Monday, March 5, 2012

Introducing: Mom!

Dear Baby G,

Hi, my name is Mom. You will probably try to call me by my real name during one of those "phases" we've heard so much about, but my name is mom, mommy, mama, best mom ever, awesome mom, or "her royal highness: mom." It's probably nearly impossible for you to believe, but I actually lived 30 years worth of life before you came along! Can you imagine? 30 years?!? Yes, it is true. During those 30 years a lot of things happened. I imagine you would probably be interested in knowing what sorts of things led up to your birth, so here is my story!

I was born in a small Kansas town called Clay Center (population: 5,000 give or take). I burst out onto the scene on January 15th, 1981 at 9:04 in the morning. (Interesting note, you were born at 7:04 pm. That extra 4 minutes is something I like to call "fashionably late!" We're obviously in agreement.) I was born via C-section just like you! Thankfully for me, medical advances allowed me to heal with a fairly small scar after having you. Not-so-thankfully for your grandma, her C-section was described at a later date as looking like "something done in a Tijuana hospital." Back-to-thankfully for your grandma, however, her C-section meant she had something to point to when I was being a bratty brat as a way of making me feel guilty and repentant. Well-played, mom!

We lived in a small house when I was born. It was so small that your grandma and grandpa had to build my room so I could have one after I got here! At the time I was born, we had a small black dog named Midnight. I have no idea what kind of dog she was, but I do remember she had puppies at one point. We lived in that house for a couple of years until my parents bought a much larger house, which needed a WHOLE lot of TLC. They spent quite a bit of time remodeling that house so it was fit for familial habitation. We moved into the house after it was "mostly" done. I had the greatest set-up! I had my own room, complete with a cute sun-room, which housed my closet. I also had an entire extra bedroom across the hall for my very own play room! Your mom had quite a few toys when she was little. I see you are progressing in the same direction and even though it frustrates me sometimes when our house is ultra-cluttered, it makes me happy to know that you have so many great things to play with. We were both lucky little girls! While we lived in that house, I had a couple of kittens. The first kitten's name was Troubles. We named her that because she was always scratching me! We found out later she was actually sick and had to be put to sleep. To make up for that, I got another pair of kittens (when your great-grandpa's cat had babies) for a present. I named them Lightning and Brandy. I have no idea why I chose those names! Lightning ran away after a couple of years and I had Brandy until dad and I moved to Idaho, but I'll get to that later.

My parents owned a service station on the south end of town. They had a radiator shop and a convenience store as part of the business. I spent many hours at the station as a child, but without a lot for a kid to really do around there, I had to get creative. Therefore, I started my own rock painting business! For some reason, back in the 80s, it was totally not weird for a small child to wield spray paint cans in a back alley! I painted rocks in different shades of yellow, red, and gold, then put them in a small box at the front counter. It cost only one shiny penny to take home one of my masterpieces! I'm not sure how many I made, or how many I sold, but it kept me out of the way and entertained me, which was more than priceless to my hard-working parents. Oh, and I also learned how to dunk tires in the dunk tank, find leaks, then mark them with a grease pencil. I wasn't completely useless as a child! Later my parents must have decided it was easier to put me in day care than worry about me at the station all day but I can't really remember how old I was when that happened.

A description about my childhood would be incomplete without talking about my Grandma G (your Great-Grandma G, for whom you are named!) When I wasn't in school or at day care, I was over at Grandma G's "house" (which was actually a retirement community set in a high-rise apartment building complex.) We would do puzzles, watch TV, go shopping, do crafts, cook together, go to "coffee", go to Dairy Queen, and basically just enjoy spending time together. She lived in that complex from the time I was born (before that, actually) until we had to move her to a nursing home a year before she passed away in 1999. For that reason, and many others, that small apartment in that small high-rise in small Clay Center Kansas meant more to me than nearly any other place on Earth. That apartment stood for love, consistency, and comfort. When we had to empty it out after moving Grandma G to Lawrence I felt like a very large part of my soul was left behind. I've had many homes since then, but no home has ever felt more like home than that did. I've often wondered if I could ever gather the nerve and the courage to go back and knock on the door, asking the current occupants if I could look around one last time. So far the answer is "no." The answer may always be "no."

My parents, your grandma and grandpa got a divorce sometime around Fall of 1989 when I was almost 9 years old. Mom and I stayed in the house for a little while until it was sold. They closed the service station, too. Mom and dad had joint custody of me, which meant I lived in two different places. At first, dad and I lived with my other grandparents, his parents, your Great-Grandparents. Later we moved into an apartment building right next to the city library. For a latch-key kid who had hours to burn between the time school got out and when dad got home, living next to the library was awesome! I soon finished nearly all of the kids books (it was a small library, but it still had to be thousands of books). Mom and I moved out of the big remodeled house and into a duplex over by the old high school in town. This part of my childhood is actually kind of fuzzy because I can't for the life of me remember how we had things set up (meaning: which house I was at on which days) but I do remember walking to school or riding my bike when I lived at dad's apartment and needing to wait for the school bus when I was living at mom's duplex.

Eventually, the job opportunities in Clay Center weren't great and my mom ended up moving to Topeka. I was very sad because I had never lived in a different town from one of my parents and I missed her terribly. When I was about 10 years old, my dad remarried a woman with two daughters and a son. We ended up moving to an even smaller town; Solomon, Kansas. My Grandma G was extremely sad when we moved to Solomon because it meant we got to spend less time together. I only remember seeing her cry once in my life, and it was one evening soon before our move. She told me how much she would miss me. I'm pretty sure I cried, too.

In Solomon we lived out on a farm. We didn't have a lot of animals, but we did raise chickens for meat and eggs. I also had a pet rabbit named "Salt and Pepper" and a pet chicken named "Blackie." My step-sister, step-brother, and I each had our own rooms in the farm house. My oldest step-sister was already out of the house. We spent a lot of time exploring the surrounding lands when we lived there. For a kid who had only ever lived in town, it was actually pretty exciting to go exploring out in the "wilderness." We lived in the farm-house for about 6 months before my step-mom got a new job with the US Geological Service... in Boise Idaho!

I should back-track slightly to say that during this time my mom moved to Lawrence when she met her partner. In Lawrence we lived in a medium-sized split level house where I also had my own room for the weekends/summers I came to visit. Mom and her partner also had a miniature dachshund named Sugar, who quickly became one of my best buddies.

When I found out we were moving to Idaho, I had mixed emotions. I had never lived outside of Kansas and I would be leaving my mom, my grandma, my friends and the rest of my family behind. On the other hand, I was going to get to live somewhere new and I was promised we would live near mountains, which I had rarely seen as a young child. I spent the summer prior to the big move in Lawrence with my mom. At the end of the summer, I got on an airplane (my first time ever) by myself and made my way out to Idaho.

While in Idaho I got to do many things I had never done before. I learned how to ski, I explored the various types of canals that ran through town, I joined the school's band and began to learn the clarinet, and I got to help work at the children's consignment clothing store my dad and step-mom owned. I even got a paycheck! Sadly, while living in Idaho my cat Brandy ran away. We found her once, but she ran away again and that was the last time we saw her. I hope she found a good family to take care of her.That Christmas I came back to Kansas to visit mom and Grandma G. It was a short visit, but it was nice to be around my family again. At the end of the school year, I said goodbye to my Idaho friends and came back to Kansas again to visit for the summer. Towards the end of the summer I got a phone call from dad saying he and my step-mom were getting a divorce and he was moving back to Kansas with all of our things.

Dad moved to Topeka and that fall I began school in a Junior High. I was surrounded by people I didn't know, but I quickly made friends. We lived in a small apartment in North Topeka where I had the one bedroom and dad slept in a bed out in the living room. Eventually, we moved into the apartment next door, which had two bedrooms, so we could have a proper living room! While living in Topeka I got a kitten and named her Willow. She was kind of evil, but I blame my guy friends who thought it was fun to chase her around. Looking back, I wish I had told them to knock it off. That poor kitty was probably traumatized! During this time, mom and her partner moved into a bigger house, also in Lawrence. Out of all of the houses I've lived in, that one was probably one of my favorites. It was so pretty and BIG!

I lived with dad, primarily, in Topeka all the way through junior high and high school. In high school I was involved in marching band, Literary Magazine, and French Club. I was also very active in my church's youth group and even had my first real job at the church's day care as a day care teacher for kids from 1st to 6th grade. I made a lot of wonderful friends during my time in Topeka, some of whom you know! (Uncle J and Aunt M, for example).

During my senior year of high school, I experienced my first major tragedy in my life. March 8, 1999, Grandma G passed away after a brief illness. I was beyond heartbroken. Losing Grandma G felt like losing a parent. We were so close for so long. As I write this post, it has been nearly 13 years since her passing and remembering it still feels like it did the first few days after it happened. Someday I want to spend time with you talking about Grandma G and what she meant to me, but I warn you... I will cry. I will shed tears because she never got to see me graduate high school, graduate college, get married, and have a beautiful baby girl. She will never know that I named that baby girl after her because I couldn't think of anyone else in this world more worthy of having such a beautiful baby named for them. It hurts my heart, even now, to think that two of the most important people in my life will never get the chance to meet each other. I will mourn for the loss of Grandma G until my days on Earth are over, but with great loss and great pain came 18 years of unconditional love and support from one of the best people to have ever been in my life. It hurt so bad to lose her, but at least I had her. I truly hope you and my mom have the same relationship because you both deserve to experience the special kind of love that comes from a grandmother/granddaughter relationship.

After high school, I spent the summer in Topeka with Uncle J and Aunt M living the crazy "we're finally free from school and somewhat free from responsibility" lifestyle! We all had jobs, but when we weren't working, we were driving all over town and being silly. I worked at a small German-American greasy spoon as a waitress. I brought home about $50-$60 a day, big money for someone who hadn't really made a whole lot in prior jobs. I set some of it back for college, but probably spent more of it than I should have on silly, frivolous purchases. Still, it was probably the greatest summer of my life and I will remember all of the fun we had before we all had to buckle down and get some responsibility in our lives!

That fall, (August of 1999) I went to KU with Uncle J. We both lived in the scholarship halls (he lived in one for one year, I stayed all four years in Douthart). Over my time in college I had several different roommates. I lucked out because most of them were really great! I only had one instance of a crappy roomie during my freshman year, but she moved out after that year was over. Someday I'll have to do an entire post on what it's like to live in a Scholarship hall because whether you like it or not, if you go to KU, you're living in one. It was a great experience and I was sad to graduate college because it meant I wouldn't get to live there anymore! I did graduate college... in four years, even! I got my Psychology degree. I spent all four years in college working in the Government Documents Library as a student assistant. Once I graduated college, I decided I still wanted to come to KU every day so I got a full-time position in the KU Libraries, where I remain today (as I write this).

Some other highlights of college include: Getting into a terrible car accident two weeks after my freshman year began. I'll have to do a post just about the car accident sometime. I'll tie it in when I make a post about driving and the importance of safety. Look for it, it's going to be great! I also met a guy in college at the end of my freshman year. We dated for two years (even going so far as to get engaged at one point) before we broke up for good. It was sad at the time, but looking back on things I am so glad we split up because we were both meant for other people. Another major thing that occurred during my time in college happened on September 11, 2001. I was a Junior when the attack on the World Trade Center happened. I remember leaving my Women's Studies class that morning and walking outside to go to my next class. I looked up in the sky and saw the contrails in the air looked like every plane in the sky had done a u-turn. I made note of how strange it was and when I got to class everyone was talking about the tragedy. We cancelled class and I spent the day back at Douthart watching news coverage and basically freaking out. I had said nonchalantly for years that someday war would be fought in the United States instead of just overseas and it seemed to be coming true. Everything was just really surreal for a while after that. People rushed the gas stations to fill up thinking gas was going to skyrocket in price, people were really nice to each other and everyone was as pro-United States as you could get. It's been over 10 years since 9/11 (as I write this) and gas DID skyrocket in price, people have gone back to being divisive and rude, and while part of the population stayed very pro-United States, many others feel like their country let them down with some of the military responses and the massive defense spending/policies that have come to be since the towers fell. Basically, back to the new normal.

After college I moved a couple of times, but eventually ended up in a small house living with Uncle J and our two dogs: Annie and Lenore. I had adopted Annie back in 2001 when I was still in school, but she lived with Uncle J until I was out of school and could have her with me. Uncle J had adopted a puppy he named Lenore sometime the year before we got Annie. They grew up together, for the most part (Annie being 2 years older than Lenore). Uncle J and I lived together until he left for Iraq (he was a Marine), and even then he kept paying his part of the rent so he could have a place to keep his things and his dog. Very soon after Uncle J left, I met your dad and as you may remember from my post about our whirlwind romance, he moved in very soon after. When Uncle J came back home from war, he moved to Leavenworth to be closer to his job and to let your dad and I have a place of our own. Oh, and we also got a cat named Astra von Battlecat to add to the collection of dogs. (Uncle J let me keep Lenore after he got back).

Well.... this is a very short version of my first 30 years of life. I've left out a lot of things, but honestly, it's how I want to do it. I need to have a few stories to keep you entertained or keep you in line during your childhood! I'm sure you'll hear a lot more as time goes by. As hard as it is to believe that I lived 30 years before you came into my life, it's a lot harder for me to believe that you will be 30 years old someday, too. My first 30 years seemed to fly by, but I'm hoping the next 30 take it a bit more slowly so I can enjoy all of my time with you, watching you grow into a lovely young woman who will, maybe, write all of her adventures out for her little baby. Until then, don't grow up too quickly like I'm sure I did with my parents.

But, by all means, have lots of adventures worth writing about someday!