Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Week 25 of 2012 - Time spent with Dad

Time spent with Dad. I just knew it would be our topic...actually if it had not been the topic I was going to make it the topic. I did a blog on the Needles in a Haystack about times I spent with Dad and will do another here for our Shared Smith Memories because I have many I can write about. Some are the similar to Pam's but through Jan's eyes....

I too, remember Dad always had Tuesday off. Actually I thought he had the whole day off, I just knew that he was home when I got off the bus and if I was very lucky I could be his helper for the rest of the day. OH, I just loved that! “ Holding the hammer or the bucket of nails, get the screwdriver or a wrench....you name it, I would do it. I especially loved it if he had a job to do on a ladder. Then my job would be to “ hold that ladder”...Years later I decided that it wasn't much of a job...it was more of a “keep her occupied” sort of thing but when I was young...it made no difference to me. I would stand next to it and hold it for dear life. Some times I would get bored and I would climb a rung or two. As soon as he noticed, he would say, “ I need you to hold it for me!” and I would scramble back down to the floor and hold that ladder! I remember one time when I was about 10 years old, he was repairing a leak in the roof with a bit of tar and he letting me get up on the roof with him...I thought I could see for miles! I did not move too far from his side but it was a view of the world from a loftier place!

I remember the manure jobs as well and one of these trips went very badly for me. Dad would borrow a trailer from someone and we would go south on Mound Road to the Ludkey Farm. You could see the farm from our house. Mr. Ludkey was a pretty old man and he raised a few sheep. He had a ram or two, several females and often babies in the spring. I loved to go up there because I thought the babies were just the cutest. I wanted to take one home. Dad use to back the trailer into the barn yard and shovel the manure into the trailer. Before we left the house everyone had to put their galoshes on ...you know...the rubber boots... because this was quite the messy job walking around in the barn yard. And if it had been rainy...then the mud and manure was slick and stinky! 

One day when I was playing with the lambs and standing near a rather large pile of mud /manure, one of Mr Ludkey's largest rams decided that my butt made a really perfect target. He put his head down and crashed right into me knocking me face first into the slimmy barnyard mess.. When I was finally able to right myself, I was mud from head to toe.... and "the audience"....Dad, Mr Ludkey, Sue and Pam thought it was the funniest thing on earth! I really did not see the humor in it at all. I busted into tears. When dad regained his composure, he did come to my rescue with a hanky, a small square cotton white hanky. I remember looking down at my clothes and thinking, “what am I going to do with your hanky!” It will not clean me up, he read my mind as usual and said “ well, we can at least wipe off your face!” and I began to cry some more...I did not want just my face wiped off, I wanted all this stinky slime off me! And now! Then it became clear that it would be hard to even get me home... “I can't take you in the car like that”, Dad told me! “but Dad!” I protested through my tears! All I could think of was I would have to stay at the farm in the barn! Old farmer Ludkey found a rag to help clean me up and Dad stripped me down to my underwear...Still protesting I said, “ but Dad not in front of Mr Ludkey!” He looked at Mr Ludkey and they laughed again..”it's OK, really...Mr Ludkey won't look! Let's get those stinky clothes off! ” He pulled off my boots pouring the slime out of them and sat me in my underwear on the seat in the car...By now I am freezing and shivering...Needless to say we were all done getting manure for today. So he drove me home and he handed me over to Mom. She had a puzzled look on her face as he gave me to her dressed in my underwear with mud in my hair. “She's gonna need a good bath...” he told her ....and Mom said, “yeah, what happen?” He said...”I'll tell you later!”

Well, I explained the whole story through my tears as she washed me in the bath tub. She listen and seemed so understanding...at least she wasn't laughing like everyone else. Then she had to wash the terrible black ring in the bathtub left behind after my bath.

So there you have it...One of many times I spent with my Dad!   I can laugh about it today!

I hope you enjoyed it!

Love, Jan

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week 25 of 2012 - Spending time with Dad....

With this week's topic so close to Father's Day, I thought this a very appropriate assignment and a very satisfying one for me.  Where do I start?  One of my youngest memories is of learning to roller skate at a skating rink with dad as my partner.  We would go with the Methodist Youth Fellowship group of which Dad was a leader/sponsor/chaperone.  Most of the skate dates and my very first experience was in the roller rink in Mount Clemens, Michigan on a hardwood floor.  For some reason, Mom dressed me in this cute little red and white cotton dress that would blow in the breeze and get stuck between my legs as we skated around and around and around to the music.  Dad put his right arm around by back and held my right hand.  My left hand was in his left hand.  He taught me how to cross my right skate over the left to turn corners...three times for each corner.  I was a quick study and a young one...maybe 5 years old.  It wasn't long, and that same evening I would cautiously make my way around the outer edge.  Then Dad would come back and we would whirl around to the amazement of the spectators.  I remember other skaters asking, "how old are you?"  We also went to the rink at Metropolitan Beach which had an outdoor marble rink under the stars.  There you went FAST...much like the fast feel that today's online skating gives you.  To this day, I still enjoy roller skating....online street skating is now the current rage.  While I don't go out every day, I still enjoy a few miles on a nice summer day in downtown Harbor Beach or the boardwalk in Port Huron under the two Blue Water Bridges...and I always think of Dad.

I remember LOVING Tuesdays.  For as far back as I can remember, Dad had a half day off of work each week, always working on Friday nights and Saturdays.  On Tuesday afternoon when I got off the bus, Dad would be working on some kind of project.  I couldn't get from the bus stop to home fast enough to see what he was doing....spreading manure from the wheelbarrow, planting trees, mowing the lawn or working on something inside the house.  I had art class on Tuesday and he was always interested in whatever I had created.  Sometimes he would be making "signs" for Mitzelfeld's Department Store or Eggleston's Department Store before that.  Poster board, a paint kit and the list to work from....I would read them to him and in later years even got to make them myself!  As a teenager, I was employed by Mitzelfeld's to produce signs...this time with type set and ink rollers.  I thought it was a pretty cool job and I got paid for it!

As life would have it, Dad would open his first retail store the week that I got married...April 12, 1971.  I told him that I couldn't believe he would do that when he knew I'd be married and moved the following week.  Whenever we visited, we'd take a trip to the store to see what was new, taste a few freshly roasted cashews and hear all the latest tales.  I was astonished to hear in November of 1974 that we would be able to move to Harbor Beach and help Dad with the Ben Franklin Store at 114 South Huron Avenue.  My employment lasted for the rest of Dad's life....and from March 1, 1975 to August 30, 1996, it was filled with enough stories to write a book, which will come in other postings, I'm sure.  Stay tuned...there's plenty more of my time with Dad.  There was a ton of fun, some tears, silliness that I cherish today, daily lessons on people skills and the kind of mentoring that really made a difference in how I raised my family, how I gained my self esteem and how I am grounded in my faith.  Perfect?  No.  A great man and a fabulous father?  Absolutely.  While it was a life cut short by my measurements, I was blessed with 45 years....plenty enough to write a book!  Thanks, Dad...love you!

Week 24 of 2012 - Eye Glasses

"Dad...I can see every leaf, every branch and every blade of grass!"  That was my first reaction to riding home with glasses at age 8.  I was in third grade, Mrs. Handley's class, and she had sent the "sealed" envelope home with me stating a vision test at the eye doctor was needed.  I went to Dr. Wiseman's in Rochester, Michigan, just north of Dad's work at Mitzelfeld's Department Store. I wasn't quite sure what this was all going to mean, but I hoped I didn't need glasses.  NO ONE was wearing glasses except John Szacz, who sported a black frame with thick, coke bottle lenses.  But, I did need glasses and was able to look at the several dozen frame styles and pick something out...BLUE, with some shiny accents and kinda pointy on the sides.  I don't remember there being any discussion about price...just what style do you want.  It was on the first ride home from the glasses fitting that I told Dad how much there was to see.  In later years, I remember Mom and Dad both saying they had no idea I wasn't seeing what everyone else did!

Glasses were a big pain in the neck, though.  In the very beginning, I would forget them and then struggle all day.  On bad teasing days... kids were very mouthy and mean with the "four eyes" and other snide comments....I wished I had forgotten them and never had to wear them again.  I was still one of the only girls in my school with glasses.  In Junior High School, there was talk about contact lenses.  That sounded like the perfect solution to me, until Dad told me that I was not going to put anything in my eye, glasses were just fine.  "When you can pay for them, you may wear contacts." was his solution to my contacts suggestion.  True to form, as soon as I had my waitress job at the Chuckwagon in Dryden, Mi in the summer of 1969, I was fitted for and purchased by first pair of contacts.  I was finally free of the glasses.  The only time I wore glasses was the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning.  My nearsightedness has kept my glasses within reach of my bed...always.  To hop out of bed for any reason would be a disaster without my glasses.

Now, 43 years later, I still appreciate the opportunity to wear contacts occasionally.  Glasses are much the rage, with 100s of styles to choose from (and price tags to match) and I enjoy wearing glasses, too.  I'd love to have several pair in all styles and colors, but the cost is still too prohibitive.  I'm still vain enough to think about it, though!  Best of all is that I still have my vision...thank goodness for the doctors and the corrective lenses to make that happen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Week 24 of 2012 - Eye Glasses

I was 10 years old when I started to wear eye glasses.  It was in fifth grade as I recall...OK so now I know that you all are going to laugh over this but...There was a time when I was rather shy...loud mouthed and talkative but afraid of the silent moments in between. Probably sounds strange to you but...I would often try to sit in the back of the room in school, you know slide in a back seat and sit there unnoticed. Hopeful that I would not get called upon to answer questions which I was not prepared for or ones which I simple did not know the answer to. I always felt embarrassed or shameful if I could not come up with the right answer. I am not sure why. I was usually OK in the back of the room until my mouth got me in trouble, then I would be moved up somewhere closer to the front of the room.
Janet Smith - 1964 before glasses
In fifth grade, my teacher's name was Miss French.  I loved her.  She was a young new teacher right out of college.  She had the prettiest hands and nails in the world.  I told myself that one day I would have hands and nails just like her.  She always had them polished and they looked beautiful. Is that funny how something like a person hands can have such a lasting memory for you!    It was her class room in the fifth grade that I realized that I could not see the blackboard clearly anymore.  The first couple of times, the Miss French scoffed it.  But after the third or fourth time, she gentle encouraged me to trade seats with someone in the front of the room.  Which I did not mind because I could see her better and to my surprise, the blackboard too!  On Friday as we were getting ready to board the school buses, Miss French gave me a note which she had written to my Mother.   When she gave it to me...I protested...I did not do anything wrong...I did not talk too much today...She smiled and assured me I was not in trouble.

The whole way home on the bus I wondered what my teacher had put on the paper which was seal in an envelope.  I wanted to open it in the worse way but...I did not. I debated about not giving it to Mom right away but Miss French had told me that I was not in trouble...So when I got home, I gave it to Mom.  “Were you talking too much?”  She asked.  “I said NO, Miss French said I was not in trouble but to give you this”  She open up the envelope and took out the note. It was written in lovely handwriting worthy of the best teacher!

Dear Mrs. Smith,

I believe that Janet should have her eyes checked.  She seems to be having trouble reading the blackboard.  I have moved her to the front of the class for now but she ought to see an eye doctor as soon as you can get her an appointment.


Miss French

So within weeks, I went to the eye doctor and sure enough...I would become a member of the “4 Eye Club”!   “You should wear them all the time”, the doctor told me.  You can remove them when you are playing outside if you want so they don't get broken.  So that is what I did. I do remember forgetting to leave them indoor for recess on more than one occasion. They always seemed to get in the way, when that happened...You would fall down and the glasses would go flying... Or you would get hit by the ball and they would be mashed into your face...Or you would be swinging on swings and they would go flying...When you are an active kid, you are hard on glasses....

Sharon and Janet - Summer 1965 before glasses
At Christmas time a few months later....

Sharon Jan and Sue - playing a new game on Christmas evening in 1965
Hope you enjoyed this little memory.  Did you get glasses?  Let hear about your memories.

Jan Smith

Friday, June 8, 2012

Leaving Home - Week 23 of 2012

Home is where the heart is, home is what you make it, home is where they love you, home sweet home, home is the nicest word there is, ....why do we even want to leave?  Fortunately for most, we do leave home and we learn that leaving makes home and its memories even more special.  When I heard this week's topic, several key times in my life came to mind. 

Probably my first "leaving" was to go to Judson Collins or Lake Huron Methodist Church Camps.  The normal pangs of homesickness didn't last too long and the week was quickly over.  But my first REAL leaving was when our family moved to Imlay City when I was 17 years old.  Luckily,  Mom and Dad thought I should be able to graduate with my class at Romeo High School and I quickly learned that it was kinda cool to have two towns with friends and I adjusted easily.  In twelve months, I left home again to going to Western Michigan University about 200 miles away.  As a typical 18 year old, I couldn't wait to get "outta Dodge" and get on with my life.  I remember Mom and Dad making plans to drive me and "my stuff" to Kalamazoo, but their work schedule didn't permit them to take me when most of the freshmen students would be arriving.  I had to go early....like on Thursday.  The dorms opened on Saturday, but school didn't start until Tuesday due to the Labor Day holiday. They had made special arrangements for me to be there early.  The old camper was cleaned out and all my belongings were packed in the sides of it where the "green beer cases" were stored along with the camp stove, stakes, and other camping necessities.  I was the only one in the dorm, up on that fourth floor of Smith Burnham Hall, in the big, six girl suite up over the lobby and circular drive.  As the old green station wagon pulling the now empty camper drove away, I stood at the window and sobbed.  Down the hill and out of site, only to reappear down on VandeGeisen Road and again in the distance on Stadium Drive, I still remember today wishing I could change my mind.  It was a long few days, but all was perfect when my roommate, Janet Johnson, arrived accompanied by her family, late on Monday evening.   Leaving home for college turned out fine!

There were others...leaving home and going to Chicago as an 18 year old for a nanny job, leaving WMU after 4 years for our first jobs in Adrian, including my "new mother" status, leaving Adrian for Harbor Beach, which has become our longtime home.  Living here longer than anywhere else, we are so thankful for the place that our family calls home.  I recently left my "work" home after 35 years of small town retail.  We always called it "home" because we spent so much time there and really had "one happy family" of employees.  Leaving that home has been amazing.  I feel blessed to have had the opportunity that Dad never quite reached. 

I also think of my children "leaving home" and how many times I have cried, especially when they left Harbor Beach to return to MSU after a visit.  Once they got back to East Lansing, I was comfortable with the absence, but it happened with each one throughout their college careers.  I have to admit that it still happens..and they are adults now, with established homes, careers and lives, living across the state and country.

Leaving home...its a normal thing.  Thanks to God for all my "leavings."   May I always use them to the best of my ability!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Week 23 of 2012 - Leaving Home

I left home really early, sixteen years old to be exact.  I had made this very adult like decision and I got pregnant and now it was time to take responsibility for my actions.  I had no idea what the future held for me BUT I knew that there would be a baby in it....sooner rather than later. The 2nd most difficult day of my life was the day the positive pregnancy test came back...This was in the early days of pregnancy test. It was 1972, when a teen pregnancy was treated very differently than today.  I had relied on a friend's Mom to help me get it. She called me on Saturday to give me the positive results.  I told my boyfriend that night and from the beginning we talked about getting married.  There was never a doubt in our minds that it was the right thing to do.

My boyfriend and I decided to take a few days to think about how we would tell our parents. By Monday, morning all of my friends and most of  the school knew that I was pregnant. It became very obvious that we were going to have to tell our parents NOW.  I had confided in my friend's Mother because I trusted her.  I had not confided in her daughter.  I believe to this day that my confidant had no idea that her daughter would spread this information around the school in 24 hours, but she did! Her daughter called everyone she knew and the information spread around like a wild fire.  This became a critical lesson to me about friendship.  I learned the type of friend I wanted to be and the type I did not want to be. I learned that not all people will be your friends. It was the first time I learned how hurtful it was to be betrayed.

That day became the most difficult day of my life. I spoke to my boyfriend and told him what happen and then I went home to tell my parents.  When I arrived home from school, my mother was sitting  in the family room in front of the TV watching her "Soaps".  I can still see it today!  She had two or three soaps that she watched everyday!  I thought they were the biggest waste of time but she loved them and really did not want to be bothered while she was watching them.  I sat in Dad's chair while she sat on the love seat.  For nearly two hours I tried to build up the courage to tell her what I knew she needed to know.   Several times tears welled up in my eyes but she did not seem to notice.  Eventually after what seemed like an eternity, I said " Mom, I need to tell you something" and I started to cry.  Through my sobs I told her,"I'm pregnant".  The look of shock and disbelief haunts me to this day. She was speechless and after what seemed to me the the most agonizing silence, she said, "How do you know?" I explained that I had a friend's Mom run a pregnancy test for me.  She said, "Those aren't always accurate! I need to call your Dad!! " And she left the room. I could hear her mumbling in the other room as I sat in Dad's Chair and cried.

Eventually I went to my room and cried some more.  Dad came home from work and came straight to my room.  Dad rarely even came upstairs and when he did he always knocked on a closed door.  Not today, he fling opened the door and said, "How could you do this to your Mother and I?" I felt a piercing pain in my heart as I sobbed.  I had let them down in the worse possible way that I could.  He stood in the doorway for a few moments and then he turned and left the room.  Later in the evening he came back upstairs.  He told me very calmly that I had made an adult decision  and now I would need to make some more.  He asked me, " what do you plan to do now?"  I told him, that Gary and I planned to get married.  He told me that marriage was not my only option.  He said,  "You know that you could always give the baby up for adoption.  There are many couples who are waiting for this very special opportunity."  I nodded and began to cry again.  "I don't want to do that", I told him and once again he left the room. 

In the days that followed, it was painfully obvious how much I had disappointed my parents but I could not undo what I had done.  Over the next week or so I continued to insisted that Gary and I would marry so my Dad told me, " Well you need to tell your Grandfather and maybe he will marry you or maybe we'll have to do something else."

SO once again I prepared myself to disappoint someone I dearly loved. I thought...oh when will this ever end...Grandpa Smith, being a retired Methodist minister was a special man.  I idolized  him.  He was the most peaceful caring person I knew.  I never heard him raise his voice. He always knew what to say and when to say it.  He had the power and authority to marry Gary and I if that was what we wanted.  So I chose my moment well. I waited until it was just Grandpa and I, then I told him.  I searched his face for the reaction that I expected to come and I never saw it.  His eyes never left mine, his face was so peaceful and full of grace.  I saw no disappointment, no judgement just pure love.  And I know that my father did not tell him before hand.  Dad made certain that I took full responsibility for what I had done. He had left that job up to me to do.   Grandpa told me that he loved me and what did I want to do. I told him that Gary and I planned to marry and he said " Set a date and we can do that."   I very sheepishly said to him, "  how will I ever tell Grandma?"  He replied, 'Don't you fret over that, you just let me take care of it!"  And that was that. In the coming weeks, we planned a simple wedding.

Shown in the photo from left to right: Lillian Smith, Leah Smith, Harold Smith, Janet Smith, Gary Tietz, Betty Tietz, Howard Tietz, Rose Kaake and Rev. Everett Smith in the front- May 28, 1972

On May 28, 1972, Dad went to Detroit to get Grandpa and Grandma Smith, bringing them to Imlay City.  Grandpa married Gary and I in a simple Saturday afternoon ceremony which was attended by our family, the Tietz family and a few close family friends. It was on that day that I left home at the age of 16.  So young and pretty scared but I would never have let anyone know.