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Day 11: Kimbark Chronicles Overviewbo

Coming home from school was a bit of an adventure.  Kenwood School was on Dorchester Avenue on the South Side of Chicago.  The best part of walking home was going by St Paul’s Episcopal Church where I was in the girls’ choir.  Mr. Rayfield was the choir director and also a piano teacher.  He was very strict and shouted a lot.  My parents finally said it was OK if I stopped my piano lessons with Mr. Rayfield. He made me cry.  I hated crying in front of people.  He would just raise his arms and shout, “No, No.  You must play it softly and then crescendo.”  It was enough that I could play it all since he was ready to shout at any moment.  I really liked the piano.  My grandmother in Colorado played the piano.  Sometimes she would play the piano for hours.  It wasn’t like practicing at all because when she played it was beautiful, almost as if she were in another life.

Oh dear, here I am walking past the church and falling into a day dream.  I have to be careful to think about what I am doing.  But now I can cross Farmers Field.  I don’t know why they call it that as it isn’t a farm at all.  Maybe it once was.  But if I go kitty corner thru the field it seems faster.  Sometimes I have to use the sidewalk if some boys are playing baseball.  But not today.  Coming up to Kenwood Avenue,  that is just a block from Kimbark. Now walking along 49th Street.  When I climb fences behind our house I can see into the other people’s yard.  Dr Apt lives directly behind us.  So it is easy to see in his yard.  He is the doctor for Tommy, Kathy and me, but not for Mother and Dad.

Now I take a right hand turn onto Kimbark.  I know just about all the people who live on this block because I sell them girls scout cookies.  One lady on the other side of the street  hides when she sees me come onto their porch–even before I ring the bell.  Maybe it is because one time she came to the door she was acting strange. Swaying and holding on to the door.  She kept saying I should not come to the door so early in the morning.  I did not tell her but it was after 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  She even was hiccupping.  I don’t go there anymore.

My best friend, Marcia, lives across the street.  Marcia is a year younger than me. I love to go to Marcia’s  house. In her bedroom, Marcia applies lipstick, then rouge and eyebrow pencil. I watch her in the mirror.  Mother tells me it is not good to wear makeup because I am too young.  I don’t care about that.  It just takes too much time.  I would rather think about things like how I could go on a train to visit my grandmother.

Here I am back at 4823.  I walk up the steps across the porch.   The porch goes around the side. Mother can stop the car there and unload groceries.  I love this house. We moved in when I was in second grade.  Then not much furniture except for the square baby piano or is it a baby square piano.  It came with the house.

Let me introduce you to my house.  It is big with 3 floors, five bedrooms on the second floor, one apartment on the third floor, four bathrooms and one basement.  The first floor has the kitchen and its pantries.  Also the big entry hall, music room, living room and dining room.   Look, see how the sun comes in thru those high windows and makes rainbows across the floor.  Daddy said it is called leaded glass.  Just like a lead pencil.

Yes, that is the first fireplace in the hall.  We don’t use this one but at Christmas, we hang our stockings to be filled by Santa. We have more fireplaces in the living room, dining room and upstairs in Mother and Dad’s room.   Here on the second floor is our other telephone.  It was so funny when we first lived here, I would pick up the phone and someone else would be talking.  I ran downstairs and no-one was on the downstairs phone. Mother told me we had a “party line”.  When I listened, it was no party.  So dull that I would just hang up quietly.  We don’t have that anymore.  I mean the phone is only for our family.

Of the five bedrooms on the second floor, I have slept in three of them. All of them have stories.  Some are really big and others are just medium big.  This was my parents’ room when they brought home my little sister four years ago.  You see this place right here.  That is where her crib was.  Now if we look out the big window, we can see the back yard.  In the summer we put up a tent and pretend we live there.  We even put cots inside.

Anyway I know you don’t have much time so let’s go down to the kitchen.  We start down the front stairs, then in the middle through this door we take the back stairs.  The back stairs don’t have any carpeting.  They are just wood.  Then we come thru the tiny room where the telephone is.  It has a door to the entry hall, a door to the basement and this door to the kitchen.

I love the kitchen.  See, we even have a dishwasher.  That is new.  It’s so fun when the dishwasher finishes, the top pops up and steam comes out.  Just like our breath outside in winter.  Can you see we even have two pantries.  This back one is where my uncle hides the garlic.  My mother keeps red cherries in bottles and olives back here.  My brother loves the red cherries.  I think they are yuck.  The front pantry is my favorite.  We keep all the glasses and china in these cabinets with glass doors.   My mother puts the cake right here after she makes it.  It has a cover.  She has a special glass plate that she uses only for the cake.

Here’s a secret. After we have cake for dinner, it goes back right here.  Then a few people in the family sneak back, open the lid and slice out a sliver of cake.  Just a tiny sliver.  I think we all do that.  So that would be seven or eight people.

You have to go now.  Will you be back another day?


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Day 4: Lost and Found, Part 1

Floating Face
Floating Face

Sometimes you feel you have lost something really important in your life but in the end it provided the motivation to change. I remember a time in my life when I had moved to Honolulu to be with a new partner.  “The man” and I had met the previous year and he had made several trips to Colorado to entice me to move to Hawaii.

My daughters were freshman and junior in High School. My older daughter had just returned from being an exchange student in Denmark. I discussed at length with my daughters the possibility of moving to Hawaii.  We talked about the pros and cons.  I told them to let me know what their decision was.  I emphasized that if they did not want to make that move, we would not.  The next morning they told me, they were good to go.

We left Colorado on a snow swirling December morning.  When we arrived in Honolulu, it was 80 degrees fahrenheit.

I was able to buy a car soon so my next project was to get a job.  Easier said than done. I was told, most companies do not hire anyone who has lived in the Islands less than one year.  I needed to support myself and my daughters.  What to do?

Then I was contacted by a major airline to be considered for the position of Sales Representative. Subsequently I had several phone interviews about that position.  I assumed they thought that I would be a good fit for the job as I had previously worked for an airline and also for travel agencies.

I was thrilled to be invited to Chicago for the interview.  In Chicago, I met a number of the other applicants who had previous experience as Sales Reps for drug companies or insurance companies.   I thought that because of my “inside experience” I would be the better candidate.

But no, I was not chosen.  I did not get that word until a week after my return to Honolulu. I was disappointed. I was quite intrigued by the job description requiring Sales Representatives to be willing to move every 2 to 3 years.  I thought I was qualified for that as I had already lived in San Francisco Bay area, Colorado Springs and in the environs of Paris, France.

I was disappointed but I kept saying to myself that something else even better would happen in my life.  I looked at myself in the mirror and made an evaluation.  Not bad looking, not movie actress material, but I had a fresh look and a positive disposition.  I shook my finger at myself in the mirror and said:

“Watch out world, you may have given me this strike but I will break out one of these days and do something extraordinary.”

What I did decide was that my current relationship was going nowhere, so why stay? Why stay in a place that was so limited in cultural things like great museums, concert venues, an active group of artists.  If these things existed there, I had not found them.

As my current partner liked to lie on the couch and watch game shows, that was no life for me.  I walked the beaches for hours each day. I had the most fantastic tan you can imagine.  Also my teenage daughters were not overly happy there either.  They were attending a public high school where for the first time in their lives they were in the minority.  The three of us were a family unit. I really wanted our life to be more meaningful.

So after the “We had so many fine applicants for this position, but unfortunately you were not one of them.”  (Or words to that effect) That letter, that rejection letter motivated me to make a change for the better.  I decided to move back to the San Francisco Bay Area which I had always considered home.

The four month stint in Honolulu was a learning experience for all three of us.  When we arrived back in the Bay area, I gave myself two weeks to find a car, a job and a place to live.  I wanted to find a good high school with excellent standards for my daughters who were quite bright.  They both had been in “gifted programs” previously.

We landed at SFO (San Francisco International Airport) and we were off and running. I got the car right away.  I had job offers from a travel agency in San Mateo and a travel agency in Marin County.  There were good schools in both areas.  In the end I chose the job in Marin County where I had lived before.  I found an affordable apartment in Kentfield. Redwood High School in Larkspur had a very good reputation.

Finally, we were settled.  Or were we?