7.07.2002

When I was growing up, there were only a few years that I remember my sisters being around. I was the baby of the family, and my two sisters were much older than I was. Betty was nine years older, and Sharon eleven. I remember fragmented memories of them at home - Sharon's high school science project of breeding hamsters getting a bit out of control in the old barn. Taking Sharon to the depot to take the train to Illinois where she'd be attending college, Mom and I very sad, crying as she stepped onto the train. Betty dating, and being picked up by her boyfriends. One boy took her to the fair and won her some stuffed animals which I eventually inherited. Another became fairly serious - Charlie was his name - and I was very sad when Betty broke his heart by breaking off with him after meeting Bill (now her husband of over 30 years!) Betty taking out the first new car my parents ever owned, my parents later finding out she had driven it in a farmer's field.

After Betty graduated in 1968, I was all alone with Mom and Dad. I was only 9 years old, and just starting to be more social, coming out of a shell where I mostly played alone. Part of that was due to my physical problems when I was younger. Part of it was due to the geographical isolation of where we lived. So, as you might imagine, quite a bit of my growing up was as an 'only child'...

My parents didn't take vacations like many people would, where you'd go on a road trip across America, or to a Lake Cabin, or to Disneyland, etc. When we did go somewhere, it was usually short trips on the weekend, to relatives living in the county - a 'Sunday drive'. You'd enjoy the drive, the country air and nature on the way, and drop in on cousins to visit, have a meal. A clear memory of these journeys were being in the back seat sleeping, awakening to sun strobing through the trees...

On the rare occasions my father had some time built up - and a bit of money saved up - we'd go on trips to visit other relatives near and far. One relative we visited more often than others was my Mom's sister and her husband, Aunt Pat and Uncle John Beaudette. Uncle John was a small, wiry fellow, French ancestry, who ran a body shop fixing cars. Aunt Pat was a working woman, always seemed a bit mysterious and glamourous to me. Uncle John smoked pipes, and both he and Aunt Pat were drinkers. My parents had drank alcohol once upon a time, too, but quit it more or less before I showed up. They felt it was the right thing to do when they got serious about their religion. However, when they visited my Uncle and Aunt, inevitably they would end up playing cards, having a drink or two, and laughing the night away in Aunt Pat's small kitchen. I would be left to myself to explore their house, which always fascinated me. I would always find the licorice in the candy dish, or marvel at the beautiful bedroom set in a hallway side-bedroom.* Sometimes I would sneak down into the basement and snoop around the old trunks and boxes to see what I might find. In the end, Aunt Pat would usually make me a malted milk, which I would eat slowly, then go into the side bedroom to fall asleep listening to the grown-ups talk...

* Ironically, years later, Aunt Pat gave me that set knowing I always admired it...