Since my kids were evenly spaced, you’d think they wouldn’t have much in common. And that was true as they got older. None of them were ever even in high school together. However their mother remained sane. Which was the whole purpose of having them spaced to begin with. But when I looked at some old pictures, I see the kids, mostly the boys played together quite a bit. At least for the first several years.
|Absolutely priceless. Adam and Joshua, 1983…|
We were living in Spencer, Iowa. A fabulous (freaking cold) town of less than 10,000 folks. Renting a cement block house. Let me tell you, when those blocks got cold, it was almost impossible to warm up that huge house. One of my most dramatic memories occurred in that house. It was September 22, 1979. John and I were celebrating our 10th anniversary. How could I possibly be married for a decade already? I was laying on our queen size bed upstairs. Sans John. Nothing much about this special anniversary would be very romantic.
|Christmas card, 1979…|
Laying next to me was Adam. Hmmm. He was a big surprise. A true gift from God, though unexpected. We’d been home from the hospital about a week. A traumatic birth, to say the least. If you haven’t read my blog post about him, it’s called Party of 5, posted in September of 2014. Ten days old and the first baby that I am nursing. Probably because he’s my last baby. I had some good friends, Shari, Pam and Diane. All recently becoming new moms, extolling the virtues of nursing versus formula babies. It took some convincing on my part, and Hubs never did join that happy bandwagon. He was too set in his bottle ways. He had happily helped raise 2 formula babies. This was foreign to him. And I really didn’t know yet what I was doing. Had I to do it over, I would have handled the whole nursing experience differently.
|Shannon 10 in the (blank) house, 1981…|
There was this group of DEDICATED ZEALOT MOMS called Le Leche League, trying to help. They were against pacifiers, bottles, formula of any kind. They also had some issues when was the best and right time to stop nursing. I swear a couple moms in the group were still nursing tweens. Icky. Most of them could tell I wasn’t on board with what they generally stood for. But since Adam was my last baby, I did want to try. And it was a wonderful experience. The best. For 5 months. I took the end of nursing much harder than Adam did.
|Underoos rule! Josh 6, Adam 2, 1981…|
John had always gotten up during the night with Shannon and Joshua. Heated a bottle, changed their diaper, fed and burped them. Letting me sleep through one nightly feeding until they slept through the night. Never happened with Adam. Newbie Adam wasn’t about to get cozy and nuzzle daddy’s neck or beard. He didn’t smell right for mommy milk. Period. So John felt left out in the early days with Adam. Had I nursed the other 2, Daddy would have never known the difference. And I should have been firmer about starting Adam off with a bottle or 2 a day to get him used to the other kind of nipple. For Daddy’s sake. And mine.
|I swear they told me wine helped stimulate milk production, 1979…|
Getting back to my ah-ha moment. Adam and I were resting. Four year old Joshua wanders in and out of his bedroom and ours. Playing, checking on me and his new baby brother. John and 9 year old Shannon are downstairs fixing supper. I simply cannot fathom I’ve been married for a decade already. With 3 children. I can distinctly remember the sounds and smells of that night. Joshua, making revving engine noises for the hot wheels he’s racing across the wood floor. My tiny newborn nestled next to me. I am in awe of my blessings and want desperately to stop time. Just for a bit. I swear I snoozed for 10 minutes. When I woke I was at Adam’s high school graduation. That’s how fast time slipped past me.
|Adam and Josh, 1980…|
So Josh was 4, Shannon 9, when Adam joined our merry band of misfits. Both of them doted on their baby brother. Josh had quite a bit of freedom in Spencer. Several buddies down the block to play with. Shannon practically had a run of the town. But that would change soon.
|No words. Cutest. Picture. Ever. 1980…|
John got laid off the day before Thanksgiving 1980. Sucked. Big time. He soon found an engineering job in the Quad-Cities, about 325 miles away. A factory called French and Hecht. Horrible place. We moved early in 1981. The only house we could rent was about 1000 square feet. After our extra large, ice cold house in Spencer. Now we were packed like a can of sardines. Shannon’s room was a small sun porch (ok, I’m gonna stop saying small. Trust me, everything in and about this house was small) off the (blank) dining room. I don’t think there was room for a crib and twin bed in the boy’s (blank) bedroom. So I ditched the crib, which was unusual for this mom. I clung to the crib for each kid. Explained to each of them, they could have a big bed when they were dry all night. That proved to be about 2-1/2 for Shannon and Joshua. But I had to change Adam’s timeline because the house was so dang (blank). We bought bunk beds for the boys. I think the master bedroom held our queen sized bed and one of our 3 dressers.
|Shannon 13, on Kirkwood Blvd, 1983…|
Davenport was huge by our standards of all Iowa living so far. A city of 100,000. Which butted up against 3 more cities. (That’s why Duh-Neese, it was called the QUAD-Cities). Davenport and Bettendorf on the west side of the mighty Mississippi. Rock Island and Moline just east of the river. Totaling almost a half of million people. Making the Van Berkum parents leery of letting the 2 older kids very far out of our sight. Boy, were we wrong. One of the best places we ever lived. I had more close friends in that large metropolis than I’ve ever had before or since. Sigh. Anyway, right after we moved, we kept the kids pretty close to home. It would be Josh teaching toddler Adam how to peddle his new little Big Wheel.
|Joshua 6, Adam 2. On 38th St. 1981…|
Soon Shannon found friends living nearby that were in her class at school as did Josh. It was also the first time in their young lives they would learn about loss. Joshua’s best buddy was named Craig. He lived about a half a block away. They were the same age and played together often. Both had to cross Sturdevant Street to get to each other’s house, but were careful and capable, being 6. We would fulfill our year’s lease on 38th Street before buying our big old stucco house on Kirkwood Blvd. Josh and Shannon would then be attending new schools, Washington Elementary and Sudlow Junior High. Adam was still home with Mommy.
|Story time. Adam, Mommy, Joshua, 1981…|
Craig spent a great deal of time at our house. Ate with us often. Wasn’t that hard to squeeze in another sardine. He was eating supper with us in our (blank) dining room in our (blank) house. To say our dining quarters were crowded with 6 around the table was an understatement. Adam was still using the high chair, which was in the next county, but only 2 feet away. Craig was trying to add salsa to his taco. Turning the jar upside down, it glopped out everywhere. John quickly stood up, leaned over to keep it from spilling on the floor, which was carpeted. Craig suddenly cowered, winced and covered his head with his arms. Forgot that he was not home, getting ready to be smacked. We all sat there dumbstruck. Feeling the pain for a little boy who knew no different. But our kids knew no different either. Just the total opposite of what Craig’s life was like. Too sad. Just wait. It gets worse.
|Josh 10, Adam 6, Davenport, 1985…|
Not long after moving to our house on Kirkwood, we were returning from northwest Iowa, after visiting our parents. It was a Sunday afternoon. We were listening to a Minnesota Viking’s game on the radio, which was carried on a Quad-Cities affiliate. During half time, local news reported that a 7 year old boy had been killed when a garbage truck backed over him in an alley. While he was riding his bike. The street was 38th and Sturdevant. The little boys name was being withheld. No doubt in our minds. It was our little battle worn friend Craig. Gone. His parents accepted the city’s check for compensation a few weeks later. And were completely broke in a year. Pitiful part of my story. We should have called social services. We wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. That time would come just a couple years later. Ugh. Death is awful. Sometimes life is too.
|Superman 7, Woody 3, 1982…|
The 5 years on Kirkwood Blvd (plus 1 on 38th) were pretty good ones for this family. The new neighborhood was full of kids. Shannon would be diagnosed with allergies, and asthma. And come pretty close to having a ruptured appendix. She started working for a neighbor lady who did in home day care. By the time she hit her teens, Shannon was raking in 50 bucks a week. Maybe this doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was 1983. Probably close to 400 dollars a week now. She was buying Calvin Klein Jeans, Nike Air Jordan’s (in baby blue), plus saving. I was jealous of her wardrobe. And her money.
|Shannon had a better stereo system too, 1984…|
Josh remained accident free until we moved to Michigan. But he was sick a lot. He had so many tonsil infections. Just get finished with antibiotics and go back to school. I could tell he had another infection as soon I walked into their (blank) bedroom. There was the distinct smell of sour bread dough. Joshua’s tonsils would be so swollen, they would touch each other. Causing that strange smell for a boys bedroom. As if the constant infections weren’t bad enough, he got Mononucleosis. Causing his spleen to swell for a couple weeks. Ever try getting a rambunctious 7 year old to lay on the couch for 2 weeks? Yikes. Lucky Adam was home to keep him quietly occupied. Finally, we had Joshua’s tonsils and adenoids removed. He was rarely sick after that. Went into a growth spurt and ate like there was no tomorrow.
When Adam was 5, Shannon was giving him a ride on her bike. His foot got caught in between the wheel spokes and the frame. Scraped the skin off his ankle down to the bone. That nasty wound would take months to heal. And he still carries a scar. But it was Hubs who usually got hurt the worst or the sickest. Sigh. (Sometimes it felt like I indeed had 4 children)
|House in Davenport, Iowa, 1982-1987…|
Here’s the best of the worst. It’s Christmas vacation for the kids. Plus John, now happily working for JI Case, which has it’s annual holiday shut down for 2 weeks. Lord, spare me. Love everyone of them to the moon and back, but this wife, mother, chief cook and bottle washer was so ready for all of them to head back to work and school.
|Christmas 1985. Josh 10, Adam 6, Shannon 15…|
John and our good buddy Ron (single coworker, engineering friend who loved us and we loved him) decided on Saturday (2 lousy days, a mere 48 hours and I was home free. Before everyone went back to their assigned places early Monday morning) to take the kids sledding. Yay. Not too far from our house was an old military school which was no longer used as such. The grounds were terraced on 2 sides where the cannons had once been placed. In between was quite a steep slope, leading to the parade grounds. Great place for sledding. Everyone was having a ball. Little stinker Adam started whining. Oh no, not to come home. He was feeling especially adventurous. He wanted to go down the terraces on the toboggan. Dad thought it looked too dangerous. So did Ron. But Adam was not deterred. The men caved. No surprise there. As a precaution Hubs and Ron said they would go first to ensure none of the kids would get hurt. Right. John was in front, Ron behind him. FOUR TERRACES. Before the bottom. After hitting the first terrace, they were off the ground a foot and picked up a little speed. By terrace number 4, they were airborne about 15 feet high, heading nose first into the parade grounds. Neither moved when they finally landed. Adam ran up to them yelling, “my turn, my turn!”
|Ron, all healed up, 1984…|
A mom (nurse) saw these 2 insane yahoos hit the ground. She ran to them yelling she was calling 911. John croaked out a “no!” After a few minutes of not feeling either of his legs, both guys finally got their wind back. They managed to get up and started limping back to the truck. All the while, Adam still complaining that daddy and Ron always got to have all the fun. By the time they got back to our house, they were in pretty sad shape. The hospital was just a few blocks away. I said I’d drive the nut jobs. Shannon could watch the boys. “Nah, we’ll be fine,” says wise John, pouring himself and Ron a pretty stiff drink. Ron soon limped to his car and drove home.
Well by Sunday, we almost had to call an ambulance. John could barely move. (I could point out, had John given birth to our first child, and me to our second, there would have never been a third child in our family. Or anyone else’s. But I won’t. This is not the time) I hauled him to the ER. John had a bump on the kaup, (head) a sprained wrist, sore feet from ramming them in the front of the toboggan. Plus a broken tailbone. Sigh. Ron ended up in the ER too. He had a couple of broken fingers, more than a couple broken toes from ramming John in the back with his feet.
The kids went back to school on Monday. Thank you God. John spent a few days at home, moaning and healing. When my engineering manager Hubs went back to work at Case, he brought along a nifty treat daily for the next 3 months. A donut. Not his favorite kind with sprinkles though. This one of the foam variety. To ease the pain of his sore hiney…
|Adam 21, Joshua 25. Black Hills, 2000…|