Recently, I heard a saying that has really made me think. “We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.” The thing about that thought that struck me the most, was when I considered moments otherwise gone…forever. I have always loved photography. From the time I was a little girl and received my first camera, I was hooked. There were years I wasn’t so good about taking pictures, and mistakes I made, such as not including people in my photos enough, not writing down the names of people and the locations, and the biggest one in my mind, not being in the pictures enough. So many people these day take selfies, and then there are the selfies that are ridiculed because “the person takes too many selfies.” I suppose that can be an issue, but when you think about it, they will always have that moment, and if that selfie made them look and feel especially pretty or handsome, so much the better. It is a moment, frozen in time…a memory that will always be with them.
When I look back at the funerals of my parents and my father-in-law, and the slide shows we did for them, I found myself amazed that I was having trouble locating pictures of me with them…particularly with my dad. It was a strange thing for me to realize that, until I thought about how much time I spent behind the camera and not in front of it. Since that time, I have made sure to take those pictures of my mom and me, my father-in-law, and me, and my mother-in-law and me, because I want to have those return tickets to those precious moments of the past. It’s not just about the slide show either, although that is a permanent memory of their lives, but it’s about the time spent with them. In his last two years, my dad and I spent many hours together, while I was one of his caregivers. I got to enjoy his wonderful sense of humor, as we teased each other every day. In my memory files, I can see him pretending to be asleep when I came in. Then, I would softly flick his hand, and he would accuse me of hitting him, saying, “Oh!! You struck me!” Then we would both laugh about it, because we knew that in a million years, that would never have happened. We pretended to argue, as I dressed his wounds, and helped him get dressed. Then I would step out while he finished the process, and he would come out into the living room. Whenever I am in their house, I can see those moments as vividly as if they were still there. Still, there are many moments that aren’t quite as clear, and a picture would tell the story so well. And now that it is too late to take them, I really wish I had some of those moments in pictures.
There are countless people who tell me how much they hate having their picture taken. I find that really sad, because it isn’t about them. They are denying others the right to have a return ticket to those precious moments. So few people think about it that way…until the day when they really wish they had a picture of them with someone special. That’s when it finally hits them. Pictures aren’t just something silly to post of Facebook. They are memories. They are return tickets to a moment otherwise gone. I think I’ve improved on those return tickets quite a bit, and for that, I am happy.
My sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I were group texting yesterday, as we often do. It gives us the chance to be together, without needing to be in the same room. We love those conversations, because we can laugh with, and at, each other, in good fun, of course. It also gives us a chance to share ideas on everything from our faith to politics, and be thankful that we all agree on both. We keep each other informed if we are traveling, just like we did our parents, when they were here on Earth. Those texts are part of what keeps us close. We all work and Caryl lives in Rawlins, while the rest of us are in Casper, so our lives are busy, and we can’t always get together on a regular basis. Texting, especially has become a great way for us to connect, and we all love it, because we love each other very much and always will.
Our family has always been a close one, and our parents, Allen and Collene Spencer instilled values in us about faith, right and wrong, and family. They are values that we will never allow to fade from our lives. Mom has been in Heaven now for almost two years, and Dad for almost nine years, and yet we can still hear their voices in our heads guiding us in love. They taught us to laugh, and not to be upset when we were the one being laughed at, because it’s better to laugh with those who are laughing at you, than to get upset about it. And in the end, you usually have to agree that it was pretty funny anyway. We were taught that laughing at yourself is a good thing, and while we may not always have practiced that, we have learned that it is a true statement. Sometimes the worst thing we can do is to take ourselves too seriously. Laughing at ourselves helps us to remember to put humor in our lives too.
Around the holidays, however, our conversations often turn to our parents, and how much we miss them. Such was the case with our conversation yesterday. My sister, Alena saw an old friend of our parents, and wanted to tell Mom that she had seen him…then reality set in. I mentioned a story I had written about a piece of family history I had found, and how I couldn’t wait to tell Mom…then reality set in. My sister, Cheryl had received a catalog, and saw a glittery top that Mom would have loved, and thought it would make a great Christmas present for Mom…then reality set in. My sister, Allyn has taken Mom Christmas shopping for a number of years, and the thought came to her that she should ask when Mom wanted to go…then reality set in. The conversation continued with each of us mentioning times that we instinctively thought of calling Mom and Dad, asking them something, taking them somewhere, or just how much they would love something, only to have reality set in again. All we have now are the sweetest memories of the greatest parents on Earth. We can see them in all the places they were…the house, church, our homes, the drives they loved to take, the front porch where they loved to sit and enjoy the day, camping in the Black Hills, and picnics on Casper Mountain…all the places they loved. All the places where their echo still exists and their memory still lingers. Reality always sets in, and we know they are gone, but they will always live on in our hearts and minds, and they are in our future now, not our past.
When you think of a town within a town or city, you often think of New York City, where you might find Queens, Harlem, or Yonkers. Or you might think of New Orleans, where you might find the French Quarter or the 9th Ward, but people really never think of a town within a town, when the town is a small town, like Forsyth, Montana, population of about 1,777. Nevertheless, Forsyth, Montana was a town that had within it a town…so to speak. When my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s grandpa, Andrew Schulenberg was a young married man, he built a couple of houses there. The houses were next door to each other. Andy’s parents lived in one house, and he and his wife, lived in the other. Across the street was another house owned by Schulenberg family relative, Bob’s Great Aunt Hennie. Being such a small town, there were other Schulenberg families very nearby, and since Andy’s parents, Max and Julia Schulenberg had ten children, it made for a lot of Schulenberg relation living in a neighborhood in Forsyth, Montana. Well, before long, the people of the town found themselves calling that neighborhood, Schulenbergville. I’m not sure just exactly when the neighborhood got its name, but since Andy was the sheriff of Rosebud County from 1955 to 1972, my guess is that it was either during that time, or it was his job as sheriff that solidified the name to that area of town.
I had the chance to see the two houses that Andy Schulenberg built, and to find out that the second one was the house that Bob’s Uncle Butch Schulenberg was born in. I love to see the homes where loved ones were born, partly I suppose, because so few people are born at home these days. In those days, however, being born at home was a very common practice, and it makes me think about the history that the house has witnessed. The house got to see little Butch Schulenberg growing up…or at least starting his life, since I don’t know when the family might have moved out of the house. Nevertheless, the area remained Schulenbergville for a number of years, and I don’t think the locals have forgotten it to this day.
Nor have they forgotten the sheriff who really made the Schulenberg name a household word in the little town of Forsyth. Andy was a different kind of sheriff from those you normally meet, and that is a story I will tell sometime, but it’s too long for this story. Suffice it to say that he was dearly loved, and there is more than one adult who owes the fact that they weren’t in prison…or worse as kids, to Sheriff Andy Schulenberg, and they will be happy to tell you so. The two houses Andy built still stand, as do the houses of the neighboring Schulenberg clan members, although some are no longer occupied. I find that a bit sad, but it is a testament to good construction work. Now they stand as a treasured memory for those who knew Schulenbergville well.
It’s inevitable…the end of summer, turns into the first day of school. All the kids are torn between being bored from too much free time, and the dread of getting back into the grind of studying and homework. This year finds my family with just one public school student left. Our grandson, Josh Petersen is a senior in high school this year, so this is our last year with the public school system…until the great grandbabies start coming anyway. I am finding that hard to believe.
Of course, once the kids get going, most of them enjoy school. Believe it or not, humans tend to want to be productive and for kids that does mean school. By the end of the year, they are ready for summer break, but by summer’s end, they are ready to get back into the swing of things again. They miss the organized sports, friends they don’t see except at school, getting out of the house or daycare, and in reality, most of them actually enjoy learning. I don’t think any of us really want to go through life with no mental stimulation, and that is exactly what school does for the kids, whether they particularly like it or not.
Then, of course, most kids usually get a few new articles of clothing to start out the new school year. For some, it is a matter of necessity, because of course, they have grown so much since last year, and for others, it is a necessity, because after all, you have to have at least one new outfit to start the year…right? And those new clothes and school supplies tend to take the sting of summer’s end out of the picture, a little bit anyway. I always thought it was fun to have new school supplies, even if the newness wore off pretty quickly.
And so, as the kids come home after school, they are filled with stories of their day to pass on to their parents, and even a little bit of excitement just to be back…until they start to think about the homework they have to get done before school tomorrow. And then, there is the lack of outdoor playtime, because they have to get ready for the next day. That might be a bit of a let down, but that is what getting back into the swing of things is all about.
These days, most people find themselves leading busy lives, but I doubt if many have had the kind of year, or actually year and a half that my nephew Dave Balcerzak, and my niece Chantel…his wife have had. Dave and Chantel are empty nesters now, because all their kids have moved out, but to make matters worse…they are between nests!! That’s not a bad thing, because they are in the process of buying a house. The bad part is packing, patching walls from nail holes, and cleaning their current place so they are ready to move into the new place in early September. Nevertheless, they are so very excited about buying this house. It is a dream come true for them, so all their hard work now will eventually be totally worth it. Dave is practically like a kid in a candy store. He keeps calling Chantel on the phone, just to tell her…”I bought you a house!!” That is pretty typical of Dave anyway, because Chantel is his princess, and he loves showing her just how much he loves her.
As if moving wasn’t enough to keep these two busy, they will have three weddings that hey have planned, paid for, and helped with in 16 months. The final one takes place in October, and then they will have one daughter left to eventually plan a wedding for. Their little family is growing by leaps and bounds, and they couldn’t be happier. They are grandparents for the first time now. Alice, who shares Dave’s birthday, thinks he hung the moon, and now her little sister, Izabella has him wrapped around her baby finger too. Dave is reveling in the pleasure of being grandpa, and the girls are very blessed too. And the fact that they are girls…well, that pretty much sunk Dave’s resistance ship right away. He would love them if they were boys too, but he is a sucker for those little girls. Sorry Dave…but it’s the truth.
Yes, it’s been a busy year for Dave and Chantel, and life just gets better and better every day, and add to that, any work they decide to do to the new house, and you have a recipe for a busy year to come. Let’s face facts here too…you always change something. Nevertheless, that work becomes very rewarding when it’s on your own house. I know that they are going to have a great time building a new life in their new home, with lots of precious moments there with the kids and grandkids. The possibilities are endless. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My niece, Amanda Reed, my brother-in-law, Mike Reed’s daughter is living her version of the dream. She and her family bought a house a little over a year ago, and they have spent the last year fixing it up to be exactly what they want. It’s been a wonderful experience for them, but this year, Amanda got a bug bite. No, she wasn’t bitten by some strange kind of insect, but rather by the need to buy a Volkswagen Beetle. I can understand that bite. I thought I wanted a Volkswagen Beetle once. My best friend had one, and we had some great times in that car. In the end, I got what my dad deemed a family car, and I was too excited about having my own car to be upset about it for long. Nevertheless, I do remember the fun times we had in a Volkswagen Beetle. With Amanda…once the bug bit her, she had to have a Bug. This year, her dream of owning a Volkswagen Beetle came true, when they bought her cute little Bug.
Of course, you can’t always be on land. Amanda and her family love being on the water, and this year, they will be getting lots of that when they go on their first cruise. My sister, Caryl and brother-in-law, Mike are taking their whole family on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas and Key West. I love to go on cruises, and I remember my first cruise. It was amazing. I know that for Amanda and her family, this is an exciting time. There really is nothing better than getting the whole family together for a vacation, where you can just enjoy each other’s company and relax. I hope they have a wonderful cruise, and that it is a trip they will never forget.
Amanda and her family love all kinds of sports. They spend a lot of time at the lake in the summer, but in the winter, they have another way to get in deep. Deep in the snow, that is. The have snowmobiles, and snow motorcycles, and sometimes those items get buried in the deep snow. The only thing left to do is dig them out. Thankfully they have good friends that go along on these excursions, and everybody gets in there to get the unit out of the deep snow. Now personally, I think they might be just a little bit crazy, but then they didn’t ask me, and I suppose that since I’ve never tried it, I should hold my opinion until I can make a more informed judgment…like that will ever happen. As long as they like it, I say to each his own. Today is Amanda’s birthday. Happy birthday Amanda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
A while back, I wrote a story about a house in Massachusetts that was built by our ancestor, James Noyes, who is my husband, Bob’s 7th great grandfather. Almost immediately, a cousin of ours, Paul Noyes told me that he had been there many times, and yet another cousin, David Noyes had been invited inside and had pictures. Of course, this was exactly what I was hoping for, because I wanted to talk about the interior of the home, but could not find any pictures online. So, I want to thank David for these beautiful pictures, and Paul for forwarding them to me, so that I can tell a little about the inside of this grand old house. My husband, Bob was sure that the interior had probably been renovated several times since the 1646 date that the house was built, but other than what has been documented, there is no indication of a massive remodel.
James Noyes, moved to and was co-founder of Newberry, Massachusetts in 1635, bringing with him, his wife Sarah Brown Noyes. Little was documented about where in Newbury they lived before the Noyes home was built in 1646, but the family grew by five children…Joseph, James, Sarah (who died at an unknown young age), Moses, and John. I would assume that their growing family was the reason for the large home to be built. Even with that, the home was not what we would consider large these days. The current home has five bedrooms, but it is my guess that the original probably had only three, a master bedroom for the parents, a bedroom for the boys, and a bedroom for the girls. The house was only one room deep in those years, and while it might have been somewhat small, I can only imagine what stories those walls would tell, if they could talk. My guess is that there would be stories of laughter, sadness, and crying as new babies joined the family. The family grew, with the additions of Thomas, Rebecca, William, and a second daughter named Sarah, after her mother and the first Sarah, who had passed away.
James and Sarah lived in the house for the remainder of their days, during which time the house saw children come into the family, and children marry and move away, returning now and again to share their children with their parents. Then on October 22, 1656, just seven months after his second daughter named Sarah, was born, James passed away. The house saw the sadness of a family in mourning for its patriarch. Sarah became the head of the family then, and so it remained until her passing on September 13, 1691. James and Sarah were blessed with at least 47 grandchildren…not all of whom lived very long unfortunately. Not much is said about what the children did with the home after their mother’s passing, but while it has been home to a number of families over the many years since it was built, it remains an important historical home and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. There were some changes, which added size to the home making it a five bedroom home at this present time. The last time the home was sold was in 2010, and it is my assumption that it was the current owners who allowed our cousin David Noyes to have a tour and take the pictures I now have of this beautiful home.
Yesterday was my daughter, Amy Royce’s last day at her job at Insurance Services Group in Edmonds, Washington. They gave her a nice sendoff, and were sorry to see her go. This wasn’t the original plan when Amy, her husband, Travis, and their son, Caalab moved to the Seattle area, but as things sometimes do, their plans were changed when they bought a house in the little town of Ferndale, Washington, which is ten miles north of Bellingham, an hour and a half north of their apartment in Lynwood, Washington. For that reason, it is no longer feasible for Amy to work in Edmonds. The drive home last night took Amy two hours, because of traffic…and that was on the interstate. A drive like that on a daily basis would be grueling…to say the least.
I have a feeling that this new chapter in their lives is going to be very different from any other chapter in their lives. Having come from a city of 55,000 plus people, and then from Lynnwood, which has a population of 36,000 plus people…which is deceiving in that the cities in that area all run together, making the true population much higher in reality, this change is surprising for sure. You see, Ferndale, Washington is a small town of 11,415 people. It just grew by two, and when Caalab moves up, three, but that still makes it a small town. To top it off, their home is about 5.6 miles north of town. What that means is that my little country girl, turned city girl, is not a country girl again. That is totally shocking to me, because she couldn’t wait to move to town when we lived in the country. Things do change as you get older, I guess. What you didn’t like before doesn’t seem so bad now. Still, it’s strange to think of Amy using propane and having a well.
Now the real work begins. Amy and Travis will be unpacking and setting up their new home, while Caalab will stay at the apartment in Lynnwood until his last day at his job. He will join them toward the end of the month. I’m very excited to see how the house looks when they are done, but that may take a little bit of time, since they will start their new jobs on Wednesday. Both of them will be working in Bellingham, so they can take one car to work. I’m not sure of the name of the shop where Travis will be working, but Amy will be joining Rice Insurance. That is a great opportunity for her, because Rice Insurance writes for all 50 states. She has a lot to learn, but it will be exciting for sure. Caalab will be going to school soon, but that’s another story. I am very happy for them. This is going to be a great new chapter in their lives.
Families have long loved to visit places like museums and zoos. It give them a chance to have an outing with the kids whereby they are out of the house, and yet learning something too. My grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer was no exception to that rule. For the first ten years of her eldest child, my Aunt Laura Spencer Fredrick’s life, Grandma didn’t have any other children. I’ve never known just why that was. The family history doesn’t tell of miscarriages or lost babies, but until my Uncle Bill Spencer came along, ten years after his sister, Laura, and then was quickly followed by brother, Allen Spencer (my dad), and then Aunt Ruth Spencer Wolfe, that was simply the case. Grandma and Aunt Laura were very close, and did lots of things together. The pictures of that time frame show visits with family, time spent picking flowers, and a trip to the zoo, which brings me to my story.
As I said, Grandma was very close with her daughter, and took lots of pictures of her and with her. Because of that closeness, she didn’t pay as much attention to the things or animals around Aunt Laura, but rather paid attention to Aunt Laura in the photo. It really was a matter of what subject she felt was the most important in the picture…obviously for Grandma that was Aunt Laura. She wanted to be able to tell of all the events of Aunt Laura’s young life, and Grandma did a great job of that.
As Uncle Bill began going through all the pictures and writing up the family history, he came across many pictures that rather frustrated him. That’s where his opinion on the pictures Grandma had taken came out. It wasn’t that Uncle Bill didn’t like the pictures of his sister, because he did…they were very close as children. The problem for him occurred with the picture of his sister, Laure standing by a cannon. Needless to say, I have to agree with Uncle Bill to a large degree. While the pictures of Aunt Laura with the zoo animals are great, I didn’t know what the cannon was at all, until Uncle Bill clarified that for me. Instead of taking the picture with a side view of the cannon, Grandma has taken it with a back view. It was pretty much impossible to know what it was without being told or maybe having a background that clarified it for you. Uncle Bill was rather annoyed, and commented on the picture with, “Come on Mom!”
That picture wasn’t the only one that Uncle Bill was upset with either. Another picture that was very good, but was not taken by Grandma, irritated him nevertheless. It was a picture marked only as, “Mother’s niece.” I’m sure that, like most people, Grandma figured that she would always know who it was, but what she wasn’t thinking about was that the rest of the people, who would someday look at the picture, would never know who it was. Again, it was a matter of what Grandma saw as important and what Uncle Bill saw as important. Sadly, Grandma is gone now, so we cannot ask who this niece might have been. She didn’t mean to do these things to upset her son, of course, it was just that what she saw and what he saw as important, were two very different things. And in this case, quite upsetting to my uncle.
Over the years, the New Years Eve party that we always hold at my parents, Al and Collene Spencer’s house, has changed in many ways. New family members join our clan, and others depart, whether by their passing or moving away. Still, the party goes on. It is tradition, because, you see, my mom was born on New Years Day. That has always made New Years Eve and the party we hold be something that is anticipated with excitement…or at least it always was.
This year will be very different, and all future New Years Eve parties will also be very different, because our guest of honor…our mom will no longer be there. It’s hard to believe that it has been over ten months since her passing, but it has. Still, just knowing that our parents loved the New Years Eve party so much, and having all their children and grandchildren around them at this special time, was their way of celebrating it, makes it special. They never wanted to go out to a bar, because they wanted their kids to be able to be involved, so in their early years, the annual New Years Eve party at the Spencer home was born.
As teenagers, they knew we would be safe, because we didn’t have to drive anywhere. The party was at our house. And we never wanted to go anywhere else anyway. Our assorted boyfriends were allowed to come to the party over the years, and later husbands and kids, but the party location never changed. It hasn’t changed now either, but our guest of honor will be celebrating her birthday and the party that goes with it, in Heaven this year, because that is where she lives now.
I think we are all a little apprehensive this year, because we really don’t knew how we feel about this particular party. I know that the echoes of our parents and indeed their very essence will linger over the party, because they will be in our thoughts throughout the night. It is just very strange to think about having this party without them. over the years, it was always them that planned and executed the whole evening. It didn’t matter how cold it was outside, because it was always warm and cheery in their house. I’m sure there will be a tear or two that will escape from our eyes, but for the most part, we will try to keep things light. This is a party and not a punishment, after all…and Mom wouldn’t want us to be moping around. So here’s to our parents. Mom and Dad, we love you always and forever, and we miss you very much. As you would have wanted it to be…the party will go on without you…but it will not be nearly as much fun as when you were here.