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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

Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Unsettled" Chapter 3

The Places That We Pick

[Here’s a recap of events so far: My Dad went “squirrel hunting” and spent the day scouting out some unsettled land he wanted to buy as a homestead. He had begun a similar process in Port Huron back in 1960, but then his job at Bell moved us to the Detroit area. Mom and Dad sold their dream house quicker than expected and had to buy a house in a hurry. It was just “for a while,” because Dad had no desire to live in the city, but “whiles” by nature tend to pass when no one’s looking at the clock. Full seven years “whiled by” from the time we moved to Roseville to the time Dad found the land, and it would be another seven years before we lived in the house we built there. This story is about those latter seven years, that unsettled time in our lives when we still resided in the suburbs but spent every weekend, every school break, and nearly all of Dad’s “vacation time” working with him at “the property,” as we called the land until it became our home.]

Why were these unsettling years? What boy doesn‘t dream of having his own “forest“ to run wild in? When asked on a Monday at school “Wudja do this weekend?” what boy would not be proud to say, “We felled some trees to make some logs to build our barn”? This kind of work was so cool to talk about that most of our friends began coming out to work with us, and between all the hours of work with Dad there was equally as much time for play. He made sure of that, for watching us boys from his perch on the tractor seat or high in the log rafters of the barn reminded him that his dream was real, that the decision to live someday in the country, in the woods, had indeed been a good one. We boys loved the place that Dad had picked to build our home. But when I say these years were unsettling, I’m not talking about us boys, I’m speaking more of Mother.

Something happened to Mom in Roseville that Dad had not anticipated. Something happened with each passing year in those narrow streets and yards so close that housewives spending days alone could talk while hanging laundry on the line. Something happened summer afternoons on the cool cement stoop of our porch with the sidewalk just a wave away and where people passing always spoke and where children from blocks around would while away the afternoons with Mrs. K, the lady who always had time to visit… something happened.

Mom fell in love with that neighborhood where nearly everything and everyone was close. She loved that Mr. Nebola picked the place outside her kitchen window to plant his Morning Glories.
Each summer a different color draped the chain link fence between our back yards. Beneath the leaves a thousand spiral fingers wrapped 'round the wire. These clinging vines were his not ours--that is the stems attached to earth on his side of the fence, and it was his care they received--but the blooms themselves were faithful only to the sun and always opened biggest on our side [the east side] of the fence. Mom loved that she could see them from her kitchen window.

She loved that a cup of sugar or a half-a-loaf of bread or two teaspoons of vanilla were just a neighbor away in a pinch or a few blocks away at the grocery store if she planned ahead. Mom was usually in a pinch but the neighbors didn’t mind, and her friends did the same with her.

It was through borrowed pinches of time that the neighbor ladies got to know each other. [Hard as it is to believe today, in the Sixties, in the suburbs, nearly every house had inside a housewife home alone.] Mom loved that when she shook a rug from the front porch, she’d see others doing the same from just a yoo-hoo away. More than any place she’d lived since Forest and Riverview, the house where she was born, the house she'd left the day she married, Mom felt at home in Roseville, and she loved it.

Ironically, it was the nearness of everything that bothered Dad. What he disliked about our neighborhood was not the neighbors but the tight squeeze of unshared space. Lot lines were so precise that “edgers,” bladed wheels at the end of a long wooden handle, served as border patrol, trimming encroaching blades of grass from the concrete lines of “yours and mine.” Back yards were even more distinct with a four-foot chain link fence around a lawn ten-paces square. The very closeness that let Mom visit from her bedroom window to her friend’s kitchen window was the very closeness that frustrated Dad. The more closed-in he felt, the more often he told himself that this was not the kind of place he'd pick to raise his family.

For Mom, the dream they'd shared for all those years had a softer focus before the land was purchased. There had been a time when she wanted to live in the country just a much as Dad did, but something happened in the seven years of neighborhood living. She kept it deep inside.

The thought of a bigger house, made just the way she wanted with kids and someday grandkids running all around--that thought made her smile. But the out-in-the-country part, the not-a-neighbor-in-sight part, the surrounded-by trees part… these thoughts made her fearful. And each time they came to mind her eyes took her someplace far away as her fingers searched for imperfections on her skin. Up and down the back of her arm (or down her leg if she was sitting), whenever she slipped deep in thought, she seemed unaware that her hand was acting on its own.

Then with a shake of her head she’d say as if she were standing beside herself, “Don’t worry about it, Bev, When the time comes, it’ll be fine.” And with a shallow breath of confidence, she’d go about her day not knowing that the place her fingernail had picked was bleeding.


Blogger Jo said...

Hi, Tom, I am just popping over to say hello, and I will be back to read your series. I love your stories about your family. And I adore Morning Glories.

PS, it's me - Josie. I have a new blog *sigh* and you can link to it through here.

10/8/08 12:54 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

I'm just loving the story. we grew up with the best of both worlds. We had all the woods in back of the house and yet we were in a little neighborhood were everybody knew everybody.

10/8/08 6:21 PM  
Anonymous quilly said...

Oh, you have left me with an ache in my heart for both of your parents. For one to have what s/he wants, the other has to let a dream go.

10/8/08 8:55 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Hey, Jo! Thanks for coming by. You’ve had three wonderful blog concepts since I first met you. Me? I’m just the same ol’ brown paper-bag POI.

My daughter and her husband (married last summer)just bought a "fixer-upper" and we've been spending long days and late nice in "elbow grease" and sore muscles... so the chapters are coming out slower than usual.

Dr. John,
That is a nice combination--sort of like "Bridge to Terrabithia" (sp). Thanks for letting me know you're reading. I'll keep plugging away on this one in the weeks ahead. Mom was very social, and Dad often confessed he could have been a hermit up in the U.P. and been fine with it. (I don't think he really could have done that, but he joked about it.)

It's funny how we understand things better as adults. During the years of these posts, I had no idea that Mom had mixed feelings about the move--though it took years to happen. She was supportive, but since Jimmy was so young, her role was typically bringing lunch or supper out to us. More about that later.

10/8/08 10:40 PM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

I like your intro, how you recap what I've previously read -- makes it so much easier for me to pick up where I'd left off. As for having more space, so many families face this same issue. Whether its the neighbors, crime, etc... I guess what I'm trying to say is: you have a nice way of connecting with your readers.

10/8/08 11:17 PM  
Blogger the walking man said...

I'm thinking this was the fifties but I believe that I am wrong and this was more honestly the late 60's early 70's. Living south of 8 mile was very different in the 60's and 70's. Not bad, bad yet, just different. The whirlwind changes were tuning up.

Another well done write here Tom. All I can say is, and...

11/8/08 2:44 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I thought the recap might be of help since it's taking me a while to get where I intend to go. Been very busy lately.

If I'm reading your "and..." correctly it means time to make some progress in this storyline. I agree. If this were on paper, you'd read everything I've said so far in a few minutes, but this one or two "chapters" a week is like death by a thousand cuts. =)

Thanks for you patience everyone.

11/8/08 7:59 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Tom~ I can see how difficult these days must be as you settle the estate and close this chapter of your lives. You have so much "blood, sweat, and tears", invested in that land... how will you close that door and walk away? You and your family are in my prayers.

I look forward to the next chapter but take your time and enjoy each word you type.

11/8/08 7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my! I think I can relate to your mom....so much! The Hub grew up as a farm boy and yearned for an acreage out in the country! I was "city" girl and the thought of being secluded really never appealed to me. We did compromise at one time, building on 2/3 of an acre in a subdivision. That was 5 miles out from town... I think as time went on, the idea of "running" back and forth with kids, shopping etc. soon made it clear to him that living in town might be the best! There was a time when the kids were teens that I kind of wished we "did" live on a farm or at least away from town to have "more things to do" to keep them busy! It's fun to think about the "what if's" now...... They're both grown and married!!!

11/8/08 8:32 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

We've had six months to get to this point, and like I said we have no particular pressure...just trying to be prudent in the timing of things. It is a happy-sad thing to "clean out a house" filled with a lifetime of memories. We live 3.5 hours away and can't be there as often as the other sibs, which makes it kind of hard, but I will be there for a few days in a week or so.

There is something about the old-school thought that "farm life" is better for kids, but I don't think any data can back it up. I think the key is keeping kids busy and productive. You know the old expression:"The idle mind is the Devil's playground." Dad kept us busy and kept "the vision" before us. These were wonderful years and some amazing things we did in them. Hope to convey that here.

11/8/08 10:19 PM  

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