A Dark Time for Style
I've not thought about much of what I wore as a child - except for my first pair of glasses which were cat-eye shaped and legging-style pants with stirrups. Yep, keeping that long line tight was important back in the day. If you could see little me in those glasses with a bright pair of purple stirruped leggings and a purple stripe top, we would have a very good giggle. Since I was not yet 7 when this get -up was stylish, I don't really feel mortified, just oddly nostalgic.
Mortified by a style choice? Try my early teen years... Gosh, I wish I could easily find the one picture which would epitomize some of my early choices - the biggest being granny glasses and longish hair up in curlers! The photo I'm thinking of was taken in my Grandparents' backyard in Baxter Springs; it's in color, so I don't even have the benefit of black and white to mitigate the shock of me with a bandana barely covering large curlers and little gold-rimmed granny glasses. I think it's surprising to me to see myself as such a gawky pre-teen. Taking pictures back-in-the-day was a big deal, so I'm not even sure WHY anyone in my family would have thought this was a wonderfully posed photo!
Granny glasses were incredibly cool in the '70s thanks to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They are experiencing a resurgence, but there was just something about how we wore our hair and the size of those glasses which is a bit embarrassing now. By the time I stopped wearing them late in the decade, the style had morphed into more of an octagonal... It's funny, but whenever your Dad and I talk about '70s styles, we both agree it was a very dark time.
London, By Myself!
In 1985 I joined a summer theatre workshop in London at The International Shakespeare Globe Centre - but your Dad did not join me. So the adventure was navigating a different country on my own! Thank goodness we had traveled throughout Europe the summer before.
Sam Wanamaker began fundraising to build a replica of the original Globe Theatre in the 1970s and by the time we were in graduate school in the mid-'80s, a London summer workshop was offered to students from around the US and the instructor was one of my professors at USC. It was exciting to apply for the program and even more so to participate and perform on the South Bank of the Thames only a few hundred feet from the site of Shakespeare's theatre!
I learned to navigate the Underground with daily trips from Islington to the South Bank, as well as visiting as many places as possible during our down time. I remember seeing plays 3 or 4 times a week and drinking at pubs with my new friends, but visiting on my own
I also traveled to Oxford with my housing host, Jude, who terrified me with her driving! Oxford was lovely, but I did not drive with her again... Her townhouse was three stories with a tiny backyard where she cut the grass with scissors because it was so small. My room was on the third floor and the water closet and bath were in different rooms. Since cell phones were not a thing, I spoke with your Dad only once a week, but we wrote letters everyday. I also learned to NEVER wash a tea-drinker's tea pot.
At the end of the workshop, we performed Twelfth Night at The Cockpit Theatre*, a small black box, workshop space in a building on the site of what was originally the Bear Gardens (used for baiting bears in the 16th century). I played Feste, the Fool, which was a huge challenge since it required being on stage most of the play and lots of physical humor.
* This space was not the same as The Cockpit Theatre located in Marylebone.
Outside of Class, What Were You Involved with in College
Interesting question! After my first year in college at Monmouth State College, I moved back home to work and attended Portland State University part-time. During that year I married your Dad and we both found jobs!
When we decided to move to Eugene to attend University of Oregon our initial apartment included manager duties for the complex - our first painting & repair gig! The next year we lived in a different complex without the maintenance responsibilities, but it was closer to Frat Row which had its own challenges.
The University offered many extra-curricular opportunities and I enjoyed horseback riding, trying to create stained glass projects, and lots of ballet/dance practice. But, my main activity outside of class and studying was work. I worked nearly full-time while we attended school and most of the time was employed by Far West Federal Savings Bank.
I began working at Far West in Portland shortly before we were married. Barbara and Alan had a colleague whose wife worked in human resources at the Bank; I applied and am pretty sure I got the job because your Grandma and Grandpa were persuasive. My first position was as a teller and learning to do that well was a challenge - my first 30-day review was dreadful and my supervisor was quite clear about the things I needed to do to immediately improve my performance. I wish I could remember her name, but I can still see her face. (She gave us the framed drawing of the Astoria House as a wedding present!)
Thankfully, she was willing to help me improve and by the time we wanted to move to Eugene, she supported a transfer to one of their branches. Over time, I became quite good at being a bank teller and was able to continue with the Bank when Matt graduated from UO and we moved back to Portland.
I've known your Dad since junior high - since we were 14. Wow. We were in the same friend groups through school and church and did lots of things together with those friends. But, if a date is a social or romantic engagement, then we've only been on a 45-year date!
Over the years, we have some pretty phenomenal dates -
A lifetime of wonderful dates.
But there are two dates which qualify as "Best Dates" - my first date with your Dad and the first date after our wedding.
The Accidental Date
Our first date was accidental. We had planned to go on a double-date to Cannon Beach with our own dates at the beginning of summer vacation - the summer between our junior and senior years. But our dates decided they did not want to go! We went anyway - it wasn't a date, just a trip to the beach.
When Matt showed up at my house early Saturday morning, I wasn't even up yet - in fact, nobody was awake when he rang the doorbell. Probably the fastest I ever got dressed! We stopped at Oney's for breakfast, visited the tallest Sitka Spruce Tree and bought lunch provisions at Haystack Bakery. We made it to Short Sands and hiked the trails above the beach and climbed down the cliff to the beach - which, in retrospect, was a terribly risky thing to do.
And we talked. We talked throughout the drive, we talked at breakfast, we talked almost non-stop about anything and everything. I think by the end of this first non-date date, Matt knew more about me than I'd shared with just about anyone during high school.
We also kissed for the first time and held hands the entire drive home.
The Most Unconventional Date
So, honeymoons are really long dates. We had two weeks to celebrate - one week at Mt. Hood and a second week in Victoria, B.C. But, we had a day between the wedding and travel, and planned to visit the Portland Zoo as a beginning to the honeymoon. The weather was overcast, but not too cold. The Zoo was smaller than today so we were able to visit all of the animals - and visit with our friends. We'd invited members of the wedding party to join us.
While they seemed a bit unsure about meeting us at the Zoo to begin our honeymoon, it was just one more way to celebrate for us - although unconventional. There isn't any one memory which stands out for the day, but I know it was a sweet way to begin married life.
Mr. Rogers, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa are the famous people who inspire me - each for the same reason: they changed their worlds for the better through varying degrees of perseverance in the face of obstacles and, only, through serving others.
Ubuntu, the expression of the African model of leadership, is the idea that people are empowered by others, that we become our best selves through unselfish service to others. It's Mandela's philosophy which best explains why I admire these three people:
"In Africa there is a concept known as ubuntu - the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others."
Most Important Inspirations!
But there are others who are my most important inspiration - people who are far more precious to me than any famous person: you, my family. You are each amazing in your own way and inspire me to become a better person everyday.
Matt is the best man I know - husband, father, grandfather -- you are kind, thoughtful, funny, faithful, talented and uber-smart. I am humbled by knowing I have become who I am because of your love.
Marguerite and Madeleine are the most amazing young women I know - you are both loving and kind, steadfast in your search for truth and justice, and while your senses of humor are expressed differently, you never intentionally wound anyone with your sharp understandings of the world. From the moments you were born I have been in awe of you and am so very grateful to be your Mom. And watching you tackle adult life makes me want to become an even better human being! It is a privilege to observe your love for your husbands and my grandchildren, to share your life in all its ups and downs.
I am also inspired by your husbands! Their steadfastness and love of you and Arlo and Ezrynn imbues everything they do -- they really are enamored and want the best for you.
Finally, Arlo and Ezrynn are inspirations simply because I want to never disappoint them with being less than loving, kind and generous.
Believe it or not, I was a pudgy child - food was an important part of every extended family gathering. And family dinners were a big deal. Even during the roughest parts of my parents' lives, we still ate dinner together every night.
Both of my Grandmothers cooked, baked, and canned the produce from their gardens and orchards. I remember the chicken and dumplings my Mammaw Leadingham cooked for supper (lunch) every Sunday for extended family after church - services usually went until 1 or 2 depending on how long the preacher could keep going. But my favorite was the fresh green beans cooked in bacon fat. Soooo good, but just thinking about it now makes my arteries shudder.
Mammaw & Pappaw Clark put up most of their own food - even raised cattle which made for some fine steaks cooked over the grill near the garage. I can't remember a store-bought vegetable in the house. I used to wake up on canning mornings to warm applesauce -- who knows how early Mammaw must have gotten up to begin preserving the apples so that we could eat applesauce for breakfast.
And Mom used to cook even when she worked full-time. As we got older, she would freeze casseroles or other dinners which I could pop into the oven or warm on the stove-top so that dinner would be ready when she got home from work. We ate a lot of lasagna and tuna or chicken casseroles. And frozen peas were the go to vegetable and in the summer it was corn on the cob.
We also ate spaghetti. Lots of spaghetti. The first meal I ever made on my own was spaghetti, bread, peas and a salad. I was probably 13 or 14 and remember Dad - Grandpa Bob - sitting in his wheelchair at the dining room table telling me each step:
It's funny, I had to think a bit about which meal was the first because I could bake cookies and bread - my Step-Mom even taught me how to fry donuts - by the time I was 11 or 12. So moving into making a full meal was a natural progression of skills rather than a big deal. But remembering Dad at the dining table giving directions for this meal is such a clear, sweet memory - he was joking and laughing the whole time.
A Velveteen Rabbit, A China Tea Set and A Little Sewing Basket
My favorite toys as a child included a stuffed velveteen rabbit, a china tea set and a little sewing basket.
You’ve seen the velveteen rabbit, and while he looks bedraggled now, he was quite fine when I was three. Gosh, that rabbit is 59 years old and qualifies for membership in AARP! When I was three years old my Mammaw and Pappaw took me to an Easter egg hunt at their country club in Tulsa. I’m not sure I knew what was going on except that I was supposed to find as many eggs in the grass as possible. All the excitement from the adults and everyone dressed up in special clothes meant this was a pretty important job - I remember seeing the eggs around me and just hurrying to pick them up. My grandparents were pleased that I had collected so many and, while I did not find the golden egg, I did gather the most eggs in the 3-year-old category. And, then I got to pick out a prize! The most beautiful yellow rabbit is the only thing I can remember on the table - so soft looking with ears that stood up tall. I think it came with a little metal pail painted with an Easter rabbit scene - I wonder where that ended up? But the rabbit was immediately important to me and I was so proud of him. I have no idea if the pride came from my being able to choose the toy or if it was the joy of having a new special friend who could go with me anywhere. I really did love that rabbit, so much so that Mom removed the stiff wires in his ears so that I could safely sleep with it - they were a bit pokey.
I remember playing with the rabbit for years, but the other toys stick in my memory because they were special Christmas gifts. The sewing basket and china tea set were left by the Santa I “heard” walking down the hall one Christmas eve, so that alone makes them memorable. Did I still have the china tea cups when you were little? The sewing basket did not make the move from the Midwest to Oregon, but those little cups and saucers seemed to hang around for a very long time.
I think from our first date, I've always loved your Dad!
I met your Dad at Twality Junior High - he sat in front of me in Mr. Tunnel’s English class and was just about the weirdest boy I’d ever met. He was cute - in a sort of bad-boy way because his hair was longer than mine - and he was smart but definitely a rebel. His rebel ways never got him in trouble since he was so smart and funny - and could charm the teachers. But everyone knew Matt was subversive even if we didn’t know that was the word for how he just got away with so many little things. Rules were obviously more guidelines to work around than the solid boundaries everyone else lived within. And he was funny. Smart-funny, not the class clown. He was also kind and passionate about fairness - about life being fair for everyone.
He was unconventional in so many ways which is saying something for the ‘70s: he wore off-white pants which laced up in the back and a rock from the Acropolis on necklace. And he was always moving - even in his seat he was twisting around to talk to me or his legs were pulled up in between his chest and the desktop; I remember he would sit up on the back of the chair whenever there were group discussions. (Hmmm - he was the adolescent version of Arlo’s constant motion.) And he was constantly wiggling the retainer/spacer in his mouth. I think that was what got to me most - I mean who constantly pushes around the thing in your mouth so everyone can see it? One day I’d had enough of him when he turned around and said to me “Your eyebrows look like my brother Paul’s when he opened the oven door and singed them off.” He was simply stating a fact as he saw it - no meanness intended, but who says that to a 13-year-old girl? So, I reached up to my earring and slowly pulled it out of my ear - you see, I knew his weakness was squeamishness. He really did not like the idea of a piece of metal moving back and forth in a hole in your earlobe - he was quiet for long-time after that move, let me tell you.
Junior High School was 7th, 8th and 9th grades in those days. So by the time we got to high school we were already hanging out in the same friends’ group. I’m not sure what you would have called our eclectic mish-mash of friends - really smart kids, drama-kids, sports-kids, music-kids - we all just hung out together at lunch and did things together after school, especially when we got to high school. And I don’t think we were very cliquey since the group was quite broad and fluid in comings and goings. We also were in the same youth group at Portland Baptist Church - especially the youth choir. Over the years we performed at Christmas-time and traveled to California a couple of times to sing in churches. Can you imagine a Greyhound bus full of adolescents traveling to California and back?
I started dating Matt the summer between our Junior and Senior years: we had planned to go on a double-date to Cannon Beach with our own dates at the beginning of summer vacation, but our dates decided they did not want to go! We went anyway - it wasn’t a date, just a trip to the beach. While we’d hung around in the same friends’ group, I don’t remember being particularly attracted or drawn to your Dad before this trip; he was just one of the boys in our group. But we talked and talked and talked all day; and your Dad flirted with me. I think it surprised me that one of the smartest, funniest and most unconventional boys would flirt with me who was definitely one of the quieter, conventional girls in the group. We kissed at the beach and held hands on the way home. And started spending a lot of time together over the summer. Matt spent so much time at my house that my Mom grew annoyed that he would leave his swim trunks and decided to sew the legs up - I’m not sure what this prank was supposed to do, but it did result in some ongoing, good-natured tricks between the two for some time.
Navigating a relationship while going to different colleges was difficult. We broke up for a short period, but by the time I had decided to leave school in Monmouth after my first semester we were back on track. I had returned home to find a job and go part-time to PSU and during that summer Matt proposed - it was very sweet. We decided to take a year from school to plan a wedding and then returned to University of Oregon in the fall of 1980.
I think from our first date, I’ve always loved you Dad. He’s smart, funny, kind and just far enough outside conventional to keep me interested. He’s also a bit stubborn, which I like even when it’s annoying. Of course the love has grown deeper and hopefully, more life-giving to both of us - young love can be exhausting.
This question makes me smile: my most memorable birthdays are not my own, but my sister's parties! There are three which stand out: the exciting one, the sad one and the one on Halloween!
The Exciting One
We lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was quite little, at lease until second grade. So the party must have been for her 4th birthday. Our neighborhood was filled with children and most of the Mothers did not work, so there was lots of visiting and playing in each others' yards. It seems like all of the children were roughly the same ages because going to school and birthdays - the big milestones - were celebrated by the whole block.
There was one neighbor child who was not on my Mother's favored list: Dennis. Dennis lived right next door and played BIG - and he taught us how to play rough, to dig under the fence between our yards, to run loudly - all sorts of things which were a bit too much for my Mom. As an adult I can see that Dennis was simply a very active, imaginative child. But as a child, I knew Dennis was best in small doses.
Anyway, for my Sister's 4th birthday Mom planned a really big party. The weather in Tulsa is usually pretty clear and warm on the 1st of November, so playing outside was the normal activity for get togethers. Unfortunately, it rained on this particular party so everyone moved inside - children everywhere including Dennis on the loose. I remember my Sister blowing out the candles on her cake and sitting in the living room eating cake when there was a big commotion in the dining room: the drapes were on fire! Dennis had grabbed the big Birthday Milestone Candle off the table and dropped it since it was lit and the wax was hot. The Moms put the fire out, but the curtains were goners.
The Sad One
By my Sister's next birthday we had moved to Lawton, Oklahoma. Mom had started working for Sears and we moved so that she could take a job at a new store. We must have moved in late summer - hmm, it would have been the summer I broke my arm.
Anyway, Sis started kindergarten in Lawton which was only half-days. And we lived on a main city street rather than in a neighborhood. By the time of her birthday, we really had not made any friends and nobody showed up for her party. Not one child. I can remember being so sad - all the decorations and cake, but no friends.
The One on Halloween
A few years later we were living in Portland and Mom threw a really big Halloween party for my Sister. HUGE. We lived in a neighborhood with many children and had been going to Sunnyside Elementary for a couple of years, so there were lots of kids at the party. More than I can remember. Mom and Dad had put together a haunted house and scary party activities including using cooked spaghetti, peeled grapes and other foods to mimic body parts in the dark. Melinda love it! Lots of little shrieks and laughing and joy. It was a great party.
Plane Trips Were Big Deals
My earliest memories of family vacations are focused around long car trips to stay with Grandparents for a holiday, usually Christmas. When we lived in Kentucky, we traveled to Kansas to see my Father's parents. And, when we lived in Oklahoma, we traveled to Kentucky to see my Mother's family. Even after my parents divorced and Mom moved to Oregon after remarrying, vacations continued to be trips to visit family, albeit by plane.
I can remember our first plane trip from Oregon to Kentucky -- my Mother was terrified of flying and was a wee bit tipsy as we boarded the plane! Oh, and were we dressed up! Dresses and shiny shoes -- a plane trip was a big deal in the late '60s.
Camping or Theme Parks
I wish I could find some old photos of our family vacations when I was a tween. You would enjoy how dorky I usually looked when we were camping or the strange fashions my Mom would insist we wear at theme parks. Mom had this thing about girls wearing pants - shorts were okay, for some reason - but I did not own a pair of jeans until after I married your Dad!
My Dad's accident was in 1968 and he spent a good number of months in rehabilitation during 1969. But by 1970, he and Mom were ready to do things as a family. We camped often with their friends who lived in Lacey, Washington. I cannot remember the campgrounds or parks, but I do remember not enjoying the whole process - hot, sticky, smokey and not enough to eat since we were with a family which included 5 children! And I really did not like sleeping on the ground. Surprising, I know.
The first time we vacationed at Disneyland was in 1970. Dad has just bought his first van adapted so that he could drive and a road-trip was in the works for that summer. My memories of that vacation are good - lots of laughter and warm sunshine. Over the next few years, we visited Disneyland, Six Flags and Knotts Berry Farm each summer -- sometimes with Dad and sometimes just Mom, my Sis and myself.
What Are Your Fondest Christmas Memories?
Christmas memories are an amazing way to measure the passing of time. My earliest memory of the holiday is of my Mammaw & Pappaw Clark visiting us - they lived in Kansas and we lived near Mom's parents in Kentucky. I was so excited to see Mammaw and Pappaw, I fell from a dining chair onto the open oven door. It was hot, but I don't remember any serious burns.
A few years later we lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I remember waking late at night on Christmas Eve convinced I heard the scuffing noise of Santa's boots in our hallway. In all likelihood, the noise which woke me was my Mother and Father going to bed after putting the presents under the tree. I suspect they did not get much sleep that Christmas Eve - we were up opening presents in the dark since I was so insistent I heard Santa's visit! And I remember my gifts that year were a small sewing basket and a tiny tea set.
When I was in kindergarten and had just learned to read, Mammaw and Pappaw Clark traveled to visit us in Tulsa. My Christmas gifts included lots of books. It was awesome!
And, finally, the last best childhood Christmas memory is getting a letter from Santa in my stocking. It had been a rough year: Mom and Dad - Grandpa Bob - had moved to Portland during the summer and Dad was in a car accident on Halloween. We had a Christmas tree and too many presents, but the letter was the best. I wonder if my Mother has that letter....
All of these memories are great, but my fondest memories of Christmas, by far, are of our family's Christmases. So many memories all jumbled together -
Speaking of tearing up - really, every Christmas?