Christmas 1967 I got my very own cat – a Siamese kitten that I named Suki. Not counting the kangaroos that I had on my refrigerator when I was three years old,
or the guinea pigs that lived in the basement on Shore Drive (Happy and Snoopy), Suki was my first pet. I remember calling my grandfather to get suggestions for a name that was a word in the Thai language. (I was obviously getting more sophisticated in my selection of pet names.)
I was suspicious about my mother leaving the house after we got home from Christmas Eve dinner at Aunt Kay’s and Uncle Torchy’s house (a family tradition.) I asked my father where she was going and he jokingly replied that she was going to get my Christmas present – a purple motorcycle. (It’s bizarre what I remember.) Suki was my favorite Christmas surprise – she slept with me and saw me through all my teenage heartaches. She was my confidante and never disclosed any of the many secrets I shared with her. And she lived a long time (despite a number of misadventures that used up most of her 9 lives!) My husband, who I didn’t meet until 1981, met Suki just before she died.
My mother returned to work in early 1966 and I went back to staying with Nana after school. I split my 5th grade year between Southampton and G.H. Reid Elementary, which is where I spent all of 6th grade. I had a good friend named Vicki who lived one street over from Nana and I remember going to her house in the afternoons and playing with the Ouija board. Does anyone else remember the popular way of communicating with the spirit world?
I also remember “learning” from these afternoon sessions that I would be married three times and my first husband would be named Harvey Peejube (not even the name of anyone Vicki and I knew back then so it must have been the spirit world talking!) Harvey Peejube?!?!
(I must have had a growth spurt in my cerebral cortex during my 13th year – purple motorcycle, Harvey Peejube, what else???)
Our class trip to Washington DC was scheduled for early April but Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 and the nation’s capital erupted in violence – rioting, looting, fires – our field trip was cancelled. I was disappointed about that and also aware that this was a national tragedy. I was too young to remember Kennedy’s assassination but I remember April 4th – just like my children will remember September 11th. It happened in the early evening – I must have learned about it on TV.
In the fall of 1968, shortly before my 13th birthday, Mom and Dad and I drove to Bloomington, Indiana (800 miles in 15 hours) and spent the weekend with JBK and my uncle Deane, his wife Nancy and my two girl cousins Peggy Ann and Stacy Jo. We drove all night Friday, spent Saturday and Sunday morning in Bloomington and drove to Kokomo for dinner and a brief visit. We started the drive home at 11pm, stopped at a motel in Springfield OH at 4:30 am and hit the road for Richmond six hours later. Talk about a quick trip!
I am sure I inherited many traits from each of my parents but one trait they shared, that I did not get, is a tolerance for driving long distances without getting tired. Thankfully my husband likes to drive because if he didn’t I’m not sure we’d ever go anywhere. I get bored when I drive and when I get bored I get sleepy – NOT a good combination. Now that I think about it, maybe the reason I get sleepy when I drive for any length of time is from all the car trips I took as a kid – sleeping in the back of our station wagon. For some reason my parents liked to start driving at night so I would just settle down and fall asleep (this was before mandatory seat belt laws). We had a very comfortable foam mattress cut to fit the back of the station wagon and it was a wonderful way to travel.
JBK describes the trip back to Richmond as follows:
Monday was one of the pleasantest days I can recall. We were on the Interstate most of the way – when it is finished you can drive coast to coast without a stop sign. The weather was fine, and the fall colors kept getting more and more beautiful as we neared the mountains. Bry and I visited in the front seat while Ceil knitted and Kathy napped. In Cambridge OH we stopped and bought stuff for lunch, and near Washington PA we found a roadside table and ate cheese and ham sandwiches on rye bread, tomatoes, potato chips, and soft drinks in the warm sunshine with a little mountain breeze making it perfect. Bry drove all but the last 50 miles and we got to Shore Drive about 11 pm.
My parents went to work the next morning (it must have been the Columbus Day long weekend) and JBK describes being home with me, playing Russian Bank (one of my favorite memories of time with JBK – a form of double solitaire he taught me that very few people know) and being impressed that I always did my homework before I went out to play. He shares a sentence from my autobiography
“I wouldn’t want to be anything but myself because I like what I am and I’m happy like this.”
If that statement was true as I turned 13, it was about the last time for the next fifteen years that it was true. For the next two or three years (middle school) I wanted to be anything but me and I definitely wasn’t happy.
But it’s nice to know I felt that way then. According to JBK:
“I think that sentence explains the serenity, poise, and charm of my granddaughter.”
I finished sixth grade a model student. Any hint of rebelliousness was completely gone.