During the mid-60’s my Mom was on a mission. We had lived in our house on 15th street for a decade. Larry had been gone for 8 years, and Mona was married with a couple of boys. This time frame was during my angry, rebellious, fun-loving mid-teens. Dad was working for the State Hiway Commission, and Mom was a nurse’s aide at Valley Manor. Her mission? New furniture. She was totally smitten with Early American Hard Rock Maple furniture. From Vanderploeg’s in Sioux Center, her old stomping grounds.
|Mom’s favorite, her Hard Rock Maple clock, about 1966…|
Mom bought a new dining room set. Round table, 4 chairs and a lovely open hutch. We rarely used the furniture or the dining room, which was odd because it was the nicest and biggest room in our house. It was right at the entrance when you walked in, and the pretty furniture made a statement. But she wasn’t done. She soon added a bookcase, (hard rock maple) a grandmother clock (H-R-M) and as an after thought, a magazine rack (of course, hard rock maple). It sat next to her hard rock maple rocker. (I’m not saying it again. You get the drift, everything was now hard rock maple). Later the rocker (HRM) was replaced with a gorgeous off white leather Lazy Boy. Which ironically had no maple, hard or otherwise. The magazine rack held her Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, People Magazine (from the day of its inception), the Des Moines Register, and Sioux City Journal. Maybe a couple magazines from the Reformed Church of America too, though the names I am unable to grasp at the moment. For a time the National Enquirer was included, though she probably wouldn’t admit it.
|Sprague & Carlton Hard Rock Maple set, she’d say with pride…|
She loved that magazine rack. After Hubs and I eloped a few years later, and she had finally calmed down to a low simmer, to save face (it was always about how she thought they were perceived in town), Mom and Mag threw us a little wedding reception. Held in the same building where Larry’s wake had been. That place was still unbearably painful to be in. One of our gifts from Mom and Dad was an almost identical magazine rack. Their big gift to us was a bedroom set. Surprise. Hard rock maple, early American. Sigh. We went through a few years before I decided early American was just not our thing. We ended up collecting real early American stuff. Called oak antiques from the early 1900’s.
|Much more our style, early 1900’s oak…|
Eventually we got rid of all the hard rock maple pieces we had started out with. Except for the little magazine rack. Really didn’t pay much attention to it, but somehow it’s made every move in our 46 years of marriage. The twist. After Mom passed away in 2004, and Dad moved to Michigan, I ended up with Mom’s magazine rack too. Never thought much about that until this move a couple of weeks ago.
|Not even sure which one was ours originally, circa 1969…|
Our new crib was chuck full of antiques, boxes, and containers. All vainly trying to find their rightful home in this strange place. Hubs wasn’t much help because he had cut his thumb. When it was barely healed, he upped the ante and has been suffering with acute bronchitis going on 3 weeks now. He could not help me. So I did the next best thing. Laid the guilt on our 2 sons. “We’re just not getting anywhere with all our stuff! So much to do, but that nasty cut, and now bronchitis is prohibiting your dad from helping me at all.” Both boys probably sighed (or groaned), but each found time in the following couple of days to make quick work or organizing, re-arranging, shuffling our shit from one spot to another.
|Once unloaded, we hardly knew where to begin…|
Much of this shuffling revolved around the garage. It’s just a few steps outside the sliders. Making it much easier for John and I to move stuff back and forth. Figuring out what fits and looks good where, and what pieces we will be getting rid of soon, rather than having these pieces down the basement, lugging them up and down the steps. Josh spent a day patiently doing my bidding, plus techie stuff where he excels. Next it was Adam’s turn. Moving most of what was stacked to the ceiling in 2 bedrooms. The construction guy was coming to knock out the wall between the 2 rooms. Finally we would be able to paint, order new carpet and sleep in our king size bed again. Sleeping in our own bed together had abruptly stopped once the truck was loaded at North Muskegon and headed for a storage unit several weeks before. Adam made fast work of clearing the rooms. He was nosing his way through containers in the garage, searching for my one set of still missing shelves to an antique oak curved glass secretary. He made his way from the shade of the garage to brilliant sunshine, each arm bearing my twin set of magazine racks. The look on his face was somewhere between wonder and disgust. But it’s not the “2” part that had him puzzled. One of the racks was empty, but the other had a stack of 15 calendars, gathering dust in the bottom.
|May be odd, but it’s my odd mini-diary…|
“Seriously Mom! You moved old, outdated calendars?” I hung my head, gulped and tried not to look guilty. “They’re a huge part of my life,” I shot back. “Just bring them in the house.”
|Most likely a gift to Neese…|
When I was growing up, one of the most popular birthday gifts for young girls were diaries. I got my share. Since Mom kept absolutely everything, I came across several when we were moving Dad out of their house in 2005. All of my diaries were used. Each one had about a week’s worth of “the fascinating life of Neese.” I just had no stick-to-ness. Most likely I didn’t dare write down my real feelings back then. We were a family that didn’t always share our pain together. Isn’t it nice to know I’ve overcome that stubborn obstacle in my life? Seems I have no problem baring my soul these days. I did find one little birthday gift that had almost every page filled. It’s an autograph book. Classmates would write little ditties in it. But it was not me doing the writing.
|Best friend Char wrote in it several times…|
For several years during my Parish Visiting stint, I regularly saw a wonderful woman named Edith. She was in her 90’s, and sharp as a tack. She had been writing in a journal since the 1940’s and had continued for over 60 years. Edith had them stored in boxes by decades. Often she’d be perusing one when I stopped to see her. Some days she merely wrote about doing something as mundane as laundry, cooking supper, or getting a phone call from a relative. Sometimes she was somewhat amazed and surprised by what she wrote, and would suddenly declare, “I remember that like it was yesterday.” I was so envious of her determination that kept her writing for over a half century. Even if it was only a few sentences a day.
|Edith, the journal keeper of 60 years, 2008…|
For some reason, I started writing little things on my calendar about the year 2000. Just 15 years ago, looking back, it appears I was very busy. I was volunteering a lot, visiting, cooking and baking for the masses. But this wasn’t just reminders that I had a bible study class, or 10 dozen frosted cut out cookies had to go here or there. They read more like a mini-diary. During 2001, Hubs and I saw the Pointer Sisters, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, and took the whole family to watch a weekend series of the Cubs playing the Tigers in Detroit. Who I met for lunch, when I dyed my hair, and the dates marking the anniversaries of the deaths who are dear to me.
|The infamous HRM rocking chair, 1965…|
I never realized until recently, for about 5 of those years, I took every conceivable class on aging, caregiving, advanced directives, Hospice training, dementia, medication issues surrounding the elderly. You name it, I took it. After finishing a 50 hour course becoming a Stephen Minister, I went to St. Louis for a week to get accredited to teach classes to become a Stephen Minister. Most of these classes were a simple testament to my sincere, life-long devotion to the elderly. But until looking at my old calendars, the sheer magnitude of the number of classes went un-noticed by me.
Very noticeable in the early 2000’s were my increased visits to Rock Valley as my Mom’s health declined. For the 3 years after Dad moved here, the calendars look like a taxi driver’s itinerary. Driving Dad to Muskegon Rescue to preach one night a month. Though Dad could drive to the prison by himself, often his weekly trips to Brooks were with me at the wheel. Even if I wasn’t driving, I kept track of where and when he was expected, like Hillcrest Assisted Living for his weekly bible study. Back and forth to the blood oncologist for his CLL and the dermatologist for his various skin cancers. Man, I had forgotten about half those things. Sometimes it’s painful to look through them, but usually I enjoy reading about the daily life of me and the family. And the special events of our lives.
|Cheerleader Neese next to the HRM bookcase which is now in our home…|
For several years our son-in-law, Tracey was head basketball coach for Jackson High. We went to many of his games. Loved watching his strategy during a game. Just a toddler back then, Landon, our phenomenal grandson learned at a very young age, to remain quietly seated on the bench, or he’d have to come up and sit with Mommy, me and grandpa. Jackson was invited to a holiday classic basketball tourney in Traverse City. We went several years in a row. Traverse City is a very cool place to visit. When it’s not summer. During the summer it’s way too busy. We discovered a restaurant called Boone’s, that serves the best prime rib ever. After Tracey and his team won the tourney 3 years in a row, Jackson wasn’t invited again. All that stuff is documented in my silly calendars.
|I really love writing, even badly…|
I don’t write nearly as much on my calendars these days. Retired, in a new neighborhood and town, I’m just not doing very much. But the girl who could not finish a week’s worth of writing about her life as an angry teen is now finding tremendous joy and fulfillment writing her goofy stories…