There is a popular song by Miranda Lambert called “The House That Built Me.” It is a rather bittersweet song about visiting the house where she grew up, in and effort to find herself again. I suppose that it is very common to lose sight of self as the years go by, and life gets busier and busier. Sometimes we just find ourselves needing to regroup, to a degree. Of course, in the song, she really just wanted to get back in touch with her beginnings. I can understand that, since my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my mom Collene Spencer, and I took a trip back to Superior, Wisconsin, to reconnect with family members, the town, and the house where the first years of my life were spent. Of course, unlike Miranda Lambert, we didn’t ask to go into the house, although it might have been fun to do so, and unlike Miranda, I didn’t grow up in the house, but rather the first couple of years of my life. Nevertheless, standing there in front of the house, I found myself thinking about the home movies I had seen of our time there. They were good memories, and it felt good to be there to see that house that represented my beginning.
My great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren and her sister, Elsa Schumacher Lawrence had the opportunity as teenagers to travel from their home in Fargo, North Dakota, to Minnesota. While there, they were not only able to see the house where they were born, but the actual room they were born in. Things are much different these days. Most people are born in a hospital, rather than at home, so we don’t necessarily think of the room we were born in, because there is almost no way to know exactly which one it was years later. Bertha and Elsa had such an amazing opportunity…one I suppose many of us might envy, if we thought about it very long. The time they lived in, combined with the kindness of the new owners, allowed them to take a small glimpse into their past. It was an event that affected Bertha so much, that she wrote about is years later. She too, had been a young girl when the family moved away, but unlike me, she was able to step back into the world, and feel what it was like in those early years.
No, I suppose you can’t really go home again, unless like my younger sisters, your parents stayed is the house where you grew up. In that case, while you have grown up, married, or moved out on your own, you still have those close ties to the home of your youth, and with it, the memories and values you grew up with. Yes, my older sister, Cheryl and I do have those memories too, we have still found ourselves wondering what our lives would have been like, and who we would have been if our parents had stayed in Wisconsin. I know things would have been different for sure, but in reality, all the changes that have gone on in our lives have turned out to be the best life for us anyway. So maybe, going back to a lost childhood home really makes little difference in the grand scheme of things afterall.
Not every great grandmother is so blessed to have a really close relationship with their great grandchildren, and it is even more rare with the youngest of twenty great grandchildren, in which the oldest one is twenty four. My mother, Collene Spencer was a very blessed woman. Her relationship with her youngest great grandchild, Aleesia Spethman, who is my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s granddaughter, was one that was the rarest of the rare, and just as blessed for both of them. Aleesia has three older brothers, and at two years of age, taking her to all the activities the boys are into is difficult. That works our really well for my sister and it also worked quite well for our mom, because they got to see the baby often.
For Aleesia, the two relationships were different, even though they lived in the same house, and spent the time together. She loved both her grandma and her great grandmother, but the relationships were very unique. Aleesia decided that Mom would be called GiGi. Aleesia is too young to know that our mom was her great grandmother. The name GiGi seemed very fitting to my sister, because Mom was, after all Aleesia’s great grandmother, or GG. Aleesia loved coming over to GiGi’s house. Every time she came over, she would run in calling for GiGi. Then she would run over to see her. Aleesia trusted GiGi implicitly. Every time she was there, she would pull Mom’s walker over to Mom’s chair and climb up on it. Then she would jump from it into Mom’s arms. It never occurred to Aleesia that Mom wouldn’t catch her…she knew her GiGi would always catch her. It was a relationship that was so sweet to watch.
When Mom went to Heaven, the family and especially Aleesia’s parents, Jenny and Steve Spethman, and my sister, Cheryl, were worried about how Aleesia would deal with that, especially since Cheryl would continue to live in Mom’s house. She has done pretty well. She asked about Mom often at first, then she seemed to understand that GiGi wasn’t there, but even a two year old Aleesia is not immune to those ton of bricks moments. The other day, as Aleesia and my sister, her grandma, Cheryl were coming to the house to spend the evening at Mom’s house, Aleesia ran up to the door excitedly like she used to before, and knocking on it she said “We see GiGi?” Then she stopped and looked down, like she realized something. She turned and saw Mom’s car parked on the street, and with a really sad face, she said, “She’s not home.” Such a sad thing for a little two year old to have to try and understand, because her GiGi has always meant so much to her.
Late yesterday afternoon, my mom’s eldest sister passed away after a battle with cancer over the past few years. It was a battle she had mostly kept to herself. She had spent much of her last years taking care of her husband, my Uncle George, with the help of family members. Caregivers, like Aunt Evelyn have a tendency to brush aside their own illness while they take care of others. They simply don’t have time to be sick. They are busy making others well.
Being the oldest of Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s nine children, Aunt Evelyn learned at a very young age that she was needed to help with the younger siblings. While Grandma Byer didn’t work or go many places, there were after all eight other children, and the oldest if often the best helper. Aunt Evelyn was also a very social person as a girl though, and really all her life. It was Aunt Evelyn, who would make her parents grandparents for the first time, something that can be a bit of an honor, in itself. It was Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, who would double date with my mom and dad during their courting years. They would all survive being hit by a train during one of those dates because of the quick thinking of both of the men. I’m sure that was something they all talked about for a long time.
Now the memories are flooding my mind. Times we spent at her house as kids, playing hide and seek, and all the other kids games we used to play. I remember the New Years Eve parties they spent at our house, and all the times at Grandma Byer’s house. I remember sitting out on Aunt Evelyn’s lawn on summer afternoons, and her beautiful house, which was her pride and joy. She enjoyed throwing and attending the annual Christmas party, and the summer picnic, until it became too difficult…which made me sad indeed.
It seems that with each passing year, our family patriarches become fewer and fewer. I remember thinking that we would always have the aunts and uncles with us, and now there remain only five of the original siblings and four of their spouses. Somehow, we all believed that they would always be here. I guess our minds play tricks on us when it comes to loved ones…even to the extent of refusing to notice that they are aging, until we look back at pictures after they are gone. Then suddenly we realize just how tired they were, just how weak and weary, and maybe, just how sick and in pain they were. Nevertheless, they kept up a brave face, smiling at each visit, in spite of the pain. They tried so hard to make us feel better, when in reality they were getting ready to say goodbye. That’s how Aunt Evelyn was. Always thinking of those around her before she thought of herself. Always trying to make their day better, a thing she did quite well with that beautiful smile of hers. I will always miss her smile. It is so much of who she was, and who she will always be in my heart. We love you Aunt Evelyn, we will miss you very much, and we will see you again in Heaven very soon.
We all have memories of home…the home of our childhood. Most of those memories are as sweet as they can be. Memories of laughing and playing with our siblings, or special dinners with the family…always bring back the warm coziness of those carefree childhood days, when your dad and mom were there, taking care of you, and you knew you were safe, because their love surrounded you and every part of your world. As a kid, I experienced a closeness with my family. Dinners were eaten together, and we talked about our day. It was our way to reconnect with each other after a busy day at school or work. But, while we had a close family life that was far different from many families of today, it was nothing like the evenings that my mother and her siblings spent at their home, and in many ways, I feel like it was I, or rather our generation, who missed out. We may have had things like movies and television, but the closeness they had, and the stimulation of their imaginations…well, our world just couldn’t really compare to theirs at all.
The hours after school at my grandmother’s home involved getting dinner ready for the family, eating dinner, washing the dishes, with everyone singing while they worked. Finally, the work is done, and the evening turns cooler. Grandma and Grandpa, George and Hattie Byer would sit together on the couch covered with a blanket. All the children would get a blanket of their own, and sit around the floor and their parents feet. Everyone was cozy and warm. Then, Grandma Byer would read to the family. It was like the movies of today, except that the screen was in your mind. It was a nightly tradition, and since there was only a certain amount of time to read, a book could take weeks to read. The family never seemed to mind that, however, because the result of stopping for the night was a curiosity about where the book was headed and what would happen the next day. Every night was much the same, with the children listening intently to their mother’s voice telling them the story of cowboys and Indians, or sailing ships from far off places.
As my Aunt Sandy Pattan, who is my grandparents’ youngest child, told me about this nightly tradition from her childhood, I could hear in her voice that the thought of it was taking her back to a time when all was warm and cozy in her life. I could picture just how much fun it must have been to sit there at Grandma Byer’s feet listening to her voice reading the story, and creating a picture in your mind that was almost like being right there, in the story. It was such a pleasant story, that I began to wish that it had been a tradition in my own life, or that I had thought to start such a tradition in my own family. The mind is such an amazing part of a person, and to think that it could create a movie like story from the reading of a book, is really amazing. I think that the cozy scene I pictured in my head from just hearing Aunt Sandy tell of it, probably paled next to the reality of just how amazing a tradition it really was to listen to her mother read while sitting at her Momma’s feet.
When my nephew, Eric Parmely was born, my daughter, Amy Royce was babysitting for his mom, my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely. It was not uncommon for Eric to go to church with us on Sunday mornings. Once there, in true baby fashion, he would snuggle up in my arms and go right to sleep. It was such a sweet time. It had been a while since I had a baby, and the hour or so that I held Eric while Amy took care of his older brother, JD was very special to me, as I know it was to Amy. There is nothing quite like holding a sleeping baby.
Babies grow up so fast, and before you know it these babies have babies of their own. Eric is no different. Over the past few years, he has married his beautiful wife, Ashley, and the have welcomed two little daughters…Reagan Kaylynn in 2012 and Hattie Joy in 2014. Eric’s family is truly his life. He is a very dedicated husband and father, who works hard and then comes home to spend time with his girls. Eric always wanted daughters, so he is really on cloud nine.
When he isn’t spending time with them, he is spending it working on remodeling their home. Anyone who has ever done that before, knows he has a big job to finish. The home was purchased as a fixer-upper, and since the purchase, they have been working with her dad to make some major changes in the house. It is growing more and more beautiful every day. I had never been in it until this past summer when they held a baby shower in anticipation of Hattie Joy’s arrival, but I had seen pictures before the changes, and I was impressed. They also showed pictures during the renovations, and the transformation was stunning. This will truly be a home they can live in for the rest of their lives, and it’s next door to her parents and their horses, which they love.
When you think of your kids, grandkids, and even nieces and nephews, growing up and becoming responsible adults, it is really hard to picture. So often, it seems impossible to think that they would be capable of doing all the normal adult responsible things that they are suddenly doing, like raising a family, and remodeling a house. They will always seem like little kids in your mind, which usually refuses to allow the thought of moving from that little baby that you remember to the man you see before now. Nevertheless, my nephew, Eric Parmely is no longer a baby or even a little boy, but rather a man with two babies of his own. Time waits for no man, and if you blink, much will change…as if you have suddenly gone through a time portal. I guess that is just how it goes when you are looking at the changes from a boy to a man. Today is Eric’s birthday. Happy birthday Eric!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When most people think of the barracks, they think of a military facility, but not so my mother’s family. For all of their childhood, the barracks meant the bedroom. No, it isn’t because that is what they called the bedroom, because, they didn’t call the bedroom that. While visiting with my aunts, Sandy Pattan and Bonnie McDaniels, and cousins Susie Young, Shannon Limmer, and Jamie Patsie, after my mother passed away a week ago, we got on the subject of precious memories…which naturally took us to my grandpa and grandma, George and Hattie Byer’s house in North Casper, where they lived for many years right next door to his mother, my great grandma, Edna Byer. The two houses were very similar, but my grandparents house had an extra, very long bedroom attached to the back of the house. Grandma and Grandpa’s room was in from of that back bedroom, and there was another room where the two boys slept, but the girls all shared that huge back bedroom.
We always loved to go play back there, because it was a long room with lots of beds, and it just seemed very interesting to all the grandkids. I suppose that to the aunts and uncles, it was just normal, be we had really never seen anything like it. We began to talk about what spending the night in that back bedroom was like. There was no heat in that back room, so at night grandpa would heat rocks in the cook stove, and wrap them in a towel. Once the girls were tucked into bed, under a mountain of blankets, grandpa would come in and stick those towel wrapped rocks under the blankets at their feet. What a wonderful thing those rocks were. Aunt Bonnie tells me that they would immediately put their feet on those rocks, and before long, they would be all warm and cozy for the night. In the absence of heat, the blankets and the rocks did the job of keeping them warm quite well.
For us grandkids, the best way to play in that room in the winter cold, was to keep moving. I don’t think my aunts spent much time in there other than sleeping, because it was just too cold in winter. The main living room and kitchen were heated by the cook stove, and I’m here to tell you that those rooms were very warm…a fact that was just fine with me, since I have a tendency to get cold. Nevertheless, after some time in the main part of the house, the cooler bedroom could come as a nice change, until you got cold, then you went back out to the main rooms to warm up.
I had always wondered about the house with the long bedroom, and how it came to be…but no longer. As we were talking about those old days, my Aunt Sandy cleared that question right up. It turns out that both houses, Great Grandma’s and my grandparents, were originally old barracks from the air force base that used to be located in Casper. I don’t know for sure when they became the two houses, but that is what happened. My grandparents’ house had the added barracks to it, making up the big back bedroom where so many childhood memories for my mom, aunts, uncles, and many of the grandchildren, were built. In those days, times were tough, and people had to make do with what they had. In my opinion, the barracks and the houses attached to them, were more than just a way to make do. They are the houses I remember fondly from my own childhood years. We used to love going to visit Grandma and Grandpa. The house was always cozy, and my grandparents always pleased to see us. I get a warm cozy feeling just thinking about those visits.
Sometimes, just when you think you know someone, some little thing changes in their life, and suddenly you find out things about them that you had no idea about. Such was the case with my niece, Lacey Stevens. Lacey is not the kind of person to brag about her talents, and in my defense, maybe that is why I never knew.
Recently, Lacey decided to move out of her parents’ house, and into a little house of her own. Lacey is a cosmetologist by trade, and she had been saving her money for furniture, rent, and the other things she would need to live on her own. While her parents are really proud of how responsible she has been in planning her move, they do, nevertheless, miss her at home. She has been so busy that they have hardly seen her, and that can be hard for first time empty nesters.
It’s not, however, Lacey’s responsible ways that took me by surprise. As I was planning my story, I thought I might show some pictures if Lacey’s new place. I asked her for pictures to showcase her place in my story, and that’s when it happened. It was a simple enough thing on Lacey’s part. She just sent the pictures to me and told me that her favorite room is her dressing room…which I can fully understand, by the way. What girl wouldn’t love it?
The pictures were great, but one thing caught my eye. It was the stunning four painting display on one wall, of a tree against a red, sunset like background. When I told her that it was beautiful, she said a simple, “Thanks, I painted those in high school.” Well, I about fell over. They are, as I said, stunning. Lacey is just so talented. Lacey’s sister, Michelle is going to art school, and I think Lacey should have gone too. I told Lacey that she needs to start selling her work. I think she would be quite successful at it. She is such a natural artist.
I think everyone has a natural talent for something. Lacey, like her mom, my sister, Alena Stevens is a very good cosmetologist, but like her sister, Michelle, she also inherited a natural talent for art. My mom, Collene Spencer is a pretty good artist too, and these girls must have inherited their talent from her or from someone on the Stevens side, but I can tell you that they did not get it from me, because I find stick figures to be a real challenge. Wherever her talent came from, Lacey is an artist in her own right. She just doesn’t pat herself on the back, but I think maybe she should. Of course, she won’t do it, because that’s just not Lacey’s way. Today is Lacey’s birthday. Lacey, your new place is absolutely beautiful. Happy birthday Lacey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Born the day after her mom’s birthday, my grand niece, Reagan Parmely looks much like her dad. Nevertheless, I think this little girl might take after her grandma, my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely in some ways. For years now, Jennifer has loved hiking in the mountains, and when you get little Reagan up there, she is the same way. She loves to see what is around the next curve in the trail. Reagan’s family lives out in the country, and she has a big yard, so she is used to being able to run free to a big degree. I think it’s very possible that her love of the mountains and the trails comes from her days of exploring in her own back yard.
Of course, there are a number of family members who love to hike, but it is Reagan’s grandma, Jennifer who had the initial desire to get Reagan out on the trail, and it is obvious to me that Reagan very much enjoys the trails, whether she is with her mom, grandma, or Uncle JD. Like many of us, Reagan loves to see where the trail will take her, and in this case, she was delighted to reach Garden Creek Falls. She had a great time playing in the water, and didn’t care one bit that it was a little cold. She loved the beauty, the noise, and the feel of the cold water on her hands.
Reagan has two great playmates, in her dogs, Ayva and Dixie, and she is not afraid of animals at all, mostly because of the influence of the dogs when she was just a baby. Both of them decided immediately that this was their baby, and it was their job to protect and entertain her. I love to see the way they interact. She is such a natural with animals, letting them know with her gentle touch, just how much she loves them. And they want to be with Reagan as much as possible. In fact, it suspect that her nap time is just a bit long and boring for the dogs. Nevertheless, they wait patiently for her to wake up so the fun can begin again. I’m sure that Reagan’s little sister Hattie will find the dogs to be the very same way with her too.
This past month has brought big changes in Reagan’s life, with the addition of her little sister. She now has a human playmate…well, soon anyway. For now, she busies herself with helping her mom to take care of her little sister, and of course, learning how to say her name, which is really cute, but unable to be reproduced here. Of course, while she is learning all of the things a big sister needs to know, she is also spending quality time with her mom. Reagan love to be with her mom, and wants to do anything Ashley is doing. They do yoga together, and Reagan is learning all the right moves, and does them very well, I might add. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Reagan ends up doing a little dancing as well. She has the grace and the desire for it, so I believe she will be a natural there too.
Only time will tell which things Reagan likes to do the most, but then again, she is only two years old, and so has a lot of time to decide what her interests will be. In the meantime, she is content to spend time with her family, because she loves them the very best, after all. Today is Reagan’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday big girl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
One of the things about family history that especially holds my interest is locating the house where someone was born. It isn’t that I always set out to locate the house, but when one falls in my lap, I am especially excited…and that seems to happen a lot. There is a feeling of almost wonder when I find the exact place where one of my ancestors was born…especially when it is someone very dear to me. I don’t know exactly why that is exciting to me, except that it’s not every day that you find your self looking at the exact place that your parent or grandparent was born.
Home births are making a comeback these days, and I suppose that more and more people will be able to say that one specific house is where they were born. I very seldom feel the same way about the hospital where someone was born. Maybe that is because it is not very unique. Many other babies were born there too. I do think that I would feel that way about the hospital I was born in, because that is personal, but the one my kids and grandkids were born in, is also the place where a number of my loved ones passed away, and that feels different to me. I believe that my kids and grandkids will feel a closeness to the Wyoming Medical Center, because it is their birthplace, and that will make it special to them.
The house where someone was born, however, will always hold a special interest to me. I have to wonder what those walls to tell if they could talk. How did the family feel as each child joined the family? This house was where my Great Aunt Mina Schumacher, my Great Uncle Fred Schumacher, and my great aunts, Bertha and Elsa Schumacher were born. It’s also possible that my Great Aunt Marie Schumacher, who passed away at three years of age, could have been born in this house. My guess is that there was much happiness there, as well as some sadness. That is the way it is in any home…life happens there. That house saw the children playing and growing up, and the new births, one by one, and the family grew to it’s full size.
Before they would move to North Dakota, I’m sure there were many memories made there, but by the time Bertha and Elsa would return to the area for a visit, they no longer remembered the home where they were born, nor the wonderful times the family had there. Bertha wrote about that in her journal, so I have a feeling that those lost memories made her feel a bit sad, just like they would for me. I have a feeling that Aunt Bertha and I were quite a bit alike, and so the things that she thought were important to remember are the same kinds of things that I think are important. I am always very saddened by memories lost. Even if it is about people that I never knew, because everyone has a story, and someone, somewhere feels like their story is important, and once it is lost, it is very hard to find again. If no one ever wrote it down or told it, no one remembers. I guess that is why finding the house where someone was born is so important…it is where their story started.
My grand nephew, Keifer Balcerzak has been a part of our family since his dad, Dave married my niece, Chantel. Keifer was a young man of fourteen years when he became a part of our family. I have watched him grow from a kid into a man, and I have always felt like he was a very nice fit into our family. He is so much like his Dad that it is amazing. Chantel says that he is Dave’s “mini me” only two inches taller. Keifer and Dave play softball together in the summer, darts in the fall and winter, and watch football together on Sundays. They are and really, always have been pals. Their personalities are a lot alike, so they get along well. Keifer has seen the value in sharing interests with his dad, and just how close it can make them. I know it means a lot to Dave.
Keifer has been dating his high school sweetheart, Katie Davidson for seven years now, and he decided that it was time to take the next step, so he asked her to marry him, and she said yes. The wedding is set for May, and they are making plans for the future. They just bought their first house, and adopted two dogs, so they are set…until they decide to start a family anyway. Keifer is a lot like his dad, and has a great sense of humor, so I know that he and Katie will have a wonderful home…filled with love and laughter. Of course, according to Katie, Keifer puts up with her shenanigans…which amounts to being treated like a three year old…but then, what guy doesn’t need to be treated that way most of the time. Needless to say, I think Katie and Keifer might both have a great sense of humor.
Keifer has worked for Charter Communications as a cable guy…his words, not mine, but I’m sure he likes that because of Larry, the cable guy. Keifer is an all around hard worker and loyal employee, and he likes his job. Now with his life taking that next turn into the future, those are great traits to have. If you are willing to work hard, and be honest, loyal, and truthful, there really is no place you can’t go in your life. I think Keifer is a fine young man, and I know that he and Katie are going to have a wonderful life together. Today is Keifer’s birthday. You have grown into a good man, Keifer. You will go far. Happy birthday Keifer! Have a great day! We love you!