It’s been two years. Twenty-four months. Give or take a leap, over 730 days. I couldn’t decide between ‘Thanks-a-lot’ or ‘Blame them’ for the title. Blame sounds like such a downer, thus I went with thanks. It’s up to my readers to determine if I got that part right. Where to start, where to start? I guess she’s either a heroine (or a culprit). Her name is Betty. So I’m gonna start with her.
|My home town…|
Betty grew up in the same Iowa Dutch community, Rock Valley as me. But I didn’t know Betty back in the 50’s and 60’s when we were kids. She’s a bit older than me, so we ran in different circles. Betty must have had a powerful hankering for Rock Valley, or started reminiscing about her childhood. She started a group site and became the administrator. Named it, ‘If you grew up in Rock Valley” about 3 years ago. Posting tidbits about the quaint, somewhat sheltered little town she called home. Invited her Iowa friends and former classmates to join and jot down their own 2 cents worth on posts, or come up with their interpretation of northwest Iowa. Betty’s friends joined her merry band of misfits. They, in turn invited kids (ok, so none of us are kids anymore) they knew, who were also from our beloved town of Rock Valley. So it’s Betty who should be thanked (or cursed) in her endeavor. I want to thank profusely Betty for your thoughtful input and encouragement since I started blogging.
|Main Street of Rock Valley in the 60’s…|
Enter, stage left, Ray. A classmate of John’s, but Hubs ‘doesn’t do Facebook.’ Somehow Ray and I became friends on Facebook, so I’d see his posts and he’d see mine and we would comment back and forth. Ray was invited to join IYGUIRV, (not gonna write ‘if you grew up in Rock Valley’ 20 times, so from here on out will be IYGUIRV saw-right?) near its inception. Ray then invited me (he’s probably still banging his head against the wall about that wacky decision. Dude, let it go. Done deal). When I pushed the join button, there were about 30 members. The group size zoomed up to 100 in the few weeks that followed. I haven’t checked the group size recently, but I think the numbers have climbed over 600 Rock Valley fan followers as of late. Without Ray’s invitation to join IYGUIRV, I’m convinced I would not be writing a blog. Thanks Ray. Or, it’s your fault.
|My Facebook buddy, Ray…|
Right off the bat, I was smitten with the IYGUIRV site. Some of the posts were a bit ahead of my time, others a bit after, but with most, I felt a deep connection to what they wrote. And remembered. Little things I hadn’t thought about in 50 years or more.There was always something that jogged my memory or I remembered it just a titch differently. So I hesitantly started to post some of my childhood memories. But there was something odd about the way I wrote. Almost embarrassing. No, really not almost. Take out the word almost. When I re-read the first 100 miscellaneous posts after I joined, every stinking one I wrote was embarrassing. Mortifying. Not the subject matter. I had pretty good (or painful) memories to share. But the length. Good grief Neese, could you ever just write a one or 2 sentence post? Obviously not. Someone would write a 3 sentence ditty about anything to get the conversation started. Like remembering the day back in the mid-50’s when our local butcher slaughtered cattle at his butcher shop. One happy-go-lucky cow decided he wasn’t ready to die, so promptly ran away. How many hours he was on the loose in town and where he scampered. That’s it. From there, it would be, “I remember he ran through my mom’s garden,” or “we were on the school playground and a cow ran down the street followed by some men in a truck.” And on and on the comments would go until the subject just petered out. I could never just do that. What others could say in a 100 words took me 500.
|Rock Valley’s school in the 50’s and 60’s…|
The IYGUIRV group was still quite small, I probably knew about 30 of the members. It was around this time I started noticing some of the comments made from this gal named Marlys. A little ding would go off inside my head like, “wow, that sounds awfully familiar. How does she know that?” I think I private messaged her. Do I know you somehow? I went to the Calvin Christian Reformed Church when I was little. Were our parents friends? Yup, her family attended the same church, our parents were friends and invited each other over for coffee and dessert after Sunday night church services. She recalled Larry’s death in detail. Even remembered he had a slight lisp. Her family moved to Michigan after Larry died, and we lost touch with each other. This has been the best surprise and wonderful renewal of a long lost friendship.
|Calvin Christian Reformed Church, Rock Valley, 1950’s…|
Marlys casually commented something like, “dang you’re a wordy girl, Denise!” I would have been embarrasssed until she continued, “but that’s not a bad thing. I hope you’re at least blogging. You need to write!” Had to admit I had no idea what a blog was. I’m a loner. Got nothing to say. Until I started typing.
I was surprised by some of the comments on my posts on IYGUIRV. I got some awesome exchanges started after I wrote a couple of posts. The best one ever was about Dutch words and phrases used in our home during my childhood. Mom and Dad were Dutch but didn’t speak it very much. I still use some of these crazy words and phrases everyday. (plue-she, a fuzzy off a dark sock on the carpet) When my thinking cap was finally screwed on straight, there were many more words and phrases than I first remembered. Which started an avalanche of comments about kooky words Dutch folks used when we were growing up. Words none of us could spell, or pronounce like the next person. And it seemed every family had a few choice words only used in their immediate family. (Heh-tok, meaning exasperation). I don’t know if it was because they were from a different area of the Netherlands, or they just coined a mixture of words after they’d been in the US for awhile. Hutt-fa-Duttie. (Oh my goodness).
One of the gals who first joined IYGUIRV, wasn’t born in Rock Valley (we love her anyway) but moved to RV years ago, when she married Erwin, a Rock Valley guy. Alma’s actually lived there a heck of a lot longer than I did. Who am I to judge who knows more about Rock Valley? So this happened about two years ago. Iowa’s had a 40 plus year tradition called RAGBRAI, (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. Rock Valley was chosen to be the starting point for the 2014 bike ride across the state (they pick different routes through the state each year). Alma decided she wanted to join the first day’s ride which would go from Rock Valley to Lake Okoboji. That type of bike ride would require some serious training. She started a blog a couple months before the bike ride’s starting date about her training experience. I followed her hilarious version of getting into shape on her bike in anticipation of riding 75 miles a day with a few thousand other bike riders. This is Alma’s excerpt which contains a 3 sentence description of getting used to riding a bike for extended amount of time. “A word about bike saddles. They do not look like saddles. They are sinister, narrow, razor sharp evil devices designed to do great damage to a person’s basement.” I laughed until I cried over those 3 sentences. For 2 years. I commented and complimented Alma on her terrific sense of humor and ability to write a blog. Something I really wanted to try. She answered immediately and said it Marlys (who’s related to Erwin) who had helped her. The same Marlys who had been a childhood friend and moved to Michigan right after we lost Larry. She now lived 40 miles from me. Fate I tell you, or divine intervention. And you need to start blogging again about anything, Alma. Seriously.
|Alma & Erwin on their wedding day, before bike issues…|
My son Josh offered to get me started with a blog. But he was 175 miles away, running a company and the mundane chore of trying to get dear old mom to gasp new concepts (to me) and technology was painful for him to even think about. Hats off to Josh because he has helped me on countless occasions (when he’d rather have a root canal) after I got started my blog, and had problems or issues that couldn’t be resolved with his guidance over the phone. Sorry Josh and I love you and appreciate your help.
|Joshua, my techie wizard…|
One of my oldest friends from Rock Valley, Loie told me after a dozen of my rather lengthy IYGUIRV posts, “Neese, you should write a book about Rock Valley. You remember so much about growing up there.” I really don’t, just the memories burned in my head cause I was getting in trouble for what ever I was doing at the time. To an insecure hopeless writer, you can’t imagine how much those words meant to me Loie. I am going to have my blog made into a book someday. A book for just me. Something for me to carry around when I’m living in a nursing home. Haven’t figured out how to get the comments (best part of writing the blog) included yet. Or when to do it. Thought maybe 100 posts or the one year anniversary. Both of those days are long gone, and here I sit, bookless. Many heartfelt thanks, Loie.
But it was my friend from decades ago, Marlys who convinced me to start writing a blog. She invited me to her house, made lunch and gave me courage and easy to understand instructions I needed to JUST START THE THING. She helped pick out the blue-green dandelion background. It was Marlys who put my bio on the right side, convinced me to be honest, no matter how painful, though she was unaware at the time of my family’s deep issues. I had 3 or 4 working titles for the blog, but couldn’t decide. Marlys made it easy, and it’s perfect: Storyteller from a One-Stoplight-Town. My life long love and devotion to my little home town from so many years ago. There are no words to let you know how much I appreciate your help and encouragement Marlys. There, you see, at times I can be stumped for words.
|The gal who got me started, Marlys. Thanks friend…|
My story has been exactly that. The story of me. I really never thought anyone would read it. And I was ok with that. This is my story that needed to be typed out. Maybe a month into writing, Hubs and I were zipping from North Muskegon through Lansing on our way to watch our grandson, Graham. The reason we stopped in Lansing on the way was potato salad, strangely enough. Shannon was hosting her company’s summer picnic and asked me to make a boatload of potato salad. So we stopped in Lansing to give her the full cooler. As I was getting back in the car, Shannon stopped, turned towards me, gave me a hug and said, “I love your blog mom. You write really well.” For the first time in my life, I was speechless. And sobbed all the way to Ann Arbor. Not that far really, a half hour away. But still. Thanks for the kind words, Honey. When I needed them the most.
|My amazing daughter, Shannon…|
One of my faithful readers/commenters is Cindy. She told me after I started writing to carry a little notebook EVERYWHERE. In case an idea hits me when I’m getting gas (for the car, not me) sitting at a stoplight, or wake up in the middle of the night. Cindy, it works. Countless times I’ve been watching TV, or laying in bed trying to fall asleep when an idea hits me. Hey, I should do a story about that. Another reader, Glenda said, walk around your house, look at your walls. Write what you see. Glenda, it works. I often think, I got nothing. Then I go to my little notebook, or walk through the kitchen, see an old gadget and a story sort of forms itself. To my faithful supporters who never fail to ‘like’ my newest post or make a comment: Jeff, Ray, Alma, Ellie, Marlys, Janice, Wan, Renee, Deb, Betty, Carolyn, Paula, Lois, Kevin, Krissy, Ron, Erwin, Tom, Gayle, Nita, Kathy, California Carol and Cindy. You guys never fail to make me feel better. Even when the story was a complete bust. Or horribly depressing. I write because my head is full and the words need to come out. I write because it’s therapeutic, rewarding, frustrating, painful and gives me an immense amount of satisfaction. I write for me. But I wholeheartedly appreciate every word you write in return.
This is a day before my actual 2 year blog anniversary. Shannon and I are doing something we haven’t done for quite awhile. ROAD TRIP. But no kids this time, and that’s been several years. You’ll be hearing about it soon enough. Until then: Arrivederci…