Tag Archives: memories

Family History

I don’t often talk about genealogy here, but that will soon change.  I am fascinated by family history.  My love of genealogy is intertwined with my love of reading, writing, history, and of course, my love of family.  For me, genealogy brings it all together.  Below is one of my favorite articles published in our Huron Shores Genealogical Society Genogram, December 2016.  You can find the entire issue here.

Great

My great-grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick.

Revealing the Truth

Great’s Story

Whether we recognize it or not, we all have blind spots when it comes to our family history.  As genealogists, it is sometimes easy to overlook the obvious.  I experienced such an issue not long ago.  The resolution will stay with me for some time.  I thought I knew more about my great-grandmother, Leona Clara Forward Buttrick (my mother’s paternal grandmother), than I actually did.

Growing up just outside of my mother’s hometown of Standish, MI, my mother made sure that she took my sister and I to visit her grandmother, whom we nicknamed Great, weekly.  We would often visit after school as she lived only a few blocks from Standish Elementary.  Those visits stay with me.  They inspired my interests in genealogy and history.  Over time, Great told me stories of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse and how she met my great-grandfather, Hatley Buttrick.  I also learned that her memories of growing up in Standish were not happy ones due to the loss of her mother in 1917.

For whatever reason, I assumed that Leona received training as a teacher in western Michigan where she was originally from and later settled.  Her teaching stories involved a one-room schoolhouse in western Michigan.  She later married my great-grandfather Hatley and lived in Marshall, MI for most of her adult life, only returning to Standish in 1980 to be closer to her children and grandchildren.  I could not have been more wrong. I did not consider that may have continued her education in Standish after graduating from Standish High School in 1921.

When I first voiced my interest in researching my great-grandmother’s education, fellow HSGS member Lugene Suszko Daniels suggested I look in the then newly printed book Arenac County Normal, 1904-1957, written and compiled by the Arenac County Historical Society (2013).  At first I doubted I would find anything.  While I knew that Normal Schools provided teacher education in the earlier part of the 20th century, I largely associated the Arenac County Normal School with the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, not the early 1920s.

Not only did I find information on Leona Forward’s further education at the county normal school, I also found information on her senior year of high school.  I also rediscovered a piece of family history I had forgotten.  It turns out that she attended school, including county normal, with her step-sister Barbara Wilson.  Ultimately, I purchased my own copy of the book.  Not only does it contain pertinent family history, it also contains a treasure trove of local information, including ties to several people I know.  Coincidentally, I came across this information as I decided to go back to school to earn my teaching certificate.  I am proud to continue to teaching tradition in my family, and I am glad that I was able to fill in the details of my great-grandmother’s educational history.  Never pass up the opportunity to search all local resources, even if you think that they may not apply.  You never know what you may find.

Great 2

Leona on the 1919 Standish High School girls’ basketball team.

Underground Readers

reader 1.jpg

In Donalynn Miller’s The Book Whisperer, she describes various types of readers in her own terms.  Instead of struggling or reluctant readers, she uses the terms “developing readers” and “dormant readers.”  She also describes a third type of reader:  the “underground reader.”  While I still plan to dissect The Book Whisperer here, that is not what I am doing today.  No:  I want to talk about my experience growing up as an “underground” reader.

As defined in The Book Whisperer, “underground” readers are students who love to read, but due to circumstances beyond their control, they keep their reading lives separate from school.  They may love to read, but they usually do not have the time or opportunity to read what they would like in school.  Underground readers may even go out of their way to get in as much free reading time as possible during school.  They are the students who do not want free reading time during class to end.

While I do remember having some free time read all throughout my k-12 years, it would have never been enough.  As a child, I remember sneaking time to read and hurried through my work to have more free reading time.  I even remember taking a book out to recess once or twice.  I loved to read as a child.  I still love to read.

Unfortunately, my love of reading didn’t have all that much to do with school.  To be fair, there were times when my reading life was influenced by school.  For example, some of my favorite elementary school and childhood memories involve a teacher or librarian reading to my class.  For this reason, I included Roald Dahl and Laura Ingalls Wilder on a list of childhood favorites.  You can read the original list and explanation here.  I probably would have read Laura Ingalls Wilder on my own as a child – eventually – but nothing compared to Mrs. Butz reading Little House in the Big Woods to my second grade class.  As for Roald Dahl, he happened to be a favorite of several of my teachers, and I can’t imagine elementary school without his books.

As influential as those authors were to my early reading life, I read so much more on my own.  I had the freedom to read widely.  I took full advantage of having a mother and an aunt who were elementary school teachers – and a grandmother who also loved to read and discuss books.  I recognize that I am in the minority, and I probably would have developed a love for reading no matter what.

That just isn’t good enough.  I have to agree with Donalynn Miller.  The conventional way reading is taught today underserves “underground” readers.  Teachers don’t let them explore their love of reading and give them the skills and permission they need to make their own reading choices.  This was true twenty to thirty years ago during my childhood, but it is even more true today.  For example, I can’t imagine being told by a teacher or librarian that I couldn’t check out or read a book because it wasn’t at my “level.”  I also can’t imagine taking AR after AR test just to fulfill a silly requirement – and NOT because I truly wanted to read the book.  Instead, Donalynn Miller provides a great format for serving ALL readers, including those who already love to read.

reader 2

Of Witchy Wolves and Writing

wolf

One of my oldest pieces of writing that survives online is my take on the witchy wolves of the Omer plains.  You can find it here over at Michigan’s Other Side.  I wrote it specifically for the website back in 2006-2007.

My dilemma is now this.  I have grown leaps and bounds as a writer since then.  There are many things I would like to correct in the original.  At the same time, people seem to find and enjoy the original – particularly locals.  The witchy wolf legend is going nowhere.  This is exactly why I wrote the piece in the first place.  Currently. It seems to come up every six months or so.  Why fix it?

Even though my every instinct as a writer is to polish the piece and have the website publish that instead, there really is no reason to do so.  I need to learn to leave it be.

Lately, I’ve finally started writing stories from my childhood that need to be told.  They started as blog posts that I planned to share here, but now I am not so sure.  They are evolving into what I’ve always planned to write.  They may have to wait.

Saying Yes

great things

Over the last few years, many plans I made did not come to pass.  For example, last year I didn’t attend the annual Mid-Michigan Writers’ retreat.  I made a point to do so this year.  Last year, when a good friend moved to nearby Gladwin, I suggested we meet up and spend some time in her new town.  A year later, we finally did just that.  I need to do … more.  More of what makes me happy, more of what matters.  A little over a week ago, I made last minute plans to spend the weekend with my mom, aunt,  and my sister and her family to attend a memorial service for one of my great uncles.  I ended up getting to see members of my family that I haven’t seen in years.  I made wonderful memories with my sister, aunt, mom, and nephews. What if I had missed that?  It made me realize that I need to make time for the people that matter in my life.

Every year, I seem to get into the Christmas spirit later and later.  If I am honest, I tend to get depressed right before Christmas.  It always seems to be a combination of things, including the fact that my birthday is the week before.  No matter how hard I try, I tend to fall into a funk.  It is overwhelming, it is emotional, and it tends to highlight just how vastly different my life is from everyone else’s in my family.  The thing is, somehow, I tend to snap out it once the festivities get going around December 23rd.  I am convinced the antidote is simply more:  plan more time with family, start new traditions, get an earlier start on decorations, maybe bake (I can’t believe I just wrote that).  Do it all.

None of this, of course, is an original idea.  Heck, there is an entire book called Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes (yes, that Shonda Rhimes) that describes what can happen to your life by embracing this idea.  I haven’t read it yet, but I will soon.  I am already taking the idea to heart.  We will see where it goes!  There are many possibilities and many events on the horizon.  Stay tuned!

Saying No

Summer

Rifle River – Omer, Michigan

As the last few days have brought with them the first signs of the fall to come, I can’t say that I am sorry.  I am eager for this summer to be over.  I can practically hear my grandmother yelling at me from the grave not to wish my life away, but I can’t help it.  Nothing about this summer – or this year – has been easy.  Somewhere along the way, I mistakenly believed that I would have some of the major pieces of my life in place by my mid-thirties.  I don’t.  I am still trying to find my place in the world.

If anything good did come out of this summer, it is the fact that I finally got a resolution to something I let go unresolved for way too long.  In the process of finally telling this man how I’ve felt about him (for years), I realized why it never worked with any of the men in my life.  None – and I mean none – have been the right one.  I finally came to the realization that I somehow managed to reach this age without ever having truly experienced true love.  It is the awful, unvarnished truth – and it doesn’t erase the ten years I wasted in a doomed, loveless relationship.

As rough as most of this summer has been (most of which I haven’t even addressed here), the last few weeks included some fun.  Two of the highlights involve a good friend.  She moved downstate this winter, and we haven’t really had a chance to catch up since.  We finally met up for dinner and caught up on months’ worth of news.  As this friend experienced infertility as well, the topic naturally came up during a discussion about my decision to become a foster parent.  The resulting conversation made me realize all over again that having a child in your arms doesn’t make infertility issues go away.  In fact, the entire thing is worth its own blogpost.

Then there is the river.  Everything seems to be put in perspective when you are on the river tubing, at least for a while.  This same friend and I spent an afternoon/early evening tubing and continuing our catching up from the previous week.  For one of the first times all summer, I felt that things will work out eventually.

Now for the picture …  This picture brought back so many wonderful childhood memories that I had to share.  It is simply my niece and nephew playing at the landing by the river.  I spent hours at that exact location as a child making moats, pretending that river was an ocean, letting the minnows nibble my toes.  The week my brother and his family spent camping at the campground brought back so many long-forgotten childhood memories.  I can’t wait to create similar memories with my own family.

MSU and Memories

Alumni Bricks

Dear D., Continued – Revisited

Dear D. – Revisited

I’ve struggled for nearly two months to write this post.  It is time.  Back in mid-June, I spent the afternoon in East Lansing with my friend Lauri.  While it was not our only intent, we sought the memorial brick my cousin Lugene’s family placed on campus in her memory.  If it weren’t for Lugene, Lauri and I probably would have never met.  Spending time with Lauri searching for Lugene’s memorial brick seemed fitting.  After all, as dedicated genealogists, Lauri and Lugene spent countless days researching in Michigan cemeteries.  Here we were searching for Lugene.

When we did finally locate her memorial brick, it completely caught me off-guard.  It is located near the gardens where I found myself on a first date with a guy I dated briefly while at MSU – a very fun first date.  I had completely forgotten.  While MSU is far too big for me to legitimately say that I have a memory in every part of campus, I certainly have my share.  They all seemed to come flooding back to the point where I couldn’t keep up.

What it comes down to is this:  I need to visit my alma mater more often.  I avoided MSU after my friend Derrick died back in 2009, and Lugene’s death made it even worse.  Lugene took pride in her MSU alum status, and it was a part of her personality.  As much fun as I had visiting, I also felt out of sorts.  I hope one day I will be able to visit without feeling such a sense of loss.

I’ve finally concluded that it isn’t just the loss of Derrick and Lugene that I was feeling that day.  I also mourned the loss of the college girl I once was.  While I wouldn’t quite say that I was fearless as a freshman, I came close.  I thought nothing of pursuing whatever my heart desired while at MSU.  What happened?  Maybe I can find her once again.

The links above lead to posts I wrote concerning Derrick.

Derrick and I – April 2000

cropped-puebla

The girl I once was – 2002

Dear D., Continued – Revisited

Here is another.

It was unbearable.  The whole thing.  Every second worse  than the last.  I just kept thinking about calling him, wondering what would happen, if anyone would answer.  In the last weeks, we’d been reduced to spending our time together in recollection, but that was not nothing.  The pleasure of remembering had been taken away from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with.  It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.

The Fault In Our Stars – By John Green (Page 262)

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Photo credit: theunquietlibrary)

Dear  D.,

I’ve been meaning to write you all this past week for the obvious reason:  August 15 would’ve been your 31st birthday.  It pisses me off I can’t directly tease you about becoming a dirty old man despite the fact I am older than you.  I still feel cheated out of years of memories of us.  I suppose I had such a clear vision of us still arguing over memories in our 70s and 80s, just like your Great Aunts E. and G. and my Grandma, I still can’t quite believe it just wasn’t meant to be.

The passage above describes well what I feel nearly three years after you passed away.  I’m afraid those quirky memories we made in childhood, high school, and then college will die if I happen to forget.  I just don’t want that to happen.  I don’t want to forget.  I’m glad I read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green before I tried to write anything.  Now this letter has a purpose.

That is what is so aggravating.  Every time I think of you, what I want to say to you, or memories of us, it just seems to go nowhere.  Without you here, who is left to really care, besides me?  No one.  Once I come to that conclusion for the hundredth time, I realize how futile writing a letter to you is.  And yet, I can’t help it.  I have to do something.  There were way too many things left unsaid.

By the way, don’t get the impression that I’m the only one who remembers you.  I can only imagine the hole left in your family.  Just the other day I came across a post Carla posted on your Facebook wall.  I know she misses you just as much as I do, as does Jelly.  Some time ago I saw Jelly when I ordered something at Tony’s, and we just didn’t even know what to say to each other.  It was the first time I saw her since you passed away.  We talked about anything and everything else, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t first and foremost on our minds.

So here it goes.  Here are a few memories of us:

High School –

Freshman Year.  You ended up getting hours of detention for picking on me in Freshman English.  It became so bad Miss V. quipped that you and I would probably end up married someday, we were that practiced at nagging each other.  Every time I think of FriendsRomeo and Juliet, or Great Expectations, I think of Freshman English and you.  I can almost feel you tapping me on the shoulder and hear you make some smartass remark about people trying to look like Courtney Cox.  By the way, I know you knew you had it all wrong.  The haircut was called the Rachel for a reason.  You just liked to play dumb to get attention.  I still find it amusing that you ended up with detention and I didn’t.

Prom.  I will never forget you on Prom Night, senior year.  You ended up taking my cousin K. (Rusty) as your date, and she became Prom Queen.  I’d never seen you so incredibly happy.  You had to tell everyone that you were the date of the Prom Queen and were genuinely happy for her.  I know it is stupid, and I never admitted this, but until I saw you that happy, I was envious of K.  If you’d asked me to the prom, I doubt I would’ve said yes.  But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t imagine it.  It could’ve made up for years of us being ostracized by our class.  We could’ve spent all night making snide remarks, joking around, and just proving everyone wrong.  In the end, I don’t think either one of us had the guts.

Kayaking and Guy.  I’ll never forget your Aunt L. and Guy visiting from Texas one summer.  Somehow I was pressured into taking Guy kayaking.  I don’t think I ever paddled so fast in my entire life.  The entire trip was strange.  I just felt like I had to show him up, he was that cocky.  You were very right about him.  I can understand why you two weren’t exactly friends.  I’m trying in vain to remember whether or not you went with us.  Maybe you just came to the Livery and didn’t go kayaking?  It doesn’t matter.  We did talk about Guy and came to the conclusion that he was a little too wrapped up in Friday Night Lights.

State.  I distinctly remember the day we received our housing assignments for our first year at Michigan State.  My jaw dropped when I realized not only were we going to attend the same university, we were assigned to the same dorm complex, Snyder-Phillips.  Quite frankly, I wasn’t happy.  I just wanted to start fresh as MSU, and there you would be, a reminder of school years I would rather forget.  In the end, I’m so grateful for that simple twist of fate.  Quite simply, college would not have been the same without you.

Michigan State –

A National Championship and the Flintstones.  I love the fact that we somehow found each other among throngs of people in Cedar Village after MSU won the 2000 National Championship.  I think about that April night a lot.  How could I not?  That picture of us outside Cedar Village – you smoking a cigar and your arm around me, me smiling like my life depended on it – is among my favorites.

2nd Floor, Snyder Hall.  You used to love hanging out on my floor in Snyder Hall.  I’ll never forget the crazy 3 AM political conversations we had, Kim included.  I just can’t wait until we have the first female President of the United States.  I’ll smile, think about how you just lost a bet, and carry on, thinking about how very wrong you were the entire time.  Sexism doesn’t pay.

Where were you?  I’ll never forget getting a call from your Mom freshman year at State.  She couldn’t get a hold of you and simply wanted to know if I knew where you were.  I didn’t at that moment, and the entire thing broke my heart.  I wish I could’ve helped her – and you.

Capstone.  We’d lost track of each other during those years I studied abroad.  Nevertheless, you found your way back into my life.  You just wanted me to look over your résumé and rekindle our friendship.  It worked.  You once again became a fixture in my life.

Crunchy’s and a Broken Heart.  D, I have no idea what your true feelings for me were, but you must have truly cared for me on some level, whether you wanted to acknowledge it or not.  During the spring of 2004, as my life was endlessly shifting under me before I could even regain my footing, you somehow knew how heartbroken hearted I was.  You knew that I simply needed a night out with an old friend who understood just how upset I was.  I wanted that job in Austin desperately, not to mention the mess that was my personal life at that point.  Many things happened that evening, of course , and even the next day.  I’m not going to talk about them here, but I need to say this:  Thank you!  You knew just what I needed, even if I didn’t.

Brian.  That same spring, 2004, I began my relationship with an old friend, Brian.  Your teasing still makes me laugh.  Some of it was so spot on, especially those jokes about how I could never have any fun while living in Arenac County.  You basically stated that any night of debauchery in Arenac County would become common knowledge before I even made my way home.  So very true.  I got the sense that you were happy that I finally had a man in my life, my first true romantic relationship.  Those were some wonderful days for Brian and I, and I think you could sense just how happy I was at that moment.  If only I could live in those moments forever.

Aftermath.

A phone call or two.  It still upsets me that we weren’t closer in those first few years after I graduated from Michigan State.  I thought we would have time.  Unfortunately that is what we didn’t have.  There were several times I wanted to call you up and just lay everything on the line.  I wanted to know what your feelings for me were.  That was one thing I could never figure out.  I wanted to know why you had so many issues with your Mom and brother, especially your Mom.  I wanted to know what was really going on with you.  Unfortunately we never had those conversations.  I didn’t realize just how wrong things were until you were gone.  It was too late.

Great Auntie G.’s Funeral.  Of all my memories of you, your Great Aunt G.’s funeral stands out.  It was the last time I ever saw you.  It started immediately.  We just gravitated toward one another.  I suppose that’s no surprise as we were the only people under 50 in the room.  Then, of course, my Grandma asked us to go get her a package of hearing aid batteries.  We may have been at a funeral, but it sure didn’t take us long to start laughing our butts off once we were out the door.  You either laugh or cry, right?  You have to admit:  It was the perfect excuse for us to catch up.  After picking up the hearing aid batteries, you and I just drove around  and reminisced.  We covered a lot of ground from Standish to Omer.  I’m so glad we had that opportunity.  In a way, it was almost as if you were saying goodbye.  The last time I saw you, you and your Dad were leaving the funeral home and walking toward the Granton.  It angered me at the time, but I suppose everyone deals with death in their own way.  I just never figured out how to deal with yours.

You have no way of knowing this, of course, but I never made it to your funeral.  I ended up having to work.  I suppose it is just as well as I would’ve been an absolute wreck.  A few weeks after your funeral, I tried to find your grave.  There were things left unsaid (most of which I am writing here today) and I wanted to get it all off my chest.  There is so much in our hometown and in East Lansing that will always remind me of you.

And yet, there is one thing that still bugs me.  What was our relationship?  Whatever it was between us was much deeper than simple friendship, and yet we never had a romantic relationship, not even close.  The closest thing I can come up with is that we were family without actually being related.  We knew how to get on each other’s nerves, we knew how to make each other laugh and cry, and above all, I think we both cared.  Was it really as simple as that?  I like to think so.  I love you and miss you.

Linds

PS – Oh, and one last thing.  Your Mom.  I never told you this, but your Mom happened to be my Grandpa’s favorite nurse.  I know that you didn’t have a good relationship with her and it never was any of my business, but I am grateful to her.  She took great care of my Grandpa when he was dying.  I wish I could simply tell her thank you.  I wish I could talk to her about you.

Dear D. | Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde

Snyder-Phillips Hall was built in 1947. The bu...

Snyder-Phillips Hall was built in 1947. The building was recently expanded to make room for a new residential college. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)