Birth Story – Ife

header_ifebabyI wrote this soon after the birth of my second daughter, Ife in 1973.  We had been in Atlanta almost a year. Jim was printing and I was working at the Institute of the Black World doing clerical work. My sister Pearl and her husband lived within walking distance. Jilo attended preschool at Martin Luther King preschool.

Birthday. Why isn't she wrapped up like a little burrito? Poor baby.
Birth day. Why isn’t she wrapped up like a little burrito? Poor baby.

March 29, 1973 – 9am – 8lbs 3 ounces – Holy Family Hospital, Atlanta, GA

 I continued working at the Institute of the Black World until Monday, March 27, when the braxton hicks contractions were too uncomfortable. For the next three days I slept until 1 or 2 PM or later. Jilo was at school and Jim at work.  We were living in a duplex at 2600 Cascade Rd. SW in Atlanta.

At midnight of the 28th the contractions became regular.  I threw up.  They were not too hard.  Jim timed them.  He’d read a chapter of a book about birthing this time.  Daddy called about 12:30.  At 4:10 we called Dr. Borders. Contractions were 8 minutes apart.  Pearl and Michael took us to the hospital.  Jilo stayed with them. I had one contraction on the way, about a twenty minute trip.

I was checked in, shaved with a dull razor, given an enema. It seemed like the contractions were gone forever.  They weren’t.  Jim was a lot of help saying don’t panic, don’t breath so fast. I really didn’t need to pant except when they were checking the dilation then it was so cold.  In fact the room was freezing and next time I’ll wear a sweater.

Dr. Borders checked every half hour. At 8:30 am, I felt a mild desire to push and told Dr. Borders. She said go ahead and I was moved to the delivery room.  Although I had been drowsy I immediately woke up alert and not at all tired. However once again the contractions disappeared.  No one panicked though, they just sat and waited.  At this time I kept expecting Dr. Borders to say it was taking too long and she’d have to give me a spinal. The nurses tried to help find the right breathing breath, breath push and confused me at first. The contractions were mild and not strong, they said, so gave me something to strengthen them.  The one nurse pushed down on the stomach while I pushed. Jim was there in blue but didn’t get to say much.  I was quite discouraged, but Dr. Borders said it was coming along and finally THE HEAD CAME OUT!  I didn’t feel it come down or anything, it just popped out, I had an episiotomy.  The cord as around her neck, but Dr. Borders got it off and out came Ife.  It was something as I said before. They showed her to me and they hit her heels and she started crying. She had dark hair.  They took prints, cleaned her nose, etc.  And it was cold again. I got a heated blanket and we all congratulated each other.  It took awhile to get stitched. I felt fine. I didn’t go to recovery, just to the room.  Ife was supposed to come with me, both my doctor and her pediatrician okayed it, but the nurses never brought her.  They told me her temp had to stabilize.

I felt fine, excellent, never really bothered by stitches. Roommate was weird, had a c-section and kept saying morbid things and complaining. A real drag.  I had rooming in. I nursed her when she wanted and was never engorged.

I hadn’t realized before that my first daughter’s birth had been so messed up by the hospital staff coming in every five minutes like it as a public event, my Doctor’s lack or interest and knowledge of natural childbirth, Jim’s absence and lack of knowledge of how to help, the length of labor.

 In Ife’s birth all of these things had an influence on me, which I hadn’t realized until labor really started.  If I had known I was only going to be 4-5 hours in labor at the hospital instead of 14 and that Ife would indeed get herself born without forceps, etc. I would have been more relaxed and could have enjoyed it more.  Things to remember next time-take a sweater, take a bag or breath under covers to avoid hyperventilation, which puts you out of it. THE BABY WILL COME OUT!  Get a single room, leave as soon as possible, the hospital that is.

Memories of the Detroit Main Library

When I was growing up, this was the entry way to the Detroit Main Library.  It opened onto Woodward Ave. We probably started going soon after we moved back to Detroit when I was 4.  There was a man who stood there, a very friendly older man who looked at your books when you were going out to make sure you had checked them out. Younger than I am now, Ihe was very friendly and always smiled at my sister and me. He wore a blue suit and had a round head, with little hair.

Woodward Entry.  Click to enlarge.

To the right was the check-out counter. The door you can see to the right led into the children’s room. The picture books and early reading books were right inside the door to the left. Straight ahead, against the back wall were the books for older readers – “Invisible Island”, the Narnia books and others.  My mother brought us here often, interspersed with trips to  libraries closer to our home.ceilingAt the time I don’t remember noticing the high ceilings and the murals specifically, but they were the background for my library experience.  In 1963, an addition was added on the Cass side of the library.  With building and lawn, it occupies the entire block.  For reasons I don’t understand, most of the books were moved into the new area, leaving the old one behind.  The book checker moved to the new side of the building and continued to sit there all day and look at books. He was there when I studied on the new side all through college and he was still there in 1972 when I started taking my oldest daughter to the library.

New addition.
Cass addition.

To read more about the Main library

  • I Met My Husband in the Library “I usually studied in the sociology room of the Main Library, which was in the middle of Wayne’s campus.  As I was leaving to go to my next class that day, a guy came up and asked if I was Rev. Cleage’s daughter. I said I was.”
  • Detroit Public Library  “Designed by Cass Gilbert, the Detroit Public Library was constructed with Vermont marble and serpentine Italian marble trim in an Italian Renaissance style. His son, Cass Gilbert, Jr. was a partner with Francis J. Keally in the design of the library’s additional wings added in 1963. Among his other buildings, Cass Gilbert designed the United States Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC, the Minnesota State Capitol and the Woolworth Building in New York City.”
  • Historic Detroit Library  “In March 1910, after some surprising opposition, the Common Council voted to accept an offer from steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to provide money to go toward improving the Detroit library system. Following two years of court cases and legal mumbo jumbo, the city finally got the go-ahead to start issuing bonds and moved ahead with building a replacement for the structure downtown, a building that was still only 35 years old.”
To see more SepiaSaturday posts, CLICK!
To see more SepiaSaturday posts, CLICK!

The Ludington Lighthouse, 1956 – Sepia Saturday 188

 My grandfather, mother, sister and I were spending several weeks at my Uncle Louis Cleage’s cottage in Idlewild.  We made a day trip to Ludington, on Lake Michigan, about 30 miles from Idlewild. We had walked out to the light house, which was no longer in use. 1956 was the year I wore glasses.

Pearl, Poppy and me. Ludington, Michigan 1956.
My mother, Pearl, me.

In this picture, taken facing land but on the same pier, you can see how the cement walk slopes down toward the lake.  There was a flat part down by the water where fish had washed up and they were flopping around trying to get back to the water.  My sister Pearl and I climbed down and were throwing the fish back in the water until our grandfather noticed and told us to come up and stop it before we fell in the water.  We did it but we were not happy about it.

Poppy rowing on Lake Idlewild.
Patio. My mother, Pearl and me. Notice the face in the trees to the left. It looks like my grandmother in her younger days. It doesn't look like it belongs there.
Patio in front of the 2 cottages. My mother, Pearl and me. Notice the face in the trees to the left. It looks like my grandmother in her younger days.  Is it really there?
Close up of face in the trees.
Close up of face in the trees.
For more Sepia Saturday posts, click!

Ice Skating in 1986 and 1961

Out on the ice – James (or is that Kamau?), Jann, Ife, Shashu, Tulani & Ayanna.

This photo was taken in 1986 during the first winter we lived in Idlewild.  We used a variety of shovels to clear the ice – new red plastic snow shovels, ancient metal snow shovels and a coal shovel we found in the garage.  My aunt Gladys and uncle Hugh were in their 60s then and out skated all of us. They had racing skates and glided around with their hands behind their back looking so cool. You can see a photo of them in earlier years here – Skating Champions.

For most of the 20 years we lived there, the ice was frozen solid, 4 or more inches deep by Christmas and remained frozen until early spring. Ice fishermen came from far and wide to drill holes and sit on buckets or in little huts and fish through the ice. Once a car drove across from the far side to our side. This year Idlewild Lake hasn’t frozen at all because of the warm winter.

When I was in High school my sister and I would walk up to Northwestern High School and skate on the rink in a corner of the field. I found several articles in the Illustrated News from December 1961 and January 1962  about the lack of a warming shelter or place to leave your shoes while you skated at this same rink.  I was in the 9th grade that year and I do remember this.  Click on the pages below to enlarge and read the articles.

Part 1 of the story – the problem is raised.


Part two of the story…citizens become involved.



The Illustrated News_Dec_25_1961Part three of the ice skating shelter story – problem solved.



advent-candlesThis post is in response to the Deck the Halls Geneameme over at the Family History Across the Sea Blog. To participate or find links to more blogs doing the meme, click on the candles to the left.  Thanks to Pauleen for putting this together.

Christmas 2011
Christmas 2011
  1. Do you have any special Xmas traditions in your family?    In addition to having a Christmas tree we also set up a manger. When the children were home or my granddaughter is here we set it up at the beginning of Advent and move Mary and Joseph along day by to to arrive at the stable on Christmas Eve.  Jesus appears at midnight and the three wise men start their journey, arriving on Epiphany.
  2. Is church attendance an important part of your Christmas celebrations and do you go the evening before or on Xmas Day?  Some of us attend Church services and some don’t.  Those who do go to the night service on Christmas Eve.
  3. Did/do you or your children/grandchildren believe in Santa? None of us believe in Santa.
  4. Do you go carolling in your neighbourhood? There have been times when we caroled but not recently. Click on the link to read about my youngest son’s caroling experience.
  5. What’s your favourite Christmas music?  Click on the link to hear my favorite Christmas song which is Christmas in the Trenches.
  6. What’s your favourite Christmas carol? My favorite Christmas carol is We Three Kings and you can click on the link to hear it played on hang drums.
  7. Do you have a special Xmas movie/book you like to watch/read In the past I used to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol on television but since I no longer have a television, I listen to Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales, which you can hear by clicking on the link.
  8. Does your family do individual gifts, gifts for littlies only, Secret Santa (aka Kris Kringle)?  I have 5 children and 6 grandchildren who live in the same city my husband and I do, Atlanta, GA. On Christmas evening they all come over to my house.  After we eat dinner, we open all the gifts. At this time my children, grandchildren and we the parents give gifts to everyone of us. They aren’t expensive gifts but there are a lot of them. You can see some of us just before opening our gifts on Christmas day in 2011 above.
  9. Is your main Christmas meal indoors or outdoors, at home or away?  Christmas dinner is indoors at our house.
  10. What do you eat as your main course for the Christmas meal? You can read a description of our usual Christmas dinner, with a photo by clicking the link above. It is the same dinner my grandparents and my mother cooked, with a few changes – turkey with cornbread stuffing, greens, rice, green salad, rolls (my grandmother had biscuits), cranberry jelly (my grandmother’s came from a can, we make ours with fresh cranberries), candied sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese.  We also have brisket  and various desserts – sweet potato and mince meat pie, or cheesecake, pound cake, fruitcake.
  11. Do you have a special recipe you use for Xmas? I make my own fruitcake from a combination of various recipes and changes I make. Click on the link to see me mixing it up. I have a bowl of mixed dried fruit and I need to go on and finish the cakes! I am so late.
  12. Does Christmas pudding feature on the Xmas menu? Is it your recipe or one you inherited?  We had no Christmas pudding on the table.
  13. Do you have any other special Christmas foods? What are they? Not that I can think of.
  14. Do you give home-made food/craft for gifts at Christmas?  Sometimes I give fruitcake and sometimes various children or adults make cookies to give. Click the link to see some of the gift cookies.
  15. Do you return to your family for Xmas or vice versa?  Our family is mostly in Atlanta. One son  and granddaughter live in other cities. This will be the first Christmas she hasn’t spent with us in 5 years. He is living far away in Seattle so often doesn’t get here. Our parents are no longer living so this is “home”.
  16. Is your Christmas celebrated differently from your childhood ones? If yes, how does it differ?  When I was growing up we went to both grandparents house, my maternal grandparents in the afternoon and my paternal grandparents at night. Aunts, uncles and cousins would be there. Food and gifts were eaten and exchanged along with conversation and laughter. We were in Detroit so we usually had snow for Christmas. Here we are more likely to have rain..  We’re the grandparents now so our children and grandchildren come here. only one daughter has in-laws in the city so the others do not make visits to two houses on Christmas day.
  17. How do you celebrate Xmas with your friends? Lunch? Pre-Xmas outings? Drop-ins?  I don’t have any friends that I celebrate Christmas with. The closest would be my sister and her husband. We go by there during the holiday and they come by here on Christmas day after dinner at her daughter’s house.
  18. Do you decorate your house with lights? A little or a lot?  We never do and never have decorated with lights. Click to see a short post about lights in my Christmas.
  19. Is your neighborhood a “Xmas lights” tour venue? Our neighborhood is far from a tour venue. There are very few lights in this area.
  20. Does your family attend Carols by Candlelight singalongs/concerts? Where? There are Christmas concerts at the various schools my grandchildren attend and sometimes we attend.  This year I went to a French caroling concert at one school. If we go to a Christmas church service there will be carols to sing along with there.
  21. Have any of your Christmases been spent camping (unlikely for our northern-hemisphere friends)?  Although my youngest son and my husband received boy scout Polar Bear Badges for winter camping, none of us have done any Christmas camping.
  22. Is Christmas spent at your home, with family or at a holiday venue?  Here at home.
  23. Do you have snow for Christmas where you live? There was a snow scare one year and everybody spent the night with us but since we have left Michigan we have not had a white Christmas.  It’s raining outside right now with no predictions of snow. The temp is 55 F right now on December 16.
  24. Do you have a Christmas tree every year?  We have a living tree every year. We tend to wait until the last minute to get it and put it up a few days before Christmas. When we lived in the country my husband would cut ours or we would buy a $5 scotch pine from a roadside stand. Now that we are in the big city we buy a pine and it costs more than $5.
  25. Is your Christmas tree a live tree (potted/harvested) or an imitation?  Click to see more about the trees I have had.
  26. Do you have special Xmas tree decorations?  We save the decorations from year to year so some are from when my own children were small and some were bought and some were made by my grandchildren. I wish I had a few from my mother’s tree or her parents tree but those disappeared long ago.
  27. Which is more important to your family, Christmas or Thanksgiving The meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas are identical. This year we ate at one of my daughters for Thanksgiving. New Years Eve is also a family celebration with everybody who doesn’t have plans sleeping over here. The grandkids consider the New Year sleepover perhaps a higher point than Christmas. Click to read something about my Thanksgiving memories.

My Trip To Norway – Summer 1981

A letter home.
A letter home.

I thought of this card when I saw the prompt for this weeks Sepia Saturday. There is no kiss but there is water and a boat. Reading the card made me remember that I had written up my trip to Norway years ago, I didn’t have to write it from scratch. Hence this post.


This article first appeared in Catalyst Magazine in the Summer of 1990.

In June of 1981 I was 34 years old, three months pregnant and on my way to spend seven weeks in Norway with my then ten-year-old daughter Jilo.  I left behind my husband Jim and three younger daughters, Ife 8, Ayanna 5 and Tulani 2.  There were also several milk goats and a flock of laying hens on our 5 acres in rural Simpson County, Mississippi.  It was my first time outside of North America.

I had been corresponding with Sister Peg Dunn, a nun, about our mutual interest in Sigrid Undset, Nobel Prize winning Norwegian author of “Kristin Lavrensdatter.” I had become intrigued after reading that she wrote her novels while raising six children. Sister Peg arranged for me to attend the International Summer School at the University of Oslo.  Jilo and I traveled to Norway with her.

It is now 1990, nine years later. I’m 43, the yet-to-be-born-baby is 8 and Jilo will be 20 in June.  We now live in Michigan.  The goats and chickens are gone, but we’ve got rabbits and the garden grows larger every year. When I think about that trip these are my memories, excerpts from my journal and from letters I wrote home.

I remember wondering if those men wearing fatigues waiting to board my plane were hijackers. The pain in my ears as the plane descended. Hearing Danish spoken over the airport loud speaker.

June 16, 1981, Airport in Denmark
Dear folks,
We are drinking orange juice in Denmark and waiting for the plane to Oslo. Ten hours is a long ride! Only two more hours of dark and I am sleepy.
More soon.
Love, Kris

I remember the marigolds and petunias in the window boxes of the apartments and houses everywhere we went. Walking up0 five flights, seventy steps to the apartment we stayed in.  Looking out of the kitchen window at the grass, women hanging out wash and children playing in the yard below.  Walking, walking and more walking.

June 17, 1981 Wednesday, Oslo, Norway
Dear Jim,
We are staying with the lady poet that I met in Chicago. She gave me 2,000 koner ($400) in the bank here. Jilo and I walked all over and never got lost.  Everyone does speak English so far.  Women wear backpacks instead of carrying purses.  Tomorrow the three of us will take a train to Trondjem – a seven hour ride, where we’ll stay in a youth hostel until Monday.  I miss you. 
Love, Kris.

I remember taking the train to Trondjem. How at one point, everybody (except us) got up and turned their seats around to face the opposite direction.  How tired we got of the bread and salami and bread and salami and bread and salami, we had packed to eat.  Mistakenly jumping off of the train before it pulled all the way into the station and then having to jump over the wires and cables to get to the station.

June 19, 1981, Dombas Norway
Dear Jim,
We are staying in a valley surrounded by snow capped mountains tonight.  We walked a mile or more from the train station to the hostel with our backpacks.  Was I glad not to have a suitcase!
Love Kris.

I remember not being afraid to walk around at any time of the day or night. The long days. At midnight it was dusk.  Riding the train through glacial mountains.  How low the clouds were.  Seeing a waterfall in the mountains.  Gudbrunsdal Valley.  How hard it is to strain to catch a work you understand in a new language. How it is even harder to come up with one and say it.  My discomfort at entering the World War II Museum of Resistance and being greeted in, surprise, Norwegian by the welcomers. How they saw my expression and tried French then, to my relief, English.

June 21, 1981, Monday, Dombas, Norway – journal entry.
Jilo and I walked around Dombas in the morning.  There was a field full of the biggest, bright yellow dandelions I have ever seen.  Someone was growing tomatoes under plastic covers…there were bus loads of middle-aged German tourists. Can’t help wonder what they were doing during WWII.

June 23, 1981.  Wednesday. Oslo, Norway – journal entry.
A warm sunny day.  Today we went out to Blinern University on the trikk (subway). Took a tour of the campus.  Met a friend of Sister Peg’s for lunch in the cafeteria, Liv.  She has a research fellowship here. Is married and has an almost two year old son, Mangus.  She had taught a few years in Chicago.  Had read and seen “The Women’s Room” on TV recently.  Especially remembered the part where the woman is trying to quiet the two children and put them to sleep and the husband staggers out going to his mother’s where he can “get some sleep.” She said the wife should have thrown one of the babies at him.

We walked home, a half-hour, pleasant walk through a camomile covered field.  At dinner preparation time (Jilo cooked) we blew the stove fuse and couldn’t figure out how to change it so had to eat cold leftovers.

Then we caught the trikk to another friend of Sister Peg’s.  She lived in an apartment made from the second floor of her parents’ house.  She taught English to adults and Norwegian emigrant children. She also had seen “Women’s Room” and liked it, although she said, it didn’t deal with the problems of her generation. She told us about the social discrimination against emigrants, poor people on the east side of Oslo (where the tour buses never go) and different dialects in Oslo and having her passport stolen from a basket she carried in the store. Those things didn’t used to happen, she said.  She had been going to Poland.  There was a candle on her table and along with wine, coffee, chocolates, nuts, coffee cake, Christmas cake, butter and goat cheese.  Jilo drank solo (grape pop) She gave Jilo a snowflake pin and showed her a bunch of English books.  One poetry book included the poem “Give you son forty licks, beat him when he sneezes.”  She told us how she used to drag her younger sisters around by their feet when she was left in charge and they would act up.

I remember watching Ethiopians playing soccer in the field of camomile.  Celebrating Jilo’s birthday in the mountains with whipped cream topped apple cake.  The Folk Museums with old, old  houses, stave churches and guides dressed in national costume.  The festival day at school with the fiddler father, singing mother and dancing daughter.  How they seemed to really be enjoying themselves.  Eating lefse, roumergroten, flat brod and brown goat cheese, Jilo walking and riding the trikk all over Oslo, by herself, not speaking Norwegian and never getting lost or having any trouble.

June 29, 1981, Monday, Oslo – journal entry.
Today began cloudy and rainy but ended up nice and sunny.  Met a Californian in the laundry room.  A student from last year passing through, doing her clothes and reading Don Juan.  Trying to lose her past.  She asked if I’d found rules to live by. I told her my sister had. She also mentioned the fox in “The Little prince” and being responsible for what you love.

I remember the children’s party. Organized by a Mexican married to a Norwegian and a Bulgarian.  The kids tossing balloons around.  The Bulgarian complaining about her young chuildren catching colds so often at day care and balancing the children, her ex-husband and job.  The Mexican singing “Las Mañanitas” for the son of a Norwegian woman who worked in the kitchen. Hearing the Royal British Wedding on television in another room while I washed clothes.

July 3, 1981, Friday. Oslo – journal entry.
Started out a very sunny, warm day until after lunch, ended up being cold and rainy.  Jilo and I went with some students to the theatre.  Before the play started a tall man came up and said that he should have written a synopsis and did I know the story?  Then he started telling it to me. A fairy tale about a princess, a would be prince who had to get three feathers of a dragon to win her. Very good…I even understood a few words. The theater was old and big. We had to to to a small room up in the top or the play.  Afterwards we went in the cold rain to a kiosk and got sausages, french fries and ice cream.  We had agreed to talk only in Norwegian.  Whew!  I was cold with a dress, bare legs and sandals. But a good evening and it’s nice to be back in the room and warm!

July 2, 1981, Oslo
Dear Ayanna, This morning the Norwegian woman who cleans my room, washed the floor and was speaking Norwegian to me about my flower, but I couldn’t understand what she meant.  I guess I have to study harder. 
Love, Mom.

I remember realizing that the woman had put a saucer under the plant for me.  Walking to the park past a mental hospital.  The man people told me had been brilliant who stepped from one square to another square for hours at a time all day  long when they let him out of the hospital. Seeing topless sun bathers. Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park with nude statues of all stages of life but, strangely I thought, no pregnant woman.  The garden section, blocks and blocks of tiny houses for drinking coffee and eating cakes, surrounded by flower and vegetable gardens of those who lived in apartments.  The strange feeling of living where Nazi soldiers had lived when they occupied Norway.  Hearing my mother’s laugh coming from a group of students gathered on the steps below my window. Watching day by day as a young man worked on repairing the stairs…the girl that came and watched him, talked to him. just wanted to be with him.

July 19, 1981 Lillehammer, Norway
Dear Jim,
We did get out alive from Sigrid Undset’s bed and house.  It was very strange. Reminded me of one of those Public TV mysteries where suspecting travelers are taken in and treated kindly by weird folk who later murder them in their beds. I discovered how Sigrid Undset wrote a Nobel Prizewinning novel “while raising six children.” She left the two step-daughters in Oslo and moved to Lillehammer with her two young sons and a nursemaid.  There she wrote the first book of “Kristin Lavernsdatter.” She was tired after this because she had to keep interrupting her work to cook, clean, etc., so she brought tow more old houses. One small one for her husband (an artist) to paint in when he came out from Oslo and one for herself to work in.  It is this one that we slept in and it is connected to the original house by an added on corridor.  She also hired several maids and a cook., in addition to the nursemaid. She then left the kids and the servants in the original house and proceeded to write her masterpieces.  She later had a third child and for many years later served as a foster mother to two Finnish war orphans…Her daughter-in-law, Christianna, was odd but very talkative and nice to us.  She gave me two children’s books by Sigrid Undset (in Norwegian) and she got her young neighbor to drive us out to Undset’s grave about 15 miles away.  There was a weird little man, about her age who she referred to as “the young man.” He tried to be pleasant, spoke no English and was always leaping around smiling. One time he was supposed to open a bottle of wine and he couldn’t find the corkscrew.  He kept popping into the room and finally she sailed out after him. I expected to hear a loud smack as she boxed his ears, but she found the corkscrew and opened it. I could understand a lot of the Norwegian they spoke and that was encouraging.  I had given up hope.
Love, Kris

I remember how awful it felt to be back in school studying Norwegian and how much I felt I was missing by sitting in the classroom when real Norwegians were all about talking real Norwegian and wonder still why I kept going to class.

July 22, 1981 – journal entry.
Homework very hard.  Feel overwhelmed by busy work.  Decided to skip class tomorrow and go on field trip with another class.  Miss  Jim.  Interviewed by the newspaper, Aftenposten. Very poor English by reporter, better by photographer, nonexistent Norwegian by moi. Rather embarrassing.  Jilo got us some Norwegian deodorant.  It doesn’t work a bit.

I remember the lady from Denmark who sat next to us on the plane ride home and talked about how bad things were getting, she had to lock her doors now when she left her house, not like the old days. How dirty everything looked when we got back to Chicago and how good it was to see my family and eat home-cooked food again.


To see more Sepia Saturday Posts, Click!


Christmas Visit – 1975

Kristin Williams and James Williams
Six months pregnant wearing overalls and Jim pulling up his sock.

We moved to Simpson County, Mississippi in November of 1975.  Jim was in charge of the Emergency Land Fund’s Model farm.  Our daughter Jilo was 5 and Ife was 2.5.  I was 29 and Jim was just about to turn 31.  This was before we had goats, chickens or rabbits.  The

A gift from my mother-in-law that Christmas.greenhouses weren’t in production.  I remember several of the farmers Jim worked with gave him gifts of money for Christmas.  It didn’t amount to more than $30 total but it paid for all the gas we used.

We decided to drive up to share the holidays with Jim’s family in Rock Hill, MO.  They lived at #1 Inglewood Court, right outside of St. Louis. 17 year old Micheal, 15 year old Monette and 12 year old Debbie were living at home. We made the 8 hour trip in the little gray Volkswagon that came with the job. We paper weighttook food to eat on the way, left early and drove straight through.  I don’t remember anything specific about driving up. As I recall we got to St. Louis before dark.  Jim’s parents gave us their bedroom.  They were always so nice about that.  Jim and the kids and I shared the pushed together twin beds.  There weren’t presents for us but Jim’s mother looked around and came up with some. I don’t remember what she gave Jilo and Ife but she gave me two copper vases and Jim two glass paperweights. I don’t remember what we took as gifts.

Jilo, Ife and Deborah Williams.
Jilo, Ife and Debbie Williams.

I remember going to see Jim’s brother, Harold, at one of his jobs.  He had several, just like his father always did. We also stopped by his studio where he made plaster knick knacks.  Or was it cement bird baths?  Or both?  There was a Salvation Army or Goodwill store nearby and we stopped and I got some shirts for the kids and a dress that Ife wanted.  Mostly we stayed around the house and visited.

Micheal, Chester and Harold Williams
Three of Jim’s brothers – Micheal, Chester and Harold Williams at Harold’s place of work.

We stayed until New Years Eve and left in the evening.  There is never enough food or time to prepare it for the return trip. We stopped at Howard Johnson’s somewhere on the way home and I remember getting fried oysters. It was cold and dark and clear. There were stars. And there are always trucks. We listened to the radio and talked and maybe sang some.  The kids eventually fell asleep in the backseat and we welcomed the New Year driving through the night.

To see more people in overalls and other work related outfits CLICK!

Z is for Zamzeewillie

My last post in the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge. I am really scraping here. I never lived on or in Zamzeewillie. I’m not even sure that’s how you spell it. My daughter Ayanna was the only one who knew the particulars and she can’t remember. She made it up when we she was about 8 years old. It was around the same time that my then 3 or 4 year old son James became friends with the people only he could see. I was never sure if Nice Helmut, Mean Helmut, Nice Tommy and Mean Tommy lived in Zamzeewillie. They always seemed to be just out of sight in the other room.  Since there are no known photos of this town and none of the Nice and Mean boys I will have to make do with a photo of Ayanna and James with siblings, in our living room in Excelsior Springs.

L to R Tulani, James, Ayanna and in the back Jilo and Ife.

I can’t believe it’s really over! And that I found streets and places for all the letters of the alphabet. Mostly 😉  I really appreciate Gould for hosting the challenge. I don’t think I would have ever written so much about almost every street I ever lived on without it. You can find a list of the 39 blogs that participated here – Family History Through the Alphabet – the Finale.

Y is for Yates Township

Yates Township scenes from the past.
Yates Township scenes from the past.

We are up to Y on the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge. I have run out of streets that match the letters of the alphabet but I still have places that match. This week I chose Yates Township. I have already done Idlewild, which is in Yates Township but, there is more to Yates Township then Idlewild and so here we are. I was the librarian of the Yates Township library for a short time. My husband ran for Yates township trustee. Unfortunately he lost. He served on the Yates Township Fire Department for a number of years. He ran a recreation program out of Yates Middle School gym for several years. My youngest son graduated from the alternative education program that ran out of the former Yates Middle school after several months of classes as a grand finale to his home schooling. Two of my daughters attended Yates Middle School before we began homeschooling and before the middle school moved to Baldwin. We had our own policeman for awhile. I could tell you stories of politics and intrigue about the Yates Township government, but I just don’t have the heart.  I did include a photo from the distant past of Lottie the Body, exotic dancer who entertained the crowds back in the heyday of entertainment.


X is for eXcelsior Springs – Sepia Saturday #149

James, Ife and Tulani on swings at the playground down the street from our house.

We are up to X on the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge. I continue my trek through streets in my life. I admit that I had to cheat for this letter. I have never lived on a street or in a place or even visited one that started with an X. I did live for three years in eXcelsior Springs, Missouri though.   Today I will remember my time there. By happy coincidence, the theme for Sepia Saturday #149 is healing waters, which is what eXcelsior Springs was once famous for. It is still home to the longest water bar in the world.

The Minact Job Corps is located in the old Veteran’s Hospital.

In the fall of 1983 we moved to Excelsior Springs, Missouri from St. John Road, rural Mississippi.  My husband Jim had heard from a friend about an opening at a new Job Corps Center opening in eXcelsior Springs.  He had several siblings in nearby Kansas City and even more relatives in St. Louis, 4 hours away. He was hired as weekend residential supervisor and began work during the summer of 1983. Several more months passed before he found a house for us to move into. It was on the side of one of the many hills that made up the town and in the towns very small black community. Down the street was the empty former black school from back when schools were segregated in Missouri. There was no segregation in 1983.

Recent photo of downtown.

The population of eXcelsior Springs was 10,000. Our house was within walking distance of the children’s schools, my husband’s job and downtown. Unfortunately downtown was moving store by store out to the edge of town to a strip mall across from the new Walmart store, which was not within walking distance. Still, there was a department store, a small grocery store, a drugstore and a florist that we could walk to.  Our only transportation, aside from our feet, was a pickup truck with a camper on it and a stick shift that we drove from Mississippi. Later my brother-in-law left us his Rabbit while he was overseas in the service. There was also a van that fell to pieces almost as soon as we bought it, very cheaply I must say.

Tulani and Ayanna sliding in front of the house.
Me, James, my husband Jim. next row: Ayanna, Tulani, Ife. Very back: Jilo.

Living on the side of a hill gave us a great view of the trees and houses during the changing seasons. In the winter, though, the roads were snowy and icy.  I had learned to drive in the south and was not used to winter driving. When the first heavy snow fell, I went out in the yard with the kids and played in it.  We couldn’t understand why none of the neighbors were out there.  After several more years, snow didn’t seem so glorious. Still nice though.

Sewing a soft sculpture doll.
Cover from a book of Cabbage Patch clothes patterns.

I had learned to make soft sculptured dolls that were called “Adoption Dolls” in Mississippi. When these type of dolls began to be mass produced they became the “Cabbage Patch Dolls.”  The original dolls were 36 inches tall but I made a smaller pattern that turned out to be the same size as the “Cabbage Patch Dolls”. I also designed a small, 6 inch doll, that I soft sculptured using the same technique. This was very lucky because Christmas of 1983 was the year that there were not enough of the manufactured dolls to go around. I sold dolls  through several gift stores both in eXcelsior Springs and in Kansas City. I sold to individuals too. I was sewing dolls day and night. There were boxes of doll heads and arms and legs in the living room. The children helped stuff parts. My husband helped stuff. A sister-in-law came and helped stuff. I put an ad in the local paper and more people came to me through that. There were so many orders  I was up all night Christmas eve finishing up my own children’s dolls.  The money came in very handy to winterize our wardrobes – “Moon” boots, winter coats, scarves, cloves – we needed all of that.

Dolls waiting for delivery.

The three oldest had jobs. Jilo baby sat the neighbor’s kids after school until their mother got home from work. Ife and Ayanna had paper routes. I still remember the icy time when I helped Ife deliver her papers and we were practically crawling down the icy slope to the house when a boy came up and offered to take it and just hopped down there like a young mountain goat. I remember the food co-op I belonged to and selling dolls at the Fishing River Festival.  I remember the wonderful Community Theater. Jilo and Ife were both in several of their productions. I remember walking to the evening elementary school Christmas Program with my kids and the neighbor kids. Jim was working 40 hours weekends so he missed it.  The audience sang Christmas carols at the end and we walked home in the dark. I remember walking for exercise on the path down by the Fishing River, sometimes with my friend Roberta. I remember our first Christmas when we waited until Christmas Eve to buy our tree and there were no trees to be had. I remember usually having several extra kids at the house and discovering “Prairie Home Companion” and Mercedes Sosa on NPR. I remember James imaginary friends “Nice” Tommy and “Mean” Tommy, “Nice” Helmut and “Mean” Helmut and Ayanna’s town of Zamziwillie.  I remember Ayanna losing one of her boots on the way home from school. The kids were sicker in this town than anywhere else we lived. Tulani had pneumonia, Ayanna had vomiting that wouldn’t stop, there were warts and ear aches. Doctors and hospitals.  One thing I don’t remember is the taste of the various waters from the healing springs because I never drank any.  What a wasted opportunity.

Jilo and Ife ready for “Peter Pan.”
Jim and James.

Jilo at the Fishing River Festival
To read some eXcelsior Springs history and about the healing waters that flowed there, click.
For more Sepia Saturday offerings, CLICK!