On other birthdays that I remember I had slumber parties. We would all sleep on the floor in sleeping bags and blankets and stay up most of the night talking -telling jokes and stories. One year, I requested a complete Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and mashed potatoes. My mom used a ricer to make the mashed potatoes and they were delicious. When they came out of the ricer she did not mix them, so they still looked like rice. Unbeknownst to me, my friend Muffy thought it was rice and got one of the biggest surprises of her life when the rice melted into mash potatoes in her mouth. Later, I found out two things about Muffy: her parents never cooked, but microwaved all of her meals and she never forgot how good those riced mashed potatoes were. She reminded me at her wedding reception at Galena Lodge and at Red Fish Lake last summer.
I took ballet from Hillarie Neely for many years. I had good balance from it and from crossing logs. We had performances just like in the book my mom had given me called A Very Young Dancer about a girl who was in the Nut Cracker and practiced ballet a lot to become very good. There were kids of all ages in the performances. I remember doing one outside in the summer time by the Sun Valley Art Center, when it was where the Community School is now. Another time, I remember it being in Hailey and being a big deal in a big place. I can still see the neon light lit halls of what was Wood River High School seen through a young child’s eyes. It was exciting to wait with everyone out in the halls and then to get our turn on the big stage under the bright lights.
Some one brought us a baby deer.
A friend of my parents was driving out our road and he saw a baby deer all by itself. So he picked it up and put it in his car and brought it to us. We put it in our kitchen and it was so scared. My mom left me at home with it while she went to town to buy it some milk and a bottle to feed it.
When she got home, we fed it and it was very happy. But, it was still very frightened and not at all like my baby goat that had followed me around. It would hide in the corner and run around the kitchen running into chairs and anything in its way. It was wild and not supposed to be inside, not supposed to be comfortable around humans. My mom called the Fish and Game to see what to do. We put it in our Rabbit House for the night because we knew it would run away if we let it go outside. I fed it with the bottle a few more times and then a person with the Fish and Game came to get it. We asked where it would go and he said “Probably the Boise Zoo.”
Years later, I would go to the Boise Zoo and look for the deer.
"California here we come...."
The summer of 1981, my Grandma Bake decided she wanted to take, my mom, me and my cousin Brant to Disneyland. We drove to Portland and then we got into my grandma's blue Volkswagen Rabbit and drove to California. We had no air conditioning. No one did, so we weren't worried. I packed my roller skates. First stop was at a Cactus surrounded hotel in California. I laced up my skates and skated up and down the side walk until it got dark. The next day we drove to San Francisco and stayed in a fun hotel that was tall and skinny. It was like no building I had been in before. We spent the night there and then went to the crookedest street in the world, Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. We saw where fortune cookies were made and ate Dim Sum at a restaurant that I would return to 20 years later and it would look exactly the same. Next stop, Disneyland. We stayed at the Candy Cane Inn, in Anaheim, California right near the park. I had an earache and so my mom and Brant got to go to Disneyland the first evening and my grandma and I stayed at the Inn. The next day though, we did all the rides. Its a Small World, Magic Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean. We had a lot of fun especially taking photographs with all the characters that were there.
Then, next stop, San Diego. We went to Sea World and saw all kinds of amazing animals and fish that I had never seen before.
Last stop, Tijuana. My first time in Mexico was in 1981 and my Grandma Bake was driving and we had no idea where we were going and all I remember is her asking “What does alto mean?” She must have been joking, but it makes sense because no one seems to stop at the altos in Mexico. It was an amazing trip. I can’t believe we went all of those places and my wonderful Grandma Bake showed me all those wonderful things. Brant and I were both only children, so we got in a fair share of fights. After all, we were in the back seat of a small car with no A/C for many hours at a time and no electronics, nothing but maybe Brant had a book. I always got car sick so I couldn't read so you had to stare out the window, day dream or fight, but we also bonded on that trip as cousins.
Later, I would be looking at a photo album of my husband when he was a child and there were photos of he and his sister when they were in Disneyland. I would ask, what year was that and Irma, his mom, would say the summer of 1981. My mind would reel, had I seen him? Had I been next to him on a ride? Did we almost meet then and then not again until 1993? I’d look at all of his photos of Disneyland at the backgrounds to see if I could see myself there, near him in 1981. I’d go home to Idaho later and look at my photos of Disneyland and look for him in the back ground of my photos. I still do this today. He had to have been there. We had to of crossed paths at some point. Just to think we were both there the same summer, is pretty amazing, taking photographs with all the same characters.
I’d leave a letter out for Santa Claus each year.
I’d have a small Christmas tree in my room with lights and there would be one in the room with the wood stove. They would serve as night lights on those long dark nights.
My dad would bring in a metal ladder covered in snow making my mom gasp and sigh as the snow fell off the ladder and melted on the floor. He would climb up to the attic above the bath tub and pull down boxes marked Christmas. Inside the first box were the Santa Clauses my mom had made one year out of cones that once held yarn. There was a porcelain Santa with a chipped nose, and my favorite a little set of metal angels that went together and had little candles to light under it that would make it spin. Tedious to put together, tedious to get to work and usually after the messy wax, disappeared or was never lit again until the following year, but I loved that. In the other boxes were all the old ornaments. The wooden ones, the ones I had made over the years in school, the ones people had sent us for Christmas. There were Sculpey ones my mom made one year and white dough ones she had made another. And little mice in walnut shells. My dad would put lights on the tree and then we were free to hang the ornaments. Each ornament brought back memories. Remember this one? This is the one from Brant. This is the one from the Barniks. Some how, even though we only saw them once a year for a few weeks, we remember each one and who had made them or given them to us. The beaded bells my Grandma Bake used to make. The Hallmark ones my Aunt Donna would send. My Aunt Donna was determined that I would have enough ornaments for my own tree as soon as I had grown up, so she gave me an ornament ever year. She also had a sign above her front door, year round, that said Believe. I still do.
It would be dark and cold and everyone would go to bed early. I would lay awake as long as I possibly could to see if I heard Santa, but never managed to. I would always leave him a treat and sometimes I’d leave something for the reindeer too. One year I asked him if he could please take a photograph of Rudolph for me. It would just help me to know more about them and that they were real. Verification, thats all I wanted. I never heard Santa and I never got a photo of Rudolph. I did however always seem to get what was on my list. The stockings were always full in the morning, often with oranges and tooth paste and other things we needed and there was always a big surprise under the tree unwrapped, next to all the wrapped presents.
The wrapped presents accumulated through the month of December, mostly arriving from Oregon saying Happy Birthday Melissa, Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday Pret. I had to organize them all under the tree and double check them often so that they would be opened on the right day. I would usually wake up early and get my parents out of bed or I’d bring the stocking upstairs to their loft and we’d open them in their bed. Wow, oranges again. Yep, it was definitely Santa because he did the same thing last year. My long letter would be gone and the carrot I’d left for the reindeer, gone. The cookie half eaten. Santa amazed me. How did he do it every year? You start to think about it and then decide, he was magic, he could do it. It was way beyond my understanding.
Those were the days when you would look through a Sears catalog to see if there was anything you wanted. There were no big stores in Ketchum, no internet, and no TV for me, so there was no way for me to really know what I was missing out on. I might have seen a few things at friends houses, but never anything to leave me envious. We really didn’t want much back then and when we got something we were thrilled with it whatever it was. A toy like a Simon meant hours of entertainment, a doll that could eat and poop would give me busy all winter, the tiny digital clock that the Barniks gave me lasted, battery and all, for 15 years. These were treasures that showed up in the middle of winter. The gifts under the tree were as wonderful as the opening of them because of all the expectation and dreams of what they could be. What my grandma might have knit for me that year, what my Aunt Donna or Aunt Buffy had sewn.
Turkey dinner or maybe a Leg of Lamb on Christmas Day. My dad would go skiing and sometimes I’d join him for a trek out to the field. If the slough was frozen we might shovel it off for hours and hours to create an ice rink. I get out my ice skates and skate all day, thinking I would skate all winter, but the next day it would be covered in snow and we’d be too tired to shovel it again. My parents always made Christmas Day very special for me inside and outside of our cabin.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.
“Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree came by special delivery.” The rest you could read by just looking at the pictures. It started with a man in a fancy house getting a Christmas tree delivered that was way to large even for his mansion. They cut off the top that is bending into the ceiling and chuck it outside into the snow. There, the first animal a fox finds it and takes it home to his family, but the tree is too big for his den, so he cuts off the top and throws it into the snow. This goes on through several animals and the last tiny part that is left is taken by a mouse. The mouse just happens to live in the house where the big tree is where the story began. I loved that story. It showed animals and it showed being resourceful and using what you find. There is a gardener in the story and a mouse.
I went to Ona’s funeral.
I had known Ona for a long time and right before we went to the funeral we went to the grocery store, Atkinson’s, and while we were there I saw her. She was in the produce section buying some fruit. I couldn't figure out why she would be at Atkinson's market if she had died. I asked my mom about this and she said that it was common for people to see some one who had passed away, right after they had died.
We went into the big Catholic Church on Sun Valley Road by the Val de Sol, the condominium where I had lived when I was born. This was my first time in a church and it was for a funeral. After the mass, we had cookies and tea in the room with all the sunny windows and I told everyone I had just seen Ona at Atkinson’s right before her funeral and that this was my first time at church.
Pentel Pens and a Snoopy Dictionary.
We had a large box of Pentel Pens. Every color one could imagine.
One day I was determined to transcribe the entire Snoopy Dictionary. I always worked best on our kitchen table and I still do today. I feel a bit like this, writing down these stories at my kitchen table today. Determined.
December 20, 1972
Dear Pret and Marilyn,
I’ve been on Cloud nine all day just thinking about little Melissa. A Christmas granddaughter is just about the finest thing that has ever happened to me and I wish to thank you, her parents, for giving me this great happiness. Hearing that cry over the telephone when only an hour old was absolutely unbelievable!!! -and talking to two such happy parents -I know how you feel having shared this fundamental experience-and I am so proud of you both. Bravo! Needless to say -I’ve been calling all of our nearest and dearest to share our good news -the long distance lines have been busy- Wally in Fresno, Cecile in Chicago, Loyd in Corvallis, my Uncle in Virginia, the Abernathys in Hillsborough, etc. -as well as so many here at home. It has been an exciting day -And of course Audrey and I have congratulated each other.
Marilyn, you were so dear to call me again -it meant so much to hear from you on THE DAY.
Lots of love,
“grandmother” to Melissa
P.S. Everyone wants to know her middle name -I forgot to ask.
My middle name was wind. It was twenty below zero and windy on the night I was born in Moritz hospital in Sun Valley, Idaho.
My Grandma Lacey and I were good friends. She sent me some nice clothes for Christmas and when I went to visit her in Oregon, I got to dress up. The rest of the year I never wore dresses except for a special occasion. It was fun to dress up, but just as nice to take off the dress and put on some comfy clothes when I got home from visiting her and to jump back into the frog pond. I knew enough not to do that when I stayed with her. I had to be the little girl she never had, when I was there visiting her. She had two sons, like I would later in my life.
Author & Artist: