls are sitting at the table, coloring: Kyle is still in bed: Terry isn't here yet. I heave a quiet sigh of relief as I sip my first cup of coffee: it's FRIDAY.



     

    Tuesday late afternoon
    October 27, 1987

    Tired. Sipping a late-in-the-day, last ditch cup of coffee in an effort to revive myself. Nearly 5 p.m., starting to get dark outside. Just threw some potatoes into the oven for the kids' supper later - they'll have them with sliced hotdogs in BBQ sauce (I'm calling them "Hallo-Weenies") and leftover cake from last night. Terry W. just went home for the day ... Jerome and Andre will be here for another hour, probably. The kids are all sitting out in the living room watching Donald Duck cartoons on the Disney channel; I'm "hiding out, here in my kitchen. Kyle hasn't had much of a nap since before lunchtime, and he's crabby as hell. A few minutes ago he deliberately started a fight with Jamie over a bag of pumpkin seeds; when she managed to grab it away from him, he broke into anguished wails. Then he promptly launched a new attack - this time on Kacie, trying to get the nickel she was holding in her hand. When THAT didn't work, he ran and grabbed the broom out of the kitchen, lugged it out to the living room and started swinging it at the other kids ...

    So much of consequence on my mind these days ... and not all of it is purely financial, either ... I'm concerned about a lot of things. I'm worried about living in this apartment for another year - or two. Will we ever be in a house again? I worry about the kids, all the time ... I worry that they'll grow up too quickly, or too haphazardly, or that something will happen to them and they won't grow up at all. I worry about my health (the cyst on my left hand, the pace of my weekends recently) - that I might not even live to see the kids grow up.



     

    Thursday morning
    October 29, 1987

    The usual mid-morning bedlam prevails ...

    I should probably scribble a word or two about things with Ray, just to let you know how the reconcilliation is working out. I realized something the other day. It occurred to me that most of the reason I couldn't stand having Ray around this apartment, a year or so ago, was because he wasn't SUPPOSED to be here. From a legal standpoint, I mean. Technically we were separated, and I was constantly terrified that the welfare people or the apartment manager or someone in my family would see him hanging around here on the weekends and misinterpret, and then my ass would be in a sling. Now a lot of those restrictions have been lifted - I'm officially off welfare, and although Ray still isn't on the lease, the manager knows he's living here. And so does most of my family. And I'm a great deal more relaxed (and tolerant) about him being here, as a result. I'm not looking over my shoulder all the time.

    Our marriage still has more than its share of mediocre moments. But at least it's become a MARRIAGE again, and we can work on the rest.



     

    Friday morning
    November 6, 1987

    A week later. All three of my kids - Kyle included - are sitting at the breakfast table, sucking on warm blueberry muffins and jabbering at each other.



    (Journal ends here  ...  some odds & ends follow)




    Check coupons for:

    • Eggo waffles (99 cents)
    • Suave products (99 cents)
    • Vlasic pickles, 46 oz. jar (99 cents)
    • Velveeta, 1 lb. (2.49)
    • Cheez Whiz, 16 oz. (2.59)
    • Kraft Singles, 8 oz. (1.29)
    • Kraft Mayo (89 cents)
    • Suzi Wan frozen dinners (2/3.00)
    • Mother's Cookies (1.19)
    • Surf detergent (1.99, 42 oz.)



    Terri to Ray:

    "Ray:

    Jamie's two pieces of chicken are already packed in her lunch box, so go ahead and have the drumstick if you want it. Jerome and Andre left at 9:00. They'll be here tomorrow around 10 a.m. (Terry will be here at 9:30). I've got to get Jamie to school by 9:00 for her field trip.

    I taped The Fly. Just rewind the tape all the way to the beginning.

    Bye."



    Ray to Terri:

    "The change is for Jamie to get a pop or whatever. "





    Songs I Liked During This Journal:

    "Heart & Soul" - T'Pau
    "Respect Yourself" - Bruce Willis
    "You Can't Make Love" - Don Henley
    "You Are The Voice" - John Fordham



    next        previous        home        archives        want to throw a rock?    



    © secraterri 1998-2008
    all rights reversed reserved!
    comments/questions/spelling corrections HERE
    ~ nil bastardum carborundum ~