June 1, 1989
Mom's Ten Commandments of Summer
1. Thou shalt keep thy bedroom clean.
2. Thou shalt help Mom with other household chores (cheerfully and without complaint!)
3. Thou shalt not change thy clothes 5,000 times a day.
4. Thou shalt put thy dirty laundry in the basket.
5. Thou shalt hang up wet towels and bathing suits.
6. Thou shalt not open the refrigerator door every five minutes.
7. Thou shalt be quiet in the mornings, especially on weekends.
8. Thou shalt not request more than two sleep-overs per week.
9. Thou shalt not bug Mom, Dad or Lori about swimming all day long.
10. Thou shalt be polite, considerate and cooperative at all times.
June 19, 1989
Got up a few minutes ago (7:45 a.m.) and discovered that all three of the babysitting kids (Jerome, André and Chris) are already here and sitting in the living room, watching TV with Jamie. So much for my plan to get up before everyone else and have some "quiet time to myself."
No - I mean it. I miss my mornings. I miss my privacy, my quiet cups of coffee, my undisturbed journal writing. I don't have any of that anymore. This morning when I got up Jerome, André, Chris and Ray (who is working graveyard shift now) were all sitting in the living room watching Pink Panther cartoons. A houseful at 8 a.m., and there was me in my old sweat pants with the holes in the butt, and mascara smeared all over my face, trying to make my coffee and feeling four sets of eyes following my every move.
Summer vacation looms ahead ... long, hot and nerve-wracking.
A memorable incident from a moment ago: Jamie was sitting in the green armchair - the one that used to belong to my Grandpa V. - when she accidentally spilled her cup of cherry Kool-Aid onto her lap and all over the chair. For a full ten seconds she was completely frozen: she just looked at me. She knows this chair is special to me: the last time I ever saw my grandfather, he sitting in it. I didn't say anything ... I just took the seat cushion into the kitchen and began scrubbing it with soap and water. (Ever try getting red Kool-Aid out of green velour?) Jamie stood silently in the doorway, watching me. When I finally looked at her, there were fat soundless tears sliding down her cheeks. That did me in: I knelt down in front of her and took her in my arms. She resisted the hug for a moment, standing there woodenly with her arms at her sides. But then I told her I wasn't mad, and suddenly she hugged me back, sobbing on my shoulder. "Your Great-Grandpa loved little girls," I told her. "I don't think he minds a little Kool-Aid on his chair." That cheered her up, and a few minutes later she was back to normal.
June 29, 1989
Cloudy, cool, drizzly. The girls and I are sitting at the table, each of us scribbling in notebooks. I have my big cup of black coffee, and they each have little cups, heavily laced with milk and sugar. Jamie is writing "pomes," Kacie is drawing pictures of Gumby. This is a nice, companionable moment ... I'm enjoying it. School has been out for a week now, and I'll be the first to admit that I like having my girls around. They are good company, and they help out a lot around the place (albeit not always willingly). Kyle, also, seems happy to have his sisters to play with all day.
Their report cards, incidentally, were wonderful: all A's and B's, with great comments from their teachers. Mr. Gallagher said Kacie has been an "outstanding student," and Jamie's teacher called her a "very capable and nice young lady."
Summer 1989 is: Batman, Arsenio Hall, Tom Petty and Totally Hidden Video ... the grocery strike ... Allied Bond and Collection, my phone pals ... green apples and Diet Cherry Coke ... KXRX-FM.
Jamie and Kacie got into big trouble the other day when the apartment manager, Val (who we privately refer to as "The Troll") caught them writing on one of the buildings. I flew into a total rage when I found out about it: I made this big sign and posted it on the fridge:
"JAMIE AND KACIE:
No swimming for two weeks!
Bedtime is 9:00!
Restricted to playground or patio ONLY!"
They sat in their bedroom and cried, and I sat at the kitchen table and cried, and everybody felt terrible for the rest of the day. Then, of course, I had to make the situation worse by being inconsistent: that night they stayed up until 10 p.m., yesterday Ray took them swimming, and today they're going to the movies with my mom (to see "Honey I Shrunk The Kids").
Things About Kyle This Summer!
1. He is a monster.
2. He will only sleep in my bed, between Ray and I.
3. He knows (and uses) every swear word in the book.
4. He will only eat hot dogs, peanut butter sandwiches, toothpaste, bubblegum, root beer and chocolate milk.
5. He is afraid to get into the swimming pool this summer.
6. His favorite shows are Full House, The Wonder Years and Pee Wee's Playhouse.
7. He is a monster.
8. He wears his underpants backwards and he doesn't like socks.
9. Everything in this apartment belongs to him.
10. He has to be the first person through any door.
11. He likes to spit on the porch, throw rocks at André and fiddle with electrical cords. He also enjoys squirting toothpaste into the toilet.
12. No one can bring in the evening newspaper but Kyle.
13. His favorite songs are "Help Me, Rhonda" and "Twist and Shout."
He also likes Elvis Presley and Bruce Springsteen.
14. He calls everybody "Dude," including his mother.
15. He is a monster.
What will Jamie and Kacie remember about the summer of 1989? Going to the movies with Grandma Beeson? The swimming pool? The weekend we went to the Waterland Festival with John, Lori and Tracy? Renting movies from our new video place (and last night's Stephen King Festival - "Carrie" and "The Shining," back to back)?
Daddy barbecuing on the patio?
Erin and Jae's wedding tomorrow night?
Mom: "What will you remember most about this summer?"
Jamie: "I'll remember the wedding, I bet. That's all I can think of."
Mom: "Jamie, come on."
Jamie: "Ummm ... I choked on a Barbie shoe?"
Kacie: (when asked the same question) "Uh, SWIMMING ... sun-tannin' ... when we did our play, Roxanne and Jamie and Tracy and me ... and, uh, playin' ball ... the Water Fesdible ... the WEDDIN' ..."
What I'll probably remember most about the Summer of 1989 is the way it looked from the inside of this apartment ... grrr ...
August 29, 1989
And now for the really big news. There is a house that we're interested in ... a perfect, marvelous, once-in-a-lifetime house ... a house that I want so badly, I can taste it. I have thought of little else for two days. It is my dream house. We went and looked at it on Sunday night. It's only a couple of blocks from Bow Lake Elementary, it's the right size, the yard is fenced, the interior is clean and beautiful. There are all kinds of bonuses, too, like shelved closets and a desk area in the utility room. (I could have my very own office. God.)
It is the house I have visualized and longed for and waited for all my life. Please, Lord. I will do anything. We'll change our ways, quit squandering our money, clean up our act. I'll go back to work, if necessary! It's just got to be this house.
There is a new development to report. At 6 p.m. Deb J. (one of the owners) gave me a call. The gist of the conversation was, if we want the house, it's ours. After I hung up the phone I hopped up and down in front of Jamie and Jerome for a couple of minutes, shrieking like a fool.
August 31, 1989
It will cost us over a thousand dollars to move into the house: $1,470 to be precise. After that it'll be $910 a month for the next two months: this is first, last and deposit. The way it figures out on paper, we're $500 short. This evening I'm going to go to Grandma V.'s and ask her for a loan. I am not optimistic: she has made it very clear recently that she won't help us out with money anymore. But I have no other choice. Without her help, we'll have to turn the house down. Wish me luck.
Five days have passed since my last tense entry; from this vantage point of relative calm, I can now bring you up to date. Grandma turned me down flat. I was devastated, but I managed to leave her house with a big phony smile on my face and my dignity intact. Once I got into the car, though, I fell apart. When I got back to the apartment I cried for a solid hour. Ray and Lori and the kids did their best to console me, but I was so disappointed. "We'll be living in this apartment forever," I moaned.
I was just about to pick up the phone and call the J.'s, to tell them our financing had fallen through, when the phone rang. It was Grandma, calling to say she'd "reconsidered" and that she would give us the money.
THE HOUSE IS OURS!!!!!
September 7, 1989
School started yesterday. Lori and I walked all the kids (Jamie, Kacie, Tracy, Chris, Jerome, Roxanne, and - "along for the ride" - Kyle and André) over to Bow Lake and got them settled comfortably into their new classrooms. I pray that second grade is more fun for Jamie than first grade was. At least she got the teacher she wanted, Ms. Weeks. And Kacie seems very happy with her new teacher, Mrs. McCall. Best of all (for Kacie), Tracy and Roxanne are in her class. This will make it easier for her when we move next month. Even though Kacie won't be living next door to her best friend anymore, they'll still see each other every day at school.
We went and saw the house again yesterday: it was Kacie and Kyle's first look at it. I got to walk around a little and poke my nose into closets, bathrooms, the garage, etc. Now I'm more anxious than ever to move in and start turning it into our home.
I signed Jamie up for Brownies last night. So far she's not overly thrilled with the idea -- she was far more interested in sliding around the gymnasium floor in her stocking feet -- but I hope she'll love it.
Kacie's nose is a little bit out of joint. "I want to be a Brow-nee!" she wailed when Jamie and I got home from the meeting last night. Her turn comes next year, I explained.
Each day in this apartment is prolonged agony. The only time I feel at all sentimental about the place is at night, when everyone else is in bed and I'm alone in the living room. Then I look around my apartment and remember all the things that have happened here in the past three years. The kids opening their presents on Christmas mornings. Kyle and Courtney learning to walk together. The birthday parties, the wild and crazy Saturday nights, the kids going swimming in the summer. The good times we've had ...
During the daytime, though (like right now), I feel something more akin to loathing. I won't miss the moldy carpeting, the dripping faucets, Joe's stereo upstairs, the pea gravel on the playground. I won't miss the blower at 9 a.m. Monday mornings. I won't miss the gossip, the noise, or the long trips to the dumpster and the laundry room. And I won't miss The Troll!!!
Ouch. My hands are stiff, sore, scratched, burned and bruised from days of frenzied apartment cleaning ...
Naturally, this last week before we move is crawling by slower than molasses. I try to stay really busy all day, cleaning and packing, but the house still seems as far away and unattainable as it did four weeks ago. It doesn't seem real to me yet. Ray is the one who is getting excited now. He came home last night and said "I'm ready to move right now!" He's been moving a carload or two of boxes every night this week and storing them in the garage at the house.