1940 N. Limestone Street
When youre young, you can pretty much face anything life throws at you.
It was the early 70s when we lived there.
1940 N. Limestone St. in Springfield, Ohio.
We were young newlyweds and about to become first time parents.
Oh, we were so young! Twenty one seems ancient until you become 63!
We had never lived away from home, neither of us. Moving from a city like Cincinnati to a city like Springfield was culture shock. If you werent born and raised in Springfield, people were skeptical of you. It was small town Americana, complete with sidewalks that folded up at 10pm.
We moved when I was almost 9 months pregnant with Shannon. First babies rarely live by our schedules and she was no exception. My due date was around Thanksgiving of 1972 and she arrived the first week of November. We went back to Cincinnati for her birth and stayed for several weeks afterward while doctors ran genetic tests on us. Shannon was born with Down Syndrome and genetic studies were an important element for parents of a DS child, but especially ones as young as we were.
We went back to Springfield and settled down into our lives. Im not ashamed to admit that those first months were probably the darkest times I have ever known. I felt completely alone. Cut off from friends and family. We couldnt afford long distance calls (yeah, no cell phones back then) and driving back and forth to Cincinnati in our 1968 Pontiac Tempest, was not only expensive, but time consuming and even tho we did it more than we probably should have, we always knew that we were only visiting. Home was a 4 family, one bedroom apartment complete with garage!
We were poor. I had $15 per week for groceries and necessities, and believe me..they were the bare necessities! I shopped at Big Bear and I religiously clipped coupons, bought meat from the "old meat" bin and before it wasnt safe to do it, Id buy the dented cans of vegetables. I learned to stretch a buck long before Martha Stewart ever gave her first piece of advice! Pasta and rice and potatoes were my friends and they served me well.
I kept a little pocket calculator in my purse so I always knew before I got to the checkout if I was close. I can remember sweating bullets waiting for the final amount. What if I had made a mistake? What if something was priced wrong? I laugh now because I truly can remember feeling anxious over having to put something back.
We couldnt afford snacks, so we ate potatoes. Odd? Yes. But they filled us up and they were cheap. Our biggest splurge was diaper service for Shannon. We didnt have a washer or dryer and Pampers were relatively new to the market and horrendously expensive. So for $7 a week we had 90 fresh, clean, sweet smelling diapers delivered to our door. Shannon never had diaper rash and I didnt have to wash dirty diapers.
We had a 13 inch black and white television that pretty much saved my life. With only one car, I didnt get out much during the day. TV truly became a lifeline in those early days. Regular nighttime shows back then were All in the Family, Maude, Mash, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, The Waltons, the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family. VCR's hadnt been invented yet, so if you missed a week, you waited for summer when the reruns were on.
We missed seeing our beloved Reds at Riverfront. Even in those days of unbelievably cheap prices, going to a game was impossible with a baby and a long drive. Most games that were televised, we couldnt pick up since we lived so far outside the normal viewing area, so we settled for radio play by play. This was the era of the Big Red Machine and Al Michaels play by play. When I look back to those days, one of my fondest memories was of sitting at the kitchen table with the windows open, listening to the Reds play ball.
Life was simple back then, but we didnt realize it. We were full of hopes and dreams and as much as we didnt like Springfield, there was excitement and an adult feeling of being married, living on our own and being parents.
WE had arrived! Look out world! Sallie and Mike Mullinger could do anything!
Having one car meant if I wanted to have the car for the day, I would get up early with Mike, get Shannon dressed and drive him to work. If he worked the 9-9 shift (what was I thinking?) I would pack her up at night and pick him up. I had to do this once a week so that I could go to the laundromat. Dragging baskets of clothes and a baby and all the paraphernalia that goes with a baby and then sitting for a few hours in a laundromat, built character. At least thats what I told myself!
I learned to explore the city. Shannon and I, in her little "pumpkin seat" would drive all over getting to know street names and stores etc. We haunted thrift shops. In those days, forget any sort of decorating budget. But since Ive always been a frustrated designer, I found that imagination really is the mother of invention. I saved every cent I could scrounge up and bought second hand cafe curtains for the kitchen window for pennies. I found beautiful, old things, cast away by someone who no longer needed or wanted them, in those thrift shops, and I took them home and found a new life for them. It mattered not that it wasnt "brand new". It was new enough for me and I would get excited each time I had a new treasure that cost me next to nothing, but made our little home warm and welcoming.
Our apartment did not have either a stove or a refrigerator so we had to buy both second hand. The stove was truly an antique! It stood on legs! I didnt care as long as it cooked and it did. The refrigerator was old and ugly, but I spray painted it yellow to go with the rest of the kitchen. Its amazing what you make do with when you have few choices.
I bought orange crates and nailed them together, one on top of the other. I painted them black and they stood in the corner of the dining room part of our kitchen. They held the "everyday" dishes I had found at a thrift store. I screwed eye hooks into the insides of the orange crates and hung the coffee cups. I wish I had pictures of it because as strange as it sounds, it was really unique and very functional. The living room had a non working fireplace. I collected wine bottles and back in those days, my mother in law would buy a certain wine that came in a beautiful jug type container. She would give those to me and I would scour the countryside looking for dried flowers and cat tails and anything that I could preserve and put into those wine bottles. Some of them I would spray paint black. They sat on the hearth of that fireplace and in my 22 year old mind they looked like something out of a magazine.
If you were REALLY cool back then, you decorated in the Spanish or Mediterranean style. That meant lots of black and red. I found a black, "leather" loveseat at a second hand furniture store. It was $50 but might as well have been 50K because I didnt have $50. The store owner knew I wanted it and he let me take it home and I paid him whatever I could, every week, until it was paid off. I cant remember his name, cant even remember the name of his little store, but I will always remember his kindness and his trust and the smile he put on my face when I took that loveseat home.
Mike "built" us shelving for our stereo and speakers, some college books and our little TV. He used cheap pieces of wood which we stained and then he took decorative chain and attached the chain to the shelves so that they looked like "swings". Then he drilled into the plaster walls and I got my first lesson in toggle/molly bolts and how they can hold almost anything. I loved those shelves and we used them for many years, even after we left that apartment.
I marvel at my ability to do things back then! I refinished my childhood chest of drawers and bed frame, which had now become our "bedroom suite" Night after night in the basement of that 4 family apartment, I would sand ( by hand) and smooth and dust those pieces until they were ready to stain. I was so proud of the way they turned out. I found old picture frames at thrift stores and I would bring them home and repaint them and put photographs of Shannon or wedding pics in them. I was big into decoupage which was very popular back then. I decoupaged our wedding invitation and pictures of us on our honeymoon and mounted them on pieces of wood that I had sanded and stained.
We were really too poor to buy Christmas cards, so we made our own. Mikes dream was to have been an architect, but lack of money and determination to stick it out gave way to me and marriage, so he never finished school. But that didnt mean he couldnt draw and he made the most beautiful star of Bethlehem that year for our Christmas card. It was 3 dimensional and we colored it with colored pencils, poked a hole in the top and strung fishing wire thru it so that people could hang it on their tree. On the back of the card we wrote a greeting from Mike, Sallie and Shannon wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. He even managed to make the envelopes.
I often wonder, all these years later, if anyone might still have one of those "cards".
We had a great pen and ink drawing of the Cincinnati Riverfront. It was a huge print and I couldnt afford to frame it. But it was the perfect size for above the "new" loveseat. We bought more decorative chain, in black, and we nailed it around the print and voila! We had a frame!
It was important to me to make a home for my little family. Maybe it was because we were so far away from our families that it meant so much to me to "nest". But I wanted it to be a haven. And looking back, I think we accomplished exactly that. We certainly didnt have much and as Ive said, much of it was homespun, homemade, handmade. But it was all ours and there was pride and satisfaction in making the best and doing what we could with what we had.
There were challenges. There was loneliness and sometimes even despair over worries about money. Our rent was $75 a month. Our utility bill was $9 a month. Gasoline was $.40 per gallon and stamps were $.08 each. We scrimped and saved for clothing and Christmas presents and I learned to make crafts and sell them to earn a few extra dollars.
We managed, but it was always tight and we always held our breath when we wrote a check, knowing full well that we didnt have the money to cover it until a few days later. Yeah, we got burned a few times and we learned hard lessons. But we DID learn and we grew. We depended on each other. Shannon was a challenge but it was a good challenge because I began learning things about myself and we both dug deeper to become her advocates and teachers. Hours upon hours I would sit with her on the living room floor teaching her to put the round peg into the round hole and the square peg into the square hole. It seemed like she would never get it and then one day...she did it!
I remember rushing to the door when I heard Mikes key and dragging him into the living room to show him what she could do! Simple pleasures, but oh the pride we felt!
I learned patience..something I was in short supply of. Teaching Shannon meant I had to be patient for while she could learn..she learned things slowly.
I also learned to love her. I wasnt sure I could. I wasnt much more than a child myself and had never been around babies and was completely unprepared for this special needs child that God had sent us. You might think there was something not quite right about not being sure I could love my own child and perhaps you would be right. But I can vividly remember holding her as a newborn and wondering if I really COULD ever love her. I know now, that I was frightened beyond belief at what might lie ahead of us. The fear of the unknown is almost always worse than reality.
I leaned on Mike so much in those days because he knew that everything would work out and I needed that strength to get me thru.
We listened to Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown on the radio and we both cried when Jim Croce died that year. We knew we were changing and that the world around us was changing too. We no longer drank and partied until the wee hours. We had become adults with responsibilities and we didnt see it coming. In those early years, this becoming adults stuff was sometimes painful and sometimes scary, but we found strength in knowing that we were building something.
We have more now. We dont worry about money the way we did back then. Life took over and we raised 4 wonderful people. I no longer worry when I grocery shop about overspending. And we dont think twice about going out to eat or spending money on things that might seem frivolous. But there was something about that time that built into us a spirit that I dont think we've ever lost. I never take for granted what we do have now and there will always be a part of that young girl still alive in me.
I miss those days of innocence. Life has a way of hurling you forward and not giving you time to look back and remember until its many years later and then you wish you had it all back.
Looking back...I realize something. I thought I hated those years. I thought I hated that little town of Springfield, Ohio. I thought I had awful memories of that time. I know now, that it was the best and yes, maybe the worst, of times. But we learned to rely on ourselves and each other and I think we both really did feel that it was "you and me against the world".