Sunday, May 28, 2006

Auntie M

Aunt Marti & Heidi, May 30, 2004
My journal jar question for today is “Describe a favorite Aunt.” Now, I hate to choose favorites, especially when I have had so many good experiences with all of my aunts. But the Auntie I am closest to (the one I’ve had the longest) is my Aunt Marti, my mom’s younger sister.

Maybe our closeness started when I was born on her 17th birthday. Maybe because we had a few years together before she had her own kids (I know how great it is to be the single, “fun” aunt). Anyway, we bonded and have done lots together over the past 35 years.

For my blessing day in October 1971, she bought me a beautiful christening dress—three layers of fluffy white with the most beautiful embroidery and matching bonnet. It was so special to put that dress on Addie for her blessing day.

Aunt Marti has earned several nicknames, the most popular being “Auntie M,” “Aunt Party,” and my nephews even used to call her “Aunt Mommy.” She’s called Aunt Party by Willy and me because we always had a party at her house and our friends were even welcome there. We were much older than her kids, but we used to hang out there and torture my little cousins and it was always a fun get-away.

Aunt Marti’s personality is intense. Sometimes I chuckle when I imagine her and my mother as young girls because they have two very big personalities (like my girls)—I imagine lots of drama and fun, just like my house! She is very serious about living the gospel, but also about having fun, doing things right, being honest, getting to know and help other people. She is also humble, though, and has been as willing to learn from me as I have been to learn from her. That always makes her more comfortable to be around—a friend as well as an Aunt.

On my 29th birthday, she called me and said, “We’re finally the same age!” Heh, heh. And we will be now, forever!!

I always appreciated Aunt Marti’s interest in my life. Now that I am a mom with a home and kids to care for myself, I know what a sacrifice it must have been for her to wait up for me when I came to visit and to stay up late and talk. I know it must have been hard to watch me grow up and make stupid mistakes and still be one of my greatest fans. I have learned so much from her example as a woman, mother, and friend, and from her and Uncle Ralph as parents. They showed me that if you set a family standard and goal and never waiver, eventually all your kids will come around and be really decent people. My Mayberry cousins are all really cool and so much fun to be around. I hope I can be the kind of mom who raises that kind of family. I hope I can be the kind of friend, daughter, and Aunt the she has been. I hope we get to spend lots more of our birthdays together, even though we’re almost 1400 miles apart these days.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Books and Me

My journal jar question of the day is "What is your favorite book? What do books mean to you?" Well...let's start with one of the first books I ever bought for myself from the little book orders we got in kindergarten. My mom is probably freaking out seeing this book because she had to read it to me so many times. I was obsessed, and I think the obsession started with the rich illustrations--they are beautiful! I studied each page and memorized all the little things on Margaret's ship. And then I imagined them while playing "Maggie B." with my poor unsuspecting little brother, Willy. I loved this book so much that, on Rich's first Father's Day when we were expecting Addie, I bought him this book to read to her, along with his favorite book (There's A Monster At the End of This Book) from childhood.

I read lots of books in school that I loved and re-read, but none so much as this one by Annie Dillard (except maybe Pilgrim at Tinker Creek). The only thing I can say to describe why I love it so much is that maybe we are kindred spirits. She is FAR more eloquent and well-read than I will ever be, but her thought processes--the way she connects bits of information, observations, memories, etc., are familiar to me. The first piece I ever read by her was an essay called "Seeing,"--part of Pilgrim now--and I was blown away about how she connected her observations in nature with her childhood memories, art training, faith, etc. I was amazed to read about some one who thinks like I think. Or thought like I thought as a child. So this memoir of her childhood--a pretty happy childhood-- was so much fun to read. I love the things she remembers and the way they affected her adult life. Here is a review of the book from amazon:

Annie Dillard remembers. She remembers the exhilaration of whipping a snowball at a car and having it hit straight on. She remembers playing with the skin on her mother's knuckles, which "didn't snap back; it lay dead across her knuckle in a yellowish ridge." She remembers the compulsion to spend a whole afternoon (or many whole afternoons) endlessly pitching a ball at a target. In this intoxicating account of her childhood, Dillard climbs back inside her 5-, 10-, and 15-year-old selves with apparent effortlessness. The voracious young Dillard embraces headlong one fascination after another--from drawing to rocks and bugs to the French symbolists. "Everywhere, things snagged me," she writes. "The visible world turned me curious to books; the books propelled me reeling back to the world." From her parents she inherited a love of language--her mother's speech was "an endlessly interesting, swerving path"--and the understanding that "you do what you do out of your private passion for the thing itself," not for anyone else's approval or desire. And one would be mistaken to call the energy Dillard exhibits in An American Childhood merely youthful; "still I break up through the skin of awareness a thousand times a day," she writes, "as dolphins burst through seas, and dive again, and rise, and dive."

I am hoping to be able to remember and record some of my life experiences with half her wit and eloquence!

The only book I have read more than An American Childhood is The Book of Mormon. During my collegiate and childless days, I read it 2 or 3 times per year. Lately, it's just been once, but I always learn something new from this book. Last time (over the fall), I noticed how so many stupid little things would lead to the fall of a people or nation. Things like "costly apparel" and abundance. The Book of Mormon applies to us today in so many ways, so clearly--I am so thankful it's a part of my life.

The other part of the question--what books mean to me--well, that;s a weird one. I guess books will always be part of my life because I love to learn things. I read non-fiction almost exclusively--most fiction bores me to tears, and history and biographies have so much to teach us! I love the internet for this same reason--for all the foul content, there is a lot of informative, inspiring, interesting stuff! But reading from this screen will never have the comfort and feel of snuggling up with a good book--whether it be on my couch or bed with my "nappy"(a blanket my Gram gave me whenI left for college in 1989), or in my totally awesome jetted tub (a favorite guilty pleasure of mine--in case you ever wonder why the pages of my favorite books and mags are warped). So I pose the question to you--what are your favorite books and what do they mean to you? Answer in comments or on your own blog...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More Seventy-Four

Sept. 1974: Mom & Me with my third birthday sundae at Farrell's Ice Cream in El Con Mall in Tucson...
Grandma Lyn, Willy, Mom, Me, Aunt Marti, and Grandpa Bill on or around my third birthday.
This is more like 1973--me, mom, and Willy
This is a newspaper clipping from the scrapbook my mom kept for me from birth to age 5 (most of these pix come from the scrapbook--that's why they are funny-shaped). This is probably summer 1973 in Pima...Pima is just up the road from my Dad's home town of Thatcher, home of Eastern Arizona College where we took swimming lessons (click to enlarge).

Earliest Memories

I started doing my journal jar questions today—FINALLY (it’s a jar of folded-up pieces of paper with questions on them—you draw one and start writing or recording your answer as a way of recording your personal history. Let me know if you’d like the list of questions via email). It’s hard, though because a lot of the questions ask you to describe your childhood house, neighborhood, school, etc…and I had SO MANY! So many schools, siblings, houses, gets overwhelming and I just stop writing.

BUT! I will talk about my earliest memories and how they relate to where I lived. The place my parents lived when I was born was like a student housing trailer court on Prince Road in Tucson, if I remember correctly. I have no memory of that place or even going back to visit it later. I am sure I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house, though, and they still live in that same house, though it has been through many transformations. I’ll talk about my memories of that house, too, in chronological order.

My earliest independent memories (not induced by photographs) begin when I was about 3 years old and we lived in Pima, AZ. I remember the rough shape of our house—that is was white with brown trim, that there was a living room (sunken?) and a hallway with bedrooms (tiled?) and at the end, a bathroom with blue tile. I remember the blue tile from a memory of racing down the hall to throw up in the toilet because I didn’t want to make a mess and make my mom sad (she was probably pregnant with the twins then). I remember a kitchen/dining area behind the living room, and it had a pocket door. The pull for the door was at my eye level and it had a little round indentation for a finger, which I loved to stick my finger in. I played with the little latch a lot, too. I remember eating tomato soup there. I remember a friend named Cody whose light skin and hair were almost the same color, and a friend named Kendall whose name made me picture a candle in my mind, and a friend named Timothy whose name made me picture a small, square scribble of brown crayon.

I remember in that house, my mom used to rock me to sleep sometimes and I made her sing “The Brady Bunch” theme song and “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang” to get me to sleep (I also had the delusion that I WAS the girl on Chitty-Chitty-Bang- Bang--I was always trying to remember back to when I lived there and did all that stuff). We lived there when the twins were born and my dad moved to Idaho to work and find us a house. It was while we were living there that I began to feel an unexplained anxiety about not having my dad around, a foreshadowing of the divorce that would come two years later and turn me into the nervous wreck we all know and love today.

I remember the twins coming home to Grandma’s on Christmas Eve (Willy and I went to stay with Grandma when the twins were born, although I don’t remember that at all). Santa came and brought me The Sunshine Family dolls—an all-time favorite toy, for sure—but nothing could beat Willy and me each getting our own baby sister for Christmas. I can remember my mom’s face as she opened the door, carrying a baby, wearing a brown coat (I think). I remember I devised my own way to tell the little newborns apart—Lisa had a small round head and Laura had a square head. Funny thing is, my girls have the same heads! Addie’s was square and Heidi’s was round!

More memories to come...
Christmas Eve 1974: That's me freaking out about the Sunshine Family
Christmas Eve 1974: Jamie, Santa, Willy
Christmas Eve 1974: Me & My Dad & my new baby doll
I guess I don't have any pix of the twins coming to Grandma's Christmas Eve--shucks! But here's one of Willy, Lisa, and Me a little later.