Project 52 – Nine Years Old and Loving Books

Nine weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I began Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m posting each week about one year of my life.

At my parents’ house recently, I scanned in lots of old pictures. They have sparked many memories. I was surprised to discover that for the year I was nine — June 1973 to June 1974 — I didn’t scan any pictures at all.

So I’m trying to remember that year without the benefit of pictures. I was in fifth grade at Long Beach Brethren Elementary School that year with Mrs. Becker as my teacher. My best friends were still Kathy and Darlene and Abby.

That was the year Ricky turned 12 years old, started 7th grade, and started going by “Rick.” That was very hard for me to adjust to! Becky was 10 years old and in 6th grade. I was 9 years old in 5th grade. Wendy was 6 years old and in 1st grade. Randy was 4 years old, and Ronny turned 1 year old in October.

But I believe that was the year I fell in love with the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley, so I think I’ll talk about them. And that way I can include a picture — of my Black Stallion books that I collected then — sitting on my shelf today.


I remember that my best friend Kathy did a book report on The Black Stallion toward the end of fourth grade. Mind you, I have no idea what books I did a book report on in fourth grade. But I remember Kathy’s — she did a stick-puppet puppet show of the match race at the end. I’m quite sure it was fourth grade because of the way the classroom was facing (the opposite of all the other grades I was in at that school).

But I remember that I had not read the book when Kathy did the book report. I must have started reading them that summer — and loved them so much! I had a sheet of paper in a notebook where I kept track of how much money I had and how much I needed to buy the next book. They were $2.95 each (for a nice hardcover!). And Man O’ War, based on a true story, was $3.95.

Since I’m pretty sure I started reading them the summer I was nine, it must have been my tenth birthday when I completed my collection. My parents gave me THIRTY DOLLARS for my birthday that year! We went to Pickwick Booksellers in the Carson Mall and I spent all that money on books. I bought the remaining Black Stallion books I didn’t have (except Son of the Black Stallion, which wasn’t there that day) and Man O’ War and The Phantom Tollbooth. So I must have bought seven or eight books that day. (I think my Mom paid any tax. They were generous.)

I did read them all out of order, since I bought them as I earned the money and as they happened to be at the bookstore. (Oh those days before Amazon and before ubiquitous computers!) I must have read The Black Stallion Revolts, one of my favorites, Book Nine, in the summer, because I read it during my nap and didn’t stop until I’d finished — five hours later.

[That reminds me, our Mom required us to take naps when we were home, for her own sanity (at least until we reached 7th grade) — but we were allowed to read during those naps, we just had to stay in our rooms for an hour. This is a brilliant way to encourage love of reading in kids. It also built my lifelong habit of reading in bed.]

Kathy loved the Black Stallion books, too. We got to be rather horse crazy — though later Kathy actually got a horse of her own. It was always just a fantasy for me.

I do have a funny story about Walter Farley’s books. Books 4, 7, and 11, are about The Island Stallion rather than The Black Stallion. Both horses were crazy fast — the books are about horse racing — but The Island Stallion lived in a secret island canyon hidden by cliffs, a descendant of horses the conquistadores brought to America. Only Steve Duncan and his guardian knew about the wild stallion.

I loved the first two Island Stallion books, but Book 11, The Island Stallion Races, is just weird. Aliens come and land on the island and they disguise Steve Duncan and transport him and Flame off the island so they can race and prove how fast Flame really is.

It’s a very strange book. I read and reread all of these books, but that one I only read once.

That’s the first part of the story. The next part happened in sixth grade. I was always a good speller, since, after all, I was a voracious reader with a very visual memory. But I remember one time I spelled the word “coconut” wrong. I had a hard time with it, because I was sure I’d seen it spelled as “cocoanut,” so that’s what I put down. My teacher actually laughed delightedly to catch me in a mistake! (He wasn’t the only teacher to ever do that about me missing a spelling word.)

Okay, now fast forward thirty years. I was reading all the Walter Farley books to my child. We got to The Island Stallion Races (which they liked a lot because they loved stories about aliens), and in two different places, I found the word “cocoanut”!

I interrupted the reading to shout, “I knew it! I knew I’d seen it spelled that way!” I felt so vindicated!

The moral of the story being: Editors, please don’t let misspellings get past you. Small children will be scarred for life.

Okay, back to the year I was nine….

That gets me thinking of other books I loved. The Chronicles of Narnia were tremendous favorites, other ones that I read and reread. I remember putting them aside in 7th grade, sadly deciding I was too old for Narnia. I happily picked them up again in college.

Another series of books I loved were the autobiographical books by missionary Isobel Kuhn. I especially loved Stones of Fire, which I got from our church library.

One of the books I loved to check out from the little Carson library branch on Avalon Street was Sawdust in His Shoes. I recently got that via interlibrary loan and reviewed it.

And that reminds me of another book I loved from that library, Pony for Keeps (I think it was called). I’m going to have to do the same for it! And that reminds me of other favorites, Come on Seabiscuit! and Little Britches, by Ralph Moody. (Both of those I managed to purchase as an adult.)

I also liked books with “Magic” in the title. I loved Magic in the Alley, by Mary Calhoun and Black and Blue Magic, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. And the Edward Eager books! My favorite was Seven-Day Magic. But all of them are wonderful.

The first romance I read was Pollyanna Grows Up, in a copy my mother had once owned. I loved it so much! I later read Pollyanna itself. Those books are wonderful, fundamentally Christian, and unfairly maligned.

Oh, and Bambi! It’s nothing like the movie, not at all trivial or cute. Bambi was another one — along with quite a few of these mentioned — that Kathy introduced me to. Another animal book favorite was Black Beauty, though that one I’d had my own lovely edition since second grade or so.

While I’m talking about books, I’ll mention The Hobbit. I didn’t read it until 6th grade, but that’s another book I loved so much I remember where I was when I was reading it — particularly a time I was reading it on the way to school and had to stop right when Bilbo was in the dragon’s cave looking at the treasure!

Speaking of reading, fourth grade was the year I got glasses. I also got pretty frequent headaches by fifth grade. I know that glasses helped the headaches a little bit.

And in fifth grade I began playing the flute! That might have been the year I quit piano lessons, too — though it might have been sixth grade. I really hated competing in the piano festival. I’d shake. But somehow playing the flute wasn’t as bad. (Yes, I would shake in recitals, but gradually got better.)

But I know I got headaches in the afternoon and often had them during flute lessons, because Mr. Currie commented on them.

Now it’s obvious to me — I was playing on a cement playground for an hour at lunchtime in the bright California sunshine. Without sunglasses. Of course I got headaches!

My Mom said that an eye doctor once told her that her eyes were ten times more sensitive to light than most drivers. She always wore clip-on sunglasses to drive. I don’t know why we didn’t figure out I’d inherited that.

Now I never set foot outside without sunglasses. But it took me years to figure that out. And direct sunshine is one of the very quickest ways to trigger a headache.

I used to go into a dark room with my arm over my eyes. I’d ask my Mom to take my temperature. She’d look at it and say, “You’re not sick.” — So I’d have to go to school the next day. (The rule was that if you had a temperature above normal, you could stay home the next day.) This wasn’t actually a problem with school, since my headaches always went away in the night anyway. (It wasn’t until after my first child was born that I started getting multi-day headaches.) It was sometimes a problem for Sunday evening services at church — I remember times praying to bear the pain. But since I “wasn’t sick,” I had to go to church with the family.

But that wasn’t really all that frequent. I don’t really blame my Mom for not figuring out I had a problem — after awhile I’d take my own temperature quietly in the bathroom and not tell her when it wasn’t a fever. She probably didn’t even know how often I got them. And I didn’t know there was anything I could do. (I discovered aspirin in late high school.)

All in all, fifth grade was happy. There was a fun baby at home, great friends at school, an imaginative life with great books, and swimming in the summer. That’s how I remember it now, anyway.

And yes, now I see seeds of the Librarian I was later to become. Why’d it even take me so long to figure it out? In fact, some time during those years I remember thinking that I wanted to be a writer but wasn’t sure I was good at it and was wishing there was a job about reading books. Why didn’t I know there was a job like that? We went to the library often enough, but I didn’t interact with the librarians much. So I had to wait to discover what I was born to do.

Project 52 – Fourth Grade

1972_09 Fourth Grade2

Eight weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m posting each week about one year of my life.

This week I’m looking at the year I was eight years old, from June 1972 to 1973.

That was the first summer we lived in Wilmington, where we have an in-ground pool, so that would have been the summer I learned to swim. We didn’t take lessons, but basically figured it out ourselves. We’d already practiced in a smaller standing pool at the Carson house. But in Wilmington, we learned to swim before we were allowed to go “in the deep end.” Years of summers spent in the pool followed!

And — Fourth grade was the first year I had the entire school year in one classroom! (In Kindergarten we moved. 1st and 2nd grade was the year I moved up a grade. Third grade we moved.) It was the year that Kathy Morris, Darlene Sasaki, Abby Crilley, and I became best friends. I’m pretty sure that would have been the year of my first slumber party — the four of us went to each others’ houses. Though maybe when we were so young, it would have just been the first time I slept over at someone’s house. I did spend the night at Kathy’s and Darlene’s houses before the slumber parties started.

I remember probably the first time I slept over at Kathy’s house. I was feeling shy at the dinner table. We were eating hamburgers, and somehow in a shy way, I was holding my hamburger kind of under the table. There was a roaring sound — and half my hamburger was gone! Their golden lab, Sally, had seized the opportunity for a treat. I was so embarrassed! (They were nice to me about it. But I sure remember that incident. I’m pretty sure it was the first time I spent the night at Kathy’s house.)

Fourth grade is also the only year where the class picture is in the photo album. So here it is!

1972_09 Class Picture2

Kathy and Abby are the first two on the left in the back row. Darlene is on the front row wearing boots, and you can find me! Another friend I still have is Lauri Ann Stone, who is in the middle row, third from the left.

Looking at the picture reminds me how much I loved Miss Halberg! She was very strict (looking back, I think rather awfully so) — but she would talk with us at recess, and I’d pour out my heart — and I loved her.

I went to elementary school back in the days of paddling, and there were some rather awful incidents that year. But I was a “good girl” and was working on being a good little Pharisee and I never did get paddled at school. Speaking of being a Pharisee, that was around the time my parents started paying us to memorize Scripture. They started with different sections my Mom had typed out that we could learn, a lot from James. Eventually, it progressed to chapters. I remember my Mom decided I could earn $10.00 for saying Hebrews 11 and $20.00 for Psalm 119. I did those in 4th grade or 5th grade, before it became a standard 10 cents a verse for any chapter, the first time. Five cents a verse for a reviewed chapter, at least a month after saying it before.

October 1972 was the year I learned that your own mother could have a baby! Ronny was born!

1972_12 Holding Baby Ronny

Let’s see, our family at that time was Ricky, 11 in October – 6th grade; Becky, 9 – 5th grade; me, 8 – 4th grade; Wendy, 5 in October – Kindergarten; Randy, 3; and now Ronny.

I have long said that if you catch a girl when she’s 8 years old and put her around babies a lot — she will be convinced all her life that she is good with babies. I loved holding Ronny, getting him to smile, helping him learn to walk, all of it.

Here’s a picture taken the following January. You can see we still enjoyed playing with the baby.

1973_01 Ronny

And here’s one more picture, taken on “Grandma’s Mountain” in Phoenix still wearing the pink sweater my other grandma knitted for me.

1972_12 Phoenix

Project 52 – Seven Years Old – Meeting my Lifetime Friends

1971_06 Seven Years Old

Seven weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m going to post each week about one year of my life.

Already it seems very strange to me that I only lived in the Seattle area for four years. It was a lifetime at the time!

It especially seems appropriate to assemble this post from California, from the same place we moved to the year I was seven years old. I’ve been visiting family this week for my niece’s wedding, and spending some time at my parents’ house — which is still the same house in Wilmington we moved to in 1972. I got to go through photo albums and scan more pictures for the upcoming years. Of course, many of the photos I won’t post here — of the house or of church or other everyday things — sparked so many memories.

The picture up above is the first one I’ll talk about. If you look closely, you might be able to notice that the eye away from the camera is a black eye!

We had the appointment to get my seven-year-old pictures taken — and a morning before it, my parents were playing tennis. We kids were running around on the tennis courts. I was running from one side of the net to the other — and tried to run in between the net and the post holding it up. It turned out that the rope holding the net up was right at my eye level — and I got a black eye.

I turned seven years old on June 14, 1971. We were still at the house in Carson that summer, and I still played with my best friend, Karen Iwata. Apparently we went over to each other’s houses in the summertime, too.

1971_07 Karen and Debbie

Here I am playing in the bushes with Karen and our next door neighbor, Debbie Wardrop.

1971_08 with Karen

And that’s another picture of Karen and me.

In Carson, our house was so small that Becky and I shared a room.

1971_07 Our room

Hmmm. I know most of the time we had these as bunk beds. Probably to make more room. Becky would hang down from her bunk and annoy me. I wonder if this was after or before that. The doll on my bed is Newborn Thumbelina.

1971_07 Five Kids

And here we are in order. In July 1971, Ricky was still 9 years old, Becky 8, me 7, Wendy 3, and Randy 2. This would have been not long after Becky and Wendy both got glasses.

Here’s a very happy family picture playing Ring-around-the-Rosie.

1971_08 Ring around the Rosie

And Becky and I were still bought matching outfits:

1972_02 Matching Outfits

Third grade in Carson, I loved my teacher (the same one Becky had before me, and I think Ricky, too), Miss Kita. My best friend Karen was still in my class.

Miss Kita had lots and lots of “centers” in her classroom — things to do, games to play, great activities for when you finished your work. That was the year we learned multiplication. Karen and I tended to be the first people done — so lots of play time.

Then — in February, our family moved to Wilmington. We moved into the house my parents still live in today.

They were told that the local school wasn’t a good one, and we started going to Long Beach Brethren Elementary School.

I did not like my new class. Miss Kita was young and fun and her classroom was full of fun things to do. Mrs. Monroe was very old — and said that when you finished your work, you should work on multiplication flash cards. Well, I already knew my multiplication tables. Eventually, we worked out that I could read after doing my work, but it was a far cry from Miss Kita’s class.

When we found out we’d move, my friend Karen started playing more with a girl named Suzanne. I didn’t feel as included. Then we moved and the new classroom was so awful in comparison.

However — little did I know that two friends I met that year would last me the rest of my life.

I don’t think we were really best friends until fourth grade, but in third grade I already did some playing with Darlene Sasaki and Kathy Morris. Years later, when my husband left me and got himself sent from Germany to Japan, unaccompanied — I moved to Herndon, Virginia, where Darlene and Kathe live now.

Project 52 – Bonus Post – More Early Years Pictures

I’m posting Project 52 — since my 52nd birthday, each week I post a reflection on one year of my life.

Right now, I’m at my parents’ house in Wilmington, California, and I had a chance to scan in some more pictures from old photo albums.

I chose a few more from years I’ve already covered in the first six weeks of Project 52, so I thought it would be fun to do a bonus post with those pictures.

Here I am as a newborn:

1964_07 Baby Sondy

And here is two months old:

1964_08 Baby Picture

This next picture was taken at Grandma’s House in August 1965, so I was a year old.

1965_08 At Grandmas

The kids, from left to right are Ricky (3 years old), Me (1 year old), Becky (2 years old), Uncle Larry (4 years old).

I love this next picture because of Becky’s funny face, also taken in August 1965 at Grandma’s House:

1965_08 Bates Family

From left to right, we have Uncle Allen and his wife Judy, then Aunt Susie, then my Mom holding me with my Dad behind her, then (in back) Aunt Donna, and Aunt Linda. The kids in front are Ricky, Becky, and Uncle Larry.

Still toddling at Grandma’s House, this one’s from November 1965:

1965_11 Toddling

And Sister Pictures don’t get much sweeter than this. I was 1 year old, and Becky was 2 years old.

1965_11 with Becky

Still at Grandma’s House, that same November visit:

1965_11 with Ball

Here’s another picture of 3-year-old me and my neighborhood friend Patty with our new cat Zeenie.

1968_05 Zenie and Patti

And here are Patty and me playing with Play-Doh:

1968_05 Play Doh

Here’s another Sisters picture, this time with my little sister Wendy, taken September 1968:

1968_09 Baby Wendy

This picture makes me feel vindicated. It was the family birthday celebration for my fifth birthday. Didn’t I say that I had gingerbread as the cake for that birthday?

1969_05 Gingerbread

Here’s a picture from our August 1969 ferry trip to Canada. This confirms that I remember Randy at least as being a real handful on that trip.

1969_08 Ferry

And here’s a picture of my first day of Kindergarten! We’re waiting for the school bus in front of our house. You can tell I’m in half-day Kindergarten, because I don’t have a lunch box.

1969_09 Kindergarten

The cardigans all three of us are wearing were knitted by my Grandma. I wore that pink sweater for years.

This next picture is of my little sister Wendy’s second birthday in October 1969. The story is legendary that she spoke her first complete sentence that day after I had gone to school, when she told Mommy, “Don’t put my blue dog on the sofa.” You can see from the picture how much I enjoyed her delight in the big blue dog.

1969_10 Blue Dog

And here’s an unusual profile picture of me, taken in October 1969.

1969_10 Hair

Here’s a nice Sisters shot. Our Mom liked to buy us outfits that went together, but these dresses lost their bows fairly quickly. They were still nice dresses, though.

1969_12 Dresses with Bows

Randy did learn to walk early. Here’s a picture with him in December 1969, only ten months old.

1969_12 Randy Walking

And here’s a picture taken March 1971 with my sister Wendy in our backyard in Carson, California.

1971_03 backyard

And the last bonus picture was from that same month, March 1971, also taken in our backyard. I had started wearing my hair in ponytails most days. (I thought it was very wonderful to use red and white ponytail ties with my red, white, and blue outfit.)

1971_03 Red White and Blue

Okay, now I’m stocked up with photos for future posts! Stay tuned!

Project 52 – Six Years Old, in California

1970_09 Second Grade

Six weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I started Project 52 — each week for a year, I’m going to reflect on one year of my life. So this week I’m talking about June 1970 to June 1971, the year I was six years old.

I’ve already got some of the perspective I hoped to get from doing this project. You see, I firmly believe that the years actually do go by more quickly as you age. When you’re six years old, one year is a sixth of your life, so you experience it as a huge amount of time. (What do you have to compare time to except what you’ve experienced?) When you’re 52 years old, one year is only 1/52nd of your life, so you experience it as going by much more quickly.

I’m already surprised by what a short, short time I lived in Washington State! I was only there for four years! But at the time, it seemed like forever. Because for me it was all I could remember, so it was forever.

And I was not happy about moving to California. It seemed so very hot! And dry! And brown!

Here I am with my sister Becky in front of the house we rented in Carson. (I didn’t know at the time that we were only renting it. I only knew we’d moved.)

1970_08 Naffa House

We lived on a cul-de-sac in Carson. We still played with the neighbor kids. (I’d forgotten how many neighbor kids we played with until I saw a picture in Washington. After we moved to Wilmington, we didn’t get to know our neighbors.)

I like that in this next picture, I have my dolls in the swing. One is the doll I got the Christmas before. (I wish I remembered her name!) I think the other doll is Newborn Thumbelina.

1970_08 Swinging

Like I said, California was hot! We did fill up the wading pool often.

1970_08 Swimsuits

That year Ricky turned 9 in October, Becky was 7, I was 6, Wendy turned 3 in October, and Randy was 1 (2 in February) and running all over the place. (He walked well before he was a year old.)

I love that I’m swinging my doll again. I did love dolls!

1970_08 Swinging with Randy

We walked to school in Carson, a few blocks to 232nd Place School. I started first grade with Mrs. Onaga in the fall. They had me go to the second grade classroom with Mrs. Sizelove for reading after awhile — and after a couple months, they moved me into second grade. My Mom says I already had a best friend waiting for me. I don’t remember when I met her, but I do know that in 2nd and 3rd grades I had a wonderful best friend, Karen Iwata.

This was my first friendship that was a real friendship. We both played with each other at recess. We went to each other’s houses.

Now Ricky was in fourth grade, Becky in third grade, and I was in second grade. We all got there in different ways, but we were now just one grade apart.

Living in California, we went to see our Grandma Hatch in Phoenix more often than we had before. Here I am with Ricky and Randy climbing Grandma’s “mountain” in the back of her house.

1970_09 Grandmas Mountain

And here we girls are by the fireplace.

1970_09 Fireplace

Oh! I remembered another thing to talk about. After some church-shopping, which I hated, we started attending University Bible Church in Westwood. It was a small church in a beautiful old building on Wilshire Boulevard. Quite a few UCLA students went there.

So that was when we met Garth and Celeste Johnson and Jennifer Qualey. Some other kids came to that church at various times, but those were the regulars. And us. Mrs. Johnson was the girls’ Sunday school teacher for several years.

I mentioned I was a rule follower? My Mom taught us early on to take notes during sermons. I still do that. (Hey, it’s easier to pay attention.) I still remember some of the topics Pastor Whorrall preached about, though my favorites were when he’d do a Chalk Talk — He was also an artist. We went to every service offered, Sunday School and Sunday evening service and Wednesday night. I do have a lot of good memories of that church.

And so another year went by….

This week, I’ll be in California, so I hope to stock up on more photos of upcoming years. Next week’s post will probably not happen on Tuesday, since I’ll be flying home that day.

Project 52 – Bonus Post – Books!

Last night, I accidentally skipped this picture of my sisters and me with our library books:

1969_08 Reading

I like this picture, because I was thinking about books I read when I lived in Kent. There were two chapter books I got out of the “big section” of the library — one was Winnie-the-Pooh (which I remember my Mom reading to me), and one was this one — The Poppy Seed Cakes. (Ha! I just looked it up, and it is still in print! I am going to have to get myself a copy!)

I am quite sure that my Grandma Bates also had a copy of this book and that it was one my Mom had read and loved as a child. Anyway, when I read it at home, it was from the library.

The other books I remember reading while we lived in Kent were mostly Beginner Books. I remember that my Mom bought me a copy of Are You My Mother?, by P. D. Eastman. And it may have been new — but I also remember her reading to me Fox in Socks, by Dr. Seuss, and my Mom making much of the question at the end, “And now is your tongue numb?”

We owned many other Beginner Books for a longer time — I don’t remember them being bought. Some Berenstain Bears ones (The Big Honey Hunt and The Bike Lesson). Go, Dog. Go! The Cat in the Hat. Hop on Pop. Green Eggs and Ham. We may have had Dr. Seuss’s ABC.

In the picture, Becky is clearly reading a chapter book, too. But Wendy, at not quite two years old, is not reading. Yes, we learned to read early, but not quite that early. She is imitating her big sisters!

Oh, and I have to add one more thing because Facebook just reminded me today is the anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969.

I remember sitting in my Mom’s lap in the car (yes, the front seat!) and she said that I’d be able to tell my grandchildren that I remembered when men walked on the moon. What a ridiculous idea that was!

We also went out in the front yard and looked up at the full moon and waved to the astronauts!

Project 52 – Five Years Old, to California, Alas!

Little Girl

Five weeks ago, on my 52nd Birthday, I began Project 52 — for 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect each week on one year of my life.

1969_06 FifthBirthday

This picture brings back lots of memories around Birthdays. Remember that Birthdays are super important when you are five years old.

My Mom had a rule that we kids didn’t get a birthday party until we were in school. And yet you see me having a birthday party at five years old, before I was in Kindergarten. That’s because June 13, the day before my birthday, was the last day of school and a Field Day at school. I think it was a short day, too. Afterward, lots of the neighbor kids came over, and I’m pretty sure some cousins, too, and they had cake and ice cream for me.

I was remembering that was a kind of special bonus because it was the last day of school and field day. I remember that on my real birthday, the next day, Saturday, we had a gingerbread cake.

I was thinking back if that memory could be right. I did the calculations. Sure enough, in 1969, my birthday fell on Saturday. It’s surprising what a five-year-old can remember when it’s super important to her!

That was actually the first and last birthday party my Mom threw for me. I was looking forward to having a birthday party once I was in Kindergarten. I spent my school year deciding who I would invite. I remember I drew a picture of my birthday party. You could tell it was my birthday because there was a flag on the house. (My birthday is Flag Day and at the time I thought that was the best thing ever. Okay, yeah, I still think it’s pretty cool.)

Once I was mad at a girl and told my Mom I wasn’t going to invite her to my birthday party. She gave me a talk with something about forgiveness and love your enemies. So I was considering inviting her because I was such a noble person.

But it was all a moot point. When Becky’s birthday came around in March, I don’t know exactly what happened (I do remember some chaos.), but my Mom decided she was never going to throw a birthday party again. Which decision was devastating to me at the time. (I was told that I got a birthday party before I was in school, anyway. Though I knew that was different, because I hadn’t gotten to invite my own friends.) But then we moved anyway….

As I thought about this year, I realized I remember a lot more disappointments than earlier years. I guess as you grow up, you start to learn you don’t get everything you want.

But there are still good memories. I love this picture of our family in November 1969.

1969_11 Family

That year, Ricky turned 8 in October, Becky was 6, I was 5, Wendy turned 2 in October, and Randy turned 1 in February.

That summer, we took a ferry to Canada — another country!

1969_08 Canada1

I remember Randy as being hard to keep up with on the ferry. He would have been only 6 months old, so maybe I’m misremembering, but he was the youngest to learn to walk in the whole family.

1969_08 Canada2

And in 1969 I started going to school!

My teacher was Mrs. Wirt. I loved Kindergarten with all my heart.

On the first day, we learned the song, “Like a leaf or a feather, in the windy, windy weather. We will whirl around and twirl around and all fall down together.” I use that song in Autumn story times today.

1969_09 Lunch Box

That might be a lunch box in this picture — no, I think my first lunch box was a Barn lunch box. It’s probably some kind of toy radio. And wait a minute — I went to half-day Kindergarten, so I didn’t need a lunch box yet.

And I still got more individual time with my Mom — I think of it as me and Wendy with Mom, since Randy was still a baby.

And I saw the very first Sesame Street! My Weekly Reader told about a new educational show starting up. Wikipedia says it first aired on November 10, 1969. I think I watched it in the early afternoon, just after getting home, before Ricky and Becky got home. I could already read, but I loved the show anyway. My favorite of all was the chef who was part of the counting videos and always fell down stairs with a bunch of desserts. I always acted that part out.

And we used to watch Captain Kangaroo, too! That might have been before Kindergarten. I do know I watched it with Wendy, and her favorite part was when the ping-pong balls fell on their heads. I remember two books especially being read by Captain Kangaroo. One was a book that my great-grandmother had at her house, Millions of Cats, by Wanda Gag. The other was Caps for Sale. I can still hear Captain Kangaroo’s soothing voice in my head when I read that book. And both are still wonderful for reading aloud.

But alas! I had looked forward to getting a Snow Day once I went to school, like my brother and sister had gotten the year before.

The only snow that fell that winter 1969-70 in Seattle — happened during my nap! That’s right — I remember looking out my upstairs window and seeing the snowflakes falling onto the green grass — and melting. By the time my nap was over — the snow wasn’t even falling.

And that was the year I heard a school bus driver say she hoped it wouldn’t snow! I made a vow in my heart then and there to never be the kind of grown-up who didn’t like snow. I’ve pretty much managed to keep that vow to this day.

These next pictures show that we were already in tune with the fashions of the 70s!

1969_11 Sisters

In fact, 1969 is the first year I remember knowing what year it was. The date was printed on the dimes we got for our allowance each week. (I know! So much money!) I remember how strange “1970” sounded and looked!

1969_12 70s almost here

But 1970 brought the great tragedy of my young life.

One day, when I got home from school, Mommy told me, very excitedly, “We’re moving to California!” I went out to the garage and cried. I cried for my friend Karen to come get me. I did not at all want to move.

I planned from then on to leave California when I got the chance. That was another thing I managed to pull off as an adult. The way I saw it, California was way too hot and way too smoggy and way too little green. And it didn’t snow! (Remember, I thought that the “Big Snow” the year I was four years old was the way it was supposed to be every winter in Seattle.)

We took a trip to California before we moved and went to my grandpa’s funeral in Phoenix, Arizona, first. I met some of my many cousins I hadn’t met before. I remember being so surprised when cousin Craig called my Dad “Uncle Ronnie.” I think I also remember meeting Uncle Dean on that trip. (My Dad has eight brothers and three sisters. A couple of big families of cousins lived in Seattle area, so we already knew them. After this we would get to know the California cousins — with girl cousins my age!) I know I’d been to Grandma and Grandpa’s house when Grandpa was still alive, but now I think I was old enough to remember more and maybe they even let me climb “Grandma’s mountain” in back of the house.

Anyway, I had to leave my friends and my home in May 1970, with only a couple months left of Kindergarten. In California, there was no grass on the playground. And I wasn’t really in Kindergarten long enough there to make friends.

My sixth year was awfully eventful. A lot of memories I know were from that year because they happened in Kent.

Now I’m thinking of what I forgot to mention…. I may end up adding to this post this week (like I did last week). My best friends in Kindergarten were Karen Stewart and Beth Bell. But I’m not sure if they thought I was their friend of if I just liked them best. I know that I got to play at Beth’s house a few times.

But Kindergarten is also when I encountered a mean girl. A new girl, named Summer, joined our class in the middle of the year. She was friends with a girl I thought was my friend named Sherry. Or it might actually have been Karen. Anyway, one time I decided to sit by those two on the bus on the way home, because I wanted in on this friendship. And they pinched me, all the way home. Bad enough to draw blood in places.

I think that was the incident when I got the talking-to about forgiveness. I do NOT think I showed my Mom the pinch marks. I wasn’t going to invite Summer to my birthday party! But I might have ended up doing it to “repay evil with good.” Except that by the time my birthday came around, I lived in California and had a new set of classmates I didn’t really know yet.

Anyway, in California, the very next year, I made a true best friend…. Stay tuned next week!

Project 52: Four Years Old and a Baby Brother

1968_07 Four Years Old

Four weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52 — For 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect on one year of my life.

Last week, I ran out of pictures I’d copied, so I asked my Dad to help out, and he came through beautifully, scanning in lots of pictures from when I was small, all meticulously labeled by my Mom with the month they were taken.

Today I’ll begin with my fourth birthday, June 14, 1968. The family tradition of licking the beaters for the birthday cake began early. I remember “helping” my Mom make and frost cakes (loved to do that!) and I remember those blue gingham shoes. My sister Becky had matching ones in red.

1968_06 Beaters

But this picture, with my fourth birthday cake, is the one that makes me super happy.

1968_06 Little Marcy

When thinking about doing these posts and living in Kent, Washington, I’d already been remembering all my Little Marcy records and how much I loved them. What I hadn’t remembered was that the collection was a gift for my fourth birthday! No wonder I knew they were my records! No wonder I loved them so very much!

Okay, a youtube search does make me question my judgment. I can’t, actually, watch the ones that show the puppet. And they only seem to have recordings of the very weirdest songs.

But four-year-old me loved Little Marcy with all my heart!

There were hundreds of songs, and most of them, honest, were not creepy or weird. Many were, as advertised, the same songs we’d sing in Sunday School. I’d play the records and dance around the house singing along. I still can sing along without pause to any songs that turned up on Google.

My Mom also taught my Sunday School class around this time. We went to church at a Baptist church in Seattle. Mommy had a whole big set of flannelgraph Bible stories, and I also loved to play with the flannelgraph. I’m pretty sure I made up my own stories about the characters. Many of them did match the illustrations in a Children’s Bible that we had.

I had not remembered that Grandma Hatch was there on my fourth birthday. I know we visited Grandma and Grandpa Hatch in Arizona at least once when Grandpa Hatch was alive. I was so proud that he was an ice cream man! (I’m not sure what the story there was. He had been a farmer most of his life, but had gone to Arizona for his emphysema.)

1968_06 Grandma Hatch

Here’s a picture in our yard in Kent, swinging on the swingset. That swingset is easy to remember, because we had it for years. Looks like it was new at this time.

1968_06 Swinging

And I think this necklace came from some beads I was given. Oh my goodness I am pleased with myself here! I do remember those wonderful beads, and you can see the pride in my eyes!

1968_06 Beads

Here’s a picture that shows the big front yard I remember from the house in Kent — simply enormous to a four-year-old. The blackberry bushes are on the other side of the alley (a gravel road). If I went near them, I got scratched from head to toe by the thorns. But those berries were very yummy.

1968_09 Front Yard

One Saturday, we’d all been shopping, and when we came to the top of the hill, there was a fire truck and lots of people standing in our yard. Very scary! It turned out, the blackberry bushes were on fire! But the firemen put it out, and there was a black patch after that. (I think the part in this picture, so it happened after this picture was taken.) I still remember that scary feeling of a fire truck being in our yard.

My Mom liked to take pictures of us when we got new clothes. I’m pretty sure this was taken when this coat was brand new.

1968_10 New Coat

And — 1968-69 was the year of the Big Snow!

1968_12 Big Snow

Mind you, I was four years old. I did not understand that snow like this didn’t happen every year in Seattle. All I knew was that my brother Ricky, in second grade, and my sister Becky, in first grade (Becky had been in Kindergarten for a week or two before she got promoted to first grade because she could read so well.) — got to come home early and even had days off school because of the snow. Their bus couldn’t make it up our hill, so all the school kids came walking up the hill through the snow! It was a memorable sight!

I was jealous that I didn’t go to school — so I could get out of school early because of snow. (How’s that for logic?)

(I never did get a snow day in my life until finally when I was an adult teaching college math in Illinois. I did get an earthquake day once in California, though.)

This also reminds me that my Uncle David, my Dad’s youngest brother, lived with us for awhile at this time. I know it was during the big snow, because we went to Kennebec Hill to go sledding. They had blocked it off from car traffic. Kennebec Hill was so steep, I was afraid that if I jumped when I was walking on this hill, I’d fall to the bottom of the hill.

I don’t think I did much sledding that night — too scary. (The sun goes down so early in Seattle in the winter, it probably wasn’t actually late at night. But it did get dark while we were still sledding. But I was scared of the steep steep hill.) But Uncle David took the sled and I remember watching him go down and down and down, really fast.

My sister Wendy was a toddler now:

1968_12 With Wendy

And that was the Christmas I got a doll that I loved very much.

1968_12 Doll

Now, my parents didn’t try to fool us about Santa Claus. My Mom probably thought she was being open and honest when she told me that Grandpa was Santa Claus and had given me the doll. Aunt Susie had sewn some doll clothes for her.

But then we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house after we opened presents. (I remember there was snow on the ground.) The thing that really puzzled me: If Grandpa was Santa Claus, why did he go back home after he came down the chimney and left the doll by the tree? Why didn’t he just wait and go back to Salem with us?

I do remember thinking Wendy was the cutest thing:

1968_12 Sisters

In fact, in my memories that turn out to be from that year, I have a big sense that a lot of my time was me and Mommy and Wendy (because Ricky and Becky were in school). I was the big sister, and it feels like that was the time in my life when I got the most one-on-one interaction with my Mom. (This makes a lot of sense — the family was only beginning.)

This picture reminds me that we had at least three child-sized chairs, which my Mom had owned as a child. This blue rocking chair was just right.

1969_01 Chair

And oh, the Fisher-Price toy camera! I loved that thing! You could look through one opening and see different colors, and through another and see “pictures.” When you pushed the button, it clicked and a flash cube turned! I guess it foreshadowed a lifelong love of taking pictures.

1969_01 Camera

And here’s a picture with Ricky, Becky, and Wendy, playing Ring-around-the-Rosie.

1969_01 Ring around the Rosie

I remember often hearing people tell my Mom, “But you look so young!” Now I think, “They were so young!” My Dad turned 30 that winter, and my Mom was 27. And they were about to have their fifth child.

Yes, my brother Randy was adopted in February, 1969. I don’t look too thrilled by that!

1969_02 Randy1

1969_03 Randy2

1969_04 Randy3

In fact, by Randy’s first Easter, I look a little fed up!

1969_04 Easter

Well, those are all the pictures I have for that year. The fun for me is how it brings back what it felt like to be four years old. And simple joys like beads and snow and music and ring-around-the-rosie.

Edited to add:
I was thinking more about the Little Marcy records and how much I liked to sing those songs. I liked the records best where the liner notes had the words to all the songs. I also had a Little Marcy songbook, which had the words to the songs from at least two of the records.

It’s funny to me that I have to remind myself that the little girl in the pictures could read fluently. And then I think — I bet that having the words to those songs really increased that fluency! Think about it: What better way to gain reading fluency than play songs over and over and over again and read along the words as you sing?

I also think it’s interesting that I still love playing Christian music and singing along. Maybe I don’t dance around the house as exuberantly — but I still love the way the words bolster my faith and my joy.

I am not sure when I asked Jesus into my heart, but I know that I did it at least once when living in Kent. (I say at least once — I did it more than once just to be sure I’d done it before.) Now that I’m seeing these pictures and finding out some things happened when I was so young — I think that may have been one of them.

Anyway, I’m a rule-follower by nature. So growing up in a Christian home, I was never in danger of being the Prodigal Son — I was always in danger of becoming a Pharisee.

But I also got some honest joy from singing about my faith. Even so very young.

Oh, and to my sister Marcy: This has reminded me that Mom loved the name “Marcy” as long ago as 1968! (Abby would have been “Marcy,” but when Dad found out that Abigail meant “Joy of her father,” Mom gave in to him.)

Project 52: Bonus Post with Pictures

1966_06 Two Year Old Picture

Last month, on my 52nd Birthday, I began Project 52 — For 52 weeks, I’m going to reflect on the 52 years of my life.

Well, last week, covering my fourth year, I ran out of pictures that I had copied. Now, I’m going to my parents’ house at the end of this month, so I figure I can make some copies then, but I asked my Dad if he could tide me over.

He answered with an abundance of pictures from the years I plan to cover the next few weeks.

But thanks to my Mom’s meticulous dating of pictures, I discovered that some were from the years I’ve already covered, so I thought I’d post some of those here.

And I also remembered where I had stashed two pictures I blatantly stole from my parents’ house at some point in the past. One is the picture above, which was taken in honor of my second birthday.

Then this adorable family picture was taken when Baby Wendy was four months old. Isn’t Ricky’s bow tie so cute?

1968_02 Family Photo Cute

But then, lest we get smug about such cuteness, perhaps the photographer tried to get a shot with everyone looking serious? Whatever the motivation, I was having none of it! This photo cracks me up every time I look at it.

1968_02 Family Photo Funny

A picture that made me super happy to find was this one of me with my neighborhood friend Patty and our cat Zenie.

1968_05 Patty and Zenie

I was going to talk about Zenie next week — I hadn’t realized that we got her when I was still three years old.

Zenie was a stray cat, but she came with a note attached to his collar that said, “Please give me a home.” I loved her very much. I think I thought of her as my cat. I think that Ricky chose the name, coming from “Zebra,” because she was striped. Oh, and you can see our collie, Tiny Tim, peeking through the fence in back. I was a little afraid of Tiny Tim. But Zenie, I loved.

From the picture below, I’m not sure if the feeling was mutual!

1968_05 Zenie

There are also some nice Sibling Pictures:

1968_05 Three by Playpen

Now that Wendy was born, Ricky-Becky-Sondy had become “the Big Kids.”

1968_05 Three by Organ

And this one’s just priceless. I was one cool three-year-old!

1968_05 Miss Cool

And now expect many more pictures next week when I cover being Four Years Old. I’m having way too much fun with this! A big part of the fun is remembering what it was like to be that little person. I remember some odd things — putting on those clothes, feeling the soft kitty. I had completely forgotten how much I liked wearing necklaces. (To come!)

Project 52: Year 4 – Baby Sister!

Three weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52 — for 52 weeks I’m reflecting on the 52 years of my life. (Plus a special bonus 53rd post on my 53rd birthday.)


This week I’m looking at my fourth year, when I was three years old.

This year is memorable — because I remember it!

Mind you, the memories aren’t anchored in time. A three-year-old lives in the eternal now. But I can date some of these memories because this was the year my sister Wendy was born, in October 1967.

Here’s our family with my Mom clearly expecting Wendy sometime soon and hiding behind Ricky.


Ricky would be six years old in October. He was in first grade that year. Becky was four years old and not in school yet. I was three years old.

I do remember wanting to sit in my Mom’s lap for a story and her giving me a funny smile and saying the baby was in her lap — which didn’t make any sense at all!

But Wendy’s birth was much more vivid. We went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Salem, as we often did. But Daddy left us there! I remember being told that Daddy would come back and get us on Saturday, in seven days. And feeling slightly bereft.

But then I remember that actually we went back in Grandma and Grandpa’s car. My memory didn’t have that as actually seven days later or on Saturday — it was much, much later that I found out that my Mom missed her kids and asked for us to come back sooner (which no one bothered to explain to the three-year-old).

Anyway, I remember being in the front seat, probably on Grandma’s lap, and looking at the funny blue stripe at the top of the windshield. I’m pretty sure I did some lying down too and looking at the gray sky behind that blue windshield.

But the traumatic part of the journey was when we were almost home. Ricky said that when Daddy asked “Who is it?” we should say “Me!”

That worried me because how would Daddy know who it was if we did that?

Then — sure enough — we knocked and Daddy asked, “Who is it?” and Ricky and Becky answered, “Me!”

And, to my dismay, Daddy answered, “Sorry, but Mommy doesn’t want any Mes in the house.” But my dismay was short-lived because he opened the door and let us in and Mommy was lying on the sofa and there was this little baby in a little bed next to her.

It’s funny what sticks in a three-year-old head.

That was also the year I learned to read. My Mom would make flash cards with words on them to get us started. She did this later with younger kids, so I know from that how it works. Start with names of people in the family, and gradually get more difficult. Anyway, I remember one time she had me go get some cards I hadn’t been able to read the last time they came out — but I remember now that I could read them no trouble at all — the word on top was “yellow.” I can still see those cards in my mind with the word “yellow” written out. And it meant “yellow” just as much to me then as the word does now. I knew that word.

Ricky also brought home beginning readers from first grade. He could already read, so he didn’t need them. But I remember reading about Dick and Jane and Baby Sally. I especially liked Baby Sally. It probably helped that the word “Sally” was a lot like “Sondy.” And she had a big brother and big sister, too.

Years later when I was assigned those readers in school, I was appalled by how boring they were. I remembered them as delightful and fun! I think now it was the excitement of being able to read them, the discovery that comes from the unfolding of the words.

So — those are all the memories that I’m sure happened when I was three. There are many more memories from when we lived in the house in Kent — but probably more of them happened when I was four and five.

For those who are counting, my Mom still had three kids at home while Ricky was in school. And that’s with one of the largest gaps in the family between Wendy and me. Whew! (Becky and I, though, at 15 months apart, are the closest together of any siblings in our family.) But I have some fond memories of being the big girl at home the next year when Becky and Ricky were in school and Wendy and I were at home. But that’s for next week!