JOURNAL NO. 44
Sept. 1990 - Sept. 1991
Age 33


" ... 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."

 

 

Tuesday morning
September 11, 1990

Every time I begin a new journal, the same feelings overwhelm me: pleasure at the sight of so many lovely blank pages, waiting to be filled ... renewed determination to make THIS journal the best yet -- the most consistent, the most insightful, the best written ... curiousity about the things that will happen in my life during the next 100 or so pages ...


9 a.m.

It is a foggy, cold morning. I am just off the phone with my mother. Grandma St. John continues to hover near death at Highline Hospital; Mom spent the night there last night, waiting for news, and she sounds exhausted. ("I'm running on reserves," she said tiredly.) She's on her way now to the funeral home to make "preliminary arrangements," so I know that the time really is near.

Still feeling oddly detached. When will the tears come?

Jamie and I both slept well last night, for the first time in days. Until she gets the cast put on her arm (on Thursday) and we get the new mattresses on the bunk beds, she's been sleeping with me in the big bed: Ray has uncomplainingly slept with Kyle. Having splints on both arms has rendered her more or less completely immobilized -- she's unable to do so much as scratch her nose without my help! -- and yet she's still relatively uncomplaining. I'm really proud of the mature way she's handling this.



10:45 a.m.

Well, the tears are here, finally ... Grandma St. John passed away this morning shortly after 9 a.m. -- probably while I was writing all that stuff above. Mom called to let me know.

For the past couple of days, a poem has been on my mind -- actually, it's more a piece of prose than a poem -- and when Mom called and told me we'd lost Grandma, I went and found it and copied it down on a sheet of notebook paper. That's when I finally broke down and cried.

Here is how it goes:


A Parable of Immortality

I 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)





1:30 p.m.

Keeping 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 ...


Kyle: "You're goin' in FAST MOTION today!" (what an amazingly perceptive little peanut he is)


4:30 p.m.

Some of my favorite memories/thoughts of Grandma St. John:

  • As 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 spring. 
  • 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.  



 



Thursday morning
September 13, 1990

Two days later. Early in the morning. Waiting for the coffeepot to quit clucking and gurgling so I can have my first cup of energy ...

Got 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.

She 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.

By the 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.")

The 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."

Grandma's obit was in the newspaper yesterday. Here's what it says:

Carla (de Grasse) St. John Was born on November 24, 1913 in Wenatchee, Washington.
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 Audio-Visual Secretary.
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, Washington; seven
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.

Jamie 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.


Evening:

I am in a terrible, grouchy, stay-outta-my-way-or-ELSE sort of mood tonight. I think I must be tense about the funeral tomorrow.

Jamie got two casts, after all  ...  one on each arm!

 

 


Monday morning
September 17, 1990

A few 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.

I'm 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.)

The 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 ...

 

 


Tuesday
September 18, 1990

Foggy 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 external ...

Jamie 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.

They 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.

Kyle (taking a huge swig of his pop): "BEEEE-freshing!"

 

 

 
Wednesday
September 19, 1990

Royal 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 ...

Kacie 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 ...

But 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, anyway??

 

 


Friday morning 8:30 a.m.
September 21, 1990

Having 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.

Right 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.)

Finally, 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.

 

 

 
Monday morning
September 24, 1990

Salvation Army was a real stinkeroo (in more ways than one) ... no Brownie uniforms, no typewriters, and the place smelled AWFUL ... oh well ...

Now 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! ...

Slept 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.

The 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.

Grandma 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.


Evening:

Nice little case of the "screaming green envies" this evening ... that niggling feeling that everyone in the world has their life on track but ME ...

It 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 ...

Then 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.

I was 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 reflected there.

 

 

 
Wednesday
September 26, 1990

I have 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 ...

I'm 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.

 




Saturday
September 29, 1990

Strange and unsettling dream last night that actually had me in tears this morning ...

Ray 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.

Just 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."

I 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?"

"He asked to read my journals," I replied. And I began to cry.

The 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.

End of dream.

 

10 a.m.

I come 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 head.

"Can I help you find something?" I ask.

"No!" 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.

"You won't like that one," I tell him.

"Why 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?

A few 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 ... "

But he cuts me off with an abrupt "Yeah, yeah, OK." And that's the end of that.

Except 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 ... ?

"MY tape box," he grunts, and he walks out the door.

 

 

It is 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.

 

 


Sunday morning 7:30 a.m.
September 30, 1990

Don't 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.


Evening:

Didn't 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.

 

 


Monday
October 1, 1990

OCTOBER!!!!  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 ...

This 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 dumbfounded.

We 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.

 

Tuesday
October 2, 1990

Continuing 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.

One of 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.

(There is a tiny burn hole on this page, right next to the words "cleaning the house.")

   

The kids' 1990-1991 school pics
L-to-R:  Kyle (kindergarten, age 4); Kacie (2nd grade, age 7); Jamie (3rd grade, age 8)




Thursday
October 4, 1990

The 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 sometimes (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.

Took 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.

What 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.)




Friday morning 9 a.m.
October 5, 1990

Ugh ... 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.


12:45 p.m.

(Had to skip a couple of pages because of the way the ink from my blue Flair pen was soaking through the pages.)

It's 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.

Also -- 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??




Monday
October 8, 1990

A few 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.

Nice 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.

 


Tuesday 8:20 a.m.
October 9, 1990

OK, so 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 family.

Actually, 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 the kitty.

11 a.m.

Speaking 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.

 

 
Wednesday morning
October 10, 1990

I have 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.

Actually, 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.

 


Saturday morning
October 13, 1990

It's 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
1990

It's 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.

 

 


Monday morning
October 15, 1990

Well, 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?

Ray 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.

 

 


Tuesday
October 16, 1990

Rainy 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 ...

This 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. 

She dropped 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." 

Little 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.

My 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.

I have 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.

I 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.

Ray 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 ...




Friday morning
October 19, 1990

A few 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.

One 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 ever known.

"Brina"



Sunday morning
October 21, 1990

Lovely 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 together. 

I am deliberately not going to allow the worries to intrude today.

I had 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.

There's 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.

But 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.


 

Monday morning
October 29, 1990

Over a 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.

I 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 Polenville:

Jamie 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 ...

We had 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.

 



Tuesday
October 30, 1990

Continuing 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 ...

Anyway, back to the bits and pieces of news:

Sabrina 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"

Polenville 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.

Tomorrow 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, trick-or-treating. Whew!

Then I'm going to collapse and not do a damned thing for the rest of the WEEK ...

 


    

Halloween 1990
The girls with Grandma Beeson (left); me with Kyle, before trick-or-treating (right)





Friday
November 9, 1990

Well, 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?

I have 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).

By the 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 eternally grateful.

The 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 the flu.

The 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.

 




Tuesday
November 13, 1990

Today 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.

Cut 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?

I 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

Ever 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 ... ??

 



Saturday morning
November 17, 1990

The 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.

Kacie 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 baby?

I just 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.

Kacie Polen!




Monday
November 26, 1990

Nearly ten days later, and Thanksgiving 1990 has come and gone.

This 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)
1990



 

Ray 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.

I felt 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

Ray 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.

On 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 ...

It's 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.

My 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.

I 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??

I 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.

I'm 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.

I'm worried about myself, too, although admitting such a thing feels almost indecently self-indulgent.

 




Thursday morning
November 29, 1990

Jerome 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.

I've 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 ...

We've 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 ...

This 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 paychecks.

DAMN!! I NEED SOME NEW BABYSITTING CLIENTS!!!

 




Friday
November 30, 1990

I was 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?!?!?

First 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.

Then I 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.

God. I 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?

Well, 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.

 



Monday morning
December 3, 1990

Amazing what a decent weekend can do to restore my spirits ...

1. 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 it.

2. The 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.

 



Wednesday
December 5, 1990

Continuing 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.

 



Friday morning
December 7, 1990

I'm going to be horrendously busy the next few days, so i thought I'd write a quick word this morning before pandemonium sets in.

I met 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.

After 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.

Tomorrow 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.



2:30 p.m.

Well, 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.

 




Wednesday
December 12, 1990

Several 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.

Jamie's 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"
December 1990

Anyway. 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
1990

Afternoon

I'm 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 ...

He 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.

But 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.

 



Friday morning
December 14, 1990

And 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.

One 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.")

In the 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 Christmas tree.

 



Monday
December 17, 1990

Still struggling with the "joy level" around this place ...

We got 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.

One 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.

I had 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.

 





Wednesday
December 19, 1990

SNOW!! We were hit by a blizzard late last night, and today the world is dazzlingly beautiful. More on this in a moment.

First, 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. 

I have some unexpectedly nice news to report this morning: Lori is pregnant! 


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"






Friday morning
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 ... 

No 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 & Dad 

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:

'Twas 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 care
In assumption that Mommy The Maid would be there.
Candy canes, Matchbox cars, ribbons and 'jammas,
Tinkerbelle, crayons and cookies from grammas.
Nintendo and Barbie, Ninjas and Mousetrap:
Where in the world will I put all this housecrap?
One thing's for certain - no Duck Hunt today
'Till all of this holiday *cheer*'s put away!

 

And thus begins the Era of Nintendo  ...





Friday morning
January 11, 1990

Two 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. 

Actually, 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.

 





Saturday (continuing this)

Lori 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. 

The 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.

 





Monday
January 14, 1991

The 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.

 




Tuesday
January 15, 1991

Today 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 at war.

My 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. 

For a 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.

 




Wednesday
January 16, 1991

My dream last night:

I 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.' 

"Unfortunately," 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.



Evening:

The war has begun tonight.

 




Friday
January 18, 1991

I 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.

I'm 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.

 



Friday 10:30 a.m.
January 25, 1991

Ray 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  ...

I 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.

The 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.

In the 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.

 




Thursday
January 31, 1991

Trying 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  ...

 




Monday
February 18, 1991

President's 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  ...

The 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.

We have good moments, here and there  ...  there are still times when I can tolerate him  ...  but these are becoming fewer and farther between.





Saturday morning
February 23, 1991

Very, very early  ...  got no sleep at all.

The decision has been made, and in spite of a rare evening of closeness and fun with Ray, my heart is heavy this morning.

 




Monday evening
March 4, 1991

Another 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?

Well  ...  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.

As for 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.

 




Wednesday afternoon
March 6, 1991

A 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 "lift."

I've 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.

 




March 10, 1991
Monday

Rainy, 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  ...

Jamie is 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 and Kacie.

 




March 14, 1991
Thursday

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 about you."
Jamie:  "No you don't  --  you care what people think about YOU."

(This after I wouldn't allow her to wear the same cruddy socks and dirty pink leggings she wore to school yesterday.)

Something 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.

 


Tuesday morning
March 19, 1991

Geez.  Where do I begin  ...  ?

 Suddenly, 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  ...

First 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.

On top 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  ...)

Today  --  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  ...

Oh 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.



Afternoon:

Karen 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.

 


Wednesday morning
March 20, 1991

A 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 Kacie.

 


Thursday afternoon
March 21, 1991

The Week In Hell continues.  Today is Kacie's birthday, and this screaming baby is ruining everything.

 

Tuesday
April 2, 1991

Two (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.

Anyway, 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.

The 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 it?  :)

The 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  ...

Before 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 Tia's.)

   

Kacie's birthday slumber party
I gave the girls a box of dress-up clothes and they had a "fashion show"
March 1991




Later:

My "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.

Period finally started again today (April 12)  ...  whew.  Believe it or not I was actually beginning to worry again.

Feel like the life is beginning to spiral out of control again.  So much to say  --  all the time  --  but no desire to write.

 





Wednesday
April 17, 1991

For someone whose entire life is in turmoil, I am amazingly unruffled this morning  ...

The 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  ...

Help us, Lord.


Afternoon Vignette:

The 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.

Kyle 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  ...

When 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.
1991


Friday morning
April 19, 1991

The 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.

I was 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.

 


Wednesday
May 1, 1991

About 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.

Here are a few quick updates about other things that have been going on in our lives this spring:

The 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 well  ...

Indulging in a front yard 'picnic' (with Tracy Pinkney, far right)

Erin 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.

My 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.

On a 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
Thursday

A month (almost) later.  That's funny  ...  I wrote on the first day of this month, and now I'm back on the second-to-last day. 

May 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 clenched teeth. 

'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  ...  "

The 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 driveway  ...

...  and of course, when the girls got home from school twenty minutes later, I practically talked their ears off  ...

Conversation 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  ...

The 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.

Conversation 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
Friday

I have 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.

Then 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. 

I hung 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  -- "

He cut me off with a frown and a shake of the head.  "I'm busy," he said brusquely.

A 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.

"Oh, FUCK you!" he shouted at me from the bedroom.

A few 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 show it.   

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. 

"I 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.  

"I 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.

'Let' 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  ...

(Unless --  her darkest fear  --  her absence creates no "shake-up" at all  ... )

But 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.

The 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 myself?

 

 


Thursday
June 19, 1991

I'm 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.

 It's 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 his own.

Speaking 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  ...

There 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 occasion  ...

This 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, either.

 

 


Friday afternoon
June 20, 1991

God.  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  ...

Money, 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 thing.

 

 

 

I 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 looked.
 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


 

Tuesday
July 9, 1991

My 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  ...

Usually, 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  ...  !

It has 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 self-regenerating.

As 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.

Jamie's 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 it")  ...

 





Friday night
July 12, 1991

The 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.






Later (a couple of days):

Crazed 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 as kids.

Saturday, 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.

Ray 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 morning  ...

...  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.

BBQ'd shish kebobs for dinner Sunday night.  Yum.

 





Wednesday morning
July 17, 1991

Funny, 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  ...

Kacie's 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.

 

 



Friday
July 19, 1991

Danielle 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?

Talked 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 must say.

 

 


Monday morning
July 22, 1991

Recovering 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  ...

This 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?

 



Wednesday
July 24, 1991

This is going to be a tough one to write.

I 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 short  ...


Grandma one month earlier at the family reunion

Grandma 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.

This 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.


I 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.  

Grandma survives 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  ... 


The 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.  

I 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 it  ...


Another 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.  

Three days 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?


My 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 summer rain.  

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  ...

It's 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  ...


That 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  ...


The 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, however temporarily.

 




Friday afternoon
July 26, 1991

The 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  ...

Grandma 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.

I 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.

And 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

I've 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 hours  ...

First, 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.



Later:

Spent 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.

 



Saturday
August 3, 1991

An 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. 

Frankly, 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  ... )

When I 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  ...

It's 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.

 

 

Monday morning
August 5, 1991

Valerie called me last night, as I was making dinner for the kids.  "Have you been to see your grandmother yet today?" she asked me.  

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 fast."  

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?

More 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.

Grandma 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 said.  

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 left.  

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.

Was 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 website, 5/22/04)

 

 


Saturday 7:15 a.m.
August 10, 1991

This is the saddest day of my life.

Grandma passed away on Wednesday afternoon, and today we will say goodbye to her.

This 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)


 


Sunday morning
August 11, 1991

I'll 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.

Grandma 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  ...

I 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.

Grandma's 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!"  ...

I was 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.

The 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.

I woke 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.

 


 



Monday morning
August 12, 1991

My 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.


Afternoon:

Something 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 the same.

I have 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 little things.

 

 


Tuesday noon
August 13, 1991

The 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.


5:30 p.m.

Josh 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  ...

I want 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.

Here 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.

These 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  ...

Of 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.

 




Thursday morning
August 15, 1991

I 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 another time.

The 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.

 




Tuesday
August 20, 1991

Boy. 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 hell  ...

Jae 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.

 




Wednesday
August 21, 1991

A 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  -- 

TOOT!!!!  

--  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.

Jae 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.

In the 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.

 




Saturday morning
August 24, 1991

Still 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  ...

Jordan 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 I  ...

 

 



Tuesday morning
August 27, 1991

They're 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.

It 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.

 



Thursday noon
August 29, 1991

Our 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.

I 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.

 



Friday
August 30, 1991

The 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.


Later:

Jamie 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.

The 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.

Saturday
August 31, 1991

More 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.

Oh!  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.

I feel like crying, just thinking about it all.

 




Labor Day
September 2, 1991

I've 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.

I'm 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  ...

I've 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.

Kyle 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.

Now 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.)

I just 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!

Actually, 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

First 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.

Tomorrow 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.)

 

 



Wednesday morning
September 4, 1991

The 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



Kyle 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 cucumber.


10 a.m.

Velma 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  ...)

Kyle 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.

 

 



Friday noon
September 6, 1991

Already beginning to settle into a "routine" around here:

6 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 for school.

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.

12:25 - 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.

3:30  Everyone home from school, including Josh.

4:00 - 4:30 Ray home from work.

 

Kyle 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 1991

 

 


Monday
September 9, 1991

Fall 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  ...  ??

 

 


Tuesday 6:30 a.m.
September 10, 1991

Andrea 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  ...

I 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  ...

I have 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 every breath.

 

 



Wednesday
September 11, 1991

Well  ...  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 closure  ...

It's a 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.

I've 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.

(Interrupted: 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!!)

I'm 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.

(Interrupted 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.)

I 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  ...  ?

I love my family so much.


 

HIGHLIGHTS/LOWLIGHTS OF THIS JOURNAL

9/8/90        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. John's funeral
10/5/90      Began babysitting for Crazy Maria; Ray bought microwave
10/9/90      "Tigger" ran away
10/14/90    Maria fires me
10/16/90    New kitten "Sabrina" joins household
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 farm
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
12/6/90      Began 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 birthday
12/15/90    My 33rd birthday; Lori, wine, "Rocky Horror"
12/18/90    BLIZZARD!!
12/25/90    Worst Christmas we've ever had; Nintendo joins the family
12/30/90    Lori is hospitalized following ectopic pregnancy/miscarriage
1/7/91        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 birthday
3/23/91      Kacie's 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 Jordan
4/17/91      Karen S. calls and asks about daycare: begin the next day
4/18/91      Washington State teacher's strike

(List ends here)

 

MOVIES WE WANT TO SEE:

Edward Scissorhands
Mermaids
Dances With Wolves
Warlock
Flatliners
GREEN CARD
Sleeping With The Enemy
Silence of the Lambs
He Said/She Said
The Doors
Postcards From The Edge
Not Without My Daughter

 

 

POLENISMS

"Is that Lolly Partner?"  Kacie  (referring to Dolly Parton)
"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 1990
"I'm just too smart, amn't I?"  Kyle, 1-22-91

 

 

FAVORITE SONGS DURING THIS JOURNAL:

"We 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.

 


 

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