Glow Around His Head – Two Memories

Mackienzie Hall in the 1960s.
You can see all three buildings here. Mackienzie Hall is straight ahead. State Hall is to the left. The Maccabee’s Building, which housed the Board of Education back then, is down the block, a light colored building behind Mackenzie Hall.  We can’t see the library in this photo but it was directly across from State Hall on Cass and across the side street from Mackenzie Hall.    ( Photo from the Wayne State University archives)

My sister Pearl’s version:

okay. i know you always deny saying this, but here’s how i remember it.

you said somebody who worked with you in the wayne cafeteria said you have to meet this guy. I think you two would really hit it off and you said cool and then on a subsequent day, the person said there he is and he was at the top of one of those school building stairways and you said — i swear you said this to me because at the time i thought “woah! she’s got it bad!!!” — you said the first time you saw him “it was like he had a glow around his head or something.” i stole that for the “in the time before the men came piece” when the lil’ amazon says almost those exact words…

amazing that i remember this so clearly, have even told it to people, and it doesn’t ring a bell at all. I don’t know why. maybe the glow had to do with memory erasure and he erased it from your mind so you wouldn’t know he was from another planet or something… who knows? all i know is, if i dreamed it, it was an amazing dream. ….

My Version.

What really happened…includes the cafeteria, the actual meeting and a stairway.  No glow.
The first time I saw Jim, I was working in the Wayne State University cafeteria, behind the food counter. A woman who worked with me, who wasn’t a student but a regular employee, said her boyfriend was coming through the line and she always gave him free food. It was Jim who came through and got his free food and didn’t make any impression on me to speak of. I didn’t think about him again until I met him later. This must have been the winter of 1966 or the fall.

The Northern high students walked out in the spring of 1966. Northwestern high organized a supporting boycott and my sister Pearl was the head of it. I used to study in the main library’s sociology room. As I was leaving to go to my next class, a guy came up and asked if I was Rev. Cleage’s daughter. I said I was. He asked if I was leading the Northwestern boycott and I said no, that was my sister. We made arrangements to meet after my class on the picket line in front of the Board of Education Building. We did and later sat around for several hours talking in the ‘corner’ at the cafeteria in Mackenzie Hall. I felt very comfortable with him, which I usually didn’t do with people I just met. He tried to convince me to join a sorority and convert the girls to revolution. There wasn’t a chance I was going to do that. He also told me that he was “nice”. I asked if he meant as in some people were revolutionaries and he was “nice”. He said yes, that’s what he meant.  We saw each other almost everyday after that.

One day during the fall of 1967, I was going to a creative writing workshop that was on the third floor of State Hall. The stairway had ceiling to floor windows and I saw him, Jim, walking down the sidewalk across Cass Ave., in front of the library. Before I knew what I was doing, I was down the stairs and on my way out the door when I realized I needed to go to class and went back up the stairs.

That’s what really happened.

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A Typewriter & Roquefort Cheese

Summer of 1966. Me with the Underwood Five in the background.
Summer of 1966. Me with the Underwood Five in the background.  That small room held the dining room table, the upright piano, a bookcase, my mother’s desk, a combo radio/record player and the typing table.
underwood _five
To learn more about the Underwood Five, click.

I was hoping that this week I could find a photograph of someone in the family actually typing. I could not. I did find several photographs with a typewriter in the background. I chose this one of me in 1966 sitting in our dining room with our trusty Underwood in the background.  It was an upgrade from the ancient Underwood we had before.

I also found a story that I wrote on this very typewriter a little over a year later. I share it below.  I wrote it for a Creative Writing class at Waynes State University. The story alternates between a journal entry I wrote about a trip to Santa Barbara, CA and wanting to leave home and the rather strange story of #305751 (my student ID number) who works for a multinational corporation giving away cheese samples on the streets of Detroit.   Judging by all of the corrections, this was not the copy that I turned in.  I hope. Click on any page to enlarge.

roquefurt cheese pg 1roquefurt cheese 2

roquefurt cheese 3

roquefurt cheese 4  roquefurt cheese 5 roquefurt cheese 6 roquefurt cheese 7 roquefurt cheese 8

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Playing Chess

chess_toddyHere is my father, Albert B. Cleage Jr, playing chess at his parents house about 1952.  We lived down the street on Atkinson in the parsonage at the time.  We have played a lot of chess in my family through the years.

I remember my Uncle Henry teaching me to play chess when I was in my teens.  When I first met my husband, we spent hours playing chess on the second floor of the student center in Mackenzie Hall   Below is a bit of a letter I wrote to my sister in 1966 that begins with a game of chess.

September 21, 1966

I am in bed with the flu. Monday night, I was playing chess with Henry when I developed chills. My teeth were chattering and I had goose pimples. I thought I was gong to die. just my luck to get sick on payday. I got two patterns Friday. I have to get some material now. I want some blue material with little black flowers for the suit.

I spent the weekend with (my cousin).  I got high once on Saturday night. I didn’t like it. It was like everything was floating and everything was real slow. My thinking too, also my voice sounded real far away . This guy was there,  he was talking and I was looking at him and I could hear him, but it was like someone else was talking. Very, very weird!!! I could still think, I knew I was high and what I was doing. It wasn’t my idea of fun and I doubt if I’ll ever do it again.

Sunday morning I went horseback riding. I really liked it. Me and (my cousin) and her friends  went. Riding was really nice, but I was a little scared when the horse first started to run or trot or whatever you call it. I’m just a little sore.

Stokely (Carmichael) is supposed to be here in a few weeks at church. Linda and I finished our 15 page each quota of bruning at work by 12:30 Friday, so we messed around the rest of the day. Both Linda’s and my dress shrunk so now we have mini dresses.

On Friday (my cousin) and I went to the drive-in and saw “Breakfast at Tiffiny’s” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” I liked the first, but, who the hell is Virginia Wolf? Higgins paper came out. Bar’s baby has measles. Everybody at work is singing La Bamba now, due to my great influence.

Unfortunately, I do not think I ever went horseback riding again.  I never really took to getting high. It’s hard to believe I didn’t know who Virginia Wolf was.  Luckily, in one of my early English classes, we had to read her book, Mrs. Dalloway.

header_chessThe photograph in the header is my grandson Sean playing chess with himself four years ago. He would make a play and then make a play for the other color, often going around to the other side to make the play.

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My Life As A Book – Sections, Chapters, Footnotes

book+of+me+adThis post was inspired by a prompt from The Book of Me Written By You ongoing Challenge organized by Julie Goucher at the blog, Angler’s Rest.

header_krisMy life is divided into Sections and chapters. Places and age. Births and deaths. Children and events.  Sickness and travel.  There is a prequel.  There will be an afterward.

Chapters blend and blur.  What used to stand out, bleeds into other chapters, reappears later as a footnote.  Some things weave throughout the chapters – church, family, children, moving.

I am using this post  to organize posts I’ve written about my life events. Click on the links and you will go to the post about the place or person mentioned.

"Places I've Lived."The book begins in Springfield, Mass. I was born.  My sister was born. We moved to Detroit.

In Detroit, we lived on Atkinson. I started school. We moved from Atkinson to Chicago Blvd. I changed schools from Brady to Roosevelt.  My mother became a teacher. My great grandmother Jennie died. My parents divorced. We moved from Chicago Blvd. to Calvert. Started Durfee. Divide this section into 3 chapters based on Streets.

Atkinson. Started school.  Lived down the street from both my father’s church on 12th and my Cleage grandparents.  Saturdays at my Graham grandparents. Teaching Pearl to read. Pneumonia. Dogs.

Chicago Blvd. Living in the church house. That covers a lot right there. Piano lessons. rollar skating. Sore throats. Chicken pox. Tonsils removed. Great grandmother Turner dies. Cousins Jan and Marilyn born. Parents divorce.

Calvert. Toni’s school of dance arts. Neighborhood kids and games. Best friend. Youth fellowship. piano lessons. Being a part of and then being outside of. Measles. Grandfather dies. Aunt Daisy dies.

Oregon.  On the outside, making plans. 1 year at McMichael Jr. High.  My mother married Henry.  Northwestern High School. Swim team. Graduated and went to Wayne State. Aunt Abbie dies. Met Jim. That has to start a new chapter.

Went to Wayne State.  Met Jim.  Printmaking. Drawing. Groups.  Publications. Demonstrations.  Love. Broken heart.  Loneliness. Detroit riot. Moving from Oregon to Fairfield. Graduated from college.  Cross country tour.  Return home.  Maybe Fairfield should be combined with “Went to Wayne.”  I lived there so short a time. Yes, combine.  San Francisco, New York, return to Detroit.

Moving out. Black Conscience Library. House on N. Martindale. Sewing Factory. Jim. Getting pregnant. Moving.  Jilo’s birth. Moving again and again and again. Moving to Brewster projects. Teaching at Merrill Palmer. Getting pregnant again. Moving to Atlanta.

Atlanta. Working at The Institute of the Black World. Martin Luther King preschool. Ife born. Jim working at the Atlanta Voice. Staying home with the 2 children. Nanny and Poppy die.

The Emergency Land Fund. Jim’s job. Moving to SC. Isolation! Getting pregnant. Moving to Simpson County, MS. Birth of Ayanna. Goats and chickens. Moving to St. John’s Road. Various jobs Jim had during that time. Birth of Tulani and James. Move to Excelsior Springs, MO. Jilo, Ife and Ayanna start school. My mother died. Jim’s mother died. My grandmother died.  Norway. 4-H Club.

Excelsior Springs MO. Job corps, paper routes, St. Ann’s church. Food Co-op. Altar Society. Schools. Tulani starts kindergarden.  Jean, Monette and Raymond in KC. Reunions. Community Theater. Adoption Dolls. Moving to Idlewild, MI.

Idlewild, MI. Jim with MDOT. Cabral joins the family. Henry and other members of the Cleage side are close. Local schools bad. Jilo goes to college. Homeschooling. Interlochen. gardening. Wood heat. The lake. Ife goes to college. Jim’s father dies. Louis dies.  Henry dies. Ayanna moves to Atlanta. Tulani goes to college. James goes to college. Abeo born.   Tatayana born. Jilo moves to Idlewild.  My father dies. Osaze born. Kylett born. People continue to move away and back and to different places. Hasina born. Sean and Sydney born. Cabral moves to Atlanta. We move to Henry’s house. Move to Atlanta.

Atlanta. Family, family and more family. Printmaking. Blogging.  Plays. Ballet. Growing old.

Cars I Have Known

I was going through some old notebooks where I used to write during the 1990s.  There are schedules, poems, story parts and sometimes journal entries. I was happy to find my memories of cars in my life and with a few additions, I find it fits the Car Prompt in The Book of Me Written By You.

We didn’t own a car until I was 7. My mother went back to school to get her teaching certification when I was 5.  When I was 7, she had her degree and was teaching at the school I attended. She brought a gray Ford. She always bought Fords because her father worked at Fords. My father’s family always bought Chevys. Why, I do not know.

Betsy with my mother and sister.
My mother and sister with Betsy.

We called our light gray car Betsy. Every Saturday we would pick up my mother’s sister and her daughters. The 5 of us would ride across town, usually taking the Blvd, from the West Side to Theodore on the East side to spend the day at my grandparent’s house.

I remember getting a flat tire once on the way home. My mother changed the tire while we ran up and down the sidewalk. I liked the drive down through the exotic crowded flats and houses flats and houses. All those people outside bar-b-quing or sitting on porches. The neighborhoods looked lots more exciting than where we lived in a flat on Calvert. More people, older houses.  We passed through areas full of white people up from the south and black bottom, full of black people up from the same south.

Before the car we would catch the bus on Saturdays. Often having to get off and walk because I got bus sick. There was a big bridge over an industrial area, junkyards, railroad tracks… that we had to walk across. My sister Pearl and I ran across, looked over the railing, having a great time. I later learned my mother was scared to death of heights, but she hid it so we wouldn’t be.

Anyway, back to cars. My father didn’t buy a car until after my parents were divorced. How did we get to church on Sunday or over to his mother’s? I can’t believe we walked… I’l have to ask ( later note: unfortunately I didn’t and now it’s too late.)

My father always bought a car with no extras, no clock, no radio.  They must have been new. My mother always got a used car Her father, Poppy went with my mother when she decided to trade in Betsy for a newer used car. As we drove into the used car lot, the door flew open. We left with a newer black Ford.

I recall my cousin Barbara getting her thumb or finger closed in the car door. She very calmly said “Aunt Doris, my finger is in the door.” Nobody paid her any attention. She didn’t sound like she had her fingers in the door. Then she started crying and Mommy opened the door.

Lizzie in the background. My great grandmother, Great Aunt Daisy, Grandmother Fannie, Aunt Mary V. and my mother Doris.
Lizzie in the background. My great grandmother, Great Aunt Daisy, Grandmother Fannie, Aunt Mary V. and my mother Doris.

The first car in my life was Lizzie, Poppy’s (my maternal gramps) old Ford. It was black with a running board and awning-striped shades on the windows. We pulled them down when using the car to change when we went swimming at Belle Isle. Poppy didn’t have a garage. The back of his yard was taken up in a large vegetable and flower garden with a winding path and bird feeder. It’s all torn down now and cement block/razor wire surrounds it.

Poppy rented garage space from a neighbor across the alley. Was it the family with all the kids?  I don’t remember. I do remember my mother telling me one of their sons mentioned to Poppy something about his pretty granddaughter and I figured she was going to say Dee Dee, my older, beautiful cousin. At the time I was skinny with glasses and hair in 2 braids. I was truly surprised when she said he was talking about me. Come to think of it, he was skinny with glasses too. Anyway, I don’t remember ever talking or playing with him or any of my grandparent’s neighbors. We stayed in the house or yard making up plays, building fairy castles, playing imaginary land and swinging.

Back to Lizzie. After we took the bus over to visit, Poppy would drive us home. Maybe while we were there the mothers went grocery shopping. I remember how we grocery shopped in Springfield, MA pre-Betsy…. we walked.  

We all squeezed into the car for our yearly visit to the zoo. We granddaughter all spent the night before the trip – 4 girls smashed into a double wide cot in my grandfather’s room. If I woke up at night I was doomed to lay there and listen to his loud snoring.

Let’s see, Poppy, my mother, her sister and 4 or 5 kids in one car?! Maybe we were in Betsy by this time – three adults in front and 5 girls squeezed into the back seat. Singing “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” and other camp classics that Dee Dee taught us.

I remember coming up to Idlewild in my other grandfather’s big green car. The car was full and some of us were sitting on the floor. This doesn’t make sense, but I remember it.

Flash forward. Oh, wait, I used to have to go to bed at 8 o’clock or maybe earlier. Way before I was sleepy. I’d watch the girls next door playing up in their attic playroom. They were our age. They had an awful, mean dog that tried to bite me once, so we never went over there. My father had a big stick he carried to knock the dog silly when she ran out at him.  One night I saw a pink Cadillac parked on the street in front of my house. A pink Cadilac. It wasn’t full dark yet, dusk. I was kneeling at the open window and there it was. This was in the days of black and dark colored cars. I was amazed.

Henry's red and white car. The photo was taken from the house porch.
Henry’s red and white car. The photo was taken from the house porch.

After Henry and my mother married they spent many weekends driving around looking for a place in the country. Pearl often chose to stay with my father and so it would be the three of us. We drove around Canada, but the houses on the lake – What lake? – On the beach, the beaches in Canada were public beaches and there seemed to be lots of teenagers racing cars up and down them.  I always liked trips. Sitting in the back seat looking at all the stories going by.

Henry’s car was a red and white Chevrolet. It always struck me as chunky. That was on Oregon and there was no driveway so the cars (Chevy and Ford) were parked out front. When we went to Nanny’s and Poppy’s we drove via the highway. We passed over an area of junk piles,  We’d gotten into the habit of saying “If this bridge broke, we’d land right in the junk yard where we belong.” Henry took this (for some reason) as a personal insult and we had to stop that.

Once we gave my Uncle Hugh a ride way out Grand River somewhere to pick up his car from where it had been in the shop. The drive was long. On the way home, he stopped suddenly for a red light. We were right behind him. Blam! Back to the shop he went.

A big light blue car that must have been between Betsy #1 and the black car.
A big light blue car that must have been Henry’s  white after white and red car, at Old Plank.  When this car was worn out they said they would have given it to me but since I couldn’t drive they gave it to my cousin Warren. I don’t think it ever moved out of his driveway until it was towed away.

We used to drive to Old Plank Road, near Wixom and Milford, our 2 country acres with a big, old farm house on it. We’d drive out Grand River or take the Freeway. My mother and Henry would sing songs like “Indian Love Call.” We drove passed a Square Dance clothing shop.  I would have loved to have one of those dresses.

 Learning to Drive

I started learning how to drive when I was 16 or 17. Henry was teaching me out at Old Plank. I wasn’t all that interested in learning to drive but I learned to drive to Wixom and even went 40 mph down the black top. The end of my early driving career came when I had turned into a driveway and was supposed to back out but instead I went into a ditch. Just as my cousins drove up.

I tried learning to drive again when Jilo was a baby.  My husband Jim was teaching me but there was too much traffic. It rattled me and I gave it up and continued to ride the bus or catch a ride.  This worked when we moved to Atlanta where my second daughter Ife was born, but not after we moved out of the city.  I finally had to learn to drive.  I started learning in Mt. Pleasant, SC and ended up getting my license while pregnant with third daughter Ayanna, in Simpson County, MS in 1976.  Our car at that time came with the job and was a little gray Volkswagon.

Our cars from then to now.

After the Volkswagon we bought our first car.  It was at an auction – a light green post office jeep. The only seat was the drivers seat. Jim bolted an old kitchen chair onto the passenger side and the kids just sat in the back.  There were no seat belt laws in those days.  After that, we had a station wagon with a hole rusted in the backseat floor. My daughter Jilo put her foot through that hole once to see what would happen.  Luckily, nothing. There was a blue car of some type and there was a Datsun truck – red, with a camper. We sat in the front and the kids rode in the back.

After leaving Mississippi we moved to Excelsior Springs MO. My brother-in-law left us his black Rabbit Volkswagon.  It was a bit small for 2 adults and 5 children.  The back shelf came out and several of the children would ride back there, sort of in the trunk but with their heads coming up where the shelf was supposed to be.  Eventually we bought our first new car – a much needed station wagon. It died of a fire years later. Nobody was in the car or hurt. The Idlewild fire department came and hosed the car well and that was the end of it. There followed a series of used cars, a blue van, and as Jim retired and we moved to the big city, we bought a newish used car that I hope will last us another 20 years.  Or however long we keep driving.

Movies and Me

The first movie I remember seeing when I was about 4. We lived in St. John’s Congregational Church parsonage/community house in Springfield, Massachusetts where my father was pastor. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the movie. I remember waking up from my nap and going down the hall to a big room where a movie was being shown. There I saw a larger then life, green genie coming horrifyingly out of a bottle. Perhaps it was The Thief of Bagdad, released in 1940. By 1950 it could have been available for showing in darkened rooms full of folding chairs to community groups. I did not stick around after the Genie started coming out of the bottle.

0My mother took my sister and me to see many Disney movies when we were young.  I remember seeing Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio and Bambi. Later there was Old yeller, Zorro and Davy Crockett.  We had popcorn and we each got a box of candy. For me it was the pink and white covered licorice candy – Good n’ Plenty.  My sister got Milk Duds. Or we got Jujyfruits. Or were Jujyfruits found under our pillow when we lost our teeth?

Movies_I've_seenThen came movies that we saw after we finished with the children’s movies.  I only remember going to the movies once with Pearl on our own.  We went to see Persona, an Ingmar Bergman movie that a friend had told her involved a razor blade.  We saw several movies with Henry and my mother at the drive in – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Bridge On The River Kwai come to mind. We saw West Side Story, with my father and The 10 Commandments with my mother at the Dexter Theater.  I think we saw Blow-up with my father? Sounds odd, but that’s the way I remember it. Dr. Strangelove, The Battle of Algiers (which I later saw about 50 times while librarian at the Black Conscience Library) and Los Olvidares (one of the scariest movies ever) we saw at the Studio Theater with Henry and maybe my mother. When and where did I see Rosemary’s Baby? Can’t believe I really saw that at the show.  I remember seeing several movies while visiting Pearl after she moved to Atlanta – Kagemusha, Rashoman and Austrailian movie The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.  I remember seeing Midnight Cowboy with my cousin Barbara after I moved into my own apartment.  We caught the bus and walked down Dexter. I remember it was night.  Maybe the only movie I went to in Detroit after moving on my own.

I returned to watching children’s movies when my older children were younger – Charlotte’s Web and Sounder. There were probably others.

recent movies

Later I saw  a few movies when we lived in Mississippi – The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall, Close Encounter of the third Kind.  In Excelsior Springs I remember seeing The Color Purple with my friend Roberta. When we moved to Idlewild for a long time the only movies I saw were on video – Daughter’s of the Dust, Danzon, and Strickly Ballroom were some of my favorites. I remember seeing quite a few movies with my youngest son in the theater in Ludington, mostly during the week while the theater was empty.  I can’t remember any memorable ones but we went often, taking juice and our own popcorn in my bag.

For several years I was a member of SASIALIT, an online discussion group about South Asian literature and movies.  Two of the favorite movies were Sholay and Amar, Akbar, Anthony.

Movie theaters have changed since I was going to movies in the 1950s and 1960s. I went to see “Hundred-Foot journey” at Phipps Plaza.  They have roomy, red recliner seats. Quite nice to be able to put up my feet.  

One of my very favorite movies is Danzón (María Novaro, 1991). The whole movie (Spanish, no subtitles) is available on YouTube in more than 10 parts. I would advise renting the movie. It has everything, dancing, true love, a fine young man on a boat, good hearted prostitutes, female impersonators, friendship, motherhood, getting older.

My Quilt Tent – 1958

1958 july kris tentI am standing in front of my tent made of a quilt attached to the former chicken house, at that point storage shed, in Nanny and Poppy’s (my Graham grandparents) backyard.  It was a June Saturday in 1958.  I was 11 and would turn 12 in August.  My cousin Barbara had her own quilt tent built over the wooden slide.

1958 June barbara tentIn the header we are eating lunch in the yard the same day.  Sitting at the table from L to R is my aunt Mary V., my grandmother, my greatgreat aunt Abbie, my grandfather at the head of the table (of course) me, cousin Dee Dee and cousin Marilyn on the end. My mother probably took the picture.

More posts about my grandparent’s house on Theodore.

T is for Theodore Street

Memorial Day and the Fourth of July

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A Frog, A Doll And An Open Door – Summer 1956

It was 1956 and my mother, sister, grandfather and I were on our way to a few weeks out of Detroit at my Uncle Louis’ cottage in Idlewild. Click all images to enlarge.

2705 calvert
It started here, with an open door. Our door was the one on the right, the Bowles family lived through the door on the left. We didn’t have security doors in those days. 2705 Calvert. We lived in the upper flat. This is a photo taken after a fire in the early 2000s.
kris,ma,pearlon dock
Me, my mother and sister Pearl on the dock that summer. Pearl has her walking doll. 1956
kris_pearl_beach
My sister Pearl and me on the beach.  1956. I was 9 and Pearl was 7.

ruff draft - idlewild blog

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Tulani’s Birth Story 1978

My sister sent me this postcard while I was waiting for my 4th daughter to be born. The midwife had given a date a month before my actual due date so there was an extra lot of waiting through the Mississippi summer of 1978 until she was finally born September 26.hair_1978hair_verso9-12-78

They had their hair bobbed awhile ago, but promised they wouldn’t cut it again until after the baby comes!  You see them now, don’t you??  Hang in there!! Love – Pearlita

The story of Tulani’s birth – written shortly after she was born in Jackson, MS September 26, 3:36AM Tuesday (If you don’t want to read the details of a birth, stop right here.)

The midwives I used when my 3rd daughter was born had moved out of town.  The two I found were not like the others. Neither had children of their own. They were scary about everything. They said the head was small and they hoped it wasn’t encephalic. To me! They wouldn’t believe that when I said conception probably occurred and placed the due date a month early, then said they didn’t want to do the delivery because I was overdue. They didn’t hook me up with a support doctor, so Jim called the doctor  I had used as back up last time and she agreed to do it, although she fussed about the midwives not having a back-up doctor.

Woke up with contractions. Sat up to see if more were coming. They were. Woke up Jim, who timed a few – coming every 5 minutes. I was real glad. Labor was starting the day before the two week deadline ran out. Had dreaded dealing with that after fearing every abnormality possibly connected with pregnancy during this 9 1/2 months. Now, Jim called someone else to see if the kids could spend the day there since the other people worked. Then it was almost 10 o’clock so he suggested we call the doctor since the contractions were so quick. I was doing deep regular breathing which I did until transition, but blowing out rather harder than breathing in. I asked if he was sure we wanted to go in so soon since we probably had a 9 hour wait ahead of us. But finally I agreed. He called the doctor who was off that night and another lady doctor fills in for her. She said we better come on since fourth babies may come pretty quick.

I threw up once or twice as we were getting ready to leave. All loaded up and left. Dropped the kids down the road. Carrie Ann came out and said she hoped it came quickly so I wouldn’t still be waiting around in the morning. I said I hoped so too. But was mentally resigned to 9 hours of labor and didn’t expert to deliver until around 9AM.

Got back on highway. Had regular contractions all the way there. Pretty strong. Not looking forward to 9 more hours of labor but glad to be in labor. Threw up or gagged once or twice. Finally got to the hospital around 2AM or a bit before. Jim took me in and upstairs – a guard pushing the wheelchair. I was still breathing the same way, sometimes rubbing my stomach, had no back labor, during final 6 weeks of pregnancy had been told the baby was in posterior position and would cause a long labor by midwife.

On the delivery floor was wheeled into a labor room by one of the nurses on duty. There were 2, a white RN and a black LPN. I asked if the birthing suite was available and it was so we went there – a combination labor and living room where delivery can take place without being moved. I took off my clothes and peed and got into bed while Jim went to check me in. The white RN (while I was peeing) asked if I was having natural birth. I said yes and she (not trying to be unkind) made some comment like “ooohhhhh honey, that’s good, if you could stand it”. I told her I’d done it 3 times and I was sure I could. Glad it wasn’t my first. Continued this while continuing to have regular and strong contractions.

Got into bed and was shaved just a partial and checked. No enema and 5>6 cm’s dilated. I couldn’t’ believe I was that far along. Jim returned. The doctor came in. A little white lady, a bit older than I (I was 32), not 40 yet. She asked if we’d had any special plans we’d discussed with Dr. Barnes. We said just no drugs and keep the baby with us. She said you had to have a special nurse present to keep the baby.

She went back out. The RN kept making dumb comments, trying to be friendly. She said she’d be ready for delivery about 3AM. Ha! I thought. Told me to tell them if I felt like pushing. I felt like pushing a bit, but kept quiet, remembering last time and how I’d pushed mildly for hours before the real push. Then she must have checked me or the doctor did and said I could push when I felt like it. Contractions were almost continuous. So on one or two more pushes I had to push and did. The waters broke and I told them. The RN started saying “sit up, you can’t push laying down!’ I was in the middle of a push, and I was saying “just wait a minute, just wait”. So after that push everyone was rushing around getting ready for the birth. It was about 3AM. They had me sit on some little plastic seat to make it easier to catch the baby.

So, I started pushing, which was a relief. The rests between contractions were longer. I said now they’d probably stop. The doctor said rests were usually longer during 2nd stage. They started seeing head. I pushed harder and finally, actually 15 or 20 minutes I felt that big head coming through and down and made noise as I pushed. There was no pain through the cervix this time, like when Ayanna had her arm up, but the head against the perineum felt like I was going to pop. I was not relaxed. I saw that hair down there on the head, but the main feeling was yikes, I’m going to pop. The doctor said let the contractions deliver and don’t push, so after a years wait (not really) a contraction came, I panted and the head came out. I pushed and it all popped out. For some reason I didn’t look in the mirror while this was going on. But I immediately looked after she came out. And she was squirming around while the doctor suctioned her nose. Didn’t look like much mucus. Was no blueness to her. She gave a short cry. They cut her cord and I picked her up and she was a regular, whole baby, without even a club foot (smile).

Then Jim went to the nursery while they weighted her and examined her. He brought her back because her temperature was stable at 99 already. She nursed a bit then they took my blood pressure and said it was low so took the baby. Jim held her awhile. Then they pushed my uterus (ouch!) and some clots came out. Not firm enough so pushing and shot of pitocin, drip of something else. They didn’t hear about nursing firming up the uterus. Any way I went to sleep and didn’t bleed to death.

Kristin with baby Tulani
Holding  baby Tulani several months later.
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Ipperwash Canada – 1960

iperwash_1960!My sister and I running by the dunes at Ipperwash, on Lake Huron in Canada. It was 1960. I was 14 and would start Northwestern High School in September. Pearl was 12 and still at McMicheal Junior High School.  The lake is in the background but the strange distortions at the top make it difficult to tell what is there.

My mother and Uncle Henry had been trying to find a place to spend weekends and vacations out of Detroit. That weekend we had driven through various towns and country to reach Ipperwash. There was a wide beach and cars could drive on it. The beach itself was all open to the public.  I remember the house we looked at was like a big farm house and had beds all over, in the attic and in the several bedrooms.  We spent the night at a cabin the realtor had and left early the next morning. They decided not to buy there because of the cars on the beach and the public.

I remember driving their or home through a rainy day. Looking through the car window at the towns we drove through, everything summer green, but greyed by the gloomy day.

Lake Huron Ipperwasy beach
Lake Huron Ipperwash beach – a Wikie Commons photo.

The Ipperwash Crisis – While looking for photo of the beach, I found that during WW 2 the Canadian Federal Government expropriated the land of the Stoney Point First Nation with promises to return it after the war. The war ended, the land wasn’t returned. In 1995 members of the Stoney Point First Nation occupied the land in protest. There was a cemetery located in what was now called the Ipperwash Camp.  During the protests an unarmed member of the protesters was shot and killed.  The land was to be returned to the Stoney Point First Nation but it hasn’t been completed yet.  You can read more about it at the link above.

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