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Friday, December 31, 2010

The World Was Younger Then -- Snowforts and Mortality

My brother and sisters and I made a number of snowforts over the years (we also once made a "rabbit warren" as our fort, and once an "ice cave"; and we also once set the back lot aflame to make a "prairie"); it think the fort in the accompanying photo, its remains, at any rate, may be the first. When I saw this photo the other day, the thought that came to me was, "The world was younger then;" and hence the title of this entry.

This photo was taken at "Dice Street," as we generally called the place to distinguish it from the other places we lived (if I recall correctly, the address was 20135 W Dice St). This was a one acre property out in the suburbs that our father had bought from the first friend he'd made after moving North, and for whom I am named. We lived there in two periods; the first from "whenever" until after the birth of my sisters (we moved back into the city before or around my fourth birthday in 1961), and again from when I was 6 until 11.

I think this photo may be from February or March of 1964; if so, I'd be 6 1/2 (that 1/2 is vitally important when you're that age!), my brother soon to turn 5, and my sisters recently turned 3. Yet, do those ages look right?

On the other hand, I don't think the photo can be from the winter of 64-65, when I'd have been 7 1/2. In my memory, that winter was snowier; more importantly, that's the winter I "discovered" my own mortality (and, thus, I'd not have been out in the cold air, unless this was taken just before that). And, were the photo from 65-66, I'd have been 8 1/2 and my sisters 5, which doesn't seem at all right.

So, the photo is probably from late winter/early spring of 1964, but may be from the next year; and we are seen sitting in the sad remains of our (very modest) snowfort, perhaps on the remains of our thrones. There didn't fall much snow that winter, so this fort never amounted to much. We had pretty much stripped the yard bare (as can be seen in the background) in rolling the snowballs of which we constructed it.

This picture is no exception to the general rule for pictures of us: there exist almost no photos of all four of us which do not reflect that Karen is "Gary's Twin" and Sharon is "Troy's Twin." That is, in all but the rarest of cases, Karen will be beside or in front of Gary, and Sharon will be beside or in front of me.

Ah, but those darling little girls were also very assertive of *their* ownership rights -- to Dad. In their minds, they jointly own him, and Gary and I had no rights to him without their express permission! And, budding little private property rights advocates they were, too: for, they discovered "the tragedy of the commons" all on their own. That is, they later realized that joint ownership of Dad caused for conflict when their interests diverged; so they "divided the assets" in a mutually agreeable manner: one claimed his head and the other his feet.

Even though we were born and raised in South Bend (Indiana), as was our mother, we apparently had a recognizably Southern accent in those days. Courtesy of Dad. One of my sisters has told me that when they were hospitalized for a tonsillectomy (need I mention that when we visited them, my brother and I were focused on the fact that they getting as much ice cream as they wanted!; I'd don't think I'd have been up for it, but I'd not be surprised if he had been willing to get in on such a sweet deal), a nurse asked them, “So, how long have you been up North?” and she, being a child, had no idea what she was being asked.

When I "discovered" my own mortality --

One winter afternoon when I was 7, I saw that Dad was pulling into the drive, and so I ran out to greet him (that is, jump all over him), as little kids do. After all, I hadn't seen him *all* day! But, the thing is, I ran out in jeans and tee shirt -- I mean, not only without putting on a coat, but also without putting on shoes.

I awoke in the middle of the night -- and woke the whole family -- unable to breathe. And I *knew* that I was dying. Now, I known about death for forever, and I understood that I, too, would die. But that knowledge had been conceptual, now it became visceral. I wasn't terrified, really; I just didn't want to leave right then.

In thrashing around in my discomfort, I managed to find a position in which I could finally get some oxygen -- with my head and upper body hanging over the side of the bed. So, that's how I was taken to the hospital; half lying on the car's back seat, half lying on the car's floor.

At the hospital, I was put in an oxygen tent (for the next three or four days), and was again able to breathe without standing on my head. The hospital's patient capacity was apparently on full, at least in the "children's ward;" I was initially placed in an alcove off a main corridor devoted either to adults in general or to just women (I don't recall seeing any men as patients).

The next day, I was better and rested, and able to pay some attention to the goings-on around me. Though, when you're only 7, there is only so much entertainment value to be extracted from watching old(er) women in hospital-gowns walk back and forth past the alcove in which one has been stowed. This day was the first time I heard someone (one of the patients to another) refer to me as "pretty" -- and I was outraged: "I'm not 'pretty!' I'm a boy!" And, as Gentle Reader can see from the photo, I'm not, and wasn't, pretty (yet I have been accused of it more than once; one of those mysteries of life, I guess).

I was later moved for a couple of days to the "children's ward." That was really boring, making me long for the alcove; for, the other kids were either too sick to care about anything outside their own discomfort, or they were "babies." That ward is where I *really* learned that friendly behavior does not indicate friend; I mean, I was also learning that from neighborhood kids, but here I learned it from an adult and the lesson really sunk in.

Speaking of snowforts and mortality, that "ice cave" I mentioned could have been the death of any number of us! Our *dogs* were smart enough to not want to go into it. The younger, larger one really put up a fight when we dragged her in with us. This was several years after the one in the photo, after we'd moved back into town; it was one of those winters with particularly heavy snow fall. After the snowplaws had been through, there was this too, too tempting pile of snow and ice ... and we burrowed tunnels into it. And, if it had collapsed, it surely would have killed someone.

But then, we used to jump off the roof! We were some wild kids! We weren't bratty, we were generally well-behaved and polite, we were just really serious out our playing.


Unknown said...

I vaguely remember this picture being taken. I remember playing outside (Do you remember the old bus out back we used to play in?) as often as we could and making the snow forts. What fun and imaginations we had when we lived out there. And yes, the address was 20135 W Dice.

I’m not sure on the date, but I think maybe later than 1963. Karen and I would have only been 2 years old in 1963 and we look older than that in the picture. I'm thinking maybe before we moved back into town after Grandma Henning got sick. I'm thinking that was in December of 1966.

Yes, I think we made sure there was a throne for each of us. We could have been the models for “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”….although, I do know I hadn’t heard of that series at that time and it was written before our time.

Those links on the other post were pretty neat reading some of them (I'll have to go back and read more of them). I remember some of the names from the "family tree" that you, dad and I made for Dawn when she was in school.

Ilíon said...

I know that I never heard of Narnia until I was an adult.

Ilíon said...

We moved back into town in the fall of 1968, some time after I began 6th grade, but before at got cold.

Unknown said...

I was thinking Grandma got sick and passed on around Christmas of 1966? And that we moved back to town shortly after that. I was thinking it was winter (or at least there was snow on the ground) when we moved back.

The copyright for the Narnia series was 1950 (at least according to the set I have).

Ilíon said...

It was definitely 1968 that we moved back into town. I was 11, I'd just started 6th grade; then, after we moved to "115," I joined the Boy Scout troop Gordon was in (and you have to be 11 to join the scouts).

She was still alive, but dying when we moved back into town. She went to stay with Aunt Annie in Milwaukie, and died sometime later. Wasn't it still 1968 calender year when she died? So, around Christmas sounds right.

Unknown said...

I'll believe you on the year. I was in 2nd grade when we moved to 115, so it sounds right.

1966 stick in my head for some reason though. Something else must have happened that year.

I found the book and notices from her funeral. She passed on 12/24/68.

Ilíon said...

Did Marie die in 1966?

Ilíon said...

Depending on if it's spring or fall, I was in either 3rd or 4th grade in 1966, and that feels like my age at the time when we lost her.

Unknown said...

Yea, poor mom and dad! Mom said the Morrows or Graciezks (I know that isn't spelled right) were always calling her telling her we were jumping out the attic windows or off the garage.

Yes indeedy, we were well behaved and polite...our parents wouldn't put up with bratty behavior.

Unknown said...

Yes, Marie was 9/24/66 (I found her funeral notice too). I knew something happened that year

cathy said...

That ward is where I *really* learned that friendly behavior does not indicate friend

You had to know I'd ask...

But if you don't want to tell that story, would you flesh out this set the back lot aflame to make a "prairie" concept?