What are your favorite memories of your children growing up?
I have two memories of my kids that are particular favorites of mine. With Lance it was the time we spent in the Boy Scout movement. With Wendy it was her first day of school.
When I was a kid I was active in Scouting. I started as a Cub Scout, moved on to being a Boy Scout, and ended up as a Sea Scout. I was anxious that Lance would also follow in those foot steps. After participating as a boy I continued as a leader. When Lance joined Cubs, I volunteered to be on the Pack Committee. Later, when he went into Boy Scouts, I volunteered to be the Assistant Scoutmaster and held that position until he received his Eagle rank. I went up and down in my own career in Scouts. Advancing through the ranks was important to me. But at every step something happened to keep me from getting some of the things I wanted.
When I was getting out of Cubs I visited a Boy Scout troop as part of earning my Webelos rank. The Scoutmaster talked me into joining the troop right there on the spot. As a result I never did get the Webelos. In Boy Scouts I earned my way up to Life Scout but I was having difficulty with my Scoutmaster giving me my awards. I quit Boy Scouts to join Sea Scouts. I could have continued earning my Eagle award, but Sea Scouts had its own set of ranks and I decided to give them a try. Unfortunately, there was not enough time left before I turned 18, so I missed out on getting the top award there too. My folks were proud of my accomplishments I’m sure, but they didn’t take an active part in keeping me on track. A little more encouragement might have helped me get more things done. I was determined that I would help keep Lance on task, but hopefully not to run it into the ground for him. I think that approach worked because he earned his Eagle. It was one of the best moments of my life. And, we had great times camping and canoeing with the other scouts.
With Wendy one of my favorite memories was when I took her to her first day of school. Both Karen and I worked and Karen had to leave early because she was a teacher. I started a little later in the morning so I had time to drop her off before I had to be at work. We got her all ready and set off. I had a motorcycle at the time and she would sit in front of me on the front of the seat and hold onto a bar on my handlebars. It worked great. When we arrived, I took a couple of photos of her big day. Unfortunately, she had to face the sun for me to get the picture. This was something that she didn’t care for and from time to time, not only did she squint but it could even make her sneeze. I think she avoided that on this special occasion.
We were very young when Lance was born. I was 19 and Butch was 20. I knew nothing about taking care of a baby or about being a mom. Even though it was scary, I felt this amazing rush of love and responsibility for taking care of this little person. We were thrilled with everything he did, every tiny milestone in his life. We were very lucky to live in the basement of Butch’s parents’ house because we had immediate support for every question or doubt that came up. We also had a built-in extended family to lavish love on our baby. Sometimes we would just lay him on a blanket in the middle of the table and everyone would just sit around the table admiring him and delighting in every move he made. The same was true of my family. We could go to my parents’ house any time and have the same love-in over there. Every child should be loved in such a way.
Lance was an adventurous kid growing up. We always lived in neighborhoods that were like the ones we grew up in. By the time a kid was old enough to ride a bike, they had the freedom to explore in a range of distance from the house determined by their age and how busy the nearby streets were. Lance traveled around exploring and making friends. Once, he came home to tell us that a guy down the street had a big alligator in his yard. He was very excited and said the guy wanted us to give him permission to look at it. We were skeptical about the details and actually how big this alligator could be. Butch and I went down the street with him and sure enough, the guy had an alligator that was maybe 5 feet long from nose to tail! He said his son ordered it from a comic book ad years ago and unlike many families they kept it. The thing looked vicious and definitely unfriendly. It hissed at us in a really scary way. The owner told Lance never to come into his yard or near the pen by himself. We firmly reinforced this warning ourselves! Overall, I think that kind of freedom and opportunity for kids to explore and ultimately make decisions and solve problems on their own is a good thing. Today’s kids have more organized play and activities.
We had very little money when we were first married so one thing we could do as a family for fun was camping. Butch had been a Boy Scout and had lots of outdoor camping skills. I had virtually none so camping was an adventure for me too. We got a tent and various camping equipment for ourselves or as gifts from our families. We took the kids camping when they were still babies and continued camping experiences through their teen years. Camping was an opportunity to explore woods, river banks, lakes, campfires, and various Iowa parks. The kids played in the dirt and mud and learned an appreciation of nature’s plants, animals, and vistas. We loved camp cooking and of course s’mores. Lance loved camping and continued to camp throughout his life. I believe a relationship with nature is essential for happiness and mental health, Often, at bedtime when he was a little boy, he would try to delay sleeping by asking us to talk for a little while before lights out. When we would ask what he wanted to talk about, he would often say, “Let’s talk about camping.”
One of the delights of being a parent is the relationships they developed with their friends. These usually reach their peak in the junior high and high school years. Personalities are well developed by then and though teens can be monumentally trying at times, they are also funny, charming, and full of life. Lance had a posse of friends that changed over time but there was a core of good friends that hung out at our house, Doug Beach, Bob Ross, John Abraham, Tim Martinec, Anthony Molden and others who shifted in and out of the group. Often, I was the driver who ferried kids to and from school and scout activities. Once, I was driving a group of guys all crowded into the back seat of the car. At those times it was like I wasn’t there and the guys talked as if no adult was listening…a good way to learn about your kids and their friends. Someone, out of the blue asked, “What’s your favorite torture?” I was amazed that they each had one! Each described his favorite with more gruesome details trying to top the others. Certainly a conversation a carload of girls would never have!
When I got pregnant a second time, I really wanted a girl. I wanted a daughter who I could be a girl with. Of course I would have loved another son but having one of each was the ideal. Wendy was our sunny girly-girl from the start. She was a happy baby and was the center of attention just as Lance was. She was also surrounded by a bunch of aunts who loved to spoil her. She loved dolls and played baby. I sewed cute clothes for her and also made doll clothes for her dolls. I loved to be the mother of a girl as much as a boy. Best of all though, Wendy shared my love of books. At first, of course, there were read alouds, good night stories, and just snuggle up stories. But the best was when she learned to read for herself. She loved Little House books just like me! She loved collecting and owning books, talking about books, and rereading favorites. We still have a loaded bookcase in the grandkids’ room from her girlhood. To this day, I share my favorite titles with her and love getting her recommendations. As she was growing up she often said she wanted to be an author when she grew up. And now she is, with two published books, Everyday Bento and Fresh Bento.
One way Wendy was distinctly different from me was her courage in stepping up. I was always very shy but Wendy loved being in plays and performing in front of an audience. In grade school she was a flower and book characters among other parts and in high school performed in a leading role and even sang a solo! I was so in awe of someone who could not only act on stage with a substantial part but actually sing out loud in front of everyone! She also went out for the girl’s track team in High School. She was not particularly athletic as a young child though always actively played outside with friends. I suppose that she chose track because of friends too. She stuck with it and went to every meet.
We loved having Wendy’s friends around just like Lance’s. We had lots of sleep overs and gatherings after games, after plays and other activities. Nancy Beach, Gretchen Hokinson, Jane Peterson, Kim Johnson, Kathy Molitor, and Melissa Sherwood hung around at different times. A favorite memory with friends was Wendy’s sixteenth birthday. We asked her how she would like to celebrate and she said she wanted to have a dinner for a bunch of her friends. I can’t remember exactly how many she invited but It was a mix of boys and girls who all hung out together. By then Butch and I had begun to experiment with ethnic foods and fancy cooking. She decided she wanted to have a Chinese dinner theme. We made egg rolls, crab Rangoon, and several Chinese main dishes that she liked. We made fancy drinks (non-alcoholic of course) with little paper umbrellas in them. We also decorated the table with a Chinese theme. Then Butch and I served while trying to make ourselves a bit scarce to not make everyone nervous. I think it was a big success and fun for us too. Long after high school graduation I ran into her friend, Kathy Molitor who told me that it was the best meal she’d ever had. I’m sure she’s had better since but it was a a nice complement anyway!
Wendy left home to go to college in California. It was very hard to have her so far away and I missed her desperately. She could only come home once during the school year for Christmas because we couldn’t afford the travel expense. There was email at the time but mostly phone calls. It was long before cell phones so even those calls were few and far between. Just writing this makes me feel how much I missed her. Once she graduated she stayed in California to work. On one trip home she and I decided to drive to Minneapolis to go to The Mall of America on a shopping trip. We always had a fun time shopping together though we never bought much. But on this trip, on the way home, we listened to a tape of songs in the car by folk singer Stan Rogers. He sang a song called, “First Christmas Away From Home” about a girl away from home and family for her job. The song brought to mind the possibility that Wendy might have to be away from home at Christmas some time in the future. The thought was overwhelming to both of us. Tears were streaming down both of our faces and I had to pull off the road so we could get ourselves under control. It wasn’t exactly a favorite memory but was a strong one and is a sign of the beautiful bond we have as mother and daughter. We have had many Christmases to celebrate together but it is still hard when we are apart.
This post is part of the StoryWorth project that I am participating in.
At the ButchieBoy main page click the Storyworth catagory to see all the entries in the series.