When we look at the different nationalities and cultural groups, one thing that seems always to stay the same…difference. These groups always have their own ideas about milestones that should be celebrated. Where many people might celebrate things like the baby’s first tooth, rolling over, smile, word, crawling, steps, and such, the Navaho Indian tribes in the Southwestern United States, who call themselves Diné, have a very different idea of what should be celebrated. This tribe have picked up on the most fun part of life, as the reason for celebration…that first laugh.
We all know how great it is to hear a baby laugh for the first time. It’s great fun, and if you happened to be the one to coax that first laugh out of the baby, it’s even more fun. The Navajo believe that a baby’s first laugh demonstrates their readiness and willingness to fully join their families in life and love. The Navajo people believe that the person who makes the child laugh is also very special. That person is given a great gift…they get to plan the party. It is that tradition, and it stipulates that the person who provoked the baby’s laugh hosts a ceremony and dinner to mark the occasion. The party is called a First Laugh Ceremony (A’wee Chi’deedloh). According to Navajo national Jaclyn Roessel, “This whole ceremony is really meant to show the baby how we’re supposed to be as Diné, as very generous people.”
When I first learned about the tradition, I thought…naïvely so, that it could almost be viewed as a “punishment” for being the one that made the child laugh…depending on the financial status of the person or the size of the family that would be invited. Of course, that is silly. The Navajo people consider it an honor to be that one that brought the laughter. They become very special. I suppose it could almost be like becoming the child’s godparent. In the Navajo tradition, it goes deeper than that. The Navajo believe that newborn babies first live in the world of the Diyin Dine’e, the Holy People. Tradition has it that they stay in this temporary place before they can join their earthly families. As the tradition continues, the Diyin Dine’e are the first people, subjects of the most important myths and stories in Navajo culture. When a baby is first born, the Navajo believe the child lives among the Holy People, until the first time the baby laughs. The act of laughing is a sign the child is transitioning from the spirit world with the Diyin Dine’e and is ready to fully join his or her family in life. This might seem far-fetched, but many people believe that babies and children have the unique ability to see Jesus and the angels. In fact, in Christian belief, many people believe that these children, when they are seen specking to an “imaginary” friend, are actually speaking to Jesus or to their angels. The two beliefs are not really that different. I believe that the “holy people” are, in fact, Jesus and his angels.
Because of the significance that a baby’s first laugh holds in Navajo tradition, family members watch, wait, and listen intently to hear that first utterance of a giggle. Parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, and just about anyone who is close to the family will try their best to get that first laugh, from silly faces to tickles, and everything in between. I guess they have already planned fo any cost and are already planning the whole thing in their heads. Then, when that special time arrives, when that precious first laugh comes, it’s time to celebrate the journey to their earthly family and welcome this new life into the community with a Navajo First Laugh Ceremony!!
My uncle, Wayne Byer is the younger of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s two sons, and the younger of the three middle siblings, of which my mom, College Spencer was one. Those three middle kids, Larry Byer, Collene, and Wayne, seemed to always be into some mischief. Mom told me it had to be because she was in the middle of the two boys…but I think she probably instigated as much as they did. She could be mischievous too.
Uncle Wayne has always loved kids, and especially making them laugh. Maybe that was why we all liked to gather around him. We knew he would do something to make us laugh, before long, and we were never disappointed. He had the ability to be a laugh a minute. I’m told that he loved telling jokes all his life, and from the part I saw, he did.
Of course, Uncle Wayne had a serious job too. Being a mechanic at the school bus garage, and later the head of the school bus garage, he was tasked with making sure that every bus was in good repair, so that the busses would all transport the children safely to their destination. My sisters and I didn’t have to ride the bus to school, but since my husband, Bob and I lived in the country when our girls were little, they took the bus to school every day. It was then that I began to really appreciate the work my uncle did, and my girls always liked the fact that their great uncle took care of the school buses they rode. I think they also liked it when they could tell people that it was their great uncle who headed up the garage. They were very proud of what he did, and they wanted other people to know that their great uncle had such an important job. The girls were trying to gain favor by telling people, they were just very proud of him.
We don’t get to see Uncle Wayne a much as we used to, now that he is retired, not that we saw him at work or anything. It just seemed like before he retired, we saw more of him. Nevertheless, Uncle Wayne hasn’t changed a bit. He is still the same funny guy who was always a laugh a minute, and I’m glad. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My little grand-niece, Mackenzie Moore is a loyal football fan…of her daddy’s teams. It doesn’t matter what team it is, as long as her daddy, Shannon Moore is one of the coaches. Currently, Mackenzie is a huge fan of the Wyoming Cowboys. As her daddy says, she loves the Pokes. Mackenzie always has her game face on at the games, and she cheers on her daddy’s team faithfully. In fact, at two years old, Mackenzie is quite likely the littlest Pokes fan. This little girl is such a loyal fan that she even makes sure she is bringing her baby up to be a fan. I guess she is getting set for the next generation of fans.
Mackenzie has an amazing personality. She always keeps her parents, Lindsay and Shannon, laughing and quite entertained. Nobody ever has to tell this little girl to smile, because its just a part of her nature. Mackenzie loves people and loves making them smile, and it comes so naturally to her. She makes the greatest faces ever. One look and you can’t help but love this little girl…or laugh along with this little cutie. She love playing with her cousins the most, and considers “cousin-time” to be the very best time of all…well, except for mommy and daddy time.
The summer was a great one for Mackenzie, who got to travel some, spend time with her grandparents, and of course hang out with her mommy by the pool. Mackenzie loves her time as a lady of leisure too. That’s a good thing, because before we know it, she will be going to school. Time goes so fast. I really can’t believe that Mackenzie is two years old already. It seems like it was just yesterday that she was born. With all the wonderful life moments this little girl packs into every day, I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring. Of course, I wish that we, the rest of her family, got to see her a little more, but now that her family lives in Wyoming again, we get to see her more than we did before, when they lived back east. That makes us happy. We are all happy about the move back to Wyoming. Today is Mackenzie’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Mackenzie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My nephew, Tucker Birky is a funny guy. Being funny comes naturally to Tucker, so much so, that often he doesn’t even realize that he’s being funny. Making people laugh is just a skill that Tucker seems to have been born with. He loves his mom, Rachel Schulenberg, and his step-dad, Ron, and considers him to be is dad. Tucker loves to make his mom laugh every day. He always wants to leave her with a smile on her face, and in her heart. Tucker reminds me a little bit of my daughter, Amy, who used to stick a Chiquita banana sticker on her nose to make us laugh. Tucker has taken that one step further, making funny faces, and even putting a chip clip on his eyebrow. Now I don’t know if that hurt or not, but Tucker smiled right through it.
Tucker also has a kind side. Every morning, he tells his mom what a great mom she is. It is such a precious thing to get up in the morning and have your child tell you that they couldn’t ask for a better mom. Tucker knows that his mom misses his older brother, Riley, who is in Guernsey, Wyoming right now, and he misses him too, so it’s important to help lift his mom’s spirit, and Tucker senses that instinctively. Of course, that isn’t the only reason he tells her that she is a great mom. The main reason is simply because she is. Tucker also knows that his mom misses his older sister, Cassie; her husband, Chris; and their children, Lucas and Zoey, who live in Powell, Wyoming. That said, Tucker is the only kid who is with her right now, and his kind heart is just what Rachel needs to make her smile.
Tucker is a busy guy. He is a straight “A” student. He takes piano lessons, and is getting quite good at playing and has recently memorized his next piano piece. Nevertheless, school isn’t all Tucker likes to do. He loves to ride his bicycle and motorcycles on their property in the country. He loves his animals, and snuggling up with his dog to watch television. Tucker misses his brother, and an uncle who doesn’t live here. Tucker also loves to hang out in his dad’s shop, and help him work on things. He and Tucker are very close, and they work well together. Ron is teaching Tucker the ropes of mechanic work, which is an important thing for every young man to know. In the years since Ron and Rachel have been married, I have watched Tucker grow into an amazing young man. Today is Tucker’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Welcome to double digits!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My little great grand niece, Izabella Harman turned one year old today. Izabella, or Bella, or even Tink (as in Tinkerbell) is a little girl that is full of life and laughter. She works very hard to keep up with her big sister, Alice Green. They love having a sister, and they are best friends. Nevertheless, little Izabella looks like her daddy, Jake Harman, especially her eyes, but she has so many traits from her mommy too, especially, her personality. Bella’s mom, Melanie Harman is a sweet, happy girl with a positive personality, and Izabella’s ways are just like her mom…even though she is just one year old. The first year of a baby’s life is filled with many changes. They grow from infancy, to toddler, to a child during that time. Oh, I know they are still toddlers at one, but they are a child too. They talk now, walk now, and they have a mind of their own.
For Izabella, happiness is her sister, good food, and her loving parents and grandparents. It may not be a big world, but it is big enough for Bella. Her sister entertains her and keeps her smiling. Bella often wears her food, but then, would it taste as good as it does if she didn’t get it all over herself? Visiting her grandparents is among the most special times Bella has, and of course, she has two wonderful parents who love her to the moon and back. In fact, for little Bella, it’s all about the love, because that is what her world is made of. Everyone who sees her, knows that she is loved.
Before long, Bella will not be the baby though. She is soon to have a new little sibling, and then our little baby girl will be the big sister. It’s hard for me to believe that she will take on such a big new role, but like everything else, she will be great at it. She will smile and entertain the baby, just like their big sister Alice did for her, because that’s what siblings do for each other. I am so excited to see the girl the years will turn Bella into, because if she keeps her perfect little smile, and her precious little personality, she will be amazing. Today is Bella’s first birthday. Happy 1st birthday Bella!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Every time I think of my Aunt Ruth Wolfe, which is often, because I remind myself of her so much, I can easily see how much alike we are, and yet how very different. We were both passionate about a sport. For her it was horseback riding and racing. For me it was gymnastics. Aunt Ruth could handle horses as if they were an extension of herself. I never watched her ride or race, that I can recall, but I have seen pictures of her with her horses. It was so clear to me that she loved each and every one of them, and they loved her too. Her ability to ride was amazing. My Uncle Bill Spencer, her brother, told of the races she had won, and you could tell that he was so proud of his little sister, and her wonderful ability. I know he was, because of the number of pictures of her with her horses that graced the family history that Uncle Bill so lovingly put together.
Aunt Ruth could pick up any musical instrument and play like an expert, which is one of the areas she and I differ, because I can’t play any musical instrument. From what my cousin, Shirley Cameron has told me, her mom was able to play any instrument instinctively…and she played them beautifully. In my defense, I am more of a techy or geek, whichever you prefer. When it comes to computers, I can instinctively maneuver just about any area I need to. I don’t know if Aunt Ruth ever had a chance to use a computer, but my guess is that she didn’t. However, I have a feeling that she might have been quite capable too, at least she would have been if I’m right about how much we were alike.
The other ways that Aunt Ruth reminds me of me, is that we look a lot alike, and we laugh a lot alike. I have pictures that really remind me of my aunt, and every time I laugh, it is like going back in time. I am reminded of all the times that my family did things with Aunt Ruth’s family. Everything from trips together, to picnics, to times at their home or at ours. We always loved to have them come. It was so exciting to see them, and since they often surprised us, in the later years, it was like having a surprise birthday party. I really miss that. Today would have been Aunt Ruth’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Ruth. We love and miss you very much, and we will see you again very soon.
From the first time I saw my husband, Bob Schulenberg, I liked him. There were many things I liked about him, but one of them was his great smile. Bob was always a happy guy. He laughs a lot, especially at comedy shows. It’s not that comedy is the only thing he likes to watch, but when he seems a good comedy, he laughs through the whole show…even if he is the only person in the room. His laugh is great, but it isn’t just about his laugh. Bob has a great smile…and it’s been with him all his life.
As a little boy, Bob had many facial expressions…little most kids do, but there were some that I especially like. His “shocked baby” looks is hilarious. His “my big sister is bossy” look is pretty good too, but his “bashful smile” is among my favorites. That little smile tells me what a sweet boy he was. It is a part of him that has never left him. Bob is sweet almost to a fault. Sometimes I see that little boy in him…that sweet little boy who goes out of his way to do sweet things for me. I don’t think that a lot of people get to see that side of him, but I get to see it, because sometimes the little boy in Bob comes out in the things he does.
Bob, the man, is so similar to Bob, the little boy. He is sweet and eager to make people smile. He really spoils me rotten…but don’t tell him I said that. I do have to consider what I tell him I want or want to do, because he will go out of his way to make it happen if there is a way. It makes me feel like a princess. I think Bob, the little boy had a favorite person in his life too, and I think that person was his Grandma Hein. He loved going up to see her, and to help out around her place. To him it was one of the highlights of his summer. And his grandma remained one of his favorite people throughout his whole life. I could go on and on about all the things that makes Bob such a great guy, but I’m sure you already think I’m biased. This isn’t Bob’s birthday or anything, I just like to write about what a great guy I have sometimes. I love you honey.
When you are a lot like another person, you carry memories of that person around with you. The strange thing about it is that you probably don’t even notice those similarities during that person’s lifetime. Often it is after their death, that suddenly things like their laugh coming out of you, has a tendency to startle you. Something, like being built like that person is always something you knew, and yet, things like looking like that person, may not be something you could see, until you looked at a picture of yourself, and you can totally see that person. I suppose that different hair styles and the use of make up can make a difference in each one’s looks, but eventually, something just stands out, and you know that you are that person’s mini me…even if that person is not your parent, but rather and aunt, as in my case. I never thought of myself as being anyone’s mini me, but in the case of my aunt and me, that is clearly the case.
My Aunt Ruth is the aunt that I really look like, and laugh like, and yet it was after her passing that it suddenly dawned on me that I really do laugh like her. Aunt Ruth had a great sense of humor, and she loved to laugh. She was a woman who had been a lot of places, and that made her seem to me to be very sophisticated, but Aunt Ruth would never have considered herself to be some fancy woman of the world. She had just lived in several places, and that gave her some knowledge of how things worked in some of the glamorous places that I had not been in or at least not very long, but she knew them well.
One of the memories I will always have of Aunt Ruth, is the moccasins she always wore. I don’t know if she loved the Native American culture or if the moccasins were just comfortable, but she loved them. She always wore the ones with the tiny bead work on them, and for some reason, my little girl mind always thought those were special. I’m sure that it was because my Aunt Ruth wore them. When you look up to someone, you really think that everything they do is the coolest thing in the world. Aunt Ruth left us in 1992, and we all miss her very much, but for me, there is the fact that in many way, I am so much like her, and it is like carrying her memory with me. Today would have been Aunt Ruth’s 90th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Ruth. We love and miss you very much, and can’t wait to see you again.
Little kids are really natural born showoffs. The minute they do something that everyone laughs about, they will start doing it over and over again. They love the attention. I guess in most ways they are not a lot different than their adult counterparts. Their play doesn’t even have to be necessarily funny, just cute. Anything that causes their parents to take a picture or laugh is worth doing again. Of course, sometimes, this is how bad habits get started. What seemed cute for a little kid to say or do when they are very small, isn’t always so cute as they get older. We all know that we should not encourage bad habits, but when your kids are little, everything…good or bad, is kind of cute, so we often allow the things we shouldn’t.
I suppose parents should think about that before making a big deal out of some of the things kids do, but that isn’t very often how things go. Sometimes those laughs just happen, and before you know it, you are trying to break that bad habit. Ah, the joys of parenting. One bad decision leads to months of undoing. Still, at the time, you have to admit…it was funny. Little kids are usually so full of energy, joy, giggles, and fun, that it’s like having your very own comedy show in your living room. You find yourself sitting there being entertained for hours.
Recently, we came across some previously undeveloped photographs from my childhood, and I found that I was quite the showoff. I never really thought of myself that way, because I am rather shy, but I guess I wasn’t when I was a little girl. I may not have ever been the class clown in school, but I clowned around quite a bit at home. I’m sure my parents didn’t think it was especially unusual, but the pictures surprised me. And there are more of them than I put up here too. I was apparently very goofy…or so the pictures tell me.
It is kind of a sad thing that we are so free and uninhibited as children, and then as adults, we are almost afraid to be silly. I know we can’t always be goofy as adults, but so many of us don’t ever act silly. We worry about looking stupid or having someone make fun of us. Of course, I’m sure that all starts in our teen years, when we are all very uncomfortable with pretty much everything about ourselves. Nevertheless, for many of us, it continues on into adulthood too. I suppose that in reality, those carefree days of youth will always fade into the responsibility days of adulthood, and we will, for the most part, never really be able to relive the funny, goofy, carefree days, when clowning around came as naturally to us as breathing did. I guess that’s why we were little showoffs.
I think it is always a cool thing when we look through old family pictures of people we never knew, or at least don’t remember, and suddenly find ourselves looking at a familiar face…one very similar to our own. Such was the case for my youngest sister, Allyn Spencer Hadlock, when she read my story a couple of days ago, about my great aunts, Mina, Bertha, and Elsa. For much of her life, Allyn had noticed similarities between her sisters and other family members, and in reality there are many strong family resemblances, but she just didn’t see one that she could say looked a lot like her. She just assumed that she was of the Heinz 57 variety…a mix of several or many other family members. All that changed when she read my story, and looked at the picture of our great aunt, Mina Schumacher Spare. The picture of Mina bore a remarkable resemblance to pictures of Allyn, and to certain looks she saw in her reflection in the mirror.
Something about Mina’s face simply reminded Allyn of herself. She mentioned it to me, and I set about looking at pictures of Allyn and Mina to see for myself. I think Allyn hit the nail on the head. While Allyn’s eyes are bigger than Mina’s, the rest of her face is quite similar to Mina’s. I always find it quite remarkable to be able to see ourselves in the face of one of our ancestors. I am finding more and more that the Schumacher genes in my family tree are very strong genes. There are similarities that have jumped out at us through several of our family members and the Schumacher family, which is to say our grandma, Anna Schumacher Spencer and her parents and siblings. I love finding look alikes among the family members and ancestors. It gives people such a sense of belonging to see just where their characteristics came from.
For Allyn, who had always felt like simply a mix of the ancestors, seeing a picture of Mina that reminded her so much of herself, was a very cool feeling, and I can relate. I have come across different pictures of myself that remind me of Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren, Aunt Ruth Spencer Wolfe, my daughter, Amy Royce, and my granddaughter Shai Royce. When you find that look alike, it seems to leap off the screen at you. It is just the coolest feeling, because even though you never had any doubt that you were a part of this family, you still wondered just exactly where you fit in. Then, when it has becomes so very clear, just exactly where you fit in, you start looking for other similarities you might have with that person, such as the fact that I laugh exactly like my Aunt Ruth…so much so, that every time I laugh, she comes to my mind. It is another connection I have to her, even though she passed away in 1992.
Unfortunately, Allyn and I don’t recall Great Aunt Mina or Great Aunt Bertha, so we are not aware of other similarities, although I have been told that I got my writing abilities from Great Aunt Bertha…a thought that I am honored to hear, because I consider her a great writer. Great Aunt Mina was a very capable woman, who got an education that was more than what many women received in those days, and that moved her into supervisory positions at her work. Allyn has that capability too, and in fact was just promoted to Clinic Billing Supervisor at Central Wyoming Neurology, where she has worked for some time now. She has shown that her abilities are just what they want in their office, and we are all very proud of her achievements. I’m sure her look alike, Great Aunt Mina Schumacher Spare would have been too. It is a testament to her belief if a good education, and never giving up just because you are a woman…something that we don’t have as big a problem with these days, but that Mina and her sisters, Bertha and Elsa dealt with for sure. Obviously, there is more about Allyn and Mina that is alike than just their pretty faces.