Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Flatley Immigrants to USA

This is one page of several sent to me by our Dad in 1980. It may lead to other discoveries if someone wants to look into it. On the first page it says that the name was O'Flaithfhileadh in Irish. I think this is what Robyn used for her blog?

Robyn and Betsy

Left to Right Betsy and Robyn
An old photo but a great one of my two beautiful sisters, Robyn and Betsy.

Betsy Missive ... No Date

Outside

Inside

Enclosure

Birthday Note from Mom circa 1991?


Even in a birthday wish, my mother had to remind me of my birth story. Oh well.

Letter from D.O.D. (Dear Old Dad), 1988


Letter From Robyn, Always Herself, Always Unique




Friday, May 01, 2009

Last night I woke up from a 918 nightmare. The dream involved both the dinning room and attic doors with male and female grabbing hands. Deeply disturbing. What happened in that house?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

does this sound familiar?

what are little girls made of
snips and snails and puppy dog tails
and that's what little girls are made of.

did I get this right?
painted on the closet doors

what are little boys made of...?

I may have it mixed up?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lovely Snowfall Video

See Paul Davis' beautiful video "Requiem for a Snowfall", here. It reminds me of spring snow in Wisconsin.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mummy's stitching

"Burn your candle at both ends..." given to Uncle Paul "Pops" and Aunt LuLu

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

ACK ACK ACK SNOW

Osprey's snow post brought back these snippets of memory:

Walking through crusted snow in my rubber, faux-fur-topped boots, feeling the icy crust scraping my calves raw and red, with tears freezing on my face.

Shoveling until I thought my heart would give out, and hardly getting anywhere.

Painting the lawn furniture on a hot april morning, then having the paint ruined by 8 inches of snow on it that afternoon.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Inchworm



On Youtube there is a slot to the right of the video screen that is labeled "Embed". If you copy that information, you can have the video play right in the blog, as above.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hans Christian Andersen:Danny Kaye

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJzwC_8f6nA&feature=related


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXi3bjKowJU

sisters song: you really must listen to this...!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YhTKiFEMAg&feature=related

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tina Schober


Mueller, Christina Mary (nee: Schober)

Our dear, loving Chrissie (Tina) was called by our Lord Jesus to her Heavenly home on Aug. 16, 2008, after a courageous battle with many illnesses over the past four years.

Christina was born in Green Bay, Wis., on June 10, 1952, to Ruth (Christoph) and Leonard Schober. She graduated from St. Joseph Academy in 1970, attended Mt. Senario College, and received an associate degree from NWTI in Police Science.

On Aug. 16, 1974, she married James Mueller, of New Holstein. She was preceded in death by her husband (April 30, 2004), her parents, and mother-in-law, Mary Olszewski.

She is survived by her brothers and sisters, Thomas (Suzan) Schober, Green Bay; Prudy (Christopher) Smith, McKnightstown, Penn.; Cathleen (David) Holmes, Racine; William (Lisa) Schober, Chicago; and John (Ann) Schober, Dubuque, Iowa; her devoted father-in-law, Roger Olszewski. She will be especially missed by her dear sister-in-law and friend, Doreen (Paul) Balazs, who loyally acted as caretaker of Christina before and following Jim's death. She is also survived by brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Paul (Annie) Mueller, John Mueller, Pat Mueller, Mark (Angie) Mueller, Mike (Sue) Mueller, Mary (Pat) Dugan, Bob (Marybeth) Mueller, Tom (Jody) Mueller, and many nieces and nephews. Also left to miss Chris is her darling cat, "Angel" .

During their 30 year marriage, Jim and Chris opened their home and arms to several foster children, including, Christine Abler, who they adopted, Tammy Standifur and Kim Beu and their children.

Chris had a happy smile, and was very warm and loving to everyone she met. She was devoted to her husband, Jimmy, her family and friends.

She enjoyed needlework, and often made special hand crafted ornaments and pictures for family and friends, as well as rosaries and scapulars for her church.

The family wishes to thank Willowdale Nursing Home for their caring staff. A special thank you goes to Dr. Dennis Pleviak, for knowing Christina so well and ministering to her unique needs with prompt, tender care. A huge thank you to all the nurses and doctors, social workers and hospice workers at Calumet Medical Center and Sheboygan Memorial Hospitals. And finally, thank you, to all her friends at Taft Street Apartments for surrounding Chris with love while she grieved the loss of her dear husband.

A traditional Latin Mass will be held on Sept. 13, 2008, at 1 p.m. at St. Michael's Church, 1784 Chapelle Rue, West De Pere, Wis., with Father Bolduc officiating. Family will greet friends in the main hall following the Mass.

Memorials can be made to Willowdale Nursing Home, the Diabetes Foundation of America, Aurora Visiting Nurses of Wisconsin Hospice, Visiting Nurses of Calumet County, Taft Street Apartments, New Holstein.

Friday, August 01, 2008

while searching for mom's obit-

Flatley, Robert Hugh

Robert Hugh Flatley, 91, Green Bay, a man loved for his warmth and humor died Feb. 14, 2000 at a local nursing home. He was born in Chicago, July 3, 1908.
Bob's career began at age ten, working in his uncle's store, Callaghan Grocery on the West Side of Green Bay. He worked summers as a surveyor on Mackinac Island, attended St. Norbert College and went on to graduate from University of Wisconsin Law School and practiced law in Green Bay until the 1990's. Among many accomplishments he was in the FBI during World War II, was a Taft delegate to the 1952 Republican convention, belonged to the Lions Club, was President of the Green Bay School Board and was admitted to the United States
Supreme Court. Bob was a lifelong Packer fan.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Margaret Murray Flatley; and five daughters, Anne Taylor, Houston, Texas; Sherry Trenchard, Lake Bluff, Ill.; Ellen Martens, North Tonawanda, N.Y.; Robyn Flatley, Brattleboro, Vt.; and Betsy Berres, Portland, Ore. Ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren also survive him.

A memorial service will be held at Schauer & Schumacher Funeral Home, 340 S. Monroe St., Saturday, Feb. 19, 2000 at 11 a.m.To Dad from his loving Daughters From your twinkling Irish eyes to your true loyalty and discretion, you were a father for all seasons and we daughters will celebrate our memories of you all of our lives. We truly cherish the way you lived in accordance with the highest
aspirations of humanity.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

our her-story or not on Mackinac Island

Image of the Murray Hotel

How about a little help, I'm curious if any of you know this family history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mackinac_Island
Murray Road (159): Road from Leslie Avenue Through Old Fort Gardens to Crooked Tree Drive.

Rev. Patrick Bernard Murray, an early Catholic missionary on the Island, was badly frozen in an attempt to reach a sick Indian on a dark night. The name of this road my also be termed a tribute to the distinguished Murray family which is so thoroughly interwoven with the history of Michigan. It was on the Murray farm that the grave of Father Marquette was discomered in 1877. Mrs. Murray, of the New Murray Hotel, is noted for her generous hospitality and gracious manner. She has been frequently called “The Queen of the Island.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What If WE Went Back?



Just a thought. I am watching "Peggy Sue Got Married", and I wonder what I would do if I were back in high school? What would YOU do, knowing what you know now?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cofrin Family

I found Peter, Tish, Doug, and Andrew: no John or Penny

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Peter Cofrin- a neighborhood friend



I am sure dying of lung cancer is painful and difficult. I am so sorry Peter probably suffered. I feel the loss of a neighborhood friend.
I took a moment to ponder all our neighborhood- wish I had stayed closer to them. Oh dear. Life is terribly transient, isn't it?
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080711/GPG0101/80711039/1206/GPG01

Friday, June 27, 2008

while combing my hair

while combing my hair


I yanked and pulled
a tortoise shell comb
thru mahogany stained tresses
and this is what I found:
Buddha's teachings
a tickle session with my sister
my first menses
afterbirth of my son
scent of pine-tar
snap of rider cards
mother breaking dishes
sis reciting "WRECK OF THE HESPERUS"
desk drumbeat of daddy's nails
mate on one knee
nutty scented roasting brown-rice

all tangled in my hair
and released upon my shoulders

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

flight of the rare bird

a soft purr of red
she fled
over midnight terrain

airport run-a-way rearview mirror
overhead New York plane roared
lost her head
as mirrored bits
flew off her fist

an insistent wail
hot on her tail
broken clouds forever rain

a stolen glance back
flash of red lights
they had arrived

closing in
blue uniforms
grabbed at manic butterfly

trail of soot black tears
over sallow cheeks
crush of glass

forced into a beige cocoon
wrapped too tightly
and no ribbon
she collapsed

pretty mama pretty
your turquoise dream
what a pity
birthday package of pain

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Crockery Issue




Mom was a champion china buster and pan rattler. We all agreed that you could tell if she was in the kitchen by the noise level. Fortunately, neither Mom nor Dad really cared if they broke every dish in the house between them and us.

Two stories come to mind about their attitudes. The first one involves a couple who came to dinner. The husband complained that his wife had broken one of the cups in their set of good china. My father took that opportunity to go into the kitchen and bring out a soup bowl that was filled to heaping with cup and soup bowl handles. Dad said, "Oh, you mean like these?" The guest husband was aghast, and Dad was delighted to have shocked him.

The other story is of the melamine incident. Sometime during the 50s, melamine dishes came out, and were touted as being unbreakable. Of COURSE Dad immediately threw them on the floor to watch them bounce. One hit exactly wrong and broke; Dad crowed triumphantly ...they were breakable after all.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Peony Bush


We had peony bushes all along the side of our garage, and once a year, in May I think, they would form buds and ants from everywhere would gather to peel the petals, bit by bit. Our parents were also big fans of Danny Kaye, who sang:

Twas the peony bush there in the garden
That made you turn around and smile at me...

I tried opening the buds by hand, but that was much too fast for the peony and it was like peeling a cabbage down to the nubbin, tightly folded to a tiny middle, nothing like the spectacular full blooms that the ants unfolded.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Treehouse


One early summer, after an abortive attempt at a kid-constructed treehouse, and a lot of pleading by children, several fathers collaborated and sawed off one trunk of an apple tree in our back yard. They found a sturdy wooden packing crate (would one even be available now?), removed a plank to form a window, and sawed another plank out to form a door. Somehow they hoisted it onto the trunk and then nailed boards to the trunk below it. VOILA! A treehouse of our very own!

Several of us would jam ourselves into it and hold "secret" meetings, play all sorts of fantasy games of Tarzan or the like. It was painted blue-green on the outside, with the inside left plain wood. It was in our yard (presumably because the other yards were too small or landscaped for such an obtrusive child dwelling), so we had dibs on it. I would hole up there at times and just daydream.

It was removed, along with the apple trees, the currant bushes, and the swing set, when Mom and Dad had the patio built and the yard landscaped. I did not even miss it, as I was long gone.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

VALENTINE'S DAY


What a pair these two did make!

Happy Valentine's Day Dear Sisters...

Our very special day...

Love, b

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

O' Ill-fated party

Right from the start
Peg’s wealth gave Bob pause
His pride be the cause
Still he gave his whole heart,

Rather humble of birth
Lack of money the stumble
At first glance he did tumble
She ignored his low worth,


Peg’s openhearted gaiety waited
His empty hand be dreaded
Her patience was shredded
A moment past was fated,

Ending my sonnet I disparage
Given I was born of their marriage

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Five Sisters, A Playlet in Progress

FIVE SISTERS
By Ellen McCormick

On a darkened stage, five women are seated on chairs a few feet apart, facing the audience; each has a phone.
From right to left, their names are Susan, who is dressed in office wear, Carrie, also in office wear, Rachel, in jeans and brightly-colored T-shirt, Roxie, in all black, and Megan, who is wearing loose cotton clothing that has a third-world look. All appear ethnicallly Irish.


ACT ONE

SCENE ONE: Woman #1 (Susan), #3 (Rachel) are spotlighted. The others remain in the dark.

Susan: I can’t believe she’s doing it again! I called the home on Friday, and they said he was fine!

Rachel: Yes, and she told me she could barely sleep on Friday night, and that she packed a black dress just in case!

Susan: Oh my God. What excuse did she give you?

Rachel: She said she didn’t want us to worry.

Susan: But he’s ninety-five years old! And we live a lot farther away than she does. If this had been fatal, she would have been there already and we wouldn’t even have a day’s notice to get airline tickets. I don’t understand why she does this. Is this a control thing, or what?

Rachel: I don’t know, but it bothers me, too. I told her that from now on I want to know immediately if something happens. She said she would call me earlier next time.

Susan: She has agreed to that before, and now she’s keeping us in the dark again!

Rachel: Well, I have to call Roxie and Megan. I love you. I’ll call you later.

(Stage darkens. Spotlight on #3, punching in numbers, then on #4, who picks up phone)

Roxie: Hello?

Rachel: Hi Roxie. Carrie just called me to let me know that Dad is in the hospital with pneumonia, and he’s in intensive care. He’s doing okay.

Roxie: When did he get sick?

Rachel: I guess the nurse noticed his coughing on Friday night, and got him to the hospital immediately. He’s also got congestive heart failure, and they were really worried. Carrie went up there yesterday morning, and of course, Mom has been at the hospital with him.

Roxie: Why didn’t Carrie call us sooner?

Rachel: She says she didn’t want us to worry.

Roxie: Yeah, right. I guess she will call us one day to say that he was buried two days ago, and tell us where to send cards.

Rachel: Whoa. I didn’t think of it that way. Listen, I still need to call Megan, so I’ll have to let you go, okay?

Roxie: Okay. Love you.

(#3 punches in numbers, spotlighted. Phone rings for a few times, then we hear a voice machine greeting with #5’s voice)

Megan’s machine: Hello, it’s Megan. Please leave a message!

Rachel: Hi Megan, it’s Rachel. Sorry to call you so early, but Carrie called me this morning to let me know that Dad is in St. Joe’s with pneumonia. She says he’s doing okay now. He got sick on Friday night, and she went up there Saturday morning. That’s all I know now. Talk to you later. Bye.

(#3 goes dark, #1 lights up, dialing. #2 lights up, answering)

Carrie: Hello?

Susan: Hello Carrie? Rachel told me that Dad is in the hospital with pneumonia. I know you know that I want to be called immediately when something like this happens.

Carrie: Well, if you were in touch with Mom and me more often, you would have known.

Susan: Oh, is that what this is about? That I don’t talk to you as much as you would like? I had hoped that you would call sooner. I asked you to do that last time. And by the way, I did call Parkside Village on Friday, in case you think I am not calling the home enough.

Carrie: Susan, you know I wouldn’t keep it from you, except I was so worried, and I didn’t want to call anyone until I knew what was going on.

Susan: I don’t need you to protect me from reality, thank you. Next time, PLEASE call me immediately.

Carrie: Of course! Well, Mom is almost ready to go to the hospital. I’d better let you go.

Susan: Okay, goodbye.

Carrie: Bye.

(#2 hangs up, goes dark. #1 dials)

Susan: Hello, could you give me the nurse’s station in Intensive Care please?

(pause)

Susan: Hello, my name is Susan Baker. I am calling about my father, Tom Gallagher, in intensive care. Could you tell me his condition? (longish pause) Thank you. Please give him a message for me? Tell him Susan is thinking about him and sends him her love. Okay, thank you. What is your name? (pause) Okay, Heather, thanks again. Goodbye.

PEGGY, A Work in Progress

PEGGY

by Ellen McCormick Martens
Copyright 1996


Peggy: I wake from a dream of dancing with Archie at the cotillion, my turquoise silk gown floating behind me as we swirl in a glittering spiral through the room. Those times are really gone now. I open my eyes to a dim blur. My breathing is difficult as I turn onto my side and begin preparing to go upstairs to the bathroom.

The girl will be here soon to help Bob bathe and dress, but until then, I am alone in our bedroom listening to him make his breakfast. My furniture and silver are all I have left. So many good friends are dead now. I want a cigarette.

* * * * *

Ellen: The night birds were so soothing when I slept at Mom’s house in the summer. I wish I knew what they were. The sounds of those summer nights -- the rumble of the coal docks, freight trains, those birds’ high, strange piercing voices, and crickets -- sounds of contentment for me.

I used to go pick up Lou-Lou and bring her back here for dinner and her one-glass ration of wine. She and Mom would smoke and talk and laugh together, and I heard more about their childhood. Lou-Lou was always so full of life and humor, even though I know her pain was nearly intolerable. Mom told me she resented having Lou-Lou nearby, because of her blindness and her dependency. Lou-Lou could have learned Braille or been more willing to listen to books on tape, but she remained passive, preferring to complain, rather than do something to help herself.

My trip up there from Janesville was much nicer in the summer, driving up the shore of Lake Winnebago, cutting over to Chilton, and coming in through DePere. In the winter I used I-43, because although it is longer in miles, it still took three hours, and I could count on it staying open even during snowstorms. Sherry and I have gotten to know one another again, after all these years. She is so funny, and fun to be around. I wish I wish I wish Mom would stop making comments about her weight, and Anne’s. I reminded Mom of Nana and how she lived to be 84, roly-poly and full of mashed potatoes and gravy.

She probably talked about my weight to Robyn and Betsy, pretending to be concerned for my health, too. I know it was my appearance; I wasn’t thin and fashionable, with a high-priced hairdo and wardrobe, like her friend Barbara. She likes Barbara -- they smoke and drink together, like sophisticated society always will in Mom’s mind. I don’t think Barbara knows Mom is a schizophrenic. I wonder whether she would still visit if she knew.

* * * * *

This town is so odd. There is this invisible wall around it, to keep out the world. I hated it, growing up -– the smell of sulfur dioxide in the air hurt my throat when I breathed some days; the paper mills with their bleak brick windowless rectangles, the poisonous rivers. Lou-Lou said once that the river was “money green”. It makes me sad when Dad tells the story of how he used to swim in the Fox.

Our family was in limbo in many ways. Yes, we were Catholic, like most of the town, but my mother’s illness had a lot of consequences. Money that she spent in manic sprees couldn’t be spared for Christmas presents. The silence of denial meant both not being able to confide in friends and also pretending they couldn’t possibly know. We weren’t allowed to blame Mom for spending the money, because when she was manic she could be so cruel. Dad was so in love with her he couldn’t see straight, so there was no point in talking to him about it. It’s ironic that she always castigated him for not making enough money. After all those shock treatments she can’t remember anything. So we are stuck hearing how he wasn’t ambitious enough for her.

* * * * *

Peggy: I know they don’t believe me, but it’s true, it is! These men are talking to me through my brain waves. I keep telling the girls to make sure my brain is autopsied, so they find the implant. The ring of evil psychiatrists is so powerful. They know what I watch on TV because we have been on Nielsen’s for years. The TV records what we watch and transmits it to them.

The thing that makes me so mad is that Alex promised me there would be a movie of my life, and then she left me hanging. And Dan Rather too, he was supposed to send me a four-million-dollar check today, and now it isn’t here. Why do they keep doing this to me? The voices are really cruel -- they make fun of me. I remember that evening in London when I was walking down the stairs of our hotel, and the voices told everyone to look at me and then they made fun of how I looked. I keep trying to tell the girls, but I can see in their eyes that they don’t believe me.

* * * * *

Ellen: Mom suggested that we make a movie about ourselves, her five daughters; she said we could call it PEGGY! Sherry’s therapist says none of us is our parents’ favorite. Mom is Dad’s favorite, and she is her own favorite, too. The rest of us are simply bystanders.

Mom and Dad first saw one another in an elevator downtown. He was really cute – sandy hair in rippling waves, blue eyes with that roguish twinkle. She turned her big turquoise eyes on him and it was all over for them both. She invited him to a party, then went home and asked her mother to help her plan one. Their family was well-to-do. None of the children had the sense God gave a flea, but they grew up with money. When Peggy wanted to marry Bob, Nana warned her that if she married him, she’d never have a pot to piss in. It was 1937, the depression was ending, and they had high hopes but little else. Dad had a law degree, but then lawyers were a luxury.

* * * * *

Peggy: After my last shock treatment, they made a deal with me. They would follow my life in a study of manic-depressives, and I would never have to have shock treatment again. That was when the voices started. Oh, the terror of being paralyzed, unable to breathe, while that current ran through my brain. Now I can barely breathe anyway, and they have told me I have emphysema. They say I am going blind. I can’t bear it. No more beauty, or light?

Now everyone tells us to sell what we own and go into assisted living. I don’t know what to do. Bob wants to move, too; sell all our beautiful things and move into a closet at the end of a long, bleak hallway? No, I’ll leave this house feet first. Well, time to put the drops in my eyes and take my morning pills.

* * * * *

Ellen: She should never have had children. Someone should have told her. Lou-Lou wanted a big family, and envied Peggy. Peggy would have gladly traded for the life of parties and glitter Lou-Lou had.

In 1941, the story goes, Mom and Dad went to South America because Dad was in (briefly) the rennet business. On the ship, Mom received a telegram saying her brother Michael had killed himself. She was pregnant with Sherry at the time. Mom was heartbroken. Michael was a schizophrenic, but our grandmother Nana blamed Michael’s wife for his suicide.

The period of Sherry’s birth and first five years was sunny, in spite of the war. Dad went into the army, but his mother got him out by stating that he was her only son, although he had not lived with his parents since he was seven, when his grandmother Ellen took him in. Then he became an FBI man, and for a little while they lived in Queens. Later, in his law office, Dad had a photo of himself shaking hands with J. Edgar Hoover. The story of how they returned to Wisconsin varies, according to who is telling it. Some say Nana wanted Mom to come back and she did. Dad says he looked into the subway window one morning and saw the same grim expression on his face as he saw on the faces around him, and thought he’d better get out before it became a permanent scowl.

However it came about, they moved to Allouez, a suburb of Green Bay. The stories I hear are that this was the Golden Age of the young family. Dad was taken into a firm, they had a Scottie, and I then was born.

* * * * *

Peggy: I almost died when that big lug Ellen was born. They let me go through hour after hour of labor, and then pulled her out by one foot, like a sack of potatoes, ripping her out of my body. Bob wanted a boy, but here was the third girl! The nurse told him he’d better not complain, because of all I had been through. They performed an emergency baptism, naming her Mary. We tacked the name Ellen onto the beginning, after Bob’s grandmother. That birth was the beginning of my problems. I went into a depression, and stayed terribly down for many months.

Suddenly I was pregnant yet again. God, I felt cursed. Would I have to go through that ordeal all over again? I hated both babies. No, I didn’t hate them, I just wished it hadn’t happened. Funny, Robyn’s birth was the easiest of all . . . after all that fear. But it didn’t help. I felt like I was in a phone booth. I could see everything around me but I was cut off from all of it. They gave me insulin shock, and it made things worse. Then I was in hell. I hope you never have to go through anything like that in your life.

* * * * *

Ellen: My memories of growing up are mixed, as I assume everyone’s are. Crystal rosaries, Tarzan movies, pancakes. Sunny days lying behind the garage in the grass because I was grounded for something. I was happiest alone. Mom had “nervous breakdowns” every couple of years, following a pattern of mood swings. The tension in the house would build as her behavior became more and more erratic. Finally, when no one could stand it any more, my older sisters would beg Dad to put her in the hospital.

Betsy was born, Caesarian, and Mom said she would have liked the doctors to put in a zipper. The image of her sitting on the windowseat in the dining room with Betsy in her arms is burned into my brain. The window streaming with May sunshine, lilacs in bloom. She had her legs wrapped in the deep-peach colored satin comforter. Mom and this tiny redheaded baby--an icon of mother and child.

She was like a big neon sign when she was high. Everything she bought seemed to be turquoise. I remember when Nana died and Mom got her inheritance. She bought a turquoise car and a silk turquoise sheath with a matching turquoise swing coat. It was one of her spring illnesses, and it was a warm night. My uncle found her lying on the front seat of her car, at the airport, repeating “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ”. The sheriff’s office brought her home, and as she came through the front hall door, I saw a huge blood stain on the back of her dress. I was frightened, and asked her if she was all right. She screamed “Shut up!” and stomped upstairs to change for her trip to the mental hospital.

While she was in the hospital, we relied on Dad, and whatever housekeeper he could find who was willing take care of five children. Sometimes they were kind. My memories are of Mac, who was stern but very reliable, and Dorothy, who had terrible stroke damage.

Dorothy’s left arm and leg were atrophied, the left side of her hair was white, her left eye, walleyed. She had a limp, like Chester on Gunsmoke, swinging the bad leg out to the side to get it in front of her. Her husband, Charlie, was plump, loving, and we all thought he was retarded. They had a three-foot baby doll that they dressed and undressed, keeping her on their double bed during the day while they were working. My friend Sharon’s mother received confidences from Dorothy about her sex life. She told me, “Once when they were doing it, the bed fell down, but they kept right on!”

If you look up the word faithful in the dictionary, my father’s picture is there. He would come home from work at 5:30 every day and we would all sit down for dinner together. He tried very hard to make up for the hole Mom’s absence left. Once he even baked a lemon meringue pie, which, unfortunately, could have been used as a Frisbee.

When Mom was well, their life was full of social events. They had gambling nights, when we were supposed to go to sleep in spite of the racket of drinking and laughing, and the sound of the roulette wheel. Between parties I used to play with it, making it twirl smoothly on its ball-bearing center, holding my finger on the metal sections, feeling it slow down and my finger going numb and tickly.

We would go up to Otter Lake every summer, to the cabin my great-grandfather built as a logging camp. There were two log cabins, Camp Comfort, Nana’s cabin, one owned by Other People, and a smaller place, Camp Two, where thousands of my cousins swarmed under a double White Pine that we could see from our side of the lake. The water was the color of root beer, and on the bottom were fuzzy, slippery rounded rocks.

In front of our cabin we had a white raft with red trim that had faded to soft pink, and we had a white sailboat with a matching pink (again formerly red) sail. Anne and Sherry would invite their friends up there for big parties, diving and splashing and laughing.

For the three of us younger children, Robyn, Betsy and me, it was wonderful there. In the evening, we would go into our bedroom. Thin plywood walls divided the main cabin into a living room and two bedrooms. The walls were about seven feet tall. The high peaked roof rose above them, open--no ceilings in the rooms. On the inside of our room was a big iron bed with a high back. Above it was a shelf. We would climb the bedstead, go from there to the shelf, and finally get onto the huge, peeled-log rafter. We would straddle it and then jump from there onto the couch, which was a sleeper. We would keep this up until we were banished for the night. Back in bed, we would gaze at the rafters reflecting the firelight. The murmur of the adults’ conversation and the soft brush of the trees on the upper windows put us to sleep.

We would swim and play, plagued only by ticks, leeches and mosquitoes, in the thick woods surrounding the oval lake. We weren’t allowed to bring Gypsy, our mutt, because Nana said she would scare away the wildlife. For many years I fantasized that some day I would move to Otter Lake and live there, a reclusive, beautiful artist.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Once upon a time I was a black dog...


I was chained
then she appeared
with her sleek black hair
she released my clip
magic hair
I followed her home
all night I was scared
she held me
I whimpered
she held me
all night
then I was found
and became her
black dog