Project 52 – 27 – Moving to Illinois

It’s time for Project 52, Week 27!


27 weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I decided to start Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week this year I’m blogging about one year of my life. This week I’m taking the year I was 27 — June 14, 1991 to June 14, 1992.

Last week, I covered the year I was 26 and we lived in New Jersey after Steve joined the Air Force Band. I did love New Jersey and all the pine trees and greenery — but the very next summer, we had to move.

What happened was military budget cuts. And they decided to reduce the number of field bands. The band at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, even though it served the largest population area of any field band (including New York City) — was one of the bands chosen to be cut.

All the band members being cut were given an opportunity to list their preferences of where they’d like to be stationed next. Overseas wasn’t an option at that time. Of the bands that were left (Alas! the band in Washington State was being cut.), I most wanted to move to Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts. But we were still in a very bad place financially, and of course I would lose my job when we moved. So we opted for a place where the cost of living would be lower, Scott AFB in southern Illinois, across the river from St. Louis.

Before we moved, we made sure to enjoy the East Coast. We took our summer vacation to visit Steve’s Uncle John, who lived outside of Boston.

This is overlooking the Hudson River, on our way up to Boston:


In Boston:


And our favorite thing about Boston was visiting the Boston Public Garden, the site of the beloved book Make Way for Ducklings. We got a real thrill out of riding an actual Swan Boat.


But best of all were the statues of Mrs. Mallard followed by Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack! I taped this picture into our copy of the book:


Here is Josh with two of Steve’s young cousins:


And another two cousins:


(Again, Josh last year in 2015 changed her name to Jade and informed me that she was female all along. I will use the name we knew her by at the time, Josh — but will use the pronoun “they” to refer to her when talking about the past when we didn’t know she was female.)

Here’s Josh with our next door neighbor, Philip, enjoying some Discovery Toy instruments in a parade:


Six Flags Great Adventure was right near us in New Jersey, and we went a couple times that summer. I was thrilled to have an amusement park so close by.

Here’s when I told Josh that they wouldn’t get very wet on a ride. They didn’t really trust me after that about whether a ride would be fun.


I was amazed by all the trees, even in the park. Six Flags Magic Mountain didn’t look anything like this from above.


And Josh still loved all the characters. Most of the pictures just show Josh from the back with their arms around the character. It was hard to get them to turn and smile for the camera when someone so soft to hug was around.


Doug Moore, the pastor from California who married us, came out with his family and visited us and the deRiveras. We met them in Philadelphia. Here is Josh with Chrissy Moore in the Ben Franklin House.


And we made another trip to DC before we left. For awhile, Steve’s long-time friend Bob Bauman and his wife Stephanie were in DC. We met them at the National Cathedral.


That trip, we got more time with the Rauseos. Here’s at a park near their home in Maryland.


I was thinking about friends today. We only lived in New Jersey a bit less than a year and a half. We didn’t make many lasting friends. Once Audrey and Tom moved close by, that was a lifeline, but they were still 45 minutes and a toll bridge away. Part of the problem was that we never did find a church home. We attended Audrey and Tom’s church — but that was too far away to really feel a part of it.

At 52 years old, I’ve lived a lot of different places. How do I make friends? In some places, I feel like I strike it rich. Other places, it’s harder. In Virginia, now, I had a head start since Kathe and Darlene, two lifelong friends, were already here.

Yes, I usually find my main core group of friends at church. When I was teaching, I couldn’t find them at work, since I didn’t see other teachers, and students aren’t there to be your friend. Other band spouses is a good potential group, and that’s where I made my one lasting friend from that year in New Jersey.

Here’s Josh with Jody and Craig Sunken (now Jody Green). Jody was another band wife, and she and I bonded over books. We each signed each other up for Book-of-the-Month Club to get free books and talked about books. She was great with Josh, too.


And I got a short story published! I remember that the acceptance notice came on my birthday in New Jersey. It was on my 27th birthday, and I remember that I was sitting on the front stoop in Browns Mills when I opened the mail and read the amazing news.

I had taken a Children’s Writers’ Institute course and wrote this short story for that. It was accepted by Highlights for Children, and they ended up printing it in an anthology rather than their magazine. After that I started working on a book, but had trouble actually finishing it. I still wanted to be a writer, but it was hard to get around to writing when what I needed to do in my spare time was grade papers.

Another thing I remember happened in New Jersey was the day Josh walked into the room, and I said, “Hi Josh!”

The answer came in a high, squeaky voice, “My name is Piglet!”

And so Josh’s pretending began. (Interesting to me is that the first character my second-born pretended to be was also Piglet. You can tell I love Winnie-the-Pooh.)

Josh went days claiming to be one character or other. I remember many times it was one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo being the favorite. (Alas! I couldn’t keep them on Winnie-the-Pooh characters!)

One day, when Josh scolded me for using the wrong name, I said, “But you look like Joshua!”

And so the Joshua Costume was revealed.

Joshua explained that they were wearing a “Joshua Costume.” That was why they looked like Joshua, even though it was really someone else. (Hmmm. Is there a metaphor here for transgender folks?) We started calling them “The Visitors.” When a Visitor came, they wore the Joshua Costume. The Visitors tried to keep Mommy informed about who was wearing the Joshua Costume so that she’d call them by the correct name.

This went on for at least a couple years.

Right before we left New Jersey, Jessica deRivera was born. Here are Audrey and Jessica on our last visit to see them.


We took a scenic route on our trip to Illinois. We began by heading north to visit Liverpool again, where Steve had grown up.

We met his childhood friend Doug Rougeux at a lake near Liverpool:


This time, we got to see Doug perform his Bubble Show at a library, where he talked about Bubbleology.


By this time, Josh had a lot of books memorized.


Next stop was Niagara Falls. Then we went through Ohio and visited the Ericksons, friends of Steve’s family. And yes, our Honda Civic continued to die in every major city in America. When it would die (while going 55 mph), we would wait ten minutes by the side of the road, and then it would start again. Mechanics still couldn’t figure it out.

But here’s Niagara Falls:



We took the “Maid of the Mist” boat to the foot of the Falls.



But we finally made it to Illinois. And on a lovely day soon after we arrived, we visited the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.







This was August, by the way. Don’t ask me how we got such nice weather.

Scott AFB, like McGuire AFB, didn’t allow low-ranking folks to live on base. Either that, or you had to wait a year. (But I think it was when Steve made Staff Sergeant a year later that we were allowed to live on base.)

We found a nice duplex in Swansea, Illinois. Here are Steve and Josh in the back yard.


Now that we were in the Midwest, Steve’s parents came and drove with us to an Eklund Family Reunion in Wisconsin, where Steve’s Dad’s Mother lived. Here are four generations of Eklunds:


We stayed in a campground in Wisconsin with Steve’s Dad’s siblings and their families. We did some boating, and Josh enjoyed the young cousins.

Here are the Eklund siblings with their mother:


And antics in the campground:





It amused me a little bit that the Eklunds thought theirs was a big family. But I very much enjoyed getting to know the extended family. (It was a lot easier to get to know people than in a truly large family.) They always made me feel very much a part of the family, and it was a fun group.

Back in Swansea, here’s Gramp E. enjoying Josh.


And that was the year I learned to knit! We found Josh a piano class for 3-year-olds. It met in a small shopping center, right above a craft store, and I bought a Learn to Knit Book.

I’d tried to learn when I was a kid and my Grandma tried to teach me — with no success. But this time, something clicked.

Partly why I wanted to take up knitting was that sometime around this time, I cross-stitched a baby blanket for my new niece Megan, Becky’s third child. The cross stitching was a pain — You have to look at what you’re doing. But I loved making a blanket, because I didn’t have to frame it! That was always where I got stuck. I never got around to framing anything. So — I learned to knit. The first thing I tried to make did not turn out at all. But the second thing was this sweater for Josh.



And — I got a job shortly after we moved to Illinois! I applied to teach math at Belleville Area College — and barely found our phone in the moving boxes in time to receive the call offering me a job for Fall semester.

I continued to teach there all the years we lived in Illinois, usually two classes per semester, each class two nights a week.

Oh, what fun! That prompted me to dig in my box of calendars, and I just found my 1991 Calendar.

Look at that. Moving Day was August 13, 1991 — must be the day the movers brought our stuff. The same day says, “Got a job!” Only a week later, Steve went on a Band trip to the Azores.

That first semester, I taught two Trigonometry classes. One was on base, and the other at Belleville Area College. Both were three hours a week, just one night a week. I later increased my teaching load to four nights a week.

The Wisconsin trip was the first week of September, in between classes. (I taught the Wednesday before we left, then the Tuesday after we got back.)

My calendar says we were visiting different churches each week. We finally settled in to Faith Alliance Church on October 20. John and Sandra Morris from the band invited us.

The band at Scott AFB had a lot more families. A lot of people were new there, because of the band budget cuts, so it was easier to make friends. We did settle in fairly quickly, and of course it helped once we found a church.

My calendar reminds me that I was still having lots of headaches — but I started a Headache Treatment Program at St. Louis University that Fall. They taught me biofeedback techniques to relax — which would help reduce the severity of the headaches. I also started trying different preventatives.

Here are more pictures just having fun in Swansea:



Steve was the pumpkin carver in the household. This year they made a pumpkin to look like Pippo (a stuffed monkey), from one of our favorite series of books by Helen Oxenbury.


And on November 6th, it SNOWED!


For Thanksgiving, Steve’s Mom persuaded us to go to Chicago and visit Steve’s Mom’s long-time friend, Aunt Kay. We did, and were welcomed warmly.


Aunt Kay gave Josh a stuffed raccoon which they named Tick.


The year before remember how we missed the snow in New Jersey because the only significant snow that fell was while we were in California and Arizona for Christmas? In 1991, I insisted that we would stay home in Illinois, in order to get a white Christmas. Then not a flake fell during the time we would have been gone in the two weeks around Christmas!

Stephanie came to visit us in early December.


Oh, this is fun. There are some cute Josh quotes sprinkled throughout my calendar. In August, Josh was trying to say, “Sinister Sam,” but said, “Mr. Sim, Mr. Sam.” And this one perhaps foretold future proclamations. On September 13, Joshua said, “Some day I will be God.”

In 1992 was when Josh told us that someday when they got married, they would marry a blue woman. Where would they find a blue woman? In Alaska.

Oh, I like this one. I now think that I’m a year early on when Josh learned to read. Because the quote is, “Look what it says.. Morf, Morf, Morf, Morf.” In parentheses, I explain, (The word was from.)

In 1992, I began teaching four nights a week, with Intro Statistics on Monday/Wednesday nights and Calculus III on Tuesday/Thursday nights. Since I was part-time adjunct faculty, the only way I got a paid day off was if it snowed. It finally did, I see by my calendar, on February 12. We made a snowman.



Oh, here’s a fun conversation I wrote down in February!

We were talking about puppies, and I said “I’d rather have a baby.”
Josh: “I know where babies come from.”
Me: !!!
Josh: “They make babies with a machine.”
Me: “Do you think they made you with a machine?”
Josh: “No, but all the babies we don’t know were made in a machine.”
Me: “Where is this machine?”
Josh: “In a factory at Disneyland. In a factory in a field near Disneyland.”
Me: “How do you know about it?”
Josh” “God told me.”

Another cute statement: “0 is Four’s Nickname.”

And this one I like even better: “17 is your Nick-age.” (I think I’ll keep that.)

This calendar has all sorts of things I’d forgotten. Steve started getting tuba lessons from Tommy Johnson, a tuba player in Chicago — so we’d go up and stay with Aunt Kay. In May we took a trip and visited the Museum of Science and Industry and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Boy, these Josh quotes are fun. I must have been grading papers for this one: “I don’t think your students would know this one: What’s 14 + 1? They won’t know that it’s 15. That’s a Toughie!”

I didn’t take too many pictures that year. I think teaching 4 nights a week was keeping me busy. But there were plenty of outings. The Eklunds visited and took us to a Cardinals game. I started playing board games with Josh, especially Monopoly Jr. Oh look, I made a note of the time we got stuck in a loop where no one was going bankrupt and we played until the game ran out of money. When we finished, Mommy had $176, and Josh had $152. (Monopoly Jr. is the *best* game for teaching basic math skills! I like the way it has Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours, and Fives for the paper money and how you double the price when you have a Monopoly.)

And the day before my 28th Birthday, we went hiking at Pere Marquette State Park. (I don’t remember it, but it’s on the calendar.) By then Josh was old enough to help decorate the cake:


So it was a good year, settling in to Illinois.

I do remember a little song Josh sang one day while we were riding in the car:

“I used to live in New Jersey,
and then, suddenly I knew,
I lived in Ill-i-nois!”

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