A Calendar of Memories…

Hubs handed me a purse-sized calendar he got in the mail a few days ago. “You want this or I’m pitching it?” Although I have calendars on my iPhone and iPad, there’s something about glancing at a whole month’s worth of days at one time. On real paper. Like books and magazines, the way God intended. Yes, I’m hopelessly out of touch. Guess I prefer it that way. A FB friend recently put up a thorny post about waiting behind someone in line who was using a debit card. One of the comments was, “I was just behind someone WHO WROTE A CHECK! Are we back in the stone age?” Yup, I still write checks.

Antiquated and obsolete and still used by me…

I might have blushed (in shame) as I was reading his post. It got worse. His next comment was something like, “let me guess, it was a senior citizen?” Geez, guilty as charged. But why do I feel guilt? When reading the news on your tablet noting 42 million people were hacked using their card in Target-what’s the majority of your private information stolen from? Debit cards. Enough on this rant, back to my love of new paper calendars, even if it’s May already.

This free calendar is actually from a worthwhile organization called the DAV, Disabled American Veterans, and I probably should send them a donation. But then I’ll be forever hounded with multiple daily mailings begging for more. Skeptical, callous creature that I am. Calendar oddity # 1, the first month on it is April, 2017. The DAV is up to date on its mailings, I’ll give them that. There’s a row of pretty backyard birds on the bottom of each month, though all the months have the same picture. But it was the small blank rectangular spot randonly placed on each month that caught my eye. And got me reminiscing. On each month’s top were a few words. OK I’m game. Let’s play.

April-“My most memorable childhood friend.” Well, start me off with a no-brainer. Charlene Faye Schelhaas Bay Jackson. What a mouthful! One of the cutest, sweetest, most talented, down-to-earth girls in Rock Valley. She was everything I was not. Coming from a large, happy family. Again, the opposite of me. Normally, I didn’t invite scads of girls to my house. It was just too quiet after Larry died. I preferred going to my friend’s homes because there were sibs, commotion, energy, lots of noisy life. But Char spent quite a bit of time at my house and was included when we went out for supper on Saturday nights, day shopping trips, even vacations. Though their family was much bigger than ours, often times I was included (happily, I’d like to believe) when their family went fishing at Lake Benton, Minnesota. And I was always invited to Char’s house on Sunday nights. There would be about a dozen people around the supper table because Char’s oldest sister, Audrey was married with children and lived a few miles away. I remember Char’s mom, Esther made her mashed potatoes with a mixer, something my Mom never did. Oh, Mom made mashed potatoes, but always used a masher. Just like I do now. But I do remember Esther’s ultra smooth Sunday night potatoes. There wasn’t a lot of dawdling time. The kitchen needed cleaning, dishes had to be done, because we were expected back at church for the evening service. Many of my fondest childhood memories included this wonderful family.

Char, forgotten girl from Canton & me about 1962…

May-“My most memorable time spent with my Mother.” Around 1985 Mom and I went to Chicago for a few days to watch some Cubs games during a long home stand. As I recall, not a cross word was spoken by either of us. Two things instantly popped in my head about the trip. First was a rather foolish decision to ride the El to the end of the line from where we were staying on the Northside, heading south. Way south. At night. We were fine, but it was a little scary at the time. The second was a fabulous afternoon (all Cub games were held in the fabulous afternoons back then) at Wrigley Field. The weather was perfect, the Cubs were winning (think we might have just recently acquired Sandberg, Sutcliffe, Durham, Eckersley, and were almost kinda good). The 2 dudes sitting next to Mom were smoking pot (remember the year here, this was a heinous crime-ha-ha) and she asked me what that funny smell was? OH MY WORD! PRICELESS! She wanted to call the cops. Good times Mom.

Mom looking pretty around 1985…

June-“My favorite summertime memory.” The luxury and blessing of small town living. I could ride my bike anywhere in Rock Valley (except Hi-way 18, where my brother had been struck and killed while riding his bike). That feeling of complete freedom was unsurpassed. Wow.

July-“My favorite place to watch fireworks.” North Muskegon, hands down. We enjoyed the city’s fireworks every 4th of July but for a couple years during the late 90’s, the American Pyrotechnics Association came to town. With a BOOM. We lived on Muskegon Lake. This freaky-lit-up-group would set up on a barge in the lake for several days, right across from our house. Near a park called Heritage Landing. Testing and trying out new complicated pyrotechnic shows. Which we enjoyed. Free. They were supposed to be done by 11 each night, but in the Eastern time zone during July, darkness doesn’t come early, so they always went past the time limit. You’d hear car alarms going off, the windows in our house would shake and rattle. And you’d witness fireworks that made New York envious. The APA wanted to utilize the Muskegon area every year, but the local politicians got involved. One year ‘the city’ wouldn’t issue the APA their needed permit in time, so they went elsewhere and never came back. With them flew hundreds of thousands of dollars in tourist money. So dumb.

Fireworks across Muskegon Lake. See how the lights shimmered right to our backyard…

August-“My favorite way to cool off in the summertime.” The best ‘cee-ment pond’ in the world. The Rock Valley Community Swimming Pool. Doc Hegg was instrumental in city’s process to build a pool, I think it was around 1960. As opposed to the poopy pit (though I remember loving it at the time) we were using. Two diving boards, shallow and deep end, separate baby pool, showers, rental baskets, season pass, snack counter, lifeguards. It was all good. Life guards who seemed to sit so high they almost reached heaven. Once in a while I dared climb the lowest wrung of the life guard’s chair to say ‘hi’ to Tom Manning. He was polite, but really no-nonsense while watching all the patrons in the pool. He was more apt to chat or tease me as he walked when he was done working or on a break.

September-“My most memorable school teacher.” This is a tie. The best teacher was Mrs.Torkelson in junior high (when I still cared about grades). She managed to make the term, ‘conjugating verbs’ fun. Yup, she was a miracle worker. My favorite teacher though was Mrs. Ver Hoef in second grade. Tough year for this little girl after losing Larry. Maybe to her, I was just a kid who needed a bit more attention that year, but to me she was almost a savior. Funny that I should be writing about Myrna on May 2nd. Rock Valley kids celebrated May Day, when about 99% of the population was Dutch. Bringing May Baskets is a Russian tradition but most of Rock Valley’s children in the 50’s and 60’s happily adopted this tradition. May Day of 1959, Mom went out of her way to make and help deliver beautiful, tasty baskets. The object was to deliver by being sneaky. Then you run away without getting caught. Mrs. Ver Hoef ran out of her house, caught me and gave me a big kiss. Highlight of that year.

Myrna Ver Hoef and me in Yuma Arizona, Feb. 2017..

October-“My fondest memory of autumn.” When I was younger, it was going to Halloween parties at school, because they were in the early evening. Bobbing for apples, games with our classmates. After the party, we’d go all over town trick or treating. No pins or razor blades, no x-raying of treats, and most of the treats were homemade. As I got older, it would be the Bonfire, Parade, Homecoming dance and football games.

November-“Favorite place to spend the holidays.” My house, with all the kids and grandkids here for a turkey dinner (Thanksgiving-Christmas-Easter) with all the fixins. Odd as it was, for quite a few years Mom, Dad and I went out for Thanksgiving Dinner in Sioux Falls. And I never thought it was that unusual, but realized not many of the families I knew went to a resataurant for holiday meals.

December-“My most memorable gift.” Have to say my diamond ring. When Hubs and I eloped (with nary a dime in our pockets) we had pretty plain wedding bands that would serve us for about the first 15 years. All the serpentine was wearing off so we brought them to a jeweler to have redone. He butchered them, so we wore nothing for a few years. Around year 20, John sprung for a nice-little-over-a-carat-brilliant-cut-on-a-wide-band which has served me ever since.

Still like yellow gold, one more telling thing on my advancing age…

January-“My most memorable winter activity.” This is a joke right? Nothing. I repeat, nothing. Winter is about as wonderful, well there is nothing wonderful about winter. I didn’t even like it as a kid. Guess winter blizzards got me out of some days at school. Yeah, there was that.

February-“My most memorable Valentine’s Day.” Oh boy. Not going to be something sappy or very romantic, but it was memorable. The year was about 1999. Hubs had a hundred dollar Christmas gift card burning a hole (in my pocket). Adam was about 20 and had a date, so we brought them along to this fancy restaurant called Rafferty’s. It was right on the water, across the Lake from our house. I had made the reservation weeks ahead of time. It was snowing, cold and windy (surprise-surprise) and Friday or Saturday night if memory serves. Should have known better. John drops us off because he has to park far, far away. The place is packed, people milling around waiting to be seated. After we’re seated, and have perused the menu long enough to memorize it, a waiter takes our order. Our object here is to use up as much of the card as we can. I opt for prime rib, John chose the biggest porterhouse on the menu. What the love birds ordered I haven’t a clue. The place is short on help and long on customers. Our order finally arrives. There’s a slight problem. John’s whopper of a porterhouse has a filet part the size of a DIME. And the steak is much too done for his medium rare tastes. He sends it back, hoping for a normal looking rare steak the next time around. The rest of us have about 3 bites left on our plates when Hubs gets his second porterhouse. This time the dime size filet has disappeared completely. John loses it. Completely. Refuses it, says he doesn’t want anything to eat. The waiter takes the non-porterhouse off our bill and we snake our way through the throng of people. Hubs is furious. Luckily for him, the owner (a real Payne-yup that was his name) is running the register. Payne gets an earful on his slow service, less than quality meat, over-booking and possibly the bad weather. Payne too has had his fill of unhappy customers and SWEARS at John. A lot. By now, the waiting room and half the restaurant is privy to this sweet evening’s conversation. To top it off, since there was no big-ass expensive porterhouse on the bill, we still have credit. Payne will not give Hubs the leftover 25 plus dollars, instead issues another gift card. John explains it will be a cold day in hell before he ever steps foot in this shithole again. In a huff, he throws the gift card on the floor and stomps on it. I slink out the door, wisely tugging on John’s arm or someone will need the cops or an ambulance. Or both. Adam and his date follow us. But not before Adam retrieves the gift card off the floor. Another free supper for them.

Holly & Adam…

March-“My fondest memory of springtime.” Winter’s over. Thanks God. Crocus, lily’s of the valley are blooming. My legs are getting brown. Fragrant lilacs which remind me of Larry. It’s what I always brought him at the cemetary when we lived in Iowa…

Larry about 3 in 1949…

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