Summer breezes played tag in the shade under the thin stand of trees. Balanced on the back of a horse plodding slowly behind three other horses, I looked around, loving the earthy woodland smell and the sound of calling jays. Coming to visit this “Dude Ranch” with my sister-in-law had been a good idea; she loved horses.
Hot sun dappled through the tall tree-top canopy. Deer flies buzzed annoyingly around my head, always staying out of slap range. Suddenly, my horse began to run. I bounced around on the leather saddle like the tenderfoot I was. Then I began slipping more and more to one side until finally I crash-landed beneath the horse. Miraculously, the horse stopped running and didn’t step on me. I rolled away from its hooves.
An hour later, none-the-worse-for-wear, I sat in my mobile home living room visiting with Arnie’s sister, Ann. Four years younger than my husband and married for just one year, my sister-in-law told me her husband had gone to visit Alaska. A cool breeze fluttered the light nylon curtain at one of the open windows.
Ann said, “Ben wants to stay. He told me to get airplane tickets and come join him.” I had done very little travel in my lifetime. I was sure Ann had done even less. My only flight experience was a 15-minute buzz over Marshfield in a small plane with Daddy when the airport opened in 1960. On that late summer afternoon, Ann was 21 and I, 24.
Did the idea of flying to Alaska alone scare Ann? Then, an idea popped into my head and I blurted it out, “I’ll go to Alaska with you!” The idea gained momentum in my mind, like an avalanche sliding down the steepest slope on Mount McKinley. It never occurred to me to consult Arnie, my husband. For that matter, it never even entered my mind to ask him if he wanted to come with us. In my totally self-focused state, I began to make plans. Continue reading
I stared sadly at my reflection in the mirror. Why didn’t I look normal, like other people? A huge pimple on my chin positively glowed. It didn’t help that I’d been pinching it. Guiltily, I remembered Mom telling me not to do that.
My wispy, baby-soft hair laid flat against my scalp. How I hated my hair!
What I hated the most about my appearance, though, was my body. I felt fat, awkward and overly-developed. When I was 12 years-old and in the sixth grade, I developed the body of a middle-aged lady. Mom told me that it would stream-line as I got older. I wondered when that was going to happen. Here I was, 15 years-of-age and still looking like a circus-side-show misfit.
All six of my siblings were older than me. Each one was good-looking and had style. I admired how they dressed, the colors they each seemed to prefer. Mom told me to stop comparing myself to them, to be patient. She seemed to expect her ugly-duckling daughter would soon transform into a swan. Continue reading
When Mom said to my brother Casper, “They’re going to live in the top floor apartment of the old convent,” I suddenly became aware of the conversation at the table. Putting down the huge hamburger I’d been about to bite into, I waited to hear more.
When nothing more was said, I frowned and blurted, “What? Who’s going to live there?” Self-absorbed at fourteen-years of age, I often missed a lot of what was going on around me.
Mom prompted, “Riet and her two boys…” Seeing my puzzled expression she explained, “Fritz and Riet are friends of Agnes and Jim. They met when Jim and Fritz were stationed together in Germany.”
I nodded. When the Berlin wall crisis began five years before, my brother-in-law Jim joined the army and was deployed to Augsburg, Germany. My sister Agnes and one-year-old nephew went with him. Although both Fritz and his wife Riet were born in the Netherlands, Fritz was in the US army with Jim. Riet and Agnes became good friends.
Once I realized who we were talking about, I questioned with surprise, “Just Riet and her two boys? Where will Fritz be?”
My brother Billy said grimly, “In Vietnam. There’s a war being fought there, you know. Riet and their children can’t go with him because of that.” Continue reading
I loved the smell of coffee. To my seven-year-old nose it smelled rich and exotic. I’d come to recognize that when the scent of coffee was in the air, it meant that Mom and Daddy were in the kitchen having breakfast, or that company was visiting. Tasting it was out of the question, though, so I never tried. Mom said coffee was for grownups and, “Besides, it’s bitter and you wouldn’t like it.”
Daddy had milked our herd of cows before I’d even slid out of bed that morning, so he needed a good breakfast. Why he drank bitter coffee with it, I just wasn’t sure. There had to be something wonderful about it other than its great smell.
After having his breakfast, Daddy backed the family car out of the garage and patiently waited for us children to get in so he could drive us to school. I was in first grade that spring.
Our school and church were together in one big brick building. Next to it, looking for all the world like a very large farmhouse, was a three-story convent where the sisters who taught us lived. Continue reading