“This Thing Called Life”… Do I just begin typing? What do I write about? Do I create an online journal, or do I make a neat, categorized blog with patterns (knitting/crochet/quilting/spinning/fiber, etc.), recipes, Komboucha fun, or just the craziness of My everyday Life? I have no idea where this is going or where it will end up. I love WordPress and have been a fan for many years of others’ pages. I don’t have a lot to offer, but I have enough in my mind to share, so this may end up being a compilation of all of the above, so here goes. This Thing Called Life, The Craziness of My Everyday.
Where do I begin? 1958, Chicago, my life began. It was kind of mixed up. I was born to Priscilla and Don Strand, but my bio Dad was Ralph Shipley. Mom and Don had split up for a while and Mom became preggo with me. She already had Susan and Donna, my two older sisters from Don. After me she had Jackie from Don. Then she permanently left him for Ralph and we all left for Minnesota where she had Pearl and Robin. So. She ended up with six feisty girls. What a household. My Dad Ralph’s Mom had a place on a little lake there where she had converted a train boxcar into her little cabin. Well, there was a second boxcar and we all packed our asses into that one while Dad tried his best to add onto that tight space to make room for all of us. There was about a twenty year difference between Susan, the oldest, and Robin, the youngest, so Sue got married and moved out shortly after we got to Minnesota and that gave us a tiny bit more room. I remember Robin sleeping in a drawer at first because we didn’t have a crib. It was TIGHT.
Both of my parents are/were drop dead gorgeous. Mom was always told she looked exactly like Liz Taylor with brown eyes, and she did. Dad was a twin of Dean Martin, so damn handsome. My sisters are all beautiful. I’m not so sure I fit that category so I was always told I was the brain in the family, which is just as good.
I had double pneumonia when I was two years old and extremely sick. Landed in the hospital in Chicago for some time with collapsed lungs. I still have the scars and a missing rib. It must have been brutal. Well to recoup and get better I was sent to my Great-Aunt Peggy and Uncle Fred’s dairy farm in New York Mills, MN with my favorite cousin Bobby. I remember the outdoor sauna and being tossed in the snow bank naked after the sauna! I also remember sitting atop the fence watching the cows and nearly losing my legs when one huge cow pressed hard against that fence and I couldn’t get my legs out. Uncle Fred saved me!
Well I had an attitude after that hospital stay and so many people, needles, etc. touching and prodding me. I just hated people and didn’t want to be touched or even looked at. My eyes were so brown they were black, and the more angry I got, the blacker my pupils got. Mom said every time people would try to touch my full head of super curly hair or say how cute I was, those black eyes would glare. They would say I had the “devil” in me. Oh, okay.
I do remember riding the el trains in Chicago, and some of the busses. I remember the Woolworths Store for some reason. I remember Rush Street, the alleys, a “blue boy” that chased me one time, Lincoln Park which I loved, the Belair Hotel where we stayed awhile. My sister Jackie and I used to take the old rickety wire basket-like maintenance elevator down to the basement ballroom where the floor was huge black and white tiles, and they had a big piano down there. We would dance and dance on that shiny floor like we were professionals. Oh it was so cool. We had an adjoining room with Mom & Dad (Ralph) and one time I opened our hotel room door and the man across the hall had just opened his door and he had a gun in his hand, he put it in a holster under his suit coat. He then picked up a briefcase and walked to the door to the fire escape and walked down the fire escape. WOW – I thought for sure he was a mobster! I was so freaked out! Mom & Dad had a drop-down Murphy bed in their room. I thought we had the penthouse. Speaking of the penthouse – Mom’s friend lived in the penthouse and we got to visit her. Now that was cool! She was ultra-bohemian! She had this huge doll that was as big as me and had elastic straps under her feet that strapped to my feet. The lady put a record on and she let me dance with that doll for the longest time! I cherish those memories!
Back to Kindergarten. I said I hated people or being touched. I remember playing in the little log cabin they had in the classroom, pretend ironing at the ironing board with a little metal iron, minding my own beeswax. A blonde brat walked in and yelled at me that she wanted to iron, grabbed my arm and the iron pretty hard and quick. Well I guess that didn’t fly with me because I hit her in the head with the pointy end of the iron and she instantly started bleeding from her blonde hair and went running. I went back to my “ironing” until the teacher swooped me up and out of the room… That was the last I saw of Kindergarten. I was suspended for the rest of the year, HA HA. Dammit. I wasn’t happy because there was a little boy I liked, his name was Paul and he was from France. When I went on to first grade he was still there and he gave me my very first kiss on the playground. I still remember that. My sister Jackie had a fake camera that had a roll of paper inside that you draw pictures on before you click. So we planned that kiss. She drew the cutest little picture and when she “clicked” that camera on that playground and pulled out that little fake photo you should have seen his face! I sure wish I still had that drawing. The things you remember, huh?
There was a lady named Marion who had a house with an upstairs apartment we rented. She had a massive flower garden and two big Boxer dogs that. Used to hide in the garden and chase you as soon as they spotted you outside. Mom hated them. I’m pretty sure that’s why I like Boxers today. Her’s scared me, but I respected them. They seemed regal to me. She had the laundry room in the basement. Mom put a matchbox on the windowsill for a mama spider to hole up in and she did. That mama spider used to peek out of that matchbox when we went down to do the wash. Pretty sure that’s why I respect spiders today. We would catch bugs and give them to her to eat. Funny how those little things stick with you. One time the landlady went away on vacation and us kids opened the door to the crawl space in the basement where she kept storage and we found a wonderland of antiques. Old fur coats, dresses, shoes, and best of all, a crank gramophone record player WITH RECORDS! Mom was so pissed when she found us but she let us spend the afternoon playing old jazz and blues records down there. I thought I was in heaven.
The last place we lived was near Wrigley Park. I remember it being such a cool, diverse neighborhood. Our neighbors were Italian, some spoke Spanish, some were African American, I remember a Russian Gypsy family. There were lots of front porches and it was loud and lively all the time. A fun place to hang out and finally I got my first bike for my 7th or 8th birthday, it was red and I was thrilled. I took a few practice rides up and down the block and around the blocks. Then I ventured with the neighborhood kids to Wrigley Park where there was a path behind the practice mound where we could ride. Sure enough, either it was bad timing, my bad riding, or the batter was off, but I got smacked right in the middle of the forehead with a full-size bat. Crack! All I remember is I came to much later with a big egg yolk on my forehead. I could look up with my eyes and see it. I still have a dent there. That was the end of riding that bike. Shortly after we left for Minnesota.
We had gotten all packed to leave, I was sitting on my bedroom floor with my Chatty Cathy doll and Mom hollered. I set her on the floor against the bed and ran downstairs. Mom ushered us all into the car to leave right that second and I didn’t realize I forgot my very favorite doll until we were on the road and too late to turn around. It’s almost embarrassing, but to this day my heart still hurts when I think of my doll sitting in that empty room all alone. I have always kept my eyes open for another one…
We were all packed into a big old Dodge if I remember right, rolling down the freeway towards Minnesota, I’m sleeping up against the door in the back seat and all of a sudden the door pops open and I go flying. Somehow SuperMom reaches back at lightening speed and grabs me by the ankle to pull me back into the car, pillow and all. OMFG. I can still see the tire rotating on that highway. That should have been the end of this story. Thank you Mom.