My uncle, Lester “Jim” Wolfe was always a crazy guy…in a good way, of course. He loved to play tricks on people, but always in good fun. Whenever he and my dad, Al Spencer got together, you knew that they were going to do the craziest of things. I don’t remember all the antics these brother-in-law pulled, not the crazy food they made, like onion and mustard sandwiches.
Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth were always the kind of people who liked surprises. Often, they would show up at our house unannounced…from several states away, mind you. I suppose that it was a risky maneuver, from the aspect of making that long trip without getting to see the people they came to see. If we were out of town when they showed up, they never told us they had missed us. I’m not sure how they managed to find us home when they came, because our family often took trips too. My dad and his sister, Ruth had always loved to see the nation, and both did a lot of traveling in their day. When they showed up at our house, it was cause for celebration. It was just like coming home to a surprise party!! One surprise on Uncle Jim in his life was that his son-in-law, Wayne “Shorty” Cameron shared his birthday with him. I’m sure Uncle Jim liked that very much.
While they were here, we might go camping, have barbecues, or just hang out. It didn’t really matter what we did, because having them here made things more fun. We also loved seeing our cousins in the early years, but as they got older, it was often just Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth that came. Our own lives got busier too, of course. Marriages and kids made it harder to spend as much time with them on those visits as we used to. Still, when they were in town, we spent as much time with them as we could. I miss those days. Today would have been Uncle Jim’s 99th birthday, and Shorty’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jim and Shorty. We love and miss you both very much.
As the second anniversary of my mom’s passing drew near, my family and I have been talking more and more about the woman who was our mother. Mom was many things, as most mothers are, but one of the parts of my mom that never ceased to amaze me, was her ability to maintain a certain level of innocence, or at least what we thought was innocence. As I look back now, she was a wise woman, who managed to keep her world…quite pure and innocent. I’m not talking about her personal life, but rather our family life. There were certain lines we all knew not to cross. My sisters and I would never have cussed in front of our parents…if we wanted to live, that is, but somehow we knew that our boyfriends and husbands would be required to live up to that standard too…and they did. It was out of respect for her, my dad, and their home. That was something I always though amazing. I don’t think I even remember having to tell a boyfriend twice, not even the ones who weren’t the keeper I ended up with. It was as if they thought mom might pass out if they were to talk in an inappropriate manner. I don’t know…maybe she would have. I never dared to find out, and I’m not sorry that Mom was that way, because my sisters and I were raised to speak decently, and we have never regretted that.
Another way that my mom always seemed so innocent was in her sense of humor. Mom never cared if she looked silly, if it could make her arguing children laugh. When you have five daughters, complete with all the drama that can be associated with it, you either get silly, or you go crazy. Well, mom was an expert at making her girls either straighten up, or laugh, usually in a very unique way. I remember Mom clearing the living room floor so that two of us could “fight it out” and once we had a good hold of each other’s hair, and were both basically pinned to the floor, the room broke out in laughter, because lets face it, it was pretty hilarious. I remember Mom making some crazy faces that we couldn’t help but laugh at, and even if we knew that Mom was mad, it was sometimes hard not to laugh about her face, but we knew that it was in our best interest not to.
Life with our mom was never dull, but then again, Mom would probably tell you the same thing about life with her girls. If there was some crazy antic that we could come up with…we did. I remember ruining my brand new penny loafers because I felt the need to go trudging through the mud and the construction site at the new Kmart building. The shoes cleaned up ok, but they were now of a size to fit my younger sister, Caryl. My sister, Alena was a whiz at concocting formulas. Of course, using the “shampoo” she created was out of the question, because it would probably burn your hair off. As far as terrorizing my sisters…that would have to be, yours truly. I was born with strong fingernails…well daggers actually, and I did not hesitate to use them. Sometimes I wonder how I survived childhood, because if anyone drove our mom crazy, it was me. I’m sure that my wedding day was cause for celebration on many levels. Just thinking about what I put my mom through…well, I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. I think that is how Mom had to have felt. It really was get silly, or go crazy in our house.
Over the years, my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce have made use of boxes for lots of things. In fact, like most kids, they have used boxes in every way imaginable. They have taken the gifts out of the box and set the gift aside, before playing in and with the box. Boxes have been their forts, playhouse, hiding place, storage for their treasures, and many other uses. It is an age old tradition that kids have played in and with boxes for as long as there have been boxes big enough for kids to get into.
My daughter, Amy went so far as to try sitting in a shoe box that had been used to wrap a Christmas gift. She was too big for the box to say the least, but that didn’t phase her a bit. That box usage was the funniest one I can think of. Amy was always a teeny little girl, but she was still too big for that little shoe box. Nevertheless, watching Amy try to get into that box, knowing that it was too small, was very funny. She was so determined to get into it, and it never occurred to her that she was too big.
With all the uses kids have found for boxes, I am amazed that I can still be surprised by the use someone has come up with for a cardboard box. One of the greatest ideas I have ever seen is the coloring box. Now I don’t mean a box to keep your coloring supplies in. I mean that you put the kid in the box and Turk then loose with the crayons. They can’t color on the walls, because they are inside a box. It gives meaning to coloring inside the lines. We try to get our kids to color carefully so they work with them and work with them, but really until that kid is ready to color inside the lines.
The cool idea about coloring inside a box is that it doesn’t make a mess. The mess stays in the box, where it doesn’t mess up the paint on your walls, or the carpet on your floors. The other cool thing is that the kids have a great time, because coloring inside a box, and coloring the inside of a box are something totally different to do. It’s almost like coloring on the walls, except that they don’t get into trouble for it. It almost seems like a crazy thing to do, and after all, aren’t kids all about doing things that are crazy. As for the parents…well, they are heroes, because they found something for the kids to do that almost seemed like it was something that was not allowed. I mean, you wouldn’t let your kids write on the walls, but the walls of a box, is allowed. It makes the kids feel like they got away with something…well, maybe not, but it’s fun anyway.
While we were visiting many of our family members in Superior, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota, our cousin, Bill Spencer surprised us with a copy of a slide show that he had put together for his family. We were so busy while we were there, that there was no time to take a look at the slide show. When I got home, I looked at it briefly, but nothing really in depth. Yesterday, I took another look…a longer look. I had no idea what a gold mine that slide show would turn out to be. As I watched it, I felt like I had been instantly transported back in time. It was so fun to look at those old shots of all of us as kids. It also felt just a little bit lonely when I looked at holiday pictures from the time right after we left Superior. Prior to that, we would have most likely been in some of those pictures, and I’m sure that my cousins would agree with me when I say that feels a little bit sad too.
Cheryl and Pam had always been good friends, and the younger kids naturally partnered with Bill and Jim. That could have left me feeling like a third wheel, but I got along just as well with the younger kids, so it worked out very well. The reality was that I thought the stuff the younger kids were doing was more fun most of the time anyway. Not to say that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend time with Cheryl and Pam, but I was a pretty active kid. and the rough housing that the younger kids and I did was quite appealing to me. In fact, I probably instigated much of it…if not all of it.
I was really into gymnastics, with tumbling being my favorite part of it. My sisters and I used to practice our tumbling on the front lawn, so it stood to reason that we would do that when our cousins were there too. We practiced things like cartwheels, hand springs, and touching our toes to our head…which turned out to be a little difficult for my cousin, Jimmy, try as he might. And believe me, his trying was pretty funny. I don’t know if he really thought that he could pull his legs up to his head with his hands, but believe me, you can’t do it. Either you are limber enough, or you aren’t. It’s as simple as that.
The younger kids would do their best to gang up on me, to prove their superiority…or maybe it was just the mere number of them against me, or maybe they had a little help from Aunt Doris. Whatever the case may be, sometimes I found myself out numbered. Of course, it was all in fun, and we had such a good time when they were here or we were there. Just looking at the picture of the dog pile makes me smile. All I can say, is that I’m glad I didn’t have all those kids on top of me. I would have been squished for sure!! What crazy, fun times those were.
Seeing my cousins this summer, took me back to those carefree days. Sometimes, you get used to being away from those you love, and you somehow don’t realize how much we miss those times, until we go back for a short time. Then, the memories flood back in. You talk for hours about all the old times, and you suddenly realize just how much you have missed those times. Nevertheless, time has marched on, and you can’t go back to when you were young. All you can do is try to keep the memories alive in your memory files, and pull them out once in a while so you can relive those moments. Those days are gone, but the memory lives on to remind you that those were the days, and they were great. Childhood is but a fleeting moment, but those days will always be a part of who we are.
Kids seem to think that they are invincible. I don’t know where they got such an idea, but they often take chances without giving a second thought to how dangerous something might be and whether or not they will get hurt…or worse, killed. It has been the same way throughout time, I think. Recently, while visiting my Uncle Bill Spencer, his son Bill asked him if, while walking across a railroad trestle, they had ever encountered a train. Uncle Bill confirmed that they had, and when asked what they did, he said, “We dropped under the trestle and hung on until the train had gone over.” He said that it really shook. Well, I don’t mind saying that my uncle’s revelation made my blood run cold, but when I later mentioned that to my cousin Laurie Carlson Stepp, she told me that she had done that too, and that I shouldn’t tell her mother about it. Well, Laurie, I don’t think your mom gats to read my stories, so I have kept my promise, I think. Laurie told me that all the kids she knew did that, and never gave a thought to whether or not it might be dangerous. Yes, I’m sure that’s right. Kids don’t think about stuff like that. They are invincible…right?
My dad and Uncle Bill, and possibly even my Aunt Ruth, did the same thing. They never gave it a thought…or not that they would admit. When I think about the trestle they were on when the trains came over, the distance to the ground from there, and the fact that there was only a creek at the bottom of that trestle…I cringe. It might be my extreme dislike of heights, or it could be that hanging under a railroad trestle while a train is going over is…seriously crazy!! Nevertheless, you can’t tell kids how dangerous or crazy something is, because they know everything…right! My dad and my Uncle Bill, I have learned over the years, were certain that they were invincible. They messed around with dynamite, walked on railroad trestles, jumped on the trains even though they had a pass, and countless other stunts that make me cringe, but somehow both lived to tell about it…but I’m quite sure they didn’t tell their mother either.
A lot of the chances kids take in driving their cars can be pretty dangerous too. Things like four wheeling up a steep hill. I have seen video after video of people rolling their vehicle trying that one. I’ve never tried that, but I can say that I’ve driven my car much faster than I should have. I think I’ll decline to say how fast, because my mother does read my stories every day, and since I have to see her pretty often, I don’t really want her to shoot me. I can say, Mom, that it was only one time, I was 18, and even my friends told me to slow down. After that, I decided that taking that kind of stupid chance with my life and the lives of my friends wasn’t worth any thrill it might have given. Like most kids, I’m wiser now.
Every family has it strange characters. For mine it would have to be my great great grandfather, David Martin Pattan. Some might have called him eccentric, or even crazy , but no one really knows exactly why he did the things he did…or, as is the case for some parts of his life, why he did the things he did…over and again.
After David’s parents died on Ohio, which is where David was born in about 1828, he moved to Illinois and settled in Knox County near Gibson. He met and married my great great grandmother, Elizabeth Ellen Shuck on December 25, 1856 in Knoxville, Illinois. Together they had six sons and four daughters. As I look at the marriage certificate, I looks like his last name was spelled Patten and Elizabeth’s was spelled Shuck. We have always spelled his Pattan and hers Schuck.
During the Civil War, he enlisted in Company H 102nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry on August 8, 1862, a little less than a year after his third son, Joseph was born. He was discharged on October 1, 1863, just 3 days before Joseph’s third birthday. At his discharge his had a disease of the larynx and bronchia that caused him not to be able to speak louder that a whisper for two months. He then enlisted in Company D36 Illinois Volunteer Infantry on September 27, 1864. It is unknown if he just forgot that he had already served, or if he just felt that his services were needed again. He was shot in the right arm, just above the elbow, in the Battle of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee on November 29, 1864. He spent the next five weeks in a hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon his discharge, he was sent back to his unit. He was discharged on May 20, 1865 with 1/2 disability.
After David’s discharges from his times in the infantry, he and Elizabeth had their remaining seven children. At some point after the birth of their twins in 1876, David went to town and didn’t come back. He was gone for seventeen years. Then, one day in town, David’s son George, my grandfather, saw him in town. The sheriff was about to arrest him, when George offered to take him home. I guess he must have been drinking or causing some other such mischief that didn’t necessarily warrant jail time. Once home, they found out that he had been married to another woman and they had a son and a daughter, both of whom were named the same names as a son and daughter with Elizabeth. This leads me to wonder if something had happened seventeen years earlier that caused him not to remember the first marriage. That family died in a flash flood, so maybe that was why he was back. I have heard that he was married one more time…again without the benefit of a divorce, and when the third wife tried to collect his pension, she was denied because they weren’t legally married. No children were born to that union.
I don’t know if my great great grandfather was just a man who liked to marry different women, or if there was truly something mentally wrong with him. I have found out that his name was spelled every way you can possibly spell Pattan…Patton, Patten…and that for a time at least, he went by the alias, David Martin Berry. Berry was his mother’s maiden name, so I guess that worked. I have to wonder if he used the other names so that he could keep the wives straight…again, if he mentally knew that he was married. The research on his marriages is complicated due to these differences in names, but I have to wonder if the third wife, at least, went by berry, because that name is listed on the pension request, probably to avoid paying out twice. Whatever the reasons were for his double military service, and his three marriages, my great great grandmother took him back, and in the end cared for him until his dying day. They are buried together in Little York Cemetery in Warren Illinois.
Kids are always doing goofy little things, and my niece Michelle is no exception. When I asked my niece, Lindsay, who is Michelle’s cousin/best friend/partner in crime, to give me a little dirt on Michelle for her birthday story, little did I know what I would hear. When I think of Michelle, I automatically think of Lindsay too, because they were practically inseparable as kids, and while they live a good distance away from each other now, that distance has not changed their friendship at all. As little kids, they decided to make up a special language for themselves. In the end they made up several…and they both knew exactly what the other one was saying. I suppose that it might be because their languages were logical to a degree. Lindsay explained one language this way. My name is spelled Caryn, so in their language it would be Caong Arong Yon Nong. Now that’s a pretty long version of a name that isn’t really that long, but that would be the name anyway. The girls understood each other completely, and their favorite thing to do was to go to Walmart and walk around talking to each other in their secret language…just to see the people around them looking at them like they were crazy. They enjoyed that so much that they spoke that language for two years.
No matter how inventive these girls were, the one thing they couldn’t imagine was enjoying a Bologna sandwich. Their grandma, my mom fed her kids and grandkids a lot of Bologna sandwiches through the years, and whenever she fed them to Michelle and Lindsay, they would take the Bologna off and throw it in the bushes in the back yard, and eat the sandwich with mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles, and they decided that they kind of liked it…and they thought Mom’s taste in sandwiches was bad. I’m sorry, but I beg to differ. Mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles…I don’t think so, girls. Still, it’s a wonder the bushes didn’t die, because…let’s face it, Bologna isn’t plant food. Michelle, is however, a very good cook, and in their senior year, Michelle had a free period right before lunch. She would go home and make lunch for Lindsay who would come over at lunch. It was a fond memory of Lindsay’s from that year. Another fond memory is the day that Michelle and Lindsay kidnapped, Lindsay’s little sister, Kellie and made her ditch her class. Kellie was a little freaked out about it, but their mom, my sister, Allyn was a good sport, and didn’t kill them for it.
Michelle is seldom called Michelle, because she has a number of nicknames. I don’t know if these date back to the secret languages or not, but Lindsay has long called her Mash Stav…don’t ask me why or what that means, because it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just one of the goofy names they used. Lindsay also called her Meechelle, my Belle. Lacey, Michelle’s little sister often called her Mish Mash. They couldn’t go with any of the normal nicknames, like Shelly or anything, because that would be too…normal. And not to be outdone, Michelle had nicknames for Allyn’s family too. Lindsay became Lance, Kellie became Killay, and Allyn became Lynnie…and there are probably many more that we haven’t thought of.
Michelle is a very intelligent person. She has moved to Spearfish, South Dakota to finish her education, before beginning her career choice of being an art teacher. She is an incredible artist and will be an amazing art teacher. She is also a very fun person, who is a friend to all. While she does feel lonely and homesick sometimes, she likes the Spearfish area, and especially the lack of wind. We miss her too. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Once again, it is here…that big shopping day that always arrives on the Friday after Thanksgiving…Black Friday. Not everyone wants to get up in the wee hours of the morning…ok, the middle of the night…to hit the stores hoping to find the best prices for that special gift you want to buy for those people on your shopping list. It does take a special kind of crazy to do that, and thanks to my sister, Allyn, who got us started on this a number of years ago, Bob and I definitely fit into that category. Allyn’s husband Chris, quite going a long time ago, but Bob likes to go. Hey, don’t laugh…I’m not out there by myself, like a lot of women are…thanks Bob!!
We spend as much time as we can spare combing through the ads, to see what stores we need to go to, and how early, so that we don’t miss out on that perfect item. We try to go to bed early so we can get up about 3:00am, hoping to be at the stores, preferably with a nice hot cup of Cappuccino from Loaf and Jug to wake us up and keep us warm. I don’t ever get all my shopping done on Black Friday, partly because I don’t always have lists from my family, and partly because around 9:00, we are all done with the whole Black Friday Shopping thing, and ready for breakfast. So off we go to hit up Johnny J’s Diner for a real cup of coffee, and a nice hot breakfast.
After breakfast, the day generally finds me taking a nap, because while I am crazy enough to go shopping at 4:00 in the morning, I still need my sleep. Bob usually winds up in the garage working on someone’s car, which is nothing unusual for him…and that is another kind of crazy on Black Friday, but whatever he wants to do us fine by me, as long as I get my nap.
Whether you choose to shop at the stores on Black Friday, and the rest of the next month until all your Christmas shopping is done, or get online on Cyber Monday, and have it shipped right to your home, the fact remains that the Christmas season is once again upon us, and time waits for no man. So, I ask you…”Do you Black?”
My grand nephew, James has become quite the ladies’ man, and now that he is turning 16, I’m sure that will only get worse…for his mom, my niece, Toni, who would much rather have her young man stay a boy for a while longer, I’m sure. Unfortunately for Toni, there just isn’t anything you can do about your kids growing up, and James is one of those men who would have to be classified as tall, dark, and handsome, and we have always thought he looked a little bit like Elvis, so most likely that is what always catches the eye of the girls in the area. It is a fact of life.
It seems like just yesterday that James was born. He was such a cute little boy, with lots of dark hair. He was a quiet boy, but that didn’t mean that his sense of humor didn’t shine forth. James likes being funny, in a subtle way. He’s not like the class clown or anything, but instead, his antics are designed to make people notice that he is goofy and then laugh with him. Although, every once in a while, James will go on a streak, and do something totally crazy, like ride on a pony ride…I didn’t think those even existed anymore…did you?
It seems like with every baby that was due in June, my mom would hope for them to arrive on her dad’s birthday…June 15th. While some have come close, none actually made Mom’s perfect arrival date, until James came on the scene. I wish he could have known his great great grandpa, but that was not to be, since he would have been 104 at the time James was born. Nevertheless, James reminds me a little bit of my Grandpa…mostly in the way he is built…tall and slender, and maybe in his personality…both of them being quiet men and all. So my mom finally got her wish for the June babies in our family. One finally arrived on the right day…June 15th, the birthday that James shares with his great great grandpa. Today is James’ 16th birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
When a household has three boys, and one baby girl, and each of the boys have a friend spend the night on the same night, what do you have? Well, besides chaos and a severely outnumbered little girl, you have boys night out! For the boys who are staying the night with my grand nephews, it truly is boys night out. For Xander, Zack, and Isaac, it is boys night in, not that they mind that one bit. Now, as to my niece Jenny and her husband Steve, I have to think they might be just a little bit insane, but then they have been around boys for most of their married life, so I suppose they are used to the ways of little boys. I, on the other hand, having had girls, would most likely have gone insane…until I had my grandsons anyway. Being around boys does change a person.
Slumber parties…or boys night out, as my grand nephews informed me…like slumber party must be the closest thing to cooties on girls, and something they definitely would never be a part of…usually follow the same pattern. Lots of playing, loudness, wild and wound up kids, and little sleep. Nevertheless, do not call it a slumber party. I mean, what self respecting macho man would have a slumber party. There are differences between slumber parties and boys night out, however. Girls usually do things like make up, dancing, and of course gossip. Boys, on the other hand might play super hero, watch movies, or talk about their various weapons. I suppose when you think about it, the two events really are very different. And I suppose that calling this event a slumber party, could be thought to be insulting…a mistake I hope not to make in the future, because my grand nephews looked at me like I had kind of messed up in the great aunt department, and I’m supposed to be the cool great aunt, not the nerd. I guess that is something I’ll have to work to repair now, but that will have to happen in the future for now.
I didn’t ask Jenny and Steve how the boys night out went for them, but I guess it was ok, because they were both in church today, meaning that even if they feel little bit exhausted, or a little bit crazy, they did survive the event. I guess that is a good thing. And as for Aleesia, the lone little girl in the house that night, well, she was still smiling, so either they all had a good time playing with her too, or her parents kept her away from the boys so they could have their own space. Whatever the case may be, the boys told me that they had a great time at their boys night out.