Friday, February 26, 2010

In Retrospect, My Oma

I'm going to return shortly to the tales of life on "Willowbrook Lane" and my pleasant childhood memories, but after posting a bit about my mother, I wanted to backtrack a bit, to my Oma, or Grandmother if you will.

She was and still remains the most remarkable person in my life. I loved my mother with all my heart, she was my best friend, but my Oma? She was incredible. I think you need a glimpse at her!

Again,I can only tell you some of her story as I have heard it told. From her and others in my family and then, my own personal recollections of the woman she came to be. Her life and her adventures are incredible to me, and I dare think, worth the sharing.

My Oma, born Emma, Johanna,Jacoba,Kranennburg, had more middle names than I can recall- which was common of aristrocats of Dutch Society. And born of Dutch aristrocrats, she was. Born in the 1800's- Her father was a Dutch Merchant, shipping goods from South America and the Dutch Indies to Holland. She had several illustrious Uncles,,,,one an astronomer appointed to the Queen of Holland (whom named a star in honor of his neice,,,,very rare, given the times and telescopes to peruse the heavens). Another, was a member of the Dutch Parliment who coronated the Queen. Both are listed in "Who's Who" for the record. And yet another, who was also a Merchant, buying/selling trading in the Indies and South America. And her sister, Tante' Betsey.

Emma's mother,in her day, (my Great Grandmother),would often travel to Paris and peruse the latest fashions of the courture,,,,,and then go home and make them. (I'd like to think that is where I got my ability to sew and design clothing, although I haven't done it in years!)

When Emma was in her teens, her father had a large ship returning from the Indies sink, carrying his cargo to the bottom of the sea. This was a major loss for him financially, socially and emotionally, for he had not done as well in business investments or as in his financial life as his male siblings. Emma's father, my Great grandfather, took his own life from financial ruin.

In those, her adolescent years, Emma left her home and helped her Uncle Corneilius's children as they ventured to live in Johannesburg ( South Africa), Montevideo (South America),and the Dutch Indies (Indonesia). While I was growing up, she'd tell me of tremendous storms-blowing huge tarauntialla's out of the trees onto the beaches and she and the other women would go out when the storm's subsided and stick them/kill them with their large hat pins.

Upon returning to Europe, after her adventures, she met my German Grandfather at a Yachting Resort/Inn on the Rhine, she could speak 5 languages and had had great travels throughout the world, given the era, and of course, all, remarkable for a woman.

And later, after their marriage and immigration to the US, as formerly mentioned, she muddled through English in her 40's to get them cross country to Washington State, with their children and to start a new life.

Shortly thereafter, during WWII, her youngest brother Fritz, with his wife and children were being held by the Japanese in a prison of war camp in Indonesia. (All the Dutch were taken prisoner.)And, they recieved news of her sister Betsey and her Mother, being killed in a bombing in Germany.

So, my Oma, sat vigil in Washington State, mom and sister,killed, her brother and family Japanese prisoners of war, and she strengthened her backbone all the more, and raised her family and loved her husband to a fault. She looked toward the future once again! Emma,my Oma, never looked back,,she always lived in the moment or cast her eyes towards a newer and brighter future! (I'd like to think I learned that from her!)

Life on the farm was hard for her. She'd been raised and tended by servants and all of a sudden, SHE was the help. Her educated husband was the help. Her immigrant children although deemed extremely intelligent, had the language, the cultural and even religious hurdles to overcome.

My mother as a child would become exasperated with her because she would do things that just didn't make sense. Throwing the wash or dishwater out in front of the house,,,,,,only to have the mud tracked in. Having heirlooms delivered from Germany and Holland into a house with no ammenities.

But my Oma was a survivor. She overcame SO much. The immigration, leaving her social and economic status. She and my "Poppy Karl" her life love, persevered it all.

My Grandmother outlived my Grandfather by some 20 years. She lived to be 98. She gave meaning to the term "chocoholic" and she'd walk for miles into her 90's, partially because she never learned how to drive. She'd knit her own clothes and and always wore bright hats and clothing.She was a "trendsetter." Long before the poem or addage, "When I grow old I shall wear purple." You could see my Oma from quite the distance. She walked tall, erect and with style!

One of the biggest things I learned from her was living in the moment. She never looked back, as many older people do. She didn't LIKE old people and their old fashioned ideas.

More than anything? It was her zest for life! She had a great sense of humor, that live in the moment, forget your yesterday's attitude! We can all take a page or two from that! Thanks Oma! You were the best!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Mom,,,,,, and my identity

My German Grandfather and Dutch Grandmother decided there was going to be another War in Germany. Given the political unrest and economy they decided to leave.

Can you even begin to fathom packing up your children and moving across the world in your 40's? Not to mention barely speaking the language, although my Grandmother spoke 6 languages. Not to mention leaving the little village in Germany that had been "home" for 100's of recorded years!

But leave they did. My Mother turned 13 on the boat coming over to Ellis Island. They didn't travel in first class passage, but fortunately not steerage either. (Think Leo, in Titanic). They brought the few necessities, and for some reason my Grandmother had to bring a guitar...I don't think she even played it. In retrospect, my mother thought that was just plain foolish.

My grandmother managed to find the train upon arrival, heading for Washington State. For you see, Wenatchee, in Eastern Washington had been promoting their agricultural pursuits throughout Germany. My Grandfather was somewhat of a Gentleman farmer in his small town, having orchards and vineyards adjacent to their HUGE (ugly my mom said) house on the Rhine.

In Germany they had household help. When they arrived in Wenatchee my Grandmother took in ironing and my Mom, her brother and sister picked crops. Upon arrival they lived in a little shack in an apple orchard. Amazing.

But my Grandfather had brought money to purchase land, after, of course, the Germans had taken their large share of it in order for them to leave the country. This is a long story, but I thought appropro to at least give you an idea as to where and what my mother experienced as a child. To say that she succeeded in this life would be an understatement. She took great pride in her family-her mom and dad of course, for all they did and the sacrifices.

Upon graduation, mom headed for (as the story goes with one suitcase that held two dresses she had made herself)Seattle and college at the University of Washington. While attending classes she lived with a Jewish family on Lake Washington and served as Nanny and assistant cook. Rather ironic relationship given the times, but mom loved the family and kept in touch with them for years.

Eventually, she decided to take secretarial classes as well, giving her a more mainstream lead into the professional world. ("A secretary can always get a job.") She then moved to San Francisco and worked for various companies as an executive secretary in most cases.

Mom even worked for I. Magnin for a while, "the" high-end clothing store of it's day. She said it was the worst paying job she ever had! But I have wonderful photos of her in her stylish hats/gloves and suits. Mom was a "looker."

Shortly thereafter, she met and married her first husband. Gerald was an up and coming CPA in the Bay Area. The "up and coming" part required long hours, tight purse strings with the exception of things that would show clients his prosperity.

Mom didn't have a refridgerator, but she had a fur coat. They lived in a tiny little apartment, but Gerald made sure they both wore fine watches and clothing. All about the appearances.

She continued to work in the family business as allowed after giving birth to my brother Ross. My mother loved Gerald to a fault, but it seemed like something in him shattered upon the birth of his son. He started working more and more and was home less and less. Gerald may haved been deemed the original workaholic. Eventually, he never came home at all. By the time my brother was 9 years old, they divorced. She soon moved to Southern California to mend her broken heart.

Then came Jim Flanigan, and then came I.

My mother met my father at a rare outing attended with girlfriends near Long Beach California. To say that my father was handsome is an understatment. And, apparently a charmer and smitten with my mother. They began seeing each other as time and his military schedule would allow. At this time my mother was 39 years old and had a 9 year old son.

Jim was in the Air Force and worked with SAC-Strategic Air Command. When he wasn't close by he'd send her telegrams with weird security hashmarks and he'd promise her the world.

And then she was pregnant. And Jim would write-promises of money, promises of visits, promises promises promises. And so, given the uncertainties of their relationship, she moved back up to Seattle.

Jim proposed, but my mother sensed that it wouldn't work. His charm and good looks only got him so far and she decided that he just wasn't marriage material.

By this point, mom settled in near her Sister Ingrid by Sea-Tac Airport and the secrets and fibs began. At firsts her pregancy didn't show and eventually she passed "me" off to coworkers as being Gerald's child of her former marriage. Relocating to Seattle made it work.

By the time I was 6 months old my mother had met, married and settled into life with Milt, who adopted me as his "own." Ah yes, I was the skeleton in the family closet! Milt had two sons, then 16 and 17 and there was also my half brother Ross, age 10.

Milt and my mother (Lynn) developed a successful partnership. It wasn't really a romantic relationship that I could see as I grew up, but in business the two excelled. And eventually they started their real estate acquisitions leading up to a very profitable outcome.

So, "Willowbrook Lane" began when I turned 3 and grew and changed and by the time the development was full, they started another just a couple miles away and we moved. That's when I lost touch with Jeannie, for even so close we went to different schools. I'll be "back" in future posts to visit that little beloved community, but for now-

My Dad never took time to name the next development as I recall. Or, perhaps because I was a teenager by then I never took notice.
When I was 13 years old I "hated" my dad. Hate being a strong word of course, but emotions ran high in those hormonal years. I was unloading on my mom about how much I "hated" him and suddenly realized she'd stopped the car- we were driving into a church parking lot and she cut the engine. She turned and looked at me and said, "He's not your real father."

You know that surreal feeling you have when you wake up from a particularly vivid dream? Or when you have a high fever and things are obscured? Or when suddenly you feel like surely you must be "on camera" because this is all just so weird and this can't be me and how could I NOT have known?

A million thoughts ran through my head and then, the one that ran most clearly was- this man, that was not my dad had done everything for me. Had taught me I could do and be anything. And the anger and the hate subsided.

The wonder continued too of course but I was too scared and too worried about my mom's feelings or to know any more just then. It all just kind of floated around the parimeter of my mind for several years and she'd divulge little bits here and there.

So that was it. Me and mom sitting there. Finding out she was human. Finding out she wasn't perfect. And starting to find out a bit who I was,,,,,and who I wasn't.

Mom always had good timing. I think she told me at the right time of my life. ......More on the search for my dad later!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Appleseth's,,or my introduction to White Bread

Some of the homes my father built started filling up with families as the 60's continued. And boys, lots of boys,,or girls too young to play with. I liked the boys well enough and I knew what to do with boys having all my brothers,,,we'd play "kick the can" or "frozen statue," do stunts on our bikes on the newly paved asphalt of our cul de sac, or we'd head to the Creek and look for big bull frogs or cute little green tree frogs and the occasional garter snake. I'd head back home soaked through to the bone-dirty and wet and change my clothes for the umpteenth time. I always seemed to have wet feet and my little cotton anklets-now all stretched out, would scrunch down inside my shoes.

But other than those girls in my classrooms during the first years of school, girls seemed to be in short supply. Then came the Appleseth's. My father said he'd sold the house across the street from us (across the street) to a family with 6 kids that were from Minnesota. "Were there girls, I'd asked?" He wasn't sure.

So, shy thing that I was NOT, I stood on the blacktop next to their drive and watched them unload their possessions-odd antiques and loads of matresses and I tried to figure out who, or rather WHAT was moving in. There were boys, older, younger. Girls older, younger and finally someone my own size AND a girl! Jeannie, and I knew she'd become my fast and best friend.

The Appleseth's settled quickly into their new home. In fact Mr. and Mrs. Appleseth seemed to do everything quickly. Jean, the mother was always rushing about while at home in her housecoat (I'd never seen one before) and in her perpetual rollers issuing orders (I'd never seen those either, my mother had her hair "done" every Saturday at her hairdresser, Fran's.) But mother Jean rushed around in a kindly manner. And Mr. Appleseth appeared to be gone quite a bit. There was a household, yes, but also a business to be run!

And run it all did, and at weird hours of the night. It was not uncommon to hear the vaccumn running close to midnight or the kids making sandwiches with white bread-white bread? At odd hours. This was truly a new and foreign land,,and yet exciting.

I soon learned that the family ran a cafeteria above the Medical Dental Building in Downtown Everett,North of Alderwood Manor. It was an important cafeteria in it's day, serving meals for professionals along Colby as well as families with appointments and business in Everett. Everett was in it's hay day in the 60's. With all the new development in the Snohomish County area timber production and shipping was going strong. The Paper Mills were doing well and there was also the shipping trade to provide these products to the Nation and abroad. Prosperous and busy indeed!

There were no Malls in those days. Colby Avenue, where their building was located was populated by prosperous clothing stores, jewelers, stationery's, and of course, Woolworth's and JC Penney's. Everett, being the County seat was and actually still is the epicenter of local legalities and legislation.

That said, the Appleseth's were hopping. If the kids weren't in school, they were helping out in the Cafeteria. Washing dishes, cleaning tables, stocking stainless bins of spaghetti, turkey, green beans, you name it-under the heat lamps and tray warmers! And the establishment had a state of the art Ice Cream Machine where you could make your own cone or sundae.

Somewhere in the process I became the 7th Appleseth kid. Me and me alone. There were no other friends or neighbors or classmates involved in their family dynamics, just me. And I loved it! I'd go with the kids to help in the Cafeteria, I learned to wash dishes just like the rest of them in cav ernous stainless steel sinks with hot water sprayers and conveyor belts. We'd work hard on the weekends and be rewarded with lunch and the ice cream the ice cream! Or anything else your heart desired for helping out. I was in heaven to be part of this wonderful family.

In the 60's, everything pretty well stopped on Sundays. And I think even more so in Washington state and other states that had what were later appropriated Blue Laws. You couldn't buy meat, dairy or seafood in the Grocery stores on Sundays. Nor could you buy beer or wine. And most businesses were closed. As was the Appleseth's dining establishment. In fact Colby Avenue generally a hub of activity itself, darned near rolled up it's sidewalks on Sundays,,,,it was a ghost town. But the bells from local churches rang strong and loud.

Sunday's meant family and church and rest/play time. For me Sunday still meant getting up early-military style and having one of my dad's tremendous southern style breakfasts but then donning a dress either handmade or store bought by my mother and,,,,in those days, often heading off to the Lutheran Church with the Appleseth's.

My mom always encouraged me to attend church, and at times that meant the Community church with her, because she thought it was "good for me." but then again, she was just as happy to let me go off with our dear neighbors and get a little bit of Jesus with the Norwegians and stay home and iron, bake,read, sew, whatever before her new work week began.

So,,Me and the Appleseth's? Or should I say the Appleseth's and I? At any rate, we'd often stay for cookies and Kool-aid,,again, a foreign substance in my household where we either drank water, whole milk or juice. But after church socialities would wind down I'd head out with the Appleseth's in their light blue Ford family station wagon with Jeannie and her family (If we were lucky we'd get to sit in the rear facing seat, although we'd have to share it with her baby sister Jan or younger brother Jeff.)

Jan was sweet, and was truly babied by all for many reasons. She had severe bouts of childhood arthritis which would send her off to Children's hospital in Seattle for tests and treatment, and on several occaisions, I was in attendence.

But generally, after church, off we'd go,,,to the Seattle Aquarium on the Waterfront or the "Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe" to look at shrunken heads and have our fortune told for a penny from the Gypsy in the glass case. Or we'd all head off somewhere for hamburgers or the "Bakers Dozen" of glazed Donuts.

Some afternoons,after Church, we'd just go back home and listen to records and sing to folk records songs such as "If I had a Hammer" or we'd make a simple lunch. Or we'd all gather the other kids in the neighborhood for some sort of outdoor was always great fun and I even enjoyed helping with family chores, because they were my extended family.

I remember when their Grandmother came to visit from Minnesota. She talked funny,,,she'd say like, Min-a-sota with this funny kind of lilt. And to this day,,,I still periodically say "Uf Dah." It seemed to cover so many explitives so eloquently. Jeannie didn't like her Grandmother's visit much, saying that her older sisters were too busy and she had extra chores to do while her Grandmother was there. She wanted to run away. And I decided to go with her. for emotional support . .

We went down to the Creek under the blackberry brambles where several of the local older boys had managed to provide a roof using various chunks of siding and sheetrock and we hid under the canopy. I sat with Jeannie and let her talk & cry. She was my best friend and I loved her family and her Grandma and I didn't want her to work hard, but I couldn't understand. And yet I stayed with her and thought about where we would go and what we would do,, , right up until I saw the furniture truck pull in across the street at my house that started to unload my new bedroom furniture. I had to go.

This furniture was like something out of a dream. I'd seen it on a shopping trip with my mother and had fallen in love with it. My mother ended up purchasing it out of her own salary to surprise and treat me. I apologized to Jeannie and said I had to go home.

I worried about Jeannie and her Grandmother though and I wondered where she would go, and how long it would be until she could see my new bedroom set?

So, I got my new wonderful furniture and Jeannie went back home later that day, and soon, we were in her front yard with the door open and the hi-fi cranked up, singing Beatles songs together. I have a picture of that day,,,and I hope to find it and scan it to my sidebar soon. We both wore long crocheted vests in lavander and berets to match.
Noneless, without the photo, it is a memory I have burned into my cornea.

There were other major memories of the Appleseth's-mostly involving my brother. They eventually had these cute little Spitz dogs....Kind of like a Pomeranian,,,but pure white and slightly bigger. One year,,close to Easter, my brother Ross(again let me remind you 10 years older than me) dyed one of the purebred dogs Green. He only got caught because shortly thereafter I was dyeing the Easter eggs in the old fashioned way of using Vinegar and Food Coloring that I noticed that all the Green was missing. I asked mom about it and he was caught in the act. Poor little Lady was green for months!

And another time. I must have been 10 or so, and had gone through confirmation as a Lutheran and Christmas was upon us. And my brother SWORE that I peaked at the gift he had for me, and I simply turned to him and said, "Lutheran's don't lie." I swear,,,,,Some 40 years later he still brings that up at family holiday functions. "Lutherans don't lie." And I SWEAR I never peaked!

Lots of great memories there. Great family. And I was so lucky to be part of it all in my childhood! I will never forget........

Where are you now, Jeannie? I tried to find you on the internet,,,,or any of you 6. Thank you for making me the 7th Appleseth. I will never forget!


(hopefully soon, I will learn how to better scan photos and add them to my sidebars!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What a neighborhood to grow up in!

In retrospect, I don't think life could have been much better than our little community. It seemed short in coming, but as my "Dad" built houses, so they came-those that bought my father's newly built houses (soon to be adjacent to the I-5 corridor, heading from the Canadian Border to Mexico. As children, we were somewhat isolated and formed a tight little community, being a mile or so from the business district, but as I too grew, the distances grew shorter and the neighbors more endearing. ]

But, I'm rushing ahead,,,,so beforehand:

At the age of 4,,,I "left home." To walk of COURSE,,,,to the local grocer, about a mile away. I alway had a sweet tooth,,,and the grocer provided a free piece of candy when I came, accompanied by my mother. But that held no special regard or reference when I apparently decided that candy was in order,,and I merely headed the distance towards the local merchant to obtain promised confection. I vaguely remember the call to my mother, "Shelly is here, for her candy."

I was not punished, but apparently there WAS a reprimand or words,,as I never attemped a similar transaction alone on foot.

I had older brothers,,,,,,,,Ross, 10 years older seemed nearly grown, although he teased me incessantly. He'd carry me out and over the garbage can by my ankles and threaten to throw me in... We'd build boxes of cereal on mornings when he'd appear at the breakfast table, they were tall, like fortresses around ourselves in the morning to keep the other at large. I'd read of contests and giveaways on the back of the boxes and keep them armed against his grasp. I also had two older "brothers," who were not truly related,,,,15 and 16 years older than me, who left for school in starched white shirts, skinny ties and whom shortly therefter left to either join the military or attend college.

My youngest brother Ross, would somewhat ethereally disappear off on a bus to a netherland,leaving me to wait on the corner with mom-already dressed for work and me to to be escorted to the first days of grade school. Me,either lunch money-which was relatively rare-as most had a homemade lunch,,,OR I had some weird epicurean specialty that spoke of my parents immigration/past. What other kids had liverwurst? What other kids had even, in those days, whole wheat bread?

That said, the stigma of either buying a lunch or having it hand made using foods that others only ridiculed or scorned.

And,in retrospect, their were a LOT of oddities in my childhood that I took for normal, for they truly were MY norms. And there were a lot of advantages as well. Who else had parents in their 40's? Who else was a child of an immigrant? (My mom) Who else's mother had a career/vocation/profession? Who was always dressed fashionably in a community where little thought was given of dress? My mom. Who else had extras in life because her mom worked and her father was a sucessful business man? Moi,,or at leat I thought,,,,but that is another chapter/post.

I wasn't normal. My family wasn't normal. My mother worked,,,which wasnt normal for women in the 50's and 60's. I wasn't treated specificallylike a girlchild, to cook, sew, clean, marry,,,,which was the norm of the times.,,I was basically taught that I could DO or be anything- I fished, learned to shoot a gun, hammer a nail AND sew and bake and entertain, etc. I feel pretty thankful that I wasn't raised to just be a girl/woman,,,,,but to be me.

My household was large,,,with all the comings and goings of my older brothers and their friends from work and/or church activities. We always entertained. Regardless of my age,,,,I was always included...

But we didn't have a "normal" family of the 60' SO many ways, and yet it was the best of times for me........More to follow if you'd like!