I’ve been having so much fun making necklaces. BUT I have to stop and be an adult for a while. The adult stuff means taking pictures (this is mainly John’s area, he’s the artist), transferring the pictures into the Access data base, coming up with names and and prices and descriptions and categories, and finally posting each one to the web site.
Now back to Chicago . . .
I’ve already said it was a good place to grow up — for the first years anyway. After the war was over, my father was discharged from the Merchant Marine Corp. I remember my mother telling me that it all seemed to happen very quickly but it was wonderful to have him home again and to be back in our apartment. Apartment 5J which I always thought was just for us — Johnson. Sadly, several months later my father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Mother always thought that the Merchant Marine really knew about but didn’t want to be held responsible for the diagnosis and subsequent care. MS is a horrible disease, the nerves and muscles deteriorate. Intermittently, sometimes slowly and sometimes at a ravaging speed. Somehow, my father kept his crazy sense of humor for a long time until it just became too much for him.
I remember in second grade Mary Jane O’Hern got glasses which I thought were really neat and at the same time I started complaining that I couldn’t read the writing on the board at school. My mother thought I was just making it up because I wanted glasses too. Not long after that, they did eyesight testing on all the students at the school. My mother was called in and told my eyesight was really pretty bad and that I needed to get glasses and then just to add the frosting of guilt, she was told that I would be able to see things that I had never seen before. That’s when my father started calling me “My little myopia” which I thought was a term of endearment until health class in college. But I knew he loved me.
Now, as I think back, I don’t think my mother ever did. I can understand why she might not have when I think that my “uncle” Gene born twelve years before me and claimed by my grandparents as their own, may well have been my older brother. I think she and my father had a good life together before I came along and Daddy was diagnosed with MS. Life had been going along beautifully, but then it abruptly ended. No health insurance back then, so no income. I went on a business trip with my father once and could tell there was something wrong since he was having such a hard time getting around — not like the father I knew. I imagine they had a few savings but not enough to live on.
That’s when they decided to leave Chicago and move to Norfolk, Virginia, my father’s original home. Not much family left there, but it was once home. I remember most of our belongings displayed on tables in the lobby of the apartment building, as they tried to sell off as much as they could to get some money. At the same time, I was sent off to camp in Portland, Maine. Another connection to my “uncle” Gene. His girlfriend (they would have been in their early 20s by then) had a job for the summer as a counselor at Camp Pescuasawasis. (They even have a Camp Pescausawasis Facebook page!)
My mother put me a the train Twentieth Century Limited from Chicago to New York City where I was met by my grandparents.
When my mother made the reservations, she specified that I was NOT to sit next to a man. You have to realize that at this point I was nine years old, with glasses, a nose like Dick Tracy and crooked teeth. Well, sure enough, we got there early and I was ensconced in my seat when this poor man came down the aisle and claimed the seat next to me. My mother went apocalyptic and raised such a fuss that I think the poor man spent the entire trip in the club car and I never saw him again. (The train left Chicago at 4PM and arrived in NYC 8AM the next morning.) It ended up that the man sitting behind me saw the whole thing and invited me to go with him to the dining car for breakfast the next morning. It was the first time I had hash brown potatoes.
My grandparents met me at the station in New York and we went back to their apartment on Riverside Drive to get me ready for camp.
What a grand old apartment! Their apartment was on the 10th floor, with 11 foot ceilings, facing a view of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge (before Mary was added underneath), and the New Jersey Palisades where there was a streaming electronic news running all the time. There was a big living room with the windows overlooking the Hudson, two bedrooms and one bath with those marvelous hexagonal wide tiles. And there was alLifebuoyar of Lifebuoy soap that I loved but never had at home. Then a hallway down to an enormous dining room and the kitchen with all white tile. There was another bedroom and bath off the kitchen. They always seemed to have an Irish maid. Not sure where they came from or where they went but they were a part of the family. Grandmother used to love to be driven back up to Burlington VT in a Packard car with the Irish maid.
The main thing I remember about that was that my grandmother stapled all my name tags into the clothes I would be taking to camp, including my underwear.
I was supposed to only stay for two weeks while my parents moved to Norfolk. It probably took me two weeks to get all the staples out of my underwear! Apparently, the move took longer than anticipated and I stayed at camp for six weeks. I wasn’t a very good correspondent and I was told I HAD to write to my parents or I wouldn’t get the Sunday chicken dinner. My parents kept my letter: “Dear Mom and Dad, I am in Cabin B. Love, Susie“.
Be sure to check out our other website for bold and beautiful handmade jewelry: https://gibsongrafe.com