Beginnings were becoming my strong suit. At Lakewood Public I reveled in art class; got the title role in our senior play. At home on Jordan Lake Road and around town helped Dad and Mom with the church plant, leading Sunday School and weekday Bible classes. But doubts and qualms rose. Had no dates, didn't dance, babysat a lot, saved money, tithed. Kennedy was shot. We watched TV in government class. I passed catechism orals, made profession of faith, wrote statement of faith for Calvin application. Graduation was anticlimactic. Nothing fazed me like the book Black Like Me. How awesome to work with 8-12 year old girls at the Y in Grand Rapids that summmer!
At Thanksgiving we moved to Mation house #3. My attention kept skidding, swerving from Northern Michigan Christian High in McBain to church youth group friends from Marion Public. One winter night, driving the VW from McBain I fishtailed, flipped landed wheels down in ditch; walked to nearest house, called Dad; drove again soon--grateful, careful, responsible. Junior parent or babysitter was my major role, rover position in basketball my favorite. Got fifty cents an hour for childcare; boosted savings picking cherries, beans, potatoes. Soph class prez, junior student council rep, lit staff, I kept busy all the time, filling spare minutes with cathartic sketches and poems. That summer we moved way south to Lake Odessa.
Gertrude from Rudyard joined sisters at preparatory school later known as Calvin College. Richard gave his own junior high valedictory rejecting white principal's prepared speech. Gordon was welcomed as preacher by the black congregation in backwoods Virginia. Anne died peacefully, feeling nothing bad was happening to her. Lester lived in a small room outside the white store owner's family home. I was moody sometimes, retreating into reading, but not during Moody Week at Winona Lake. Duff's best friend was actor/director Newt Pippin, Rhonda's godbrother. Jordan died in car with brothers, shot by a police officer.
1-1-61 Writing practice begun. First line same every day except numbers: "Slept from 2:30 to 9:00 (6 1/2)" that first day. Back late New Years Eve from Grand Rapids days with grandparents, dozen cousin daze? "Slept for two hours" after church, dinner & dishes. (I'd add the nap to the weekly tally for an 8 1/2 hour average) Until the new "Back to God Chapel" was finished at Easter A.M. church was in an old building on a country road. For dinner we had rabbit (!!Who shot and cleaned it?) P.M. church was in our living/ dining room. Each Sunday I noted the scriptures and sermon titles: that day Hebrews 11:13, Christian Pilgrims and Psalm 90:1&2, God With Us in 1961. Afterward "Dad & Mom went to Bolt's in Cadillac" I "Babysat," going to sleep in their bed. Girl of the Limberlost, Diary of Anne Frank, Return of the Native Most nights I read in bed, averaging a book a week, more when off school--The Silver Chalice, The Yearling, The Nun.. With friends, school was a high, even the long bus ride except when we were late or I talked & had to write lines in study hall or we didn't get a ping pong table at noon. Friends on farms closer to school hosted me overnight sometimes after ball games or other evening events. Mom gave a book review at the Silver Tea (wonder what book) and I recited an original poem at the Mother-Daughter Banquet. Other firsts were roller-skating parties, vegetable gardening and driving (!) with Dad but on regular roads. Highlight of the year was Youth Conference Camp weekend (though may have been more fun if preacher-teacher Dad wasn't there?)
We lived up north in Marion Michigan. Dad drove us five miles to the school bus stop for the farmland route to Lucas-McBain Christian down in a wide valley next to the big hill where I skied, boot straps secured with inner tube strips. My "Rescue the Perishing" poster with colorful faces painted on blue background won the mission contest. Eighth grade ended with a great Mackinac Island day trip. Back home our family was complete, grateful for baby Cal. We moved from the brick rambler near the fairgrounds to the spacious white house with cupola next to a black-topped basement house. From both homes I found stream banks to explore.
You pulsed in forehead lump from tree smack after ecstatic dash from DB, my first crush. You surged while LK from Hungary then HG in recovery stayed in our attic. Where were You, Love, when we moved back to Michigan once more during Christmas break? You tunneled deep with indelible heart words through my reading eyes, poet ears, piano fingers. You blessed our going by Mrs. L's stitching our names on corduroy peanut pillows, mine red, N's blue, J's green. And blessed our coming with fridge and cupboard full of groceries from Dad's sponsoring church.
Mom was pregnant when I was eleven. Nancy cuddled her doll baby in eager expectation. The still-birth hit her hard she tells me now. But I was carefree, dashing across the street to Doreen's house to watch Mickey Mouse Club or pre-occupied on the sidewalk for hours keeping the hula hoop whirling on my waist. There were memorable times with Mom: May walks in Lilac Park; summer picnics and camping; singing in the car on the way home. Best of all were our Skip-a-Cross games after the younger kids were in bed. Yet most times I was content alone or with my friend Alice whose tree we climbed.
Helen wrote poignant letters raising funds for four-year old blind orphan boy at school. Laura spent the summer caring for her baby sister and bringing in the cows. Mary did chores, walked to school, studied hard, walked home, did more chores, taught siblings each night. Ida knelt in church, thinking less of God than how her red ribbons and white coat looked. Zora beamed with joy reading all the books the women from Minnesota sent her. Ann was mad at first when Dad's mission brought them to New York and Mom took her savings. Kathy realized her parents welcomed all, unlike other whites on Indian land. Cindy ran for police to keep Dad from killing Mom, kept her own abuse secret. Daisy spent summer on Long Island with parents, sister, and writer grandmother. Malala prayed "Bless us and protect us. No, not just Pakistan. Bless all the world."
We were going places, meeting people. From Grandma's house I was allowed to walk to Cherry St. Playground, taking Billy. But when I wanted to leave he didn't so I said "We can go a different way" and finally he agreed. But I realized after a tiring detour we were lost. A kind lady drove us to Sigsbee St. Excited to travel by herself, Jean flew West, spent Easter Break with grandparents at the mission house in New Mexico. Got her hair braided, admired Zuni clothes and was awed by native ceremonies. Why did Grandpa and Grandma frown on them? Twenty years later Jean's son spent summer weeks in Greenbelt with Grandma Marjorie who wrote: Nine-year old had fun at the pool, more fun after the high school dudes showed up-- trying new moves, one-hand or no-hand dives; racing those two, loaning them his goggles. All fun, no talk till leaving, one asked "What's your name?" "Judah" "Good name." Three smiles.
In the middle of third grade we moved out of Michigan again though we'd always be back for visits. I'd never forget Mom's parents' Sigsbee St. house with narrow driveway between two tall trees and park-like yard with cherry tree I may have climbed once. Inside was the fireplace and big chair where Grandpa told made-up stories featuring a mischievous crow. Neighbors fences bordered our yard in Rochester: Taylor's on the right who had the twins Dean and Dale, Billy's age; flower garden people on the left and swimming pool in the yard behind. Near that back fence I recall losing track of time, building sand towns. Mid-childhood school and church memories blur. One home highlight was the radio show "Greatest Story Ever Told: Greatest Life Ever Lived" starring Jesus which we heard on Sundays while eating melted cheese or brown sugar toast from trays in the living room. Eight-year olds I identified with in books, among family and at church were more often boys than girls. Once I told Nancy I was a boy-- was I explaining my low voice or lack of interest in dolls? Forgive me, sisters, daughters, nieces, for slighting your eight-year old passions. Thanks Mom for labeling photos reviving third grade eyes and minds.