Grandfather Kingsbury (JBK) returned from his teaching assignment in Thailand and Indonesia in spring of 1962 and spent a week with us in Richmond that Thanksgiving. He recalls the story of flying into Richmond where my mother and I picked him up from the airport (I had just turned 7 a month before Thanksgiving.) She didn’t tell me that Granddaddy was coming but while we were waiting, she asked me to count the men while she counted the ladies. Somewhere into the counting I shouted – “I see my granddaddy!” My Granddaddy – My Nana – I was possessive of the important people in my life.
As I got older, I always felt very close to JBK but I didn’t know until reading his accounts of our time together that our bond was formed as such an early age. When I spotted him at the airport in Richmond in November 1962, it had been over two year since I had seen him. You should also keep in mind that my grandfather was born in 1890 so he was well into his 70s during the formative years of our relationship. I was 7 – he was 72 – it was a match made in heaven.
Here’s a picture of the doll JBK brought me from Thailand. She had a very elaborate golden head dress, which is somewhere among my belongings, just not where it should be (if it were, she’d be wearing it in this picture.) I was fascinated with his stories of the traditional Thai dances and the flexibility of the dancers who began training at a very young age so that they could bend their fingers backwards until their fingertips almost touched their wrists. OUCH!
Granddaddy was just in time for our class Thanksgiving program where I recited a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson “in a loud clear voice.” I’ve always liked RLS poems. I’d be willing to bet the poem was – How Do You Like to Go Up in a Swing – which I can still recite to this day.
My father drove down from Cleveland and joined us for Thanksgiving and according to JBK’s letters, he moved to Richmond at the end of the semester. During the time my parents were separated, my father was taking classes and working at Western Reserve University. His research landed him a job at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Richmond VA doing surgical research. McGuire’s VA Hospital in Richmond was on a huge campus on the south side of town, close to where we lived. My mother, who still lives in Richmond, gets all of her medical care there. Despite the bad press that the VA hospital system gets, I have nothing but good things to say about her care and the efficiency of the VA system.
On Thanksgiving morning in 1962, my grandfather and I took a hike at Forest Hills Park. I have vivid memories of sledding down the hills of that park in the winter and taking walks there in the fall. I remember dropping leaves and sticks in the water on one side of the bridge then running over to see them come out the other side.
Other than my parents reuniting – which at the time didn’t seem like such a big deal since I wasn’t really aware that they were separated – the big news in 1962 was that my mother and father and I moved into a new house. Our new address was 3405 Midlothian Pike, Richmond VA. I have distinct memories of this house. Now that I think about it, this was probably the first time I had my own room. There were two bedrooms, one at each end of a short hall with a bathroom in between them. I remember sneaking out of my room at night and lying in the hall listening to my parents tell “dirty jokes” to each other. There was one that had to do with an elephant in a circus and what the trainer did to make him sit down. I can still remember my parents’ shocked expression when I repeated the joke at a family dinner one night at a fancy restaurant. I didn’t know it was inappropriate – I just thought it was about an elephant in a circus.
Next up – second grade and a new school! The adjective for this year is poetry-reciter (although I think that may be a noun) oh well I was only eight – probably hadn’t learned my parts of speech yet.