We were young, financially strapped parents of a precocious toddler. We never wanted to deny her anything but we simply didn’t have very much money. During those first years I’d like to say we lacked nothing though at times we were barely squeaking by. We always had food (tuna, tuna, and more tuna) but I can’t remember a time we couldn’t go away because we were out of gas. We did however suffer a couple winters where we had no heat in the house for a week at a time. Shannon and I would go to Rock Valley for the week and stay with my parents. When Hubs got paid, he order a tank of fuel oil and come and get us. Good times. Most of us went through similar times in the beginning.
While it seems we were in dire straights, we actually were lacking very little. We were broke (bills and collectors of aforementioned was the biggest stressor in our young marriage) but we were happy and healthy. We had some great friends and lived within an hour of most of our relatives. My mom bought most of Shannon’s cute, ‘sometimes unnecessary clothes.’ I was responsible for, let’s hear it, white high tops (one of my favorite stories, High tops & Onesies, May, 2017) undershirts and play clothes, (Health-Tex) from Bellas Hess or K-Mart. Mom bought Shannon’s outfits (Carter’s or better) from Younkers and Shriver’s.
My parents weren’t big toy gifters. For all three of our kid’s first birthday, each got an oak rocking chair (the kind you buy at a furniture store). We bought the latest Fisher-Price toys we could afford. The little dome shaped push toy with small wooden balls inside that ‘popped’ when you walked it. Or the little telephone with the googily eyes she pulled along behind her. Her first little FP record player which included some original vinyl (as in hard, colorful plastic) which played nursery rhymes tunes. Most of the toys were geared towards keeping those toddlers moving.
We bought a more expensive/long lasting gift for Shannon’s birthday and Christmas. The first biggie was the rocking horse from hell. She LOVED it. Scared the snot out of me but neither she, her brothers or our grandchildren ever fell off or flew into another room while riding that wild stallion. The second biggie we bought was a small round, brown wooden table with 2 chairs. I can’t remember how much we paid, (30 bucks is rattling around my head which was exorbitant considering how little we had). Just assume it was more than we could afford at the time. For awhile it was in our dining room, then the living room or bedroom if her room was big enough. She’d play house, color, paint, serve tea and be a mommy to her dolls using the table and chairs. I’ll bet that table and chairs set has been moved to 20 different houses over the years.
Kerrie, Kelli and Shannon, Christmas 1971…
We bought Shannon’s table set right before we moved from Hinton back to Sioux City, Iowa in early 1973. It was where Shannon would have her first best friend, a little sweetie named Katie. Katie lived a couple houses west of us. At first I was insanely jealous of Katie’s mom, Randi. A stunning gal about my age who seemed to have it all. Soon after we moved in, Randi got a job at a western wear place near the Stockyards and asked me if I’d be interested in watching Katie while she worked? (That woman had at least a dozen pair of fancy cowboy boots, each paired with a different outfit. Probably the reason she never had money to pay Katie’s sitter-namely me). The girls played together everyday anyway and it was an easy way for me to earn a few dollars. Katie was absolutely no trouble and the girls spent hours playing house/kitchen/mommy with the new table set. Soon there were serious signs all was not ok at Randi’s house or her marriage and we had Katie at our house more than she was home. John and I both felt every hour Katie was with us was less stress for everyone (but I never got paid).
Josh played with the table and chairs a lot too. He’d zoom his Matchbox cars, plastic trucks, Star Wars action figures, racing them across the top, watching them fly through the air like Evel Knievel. With Adam a few years later it was castle Grayskull sitting on top of the now scratched, dented, nicked up table while his hero He-Man battled evil Skeletor.
As the kids got older and eventually quit using the table and chairs, it continued to make all the moves with us. I’m not sure why. So did the wild rocking horse and most of the big metal earth movers and farm equipment from Ertl toys. What is about certain possessions from our youth or our children’s childhood that are virtually impossible to get rid of? I tossed so many of their toys and never gave it much thought, but it was the first ‘big’ toys that cost us an arm and a leg which are the ones I’ve never been able to dispose of. Seems like we sacrificed so much to get those special toys for the kids it would hurt me to pitch them. Crazy.
Well the years flew by and it’s now 1992. Shannon is mom to our first granddaughter, one year old Ariana. Out comes the dilapidated table and chairs set. John clamps and glues some loose spindles and slaps on some Old English Scratch Cover on the table tops worst boo-boos. It’s a mainstay in Ari’s room for several years, only to be shoved in storage again. Shannon had just as much trouble throwing it out as we have all these years.
Three years ago our great granddaughter Jovi was born. What that perfect little girl needed was a beat up old table and chairs set her Gigi got 45 years ago when she was 2. Goodness. We now have toys that are tipping the scales in the direction of antiques or at very least, vintage. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought the wooden table set would be passed down through 3 generations of Van Berkum/Gerritson Dutch girls. How freaking neat is that?
Jovi had her 3rd birthday party this weekend. Of course sitting in the middle of the living room looking like it’s been rode hard and put away wet is the old table and chairs set. Yet somehow it looks just perfect and belongs right there. Where did Jovi’s little besties sit while they all were eating their birthday donuts? The sturdy little table and chairs set that refuses to be thrown out.
What seemed like an extravagant, over priced, unnecessary purchase 45 years ago has now touched the life of every kid in our family since 1972. Not a family heirloom by any means but Shannon’s little table and chairs set’s worth just seems to climb with every passing year. Positively the best 30 bucks the Hubs and I ever spent…