Seattle Before Starbucks – Marguerite Reiten – Part 1


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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

A Christmas Eve Surprise

English: Saint John's Abbey Church, on the cam...

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Usually our Christmas family gatherings are a busy, noisy times, with the house full of people – adults,teens, small children and a dog. On Christmas Eve, we  most often attend our own church, Bethel Christian Reformed Church, for Christmas observance.  But every so often, when  our daughter, her husband and family travel to North Dakota for the holiday, we have a quiet Christmas with only adults at the house, and we visit a different church to share in their Christmas celebration.

It was on  one of these quiet Christmases  that my husband, son and I decided to attend the Christmas Eve Service, often called “Midnight Mass” because of the late hour in which it is held, at St John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN. St John’s Church and Abbey is a 60 mile drive from our home, so I checked on-line to make certain of the time of the service -we wanted to arrive in plenty of  time to find a seat. Reading through the information I saw that there was to be a concert in the church prior to the celebration of the Eucharist. “Wow!”, I thought, “What a great a Christmas gift. We’ll get to hear the amazing  church organ, the St John’s boys’ choir and the Abbey choir perform sacred music before mass, plus the music during the service.” Energized by this news, I  packed up a little basket of Christmas cookies and a thermos of coffee, grabbed our travel mugs, and herded the guys out to the car for the trip Collegeville.

It was a beautiful, clear,cold night. The moon was round and bright, and cast enough light on the snow-covered ground that we could easily see across miles of rolling farm fields as we travelled. When we got to the church, the parking lot was close to full even with an hour to go before the service started. It was wonderful to walk up the steps, open the  huge doors of the church and see and smell the lovely pine boughs throughout the worship space.We were fortunate to find a place to sit close to the back of  the church. I was a little disappointed that we were so far away from the front, but grateful that we arrived in time to find a seat and hear the pre-service concert. I noticed that a young couple with little kids was seated behind us in the very last pew. I groaned inwardly, wondering why parents would bring such young children to church so late at night, and hoped that the kids wouldn’t get tired, cranky and loud during the service.  As I looked toward the front of the church, toward the altar, I was struck again by the simple, profound beauty of St John’s church with its Marcel Breuer design,, and pondered the contrast between the modern architecture and the ancient celebration of Christmas. There was certainly an undercurrent of happiness filling the gracious space. The entire setting, the musicians and the people attending all seemed to be filled with excitement.

When the concert ended, all the electrical lights were put out and only candles lit the perimeter of the huge sanctuary.Then a choir of monks began singing the Introit, or introduction, to the mass, which was a Gregorian chant. At the end of this chant, the lights came up in the church and the congregation sang “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” The celebration of the mass included readings from the familiar Bible story of Christ’s humble birth. It was after one of the scripture readings that I heard the cry of the baby from the family behind us; it was definitely a newborn cry, piercing and demanding, but instead of reacting negatively to the plaintive tone, which I was fully prepared to do earlier in the evening, a small miracle occurred: I realized what a meaningful experience it was to hear the same sounds  at  church on Christmas Eve in the 21st century that Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the angels heard on that first Christmas night; not the sounds of a full-throated organ,or Gregorian chant, but the cry of a healthy newborn baby.

The remainder  of the service was truly moving. I was so very glad that we decided to drive the two hours to participate in Christmas Eve at St John’s. Yet as beautiful as it was, the moment I remember most tenderly is the cry of the newborn whose young family was seated behind us. No other part of the service touched my heart more, or brought the Christmas story more clearly into focus than the sound of that baby’s tiny wail. The very noise that I had dreaded to hear during the service had become the source of my deepest happiness that night, and I remember it as a lovely Christmas Eve gift.

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:

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:

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.