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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

Friday, January 04, 2008

Photos From The Attic

And a New One New Year's Eve

We had a wonderful Christmas and New Years with family. First in Kansas and then the east side of Michigan. We drove to Kansas in a blizzard which made our arrival feel like the last scene of Earl Hamner Jr.'s "The Homecoming." The trip back to Michigan was clear.

Then for New Year's weekend, we drove across the state to the "homestead" described in the epilogue. It is always good to be "home." Mom and Bob had a new bay window installed in their front room overlooking the front porch with the swing. It looks great. They even had a fire going in the fireplace.

Coming home from there Tuesday evening, we drove three hours through another blizzard, but the all-wheel drive brought us safely home again. It was great to be "home" in Kansas with Julie's family; it was great to be "home" with my Mom, Bob, siblings, spouses-in-law, nieces and nephews, too; but it's also great to be "home" (here at home) with the snow outside and a warm fire burning inside for these past few days of this new year.

While at my Mom's, we spent an afternoon looking through boxes of pictures in the attic (actually, we brought the boxes down to the warm living room). I could have kept looking all night, but we had a party to get to. It's especially fun to hear Mom narrate each snapshot. She held up one picture of her childhood home and said, "I'm not kidding you, Tom. I can smell this room. I can feel it and smell it just like I was sitting there." I knew exactly what she meant.

Photographs are a sort of time travel for the part of us that dwells deep within our skin, the part that feels as young as the person in the picture... the part that says, "I remember you."
I've inserted these epilogue photographs in chronological order. My sister Kathy was born in April just like Mom had calculated. The photo (at left) was taken the summer after.

I won't go into details here, but there was an old wives' tale that someone told my mom that suggested that a woman who was nursing a baby could not get pregnant. Remember this is back in the "rabbit test" days when as Mom used to say, "We didn't know nothing about nothing" when it came to these things.

My brother Paul was born less than a year later. (For a few weeks they are the same age.) That's Kathy and Paul beside the Formica table that we used through the Sixties.

Then my brother Dave came along 14 months after Paul. That's him there in the middle. Dad had his hands full, but this was how Mom's entire days were spent when he was at work.

Then in '56, I joined the swim team. That's me beside Mom. [Paul must have taken the picture.] I'm not sure if we were going to or coming from the beach, but my "swim suit" looks a little wet.

These two pictures reminded me that this was before disposable diapers, and no, Mom did not have a diaper service. For eight years running, she had from one to three kids in diapers at the same time and laundered them herself.

Keeping us clean was no trouble at all. Every Saturday night, whether we needed it or not, all four of us piled into the tub together. This, of course, soon eliminated Kathy, but the three of us boys played in the tub 'til our fingertips were pruny.

That's Dave at the right and me sitting in front, content to be a part of this happy bubble bath. That claw-foot tub was in the house on Lapeer Avenue. From there, we moved to the house we were builing on Atkins Road.

Then a year later we moved to Roseville where my little brother Jim was born in 1968. I used to like to carry him around on my shoulders. "He ain't heavy...he's my brother." Here's Jim the following summer in the back yard with our '65 Plymouth Fury.

Jim has the unique honor of having most of his "growing up" pictures in color. A few years back, I wrote something for him that began, "You may sometimes wonder what you brought to our world / How things were different than before. / I think I speak for all of us...You made everything matter more." It's true. I can't imagine our family without all five of us siblings and each of our spouses who one-by-one joined the family. We still get together whenever possible (and together the five couples represent over 130 years of marriage so far).

Mom found this one a few weeks ago and gave us each a copy. That's my dad's mom, Grandma K_, at the right. I had never seen this photo before so it's been fun to study the details.
Here we are almost 50 years later. Jim (right) enjoys photography and set up this picture of all five of us with Mom on New Year's Eve.

New Year!


Blogger MommyKnows said...

What a great post! I love the old pictures.


5/1/08 12:32 AM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

You are truly blessed that you have such a close, loving family. Something that is very precious but few of us have. My own family gets on very well together but I doubt if we are that close. It was fun to look at your photos. Thanks for sharing.

5/1/08 4:55 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Welcome to POI. Like the title of your blog.

When you add the spouses and all the kids into the picture, it is quite a gathering. I'm afraid I take this gift so for granted that I didn't even think to take this picture. I'm so glad that Jim did.

Mom is in the middle of some pretty strong chemo treatments, but her spirits were very good. She and Dad fostered the kind of lasting bonds that kept us close. And I really should add that Kathy, a lifelong school-teacher, has been an organizational "second mamma" through the years. This party was at her house.

5/1/08 8:36 AM  
Blogger Tammy said...

I truly enjoyed every moment of this post...so beautifully written and such very precious photos.

Some sentences jumped out at me...

"She held up one picture of her childhood home and said, "I'm not kidding you, Tom. I can smell this room. I can feel it and smell it just like I was sitting there." I knew exactly what she meant."


"Photographs are a sort of time travel for the part of us that dwells deep within our skin, the part that feels as young as the person in the picture... the part that says, "I remember you." "

So very true...

I guess I would be close to the age of your little brother, Jim. I was born in '63 (so my photos are both in b&w and color!) :)

I loved knowing you all still have a close-knit family! My husband is one of 12 and it's the same with them, too.

A very Happy New year to you and your family!

5/1/08 6:14 PM  
Blogger Cris said...

What great pictures! I love taking trips down memory lane. :)

5/1/08 7:59 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Great pictures, Tom. Great to see the latest of the family, too.


5/1/08 9:59 PM  
Anonymous WSL said...

What is it about a blog that makes "one" feel like they actually "know" the people??? There's something about yours, at least, where I just want to pop on in and become a part of the story or relationship somehow.

I envy your close family as I don't have that. Not with my family nor the "in-laws". You are blessed for sure!


5/1/08 11:34 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for relating to the details. I wish you could have seen my Mom's face when she said that. It's her ability to remember sensory details that helped with with this writing project the last few months.

Our snow is melting. Is yours?

Love the title of your new blog. I hope this doesn't embarrass you but only a few people will see it. Jeff is a former student of mine from way back in the 80's. In fact, he is also a childhood friend of my brother Jim. If you go to his blog, you'll probably see that he is a funny, intelligent engineer and new blogger.

WSL, Wisconsin Sandwich Lady, I just had to say the nickname.

That is a high compliment. I hope many people feel a sense of home and belonging here. I have learned a lot from readers who have been able to enjoy this story though their experience was different. I'm more aware than ever that ordinary aspects of life are in fact extraordinary. I look back on it now and don't know how my parents did it, but my siblings are what we are because of them and the continued prayers of my mom.

6/1/08 12:38 AM  
Anonymous WSL said...

I believe we "all" are who we are due to our environment with growing up and then just plain "growing".

Even though I'm not close to my family...I still feel blessed! God has worked out His plan despite anything I, or others, might do or not do. :-)

I think, as we move into "middle-age" and beyond we ponder what was, what could have been OR what will bill. You are fortunate in that you still have people that you can ask the "important" questions of...plus you are writing down these things. This is a wonderful legacy to leave your own kids! Wish I'd have been so prudent!!!

You mention the prayers of your mom! As parents that's another legacy we can leave our kids and grandkids...praying for them, their friendships, their partners, their futures! I wonder upon the prayers that might have been on my behalf. Again that tapestry you wrote about....all the knots, the twists and turns of the thread...

6/1/08 1:09 PM  
Anonymous WSL said...

Correction on the 3rd paragraph....I should edit before I hit the "submit" tab!!

Make that "what will be.." NOT "what will bill"!

6/1/08 1:11 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

That's true. When we seek His face, God takes each of as we are and where we are and makes "all things new" as Christ said. He did not say he makes "all new things." He takes what is and makes it new.
You've touched on one of the great blessings that I did not include directly in this writing project (because it was not yet a part of this young couple's choices in life), but my mother was constantly praying for each of us and many other kids who chose to call her "mom." She specifically prayed for our life partners long before we met them (long before we were even dating). We used to say, "Mom, why do you do that. Are you trying to get us married off?" and she'd say, "The person you will spend the rest of your life with is out there somewhere living this very minute, she is making choices right now that impact your life together. I wan't you both to keep each other in mind even though you haven't yet met." Talk about changing your perspective on "dating." I have opportunity to talk to young people about these sorts of choices and I tell them to treat the person they are now "dating" not as if they will marry that person, but as if they will someday introduce that person to the person they eventually do marry. Not everyone gets married, I know, but this is good advice and I got it from Mom. Even to this day, she prays for us. I mentioned it briefly in the third part of a four part poem called "Visiting Home." Scroll down these April 2006 post to "The Wedding Guests"

Sorry this was so long.

6/1/08 2:08 PM  
Blogger Jody said...

I am just now getting caught up on all your latest blog posts. I loved the way you were able to tell so many stories and capture so many details and memories through the 'tale of an old table'. It just seems so fitting then, that you consider yourself a blend of romantic and realist. Isn't that often where a 'story' begins? On a date over dinner or a cup of coffee at a shop. I think it is a wondeful symbol and one that I appreciate so much in my own life. I have gotten so much out of your writings...and it's not even 'my tale'. Thanks so much for sharing with such depth, thought, humor and truth. It's beautiful. I have no doubt your own kids will appreciate having this all written out as they journey through life on their own paths.
It really is quite an adventure. I consider it a blessing that our paths have crossed in 'real life' too.
Happy New Year to you and your whole family. See you soon!

6/1/08 7:10 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Tom, you are so funny- I am still laughing as I write this... "He ain't heavy...he's my brother." Proof positive, we are about the same age. The photos are my photos too- the same couch, the same table, just different faces. My sister, 12 years younger, getting mostly color photos, balancing on my shoulders! She was heavy- I only weighed 60 pounds soaking wet("those were the days my friend").

My prayers for your mom continue and I do take my prayer time seriously. My prayers sound a lot like your mom's prayers- I prayed for spouses not yet met and now I am praying for unborn grandchildren.

Blessings to you my friend... you have blessed my life- richly!

6/1/08 9:17 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...


I'm still gathering "comments" to add to an insert for Mom's "book." I had some printed drafts with me this past weekend and we "proofed" it together. Lot's of typos, etc. So in the next printed draft (which may be as "done" as it ever gets because my life schedule is about to change dramatically), I'm adding a preface about the concept of home and the longing we all have for it.

Have you ever seen that saying used in home decor stores...
"Home is where your story begins"

I wish I had said it, but I borrow it in a preface. By the way, my mom will be staying with Julie the last week of January. I'll be in Thailand. I hope you get to meet her then.

That is funny. We both have siblings 12 years younger, etc. Is that the one that lives in Michigan? If I'm remembering correctly, wasn't your mom also an operator for the phone company? It's a small world.
The idea of praying for your children BEFORE the big decisions come is an excellent practice.
Thanks for praying for my mom. She'll be coming here in a few weeks. (I'll be going on a mission trip to Thailand--I'll post about it next weekend.) The chemo doses are causing some "sores" but her spirits are good.
The timing of this story had to do with the holidays, etc. I wanted to give Mom a draft. She liked it. The "home" theme has continued to occupy my thoughts as I prepare to be abroad for 16 days. It prompted the Monday post above.

6/1/08 11:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...


Thanks for the plug and the kind words. Now if you'll excuse me I need to Google "Funny things to blog".

7/1/08 11:13 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

See? That's what I mean. You and Steve D. always were so witty. =)

12/1/08 12:03 AM  

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