Life by the Seat of My Pants
At 17 years of Age I Entered Real Life
Born and raised in a mid-sized Western Oregon valley community in the 1940s and 1950s provides me with incredible childhood memories. Five or six year old blue eyed me, knobby, skinny kneed and barefoot, dress and blond hair flying behind me as I ran with my cocker spaniel dog, Vicki. Running free through clover covered fields of buttercups, wheat, dandelions, and grass. Ducking the wild blackberry briar's thick along side the path we cut and jumping creeks to get to the other side of the fields. Catching bull frogs with my brother in the small creeks that ran every where around the fields by our childhood home.
Chasing through the walnut, filbert, peach, cherry orchards, climbing the magnificent old trees standing in rows for the farmer to harvest during the harvest seasons. So close to the clear pale blue sky.
Oh, how I loved to climb the trees and sit in them where no one could find me, and dream, bare-feet dangling from the limb on which I perched.
Ice skating on the ponds, around the clumps of grass and weeds poking out, to escape falling and injury. How many times, I broke my little nose in a nose dive fall when my skate caught on one of those clumps.
Building funny snowmen from the fresh new snow that fell lightly during the December season. Pitted with rocks and wood, but snow nonetheless, enough to bring out the sled, have snowball fights, make snow ice-cream and finally, to drink a hot cup of hot cocoa at the end of the day to warm up.
We were around animals since birth. My father would take us to his sister's cattle ranch in Eastern Oregon where we were introduced to horses. I remember sitting of a huge, white horse at the age of one or two, looking down...so, very, far, down, from the top of the horse. I also remember falling off many times in my pre five years. Seeing great big horse hooves passing over my head.
We had no place for a horse at my childhood home, nonetheless, this didn't stop my uncle and paternal aunt from driving nearly 200 miles pulling a horse and horse trailer over the McKenzie pass to deliver a surprise to my parents and to we three kids. Boy! Were my parents surprised!
We three were delighted beyond words! Our own horse!
Our parents rose to the occasion and rented a field from the Schimmels, down the lane, to house the horse.
My father placed rules on us to protect us which were: no saddle, we each had to ride bareback; no help, we each had to catch, bridle and get on the horse; finish the job. When through riding, we had to unbridle the horse and safely secure him in the field, hang the bridle, water the horse and brush him down. Share. We had to take turns riding and caring for the horse.
The horse was a retired horse from the ranch. His name was, Pinky, because he was red and he was close to 25 years old. A great horse for three kids.under the age of 13.
I was so short that after I caught and bridled Pinky, I had to pull him over to the fence or a stump to stand on and eventually get on his back for a ride. He was so patient. I think I even had to stand on the stump to bridle him, as I recall, he was pretty tall.
Being an obedient, oblivious lass, I was easily conned by my siblings. Yep, even my younger sister had me figured out and manipulated me shamelessly. Much to my chagrin.
She had it down so pat that there was no arguing or thinking she was conning me. Just as I would climb on to Pinky's back, he she would come. She would tell me that mother wanted me.
Now, I knew this probably wasn't so, but... Were it true and I didn't go, I would be punished. So off Pinky I jumped, heading home to see what mother wanted.
Of course, she hadn't wanted me. By the time I got back to the field, sister was long gone on top of Pinky, flying in the wind.
She was 5, I was 7. And so went our relationship until I came of age.
Climbing my mother's clothes line (which was securely perched between the U shape of my parents bedroom and the garage and on the other side, with my sister's bedroom, the bathroom and a hall, forming an end or middle part of the U) outside the back of our home was one of my all time favorite spots.
This was MY circus! I could climb to the roof via this clothes line. Two posts stood at one end with a bar running cross the top to balance it with the posts planted in a cement filled holes in the ground below. Wire lines ran from the bar running cross the two poles to the opposite side and were secured to the house. Usually 5 or 6 horizontal wire lines made up the clothes line; on which mother would hang her fresh laundered clothing to dry in the wind and sun.
Few, under the age of 40 have any idea what this is, today, since they were raised with the luxury of a clothes dryer. I rather miss this former method of drying clothes.
The base of the clothes line as I described, was the perfect apparatus for a child to imagine -- in my case it was my playground to gymnastics which I had no access to.
Swinging my legs up and over the cross bar, I would hang by my knees and ankles, or swing up and climb onto the roof of the house for a dramatic look of the neighborhood. More often, I imagined that I was a circus trapeze artist and performed various tricks on the cross bar.
I remember climbing to the roof with my father as he took one of my dolls, attached a coffee can with a motor and dropped it off the side. He had expected the coffee can motor prototype to propel the doll holding it in the air. One of his inventions. A pre-space pack, no doubt. In 1940s, he saw the vision.
We were one lane. A dirt road in the beginning in 1946, turning into tar and pavement as time went on. Ours was the last house on the lane which my father liked very much. Small at first and then he built it bigger to accommodate our family and his wealth.
Another favorite past-time for me was my bicycle. Like the clothesline, I became a stunt artist. I would race down the dirt lane dodging potholes as I flew by. One day, as I gained speed, I decided to do a "swan" on the bicycle. This meant that I would stand up tall on the seat, letting go of the handlebars and extend one leg behind me. Obviously this required balance and timing. I did it! It was perfect! Than, oops. A pothole! I'm on the ground prostrate now, My head really hurts. Old Mr. Jensen, who had run from his yard as he saw me fly off my bicycle and land on my head, is standing over me asking me if I'm alright. Oh sure I respond as I jump up and grab my bike heading for home. Boy did my head hurt. Of course, my parents never knew of any of this. We simply didn't tell them.
The Gustaufersons lived at the front of our lane down by the main road, there was the mother's home and next to that was the son's and his family. Next a big open field, fenced for horses or cows; the Schimmels owned that land along with a wonderful, white, two story gingerbread house sourounded by a white picket fense; with another expanse of fenced field next to the house and barn on the other side.
There were smaller houses on the opposite side of the street from the Gustaufersons and the Schimmels, but we didn't know these people.
Cross the street from the Schimmels were the Vans. Mr. and Mrs. VanAntwerp, to be exact, but we referred to them as the Vans. Like the Schmmiles, they were elderly. As was the custom of the day, both Mrs. Schmille and Mrs. Van wore black dresses with funny, clunky high heeled, laced, black shoes. Always perfectly groomed and dressed. We were taught to address our elders, always, as Mr. or Mrs. No questions. We lived near them for over 17 years but never had we been allowed in their homes, nor invited in.
The house next to the Schimmels field belonged Harry and Mable McGee who had a daughter, Sandy, our age and a son, Tom, a bit older. Then the Jensen's, another elderly couple. A cinder block/brick home. They had the distinction of having a fish pond in their yard with live gold fish. A real neighborhood attraction.
Next to them, Ralph and Esta Hunter were building a small post war, stucco home. They lived in the garage with a daughter, Christine, and son who our age, while building. I loved watching the house be built. Ralph built us a huge swing set in back of their home with slide and teeter toter. We spent hours and hours there.
My childhood was filled with walking for miles across one fenced enclosed field after another heading for a new adventure with my brother and sister, dodging cows, beavers, skunks, pheasants and other critters that were so common then.
I had an unrealistic, but nonetheless, terrifying fear of cows. So it was only natural as my brother, sister and I walked through the fields, that they have a little fun with me. At my expense, of course. They would shout to me that a cow was coming my way; this instilled incredible fear in me and I would take off, bare footed, in a dead run for the fence so that I could cross it before the cow spotted me.
Unfortunately, as I ran in fear, I would turn and look behind me to see if the cow had spotted me. In so doing, without doubt, I would run into old, wound up and tangled barbed wire laying hidden in the weeds as I flew by.
Flat on my face, I could feel the barbs tangled around my body, usually my feet and legs. In a frantic effort to get free before the cow came upon me, I wrestled the barbed wire, ripping it from my body. Jumping up I continued my flight to freedom.
To this day, the memories are clear and sharp each time I look at one of the huge scars left by my barbed wire wounds. As well as the realization that I was such an easy "sucker" for my brother and sister who knew my fear. There never was a cow. I simply ran from the fear that there might be one.
Blackberries were abundant in the fields surrounding our home. My friend, Gail who lived in the house behind us, asked me to go on a ride with her. Our horse, Pinky, was gone by then, but Gail had several horses one of which she let me ride. Off we went into the fields.
At one point, we had to cut through some trees with a lot of foliage around them, including huge round mounds of brambles from wild blackberries. Gail led the way through the area. As my horse came to the middle of the brambles something spooked it. It gave a quick side-ways dart then bucked. I went flying through the ai, again. This time landing in the middle of the blackberry brambles! They cushioned my fall so that I felt no pain, until, I started to get up! Gail was trying to pull me free of the thorns embedded into my backside. Wow! Did that hurt.
Our family of five was very disciplined to the rules of my father's home. He gave us what he hoped would be an idyllic childhood sprinkled with plenty of lessons on how we had to be independent and do for ourselves. His rule simply, was: You live under my roof that I provide, you live by my rules. End of story. The alternative was to leave.
To this end, despite the fact that he made a very good living, by age 5 and 6, he sent us to the bean fields and berry/strawberry fields, as well as the walnut and filbert orchards, to learn how to work and work hard. No free rides in this world. At first our mother accompanied us but by age 10 we rode our bicycles the five or more miles to the fields alone.
Sometimes, I still can smell the August damp, foggy, cold air in the mornings, the bean picking mornings of my youth and remember the heat in the fields by noon as the sun shone high in the sky.
We walked a mile or more to our grade school every morning and back home every afternoon. Can you imagine the pure, innocent beauty of that!? Such freedom that I mourn for our children today who must constantly be alert to the predators existing at every corner and turn.
Our parents told each of us at the beginning of school that were we spanked or disciplined in any manner for wrong doing or misbehaving in class, we would be punished and spanked when we got home. We all were perfect students in that sense, never causing our teachers problems. We were more afraid of our father's belt than we were the teachers.
We learned to become compliant. We learned to get along with people. We learned to be self sufficient and none of us feared hard work.
From my British grandmother and Canadian mother, we learned civil manners; proper behavior as my grandmother said. We were taught table manners, host and hostess rules. To this day, I can comfortably dine with kings and queens because of their teachings, or with farm hands on the ranch because of my father.
Our parents were products of their life experience, living and experiencing the Great Depression and World War II. They lived in a time of no luxuries per se. No electricity, no running water or indoor plumbing; no automobiles, radios or television.
They clung fast to their way of life...life with no excess. There could one day be another depression or war, after all. Especially during the 1950s as television began to fill every home, and homes, used as show rather than just living, came about as well as automobiles, telephones, electricity, indoor running water, plumbing, refrigeration and telephones affordable for most all Americans.
My father hunted for the family food even though he could well afford to buy it at the now frequent and available stores.
He hunted deer, elk, pheasants, geese, ducks and he fished for salmon, steelhead, trout, crabs and clams. We in turn were taught how to "gut," clean, feather and prepare the meat and game he brought home.
Mother froze the meat and game for the winter meals. She also canned or put aside fruit, berries and vegetables from our garden and the gardens and fields of our friends. She shelled nuts, hundreds of nuts for her winter baking.
We feasted at holidays. Mother cooked and baked for months for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's dinners as well as Easter. She would have 5 or more pies, cakes and hundreds of cookies. She served turkey and ham along with 6 different jello and vegetable salads; corn, beans, peas, potatoes and gravy and breads and rolls and biscuits she made from scratch.
Men had the role of being the provider and were judged on how well he provided his family with food and shelter.
Women had the role of taking care of and managing the home with the kitchen being her primo domain. She was judged by how well she baked, cooked and kept her home clean and her children clean and clothed.
Both were judged by how well behaved their children were.
Somehow life was, indeed, a lot more simple back then. Perhaps because there were rules to live by. Parameter's in which to stay. One knew the consequences of making a decision to step outside of the norm. And, there were consequences.
When I left my familial home to begin life, at age 17, I was greeted by the "real" world with a slap in the face. Actually, more like a huge, whopping slug in the face.
I was no more prepared for the "real" world than the Princess and the Pea. It was a tremendous shock to learn that I had been living in a "fairy tale" world, protected by my parents who vigilantly fought to keep it out of our home.
A world where everyone was kind to everyone. Few fears entered our world and certainly no knowledge of the crime and inhumanities to man, even during a time when World War II raged, Jews were being slaughtered and so many people in the world were starving, mistreated, and struggling for survival. This was not allowed in our home.
Can you imagine my shock stepping from this idyllic setting onto the steps of the "real" world?
It happened in short order. I stepped off the plank and plunged into a world so foreign to me that my head spun.
Me, a shy, petite blond,gullible, naive, female, American child of English, Scott, Irish, Welsh, Canadian heritage and not a mean bone in her body, but neither a backbone yet developed, suddenly thrust into an environment of "sink or swim," or as Darwin says, "the strongest of the species survives."
Fairy Tales to Marriage
It was the norm, if you will, even expected, in our community in the 1940s and 1950s, that female children would finish high school and marry. Period. End of Story.
We girl children were read and read to from age one, fairy tale after fairy tale of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, even Rose and the Beast, etc. to reinforce in us that our role was to marry. And so it was the fairy tale that as women we were to be pampered and protected. It was our right and our role to expect our men to comply with this. Our men worked to provide money to provide us with our castle and kingdom. In return we simply need be compliant, pretty, coy and demure.
To marry at age 17 was not unusual. To become a mother at this age or 18 was not unusual. We were fulfilling our destiny.
Girls began to fuss and worry if they didn't have a prospective husband by age 17. For me, this was a little harder since my father wouldn't allow me to wear sweaters, lipstick or makeup of any kind, shave my legs or to date until I was 16.
Therefore, the first man I ever and only dated became my husband.
And So It Was -- I Began Life
Kids that we were, me 17, my husband 19. As was the time and status of my family, they gave me a huge white, church wedding, princess gown of lace and a crown. My father extended his arm and we walked down the church aisle amongst some 500 folk in attendance to my awaiting groom. We had bridesmaids and groomsmen aplenty, flower girls, ring bearer and all. A reception then was a beautiful cake and punch and coffee.
I changed from my wedding gown after my husband fed me cake and we were escorted out of the church to our awaiting car for our weeks honeymoon.
My father rented us a little pull along trailer so that we could honeymoon on the Oregon Coast which was an hour away. Now this is funny today. Our car was an old Mercury about at the end of its trail, so pulling a heavy trailer really didn't make much sense. This was 1958 after all.
My new husband wanted so to impress and please me, so when we arrived at the coast we walked through one of the towns, I believe it was Winchester Bay where I had come numerous times with my family to fish. He stopped by a stand filled with fresh crab and declared that he was buying us a huge lobster for dinner. That man didn't tell him he had just purchased a crab, nor did I but I found myself looking at him in new light. It wasn't a complimentary light, unfortunately. How could he be so stupid not to know the difference between a crab and a lobster.
So began our marriage. Our honeymoon ended with my new husband loosing his new wedding ring in the sand where we parked our trailer.
Back to my childhood home for a few days to pack up our new and abundant wedding gifts and prepare to travel over the mountain some 200 miles to our new home, Burns, Oregon, where my husband was stationed with the Air Force at a Radar Installation.
My did we have wedding gifts. Items that would never be used in our new lives, such as silver platters, crystal bowls and such. However, my Mother's gifts were practical and wonderful.
Many months before our wedding when she shopped for groceries she bought two of everything. The result was a huge box of kitchen spices, canned goods and baking supplies. Never mind that I couldn't cook. But some 50 years later, I smile when I remember this beautiful gesture of practical love and wonder why we don't continue such practice. It was something to think of her each time I needed a spice for baking and how grateful I was to have it.
Mother and Dad also bought us a set of beautiful silver plated flatware for eight along with a set of china for eight. Thinking that I would live a life as I was raised. I've since passed this to my youngest son in hopes that he and his family will have more use for it than did I.
Set with linens, towels, kitchen pots and pans and doodads; table cloths, bedding and some knickknacks for the coffee table and wall, we headed for home.
Home was a small but lovely one bedroom attached to a lovely old earlly 1900 home belonging to an older woman and her grown son. We had a front and back door, small living room, kitchen with small eating area, bright sunlight shining through front windows; a small bedroom with a bathroom attached. It was lovely since it had original pieces such as a jelly cupboard with a flour bin built in. How I'd love to have that piece today.
Furnished, all we needed to do was make the bed, put away our things and live happily ever after.
That lasted a week. Reality of living as man and wife, making decisions we'd never had to even think of prior to this and balancing life on a budget of $150 per month. Can you imagine. Yes it was 1958, gas was probably around 50 cents per gallon and our rent was around $60 per month, but by the time we paid the rent, bought food, gas, paid the heat and water, garbage, there was nothing left and sometimes we went into the red before the monthly pay came again.
No TV in those days and we couldn't afford a telephone, so we were really on our own, both flying by the seats of our pants.
1958 Newly Weds in Burns, Oregon
As it was, Burn, Oregon was the birth place and family home of my father. I had family there who looked in on us from time to time with the benefit to me of getting to know them as an adult.
Burns is situated in the far eastern part of Oregon near Idaho and Nevada. It is sage brush and alkaline desert. Steens Mountains, the Blitzen River and Malheur Bird refuge. The town itself is tiny with then about 500 residents. The Hines Lumber mill was the main industry besides cattle and sheep when I was there, by then the lumber mill was lumbering along.
There was a small grocery, a Foster's Freeze, or Dairy Queen, a movie theater, a few restaurants and bars, some churches and one small 50 bed hospital. A sheriff whom I never saw or met and one Oregon State Trooper whom I did know and his wife who was the Head Nurse at the hospital.
I saw Johnny Horton and Buck Owens when they performed there. Didn't have a clue then who they were but enjoyed the show.
Being high desert, it was hot and dry in the summers and cold, very cold and dry with dry snow in the winters.
Few flowers or green dotted the landscape, but a lot of dust did.
I loved my cousins there and the time I had to know them. My father's sister owned a huge cattle range which she now was operating by herself since the death of her husband. I still marvel at the power and abilities, strength of this woman. My Aunt Myrthelene McPheeters Hughet.
She'd raised four children, taught school, was wife, mother and rancher. Because they lived 50 to 60 miles out of Burns, she was also doctor and nurse and veterinary, driver and all.
The children were educated in a one room school house along with neighboring ranch children, and when they became high school age, she bought a house in town in which they lived during their high school years. They came home to the ranch during holidays and school vacations and worked the ranch.
My cousin, Doris Yirarte, was the only remaining child when I was there. She had married a local man, Luke and they ran a smaller ranch near my Aunt's where they teamed up to run both places. They had two children who were then toddlers, Charlie and Harley. What incredible memories I have with the time I spent there.
Looking at them today always makes me smile. Especially onery, over active, always curious and in trouble, Harley and Charlie.
Today, Harley Yiarte is a very successful Head of Lane Community College Athletics Department in Eugene, Oregon who developed and runs a running camp high in the Steens Mountains where he was raised. What he teaches there, and, the kids who attend, turn them from troubled, unfocused, kids to strong men and women prepared to live life and contribute to society in which they live.
Harley has also raised his children with his wife, who died of Cancer, sadly, while their children in their teens.
Charlie, with one tour of Iraq with the Oregon National Guard was promoted to Brigadier General. He and his wife Chris, have raised two children as well.
I mention this because I am not surprised since a life on the ranch allowed these two young men to explore, test, grow, make mistakes and with the help of their parents grew into strong, capable men.
Doris and I had such good times when we were together. Despite the fact that I was a good 11 years younger, she opened here heart and home to me. She taught me to kill and prepare a chicken from her backyard for dinner as well as how to cook and garden. There is no way, today, that I would want to kill a chicken, but I could if needed.
Not long ago, I asked my granddaughter, Jessica, why she didn't make hamburgers from some ground beef that I'd purchased. Her response was disgust as she responded that one only cooked pre-made hamburger patties that she bought frozen, she couldn't fathom taking fresh ground beef and shaping them into patties for hamburgers. I was amazed.
I also noted the same was true with fresh broccoli. She will let it rot rather than cook it since she uses frozen broccoli.
Now I understand generation gap! What a different way of life. Better than mine? I am not so certain with all the food poisonings and additives added to packaged prepared foods used today. Somehow I think we had a healthier way of life. There certainly was little obesity then.
Burns was an ideal small town in which to begin life. We spent 3 years there. We "grew up' there and learned a lot about life.
My Aunt helped us so much in so many ways. At one time she let us move into her "city" home for the winter, rent free so that we had enough to pay for heating. She gave Alan work on the ranch when he wasn't working on Base. That meant that she housed and fed us for the week we would be there.
These were my happiest times. On the ranch, among the women and animals. I learned to drive out there on the alkaline desert, pickup truck, tractor, whatever. I wasn't a good horse rider, so avoided that, but liked being around them.
We learned how to live off the land from gardens that we planted to game hunted.
This led to my cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner.
First Holiday Meal
My young husband, still trying to figure out how to be a man and husband in 1958, went out hunting on the ranch for a goose, duck or whatever he could hunt. Home he came with a nice sized Canadian Goose which we decided would be our Thanksgiving meal.
He gives me the goose to clean and feather which was the tradition. As I'm taking off feathers in the middle of the kitchen floor, lice and other bugs began to appear all over, much to my chagrin! Ewwwwww I howl, but to deaf ears so I must figure out quickly how to handle this disgusting dilemma.
Finally, I finish up with it and refrigerate it to be cooked in a few days.
We invite another couple from the base to come join us in our feast. How many people got to have goose for Thanksgiving, it was indeed a bounty of wealth.
I began cooking in the early morning, set the table as festively as I could manage so that when our guests arrived the goose was just finished.
Alan was entertaining them in the living room as I took the goose out of the oven. It looked perfect and smelled so good. I announced that dinner was ready. They all came in and sat down to the table to await the arrival of the incredible bird.
I put it onto the platter, swooped it off the counter to triumphantly carry to the table for serving, when in one swell swoop the twenty pound bird flew off the platter and unceremoniously plopped onto the kitchen floor.
I was stunned, gasping at my beautiful feast, laying on the floor. Completely unaware of what I was to do. Was dinner ruined now? To the swearing of my husband and the hushed gasps of our guests, I picked up the bird, put it back on the platter and set it on the table. Nothing further was said.
I had the benefit of not only my Aunt and cousins, but neighbors who took this ignorant, ill prepared girl/woman under their kind wings and taught me woman's work.
A neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, who lived with her daughter and son-in-law was an incredible baker. She spent generous hours with me teaching me how to make breads and pies and other delightful desserts. I remember her patiently taking my hands to touch and feel the dough when it was kneaded just right for a perfect loaf of bread. Oh how the smell of fresh bread tugs on my heart even today. So rare today in homes.
My friend, Judy Johnson, taught me how to do laundry. When our husbands worked the same shift, she having the car, would either come get me or come stay at my home and we did laundry together. We ironed clothing in those days and there was a way to do it to perfection, especially our husbands uniforms. They had to have a military crisp pleat.
She, however, unlike me, starched and ironed her husbands shorts. My husband wore briefs so no ironing required. We did starch and iron our sheets, however. We had no dryers than. Our fresh washed clothing hung on a clothes line outside to dry, thus requiring they be ironed. Oh how good they smelled.
Unlike Judy, I didn't have a washing machine, so everything was hand washed in my bathtub. A real challenge when our first son arrived and diappers had to be cleaned and washed by me, daily, in the bathtub.
I remember cold,dry, snow-filled winters when laundry, diapers and such hung outside and dried stiff. So frozen they stood by themselves, but because it was a dry cold when they melted they were dry.
The summers were always scorchers with added heat coming from the red cinder rocks, black tar pavement, and alkaline desert.
One year, my cousin, Ole had planted a potatoed crop which was now ready for picking. He stopped by our little home, by then we had a one bedroom, small duplex at the top of the hill near the hospital, and left me a 50 pound bag of his potatoes. Turned out to be our only available food that month. I learned how to cook more potatoe dishes then anyone could imagine.
Ole was married to Audrey in those days. They had 4 children, I think and Ole had two more from his Navy years when he married Rose from New York. Audrey set her cap for Ole and Rose was divorced. This was before we arrived in Burns. Rose had moved and Ole and Audrey remained in town.
Fight. That is all I remember of them. Audrey would come visit and tell me of their latest battle. Both seemed to drink and when they drank the battles began.
In her own way, Audrey tried to teach me about life too.
Jack and Anna were hired help at the ranch. When my husband and I were there he was teamed with Jack and I with Anna. Anna and I cooked. What incredible meals. Breakfast was often bacan, sausage, steak, hashbrowns, eggs, toast, flapcakes, bisquits, jelly, butter ( real, fresh, churnned butter) milk, cream, oat meal and coffee. No one was fat.
I can still smell and taste those breakfasts.
Anna also gossiped. I'd never gossiped so this was new to me. Lessons learned, I learned not to gossip.
There was never an unkind act or word from either my Aunt Myrthelene or cousin Doris. I remember women who laughed a lot and worked hard, very hard. Capable, can do women who never complained and who simply accepted what was. They were happy and great to be around. Incredible women and incredible role models for me. How forunate I was.
Hormones, Inexperience, Discovering Life
Mercy! When I look back at my beginning life at 17 in 1958, I am chagrined at my behavior and what I didn't know. Princesses do not fare well in the "real" world. Especially with a Prince equally inexperienced.
How did they do it in preceding centuries? Were there any wise, educated people making choices responsibly, or, was I the only fool to begin and live life by the seat of my pants.
As time went by and we discovered that we didn't really know how to entertain ourselves, needed to get to know one another, our likes and dislikes, things were getting pretty rough. He drank, I hadn't. I drank, I didn't like getting sick. He worked, I didn't. He liked to party with the guys from the base, I didn't.
I was afraid. Always afraid. There was so much I didn't know and what I don't know scares me. The first night he went off to work and I was left alone in our little home. My imagination could create all kinds of noises and frights. Well, I had to get over that pretty darn fast.
I was pretty confident in what I was to do as a housekeeper. One area I was comfortable with. Being a wife. Good Grief. What was that all about. He was supposed to take care of me and I was to take care of his home, cook, clean, wash, iron and that. Was there more?
I became so insecure the more he partied. How dare he spend money without me. I'm stuck here at home with no car, and, he didn't even remember my birthday!
Than we had our first child. Now that was a real eye opener. Who were we to have a child let alone care for it. More stumbling around the unknown. Poor baby. I became more fearful and more clingy.
He became more distant and partied more. And so the two of us danced.
We did camp and fish a lot. Eastern Oregon is wonderful that way and we usually could afford gas to get to a fishing and camp site. Sometimes his folks would come over and camp for a week.
At 18 I was so hormonal. Totally unstable with hormone spikes, emotional, moody and perhaps depressed. Poor guy having to cope with that, a child, trying to feed a family and work. He drank.
He wasn't a nice drunk, unfortunately. Then he began to party too much with other women and it was becoming the norm.
I would over react and become hysterical, especially when he left me and the baby for two weeks without telling me he wouldn't be home. No car. No money. No telephone. No TV. No real friends. Too much pride to talk to a friend or relative.
I had a month's supply of baby food and that was it. For two weeks I fed my son and snuck a bite or two of his food to feed me. I was so hormonal and emotional that sleep wasn't an option so I sat up all night crying, trying to figure out what to do. Waiting for him to come home.
Finally, I called the base to see if they could help me find him. They did. He came home, given a slap on the wrist and I learned he had been with several women the past weeks.
I decided not to handle this news and decided to become hysterical. I don't know why. I just did. So I did. The doctor was called to come to the house and give me a shot. He was disgusted with me, the doctor. I didn't care.
After a day or so a new me arrived. Tougher, stronger.
I walked to town looking for work. No one would hire an 18 year old Air Force wife. i kept looking until I saw a sign in the window of the ElkHorn Cafe. Waitress Wanted. I walked into a large space with rows of tables to the left, a long counter with seats on the right running down to a huge stove, cook board space down to the wall, with more counter and stools in front of that.
Two older women were in the cook area. I walked up and asked about the job. One woman, blond and about 60 came forward, wiped her hands on a greecy whitish apron and asked if I had experience.
Sure do, I told her. She wanted to know where. I told her, Eugene and named a place. She wasn't going to make a phone call to Eugene, some 200 miles away. She hired me to start that night and work to 11 pm.
After working an hour or so with only the cook, Ruth, a tall dark haired, thin ranch woman with a mean face and a good heart. Ruth looked at me and called me over. Sternly she stated that she knew I had no experience and asked me to verify that. I did.
Well, before the boss gets in, let me show you some things so that she won't figure it out. With that she proceeded to show me how to carry the dishes, set the tables, counters and clean. Take orders. Then she cautioned me to stay out of the bosses way since she was an alcoholic and apt to come in and fire the entire crew. I tucked all the information away and got to work.
What a place! I felt like I was in a Western movie of an old west town in 1800. While Burns was indeed a ranch town with one long main street, it was 1959. I wasn't expecting 1800 old west.
In the back of the Elkhorn was a room that I never visited, but it was always full with alcohol flowing. I soon learned that it was a gambling room. Fights, loud and physical flowing out the side back door were every night events from that room.
One night, I looked up to see one of the "Skinner" brothers from a neighboring ranch town on his horse, whooping, swinging his hat, coming through the front doors of the Elkhorn. He was all tanked up and on a binge with his horse.
The nice thing about those days, boys could be boys and the law just didn't make everything a felony. Now I do miss that. Some of it was just down right fun, funny and good times. Outrageous at times but funny and not harmful. So the law would haul someone off and put them in jail for the night if it was real bad, but to sleep it off. No arrests made.
My cousin, Ole, was one to get tanked up and let off steam. On one such time, the law decided to stop him so he took of flying in his car heading for home figuring that he could out run the law. He was doing pretty good until the police got tired of the game and shot out his tires. He stopped. He spent the night in jail and was sent home with a good talking to. End of story. No harm done.
Common sense days. Neighbors talking to one another, fussing at one another sometimes, but talking things out. No calling the law to settle things.I do miss that.
The hormone ride was not fun during those years for me or my family. I was so grateful when at 30, I had a hysterectomy and the hormones quieted down.
World War II and After - The End of Innocence
Being born the year of Peal Harbor, through osmosis mostly, I absorbed "feelings," as an infant. This amazed me when in my twenties I discovered I really didn't like Asians very much. I had to sit myself down and examine this because this seemed irrational to me. I believe that it was the "tide" of feelings stemming from Pearl Harbor. With this knowledge and self examination, I was able to rid myself and learned to appreciate Asian culture and people.
I remember school in the 1940s with nostalgia and am sorry we no longer have rituals and patriotism as was abundant than. Pledge of Allegiance was a morning ritual at our school as was singing of My Country Ti's of Thee, or America. We all knew that we were Americans and we all knew how we became Americans.
We prayed Thanks to God at lunch and each knew that only by the Grace of God did we have food and the freedom to worship and learn and live free in America. I can still smell and taste our lunches. I remember smashed carrots, macaroni and pigs in a blanket.
We had wonderful, fun plays and music concerts; the Maypole where we danced with flowers in our hair holding crepe paper tails tied to the Maypole as we flew, skipped and hopped around the pole.
Absolute obedience at school were our instructions. Teachers had authority backed by parents and we learned. We learned to read, write, spell, and, we learned penmanship.
During the last of my first grade, I remember hearing grumblings from some of the students that some parents were no longer allowing teachers to spank or punish their children. These were grumblings of change that I recognized even then.
What I find a bit sad, was how unaware of world events I was. Here, history in the making all around me, every day in the 1940s, 50s and 1960s and I was vaguely aware. How was that?
Partly, I suppose, because we didn't have television until the mid 50s; radio and newspaper were the primary source of world events as well as what was deemed necessary to teach in school.
Also, because our parents tended to vail news off from us. They wanted to protect us from hearing "bad" things that might worry us or scare us.
I read events today that happened then and am appalled that I wasn't aware of it. These things shaped our very lives, everything that happened and was to happen.
Right or wrong, in my little corner of the world I was insulated from most of it.
What do I remember of the world back then?
Every year new cars were announced to a much enthusiastic public who couldn't wait to buy one or even two. My father driving up so proud because he got one of the first new Fords of the season.
Elvis Presley was just something on TV not a reality in my world as we simply were not allowed to listen to him. I wasn't allowed to go to parties or school dances or even to date or wear lipstick until I was 16, so none of this was a reality to me.
I do remember a sleep over at a girl's home who had a 45 record box and she was playing some singers and songs that I'd never heard of.
So basically, I slept through the 1940s and 50s. Lived in a fantasy world of orchards, fields of clover, creeks, dirt roads, and finally, learning to drive a car.
The late 1950s I was struggling to be married, wife and mother and by the mid 1960s I was consumed and struggling with being divorced and supporting two sons.
Just after my husband completed his service with the Air Force word came quietly around about something going to happen in Cuba and guys being called back up. Everyone held their breathe until the Bay of Pigs was over and they knew that they wouldn't be called.
Randy was just a few months old the morning is walked into the kitchen to fix breakfast for us when the news arrived. I couldn't breathe. I felt like I'd been hit by a bolt of lightening. I gasped. Listened again. Cried. Shock, absolute shock that our beloved John F. Kennedy had been killed.
For the rest of the day glued to the television only to be further shocked when Ruby shot and killed Oswald on national television. This was so far from any realm of reality for me, I had no idea how to handle my emotions.
Viet Nam is happening and has happened and I'm working and trying to make sense of what I knew, had and didn't have. Trying to get an education and work experience and make enough money to support we three.
Near the end of the 1960s Viet Nam came closer as young men my age, men I knew were returning. None the same as when they left. Whispers throughout the community of horrors to unspeakable to utter and of a deadly venereal disease that many were bring back with them.
Next thing I know the 1960s are gone and it's 1972 and I'm living in the San Francisco Bay Area trying to support we three and working three jobs.
Now it was Cults and children lost to brainwashing and mind control of the cults. The Zodiac Killer was on scene and Ted Bundy had just been jailed. Te Age of the Serial Killers was upon us, not the Age of Aquarius any more.
Flower children. No, they were all gone, that was the decade prior. I missed all of that too.
But, I was no longer innocence in the ways of the world. I'd changed, the world had now changed me.
I lived in Paradise. For me, my life as a child, in the 1940s and 1950s was an incredible time of peace, happiness, harmony, life well lived and almost a perfect world. How sad that it grew into 2008 in which no child is safe, children are killing one another, our youth's are lost to drugs before they are 18 years of age, there is no such thing as love and sex rather now to "hookup" rather than to date. To respect. Respect anything. To refer to your elders as Mr or Mrs or Miss or MS, anything to show respect. To care about how one looks, acts, feels, behaves. Apathy but more than apathy, anger and disregard for human dignity and kindness.
How did we go from my paradise 70 years ago to a complete opposite today? Somehow it feels as though we have slipped back into the days of the Wild West, the 1800s when the West was begun with absolute lawlessness and disregard for human life. Ironic.
Teenage Parents throughout History
From the norm to abnormal
If one looks back over eons or into tribes today in some third world countries, we find that teenage pregnancy is the norm. It made sense from the beginning of time to follow the bodies natural rhythm of things due to a short life expectancy. When a female child came into menses, regardless of age, she was impregnated or married if marriage was part of the tribal ritual. The law was procreation. Plain and simple. Love? What did love have to do with it?
When I listen to today's thinkers on this subject, it occurs to me that we are asking a perfectly normal function to be denied. This being harder and harder now as our daughters come into their menses at an earlier and earlier age often by age 8 or 9 as opposed to 12 and 13 years of age. Now here is a battle of hormones that I'm glad I don't have to face.
Our society believes that it is ignorant and harmful to have children at such a young age and, even, immoral and irresponsible.
So much for freedom of choice. I don't know the answer, only that had I not had my children at 18 and 22 years of age, I would have been denied them.
As it turned out my body developed endometreitis which would never have enabled me to carry a child, but because of my young age, I had my sons before this became a problem. I am so grateful.
However, there is no question, nor can I deny that in today's world, had I been older, financially more secure, more educated, my children would have suffered less and benefited more as would I. I would have liked that.
In the world where childhood parentage was the norm, there was a tribal structure in place that took care of the babies when the parents didn't know, and they took care of the parents as best they could. The tribe worked together as a whole to support the entire tribe. That simply doesn't exist any more in most places.
It did exist to some degree in the 1940s and 50s when I was a child, and even in the 1960s to some degree when my children were children. It was called neighborhoods. There was a definite code of behavior for a neighborhood. We knew, without doubt, that anything we did would be reported to our parents by a neighbor and we would suffer the consequences of our behavior and decisions when we arrived home. In effect, the children belonged to the neighborhood.
By the 1970s as people began to leave their communities moving into areas and neighborhoods where they were all strangers, this began to vanish.
I read of some of the tribes in Africa and South America where a child belongs to everyone; where a child is hugged close to a body and carried every minute of the day from birth to age 2 by mothers, sisters, aunts, neighbors; everyone takes responsibility for the children's rearing. What a beautiful world that sounds.
In these times, it is hard if not devastating on children of young parents. The children as well as the parents often become ill and are untreated due to ignorance or lack of money or both. Often children are left unattended while parents struggle to make ends meet or are too exhausted when not working to care about their responsibilities, or simply do not have the wherewithal to handle events. Often the turn to relief through the ease of drugs available so that they don't have face or feel the lack of their inabilities and youth.
What a sad commentary and what a contrast to the tribes who join in to take care of the beautiful offspring. But the neighborhoods as we knew them simply do not exist any longer. More often than not people living beside one another or across the street from one another do not know each other. Never speak to one another; rather than neighborhoods as we knew them, homes are little isolated entities, each very private from the other. It's nobodies business.
So, as Elvis once so beautifully and sadly sang, "...and another little baby is born in the Ghetto."
Nearly Seventy and Still Going
It is such a miracle for me when I realize that I am nearly 70. Looking back at flying by the seat of my pants, still flying by the seat of my pants, I am amazed.
On one hand, it is a heck of a way to live and learn. On the other, any plans that I made over the years were blasted out of any realm of reality. The saying that "We make plans, God laughs," is so true of my life.
How is it that other's can make and stick with plans. Make them work.
I did a few. I raised my sons, had a fabulous career, traveled as I'd planned to when I was a child dreaming of such other places. I made huge money, lived a rich, wealthy life and am poor again.
Scrapped myself up "by the boot straps," out of poverty into the world of Corporate America and a better life of money and what money could buy.
I found I was empty. So I didn't cry when life took me down a path of illness and scrambling until I finally lost it all. Somehow life is simpler when you have nothing to hang on to materially. I like it I find. No headaches.
I began to work at ridding myself of the need of material things just to have them around, rather keeping only what I need and use. Amazing how little we need.
I have no idea where I'll be tomorrow as life continually changes around me, whether I like it or not, and in order to live I must adapt. Sometimes I'm tired of the changes, but soon make the necessary adaptions to change myself to fit within it all.
When I think of my 91 year old mother and what she experienced and endured in her 91 years, I marvel. She had the ability to adapt. She remains strong, independent and continues to paint on porcelain china as was done in the Victorian era, now teaching a small group of followers learning her art.
She raised us with a strong Victorian principal. In her mind there was not guessing in child rearing or in living life, this is how it was done. Guidelines that were strong and firm, and, unrelenting.
I missed the lesson of her life living rules. Thus, made my own as I went along withing certain societal and legal frameworks. But as life roled on I saw that I needed to be reliant on myself, my life seemed to show me that no one but me would take care of me and my needs. So it was mine to do.
By 25 I was divorced (stupid thing to have done) and was supporting 2 sons, again, on low income. $350 per month. Ninty dollar house payment, one hundred dollar babysitting, leaving around $50 for food, gas, medical, utilities and heat.
I found another woman my age with two children who had been widowed to move in with us and split costs. Life got a little easier financially then.
This worked for a while and then, ever restless, I changed things again.
More money. I remember 1967, going into one of my bosses to ask for a raise. He said no. I told him that I did the same work as Scotty and had two children to support, I needed more money. He told me that Scotty was a married man with a family and that I should be married. End of discussion.
This went on until1972. As I hung around the University taking some classes, making friends, my confidence grew. I resigned, took my $2000 retirement fund and moved myself and sons to San Francisco area for a better job and life.
It took me two weeks to realize I'd made a huge error. No one would hire me. I hadn't even considered that I couldn't get a job. Finally, at a steel mill in industrial Army Street of San Francisco, I talked a woman into a job for which she claimed I was over qualified. I had to promise her one year. I did.
Money wasn't good though, so I worked at Starw Hat Pizza from 6 -11 pm Monday through Thursday and a small neighborhood bar in a neighboring city Friday and Saturday nights. This meant that my 13 and 11 year old sons were on their own most of the day. Lonely for them.
Doug, the eldest, took a job with a neighbor babysitting her child from 9pm to 3am and used his money to buy groceries. It wasn't unusual for me to fly in from the steel mill to change for the pizza hut and find dinner waiting on the table for me. Wow. meat, potatoes, gravy, vegetables and Doug proudly standing waiting for me.
Randy, my youngest suffered more from the time alone. Big brother was constantly in his face and he missed having an adult around.
After my year, things took off and I became a manager for a food distributor in South San Francisco. Fortunately, they moved their offices down the peninsula within 5 minutes of our apartment. Life was going smoother.
My sons grew up and left home, I stumbled around with what I wanted to do now, fighting empty nest blues.
My career ended after my final stint of some 10 years in my dream job in Silicon Valley from 1985. Travel, creating, meeting incredibly bright and talented people. Watching as an entirely new way of life evolved. It was incredible. An incredible time in my life and in history.
That is where I truly flew by the seat of my pants and was very successful.
More to come...
Golden Gate Bridge
I was thinking about ignorance. At 17 as I became a bride, a wife; at 18 as I became a mother - oh my what I didn't know and how many decisions were made in ignorance! Yes, as the old saying: "Ignorance is bliss." this is true. I had no idea the decisions that I made then were not necessarily educated decisions. Nonetheless, they were made and the consequences may never be seen, but, as my life evolved, I began to see the effects. Some good, some bad.
This has led me to think of children today. What has happened to our children! Is it ignorance or apathy?
How much of my ignorance contributed to today's children?
I see today's children, from an early age into their twenties, not all, but a significant number to cause me pause.
I note that respect is simply something they don't know. I'm talking basic respect for others and more frightening, respect for life. There seem to be little left of the value system that I knew and know. Common decency for life is gone.
One only has to look at the number of gangs in America, and in today's world, to know that human life, any life actually including animals, is something so many of our children of the world have little regard, if any. They kill and mame as easily as they eat a hamburger and laugh with their friends.
There are no consequences for them in taking a life. So sad a commentary that they often randomly drive by and shoot for sport.
Just as I, as a youth, shot jack rabbits whilst sitting on the fender of a pickup truck at dark, with the driver spot lighting the rabbits for us to shoot. I was under twenty at the time and ranchers considered these as vermin destroying their crops and land. Thus, they declared open season on these little creatures and encouraged us to kill as many as we could kill. Ignorance on my part for certain. But not until I aged did I come to realize this.
From what I know, by the time we humans reach our mid thirties, and certainly our forties, our hormones begin to calm down and settle and we become thinking feeling creatures. We are less ignorant. More compassionate and usually more humane in our actions and thinking.
So, can I conclude then, that what is happening today with our youth is a combination of ignorance and hormones? Perhaps, but I think added to the mix is a lot of apathy on both the part of the youth of today and their parents, should they have parents at home.
Youth run amok? Society taking advantage of youth to use them to meet their end goals?
Bill Cosby has heroically come forward, of late, to challenge his community stating that the lack of father's in the home is one of the major contributors to the problems today. He acknowledges that there is a disproportionate number of black men in prisons today, taking them away from their homes. However, he acknowledges, that many of these men didn't have a father in their homes, thus, as they produce children of their own, think nothing of leaving them to the mothers to rear.
I believe that this is true in many homes today, not just the black, asian or latin communities. The lack of responsibility to the family rests on the backs of their parents and perhaps the parents of the generation who reared the parents of today.
Looking back at my own childhood and count my blessings that I was raised in an intact home with two parents who did the best that they could to rear us with values, conscience, accountability for our own actions, respect for ourselves and for others; responsibility for ourselves and living creatures.
I believe that I raised my sons in this manner and I see that, for the most part, my son has and is raising his children in this manner. As did my brother and sister and cousins. And, as has our children. However, our childrens children, our grandchildren, are influenced by the society in which they live. They hear the thinking of today from RAP, other music and from children with whom they attend school and in the surrounding community. They are influenced.
I'm sorry to say that there are plenty of children with no home life, per se, raising themselves, joining gangs to form their communities and values. Is there a night that goes by without reading in the newspaper or hearing on the news that a drive-by shooting has happened, usually killing some innocent young child or young adult in the community?
Will there be any one left to mature into adulthood becoming less inhumane and more responsible and accountable for their actions. Setting up role models and establishing good, decent neighborhoods once again?
I also have come to believe that the religious values taught to so many of us in the 1950s shaped who we are in a very positive manner. That this has been taken from our homes, our schools, our communities and our country is responsible for the lack of morals and values --- respect for others and ourselves so rampart today.
Further, when we were children, we were taught to respect and even take pride in our country. We, daily, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and understood what that meant as well as what it meant to live in a free society. There is no pride for our country today. No values taught to our young about this country.
Has our world evolved and changed so much from the 1950s that there is no going back? Is our world to be a world of violence and the "Shootout at OK Corral?" Back in history to the days of the wild west? But this time with more cruelty and violence made possible by the inventions discovered in the past 108 years? New weaponry, new methods of torture, new methods of killing?
How does one address the issues of ignorance, hormones, and apathy in our youth? I don't know the answer, but it seems to me that my parents had it right. They raised us to understand accountability and the consequences of our actions along with responsibility. Values and respect seem to be missing today. We were given huge doses of values and respect. Somehow, this seemed to counter our thoughts when hormones raged out of control. We were better able to control our impulses. I believe because we knew there were consequences to our actions and things that are happening today simply were not tolerated by the community.
It makes me sad to remember my own ignorance. Knowing that someone important to me sanctioned our actions makes me wonder who sanctions the actions of youth today?
From my life experiences and education, I have come to conclude that children left to their own devices will do what they believe is necessary to do in order to survive. What ever is in their realm of reality, what they have learned in their short lives, that seem to work is what they will do.
It is my belief that we each do what we must do in order to survive. There are events in our lives, in our world, in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our homes, that, given the right combination, circumstances, can make the strongest, the best, the most righteous of us become inhumane individuals capable of the most heinous of actions.
I have been fortunate to meet and know numerous people from various countries who have escaped to the US in order to escape death, imprisonment, persecution, and other atrocities of a war torn country, who did things they never dreamed possible of themselves in order to escape. Talking of it wasn't a prideful thing, but neither was it shameful nor remorseful, they simply did what was necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones.
However, as Viktor E. Frankl wrote in his "Man's Search for Meaning," every man is capable of making the decision of how he/she will live his/her life and by what values they will adhere to and when.
He pointed out that in the prison camps of Germany, he and his fellow Jewish inmates had to decide every moment whether to be kind to his fellow inmates or, to gain more food, more privileges, to shut them out and do what was necessary to survive. He chose the latter. He was able to hold his values and survive the horrors of the camps, the death of his wife and family and to go on to live a meaningful and contributing life to society. Many, however, succumbed to the need to survive and inflicted horrible, inhumane atrocities upon fellow inmates, even death.
Am I suggesting then that we forgive these children? Perhaps. But mostly, I am suggesting that through understanding of the world in which they live, we ask our selves: to what degree are we responsible? How have we contributed to the world in which they live? The world which is their reality?
Can we do anything about this now? I believe that we can through understanding and by taking responsibility for the role(s) in which we contributed to their reality.
Why is Bill Cosby the only public figure to stand up and say; "enough!" Where are other leaders in our country?
What can we, you, do about this? Why aren't we collectively addressing this issue now?
It is in our backyards. Now! Will we allow it? Will we simply continue to turn the other way?
Life by the seat of my pants has taught me many things, taught me well. It may not have been the best way to live life, but, I believe that I learned much more through my experience than I would have learned through books.
As I grew older, formal education became important and so today I am a combination of the two. My thinking and my actions. Relevant or not, it is who I am, what made me who I am today.
My Battle Cry in Life
Life has given me so much -- a rich, rich life of experiences on which to draw from, good, bad, beautiful, ugly, sorrow, happiness, tremendous pain and tremendous pleasure; an entire huge range of emotions, situations and events that have shaped my very being into who and what I am today. Right or wrong, these are mine and this is who I am, who I became.
From my beginnings, I've had a perpencity to "jump" into things without looking first at all avenues. Living by the seat of my pants.
As I'm jumping in, unforseen by me, obstacles pop up and I see that I should have taken a few minutes to stop and examine where I was headed and to ensure that I had the tools to handle the issues and things in my way. Road mines a plenty. Oooooops!
So jumping into a new situation, discovering the obstacles that I hadn't expected or planned for, my battle cry has always been: "Oh, Shit!"
With that, I make an abrupt stop, assess my obstacles and head into it in fighting mode, determined to win, regardless. I always won.
It is with no doubt that living by the seat of my pants inspired my battle cry. I should have this enscribed on my tomb stone since I have no doubts that my dying words are going to be: "Oh Shit."
Me? The Odd One?
We Are the Sum Total of Our Life Experience
Ignorance IS Bliss. I've learned that the "more I know, the more I don't know." When life for me was in a tunnel, a world with little communication of global events, isolated and cushioned from the day to day realities of the "real" world, I was happy. No real burdens, challenges or problems to work through. Life existed in my tiny box in the world, comfortable and untroubled. How peaceful it was.
Working in Silicon Valley in the early 1980s, I was so very excited with the possibilities of a global world. Each day as new technology was discovered bringing us closer to the Information Technology Age, the excitement grew. The possibilities of this new world village were innumerable. Not at all overwhelming, just innumerable. Hope. Perhaps of a kinder world.
So close to the super highway that would transport us into the new Century of the Information Age. Being part of it, in even a small way was stimulating and incredibly rewarding. Working with some of the greatest minds on earth was the most beautiful thing I'd ever experienced.
One of my first assignments in this arena came when I took a consulting job writing market analyses and surveys for Low End Computer Printers in 1984. I was paid $8000 to conduct the survey and analyses in a twelve month period.
At this point my only knowledge of computers came from the mid 1960s when I worked for a municipality that had installed an IBM mainframe. A huge behemoth that mandated an entire air cooled room to itself. The language was FORTRAN which we all took classes in. Unfortunately, this did not spark any great creativity in me nor excitement for the future. It just was. No big deal, another business machine.
However, excited murmurings were beginning in the early 1980s when a friend was working for "this guy," Stephen Jobs, as Mary said, at some place called "Apple Computer." Apple had given her and all its employees one of their new products for their personal use; an Apple computer.
After nine months of interviewing entrepreneurs in the industry making and using computers, I concluded from the data gathered that the US markets were sagging well behind the competitive Japanese markets in price and features of dot matrix printers.
Upon accepting the assignment, I went out looking for a computer. I bought a Kaypro computer with a Word software program. Took it home, unpacked it from the box and set it up.
Days and days of frustration! Trying to learn the Word software. Actual tears and the desire to throw the entire thing out the window. Finally, after a few weeks and trips back to the vendor, I learned how to make it work.
I did my best work in the wee hours of the mornings. On one such morning around 3 A.M. I'd been working some five hours on a chapter of data compilation and conclusions, I hadn't yet learned to "save" my material at intervals. Yep. That's right. A core dump lost it all.
No way to bring it back. Gone. Five hours of work and good work. That is how we learned to backup and save our work. Hard lesson.
This published study and work led me into Silicon Valley where I went to work for a small start-up. Unix was the word of the day and relational data base was just forming.
Email was a constant battle within the company network. Gates crashed and loads dumped as groans filtered throughout the company could and would be heard coming from the various offices of those of us who just lost a day's work to the crash.
It wasn't a perfect world, but still better than it had been. Faster, more accurate with definite promise of things to come.
It went fast. Within a year the company went public with each employee now owning stock in our company. Stock options were part of our package in this new work environment run by 30 and under 30 year olds who were determined to share the wealth.
One year later I was in the air traveling Europe, mid West, East coast and around the US on company business. My dream job.
We were high rollers in those early days. Limos, first class and business class air fare, fine hotels and restaurants where ever we went in the world. We were also very accountable on a day to day basis. No one could sit on their "laurels," not for even one minute.
There was great satisfaction in this. No one had doubts of self worth since one was judged moment by moment on what could be and was accomplished towards the end goal.
It was fast and furious. Decisions had to be made on the spot. Employees were empowered to make decisions on the spot. Those who didn't or couldn't were gone. Simple as that.
Business on the seat of my pants, just as my life was lived.
To say that I made it in that environment for over ten years is a testament to my capabilities, may or may not be accurate. But I was alive. Vibrant, In my milieu and I loved every minute of it. What a time to be alive. What marvels to witness.
People we meet along the way of life, those we select, those we don't, to include in our daily life; albeit for a short while, become a part of ourselves.
Their experiences in life become our own, even if through osmosis. Adding to the fabric of our souls, our being. Fashioning the decisions we make and don't make.
I seemed to prefer tribal people. That is people who worked as a whole for the greater good; a family unit to provide for the entire family. Working and living together to support the needs of the family.
That small community broadened into a larger community building a place in which to live that was safe, peaceful and clean.
It was a system that worked well for me and my children. None existed. It was up to me to build it from strangers of like mind. Not a hippie commune, rather a few other families who valued what I valued and were willing to join together and form an alliance of support.
To this end, when my younger son turned 15 and was in need of male bonding, he nearly lived at a friend's home where there was a in-tac family consisting of mother, father, sister and his friend the only son who was the same age as mine.
In this manner, he went on family outings with them, joined them in church and daily activities, dinner and spent the night getting up to go to school.
He grew as a result. This I couldn't have given him without our extended family, our tribe, if you will.
The Circle of Life
To be fortunate to live this long is a wonderful thing. There is more time now since there is little that must be done. I was born, I went to school, I grew into adulthood, I was educated, I had a career of over 35 years, I was married, I gave birth to two sons, I raised my sons into adulthood, I have grandchildren and I have a great grandson. I am enjoying decent health, am "active," interact with others, and have time to pursue the things that I enjoy.
Life is less frenetic. Decisions are easier. Problems are less urgent. "Things," don't bother me so much. I'm less apt to worry about what somebody else thinks of me or what I do. Whether they like me or not. I'm no longer "driven," by desires, dreams or wants.
I have more time and less complications in my life to allow me to think about, rather than react to, situations that arise. I still fly by the seat of my pants, but much less now. I have a data base of experiences on which to fall back on.
As I reflect on my life's experience and think of who I am today, who I was and who I became, I see the path of my learning and the texture of the fabric that makes up who I now am.
Now, I would like to live in a San Francisco flat with room enough to set up my paints and to accept visitors for afternoon coffee, lovely, quiet dinners and evening chats. Walk to the markets and watch the people on the streets or at the Wharf. Walk to the Theater for a night of entertainment. Sit on the beach and watch the boats and the sea gulls. Spend lazy afternoons in North Beach sipping cappuccino and enjoying the pastries found only in North Beach.
Or to live in Oceanside in southern California where the air is kissed by the ocean breeze and the beaches beg you to walk barefoot in the sand or sit soaking up the warm sun and breathe in the sea air.
This is who I am. But life has a way of telling us no. I no longer have the financial means to live the life I think I want.
At this moment in my life, I must decide who I am and also how to mesh that with my income. I must seek alternatives to who I am and adjust my needs and desires within those parameters.
There is a place in Utah, Dog Town. How I would love to live there and be a part of this organization. To fulfill my maternal instincts by working with this sanctuary of unwanted, abused, injured animals. This is a no kill sanctuary filled with exotic birds, animals, dogs, puppies, cats, kittens... I can see myself there. Happily working amongst the people and animals. Having a passion fulfilled. Will I seek it out?
Or will I take an easier route staying within an hour or so of my son and his family? An area in which I have medical care sufficient to meet my needs rather than rely on Medicare alone? Decisions I must now make.
I'm very happy with what I have and I've learned that I don't need much. Yes, it was very comfortable when I had money to have a large home with lovely furnishings and money to do as I wished. But I didn't need all that to be happy.
At this time in my life, I find that I want the things of my youth. Things that brought me joy, contentment and peace. I want the over-stuffed, english chintz covered chair and sofa. Grandfather's and cuckoo clock. A matched bedroom suite with big feather comforter and lots of pillows. A small formal dining table and chairs. Art on the wall. China plates and tea sets and cups and saucers in my china hutch. Silver utinsils to eat with and matching china to eat off. Books from the 1950s and before on my book shelves to read. They were somehow sweeter than. More left to the imagination. I want the smell of Yardley's in my bathroom and April Violets around my bed. These are the things of my english grandparents and mother. The home of my youth. These things around me comfort me.
Watching my 2 1/2 year old great grandson, Jeremiah, has been such an eye opener. To see him now, at my age, and remember how I saw my sons at this age amazes me. To think that I viewed my sons as babies at this age and probably treated them as such.
I see Jeremiah so differently. Perhaps more accurately than my sons. He is by no means a baby. He is smart, demonstrative, manipulative, delightful and funny. What a sense of humor. He loves to tease and is very aware that he is teasing. He plots and plans. Is curious and fearless.
It amazes me how quickly he learns and accomplishes a task in learning.
I also see the circle in life now. Never before was I aware of it. As I become aware of the changes in my own body I see such parallel between Jeremiah and me.
Jeremiah, as all new Born's, began life completely helpless. His bodily functions were not developed so he had to depend on his mother to care for him. Feed him, exercise him, teach him to talk, walk and keep his diaper changed. His mother will think for him until he can learn to do this for himself.
For Jeremiah it is an exciting time and a promise of the future for things a head of him. So much coming for him to experience and learn. So much potential
As I age, my bodily functions begin to fail. Little things really, at least at this age. But nonetheless if you pay attention one notices the changes.
Eventually, should I live long enough, things will fail sufficiently that I will again become dependent on a care taker for my daily needs.
At this stage of life, there are memories of things that we experienced, accomplished, places that we visited, people we knew -- so very much behind us, in the past. So little a head of us. We've used our time. Spent our moments. Now we pass the time until our time comes to leave this body and this earth.
Not everyone experiences this last stage of natural life, many do. It isn't a sad time. It is simply the last phase of our lives to be embraced and cherished.