Friday, December 23, 2011

Middle-Aged Women Don't Bounce: The Rest of the Story

 So, now we've come to the end of this tale and it took me so long, it's also almost the end of the year.  This green as the corn farm girl finally figured out how to survive in the working world and did a lot of growing up. 
My wonderful dog, Sparky (yes, he's a lot bigger than Teddy and Pudding!) and me.  August 1977

During our first year, Sharon and I had a good time at the insurance company, well, at least when Martha wasn't looking.  When we were hired, All Casualty Mutual was in the process of building a brand-new home office out in the country, ironically, very near my Aunt Dorothy's farm, on several hundred acres.  They were going to be moving their entire office out to the new location around the spring or early summer of 1977. This was great news, after the move I would not have to drive downtown to go to work anymore and I wouldn't have to walk down those smelly city streets.  My commute time was cut down another fifteen minutes and best of all, the entire trip was now going to be on rural roads.
Yes, I know, are my glasses big enough?  There I am, 18 and a Working Girl

We were all given new identification cards to swipe before we entered the building and I, for one, was thrilled with the new location.  Not everyone was, though.  Many of the employees missed the close proximity of the stores and restaurants at the old office building downtown.   That was when another major change was made, the company gave everyone the option of cutting their lunch break from fifty minutes to thirty, and in some cases, twenty.  Many people went for it, me included, since it meant we would get out of work earlier.   

Shortly after we moved out to the new building, the company had an open house for employees and their families.  My folks and Carl got to come along and get a tour of the place.  It was really something, all white with windows floor to ceiling and skylights with flower beds running the length of the building on the inside.  The beds had Peace Lilies planted in them and some sort of tropical trees.  The new building was only two stories, but it was a sprawling place with curved staircases between floors.  It was an architectural marvel for the time.
These files were just part of my responsibility...there were a LOT more files not pictured, more than you can imagine.  And that would be a non-Martha-approved stance for working. 
There were big developments in my private life, too.  Carl and I became engaged on Valentine's Day, 1977.

Sharon was way ahead of me on that front; she was married in May of that year.  Carl and I went to Sharon and Duke's wedding and had a great time.

Apparently, I had a really good time at the wedding, judging by the way I look in this picture above. Isn't Sharon a beautiful bride? 

Work went on rather well after the insurance firm moved out to the country.  I continued to live at home and worked in the barn, milking cows nights and weekends and doing field work.
Here I'm chopping cornstalks back on the field after Dad had gone through with the cornpicker.  Chopping them down with the greenchopper made it much easier to plow in the fall.  I wish we still had that chopper, but the 574 is still with us.
Carl snuck up on me one day while I was putting bedding down in the stalls and took this picture.  I loved this work.
Carl and I had some free time, too.  He was enrolled in technical school by then and had a year of learning ahead of him.  We did find time to run around and have some fun, though.  Carl had an older car, a 1967 Buick LeSabre that rode like a boat.  Parked next to my Nova, it looked like a yacht.
Carl's ride in 1977, a 1967 Buick Le Sabre  

I could never get him to pose by his car, though he would pose by mine as long as I agreed to also.
Kids!  We were just 18 year old KIDS!  Where did the time go?
No, I did not run over the poor dog, Sparky simply passed out laughing from my silly pose in this picture.
Carl graduated from technical school and found work as metal fabricator in late 1977, and he's been there ever since, thirty-four years.
Carl, 19 years old, visiting at my folk's house after work.  He was over every morning before we went to our respective jobs for breakfast, too.  I've been feeding this character for a very long time.

When I wasn't working on the farm, we would spend our free time on Sunday afternoons wandering the back roads and the woods.  We haven't changed much.  This is still our favorite thing to do.

Me, in some woods somewhere, 18 years old.

Another favorite thing was riding dirt bikes, too.  Here I'm trying out Carl's cousin's bike at Carl's folk's house.

In the fall of 1977, some sad news came my way.  Sharon was expecting her first child and had decided to leave the insurance company.  The news hit me hard.  Yes, I had made other friends, too, and things were going ok, but I was going to miss Sharon so much.  We had fun at work and now it was going to come to an end.  I was in the midst of planning my wedding and asked Sharon to be a bridesmaid.  She agreed.

  In October, we celebrated Sharon's last day with a little luncheon and as was traditional, a gift from the department.  That was a hard day for me.  People came and went a lot in our department, though; it was not unusual.  Judith had long since left for another position in the company.  I didn't miss her.

Finally, September 1978 rolled around and Carl and I got married.  We had so little money, since we were now 20 years old and in the process of building our house, so we hired a friend of Carl's to take our wedding photos using Carl's camera.  We had to cut corners wherever we could.  I bought the second wedding dress I tried on, one that was a 'demo' dress at the bridal shop and the store dry-cleaned for me.  It was pretty enough, and the price was right, $150.

I hadn't seen Sharon since she'd quit the year before until it was time to buy the attendant's dresses.  I had no sisters, so my best friend from childhood, Valerie, was my maid of honor and Sharon and another friend from work, Denise, were my bridesmaids.  We went to the same bridal shop and I picked out pale pink dresses for the girls even though the saleslady had a canary about pink not being the right color for a fall wedding.  I didn't care.  They were on sale and my bridesmaids didn't revolt, so after a half hour shopping session, we were done.  We all made it to the church on time, too.

There's Sharon, on her way down the aisle.  In the balcony above, is my dear, late friend, Connie, who sang at my wedding and my old chorus teacher, Mrs. P, who played the organ.

There's my dad and I, making our way down the aisle, too.  This is the only picture I have of my father and I together on my wedding day.  He had hired a neighbor to milk the cows for him that night and though the man was completely trustworthy, Dad left right after the I do's.  He had to get back home to his cows.  I wish he'd stuck around for just ONE picture afterward, but oh, well.  That's farm life for you.  I understood.

Here's another rare photo: the man on the left is my late brother, Bob, talking to my mother-in-law.  I have so few pictures of him.  With her back to us is my sister-in-law, Mary.  And would you believe one of the few photos I have on my wedding day of my dear mother, the Infamous Elusive Lucille, is the lady in the middle by my brother, looking very tense.  I WISH I had a picture of Mom that showed how beautiful she looked that day, it was the only time she ever wore a formal gown.  The age of digital photography has made taking endless photos an easy thing, but in the days of film and developing costs, pictures were kept to a minimum.  If I could only go back, I know what photos I would take now..........

 1964, my brother Bob, 19, my dad, 51, me, 6 and my mom, 44 in our living room.   This is the only family photo of us all together.  (The spring horse was my birthday present.)

Anyway, back to my wedding and the story at hand...
The new Mrs. and those impossible plaid seats in my Nova.
 We made it out of church and over to a park for photos before driving to the hall for our dance.  Most couples head for a bar to tip a few, but Carl and I were and are hopelessly square.

This is our only 'sort of good' wedding photo of the two of us.  Too bad we didn't pick up the empties from somebody's party the night before.   While we were posing for this shot, the wedding party was milling around.
L-R: Valerie, Duke, Denise, Dan and Sharon
 We were on time for the supper, too, which is always a good thing.
L-R: The pastor and his wife, my dad and mom, Sharon and cousin Dave
After our wedding and a short honeymoon to the most romantic of all honeymoon destinations, fabulous South Dakota and Mount Rushmore, Carl and I both went back to work.

My job with the insurance company went on for just a little over ten years.  Our goal was to get us out of debt and then start a family and be a stay-at-home mom.  Luckily, this was one of the few plans that actually worked out well.  June 1986 rolled around and I found myself very pregnant.  I told my boss I probably wouldn't be coming back.   

How's this for irony?  I was sent down to employment  for an 'exit interview' about a week before I was due to deliver.  When a person left the insurance company's employ, they had a few questions to ask about your work experience.  I waddled down to employment that day with some bittersweet thoughts running through my head.  No, it wasn't the same building I'd had my horrible first day in a decade earlier, and the person I was to be interviewed by wasn't Alice, either, but there was one thing that was the same.

Who do you think gave me my exit interview?


I couldn't believe it.  After all these years, I didn't think that would ever happen in a month of Sundays.  I hadn't even realized Judith had ended up working in Employment.  Surprisingly, it was an ok experience, she was bit more friendly this time.  Seems I wasn't the only one who had done some growing up. 

Joel was born the next morning, at 7:13 AM.  The same way I started work almost the day after graduating high school, I started my career in motherhood the day after work.  I was 28 years old.

Joel, 1986.  He's the one in the middle, holding the micrometer.  He did grow up to be a machinist!
Joel and me, Christmas, 1986.  He's six months old here and I'm still 28. 

After I quit working, life was really different.  I didn't know much about raising babies, and poor little Joel would be an experimental test baby for this new experience.  My childhood had been filled with tractors and cows, not babies and diapers (I'd never babysat or changed a diaper until I had Joel) and I had a lot of learning to do.  Thank goodness my mom was able to help me through the worst of the first few days and ever-patient Carl, was a huge help, too. 

In four years' time, David made his appearance and our little family was complete.
David, six months old, 1990

 As anyone who has had children knows, their growing up years simply fly by.  I was so lucky to be able to stay at home and enjoy those years, it's something I've never regretted.  Sure, we had little money after going down to one paycheck for any luxuries, but what a small price to pay for time so precious.  Time like this I'd never get back.  You can't put a price on it.

When our kids were growing up, Sharon and I got together only a few times.  She and Duke only live about thirty miles away, but for some reason or another, we didn't visit back and forth much, except to surprise her on her 50th birthday party a few years back.  We always wrote to each other at Christmas, though.  How I treasured each and every letter from her.

So, fast forward to a night this past October 2011.  Carl and I were out on a ride in the Clintonville area, doing some geocaching with Joel.  One of the roads we crossed looked so familiar and I said to Carl, "Isn't that where Sharon and Duke live?"

Joel drove down their dead end road and turned in the driveway.  I had second thoughts after we drove in, we hadn't called ahead and I didn't know if they'd mind us barging in.   There was Duke, sitting on a bench by his back door in the dark.  He didn't seem surprised in the least to see who it was come to bother them on a Sunday night. Sharon came out of the house and we hugged. We had such an enjoyable night talking and vowed we'd not let so much time elapse before getting together again.

I forgot to mention something else here:  Sharon is my most devoted blog reader bar none.  She doesn't comment because she's got computer issues, but she apparently reads EVERY word I write, dear woman that she is.  I can't tell you what that means to me, either, because I'm frankly amazed anyone is reading my extended ruminations at the keyboard.

So, now FINALLY I am going to get to the Middle-aged women don't bounce thing and what happened to my poor, sad tailbone:  Sharon invited us over to play cards on December 11th.  Joel was able to come along too, because his girlfriend was working and Ann was also able to attend.  We were having a great time playing cards until I decided I needed to use the restroom.  Since there were so many of us, we had to pull the table out from the wall a little which made it difficult to get around unless someone stood up.  I waited until Sharon was up tending to something before I used the facilities.

On my way back to my seat at the table, I remembered she'd said a person could go around through another door to get back to the kitchen, so not wanting to inconvenience anyone, I thought I'd do just that.  Unfortunately, it was a bit dark in the hallway I was in and I thought the door in front of me was the right way to go.  It wasn't.  I took a step forward and the next thing I knew I was going down the basement steps on my behinder.  (Yes, it's ample, but not ample enough, apparently.)  Oh, that hurt.   I had surgery on my backside years and years ago, and the area is always tender, so this was definitely not on my list of Fun Things To Do.

Thumpity, thump, thump, thumpity, thump, thump, look at Karen go!  Thumpity, thump, thump, thumpity, thump, thump all the way down the stairs she goes!  (Just thought I'd throw in a Christmas tune.)

Poor Sharon was horrified and ended up giving me all sorts of things to help her defrost from her freezer.  (The frozen coconut was very good, by the way, very flexible.)  I know she feels terrible about this, and so do I.  We were having so much fun until I decided to try sledding down her basement stairs sans a sled.  The bruises are now starting to fade a little, but I had some very impressive ones.  Carl said he was glad I didn't go into the doctor, because I looked pretty gruesome.  He didn't want to appear on America's Most Wanted.  I did call the clinic though, and their advice was pretty straightforward, regardless if it was broken or not, there's not much they can do about it.  Time heals all.  Even middle-aged women's derrieres.  It will be quite some time before I can plop down in a chair and not look like I'm checking for a hidden porcupine first, but it's much better than it was.  I'm a tough old gal.

Some great things have come out of this though, I've talked to Sharon more in the last few weeks than I have in years.  It's just like the old days again.  And in her Christmas card that arrived today, she said we're definitely going to have a rematch at Sheepshead, too.  (I bet they will  put up a barricade and flashing lights to deter me from the stairs.)

So, what have I learned? 
Me, 1959.  Just over a year old on (gasp) a staircase. 
 Middle-aged women don't bounce very well........... 

but there is no such thing as too many friends, old and new, near and far.

I am blessed.

Thank you all for your friendship, it means so much!

And may you all have a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!




Junebug said...

Oh Karen, I first have to apoligize for laughing so hard at the expense of your pain. I have been following your tale (oops!) I mean story and so enjoying it. But this last put me over the edge with tear running down my cheeks. It started with the pose on the car with the dog and I'm still laughing at your new Christmas tune, thumpity! The pictures of past are great. I truly hope you are healing but gosh darn you have made me laugh! Thanks so much and have a Merry Christmas! Hugs!

Sue said...

Sure enjoyed the old photos. I sure do miss those old cars. I sort of feel sorry for kids nowadays---they missed out on the muscle cars. Hahahahhaa!
Merry Merry Christmas to you!

Rosemary said...

Karen Oh how I have enjoyed every word, all the old pictures.. shades of my youth! I remember how scared I was with my first job but I could never put it into such vivid picture has you have... Glad you reconnected with Sharon .... sorry about your bumpety bump..... Take care and Happy Christmas to you and your family..........

FlowerLady said...

Dear, dear Karen ~ This last post brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart that you have loving Carl by your side, and a wonderful friend in Sharon. You and they are blessed.

Thank you for sharing your life, your loves, your humor and yourself.

Glad you didn't hurt yourself any worse than you did, that was bad enough. May your healing continue and you soon be feeling much better.

Love and hugs and have a very Merry Christmas and a great 2012.


myomyohi said...

I've enjoyed getting to know you better. Every time I saw the title it made me smile, and I couldn't help thinking of Tigger.

I'm glad you have reconnected with your dear old friend, and I'm glad your misfortune has brought you closer together.

"I've been feeding this character for a very long time." This made me giggle.

Merry Christmas Karen and your wonderful family.


Lona said...

I have enjoyed this story so much Karen.I love the plaid seats on your Nova.
I had a black comet with red seats. I loved that car. Had chrome fender skirts. Remember those? LOL!
They would look so funny today. Had a cat in the rear window with eyes that lit up to the breaks and turn signals making either the right or left eye blink. LOL! I thought I was driving and styling.Oh dear.
I am sorry to hear about your t-hinder though. LOL! No we do not bounce like we use to. I hope you are getting all healed up now.

Merry Christmas to you and the family.Hugs.

El Gaucho said...

I know that you're not supposed to laugh at the misfortunes of others, but picturing you bumping down the basement steps, rump first, made me laugh a whole lot. At least you're not badly injured and you can laugh about it afterwards.

Thanks for the very entertaining story, it truly was a joy to read, and all the old pictures were fantastic as well, an incredible snapshot of life back on the farm. Merry Christmas!!

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

As we say in the South, BLESS YOUR HEART! Yeeeouch!! Just love how you have woven your past into your recent experience and shared this story with us. I sure hope that you heal well before spring time. After all, there is a castle to build and more Sheepshead to play :-) My dad still plays Sheepshead -- I've never learned, though. Must be a WI thing. So glad that you have reconnected with Sharon. BTW, I had that same couch in my first apartment! (The one you are sitting on with Joel when he was 6 mo. old!) Take care of yourself. Have a wonderful Christmas!! Looking forward to reading about your adventures in the new year :-)

Missy said...

Hope you, Joel and the boys have a wonderful Christmas (and Santa brings you a nice soft cushion)
Love from Australia.

HolleyGarden said...

Karen - I enjoyed this so much! I almost forgot that you had started this story because you fell. I hope you're feeling much better now, and I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas! And I hope you win when you have that rematch!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the old photos, Karen. I saw so many familiar things, like the bouncy horse exactly like the one I had. It is one of the few pictures I have of my childhood. You made a beautiful bride and the memories are far greater than the photos. I too had a friend photograph my wedding, so I appreciate having them of my parents (both gone) and me although they are not very good. Your story was very entertaining all the way until the end. I hope you and Carl have a great holiday season this year into next, with many more happy memories to come.

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Barbara Rosenzweig said...

Karen, I totally enjoyed this post! I loved that you shared your growing up, as it brought my life in focus, too.

Thanks also for your visit and appreciating my painting. I like pomegranates, but they are really messy. I prefer the juice!

I hope that you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and will enjoy a healthy New Year!!

Karen said...

First off, my heartiest thanks to everyone who has read this unbelievably long series of posts.

I hadn't intended to get so long-winded (really, I hadn't!) and as each one ended, I thought, 'Great, now I have to write about this and that' and one thing led to another, so anyhow, that's how a simply story of falling down a flight of stairs ended up taking eleven 'chapters'.

June, you are a hoot, I'm glad I could bring some joy to the season.

Sue, YES, muscle cars were awesome, and EVERYWHERE. Now I have to go to a car show to view them. Seems like yesterday.

Rosemary, that first job (And for me, my only one) was a bear to get used to. Thank you!

FlowerLady, thank you, and hugs to you, friend.

Myra, yes, I've been feeding Carl for over 37 years! I think I deserve a meal out once in awhile, right? (That's a lot of fried eggs.)

Lona, I remember the fenders and the kitty that lit up, oh, it's been a long time, but YES I do remember them. What a hoot. And yes, you were Stylin' my friend!

El Gaucho, yes, I am in incredible bouncing woman. Though, if I had bounced, the resulting damage would have been much worse, can you imagine a 53 year old super ball woman ricocheting off the walls and ceiling? Shudder!!

Toni, that couch of mine and yours was also on TV....well, not mine, but another one like it. I don't know if you ever saw 'My Name is Earl' or not, but that was the white trash couch they always sat on. I was so proud. And yes, Sheepshead is a Wisconsin thing. You remember how cold it is here, what else can we do??

Thank you Missy, and Yes I did get a nice soft cushion!

Holley, thank you for reading all the way through, too, and yes, I almost forgot what I was writing about too. Merry Christmas!

Donna, so many memories in photographs and the ones that are most poignant sometimes are the background scenes that weren't the focus of the shot. That was a fun bouncy horse, wasn't it? My sons enjoyed it too.

Barbara, thank you and Happy New Year to you, too! I have never eaten a pomegranate, now you have me curious!

Indie said...

Karen, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story! So entertaining, though I do hope you recover quickly and feel better soon!

I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas, and that you will have a blessed New Year!

Dragonfly Treasure said...

Oh Karen, I so enjoyed reading about your adventrues. You should try to get this published as a short story or something. I do hope your bottom recovers soon, I know how that can linger.

Hoping you and yours had a great Christmas and hoping you have a SAFE and healthy New Year.
*hugs*deb said...

Karen --- I have loved this series...and I think you do have some awesome pictures from yesteryear, but I agree about wishing we'd known better which pictures to focus upon back then. Digital sure has opened up our ability to click, click, click without worrying that we are going to have to purchase each offish click.

It's great that this partially ended with a friendship rekindled. I think we sometimes are such good friends that we can drift along for an eternity without touching base because we known each other to the core. Then, we pick up where we last left off and don't miss a beat.

And, you do look great on a motorcycle!!


Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Karen,
The world sure has changed since we were young, hasn't it? I was a stay at home mom, too, until my younger child went to first grade. I wish I could have stayed home then, too.

Great photos!

xoxoxo said...

I made it and LOVED every bit! I actually ran out of coffee today just to finish up.
You weave a great story and keep us curious up to the end! Simply Beautiful!
Love the multi part stories of yours. You have lived a greatly different life than I but I still get your personality and sense of humor perfectly!

Anonymous said...

Well I got to the took time but at last I can say without doubt middle age women don't bounce but they sure do make wonderful friends. Happy New Year my sweet.

Tufa Girl said...

Oh my gosh!I am still thinking about your tour down the stairs to stop to remember the rest of your story.

Time flies by so quickly. You and Carl are blessed with a wonderful family and great friends to visit with even years later. What a wonderful story - not certain about the bumpy ending, sorry.

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

Shyrlene said...

Karen - Happy New Year! Your trip down memory lane made me smile! Those milestone years and the styles sure are familiar...

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, I am sorry I am so late in reading the last chapter. Things have been a little crazy and the early morning seems to be the only time lately to sit down and read. This story brought back a lot of memories especially the Nova (I had a blue one).


Sandy said...

I have not been able to read all the chapters but will go back later this evening... I so love your walk down memory lane!
I wanted to stop by and wish you both a wonderful New Year!

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Rosemary said...

Loved all the old photos makes me smile as I have many of the same style clothes and cars........ in my old album. remember albums........!
Glad the bump wasn't worse....take care ......... happy holidays.