Monday, October 31, 2011

First Christmasl

Bruce wanted a plain fir tree. I would learn in the future his search for an appropriate tree was more like Charlie Brown’s. Taller, yes, and more branches than Charlie’s. He preferred one w/o balance, one which had not been groomed, pruned for sale in a tree lot, more like one he could cut down in a back field somewhere.  
Christmas Tree Preference

I didn’t realize this first time that annually this would be the search for the right tree to set up in our home season after season. This idea of his had a long life. This season we found that tree and set it up in our living room by the double window, hiding the bookcase. We wrapped a bed-sheet about its trunk. For adornment we bought a few strings all blue Christmas tree electric light-bulbs. Tiny lights were not yet on the market.  We added some tinsel, a few glass ornaments.  When night came we plugged the string of lights into the extension, and sat together in the darkened room to enjoy the soft, blue light. If my memory serves we did this work on the night preceding the night before Christmas. 
Though I chuckle now through our many Christmas’ with family I have to admit I found such a tree a disappointment, personally. One never knows how something so weird can become a memorable tale. This more current season, 2010, to top off my story I opened a grab bag type gift in our extended family exchange on Christmas Day Eve. It was Charley Brown’s little tree. Now I will treasure it all my  remaining days. 

For many years we'd been hearing a lot about 'Put Christ Back in Christmas. Put Christ Back in Christmas'.So much was made of Santa and elves,  fireplaces, decorated trees and all of that for many seasons. This year we chose our cards from the Thomas More Book Club about a month previously. The decision we made was each year we’d send the  identical choice liturgical choice of card to each person on our list. The cards were artistic pieces and a meaningful message for a Christian Christmas greeting. For several years now we’d been hearing a lot about ‘Put Christ Back in Christmas’. ‘Put Christ Back in Christmas’. Being a member of the Book of the Month Club, also we bought a book as a Christmas present for each member in our family and the book package arrived at our home through the mail. I didn’t believe the books were very exciting gifts. It was easy shopping for us. None were novels.
My parents hadn't done much decorating the past few Christmas seasons. They claimed the holiday was mainly for the little children and even brother Jimmy was grown. Several years running mother got a package prepared for Douglas and Karen Morris, the youngest of all our cousins. She saw that activity as a nice thing for an Auntie to do. Bruce's mom, Gran, would set up her tiny tree in front of the large windows in their new little home on the hill, adorn with a few lights, ornaments, and attach to a branch a small gift for each of their dozen grandchildren. When the grandchildren arrived they would rush to the tree and search among the branches for their little package. Was a simple celebration and the grandchildren expectations were satisfied. 
Gran's and Grandpa's Tree

I remember being judgmental thinking the children should have more. Later I would appreciate the simplicity of it all and the lack of commercialism which can truly tire one out in a Christmas season. These grandparents did it right. 
Town Square Straight Ahead

On the day before Christmas, December the 24th, we planned on driving the eleven miles to Woodstock to do some shopping. And so we did. Most likely we visited Montgomery Wards on the square, perhaps the jeweler, the bank, grocery, whatever. What I do know is we crisscrossed that square a number of times that afternoon of December 24th, 1951, on foot. Young as I was I remember I began to drag my body the last hour or two. Even my tight athletic muscles were feeling strained. Home again we had chores and supper, relaxed beside the lighted tree and soon retired to our yellow roses bedroom. Bruce enjoyed his cigarettes and would often have a smoke in the bedroom before retiring. He was consistent in our saying our rosaries together before nodding off. I fell asleep before we finished. Late that evening I began to really, truly, feel the strain of the afternoon’s shopping inside my groin and abdomen, my legs, thighs, just all around and kind of regretted so much afternoon activity. After midnight I awoke Bruce  because I realized this was more than mere day’s stress. I was having those things begin which everyone called ‘labor pains’.

I leave this story’s progression temporarily to share this accurate information I promised to share in the story of my brother, Billy’s birth, Milwaukee, 1929, found on Google.

 With this change to primarily hospital birth came changes in the care women received during labor:  in the 1940s it was common for women to be routinely sedated and for babies to be delivered from their unconscious mothers with forceps. Other routine obstetric interventions have similarly come and gone: shaving of the mother's pubic region; mandatory intravenous drips; enemas; hand strapping of the laboring women; and the 12 hour monitoring of newborns in a nursery away from the mother.
Beginning in the 1940s, childbirth professionals began to challenge the conventional assumptions about the safety of medicalized births. Physicians  and midwives such as pioneered birthing centers, water birth, and safe homebirth as alternatives to the hospital model. Research has shown that low-tech midwifery provides labor outcomes as good as those found in hospital settings.
The term "natural childbirth" was coined by obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read upon publication of his book Natural Childbirth in the 1930s, which was followed by the 1942 Childbirth Without Fear.
Grantly Dick-Read's book became an international best-seller. I did get a hold of this book but vaguely recall reading it and certainly not seriously. He was a British physician. He gained a following in England, but it wasn't until the late 1940s and early 1950s that his teachings found a receptive audience in the United States of America. He dedicated his life to educating expectant parents about the benefits of giving birth naturally and with as little interventions as possible from birth attendants - whomever they may be.
Natural Childbirth is a philosophy of childbirth that is based on the notion that women who are adequately prepared are innately able to give birth to their child, without external intervention.
January 30, 1950 Childbirth Without Fear made it to the cover of Life magazine.

I had his book in my hands. I never finished reading the book. I haughtily thought I had all the education I needed for this job. My attitude was ‘any woman can do this’. Consider all the babies ever born into this world. Birth is natural for a woman and there is nothing to fear. The women in England deliver their babies naturally and without fear. So, what’s to fear. I held onto this idea of mine all the way to the calendar date December 25, 1951. 

I had glanced through mother’s baby guide which was by Dr. Herman Bunsen. Proved, too, to be filled with  instructions. I definitely did need current education, instruction, guidance.

Dr. Forrest was a tall, slim, well-dressed distinguished appearing, personable gentleman. He exuded confidence, independence, knowledge with his craft, a doctor whom I felt I would be placing myself and my child in extremely capable hands. I was pacing my trust in him as my mother similarly mother similarly placed her trust in a Specialist April 1929. Forrest had done nothing to prepare me emotionally, intellectually for what I would be dealing with here. He prescribed my vitamins, monitored my monthly visits, always saying, ‘Everything is fine’.  'Everything is fine'. I already knew he delivered babies at the Woodstock Hospital near the edge of town. He advised me to call him when labor pains commenced and he would advise me when to leave for the hospital. So simple. So routine.
Resuming the story- I was having those happenings begin which anyone would called labor pains. ……..  Bruce called the doctor though it was very early in the morning, about 3 AM and a holiday. We drove to the Woodstock Hospital. I was admitted, and the nurses proceeded to ‘prep’ me. All the 'stuff' described above. Didn’t know what that was. Bruce was only occasionally allowed in the room and then asked to leave. The pains in my abdomen began to f eel awful, terrible, gosh darn horrible . The nurses identified these as ‘labor pains’. I was in bed, all alone, in a strange  and silent room. From time to time a nurse arrived to check how far this birthing had proceeded. Centimeters, centimeters. I had no clue what this could mean. Much later, in the afternoon,  after being rolled over onto a gurney, I was wheeled into a Delivery Room.

This room was very bright, sunshiny, a very busy place, andr as the nurses and doctor moved to and fro about their birthing preparations for this patient, me. were busily sharing their Christmas morning experience  They were laughing, joking, sharing with each one another, so gosh darn cheery all around me and I was feeling like I was about to die. I clung to my blue rosary for dear life. Surely something must be wrong. Nothing could hurt as I am now hurting. I remember the very hot water poured  on my buttocks, with my legs propped up in stirrups which I was not permitted to relax from. Oh, this was pain all right. Eventually, a young woman’s voice said, ‘You’ve got to get this baby out’. Which words confirmed my idea that something was wrong. I pushed hard fearing for this baby's life. And I know nothing at all following until I awoke next morning in a bed in a sunny hospital room. Where was my husband? Where was my baby? Was  a baby born live?

Somehow, realized I was awaking. Bruce arrived about then coming directly to the room. He shared how he had come directly to my bedside following the delivery to see me before he left for home to do evening chores. I had thirteen stitches, episiotomy, and blood loss because I had pushed so hard fearing for this baby’s life.   I hadn’t seen my baby. He was a boy, they said. eight pounds and 8 ounces. Big boy for me. We knew this was our baby Michael, the name we had decided on long before. I was in a daze. I was weak. The nurse had me   sit up, brush my hair, eat something. She told me the photographer was here from the Woodstock Sentinel and wanted to take a picture of baby Michael and me as they   considered it newsworthy to be born on Christmas Day. I look quite woozy.

Woodstock Sentinel December 26, 1951

Bruce had shared our good news with both families. He was able to visit me for a short time each day following during visiting hours as I ‘recovered’. I stayed a number of days, as was the custom then. Sit up, dangle legs, eventually stand, use the bathroom. I was introduced to a Stitz bath, soothing treatment while stitches were healing.
I was able to see baby Michael periodically through the days, 6-10-2-6-10-2, about every 4 hours, even though the hospital personnel knew I intended to nurse our son. No Rooming In. Any woman who has nursed knows that with this kind of regimen breasts begin to ache and swell up. I was just so limp lying in this bed. Michael was circumcised someone tending to this operation  daily. About three days into baby Michael and my stay, on an afternoon visit, Bruce saw something was grossly wrong here. Without medical training he knew I had lost blood. I was in need of help. Why hadn’t anyone noticed? Now he called Dr. Forrest insisting something be done. Forthrightly, I was given a blood transfusion and began to perk up. Basic stuff. This is an example how bad things happen. Happened to my mother, happened to my brother, with life long consequences. Stupidity. Negligence. I learned many years later doctors were thought not to need much education on something as natural as babies being birthed.  They could certainly make it unnatural. 

When our stay in Woodstock had expired it was a day the snow was melting, there was a light sleet forming, it was so damp, so very cold. We wrapped baby Michael in clothes from his layette, bundling us both up, and we were delivered to our Chevy. I had shared what a daredevil I was at 2 years old on the slide at the park. But, truly I was often that way through those years growing up. Let me tell you with this baby in my arms I was scared silly all the way to the farm, scared for this child’s life. The roads in IL can be treacherous when covered with a layer of ice and this is the kind of day it was. Responsibility hit me square in my head and heart. I could never be that same daredevil again. I owed this child, this loving spouse. “Be careful, hon”. “I am being very careful.” I can never, ever be careful enough. This parenting is awesome. 
Michael in his Bassinet

At home we had this bassinet to lay Michael down. I learned with later babies that they slept better laid on their tummies. What did I know? Michael lay on his back, with no change of position,  so much that his soft head began to flatten. Many years later  we were told not to lay babies on their tummies for fear of suffocation. With new information we are able to correct old ways. I began the many, many years of nightly being awakened from my sleep by the cries of a small child. Up to this point in time my undisturbed sleep was a precious priority for me. I would learn to lay my resentments aside in response to our infant’s needs.  What I have memory of is my father came over to visit and to  see Michael and me. When he arrived I was nursing Michael. He looked at us with so much love, a look I never forgot. I am his daughter. She is a mother. This is my first grandchild. Miraculous! And indeed it is. I do not recall much of visitors and the early hours home.

I am inserting now the anecdote.  During those 3 years I was a student at Hebron High School I had assigned chores morning and evenings. These jobs mainly involved my care and feeding of the flocks of chickens. There were the hens who were kept in the hen house. Sometimes we had pullets which we were raising up for egg production. We had capons, these were roosters which had been castrated, to fatten up for the dinner table. We filled the old railroad tower building, ground floor and 2nd floor, with these birds. Daddy would have us buy various milled grain products plus grit, plus meat scraps, all the ingredients I would need to mix up a batch of nutritious chicken feed which differed depending on what birds were being fed. Several recipes. I would throw the grains into the cement mixer and add a certain amount of  water to the mix. The flocks loved this stuff. In addition we would have cracked corn to feed or whole kernels.  I needed to keep their water jars dispensers clean and filled with fresh water. Additionally , in the hen house eggs were collected daily and brought to the basement room for candling, sorting for size and placed in appropriate egg cartons and cases for delivery to Daddy’s companion workers in Chicago at American Printing Ink Company. On a given day Daddy had his egg cases in hand as he left for commute to work and return with the empty cases. I am uncertain as to the involvement of my sister and brothers in this operation, lost from memory. I remember mine. Recall that I, with the others, had agreed initially with the family’s decision when taking on the farm that we were all in this together and required each one’s commitment to succeed. This promise kept us involved. At our ages, Elayne, Billy and I took the plan seriously. Though we really hadn’t a clue the amount of dedication involved nor the time span. 

Recall my prior reference to using the animals also for my distraction, enjoyment, and consolation. An adult might see this behavior and say I often doddled over my chores, endlessly distracting myself.  Often it would take me double or triple the time needed to accomplish my chores. 

Recall Charles Schultz’s, Charlie Brown videos? These are the instances when Charlie is in his classroom and his teacher is giving directions. All we hear is wah-wah-wah-wah-wah. He tuned out his teacher’s directives. I did this to my father, even though I loved and respected him so.  Apparently there were the times when I came up quite negligent. Those times I picture myself standing in the farmhouse kitchen, alone, with my father, as he sat in a chair putting on his work shoes, boots, or whatever. He would light into me in a stern voice sharing his disappointment with my attitude. Perhaps this would be a 15 minute scolding. Should have, why didn’t you, need to, must, have to, introduced all his sentences-- coming from the ‘poison parent’ not the ‘nurturing parent’ . When his tirade died down I wouldn’t recall a word he said. I would go mentally numb until he finished. Afterwards I would wonder if I missed something new which could be important. We wouldn’t know until the 1960 when Eric Berne’s , Games People Play became popular. Another thing I learned, after the fact, it is wise when one talks to one’s child to wait for the child to feed back what was just said. Then the parent knows a child is listening. Great parental stress reductive. 

What I have memory of is my father came right over to visit baby Michael and me. When he arrived I was nursing baby Michael. He looked at the two of us with so much love, a look I never forgot. I am his daughter. She is a mother. This is my first grandchild. Miraculous! And indeed it is. I believe my daddy now, as he was viewing his daughter, me, as a young mother following baby Michael's birth, was showing me how very proud he was of his daughter, all grown up. He was now a grand daddy. He'd done well.

I heard from the Stewart cousins and sisters and friends many times that childbirth is easily forgotten. Hmm.

On our first trip to Dr. Forrest’s office for our checkup we discovered Michael was tongue tied. Forrest took a little scissors and snipped some tissues, frenulum,  beneath his tiny tongue. He cried so softly. Now his cry was robust. This is a situation which could interfere with breast-feeding I learned much later. In spite of my attempts to keep to a 4-hour schedule as described in Bundesen’s baby book I was quite successful nursing Michael. I had no models whatsoever to gauge myself with. After 3 months Michael would kick his little legs, like little baby Jimmy did which I thought, when I was 8 years old, looked like  riding a bicycle. As I prepared to breast-feed he would look up at me and roll his little legs in anticipation and excitement. I’d pick him up and cuddle. I began to think I must cease nursing him due to his being male and his excitement which had , of course, nothing to do with male/female sex. What did I know. For certain there was a lot of education needed here. 

Who could I turn to for enlightenment? My sister-in-law, Charlotte, had a newborn babe January 31. She bottle fed Priscilla. Most woman those years believed as she did, they were incapable of breast-feeding a baby. No tips here or from Bruce older sisters, even the nurse sister, Cese.  Books, no help there. Sister instructors, no help there. Parents, mothers, no help there. Didn’t learn anything of this in Home Economic classes. I was on my own with merely the God given desire, instincts, to use my womanly body for what I was made for. I was a mother, [a woman who gives birth] wasn’t I?   I saw myself as woman, as spouse, and now as mother. For this I was created by God. I would do my darnedest.

Truly a shame. A woman, a man aught to be well-schooled for this most important life event, becoming a parent. Sometimes a single happening in their lives.

Every newborn on this planet earth deserves the best up to the minute information available in his/her lifetime be constantly applied from the moment of conception onward. To this day I continue to ask, "Why isn't this our most important curriculum?"
Letter from my Godmother Auntie Flo

Daddy helping baby Michael get rid of hiccups
Grandmother cuddling her first grandchild
Learned to carry Michael on my hip
September, 2011 Michael Moore, Irish, same background as I, had his bookHere Comes Trouble  published. Page 33 through 36 in his short story, 'Crawling Backwards' he describes babies being birthed. Uses familiar humor. I related 100%.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

1951 June July August

Recall Bruce would rise at 4:30 to begin his day? Around 8 AM after 3 1/2 hours heavy, muscle work he would come in from his barn chores for breakfast.
Stretch out for a nap on the army cot

Afterwards, almost routinely he’d lie down on the army cot in the sunroom and fall fast asleep. These were the days after my Bergin family's cattle sale and before my father was once again employed in Chicago. This freedom provided Dad an opportuonity to drive over in the morning to pay me/us a visit [perhaps to check up on his daughter? See if things were going aright?] When Dad dropped in he’d find Bruce fast asleep. This did not set well with my father. Made my husband appear to him like a ‘slacker’, always napping. My father could never quite understand my hubbie’s routine for this wasn't gentleman farming but rather a dairy business. And I now know I did a very poor job of providing facts to clarify. I wanted stars for the man I married not check marks. After 45 minutes to 1 hour of rest Bruce would pop up refreshed and off he’d go until noon. Most of his workday  requires muscle and brawn. Seems I never did quite get through to my dad that my husband would never, ever be an ambition-less guy. But when he saw a man asleep on the cot at 8 AM he immediately pictured his kin.  The family he knew. 
Jim shares: “My not leaving until 8 years later resulted in an entirely different climate/culture. environment as I was alluding to with the liberation from the Farm Mortgage.  Dad and Mother [Bergins] became more typical empty-nesters.  In any case, to get to the point, the Mother you shared was as you perceived, was quite absorbed with that never-out-of-mind financial strain. For me I saw a Mother who thrived on the exercise of her sociability of President of Altar and Rosary for several years.  Leading, organizing, persuading, winning loyalties and support for Fr. Miller's goals etc. This led to her being so herself - vibrant, positive, feeling her oats I might even put it.  It led to dinners out with the Doyles, Huvelmanns, Schmidts. Visits with Lydia O'Halleran.  That's why it was so crushing to see her decline with the onset of Osteoporosis.  This is a time-frame you would not have been that in touch with owing to this all occurring after your very wedding, and the onset of your growing young family.  I suppose for most everyone life has these ups and downs that just seem inevitable”.  This is so true. Jim sees a different family. Each time a child is added or subtracted it becomes a different family entirely. There's a term for it today, 'Family Systems'.  He will need to fill you in here for the ongoing story of the W.T. Bergins. "If you are not at home you aught to be", was the welcome I heard repeatedly from Robert Stewart.

I felt a definite cut off I'm unsure was necessary. A couple of times I dropped in at Tullybrachy. I considered it home. I ran upstairs to Elayne and my bedroom to look for something of mine. When I came downstairs I learned that freedom was now withdrawn. A boundary line was drawn. Not my room. Not my home. I thought of it as still 'my club'. Dad called this 'our club'. Change . Did I know what happened to a missing $10.00? Did I take it? Did Bruce? How about perhaps another family member did? Or how about it was misplaced? Why suspect me? Wow! These things hurt me deeply. Basically, I hadn't changed, I thought. I was still MaryKay. I was still their daughter. This was a period of adjustment for me. I felt like a little child again who dropped a glass which broke or spilled some milk. 'Sorry' never worked. I deliberately hurt mother. I must suffer the consequences. Except I was grown and someone's wife now and in fact I had not done anything wrong.  I need to discuss with my children if they felt alienated after leaving. Was this a streak of  Irish Jansenism?
OPEN MIND OPEN HEART by Thos. Keating p.24
A further set-back for Christian spirituality was the heresy of  Jansenism which gained momentum during the 17 century. Although it,  too, was eventually condemned, it left behind a pervasive anti-human  attitude that perdured throughout the 19th century and into our own  time. Jansenism questions the universality of Jesus' saving action as  well as the intrinsic goodness of human nature. The pessimistic form  of piety which is fostered with the emigres' from the French  Revolution to English-speaking regions including Ireland and the U.S.  since it is largely from the French and Irish stock that priests and  religious in this country have come, Jansonistic narrowness, together  with its distorted asceticism, has deeply affected the psychological  climate of our seminaries and religious orders. Priests and religious  are still shaking off the last remnants of the negative attitudes that  they absorbed in the course of their ascetical formation.

I believe, since my family is definitely of Irish stock and schooling, the Benedictine, Thos. Keating,  explains  many of the inopportune paths I went down in my life being product of  this formation. Original sin, mortal sin, venial sin, Hell, shame, not  OK, God's conditional love, do penance, deserve to suffer. All was heresy.                       
Bruce and I organized a group of young married couples, I recall about 6 couples,  from St. Joseph’s parish to come together for visits, to share, talk faith once a week in the evening.  I recall attempting to use Parliamentary Procedure, rather unsuccessfully. Big stuff from college days. We called our selves the JMJ’s Club for Jesus, Mary, Joseph. We found great camaraderie with these men and women our age. Red Miller and spouse, Stillings, Rosemary and Cal Babcock, I remember.

Mother, Lorena Schmidt, wife of the implement dealer, Joe,  and the lawyer’s wife, Mrs. Huvelmann, and I organized another 'small group', a study group, which met weekly. We read chapters from a text and discussed the material when we came together. Visiting my mother was the best ever. She was such a great listener, best of the best. Many times after a return from her meeting at church she would be very self-critical. Sitting on the lower steps of the back stairway she’d share, 'I shouldn’t have or I should have.' Other times- 'Why did I do this or say this'. Seems I was learning she hadn’t a lot of confidence. She said the ladies always thought she had a college education and held too many expectations from her. Often in my life I had puzzled about where I got my shyness from-- was it dad, was it mother? I’d dismiss mother for I usually saw her as reaching outwards. In fact, sometimes I felt embarrassed. Especially, thought she should talk softer. I didn’t like drawing attention. Must be my reticence came from Dad.  Bruce has this quality like mother's where he steps out to question, to find out, to get information he wants. Perhaps this trait in him was something she didn't like about him. There surely was something. Both mother and Bruce are great at this. 'Just want the facts'. I never had confidence. I felt I was playing the brother and sister kid games like we use to play. I was always playing at teacher or playing house, playing at mother. Probably playing wife, too, come to think about it. For later I learned best marriages happen between two who are equal. Well, you already know what expectation I had for myself as the lesser partner.  
The Bergin family friend, Bob Doyle, practicing lawyer, had always kept alive friendships with his old Chicago neighborhood group. One Sunday he invited all his gang out to the farm, our place, for a picnic get-together. Bob was dating Kathleen whose parents ran a bakery in Chicago. When her parents closed the shop at night they’d have a number of yummy bakery goods left over. Bob and Kathleen would quite regularly share some of this produce with us. The stuff was so good. We would put some of it in the freezer to keep it fresh. Eventually, Bob and Kathleen married and lived in a lovely country home a few miles distant. I believe it was this side of Wonder Lake. That group picnic day had followed after a heavy rain so there was a heavy smell of barnyard all day. Embarrassing I thought. 

There is another significant memory which I decide to share as affecting my future. I recall coming to the farmhouse entryway and as I opened the door I made a decision to leave behind my athletic days. Did I believe hanging on to myself wasn’t proper for a wife, a mother? Who were the folks I used as my pattern?  I never, ever danced, ran, sang as I moved about out-of-doors on the Franelchar Farm. Why? Couldn't I be myself? I feel sadness just now as I write this. And I am forever curious how these family dictums get passed on. Sometimes even the good stuff gets cancelled. 
Gran had this border of perennials [plants which live through rough winters and grow again] which she cherished. It grew in the farmhouse yard following along the cement walk from the house toward the farm buildings.  
I was unaware of a perennial garden

I was ignorant of her loving care of this special garden. Don’t think I knew an annual from a perennial. The gardening I had known was vegetable gardening, I had learned little to nothing about flower gardening from my parents. Mother was a big city gal.  We prided ourselves in that long row of bridal wreath shrubs we'd planted to set off the home from the road running by.  They bloomed each Spring yet only for a week or two.  Gran had taken bulbs and divided some roots  from this, her old perennial border,  and transplanted into a small garden beside the house on the hill to enjoy. Thank God. Bergin family prided in green lawn. In my new home, without those Bridal Wreath bushes, I wanted green grass to border right up to the cement walkway, clean and neat. I gradually worked up the black earth and planted grass seed. In the process I destroyed the perennial garden which had been her pride and joy. I had absolutely no appreciation of what I had done. Today I understand how much this would have hurt to abuse her  garden. Years later, as I learned to plant those Iris bulbs, etc., I came to realize how this must have stabbed at her heart. In spite of this she loved me and never said a word as far as I know even to her son. She had given the home to us. We learn our lessons from mistaken choices from which we make our lives. I do sincerely believe this was another learning experience which has much to do with my incredible love for creation today, wherein I can see Creator God. Gran was cool.  Though this is a word my children would teach me to describe such a person. Mature? She already had this ability to permit herself to learn from life’s lessons.
Gran never made a big deal about being my mother-in-law.  Being the broad reader she was she had a very open mind and was extremely inquisitive. She and her son spent a great deal of time looking into this and that and figuring something out together. They shared many interests. She was a thinker, a problem solver, smart, intelligent, alert, capable, boned up on the news. She was a woman who in those early days stood proudly along with her husband and shared in all discussions and projects and decisions. After the children were gone from home, even before,  she spent most every Sunday at the Presbyterian Church teaching Sunday School. All the town's children  knew her. I suppose we will never know the story why this nice couple seemed to always 'get the neck of the chicken' when dealing with the other Stewart ties-- like how come they weren't living in the big, homestead house? Indeed there is a story to be told. RW was a quiet man, lovable, liked to come sit in my pink kitchen. He wasn't checking up on me. He was enjoying my company. I left my yard tools heavy with black soil, many times, like a kid. When I went to use them again they'd be clean. He would have seen them and quietly cleaned them off for me. I knew he liked me. These activities were his constant gifts. A gentle man. 
My brother, Bill, decides he'll be a teacher

Jim shares: Bill found the extensive necessity of very fast reading in order to BRIEF the cases cited (used) to study the law, just too demanding I believe, and then opted to go into teaching History, which he had begun teaching me at the ripe old age of 5. I remember those olden days, Jim. He was very demanding and didn't quit until you matched up all his dates with each historical occasion. "Who discovered America?" Your 4, 5 ,6 year old answer, "Columbus". "What year did Columbus discover America". "1492". When he returns to Marquette in 1951-52 year Bill makes the choice to prepare himself to teach school. Turns out it was the right choice. 

Elayne and mother  on the front porch enjoying morning sunshine after Mass at St. Joe’s. Elayne has made a decision to enter the convent.

She enters as a novice at the BVM motherhouse, Mount Carmel,  in Dubuque, IA.

Mother always talked of having a professional family portrait taken but we didn't get around to it until Elayne was no longer able to join the family. Elayne's letters to me prove that these days we continue to call our father 'Daddy' and our brothers 'Jimmy and Billy'.  Interesting for Bruce and for me to watch my abdomen grow round and to feel all the great goings on within. Never dreamed of showing my belly to the world as in 2000 AD.

                              Seated in this picture: Mother, Dad      

                                On Stairway: MaryKay, Jim, Bill
I am pregnant in this picture. I am wearing my 2 piece light blue corduroy suit which I made for my pregnancy. The Stewart women traded maternity clothes with one another which helped out a great deal. 

At the head of this stairway is an attic door. Remember the day we emptied this attic as it stored many of Ross Sill papers, including some valuable  Poor Richard’s Almanacs? Threw them in the trash and burned. We kept a couple of trunks in this space. The large trunks held all of our memorabilia from school classes, and other times.
This photograph is filled with memory. In the early years, while we shared with the renters, we took down a wall in the middle of this room. On the other side of that wall was our first kitchen with the hot plate to cook on, with the electric light with pull chain in the ceiling’s center. Mother's grand piano stands there in '51.
Dad, with our help, built the stairway into his planned living room. White stairways were very vogue, mahogany colored railing and stairs. The stairway has green, sculptured, wool carpet same as floor shown here. 
Just behind and beside Jim is a cellar door with some steep stairs to the basement to reach the fruit cellar, the wash room with the exposed and open shower, the garage where the Ford was parked. Often we would meet daddy or grand daddy on his way from this basement shower to his bedroom with only a turkish towel wrapped around him. 
We gals were very proud of the wall-coverings.  We chose patterned on one wall, plain on the other. Drapery, I made, don’t show though they were a big part of the decor. We chose green, wool carpeting. All were in full 1950 vogue. The door leads to the house front. The table beside the door in my grade years was a telephone stand. Held the phone book with the phone above. The picture above it was just always with us. Perhaps Jim or Elayne can describe it. The lamps- mother found, one antique, the one beside her arm was not antique at the time. She found the ‘love seat’ and had it upholstered in red  striped brocade. The stool belongs to the pump organ she also stumbled onto at a great price. We were never good at growing indoor plants. This one is typical of our efforts. 
Under the stairs is an alcove which family used as an office, typewriter  and bills were paid here. You may recall this is my little escape room on Saturday nights when I listened to Saturday evening radio, Hit Parade, Chicago Theatre of the Air. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1951 April, May

I made green and black cafe curtains for the two dining room windows. I bought my own sewing machine. 
Brand new sewing machine

A salesman from Singer  visited the farm demonstrating Singer sewing machines.  This was a portable, but a very heavy full sized head set in oak wood. We bought one. It was a model which had been on the market for years. I’m thinking it was within months that Singer came out with a better, lighter model, perhaps even zig-zag. I did  want a heavy duty machine. Gran had a nice portable, small Singer. I often felt jilted, an new old model. Really it was the market not the salesman. Timing was off kilter. Many years later I replaced it. Joan used this one a lot and then I gave it to my daughter-in-law, Charlene. There was a built-in bench in this kitchen similar to a window seat but it was not under the kitchen window. I papered the wall behind it in a kid’s motif projecting plans for this to be a toy box. 
Elayne writes from Mt. Carmel, Dubuque, IA: 'Looking at your reproduction of your kiddies' corner, almost sets me a mental picture of you in your Home-Ec real laboratory. Will there be childlike competition for you at work on the other side of the room?'
One of our first purchases was a washing machine. We bought an EASY machine with that centrifugal wringing basket. Problem is the water under this black IL prairie land had high iron content unlike the rolling hills in the Tullybrackey neighborhood. Spinning to wring the water out of fabric left a brown, iron residue. Dog gone. Gran gave me many compliments on how white my wash was. This positive message encouraged me to see that my wash was white. I would carry my lined bushel basket filled with wet clothes and hang everything from clotheslines run across the backyard.  I never shared that Bruce called his mother and father 'Ma' and 'Pa' as did his brothers and sisters.
Bruce constructed a pulley clothesline

Eventually, my young husband worked out a pulley system for me with lines also running across my yard. I would stand at an open window in the back sunroom with the door closed if it were cold, attach laundry with clothespins to the line, and shoot them out with the pulley lines to the far end of the yard. I no longer needed to carry a bushel basket of wet clothes down the stairs, through the yard. Later in the year the clothing froze about as soon as I hung them. There was always a basket of ironing waiting to be done each week. Perma-press, dacron/cotton, uh-uh, not yet.

Always mending to be done

Mending socks was a constant. Gran shared 1 or 2 darning eggs with me. Bruce said a good plan for expenses was to replace a few items each month never having a big strain on the budget. Darned socks which would eventually be throw a-ways definitely what he referred to.  We had eggs and milk   so most other items we could purchase once a month. We ate lots of canned products. The market flow of goods we have today didn’t exist. Stewarts had a small freezer chest left in our basement which we could access. Bruce loved my sour cream cake with 1/2 inch vanilla butter frosting. Probably baked one every other week. His favorite. 

Dairy farmers receive a large milk cheque once a month. Many purchases in town and locally are billed and then paid after the cheque arrives on the 18th of the month. I saw big money in, followed by big money out, repeat month after month. Machinery is expensive, feed and seed are expensive, large vet bills, insemination. They all thought I could take care of the books. I don’t think this was delegated until after school dismissed. When I did get the job I hated it. I was not a bookkeeper. 
My days were extremely busy doing the housewife stuff, leaving each day for school, planning lessons and school purchases along with the extra-curricular obligations at the high school. I remember I often had a headache teasing while driving to Darien. I’d swallow an aspirin and be OK by the time I entered my classroom. I had 2 full months remaining in the school year. Soon I found out I was experiencing bad, bad morning sickness. I had to teach through the worst part of it. Weather was often nice, but typically  midwest springtime. The sun may not shine at all for days and days. Not much comfort here. I went to visit Dr. Forrest in Woodstock, a very dignified, mannered, Catholic doctor. Bruce thinks cousin Donna, a double cousin about our age, referred him. He confirmed my pregnancy and a delivery around Christmas time.
Takes skill to make good hay

Which comes first, grain, hay? A good year there will be several cuttings of alfalfa. Spring is incredibly busy. Due to weather one can often see someone out in the fields,  tractor headlights bouncing along through the night, catching up on schedule. Time of the year for bringing in the hay, plowing, cultivating, dragging the fields to get the corn in by very early May. In the Midwest one works around the weather which is constantly providing  added anxiety.
How do I paint this ground black?

There are stretches of days at a time when fields cannot be worked in. To reach full maturity there’s that saying about corn, 'Knee high by the 4th of July'. If not growing well by then chances are the cobs won’t harden off by the first freeze. One is always hoping the weather will cooperate. Hebron's rich, black Prairie land, which this is, grows the best corn.

Bruce has made a friend in Art Galt who has a farm a few miles down Greenwood Road. He, too, is an airplane buff and has his own field, the Galt Airport. They enjoy one another's company and talking aeronautics. They begin trading off work as partners, not needing to do the heavy work alone and sharing machinery.
Most weekends, particularly Sunday afternoons the Stewart bunch would gather at Gran and Gramps to share conversation, fun, food. Often there's a birthday to celebrate. They even have double cousins. Or something would be going on at my parents’ home. Family is all about us and we are reveling in  it.  At the 'house on the hill' the men often gather in a corner. All they seem to talk about are animals and crops. About 4:30 partying for them ceases as the men return to afternoon cattle chores.
RW preferred to drive the Chevy Truck

Granpa had an old Chevy pickup truck which he drove back and forth, out onto the farm fields, into town. There were those times after morning chores, especially rainy days, father and son would want to do research on something or other. Bruce and dad would come into my pink kitchen, ask if I were interested in going along with. If not Gran would go, always ready on the spot, ‘grab her hat’ and off they’d go. She loved the short trips and times together. Those times Bruce would do the driving. Other times we might all go in the Kaiser which was Gran's car. Except these times Bruce drove. 
Jim says he remembers going with me to Darien to work on the stage for the graduation ceremony. Things were indeed winding down at the high school. I let Mr. Cox know I would not be returning in the Fall. He simply would not accept my decision. He wanted my return. Even late in the summer he continued to coax me to no avail. I could not possibly have continued with the work load at home. I would never dream of working while caring for my expected baby. Out of the question. But he kept trying. He better believe me and not wait too long. Yes, sir, you will need a replacement in September.

Punchy, dangerous to chase cars. Listen to me.
One day a delivery man was in our farmyard.  He had a dog sitting in the front seat with him, whom Bruce was petting and talking with. The man asked if we'd like to have the dog. They came to the house and spoke with me. I think I fell in love with this black and white, collie/shepherd mix. We accepted the dog. His name was 'Punchy'. He was trained not to chase cars. Even so he'd sneak out front and in the dust behind a car traveling down the gravelly Stewart Rd. sometimes give chase. There wasn't a lot of traffic so a car coming by was almost an event.