OUR FAMILY HISTORY
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By Gay Lofgreen Slade
In the Beginning. . .
There was a young lady (actually, that may be a misnomer considering the temperament) living in Davis, California. That was me, just barely 18 years old and unaware that my life's direction was just about to be determined by a brief encounter with my "Prince Charming." I went to Mutual that summer night without enthusiasm. I was tired of Mutual, tired of being the only girl my age in our ward, tired of living at home and anxious only to be off to college and "on my own." But, as usual, I had to play the piano for opening exercises at Mutual so, dutifully, I went. Bonnie Slade conducted the singing there, and she had brought her brother-in-law, only recently returned from his church mission to northern Mexico, to do a musical number for us. Yes, that was Brent.
I think of all the things that I noticed about Brent that first night while he sang "Besame, Besame Mucho," things that would become ingrained parts of our lives even to this day, some twenty years later. Of course, I had no way of knowing their significance and, really, no reason at that point to even care. But, nevertheless, I'll mention a few. I first noticed that he wore a faded Madras plaid shirt, out of style by several years. I didn't know at the time that he was quite unconcerned about such things and would long continue to be so. He was handsome, or at least I thought so, very dark hair, green eyes, about 6' tall. Was he to be responsible for the beauty in the children that would come? He was to say later that night to Bonnie and to his brother, Larry, that I, Gay Lofgreen, that rather outspoken young lady that he had just met that night, would be his future wife. His having such "feelings" about things has not changed. Of course, not all of his feelings/predictions turn out to be true.
And, last, there was his singing. That was not the reason that I would fall in love with him and then marry him, but it would have been a good one. Brent's voice is a rare gift, a beautiful thing to enjoy and to share. The children definitely did inherit that talent, which has shaped all of our lives so greatly.
But, of course, that night in Mutual opening exercises in Davis, California, I had no idea of all of that. He was just a cute guy and I liked to flirt. So as he sang and then looked right at me, I put my fist on my heart and pretended to swoon. You're right, it was silly, but it did have the desired effect. He noticed, and, afterwards, Bonnie introduced us. We talked for only a few minutes, and our lives were changed forever.
Brent was spending the summer after completing his mission driving a moving van for Mayflower prior to return-ing to Brigham Young University that fall. I too was headed to BYU for my first year. There was no further communication between us until sometime later that fall, probably in October, when Brent finally got up the nerve to ask me out on a date. He invited me to go to a rodeo, but for one reason or another, we never went to it. Instead, our first date was to the library, giving me the false impression that he was very much the studious student. Ha! He was very intelligent, but studious, not hardly. Anyway, other dates followed quickly and frequently. All this dating stuff at BYU was new to me and I was rather swept off my feet.
So then the night came that he actually proposed to me. It was in early December, much too early in my life for me to really be ready for such a step. So first I laughed and then asked him if that was what he really wanted. It was and then we talked, and talked some more. Well, the timing was wrong anyway. He was about to leave after the end of the semester for his basic duty training in the National Guard (this being right during the height of the Viet Nam conflict when all young men had to do some kind of military service). So I went home to California for Christmas and told my parents of our relationship. They weren't surprised - somehow they had deciphered the direction our relationship was going from my letters before even I knew. And Brent was off to the Army.
Although we were't engaged, I figured that I was in love and intended and, atypically, I was a pretty good girl that next semester, not dating much and writing a lot of letters to my guy in the service. And Brent wrote too and very well. How was I to know that letter writing was not really one of his loves. But he let me know very well that I was - one of his loves, that is. When the semester was over and Brent's active duty time was also over, he flew me out to his home in Colorado to meet his family. Now that was an experience to be remembered.
It wasn't that his family was so unusual, although very large. His parents were both very nice and reminded me of my grandparents. It was his home "town" that was beyond anything I had previously experienced. Growing up in California, I had thought that where my parents had been raised in St. David, Arizona, was literally the dropping off point of the whole earth. Little did I know that there was someplace even smaller, even more remote, and that someone I loved could come from such a place. Redmesa, Colorado, was nothing more than two signs on a state highway with a Mormon church in between them. Those who were members of that congregation lived around and about the "mesa," in various states of what looked to me like poverty and disarray. As I have gotten to know the people and their lifestyles there better, I have also come to appreciate if not thoroughly enjoy their way of living. But during that first visit to Brent's homeland, I was amazed and a little appalled at the make-do, haphazard, threadbare way everything was put together, not to mention the endless supply of beans.
That summer, back in California but now in El Centro where my parents had moved while I was away at school, I began dating another guy. It was never a serious relationship, but did tell me that I wasn't quite ready to "settle down" and never date again, not yet. My fling with the dating scene continued that fall with three to four dates every weekend. A few were with Brent, but since he almost never called ahead of time I was usually busy when he did want to get together at the last minute. I liked having him around, however, as a backup any time I didn't have another date or whenever I just needed to talk. The time soon came when he didn't like that sort of a lopsided relationship. And so over he came to my apartment to give back to me all pictures, mementos, etc. that he had and to tell me that he'd had enough. Well, I didn't like that either. I had sort of counted on him always being around, naive as I was. Besides, the continual, purposeless dating was beginning to get old anyway. So, as Brent likes to tell the story, it was me who went to him soon thereafter on the occasion of some friends' engagement and said, "And now, what about us?" And that was it.
Brent gave me an engagement ring on Valentine's Day and we had an impromptu condlelighting ceremony, a tra-dition at BYU (All the girls stand in a circle in the dark and pass around a burning candle with the engagement ring tied to it until the lucky coed blows the candle out and the fiance comes out of hiding to hear all the "oo's" and "ah's" and congratulations.). And then I became a really good girl and thought no more of other young men. Actually, I'm not being facetious. We were both very much in love and we were fast developing a friendship that would stay with us through all the years ahead, both the good ones and the difficult ones. We never went to a Homecoming Dance, or any other big event for that matter. He never gave me a corsage, and the car he and his brother LeGrand shared looked like a veteran of a stock car derby (It amazed even my parents the first time they saw it, although they were always in favor of my relationship with Brent.). He lived in an old 8' trailer that looked like it had been salvaged from somewhere. And he still wore clothes that did not set him apart as the college man on his way up in the world. And then there were those who also warned him about marrying me, the spoiled girl from California that would bring him only unhappiness. To them, I was a city girl, not a description applied kindly by Redmesa folk, with a mind of her own, one who would not be easily "tamed." It is good in lots of ways that love is blind and often willful. We were not discouraged. We were in love and busy planning our life together.
I spent the summer at home working and making ready for our wedding that fall. My mother and I sewed new clothes and made my wedding dress. My mother was a whiz at such things. We found the dress I wanted in a bridal shop and I wanted to buy it then and there. But indeed, the train was too long for in the temple and the neckline too sheer, not to mention the expense of the dress. So when the store attendant wasn't looking, my mother studied the dress in every detail and then we were off to find just the right fabric, lace, and trimmings to copy it. And we did. Actually, mother did most of it, but I did applique all the reembroidered lace on the sleeves and neckline. It was a beautiful dress - I still think so. It would be nice if one of my daughters were to want to wear it someday, but they seem to be developing minds of their own like that young lady of old.
Brent and I were married in the Arizona Temple in Mesa on September 3, 1969. Both sets of parents were there as well as my grandparents and a number of other relatives. Our wedding was not typical of most that take place in the temple and it was very disappointing to me. Brent was so delighted that I actually said "yes" that he didn't notice or at least wasn't bothered by all the things that went wrong. Despite the disappointments of the moment, I knew even then that I was marrying the right man in the right place. There were so many things that we have each done wrong in our lives before and since that day, but we know that marrying each other was the rightest thing that we have ever done. And the Brent J. and Gay Slade Family was on its way.
After a quick trip to Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, and receptions in El Centro, Davis, and Redmesa, we were back at BYU and the 8' trailer for another year of school. We had fixed up the trailer with carpet remnant on the floor, curtains, a throw cover on the couch, and some flowers, but Brent still called it the "love tester." We both worked as much as we could and took as many classes as we could afford. We were both in our junior year at the time. We were broke, of course, but I don't remember feeling the strain of poverty then, probably because our re-sponsibilities were so few and we were still young newlyweds enjoying the relationship, especially not having to say goodbye as well as goodnight when the date was over. We were happy.
* * *
Responsibilities do come with marriage. Soon I was pregnant with our first child. We were excited and, since I never got sick, the regular routine of classes and married life continued. We did know that we were going to have to have a bit more room, however, with a baby and all the baby things to house. So that summer we made our first major purchase, a larger trailer. I suppose that this one could be called a mobile home because it was such a step up for us. This one was 10' wide and longer and quite nice, although several years old and used. We still lived in Brough's Trailer Court and continued to live quite cheaply. We received a lot of help particularly from Brent's parents in meat for our tiny freezer and the old car to use. But what else do you need when you are young, in love, and in college?
Our first baby was late in arriving - how could I know that this was to be the pattern for all those to follow? When the time finally came, about a week before I was to register for my senior year of college, it was over relatively quickly. I was in labor about 12 hours overnight, but not terrifically uncomfortable until the final hour or two. Brent was able to be with me in the delivery room although I learned that at such a time, fathers are quite superfluous. I even got a bit peeved at him and Dr. Webster for discussing football and other mundane things while I was in agony and having to work so hard. After all, wasn't he responsible for this anyway? Finally she was born, a little bitty thing, early in the morning of September 10, 1970. She was only 6 pounds 3 ounces and about 17" long, not at all very big. I have never thought that any newborn baby was very cute, although the nurses were making over her like she was the most beautiful thing. We had only selected a girl's name because we were still arguing over one for a possible boy. So it was good that our first was a girl. There was no argument here. Little Keri had come to join our family.
Baby Keri did change our lifestyle somewhat. I only went to school part time so that I could be home with her as much as possible. When I did have classes, another newly married couple in the trailer court would care for her and things worked out well. When we wanted to go out, we'd just bundle her up and take her with us. I do remem-ber the first time we decided to take her to a BYU basketball game. That was in the days of the Smith Fieldhouse and metal bleachers. We were doing fine until our team made its first basket. Everyone started cheering, clapping, and, worst of all, stamping their feet on the metal. The noise was deafening and she just screamed, probably scared to death. We ran out as quickly as we could and that was the end of babies at basketball games.
As she grew, little Keri stayed petite. Her adoring Dad called her "bug" most of the time, and "spit" some of the time too. I guess the first child is always a little different from the rest just because she's the first. Everything is so new and amazing. It's amazing that a baby can hold onto your finger that tightly, even though all babies do it. It was amazing that she had 10 perfectly formed little fingers and 10 toes too. I guess it is amazing because this little living creature came from Heavenly Father as a gift to you and because you two had something to do with the way she looks and the way she develops. She is literally your offspring, an extension of yourselves. Now that there are three of you, your perceptions, goals and directions necessarily take on a new dimension. We were now a family, hoping to be an eternal one.
I must admit, that with all the lofty knowledge and expectations, most of our time and efforts were spent feeding the baby, changing the baby, rocking the baby, and trying to afford the baby. This was a time too when much was being said about postponing beginning your family. Joseph Fielding Smith was the President of the Church and often quite outspoken about the subject. There was much pressure on young couples to have babies right away and then to keep having them. It was difficult for many who wanted to complete educations and who were having financially difficult times in supporting themselves without the additional burden of children. I do not regret at all beginning our family so soon, but there were difficultities indeed and even opportunities missed. I was beginning to learn that children are a fulltime occupation, and I only had one thus far.
Our second major purchase also came that year. We bought our first piano. I knew that it would be an impossibility to prepare for my senior recital that I would be required to give later that spring and to also stay home with Keri. Just prior to the recital, the usual 3 hours per day at the piano would need to be increased to 5 hours per day. So we purchased our first piano, a brown Yamaha studio model. I was delighted! We had already bought a used crib for $11, painted it and got a thick piece of foam rubber for a mattress. So now we had two pieces of "furniture." We were coming up in the world.
The recital came and went as did my graduation (Brent had to finish one homestudy class so I finished first) and we were on our way to Lawton, Oklahoma, where Brent would attend Officer's Basic Training. He had already completed Officer's Candidate School in Utah and been commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Utah National Guard. Anyway, we packed up our few belongings into a U-Haul Trailer, just big enough to hold a crib and a piano, and we were off on our first more - the first of many to come. By this time we had also traded the old Studebaker of Brent's bachelor days for a white Ford Galaxie.
Summer in Lawton, OK was not Ok. It was hot and I was pregnant with baby no. 2. We were not there long enough to really get involved in anything and my memories of the time spent there are a general nondescript blur. We lived in a small, 1 bedroom gray house with an uninviting lawn around it. This was where Keri had her first birthday for which she received, among other things, "George" the guinea pig. She had learned to walk very early, at 9 months of age, so by now could toddle all over the house after that guinea pig, that is, after she learned to not be afraid of it. It was almost too heavy for her to even move. She'd cry and keep trying to pick it up and then cry some more.
After our three months in Oklahoma, we loaded up our still few belongings and headed back west to Ft. Collins, Colorado, where Brent had applied to graduate school at Colorado State University. He wanted very much to work with Dr. James Wiltbank at CSU in animal reproduction and hoped to be able to convince the department to admit him to the graduate programs despite his rather disappointing undergraduate grades - I've already mentioned his lack of study habits. As Dr. Wiltbank told me later, they were impressed with Brent's practical ability and his desire. His good looks and a little bit of luck probably helped too because they let him in and even gave him an assistantship which would help put him through graduate school. So, we unpacked in a four-plex apartment on Larch Street, purchased a hide-a-bed, a double bed, and a dinette set, and began life in Ft. Collins for the first time. This would be Jeff's first home and a new chapter in our family's life.
* * *
Brent Jeffrey was born December 12, 1971, at Poudre Valley Hospital in Ft. Collins. He was delivered by Dr. H.H. Dupper who did such a lousy job of stitching me up that I refused to go back there for another baby. We already knew that this little boy would be known as "Jeff," but there had been a couple of years of discussion about what the "Jeff" would stand for. Because Brent only had a single initial instead of a full middle name, we wanted to name our first son after him by filling in the middle name. Brent insisted that the name used be "Jefferson" after his great-grandfather. I didn't like that but would settle for "Jeffrey." It wasn't settled until Brent's father said that he would prefer "Jeffrey" also, and, luckily, that happened just before our new baby boy was born. Brent has always persisted in calling him "Jefferson," however.
Of course, Keri, now 15 months and quite the lively little toddler, was fascinated by her new tiny brother. He was larger than her at birth, 7 pounds 14 ounces (the biggest baby I had, in fact) and 21" long, and would later overtake her in size, but right now he just looked like a baby doll that wiggled. She bawled and bawled wanting to hold him and, of course, was not anywhere near big enough to do it by herself. As one would imagine, she was a lot of "help" with the new baby.
Only about two weeks after Jeff was born we moved our little family into a house on Wayne Street. This would be our first experience as home owners, the first of several. We moved in just in time for Christmas which was difficult since I was still recovering from childbirth and still having a hard time walking around. It was exciting, however, to be in our first home and I loved it. It had neat beveled glass in some of the upper windows and some hardwood floors and big trees and a very large back yard with a swing for Keri. It also had some of the gawdiest, old-fashioned wallpaper imaginable, which we promptly began replacing. I made green and white gingham curtains and a bedspread for Keri's bed and then painted Jeff's crib to match (yes, the same old $11 crib with its foam pad mattress). In those days I had the time to try my hand at decorating and crafting nice things for my home, and I found that I wasn't half bad at it either.
Baby Jeffrey was a mite frustrating to me as I discovered this tiny thing had a mind of his own, even at birth. First, he was practically born sucking his thumb, a disgusting habit, I thought, and he refused to replace sucking it for a pacifier. Keri had begun sucking her thumb too, probably in reaction to the new baby invading her private little world although in other ways she seemed to be well-adjusted. Who knows, maybe they just thought their thumbs tasted good. But I wondered why - my mother had never had any of her seven children suck their thumbs. Why me now? Was I failing already as a mother? And then there was my attempt at nursing my babies. I had stuck it out with Keri for a couple of uneasy months. Finally, I admitted that I didn't like the hassle especially with Brent's brother, LeGrand, always walking in on me without knocking. But still I felt a little bit like I had failed, so I determined to try it again with baby number two. I soon discovered, however, that Jeff, even as a newborn infant, did not like to be held tightly or close. Even while he was nursing he'd push himself away and struggle to get loose. The baby books always tell you to wrap a baby tightly and to hold him tightly so that he feels loved and secure. Well, Jeff did't know what those experts had said and he didn't like it. Consequently, I stopped nursing him and took to laying down on the bed beside him when I'd give him his bottle so that he wouldn't have to be held. As he has grown up, that characteristic has continued to be part of his makeup, a real evidence to me that a baby enters this world with its own personality already developed, already total, complete and unique individuals in very small packages. Now, I don't want to leave the impression that Jeff has always been an unloving child - quite the opposite is true. But he has never been comfortable with giving or receiving a lot of physical affection, hugs, kisses, tummy rubs, etc. Brent has always wrestled with him to maintain some physical contact. We learned so soon that each child is different.
As a toddler, Jeff was a typical holy terror about the house. Every day as a ritual, he'd unload the bookshelves, unroll all the toilet paper, empty all the lower kitchen cupboards and the toybox, and the list goes on. You would have thought that he'd tire of it, but he didn't, not for several years. He was into everything, exploring, touching, tasting, being an active little boy. Also, he was rather funny-looking. I can say that now that he's grown into a very handsome young man. His hair only grew on the sides leaving him almost bald on top. He was a bit tubby, had a very fair complexion, and was kind of plain. Of course, we loved him, but he just wasn't the little darling that Keri had become. Thankfully, I don't think that he noticed and his looks improved with the years.
As a family, we have not been particularly successful with pets. We have had a whole series of them only to be either lost or killed somehow. Our first of these bad experiences came while we were living on Wayne Street. Brent brought a little terrier mix named "Babushka" home for the kids and he, too, really liked this smart little dog. But one day it followed some neighbor children to school and was hit by a car, leaving Brent very saddened. Then we bought a darling Australian Shephard with blue eyes. After only a couple of weeks, this dog was stolen right out of our backyard.
For me, these first years of young motherhood were most difficult in adjusting to life without classes and college friends and teachers to talk to, without a harried schedule of recitals to attend and papers to write, without being continually intellectually stimulated. Now I was home all day with two small children and lots of boredom. Mothering was not my natural forte and I yearned for things I no longer had. There were often moments and even hours of very real desperation, needing someone to talk with who spoke English intelligibly. I felt so cooped up and lonely. I knew even then that those feelings were not uncommon to a young mother used to a more outwardly fulfilling life, but still I was miserable. Brent, of course, was a busy student, especially having to work to support his little family as well as attend to college classes and homework. We didn't have money for lots of babysitters or "going out." I knew that I needed to develop my own outlets for my own growth and stimulation.
Music became my main area for growth and for income. I began teaching private piano lessons in my home, with a neighbor girl coming in to tend the two little ones. I had always planned on being a piano teacher, from my junior high school days in fact. Now was the time to really begin. And I enjoyed teaching. My students did quite well, although in those early years we didn't live in any one place long enough to see really what kind of students I would turn out. Plus I felt good helping to support the family and earning money on my own. I must say here also that Brent has always been totally and wholly supportive of me in my endeavors. He has not always known what my needs were but has given me all the freedom, money, time and love that he possibly could to allow and encourage me to be involved in the things that were important to me. He has built me up when I have been down, stood by me when times were tough, and always loved me without reservation. Wasn't I smart to have married him?!
Brent also loved these two little children and enjoyed them immensely. He has always been a good and very per-sonable father to each child, and a good example to them of kindness and devotion.
In December of 1972, Brent was offered a partnership in the Lillywhite Dairy near Aztec, New Mexico. He hadn't finished his work on his Masters degree, but this was the sort of job he had always hoped for, having grown up on a dairy and wanting so much to have his own cows to milk. This was a herd of registered Holsteins and Mr. Lillywhite had just been elected to the State Senate and needed a managing partner for the business. To put it mildly, the whole experience in the 9 months we lived in Aztec was a negative one. First, Aztec was small, dirty, ugly, and nearby Farmington was not much better. We were members of the small ward in Aztec composed of almost entirely part-member or partially inactive families. The choir director felt intimidated by our presence and was happier when we did not attend choir practices. During those months in Aztec, I was never asked to lead a song, play a piece or even accompany the singing in a meeting. I did have a few students, but we lived out of town and teaching a fuller schedule was impossible. I was able to take a few piano lessons from a lady at Ft. Lewis College in Durango, leaving the kids at a daycare home in town. By standards which I understand today, that home was not very well kept nor a particularly fun place for the kids to go. In fact, I cringe at the thought now. But I was inexperienced and they didn't complain, and I don't think that there were any lasting ill effects on either Keri or Jeff from the experience.
At home in our little three bedroom house on the dairy property, we lived like a farm family. There was no lawn in the yard so the kids played in the dirt most of the time. They found friends to play with in the children of the hired men, mostly families from Mexico. I have two vivid memories of young Jeffrey during those months, the first being when he was lost and we feared that he might have drowned in the irrigation creek behind our house. Keri said that he had been playing down there but she didn't know where he was then. We couldn't find him anywhere and we ran up and down the creek almost in a panic to find him. Of course, he wasn't drowned and he was found and I can't even remember where he was now. I just remember the panic we all felt - kids can do that to you. My other memory is of the time I was practicing the piano, sitting with my back turned on the living room. Jeff came in with a bottle of Wisk liquid laundry detergent and poured it on the carpet right in the middle of the floor, bleaching a 14" or so circle almost white. That was particularly maddening because we had just put in that carpet new in trying to fix up the house. Like I said before, nothing was safe from my boy Jeff in those days.
It was also in Aztec that Keri decorated her face with a permanent scar just above her upper lip. She was playing Superman or some such things and jumped from off the piano bench. She landed wrong and fell against the edge of the bench lid and cut her lip. It bled profusely, I ran to Mrs. Lillywhite for help fearing my daughter had been disfigured for life. There really wasn't much to be done, however, but it did leave a cute little scar there for life. How our follies linger with us!
Things at the Lillywhite Dairy began to get worse for Brent. Promises made were not kept, inexplicable discrepan-cies appeared in records, and the partnership seemed to not be forthcoming in reality. We were to learn about a month after we left Aztec that Frank had a malignant brain tumor which caused his death soon thereafter. We'll never know now how much of his strange behavior and the strange happenings that led to our departure stemmed from that ailment, undiscovered at the time. I was plenty glad to leave Aztec, however, not envisioning it to be the place that I wanted to continue to raise my children. Brent had been offered the position of herdsman for the Colorado State University dairy so back to Ft. Collins we went.
* * *
Our third child and second son, Jeremy Glen, was born, finally, on November 13, 1973. I say "finally" because not only was he late in arriving (as all of the kids have been) but he also caused me a lengthy and agonizing labor and delivery, the worst of any of the children. As a young child Jeremy tended to always be late in everything, and we used to joke about the reason my labor with him was the longest was because up in heaven he was late again. He was probably taking his time saying his goodbyes to all his friends or finding his other shoe! He too was born at the Poudre Valley Hospital in Ft. Collins with Dr. Thomas Odom as the physician. We felt that his birth was a direct result of a blessing from the Lord. While I was in the early stages of my pregnancy with him, I began to threaten to miscarry with symptoms of bleeding and contractual pains. I knew the signs because I had already experienced a miscarriage about a year previous before we had moved to Aztec. We were very concerned because that morning we had committed to leave on a trip to a church dance festival with a group of the ward's youth. We would be traveling the distance on a bus and then I had to dance in some of the numbers in the place of one of the girls who was not able to attend at the last minute. I was scared about losing the baby. Brent gave me a priesthood blessing and promised me no more discomfort and that this baby would be carried full term and become part of our family. And so he did!
With Jeremy's birth I became party to the world's population explosion, only worsening the plight of the masses of hungry and illiterate of the world - or so it was inferred many times by people honestly wondering why I wanted so "many" children. Little did they know of what would follow! One of my adult piano students was typical. She had spent time in Korea and had seen the orphaned and hungry children there and felt it her duty to not bring more mouths onto the earth to feed. Rather, she said, she would spend her time caring for some of those unfortunate ones already here. Of course, she also felt it her responsibility to inform me, although kindly, that I was being irre-sponsible in having more children. I did respect her views and her worthy ambitions, but was not swayed, obviously, to limit my family size. I knew that my primary responsibility was to be a wife and a mother and to raise a righteous family. I knew that the ultimate goal was to return to my Heavenly Father with my family and that anything I would ever do that would detract from that goal was not worth it. I have always known that while I have been involved in teaching music, etc. and have conducted these activities in as "professional" and as business-like a manner as possible, my true "profession" is that of a mother involved in the business of raising children. Nothing would ever be as important as the family, and I'm so thankful that we had that knowledge and understand-ing. I must say also that I am thankful that Brent and I share our goals, both wanting to go the same direction. There have been times when we have disagreed on specific methods or procedures but never on the goal.
In Ft. Collins again, we lived in a duplex on McHugh Street, but almost immediately began looking for a home of our own to buy. We found one on Peterson Place and moved in while Jeremy was still a baby. Although the house on Peterson Place did not have a yard to speak of, it had lots of storage space, a basement to expand into, and we fixed it up to look quite nice. We also had our first new car, an AMC Hornet, that we had actually purchased while in Aztec. I began teaching piano lessons again, studying and practicing some on my own also, and Brent worked as manager of the CSU dairy.
From the beginning Jeremy was much different than either Keri or Jeff. He weighed about the same, at 7 pounds 8 ounces, but he looked like only himself. I remember Jeremy as a quieter, more content baby and, as a toddler, usually doing things by himself in a rather quiet way. He didn't watch TV, not even "Sesame Street" with the other kids and, although I thought that unusual I didn't worry about it. Then when he was almost two years old, he was standing beside me and looked up at me in such a way that I thought, "My goodness, this kid's eyes are crossed!" I took him in for an eye exam and, lo and behold, he needed glasses immediately. The doctor was amazed that he had functioned as well as he had without being able to see very well. The basic problem, other than being farsighted was that his eyes did not focus together so that he was probably always seeing double. No wonder he never had any interest in watching TV. To compensate, he used only one eye at a time, allowing the unused one to drift or cross. Going to the eye doctor with Jeremy was always an experience because he soon had the little line pictures used to test his sight, since he was too young to read letters, memorized and would just rattle off the order to the doctor without anyone realizing that he could actually see any of it well. Then when the doctor would try new things such as moving pictures of dropping a bomb on a ship below with Jeremy required to tell when they were exactly lined up to drop the bomb, his powers of concentration were so great and he was so smart with his estimations that again it was difficult to tell what he actually was seeing. Anyway, when 2-year-old Jeremy first started wearing glasses, we were concerned with his self-image, although I doubt now that we needed to be. We coaxed everyone into complimenting him on how great he looked, etc. Jeremy himself seemed oblivious to it and was probably just delighted to be able to see so well.
Jeremy spent hours doing small motor, detail kind of things. He built complicated structures with his Lego blocks for hours, including some using motors. From the beginning, Jeremy liked motors and making things go. He was not the mischievous sort like his big brother, Jeff. He was much quieter, more intense, just as busy but at other things. Also unlike Keri and Jeff, Jeremy never sucked his thumb. We used to tell people that he didn't suck his thumb so that made his eyes cross and, wouldn't you know it, some of them thought that we seriously believed that! Brent's nicknames for Jeremy have always been either "Jeremiah," an obvious one or "McGee," and who knows the reason for that one!
Big sister Keri had entered preschool, our first experience with formal education. She attended the Preschool Academy along with her cousin Ricky Slade, son of Bonnie and Larry who had moved to Ft. Collins to take a position on the CSU faculty. This was a good experience for Keri expecially because she tended to be a bit shy in new situations. Once familiar with the school, she loved it and proved to be a bright little girl. The thing I remember about the school was their May Day celebration where the kids did a Maypole dance with ribbons and flowers and all. Then at the end of the year the school held its own graduation ceremony, complete with caps and gowns and diplomas for the graduates.
Keri was also a musically talented little gal at a young age. She sang in church and for family things and seemed to enjoy doing it as long as nobody "laughed at her." That meant that no smiles were allowed on anyone's face or she'd stop singing and hide her face in shame. She was a pretty girl with long brown hair usually pulled back on the sides, and she was always slim - we've wondered where that came from! One almost disastrous mishap occur-red when Ricky's older sister Lisa was playing with Keri and had been pushing her in Jeremy's stroller. She misjudged and pushed Keri down the front steps in the stroller where she landed on the cement face first. Needless to say, that made for a bloodied face and concerned parents, but there were no lasting effects.
Jeff also had a mishap while we lived there on Peterson Place. As usual he was being rather mischievous and he began swinging on one of the plants hanging from the ceiling in a macrame pot holder. As he swang he also unscrewed it from the ceiling until it came crashing down on him with the large hook striking him just above his eye. It called for a rush to the emergency room and stitches but he was lucky that it hadn't hit his eye.
These were the days of the coinage of some of our family words, that is, words that mean something only to us Slades. A washcloth was a "clofclof," a bathtub was a "tubsbath," and a Hamburger, of course, was a "hangeber." Oh yes, and we ate at McAtdonel's," which I'm sure came from hearing the radio jingle, "at McDonald's." Keri was responsible for those, but the boys coined the word for the sound that a bow and arrow makes. The arrow goes "phfft!" They'd play cowboy and Indian-type games saying, "I'm going to phfft you!" Later the word also began to be used for shooting rubber bands. You didn't shoot them, you "phfft" them at someone - against the rules to do so, I might add.
Brent and the CSU dairy got on well to begin with. Production increased and sickness decreased. But, being a Civil Service job, the future was not particularly bright. Besides, Brent has a basic aversion to straight wages without incentives. Consequently, the talk that had gone on all along with his brother-in-law, Bill Lovejoy, about Bill's company in Denver began to get more serious. Finally, Brent quit the dairy and went to work with Bill. The Company was a new one involved in the design and manufacture of material handling systems, that is, pumps for short. Bill was your above average genius in coming up with new ideas and your below average lousy business-man in carrying out the plans and in administering the details. But everyone was enthusiastic about the company's potential and excited to be a part of it. Brent was too. He stayed most of the week in Denver with Bill's wife, Brent's sister, Nancy, and then came home on the weekends. That wasn't too satisfactory, but necessary at the moment, we figured, while things at the company got off the ground. Brent enjoyed learning and found that he had a natural aptitude for the work with installations and trouble-shooting of the equipment, usually on location somewhere out of town. So the only really significant problem was with cash flow - there wasn't any. Basically, we seldom got paid and it would be a gross understatement to say that wasn't easy to live with.
But then in the summer of 1975, Bill's company was bought out by Xebex Industries of Des Moines, Iowa, and we were all moved out to Des Moines. With all our moves over the years, that was our first and will probably be our only experience with flying out to look for a home, using a moving company, having them pack for you, etc. What luxury! And the home that we purchased was wonderful, in a lovely, heavily wooded area of town where there were as many horses and barns as dogs and doghouses. We too had a barn and corral, a chicken coop, tree house, playhouse, and big oak trees on our acre in the city. It all seemed too good to be true - and it was. But Brent especially loved that place and was sad to leave it only six months later.
But during that six months in Des Moines, Keri began public school, attending Jefferson Elementary. She was young, having just turned five only a few days before the deadline. She was not a very confident child in school initially. Her first grade teacher was most concerned about her because she couldn't handle the pressure of being asked a question and would cry if called on in class. She also had her first on-stage experience in Des Moines as part of a musical revue that I directed for our ward there. She sang "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," wearing a long white dress with little red flowers.
The problems didn't take long to materialize for Brent at work. There was great dissatisfaction with the manage-ment of Xebex, a serious lack of sales, etc. Within six months both Brent and Bill quit and set out to form their own corporation in Colorado Springs, Colorado. So with leftover Master Card bills from Xebex and with almost no money, which was quickly becoming a chronic condition, we set out with our trusty U-Haul truck (We'd gradua-ted from the original trailer needed for the first moves.) to the house that Brent had chosen for us. I was so tired of moving that I had no desire to go and look for another house. But as soon as I saw it, I wished that I had been more interested.
Brent had seen it as a fixer upper, so at least he had recognized that there were some things that needed doing. But I was appalled - I'd had no idea that people would do that to a house. Only pictures could adequately describe it. It was a bi-level, and the half of the house upstairs was okay - white walls, gold carpet - nothing unusual. But the basement made up for it. There, every wall was finished off differently with all kinds and colors (and I mean colors!) of paneling, carpeting, pieces of tile, bits of wood, etc. Maybe it had once been a wild preschool, who knows. Nevertheless, this was to be home and it was almost time to welcome Lindsay into our family.
* * *
While I was pregnant with Lindsay, of course I expected to be late in delivering this baby as I had all the others. But this one was so late that the doctor even became concerned. So finally he decided to put me in the hospital and induce labor. That was great by me. The only problem, was that it was Jeremy's third birthday. So we told the doctor to wait until later that afternoon after we'd had Jeremy's little party at home, and then we checked into Penrose Hospital to begin the wait for another birthday party to begin. The wait wasn't long. Very soon we had Lindsay in our arms, our fourth child and second daughter. She was longer than Keri had been at birth, but weighed the same, at 6 pounds 3 ounces. Why was she so late in being born if she were still going to be that small? I guess my babies just take longer in the oven.
Jeremy thought it was great to have a new little baby sister born right smack on his birthday, on November 13, 1976, and he has never seemed to mind since. They have shared birthday cakes and talked about what they wanted to have to eat for "their" birthday. Twins, three years apart!
Lindsay was a bossy baby - and that pretty well describes her developing personality. It wasn't that she wasn't nice and sweet and fun to play with, but she just liked to tell people what was what. I remember strangers coming to the door and Lindsay bawling them out for who-knows-what with her hands on her little hips. And this was before she could talk! This was a gal who would know what she wanted and go after it. She was also very physically adept. She walked very early, at only 8 months, and started turning somersaults and cartwheels soon thereafter. It got to where she couldn't stand still without turning upside down or walk from one room to another without a cartwheel in the middle. She didn't walk down stairs, she slid down on her tummy, usually at a pretty good speed.
It was in Colorado Springs that we began our long string of music lessons. I had always said that I would just keep having kids until at least one of them wanted to play the piano. Ha! The story will prove how wrong such predictions can be. Keri was young yet, only in the first grade, musically talented and bright, but not very confident. My attempts to teach her to play the piano were disaster. She'd cry at everything I said; I'd get frustrated knowing that she had the ability to do better; lessons were often unscheduled or interrupted by younger brothers and sister - to put it mildly, we didn't get very far. So Keri began piano lessons with another teacher in town, Linda Somebody. She did well but I never thought that, as much natural talent as she had, it was her love, her big desire, her ambition. I think she was being obedient.
Keri went to school and made friends in the neighborhood. Jeff attended preschool and then kindergarten and was also old enough to have little neighborhood buddies. Jeremy was left lonely, not old enough to roam the neighborhood on his own, but old enough to wish to. I remember him swinging around and around the lamppost in front of our house watching and waiting for the kids to come home. My heart went out to him.
In Colorado Springs we tried cats. First there was Fat Albert, a big yellow cat that thought he was a person. He somehow got down into a window well through the grate and died there without anyone ever hearing a peep from him. Then we got a little black kitten named IBA. Brent backed out of the driveway and ran over the tiny thing. Our next attempt at having a pet would be a Schnauzer mix named Mumbly. One day when a kid opened the front door while I was teaching piano lessons Mumbly dashed outside and into the street and was immediately hit and killed by an oncoming car. No, we did not have good luck with pets.
It was also in Colorado Springs that the first mishap with teeth happened. Jeff was playing and fell and hit his front teeth on a raised hearth. He chipped one tooth and killed the other. The dentist built the one back up and told us to watch them for absessing. He was lucky - they never did before they got loose and fell out anyway.
Our house on Monte Vista drive was on the top of a rather steep hill. When it would rain, the water would just gush in almost a flood down the gutters in front of the house. The kids loved to don their coats and go out and stand in the gutters and let the water rush all over them. One of the frequent times when Brent was out of town we had one of those record snowstorms that brought everything to a standstill. There really wasn't all that much snow but there were high winds to go with it. The way our house was situated the wind blew across it and so the drifts weren't right in front of our door but were about 6' deep across the lawn and driveway. Brent was stuck in New Orleans until the airport opened and the roads were cleared enough to get back home. When we finally did dig out enough to look about the rest of the town we learned we were lucky. Some houses had 9-10' drifts piled right on top of their doors and they really had a hard time getting out of their homes.
By this time, it was becoming more and more obvious that the new company that Bill had formed in Colorado Springs was not making it financially. Plus, there were things going on that made us uncomfortable, managerial decisions we could not agree with nor support. Also, Brent was out of town doing installations almost all of the time which was hardly enjoyable for either of us. And it left me to deal with the kids, the house, piano students and, worst of all, bill collectors. It got to where I'd cringe whenever the phone rang knowing that it would be someone else wanting money I didn't have. How unfair, I thought, for us to be working so hard, my husband always out of town, and still not get paid. Things weren't supposed to work that way. Perhaps I handled it all as well as could be expected, but I thought that I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Needless to say, we were very concerned about how we were going to support our family, meet all our obligations, and make the proper de-cisions about what Brent should pursue for employment. The bottom line was that I wanted him to quit yesterday and he felt like it was right for him to stay longer. We both felt so strongly about it that it was a very difficult time in lots of ways.
A couple of years earlier Brent had been approached about working with IBA, Inc., a dairy supply business run in Utah by a man who'd married Brent's brother's wife's sister (did that make sense?). Finally Brent called him and it just so happened that the southern Utah area was open for a dealership. We jumped at the chance, both for Brent to get back into a dairy-related business, something he loved and understood well, and also to move to the Provo area with all its opportunities in education, music, theater, etc. We, of course, didn't have any money, but that didn't seem to make a difference anymore - we never had any money!
The move to Utah was uneventful, but very cold. It was winter time and we had to go over the Rocky Mountains in an unheated car, that is, I did. Our blue Hornet had literally been driven to death, and so we had purchased a used '71 VW squareback. It ran well but the heater worked only sporadically. During the move it worked not at all. Brent drove the moving truck and I bundled up in everything I could find, especially my feet, and started counting the miles over the mountains. The kids weren't as badly off because they could switch off riding in the warm truck and the cold car. But even in the cold car they could move around some, but my feet were stuck to the gas pedal. We had put a little heater in the truck to keep my plants from freezing, but it fell over enroute and melted the vacuum cleaner. We were lucky nothing caught on fire. Well, we made it.
We had made arrangements to rent a home from a family, the Campbells, who were on leave in Tahiti with the Church Educational System for the next two years. It was located in a very Utah-looking neighborhood in Orem with all squarish brick houses, station wagons and Big Wheel bikes in the front yerds. Yep, everyone was Mormon with big families. Our whole ward comprised only four blocks, and there were no non-members living within the boundaries. It was a new experience for me. We really enjoyed the people in that ward. We made many good friends and wanted to stay in the area. Therefore, we began plans to build our first home on a lot within the ward area. We had only just dug the hole for the basement and begun to put in the foundation when we learned that the Campbells' young daughter had had a stroke and that they would be returning early from Tahiti. So there we were only 4-6 months away from completing a new house and needing to move right now for the interim period. Luckily we were able to find a home close by to rent for those few months.
We would be in the Provo/Orem area for five years, the first place that we had lived long enough to really feel like we belonged to the area. It was in Orem that Keri and Jeff attended most of their elementary school, where Jeremy and Lindsay began school, where Lindsay began gymnastics, where Jeff began cello and Jeremy began the violin, where Keri quit piano, where Dana and Merrit were born, where just an awful lot happened in our family. Writing about them all won't necessarily be in chronological order, but it all happened during our years in Utah.
* * *
The Utah Years
The years spent in Utah Valley seem like a separate phase of our family's history. There was so much begun there, so many friendships, talents, and interests developed there. It was the first place to really feel like "home," even though I doubt that either Brent or I really believed that it would be for forever. For one thing, we never saw ourselves as "Utah Mormons." Indeed, there is a stigma attached to that phrase by "outsiders" which is not parti-cularly complimentary. We, of course, had Utah roots with ancestry going back to the pioneers who were some of the first to join the Church, come across the plains, and settle in Utah. But our immediate families, while all of Mormon stock, did not come most recently from Utah and, therefore, we did not have an abundance of relatives in the area, which was unusual. We were transplants to the Utah, alias "Happy" Valley. True, we were happy enough to be there and happy enough living there, but we never were convinced that it was the only true place on earth to live - the common viewpoint of its native residents.
Utah or "Happy" Valley houses several small and somewhat larger towns, mostly all connected in a row with only city markers to define their boundaries. There is American Fork on the north end of the valley as you turn the corner around the "point of the mountain" and leave the Great Salt Lake Valley. Then comes Lehi, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, Orem, Provo, Springville, Mapleton, and Payson, a little further south. To the east are the Wasatch Range Mountains, beautiful mountains that rise sharply forming a majestic backdrop to the valley towns. Because I have such a poor sense of direction - non-existant sense of direction, to be accurate - I was finally able to know where I was as long as I was outside, that is, because one could see the mountains from anywhere. They were beautiful especially in the spring and in the autumn when the aspens would bloom or turn colors. For that week or so each autumn when the colors turn from green to brilliant reds, golds, and browns, there is nothing to compare. Utah Valley does have wonderful seasons. The mountains were also useful in that all the streets are named/numbered in relation to them. They have that great Utah-only way of assigning addresses that pinpoint the spot exactly by using the directional coordinates for the location as the address, i.e. 225 N. 400 E. It was great for not getting lost!
Utah Valley was a bit unique to us in other ways. Perhaps it was typical of all Mormon communities, but it was our first experience with such a community so seemed odd. Most of the homes were of all-brick construction and particularly boxey in appearance. The newer, more expensive and exclusive homes were more modern and creative in appearance, but even they were rather conservative. Most homes were smallish with basements fully used as family rooms, additional bedrooms and the inevitable food storage room. How could one manage in Utah without the food storage room? On the other hand, most of the families were rather big - to say the least! I remember when our sixth child was born and one lady congratulated me saying, "You have such a nice start on your family!" Most of the rest of the world would have been giving me dirty or at least questioning looks about so over-populating the earth. But this was the baby capital of the world - more per capita births in the Utah Valley hospitals than anywhere else in the world. I believe it! Families with 12 children were not all that unusual, and families with 8 kids were the norm. Everybody drove station wagons or full-size vans (That was in the days before the advent of the mini-van.). And just about everybody we knew were LDS and went to church. Of course, being active in the Church there was relatively easy since everybody else was doing it too, at least on the surface, but that is another topic.
I remember particularly a few of the faces and families that became special to us in one way or another. First, there were our next door neighbors. This was a divorced mom with 12 children, most of them gorgeous girls with even more gorgeous long (and I mean LONG) strawberry blonde hair. Then there was the family of one of my piano students who lived across the street who could play things only in the tempo of the baby swing, she was so used to hearing it while she practiced - and they were always having another baby! There were the Hahne's international family down the street. They had two natural-birth children, two adopted American Indian daughters, one adopted Korean son, one foster Indian daughter and then they adopted a Downs Syndrome baby of Mexican-American descent after we had moved from the area. Wow! There were the Fehlbergs with five lovely and musically talented daughters who did not look a thing like each other. There was one in college, one in high school, one in junior high, one in elementary school, and one preschooler. There were the Braithwaites, our Bishop's family of 12 children. Mom Braithwaite was my visiting teacher and one of my adult piano students. I remember visiting her home on laundry day which only happened once a week. You could get lost in the piles of folded towels and paired socks - there were hundreds! The Bishop was a gardener by avocation and his backyard looked like it was straight out of a botanical show garden.
Then there were the Salisburys, Larry and Barbara (why did we never say Barbara and Larry?), who probably be-came our closest friends while we lived in Utah. Larry was a manager type who was sort of between jobs and who was Barbara's fulltime champion and business partner. Barbara was a self-declared consumer specialist, with interests mainly in the food, nutrition, and storage areas. She had published a couple of books already - small time, really - and was now working on her first project that was sure to make it big time and really launch her career. She was also working on writing a newspaper column, publishing a newsletter, and several other such endeavors. The Salisbury's favorite saying was "We Do," which meant basically that "we love you." We were included in the dedication of that book they finally did get published with that saying "We Do." For Christmas one year, I painted them a plaque with the saying on it. It was a nice habit they had. Larry was particularly fond of Dana, our baby at the time. He would flirt with her every Sunday at church, and she would often go to him over one of us. He would tell her how beautiful she was every time he saw her. I don't know if she understood him or not, but they did have a special relationship.
Oh, but Dana hasn't been born yet, or at least not in this story! First things first!
* * *
As expected, Dana was late in arriving as all the others had been. It was a Saturday evening when I first began to feel a few slight contractions. But, hey, I'd been through this a time or two and there was nothing to get worked up about yet. I mentioned it to Brent, and he asked if he had time to take a shower. I laughed - why, the contractions had just barely started and I was hardly feeling anything yet. Was I ever wrong! He had no more than gotten into the shower when I started yelling, "Brent, we've got to go to the hospital and I mean NOW!!!!" We jumped into the trusty old VW squareback and hauled, and I mean hauled from Orem to the Utah Valley Hospital in Provo. It was Saturday traffic all the way - we couldn't even get in front so that we could run the red lights. Where are the cops when you need them? Then when we got to the hospital, we couldn't find the right entrance that was open at night. I had my legs crossed and was straining with all my might to keep that baby in until we got inside the hos-pital. They threw me on a bed, rolled me right into the elevator and straight up to the delivery room. Of course, my own doctor didn't make it there in time. A nurse grabbed one out of the hall or something and he came in just in time to catch the baby as she came out. Well, it was a might tight in the timing department, but I decided that was the way to have a baby. It was so quick that I wasn't tired and basically felt great the very next day. So that was Dana's arrival on July 28, 1979.
Almost immediately, the fun began. Dana was not a happy baby, to put it mildly. I had already given up trying to nurse my babies, and maybe that was what she really needed. We tried every formula we could find, and she cried and she cried and she cried some more. We'd rock her; we'd walk her; we'd take her for drives. Nothing seemed to help - she cried. Oh yes, and she'd spit. She'd spit all over everything and then cry some more. The doctor couldn't figure it out either, of course. I remember spending hours in the middle of the night rocking the poor crying (and probably hurting) baby and crying and crying myself because I was so tired and so tired of her crying. I couldn't go to the grocery store or anywhere else with her. Of course, everyone would wonder what I'd done to that poor baby to make her wail so. Then finally, a miracle happened. We'd already tried all the formulas, special soy milk, goat's milk, etc. But then Brent started the dairy (more about it later) and so we had access to raw cow's milk. I'd heard that you shouldn't give raw milk to babies because it is hard for them to digest, but we'd tried everything else and were desperate. We gave her a bottle of the stuff and Voila! the crying stopped. The spitting stopped. Dana became a happy baby overnight. I have no explanation. We had gone through 4 months of hell with her, and then it was all over just like that. She continued drinking raw milk and all was well.
Dana also looked different from the other kids. At first, she had a little hair, but then lost it and was bald. When her hair came in it was blonde, and we were surprised. Jeremy's hair was sort of lighter than black, but the other three were very dark and we had figured that was the mold our kids would all fit. And it came in curly. She had a blonde Afro! It was cute and we let it grow. When it got long enough to pull the sides up in a barrette, I did that and it was darling - until the day she gave herself a haircut. She was tired of her curls and she cut them off in the back. That did it - haircut time. After that the baby curls were gone - so sad.
We'd had one other experience previously with self-inflicted haircuts. While Jeremy was in preschool, he gave his bangs a new look. Of course, we trimmed them up as best we could, but they were now very short and rather funny-looking. He told everyone, "My mom cut my hair. It looks really dumb, doesn't it?" It is putting it mildly to say that we couldn't always believe everything Jeremy said! Another time he didn't have anything for show and tell at preschool, so he decided to "show and tell" his mother. He told how I had been in a serious car accident and had broken my leg. He got such a splendid reaction there at preschool that he decided to try it again at Primary (in the days when Primary was held after school during the week). It was great again! For me, I was so perplexed when I got phone calls to see how I was doing and questions at church about my accident. This boy has never leacked for imagination.
* * *
As stated earlier in this history, we were in the process of building a house when we learned that we would have to move out of the rented home we were living in because the Campbell family would be returning early from their assignment in Tahiti. Their 4-year-old daughter had suffered a massive stroke. They had first taken her to New Zealand until she stabilized enough to bring her home where she died. Anyway, we had begun to build, but we only had a very large hole in the ground and a few footings poured. We had drawn the plans ourselves and then had a draftsman in the area draw up the blueprints. Brent had read about the new wood foundations being used and decided to use one in building our house. It was supposed to be about the same cost, but easier to finish off inside and warmer than the usual cold cement. All that proved true, but little did we know that when we went to sell it later on that the wood foundation would be the primary deterent to interested buyers. Of course, at the time we were building, we had no plans to sell it so that consideration didn't matter anyway. We were into building a home for us. It was a ranch style home with a partial loft overlooking the living room which allowed the room to have the high ceilings that I have always loved. I chose an interesting-colored carpet that was sort of a variegated gray. I loved it! Our living room furniture was what we had purchased long ago in Des Moines, and it was a muted plaid in off-white, gold and grey and looked good in there. All the house needed, in my opinion, was a grand piano in the living room! Of course, I would think that, but more about that purchase later.
Another fun thing about that house was the kids' room that they painted. Before we put the carpet in, we bought brightly-colored paints for them and let them have at it on the walls of that one room. It was great! There were skyscrapers and planes and flowers and little people - all the things in primary colors that unsophiticated kids would paint. I'm sure the people who came in after us promptly painted over the walls, but it was fun for us while it lasted. I also had fun in one of the bathrooms where I decoupaged the walls with the pages from a Murphy's Law calendar. It made for great reading while you were passing time sitting there in the bathroom!
While I was caring about the inside of the house, Brent was lovingly hauling rock from the Slade family ranch in southern Colorado, from "up Alkali," as they would say. It was moss rock and would eventually look very nice, but it was a long project that had trouble getting completed, as such projects historically do. Anyway, we moved in and set up house-keeping and felt as permanent in a place as we ever had.
It was in this house that we experienced FIRE. That was not a fun experience to say the least. I had taken Jeremy, Lindsay and baby Dana with me somewhere on a Saturday afternoon leaving Keri and Jeff home alone. As I returned I seemed to be following a speeding fire engine, sirens blaring and all. Of course, the thought inevitably passes through your mind, "What if it is headed to my house?" But then you always dismiss that possibility. But not this time. I followed that fire engine right up to my house! Brent ran out as I arrived yelling, "Do you have the baby? Do you have the baby?" In the excitement Keri couldn't recall if I had taken Dana with me or not. After the fire was out and we surveyed the damage and asked all the questions, the story came out. Jeff and Jeremy, then 9 and 7, had been playing with matches the night before while I had been gone and their dad had been babysitting. Knowing that they shouldn't do such a thing, they had been sitting behind the small sofa in the family room/studio in the basement striking matches, letting them burn a bit, then blowing them out and tossing the used matches underneath the sofa. Those matches had smoldered there in the carpet since then and finally caught fire. Their only previous experience with smoke in the house had been when something was burned in the kitchen. What do you do when such a thing happens?" You open all the windows, just fueling the fire downstairs. They also tried to go downstairs to see what the problem was, which was also foolish, but they were just curious kids. Finally, they decided to call Brent at work. When he got home, he immediately got them out of the house and called the fire department. By then there was considerable damage done, but the firemen said that we were very lucky. In five more minutes the fire would have been through the roof of the basement and the upstairs floor. As it was the downstairs family room was pretty well blackened. The sofa and carpet, of course, were charred and ruined. The two studio pianos down there were left scorched, bubbled and peeling. All of my music that had been in bookshelves was scorched on the side facing the fire. Upstairs, there were cobwebs of soot everywhere. It looked like a haunted house, not to mention that it smelled like one too. The fire chief took Jeff and Jeremy downstairs into the blackened mess and gave them a talking-to. Needless to say, they were duly impressed and, of course, promised to never do such a thing as play with matches again. (History does repeat itself, however, and Jeremy did try it again a couple of years later, leaving the carpet in a closet where he had sat burning matches scorched. Luckily, it had not caught on fire.) As it was summertime and the kids were not in school, I gathered up some clothes and went to stay with my parents while the damage was being repaired. There was still a lot to do when I returned, sorting through personal belongings that had been damaged, cleaning or tossing them. We were indeed fortunate that most of the damage could be repaired and that we had not lost many precious things. More important, none of us were hurt, and we felt very blessed.
Within a couple of years we were ready to try our hand at building another and larger house. This one would be on the property of the dairy which Brent had started in partnership with my sister, Kjersti, and her husband, Robert (more about Brent's business doings later). The lot was a half acre that sat above the dairy property in a small subdevelopment which, at that time, had only a couple of other homes in it already. Again, we designed the home, had the blueprints drawn up, and oversaw the building of it. It was to be our so-called "dream house," and it was pretty much such. Because the area was suffering from a depressed economy at the time (the main employer of the area, Geneva Steel Works, had all but shut down operation leaving many out of work and the whole area feeling the ripple effects), we were able to get it built much more cheaply than we would have otherwise. Also because of the depressed economy, however, we had difficulty in selling our other home, and would later have difficulty in selling this one, but, again, at the time, who would have thought of putting it up for sale - not while we were in the dreaming and building process.
The house was large, over 5000 square feet. It was of white brick with a wide expanse of sloping shake shingle roof. Again, the living room had high ceilings, this time with the master bedroom overlooking it. The kitchen, dining room and living room flowed together to make a very open, spacious area. While I loved the idea and the look of that, I found that living in it was another matter. There was nothing to block the noise and that was most annoying. In the kitchen, the cabinets had been customed crafted with panels inserted of stained and leaded glass. The main living areas had large windows framed in stained wood without draperies which I loved. Downstairs there was a very large rec room with blackboards painted right onto the walls for me to use in my piano teaching. There was a TV room with built-in carpeted platforms for seating and bedrooms for the boys. The girls nad their bedrooms upstairs. In the largest bedroom, I painted a flower garden. The walls were a light, sky blue and the carpet was grass green. Then I painted oversized flowers growing on the walls. I thought it was cute. We wall- papered the other bedrooms, They had window seats in them and were very nice. We planted a rose garden in the front of the house and had big plans for the rest of the yard. The whole house really was a dream come true, not quite finished but on its way.
I learned also that dreams come true are not always all that you had hoped that they would be. In this case, I found it very difficult to live in what people saw as a rich person's home. We were then seen as being "rich" people and put into a category that I found to be uncomfortable. As it turned out, we did not live in the house for very long before the dairy went out of operation, and we were to move from the area. The whole situation was very sad, but it was particularly sad for me to leave that home that we had built and loved. In years previous, I had spent hours pouring over home decorating magazines. I had collected ideas, cut and saved them, filed my favorites toward the time that we would build "our home." I had enjoyed looking at other prople's homes and mentally storing the ideas. With leaving that white house and all that went with that experience, my dreams for a home of my own were destroyed. It just didn't matter anymore. That was a part of me that was saddened and hurt which has never really recovered. Perhaps it doesn't matter. One's home and one's material possessions are not what is most important anyway. However, loving and feeling good in your surroundings, especially when you helped to create those surroundings is a very satisfying experience. It feels good to live in a home you have built. But it also hurts when you lose it.
* * *
Brent's work was what brought us to Utah, and it was what would lead us away again. The story in between is both a happy and a sad one. When he began work in Utah in the dairy supply business, he called his operation IBA South. We purchased a blue utility van, and Brent outfitted it with shelves to accommodate all the supplies that he needed to carry with him. He covered the entire Utah area south of Salt Lake City, seeing all the dairies throughout the state. It was a lot of driving, but he didn't seem to mind that, and he certainly did love seeing all those dairies and getting to "talk cows" with the dairy people. One drawback was having to go to Logan to get sup-plies, a 2.5 hour drive which was an especially long drive in the winter when the roads were snowy and sometimes largely impassable. There were always problems too with cash flow and accounts receivable, but overall he enjoyed the work and it provided well enough for the needs and wants of our growing family.
However, when the opportunity presented itself to get back in the actual dairying business himself, Brent jumped at the chance. Kjersti and Robert needed to invest some money from a sale of some property in California, and they were interested in putting the money to work. Brent and Robert got talking about the possibility of a dairy there in Utah. Brent, the eternal optimist, saw only wonderful things with this idea - getting to run his own dairy, money to be made, opportunities for the kids to work, ease in getting supplies, etc. Robert was more cautious but the numbers did look good and Brent knew what he was talking about. They decided to go for it. The dairy was located just into Lindon on some property that had already been a dairy which Robert now purchased. Of course, they stocked the dairy with Holsteins, bought a feed truck and a few other pieces of equipment and they were in business. Yes, that is a gross oversimplication, but I don't know any more. It wasn't as simple as that to set up or to run. It took lots of meetings in person and by phone, lots of hours of work and planning, lots of energy, money and faith.
When the dairy actually started operation, things went well. Things went well for the whole first year, in fact, after which the decision to build the white house was made and the house begun. But as in any business, things don't always go as you wish and as you work for. There began to be mastitis problems and economic problems and things began to not be so rosy. Brent worked long and hard at making a go of that dairy. This was what he had always wanted and dairying is not an easy business even in the best of circumstances. Those cows have to be milked every day, twice a day, come rain or shine or holidays. Those cows have to be fed every day. Corrals and barns have to be cleaned, supplies ordered, paperwork kept current, milk tested, sick animals doctored, new calves delivered and cared for, etc., etc. No amount of work and faith seemed to be making enough difference, however, once things started to go badly. They hung on for another year, but then decided to try to sell. By then the economy of Utah was disastrous. There were problems with selling the property as a dairy because of zoning requirements since the residential areas were growing up around it. But no one wanted to invest in property for development at the time with the economy the way it was, especially property with cement slabs and barns all over it. Kjersti and Robert were losing money fast, and Brent felt terrible about that and about the failure of the dairy. Another dream dashed to bits. Whose fault it all was, no one will ever really know, but there were hurt feelings and unkind things said and financial difficulties all around. Once the dairy was officially out of operation we decided to leave. Kjersti and Robert were left with the property, including the house, to dispose of. That was sad, but there was nothing more we could do to help.
We loaded up two full-size moving vans and we were off to Colorado and new adventures.
* * *
Schools, Lessons and Learning
But wait! So much more happened in Utah with our family that we can't go on yet. While Brent was dairying, I was pianoing. I fully set up my piano teaching studio in Utah and worked with a full load of students. I was in-volved with the Music Teachers Association there, became officially certified as a piano teacher by that organization, and then started attending graduate school to work on a Masters degree.
I basically loved teaching piano and I was good at it. We had been carrying around the first piano since those col-lege days when our belongings fit in a little U-Haul trailer that a little car could pull. We bought a second piano while in Ft. Collins so that I could have two pianos to use in my teaching, a necessity if you are going to do any concertos, two-piano duets, etc., and a useful tool for teacher demonstrations, playing along with students, etc. Both pianos, while not exactly matched, were Yamahas with a walnut finish. The biggest problem I had always had with my own practicing and performing was in not having a grand piano to work on at home. The touch, the tone, the whole technique of playing a large grand piano compared to the smaller uprights that I practiced on was so different that it became quite a hinderance to my personal progress. Of course, I had also always wanted my own grand piano, needless to mention. Who wouldn't? While in the home that we first built in Orem, we finally had room to entertain the thought of purchasing such a piano. We did it and it was great. It took five years to pay for it, but it was worth it and continues to be worth it. It was a beautiful piano with exceptionally fine tone. To date, that piano has been through fire, moves across state lines several times, upstairs and down, through all kinds of abuse from students and children, and it is still wonderful. Does that sound like an ad for Yamaha? So there we were with three pianos which always makes moving just a little more exciting!
After the fire, we used the insurance money to purchase two matching black Yamaha studio uprights for me to use in my teaching. I had loved the brown ones, but these new ones looked great and they have been used and used and used as you will see. In my teaching, I had about 25 students, teaching most afternoons and sometimes on Saturday mornings in my home studio. Some of those students I worked with for the entire 5 years that we were in Utah. Some of them became quite accomplished pianists and a few were even able to begin competing in local concerto contests, etc., a big thing in the Utah music community. I felt very rewarded in my teaching on the whole.
When I returned to Brigham Young Univeristy, now as a graduate student in music, things felt a bit different. Boys that I had gone to school with years before were now men on the faculty with their Ph.D.'s. Doug Bush was on the organ faculty and was assigned as my advisor. Ron Staheli was now on the choral faculty, soon to be chairman of that area. Mack Wilber, at the time, was an undergraduate student in piano and a very fine pianist at that. At the time of this writing, he is now also on the BYU choral staff, doing wonderful things with his choirs and with his compositions. Anyway, there I was, mother of five young children, going back to school with all these youngsters. I was pleased to find that I had no trouble keeping up with them. I received an "A" in every class I took while in graduate school. I also worked like a dog. I had never worked so hard before or since as I did in the initial Music Research class that was requiared at the beginning of the graduate school curriculum. Man, was it intense! I also found studying and researching and getting good grades very satisfying and personally re-warding. I was again studying piano with Paul Pollei and enjoying it immensely, especially now that I had my own grand piano to practice on. I gave a couple of recitals on my own piano at home and that was a fun experience. I still wasn't the best performer nor did I ever feel very comfortable about playing from memory, but I did it and it was getting easier the more I did it. That was the goal.
Officially I was a graduate student in Piano Pedagogy, which means that I was studying the art of piano teaching. As part of the requirements of that program, you had to do a major written project, which I did on Federico Mompou, a 20th century Spanish composer whose music I really enjoyed. You also had to present a graduate recital, which I began to prepare for. The latter was a serious undertaking. Undergraduate students preparing senior recitals usually practiced some five hours a day. Needless to say, with five active children, 25 piano students, a husband who thought he needed attention every once in a while, church callings, a home to care for, endless laundry to do, etc., I didn't have anywhere near five hours a day to practice. I tried to get in two or so, but that was impossible at times too. Gradually, somehow, I pulled it together.
The plan was for me to first present the recital in Salt Lake City as part of a series of summer recitals being held there at Daynes Music Co. every week. What a horrible experience that turned out to be! I really didn't feel at all well that night but attributed those feelings to nervousness, which I also surely was. The actual performance probably wasn't as bad as I felt it was as I had prepared well and so surely must have played the majority of the notes correctly. But neither was it a good performance. I felt extremely bad about it afterwards. Dr. Pollei tried to say a few encouraging words but he wasn't going to tell me that it was good either and that is what I had wanted it to be. Mentally, I felt awful knowing that my graduate recital was scheduled only about a week away at BYU and knowing that I needed to do much, MUCH better than I had in Salt Lake City. Physically, I was not doing any better. I just started feeling worse and worse until about 24 hours later I was in such pain that Brent decided that I was going to the hospital. I went and soon learned that I had a tubal pregnancy but that the doctor would wait before doing anything about it. He told me that there was a slight chance that it would miscarry naturally on its own, but that was doubtful. Most likely I would start feeling much worse and then they would have to operate. Neither prospect sounded very good to me, especially because I was hurting badly already. But, blessings do happen and the next day, after a very horrible and painful night, it did in fact finally miscarry on its own and then I started to feel better. It was the second miscarriage that I had experienced (the first was between Jeff and Jeremy), and I just figured that a pregnancy that ended early and naturally that way was not meant to be. I felt no sorrow, only relief and gratitude that I had not had to have surgery.
Well, I did feel better and I practiced, and I did present the recital a week later in the Madsen Recital Hall and BYU. I played well. In fact, during the intermission, Dr. Pollei came backstage and told me that I had passed with flying colors and how unusual it was for anyone to be passed only at intermission. It wasn't that I didn't make mistakes, of course, but I was in control that night and doing my best. What a blessing that was! Even now I listen to the tape of that recital and can't believe that it was me playing or that I ever actually learned those difficult pieces. But it was and I did and I'm thankful for the experience.
* * *
With the recital behind me, I was close to finishing my masters degree. I just needed a couple more classes. But, wouldn't you know it, I was pregnant again. And when that happens, the inevitable also happens - a baby comes next. This baby came late as always, on August 5, 1982, at the new Orem Community Hospital. I had talked the doctor into inducing labor because I was already a week late and my sister, Laurie, was getting married in Utah in a week and I wanted to go and besides the last one had come so fast and I was tired of being pregnant and this was the sixth kid and I knew what I wanted. He was hesitant because he had just been involved in a messy malpractice suit in which a child had ended up a quadraplegic after the mother had been induced. I was not scared, and he finally gave in, mostly because he had a vacation scheduled the next week also. So I went to that new hospital which had been built primarily to relieve the over-crowding in the obstetrics wing of the old Utah Valley Hospital, into one of their new birthing rooms, got all hooked up to the machines, and began reading and waiting. While reading a Sports Illustrated magazine, I came across a picture of a women's distance running champion captioned with her name, Merit somebody. My eyes locked onto that name. I told Brent, who was in the room with me, "If this baby is a girl, let's give her that name, but let's spell it Meritt." He agreed - he never liked discussing possible names anyway - and a short while later Meritt was born. I was not into staying in the hospital any longer than necessary, so the next day we brought our sixth child home to the excitement of her big brothers and sisters.
Meritt got lots of attention, needless to say. For me, it was the first baby born with older children really old enough to be of true help (not when you just are pretending that they are helping to make them feel good). Keri was 12, Jeff was almost 11, Jeremy almost 9, Lindsay almost 6, and Dana had just turned 3 a week before. From her birth, Merritt had lots of dark hair that stuck out all over. We tried to tame it, tried to comb it, but it made no difference. It looked like she had a Mohawk Indian haircut, the way it stuck up - therefore, the name "Mohawkie" was coined and it was appropriate. As her hair grew out and added weight to hold it down, it was quite lovely. But after all the crying when it was time to comb out the snarls, I decided that I'd had enough and cut it off short again. Sure enough, "Mohawkie" reappeared and it stuck out all over, unmanageable as before. Since then we haven't cut it off short again.
While we lived in Utah we also added another member, although temporary, to our family. His name was Teva and he was 16 and from Tahiti. He came to the USA through the contacts of the Campbell family, whose home we had first rented when we moved to Orem. He needed a foster family to live with and we were game, I guess. It was an interesting experience and one that was probably more difficult for Teva than for us. I know that he thought that we expected way too much from him in terms of responsibility, grades at school, use of his time, etc. It was no doubt difficult being the oldest child in the family also. He was a pleasant young man, and the kids really liked him as most do like big boys who wrestle and rough-house with them. Teva lived with us for only about a year. When we moved to Lindon, he chose to stay in the ward and in the school where he was attending. I think that he always wanted to be in a family with other boys about his age also. After leaving the area, we heard that he had gone into the Marines and that was the last we heard of him to date. While he lived with us, it was all I could do to get him to write a few lines to his mother every so often, so I was not surprised to not hear from him. I do wonder about him and about what he is doing now and where he is doing it.
* * *
Activities of the Young
Our years in Utah were filled with a variety of new experiences for the children. For Keri and Jeff, here were most of the elementary years. They first attended Orem Elementary School and then later our neighborhood was bused to the old and newly reopened Spencer Elementary School on State Street in Orem. Jeremy began school at Spencer and then when we moved to the white house in Lindon, which, by the way, was just across the street from the community of Orem, they attended the brand new elementary school, Aspen, for which I composed the school song and directed the school choir. As stated earlier, Keri had attended preschool in Ft. Collins when we lived there. Because money was so tight at the time, Jeff only attended one semester of preschool in Orem at the same school where Lindsay was to later take gymnastics. Jeremy attended a home preschool in a neighborhood lady's basement. Overall, I was quite impressed with the schools where the children attended. While they did not have all the specialty teachers, i.e. art, music, P.E., teaching aides, etc., that schools in Colorado that the children would attend later had, they did provide all of those opportunities to the children through creativity and dedication of the teachers or through volunteerism from the parents. With the number of children per tax-paying household, there was no way that the schools could have the kind of money they needed for all the special service teachers, so the classroom teacher did it all and very well most of the time, I thought. When we moved to Ft. Collins, the children were tested, particularly the older ones, for placement in academic classes, and they scored very well by comparison to children coming into the school district from other states and also by comparison to the Colorado children. Shall I believe that my children were just naturally brilliant? Well, of course, that must have something to do with it, but they also had been receiving good educations in Utah. I am so grateful to those teachers who I will surely never see again and get to thank.
Outside of school time, the children began their music lessons. I had always said laughingly that I would keep having kids until one of them wanted to play the piano. Actually, Keri had begun her piano lessons in Colorado Springs. I taught her first, but that didn't work at all. She'd cry if I gave her any criticism, which is inevitable, plus she'd slouch around and lay down on the piano bench and never really get around to playing. Of course, there was also the problem of me not getting around to giving her "official" lessons most of the time too. But she had obvious ability and didn't HATE it. Then she took lessons from a lady named Linda Stumpf and did much better than with me. When we moved to Utah, I had Keri start lessons with Dr. Pollei. I probably had visions of her being one of his "star" pupils who win concerto contests regularly and get scholarships to anywhere they want, etc. Keri didn't quite have that vision, however. At first, she just did what she was told to do, writing in fingerings on each and every note and other such tedious stuff. Soon she became frustrated with his habit of spending lesson time in doing "new" things because you could practice the "old" things at home. But for Keri, this was so unpredictable that you couldn't prepare at home since you never knew what he was going to ask for in the lesson and you knew that he might ask for none of what had been assigned the week before. Also, he would make assignments like: learn all the major and minor scales. He knew full well that task was impossible for a week's or even a month's work for a kid, but he didn't bother to break the task down into manageable bits for the child. So more frustration. After a while, Keri began studying with one of Pollei's alter-ego assistants, Jay Beck. Jay was much better with children and progress was made. Keri actually learned to play the piano quite well, playing Chopin impromptus and Bach preludes, although I do not think that her heart was ever really in it. She put it aside soon after moving to Colorado after one stint at playing a cute ragtime number in the local Stars of Tomorrow show when she was in 8th grade. It only took her until a few short years later in high school to begin saying that she regretted quitting her piano study, but, of course, by then she had no intention of going back to it. While in junior high, we had tried to interest her in learning another instrument. She had some interest in the bassoon, so we rented one, found her a teacher, bought a book, and she began. I think that she lasted one, maybe two, lessons. It was too heavy to hold mainly. I think Keri was more cut out to be a singer, as time would tell.
Jeff also began lessons on the piano. I have often said about him that if you had judged his musical ability based on his piano playing you would have thought him an untalented, unmusical boy. He did not like it from the start and did not do very well at it either. His hands were so loose-jointed that he could not hold a good hand position. Besides, he just didn't like piano music even though he played his "Blue Windmill" piece everywhere for quite a few years afterwards. In desperation, when Jeff was in fourth grade, I finally asked him if he'd rather switch to a different instrument. "Sure, anything but the piano!" But he didn't have a clue as to what other instrument he'd like to play. I suggested the cello because I had always liked the sound of it and felt that string instruments were more useful in terms of playing them for your whole life - life after high school band. He said, "What's a cello?" He didn't know but he didn't care as long as it wasn't a piano! We proceeded to rent a 3/4 size cello, and found a teacher - a BYU student named David Marsh - and Jeff was on his way. From the beginning, his cello lessons were different. I'm sure that some of it had to do with getting to take lessons from David who was a guy, who was cool, who told Jeff interesting stories about track and other sports and who encouraged him to do all of those things too, who wasn't (and this no doubt was the most important quality) his mom. I did attend most of Jeff's early lessons, however so I learned quite a bit about playing the cello which was useful. I also learned that having a mom who was a musician was helpful only if the children could feel like they were accomplishing something in their area, on an instrument that Mom knew basically nothing about. I was great as a resource and an accompaniest but no one wanted to feel like they were taking me on as their competition. Anyway, soon it was time to upgrade instruments for Jeff and we found, with David's help, a used 7/8 size cello in Salt Lake. We bought it and Jeff named it "George" and continued to practice. Time would tell that, in this case, we chose well for Jeff. He and the cello got along great.
When it was time for Jeremy to begin music lessons, he had about 4 or 5 months of piano lessons as a background before beginning the violin. His teacher was Barbara Williams, wife of the BYU bassoonist and very funny guy Glenn Williams. Barbara was also on the BYU string faculty as an instructor and performer. My most vivid memories of Jeremy's violin lessons were her trying to get him to lower his left wrist in order to keep that arm straight and in a proper violin-playing position. It seemed hopeless at the time. I marvel watching him play now with his left arm perfectly straight and in a most proper position as I remember back to those early years.
As stated above, little Lindsay was physically precocious early on. She did cartwheels across all the floors and handstands on the walls. She seemed to be most comfortable upside down. And so she began to take gymnastics in Orem at the All-American Gymnastics School. She excelled right away. When we moved to Colorado she continued her gymnastics until she was 9 at which time she was ready for the big-time, full-time, competitive team, meaning 4 days a week in the gym working out and competitions on Saturdays. It would have been a fulltime avo-cation for a young one and would have prevented her from doing anything else. We, together, made a choice that she would not continue. She also excelled in swimming, although her swimming was a by-product of her older sis-ter and brother's activities.
Only a couple of blocks away from where we built our first home in Orem the city constructed a new recreation center which included an Olympic sized swimming pool. I had taught swimming for a couple of summers when I was in high school and was a pretty good swimmer although I had never competed. (I had been involved in a synchronized swimming program when I was in junior high and had enjoyed it immensely.) I thought that it was very important for the kids to learn to swim and to be safe in the water. They had taken a couple of sessions of basic swimming lessons at the BYU indoor pool. Now with this new pool so close and so reasonably priced, we started making regular outings to swim. One day while there, I got visiting with one of the lifeguards who was involved with the swim team program at the pool. He peaked my interest and it sounded like fun to the kids. So Keri, Jeff and Jeremy began swimming with the Orem Swim Team, and we all soon were learning about "25's", "50's", "A", "B", and "C" qualifying times, flip turns and Speedo swimming suits, heats and racing starts, etc., etc.... Altogether, the kids' competitive swimming experience was a very positive one. It encouraged them to compete with themselves, always trying to better their personal times. It was a lot of hard work, requiring many tedious hours, usually early in the morning, of head-in-the-water laps. It was also a lot of fun, being a part of a team, going to meets with your friends on Saturdays, eating dry Jello with your finger from a box, and hotdogs and nachos with cheese sauce, and always getting treats on the way home after a meet. The kids were all best at backstroke - something in the builds that they inherited, I guess.
Keri was a fine Individual Medley swimmer because she was quite evenly strong on all strokes. What was surprising to me was that she enjoyed most the distance swimming. Perhaps that was because she never was a 'firey" competitor. She was most confortable in the back of the line or as part of a relay team than with having everything riding on her efforts alone. Jeff was exceptionally good at backstroke, but was often disqualified on his breaststroke because of one foot which tended to turn in making his kick look illegal. Jeremy was the most frustrating one to watch because it always depended on his mood whether he did well or not - "I didn't feel like swimming fast today," he'd say. And Jeremy has never been one you could successfully talk into anything that wasn't his own idea.
While the other kids were swimming, Lindsay too wanted to get into the water. Because she was always trying to swim like the big kids out in the deep water and because I had another baby to watch, we finally decided to give her some lessons - just enough to make her safe in the water. But soon, that little 3-year-old pint-sized kid was swimming the 50-meter length of the pool! She'd swim it on her back with her teacher tagging along side. She didn't start competing quite that young, however.
After we moved to Colorado, the kids continued to swim competitively for a time, first with the summer-only Village Green Swim Team, then with FAST, the Ft. Collins Area Swim Team, and then back to the summer-only club. While they were never Junior-Olympic-qualifying-times swimmers, they were good and won a lot of races, collected a lot of ribbons and medals and gained a lot of experience. The burn-out point did finally come, however. I remember Jeff saying that the very thought of another swimming pool made him want to throw up. He would get over that, and Keri and Jeremy would even swim for their high school teams for a time, but basically the competitive swimming years were over. They were good, but other things were more important.
There were also the free time activities that all children engage in. Keri had her girlfriends - Ann Hahne, Sheri Densley, Kathryn Fehlberg - and they had their eyes on the boys. Keri was particularly fond of a boy down the street, David Finnegan, her first flame. There was talk that he "liked" her too, but then how does one tell at that age? Another thing I remember about Keri was her love for exploring buildings. She loved to ride up and down elevators and explore the hallways, staircases. and rooms especially in big buildings. Through such explorations, she had pretty well learned her way around the main part of the BYU campus. It was a favorite activity to spend an afternoon on campus with a friend, just walking and looking around. I remember on one occasion in Salt Lake City going into the Hotel Utah and how she oohed and ahed in amazement at the ornate carvings and plush furn-iture and columns. Keri was a fun one to spend "together time" with. We'd shop and go out to eat or just walk around - she seemed to enjoy it all. She also loved to read. We would go into the children's section of the bookstore and she'd be able to tell us a synopsis of the plot, name the characters, and give a general critique of every book on the shelves, or so it seemed. Her all-time favorite was The Secret Garden as I remember.
Jeff's best friend was Brad Mangum, the Stake President's youngest son who had flaming red hair and a reddish face to match. They played on the same soccer team. Brad was low to the ground and really fast. Jeff was less aggressive in his play on the field, but quick and agile. We used to get good laughs at some of those early soccer games when the boys would bunch up so tight in an effort to follow the ball that they'd be kicking each other's shins while the ball just lay there. As they got older, strategies also got smarter and the game spread out. Jeff was often the goalie because he was so quick. He also liked to build models, particularly of airplanes. Those models hung from his ceiling and filled his shelves until he went off to college years later.
Jeremy tended to be more of a loner who preferred first his lego blocks and then his reptile books. We were always amazed at the things he constructed with those Lego blocks when he was just a little guy. As he got older, his constructing required more sophisticated materials. He'd take apart electronic things and keep the parts. He'd build motors and models, etc. He was always very good with his hands. He liked to draw also, especially cartoon-type characters and especially those he himself conceived, and they were good. He also enjoyed his bike, and he and his friends would meet at the dirt hills, wherever they could find some, and ride for hours. He did smash up a few times - one time particularly to be remembered is when he landed right on his nose and it swelled up to twice its normal size. He was a beaut!
Lindsay particularly enjoyed taking off on her bike from the white house and riding down to visit Brent's parents who had moved to Lindon to help on the dairy. That was okay except she'd never tell anyone that she was going and sometimes she'd take off when it was snowing and she had no coat. They only lived a couple of long blocks away down the Lindon hill. They had rented a little house there where they let calves graze in thir front yard - easiest way to get the lawn mowed! When it was time for Lindsay to begin school at Aspen Elementary, I took her in for the pre-Kindergarten evaluation and felt strongly that she was more 1st grade material at that point. (We had been having regular problems with Jeremy in first and second grades with not doing his work in school even though the teachers always said that he was the brightest kid in the class. I was afraid of having another bored child on my hands especially after wasting a year not learning anything in Kindergarten, and that is how it appeared to be.) I asked the teacher what more she would be learning in Kindergarten that year and the teacher said that they would teach her how to write her name with lower case letters instead of with all capitals. I proceeded to show Lindsay how that was done and she had it, first try. Now what were they going to teach her? Well, the decision was made and Lindsay began first grade, skipping Kindergarten altogether. As her later years in school proved, that was a good decision. Mentally, socially, etc., she was ready to be with the older kids.
With all the extra-curricular activities that the kids have been involved in, one constant has been their love of singing and their ability to do it. I'm sure that they get their good voices from me because their Dad still has his! One Christmas when Keri was about 11 we decided to make a family tape as a Christmas present to grandparents and anyone else who wanted one. It would also serve as a record of our young family making music together. We sang mostly Primary songs or a few songs that had been particularly meaningful to us for some reason or another -"How Do I Love Thee?", "Do You Love Me?" from "Fiddler On The Roof", "Just a Boy", etc. The children also sang, down to Lindsay who was 4 years old at the time. I played a few piano hymn arrangements that I had contrived for that purpose. It was a fun experience.
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It was also during these Utah Years that most of our Christmas traditions were established and set in stone. Of course, some of them came from our childhood homes, expecially the Lofgreen household that was rich in Christmas observances. Some Lofgreen traditions that we have continued are: the annual family Christmas shopping outing with everybody taking turns pairing with each other and the names on packages and all of Mom's lists to check twice and then the rare going out to eat afterwards; a big dinner on Christmas Eve and light snacking on Christmas Day so mother doesn't have to spend Christmas Day cooking all day; the reading of the "Littlest Angel" and the scriptural Christmas story on Christmas Eve after dinner; candy in the stocking wrapped in foil; nobody coming out on Christmas morning until everyone is awake and then having to come out single file by age after Dad has checked things out and come back to hint at wonderful things he has seen under the tree that must have been left there by Santa during the night; the Father handing out the gifts one by one to eager hands and then everybody waiting and watching as each gift is opened; Santa's never being able to spell the names correctly on the white index-card tags that he leaves on unwrapped Christmas gifts arranged under and about the tree; everybody giving gifts to everybody else in the family and Wow! I get excited just thinking about all of it! (Me too!)
We have also begun a few traditions of our own over the years that have become meaningful in our family and, hopefully, have enriched our children's memories of home during their childhood years. Early in December we make "gingerbread" houses of graham crackers, royal icing and tons of candy to decorate with. Everyone does his/her own and then they are displayed on the grand piano during the month. Of course, inevitably they are pretty well picked over and dilapidated by the time Christmas finally arrives. The kids have made large houses, small cottages, castles, sleighs, cathedrals, outhouses, tanks, cars, and unrecognizable structures. We usually invite another family or two to share this event with us so it has always been a loud, dirty, rollicking good time! Brent makes the honey caramel candy rolls by the boxfulls, and we always go caroling the Sunday evening prior to Christmas to deliver the candy to our friends. On Christmas Eve the kids get to open one present, but it is a present especially prepared to be opened that night. When the children were young, it used to be new pajamas,, but when they got old enough that pajamas weren't wanted or hardly ever worn anymore, then it became sweats or new Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes when Christmas falls on Sunday or some such thing. This history was the Christmas Eve gift on two consecutive years. And then Mother usually gives herself a gift "to Mother from Gay," always a most appropriate gift that she really wants and that, for sure, no one will get for her!
With all the performing groups that I have been in charge of or that the kids have been involved with, Christmas has also been a time of sharing of one's talents, making it a very busy time. Sometimes it has seemed as though there have been performances almost every day between schools, private and church functions. But Christmas time is a special time for music and there are so many wonderful Christmas songs to share. And I have always considered it a gift given to our family to have the ability to share music with others, a gift that comes with the re-sponsibility of doing just that - sharing and being willing to give of ourselves and our talents. It isn't always convenient or even fun, but it is our responsibility to pay for the gift we have been given.
While in Utah, we also always went to Temple Square in Salt Lake City to see the light display there. It is always gorgeous and an awesome experience. The year that Teva lived with us is also the year we almost lost Lindsay. She was about 3 years old, old enough to wander off but not old enough to find her way back or ask for help with directions. It was a cold, winter night on Temple Square when we realized that little Lindsay had wandered off and was nowhere to be seen. We split up going different directions looking for her and rather scared in the pro-cess. It was Teva that found her in tow, leaving Temple square with some woman who had her by the hand. There was obviously no effort being made to find this little lost girl's parents - they were leaving the area! When Teva reached Lindsay, the woman didn't have even a word of apology or explanation or anything. We were happy to find her, of course, but it was only later that the full realization of the possible consequences of that night hit us. We really did almost lose her, and that is a scary thought to be sure.
Family birthdays have been celebrated in a less formal way. The birthday child gets to pick what they want for dinner - Keri always chooses chicken/broccoli casserole, always. After dinner we bring on the cake or other dessert with candles on it singing "Happy Birthday" in complete disharmony, as bad as it can possibly be sung. Then come the gifts, usually only two or three from the whole family that Mother has picked out because it is impossible to get the family together to go shopping together. They are wrapped in newspaper. And then, of course, come the birthday spankings, usually with Dad holding the bigger kids down while everybody takes their turn at wielding the hand.
Other holidays have fewer traditions, but there still are some. Around Valentine's Day we often make and decorate heart-shaped cookies, but that is about it. Easter brings the usual basket full of egg-shaped candy, coloring eggs and having the annual Easter egg hunt. There is always the "special" egg that brings with it a $5 or so prize if you find it. The fourth of July usually means a family picnic and watching the fireworks in the city park. Halloween has never been my favorite holiday so costuming is a do-it-yourself project for the kids. There have been years when I have repented and even sewed a costume or two, but that has been the exception rather than the rule. Over the years, however, we have had plenty of witches, robots, Jack-in-the-Boxes, princesses, bats and Superman, 50's girls, and hobo's. All these characters go out Trick or Treating come rain, snow or shine. One year we decided that we'd had enough of the candy grabbing and decided to go to a family movie on Halloween night. The kids did not think that such a good idea so we gave it up the next year.
Thanksgiving is very traditional with the very large turkey (we once had a 21 pounder when Keri was just a baby - it lasted us for weeks!), dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, jello, homemade butterhorn rolls, and lots of pies. The idea is to not have to cook again soon and to get to eat pie for breakfast the next several days. We also have appetizers of veggies and dip, cheese ball and crackers, and hotdogs or chicken livers rolled in bacon strips. Thanksgiving is Yum!
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Back in Colorado
When we knew we were to come back to Colorado where Brent would again be involved in the IBA dairy supply business, we opted to live in Ft. Collins where we had been before. It wasn't as centrally located for Brent's business as a few other communities but it had so many amenities that our family could enjoy. It had the universi-ty, was a nice not-too-big-and-not-too-small size, and was a pretty town with nice, very middle-class homes and shopping areas. We found a home to purchase in the southwest part of town on a cul-de-sac. It was smaller by far than we had been recently used to but it was nice and well landscaped and it was fine. Brent had come out early to begin the business. While in Ft. Collins by himself, he lived in a little camper trailer and missed us a lot I think. But business was getting off to a good start, and we were looking forward to being with him soon. The family arrived in June of 1983.
Earlier that winter, by the way, in preparation for Brent's establishing the IBA business in Colorado, he and I, Keri and Jeff flew out to Boston to the company headquarters to pick up a truck that we would be purchasing from them to get started. This distributorship would require a much larger vehicle than in Utah when Brent had a smaller area as a dealer. It was a snowy day when we arrived, but, hey, we'd been in snow before and didn't think much of it. Brent dropped us off in downtown Boston to spend the day exploring while he went out to the company offices to meet the boss man. Well, it did stop snowing and it was cold and wet and mighty uncomfortable. After walking around a bit, we decided to find a nice, warm movie theater to spend some time in. We were able the next day to see a few sights there in Boston like the Paul Revere House, but mostly we were ready to leave with the weather as awful as it was. What we didn't know is that this was going only to get worse as we climbed into the truck and headed west. It would have been a long trip across country anyway, but with the snow, it was ridiculously slow. There was so much that we had wanted to do and see on the way that became impossible as we tried to outrun the brunt of the storm, which turned out to be the "storm of the century" in the eastern U.S. We did take a few hours in Philadelphia to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. We also stopped for an afternoon in Nauvoo, Illinois, and saw Abraham Lincoln's home in Springfield. It was a good trip, altogether, one I'd like to repeat someday but in the summertime When we got to Kansas City, Brent put us on a plane back to Utah and he finished the trip to Ft. Collins alone to begin his few months of bachelorhood.
When we were finally all together in our new home in Ft. Collins, we immediately began to get reacquainted and involved there. I attended a series of piano master classes being taught by Wendel Diebel with whom I had studied when we lived in Ft. Collins before. There at the classes, I met Karen Lesser, also a member of the church, and the two of us began talking about starting a children's song and dance group. I was ready for something different after the past five years of steady piano teaching and my children were the right ages to be involved in such a program. We started the Our Gang Singers that September with rehearsals in our basement. There were initially about 45 kids, all girls, divided into two age groups. Both Karen and I played the piano, so we took turns directing, choreographing and accompanying. I designed a cute little costume with red pants and a white blouse with tuxedo tails and came up with a logo of children dancing on a music staff. We were in business. I know that we had no idea at the beginning that his meager effort would turn into a thriving business and, for sure, no idea of the turns and bumps and bruises that the future of Our Gang Singers would bring. In those days, things were very simple. We were partners, not legally because it had never occurred to us to put it all on paper, and we discussed everything and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We performed as often as we could in the community, never thinking to charge a fee for those performances. Our children were involved and we were giving them an opportunity to sing and grow in confidence through performance experience. That was the jist of the Our Gang Singers program.
Changes came gradually as we added numbers and did what we could to meet their needs. After about a year and a half, we moved our classes into rented space from the Unitarian Church because traffic in the cul-de-sac was becoming bothersome to the neighbors. We formed a "performing" group and got a lot of criticism from parents of children not chosen to be in that more select group. The criticism bothered me, but it was what we felt that we should do. We were really doing a lot of things by trial and error in those days, I admit. Karen's husband was transferred to England for a couple of years, so for 6 months or so I ran the program by myself with a hired accompanist. At that time my sister, Denise, moved to town. Her husband was going to go into a dairy related business working with equipment installations. I was happy to have a partner again. She couldn't play the piano (other than Swanee River) but she was a gifted choreographer and had lots of energy and ideas to contribute.
The program continued to grow until we decided that we needed our own place to hold classes. I made the plunge and leased a house in a commercially-zoned neighborhood and we made the move. We called it the Community Arts Academy with the idea that we would expand the program offerings to include other kinds of arts instruction. It was an idea I had spent hours talking with Paul Pollei about when we lived in Utah. We had even looked at buildings there and made up business plan proposals, etc. even though we did not implement any of them. It is interesting to wonder "what if" and how your life would have been different "if you had...." I think how my life would have been very much different had we stayed in Utah and continued in the direction we were going there or had we stayed in Des Moines and raised our family. What if there had never been a Community Arts Academy, which had not been a popular idea in the first place with my associates. What if we hadn't moved back to Ft. Collins and instead had gone to a little rural community or lived on a dairy. What if, what if.... It is interesting, if fruitless, to imagine.
But we did start the Community Arts Academy to house the Our Gang Singers song and dance troupes. We started renting space for Our Gang classes. We began a group for high school age guys and gals called Encore! because Keri was now at that age. Its first year was no doubt the best. The pool of talent in that first group was incredible. Because so many of the kids came from one high school - which was Rocky Mountain High School which Keri attended - the choral instructor, Herb Goodrich, and Denise and I decided to merge Encore! with his fledgling jazz choir there at the school. It was a great idea, except that we didn't know that Denise and her family would move to California before school began that September and that Goodrich would leave the school district in which he had taught for some 15 years in October of that next school year. Denise's husband, Jim was going to California to work with his father in the Kentucky Fried Chicken business. Denise hated it and being in California and was back in Ft. Collins within a year, but, of course, none of us knew that would happen. Dr. Goodrich left after what seemed to me a trumped up scandal born of jealousy that accused him of misconduct with students. The charges were eventually dropped but the damage had already been done and, as far as I can see, everybody lost. It was a very sad situation for him, for the students and for the community.
Anyway, I ended up directing Encore! there at the school that year by myself. It still was good and Denise came out from California a few times to do choreography for us. I also did some myself and was getting better at it. Actually, I'd be considered pretty good at it if Denise weren't around. It is just that she is so much better at it. Encore! was chosen to represent the school at the State Music Teachers Convention at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs that year, a real honor any time, but particularly for a show choir group. We received a lot of applause and compliments there. However, when the new high school director, Barb Lueck, was hired, she was anxious to build her own program and was not interested in continuing to have me and Encore! there at the school. So Encore! was once again a part of the Community Arts Academy.
We also turned a select group of the young Our Gang Singers into a "professional" performing group, even calling them the Our Gang Pros. Lindsay was in that group and was 9 years old at the time. One of the mothers of another girl in the group, Elaine Cole, the mother of Shey Sperry, started doing promotions for that little group, and she had big plans for them. We started charging a fee for this group to perform, doing a lot of costume changes, etc. When Karen left, I purchased a sound system for the performances and basically learned how to operate it, although it has never been my favorite thing to do. We also started making accompaniment tapes to sing to rather than using the piano all the time. We were making changes, and we hoped that it was progress.
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In the meantime, it was time for Colin. I had never been one to have strong spiritual manifestations or even feelings about how many children we should have, etc. But while I had been in the hospital after giving birth to Merrit I had the distinct impression that I could be doing it one more time - not the thing you want to think about after just having gone through labor and delivery - and that it would be a boy that we would have. I tried ignoring that feeling for a couple years but it would not go away. While I had never been "baby hungry" (in fact, Brent always said that if we waited for me to be "ready" to have another baby, we would never have had any), I was real-
ly not anxious to get pregnant again this time. Besides, I was 34 and I had always said that I was going to be finished having my family by the time I was 30! But the feeling persisted until finally I said, okay, if we were going to have another one, let's get on with it so I didn't have to be pregnant again through another hot and miserable summer.
Colin Francis was born June 26, 1985, in the Poudre Valley Hospital, making that the hospital where all three of the boys were born. The next day I had my tubes tied without regret. I figured that I had done my duty in "multiplying and replenishing the earth." Brent and my quivers were plenty full. With so many big sisters and brothers, I always said that Colin was treated like a pet. He was their plaything, their toy, their baby doll to dress up and feed and play with. One interesting fact is that Brent had had a dream just before Colin was born in which he saw his son-to-be. He described him as being blondish and athletic. I guess Colin was meant to be a part of our family.