May 1986

Summer is definitely here ... we've had a string of hot, sunny days. The girls play outside from early morning until early evening: for the first time in their lives, they are part of a "gang" of kids, including Lori and Lynn's kids, and Brian and Andrea from next door, and they're discovering the joys of running with the pack. Jamie, especially, is thrilled with her new social life. Suddenly her "friends" are everything to her. It's exciting, watching her world opening up like this, even though my heart tells me this is the beginning of her breaking away from Mama.

My babies are growing up!

The girls play so hard all day long, and at night they sleep just as hard. I tiptoe into their bedroom in the middle of the night, and they are so deeply asleep. I cover them with the blankets they've kicked off, kiss them on the forehead and whisper "I love you" ... and they never stir.

By the way, Kyle slept from 9:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. last night - WOW! - and then from 5:30 a.m. until 8:00 a.m.!!

Kylie will be one month old tomorrow. Sometimes when he's gazing at me, his eyes seem to "smile," just a little bit - they take on an amused expression, I swear - and a dimple appears just above his lip. It looks for all the world like he's trying to smile!

Another endearing thing about him: he "sings" while he drinks his bottle.




June 1986

Kyle is wonderful. I am so delighted with this baby! It's just amazing to me, how quickly he has become an established member of this family ... I can't imagine life without him.

In the five short weeks since his birth, noticeable changes have taken place. For one thing, he's bigger: plumper, fleshier, heavier. I can feel his new heft when I hold him. And he's more alert and aware of things around him now, especially members of his family. He gazes intently at our faces and turns his head to follow our voices. When he looks at me, especially at mealtime, he squirms and bats wildly at his left ear, his way of telling me he's hungry. He watches me while he eats, with enormous unblinking blue eyes. The same pretty, sad puppy eyes that Ray and the girls have. Secretly, I am delighted by how much my children resemble each other. Just what I always wanted: matching children!

Kyle smiles three or four times a day now. Sometimes he smiles at me, but more often than not I catch him smiling at a sunbeam on the wall, or a toy with a funny face ... anything that catches his fancy.

Bits and pieces of his personality are beginning to emerge. Most of the time he's a placid, good-natured little fellow. He's easy to please, amicable, content. But more and more often lately I see flashes of the temper that lies ahead! If he's left alone for too long, or if I'm holding him and he doesn't feel like being held, he'll squirm, bonk me with his head, fart in annoyance, squeak, pummel me with his little fists, and finally ROAR indignantly ...




Absolutely perfect summer evening. Warm but not oppressive; lovely breeze. I've just bathed all three of my children, and the house smells of soap and baby powder. Kyle's first bath! I bathed him in a little dish pan, on top of the clothes dryer, while the girls bathed in the big tub behind us. He liked it, I think. His eyes were big as dinner plates, and he made little chirping noises in his throat. Now his hair, as he snoozes across the room from me in his basket, is soft and fluffy as the feathers on a baby bird. I am drowsy, comfortable and content.




7:30 p.m.

So much for the "perfect summer evening." We were interrupted by a major tragedy tonight when Jamie discovered that her goldfish is gone. Vanished! Right out of the fish bowl in her bedroom. Poor old Cornflake ... I think the kitties must have gotten him. Jamie is absolutely heartbroken.

Shit.




Jamie's heartbreak has dissipated a bit. I quietly put away the fish bowl and all the paraphernalia, and Ray has promised to replace Cornflake with two new goldfish next payday. Once in a while Jamie pauses in play, and a mournful look steals over her face, and I know she's thinking about her poor dead fishy ... she's such a tender-hearted little girl ...

Still, I think she's going to be fine. Summer is here, and Jamie Lynn P. is in her element! She and Kacie spent the entire day yesterday playing in their swimming pool. ( Already Jamie is beautifully tanned.) I expect today to be more of the same. Jamie is at an exciting new point in her life. She has a lot of friends to play with, and the new baby, and all the pleasures of summer ... there just isn't time to mourn the death of one goldfish.




I hold Kyle up to the dining room window and he catches sight of his sisters, sitting outside at the picnic table eating bananas. His eyes grow wide and he is very still, watching them. Jamie sees us, and she runs over to the window. "Hi Kyle!" she shouts merrily, and then she starts jumping up and down to entertain him. He is still absolutely motionless, but now he starts making excited little noises in his throat. He sees his Jamie! It's been like that since the day he was born: Jamie is simply "it" as far as he's concerned.







June 26, 1986

Warm, stuffy, sleepy afternoon. Vaguely depressed by the thought of three more months of summer.

Kyle rolled over for the first time last weekend! Tummy to back. Whenever I lay him on the floor now he holds his head right up and looks around him a little bit. He likes my Sister Belle doll, and the Happy Apple toy ... the same toys his sisters liked at his age. Now I'm starting to wish I had a playpen for him. I can tell, just by looking at him, that I'll really need one by the end of summer ...




Jamie is "posing" Kacie in the armchair with an assortment of dolls, pretending she's a photographer taking pictures. "Lookin' good!" Jamie mutters, snapping the Sesame Street camera. Where does she GET this stuff??




Jamie is becoming increasingly bossy and impertinent ... a typical four year old, I guess. Her first words to me yesterday morning (after a marathon night with the baby) were "Hey! You forgot to get up and fix my breakfast!" Now she's mad at me again because I won't let her go over and play with Charlie. "Then you don't get your ten kisses!" she says snootily, nose in the air.







July 8, 1986

Another hot, muggy afternoon. Kyle is laying here on my lap with a bottle hanging out of his mouth, watching me with huge blue eyes. There are a million and a half small children swarming around in my front yard, with Jamie The Charming Hostess standing in the middle of them all, shouting "I'm gonna tell my Mom!" ...

Kyle had his check-up on Monday. At seven weeks, he weighs 13 lbs., 11 oz., and Dr. Watts is delighted with his progress. After his appointment, my mom took us for a long drive around Woodinville. We went shopping at Drug Emporium, and then had lunch at Burger King. Right after lunch the girls went on the Burger King playground and fooled around on the swings and slides for half an hour. Big mistake. During the drive home Kacie, overcome by the heat and the food and the merry-go-round, threw up all over the back seat of Grandma's car. Oops!







July 10, 1986

Ray was fired from his job at Western Kraft yesterday. I think I must be in shock, because it doesn't seem to have sunk in yet ... I just feel numb. More later.




Later:

The "numb" feeling wore off midway through the afternoon, and I swiftly sank into a profound depression. Ray and I have been very careful not to talk about it today: the entire subject seems to be off-limits.




More Later:

I finally "cracked." Standing at the stove, stirring the stew, I began to cry. Right away Ray started promising that everything will be OK, that he's going to file a grievance with the union, that he's "sure" he'll get his job back ... etc. etc. etc. He said "Please don't look so down ... it'll just make it worse for me." I wasn't able to completely camouflage my fear, but I put on a semi-normal face and tried to go about life per usual, in order to bolster Ray's flagging spirits ...

... inside, though, I'm in turmoil. My entire life is in chaos.







July 18, 1986

Things between Ray and I are hitting new lows. It's now been a week since he lost his job, and he hasn't done anything about filing a grievance, applying for unemployment, looking for work or anything else.




Evening

Well, isn't this just too cozy for words. A rainy, cold evening ... a horror movie on TV ("Prom Night") ... the entire family is assembled here in the living room ... I've even made popcorn. Jamie looked around a few minutes ago and said "Our whole FAMBLY is here!" I nodded and put on a big phony smile and said, "Isn't that nice?" No sense in letting my children know how worried and unhappy Mommy really is.







July 24, 1986

Ray just came home after four hours of "running errands." (Translation: three hours drinking beer at Dave's Place, one hour of shopping.) He brought home a surprise - a beautiful new playpen for Kyle. It's wonderful, it really is, and Kyle seems to like it. But am I supposed to not wonder how in the world we can afford such a thing?? Now Ray is out in the kitchen, watching a movie on the new portable TV he just bought and cooking chili dogs for dinner. The girls are sitting at the table with him, eating the blueberry muffins he brought home. They're wearing nightgowns and their hair is shining in the lamplight. A perfectly lovely tableau of a perfectly lovely family. The only thing is, here's Mama sitting on the sofa, watching all of this, and her heart is so heavy ...

We are in deep trouble.







July 30

My in-laws have been here every day this week, painting our house.







August 5

Jamie keeps drawing pictures today, and they all look like this:

Five happy faces, all in a big circle. I know that she's picking up on our unhappiness. She draws pictures of her family as a silent imploring message to me, I think. I don't know when I've ever in my whole life felt this bad.





August 7, 1986

Peg and Don are planning to sell our house as soon as they complete all of this frenzied painting and repaired work. My sister-in-law was the one who broke the news to me. I wonder if the in-laws were even planning to tell me?

We have $2.00 to our names right now.

Editor's note: At this point things had hit rock bottom, and I decided to take fate into my own hands. With Ray out of work, our marriage at an all-time low, three small children to support and our home being sold out from under us, I applied for welfare and decided to move you kids and I to an apartment ... anywhere. It was, without a doubt, the most confused, painful time of my life: most of my journal entries during these weeks concentrated on adult concerns, and very little was written about you for a while.





September 12, 1986

Foggy, cold morning. The neighborhood children are walking to school. Ray, fortified by a cup of coffee and a quick bowl of oatmeal, just left for another day of landscaping with Tony Ramos. (Note: This was a temporary, part-time job he took on to make a little money.) All three of my children are sitting here in the living room with me as I drink my coffee and watch "Good Morning America." Jamie is sitting in the armchair, making car noises and pretending she's driving Rosie (her doll/daughter) to school. Kacie has a pile of storybooks on the floor and is "reading aloud." Kyle, laying on the floor at my feet, has rolled onto his side and is patting the sofa, peering up at me.

"Anyone wanna feed Henry?" I say, holding up the half-empty bottle. Kacie is instantly on her feet. "I will! I will!" she shouts.

The dryer hums in the bathroom; three baskets of neatly-folded laundry sit in front of the TV. The house is tidier than it's been in weeks; in spite of the fact that there are no pictures hanging on the walls, anywhere in this entire house, things seem almost completely "normal." If I squint my eyes and use a little imagination, I can almost make myself believe it's 1985 again, and that things are the way they used to be. I can forget for a few minutes how much everything has changed, and that I only have eighteen days left in this house.




I've found an apartment for the kids and I, a depressing little rat-hole down by the airport, The Shannon South Apartments. Well, OK ... it's not that bad. The apartment is large, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms; it has a playground for the kids; and it's only eight blocks from my mother's house. And the rent is only $360 a month. Best of all, they accepted me as a tenant, three children, welfare "income" and all.

When the manager was showing me around one of the vacant apartments, I lamely said "It's lovely." The truth is I felt like crying. The unit I looked at had tacky blue shag carpeting, broken light fixtures and horrible wallpaper, and everywhere was the same damp, mildewy smell I remember from the apartment I shared with Terry Hunt. Mom went with me to look at the place and fill out the rental application. (She co-signed for me.)

Originally we were supposed to move in this weekend, but then I got a chance to buy a car - a 1972 Chevy Malibu - for only $600. I paid for some of it with my first welfare check, and the rest came from Grandma V.. So the move has been postponed until the first of October.

Jamie is obviously confused about this whole situation. If Mama and Daddy are such good friends, and everybody is getting along so well, then how come we're not going to live together anymore? I've explained it as best I can. I said that Daddy needs some time to get a new job and find a new place to live, and that while he does that, Mama and the kids will stay in a nice little apartment close to Grandma Beeson.







September 17, 1986

Kyle loves his walker! Tonight his little feet managed to connect with the floor while he was sitting in it, for the first time, and he pushed himself straight up into a standing position. He CROWED with delight. Now he's sitting in front of the TV, playing with the tin cookie cutters and watching his sisters eat their macaroni & cheese. Occasionally I catch his eye, and he breaks into a huge happy grin. I love him so much. He's such a responsive, sweet little guy: my little man. He brings so much sunshine into our lives, and Lord knows we need it.







September 24, 1987

My heart is heavy today. I feel the minutes ticking away, faster than I can hold them ... the final days in Kirkland.

There is something achingly "normal" about these last days. I carry the garbage can out to the curb, make my coffee, start the laundry. I sit here and look out the window, and the neighborhood is so familiar and dear. I feel a wild, desperate sadness. How will I survive leaving here??? I am so scared. How will I ever get over the pain of leaving this house? How will I possibly be able to adjust to living in an apartment? I love this house so much. I wish I could leave something behind ... a plaque, a marker of some kind:

"Terri V. P. lived here, October 1980 to October 1986.

She laughed and cried, washed and dusted, dreamed and fought, created and loved here. In the spring, she loved the cherry blossoms; in the fall she loved the big tree across the street. This house holds precious memories: treat it with love."







October 26, 1986

Three weeks have passed, and we are alive and well and living on welfare in Seattle, Washington!

Life goes on. The kids and I are more or less all moved in, and now we're adjusting to the new dynamics of apartment life. I must tell you: I like this apartment much more than I thought I would! I was expecting a cramped, moldy little "shoe box," but it isn't like that at all. Our apartment is spacious, light and airy. I don't have as much closet/cupboard space as I did at the house, and I do miss my nice big kitchen. But there are compensations. The living room is positively cavernous ... the piddly little pieces of furniture I brought with me (one armchair, a coffee table, a lamp, the camphor chest and the TV) are all but swallowed up. And the luxury of having a bathroom all to myself is beyond compare!

Kyle and I are sharing the master bedroom. I've got my queen-size bed, a dresser and Kyle's crib in there. (His dresser is in my closet.) The girls share the other bedroom. It's usually a total mess - just the way it was in Kirkland - some things never change.

The first night the kids and I spent here was a Sunday. I felt a little "lost" that first night ... I cooked frozen chicken and instant mashed potatoes for dinner, and the kids and I sat in front of the TV and ate while we watched a new show we like, "Our House." Then we all went to bed at 8 p.m., exhausted from a long day of moving. I laid there in my bed and listened to the unfamiliar sounds of the apartment: the gas furnace, footsteps over my head, cars in the parking lot outside the window. I felt completely adrift in the world, and I have to admit I fell asleep in tears (a fact I concealed from the kids).

But it didn't last for long. Very soon I began to settle in and meet a few of my neighbors and get used to the "newness" of everything, until now, today, I feel some of my direction has been restored.

I have a new job babysitting for one of my neighbors, a nice girl named Stephanie A. She is really sweet, and her daughter Courtney, four months old, is an adorable pixie of a baby. Stephanie is going to pay me $15 a day for babysitting. Life this past week, taking care of two babies, has been nerve-wracking to say the least. Courtney misses her Mommy and wants to be held every minute; Kyle has begun rolling in earnest now, and I'm forever having to rescue him from impossible jams. He wedges himself into the most unbelievable spots. There is also his fondness for electrical cords, new magazines and plastic garbage bags to deal with - I have to keep these things away from him at all times. And his appetite is bottomless. I've been run ragged.




We're definitely not in Kirkland anymore, Toto. No one seems to have much money around here - lots of beat-up old cars in the parking lot - and I've actually seen teenagers smoking crack on the stairwell. I won't venture out of the apartment after dark, unless I have to use the pay phone: a few of the tenants are downright creepy. But for every unsavory type around here, I'd say there are another four or five basically decent, pleasant, normal types. It's a jeans and T-shirts neighborhood, macaroni and cheese, trikes on the patio. And we fit right in.


Continued ...

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