Caryn

Years ago, when the different booths at the fair used to give baby chicks or fish as prizes for the different games you could play. My mom and dad were at the fair, and a little boy came up to her and asked if she would take his baby chick, because his mom wouldn’t let him keep it, so mom took it, and decided to raise it in the hope of having eggs. She named our chicken Queenie. We loved Queenie. She was yellow and fuzzy and so soft. Of course, the thrill of having Queenie wore off for us kids pretty fast, and Mom was left to her care.

With dreams of eggs for some time to come, my mom took great care of Queenie. And our little chick thrived on the care. She was probably the only chicken to ever live in a house. Mom kept her in a box in the utility room. She was a household pet…not that everyone liked her. She had a tendency to peck at the little kids, and they somehow didn’t think that was a very good idea. So mom had to keep Queenie away from the kids, and that meant the back yard was off limits sometimes…to the kids.

As Queenie grew, there began to be some…strange occurrences. Sounds that Queenie shouldn’t be making were coming from her. I’m sure many of you know what was going on, but my mom didn’t want to believe that her chicken was really a rooster. Her plans of having eggs were dissolving before her eyes, and try as she might, there was no denying it.

The neighbors started asking about a rooster in the city limits, and of course, mom was told she couldn’t keep him there, so she talked to her sister, my Aunt Dixie, and it was decided that she would take the rooster named Queenie, since she had a place in the country and other chickens.

My mom kept telling herself that Queenie was out at my aunts house, living it up as the King of the chicken coop, but we all knew that Queenie probably ended up as most chickens and roosters do…as fried chicken, or some other such tasty dinner entree, and it’s just as well, because whether we liked Queenie or not…eating him was definitely out of the question. He was a household pet, after all.

While visiting Bob’s great grandparents in Yakima, Washington in 1976, Grandma Knox showed me a family heirloom of a different type than most, but priceless nevertheless. It was a drawing of a tree, on which the trunk and branches were the names of family members. It was a true family tree. It must have been a copy of several or many that were made and given to family members in the Knox family, because I have since seen it on the Internet. And was able to save a copy on Ancestry.com.

I think about the person who did all that original work. Her name was Hattie Goodman, and she is a relative on Bob’s side of our family. I would have to dig deeper to tell you exactly what the relationship is, but we are related, and on the copy that Grandma had, we know where our family section is. Of course, the tree does not show the names of my children or grandchildren, or even Bob and his parents, but his great grandparents are listed, so we know where we fit. It is an amazing piece of history, painstakingly written down by a woman I would love to have known, because I think she must have really been something!

Bob’s great grandparents are gone now, and I am quite sure his Uncle Frank still has the family tree drawing, as he is one of the last of the brothers born to Bob’s great grandparents, and the healthiest one for sure, making him the best choice to keep it. And he is also the one who would be the most interested in the family history, so he would treasure it.

It is quite a responsibility to be the family historian…and yet quite exciting too. You carry the memories in your head, and you feel the need to get it down on paper, or online these days, so that it can be passed on to generations who would not have known these stories any other way. There are family historians in every family, and you know who you are. The memories live in the filing system in your mind, but they are not content to stay there. They continue to spill out in your writings as a memorial to times past. You feel the need to leave a legacy of the stories of the past, so that future generations will not forget where they came from.

That is where I fit into the family, but I am not alone. Most families have several or sometimes even many people who are interested in those stories from the past. They can sit down and hear a story from the past, and immediately commit it to memory, and turn around and tell it to others to preserve the family history. This stuff just sticks in their memory so easily, and once it is in there, it stays. They are the family historians, and they have an important role in the family. Keeping the past alive for future generations.

When my Aunt Evelyn was a toddler, her parents were trying to teach her how to address different adult family members. Whenever she called an aunt or uncle by their first name, her parents would say, “You must say Uncle Ted or Aunt Gladys.” I’m sure she heard those words many times, as it is hard for a toddler to hear everyone else calling the person by name, and yet they must use something different. It can be a very confusing time for a little kid just trying to learn the ropes.

These days, at least in our family, many of the aunts and uncles go by just their first names, and while some people might think that odd, I am just as comfortable being Caryn as I am Aunt Caryn. We don’t consider it to be any kind of a show of disrespect. But in times past, and in many families today, if the person is an aunt or uncle, you must address them as Aunt this or Uncle that. We do draw the line at grandma and grandpa, and my grandchildren know that while Gma, G, or G-mamma is ok, Caryn is not. I suppose that could be confusing to little kids too, but that is the way it is. Another place where we draw the line is Mommy and Daddy, or Mom and Dad. But for the aunts and uncles we are a little more casual.

Nevertheless, in my Aunt Evelyn’s day and my childhood, the children were taught to use the proper terms of aunt and uncle. So Aunt Evelyn, in her early training days, heard over and over that she must say Uncle Cliff or Aunt Myrtle. And as all little kids do, she worked very hard to try to figure out who was who so her parents, aunts, and uncles would be pleased with her. Children love to get praise from their parents and such.

One day, when my grandmother needed my grandfather for something, all that training came to the point of complete understanding. My grandmother told my Aunt Evelyn to go get her daddy, and quick as a wink, my Aunt Evelyn said, “You must say…Uncle Daddy.”

Yesterday, I talked about a New Years Eve tradition in our family, but the annual height measurement isn’t the only tradition we have on New Years Eve. As I said, we always have a party at my mother’s house for New Years Eve, because New Years Day is her birthday. We always move the kitchen furniture into the living room, and part of the living room furniture into Mom’s bedroom, so that the kitchen can be free of furniture, because part of the party is the dancing. A big part of the party is dancing, and the kitchen floor is the dance floor.

During the party, various people, young and old, get out there and dance. We play a variety of music, from rock to country, so everyone has the kind of music they want to dance to. Some of the cutest dances, as everyone knows, are the ones the little kids do. And, when we aren’t dancing, we are eating the delicious food that each family brings to add to the celebration, and there’s plenty of room to talk about all the good times and the many memories our family has been blessed to share with each other. The party spreads from the living room to the back yard, and even the front yard when midnight rolls around and it’s time to bring in the new year with the beating of the pans, and firecrackers…but that is another story.

And, there is one tradition that, while it doesn’t happen every year, is really cool…when we can talk him into it. My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens, has the ability to do a dance that we fondly call The Rubber Knee. I would love to tell you how he does this dance, but I’m not even sure Mike knows how he does it. The Rubber Knee is an Elvis Presley type of dance move that requires the dancer to have the ability to almost dislocate his knee…not really, but it sure looks like it. And try as we might, there has never been another family member that can duplicate The Rubber Knee. It is a dance that is unique to it’s owner. Mike is a great dancer, and that particular dance will always be remembered as something that had to be done before it could really seem like New Years Eve to our family.

It has been a long standing tradition to have a New Years Eve Party at my mother’s house because her birthday is on New Years Day. Another long standing tradition was the annual checking of all the grandchildren’s heights. Each child got to get their mark, and when we were all done, everyone looked to see how much everyone had grown…or in some cases in our family, not grown. After a while, the adults wanted in too, so we all got measured. My brother-in-law, Chris was and is the reigning King of Height in our family, but for a while there we weren’t so sure. It appeared that his son Ryan might have a chance to pass Chris up, but in the end, that did not happen.

We have a wide range of heights in our family…and I’m talking about the adults. From little Siara, who at nearly 18 years of age, comes screaming in at 4’9″, to Chris who stands 6’4″. And our family isn’t small in numbers either with 57 current members, so that door got pretty crowded after a while, and the prior years weren’t erased, so everyone could see how far they had come in a year.

Some of us just knew that we would be neither a contender for the tallest or the shortest member, but would fall somewhere in the middle. We have had several of the little girls vying for the shortest girl. Chantel, Amy, Siara, Christina, and Shai all come in under 5′. We have several girls in the barely 5′ range, those being, Cheryl, Corrie, Liz, and Jenny. The rest of us fall somewhere in between 5’2″ and 5’11” until you get to some of the guys. Some of them fall in the 6′ and above range, with Ryan at 6’3″ and his dad, Chris at 6’4″.

We all looked at the door off and on, because it was a novelty item. It held so many years of growth for so many people. It isn’t often that you can look back at a glance…at least not for most of us. Most parents keep track of how tall their kids are for a while, but after a time, they forget, and skip a year here and there, until finally they give up all together. Our tradition was remembered, because one or more of the kids always brought it up on New Years Eve.

When my girls were little and in grade school, I used to volunteer to do throat cultures at the school they attended. Throat cultures aren’t done anymore, so for those who don’t know, it was and still is a way to test for strep throat, but it isn’t done in the schools anymore. Anyway, every Monday morning I went into town and my friend Pat Neville and I made the rounds at the school, swabbing throats.

Now my last name is not the easiest name to learn for little kids, and even most adults have trouble with it. So I was not surprised when on one particular Monday morning, when I came into the nurse’s office to get my throat culture cart set up, and two little kindergarten girls had a little trouble with my name.

As I entered the nurse’s office, there were two little girls sitting on the bed waiting for the nurse to come in. I don’t know if one was hurt or what, but that didn’t end up being the most important part of my story.I thought they knew me from throat cultures, because they started talking to me like they recognized me, and I guess they did…sort of.

The first little girl asked, “Are you Amy’s mom?” My first thought was ok, now I have been relegated to being just my kid’s mom, but that thought didn’t last very long, because the other little girl asked, “Amy who?” Then, everything became very clear. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t know my name, or that I was just somebody’s mom. It was my name.

That fact was made perfectly clear when, in answer to her friend’s question, the first little girl said, “You know…Amy Sugarberry!!! Inside I laughed and laughed, because I figured that if someone were going to butcher our last name, that was the best way to do it. With the last name of Schulenberg, I had heard every possible way to butcher my name, but this was by far the sweetest!

When my niece, Susan was a little girl, she had an imaginary friend, like many children do, but her friend’s name was…well a bit unusual as was the fact that her friend was a boy, which was not usually the case with imaginary friends. His name was Stubba. Susan says she liked the word stubborn, but didn’t know what it meant, and that Stubba name came from that word. Susan loved her friend. He went with her everywhere, and they had many adventures together. One thing about an imaginary friend is that they are very loyal. They don’t run off and play with they other kids very much, because they would rather stick close to their best friend.

Recently my daughter Amy, got to thinking about Stubba again, and posted just his name on Susan’s Facebook. Well, that was enough to get things started all over again. Susan commented with, “Oh!!! My long lost friend Stubba!!! I sometimes wish I could go back to those days where my only worry was what my friend Stubba was up to. LOL!!!! Good times!!!” I know just what you mean Susan. There are times I would like to go back to my carefree days too, but then I think…”Naw, I would be missing out on too much,” as would you.

As Susan grew up, her need for Stubba dwindled, and eventually it was time for Stubba to leave us and go where all imaginary friends go. As I recall, in order to let his passing be permanent, Susan told us that he fell out of her grandpa’s pickup bed, and died. We were all a little bit sad for Stubba, who would no longer get to run and play with the little girl he loved so much, but we can all take comfort in the fact that while Stubba is in Heaven now, Susan’s life has been blessed with so much more. I’m quite sure Stubba would be pleased to see that she now has Josh, Jala, and Kaytlynn in her life and that there is most certainly no void there. No…I think Stubba would be very happy for his dear friend, Susan.

Many people name their children a longer name, planning to shorten it to a nickname. Names like Christopher and Joshua are shortened to Chris and Josh. Some times, names are changed to initials. Names like Joel David, Machelle, or Brenda are changed to JD, MAC, or BR. Names even had things added to them, like Susan becoming Susie Q, or Shai Renee becoming Shai Reenie the Pooh. And sometimes directions came into play when Weston and Easton became West and East. And some names didn’t need to be changed, just used in their entirety to be a nickname of sorts, like Caalab Rolles Royce. Such is the case in our family, but I guess I had to be different. I never intended to use nicknames for my girls, Corrie and Amy, and for the most part didn’t, but the nicknames they did get, didn’t shorten their names…rather, they lengthened them. Odd…I know, but that is what happened.

Corrie became Cornelia…after my grandfather according to my mom. Amy became Amelia, mostly I think to match Corrie’s nickname, but it was all so perfect. Their names were similar and fit perfectly to lengthen their names from the original to the new nickname. We had a lot of fun with those new longer nicknames, but it never escaped my notice that they were of an unusual type.

Everyone had their little additions. Some added middle names so Cornelia became Cornelia Sue. Other made rhymes, so Amelia became Amelia Bedelia. The play on words was fun and interesting. We even had a few little songs that incorporated their nicknames. Just another way of adding to the fun of it. And through the years, more and more nick names have been added…some short and some long. Corrie has been Cor, CorSue, Corrie Lou, and even Apple Core, and Amy has been Ames, Amos, Amy Lou and Strawberry Shortcake, because she was so little. The names changed through the years, but never really went away.

The other night at bowling, Amy came up to me and said that Pete, another bowler, had called her Amelia, and was surprised when she turned around and responded to the use of the nickname. He said, “I didn’t figure you would answer to that name.” She said, “It has been my nickname all my life.” So I guess nicknames, don’t always mean a shortening of the name, and it isn’t so uncommon for nicknames to be a lengthening of the name. But, what is really funny to me is that when we picked names for the girls, I said I didn’t want names that would be shortened…and well, I guess I got my wish…at least part of the time.

He is one of a kind. The kind of person who makes you want to do your very best work. Not everyone is as blessed as my daughter, my granddaughter, and me when it comes to our boss. We only get to call him that once in a great while, because it is a word he hates. Jim is like no other boss in the world. He is like a brother to me, and my entire family feels the same way…like Jim is a member of the family.

By any standards, Jim as a boss is…different. He doesn’t boss!! He learned one good piece of advise pertaining to business from his dad…”hire good people, and let them do their jobs.” Wise words spoken by a wise man. So that is what Jim set out to do…and what we, his employees, or associates as he prefers to call us, strive to achieve.

Through the past 6 years, during a time of various health issues in my family, Jim has proven himself to be so much more than a boss or friend. He has allowed me, and my daughter the time needed to care for my parents and my in-laws. Many people have been forced to leave their jobs in order to care for aging parents, but we have been allowed to take time off of work in order to take them to appointments, run over to pick them up if they had fallen, be with them in the hospital, and the other necessary things that occur when caring for another person. And because of that kindness, the quality of their lives has been greatly improved. I don’t believe we could have done what we have done in their lives had it not been for Jim. And our entire family would agree.

Jim isn’t just a boss…he is family, in every sense of the word, except by blood. But then, there are many times, when your blood family doesn’t earn the right to be called family as much as Jim has earned that right. Sunday was Boss’s Day, but since we aren’t open on Sunday, it can be anytime in the week, so we have chosen today to be Boss’s Day for Jim. So today is Boss’s Day, and while he hates that word, today we must use it and he will have to allow it. Happy Boss’s Day Jim! You are the best boss in the whole world, and we love you!! Have a wonderful day!

We have all had a best friend…someone who is as close to us as a sister or brother, but through the years these close friendships often dwindle and fade into the obscurity of time. Friends go their separate ways as their lives grow and change. Sometimes, those friends go out of our lives never to return…but, sometimes life takes a different direction and the result is quite special.

Machelle and Rachel were best friends in high school and beyond. Their sons were best friends practically from birth. But this friendship will not be one that will dwindle away, because Machelle introduced Rachel to her Uncle Ron. You can introduce someone to a friend, but you can’t make that relationship work. That is up to the new couple. Well, the relationship between Ron and Rachel worked, and in June of 2010, they were married. With this marriage, Rachel went from being Machelle’s friend to being her aunt…but Machelle has informed Rachel that she refuses to call her Aunt Rachel.

And this situation has infiltrated a second generation. Machelle’s son Weston is best friends with Rachel’s son, Riley, and now, because of the marriage of His mom and Ron, Riley and Weston have become so much more that just friends. They are cousins once removed. Of course, most people just call that cousins, because to call it cousins once removed, is just confusing…especially to two boys who don’t really care one way or the other about how they are related to their best friend, they are just excited that their best friend will always be their best friend, because they aren’t just friends, they are family.

It’s always a special thing to know that your best friend will always be close to you, abut it is even more wonderful to know that your best friend will always be in your life, because they have become part of your family. And our whole family has been blessed because of the friendship that began with Machelle and Rachel, and grew into parts of a family.

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