Monthly Archives: September 2019

Linda Claire Hess’ first grade 1960/61 school year.

0005 1st grade

Click, clack, click. My dark red buckle shoes made such a nice tapping as I walked .8 miles from our home on Harbrooke Avenue to Haisley Elementary School on Duncan Street in Ann Arbor, MI. I loved my brown cotton plaid dress with the stiff white collar. It tied at the back with a perfect bow. My pretty ankle socks were decorated with lace around the edges. My long blonde hair was arranged in pigtails that bobbed when I skipped. My bangs were cut very short, this was because my mother claimed my eyes looked bigger when you could see more of my face. I never understood how my eyes could be bigger, but I did try to open them extra wide every time she wanted to trim my bangs again. A neighbor, Mrs. Hodgson, had been very upsetting to me when she told me that I had an especially long neck. Good grief, what was I to do? Did I appear to others as a sort of swan-girl? Well, later in life, I am ever so happy to have a long neck, as it provides me with the best chance to have a chin. LOL.

I always walked next to my older sister Mary Ann on the way to school. We had a few walking safety rules. First and most important was NEVER to walk on the grass of “Crabby Appleton’s” yard. I have absolutely no idea of the actual name of the neighbor that spent her mornings policing her grass, but she certainly was feared by us. We slowed down as we approached her corner lot, held hands and made sure to keep our heads down as we walked past.

Our other safety rule was “Watch, Look, and Listen.” We carefully checked each corner for any sign of traffic before crossing. Also, we knew that any home with a big blue hand cut-out in a front window meant it was a home where a kind adult helper was available to assist us along our walk to and from school.

We had no lunch boxes because we would make the walk home at lunch time to eat in our own kitchen. My favorite lunches were any that were served in the Campbell Soup Kids bowls. I loved those chubby cheeked children smiling up at me.

It was the 1960/ 61 school year and I had already had the best of luck. My adored Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Reinke, was also going to be my 1st grade teacher. This was good fortune beyond belief. She had the kindest of natures, short red hair, some freckles kissing her cheeks, and hands always ready to pat me so gently on my shoulders. It was good to be with her. She also knew how to tell her right hand from her left hand and this was extremely important so that you would not make any mistakes when playing Hokey Pokey. “Put your right leg in and you shake it all about.” Funny that so many years later in life, I would see someone driving through town with a bumper sticker that asked, “What if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about?” I laughed at that suggestion but there was also some reality to the question!

I was already a top notch reader when I entered first grade. I loved the Dick and Jane readers. I could take the books home and read them proudly to my family. After school, our mother would sometimes take us to Slater’s Book Store up on State Street near the Nickels Arcade. It was there that I got my all time favorite book to read aloud. It was called “10 Apples Up On Top” by Dr. Seuss. It was hilarious when all the apples fell off the head of the main character.

During my first grade year, JFK became our 35th president. Our country was deeply in the midst of the Cold War. Part of my memory of that time were the Scholastic School Newspapers that showed us photos of Khrushchev. I memorized his face in case I ever came across him so that I would be careful to act in my own defense. I held my special stuffed animal “Magic Bear” closer at night as a self defense measure too. The Ann Arbor schools trained students in a plan called “duck and cover” drills. Remember, close your eyes so you don’t see the flash of the nuclear blast! And, it is best to cover your head not only with your hands but your books too.

I was a happy child. After school, I could play with my sisters and my neighbor friends. About this time my creative father built us an elaborate playhouse and he also made me a wooden elephant to ride. Well, actually, you had to pretend the elephant was in motion. I think we were also one of the few families that had a magic carpet. I took many an imaginary rides on the woven bamboo rug that had our last name “Hess” woven into the pattern. The rug had been a gift from a visiting faculty member, so it had come from across the ocean to my house. What luck and an obvious indicator that it was the genuine article.

My father also built a secret passageway in our home to use as a play spot. Everything was planned to bolster our creative natures. And speaking of nature, that is what my parents loved. We took many family walks gathering dried grasses and cattails.

My 65 year old self loved my 6 year old self. She was happy, she skipped, she played Hokey Pokey, rode on magic carpets, laughed at silly riddles, and loved her dolls, stuffed animals, sisters, parents and extended family and family friends. She was entertained by Chutes and Ladders, Leap-frog, Limbo lower, and singing in the car with her family…”You are my Sunshine.”

My Grandmother was magical. Her name was Amelia Grayer Ream.

Amelia Ream beautiful portrait pic with glasses

I had a magical Grandmother. I believe that she may have even been an angel .

Her name was Amelia Grayer Ream but I called her “Grandma Pet.” In 2012 I became a grandmother. I asked my family to let me also be called “Grandma Pet” it was my way to honor her.

Grandma was magical in nature, but this was not to say that her life was without a great deal of struggle, heartache, physical pain, and at one point a complete mental collapse. I think what made her magical was her response to these life challenges. She became more full of grace, she carried a smile on her lips and in her eyes, she laughed in a contagious manner. She knew her friends because she cared to listen to them. She clapped for us because of the delight we brought her. Her most beautiful attribute was her complete love for family. When I sat on her lap, it was as if I had entered a safe, cozy, spot where the eyes looking down at me reflected only admiration and joy. I still remember leaning into her soft body and being surrounded by her arms while I smiled back up at her hoping she could see my love for her. All these many years later, my memories of her are filled from my senses. I can see her, I can hear her and feel her touch. During my sleepovers with her, we would share a bed and ever so quietly as I snuggled close to her she would recite the 23rd Psalm in a way that still brings me comfort.

My sisters and I loved to watch the Lawrence Welk show on her black and white TV. The TV had a funny film laid on top of the screen. This film was blue at the top of the screen and  green at the bottom. This gave the rather lame impression that we were watching in color.

My grandmother’s body was full of rheumatoid arthritis. Because she could not dance along with the Lennon Sisters on the Lawrence Welk show, my sisters and I twirled and danced for her.  As a young child I heard people say that my Grandma was crippled. The only evidence I had of this was that she had to crawl up instead of walk up the stairs. Being a child, I did the best I could and just crawled with her turning my head to smile and encourage. I was rather proud to hear how she liked getting injections in her joints. I thought it must be very special to enjoy getting a shot.

When I arrived on the planet, my Grandmother Pet was already 68 years old. By this time, she had been a widow for 24 years. She had never remarried. She was still running her “tourist” house at 520 N. Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor. She  lived on the main floor of this grand 3 story home. The 2 stories above her housed the rented rooms for the guests traveling through the city (mostly sales persons or folks associated with the University.) The basement level had a huge mangle for the sheets to be pressed for the guests.

Grandma Pet Amelia Ream Tourist Home on N. Main Street Ann Arbor

We always walked in the back door to visit Grandma. This would lead us straight into her kitchen. Again, I need to use the word magic. She could whip up everyone’s favorites in that kitchen on a short order notice. If I was there with my 2 sisters, she would make each of us our special meal. 3 girls and 3 menus! There was also a special jar in the kitchen. She called it the riddle jar. My Grandmother had to lead a very frugal life so she found inexpensive ways to entertain. She would find funny jokes in the newspaper and cut them out into little strips of paper that would be folded and added to the riddle jar. The very special treat that came with the riddle jar were Purple Cows for me and my sisters. In case you do not know, a purple cow was a float with vanilla ice cream on grape soda pop. My sisters and I were allowed to take turns pulling out a slip of paper from the jar and reading the jokes aloud. We laughed. Oh, how we laughed and laughed. I still thank her for making humor a part of our family treasure.

She was born in Ann Arbor, MI in September of 1885. She fell and love and married my grandfather Grover Cleveland Ream. He was a carpenter. Many of the fine sorority and fraternity houses in Ann Arbor were built by my grandfather. He also built the home on North Main Street.

Grandma Pet was 27 when she married. My grandparents had twin boys that died in infancy in 1913. They had another son in 1919 who also died as a 2 day old infant. Then they had my Uncle Bob and 8 years after that, my mother Gretchen was born. My Grandmother Pet was 40 years old when my mother was born. My Grandfather died at the age of 45. My mother was only 5 years old at the time of her father’s death. This was a sadness that would be a part of my mother’s life story because she was not old enough to have more that a couple of memories of her own father. The lesson we learned from her was to always treasure each moment we share with those we love.

My Grandmother was left alone as a single mother just as the Great Depression was beginning.

2 days after my birthday in 1965, my father woke me up very early in the morning. He hugged me and told me that Grandma Pet was now an angel. He told me she had died overnight and had gone to heaven. I was so heartbroken, but also I knew that she always had been an angel. I still love her with my whole heart. I also am honored to carry her namesake, “Grandma Pet.”

THE SQUIRREL DETECTIVES- THE END OF SUMMER

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It was a Monday and the squirrel detectives were spending their morning chattering together and reviewing their Summer detective accomplishments. Just in the month of August alone, the squirrel detectives had solved two very critical cases at the city park. The squirrels wanted their contributions in these solved mysteries to remain anonymous. They didn’t do detective work for the admiration of others, they just wanted to be good detectives. Summer was now coming to a close, the squirrels chattered among themselves remembering each case from the summer months and how they had had cleverly solved them. Their excited squirrel voices made loud happy chirping sounds throughout the park and their bushy tails waved up and down.

First there had been mission #1: A woman named Leslie had carelessly lost her heirloom heart-shaped locket. The locket had been a special gift from her Grandmother. The squirrels had to grab the locket by it’s silver chain, scamper up to the tree tops with it, and then they had to keep dropping the necklace carefully down into obvious spots along the path that Leslie was taking (and I must note that she was headed in the completely opposite direction of where the locket had been lost). It only took the two necklace drops before Leslie noticed it. She had a strange sense that it had fallen from a tree, but then decided that conclusion must simply be her nerves talking. Leslie then also made the false assumption that she had located the locket on her own merits without any assistance. The squirrel’s mission had been accomplished!

and then after mission #1 there was

mission #2: A man named Bob McIntyre lost his i-phone at the park and the squirrels watched him drive away without noticing that he had left it on a picnic table under the park shelter. Fortunately, Bob McIntyre had the lamest pass code for his phone. The squirrels simply tried the combination 1-2-3-4 and they were “in”. They noticed that Bob’s i-phone had several apps. They first tried the Google translate app , but translations from squirrel chatter to English were not available. So, the squirrels took some selfies using Bob’s Snapchat app. It was super fun for them to use the goofy filters that made their faces look so adorable and laugh-out-loud funny. The squirrel detectives even added some eye-glass stickers to their cute squirrel faces. Bob’s friends saw that he had posted hilarious squirrel photos on his Snapchat feed with hashtags such as #Squirrel-Strong, #Squirrel-Detectives, and #Squirrels- For-Nature-Conservancy. And Bob’s friends, who had always thought Bob to be a bit too stuffy and very serious, were now completely delighted and amused that he had suddenly become very funny.

The squirrels had the idea to post photos on Bob’s Facebook feed of the picnic table under the shelter where they planned to leave the phone for Bob. Bob McIntyre saw this on his home laptop and was therefore able to find his phone easily the next morning. He was a bit dismayed that there was no message or note for him near the phone. He still wonders about this.

Before the squirrels had put Bob’s phone down on the picnic table for him to find, they had taken the time to look at Bob’s profile photos on his Facebook feed. There were only a few photos of Bob from the whole summer. In each of those photos, Bob was always alone and wearing an old gray rumpled t-shirt that had no design or pattern. He also wore over-sized wrinkled cargo shorts and flip-flops. Bob was an o.k. looking guy, but he was not smiling in any of those photos. There were simply no happy summer photos of Bob.

The squirrels wanted to complete one more mission before the end of summer.

And so there was mission #3:

Basically, the squirrels wanted to do some match-making and they saw Leslie and Bob as a likely couple. However, the squirrels didn’t really need to do much to make this happen. You see, both Leslie and Bob had such pleasant times at the city park, that they both started walking there nearly every day. One day, Bob worked up his courage and complimented Leslie on her locket. She told him about how it had been nearly lost at the park and then found. So, Bob shared the story about his i-phone’s return to him under strange circumstances. They became friends.

On the first day of Autumn, the squirrels noticed that Bob was back at the park. He was wearing a new green Nature Conservancy t-shirt, some crisp blue jeans and great looking adidas hiking shoes. The most important thing that Bob was wearing was a smile. Why was Bob so happy? Because Bob was walking with his new friend Leslie (and yes, she was wearing her locket). Bob and Leslie were enjoying the crisp Autumn air, they were holding hands and they stopped three times to use the Snapchat app on Bob’s i-phone to do some funny selfies. Their hashtag was #Autumn-For-New-Friends. Then, Bob and Leslie whispered and smiled at each other and also posted #City-Park-Squirrels-Are-So -Cute. They were excited and happy about all the adventures that awaited them.

They didn’t even notice all of the squirrels just overhead of them doing high-fives, cartwheels, and grinning from ear to ear. It was Autumn and love was in the air. #Nature-Conservancy-Detective-Squirrels-And-Matchmakers.

 

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The photo above was taken by Robert and Gretchen Hess in 1965