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. 

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