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GROWING UP IS HARD TO DO Kate’s Journal


Episode 18 Oakland, 1946-1951

As toddlers we stumble along, pick ourselves up and continue on our way; a prelude to our grownup selves. Life is not perfect, and we learn as we go to learn each lesson as we stumble upon it.

The years after our wedding were eventful learning experiences. Sam continued to work for his father while I learned more about the dentistry business than I wanted to know. We were very frugal and our mode of transportation was the old company pickup truck. It was air conditioned; as I recall, you could watch the pavement go by as you drove along.

I learned to cook by watching our older friends, I even tackled a turkey when entertaining the three great aunties from Canada, sisters of my grandfather; aunt Mae, aunt Lottie and aunt Corinne, who was an opera singer. Grandma always said that was where I got my love of singing.

When the three little ladies came to visit in our apartment, we assumed that they were teetotalers, and got in tea and lemonade. They all took their whiskey straight surprisingly.

When the turkey announced that it had cooked enough, I went to check it and it flew out of the oven and slid across the kitchen floor which had a definite dip in it. One of the aunties grabbed a kitchen towel and picked it up and announced that dinner was served. I loved her forever.

kayti cooking 2

A day’s outing hunting squirrels far out in the country, turned terrifying when an unloaded rifle suddenly went off and shot Dr. A in the knee. The unbelievable difficulty getting back home while covered in his blood has left me forever wary of guns.

Invited to a “real” cocktail party by newly met friends, we were served our first martinis. I remember the violent reaction my stomach gave, and Dr. A’s stomach was also rebelling. I don’t recall how we got home.

With each tiny step along the way, we learned growing up lessons. Sam belonged to the Jr. Chamber of Commerce, which as far as I can see, was simply an excuse for partying. I learned to fend off unwanted attentions from others on their grownup journey. But we gained a group of older life long friends who marshalled our behavior and taught by example.

We were devastated by the passing of our first daughter in 1948, which by necessity had caused us to move out of our little attic apartment and in with my inlaws. I changed jobs, going to work as a typist for Sunset McKee paper company in Oakland.

I have always believed that the answer to people who want to know if you are capable of doing a certain job, is “Yes”, whether you can or not. You only have to know one thing; you can learn anything. Climbing the ladder of “yes”, I was working in the capacity of secretary to the treasurer when I became pregnant with our oldest daughter.

A cousin recently in the real estate business, showed me a few houses to buy. Pulling up in front of a cute place near the Oakland Zoo, I went in the front door and said “We’ll take it!” We shopped and bought furniture for our little nest, which would not be delivered until after the first of the year. Hugely pregnant, we moved in three days before Christmas 1949, and our daughter was born on December 28. Close friends helped us with our move, and we sat on the floor of the kitchen drinking Moscow Mules from copper mugs while the record “Sam’s Song played on the victrola.

I cleaned and polished everyday until an older neighbor came by one day and gave me one of the best lessons; “Ten years from now no one will know if you cleaned your kitchen floor every day, but they will know if you have produced a happy child.” I do not clean every day.

In 1951, a year and a half after our oldest daughter, our tiny red haired daughter was born, the two greatest blessings of my life. We were well on our way to being grown up.

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4 comments on “GROWING UP IS HARD TO DO Kate’s Journal

  1. Great story. Glad we are bonded by not cleaning every day. As for the turkey escaping over the kitchen floor. After I dropped a Christmas cake in the kitchen sink once, I picked it within a split second out of the dirty water. A Hungarian friend of ours and an expert on everything including cakes, complimented us on the lovely and ‘moist’ taste of the cake. Now, there was a true Christmas spirit coming to the fore!

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  2. My first Thanksgiving with inlaws, the cat walked across my pumpkin pie sometime in the night, and left paw prints. I made the whipped cream early, spread it over the pie, and never said a word.

    It’s true, what you say about saying “yes.” When I was varnishing my first boat, a guy came walking down the dock and said, “Do you do this professionally.” “Of course,” I said, and he hired me on the spot. After all, I had a business card to give him. That was my first move when I decided to varnish — to get 500 business cards. Eventually, word of mouth took over, and I still have some of those cards left.

    Clearly, it’s time to pull out the DVD of “A Christmas Story” again, and watch the Bumpus hounds … Well, you’ll see.

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  3. I laughed at the picture of your cat padding about on the pumpkin pie. It reminded me of a 40th anniversary cake sitting on the sideboard which tempted our Doberman Max. He passed slowly by with tongue at cake level and licked all the frosting off the front side of the cake. I scraped frosting off the backside and smoothed it over. No one noticed a thing. Funny how they do these things when company is coming.

    One of my “yes’s” involved operating an old fashioned telephone board where each number was connected by a different cord. You pulled out the cord which was an incoming call and plugged it into whomever was the recipient. I got job training during my lu ch hour to relieve another irl, and proceeded to misconnect calls for the next half hour. Think of Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine.

    Dr. A is a turkey junkie too and we will be watching the Christmas Story on Christmas Eve.

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