cousins

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IMG_6109For most children, their first friends are their siblings or cousins. Their families get together, so the kids get to see each other often. The days flow from one to another, and for a time, everyone expects that nothing will change. I suppose that is why change always hits us so hard. We have convinced ourselves that it will never happen. Then comes the day when one of those first friends moves away. For some people it doesn’t happen until a sibling moves out of the house for the first time, but for others, as was the case for my sister, Cheryl Spencer Masterson and our cousin, Pam Spencer Wendling, it can come at a very young age, and it can feel quite devastating, for everyone involved.

So often, the two friends only hear one side of how the two of them are feeling. I know that my sister missed Pam a lot. I don’t recall my own feelings concerning the matter, but then I was only two and a half, so that isn’t surprising. In reality, it was Cheryl and Pam who played together every day, and who were so close. They IMG_6115did everything together. It didn’t matter if the day was warm or cold. They were outside playing in the snow or taking care of their baby dolls in the warm sun. It was so cute.

Recently, on our visit to Wisconsin, Pam was telling us about a baby album she had with lots of those early childhood pictures in it. They included Pam and Cheryl, and me too, but there were several of the two little friends going about their daily play. It was so obvious that these two cousins loved each other very much. Our two families lived just across the yard from each other, and since the alley ran along the side of the house, the two yards shared a common fence. In those days, you could let your kids go outside to play with a lot less supervision and worry, so Cheryl and Pam were outside playing together all the time. It was the perfect setup…until all that changed.

In November of 1958, our family moved from Superior, Wisconsin back to my mom’s hometown of Casper, Wyoming. As I said, I was really too little to understand how much Cheryl missed Pam, and until this trip, we IMG_6119hadn’t heard just how much Pam missed Cheryl. Apparently, Pam must have asked her mom why she couldn’t go play with Cheryl, and was told that the family had moved to Wyoming. I’m not really sure where the discussion about trees came into the whole thing, but somehow Pam associated the move with trees. That is odd, because I would have to say that there are a lot more trees in Wisconsin than in Wyoming, but Pam didn’t understand that. She just knew that the move made her sad, and there had to be a reason…in her mind anyway. When that subject came up, Pam cried and said, “Cheryl’s Wyoming has trees!!” Maybe she thought that was why we moved, or maybe she just thought that everything must be better in Wyoming, but whatever the reason, she knew in her heart that Cheryl’s Wyoming had trees.

Bill, Maureen, and KristinMike, Pam, and Aunt DorisCody and EmmaOur trip back to Superior, Wisconsin was to reconnect with our Spencer cousins, Pam and her husband, Mike Wendling, Bill, wife, Maureen and daughter, Kristin Spencer, our cousin Jim’s son, Cody Spencer and his girlfriend, Emma Rainey, Uncle Bill Spencer, Aunt Doris Spencer. We did that and had a wonderful time with them. They also took us to some of the old places our family had lived, and especially the old places that my dad and his siblings had lived as children. It was a way of walking where my dad had walked, and it made me feel closer to him again. It also reiterated to me, just how much I miss him. I am so glad we made that trip, because we don’t know how long we will have Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris with us, so we wanted to see them again. That was cherished time for us.

We also went out there to meet our cousins on the Schumacher side…some of whom we had never met before, and some to Cheryl, Caryn, Uncle Bill, Collenereconnect with. They were so gracious to us and we had such a good time with them too. We met Carol Schumacher Carlson and her kids, Don and Judy Carlson, Steve and Nancy Carlson, Laurie and Rick Stepp, Dave and Michelle Carlson, Jim and Kari Carlson, Julie and Marty Soukup, and Jeanne and Creston Dorothy; Les and Bev Schumacher and daughter Cathy Schumacher La Porte, and Bernice Schumacher Hutchison. There was just not enough time in the short visit we had to spend all the time we wanted to spend with everyone. The great visit with our cousins, the Schumacher family left us wanting more time together. My only regret is that we didn’t have the chance to meet all of the Schumacher family members that we have met online. Some were unable to make it because of prior engagements, and we were sure sorry to have missed them. Maybe next time.

Our final family get together took place in Madison, Wisconsin, with Tracey Schumacher-Inglimo. It was Tracey who first connected with me through Ancestry.com and then Facebook, and basically got this entire trek started. She was unable to come to Superior to see us because of school for her kids, and we could not imagine going all that way without meeting her, so in the end, we met for dinner in Madison at Biaggi’s Ristorante Italianio. The food was wonderful, but the company far more so. As with the rest of the Schumacher cousins, we found Tracey to be our kind of people. I have to think that’s because we are all cut from the same cloth. When you have a past that is much the same as someone else’s, you find similarities that can be surprising. Party at Soukup's 1Party at Soukup's 2Cheryl, Tracey, Caryn, and CollenePersonality traits, voices, and even looks can be very similar. That seems strange when you have never even met before, but it still happens. That’s what being cut from the same cloth is all about. We are all family. We are all connected, and that is very cool!!

Baby Shower HelperFrom the time he was just a little boy, my nephew, JD Parmely loved little kids. He got so excited whenever he knew he was getting a new cousin. He wanted to be involved in everything, from the baby shower, to holding the baby, to playing with the kids as they grew. Sometimes, it’s a big help to have JD take over the entertainment of all the little kids…at least until they start making too much noise or rough housing too much. I suppose that is because JD is, in reality, a big kid himself. In a lot of ways, I think he has decided that growing up is overrated, and sometimes I have to agree with him. Plus, he has lots of uncles who have never really grown up either, so he is in good company in that department. I promise you, that his Uncle Bob has never really grown up either…not one bit, in fact.

One of the coolest things to happen in JD’s recent life is the family addition of his niece, Reagan Parmely, who is his brother, Eric and his wife, Ashley’s daughter. He and Reagan get along famously, because both of them like to play. JD has the energy to chase Reagan wherever she decides to go, and for her, that is lots of fun. And now that Reagan is getting a new sister or brother in September, JD will soon have a new little one to play with. At this point, JD really has no desire to get married and have kids of his own, but he is having a great time with his cousins and niece. I guess it pays to be a kid at heart, because all the kids want to hang out with you…and that is exactly what has happened to JD. My grandchildren felt the same way when they were little. JD was the fun guy at all the family gatherings.

Last year, JD bought his first house. It had belonged to his grandparents, and in my opinion, Helping Reagan with her cupcakethe house had felt so lonely. I was so glad that he bought the house, because a home should be lived in, not sitting empty. When JD moved in, there was activity there again. I can’t say if the house feels any less lonely, because those walls can’t talk to me, but I am pretty sure the garage has never felt better. JD loves to work on his multiple vehicles, and therefore, spends hours in the garage…even into the wee hours of the morning, sometimes. JD would have to be called a Vehicle Fanatic, because his must own twelve or fourteen of them. It’s just what he does. And that’s ok. If he enjoys it, he should do it. It’s what makes JD…well, JD!! Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day. Don’t work too hard on your cars, and try to get some sleep!! We love you!!

Shirley GraduationSeveral years ago, our family reconnected with my cousin, Shirley Wolfe Cameron. Since Shirley and her family moved away from Casper many years ago, we had lost touch with her, and so I didn’t really know much about her except for during her teen years and once after she was married. The teenage years are not much to go on when it comes to what kind of a person someone is, because as most adults will admit, the teenage years find many of us mad at the world, and often most of the people in it. Oh, we all have our good days and bad days, but as teenagers, often the bad days far outweigh the good days. Since Shirley was a few years see than I was, I’m also quite sure that I was a huge annoyance. When it comes to teenagers and adolescents, I’m not sure who is more obnoxious…but I know that I had a well tuned ability to be irritating.

Now that we are both adults, our relationship is so different. Looking through adult eyes, I can see what a wonderful person Shirley is. She has a heart of gold and she is such a generous person. I find myself feeling so very blessed to have her back in my life, because she is such a sweetheart. It’s funny that people can grow up so far away from each other, and yet have so many views and ideas that are exactly the same. I don’t know how that happens, but for us it did. I am so often amazed at how many things Shirley Shirley Cameronand I agree on…good upbringing, I guess. Shirley’s mom and my dad were sister and brother, and I’m sure that would account for the many similarities there are.

Shirley and I have such a good relationship now, and one that warms my heart every time I think about her, or see her Facebook posts…and that would make it every day. She always puts a smile on my face, and since we agree on everything political, we can get each other pretty hyped up when it comes to things that are just wrong. Today is Shirley’s birthday. I love having you back in my life, Shirley, and I know that the whole family feels the exact same way. Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

Young Carl SchumacherOn this, the 130th anniversary of the arrival of my great grandfather, Carl Ludwig Theodor Schumacher in the United States, I have been thinking about how it must have felt for him. He had made the most difficult decision to leave his homeland at the very young age of 25, and board the SS Gellert, leaving from Hamburg, Germany on April 6, 1884 to start a new life, far away from his parents and family in the United States of America. He had been reading letters from his uncle and cousins about how wonderful America was, and in particular, how wonderful Minnesota was, since he was 18, and he had made up his mind to go. He would work seven long years taking care of the horses of a wealthy landowner to earn the $50.00 needed to pay his fare. He knew that travel by ship across the Atlantic could be dangerous, and he might be very homesick for his family, but he was determined to go. He knew, also that it would take years of hard work to build the American Dream that he had in mind for his life. My great grandfather would be successful in building his American Dream, but today my thoughts go not to thinking of his dreams, but rather to how he must have felt as he made such a life change.

A young man of 25 years is really not so grown up that a move half a world away doesn’t feel scary. That kind of a move would be a daunting experience for anyone, no matter how SS Gellertold they are. And then to arrive at a place like Ellis Island, or in my grandfather’s case, Castle Garden, since the Ellis Island facility wasn’t built until 1892…not really knowing what you would be put through before you would be allowed to enter the United States. Many people were required to Americanize their names, so it would be easier for them to fit in…forever altering their identity. That was the case for my great grandfather, when his name was changed from Schuhmacher to Schumacher. Still, the immigrants felt like this was a small sacrifice to make for the gain of the American Dream, and in fact, many immigrants felt like that name change was like a rite of passage into this great country.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that my grandfather must have felt some level of sadness at the change of his name, even though he would use it again when he was married. Still, the census records, and other records show it as Schumacher, thus muddying the waters when it comes to genealogy records. I don’t suppose that was the Castle Gardenthing my great grandfather was thinking about as he waited for his turn at Castle Garden on April 21, 1884, but as my mind looks back in time to that day that would end up being so very important to my life, it is something that definitely occurs to me. My great grandfather had been through so much to come to this new land filled with opportunity, and I’m quite certain that the overwhelming changes must have made him quite weary, but as he arrived in Minnesota and began the work of building that dream, I suppose that all of the uncertainty of the journey to get where he was, became simply a distant memory. He was home…the home of his dreams.

Corrie & Amy with bowling trophiesAt bowling last night, I was reminded of the early years of bowling for us and our kids. Bob and I started bowling when our girls, Corrie and Amy were three and two years old. Since we enjoyed bowling so much, we knew they would too, so we started them on a bowling league at Sunrise Lanes when they were six and five years old. The league was short on coaches, so I took the class to become a coach, and I became the coach of the younger children on the league. After a couple of years, the league at Sunrise Lanes dwindled down to just a few, and the league at Eagle Bowl needed bowlers and a coach, so we made the move to Eagle Bowl. Little did we know that the move to Eagle Bowl would change so many things, not only for us and our girls, but really for my whole family. Connections were made that we would cherish for the rest of our lives.

As it turned out, one team that really needed bowlers was two little girls…sisters, named Jaime and Jackie Morton. They were about the same age as Corrie and Amy, and they got along well. The four girls bowled together for a number of years, and then my nephew, Barry Schulenberg decided to bowl on the league. I told Donna, Jaime and Jackie’s mom, that Corrie and Amy were going to bowl with their cousins that year. She seemed disappointed, but asked if I had a team for Jaime and Jackie. I told her, “Yes, they are bowling with Corrie and Amy.” Confused now, she said, “I thought they were going to bowl with their cousins.” When I told her they were, she was completely baffled, and with good reason.

I finally had to break down and tell her something about her daughters that she didn’t know. Seriously, how often can someone else tell you something about your young daughters that you didn’t know. Nevertheless, I was able to do just that, because when I had mentioned Ted Jaime & Jackieand Donna Morton to my mom, she was surprised, and she told me who they were. I explained to Donna that Corrie and Amy were Jaime and Jackie’s cousins. She was shocked, until I explained that her husband, Ted’s grandmother Gladys Pattan Byer Cooper, was my grandmother, Harriet Pattan Byer’s sister. Not only that, but Ted’s grandfather, Theodore Byer was my grandfather, George Byer’s brother, making us double second cousins, because my grandmother and her sister had married my grandfather and his brother. That made our girls double third cousins. So while the girls did bowl with my nephew, Barry, who was their cousin, that year, we all found out that they had been bowling with cousins all along.

Weston MooreMy grand nephew, Weston is the oldest son of my niece, Machelle Moore, and her husband Steve. Coming from a family of tall people, Weston is a tall, broad shouldered kid…the exact kind of kid a football coach likes to have when it comes to defending the quarterback. When Weston was in Casper last weekend to celebrate his great grandmother’s birthday, I had a chance to visit with him for a while. The first thing he told me about was that he plays football, and that he likes the game. Of course, games are a big part of Weston’s life…like most kids his age, and many adults. Computer games have taken the lead over any other type of game for most people. Whether you play on the internet against other people, or on the computer, by yourself. It seems to be the wave of the future…and one I have pretty much shunned. Weston, on the other hand has embraced it, and Camp boysis from what I hear pretty good at the games.

Like most boys his age, Weston is into cars. He can’t drive yet, of course, but he is checking out all the possibilities when it comes to the type of ride he will choose. He is now just one year away from getting that all important permit that will put his parents nerves on edge…for a while at least. Checking out Weston’s Facebook page, you would find monster truck type vehicles, as well as the muscle car type. That is so typical of so many guys. The ride is what it’s all about. I mean, a bicycle is simply not a chick magnet!! If a guy wants to attract the girls, he is going to have to have a car the girls want to ride in.
Riley & Weston
Like many people from Wyoming, Weston likes the great outdoors. Hunting, fishing, and camping are among the awesome things to do here, and Weston has a great time doing all three, especially when he gets to go with his friend and now cousin, Riley. The boys don’t get to see each other very much since Riley’s move to Casper, but whenever they are together, they are sill best friends. They like to do the same things, and play many of the same games. I’m sure the move has been a little hard on them, because they were such good friends, so I am happy that the are both on Facebook now, so they can keep in touch again. Today is Weston’s 14th birthday. Happy birthday Weston!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Annie, Anna, & LauraFor some time now, I have been trying to find any information on the family of my Great Grandma Henriette Hensel Schumacher. The pictures we have of Grandma’s immediate family, which includes my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer, always seem to include two cousins. We know that their names are Anna Schubring and Laura Kurth. We don’t know if those are maiden names or married names, and that makes this harder. Recently, I found a picture of a family, and I believe that the oldest girl is Laura Kurth. The other girls did not exactly look like Anna Schubring, but I thought that possibly this family was my great grandmother’s sisters family. She was the sister that my grandmother came to America with, and since her first husband died, and she remarried and had more children, That could explain the difference in the two girls features.

Last night I stumbled upon a little bit more information. The girls are not sisters, or even half sisters, as I had originally thought they might be. My sister, Cheryl thought that the father in the family picture looked a bit like our Great Grandfather Carl Schumacher, and thought he could be his brother. I now believe that she is right in that. What I found is a page from my Uncle Bill’s family history, but it wasn’t with the rest of his history books…it was in some pictures he had sent to my cousin, Tracey Schumacher-Inglimo’s family. This picture tells us that Anna Schubring is the daughter of one of Great Grandma Henriette Hensel Schumacher’s sister and that she came from Canada. Anna could possibly be the daughter of the sister that my great grandmother came to America with, whose husband died a short time later, and she remarried and had more children. Having a step father could also be part of the reason that Anna spent so much time with her Aunt Henriette’s family. Sometimes the step parent situation doesn’t work out so well for some of the children. If Anna is that child, then she has a sibling that would be from that first marriage too, but we don’t really have any information on that.

Laura Kurth is also a cousin, but on the Schumacher side, so Cheryl is probably right in that she thought the father in the family picture looked like our great grandfather, Carl Schumacher’s side of the family. Cheryl also thought that Anna looked older than Laura, so she might be correct in that too. Laura’s family lived in the Mazeppa, Minnesota area, which might explain why she spent a lot of time with her Aunt Henriette and Uncle Carl’s family…not 034ato mention that she and my grandma, Anna Schumacher Spencer were fairly close in age. I am also assuming that Kurth was Laura’s married name, and that her dad was the Schumacher brother, but I could be mistaken in that too, and it could be that her mother was the blood relation to my great grandfather. I may never find out for sure just how these cousins fit into our family, but I will most likely not stop looking until I do find out. Nevertheless, these pictures lad me to believe that my great grandparents were very close to their siblings, even if there is a sense of mystery to my family and their elusive ancestors too.

Jim hugging the cousinsWhenever our cousins came to visit from Wisconsin, we always had such a great time. Hanging out in Uncle Bill’s bus, playing in the yard, playing cribbage, going for ice cream, or just hanging out with the cousins…it didn’t matter what exactly, just that they were here to visit again. We felt that way about all of our out of town cousins. In fact, the only thing that was bad about those visits was the end of them, and it always came too soon. I’m one of those people who really hates to say goodbye, especially when I know it will be for a long time. If I had my way, all those people that I love would live in the same town.

When it was time for them to begin the journey home, everyone tried to lighten the mood. We did goofy little things to make each other laugh, even though we were all sad. Of course, we had to take the pictures that last day too, because we wanted something to remember each other by, until the next time we got to see each other. There was still so much to say, and everyone wanted to talk at once, hoping to get just a few more moments with the cousins. A week just isn’t enough time to spend with your cousins. We promised to write to them more often, even though we had promised before and did for a while, and then got busy with our own lives again. I think we knew that writing wasn’t really going to happen, as we promised. Finally it was time to go, and all that was left was the hugging and waving goodbye, and the wishing that the week was just starting, instead of ending. Life seemed a little more mundane after they left. We had to think of things to do, and nothing seemed interesting now. Even the things we had done when they were here were less interesting.

The sad thing is that as we grow older, and have families of our own, sometimes those relationships are lost and become distant, because everyone is so busy. Seldom do the kids Cousins and Jimmyget together they way they did when they lived at their parent’s home. Families grow apart, and then comes the point when they almost don’t feel comfortable sitting down to talk, because they don’t know what to say to each other. They have both lived such different lives, with little in common, and it just gets awkward. Soon, it’s just easier to forgo the visits all together. Then comes the moment when the cousin or their parents pass away, and you feel bad because you have been out of touch for so long…and you feel great regret, but it is too late. I wish I had more time with all my cousins and I’m thankful for Facebook, which has reconnected so many of us virtually, and that is the next best thing to being there.

Roll out the BarrellKids have always tried to use things around them as props in their games. Things like boxes, barrels, and even a little taller hill become the prop of the day. When I saw this picture of Bob’s brother, Ron, his cousins, Danny and Sandy, and a neighbor girl playing on four oil drums, all I could think was “Roll out the barrel, and we’ll have a barrel of fun.” Of course, that is the “Beer Barrel Polka” song, which was composed by the Czechoslovakian musician Jaromír Vejvoda in 1927, and really had nothing to do with a child’s game at all, but the words seemed so fitting in the case of the game the kids were obviously playing. The barrels must have either had something in them, or been pretty heavy in their own right, because it doesn’t appear that they wanted to roll around on the kids. Still, in my imagination, I could see them racing down the driveway to see who would get to the finish line first. It doesn’t really matter what they were doing with the barrels, because it is obvious that they thought being up on them was great fun. If they looked back now, they would probably wonder how such an inanimate object, with no moving parts and no flashing lights, could possibly have held their interest, but you must understand that their childhood was a time of no computers, cell phones, or video games…at least for a few more years, so they used their imaginations to have fun.

The same applies to the game “King of the Hill”, which was of course to see who could dominate the hill and keep everyone else from being able to get up it. Of course, I don’t think that is exactly what my Aunt Laura and her friend were playing either, but it did, nevertheless King of the Hillappear that Aunt Laura had managed to acquire the taller of the two little hills, thus making her the King…so to speak. Whatever the game was that the girls were playing, the two little hills figured into it enough to make my grandmother want to take their picture as a memory of the occasion. Here again, the girls had used the things available to them to make for a day of fun. Kids used to be able to do that. Without video games and texting, and with parents who didn’t let them watch television all day, or without television at all, the imagination was the way to have fun. It really seems to be a lost art today. Kids don’t used their imaginations much these days, because all the stuff in their head is fed in electronically. That’s really quite sad, when you think about it.

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