am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an
object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she
hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down
to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, "There she
goes!" Gone where? Gone from my sight ... that is all. She is just as
large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and
just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of
destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just when
someone at my side says, "There she goes!," there are other eyes
watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout,
"Here she comes!"
Henry Van Dyke
Carla DeGrasse Torgrimson St. John
1945 (left) and early 1970's (right)
very, very busy today ... cleaning the girls' bedroom, running endless
laundry, babysitting Danielle, waiting on Jamie, making stew and peach
pie for dinner ... anything and everything to keep my mind occupied, to
keep the juices flowing, to keep from falling apart ...
goin' in FAST MOTION today!" (what an amazingly perceptive
little peanut he is)
of my favorite memories/thoughts of Grandma St. John:
a little kid, when Dickie and I would go to spend the weekend at her
house. She worked for the Highline School District, in the resource
center, and she had access to all the movies that were shown in the
schools ... educational stuff, mostly. Dickie and I would go with her
to the place she worked and she would let us pick out two or three
movies apiece, and then she would set up this big, klunky old movie
projector in her living room and we would watch one movie after
another. This was long before the advent of VCRs and video rentals,
mind you, so this was a really special and unusual treat. One favorite
was a cartoon about a little duck -- I think it was called "Gray Neck"
or something like that -- we picked that one out almost every time. We
also liked "Donald Duck in Mathamagic Land" and Disney nature films,
and once in a while I would pick out some long-winded thing about
Ancient Egypt (one of my childhood passions), which my brother hated
but I loved.
- Easter egg hunts in Grandma's big backyard, every
- TV dinners eaten on trays in Grandma's living room (another big
treat for my brother and me).
- Grandma's delicious fried chicken, unlike
any I've ever had before or since; and her special French dressing, the
kind that took her two or three days to make. She gave me the recipe
once and I was astonished by its complexity; I never was able to
exactly replicate it.
- The summer I was 20, when I lived with Grandma for
three months before striking out on my own. I had just gotten my
driver's license, my first car and my first "real" job, and I thought I
was pretty hot shit. Grandma never said a word about my erratic hours,
my slovenly housekeeping or my unpaid rent. We'd get up in the mornings
to get ready for work at the same time, and she always had the coffee
going, first thing; we'd sit at the kitchen table together for a few
minutes, drinking coffee and listening to radio while I put on my
makeup. At those moments I felt very close to her.
- Christmas Eve. Oh god ... Christmas Eve ... I'd
spent every Christmas Eve of my life at Grandma St. John's house: it
was the highlight of the holiday season. I couldn't imagine
spending it anywhere else.
September 13, 1990
days later. Early in the morning. Waiting for the coffeepot to quit
clucking and gurgling so I can have my first cup of energy ...
Kacie out of bed earlier than usual, 7:30 a.m. She's turned into
something of a "dawdler" this year -- lingering over that bowl of
Frosted Flakes until it's nearly time to leave for school -- then it's
a frantic rush to brush her teeth, comb her hair, find her sweater and
her homework, etc. etc. etc. So this morning we tried a new tactic, and
so far it's working. By 8 a.m. she was dressed, had finished her
breakfast and was allowed to watch cartoons for half an hour until it
was time to leave.
looks cute this morning. She's "borrowed" Jamie's hot pink leggings and
green & pink sweater, and with the new "Ramona" haircut she
looks really adorable.
way, last night was Kacie's church club meeting. Jamie goes with her
sometimes, but she chose to stay home last night because her wrists
were sore and itchy. When Kacie got home at 8:30, she was carrying an
armload of hand-made "Get Well" cards from all the little girls in the
church group! That helped pick up Jamie's flagging spirits, and I was
really proud of Kacie. She's been great the past few days.
Not only has she been good about helping out around the place,
especially with the kitty and the mouse -- those are usually Jamie's
jobs -- but Kacie was the one who sat with me Tuesday evening and cried
over Grandma St. John, while we listened to all our favorite sad songs.
("The Bramble & The Rose," "Everything I Own," "Puff The Magic
Dragon," "Mrs. Steele's Song.")
funeral is tomorrow afternoon at 1:00 in White Center. Ray and I are
taking all three of the kids, even Kyle, and Ray has been asked to be a
pallbearer. My sister is going to sing something at the service, and
I'm going to read "A Parable of Immortality."
obit was in the newspaper yesterday. Here's what it says:
(de Grasse) St. John Was born on November 24, 1913 in Wenatchee,
She grew up in East Wenatchee and spent some time in Yakima during
World War II, moving
to Seattle in 1944. In 1945 she and her husband, Arthur St. John, moved
to the Boulevard Park
area, where she remained until her death. Arthur died in August 1958.
Following his death,
she went to work for the Highline School District in the capacity of
She retired in 1979. In 1981, Carla became an active volunteer in the
development of the
Highline School District Museum at Sunnydale. Recognized as Curator,
she spent countless
hours cataloguing items in the Museum's growing collection of
educational and Highline
area historic memorabilia. She is survived by her daughter, Karen
Beeson, Federal Way;
two sons, Richard St. John, Federal Way and Jerry St. John, Arctic,
grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and two brothers, R.W. (Bill)
and W.R. (Dick)
de Grasse, of Wenatchee. Services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Sept.
14 at Yarington's
Funeral Home Chapel.
gets her cast on this morning at 11 a.m. Ray is going to take her to
the doctor's office so I can stay with Danielle and Joey B., who is
supposed to be here for a couple of hours later today. Jamie's a little
nervous about the whole thing. "Will it hurt?" she asks me, and I
honestly don't know what to tell her. I've never broken a bone in my
life, and -- until now -- never had a kid with a broken anything. So
this is all new to me, folks.
in a terrible, grouchy, stay-outta-my-way-or-ELSE sort of mood tonight.
I think I must be tense about the funeral tomorrow.
got two casts, after all ...
one on each arm!
September 17, 1990
days later. The weekend was long, tough and trying, and I'm glad it's
over. Jamie went back to school this morning, casts and all ... the
whole school is going to the Puyallup Fair today, so the girls were
buzzing with anticipation when they left the house. They deserve a day
of fun and distraction.
sitting here this morning surrounded by piles and piles of Grandma St.
John "memorabilia." My mom and my aunts and uncles went through all of
her things this weekend, after the funeral, and yesterday they sent
over a carload of things for me to have. Frankly, it's hard for me to
see all of her beautiful things here in my house -- I wept last night,
sorting through it all -- but I'm glad I've got something to remember her
by. Part of her collection of "owls" now graces my dining room ... a
bedspread from her guest bedroom is on Kyle's bed ... a lamp from that
same bedroom sits on the dresser beside my bed ... there are Grandma
knick-knacks and wall plaques and assorted odds and ends scattered
throughout the house. (The girls were particularly thrilled with the
enormous jewelry box full of earrings and brooches.)
funeral was simple, warm and loving. Mom read a brief biography of
Grandma's life, I read "A Parable of Immortality," and Jamie recited a
short Langston Hughes poem called "My Friend." Debi sang a song called
"Guardian Angels" (accompanied on tape by her boyfriend Mitch, who was
out of town the day of the service); Grandma's nephew (or cousin?),
Larry Knowles, also said a few words about her. The chapel was packed
with people who knew and loved her. I suppose I shouldn't have been
surprise by the huge turn-out. She was a great lady with a LOT of
friends. There was a brief graveside service at Riverton Cemetary
afterwards. We buried Grandma St. John on a beautiful Indian Summer
afternoon, next to Grandpa Art St. John (who passed away in August
1958). It was the kind of day I know Grandma would have loved ... when
we went back to her house later that afternoon, for the family
get-together, I halfway expected to find her sitting in her lawn chair
with one of her fat paperback novels, sipping her wine and 7-Up ...
September 18, 1990
morning. The girls just left for school, tummies full of oatmeal. I had
another restless night, so the fog this morning is internal, as well as
seems to be managing fairly well in spite of the two klunky casts on
her arms. The one on her left arm extends past her elbow; the other is
smaller and lighter. Both casts are covered with autographs from
friends and relatives, and I suspect that beneath the occasional
grumble and complaint about how "uncomfortable" she is, Jamie is
secretly proud of these badges of honor ... they certainly merit her
tons of attention from everyone who sees her. Total strangers stop her
in the store and exclaim "My GOODNESS, what happened to YOU?!?" She
just eats it up. Anyhow, the casts are on until the latter part of next
month. I've been washing her hair for her in the kitchen sink, but
tonight she needs a "real" bath so we'll have to figure out some way to
keep the casts from getting wet. Should be lotsa fun.
had fun at the Puyallup Fair yesterday, in spite of the fact that no
rides were allowed ("That roller coaster looked SO COOL," Jamie said
wistfully). They saw animals and exhibits and played games and bought
small souvenirs for themselves; Kacie bought herself a little stuffed
animal and two plastic coin purses, Jamie bought a crown made out of
cellophane ribbons. They also brought home a huge lollipop for Kyle and
two pretty postcards for me. Such sweet and thoughtful little girls.
(taking a huge swig of his pop): "BEEEE-freshing!"
September 19, 1990
battle with Jamie a few minutes ago: I asked her to wear a jacket for
the chilly morning walk to school, and she balked, flounced, pouted,
whined, announced that she was going to take it off the moment she was
out of my sight ("Then Kacie will tell me about it when you get home
this afternoon," I said) ... finally she declared that she wasn't going
to GO to school AT ALL ... good grief! Ultimately she stalked out the
door with Kacie, with the offending jacket sort of dangling from her
shoulders, unzipped. I suppose this is merely a taste of things to
come. I may have won the battle this morning, but something tells me
the war has just begun ...
and I never seem to argue like this. As a matter of fact we never
argue, period. At least, not the way Jamie and I do. With Kacie, it's
mostly me getting annoyed at her occasionally when she does something
without thinking, or when she doesn't pay attention. Reprimands or
criticisms hurt her deeply, but instead of snapping back or slamming
doors (like Jamie) or throwing a temper tantrum (like Kyle), Kacie
merely bows her head and weeps. It is absolutely devastating. I mean
it: nothing that any of the kids do or say is more wrenching ...
not Jamie's mean-spirited criticisms, or Kyle's hateful
outbursts, or even one of them saying "I hate you, Mom," in a moment of
anger ... nothing can twist my guts out the way
Kacie's broken-hearted tears can. She reminds me of the little violet
who leaves its scent on the heel of the one who crushed it. No matter
how hard I am on her, how unfair, how hurtful, she never turns it back
on me. Sometimes I wish that she would, if only to prevent her from
bottling things up inside herself. But that's just the thing, you see
... there honestly doesn't seem to be anything in her TO bottle up. She
harbors no poisons, no murderous thoughts. Her pain is excised in those
silent little tears, and the soul inside her is left as clean and as
sweet and forgiving as the day she was born ...
you know, this is actually one of the things I love best about my
children: the incredible diversity in their temperaments,
personalities, thinking processes, feelings ... I really wouldn't have
it any other way. I adore Jamie's feisty spirit, Kyle's rough and
tumble enthusiasm, Kacie's sweet and forgiving nature. I love how
different they are from each other. Who wants cookie-cutter kids,
morning 8:30 a.m.
September 21, 1990
a real tough time waking up this morning. The insomnia that has plagued
me for the past few weeks shows no sign of abating. Ray bought me some
over the counter sleeping pills yesterday, and just before bedtime I
washed one down with a tiny wine chaser. I also practiced some
deep-breathing techniques I'd gotten from a magazine ("Going
to/sleep/completely/relaxed/the whole/ night/through"), hoping that I
would fall asleep quickly and sleep straight through the night, without
interruption. I did fall asleep quickly: unfortunately it didn't last,
because at 2 a.m. I awoke from HORRIBLE nightmares. (Kacie and I were
in a car, going over a cliff. As we were plunging downward, I grabbed
her hand to show her how much I love her. "Am I in trouble?" she asked,
sadly.) The dreams were so wrenching that I had to get out of bed and
go sit with Ray in the living room for a while, to calm down. He'd just
gotten off swingshift and was drinking a beer and watching TV. We
talked for a few minutes, and when the nightmare finally seemed to have
receeded a bit, I went back to bed. He came in a short time later,
layed down next to me and promptly began snoring like a buzzsaw, so I
had to move out to the living room sofa. I slept OK for a couple more
hours -- no nightmares this time, but plenty of goofy dreams, just the
same -- and woke up at 7 a.m. when Tigger started biting my feet.
now I still feel like I could go back to bed and sleep another four or
five hours. I can't, though. Kyle is out of bed, for one thing, and I
can't leave him unsupervised in the mornings, the way I could when the
girls were his age ... there is too much mischief he could cook up.
Also, I begin babysitting in about an hour: I seem to have fallen back
into sitting for Janet again. I'm not sure how it happened, but as long
as she's going to pay me, I guess it's fine. Joey was here for a while
on Wednesday, all three of Janet's kids were here yesterday, and today
I'm scheduled to have all three of them again. (Janet is dropping Joey
off around 9:30.)
Ray and I are supposed to drive to the Midway Salvation Army later this
morning -- I guess we'll be taking Kyle and Joey with us -- to look for
used Brownie uniforms for the girls, and maybe a used electric
typewriter for me.
September 24, 1990
Army was a real stinkeroo (in more ways than one) ... no Brownie
uniforms, no typewriters, and the place smelled AWFUL ... oh well ...
it's back to business as usual on a cool and cloudy Monday morning. The
cool weather comes as a relief: on Saturday, would you believe it hit
92°??! Ray worked nearly all weekend (both Friday and Saturday
nights), so it was mostly just the kids and me, hanging around the
house. On Sunday we had to drive out to Bellevue for one last visit
with Grandma Bev and Aunt Dorene before they go home to Tucson. They
made Ray's favorite chicken and noodles for dinner. I was in a lousy
mood but tried not to show it. Don Jr. has a new girlfriend, and
her incessant perkiness got on my nerves ... I actually found myself
missing Judy! ...
a little better than usual last night. Took a Unisom about 9 p.m., and
it didn't give me nightmares this time. Ray slept with Kyle for some
reason, so I had the bed all to myself. Woke up this morning feeling
better-rested than I have in weeks.
kids and I shared a sweet moment on Saturday night. It had finally
cooled off some, and the stars were out. Jamie came running into the
house all excited because she thought she'd spotted a constellation in
the sky, so we all went trooping out into the front yard in our p.j.s,
to do a little "star-gazing." The sky was clear and magnificent. Kyle
had his little toy radio with him, and he wound it up and it began
playing "When You Wish Upon A Star." Unexpectedly
appropriate! I said to the kids, "I wonder if Grandma St.
John can see us?", and we all looked up at the sky and blew her kisses.
It was a lovely moment.
is actually never very far from my thoughts these days. Having so many
of her things around the house helps: I'm reminded of her every time I
walk into a room and see something that used to belong to her, hanging
from my wall or adorning a shelf. I miss her very much.
little case of the "screaming green envies" this evening ... that
niggling feeling that everyone in the world has their life on track but
started this evening while reading the newspaper. There on the front
page of the "Northwest" section is this enormous photo and article
about a girl who graduated from the same high school class I did. She
was always one of those mega-achiever types, the brain with the quirky
personality who everybody liked, so it's no big surprise to read that she's
this big success now. "Graduated from UCLA with a master's degree in
public health" ... shit. Now she's involved in some program that reads
newspapers and magazines over a local radio station for the blind. The
photo shows her reading into a microphone, a big smile on her face ...
Janet dropped by to show me her new car. Apparently she decided on the
spur of the moment to simply run out and buy one. It's not "new"-new,
it's a 1979 Honday Something-Or-Other, but it's still really nice. And
it beats hell out of what I'M driving, which is nothing.
so depressed after all of this that I've completely blown my diet
tonight. I ate English muffins with butter and jam, a cold taco and
four cookies, simply because it offered me momentary comfort. I am not
pleased with myself -- or with my life -- at the moment. Do you realize
that I can't even send a $10 check to my Stephen King Book Club without
asking Ray to write it for me? Or that I don't have one single solitary
piece of valid I.D., except for an expired library card? It's almost as
though I don't actually exist in the "real" world. I am a non-entity.
Sometimes I look into the mirror and halfway expect to find no one
September 26, 1990
this funny thing about dates ... I look at the calendar in the morning,
or I write the day's date in my journal, and I can recall odd little
things about that particular date that I have no business remembering.
Today, for example, is September 26th, and the first thing I thought of
when I wrote it down was "This is Dave Mercer's
birthday." Dave Mercer ... good grief
... he was my summer camp boyfriend for ten days in 1973. Why in the world would I
remember a thing like that?!? I can recall the birthdate of a boy I
knew for two weeks, nearly seventeen years ago, but it's a struggle for
me to remember Jamie and Kacie's classroom numbers this year ...
still a little down about the condition of my life, but my period hit
this morning so I'm discounting some of it as being hormonal. I'm a few
days late, too, and that always seems to make things worse: the blues
are bluer, the cramps are crampier. It'll all be over in a couple of
days, and then maybe I'll feel more like myself. Fall is fast
approaching, and I'm determined to enjoy it this year. Last
year at this time we were caught up in the process of moving from the
apartment to the house, and I was so tense and anxious about everything
that I never really got a chance to sit back and savor my first autumn
here. I felt somehow "cheated" because of it. This year I
plan to make amends. Fall is MY season: the time I feel the best, get
the most done, feel the most 'alive.' This fall I plan to watch fat
tomatoes ripen in my windowsill, and bake muffins, and organize my
kitchen cupboards. I want to read to Kyle, and go for walks, and watch
the leaves turn gold and red, and curl up in front of the woodstove in
the evenings with a good book.
September 29, 1990
and unsettling dream last night that actually had me in tears this
and I were on a camping trip with a large group of people we didn't
know. One evening during the trip, I met a young man with
whom I seemed to have an instant rapport: he was sensitive and kind and
intelligent, and we had many interests in common. There was a strong
physical attraction between us, as well. We went outside to
look at the moon together, and he took me in his arms and kissed me,
very sweetly. That's as far as it went, though: we both knew
that as long as I was married, it could never go any farther.
We both felt a terrible sadness because of this.
then I saw Ray coming to look for me. The man and I
reluctantly parted. As I went back to the tent, I heard the man
whisper, "I'll be coming back for you someday."
made up my mind to be straight with Ray and tell
him I'd met someone, and that I wanted
a divorce. He refused to believe I was
serious. I told him that the man would
be coming back for me soon, but Ray kept telling me that I was
silly, that I was just imagining things, that there was
no man. I grew increasingly frustrated and
unhappy. After a while the man began sending messages and expensive
gifts to the house, but Ray didn't seem to see them. "Don't
you see ANYTHING different?" I cried in frustration, but he dismissed
it all as being my 'imagination.' The one time he seemed to
actually acknowledge that the mystery man might exist, it was simply to
sneer, "What's so great about this guy, anyway?"
asked to read my journals," I replied. And I began to cry.
day finally arrived when my new love was due to come and take me away.
I packed some bags and tearfully told Ray goodbye. Kyle was going to
stay with his dad, and I was going to take the girls with me. All that
day I waited and waited, but the man never showed up. Ray was
triumphant and smug -- "I told you he
wasn't real," he said -- and I was heartbroken.
Finally, I turned on the evening news and learned that my love had been
killed in a car accident on his way to me.
out of the bathroom, after my shower, and find Ray digging through my
box of cassette tapes. He likes to listen to music while he's painting
at Grandma's, and I usually help him pick something out, since I know
where everything is and he doesn't. This time, however, he is
digging through the collection without me ... throwing tapes all over
the place, messing everything up. A little warning bell goes off in my
help you find something?" I ask.
he says curtly. He's got my new Stevie Nicks in one hand, and my heart
sinks: today is the day I was planning to put together a Stevie Nicks
"compilation," and I'm going to need this particular tape.
won't like that one," I tell him.
not?" he snaps in exasperation.
I tell him that there aren't any
songs on it that he would recognize. I'm trying really hard not to
sound like a proprietary four year old, but he continues to hang onto
the tape until finally I have to say, "I was planning to use that tape
this afternoon." I know how I sound: like a little girl unwilling to
loan out her favorite Barbie doll when she's got thirty-five others
just like it. But it's the truth ... I really WAS planning to work on
my Stevie Nicks mix tape today. And I'm annoyed, because I
consider the tape chest to be "mine," and he's getting into it without
checking with me. He throws the Stevie Nicks tape down in disgust, and
I walk away and stand in the kitchen for a couple of minutes, listening
to the sound of tapes and cassette holders being thrown around, trying
to get a grip on my feelings. Why should such a trivial thing cause me
to feel so ... violated?
minutes later he comes into the kitchen carrying a handful of tapes.
"Can I see which ones you're taking?" I ask, and although he is clearly
still annoyed, I shuffle through them anyway (Tom Petty, Bad Company,
The Guess Who) and smile brightly. "Good choices!" I say, all false
good cheer. And then, although I know he will simply cut me off in
mid-sentence -- as he always does whenever I try to explain something
-- I say, "I really was planning to use the Stevie ... "
cuts me off with an abrupt "Yeah, yeah, OK." And that's the end of
that's not the "end of that." When he's leaving a
few minutes later, I cannot resist taking one last stab at explaining
my feelings, pointless though it may be. "I didn't mean to sound like a
baby," I say apologetically. "It's just that I don't like anyone going
through my tape box." Perhaps this simply hasn't occurred to him: maybe
if I bring my feelings to his attention, he'll understand. Maybe he'll
be more considerate next time, once he realizes how much it bugs me.
Maybe all that's needed here is a little honest communication, a little
insight into the way I feel ... ?
tape box," he grunts, and he walks out the door.
ridiculous of me, I know, to be making such a big deal out of a few
lousy cassette tapes. The rational part of me is embarrassed, just
writing about it. (Next I suppose I'll be installing a padlock on the
tape box ... ) But there is another, less rational part of me that
desperately needs to feel in control of everything that goes on in this
house, even dumb, petty things like who gets into the tapes (MY tapes!!
Goddammit, they are MY TAPES!!). There is precious little
in this world that I CAN control, too many
things in my life that I have no say over, so I grab onto the minutiae
and play Big Fish in my Little Pond. Ray must feel the same way because
he consistently squashes my pathetic attempts to be in control. I'm not
sure, but I think this is partly what the dream was about.
morning 7:30 a.m.
September 30, 1990
know why I feel compelled to be out of bed so early on a Sunday morning
... but I am. Crazy, isn't it? I slept on the couch for most of the
night (Ray was snoring), and the kitten running relay races back and
forth across the living room woke me early. He reminds me of the kitten
in the old Kitten Chow commercials, the one who zooms all over the
house with motor engine noises in the background. Anyway. I couldn't
sleep ... too much on my mind, a slight toothache from where a big
chunk of my molar fell out last night ... so I decided, the heck with
it ... I might as well get up. Ray and the kids are still
sleeping and the newspaper isn't here yet, so I've been quietly making
breakfast for everybody. I've been dieting all week -- fairly
successfully, too, with only a minor lapse here and there -- but I
enjoy cooking for the rest of the family, so I thought I'd surprise
them with a nice Sunday breakfast. The potatoes are done, and the
sausages are in the oven: next I'll scramble some eggs and make
pancakes for the kids.
realize until late this afternoon that today is our one-year
"anniversary" here in the house! This has been the nicest Sunday I've
had in weeks, too. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.
October 1, 1990
God, I love October! Lovely, beautiful, wonderful October. I can't
believe it's finally here. I woke up this morning and it was actually
raining! Not a lot of rain ... just one of those early-morning
drizzles. The kind of day that makes me want to run laundry and cook a
big pot of soup and listen to soft music on KEZX ...
was a nice weekend, in spite of that silly tape business with Ray on
Saturday morning. Janet and the kids and I went running around Burien on
Saturday afternoon. Our original plan was to visit the arts &
crafts store that Janet goes to -- I'm thinking about getting started
on Christmas gifts -- but the shop was closed, so we ended up going
instead to the used-records store in Boulevard Park that I love so
much. I haven't been there in months, so I was glad to discover it was
still in business. We spent a solid hour sorting through bins and bins
of old albums. Janet shares my enthusiasm for "old" music -- we're the
same age, so the music I grew up with is the music she grew up with --
and it was fun digging through albums together. Our tastes are slightly
different, though. She goes for the Olivia Newton John/Helen Reddy/Cher
kind of stuff, whereas I'm more straight rock and roll. I wound up
buying 15 albums and three 45's. Among my favorite finds: "Band on the
Run," "Days of Future Passed," "Goodnight Vienna," "Damn The
Torpedoes," a couple of Elton Johns ("Empty Sky" and "Captain
Fantastic") ... even a couple of goofy old Partridge Family albums,
just for fun. When we were in the car I looked through the records I'd
bought and realized that I had almost $70 worth -- and the man who runs
the store let me have the entire stack for twenty bucks! I was
went to Janet's house afterwards and visited for about an hour. Her
house is a glorious hodge-podge of arts & crafts, antiques,
collectibles, framed photos, plants, knick-knacks ... it puts my house
to shame. I was slightly depressed when I got home and saw my own
crummy furniture and pitiful attempts at "decorating," but I'm more
determined than ever now to really fix this place up this winter. I
started yesterday by going to Value Village with the kids and picking
up a few things ... some really lovely framed artwork for the dining
room, some baskets to hang in the hallway, a couple of ceramic owls to
add to my new collection. It's not much, but it's a start. If I use my
babysitting money and do a little bit at a time, maybe I can really
make the place look pretty.
October 2, 1990
this the next day. Just got home from an exhilerating early morning
walk in the great autumn air ... today is Picture Day at the school,
and I took Kyle over there to get his picture taken. It felt wonderful
to be outdoors so early in the morning! Kyle was so cute: he
wore his new turtleneck shirt, the one with the gray and blue stripes,
and the bolo tie Grandma Vert gave him; Ray took him to get his hair
cut yesterday, so he looked neat and pretty. He looked right into the
camera and smiled his cutest smile. I can't wait to see how the
pictures turn out.
Andrea's friends is looking looking for a sitter for her one year old
son, Joey. This afternoon she's going to come to the house so we can
meet each other and decide whether or not we want to commit to a
permanent arragements. I'd like to make a good first impression on her,
so I'll spend the day cleaning the house.
is a tiny burn hole on this page, right next to the words "cleaning the
The kids' 1990-1991 school pics
L-to-R: Kyle (kindergarten, age 4); Kacie (2nd grade, age 7); Jamie (3rd grade, age 8)
October 4, 1990
meeting with Andrea's friend Maria went fairly well on Tuesday. I'll
begin babysitting for her tomorrow morning. Her son Joey (who will
herafter be referred to as "Little Joey," so as not to confuse him with
Joey B.) is cute as a button: a husky, red-haired twelve month old
who is just learning to walk. During the half hour he was here, he
managed to investigate every single inch of my house: I can tell I'm
going to have my hands full! Hope I'm up to the challenge.
Andrea has warned me already that Maria is a very nervous,
over-protective first-time mom. I could pick up on some of that during
our interview. This is the kind of mom I have problems with
(remember Stephanie?), so I'm going to have to be really conscientious.
Maybe after a few days, Little Joey will get used to the place and I'll
be able to win her trust, and then we can all relax a little.
the kids to Bow Lake's Open House on Tuesday night -- that was fun.
Talked to a lot of people I know (Lori was there with Tracy and
Jeannetta; also Janet and her kids; talked to our landlords, Jamie
& Kacie's Brownie leader, the girls' teachers, etc.) and it
felt good to be out of the house for the evening.
else? Oh yes, the girls start their dance classes next Wednesday, and
they're very excited. Jamie is taking tap, and Kacie is taking ballet.
The woman who runs the dance school, Mrs. Walden, is an old friend of
my mom's. She sounds really nice on the phone. ("Karen isn't OLD enough
to have granddaughters in my class!" she said.)
morning 9 a.m.
October 5, 1990
... been up since 5:45 this morning, and my butt is dragging along on
the floor behind me ... my first morning with Little Joey. Describing
him as a "handful" may be the major understatement of the century.
to skip a couple of pages because of the way the ink from my blue Flair
pen was soaking through the pages.)
still the first day with little Joey, and it's been a nightmare. He's a
cute baby, an adorable baby, but he's been going full-steam since 6
a.m. and I'm feeling ragged.
-- and actually this is the bigger problem -- his mom is
impossible!!! She came by on her lunch hour and completely
took over: fed him lunch, changed his diaper, put his shoes on (I
had him in stocking feet: not good enough, I guess), and then of course
when she left to go back to work, he came completely unglued. He cried
for 45 minutes. She called me as soon as she got back to work and he
was wailing in the background. I suggested as tactfully as I could that
perhaps her visit was too "disruptive," and she agreed with me, but I
heard terrible anxiety in her voice. "Call me when he falls asleep,"
she said. OK. I finally managed to get him to fall asleep on my bed, so
I called her back. When I mentioned that he was sleeping on my bed,
instead of in the playpen she brought, she said "Oh -- did you lay down
with him?" Is she SERIOUS??
October 8, 1990
days later ... a sunny but COLD autumn afternoon. No Little Joey today,
thank god. I've had a few days to put the whole thing into perspective,
and I've "decided" to stick with babysitting for Maria for at least
another week: if she loosens up and lets me take care of her baby
without driving us both crazy, fine ... otherwise, I'll have to call it
quits. And I'll tell her why, too. A babysitting
arrangement implies trust, both in my abilities as a caregiver and in
Joey's ability to survive separation from his mother for a few hours. I
won't babysit for someone who won't trust me.
little change in our lives, over this past weekend: we are now, at long
last, a "microwave family." Ray went out on Friday and bought us a
Sharp Carousel II at Fred Meyer for $185. (He paid for it with some of
the money he earned for painting Grandma's house.) It's a really nice
microwave: it sits on the counter right next to the coffeemaker, where
it fits perfectly. This is one of those "toys" that Ray has wanted for
a long time, but now that it's here I love it as much as he does. We've
had fun the past few days, trying to get the hang of it: we've 'zapped'
everything from hot dogs to doughnuts to frozen TV dinners. I
especially like it for reheating my lukewarm cups of coffee. Just put
the coffee mug into the microwave and zap it for thirty seconds.
October 9, 1990
now Little Joey is here again -- he got here at his usual 6 a.m. -- and
although Maria hasn't called to check on him yet, HER mother
has! She called at 8 a.m., asking if Joey was giving me "any
trouble," had he eaten his breakfast, was he being a good boy ... ?
This apparently is the "Grandma" who has been Little Joey's only
babysitter until now. It sounds as though she and Maria are definitely
cut from the same cloth. Joey must be the entire universe in this
he's been pretty good so far this morning -- rambunctious and noisy,
but good. He got a little too close to the woodstove at one point. Ray
built a fire last night, so it's still a little warm this morning. I
said to him, gently but firmly, that it was "hot, no-no!" and he
promptly burst into tears! Obviously "no" is not a word he hears very
often. He also cries if I raise my voice to one of the other kids or at
of the kitty ... where is he?? I let him out this morning at 7:30 and
now he's nowhere in sight. Getting worried. If Little Joey is the
center of his family's universe, then Tigger is the center of ours ...
at least, in the kids' minds. If anything has happened to the kitty, I
will have three very distraught children on my hands.
October 10, 1990
three very distraught children on my hands. Tigger didn't come home at all.
By mid-afternoon, the kids and I were out in the pouring rain, combing
the neighborhood. The girls knocked on doors and put "Have You Seen My
Kitty?" notices around the street, but to no avail: Kitty was nowhere
to be found. It began storming heavily after dinner, and the four of us
sat gloomily in front of the fire, watching out the window as the rain
fell relentlessly. It was a somber evening.
the kids were a lot more calm and philosophical about the situation
than I'd expected them to be ... worried, and sad, but calm. "He's
probably stuck in Mark's garage," they decided. Mark is our neighbor
across the street, and he's gone most of the time -- he didn't come
home at all last night, as a matter of fact -- and I said yes, maybe
that's what happened. But the truth is that I feel in my heart that
Tigger is gone. I don't think we'll see him again. I hope and pray that
some kind person has taken him in and fallen in love with him and
adopted him as their own. This is the only real hope I cling to right
now. I hate to think he might have been caught in last night's storm,
cold and wet and hungry ... I won't LET myself think that, because it
hurts too much. I realize now that I'd grown very fond of little
Tigger, and I'm going to miss him.
October 13, 1990
been four days since Tigger ran off. The kids seem to have reached a
place of sad acceptance. Tangible reminders of him remain -- the new
blue litter box we bought the day before he disappeared, the half-empty
box of Kitten Chow under the kitchen sink, some of his little cat toys
-- and it does hurt to see them. Every once in a while, Jamie sinks
into a wordless depression again, and I know where her thoughts have
gone. Tigger was her special baby. She used to sit for hours and just
pick at his fur, grooming him the way a mama cat grooms her kitten; he
would nestle into her arms and purr in pleasure. His disappearance has
been hardest on her, and it hurts me to see her pain. I wish there were
something I could do to help her, but I know that only time (and
another kitty, eventually) will heal Jay's broken heart.
Jamie and Tigger
Saturday morning now. It has stormed on and off all week, but today has
dawned clear, sunny and cold: the air has that wonderful, clean quality
that follows a night of rain. The girls slept on the living room floor
in sleeping bags in front of the woodstove; now they are sitting in
front of the TV watching a New Kids on the Block cartoon, munching
cinnamon rolls fresh from the microwave. (Kyle has joined them now.)
Ray had to work today but he should be home this afternoon. I have no
real plans for the day, other than cleaning the bathrooms and
organizing my desk. Except for the sadness I feel about Tigger, my
spirits are high this morning: I think this might be a better than
average day. Let's see if it is.
October 15, 1990
yes, Saturday WAS a better than average day ... the whole weekend was
fairly nice, as a matter of fact, until I was hit with a rotten cold
last night ... now it's Monday morning and I feel like shit. Most of it
is physical, some of it is emotional. All of this crap with Maria the
past week or so, for one thing. You'll never believe what happened. On
Friday afternoon when she came to pick up Little Joey, she was all
sweetness and light: she even brought me a bouquet of flowers,
saying it was to make up for everything I had to put up with all week.
I was really touched by that. I thought, Gee, maybe I've misjudged
this lady, and it made me feel good to think that perhaps our
babysitting arrangement might work out, after all. I really am a good
babysitter, and I knocked myself out for Maria and her baby. So what
does she do? She calls on Sunday evening and announces that she doesn't
want to use me as a sitter anymore!! She gave no real reason, either
... just something vague about deciding to keep Little Joey with her
mom. I was hurt and angry, and very coldly told her that was "fine" and
hung up. My cold had hit by that point, and I was feeling lousy --
otherwise I probably would have been more polite -- but it really
steams me that she would just drop me, like so much old newspaper. It
hurt my feelings. I suppose it's ridiculous for me to feel this way,
particularly since it was such an uneasy arrangement to begin with, but
I'm still bothered. It's like being fired from a job you didn't even
like in the first place: you're relieved to be out of it, but you wish
that YOU'D been the one to make the decision to quit. Now I wish I
would have told her, after that first awful day, that I didn't think it
would work out. I think I knew it from the first moment I met her. That
poor little boy of hers is going to have a tough row to hoe in years to
come. But I guess that's not my problem anymore, is it?
was great about it. I was laying in bed crying after her snotty phone
call, and he came into the room and said, "Hey -- don't worry about it.
You're a damn good babysitter, and if she doesn't realize it, that's
her tough luck." That made me feel a lot better. Every once in a while,
when it really counts, Ray surprises me with his empathy.
October 16, 1990
morning. The girls just left for school without saying goodbye -- I'm
afraid I was witchy to them before they left, but I'm still feeling
rotten and I couldn't seem to help myself. I took one look at their
bedroom, which they and the Bontempo girls DEMOLISHED last night, and
something in me just snapped. Now I wish I'd have at least hugged them
goodbye before they left this morning, but it's too late now ...
whole babysitting mess has got me so down. I just want to quit. First
there was all this stuff with Maria over the weekend, which still hurts
in spite of my best efforts not to let it get to me ... then Janet pulled
a lousy one on me yesterday. I wasn't scheduled to babysit for anybody
yesterday, and that was fine with me: I thought I could use the day
to read quietly and get over this head cold. So when Janet called at
8:30 yesterday morning and asked if I could watch Joey for "a couple of
hours," at first I said no. I told her that I just wasn't feeling up to
it. She persisted, though, sounding really desperate ... plus it was
her birthday, and I can never refuse someone a favor on their birthday
... so finally I said OK, a couple of hours would be fine.
Joey off at 10 a.m. "I told Jessie and Tia to come to your house after
school," she said off-handedly. "Just in case I'm running late."
warning bells started going off in my head. But I took her at her word
when she promised to pick them all up right after school, even though
the original "couple of hours" already seemed to be stretching into
more like five or six. So guess what? It was NINE O'CLOCK before she finally showed up
to get her kids. ELEVEN GODDAMNED HOURS. I was so mad, I could barely
think straight. She walked through the door and immediately started
jibber-jabbering about how empty the pet shop looks, how her back hurts
from all the packing, etc. etc. etc. etc. I just sat there on the couch
and didn't say a word. Finally she seemed to notice how quiet I was.
"You're mad," she said flatly. Not a question, but an acknowledgement.
And that's when I let her have it ...
with both barrels. I told her that I was finished babysitting for her
-- that her thoughtlessness and unpredictability were too much for me
to handle. She started to explain why she'd been so late picking up her
kids, but I cut her off with "Then you should have CALLED." I told her
that it's hard enough watching other peoples' children without having
to constantly wonder where their parents are, and whether or not
they'll show up when they say they will. I said that I was tired of
being taken advantage of. "You knew I wasn't feeling well today!," I
said. She just sat there looking stricken and apologetic. She paid
me $24 (ten short of what she owed me), mumbled an apology,
packed up her kids and left.
kids had been sitting there listening to this whole scene: I'm sure
they were astonished by my outburst. After Janet left, we went into my
room to watch TV for a while before bed, and I took a moment to explain
to them that Mom has a right to express her frustration and anger once
in a while ... that it was actually better to vent these feelings than
to keep them bottled up inside. They seemed to understand, and that was
pretty much that.
mixed feelings about the whole thing this morning. On the one hand, my
world is not so heavily populated with friends that I can afford to
toss one off like this. Part of me feels I should call Janet and
apologize today. She can be exasperating sometimes, but she can also
(when the spirit moves her) be fun, warm and generous. I realize that
although I may not be able to babysit for her, I do want to be friends
with her. My kids adore her kids, and I do want to encourage that,
especially between Kyle and Joey.
On the other hand, it FELT SO GOOD to
say what I felt last night! I don't get a chance to do that very often.
Usually I just walk around feeling trampled and angry when someone
walks on me, the way Janet and Maria have the past few days. I really
do need to begin speaking up for myself more, and maybe last night was
a step in the right direction.
don't know. Babysitting has just become such a drag all of a sudden.
The impossibly unpredictable hours, the lousy pay, the added stress ...
the way I'm constantly taken advantage of ... I'm just not sure it's
worth it anymore. When it's going well -- when I have a good
combination of kids, when I'm paid enough and the hours are manageable
-- then it's a great way of contributing a little to the family income.
But this fall it's just been one thing after another. It's not just
Janet and Maria, either. It's everything. I'm sick of worrying about it
all the time. As a matter of fact, I'm sick of WRITING about it. So I'm
going to quit for now.
and I went to Burien this morning and bought the girls their shoes for
dance class: a pair of soft white ballerina slippers for Kacie, some
shiny black patent-leather tap shoes for Jamie. Ray wasn't thrilled by
how much they cost, but I know two little girls who WILL be thrilled
when they get home from school this afternoon! Maybe they'll even
forgive me for being such an old witch this morning ...
October 19, 1990
days later. My cold hung on stubbornly all week, making me feel more
tired and cranky than is usual even for ME ... I've accomplished very
little this week.
major new development to report: we have a kitty again! No, Tigger
didn't miraculously reappear on our doorstep ... although I find myself
still listening for his plaintive "meow" in the mornings ... this new
kitty was a gift (peace offering?) from Janet on Wednesday. The kitty
is an 11 week old female we've named "Sabrina," "Brina" for short.
She's a pretty tortoise-shell brown, very feminine, very quiet and
even-tempered. You hardly know she's here: she's spent most of her time
the past two days sleeping behind the washer and dryer. So actually
none of us have gotten to know her very well yet. Jamie managed to coax
Brina onto her lap last night, and they sat there and watched TV while
Jamie picked at her fur, the way she used to do with Tigger. But aside
from that, the kitty remains hidden most of the time. She's definitely
not the social animal Tigger was. I suppose it's not really fair to
compare the two, but given the circumstances it's unavoidable. I can
tell that Jamie's heart isn't in it 100%: she still misses Tigger, and
Sabrina hasn't earned a real spot in Jamie's heart yet. Maybe she will,
in time. I must confess that Jamie is the only reason I decided to go
ahead and take this kitten in the first place. She has a need to
nurture. All three of my kids love animals, and they are all gentle and
kind toward the family pets, but Jamie is the one who seems to have it
deep down in her soul. I'm not trying to replace Tigger, exactly: I
just think that Jamie needs a kitty, probably more than anyone I've
October 21, 1990
Sunday morning ... feeling so good, I just had to write about it ...
Rain. Cold outside. Inside, a fire in the woodstove and hot coffee in
the kitchen. Sweatshirt and sweatpants, the Sunday paper, cinnamon
rolls, Anita Baker on the radio. Kacie is at Sunday School, Ray is
working; he'll be home this afternoon. Kyle has his cartoons out in the
living room, Jamie and I are in the laundry room together ... me with
my journal, Jamie with her scrapbook. The
house is gloriously messy: as soon as I finish with my coffee and my
journal-writing and hop into the shower, I'm going to put things back
I am deliberately not going to allow the worries to intrude
my point of view altered a bit last night. Janet came by to pick up
Jessica (who spent the night with us on Friday night), and she was on
the verge of tears: she and her husband were in the midst of a terrible
fight. I just sat and listened while she poured her heart out to me.
There wasn't much I could say. Mostly I just felt amazed that this
woman I've felt such envy towards is, in reality, having it just as
rough as I am, sometimes. I'm not kidding: on the outside, it looks to
me like she has it all. Looks, personality, a beautiful house, lots of
outside interests, a new car, a gorgeous husband, a great family. There
have been times when I've been so jealous of her I could hardly stand
it. Remember the night she stopped here to show off her new car? Or the
afternoon I saw her house for the first time, and I came home and said
that it "put my house to shame"? In comparison, my own life seemed
shabby, dull, makeshift ...
... now I don't know WHAT to think.
my marriage, for one thing. I've been thinking about that a lot lately.
Ray and I have been together for ten years now: nearly a third of my
entire life. In those ten years, two basic truths have unfolded in my
heart: the first, which I only admit to myself, is that I did not marry
for love. I wasn't in love with Ray when I married him. I'm not in love
with him now. Over the years I have come to love him, in my own way.
What we have is steady, comfortable, familiar: a real "low-maintenance"
marriage, as I've come to think of it. I don't know if he's ever truly
been "in love" with me, either, and frankly that has never worried me
very much, one way or the other. There are times when this makes me
feel very sad: I wonder what it would have been like to marry someone I
was passionately in love with, and who felt the same way about me. I
wonder what I've missed.
this is where the second truth comes in ... and that is, it's probably
better this way. I am probably happier in a marriage that doesn't
require constant effort to to keep it going ... a marriage that is like
a stew, simmering in a crockpot for hours: you don't need to constantly
keep lifting the lid and stirring the contents, because it doesn't need
it. In fact, too much stirring and fussing and hovering is
counter-productive. Janet's marriage, on the other hand -- and forgive
me for continuing this atrocious cooking metaphor -- is like a
stir-fry. If you stop tending it for so much as a minute, it turns into
a charred, blackened mess. I don't think I could stand that. All that
effort, all those volatile emotions, the uncertainty, the pain ... I'm
just not sure it would be worth it. I've been in a couple of those
high-maintenance "stir-fry" relationships before, and all I know is
that I spent just as much time (if not more) feeling miserable as I did
feeling happy. The highs were exquisite, but the lows were damn near
suicidal. It isn't worth it.
October 29, 1990
week later! Time has managed to slip away from me again.
Hardly a new phenomenon, but still, I'm always a little surprised when
it happens ... seems like just a minute or two ago that i was writihng
all that stuff about my marriage, and in reality it's been EIGHT DAYS.
think I'll abandon the subject of marriage for the time being, anyway.
Lots of strange and interesting things have happened in the past week.
Nothing of world-shaking importance, but certainly important in
got the second cast taken off, a week ago today. So nice to see those
beautiful little arms again! Already she's talking about the handstands
she's doing in P.E., and I cringe at the very thought ...
an unusual experience on Saturday evening ... a gigantic windstorm
knocked our power out for nearly two hours! Ray and the kids were at
the video store and I was home alone when it happened. Funnily enough,
just minutes before the electricity went out, I was seized with a
sudden urge to light candles all over the house! (An amazing display of
prescience on my part!) We spent the two hours of darkness reading and
drawing by candlelight, listening to Janet Jackson on the battery-powered tape player,
talking, watching the rest of the neighborhood for "signs of light,"
and thoroughly enjoying the novelty and fun of the experience.
October 30, 1990
this the next day. I just haven't felt much like writing lately. The
money worries have been creeping back, my period is a week late, and
things have been a little tense. Ray and I are picking at each other,
and the kids have been on the receiving end of my bad mood for days
now. I hate it when things are like this, but I don't seem to be able
to "fix" anything ...
back to the bits and pieces of news:
has managed to integrate herself into our hearts finally. It's been
almost two weeks since we got her, but it feels like much longer. She
has finally come out from behind the washer & dryer, and now
has full run of the house. She is friendly, cute, high-spirited and
affectionate, a perfect "family cat." Kyle loves her absolutely to
distraction! During the day, while the girls are at school,
he follows Brina all over the place ... she allows him to pick her up
and hug her and drag her around with very little complaint. And of
course as far as Jamie is concerned, Brina is HER kitty -- period. She
still misses her Tigger, and I guess she probably always will, but
Sabrina is finding her own place in Jamie's affections.
Jamie and "Brina"
is ready for Hallowe'en tomorrow. Paper pumpkins, witches and black
cats adorn the windows ... fake spider webs are draped from furniture
... two big jack o'lanterns sit waiting on the living room floor.
Jamie's gypsy costume and Kacie's witch ensemble are nearly ready: they
need only a bit more fine-tuning, and then they're set. We'll assemble
Kyle's Ninja Turtle costume today.
is going to be CRAZY. I'm exhausted already, just contemplating it:
I've got to go to Kacie's classroom for a couple of hours in the
morning, to help with reading ... come home for lunch, help Kyle get
into his Turtle stuff ... Kyle and I go to Jamie's class party,
1:00-2:30 ... early dinner ... the girls go to dance class (5:00-6:00)
... my mother is stopping by to drop off treats for the kids ... and
then two or three hours' worth of trudging around in the rain,
I'm going to collapse and not do a damned thing for the rest of the
The girls with Grandma Beeson (left); me with Kyle, before trick-or-treating (right)
November 9, 1990
I hit the nail right on the head with that last one ... I didn't
do anything for the rest of the week. As a matter of fact, I didn't do
anything for about five days after Hallowe'en was over!
Tromping around on Hallowe'en night in the pouring rain for three
hours, soaking wet, was bad enough ... but the next day I paid for it
with bruised muscles and an awful case of the flu that laid me up for
the entire weekend. And of course my PERIOD started over the weekend,
too. I was a mess!! I could hardly get out of bed until
Monday, and even then it was real slow-going for another couple of
days. I feel as though I've been away for a week or so ... as though I
am just today rejoining the world.
Welcome back, Terri?
a bit of a Hallowe'en tale to share, before I move on to other things.
After the girls got home from their dance class Hallowe'en night, we
put on our coats and grabbed the trick-or-treat bags and the
flashlight, and we set off on our adventure. It was raining moderately
heavily, but we were bundled up fairly well (and it wasn't all that
cold) so I figured we would be OK. I sort of had it in mind to
trick-or-treat our way up the street, down 42nd Avenue past the school,
and up to Andrea's house on 44th so we could say "hi" to little
Danielle, then double-back home. Under normal circumstances, this
probably would have worked out just fine. Unfortunately, just as we
reached 42nd and began knocking on doors, the sky literally opened up
on us. I am not kidding: it was raining so hard, we could barely see
three feet in front of us. In an instant the kids and I were drenched
and miserable. I watched poor little Kyle trying to make his way through
the rain, dragging his nearly-empty trick-or-treat bag along behind
him, and I knew we couldn't go on. I was just about to tell the kids
that I was sorry, we'd have to cut our trick-or-treating short and go
home ... when a miracle occurred! We turned around, and standing right
behind us was our old friends from Shannon South, Maryann Snyder and her
son Christopher! I've never been so happy to see anyone in my whole
life!! Maryann whisked us away to her car, which was parked at the
school, and took us all over to her new apartment at the Pine Ridge
Apartments. We took a few minutes to dry off and meet Maryann's new
husband, Tom, and then for the next two hours we trick-or-treated in
the relative warmth and comfort of the Pine Ridge complex (and, later,
at Shannon South, where we caught up with Lori and her girls).
time Maryann drove us home, sometime around 9 p.m., all three of the
kids had enormous, bulging sacks of goodies, and were exhausted but
happy. Maryann literally saved Hallowe'en 1990 for us, and I will be
Hallowe'en candy, incredibly, is already gone!
The little monkeys must've sat in their bedrooms and gorged whenever
they thought I wasn't looking ... probably while I was sick in bed with
car konked out on us last week. The brakes have been bad for a long
time -- so bad that I haven't been able to drive it all -- but this
latest problem has nothing to do with the brakes, it's more of an
electrical problem Ray thinks. He stopped at a 7-11 on his way home
from work one night last week, and when he got back in the car, it
simply refused to start. The car stayed at 7-11 for two days, until Ray
finally got it running long enough to get it home.
November 13, 1990
is Conference Day at the school ... I'm supposed to meet with the
girls' teachers this afternoon to discuss their progress. Pouring down
rain again this morning, and the car still isn't running, so it looks
like I'm going to be trudging to Bow Lake in a downpour. I'm still
fighting a lingering cough from last week's flu ... hope the crud
doesn't come back if I get cold and wet today. I've already been sick
twice this fall, and I don't feel like doing it again.
Jamie's hair last night -- a good seven inches' worth, all the way
around, and trimmed her bangs as well. This was per her request, I
might add: "I want my hair to look like Paula Abdul's," she said. As a
matter of fact it looks very nice -- very neat and pretty. Now both of
my girls are back to having short hair. Well ... shoulder-length,
anyway. And they both look very pretty. Trouble is, they know
it. Especially Jamie. Clothes, accessories, hair ... all that stuff is
so important to her. I don't recall being so obessed by those things
when I was in third grade. Was I? I remember that Grandma had rigid
control over everything I wore ... lots of dresses, neat little jumpers
and blouses, matching knee socks, stuff like that. And in third grade I
had to wear my hair in two braids, every single day. I had no say in
the matter whatsoever. Is that why I let my daughters choose their own
clothes and fix their own hair in the morning? To make up for the lack
of freedom I felt at their age? I suppose it is. I just don't remember
having such sophisticated tastes in third grade. Jamie and Kacie just
seem so much older, so much more sophisticated than I was at their age.
Jamie pranced off to school this morning in a hip-hugging black
mini-skirt with matching leather belt, a black and white striped
pullover, black tights and white boots. She also set her hair last
night before bed, so her newly short hair was very curly this morning
... she looked like she'd just stepped out of a catalog. If I had
appeared at the breakfast table in such a get-up at age 8-1/2, Grandma
would have locked me in the closet and thrown away the key!!! Well ...
not really. But I never, never, never would have been allowed to go to
school looking as stylish as Jamie does today. I guess that Grandma
just wanted me to look like a little girl as long as possible, and the
more I think about it, the more I remember how much I hated it. And now
that I'm a mother, I'm giving my girls the freedom I always craved but
never had. Who's to say which is the right way?
won't let them wear ANYTHING they want ... I mean, I do draw the line
occasionally. No big sloppy T-shirts or short-shorts or outrageous
color combinations. They won't be wearing makeup any time soon, either.
But other than that, I do allow them to make their own choices as much
as possible. I guess I just wish that it wasn't all so darned IMPORTANT
to Jamie: that she were just as concerned with third grade stuff,
Brownies and Barbies and best friends, things like that, instead of
constantly worrying about how she looks and the clothes she wears. But
maybe that's just Jamie. Maybe she's simply genetically predisposed to
love clothes, the way other little girls love horses or Barbies or
whatever. The fact that it's never been all that important to me
doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with it, as long as it doesn't
become an obsession to the exclusion of everything else. If I'm going
to give them freedom to choose their own clothes, I suppose I shouldn't
be dismayed when they actually put some thought into it.
Primping for school in the morning
notice how I contradict myself all the time? One minute I'm bragging
about how much "freedom" I'm giving my kids, the next minute I'm crying
into my coffee about how they're growing up too fast because of all the
freedom they get ... ? Are all parents this conflicted??? I wish there were
report cards for parenting -- that someone could evaluate me and say
"You get an 'A' for this, but this area could use some improvement" -- because I can't seem to trust my own judgement about this stuff. Am I
good mom? Or am I completely screwing up and I don't even know it ... ??
November 17, 1990
conferences on Tuesday went pretty well. Even if Jamie does
spend a lot of time thinking about clothes and stuff, she's still
managing to do very well in school this year. So I guess I really can't
complain. Mrs. DeGarmo said that Jay is "progressing well in
all subject areas ... she is a polite and helpful girl who (is) putting
forth her best effort in all areas." Her reading teacher
likewise says that she is "putting forth a lot of effort and
making a lot of progress." Her grades for the first grading
period were all A's and B's. I'm pleased but not terribly surprised ...
schoolwork has always come easily for her.
is having more of a struggle this year. There are some subjects she
excels in -- math, for one, and art and creative writing. Her teacher
says that Kacie is "particularly strong" in those areas. Her weaker
subjects are reading, spelling and handwriting. These things don't come
as easily for her, and she gets discouraged and upset when the progress
is slow. In fact, I think this is a much bigger problem than the grades
themselves. I'm infinitely more concerned with Kacie's self-image than
I am with a letter grade on a piece of paper. Her teacher put it this
way, and I agree: "Kacie needs to work harder at accepting
her weaknesses without being discouraged by them." I know
for a fact that Kacie believes she's "stupid." I've heard her berate
herself; I've seen her weep over spelling homework that has her
confounded. Having Jamie as an older sister doesn't help the problem
much, either. Although I make a concerted effort not to put one sister
up against the other, gradewise, it is unavoidable that Kacie looks at
Jamie's grades and compares herself unfavorably. Never mind the fact
that there are areas (in school, in life) where Kacie clearly excels
over her sister ... all Kacie can see are the report cards. To her, the
report card is all there is, and if Jamie has seven A's to Kacie's two
or three, well, that must mean that Kacie is stupid, slow, unworthy.
WHY? Why does she feel this way?? Where does her low self-esteem come
from? Is it something I've done (or haven't done)?? Is it Ray's
inattentiveness? Is it the fact that she's the middle child, stuck
forever between the accomplished first-born and the pampered
don't know. This is another of those parental areas where I feel
conflicted and bewildered. I just want to grab Kacie in my arms and
shout "KACIE! You are a wonderful, delightful, gifted, LOVELY little
girl, and everybody loves you to pieces!!" ... and have her really
truly believe it,
deep down inside, once and for all ...
The one. The only. The original.
November 26, 1990
ten days later, and Thanksgiving 1990 has come and gone.
year, for a change, we managed to escape having dinner in Bellevue with
the in-laws: we'd gone there for three Thanksgivings in a row, and this
year I felt I had to put my foot down. Grandma St. John's death this
fall made it important for us to spend Thanksgiving with my side of the
family, for a change, and that's just what we ended up doing. Dinner
was at my Uncle Jerry's house in Cosmopolis, near Aberdeen -- everyone
refers to it as "the farm" -- Mom rented a van for the day, and we all
rode down together. (A two hour drive, each way.) The kids had a ball
playing with my cousins Kelli (13) and Ben (10), riding Kelli's horse,
helping Aunt Jody bake bread, running around the big yard, playing in
the barn, watching Ben feed the chickens ... etc. etc. etc. ... a real
"day on the farm" for my little suburbanites!
Thanksgiving at "The Farm"
Above: Jamie helps Aunt Jody with dinner (left); Kacie and Kyle riding cousin Kelli's horse (right)
Below: My mother, cousin Ben St. John, me, Jamie, Kyle at the dinner table (left); Jamie with her mom and dad (right)
sat in the living room drinking beer and watching football all
afternoon, but no one seemed to mind but me. I was really wishing that
he would forego the Rainier, just for one day -- particularly since
nobody else was drinking, including me -- but I
guess it was simply a waste of a wish. At any rate, it was one of few
flaws in an otherwise very nice day.
Grandma's absence keenly, and I know the rest of the family did too,
although -- oddly -- very little mention was made of her. Halfway
through dinner I had to fight back the urge to raise my can of pop and
offer a toast to her memory, but everyone was so busy eating and
chatting that I was afraid of dampening the mood. She was very much on
my mind, though, and I feel that wherever she was that afternoon, she
was watching all of us together and smiling ...
A pensive Thanksgiving moment
has been home for the last four days; today, thankfully, he goes back
to work. It hasn't been completely awful ... there have been occasional
fun moments ... but for the most part I like Ray a whole lot more when
I don't have to SEE so darned much of him.
Saturday we took the kids (in the pouring rain) to the nearby Pizza Hut
for dinner and to see Santa Claus. That was fun. I always love it when
the five of us go out to eat; it makes us seem like such a nice,
"normal" family. And having Santa there made it really special. Kacie
and Kyle marched right over to him and immediately began peppering him
with questions. How old are you? Do you know our mom and
dad? How many reindeer do you have? Jamie, who is facing her
first Santa-less Christmas, sat in her chair with her legs neatly
crossed, smiling indulgently at her little brother and sister.
Occasionally she would turn around to give me a conspiratorial smile
Monday morning now, and I should mention at this point that we have
houseguests for the next few days ... Jerome and André are here until
Wednesday. Jae and Erin had to go to Eastern Washington for a funeral,
so the boys are staying with us. Erin dropped them off yesterday
afternoon, and she'll pick them up sometime on Wednesday. Kyle is very
excited about having his buddies here to play with, and I can certainly
use the extra money, so I guess I can overlook the added noise and mess
and aggravation for the next few days.
heart really goes out to Erin and the boys, anyway. This is going to be
a tough and lonely Christmas for the three of them: Jae, who is in the
National Guard, has been called up for military duty in the Persian
Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield. He leaves on November 30th and
he'll be gone for six months.
haven't written much about the situation in the Middle East since it
first began last summer, but it is still at the very forefront of the
world's consciousness, of course. There is still the very real
possibility of war breaking out, and now that we actually know somebody
who is going to be in the middle of the conflict, I guess you could say
that it's been at the forefront of this family's
"consciousness" as well. It becomes so much more personal when you have
a friend or loved one involved, doesn't it? I can only imagine how Erin
must be feeing. Her baby is due in the spring, and Jae won't even be
here for the birth. How do you deal with something like that??
don't know. I'm having enough trouble dealing with my own little
problems. And they probably do seem "little," at least compared to
Erin's. But they're my problems, and I'm the one who has to stay awake
nights wrestling with them, so to me they're as enormous and
insurmountable as Mt. Everest.
worried sick about Christmas, for one thing. This is an annual worry,
one that hits at just about this same time every year, and although it
always seems to resolve itself eventually, it can totally anihilate any
"Christmas spirit" I may have otherwise felt. It's the kids: it's
worrying about presents for the kids that does it, wanting to make
their Christmas perfect, wanting them to be happy. Christmas never
terrified me this way before I had kids.
worried about myself, too, although admitting such a thing feels almost
November 29, 1990
and André went home yesterday morning. All things considered, their
three day "visit" went OK ... Kyle had a ball playing with his friends,
I earned a little extra Christmas money, and we were able to do
something significantly helpful for people we care about ... it worked
out well for everybody. Erin underpaid me by a mile, of course, but
given the circumstances (Jay leaving for Saudi Arabia this week) I
elected not to say anything.
got a shitload of expenses coming up in the next few days, nearly all
of it related to Jamie & Kacie (Girl Scout calendars; Brownie
dues; "Santa's Secret Shop" at school; Jay's birthday), and I've been
sitting here this morning trying to figure out how to swing all of it.
I can probably manage it if Ray keeps his nose out of my business and
his hands off my money ...
been at odds a lot lately, and money is a major source of friction.
Here is one example: the money Erin paid me for watching Jerome and
André. She gave me $55 the day she dropped them off, on Sunday. Ray was
in a magnanimous mood that day ... "Whatever Erin pays you," he said,
"you keep. It's yours." Meaning, he wouldn't be after me all week to
fork over five dollars here, twenty dollars there. Great. I tucked my
money away in my purse and felt really good about it ... for about a day
and a half. On Tuesday, it started: "You got five bucks I can use for
gas?" I can't say I was overly surprised, but I just grit my teeth and
gave it to him. The next day he was leaving to pick up a few things we
needed for dinner, and here it came again: "Got any funds?"
This time I was really, really annoyed, and I let him know it, but I
still ended up giving him a twenty and not getting any change back. (He
said "I'll write you a check for your Book Club in exchange, OK?" --
which of course he hasn't done so far.) So now I'm down to thirty bucks
out of the original $55 Erin gave me, and nothing to show for it except
the usual resentment towards Ray, simmering on my emotional back burner
... plus a hundred dollars' worth of upcoming expenses within the next
few days ...
is all very picayune, I realize -- particularly in the face of the
world's real problems -- but I feel a little better, just getting it
off my chest. It's not giving the money to Ray that bothers me so much,
as his assumption that he's automatically
entitled to it. I'm also getting very tired of the way he
mocks and belittles any attempt on my part to save money or budget or
plan ahead for anything, although this will probably continue for as
long as I'm home with the kids and he's bringing home the big
I NEED SOME NEW BABYSITTING CLIENTS!!!
November 30, 1990
actually in a good mood when I got out of bed this morning ... got up
early, made a decent breakfast for the kids, joked around with the
girls before they left for school ... and then everything all just sort
of went to hell on me. I still can't figure it out. What happened?!?!?
of all, I got this bright idea to trim my hair a little. It's at that
long, scraggly, shapeless stage that I detest, and I thought maybe I
could cut off a couple of inches and make it look a little neater. So I
stood in front of the mirror and started whacking away at it. Big
mistake. About halfway through the left side, I suddenly realized that
I was doing a lousy job, and I quit in mid-hack. For the rest of the
day I've been walking around with mutilated hair ... shoulder-length on
one side, mid-chest on the other. I look grotesque. Janet is going to
come over later and attempt to "fix" it for me, but I doubt that
anything will help.
got a totally bizarre phone call from my step-mom this morning.
Sounding (at 10 a.m.) as though she'd been up the entire night
drinking, she proceeded to tell me that she and Dad are angry with me
because they've spent a lot of money on us, the past few Christmases,
and we haven't reciprocated in kind!! I was so completely taken aback
by this, I could hardly speak. I'm still in shock. What the hell kind
of thing is THAT for a grown woman to say?? I don't care how drunk she
was: it was still a tacky, mean thing to do! It's true that they've
given us some very nice, very expensive gifts over the past couple of
years. Frankly, I was shocked by how much they gave us last year -- my
Polaroid camera, Kyle's electric train set, etc. etc. -- shocked and
embarrassed, because we'd only been able to afford token gifts for
them. But overall I felt grateful for what I perceived to be their
generosity of spirit. And now I find out that Valerie has been putting
dollar amounts on love.
am so incredibly hurt. All these years I've thought that the homemade
gifts, the hand-drawn cards, the framed photos of the kids -- while
certainly not as grand as cameras and train sets -- nonetheless
expressed our love for them. I thought they understood that Ray and I
can barely afford gifts for own kids, let alone the thirty or so other
people who expect something from us every Christmas. Whatever happened
to "It's the thought that counts" ... ? Now all I can do is sit here
and cry and wonder if the whole family feels this way about us. I might
have expected something like this from Ray's side of the family, but I
guess the fact that this comes from Valerie -- someone I've always
considered a friend and ally -- makes it hurt so much more. I never,
ever in a million years would have expected this from her. Does Dad
feel the same way?
believe it or not ... it gets worse. I was so shocked, humiliated and
angry that I actually hung up on her! She tried calling back a few
minutes later, but I was in tears so Ray took the call and politely but
firmly told her that I wouldn't talk to her. I unplugged the phone for
about an hour after that, so I don't know if she tried calling again.
December 3, 1990
what a decent weekend can do to restore my spirits ...
Janet was able to "fix" my mutilated hair, after all. She and the kids
came over Friday evening, and she trimmed my hair all the way around
and managed to make it look fairly presentable. It's short, but I like
mess with my step-mom has been more or less resolved ... I think. My
heart was heavy for much of the weekend, remembering her outrageously
hurtful phone call, but Dad called me Saturday night to talk about
Christmas gifts for the kids and he never even mentioned a word about
Valerie. Finally, I hesitantly explained the situation to him. He
couldn't have been nicer or more sympathetic.
December 5, 1990
this a couple of days later: I also wanted to mention that I finally
got a call on my babysitting ad this past weekend! A woman named Susan
R. is looking for daycare for her four year old son, Travis. She sounds
really nice on the phone, and I've got a good, positive feeling that
this may work out well. She's coming by this afternoon with her son, to
meet me and look around the house.
December 7, 1990
going to be horrendously busy the next few days, so i thought I'd write
a quick word this morning before pandemonium sets in.
Susan and her son on Wednesday afternoon, and yesterday was Travis'
first day here. Unfortunately, it was also his last
day here. Susan says she "doesn't think she can afford" me! She was
really nice about it, and very sorry, but she says my $2.00/hr. rates
are too steep for her. Naturally I'm disappointed. I had high hopes
about this. But I guess it's for the best. I didn't really like the
idea of getting up at 3:30 a.m. every morning (or babysitting on
Saturdays, which his mom said was likely). AND he's another one of
those slow, helpless kids that drive me nuts ... still wearing a diaper
at age four, incapable of putting on his own shoes or finding the
bathroom without a map. (Having a quick, intelligent son like Kyle has
"spoiled" me, I guess.) Anyway, Travis is here again today, and
possibly two days next week, and then that will probably be the end of
it unless Susan and I work something out. Ray says I should offer to
knock my rates down to $15 a day for her, and when she comes to pick
him up I suppose I'll suggest it to her. If she accepts, fine --
otherwise I'm not going to let babysitting worries spoil my weekend.
Susan dropped Travis off this morning at 3:30 a.m. and I managed to
coax him back to sleep, I found myself too keyed-up to sleep for a
while. So I wound up sitting at the kitchen table rolling 35 popcorn
balls for Jamie's class. Jamie's birthday is in two days, and since it
falls on a weekend this year, she wanted to bring a birthday treat for
the class today. We decided on popcorn balls, since they're quick,
cheap and easy ... or so we thought. Unfortunately, the popcorn popper
chose 9 p.m. last night to overheat and quit working completely!! And
this was after we'd already started melting the butter and the
marshmallows, so we were stuck. Jamie said That's OK, Mom, forget about
it. I promised her that I'd have Ray pick up some cookies or something
at a store and drop them off at her classroom today, and she said that
would be fine. But I still felt really bad about letting her down. I
went to bed and tried to sleep, but I was so bothered by the unfinished
popcorn balls that I couldn't fall asleep. Finally I decided to give
the popcorn popper one more shot. Sure enough, the minute I plugged it
in -- presto! -- it was working fine! Jamie was in the shower, and by
the time she was done I had two big bowls of popcorn ready to go. We
mixed it together with the marshmallow goop, and then she insisted on
taking over to I went back to bed. An hour later when I came out to
check on her, she was only two-thirds of the way through and her little
head was drooping. So I sent her off to bed and told her she could get
up early and finish it in the morning. But then I ended up finishing
them for her in the middle of the night. When she got out of bed this
morning and saw all the popcorn balls rolled and wrapped and ready to
go, she looked at me and said "THANK you," so gratefully, that it made
all the mess and trouble more than worthwhile. Mom to the rescue.
she and some of her friends from school (Jessie, Tia, Christina, Marie
and Emily) are going to the movies for her birthday: we're taking them
to see "Home Alone," which I believe is the #1 movie in the country at
the moment. It's going to cost us an arm and a leg to pay for all the
girls, but I suppose it's just about what we'd be paying for a regular
birthday party. Besides -- she's worth it.
OK ... it looks like I'll be babysitting for Susan after all, for $1.50
an hour ... at least for a while. I need the job too much to complain
about the slave wage.
December 12, 1990
days later, and now Jamie's birthday has come and gone. I've been sick
since Sunday with my fourth major cold of the season, and I haven't
felt much like writing until now. Every time I start to feel the
teensiest bit healthy, another "bug" gets hold of me and I'm sick all
over again. I seem to have no immunity at all this winter.
birthday weekend was nice. The movie on Saturday went a lot better than
I'd expected ... no waiting in long lines, no problem finding decent
seats, and -- best of all -- the girls were remarkably well behaved.
The movie was really cute, too. Afterwards we all came back to our
house for cake and presents. As usual, there were problems with the
gifts we gave her: the Paula Abdul dance video we bought her was
defective and had to be replaced, for one thing. Also, Ray bought her a
nice little mouse cage and a new mouse, but when we put her "old" mouse
into the cage with the new mouse, they went at each other like
prizefighters, much to Jamie's horror. So poor old M.C. Mouse is back
in the garage, in the crummy old aquarium/cage, while the new mouse --
Seymour -- lives the life of rodent luxury here in the house, in the
spiffy new cage ...
Jamie's 9th Birthday
L-to-R: Finding her new mouse 'hidden' in the dryer; the birthday party attendees; with Kyle and Kacie, admiring "Seymour"
Aside from the usual glitches, Jamie got a lot of nice presents (pretty
sweaters from both of her grandmothers!) and plenty of attention from
everybody. All of her grandparents showed up on Sunday afternoon,
including Dad and Valerie (!) for a slice of the good birthday cake
Jamie baked herself.
Jamie baking her own birthday cake
having trouble getting into the spirit of the holidays again this year
... I don't know why. Well, no, that's not true: I DO know why. it's
the same thing it always is -- worrying about money. But it's also
being sick for a month and a half, and having no energy, and the house
being a mess all the time, and the car not working again, and Ray being
such a bear all the time ...
does this thing that infuriates me beyond belief: one minute he'll say
that we're going to have "plenty of money" for the kids' Christmas
presents, and then ten minutes later he says he doesn't know how we'll
be able to afford anything. Or he'll reverse it. Today, for example, I
said "You can shop for Kyle and I'll shop for the girls." He just
shrugged and said, "We're not gonna have any money
for shopping." I got visibly upset, so he immediately backtracked and
said, "Oh, we'll have money." I don't know if he's purposely trying to
keep me in the dark about our finances, or if he's trying to sabotage
my efforts at planning ahead -- something he loves to do -- but it's
driving me crazy.
this year it's something more ... my lack of Christmas spirit, that is.
It isn't just the money worries: I just plain do not feel "Christmasey"
this year. I can't get any of the usual holiday stuff done. The front
window is still absolutely bare, for instance: ordinarily by this point
in the season I've got it covered with paper snowflakes or kid's
artwork, but so far this year all I've been able to manage are some
candles on the windowsill. I mailed out FIVE Christmas cards this year:
that's down from thirty-five last year. Baking Christmas cookies?
Forget it. Am I done with my shopping? Don't make me laugh ... I
haven't even started. The Christmas tapes are laying on top of the
(broken) stereo is a neglected heap: this year I haven't felt much like
listening to them. I feel trapped in inertia. A little voice inside of
me is screaming "Snap out of this!! You're going to spoil Christmas for
your children if you don't stop acting like such a Grinch!!" ... but it
all seems so hopeless.
December 14, 1990
then there was more bad news, first thing this
morning: our car, which has been in and out of the shop all month, is
deeply shot and won't be ready until Monday at the earliest. Not only
that, it's going to cost Ray an arm and a leg to get it repaired. I am
in total despair.
teeny, tiny light at the end of the tunnel: the possibility of another
new babysitting job. A lady came by yesterday with her 2-1/2 year old
daughter (and the little girl's grandmother) to interview me as a
possible sitter, and they're supposed to call today and let me know one
way or the other. I don't know what sort of impression I made -- the
grandmother asked me a lot of probing questions, and I got a little
nervous -- but it would certainly brighten the financial picture if I
got the job. I'll let you know what happens.
(Note in the margin says "They
never called back.")
meantime, I'm going to try like heck to get into the spirit of the
holidays today and quit moping around the house!! I really
thought a lot about it last night, and I'm determined to raise the joy
level around this house. I'm the only one who can do it. When Mommy is
feeling depressed, the entire family feels the reverberations. I've got
to quit being so self-centered and think about Jamie, Kacie and Kyle
... this is their special time of the year, and my
feelings of gloom and doom aren't going to interfere with that, if I
can help it. At least the front window isn't as bare as it was
yesterday. Ray finally put up the outdoor lights, and I can't believe
what a difference it makes. He put them along the front of the house
and across the big window in a sort of "V" pattern, and it looks really
nice. Right now he and John are in Burien somewhere, looking for a
December 17, 1990
struggling with the "joy level" around this place ...
the car back today, and it seems to be running fine. The bad news: it
cost us $312. Ray took a draw on his Dec. 28 paycheck to cover it, and
we've got the rent and most of the other bills paid for the month, but
I still haven't made a dent in my Christmas shopping. Worried.
thing that helps: our beautiful Christmas tree! Ray and John brought it
home Friday afternoon, and the kids and I decorated it that evening. I
let the kids decorate the bottom two-thirds, and I took care of the
top. It's a glorious, messy, eye-popping conglomeration of twinkling
lights (new this year), garland, glass balls, and the hundreds of
ornaments we've collected over the years ... and it goes a long way
towards making the house (and ME) feel more Christmasey.
a nice birthday weekend, by the way. Lori and her girls came over and
spent Saturday afternoon/evening ... wine, munchies, "Rocky Horror,"
girl talk. Fun. Mom stopped by, too, and brought me a gorgeous basket
of bath goodies that I love.
December 19, 1990
We were hit by a blizzard late last night, and today the world is
dazzlingly beautiful. More on this in a moment.
I want to finish telling you about my birthday. The kids were all so
sweet and wonderful to me on my special day ... Jamie served me
breakfast in bed (Rice Krispies and toast), and then they showered me
with gifts they'd purchased themselves: a ring and a notepad caddy from
Jamie, a lovely porcelain trinket box from Kacie (to add to my
collection). Even Kyle had a gift for me -- a stack of seven blue
envelopes, each one containing a scrap of paper with his wonderful four
yr. old "letters and numbers" on them. (Lately -- just within the past
couple of months or so -- "writing" and drawing have become Kyle's
passions in life.) The snow fell on Tuesday night, and as of this
morning (it's Saturday Dec. 22 now) it's still here in all its glory.
have some unexpectedly nice news to report this morning: Lori is
Time passes ...
Christmas Eve 1990
Above: Kyle models his Ninja Turtle raincoat (left); the family gathers at Mom's house
Below: The Tots "hanging up their stockings"
December 28, 1990
Well ... it's over. It's
over, it's over, it's over!! The most physically grueling,
stress-laden, bah-humbug Christmas I can EVER remember enduring ...
matter how hard I tried, I was never able to conjure up the slightest
bit of holiday spirit this year. Money worries, too much work with too
little help, recurring bronchitis, sadness over the deaths this year of
Aunt Helene, Grandpa Henry, Grandma St. John, Uncle Vaughn ... fear of
impending war, recession in our own country ... this holiday season was
doomed from the start. Nothing seemed to move me -- not the familiar
carols on the stereo (the turntable and tape deck were both broken, so
I was unable to add anything new to the Christmas tapes this year) ...
not my favorite holiday magazines (never did get around to working on
the holiday notebook) ... not "Rudolph" on TV (no George C. Scott this
year at all) ... not even the fact that this was our first white
Christmas since 1965 (it made driving a nightmare). The tree, usually a
source of great pleasure for me, seemed a messy eyesore this year: I'm
already itching to take it down and pack away all the Christmas stuff
and forget that December 1990 ever happened ...
I hate feeling this
way. I really wanted this Christmas to be a good one, and I tried to
make it that way, but nothing worked. Maybe next year.
Who's dreaming of a White Christmas?
Not big crabby Grinchy MOM ... that's for sure.
I think the kids
had a fairly good time, anyway. My Grinch-like attitude bothered Jamie
a little, I think, but then again she was wrestling with her own
holiday woes ... her first Christmas without Santa. Luckily, she had
the advantage of being nine years old, and it's hard to have a totally
lousy Christmas when you're nine years old and showered with gifts from
all corners of the family ... ! And the kids really did get some great
stuff this year: somehow, that seemed to compensate for Mommy's rotten
mood. Among the favorites this year:
Kacie: Walkie-talkies from Grandma
& Grandpa Vert; Magic Nursery Baby from Santa; cassette player
from Mom & Dad
Jamie: Nintendo from Grandma & Grandpa
Polen; cassette player from Mom & Dad; "Trouble" game from Jerry
& Jody; "Battleship" game from Grandma & Grandpa Vert'
Barbie wedding gown (from "Santa")
Kyle: Remote control card from Mom
The strangest (and saddest) part of Christmas this year
was not having Christmas Eve at Grandma St. John's house ...
No real Christmas Letter this year, except for this little bit of a poem I wrote:
the day after Christmas and all through our house
Every creature was stirring
('cept my flu-bitten spouse).
The stockings were flung on the floor without
In assumption that Mommy The Maid would be there.
Matchbox cars, ribbons and 'jammas,
Tinkerbelle, crayons and cookies from
Nintendo and Barbie, Ninjas and Mousetrap:
Where in the world
will I put all this housecrap?
One thing's for certain - no Duck Hunt
'Till all of this holiday *cheer*'s put
And thus begins the Era of Nintendo ...
January 11, 1990
weeks later, and the journal-writing has temporarily fallen by the
wayside while I've attempted to recover from Christmas 1990 ... guess
it's time to check in again now, and bring things up to date.
the first couple weeks of 1991 have been no great shakes, either. I was
desperately hoping for a little peace and quiet once the holidays were
over -- a little tedium to break up the pandemonium, as it were -- but
the year has barely begun and already we've had to battle head lice, a
babysitting arrangement has blown up in my face again, two friends have
suffered traumatic miscarriages, and our country is now four days from
war. We've had a week of freezing rain, Ray has been under foot almost
constantly (he keeps taking "days off" from work, and I'm going
insane), my period is over a week late, and we owe money all over the
place. Holy Tomato.
lost her baby a couple of weeks ago, just before New Year's -- she had
to be rushed to the hospital and operated on for ectopic pregnancy. She
was in the hospital for three or four days, and still isn't fully
recovered, but she's getting better. Maryan suffered her
miscarriage before Christmas, although I didn't hear about it until a
few days ago. My heart hurts for both of them.
The head lice
"adventure" was last week. The school had been sending notices home
about an "infestation" at Bow Lake, but I blithely disregarded them,
thinking it would never affect MY kids. So of course when Carol called
on Monday morning and said she was sending Kacie home (and, a little
while later, Jamie too), I was blown away. We were flat broke as usual
that day, and I had no idea how we were going to afford the special
shampoo and stuff we'd need. I called my mom at her office and cried on
her shoulder, and during her lunch hour she came by with two bottles of
prescription shampoo and an enormous can of R&C disinfectant
spray. I spent the entire day laundering all of the bedding in the
house, vacuuming, spraying mattresses and furniture, and -- of course
-- shampooing and combing all three of the kids (Kyle for good
measure). The girls had to stay home from school an extra day -- school
district policy -- but when they went back on Wednesday morning, the
nurse examined them and said they were both 'clear.' I've got to keep
an eye on everybody for the next few weeks, making sure it doesn't come
back, but for now we seem to have survived yet another crisis.
babysitting arrangement that "blew up in my face" was with Susan and
her son, Travis. Half the time they didn't bother to show up when they
said they would, and she'd never bother to call. In addition, she
didn't show up to pay me a couple of times (or call to explain
why). Finally, I called her on New Year's Day in a last-ditch
effort to work things out, but when she announced that she and Travis
were leaving the next day on a trip to Florida
-- she hadn't even thought about notifying me
in advance -- I lost all patience with her
and told her to find another sitter. She still owed me for
two days of babysitting at that point, but when she failed to show up a
few days later to pay her final bill, Ray began to hound her at her
apartment. Every couple of days he would stop by and knock on
her door. I think he must've finally worn her down, because
he finally squeezed the money out of her last night.
(Naturally, I never saw a penny of it.) Now I'm back to
praying for new babysitting clients, although the last three or four
experiences have been so disastrous, I'm not feeling very
optimistic. I'm just sick, sick, SICK of the whole
business. If it weren't for Andrea (who just stopped by to
pay me a minute ago, incidentally!), I would be forced to believe that
all people using family daycare are inconsiderate, irresponsible
assholes. I simply can't imagine any other "job" that leaves
you so vulnerable to whim and abuse.
January 14, 1991
bigggest thing on my mind the past couple of weeks has been my
marriage, but this afternoon even such a large and complex a concern is
overshadowed by the possibility (probability?) of war starting tomorrow.
January 15, 1991
is the day: the deadline for war. If Saddam Hussein doesn't
pull out of Kuwait by midnight, EST (9 p.m. our time), we are a nation
sister called me yesterday afternoon, and eventually we got around to
the subject of the Persian Gulf. "I'm so sorry you have to go
through all of this again," she said.
minute or two, I had absolutely no idea what she was talking
about. "Go through all of this again"? Go through what all over again? And then I realized that she meant the war, and
the fact that this is the second major war to occur in my
lifetime. Her comment took me by surprise
... maybe even offended me a little ... I
was just a kid during the Vietnam War, for Pete's
sake! How old does she think I am?! But
it also got me to thinking. I was a kid
during the Vietnam era -- far more interested in
"Dark Shadows" and playing with my dolls than in peace rallies or The
Huntley-Brinkley Report. The Vietnam War was little more than
the background noise of my childhood. Now we are going to war
again, and my children are approximately the same age I was during
Vietnam, and their level of awareness both alarms and shames me.
January 16, 1991
dream last night:
went to see a dentist for a routine check-up and x-rays. The
dentist looked at my x-ray and said, "Mrs. Polen, it seems that you are
pregnant." I peered over his shoulder at the x-ray,
astonished, and saw the outline of two tiny, bloblike shapes.
One was about the size of a paper clip, the other only half as
big. "Two of them?" I asked, and the dentist said yes, there
were two, but they weren't twins because they were conceived a month
and a half apart. I felt a sudden rush of tenderness toward
the two little 'blobs.'
the dentist said, "they will both have to be aborted." And he
picked up a shiny silver dentist's tool, something that looked like a
nail file, and began to scrape at the x-rays. "No, no,
NOOOO!!" I screamed, terrified, and I tried to run away, but suddenly
there were arms holding me down, and I was forced to stand there and
watch as the dentist scraped the two little blobs from the x-ray.
war has begun tonight.
January 18, 1991
don't even know where to begin. All of a sudden, the world
has tilted on its axis. I am no great political analyst, so
all I can give you is my simplified version of world events.
The U.S. launched a massive air attack on Baghdad on Wednesday night,
and now Iraq is retaliating with missile attacks on Israel and Saudi
Arabia. President Bush addressed the nation on Wednesday
night and said "This will not be another Vietnam." He said
that he's "hopeful" that the fighting will not go on for too long, and
that "casualties will be kept to an absolute minimum."
Meanwhile, all the world watches and waits. TV and radio
cover the war 24 hours a day, and I've never seen bigger (or more
frightening) headlines on the front page of the evening
paper. There is little else to talk about, think about, pray
about. Everything else pales in importance.
still working on my opinion of all this. On the one hand, I
find the idea of war terrifying and repugnant, but the fact is that
Saddam Hussein probably needs to be dealt with now, while it is still
possible to stop him. What worries me --
what scares the living shit out of me, actually --
is the unforeseen. What if Saddam has something up his sleeve
that we don't even know about ... like a nuclear
bomb? Or terrorists planted here in the U.S.? What
if some nut in the Middle East goes off the deep end and pushes a
button? What then? It's all of the variables that
scare me ... the things that can't be predicted.
January 25, 1991
and Kyle just left to run some errands ... they
probably won't be back for a couple of hours. "What are you
going to do while we're gone?" Ray asked me, and when I said I'd
probably write in my journal, he rolled his eyes and said "How
boring." What a boob. Some people just don't
understand anything ...
don't even care what he thinks, anyway. With the girls in
school, no Danielle today and Ray & Kyle gone for a while, I am
completely alone ... for the first time in
ages. It feels great, even if I'm not accomplishing
much -- coffee, game shows on TV, a late-morning
shower. Just puttering around the house, not having to say a
word to anyone, enjoying some peace and quiet. Nice.
war goes on. Today is the tenth day of the conflict, and
although some of the immediacy of the situation has worn off
-- the 24 hour new coverage on every single TV station has
given way to hourly "updates" and occasional interruptions for "special
reports" -- it is still at the center of
everything. Saddam continues bombing Israel every few hours,
and there is talk now of sending ground forces into Kuwait.
There is so much new information coming in all the time that it's
difficult for me to sort through and make sense of it all, but I
try. My understand of the situation is limited and
simplistic, but at least I'm trying.
meantime, a war of sorts has begun in my own heart the past few
days. I have an enormous decision to make, and between this
person, internal struggle and the war in the Middle East, my head is in
a whirl. It appears that I am pregnant again. This
is not a complete surprise -- I've suspected as
much since shortly before Christmas, and as a matter of fact think I
even knew "the morning after" -- but I'm only now
beginning to come to terms with it.
January 31, 1991
to pick this up a few days later. "Only now beginning to come
to terms with it" ... ? What a
laugh. I can't even make myself write about it, much less
"come to terms" with it ...
February 18, 1991
Day, and nearly three weeks since my last entry. I wish like
hell that I could tell you things have been resolved
-- in the Middle East, in my personal life
-- but everything is as muddled as ever. I am in my
usual state of numb denial ... making bean soup,
sorting laundry, arguing with Jamie about the Nintendo
... everything except facing up to my problems.
Thirty-three years old, and she still believes that if she ignores it,
it'll just go away ...
kids have the day off from school today, but Kacie spent the night at
Tracy's last night so she isn't here this morning. Emily J.
is, though -- she'll be here for the whole
day -- and Danielle, also. Jamie, Emily,
Kyle and Danielle are all sitting in the living room together, watching
JAMIE playing Nintendo. This is something I frequently give
her shit about ... she's gotten so good at
Super Mario Brothers that her "turns" take forty-five minutes
to an hour at a shot, and everybody else just winds up sitting around,
watching her. ("I can't HELLLLLLLP it!" she
whines.) President's Day means that Ray is home
also -- for the fourth day in a row. Most of the
time I completely ignore him. Talking to him
-- trhing to communicate anything to
him -- is such a frustrating exercise in
futility that I've just quit trying. I know that my
stoney silence hurts him, but I can't seem to fake a warmth I
don't actually feel.
good moments, here and there ... there are
still times when I can tolerate him ...
but these are becoming fewer and farther between.
February 23, 1991
very early ... got no sleep at all.
decision has been made, and in spite of a rare evening of closeness and
fun with Ray, my heart is heavy this morning.
March 4, 1991
several days later, and things are finally resolved.
The war has ended as abruptly as it began, and I am not pregnant
anymore. What else is there to say?
... I suppose there is plenty I should/could say.
I'm just not sure I can. For the past five days I
have kept myself busy, as busy as possible, in order to avoid
facing my feelings. Physically, I'm OK. I had more
energy today than I've had in weeks, and I took full advantage of it:
scrubbing the grungy floors and walls, catching up on the
laundry, puttering around the house at full speed.
After weeks of sluggishness and inertia, it felt great to have some pep
again. The bleeding has pretty much tapered off, and in most
respects I am completely back to normal ...
physically. Emotionally, I am sad, relieved, angry that this
happened again, uncertain about what I do next ...
I can't bear watching commercials or TV shows with babies in
them ... my heart is bruised. I'll
probably feel more like myself in another week or so, but at
the moment I'm still hurting.
the war ending -- this of course is wonderfuol
news, and the country is euphoric right now. When I think
about how long the Vietnam War dragged on -- for
years and years -- it amazes me that this
war came and went within WEEKS.
March 6, 1991
couple of days later, and a little better. We had a weird and
wacky surprise on Tuesday morning ...
snow!! Woke up to about two inches' worth. School
was delayed for an hour, and Kyle and André spent the entire morning in
the backyard, throwing snowballs at each other. By afternoon
it had all melted, but while it was here, it gave us all an unexpected
decided to try and be a little better about writing in my journal
again. Specifically, I want to write more about the
kids. I feel I've been remiss in this department lately.
cold afternoon ... fire in the woodstove, tea in
the microwave ... strong tea, with caffeine, a
last-ditch attempt to perk up and get some stuff done around the house
before the day becomes a total write-off. Why so sluggish
again today?? Woke up feeling fine, thought I'd probably get
a lot of things accomplished ... then it got real
cold this afternoon and Ray built a fire, and I layed down on
the sofa for a little "kitty nap," and the next thing I know,
BOOM, it's past 5:00 and nothing is done ...
at Jessie & Tia's for dinner: she'll be home after
Brownies tonight. Kyle and Kacie are quietly eating
their microwaved dinner of corn dogs and frozen macaroni &
cheese, sitting in front of the TV with an old "ALF" re-run.
Kyle and Kacie have a somewhat adversarial relationship these
days ... he is very much the annoying little
brother, she the indignant and superior big sister. Three
quarters of the sibling bloodshed around here involves Kyle
March 14, 1991
Mom: "You know, it seems as though three mornings out of
five, you leave this house angry at me ...
Jamie: (pouting, silent)
Mom: "... but that's just because I care what people THINK
Jamie: "No you don't -- you care what
people think about YOU."
after I wouldn't allow her to wear the same cruddy socks and dirty pink
leggings she wore to school yesterday.)
I love about Kyle: the way he comes straight to me, first thing in the
morning, and climbs up on my lap for a couple of minutes.
He's so warm and snuggly, and he smells so good, and his hair sticks
out all over the place ... it reminds me of when he
was a baby, about a million years ago ... I suppose
that in another few months he'll be too old for this kind of stuff, so
I'm enjoying it while I can.
March 19, 1991
Geez. Where do I begin ... ?
I find myself in the middle of another "Week From Hell"
... why do these weeks always seem to occur in
March? Last year, it was nursing six kids through chicken pox
more or less simultaneously. This year, it's a combination of
a bunch of stuff. Taken individually, none of these
situations would be overwhelming ... but put
together, it's jumping-off-the-bridge time ...
of all, Jamie has the flu. It's not a cold, it's definitely
the flu, and she's got it bad. I've been taking care of her
since Sunday night, and although she's a little better today, I still
don't think she'll be going back to school for a couple of
days. Secondly, Kacie got sent home from school yesterday
with head lice -- AGAIN. So she ended up
home all day, too, and I had to go through all of the cleaning and
disinfecting again. Luckily I still had some of the shampoo
and spray left over from the last time, but it was still a
major pain in the ass. It wasn't Kacie's fault, and I wasn't
angry with her -- I'm angry with the parents who
don't bother to get rid of the lice correctly the first time, and who
keep sending their kids back to school to reinfect other kids, over and
over again -- but Kacie was embarrassed and
unhappy, just the same.
of everything else, I've undertaken a major babysitting committment
this week. It's only until Friday, but it's big
... I'm watching my 5-1/2 year old niece, Karen, and her one
year old foster brother, Jeffrey, while Stephanie and Dwain are
attending a funeral in Oklahoma. This means they are
literally living with us for five days and five nights
... lock, stock and diaper bag. They got here
yesterday morning at 6:30 a.m. and (unless the situation
changes) they'll be here until Friday evening. Karen is no
problem at all: she's a placid, easy-going, "low maintenance"
kid ... perfectly content to follow Kacie around
the backyard, or to sit and watch Jamie play Nintendo
for hours on end. And of course there's the fact that she's
my brother's daughter, and the blood connection means a lot to
me. Jeffrey has taken a little more getting used
to. He's one of those 'hell on wheels' toddlers, a real live
wire ... I've got to watch him EVERY
SECOND. (This is really what made yesterday so horrible:
between Jamie's flu, Kacie's head lice, Kyle & Karen's modest
demands and Jeffrey's need for constant monitoring, I was still in my
bathrobe at 4 p.m., unshowered, nursing a splitting headache
-- so far -- has been a little
better. I actually got some sleep last night (on the sofa),
and even though Jeffrey got me up once in the middle of the night and
then again at 6:30 this morning, I feel OK today, and certainly better
able to handle all of these kids and problems than I did
yesterday. (I was even dressed today before 8
a.m.!) Of course it's only 10:30 now, and this entire, long
day stretches out ahead of me. Probably shouldn't get smug so
early, because experience teaches me that ANYTHING can happen
yes, there's also Kacie's birthday party on Thursday and her slumber
party the following Saturday: I've yet to do a thing about either.
hates me. I want her to think I'm her wonderful Aunt Terri,
but she hates me. The stress and lack of sleep the past
couple of days have turned me into a witchy mess, and I can't seem to
stop blowing my top at everybody, especially Jeffrey (who is driving me
STARK FUCKING BONKERS). Twice this afternoon I've walked into
the room to find Karen in tears ... those same
silent, broken-hearted tears Kacie used to cry (before she, like Jamie,
turned into a door-slammer) ... it made me feel
horrible, thoughtless, and guilty as hell.
March 20, 1991
little better. We all watched "The Wizard of Oz" together
last night, and Karen really seemed to enjoy herself. At one
point she even climbed up on the sofa and snuggled up right next to
me. She is such an incredibly sweet little girl, so much like
March 21, 1991
Week In Hell continues. Today is Kacie's birthday, and this
screaming baby is ruining everything.
April 2, 1991
(fairly) peaceful weeks later, and we're still talking
about what a monster little Jeffrey was, and how close he came to
ruining Kacie's birthday ... we made a tape
recording of us singing "Happy Birthday" to her as she blew out the
candles on her cake, and all you can hear on the tape is JEFFREY,
screaming his head off during the whole thing. Dwain and
Stephanie came to get the kids at 8:30 the next evening. I
was so relieved. I don't believe I could have dealt with one
more minute of Jeffrey's ceaseless, nerve-wracking screaming.
The rational part of me realizes that he's just a baby and he'd never
been left with strangers before, so he was understandably confused and
upset. The irrational part of me, nerves jangled by days of
stress and nights without sleep, couldn't handle it anymore.
By the second or third day I couldn't even try to comfort him anymore:
he wouldn't let me. I finally had to leave that mostly to
poor Karen, who he wouldn't even allow out of his sight. It
was truly a week in hell.
now it's Tuesday, April 2. I find it hard to believe that I
am writing these words, but at the moment I am ...
COMPLETELY ALONE. It's 3:00 in the afternoon and this house
is still as a tomb: Ray just left for work, Danielle's mom came and
picked her up early, and the kids -- all three of
them -- left this morning for a few days at Peg
& Don's. I am wonderfully, deliciously, incredibly
ALONE! The nice part is that I'm not alone for an hour, or
for an afternoon, but for the ENTIRE EVENING! It's just too
good to be true. And boy, do I ever need this time to
myself ... time to think, to putter around the
house without saying a word to anybody, to do whatever I want to do
without interruption ... a rare and wonderful
opportunity to get back in touch with myself. I'm simply
overwhelmed by how good it feels.
kids won't be back until Thursday, so actually I'll have tomorrow
night, too. I'll probably be missing them by then, though, so
tonight is the night I'll most enjoy my solitude. I intend to
make full use of it, too. My fun and exciting
plans? I'm going to organize the camphor chest! No
kidding. I'm going to pull everything out and label
it ... the kids' baby clothes, Grandma Vert's
family knick-knacks, our wedding stuff, everything
... and then put it back into the chest, neat and
organized. Sounds positively scintillating, doesn't
point is, though, that I'll have one whole evening without Nintendo,
without "Johnny Arcade," without "Ow, I'm going to tell MOM!" every ten
minutes ... no arguing with Kyle to get back to the
table and finish his dinner, no listening to the girls argue over hair
rollers ... nothing but me and a bottle of wine and some old
Partridge Family albums on the stereo ...
I begin my fun evening, I should mention quickly that Kacie's slumber
party (March 23) was a raucous, happy success ...
it more than made up for the disastrous birthday dinner (the night the
Monster Baby was here). She had three guests spend the
night -- Cassie, Bernadette and Angela
-- plus Jessie B. ended up staying over too, to give me a
hand with the games and stuff. (Jamie spent the night at
Kacie's birthday slumber party
I gave the girls a box of dress-up clothes and they had a "fashion show"
"fun evening" amounted to several glasses of wine, an unexpected visit
from Dad & Valerie, and spending most of my time babbling madly
on the phone with anyone I could think of ... spent
the entire next day hovering over a toilet bowl ...
I did get the camphor chest organized, anyhow.
finally started again today (April 12) ...
whew. Believe it or not I was actually beginning to worry
like the life is beginning to spiral out of control again. So
much to say -- all the time --
but no desire to write.
April 17, 1991
someone whose entire life is in turmoil, I am amazingly unruffled this
money situation is bad, bad, bad. Andrea
was fired from her job last week, which means that I am out of
a job as well. No babysitting income at all. Things
are real slow at SeaPak, too, and Ray says he doesn't know how we'll
pay the rent, let alone buy food and take care of the other
bills. The kids have been drinking powdered milk for two days
and they don't even know it, Jamie needs new shoes, Kyle's birthday is
coming up ...
girls have just left for dance class (Alexandra's mom driving), and I
am dying for a cigarette. I don't smoke much anymore, but
it's been a tense day and I think a cigarette and a Diet Coke
sound heavenly. Besides, it's a beautiful sunny afternoon and
I have $2.35 in the back pocket of my Levi's. I look at Kyle
and say, "Let's walk to the little store."
"Can I buy a bag
of popcorn?" he asks, and I say yes. A minute later we are
walking down the street, hand in hand.
and I spend a lot of time together these days, and in spite of my
depression about money and my worries about our financial future, I am
cherishing this time. All too soon he'll be off to
kindergarten, and my little boy will be gone. I watch him as
we walk along: he comes up just to my hip, and his shaggy hair (badly
in need of a trim, I note wistfully) gleams in the sunlight.
Every few feet he has to stop and hike his pants up. We talk
about snakes as we walk along, and about the garbage littering the
sides of the road, and about the fact that the girls will be home from
school for the next few days because of the teacher's strike that
starts tomorrow. I am painfully self-conscious about the way
I must look to people driving past us ... enormous
floppy old shirt of Ray's, hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, no
makeup ... but Kyle doesn't give a fig how I look,
and I guess I shouldn't, either. The days of getting
dolled-up for a walk to the store are long gone: I'm a MOM now, and the
only truly important thing about this moment is the fact that Kyle and
I are together. Somehow this makes me feel better, and I
throw my shoulders back and walk with my head held a little higher for
a while ...
we get to Bow Lake School, the playground is teeming with activity: two
separate baseball games in progress, children on bikes, mothers
watching small children play on the Big Toy. Kyle loves the
Big Toy, so I sit down and watch him clamber around on it for ten
minutes. Every couple of minutes he checks to make sure I'm
still watching him, and when he sees that he has my undivided
attention, he smiles and makes a big show of climbing up the slide and
then sliding back down again. His Levi's are a size and a
half too big, and when he slides, his "Thunder Jets" underpants threaten
to completely expose themselves. He checks again to make sure
I'm watching, and then he jumps from one level of the Big Toy to the
ground below, landing on his bottom in the gravel with a
SPLAT. Before I have a chance to ask him if he's OK, or to
offer any assistance, he leaps to his feet, brushes the dust from the
seat of his pants and says, with elaborate nonchalence, "Good thing I
LIKE hurts today."
I cherished that last year before he started school; he was
my good and faithful companion.
April 19, 1991
Lord heard my prayer. Wednesday evening, after Kyle and I had
come back from the store and I was writing my account of our walk, the
phone rang and a woman named Karen S. was asking about daycare for her
two children! She'd seen the notice Lori posted for me in the
Shannon South mailroom. An hour or so later she came over to
meet and talk, and there was an immediate rapport and "comfortableness"
between the two of us.
Yesterday was my first day with 2-1/2
year old Mak, and today I have both him and his 9 year old brother
Josh. It's too early to tell how well I'm going to get along
with the two of them, but so far it's going OK. Josh was kind
of awkward and uncomfortable when he first got here: Jamie and Kacie
are home from school because of the teacher's strike, plus we also have
Alexandra here for the day, and I think he was a little disconcerted
about walking into a living room full of GIRLS! But he's
beginning to thaw a bit now, especially since I hooked up the
Nintendo -- the common denominator of all
children -- and he seems to be a fairly nice kid.
so excited about getting this babysitting job ... I
just hope that it works out this time. I was so depressed
last weekend when I found out about Andrea losing her job that I went
through the classifieds, half-heartedly trying to find a "real"
job. My choices? Burger King. Pietro's
Pizza. Jack in the Box. Minimum wage, bottom of the
barrel, nowhere jobs ... basically the ONLY kind of
job I am qualified for at the moment. This sent me into an
even deeper funk, and I suddenly realized that what I really want to
do -- what I'm good at, what I'm qualified for,
what I love -- is precisely what I've been doing
all along: running a home and family. I suppose that part of
it is because I'm scared of being out in the "real world" again after
ten years of homemaking, but the bottom line is that I really, truly LOVE
what I do. I love cooking and cleaning
and laundry and taking care of kids and the whole bit. I know
this probably makes me a throwback to a different era, but that's just
the way I am. I may complain about my life at time, about the
repetitiveness and the lack of privacy and the NOISE
... right now the kids are screaming again, out in the
backyard, and I have to admit that it's raising my hackles
... but most of the time I'm actually fairly content, doing
what I'm doing. And the only way I'm going to be able to
continue doing what I'm doing -- staying here with
my kids and my house -- is if I get some
babysitting going. I have to bring in some sort of income,
however meager. So getting this new daycare job means a great
deal to me, and I plan to do everything I can to make it work out.
May 1, 1991
ten days later, and so far the new babysitting job is still working
out. I'm not making as much money (on an hourly basis) as I
have in the past,but since there are two kids and I have them more
hours per week than I had Danielle, it sort of balances out.
In other words, I'm back to where I was a month ago. I'm
still hoping for one more babysitting client soon, something to bring
my income up a little, so I've still got notices up at Tom's Grocery
and at Shannon South. In the meantime, having Mak &
Josh here really helps. Mak is an easygoing 2-1/2 year old, very
mild-mannered, does everything he is told to do. His older brother is more of a handful. The teacher's strike
was still going on all last week so he was here for nine hours a day,
and it seemed like he was testing my authority at every turn.
We're still having some problems adjusting to each other
-- he refuses to eat anything I serve him, he's too
aggressive about the Nintendo, and the girls can't stand him
-- but I'm working hard to maintain the upper hand here and
not let this nine year old Atilla the Hun get to me. This job
means too much to us.
are a few quick updates about other things that have been going on in
our lives this spring:
Teacher's Strike ended on Monday of this week, after eleven days, and
the kids finally went back to school yesterday.
Whew. Jamie and Kacie treated the whole thing like a
vacation, staying up late every night and sleeping in until 9:30 every
morning, watching the soaps, playing Nintendo, riding bikes
... it was a bit of a shock for them to go back to school, I
think! As usual, I really didn't mind having them around, but
I knew that they needed to be back in school so I was glad to see the
strike (temporarily) resolved. As it stands now, the school
year won't be ending until June 26th, so their summer vacation will now
be shorter -- and will start later
-- than any of us are accustomed to. Oh
Indulging in a front yard 'picnic' (with Tracy Pinkney, far right)
had her baby on April 14th, a little boy named Jordan. We've
seen him twice already and he's a beautiful baby. The really
nice part is that Jae returned from the Persian Gulf a few weeks before
the baby was due, so he was able to be there for the birth of his first
child. All's well that ends well.
mother has moved into Grandma St. John's old house. Mom sold her mobile home and had Grandma's house
renovated. Although she moved in last weekend, I still
haven't been to see it. I feel horribly guilty about this,
but for some reason I just can't bring myself to go over there, in
spite of repeated invitations from Mom. I get emotional just
thinking about it. The last time I was in Grandma's house was
the afternoon of her funeral, and it looked then as it had looked for
my entire life ... filled with Grandma's things,
her furniture, her photos, her knick-knacks ... how
will I feel when I walk through the door and all that stuff is
gone? I know I'm being a big fat baby about this, and I'm
probably hurting Mom's feelings in the process, but for right now the
very thought of going over there fills me with dread. Note:
finally went to Mom's on Memorial Day 1991.
lighter note: we finally replaced our shitty old "dining room set" (as
I laughingly refer to it: the same wobbly table Ray had when I first
met him, plus three mismatched chairs with stuffing falling out of the
ripped vinyl). Janet gave us her old wicker set.
Four chairs and a glass-topped table. The glass is cracked
and the wicker is a little moldy in spots, but even so it looks a
million times better than the old stuff, and I'm very happy with
it. I'm supposed to pay her $150 for it, divided evenly
between cash and babysitting her kids for credit. Ray is
making a big stink out of it, saying that (because of the cracked
glass) we should only pay $75 ... the man is
completely fixated on money, I swear to god.
May 30, 1991
A month (almost) later. That's funny ...
I wrote on the first day of this month, and now I'm back on the
has been kind of a tough one. As is usually the case, I've
had a lot on my mind but very little motivation to write about any of
it. Also, the kids and I were really sick for a couple of
weeks. Kyle and I had it the worst, he with an ear infection
and me with an excruciatingly painful sinus infection, and nothing gets
done when I feel that shitty. And on top of everything else,
Ray has been a royal asshole for weeks now. It reminds me of
something I wrote about a year ago, a sentiment I feel today just as
strongly as the day I wrote it:
I give him the Father's Day cards for mailing --
one for his father, one for mine. The cards are signed,
addressed and stamped. 'What, no zip codes?' he says, in that
God-you're-so incredibly-incompetent tone of voice I am beginning to
loathe. ' I don't HAVE their zip codes,' I say between
'You don't even have your own Dad's zip
code?' he sneers.
This is the new posture he's affected
lately: this implied intellectual superiority. It is making
me start to hate him again. He is treating me like some
not-quite-bright little housewifey, someone who must be gently helped
over life's mental hurdles ... I will not tolerate
being treated this way by someone whose idea of great literature is a
'Groo' comic book ... "
fact is, Journal, that I am in enormous pain over the state of my
marriage at the moment ... not to mention the state
of my life. Ray's sarcastic parting words to me this
afternoon (as he left for work) were "Thanks a lot for talking to me
today." And it was the truth: I had steadfastly avoided
talking to him for most of the morning. How was I
supposed to answer that? I don't talk to you
anymore because you don't listen to anything I say?
(Hell, he doesn't even HEAR what I say. The hearing loss has
gotten so much worse, but he refuses to get a hearing aid. I
have to repeat myself three times just to be understood.) I
don't talk to you because even when you finally understand, you don't
actually understand? Because I just plain don't enjoy talking
to you, don't enjoy being with you most of the time, don't even really
LIKE you very much ... ? Who in their right mind
would "enjoy" talking to someone who constantly criticizes, belittles
and ridicules them, anyway?? At least this would
have been the truth. Instead, I muttered something about "not
being in a talkative mood today," went back to reading my newspaper,
and rejoiced inwardly when I finally heard his car backing out of the
and of course, when the girls got home from school twenty minutes
later, I practically talked their ears off ...
used to be such a pleasure. I've always been shy, so
conversing with strangers or people I don't know very well is tough for
me. But when I'm comfortable around a person, when we're on
the same wavelength, there is nothing I enjoy more than clever,
articulate, hearfelt conversation. I appreciate wit,
subtlety, humor, shared ideas ... I love the
'verbal shorthand' that develops between two people sometimes
... and there is none of this
in my marriage to Ray. It took me a year or so to discover
this about him, but by that point we were married and Jamie was on the
way and there didn't seem to be anything I could do about it.
I was stuck. The worst time was when we were living in
Kirkland, when the girls were just babies and Ray was never home
(either at work or at the tavern). I had no close friends, no
telephone, the girls were preverbal, Ray was never there: I had NO ONE
to talk to at all. I think that was probably the loneliest
period of my life. It was at that point that I begin to close myself off
to Ray emotionally, I think: I finally realized that not only weren't
we on the same wavelength, we weren't even in the same
UNIVERSE. The realization made me feel very hopeless and sad
and alone. I came very close to divorcing him in 1986, after
the kids and I moved out of the Kirkland house and into the apartment,
and now sometimes I wish I'd gone through with it when I had the
chance, because things are worse than ever. I don't know why
in hell I believed it could change, that things could get better, but
apparently I did believe it because I gave him "another
chance" ... and now here I am, right back where I
started -- stuck -- and he is as impossible to communicate with as
ever. What makes it so much worse now is this new, imperious,
me-Tarzan attitude of his ... plus knowing that I
had the chance to escape, to make something better for the kids and
myself, and I simply blew it off ...
only thing that makes it tolerable -- the thing
that separates this period from the lonely Kirkland days
-- is that I do have other people to talk to now.
The kids are wonderful. All three of them are articulate,
funny and perceptive, and talking with them is pure pleasure.
I guess I can take some of the credit for that: it's undoubtedly the
result of listening to me yack, yack, yack at them all these
years. They fill my communication needs in a way that Ray
can't (or won't). And I have girlfriends now
... honest-to-goodness women friends that I can turn
to. I didn't have that before. Lori, Janet, Velma,
Andrea, Erin, my new friend/babysitting client Karen ... women my own
age, moms like me, women who share my concerns and problems and who
provide support and encouragement when I need it. Between my
friends and my kids, there are people in my life to talk to, plenty of
them. Yet I still feel a void. I still long for the
one-on-one kinds of stuff that can usually only happen between married
people. I still feel cheated out of something special.
isn't the only thing missing in our marriage. Respect also
seems to have completely vanished. I don't respect Ray very
much, and it's clear he feels the same about me. This is
probably going to make me sound like an idiot, but I never realized how
LITTLE respect Ray has for me until just recently. For the
past ten years I've cleaned his house and cooked his meals and raised
his children, and even though I've often felt overworked and
underappreciated, I always assumed that underneath it all he really did
value my contribution. What a deluded dummy I've
been. Did I actually believe he looked at his drawerful of
clean underwear and thought to himself, "My goodness! Terri is certainly doing a FINE job of keeping me in clean underwear!"
May 31, 1991
to interrupt this train of thought long enough to relate something that
just happened ... an incident that quite perfectly
(and horribly) illustrates the communication breakdown around
here. It's Friday afternoon now, May 31st. Things
were a bit easier between Ray and I for most of the day, probably
because it's payday (for both of us) and our spirits were lighter than
usual. Ray has been considering a career move
recently -- he's had a job offer from (a rival
company), and he's really been thinking about it --
and I've gone out of my way to ask him questions about it, to show my
interest and support, etc. "We will support you in any
decision you make," I told him -- a very proper,
good-wifey sort of thing to say.
Fine. As long as
we're talking about RAY, things are just fine.
about half an hour ago, Grandma Vert called and invited me to go to a
family reunion in Idaho with her at the end of June.
I've known about the reunion for several weeks now, but had
no plans to go ... not only because it's out of
state, but also because I knew it would be expensive and we couldn't
afford it. To make a long story short --
Grandma is offering to foot the bill if I want to go. I think
the bottom line here is that she really wants someone to go with her to
this reunion, and the someone she wants is me. Naturally
there are a hundred details that would have to be worked out
-- principally, someone to watch the kids
-- but there's nothing insurmountable, not if I employ a
little creative thinking and call in a few favors.
up the phone tingling with excitement over the idea, and went into the
bedroom, where Ray was getting ready for work, to share the news with
him. He was standing at the dresser, writing out a rent
check. "That was Grandma," I said coyly
... trying to disguise my excitement. "It looks
like I'm going to -- "
me off with a frown and a shake of the head. "I'm busy," he said brusquely.
bucket of cold water in the face couldn't have been more effective. Squelched, I turned around and walked out of the
bedroom without saying anything. Immediately he began to
sputter and bluster -- "WHAT? Terri,
WHAT?" -- but I just said "Never mind" and went to
the kitchen and started washing lunch dishes.
FUCK you!" he shouted at me from the bedroom.
minutes later he came stomping out to the kitchen. He took the lunch I'd
made for him out of the refrigerator, slammed it onto the floor and
said "Stick it up your butt." Then he left for
work. I just stood there at the sink, calmly washing
dishes ... boiling with rage but determined not to
A few minutes later he was back, and he
apologized, but as usual his 'apology' was tempered with
condescension. I explained (briefly) about the reunion, and
about Grandma's offer to pay my way. Virtually the first (and
only) thing he said was "What about the kids?" As though
leaving them with friends or family for a few days was
unthinkable ... a dereliction of my duty as a
mother or something.
don't know, I'd have to work that out," I snapped at him, and then (to
my annoyance) I started to cry. I don't like to cry around
him anymore because it seems to reinforce his belief that I'm this
pathetic, emotional female, but there I was and I couldn't help
myself. I had just been writing in this journal about all of
our problems communicating, and here he was, proving my
point. This was just too much. Of course, the
sight of me crying caused all of his male hormones to kick in, and he
started to hug me and told me not to cry, blah blah blah.
know you probably need to get outta here for a few days," he
said. And then he delivered the real kicker: "I
guess I'll let you go," he said.
me go? 'LET' me go?!?!?!?!??? This fucking ASSHOLE
is going to 'let' me go to my own family reunion
... ??? I had to struggle to restrain the urge to
haul off and sock him in his dumb smug face. I settled for an
indignant "It's not a question of you 'letting' me go
anywhere ... it's a question of whether or not I
CHOOSE to go."
He didn't like that very much, and he started
to bluster again, but I finally had his attention and I would be damned
if I was about to relinquish it. I told him that I didn't
appreciate the one-sided condition of communication between us
lately. "I listen to you talk about your job offer, and about
your work, and I really try to pay attention to your problems," I said. "But
the minute it's something to do with MY life or MY problems, all of a
sudden it's 'I'm too busy' or 'That's stupid' or
'Whatever'." I told him that I was sick of the way
he was treating me -- like a maid, a cook, a family
servant -- and that I was sick of being talked down
to all the time. I'm not sure how much of this
penetrated. Frankly, I doubt that any of it did.
I've learned the hard way that nothing I say makes much of a
difference, only what I do. For that reason, I have half a
mind to take Grandma up on her offer and go to Idaho. I could
certainly use the change of scenery, and I definitely think this family
could benefit from the shake-up my absence may create ...
-- her darkest fear -- her absence
creates no "shake-up" at all ... )
now we're back, in a roundabout way, to the issue of respect.
I was saying something about how I stupidly believed, for all those
years, that Ray valued and respected my worth as a homemaker and
mom. The clean underwear in the drawer and all
that. I believed it because it was what I wanted to believe:
I needed validation from my husband, and for a long time I honestly
thought I had it, unspoken though it may have been. It's only
been in the last year or two that I've gotten the wake-up
call. There have been the subtle hints about finding a "real"
job ... the jabs about the way I handle the kids,
the way I do the laundry, the way I fix his sandwiches for
lunch ... for a long time I wrote it off to
cultural differences (in the way we were each brought up), bad moods,
indigestion. But the seed of doubt had been planted in my
heart. Does he really have any idea how tough my job
is? Or does he think I'm the bon-bons-and-soap-operas kind of
housewife you see on bad TV shows? I don't know. I
think maybe my heart has known the truth all along, but in matters this
important you believe what you need to believe, just to keep
going. The saddest part of all of this is how much my own
fragile sense of self-worth is connected to his opinion of me, has
always been connected, continues to be (damn him) connected
The truth was finally slammed into me -- along with
his fist -- last Saturday
night. We'd both had too much to dirnk all day, and I picked
a fight with him at bedtime. I don't know why. I
don't even know what started it, exactly, or who, but the next thing I
knew I was yelling at him to get a hearing aid, and telling him that he
"disgusts" me -- in vino veritas?
-- and he was informing me that I am lazy, worthless, afraid
to even leave the house ("Hell," he sneered, "you won't even walk down
the street to the MAILBOX"), and that all I care about are (quote)
"watching your stupid soap operas and writing in your stupid
JOURNAL." Then he proceeded to tell me that I am the laughing
stock of my family ... that both Mom and Grandma
Vert have told him how "ashamed" they are of me. This was so
completely Looney Tunes -- so far out of left
field -- that I'm still amazed every time I think
about it, and it's been almost ten days now. (Now it's
Tuesday, June 4th, incidentally.) The whole argument was
ludicrous. I had baited and taunted him so much, by that
point, that I'm amazed he kept control as long as he did. As
it was, he merely leaned over in bed and whacked me across the top of
the head, once. I was far more surprised and hurt by the
ridiculous crap coming out of his MOUTH than I was by the thump on the
head. Where in the world does he come up with this
stuff??? And that's when it dawned on me
... when I realized, once and for all, that he has no respect
for me as a person. After all these years it comes down to
this: I am less than zero in his eyes.
next morning, of course, we apologized to each other and
things went more or less back to "normal" -- at
least, as normal as things ever get around here. But I've
been unable to get the things he said out of my heart. It's
not the goofy stuff that bothers me --
Mom and Grandma would never say such a thing about me,
especially to Ray -- I watch exactly one soap opera
a day, and even so I'm much more likely to listen to it from the
kitchen while I'm making lunch for everybody than to actually sit down
and WATCH it -- and I long ago resigned myself to
the fact that my journal-writing is beyond his scope of
understanding. No, what really bothered me
-- what continues to bother me now -- is
that deep down inside I'm afraid he may be right about me.
How can I expect him to respect me when I'm not even sure I respect
June 19, 1991
going on the trip to Idaho with Grandma!! I can hardly believe
I'm saying so, but it's the truth. Me, who never goes
anywhere, will actually be getting on an AIRPLANE in less than a week
and flying to Idaho! For hour and a half DAYS! No kids, no
dishes, no laundry, no nasty phone calls from bill collectors, no
Ray ... it boggles my mind.
unexpectedly cold, rainy and blustery this morning, after several days
of "warm and sunny." I woke up on the sofa about an hour ago
(the girls' whispered arguments over styling mousse and hairbrushes
woke me up), and immediately ran to turn on the thermostat: the house
was like a meat locker. The girls just left for school
wearing heavy coats we'd already stored away for the summer, but at
least the house is beginning to warm up now and I've got my coffee
going. Kyle is asleep in Kacie's bed (the lower bunk): I just
went in and peeked at him, and he looks wonderfully sweet and little
and warm. Some nights he sleeps on the top bunk with Jamie,
some nights he sleeps with Kacie. Occasionally we can get him
into his own bed at night, but he really hates sleeping by himself (and
the girls seem to like having him with them -- they
actually fight over who's going to "get" him!) so I don't consider it a
big deal. At least he's out of my bed. That was a
situation that was beginning to bother me. And I'm certain
that, in time, he'll begin to want to sleep in his own room
... I don't see the need to push and nag about it.
Sooner or later (probably sooner) he'll come to that decision all on
of Kyle ... a sad thought occurred to me this past
week ... well, "sad" in a proud, loving,
god-isn't-he-growing-up-FAST kind of way. It dawned on me
that this is the last week I'll have my little boy home and all to
myself before he starts school in the fall. Next week school
ends and I leave for Idaho. I come home from my trip and it's
summer vacation -- all the kids will be here,
including Josh and Mak. And then when school starts again in
the fall, Kyle will be going off with the girls. So this week
marks a turning point in our relationship, a last few days of the
comfortable exclusivity we've come to enjoy ...
Kyle and me, puttering around the house, watching the game shows,
talking, eating lunch, talking, doing the housework with my little
shadow trailing behind, talking, talking, talking ...
are plenty of times when I think his endless jabber-jabber-jabbering is
going to drive me straight out of my mind, but the fact is that I LOVE
how articulate and perceptive he is, and I wouldn't ever want that to
change about him. He's going to do just as well as (if not
better than) his sisters in school. I have no fears about his
ability to adjust, make friends, and enjoy
learning. But I will miss my little
companion. Even now, three months before he even starts
kindergarten, I feel a lump in my throat just thinking about. I suppose all mothers feel this way when
"the baby" starts school. It reminds us how quickly the years
are passing. Birthdays kind of do the same thing
-- they make us feel sentimental and wistful, and cause us to
pay attention to passing time -- but birthdays come
every year, routinely, whereas something like the first day of school
is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I don't know ...
maybe some mothers break out the champagne when their youngest starts
school. Maybe they see it as cause for celebration.
I only know that for me, at least, it's going to be a four-hankie
has been a tumultuous school year for Jamie, and I can sense that she's
glad it's drawing to a close. Breaking both of her arms,
Grandma St. John's death, losing Tigger, the bouts of head lice,
difficulty in her Reading class, constant fights with her best friend
Tia, our lousy Christmas, battles with me over clothes and
hairstyles ... as well as her waning enthusiasm for
school in general ... it all seems to have added up
to one crummy school year. The worst part is that I doubt her
summer vacation is going to be much better. I'm stuck
babysitting Mak and Josh all summer, and Jay hates Josh with a
passion. It's not that typical nine yr. old boy-girl stuff,
either: she truly loathes him. And here he'll be, all summer
long. We can't afford to send her (or Kacie) to camp this
year, either ... another big disappointment she's
been forced to swallow. (Another source of guilt for me, as
well.) I don't know, Journal ... whatever
happened to the Disneyland-and-Twinkies childhood I'd planned for
Jamie? The older she gets, the harder it gets. I
know I'm not personally responsible for her happiness. The
tough part is remembering that I'm not responsible for her UNhappiness,
June 20, 1991
I am trying to hard to get excited about the trip to Idaho, but the
truth is that the whole thing has me so stressed I can hardly stand
it. This entire month has been a nightmare of plans going
awry, money slipping through my fingers, people doing their damndest to
screw things up for me. Well ..
that's probably not completely fair. No one is actually out
to sabotage me: things just keep happening, things beyond anybody's
control (the car breaking down, Ray balking at the childcare
arrangements I've made for the kids, unexpected expenses), and I'm just
not handling setbacks very well. Hell, I'm not "handling"
them at ALL ...
of course, is the biggest fly in the ointment. There simply
ISN'T any. Or not much, anyway. Not enough to buy
some decent clothes for the trip, not enough to bring home souvenirs
for the kids, not enough for groceries even. In a way, the
whole situation reminds me of Christmas. You're supposed to
look forward to it ... it's supposed to be
meaningful and SPECIAL ... but the anxieties over
money and being able to afford everything threaten to ruin the whole
kept a special journal while attending the Hamilton Family Reunion
(June 25-30) but have managed to misplace it. If and when I track down a copy, I'll come back and transcribe it here.
For now, photos (and memory) will have to suffice:
Grandma, Ted and I waiting for our flight to Idaho.
June 25, 1991
Visiting Uncle Walt Adams' house in Homedale, Idaho.
Grandma and Grandpa had brought me here when I was five or six, probably during one of our rock-hunting vacations.
Now as I wandered around Uncle Walt's backyard, thirty years
later, I felt stirrings of déjà vu everywhere I
I remembered the wishing well -- "Dickie and I played
here!" I told Grandma -- so she posed me in front of it so
she could take my picture.
"Wasn't there a bell around here somewhere?" I asked her, as we continued our walk around the yard.
We turned a corner, past some flowering bushes ...
... and there it was.
It was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.
One of the highlights of the reunion for me was a day-long trip to Silver City,
a ghost town high in the Owyhee mountains.
The centerpiece of the reunion was Banquet Night.
This is just a tiny cross-section of the reunion attendees on Banquet Night.
I'm in the middle row at far left; Grandma Vert is seated at the table directly in front of me (blue dress).
At Grandma's request, I gave a little speech thanking Aunt Mabel Beatty for bringing us all together at the reunion.
In the picture on the right, Grandma is seated at the far right table, watching me.
Me on Banquet Night with my stepmother (and roommate, and pal), Valerie
July 9, 1991
trip to Idaho was wonderful, and as soon as I can scrounge up a decent
typewriter I plan to transcribe the notes I took and affix them to the
previous page, so I'll have an account of the trip included in this
journal. For the moment, I'll just say that it was a terrific
break from my usual routine ... I almost can't
believe that it's over already. Now it's back to piles of
laundry, dirty floors, spiders in the bathtub, warring children,
ringing phones, bills and Ray ... sigh ...
the thing I love most about going away on vacation is coming home
again. I remember once, about six years ago (summer of '85,
Jamie and Kacie were three and one), when I took the girls and went to
visit my grandmothers for a few days. We only "travelled"
from Kirkland to SeaTac, and we were gone for less than a week, but I
still felt homesick the entire time we were gone, and I practically
fell all over myself in delight when we finally got home. "My
dear, messy, precious little house!" I rapturously scribbled in my
journal. In a way, I hoped -- I
expected -- to feel the same way about coming home
from Idaho last week. I thought I would walk through the door
and feel that same rush of love and relief and delight.
Well ... it was nice to be home. I was
thrilled to see the kids waiting for me at the airport, for one thing:
they were all over me, and it made me feel really special.
I'd missed them a lot. But as far as walking through the door
of our house and instnatly feeling this major rush of happiness,
well ... that didn't happen. Right away
there was laundry to do, and suitcases to be unpacked, the kids started
fighting over the candy I brought home for souvenirs, Ray was asking me
for money ... I was "home," alright, and frankly
all I really wanted to do was get back on that plane and head back to
Idaho ... or to Timbuktu, for that matter
... anywhere that I could be Terri again
all pretty much levelled-off this past week, though, and now it's back
to business as usual. Summer '91 is in full throttle, and I'm
too busy to spend much time moping around. I've had a lot of
babysitting this pas week, for one thing -- Josh
and Mak here every day, of course, and we also had Emily for three days
last week, and Danielle for a few hours on Monday.
(Danielle's mom had her baby on June 20th -- a
little boy named Cody. He contracted meningitis almost
immediately after his birth, and -- of this writing
on 7/10/91 -- is still in the hospital.)
There are three things I seem to be perpetually in the middle of:
fixing food for kids, serving food to kids, and cleaning up after kids
have eaten. Also, I don't think I've EVER done as much
laundry, in my entire life, as I've done the past week or so.
Just as soon as I finally manage to get four or five enormous loads
washed, dried and put away, I turn around and there's another pile of
towels laying next to the washing machine. I swear that it's
usual, I really like having the girls arouned this summer, although
this year they've got busy social lives of their own, and they're gone
a lot of the time. Jamie likes to walk over to the stoplight
on 188th and meet Tia or Jessica there, then walk with them to their
house on Angle Lake. I must admit that I'm uneasy about the
idea of Jamie being so independent and going places like that without
me, but this is the same tired old song about letting her grow up,
letting her enjoy some of the freedoms I never had at her
age. Kacie spent the night at Angela's and wasn't home until
late Monday afternoon. And both girls were invited to parties
last weekend -- Kacie went to a backyard swim party
at Kelli Baxter's, Jamie went rollerskating with her church
group. I'm glad that they've got their own lives and their
own friends and their own interests and all of that, I truly
am. The only real problem is that now they feel bored and
"stuck" here at home when there's no place special for them to go that
day, and I bear the brunt of their unhappiness.
passions this summer include Sabrina and the four kittens she presented
us with last week (three white, one black & white)
... her new Paula Abdul tapes, "Spellbound" and "Shut Up And
Dance" ... moussing and spraying her hair every
half hour ... constant phone calls to and from her
beloved Tia ... KPLZ-FM
... "Beverly Hills 90210" ... Sun Chips
and Koala Springs ... ("Mariah Carey," she told me
to add to the list, along with "rollerskating, even though I suck at
July 12, 1991
kids are sleeping outside in the backyard tonight
-- they've set up a little "camp" with their sleeping bags
and stuff, next to the garage. Cute.
(a couple of days):
weekend. Still recovering in many ways. The kids
loved sleeping outside on Friday night -- even
though clouds began rolling in around midnight and it got really
COLD. I went out for a little while and crawled into Jamie's
sleeping bag with her and looked at the stars with them.
Reminded me of when my brother and I used to sleep outside in the yard
Ray took us all shopping: went to Target and Payless, bought summer
shoes for all three kids, bathing suits for the girls, a pair of shorts
for Kyle, a bunch of other little stuff. Stopped by and saw
Grandma Vert for a while, looked at pictures from our Idaho trip.
had to work Saturday night, but we had fun without him
-- rented a VCR and three movies ("Flatliners," "Mermaids"
and "Childs Play II"), invited Lori and Tracy over. Ate
pizza, drank wine ... LOTS of wine
... watched movies, talked. Just like old
times. Lori and I still best friends. She had to
leave at 9:00, John came and picked her up (amazing he even let her out
of the house for as long as he did), but Tracy stayed to spend the
night. Ray home shortly after midnight, stayed up and watched
a movie with me ("Amadeus") until the wee hours of the
Woke up Sunday morning feeling wretched, then managed to seriously hurt
myself -- dropped a six-pack of rootbeer on my foot
as I was putting groceries away -- it hit my big
toe, split the nail open, intense pain, AMAZING amount of blood all
over the place. In terrible pain for the rest of the
day. Lori came over to pick Tracy up, stayed long enough to
watch "Flatliners" with me again.
shish kebobs for dinner Sunday night. Yum.
July 17, 1991
funny ... the girls have discovered the old "Brady
Bunch" re-runs on Channel 11 in the mornings. They think it's
great; I'm amazed by how hokey it all seems to me now, twenty years
after the fact ...
passions this summer: Sabrina's kittens, especially the black
& white one ("Domino") and the all-white one we've named
"Spud" ... building forts in the backyard out of
cardboard boxes and picnic table benches ...
reading ... curling her hair
... riding her bike in the church parking lot.
July 19, 1991
is here today -- Andrea is at the hospital with
Cody. Her husband served her with divorce papers yesterday,
and she's terribly upset. There goes another marriage I used
to envy. Aren't there any married couples out there who
actually love and respect each other?
to Grandma Vert on the phone the other day, she told me that Ray is a
"good man," and that I'm lucky to have him. She really means
it, too. Does she see something I don't? (Or
won't?) Ten years ago I would have just tossed off her
advice, but I'm old enough now to understand something about
perspective. This is a woman who has been married for nearly
63 years ... I'm the first to admit that she knows
more about the subject than I do. What does she see in
Ray? His diligence? His loyalty? His
sweet nature? All qualitites that drew me to him initially, I
July 22, 1991
from another loopy weekend. I went off on my usual Saturday
bender, and paid for it all day yesterday. Today the hot
summer weather is due to begin in earnest, so I'm up early and trying
to get the housework done before it gets too hot to move around, but
the truth is that I already feel sluggish and unmotivated. If
I thought I could get away with it, I would probably sit here on the
sofa all day drinking coffee (I'd switch to iced tea in the afternoon)
and watching junk TV. Unfortunately, there is a house to
clean and children to feed and laundry to do, and none of this stuff is
going to get done all by itself ...
is becoming a distressingly familiar pattern, Journal: twice a week,
usually on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Terri goes off on a wild and happy
drinking spree ... twice a week, usually on
Thursdays and Sundays, Terri is completely incapacitated
... and twice a week, usually on Fridays and Mondays, Terri
desperately tries to put it all back together. This is one of
those "trying to put it back together" days ... the
house, the family, relationships, my LIFE ... all
the stuff that was allowed to lapse the past two days. And
then of course there's always all this lovely guilt and
self-recrimination to deal with. Why do I do this to myself,
anyway?? Four or five hours of happy-happy, folllowed by two
completely dysfunctional days. What is so missing in my life
that I find my only "escape" in that twice-weekly binge?
July 24, 1991
is going to be a tough one to write.
found out today that my grandmother is dying of leukemia.
Grandma hasn't been feeling well for some time, although she'd managed
to keep up her normally hectic pace. last month we went to
the family reunion together, out of state, and although there were
moments when she seemed more tired than usual, more withdrawn
-- she took a lot of "naps" in her hotel room
-- she seemed to be fine. At the family banquet she
got up in front of everybody and sang a long with the guitarist hired
to entertain us, pretending to play her "fiddle" when he played a song
she'd requested. The day we left for home, she hugged the
Idaho cousins goodbye. "Everyone seems so sad," I said to
her, and she replied quietly that it was because they knew they would
never see each other again. Her remark lodged itself in my
heart. Now I wonder if she knew, even then, that her time was
Grandma one month earlier at the family reunion
has been threatening to die for as long as I've known her.
Three or four times a year she would phone me, out of the blue, and announce
that her days were numbered. Then she would begin bequeathing
me all her possessions. "Terri Lynn, I want you to have my
sewing machine," she would say. I would protest that she was
jumping the gun, that she wasn't going to die, that I didn't want to
hear her talking this way. But she was always matter-of-fact
about it. "I want you to have these things because I know
you'll take good care of them," she'd insist, and I would simply
acquiesce and wait for the storm to pass. When Grandma was in
one of her 'dying moods,' there was no point in arguing with her.
morning, the phone call was different. I knew it the minute I
heard her voice. She's been in and out of the hospital twice
since we came home from the reunion, undergoing tests to determine the
cause of the pain and fatigue she'd been battling for weeks.
A few days ago, the doctors told her that she was "missing" three pints
of blood. They gave her a blood transfusion and bone marrow
and did some more tests. Her next doctor's appointment was
scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday), but this morning her doctor called
and said he needed to see her "right away." She called me
before she left for the doctor's office. "I'm frightened,"
she said, and I felt the first tickle of fear run along my
spine. This was not the matter-of-fact, confident,
I'm-going-to-die-so-take-the-sewing-machine Grandma of times past: this
was someone I'd never heard before ... a tired,
sick, frightened old woman.
"Call me when you get home," I
said to her tenderly, and we hung up. I had kids to take care
of and a mountain of laundry to tackle, but my thoughts were never more
than a heartbeat away from her for the rest of the morning.
am back in time ... to a dark night in March
1972. I am fourteen years old, asleep in my bed in the
upstairs bedroom of Grandma and Grandpa's house. Grandma has
had some heart trouble during the past year, including a mild heart
attack she suffered during a family vacation in Sunnyside.
We've all been worried about her. At this point in my life
I've lived with my grandparents for ten years, and they are everything
to me: surrogate parents, guiding lights, jailers, disciplinarians,
sources of joy and irritation, tears and inspiration. I have nightmares sometimes
that they will die and leave my brother and I alone in the
world: I am certain I could not survive such a
loss. In one particularly vivid nightmare, I see their caskets rolling down a
steep hill. I run and try to catch them, but they are gone
before I can reach them.
On this night, however, the
nightmare is real. Grandma suffers another heart attack, and
as the ambulance screeches off down the road, taking her to the
hospital, I huddle numbly in my bed and pray. The radio plays
a song -- "Everything I Own," by Bread
-- and I cry. Later, I tiptoe downstairs to her
bedroom, stroke the crumpled sheets of her bed, imagine that they are
still warm from where she layed in them.
this heart attack, but many things in my life change as a direct
result of that night. For the rest of my life I will
remember those hours of fear and exhortation to God as a pivotal
turning point in my life ...
phone rings again, shortly after noon. Grandma's voice is
tiny, hollow. "It's leukemia," she says. "The quick
kind. Pray for me." And she hangs up.
stand there in my kitchen, still holding the phone in my hand, still
holding my breath for long moments after we've disconnected.
My heart, pounding in my chest, feels as heavy and final as a
cannonball. I hang up the phone, and the first tears prick
the corners of my eyes. I am numb. I am
stone. The coffin is rolling down the hill, and I am watching
it roll ... paralyzed, unable to run after
dark night, nearly ten years later: the fall of
1981. I am twenty-three years old now, newly married, heavily
pregnant with my first child ... standing in a phone booth
with a stack of quarters and a can of 7-Up in front of me.
Grandpa Vert died this morning. I haven't seen either one of
my grandparents in months, and now I am wracked with guilt, remorse,
fear, grief. What will I say to my grandmother? How
will I comfort her in her terrible grief? My hands are
unsteady as I dial the number.
Grandma answers the phone, and
I stammer how sorry I am, how sad, how ready to comfort.
Grandma, as always, manages to completely surprise me: she is calm,
matter-of-fact, utterly together. No weeping widow, preparing
to fling herself onto the funeral pyre. I have completely
underestimated the woman's strength. My own awkward
outpouring of grief seems overblown in comparison.
later, at Grandpa's funeral, Grandma is composed, dry-eyed and
gracious, and I am struck anew by the resiliency that runs the very
length and breadth of this lady. How could I ever think SHE
would need comfort from ME?
first impulse is an utterly sentimental one. As smoothly as
if I had rehearsed this, I go straight to the living room stereo, pick
out the old Bread album, and play the second track on Side
Two. By the time David Gates begins to sing the chorus ("I
would give everything I own/Give up my life, my heart, my home/Yes I
would give everything I own/Just to see you again"), the tears are
pouring down my cheeks, chill and unrelenting as this afternoon's
Suddenly I feel a pair of small arms around me:
Jamie, drawn by the music (and by her mother's pain) is comforting
me. Moments later Kacie joins us, and we three sit and listen
to the song, cry, hug, share the sorrow. I am deeply and
indelibly touched by their compassion. What splendid daughters
they are. The grown-up in me says "You should be comforting
THEM" ... but the grief-stricken child in my soul
rejoices in the comforting ...
funny. You can't walk through a room in this entire house
without encountering touches of "Grandma." In the living
room: the endtables from my childhood living room, the hooked rug
Grandma made, the plants she sent over when we first moved into the
place, the stone bookends Grandpa hand-polished, the camphor
chest. In the hallway: Great-Grandma Gim's antique treadle
sewing machine. Framed photos: Grandma and Grandpa's 50th
wedding anniversary portrait, Grandma's graduation from nursing school,
a picture of Grandma and Grandpa in their "Roveths" costumes.
In the kitchen: a neat row of Grandma's canned peaches, watermelon
preserves and raspberry jam, plus a large yellow bowl of fresh apricots
she sent over just today for my kids. Even now, in the midst
of all this, she's still sending me stuff. In my bedroom: the
heirloom quilt she made me, with bits and pieces of clothing left over
from my childhood ...
damn sewing machine. My heart keeps going back to the sewing
machine. When I was a little girl, Grandma made nearly all of
my school clothes herself. She'd get so excited when she
found the "right" pattern and fabric, and I would have to stand there
fidgeting through endless fittings and adjustments. When she
finished the dress or the jumper or the blouse, she'd be nearly beside
herself with joy. "I make ll of Terri Lynn's clothes myself!" she'd
boast to friends and relatives. Naturally I hated all of
it. Never mind the perfect seams, the hand-embroidered
initials on the collars, the expensive material, the unique
buttons. Why couldn't I have the same cheap,
machine-manufactured junk my friends were wearing? You just
don't appreciate these things when you're young.
I look at
the quilt now, at the small square of brown and yellow fabric from a
blouse I particularly loathed in fifth grade ... it had a meticulously hand-embroidered "T"
on the collar, as I recall ... and I think about the hours this woman spent huddled
over her sewing machine, pouring all of her love and energies into
making clothes for an undeserving me ...
song ends. I wipe my tears, hug my little
daughters. Some of that automatic Mommyism has kicked in
finally: as private as my memories are, as personal the hurt, I realize
that they love Grandma too, and they deserve some comforting of their
own. I must resist the temptation to keep this all to myself,
to let them be the parent and me the wounded little girl. We
spend the afternoon playing "Battleship" and watching the thunderstorm
building, outside our window. I feel as though the first hurt
has been met and vanquished. There is more
ahead ... soon,
probably ... but for now I feel washed clean,
July 26, 1991
world has flip-flopped on me again. Every time I start feeling
complacent about life -- every time I begin to
think that nothing will ever change -- that's when
Fate knocks on my door and has me sign for a package again ...
is dying. There isn't much I can add to what I wrote on the
last few pages, at least where my feelings of grief are
concerned. The past couple of days I have vascillated between
unbearable sorrow and calm acceptance. It's one of those
situations you know is inevitable -- it
had to happen sooner or later -- but the fact is
that it's happening NOW and you either accept it or go crazy.
I love my grandmother very much ... next to my
kids, she is probably the person I love most in the world. I
will miss her terribly. I can't even imagine what my life
will be like without her. For thirty-three years she has been
my anchor, my mentor, and -- yes, I admit
it -- my life's safety net. Whenever
things have gone wrong -- whenever I've needed a
shoulder to cry on, a place to stay, financial assistance,
whatever -- she's been there for me. I've
probably never really hit bottom because, in the back of my mind, I've
always known she was there to catch me if I fell. All she has
ever done is love me unconditionally. She has always
believed in me, has always encouraged mje, has always expected the best
from me. She has been my own personal section, my entire
life. The fact that I'm utterly undeserving of such devotion
and love is beside the point ... the love has been
there anyway, and the support, and there will be an enormous, permanent
void in my life when she's gone.
sound so selfish. It's all me, me, me ...
my feelings, my emptiness, my loss. Grandma didn't "belong"
to me personally. There is a world of people who love her and
will miss her when she's gone. But the plain fact of the
matter is that the bond between Grandma and me --
and she would be the first to verify this -- has
always been a special one. I am and always have been "her
girl." Period. I wish now that I had tried harder
to live up to her expectations.
now we come to the real heart cruncher. Are you ready for
this? Even now, as she's dying, this incredible woman is
still trying to act as my safety net.
She has decided to
leave me her house.
I am still in shock over this one.
Saturday, July 27th, 7:15 a.m.
Continuing this very early the next morning
been awake since shortly after five this morning
... completely unable to sleep. I'm supposed to go
over to Grandma's in a little while and "take care of her" for the day,
although I suspect that what she really wants is an opportunity to talk
to me alone for a few hours. This has all happened so
fast. I've known about the house since Wednesday
night -- she called me again, after I'd written the
journal entry you read a page or two back, and she said that she'd
decided to leave it to me -- but I don't think the
reality has set in yet. Or maybe it's just beginning to set
in this morning, because my head is buzzing and has been for
some of the legal stuff. Grandma has already been to see her
lawyer and the groundwork has been laid: she is leaving me her half of
the house outright (that's $60,000). Ray and I will have to
buy out the other half from Ted. In addition, she wants to
give me $5,000 for a down payment to Ted, which is one of the only
requests Ted has made in regard to selling the house. For the
next three years Ray and I will be expected to make monthly payments to
Ted of $424. Bu the end of three years we will have to have
gotten a mortgage on the rest of it. I understand some of
this, but it's all new to me and I'm going to have to get somebody to
explain it to me in depth so we don't totally screw this thing
up. In the meantime, I don't know exactly when we'll be
expected to move in, but I have a feeling it will be soon.
Maybe I'll know more specifics when I get home this
afternoon. I definitely need to write more about how this is
affecting everybody. But for right now I need some coffee and
a shower. I'll write more when I get back.
several hours at Grandma's ... cooked her breakfast
(she taught me how to poach an egg), cleaned up her kitchen, sat and
visited with her. Very little was said about her health or
about the house, so I don't know much more than I did this
morning. I think she just wanted to spend some "normal" time
alone with me, perhaps for the very last time ...
We sat in her "Inner Sanctum" (her spare room, where she used to do her
sewing and painting), and listened to old cassette tapes of family
dinners, me playing the piano, etc. ... Grandpa
Vert's dear voice, speaking to us from twenty years ago
... it was an interlude of love,
togetherness, shared memories ... made all the more
poignant by the fact that it was probably the last time we'll ever be
sharing such an afternoon.
August 3, 1991
entire week later. I've looked at this journal all week long,
trying to get myself to pick it up and write something about the
situation with Grandma, but as usual, in times of greatest stress, the
words won't come. It's been a tough week, emotionally,
financially, physically, EVERY way.
I don't know any more than I did a week ago. We remain firmly
planted in limbo. Valerie called me last night to say that
Grandma went back in the hospital, undergoing another transfusion, and
she'll probably be there for a couple of days. I was sort of
planning to run over and see her again today, like I did last Saturday,
but now I'm not sure what we'll do. I definitely need to see
her at some point soon and find out what she needs me to do about the
house. I don't mean to sound crass about this, because
obviously my greatest concern is for her HEALTH, but it's been tough on
all ofus, not knowing when -- or if
-- we'll be moving. Apparently Ted's lawyer is
trying to throw a monkey wrench into the deal now, and it's uncertain
whether or not we'll get the house at all. It's really a
mess. I'm not in a gigantic hurry to move anyway, but the
fact of the matteris that there are a lot of other things that need to
be taken into account -- the kids' school year
beginning in a month, our present lease with Greg and Deb (due to
expire Oct. 1st), my babysitting clients -- all
thorny issues that will require precise timing and a diplomatic
hand. (Once, just ONCE, I would like to move out of a place
on good terms with my landlords ... )
was at Grandma's house last week, I couldn't seem to stop myself from
looking at the place through the eyes of a 'prospective
resident' ... mentally measuring walls, bedrooms,
closet space ... imagining what this particular
picture would look like on such-and-such a wall, wondering where on
earth we'd put the stereo, is there enough room for bunkbeds in this
bedroom? ... I felt guilty and disgusted with
myself for even thinking this way, with Grandma sitting right there,
but I couldn't help it. The truth is that I'm enormously torn
about the idea of living there. There is a part of me that
doesn't like the idea ... the part of me that
resists change, that looks for obstacles ... It's
too small! It's too narrow! It's too full of
memories! The kids will hate changing schools!
You're going to be homesick and miserable! You'll never be
able to handle the responsibility of owning a house! Believe
me -- you'll find a way to fuck it up!
... and there is the other part of me that says The
only way you can fuck this up if if you don't accept this final act of
love and generosity from Grandma for what it is --
a once in a lifetime opportunity ...
like I told my mom, earlier this week -- this is
the most amazingly complicated set of emotions I have ever dealt with,
in my whole life.
August 5, 1991
called me last night, as I was making dinner for the kids.
"Have you been to see your grandmother yet today?" she asked
I said no. Ray had taken the kids over to
Shannon South for an afternoon swim (I stayed home and enjoyed some
rare alone time), and they were gone for most of the day. I
knew I needed to get to the hospital to see her, but there just hasn't
been an opportunity yet.
"Well, you'd better get over there
fast," Valerie said ominously. "She's failing
I was shocked. Wasn't the blood transfusion
supposed to make her better for
awhile? Maybe I've been naive. I know she's going
to die -- I'm not expecting any last-minute
miracles -- but I really thought we had some
time. Valerie's call sent my hopes plummeting. It
was past 7 p.m., I was standing there deep-frying fajitas, hungover and
tired, flooded with despair. The kids (and Tracy) were all
outside in the tent, waiting for dinner. Ray had come home
drunk and obnoxious, so he would be no help. How in the hell
was I going to get to the HOSPITAL?
and more lately I have come to depend on my mom in an emergency, and
this time was no exception. I called her and asked if she
could drive me to Highline Hospital? She was here to pick me
up twenty minutes later. We didn't talk much during the drive
to Burien, but then again there wasn't much of a need to. We
both understood how the other was feeling. For Mom, this was
a poignant reminder of one year ago, when Grandma St. John was dying in
this very same hospital. For me, this was going to say
goodbye to the best friend I'll ever have.
was upstairs on the fourth floor, right next to the nurse's
station. She was asleep when we walked into her room,
breathing with an oxygen tube in her nose. I didn't want to
wake her up, so Mom and I just stood there silently for a couple of
minutes, watching her. I fought back a wave of grief, felt a
brief sting of tears. Here it is, I was thinking. The goodbye time.
Suddenly Grandma opened her eyes and
looked at us. It seemed to take her a moment to focus and
recognize me. She was so heavily sedated that it was
difficult to know what she was feeling or thinking, and several times
during our visit she closed her eyes and seemed to fade away
completely. But she did know it was me ("That's my
granddaughter," she said to her nurse), and she did seem pleased that
I'd come to see her. At one point she brought up the
house. "Go see your Dad. Talk to your Dad," she
said, with urgency. "He'll tell you what's going
on." I promised her that yes, I would call Dad the next day,
and that seemed to appease her somewhat. I really didn't want
to talk about the house with her laying in her hospital bed, though, so
I gently steered the conversation to more generic matters ...
family chitchat, mostly. By 8 p.m. she was definitely needing
to go back to sleep -- I could see her struggling
to keep her eyes open -- so I took her hand, looked
into her eyes and told her that I love her.
"I know," she
I told her to sleep well -- my very
last words to her were "Goodnight, Grandma" -- and
that I would try and call her the next day. And then I
Mom had gone off to find the coffeeshop, leaving
Grandma and I alone for a private visit, but I found her quickly and
she brought me right home.
this the last time I'll ever see Grandma? I don't
know. Her nurse told us that Grandma's vital signs are "OK,"
but that she's tired and discouraged and in pain a lot of the time, and
she's made up her mind that she wants to go. The part that
breaks my heart is that I can't say I blame her.
(Crying as I transcribe this for the
Saturday 7:15 a.m.
August 10, 1991
is the saddest day of my life.
passed away on Wednesday afternoon, and today we will say goodbye to
is all I can write for now.
Viola Annabelle Velma Louise Matilda Marguerite Elsie May Roberts Naff Vert
(That was her full name! "Roberts" was her last name at birth
... she later took her stepfather's last name of "Naff.")
At nursing school, mid-1920's (left) and in 1990 (right)
August 11, 1991
write as much as I can this morning, but I'm still grieving and my
thoughts are kind of a mess. Don't expect much in
the way of cohesiveness.
died peacefully at 1 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, August 7th.
Dad and Valerie visited her earlier that day, and she was very
weak. At one point (Valerie told me later), she tried to say
something to them but the words wouldn't come. She died a
short time later. Valerie called and told me around 4:00 that
afternoon. I think I knew, the minute I heard her thin,
exhausted voice, but it was still a terrible, terrible shock to hear
her say "Doc's gone." I remember I stood there and watched my
hands tremble uncontrollably. I started calling people
immediately. The need to talk about Grandma was very
intense. It was all that really held me together that night,
I think. I suppose part of it was me looking for sympathy and
consolation, but more than that it felt like a way to keep her alive
for a few hours longer ... as long as people were talking to
me about her, she wasn't really gone ...
And of course I employed all my usual coping "strategies" that
night -- wine, sad music, hugs from the kids, photo albums,
scriptures, more phone calls -- I sat and went
through three huge boxes of dishes and knick-knacks Grandma had sent
over three days previously, but which I hadn't had the heart to look at
yet -- I cried a LOT. Some of this stuff
worked, some of it didn't. Thursday and Friday were "lost
days" ... functioning outwardly, all systems shut
down inwardly. Ray took those nights off from work,
ostensibly to "help" me out, but actually all he's done for the past
three days is drink beer and drive me out of my mind. I'm
praying like crazy that he just goes somewhere
-- ANYWHERE -- for a few hours today,
giving me a break from his constant, irritating presence
... but I suppose today will simply be a repeat of the past
few days ...
don't even want to write about Ray this morning anyway.
Yesterday was the saddest, most horrible day of my life, and he made it
even worse. This morning I am filled with loathing and
contempt for him. Of course, this may be the "anger" portion
of the five stages of grief ... instead of getting
mad at Grandma for leaving, or at God for taking her, I direct my rage
at Ray ... but even so, he isn't doing much to
deflect the rage. He won't leave me alone, he won't stop
drinking, and the few attempts I've made at explaining to him that I
need some SPACE to work through my grief have gone in one ear and right
out the other. So I'm going to just quit trying and ignore
the asshole today. He'll get drunk, and pout about my "bad
mood," and pick fights with everybody all day long, and by this evening
he'll be weaving all over the house, whining about how "nobody loves
Daddy" until he finally, mercifully passes out. Actually, a
typical Sunday for Ray.
funeral. What can I say about that? Seems like only
yesterday we were attending Grandma St. John's funeral (in fact, it was
less than a year ago), so the whole thing had a weird sense of deja vu
about it. I even recognized the funeral director! I almost
felt like going up to him and saying "Hi, remember me? I was
wearing this same dress LAST time!" ...
composed enough at Grandma St. John's service to get up and actually
say a few words about her in front of everybody ...
but this time around there was just NO way. I blubbered
through the entire service. If I had even attempted to walk
to the front of the church and say something, I would have lost it
entirely. Besides, it wasn't that kind of service this
time. Grandma Vert's service was very formal and traditional,
right down to the hymns and the scriptures. No one got up and
"said a few words" at this service. The minister read a
history of Grandma's life -- Aunt Elva wrote it, I
think -- and it was very moving, even though the
minister had obviously never met Grandma and screwed up a lot of
names. (He referred to Grandma's brother Vaughn as "Van," for
instance, which annoyed me for some reason.) We sang
Grandma's favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art," recited the 23rd Psalm
in unison, and listened to a standard sermon about life and
death. I sat next to Valerie and Dad and snuffled into a
handkerchief throughout the whole thing. After the
service -- which, by the way, was held at Grandma's
old Methodist church -- there was a half hour of
"family visiting time" in the church parlor, followed by a brief
graveside service. And that was pretty much it.
night before the funeral, I had my "bereavement dream." It
was very disturbing, but it's the only one I've had so far, so maybe
it's the only one I'll have. I don't know. In the
dream, I was standing in the parlor of Grandma's church, waiting for
the funeral to begin. There were a lot of other people there,
and a long table covered with plates of cookies and fruit and bowls of
punch. Suddenly Grandma was standing there in front of us, in
her best dress with her hair freshly done. She said, "I think
I have enough time to eat a few cookies before they put me in that
hole." I was shocked, but everybody else seemed to think this
was perfectly normal. A few minutes later, she was laying in
her coffin at the top of a big hill, and everybody was lining up to pay
their last respects. The lid of the coffin was open, and I
had a note in my hand that I desperately wanted to put into her coffin
with her before she was buried, but the line of people kept getting
longer and longer and I couldn't seem to get a turn. Finally
I managed to climb up the hill, which was very steep and rocky, and I
bent over her body and started to place the note in her hand.
Suddenly her eyes jerked open, she climbed out of the coffin and
started walking around, like a robot. "It's the saline
solution they put into her body," somebody said to me. "She's
not actually alive anymore." And with that I keeled over into
a faint. End of dream.
up from the dream yesterday morning, and even though it was only 6:10
a.m. and the funeral wasn't for eight hours, I got up anyway and
started getting ready. I certainly wasn't going to go back to
sleep after a dream like that. The weird thing is that the
dream felt like some sort of "message" to me, telling me that
I should write a note to Grandma and try to slip it into her casket
during the funeral ... just a little piece of 'me'
that would go with her. So I sat at the kitchen table and
wrote a note to her, telling her that I will love her forever, and that
I was thankful for everything she'd been to me. I felt a
little funny doing it, and as it turned out it was a closed-casket
service so I never got the chance to give it to her. I
suppose the important thing, though, is that I got my feelings down on
paper, and maybe somehow she "saw" it anyway ...
I am glad that I got to see her that Sunday night before she died, and
that I was able to tell her one last time that I love her.
And I'll be thankful, thankful, THANKFUL, for the rest of my life, that
I went to that family reunion with her in June.
August 12, 1991
cousin Ben (age 10) spent the night with us last night. He
lives so far away that we don't get to see him much
-- just holidays, usually -- but he's a
very sweet boy and we've all enjoyed having him around today.
He camped out in the tent last night with my kids, and this morning
Kyle is following him around like a puppy dog.
just happened that really shook me up. Ben's grandma Lois
called a few minutes ago, to let me know she was on her way to pick him
up, and when I answered the phone she said "Hello? Terri
LYNN?" Just the way Grandma Vert used to
do. I think my heart completely stopped beating.
Then I realized who it was, and we had a quick pleasant conversation,
but when we hung up I sat on the couch and cried. It suddenly
occurred to me that I will never again answer the phone and hear
Grandma's voice on the other end. Lots of people will still
call me "Terri Lynn," I suppose ... but it won't be
had more of these sad little "jolts" the past couple of days.
I looked at the stack of empty canning jars and thought "Gee, I've
really got to get these back to Grandma." And then of course
I remembered. Another time, I was washing out a sterling
silver teapot she gave me and I thought to myself, "I'm going to ask
Grandma the best way to polish this." It's such a blow to
realize that I can't just pick up the phone and call her about these
August 13, 1991
kids just left with Peg to spend a few days in Bellevue. I'm
glad they're getting a chance to escape this house of gloom and doom
and have a little fun, but I'm going to miss them like crazy.
and Mak just went home with their mom, Ray is at work, the kids are in
Bellevue: Terri P. (still in search of that elusive decent pen) at long
last finds herself ALONE! This is the first time I've had a
moment to myself since the funeral. For that matter, it's the
first "alone time," except for a couple of hours last Wednesday evening
when the kids all went to Bible Club, that I've had since Grandma
died. So this is bliss. This is Nirvana.
I worked like a maniac all day long, cleaning every room in this house,
practically -- even the kids' horrible pigpens
-- and the place is neat, cool, dim ...
and QUIET. It's warm today, but not oppressively so: a breeze
is blowing through the backdoor behind me, as I sit here in my beloved
little "office." How I love this small corner of the world: I
feel as though nothing can touch me here. I can sit here and
think and write and sip my wine and listen to my music, and nothing can
disturb this perfect private island of calm ...
to write a few words at this point about life and death, and my
feelings about them. Ordinarily I wouldn't be apt to tackle
such weighty subjects ... I mean, these aren't my
usual sort of journal topics, are they?? The kids
... my crummy marriage ... day-to-day
problems ... that's usually more my
speed. You don't catch me trying to be philosophical very
often, probably because I'm not very good at it. But of
course the past couple of weeks have given me cause to think about more
than babysitting problems and overdue bills and stains on the living
room carpet. I suppose everyone goes through this sooner or
later: the point in your life where you really begin to evaluate what
you believe, and what you don't believe, and how it all fits into the
way you live your life. Maybe it's part of growing
up. I don't know. Frankly, I would love to grow up
finally. I'm sick and tired of walking around in a haze,
still handling things the way I did when I was seventeen
... still feeling dumb and incapable, still waiting for "the
grown-ups" to fix everything ... maybe Grandma's
death, tragic as it has been for me, will be the catalyst that finally
makes me grow up. (My safety net is gone: from here on,
you're on your own, Terri.) And maybe the first
step -- or at least ONE of the first
steps -- is to consider my own mortality.
is what I believe, in a nutshell. I am completely, utterly
convinced that there is life after death. I believe that
Jesus Christ is the son of God, I believe in His death and
resurrection, and I believe that those who accept Jesus into their
hearts as personal Lord and Saviour will share eternity with
Him. I have believed this for most of my life, and nothing
I've done in the past twenty years (since I first became a Christian)
has altered that belief. I am a lousy example of a born-again
Christian, but the fact is that that's what I am, and I know that in
spite of my lapses and weaknesses, I'm still going to spend eternity
with Jesus. What I wonder about -- what I
worry about -- is who will be there with
me? I think that Grandma will be. I wish now that
at some point I had actually asked her whether or not she'd accepted
Jesus, and now I won't know until I die myself and get to
Heaven ... but I hope that she did, at some point
in her life. I think she did. I think that I will
probably see her again someday. And this lends such a sense
of hopefulness to my grieving. It has sustained me so much
this past week.
aren't just words. I want you to know that. A lot
of the time, I think, I write stuff in these journals just to "hear
myself think," if you know what I mean ... writing
purely for the sake of writing, not paying a lot of attention to the
veracity of what I'm saying. (A lot of things I write about
Ray and about our marriage are like this. I write when I'm
mad at him, or when we've just had a fight, and mostly I'm just letting
off steam.) But this is the most sincere thing I've ever
written, and I want you to know that. In spite of all the
terrible, self-destructive, un-Christianlike things I've done over the
years -- I don't need to list them here; if you've
read one journal or forty, you know what they are
-- I believe that I am born-again, I believe in eternal life
with God, and I believe that when I die, Grandma will be standing there
waiting for me with open arms ...
course, I'm not crazy about the idea of dying. About the
actual process, that is. I don't want to die in terror:
that's probably my biggest fear. I don't want to die at the
hands of another human being. If I could choose the way I'd
want to go, it would be the way Grandma went ... at
the end of a long and busy life, much beloved by many people, in my
sleep without pain. I would hope that when I died there were
people nearby who love me, and that I'd accomplished enough in during
my lifetime that people would say "She lived a good life." (I
wouldn't want anyone to say "What a shame ... she
never really accomplished as much as she could
have.") But once the actual, momentary process of
my soul leaving my body occurs: I can't help but feel intrigued and
optimistic about that, because I believe it will be
incredible. Sometimes when I'm listening to really beautiful
music (like right now), I imagine I get a tiny sense of what it must be
like: the weightlessness, the cessation of pain and care, the
joy. I hope this is what Grandma felt when she
dies. I hope it was bliss.
August 15, 1991
didn't get as much written the other night as I'd hoped to (I was
distracted, eventually, by wine, phone calls and music), but it will
have to do for now. Did I sound hopelessly moronic?
Or does what I wrote make any kind of sense? For some reason,
it just seemed really important to get my beliefs on paper.
What if I died suddenly, and my children were left to wonder if I was a
Christian? This way, it's on the record. There were
some other things I wanted to write about, too, but they can wait for
kids come home tomorrow. I've talked to them three times
since they went to Peg and Don's, and it sounds as though they're
having a fine time. I'm so glad. This has been such
an odd and unhappy summer: they deserve a little fun. I've
missed them while they've been gone, but I have to be honest and admit
that I've enjoyed the break. I feel more rested and relaxed
at the moment than I have all summer ... it's been
wonderful. Yesterday I had no babysitting at all, and it was
like a "mini-vacation." I went over and visited Velma for a
couple of hours, watched the soaps, read a book ("Mrs. Mike"), worked
on a crossword puzzle, played with the kittens, nibbled on some Taco
Time, took a long afternoon nap. No giant meals to
prepare, no mountains of laundry, no noisy kid-arguments to
referee. The house has remained tidy for two and a half days
now: a world's record. I've been enjoying the luxury of
wandering from room to room, savoring the neatness, the quiet, the
peace ... I have no babysitting again today,
incidentally, so another long lovely day of doing very little stretches
out before me.
August 20, 1991
Talk about going from one extreme to another. Last week (with
all the kids gone) was a slice of heaven on earth
... and now, this week, I'm right back in the middle of
and Erin are in Mexico this week, celebrating their anniversary, and I
have inherited all three of their boys, including four month old
Jordan. I've had no sleep in three days, my house is trashed,
they're me out of house and home, and the noise is deafening.
I am at my very wits' end.
August 21, 1991
little better. Jordan is such a handful: one of those babies
who demand to be "entertained" all the time. We're constantly
moving him from the bassinette to the blanket, to someone's lap, to the
portable swing, back to the blanket (on his tummy this time), onto
someone else's lap, back to the swing ... he's
never content for more than a minute or two at a time. The
first two nights he was here, he didn't sleep much at all: I was up
with him twice both nights. The result was one very
exhausted, cranky Terri all day yesterday. I felt like I was
walking in my sleep! At one point --
around noon -- Jordan was taking a rare nap, and
I'd crawled onto the sofa and shut my eyes. I was just
starting to drift off into a much-needed snooze when
-- Kacie squeezed a baby toy about a foot away from my
ear. I burst into tears! ("I'm so sorry,
Mom! I'm so sorry!!" she said, looking as though she were
going to cry herself.)
Fortunately he slept a
little better last night -- from 8:30 until about 4
in the morning, and then from 4:30 a.m. until 8 a.m. or so.
And of course that means I slept better, too.
and Erin don't come home until next Monday night, though, so we still
have six full days to get through. I wish now that I hadn't
allowed myself to be roped into this, but it's too late now.
meantime, there isn't much new to tell about Grandma's house.
Mr. Moreland (Gram's lawyer) mailed me a copy of her will last week,
and I've spoken to him a couple of times on the phone.
Basically we just wait for the will to go through probate and wait to
see what Ted plans to do. Now that Grandma is gone, Ted has
become very nasty and mean-spirited towards the family, and we are all
under court order not to contact him about anything because he "wants
his privacy." That's fine with me, frankly. While
Grandma was alive I always tried to treat Ted with courtesy and
respect, but the truth is that I've never liked him much and now I
don't really care who knows it. If he wants to stay in the
house, I feel he has every right. I've said it before, I'll
say it again: I'm in NO hurry to move. But when the time
comes, nothing and nobody is going to prevent me from getting that
house. If I was ambivalent about it before, that was simply
because my first concern was for Grandma ... I
couldn't get all fired up about the house because I was too busy
grieving for her. But now she's gone, and I'm seized with a
new desire to see her wishes come to fruition. She wanted me
to live in the house, and I'm determined to see it happen eventually.
August 24, 1991
struggling through the latest Week In Hell. At least we don't
have Josh and Mak for two days, and Ray has to work tonight: that means
I "only" have six kids to take care of today ...
spit up all over me about ten minutes nago, and when Jerome jumped up
to get me a towel, he knocked André down and sent his bowl of Apple
Cinnamon Cheerios flying all over the living room rug. Kacie
and Jamie have already gotten into one annoying argument this morning,
over how many bowls of cereal to pour. Kyle hasn't
had a bath in five days, and there is food on his face I recognize from
last Thursday. André's soggy diaper (a DIAPER at age FIVE) is
laying on the kitchen floor, next to the garbage, which is stuffed to
overflowing. The kitchen floor is so black and gummy that my
bare feet stick to it when I walk across the room. The living
room is a sea of baby paraphernelia, dirty laundry is strewn across the
floor of my "office," and the toilet is running again. Jordan
has the hiccups, Sabrina and her four kittens are milling about the
back porch demanding to be fed, it's the day after payday and we're
broke already, and I am slowly going crazy, crazy going slowly am
August 27, 1991
gone! Jerome and André and that infernal (cute! but
infernal!) baby!! Erin's dad came by and picked them up last
night around 10:00, on his way to the airport to get Jae and
Erin. Erin will be coming back later this week to pick up the
rest of their stuff. I'm not looking forward to that much,
mostly because of an unpleasant phone conversation she and I had on
Sunday morning (I told her that I felt "taken advantage of,"
and I asked her for more money), but at this point I'm just so glad to
be free of that baby that I don't care. This entire last week
has been a nightmare, and I'm simply thankful that it's over.
must sound like I hate babies. Every time I have one in this
house, I feel trapped and resentful, and I complain about it to anyone
who will listen: I know it's happened three or four times in this
journal alone. But of course I don't dislike
babies. I love them. I had three of my own,
remember? It's just that my own children are older now (eight
days until Kyle starts kindergarten), and once you get past the
Pampers-and-Enfamil stage, it's awfully hard to go back. The
constant demands, the responsibility, the noise and mess and lack of
sleep -- it's unrelenting. You don't mind
it so much when it's your own baby, but when it's someone else's (and
you're being paid peanuts, to boot), it's another story entirely.
August 29, 1991
tenth wedding anniversary ... the usual No Big
Deal. Ray left a card for me on the kitchen table this
morning; unfortunately, it's an exact duplicate of the card he gave me
two years ago! Oh well. ("It's the thought that
counts," Jamie reminded me sternly.) We're broke, as always,
but I managed to make him a small gift of my own: a framed photo of the
bridge in Grandma's back yard. I thought it would serve to
remind us that someday -- God (and Ted)
willing -- it will be our home.
begin babysitting again for Andrea tomorrow. She has a new
job as a bookkeeper in Burien: I'll be watching Danielle and Cody four
days a week (Wednesdays off) for ten hours a day, $2.50 an hour to
start. Another BABY around here!! Oh
well. (Again.) We need the money.
August 30, 1991
girls find out who their teachers will be today: the class lists will
be posted at school. I'm going to let them run over this
afternoon and check. We already know that Kyle will have Mr.
Gallagher. He'll be in the afternoon kindergarten class;
Janet's going to drive him and Joey to school every day, and then he
can walk home with the girls.
has the fourth grade teacher she desperately did NOT want to have, Ms.
K. (Jay had her for Reading Class last year, and knows
already that she's a tough teacher.) Kacie will have someone
named Ms. Briggs. The really good news is that Tia isn't in
Jamie's class this year. Maybe they will both do a little
better scholastically than they did last year.
bad news is that Janet just called to announce that she won't be able
to take Kyle to school after all. Her husband has just taken
a new job, and his hours will vary from week to week. I'm not
exactly sure why this means she won't be able to drive the boys, but
it's par for the course. Now I'm going to have to scramble
around and come up with some other arrangements for Kyle, at least for
the first couple of weeks, until I'm confident of his ability to walk
the four or five blocks to school alone.
August 31, 1991
bad news -- sort of. Now it's Saturday
morning, August 31st, incidentally ... a cold,
rainy, dark morning. We have to drive out to Bellevue later
today and visit Ray's Grandma Bev and Aunt Dorene, over at the folks'
house. They got into town on Tuesday morning, but this is our
first chance to get out and see them. I have to admit that
it's going to be a little tough for me to do this "visiting Grandma"
stuff, with both of my grandmothers now gone, but I love Bev and it
will be nice to see her.
Anyway, the other "sort of" bad
news: when Karen came to pick up Josh and Mak last night, she informed
me that HER husband has taken a new job (I'm detecting a pattern here)
and that I will now have the boys for five days a week. In
other words, no more Wednesdays off. For about ten minutes it
looked as though Wednesdays were going to be my island of sanity this
fall: Wednesday is the one day of the week I won't have Danielle and
Cody, and until now Wednesday was my day off from Josh and Mak,
too. Shit. Five straight days of babysitting every
week, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Naturally that's going to be
helpful financially, but I wonder about the toll this will take on my
sanity. I will have NO time to myself. Ever.
That reminds me. I haven't even told you the rest of it: Ray
starts DAY SHIFT next Tuesday. My world is crumbling all
around me. This is one reason why I was counting on Janet to
get Kyle to school, because Ray won't be here to take him.
Ray will be gone all day, and I'll be stuck here in the mornings with
Kyle, Danielle, Cody and Mak. After Kyle goes to school, I'll
still have the other three here until long into the
afternoon. After school, Jamie, Kacie, Kyle and Josh will be
thrown on top of everything. Seven kids, including one
baby. And THEN, even when all of the "extra" kids have all
gone home, RAY will be here all evening.
like crying, just thinking about it all.
September 2, 1991
been in a terrible mood for two days. Yesterday, in
particular: I felt like I was on the edge of a complete nervous
breakdown. Just thinking about the week ahead
-- about the WEEKS ahead -- sent me into
a crying jag that lasted all afternoon. This morning is a
little better. I got a good night's sleep, the sun is
shining, I have no babysitting today at least, and I'm hopeful that I
can use this day to "catch up" on housework and laundry and fortify
myself psychically for the next few days.
always jabbering on and on about what an "optimistic" person I
am ... how I usually see the glass as
half-full ... but for the past few days I've been
seeing the glass not only as half-empty, but sitting on the coffee
table where some kid has left it, expecting ME to be the one to pick it
up and wash it out ...
pinpointed the two greatest areas of stress and worry, at any rate, and
that's a start. One is taking care of Andrea's baby
fulltime. Babysitting in general has became a real strain on
me, physically and emotionally, but taking care of a two month old
pushes the strain factor up 100%. The other significant
source of stress will be having Ray home evenings, starting
tomorrow. No more quiet, peaceful evenings alone with the
kids. I will never, ever, ever have so much as a moment to
myself, not unless I crawl out of bed at 5:30 a.m. and try to sneak a
solitary cup of coffee before everyone else gets up.
Actually, this is something I've considered, except for the fact that
it guarantees I'll be bleary-eyed by noon. No
... there must be some other ways that I can deal with all of
this. That's what I've been racking my brain trying to come
up with all weekend.
woke us all up this morning. I was asleep on the couch (as
usual) when I suddenly heard him bursting out of bed, running through
the house and out the back door. Moments later he was back
with a kitten in his arms. I squeezed one eye half-open and
peered at him as he ran into the girls' bedroom ...
he looked so cute in his blue sweats and bare feet and tousled hair
(blond from the sun), hugging the kitten close ... I
can't believe that in two days he'll be starting
kindergarten. The girls were annoyed with him for waking them
up -- frankly, so was I (the last morning I can sleep in for God knows
how long) -- but I'm in such a radically improved
mood, and he's so darned cute, that I couldn't stay mad at him for long.
all three of the kids are laying around the living room, slurping cups
of coffee and milk and watching "The Price Is Right."
("Better enjoy it while you can!" I said to them teasingly.
"Two more days, and no more 'Price Is Right' or 'All My
Children.'!" The girls groaned.)
have to keep telling myself that I CAN do this ...
I CAN do this. I can take care of my own family and three
extra kids and a baby, I can keep the house together, I can find time
for myself, I can tolerate Ray being home in the evenings. I
do have the inner resources. I have the support
network. I am strong! I am invincible! I
am SUPER HOMEMAKER/BABYSITTER/MOM!
this is one of the coping strategies that I've come up with: trying to
keep my sense of humor about it all. At the very least it
should make for some great journal entries ...
maybe even material for a short story or two ...
Tuesday evening 6 p.m.
September 3, 1991
day of the new schedule (Ray's, that is), and so far, so
good. He's been home for an hour and a half: right now he's
mowing the backyard while I'm cooking dinner (meatloaf, au gratin
potatoes, salad). We've both had a really long day and we're
tired. He was up and out of the house by 6:30 a.m., but he
was so quiet about it that I never even heard him leave. My
own day began at 7:30 when Danielle and Cody got here, and I've pretty
much been on the go ever since. (Mak and Josh got here around
10:00, so I had a full house of kids all day.) The baby,
bless his heart, napped from noon till 4:30 p.m., so I actually got
more done, with less stress, than I had anticipated. The only
real low point of the day was when Mak took a bite out of a mushroom he
found growing on the side of the house. I called Poison
Control about it, but they said it was nothing to worry about.
is the first day of school, and -- wonder of
wonders -- I have no babysitting at all.
So I can walk Kyle over to Bow Lake and watch him catch the bus for his
first day of kindergarten. (He's so blase about the whole
thing, it's driving me crazy!! He's not nervous, he's not
excited, he's just ... KYLE.)
September 4, 1991
girls just left for their first day of school. Jamie was so
excited last night she couldn't sleep, and then she and Kacie came
crawling out of bed before 7:00 this morning, already pumped
up. They looked very pretty in the new outfits Pat bought
them, with their hair curled and their faces so shiny and
eager ... naturally I had to pose them in front of
Ray's flower garden and take pictures of them squinting happily into
the morning sun. (Grandma would be so proud.)
The girls (left) and Kyle (right) on the first day of school
September 4, 1991
is up, too. I gave him a bowl of cereal and he's sitting in
my bed, watching cartoons without a care in the world. This
is one of the biggest days of his life, and he's still as cool as a
Ogden and her little son Jon dropped by for a while, after dropping Angela
off at school. We had a nice visit. She is becoming
a good friend, someone I can count on in a pinch (unlike SOME friends I
could mention ...)
took a bath and I washed his hair; then I combed it out, and now it's
shiny and smooth and glistens like gold. He's snuggling on
the sofa with one of the kittens ("Spud") and watching an old Batman
re-run on TV. We leave in two hours.
September 6, 1991
beginning to settle into a "routine" around here:
a.m. Ray gets up, gets dressed,
leaves for work.
7:30 a.m. Girls
are up; breakfast; Danielle and Cody are dropped off. (In a
couple of weeks, Mak will be arriving at this time too: for now, he
arrives any time between 8:30 and 10:30.)
8:15 a.m. Girls leave
11:30 a.m. - Noon Kyle
eats lunch, gets dressed for kindergarten. Jamie
shows up for a quick lunch and a sneaky peek at "All My Children," then
walks Kyle to the kindergarten bus stop.
- 3:25 All three of my kids
are in school; I'm babysitting a combination of Mak, Danielle and
Cody. The baby naps, I clean house.
home from school, including Josh.
- 4:30 Ray home from work.
loves school, but then I really did think he would! Janet
showed up at the school on the first day, and after we put Joey and
Kyle onto the bus, we drove over to the kindergarten classroom (on the
Tyee High School campus) to eavesdrop on the first few minutes of
class. Kyle was so cute and so attentive: when Mr. Gallagher
called roll, Kyle put up his hand to show he was "present"
... I felt such a lump in my throat ...
Kyle and Joey on the school bus (left) and in their new classroom (right)
September 9, 1991
is in the air ... a little bit, anyway.
Or maybe it's just me, anticipating the arrival of my favorite
season. School has started; we had our first fire in the
woodstove the other night; the evenings are growing darker and
chillier. I'm looking at my summer clothes, wondering if it
would be premature of me to start packing them away. I
suppose I'm just glad that summer is over ... this
summer in particular. I can't believe what an unexpectedly
tumultuous summer it has turned out to be. Who could have
predicted it? The trip to Idaho, the loss of Grandma, the
mess over her house ... it all came so out of the
blue. For that matter, this entire past year
-- the period covered in this journal --
has been an amazingly turbulent time. Grandma St. John passed
away one year ago this Wednesday. How could I have known,
when I bought this notebook, that I would see both of my grandmothers
die within the space of one year? Or that our country would
go to war? Who could have predicted our kitty running away,
the car breaking down twice, our shitty Christmas, Lori's miscarriage,
my new friendship with Velma and Janet? It almost scares me
to think how much has happened in one short year. What in the
world will happen in the NEXT twelve months ... ??
September 10, 1991
dropped Danielle and Cody off at 6 a.m. this morning, so I am up far
earlier than normal. Cody drank a quick bottle and went back
to sleep -- so did Danielle --
but it would probably be counterproductive for me to go back to bed at
this point. So I'm drinking coffee and listening to the
radio, in an attempt to jump-start my day. My butt will be
dragging by noon, though ...
wanted to mention that we had a nice weekend. Originally we
were supposed to have Ray's folks and Bev and Dorene over for dinner on
Sunday, so I'd planned to spend all day Saturday cleaning house and all
day Sunday entertaining. At the last minute, however, Peg
remembered that she and Don had tickets to the Seahawks game on Sunday,
so the whole thing was cancelled. Instead, Ray and the kids
and I spent our Sunday morning shopping. We drove out to the
Federal Way K-Mart store and bought school clothes for the
kids. I found some terrific black stretch-jeans for the
girls, $15 a pair, and then I let them each pick out a new top to go
with them. I also bought Jamie her first two bras and a
package of headbands for Kacie. For Kyle I got a pair of
jeans, a striped pullover and a pair of Ninja Turtle
suspenders. Sunday evening we all went out to dinner at The
South China Doll. Eating out is such a rare treat for us, and
I thoroughly enjoyed myself, in spite of our ditzy waitress (who
charged us $21.95 for a side order of barbecued pork) and Kyle's
refusal to eat anything but tea and prawns ...
to admit that it really isn't so bad having Ray back on the day
shift. I don't know ... I guess I go
through this exact same crap every time he changes shifts at
work. I bitch and moan about how "disruptive" it's going to
be, how it's going to be a huge strain on everyone, and then it always
turns out that the change of pace is kind of nice. Classic
Terri: she has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into any kind of
change ... even changes that are for the
better. Ray is up and out of the house by 6:30 a.m., and for
the rest of the day the place is mine. The kids can make as
much noise as they please, getting ready for school (without worrying
about waking Daddy up) ... I can wander freely in
and out of the bedroom (without fear of same) ...
if Cody needs an early morning nap, I can plop him on my bed.
I can go about my day without feeling as though Ray is monitoring my
September 11, 1991
... a full year has now passed since my first entry in this
journal, and today will be the last entry. Naturally, I am
pleased by the sense of having come 'full circle.' I'm one of
those people who likes a beginning, a middle and an end. I
learned a word for it this year: it's called "closure"
... the need to wrap things up, neatly and finally.
It's a feeling I've had all my life, but could never describe until
now. Even in something as ordinary as writing in a journal, I
crave closure ... a final entry, something to wrap
up all the loose ends, a finale. And the fact that this
particular journal spans one complete year appeals to that craving in
me ... that need for completion and
cool and cloudy morning. The girls left for school an hour
ago, Kyle & Mak are watching TV in the living room, I'm sitting
out here in my "office." The babysitting will be light
today -- no baby, no Danielle, just Mak for most of
the day. Stephanie B. called me a little while ago and asked
me to babysit Jeffery and the new baby for "a few hours" this
afternoon, but I turned her down, politely but firmly. This
day belongs to me. The next two weeks will be full and busy,
babysitting-wise, and this is the closest thing I'm going to have to a
"day off" for as far as the eye can see. I need to be selfish
about it. This goes totally against the grain, of
course ... I am so used to doing favors for people,
even at great inconvenience to myself. But just this once, it
feels good to be selfish.
put a batch of chili into the crockpot for tonight's supper; later
today I'll make some corn muffins to go with it. Ray's cherry
tomatoes are ripe and ready -- I'll go outside and
pick a bowlful for salad. I've got one more load of laundry
to do this morning -- jeans and towels
-- and my bedroom needs picking up. I'll
watch my two soaps, "The Young & The Restless" (which I just
started watching this summer) and my old favorite, "All My
Children." (Natalie finally got out of that stupid well this
week, Jack proposed to Brooke, Hayley & Brian are onto
Janet.) Kyle will go to school after lunch. While
he's gone this afternoon, I'm going to work on the tape box I'm
collaging, or maybe I'll drag out the Christmas notebook and get some
preliminary work done on that.
doorbell. Two tall men in black overcoats and glasses,
wearing pins that say 'Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day
Saints.' I said, "No thanks, I'm busy," and shut the door on
them. I MEAN it: no one is going to interrupt my day!!)
close to actually feeling happy today. There are a few tiny
worries nagging at me, of course ... Will
my period start today finally? What are we going to do with
the kittens? Will Andrea pay me tomorrow?
... but mostly they are background noise, nothing more.
again: caught Kyle playing with matches in the bathroom!!!
Guess he thought I wouldn't catch on, but the smell when I walked into
the bathroom was unmistakeable. Resisted the urge to spank
him, for which I'm thankful ... sent him to his
room, grounded him from Nintendo and church for two weeks, and
told him that I am "VERY angry and disappointed" in him. He
is sitting in his room now, sobbing his heart out. It's all I
can do to keep myself from going in there and comforting him.)
wonder where this family will be in a year. Will we still be
here in the house? Or will we have moved into Grandma's
house? Or some place else entirely? What school
will the kids be attending? Will Ray still be on day
shift? Will I still be babysitting for Andrea and
Karen? Will I have a car? Who will be important in
our lives? What will our biggest problems be? Or
our biggest joys ... ?
my family so much.
OF THIS JOURNAL
Jamie falls out of tree and breaks both arms
9/11/90 Grandma St.
John passes away at the age of 77
9/15/90 Grandma St.
babysitting for Crazy Maria; Ray bought microwave
10/9/90 "Tigger" ran
10/14/90 Maria fires me
10/16/90 New kitten "Sabrina" joins
10/27/90 Winter storm knocks out
electricity for two hours on a Saturday night
10/31/90 Crazy Hallowe'en,
trick-or-treating in pouring rain, Maryann S. "rescues" us
11/22/90 Thanksgiving at Jerry and Jody's
11/24/90 Took kids to Pizza Hut
to visit Santa
11/25 - 11/28 Jerome and André stay with us while
their parents attend funeral in Yakima
babysitting for Susan R. (4 yr. old Travis)
12/8/90 Jamie's movie
party at Lewis & Clark ("Home Alone")
12/9/90 Jamie's 9th
12/15/90 My 33rd birthday; Lori, wine,
12/25/90 Worst Christmas we've ever had;
Nintendo joins the family
12/30/90 Lori is hospitalized following
Jamie & Kacie sent home from school with head lice
1/16/91 War breaks
out in Persian Gulf
3/18 - 3/22 "The Week In Hell"
3/21/91 Kacie's 8th
slumber party; my friendship with Velma begins
4/2 - 4/4 Kids spend three days
at Peg & Don's
4/12/91 Andrea fired
from her job, no babysitting $ coming in
4/14/91 Erin has baby
4/17/91 Karen S.
calls and asks about daycare: begin the next day
State teacher's strike
WE WANT TO SEE:
Dances With Wolves
Sleeping With The Enemy
Silence of the Lambs
He Said/She Said
Postcards From The Edge
Not Without My Daughter
"Is that Lolly Partner?" Kacie (referring to
"There's no school on Monday ... it's
Veterinarian's Day." Jamie
"Sorry Jack ... Chuckie's back!" Kyle
"I'm good at this, amn't I?" Kyle
"Oh yeah, those are The Three Wise Guys." Kacie, Christmas
just too smart, amn't I?" Kyle, 1-22-91
SONGS DURING THIS JOURNAL:
Didn't Start The Fire" - Billy Joel
"I Wish It Would Rain Down" - Phil Collins
"I Don't Know Much" - Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville
"Black Velvet" - Alannah Myles
"Nothing Compares 2 U" - Sinead O'Connor (my favorite song this year)
"Hold On" - Wilson Phillips
"Release Me" - Wilson Phillips
"Epic" - Faith No More
"Ice Ice Baby" - Vanilla Ice
"Black Cat" - Janet Jackson
"High Enough" - Damn Yankees
"Joey" - Concrete Blonde
"From A Distance" - Bette Midler
"The Heart of the Matter" - Don Henley
"Disappear" - INXS
"Gonna Make You Sweat" - C&C Music Factory
"Joyride" - Roxette
"Baby Baby" - Amy Grant
"LOSING MY RELIGION" - R.E.M.
to throw a rock?