Seattle Before Starbucks – Marguerite Reiten – Part 1

UptownMartinFruchterDoorway

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Even in the 1950’s and 1960’s people in the northern Seattle neighborhood of Ballard found it hard to believe that our family did not own a car, but it was true. Dad  said that in a good year, our family was in the  middle-to-low income bracket, but if he were to purchase a car, we would drop to the much feared low-income bracket for sure. Anyway, that was the reason he gave us kids for not buying a car. Naturally, not having a car forced us to walk or take the bus in order to get anywhere – a constant challenge and irritation.  We envied any family that did have a car, which meant we envied just about everyone we knew. Many of these car-owning folks were generous enough to give us rides from time to time. One such person was Marguerite Reiten, whose house was directly across the street from ours. Marguerite belonged to St John’s parish as we did, and for a period of time she gave our family a ride to church on Sunday mornings.

Marguerite and her ancient, invalid mother lived in a large white Craftsman style house; I thought their house was particularly impressive because it had two sets of steps. One cement set climbed from the street to a paved walkway in the Reiten’s front yard; the second set, very wide and made of wood, adorned the front of the house and led to a grand porch. The front of the Reiten’s house had several windows and a dark wood and brass front door.  Since their house was on the crest of a knoll (as was the entire street on the east side of 12th Ave N.W.), there was a tuck-under garage built beneath it.  In that tuck-under garage was a large, domed, curved, billowy blue, full-sized Nash automobile.

(Here is my older brother Bob’s response when I asked him about what kind of car Marguerite drove: OH my goodness, Teri.  Yes I remember Marguerite Reiten’s car.  It was a Nash.  The full size model.  It looked like an upside down bathtub.  I think it was a two-tone blue color.  Marguerite was a BIG girl.  She was quite religious too.  I think she tried to enter the convent at one time. It didn’t work out. I don’t know why but as a kid I kept trying to paint her as a mean person.  However every time I had dealings with her, which was not very often, she was quite kind and soft-spoken.”)

It was in this voluptuous car that Marguerite drove us – my Mom, and “X” number of kids – to mass on Sunday. (Dad  walked  the ten blocks to St John’s so that he could say the rosary.)  Marguerite herself was large and curvy, like her car. She was tall, fair-skinned, dark-eyed, and wore her thin black hair in a braid on the top of her head, arranged in a band that went from ear to ear. She was missing one of her  teeth, too, although I can’t recall which one. She was an impressive sight to a child; as impressive as her car, almost. And as Bob mentioned, she was very kind to all of us.

One puzzling thing about Marguerite was that even though she had only herself to get ready for church, she was never ready to leave on time. Mom had all of us scrubbed and polished for church by 9 am, but we waited for Marguerite every Sunday. As we stood  on the sidewalk below her house, Marguerite would call to us from the windows so that we could have the minute-by-minute description of her final preparations. She  encouraged us to “Be patient! I’m looking for my missal! Hold on! Mother needs her knitting! Don’t panic – mass won’t start without us. I will be right out!” When she finally did appear from behind the doors of the tuck-under garage, she caused us little girls to stop and stare. This large and elegant lady  invariably wore a floral dress, was bedecked with jewelry,  had deep red lipstick artistically applied, and wore a Spanish mantilla over her hair. She was a showstopper. When the garage doors were fully open, we Kings would file into the garage and climb into the car. Mom would sit in the front seat with the youngest, and the rest of us would find a space in the wonderfully expansive  backseat of the Nash. Magically, there was always enough room for us.

Now the epic journey to church would begin. In the front seat, Marguerite would be talking like a mad hatter to Mom while shifting gears on the Nash like nobody’s business. From the backseat we could look out the  windows of the car and see the neighborhoods of Ballard and Greenwood from a vantage point we rarely had – elevated and enclosed. It was an entrancing time. And there was an element of suspense, too We knew the clock was ticking – 10:45 Mass would start any minute, and we were still blocks away from the church parking lot.  But we were covering ground! It was amazing how quickly we could get to church in a car. And yet I could tell Mom was concerned – her eyes had a thoughtful, serious look, even though her lips were smiling. I don’t ever recall a time when we were late to church, but on the Sundays when we rode to St John’s with Marguerite, we were often still looking for a place to sit as the priest approached the altar – which was perilously close to late according to King family rules. I think it was this tendency to tardiness that eventually caused Mom to gently refuse Marguerite’s offers of a ride, and forced us kids to be content to walk to church.

My sister Margie and I had a weekday connection with Marguerite, too. When I was six and Margie was eight,  Marguerite offered to teach us how to crochet lace at her home. I don’t know if I really wanted to learn to make lace, but I definitely wanted to look inside that big, white house. What would we see when the dark, wooden door was opened and we walked in to Maguerite’s?

Stay tuned to this blog for the next entry in Life Before Starbucks – Marguerite Reiten – Part 2

All Saints Day

Russian Icon of the Second Coming used for All...

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Here is a terrific poem featured today, November 1st, 2011, All Saints Day, at  WhiteStone Publishing Blog which is produced by Jeanette Thomason:

ALL SAINTS DAY
The holiday arrives
quietly like phrases
of faint praise
in Braille. Famous
… saints bow at the waist,
then step back, making
room for scores
of unknown saints,
to whom this day
also belongs. Not
a glamorous bunch,
these uncanonized,
unsung ones, shading
their eyes shyly
in the backs of the minds
of the few who knew them.
Hung-over, mute, confused,
hunched, clumsy, blue,
pinched, rigid or fidgety,
unable to look the radioactive,
well-dressed major saints
in the eye, they wonder
terrified: What…
Am I Doing Here? Still
drenched, the tobacco
spitting fisherman who dove
after a dog swept downriver
looks in vain for a towel,
too timid to ask….
What can we offer these reticent saints
who lacked press agents…?
~ AMY GERSTLER in *Jacket 32* (c) November 2008, edited by Elaine Equi
I attended Catholic School for 12 years. At  Catholic school, students do not have to attend class on Holy Days of Obligation (special feast days) but they are obliged to participate in the Mass. November 1st, the day after Halloween, known as All Saints Day, is a Holy Day.  The elementary school my siblings and I went to was called St John’s. As was typical with most Catholic schools in Seattle, the parish church was situated on the same city block as the school. One thing that set St John’s apart from other parochial schools was this: there was a public school of about the same size directly across the street from it, called Greenwood Elementary. Years of experience had taught my brothers and sisters and me one thing about walking to mass on All Saints Day: we knew we were in for some teasing from the public school kids on the playground at Greenwood.
“You have to go to Chu-ur ch, You have to go to Chu-ur ch,” they would sing-song at us as we walked along the sidewalk next to the playground fence. Outwardly we ignored them, but inside, we were hot! “Those ‘publics’ are so stupid,” we whispered to each other, feeling indignant, but also rather holy as we suffered for our faith.
Once safely at church, we dutifully attended Mass, praying for our deceased family members, and calling to mind all of the great, inspiring  saints of church history  by reciting their names from the Litany of the Saints during the service . What we were looking forward to, though, was taunting the Greenwood school kids who were on the playground as we walked home from mass. Then we would get sweet revenge on the ‘publics’  as we sang,”You have to go to scho -oo- ol. You have to go to scho -oo- ol,” while waving our Halloween candy bags at them. Ah, Christian charity! I try to  remember that this mutual animosity between public and Catholic school students happened before the Ecumenical Movement of the church, which began in the 1960’s. Would you bet some of your Halloween candy that students are less belligerent about such things today?  I sure hope so.

My last name is Hyrkas – it rhymes with ‘circus’

Hyrkas is a

English: Michigan's Upper Peninsula

English: Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

fine, respectable last name. The Hyrkas family is well-known in many parts of
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as hardworking and entrepreneurial. It never occurred to me when I got married that chosing to change my last name from King to Hyrkas was going to lead to interesting encounters.  My first name, Teresa,
is considered old-fashioned, but it is common enough to be harmless, right?I had been
married two years when I had a chance to spend a couple of weeks in my
hometown, Seattle. One morning Mom offered to watch my infant son for a few hours
so my sister Pat and I could go shopping. While we were sorting through the
bargain tables at J.C. Penney’s, I noticed I didn’t have my purse. We
immediately went back to look for it in children’s clothing where we had been
previously. Pat and I searched high and low but didn’t find my purse, which
pushed me into panic mode. “I’ll bet Penney’s has a lost and found in Customer
Service,” I said. “Let’s check.”

Pat and I
rushed to Customer Service and I asked the woman working there whether anyone
had turned in a purse in the last half hour. The Customer Service person was a
petite, well dressed woman with firmly coiffed hair and a piercing voice that
sounded like someone hitting steel pipe with a hammer. “Will you describe your
handbag, please,” she clinked at me. I did as she asked. She smiled, and then
reached under the counter for my purse. “You must be Mrs. Turkey! We checked
your wallet for identification, you know,” she clattered at me proudly. I
stared at her. She stared at me. “WHO?
I asked. “Why, Mrs. Turkey. Mrs. Teresa Turkey!” she clanked.

I could hear Pat,
who was behind me, trying to stifle a laugh. The woman at the counter put
her hands protectively around my purse, moving it slightly back toward her and
away from me. She then raised her voice to high volume and clanged indignantly,
“You ARE Mrs. Turkey, aren’t you?”

What could I say? My purse was being held
hostage by a woman who was certain my last name was Turkey. She had even
checked my government issued identification to be sure. How could I argue? I looked around for Pat. She was no help – she had buried her face in a stack of towels to muffle her laughter.

“Uh, yes.
Yes, I’m Teresa Turkey,” I said, trying to sound confident. The
woman behind the counter smiled, relaxed her grip on my purse, and slid it
toward me. “Here it is, then, Mrs. Turkey,” she rattled happily, “and thank you
for shopping at Penney’s.”

I took my
purse and walked out of the store. Pat walked out after me, laughing and gasping for
air. “I suppose you are going to tell the whole King family about this,” I said,
morosely. I could picture it being told over and over again to all eight of our
siblings, their spouses, their children, the cousins. “Oh, don’t worry,” Pat
said,  catching her breath as she came up beside me.  She put her arm around
my shoulders to comfort me

.

My hopes rose! Maybe Pat would choose to banish the entire incident from her memory, and show mercy to her name-challenged younger sister.

“You know, Mrs. Turkey, I am much older than
you,” Pat said, “and am likely to forget the whole thing … until Thanksgiving!”Then she launched into another round of uncontrollable laughter. I sighed, and resigned myself to my fate.

What’s that say???

Flower motif in contemporary nakshi kantha

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Many years ago I was active in several quilters’ groups. At one of the quilt shows I bought a large metal pin that said “I am a QUILT lover.” The next day when I wore it several men and women were aghast as they read it. One thought it said, “I am a QUIET lover”; one thought it said, “I am QUITE a lover”, and one thought it said, “I am a GUILTY lover.” I took it off as soon as I got home from church and never wore it again. True story.

Looks pretty wet out there

Child enjoys a puddle in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

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My younger sister, Claudia, has a big family, and had
the knack of delighting in her children as they passed through each stage of
development. Even though I was older, and my children were older than hers, she
was always teaching me something valuable about rearing kids. For example:

I was visiting one
day when her son Nick, who turned 30 this year, was 5yrs old; he was invited to
play at the neighbor’s house across the street. It was raining, so Claudia
found a jacket with a hood and some rain boots for him to wear for his walk. It was a quiet neighborhood, and both Moms would be watching as Nick crossed the street. Claudia kissed Nick and said, “Now walk straight over and look out for puddles,” then sent him on his way. She said to me, “Come and watch.”
I stood next to her at the window where we saw Nick find a puddle and jump in
with both feet and laugh, and then find another puddle, jump in it and laugh
again. Claudia and I both laughed as well, enjoying the experience almost as
much as Nick. I turned to Claudia and asked if she felt a little sad to see
that Nick was disobeying her. “He’s not,” she said, “I didn’t tell
him to STAY out of the puddles, I told him to LOOK out for puddles. He looked
out for them, found them, and did what every child should do – jump in!”
Another lesson learned.

“Who has my slippers?”

This entry was inspired by Tuesday2’s Blog written by ~  ShelleyMacPherson. Visit her delightful blog here:   http://tuesday2.wordpress.com/

Do you ever get miffed at your kids for forgetting to
return borrowed items? My six sisters and I were the WORST at borrowing something from Mom’s closet or accessories and
then ‘forgetting’ to return it. It is my belief that this borrowing had nothing
to do with real need on our part, or with envying Mom’s style, for our Mom was
a very stylish woman indeed. I think it had more to do with comfort, that is,
it brought us comfort to wear something of Mom’s.  Then we would find it hard to return the
article because we wanted to have her ‘with us’ in this way. We all seemed to
have a favorite type of item to borrow, too: Judy was into cardigans; Pat would
need to borrow an umbrella for the walk home. Claudia loved Mom’s costume
jewelry. Chris would grab a scarf as she went out the door on her way back to
the Olympic Peninsula via the ferry. Margie would use a vintage hand bag ‘just
for the night’; Annie fit Mom’s jackets to a ‘T’; I usually managed to take her
bedroom slippers. Mom was fully aware of what we were doing, of course, and I
know that it frustrated her very greatly at times.

One year, as adults, we were finally all able to gather
for a Mother-Daughters picture. We met at Mom’s apartment in Seattle to get dressed before the
sitting, which was where I realized I had left my suit in Minnesota. “Don’t worry!
Just look through my closet for something to wear,” said Mom. Well, you
know what happened next: all seven of us daughters were in Mom’s closet looking
for something to wear! We had a terrific time! We mixed and matched suit
jackets and skirts with different colored blouses. We tried on earrings,
necklaces and bracelets. We all found a pair of shoes that we loved. Mom had as
much fun as we did!  And in fact, that
became the theme of the picture – we decided that we would all be wearing something
of Mom’s in the portrait. The results were a success – it is a lovely picture, and
a great memory.

This experience convinced me that sometimes things
which are a great irritation can end up having a happy result. You never
know what might increase the bond between a Mother and daughter, or seven sisters; it just might be a pair of borrowed bedroom slippers.

Love Calling

Macy's Department Store in New York City.

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I had lived away from Seattle, my childhood home, for less than a year  when I walked into a department store in a big Midwestern city. I was heading for women’s clothing on the second floor when I thought I heard someone call my name. I was in a hurry, but I stopped, and looked around. I was very puzzled because I was sure no one knew me in that city – certainly not well enough to call my name out in a public place. And yet, the voice was one I recognized somehow. I surveyed the area quickly to see if anyone looked familiar, then, feeling rather foolish and confused, I continued on my errand.
I finished my business and left the store following the same path by which I had come, rushing down the escalator and through the store aisles – I had a bus to catch and couldn’t be late.  Once again I thought I heard someone call my name.  Amazing!  Now I had to find this person who knew me, even if I missed the bus. I took time to look through that area of the store, making eye contact with several of the sales people, searching for…who? Looking around with attention, I realized I was in the perfume department, where I didn’t see any ONE I knew, but  where I spotted some THING I knew – the perfume Chanel #5. This was the fragrance my Aunt Lillian always wore, and I realized it was this fragrance that was ‘calling my name’ as I came  through the store. I was stunned.
 It was then that I learned the power of scent, which has a voice of its own, one so strong that it can make you ‘hear’ words and stop you in your busy tracks to look for someone you know and love.
Have you ever had an experience with a scent that has surprised you? Knowing that scent can have such a strong effect, what might you do to employ its power? Aunt Lillian had what some fashionistas call a ‘signature scent’. Do you have one?

Of siblings and schools

Holy Ghost Catholic Parish School in Dubuque, Iowa

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As a first grader at St John’s Elementary School, I remember clearly  how impressed I was by the speed and sound of hundreds of kids as they came thundering down the stairs at the end of the day. The metal edging on the steps clanged as students’ shoes met the stairs, drowning out Sr. Mary Davidica’s warning of “NO Running!” Scores of bodies whizzed by me in a blur, and before you could say “saddle shoes”, the school was empty and quiet.

It was my older sister Margie I was waiting for outside my first grade classroom; she was going to pick me up and walk home with me. Our school didn’t  have buses to transport kids – we all had to walk, whether our homes were near or far; ours was far. There were 10 city blocks between home and St John’s, with a very large intersection across a busy  highway at about the halfway point. At 5 years old I had not yet been granted permission to cross 4 lanes of busy city traffic, even with a light, by myself. Margie, at 7 years old, was my guide and protector, at least at the beginning of the first grade year.

Margie was my hero all of my life in Seattle. She had red hair and freckles, was very smart, could play the piano and sang beautifully. We shared a bedroom, a small doll collection, and short tempers. As sisters we fought constantly, and drove my Mom crazy. But as friends, we were shirt-and-pants, doing virtually everything together until Margie left St John’s for highschool.

Still, there were plenty of years before she went on to highschool for sibling rivalry to reign supreme. But that is another blog post.

Coloring Easter eggs the hard way

On Holy Saturday when the kids were young, it was our custom to clear off the kitchen table,  then cover it with newspapers. I  would find six  old coffee cups, six large tablespoons and some vinegar and set them on top of the  newspapers. Climbing up on a kitchen chair, I  would rummage through the storage shelf above the pantry and find the package I was looking for: PAAS Classic Easter Egg Decorating Kit. OK! Now we were going to have fun! Each year I looked forward to this event;  dipping white eggs into the bright jewel toned dyes mixed with vinegar,  trying to be patient as we wait for the colors to deepen — oh, it’s as close to magic as it can get, this tradition of dyeing Easter eggs, and I loved it! 

One year I had felt I could be extravagant, so bought three dozen eggs, two dozen of which I  hard-cooked so that we could really make a full afternoon of dyeing Easter eggs. Everything had gone well; no fights, no spills, and plenty of eggs for everyone to write on with crayons, dip into multiple dyes, and get creative with drawing stripes and dots and adding stickers. After the kids had gone to bed, John and I hid the eggs, some jellybean treats and the kids’ baskets. The kids got up early Easter morning and found everything in less than a half hour. So much for us parents thinking we had found clever hiding places! We went to church to celebrate the Resurrection, and came home for a traditional ham dinner.  As I was doing the dishes Kristin called out to me,  “Hey Mom! One of my Easter eggs is leaking!”  “Not possible,” I said, “It must be one of the jellybeans, or another piece of candy. “No, Mom, it’s my colored Easter egg!” “Bring it here and let me check.” Sure enough, I looked at the colored Easter egg and it was leaking. I cracked the shell over the sink; out came a raw egg. What could this mean? Oh oh. I went to the refrigerator and pulled out the only egg carton that was there. I took an egg out and tried to crack it open.  It was a hard-boiled egg! I had grabbed the wrong carton of eggs when we were coloring them the day before, so half of the 24 eggs we had dyed had been uncooked! That means we had colored, hidden, found and hauled 12 raw eggs around in Easter baskets for half a day ! And it took until after Easter dinner for one of them to crack and ‘leak’ – amazing! Quite a surprise,  and how funny! We got a laugh out of it then, and we still do.  Guess you could say the yolk was on us. True story! Happy Easter!

Life in the 1960’s

A Plinky prompt from today asked “What are the 3 most significant historic events that have occurred in your lifetime?” I grew up in the 1960’s, which was a decade of unparalleled change in our country, so picking the three most significant events was difficult.  Below are the three events  that I came up with today, but on another day I might choose  three completely different occurrences.

The first was Vatican II, and all the change that happened in the Catholic Church due to what was called the Ecumenical Council. One Vatican II change that affected my family quite personally was that many religious orders of sisters were given the freedom to go visit their families at their homes. I had three aunts and two sisters in the convent at this time. Growing up, we were able to go visit them, but they could not come to our home until this change in the 1960’s, when they were given papal permission to leave their residence. It was a very exciting and happy day to have the Aunties come visit, even if Mom was almost driven crazy by us kids making a mess of the house after she had spent so much time making it look especially inviting.

The second was the Viet Nam War, which was escalating as far as participation by the US in the 1960’s. One of my older brothers, Paul, a Marine, made three tours of Viet Nam. He was in an outfit of misfits, called the Baa Baa Blacksheep. During his third tour, the helicopter he was in was shot down, and crashed in the jungle. He was badly injured, but was brought out successfully and sent to hospital for surgery on his jaw, which needed to be wired shut. He also was placed in a full length cast for a fractured leg. He did his final convalescence at our house, which made life interesting, and a little scary, for us younger kids at home. You can imagine how monster-like Paul seemed to us with his crutches and plaster casted leg, and his inability to speak because of all the wires in and around  his mouth. Plus, we had seen his outbursts of anger and frustration, and didn’t want to get caught in the maelstrom if he got mad. We learned  to observe him at a distance, this man who seemed to bring some part of the Viet Nam War with him everywhere he went. When he finally left our house, he came back only for brief, uneasy visits.

The third 1960’s historical event that I recall was racial integration, which was a time of rioting, danger, courage and hope. It seemed that every night the papers and the  news showed neighborhoods being destroyed, blacks being sprayed with fire hoses and demonstrations being held somewhere by some group or another. I recall thinking, “Won’t there ever be a night when the news will be free of all this hate between races?” It was continuous turmoil in those years; not in Yemen or Libya, but right here in the USA.

 I was between the ages of 8 years old and 18 years old during this period of time. I considered it a great relief to be out  of the 1960’s.