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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 25

"It Didn't Occur to me at the Time"
[12-28-07 A short chapter 24 was inserted before this newly numbered chapter.]

The Friday after that move, Mom said goodbye to her bosses and co-workers at Star Oil, not knowing that in her hand was the last paycheck she would ever earn. I asked Mom how it felt walking out of work that day. Did she feel happy or sad that she would never "work outside the home" again for the rest of her life. She said something that could be the subtitle for all of our lives: ...................

It didn't occur to me at the time.

As I wrap up this story, I'd like to give my readers a sense of the kinds of conversations that went into its writing, so I'm just going to let Mom tell this part herself. This is not the conversation that began in Chapter One, when I heard the story for the first time. This is very recent. The Italicized paragraphs below are her:

"It didn't occur to me at the time," she said, "Wouldn't it be awful to know the future. I was frightened enough to face the changes one day at a time. If we fully understood that some changes change everything, I think it would scare us half to death. No... my last day at Star Oil felt pretty much like any other Friday. I just said my 'Merry Christmases' and left. Who would've guessed that four years later I'd have four kids. Kathy was born in April; Paul the March after; David the June after that; and you in April of '56, That's the way it was back then--Boom Boom Boom. Stair steps (then Jimmy came as the caboose later on). But I didn't know what was comin'...It didn't occur to me at the time.

"I did see those people at Star Oil through the years. The owner, Mr. Kaiser--not Mr. Kellerman my boss, but the owner--he bought Kathy her first pair of baby shoes. Came right to our place house to see Kathy and give me the shoes himself. Here's the funny thing, it wasn't that second apartment on Wells Street. The landlady there was scary--she yelled at us for making noise. Virg and Bev had been over playing cards late, and Virg went outside for a smoke and came trouncing up the stairs with that laugh of his. Well the landlady just about ran up after him for waking them up. She was a scary lady--so we moved to Glenwood Street in March, the month before Kathy was born.

"It was at Glenwood that your Dad built me a nice clothes line. I didn't have my Speedqueen yet, so I was still washing by hand and wringing the clothes out like before. I'd take the wet clothes out and hang 'em on the line in whatever order I pulled 'em out. It's seems funny to me now, but the clothes used to freeze out there on the line. Then one day your dad came home, looked at the line, and said, 'Wouldn't it look nicer if you hung the towels with the towels and the linens with the linens and the underwear in between on the center line instead of just hangin' it every which way?' Well, it had never occurred to me to care how I hung things on the line. The point was to get 'em dry and take 'em down, but after that I started hanging them in categories with the underwear in the middle. I didn't mind. It made sense. It just hadn't occurred to me that it made any difference to your dad.

"Okay. Where was I. Oh, yes. From Glenwood we moved to Detroit. Your dad got transferred with Bell. I was due for Paul in March, but I wanted to deliver in Port Huron so I went to live at Forest Street during the last weeks while Dad finished his last month in Detroit. Then we moved into a Duplex on Riverside after Paul was born. By then we had enough money to buy the house at 1127 Lapeer Avenue. That's where we lived when Dave was born.

"So in those two years we lived in seven different places--me who had never left home until I was married, and your poor Dad had to carry that Duncan Phyfe with us to each new address."

She laughed. And I stopped taking notes and joined in her thoughts.

"Mom, I was born in '56, and we were still on Lapeer Avenue.

I remember the Duncan Phyfe being in the front room, but it still didn't have chairs. Did you ever get chairs for it?"

"No. We never did. We hardly ever used it, but we--I--always planned to eventually."

"After Lapeer Avenue. We moved into the house we were building on Atkins Road in 1960. I remember the Duncan Phyfe was down in the family room where we put up the Christmas tree that year, but I don't remember ever sitting at that table."

"We only lived there a year and a half, and we were so busy still building the house around us we never had time to do much else. I think we used it a couple times."

"Then in 1961, we moved to Roseville. I remember the Duncan Phyfe was in the basement over by the laundry room. Whenever we ate down there with the cousins, I think we sat at it then."

"Yes. We opened it up, and put you kids at it for Thanksgiving, but we just used those old folding chairs around it."

"Mom, you and Dad hauled that table to about ten different places, but you never got to use it in a formal dining room--which is why you brought it home in the first place."

"You're right, but we never were very formal as it turned out. I'm still glad Dad got it for me. It was for my "someday dining room." You've got to have 'somedays' to hold on to. That's what hope is--even if it never happens. That's how it was with that table. We got a formica-and chrome table like everybody else and ate at it in the kitchen all those years. By the time I had a dining room, Jim was born [1968] and there were seven of us. So we got the maple colonial from Ethan Allen. It's just one of those things. Who'da guessed?

Your kids are growing up and getting married and going off to school. You're old enough to see how life works, Tom. It's a blur--a vapor--and that's why I'm glad you like to write. I can tell stories, but I can't write 'em down."

"Well, I couldn't have written this without you telling it all those years and answering all these questions for months on the phone. But what you were saying is true. The older I get the more I see that families stories are less about what did occur... and more about the million things that didn't occur to us at the time. I think of that whenever I see that old table."

"I haven't seen it in years, Tom. Where is it?" Mom asked.

"It's right where we used it last. Remember?"

"Is it still there after all these years?"

"Yep. It's still there, Mom. I'll have Bob take some pictures."


And what became of the Duncan Phyfe? If you’ve read this far, you’ve earned the right to know. One more chapter to go, an epilogue of sorts, before we wrap this up for a belated Christmas present.


Blogger the walking man said...

That's a lot of haulin' for a table beloved. But I remember always sitting at the kids table at thanksgiving and I assure you it wasn't a Duncan Phyfe.

Dear Mrs. Tom's mom, you have a wonderful story here and I bet a dollar to a donut that while all this was going on you never realized there was a story in the making.

Personally I relished every word even the ones that made me a little sad because my childhood wasn't as pleasant as the one you gave your kids, not bad mind you, just not as loving.

May you spend the Christmas season in the blessings that Christ brought to the world.


Mark Durfee

20/12/07 2:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy Tom, can I sort of relate to this story, though I'm not nearly as old as your mom. But older than you!
I agree, it's a good thing we don't know the future!!! I remember once telling my mom (I was a little girl) that I wished I knew the future and she wisely said that that wouldn't be a good thing!
Never really thought this when I was younger....but we all have a story to tell. Think about it---God is weaving one, with us in it, as we live!!! Won't it be interesting "in Eternity" to see how it all works together?? All of us, who don't really know each other here??!!!
Can't wait for your next chapter!!

20/12/07 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgot to elaborate just "why" I can relate! The moves your parents made for one....and also the wash on the line! I have a time early in our marriage when I had to hang it outside in all seasons. It froze of course...then I'd bring it in and drape it so it could thaw and really dry before folding or ironing (yes "that"!) and putting it away.
Younger people, today, just really have it ALOT easier---and take it oh, so for granted too,.

20/12/07 9:00 AM  
Blogger Rhea said...

I wanted to wish you and yours a Happy Holiday! See you around the blogosphere!

20/12/07 3:55 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Yes, there is nothing like the "kid table" at thanksgiving. In a couple days, we will be having Christmas dinner at Julie's home in Kansas... and there will be a cousin table and a "grown up" table. I wonder where my married daughter will be "placed" this year?
Thank you for writing to Tom's Mom. She does know you from comments. It was so nice of you to think of her and write to her. She was a great mom. More about that in the epilogue. =)
Peace to you, too, Mark...

Hmmmm... I'm trying to think of which "anon" this is but no matter. Thanks for remembering with us, and yes, it is amazing how "things work together" here on earth, but we're looking at the bottom of the embroidery someday we'll see it from above and it will make even more sense. Hmmmm.. I might include that image in the epilogue.
I remember running through the damp sheets on the clothes line on hot summer days--that felt nice--but by the time I came along Mom had her Speedqueen washer and drier. She didn't use the line in the winter.

This is a story for Boomers. Thanks for stopping by. Merry Christmas!

20/12/07 5:13 PM  
Anonymous SQ still away said...

Once Christmas is over I plan to visit your blog and catch up on your continuing story about your parents. As I recall the last entry I read was about her being pregnant. I love your story about your parents. Tell your mom for me that her life has made a difference and in mostly hidden, far reaching ways. This seems to be the case for most of us. We don't always know the good we do. I would say that rarely do we recognize when we truly have been an instrument of Providence. I like the way that works, because then we are not tempted to become full of ourselves.

21/12/07 6:48 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks. I know you have been on a special mission through the holidays, but I'm thankful for what you shared and knew my Mom would be encouraged by these words.

The coming epilogue answers many questions and wraps up what I've learned about life my parents from this long writing project AND tells you the unexpected continuing existence of the now-legendary table =). My family will be seeing Mom over the New Year's weekend and hope to give her the first hard copy draft of all this story from beginning to end at that time. I've got some writing to do, but I will be away from POI for a few days.

Please continue to leave comments. Marks up at the top and SQ's have given me an idea.

Merry Christmas!

21/12/07 7:00 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

The best part about all of this is that even though the table didn't get used much as it was intended, it's purpose in your family has proven to be much greater in the big picture. Too cool.

Julie in Colorado

21/12/07 7:34 AM  
Blogger Julie said...


I had left my previous comment before checking back in on my own blog. If I had done that first, I might have put a little more thought into my ramblings. Anyway, hopefully you get my drift!

Happy Holidays!

Julie in Colorado

21/12/07 11:34 AM  
Blogger Cris said...

This has really been a great story Tom.

21/12/07 11:39 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Your mom is one special lady- with a wealth of wisdom stored in her head and her heart. I am delighted that you took the time to make a "hard copy" and to share this with your readers. It has been an inspiration for me, as a mom, for my relationship with my adult children.

My prayers for your mom and her battle with cancer, continue daily.

Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family. You have been a blessing to me in so many ways and I look forward to more "Patterns of Ink" in the New Year!

21/12/07 11:48 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

I have enjoyed each 'chapter' as you have both unfolded it here at POI. I love the details and humor and thought intertwined with the frustrations and fears. It's so easy to 'relate'- even though I'm years younger and not as far into my own life journey.
My family traditions growing up have many similarities to your stories here, including the grown-up and kids' tables at holiday meals and the 'misunderstandings' that take place in the lives of newlyweds. =)
I have said outloud and blogged about and thought many times about how glad I am that we don't know the future. It is in taking it one day at a time and learning total dependance on God that Chip and I 'look so together' in our own life. In some of our worst moments I have wished that I could 'flip to the end of the book'...because it is with such Hope and utter Faith that I KNOW that there is a meaningful and very worthwhile 'ending'. I have come to see that life's little twists and turns can change us...not how we would like things to go sometimes. Just as your Mom and Dad had other 'plans'...but in looking back it makes for a wonderful life. Well, I can't say that I know their whole story but from knowing you and your family, I have to think that your mom would say she was very blessed. I have been touched by the writing of this story and by the links to history and 'pop culture' and I hope your mom knows that I am better for hearing bits and pieces of her journey.
As for the clothesline...I miss the one we had at our previous home up in Gaylord. I have a few photos of Bella as a baby sitting in the empty laundry basket with the sheets hanging and drying in the sunshine behond her. Teagan loved to 'help' me with the laundry. She would hold the clothespin container and hand them to me one by one as I, neatly and orderly, hung the clothes out to dry. To me it was a 'treat' to be able to dry our laundry in the fresh air all summer.
It was always fun to talk over the fence to our neighbor lady, Fran too. We had wonderful conversations and then when the clothes were all up on the line we would walk around to her backyard and sit on her step or wooden 'porch swing' and talk about life and gardening and such. We shared vegetables and baked goods and laughs and talked about how fast the days go by.
We had no idea 'how quickly' the days were coming to an end for Teagan that summer of '01. Fran said it was hardest for her to pulled weeds and hang laundry the rest of that summer..."because it just didn't feel right without Teagan alongside her, chatting and 'helping' as the chores got done".
Your mom is right. It just didn't occur to us at that time that what we had was a gift and a priceless treasure. I thank God for memories and that is what you share so well with all of us readers. Merry Christmas to you and your family. Especially your Mom this year.
With love...

22/12/07 10:58 AM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

hi Tom, i can identify with your Mother's "it didn't occur to me at the time." sometimes, in the moment, we just don't know or even think about the future. i've loved reading your book, and it's taken me thru many emotions and memories. i feel a sadness as we're finishing up here, but the good thing about that is i can always come back here and read it again, just like i'd re-read any other good book, or just like i'd watch over and over again the same good movie, which i'll do with yours once you and Hallmark hook up (smile!).

i want to wish you and your family a safe and blessed holiday season. HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

22/12/07 3:34 PM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

My Great Aunt from Pigeon, Michigan, had a Duncan Phyfe and was quite surprised when my wife knew what it was. At the age of 92, she passed away. As for the Duncan Phyfe, I have no idea where it went.

Have a great holiday. I'm looking forward to reading about the mystery of your family heirloom.

23/12/07 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS...first of all!!
The "ANON" is the one that lives as a sandwich of sorts between you and Minnesota! We should think of a better name for me, doncha think??? I'd like to remain "anon" but yet----keep the dialogue going!
Are you getting the "wonderful" weather over there??? Lake Effect if so! It's awful here! Bad roads and many accidents! Travel in MN and eastward probably isn't advised today. Hopefully tomorrow it will be alot better!

23/12/07 10:51 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

It's Christmas Eve day. We are at one of the places we call "home" in Kansas (Julie's childhood home). I have temporary access to the internet so I'll try to update.

We drove through a terrible blizzard to get here but we made it (passed by many wrecks along the way and even stopped to help at a bad one, but we were not in the 40-car pile-up you may have heard about in our route.

Julie In CO, we must have crossed paths in cyberspace. Thank you. You are so right!

Cris, There's a little more to come. I've had some time to write and revise for the New Year's "printed draft," but not able to post at the present.

Thanks for your encouragement since we met about a year ago (I think). My Mom does try to see the blessing in each day... even the hard ones.

Your life in many ways (but the sorrow of losing a child) is very like my Mom's "stair step" experience with her kids. Like you, Mom brought spontaneity to our lives. Lot's of fun. Lot's of "down on our level" fun through the years. I hope I can hint at that in the epilogue chapter(s).
Thanks so much for this encouraging note.

You make me laugh! But I must admit that writing this has felt at times like watching some of my favorite "Hallmark" commercials. If such a thing ever happens, I will use you as a reference!
There is some good remaining work ahead that wrap up the story a little better than I have so far.

Thanks for coming out of retirement to write a holiday note. The "what happened to the table" part is an interesting object lesson of our life as a family.

Anon in Wiscon:
There. That'll do for nickname. We did get that snow in West Michigan, but I am in Kansas for Christmas and we got it here, too. We drove through a bad blizzard to get her. It was like Earl Hamner's, The Homecoming (from which "The Waltons" got started). Did it ever feel good to step through the door.

Thanks for reading and sticking with my slow unfolding tale. There's still some good closure ahead.
Until I have access to the internet again...
Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

24/12/07 10:02 AM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

Just stopped by to wish you a merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

24/12/07 7:12 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

On an off-topic note, Merry Christmas!

25/12/07 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a different Anon. I came by to get caught up and wish you a Merry Christmas. Ours was fun here but not white like yours.
Will you be posting the revised version so we can read it in order? That would be nice. Hint Hint.

25/12/07 5:01 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Dr. John and Wordsmith,
Merry Christmas a day late!

I know it is hard to read blog episodes backwards. I was trying to give someone instructions on where to begin just yesterday. (Go to end, read down, scroll up, read down, scroll up--it does get old.) There may be a way for me to save it in "book form" as a PDF file and then link to it. I'm not sure how that's done, but I'll look into it.
I'll be printing a hard copy in book form for my mom and siblings this week. =)

I hope to post the epilogue soon. I'm on dial up right now and it may be too slow to do it today.

26/12/07 10:52 AM  
Blogger heiresschild said...

hi Tom, i'm glad you and your family made it thru the stormstorm safely. sounds kind of exciting though, especially since you didn't have to do it alone.

my link info has changed, so when you click on my name, it'll take you to my blog and you can get the new link info there. the present link you have for me is obsolete.

have a safe trip back home!

26/12/07 2:04 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

We're back safely! And back to highspeed internet, too.
The roads between Kansas and Michigan were great--we didn't even run into traffic around Chicago. It was good to be "home" with loved ones in Kansas, but as always after road trips... it's good to be home! Tomorrow we are going "home" to spend some time with my mom and Bob (and giving her a printed revised copy of this full manuscript).

28/12/07 9:38 AM  

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