Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back-to-School Shopping, then and now

Third grade brought my first soap and water saddle shoes!

When I was a child back-to-school shopping meant getting dressed up in good clothes and going with my mother on the bus (we were a one car family for a long time) from Bellevue to downtown Seattle to shop at J.C. Penney’s and Fredrick and Nelson. No department stores at Bell Square yet. I got bored while my mother looked at patterns and fabric, but getting a new readymade dress was much more fun. Lunch was yummy chicken salad in the restaurant at Fredrick’s where there were table clothes and you had to sit up straight, put your napkin in your lap and act like a lady. The restrooms in Fredrick’s were exactly that. The ladies restroom had comfy arm chairs and couches where you could---well—rest. I do not know if the daddies got to rest like the mommies and grandmas.

Back-to-school shoes were at Nordstrom’s (which sold only shoes then), but for the several years of my life they were black and white corrective saddle shoes which did nothing to improve my decidedly flat feet. My consolation was that the girl next door had the black boot type of corrective shoes. It made me feel moderately better. Third grade brought my first soap and water saddle shoes! Gosh, I was excited.

By the mid to late 1970s and into the ‘80s, when I had three and four school age children, back-to-school shopping happened at thrift stores out of necessity and I have school pictures of the older boys in the same shirt—different years. We handed down and wore it out. I told them it was character building. I liked to believe that my children didn’t mind, but that wasn’t entirely true. When my oldest son was old enough for a newspaper job he began working to earn money for his own school clothes and always had a job thereafter.

September was always a thin month with lists of school supplies, emergency packs, school pictures and shoes. Shoes and underwear I bought new. I had an annual every year in high school. Out of the three older children, two of them got annuals their senior year. The third escaped high school for TCC and could not have cared less about annuals. By the time Nadir came along our circumstances had improved. Annuals were purchased for him and I don’t think he cared one way or another as long as he had his black J.C. Penney’s Arizona jeans.

Today we took our Granddaughter Linda for a little last minute back-to-school shopping. School starts tomorrow. I swear that all thoughts of economy and moderation fly out of my head where the grandchildren are concerned, but we landed somewhere in the middle of my back-to-school experiences. I still got dressed up because my mother taught me that you tell people what you think of them by how you dress and I do adore my grandchildren. Lunch was at a teriyaki joint near her home. I miss Fredrick’s and Nelson.

The shopping was done at Fred Meyer where I was happy to use $50 worth of coupons, but still spoiled her well with a pair of her favorite Twinkle Toes shoes and a pair of “stylish boots,” not to mention hair ribbons, tights, a new pink water-bottle and a Sponge Bob Squarepants Golden Book along with a Tinker Bell one for her little sister. Linda’s in second grade this year and excited to start. Grandson Gabriel is home schooled in our home and consequently is liable to be the recipient of things piece meal, but is spoiled just the same. Wait until little Lydia begins school. What fun we will have taking two little girls shopping!

Back to School

On some really delightful days I’ve been known to say that I’d do my job for free...

Along with my favorite season, this time of year means back-to-school and back-to-work. I love my job, although I’d really rather be at home with my daughter, my husband, my grandson and daughter-in-law, but as jobs go, mine isn’t bad. I am perpetually stuck in high school which at age 60 is a little weird and cool.

Because I am a “para educator” (a fancy word for teacher aid) I see school from a different vantage point than the classroom teachers. Rather than having a home base, I am a gypsy, moving from room to room where there are Special Education students. Every year, every semester is different. It makes the day go quickly and it presents its own problems as I have to deal not only with a multiple of personalities in the students, but in the teachers as well.

Teachers are some of my favorite people. We are a family of teachers. My son Frank is a high school art teacher. My in-laws are retired teachers, two of my brothers-in-law are teachers and two of my sisters-in-law are teachers, but I am sure that single one of their classrooms would be different and I have to adjust my brain to get in sync with each one as I move through my day.

Because I am on the move and seeing something beyond the individual teacher’s classroom door I am privy to what is going on in the hall. In many ways it’s like watching my own high school experience. While technology has radically changed how students interact, write and do research, the drama of being a teenager is pretty much the same.

Last year I spent two thirds of my day with one student. He is quadriplegic and very, very smart. I am his hands. I take notes during lectures, type when he dictates, fill in bubbles and blanks on tests. For that last bit we go into the hall. This year we will be together all day—which includes geometry, not my favorite subject. Yes, he’ll get it, but it helps if I do, too, since I’m the one writing everything down!

Last year was my student’s freshman year. My plan is to see him through to graduation and it will be fun to watch him grow intellectually. Besides smart he is funny and compassionate when someone else in his situation might be bitter and cranky. It is an honor to work with him and he is very good to tolerate an old lady. He laughed one day and said, “Between the two of us we have one good brain.” We’d BOTH been struggling with an algebra problem on homework.

The four years between freshman and senior years are huge. And then they walk up to you in the community and tell you how much you meant to them when they were in school and it makes even the bad days worthwhile.

On some really delightful days I’ve been known to say that I’d do my job for free and been told to be quiet. At the rate we are going with state budget cuts I will be putting my money where my mouth is any day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Looking for Ruth

I’m looking for my grandmother. She’s buried in Vancouver, WA, but the start of her life is murky. When she died in 1972 my mother and her sister had difficulty getting a death certificate since the State of Washington couldn’t find a record of her birth. I don’t know how they finally obtained a death certificate. Someone must have taken it on faith that Grandma was born on August 16th 1894 in the village of Ocasta, WA because there’s no evidence that she was despite the family mythology. There’s no record of her birth in Grays Harbor County period and no little girls were born there the year she was supposed to have come into the world. My mother had always believed that the records were burned in a fire, hence no birth certificate. There was no such fire.

Looking back my Aunt Mary knew something about it and didn’t tell my mother. Before his death my aunt had had a conversation with my grandfather who had sworn her to secrecy. When Grandma died Aunt Mary should have figured that her oath was lifted and spoken up while there might have been a trail to follow back to my grandmother’s beginnings, but she kept her secret for a good long while even after both of her parents were dead. As far as I know she kept the secret even after my father and uncle were dead and they knew something about it or thought they did.

My father and Uncle Pat used to tell my mother and aunt that their mother was adopted and Indian in ancestry. She had high cheekbones, dark hair and eyes and her daughters assumed they were taking advantage of those facts to give them a hard time. Being Native American would not have been a badge of honor in Vancouver, WA in the 1940s and ‘50s when I remember them making the claim. Seattle still had Jim Crow signs in shop windows. My mother laughed it off. At some point my aunt didn’t.

One day my aunt got into a fight with her husband over this allegation and in a fit of rage drove to my grandparents’ house to confront them. My grandmother was not at home, but Grandpa was and according to Aunt Mary he confirmed the story of my grandmother’s origin. And here’s where it gets even crazier. He also claimed that Grandma didn’t know and swore my aunt to a secrecy she kept too well.

Undoubtedly my aunt was upset about this revelation and was only too happy to keep it a secret. It wasn’t until her own daughter became too ill to work and needed health care that the story came to light and EVERYONE who might have known something was dead. Obviously it would have been nice to question my grandfather. He was 13 years older than my grandmother and had known the family from the time they moved from Grays Harbor to Vancouver, WA and obviously could have known that Ruth was not Amanda and Royal Austin’s natural daughter. My father and uncle had some reason for alleging the very same thing. Where did they get their information? If the story was circulating in Vancouver had my grandmother heard it?

And there’s one more piece of information that could be a clue. Amongst my grandfather’s effects my aunt found a letter that was in her grandfather’s papers. In the handwritten letter Royal bequeathed a sum of money to a home for unwed mothers in Lewis County should his wife and daughter precede him in death. They didn’t and the bequest was never made, but it does make one wonder.

So, I’m going to quit looking for Grandma in Grays Harbor County and look in Lewis County. The problems I face are the age of records and the real possibility that if she were Native American her adoption might have been suspect. Tribes were loath to give up children, but it is possible that her mother was white which would account for a home for unwed mothers being part of the equation. The University of Washington Library Archives suggested the Timberland Library System as well as the Lewis County Museum so I've sent queries. On the advice of the Lewis County Clerk I’ve also ordered a copy of my grandmother’s death certificate, but I expect it to contain erroneous information. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ain't Apologizin'

I am over feeling guilty for having been well pleased with the weather this summer. I am not a sun worshipper. Were I, I’d probably be living somewhere in the Southwest, but with the exception of the first 18 months of my life spent in Wichita, KS and six years in the middle in the Bay Area; I have lived and enjoyed the weather in Western Washington. I am what my friend Lorraine calls an old mossback.

The fact that we have not had days of 80 plus degree weather this summer suits me just fine. It wasn’t until I was at a family gathering where my husband’s family was bemoaning the weather this summer and my brother-in-law Corky piped up, “I’ve been loving the weather.” At last, another one! I wasn’t alone!

Part of my delight with the weather is that Autumn is my favorite season. That is counter intuitive because Autumn is when my break from my job with the school district is over and I have to go back to work. Autumn is my compensation for that. Other than having to get up in the dark each morning to go to work, what is not to like about Autumn? And I don’t so very much mind the dark anyway. I love the colors, smell and feel of Autumn, plus it is the season of my two favorite holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving.

As we rejoice in the bounty of the gifts with which Mother Earth has rewarded our labor, the She and we prepare ourselves for the quiet, inward turning of the winter--cold quiet days when we recharge and contemplate the turning of the wheel of life.

In truth the Ancient Celts, for whom I have a great deal of love and respect, viewed the month we call August as being the beginning of Autumn. The holiday of Lugnasa was the first harvest festival and occurred on the first of August. If we are harvesting then are we not in the harvest season? And even though the nights do not yet have that nip in them that I so love, there is a Vine Maple out in Chinook who has already dressed herself in shades of orange.

So although I shall be sad to leave our home by the sea I return to a job that is mostly agreeable and to the pleasure of the Autumnal Equinox which happens to be my husband’s birthday and when he will catch up with me!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"I Come to the Sea to Breathe"

I know for a fact that there are people who live on the coast who go for weeks, months and even years without getting out on to the beach.

A sign in the bedroom of my cottage at the sea reads “I come to the sea to breathe.” When I saw it in a shop I had to have it because it describes my feeling upon arriving at the sea—I can breathe. It is not that the air in Gig Harbor is so very foul. On the contrary, many mornings I marvel at the smell of the Doug Firs and flowers, but there you don’t have the smell of the sea.

Last night we took the dog and went to the Sid Snyder beach approach and walked along the boardwalk to the mid-point where we plunked ourselves down to watch the sunset. I let the sound of the breakers and the wind in the grass and smell of salt and seaweed wash over me, releasing the stress of my early summer and savoring the icy blue the ocean becomes just at sunset.

I love the sea in all it's moods from stormy to peaceful. During the Easter storm several years ago Dave went up to North Head Lighthouse to look at it. I prefer that stormy sea from the comfort of our car on a beach approach, but the power of the breakers crashing on shore is both humbling and energizing.

I know for a fact that there are people who live on the coast who go for weeks, months and even years without getting out on to the beach. I don’t understand it. I’m not just talking about folks like my mother who do not have a car and can’t go unless someone takes them. I’m talking about perfectly fit people so caught up in their day to day lives that they never stop and smell the sea. They live in one of the prettiest parts of the world and fail to realize it. I am very sorry for them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Growing Up in Bellevue

Several said that they'd learned not to say that they were raised in Bellevue.

Since our high school class picnic (see below) I have been ruminating on the experiences of my classmates and my growing up in Bellevue, WA, a city that could now be considered part of Silicone NW. As our evening at Lake Sammamish State Park drew to a close and twilight and good food blurred our edges, people spoke of their experiences in telling others where they had been raised. Many said that they had ceased telling people where they’d grown up. They said that they always met the expectation that they were rich and snobby. Several said that they'd learned not to say that they were raised in Bellevue. I know that when I moved to the Long Beach Peninsula as a 36 year old and told people where I’d been raised I got tagged as “the Bellevue Princess” which could not have been much farther from the truth.

It is true that to teenagers who came across Lake Washington from Seattle to dance at the Lake Hills Roller Rink on Saturday nights, we may have appeared affluent. We certainly were middle class and the housing tracts we lived in quintessential post WWII suburbs. But even within Bellevue there was stratification. I grew up in Lake Hills in the eastern part of Bellevue. Lake Hills was not considered as affluent as “old” Bellevue and some of the swankier housing tracts. My mother chronically suffered from house envy.

Bellevue in the 1950s (my parents and I moved to Bellevue in 1957) was nothing like the Bellevue of today. The downtown area was a few blocks of buildings on which there was a three story height restriction. There were grocery stores downtown and in the housing tracts which were populated largely by veterans of WWII and purchased with VA loans. Initially when we moved there from Seattle my mother and I dressed up in our Sunday best and took the bus or car (we had one for years and my father ride-pooled to Boeing) to Seattle to shop at department stores. I still remember when Fredrick & Nelson built a store in downtown Bellevue and how relieved I was to not make, what seemed to a child, long boring trips to buy whatever it was my mother thought we couldn’t live without.

The student parking lot at Sammamish High School only held about a dozen cars. At Gig Harbor High School where I work the student parking lot is several times larger than the staff lot and sprinkled with BMWs and F150s. Most of us rode the bus to school all three years. The boys who had cars were is large demand by the girls, thus eliminating the need for having parents cart them on dates. Those of us who had cars had ones that were ten years or older, not bright, shiny new ones. The gearheads, boys who knew cars inside and out, took great pride in keeping their cars looking nice and running well. In the district where I work the automotive program has been ghettoized by being moved out of town to another city where today’s gearheads are bused for part of the day. Talk about elitist. Although available to students, our district doesn’t want the program visible. The former automotive classroom houses a weight room now. I have no idea if the Bellevue high schools still have automotive programs.

During the 1950s and ‘60s the Bellevue School District was considered the best in the state, but apparently it wasn’t a given that everyone received a proper education. With elementary classes as large as 40, teachers had their hands full just keeping us in line. My first and second grade classes sat in alphabetical rows and there was little cooperative learning. It is not surprising that there were students whose learning styles fell outside of the set curriculum and fell through the cracks. Only recently did I learn that one of my classmates never learned to read until well on his way to senior citizen status. That fact that he has learned late in life is proof that he could have learned then if someone had had or taken the time to figure out a different way to present the material. But there are stories like this in all school districts, although it makes my heart ache at the years of pleasure this man missed in recreational reading, much less reading that would have helped him in his job life. Fortunately he’s making up for lost time.

Another student from our high school was a wonderful athlete, but no one addressed his dyslexia. There were plenty of girls willing to help him with his homework so he completed high school functionally illiterate. Although he married his high school sweetheart, who became a college graduate and teacher, the marriage didn’t last because it was colored by his inability to even read notes sent home by his children’s teachers. How might their lives have been different had he received the right instruction?

From a distance our lives might have been viewed at perfect. Most of our parents owned their own homes, many of the fathers worked at Boeing; most of the mothers were stay-at-home moms. We undoubtedly looked bright and shiny ourselves on that June evening in 1969 when we walked across the stage and received our diplomas. Despite what other communities might have thought, we were not born with silver spoons. For the most part our Depression Era parents worked hard to give us what they had not had and that level of comfort allowed our generation to cause a social and political upheaval, the ramifications—both good and bad—are still felt today.

Most of us have been successful in that we’ve faced struggles as varied as the raising of handicapped children to alcohol and drug addiction and managed to build lives that range from well off to comfortable with a few who have, despite a good beginning, messed up their lives . We are aging doctors, dentists, lawyers, mechanics, plumbers, hippies, conservatives and liberals. Most of us are grandparents who will not retire in as much comfort as many of our parents did. I know we won’t.

The only time I have demurred at telling people where I was raised was to people unfamiliar with the Puget Sound Area. Back in the 1960 and ‘70s if you said you were from Bellevue, WA you were frequently met with a blank stare. If you said Seattle, well that was a city they understood. Where the World’s Fair was, right? No, if anything makes me loath to claim my hometown it is what it represents now. I’m glad we grew up there when we did. Not all of our families were Father’s Knows Best, but we were better off than many. I wonder what they young people of Bellevue today think of their hometown.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Class Reunion 2011

The ten year reunion it was essentially just exactly like high school. (photo courtesy of Jodi Ruddenberg)

I wasn’t going to post a blog today. I don’t have time. We are getting ready to go back to my beloved old house on the Long Beach Peninsula. It’s been a wonderful weekend and if I don’t write about it I will be sorry and by the time I have regular Internet access the blush may be off the bloom so to speak, but I doubt it.

Saturday was magical. After not having any reunions for twenty years, our high school class of 1969 has taken to having them yearly. We have a lot of time to make up for. Last year was wonderful, but too hot. This year the crowd was smaller and the weather was Baby Bear perfect. The smaller crowd meant that I was able to talk to everyone save one who sneaked away when I wasn’t looking.

Prior to one intrepid classmate taking the bull by the horns and organizing our 40th reunion we’d only had two. The ten year reunion it was essentially just exactly like high school. Everyone stood around with the same folks they had stood around with in high school. It was all rather ill planned from the motel in Issaquah, where we did not grow up, to the Vienna sausages on tooth picks and the fact that our dance music came from another group in a room next door. They opened folding doors and we got to see the back of the band. It was miserable.

Things were a little better at our 20th reunion. I was delighted to see so many familiar faces, but at this point people were anxious to impress each other with their accomplishments. We did grow up in Bellevue and the expectation was that everyone had been to four or more years of college and were highly successful. I hadn’t, but that didn’t stop me from having a good time, but even I held onto some of the high school sensibilities. I found the dentists and lawyers insufferable in their need to impress and I became hysterical when a cheerleader and one of the women from what we called the “sosh” clique discovered that they’d come in the exact same beautiful cream colored suit. I thought it was a Kodak moment and nearly rolled on the floor. Not very mature, but would have made a great scene in a movie.

I’ve written previously about my experience at our 41st get-together, about how none of that stuff matters anymore and this year was even sweeter. It was gratifying to watch a couple of people who had never been to a reunion and who had agonized about attending, come to the realization that we are just a bunch of old people, mostly grandparents, who have a shared history. We were a diverse bunch—a plumber, a musician, a Sufi, mechanics, teachers, artists. We spoke the names of those who are no longer with us with the knowledge that at our age there will be more and more on that list.

I felt thirsty to hear everyone’s stories. Some I hadn’t known a whit in high school and now I wanted to know everything from what it had been like in high school for them to what they are doing now and hope to do. One woman, so dear to me in junior high, had left at the end of our sophomore year and my heart sang to see her.

There were tears and a lot of laughter.

I must not have been alone in this hunger for connecting with our roots because this year people lingered all the way through the evening until darkness, mosquitoes and park closure sent us on our ways with promises to get together again before another twelve months have gone by and determined to find more of the missing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Eating Locally

It is such a labor of love for us, and worth all the shoveling, weeding, and mucking about in manure.” ~ Tim Ruddenberg, Camano Island backyard farmer
(picture courtesy of Jodi & Tim Ruddenberg)

Today we got to indulge in one of our favorite summer activities, the Tacoma Thursday Farmer’s Market. The bulk of our time this summer has been spent on my beloved Long Beach Peninsula and been busy caring for extended family and their pets and home improvements. Coming back to Pierce County this week has been more relaxing and when Dave suggested we take a trip across the bridge to Tacoma’s Farmer’s Market that happens every Thursday during the summer.
We were gratified to see lots of people taking advantage of buying right from farmers, butchers, bakers and candle makers. After checking out a few of the stalls and deciding what we’d come back and get, we made a beeline for something to eat. There is a whole section of food vendors on the plaza next to the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, but we chose two down along the street. Dave got Mexican from a taco truck and I had a turkey-cream cheese-cranberry sandwich on a rosemary bagel. Yum!

When our lunch was finished we got a cookie to share from the bagel man and then strolled the rest of market, stopping to listen to a street musician doing Cab Callaway tunes. On the way back up Broadway we stopped and bought organic raspberries and beets before heading home.

On the way home we talked about living locally. It is Dave’s and my belief that the best way we can spend our limited income is in purchasing straight from the folks producing the products we want. Imported products, particularly Chinese products, are inescapable, but whenever we can we prefer to keep our money in the community because it fuels the local economy and makes for a smaller footprint on the Earth.

(picture courtesy of Jodi & Tim Ruddenberg)

Another activity that we believe is important to the environment, health and finances are backyard gardens. Our house in Gig Harbor is surrounded by Doug Firs which makes for a cool house in the summer, but for little in the way of garden. Nevertheless, we admire those who can and do grow much of their own food. An example of our food heroes are Jodi and Tim Ruddenberg on Camano Island. “I have always raised food for the family, not to sell. We give away virtually all our excess to family, friends, and neighbors, “says Tim, a photographer by trade.

“It is such a labor of love for us and worth all the shoveling, weeding, and mucking about in manure. Living, farming, buying locally is dear to us, but our concern is always price. I suppose that is why we give our garden away. Seems that those who need it the most are the least likely to afford it. My interest lately has been longer term consecutive crops, late Fall and early Spring crops, and overwintering crops. We really don't need to buy anything during the season.”

Local farmers know each other and while “chatting” with Tim he mentioned that their friends Don and Elaine had just stopped by and he’d chatted with him about gardening. They own Open Gate Farm on Camano, have a roadside stand and Don bakes. If you get up their way, check them out. I’m itching to get to Camano to see Jodi and Tim and when we see them at our high school class picnic I may try to wangle and invite for this fall.

The Ruddenbergs keep chickens as do our friends Sydney and Nyel Stevens of Oysterville. We have chicken envy and this year Dave attended a chicken workshop at the Proctor District Farmers Market and there may be chickens in our future. We have a good safe spot behind our garage and living outside the city limits of Gig Harbor should not have trouble with ordnances.
picture courtesy of Jodi & Tim Ruddenberg)

(In her blog Sydney of Oysterville, Sydney Stevens recently wrote about an editable garden tour on the Long Beach Peninsula and a conversation she had with the educator in charge of the Career and Technical Education of the Ocean Beach School District, Mark Simmons, and possible sustainable gardening projects for students. That got my educator juices flowing and so I asked Tim Ruddenberg what he thought about creating more backyard farmers by teaching it to students. “I am in favor of as much exposure as possible. I work with homeless kids on the weekend, and we have started a garden for them. Most kids don't have a clue,” Tim told me.

I believe that Americans need to change their relationship with food for the sake of their health, pocketbooks and the environment. The activity at the Thursday Market certainly gave me hope and the idea of creating a new generation of backyard Victory-type gardeners is exciting. There are farmers’ markets all over the country this time of year so get out and get up close and personal with your food!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Portland's Grotto

You cannot help but feel at peace there.

Although not Catholic this summer I visited The Grotto in Portland, OR. My cousin had told me about it last fall and after visiting her in a hospice house in Vancouver last month I decided that I would go and was very glad I did.

When you drive into the Grotto parking lot and step out of your car, you leave behind the city—the world. Regardless of your religious inclination the feeling of peace and serenity settles around you like a soft blanket. The huge Doug Firs and rhododendrons absorb the noise of the city and perhaps the prayers of the millions of visitors since Father Ambrose Mayer brought to fruition in 1924 a promise he had made to God as a child—to do something great for the Church.

The Grotto itself is carved from an old Union Pacific Railway quarry which Fr. Mayer, a Canadian Catholic priets, made a down payment of $3,000 and his faith in 1923. An altar stands in the carved out rock hillside with a copy of Michelangelo’s Pietà above. The Church of Our Sorrowful Mother stands just beyond the Grotto. Being of limited time that particular day I did not go into the church nor explore the extensive grounds that include an elevator ride to the top of the grotto, but I did go into the gift shop, purchase a candle and light it for my cousin, asking for an easy passage for her.

From the website you will see that there are many beautiful services done throughout the year including one on August 15th for the celebration of what Catholics believe was the assumption of Mary into heaven. Religiously eclectic myself, I must admit to feeling the appeal of focus on the feminine aspect of spirituality and would recommend a visit to Portland’s Grotto regardless of your spiritual persuasion. It is hard to believe that you are in the midst of a large city and you cannot help but feel at peace there.

Monday, August 8, 2011

If this isn’t a recession, what the heck is it?

The belt is going to have to come in a few more notches

As this past week has shown, things don’t really seem to be getting better in this country. I’m still hoping for change, but angry that the regressives in this country seem to be having their way. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer and in the meantime it’s sometimes hard to see the fun.

When the bubble burst, stock market crashed, and the Great Recession started in ’08 I figured that we’d hunker down, tighten our belts and wait it out. In the meantime my husband’s job was eliminated. True, he had retirement from 25 plus years with the FAA, but that is a half salary and there are not a lot of jobs for aging airtraffic controllers in the private sector. True, he could have continued working for the company that took over his sector of the FAA, but it would have meant relocating to undesirable parts of the country (Sorry, Texas, Arizona, and Virginia) leaving behind aging parents. His unemployment is due to run out in October and my live-in son and I will be receiving a 2% pay cuts this year.

I have a friend who insists that circumstances are a matter of visualization and attitude. It is hard to be optimistic right now. My daughter-in-law has taken to not watching the news and reminding me that we have each other and our heath. Blessings indeed, but that hardly makes the mortgage payment on a house worth less than it was three years ago. I probably should stop listening to the news, too, but I'm too much of a junkie to do that. The belt is going to have to come in a few more notches and yet economists can’t seem to agree. Is the recession over? Are we going into a double-dip recession? If this isn’t a recession, what the heck is it?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summertime, Reuniontime

I thought it was emblematic of the day

Summertime is the season of reunions, familial and school. My in-laws have a reunion/family barbeque planned for this summer at their home before moving into assisted living. My husband and my high school picnic is the day before the family event so we will be busy that weekend. I am excited about both. My husband’s family is large and most amiable and I have come to value each and every of our classmates, regardless of our relationship, or lack thereof, in high school so I look forward to lively conversations all around.

One of the perks of becoming a senior citizen vs. a high school senior is having a grasp of who we are and what is important. All the labels such as “jocks,” ” socishes,” and “motor heads” have made way for “grandma” and “grandpa.” We are classic members of the Boomer Generation, raised in the post-WWII ‘burbs. Most of our daddies fought in WWII and many of those men went to work for the Boeing Company the wages for who fueled the Bellevue School District to afford us an excellent education. In short, regardless of any differences we perceived amongst ourselves growing up, in truth we were more alike than different.

The class of 1969 of Sammamish High School is pretty disorganized. Were it not I would not have been involved in organizing reunions the past two years. I was not a part of high school activities—far from it. I ran with a group who identified itself as anti-establishment, anti-war, and anti-school culture. How ironic then that, when twenty years had passed since our 20th reunion, with no sign of gathering, it was one of our number who took it upon himself to organize one. And he roped me into helping locate classmates.

Due to a conflicting family commitment and Dave having to work, we did not make it to the 40th picnic, but made it a point to attend the 41st. Even at our 20th reunion I’d felt a difference in how our classmates related to each other, but by the 41st all I felt was joy at seeing people, many of whom I had known since childhood and many of whom I wanted to know better. Because I didn’t run with the “in-crowd” there were plenty of picnickers whom I’d never spoken to. One of them, one of the most popular girls in school, arrived late, but made a point of thanking me for having arranged the picnic. I kept telling people that it was Smitty, not me, but I was the most visible on Face Book so I was getting the credit. Anyway, I thought it was emblematic of the day that one of the most beautiful and popular girls at school, whose notice I’d been beyond, genuinely seemed grateful to me. I did not know that she was seeing into my heart and mind.

I felt I had plenty of grist for the blog mill, but was exhausted by the time we got home and lo, my thunder was stolen by above mentioned woman who it would seem has as beautiful a heart as face. For someone with whom I believed I had never had anything in common with she managed to take the words right out of my fingers, creating the exact perfect end to a perfect day.

Now we are approaching our 42nd year picnic and I eagerly anticipate seeing many of the faces of my childhood, all of whom are most beloved. As the Baby Boom Generation we grew up during a unique time in American history and in our case, the quintessential ‘50s, post WWII suburb of Bellevue.