Dad sitting in his office Christmas 2005. Dad was the reason I was an IU athletics fan. That and living there for most of my childhood. Oh yeah and Coach Knight. He and I listened to and watched every game we could. Sitting in the living room when it was radio only. Or in the family room watching on TV. Or best of all going to Assembly Hall, and watching the game live. Dad wasn’t a pro sports fan but he loved Indiana University Athletics! Over the years Christmas day migrated from Dad’s office to the living room of the hosue on Kinser Pike. In 2005 the kids were all still smaller and younger. The adults would sit in their spots and the kids would wander between them. The goal originally was for each person to open one gift for everyone to see (each of us, one at a time) and then the melee. I always sat and photographed the events. There are many great pictures that came from those days, this is one of them. Dad, watching his grandchildren. There are many days of memories that the family history project digitized. Days of long ago. 11 years ago for this picture. A different time and a different place.
My nephew Matt on the right, already taller than my sister (Lynne on the right in red). The melee had begun. The destruction of innocent paper and the saving of bows. Mother, famous over the years for saving bows in a bag. They were never used again but mom saved them year after year (save the bows her clarion call each time we opened gifts). Fran, who didn’t do well with other dogs, wasn’t invited to the Christmas at mom and dad’s (Dylan was invited the very first year he joined, mostly because everyone loves Dylan). Raven is also invited, but she tends to have issues with Gracey (one of mom’s standard poodles). 2005 was an interesting year. I was beginning a project in New York City. A project I was working on in South Bend Indiana was not going well, but the next project was starting regardless of the other project. So for a time I was working 15 hour days to keep both projects moving forward. Christmas was really the first break and breath I got to take that fall. I really needed time to decompress so the time at Christmas was cherished even more than usual.
Christmas decoration in Dad’s office. The office itself had been converted from the original garage of the house. A new garage had been added and the office was placed in what was the old garage. Why? Because when dad retired he brought home somewhere near a ton of books and it was more than the floor in the original house’s office could take. So mom and dad renovated the hosue moving the office into the old garage (concrete slab floor able to withstand the weight of all the books). They moved out of the old master bedroom and moved their stuff into the old study. The old master became the new guest room. Over the years a number of Thai students used that as a starting point of their academic career. I guess it was the guest room, educational incubator. As the day ended we all packed up our cars and gave mom and dad back the peace and quiet they had when their grandchildren were off to their respective homes. The din of Christmas lasting far beyond the 23 loads of trash that had to be carried from the new garage to the street on trash day. The din echoing in the walls of their home for years.
Perspective and variables are the answer to why this picture. Continuing my wander project and today wandering the folder called Christmas 2004. This image taken of the eaves and gutters at my parents house of the icicles. Water above 32 degrees is a liquid. It runs everywhere and can ruin virtually anything. Below 32 degrees it is a solid and over time it can break almost anything. Yet water is an essential element of life. The icles, like icicles reach from the edge of the roof to the ground. They are ever seeking the ground. Reach and reaching while hanging on tight to the gutter as they leap off the edge towards the ground, slowly. Not sure what about them, this day caught my eye. The blue sky in the background and the foreground of icicles struggling towards the ground. From an ascetic perspective they are glorious. From a home owner perspective they are scary. You run out with a broom and you knock them down. It is all about perspective when it comes to ice.
My family clustered around the kitchen island in my parents old house. Although, this is not the first kitchen island we had. Mom and dad also had one at the farmhouse. In fact mom has one in her new house. It is a part of the way mom is. She likes to have people around as she cooks. It makes for a convivial experience and is a great part of our family holiday traditions. Gather around the kitchen as everyone cooks. My job now, is to make the Ebel Skivers. These are custom Danish pancakes that are round. You cook them in a special pan and add apple sauce as they are cooking. Basically they are round pancakes. They have been a family tradition for ever since I can remember Christmas day. So at least 50 years. My sisters and mother make the rest of the Christmas day meal. It depends of course, on which year it is (are we celebrating Christmas Eve or Day) as to how big the Christmas morning breakfast is. Sometimes it is far smaller overall.
Each morning on Christmas day we did make the kids wait. I get up early to blog and start my day. Normally the kids don’t. They are late morning, mid-morning, early afternoon risers. As I was at there age. So they would, that one day of the year when they burst out of bed excited to get up early, sit on the he stairs and wait patiently. Fran and Gwen would come downstairs and ignore the stay on the stairs rule. Well Gwen, for the most part slept downstairs. Fran slept in Jakki’s room her entire life (other than the first couple of months when she chewed everything). Over the years we moved the Christmas tree a couple of times. When it was a real tree, which we did for a few years, it was in the entry way of the house. We had a smaller artificial tree that was upstairs in the kids area. One year we did get a Charlie Brown tree (artificial) with a single ornament and had that in the kitchen area. Over the years we decorated the house with lights as well, but that was less of a tradition for us. Our Christmas celebrations and displays were inside the house.
For some reason my folder skips from Christmas 1998 to Christmas 2003. I know I have the pictures for the other years somewhere just in other folders combined with other events. I wasn’t as picky about folders and organization early on in the picture years. This image of Luke eating something. The background tells me this was at Grandma’s house. The face tells me that it is probably filled with my sister’s magical Christmas cookies. It is that guilty child caught by a parent face. The one where the child was told no cookies, sneaks off with cookies and then gets caught. So this face, which may or may not be the case but it looks like that oops you caught me face. After awhile as kids age, you get used to seeing that face. They don’t mean to have the face, they just do. I suspect if I looked carefully I could find Nick with the same face. It was something both boys did at various times. By Christmas 2003 we were established in Greenwood. I still from time to time miss living in Cincinnati but overall we had moved on!
There is a magic of Christmas. A moment of change in both children and parents. I remember as a child thinking there is nothing better than waking up on Christmas morning and rushing down to get presents. Except I found out that as a parent, seeing that face on your child, seeing that excitement that delight is while a different feeling every bit as good. You, as a parent feel like you have succeeded at something. You’ve gotten one thing right at least for that month or, well sometimes even just that day. I can’t see what it is Nick was happy to have gotten. But it was worthy of a big gesture, Funny how to me the prize wasn’t what he got but the gesture. The moment, frozen, of his delight. I love that. I could look at this picture for hours. It represents so much more than just presents. It is the miracle of him being there. It is every hour we spent in hospitals (there were a lot in the course of the first year). Every moment we got to be with that magical smile.
We did the early morning rising at our house before heading to Grandpa and Grandma’s. Sometimes because of family commitments we would do Christmas twice, Christmas Eve with Grandma and Grandpa. Christmas day at our house, then wander down for a smaller family lunch on Christmas day with mom, dad, Barb, Dana and Courtney. Lynne (my other sister) and her family (Gary, Matt and Megan) rotated so they would spend Christmas Eve with us one year and Christmas Day with his parents. The next year it would be reversed. Based on the timing of the pictures I suspect this was one of the Christmas Eve with mom and dad years. Only because digital camera’s time stamp every picture, and these were time stamped later than the ones at Grandma’s house. This picture of the three of them at the top of the stairs in Greenwood. They would get up, the three of them at 5 am. We wouldn’t let them come downstairs until coffee was started. They waited there on top the stairs. Not by the way penitently, they were raring for the tearing! Barb and I love houses with big open living room areas. I couldn’t tell you why, but we do.
The first set of pictures are from Christmas Celebrations of the past, this of Gwen in 1998 (Gwen would live another 13 years beyond this. Moving with us to Greenwood Indiana and living until 2011 (spring). I wouldn’t say Gwen was a great dog. She wasn’t friendly, didn’t like most people and was scared of just about everything. But she was our dog, our Marley. We loved her with all we could. She had a tough puppy hood (came from a puppy mill) so life started hard for her. We made sure we had as good a life as she wanted the rest of the way. I do miss going on long walks with Gwen. She wasn’t the walker that Dylan and Raven are, but she was good company. We got her at a pet store. By we I mean Barb and the girls. I research dogs extensively before I bring them to the house. Gwen was a spur of the moment decision. Dogs are to be fair, work. You have to find the right dog for your family. Otherwise the dog won’t be happy and neither will you. Well, you will get unconditional love, but things could be so much better.
We had just, in 1998 moved in our house in Willow Cove. It was the first (and only so far) house that Barb and I had built. We modified the house considerably from the stock plans of the builder (they were semi-custom builders anyway). From a laundry room on the top floor of the house to a half finished basement (with a huge pool table and storage agree in the open part of the basement. I prefer not playing pool next to the furnace room frankly. But that wouldn’t happen until the next house after Willow Cove. This picture is of Jakki in the rug rats tent. She was a huge fan of the rug rats at that point. She had moved from her love of Barney and Shining Time Station to the Rug Rats. I watched the show from time to time with her. Later she and I got hooked on the Angry Beavers show on Nickelodeon. We were only going to live in this house for 14 months but at the time of this picture we didn’t know that. We were Cincinnati people and planed on staying in Cincinnati.
The move from Shaffer Avenue (and the small hosue we owned there) to Willow Cover was well caused by the arrival of these two. This, Luke staring at the camera. They arrived in the usual way (thanks to Harry Chapin for the great line). For the next 22 months we made a lot of changes, because there were twins in our lives. Twins are a game changer in so many ways. We would pack the entire family up in 11 months after this picture and head back to Indiana to be closer to family. That was the best decision we could have made. My career changed from working in the city where we lived to working in the world at large. I was no longer bound by a horrible manager. I transferred to a place that was the best place on earth for me to work at. Barb was then close to family (my parents) and later we would move her parents close to us. We were really focused on making sure the kids grew up to be the people they could be. I am happy to report all four are amazing people. Even the twins. Although it was touch and go for awhile. It is funny to think about sometimes, the reality of parenting multiples is and can be devastating. The stress between the parents when you have two or more babies is incredible. There is a high divorce rate among parents who have multiples. You don’t get breaks the same way. But the reward in our case is two amazing young men. Each hour we were awake that first year was worth it.
This image of our front yard in Greenwood Indiana taken in 2007 after the wind storm left that was the Blizzard of 2007. I ended up working from home for two extra days that weekend. Because I couldn’t get out of our driveway. Even with a 4 wheel drive vehicle. No one moved in our neighborhood for a couple of days. So we sat back and watched the world go by. With high-speed internet (cable modem back then) I could still work from home. 2007 was right before Barb went back to school for her Masters, so we were all able to stay home. The boys and Jakki were only stir crazy on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th day of being cooped up in the hosue. Actually I think the crazy started right about the middle of day 1. But I was being generous and not revealing the truth of stir crazy children. Straight ahead in this picture is the island of our cull-du-sac. This is the year after the big tree fell in the wind storm. Where the car is, was the far curve of the road. No one was moving!
This is the backyard during the big snow of 2004. We had chairs that you could sit in and they swung for a couple of years by the pool. Why only a couple of years, because the chairs were a major pain. The first year (2004) somebody didn’t take off the covers. So for the second year those were ripped and managed. We also didn’t take in the cushions so they also got managed. But for the most part we got rid of them because they never worked right. They just didn’t want to be swings most of the time. So they were a two year experiment that failed. This storm was interesting in that it dropped about 12-14 inches of snow, but unlike 2007 we were only stuck inside for one day. Over the years there were a number of storms that came, dumped snow and then left. The two so far were two of the bigger storms. I had to shovel a path to the hot tub, clear it off and turn it on if I wanted to enjoy the glorious reality of hot tubs, snow and relaxation!
This last snow from February 2016. The single largest snow I have ever lived through in my life. 35 inches of snow that fell over the course of three days but for the most part the snow fell the most on the 2nd two days. The first day had some, we didn’t go out and clear the driveway. The 2nd day was heavy and we cleared half the driveway. It was more snow that our old snow blower could handle. So we retired that snow blower and got a new one in the summer. But for this snow we were shoveling for two days just to make it to an nucleated street. Without a 4 wheel drive high clearance SUV (our Van is all while drive but is a low cleanse vehicle) we were stuck in our house until the snow melted. The really funny thing is, it melted within 3 days and made the entire area into a muddy mess. It was in that muddy mess that Jakki moved out of the house. It was a good thing for her, she really needed to be out of the house, but it was tough on everyone moving.
Ah yes, I remember it well. December 2004. Missing teeth and fake smiles. The world, at that point yet to reveal so many changes. I was traveling a lot back in 2004. So being home for Christmas meant something. Over the course of the 10 years I traveled heavily I never missed Christmas. One time, I was really late Christmas Eve (ok I was really early Christmas morning by the time I arrived) but I never missed Christmas. I did miss one New Year’s Eve traveling to London but never missed Christmas. The two young Scallywags (my grandfather used that word all the time to describe me) in the picture are Luke on the left and Nick on the right. The smiles were courtesy of missing teeth and their sister. They watched Jakki make faces at the camera so they started making faces at the camera. When kids are little, as a parent you plan your life around them. As they grow up they (the kids) begin to get frustrated with you because you are ever present, so you begin to back off, to let them have space.
Do you remember those days in December?
You wake up one day and they are moving out of your house. They, are moving into their lives. You marvel at how amazing they are. At the completeness of who they have become. There is a great joy in the journey. Watching kids from the time they are, as in the picture, small and needing to the time later when they blossom and fly away. There is a time, a transition where the child has the potential to become your friend. Someone you want to do things for, not out of parental obligation but out of the sheer joy of doing things with them because they are your friend. Yesterday Luke cooked most of Thanksgiving dinner. Without a doubt one of the best Thanksgiving Turkey’s we have ever had. Jakki, was the one who said we should get a fresh turkey from the local collective market. She went and picked it up with Nick (who had to lug the massive turkey to the car for her). Our celebration was filled with new people and family and it was amazing. We relaxed and had a wonderful day!
Or was it September? When we were young?
These pictures taken at our home in Greenwood, just after Thanking in 2004. Starting at the top is boys in t-shirts making horrible faces. In the middle is Jakki and Fran snuggled in for a long winters nap. Oh, per Fran make sure there is snacking during the napping. At the bottom the pond out our back door beginning to freeze over. Winter, to borrow from a current hit show, was coming. For the most part in fact, winter was here, or there to be technically correct. Time is a trickster, it presents change as though it is not rapid and yet it is. The people in the pictures shown today are now all adults. I am proud of all three of them. They don’t make faces at the camera anymore. They are intelligent, caring people that make the holiday even better now than it was before. Yes, there was a time when Thanksgiving was cooked by me. I did everything by myself for the cooking. Barb did all the other prep work (cleaning the hosue organizing tablets etc). Now. the work goes so much faster because we have so many hands pitching in!
Thanksgiving is about remembering, honoring and preparing. The preparing part will start in about 40 minutes. The family part is in the picture and will be the focus on today’s Wander project. The image to the right, my father dressed up in his cap and gown for graduation. My niece and nephew there with him on the deck of mom and dad’s house on Kinser Pike. I can remember all four houses my parents had, the one on Kinser Pike is one I stayed in but never lived in. Mom and Dad moved back to town from the Farm in the early 1990’s. In part because the farm was a lot of work, and they wanted to travel more. In part because dad was ready for a new outdoor project. The yard you see, and the kids you see were all a lot different very quickly. The kids grew up, the yard, as seen here was soon filled with Apple trees and bamboo. It became a forest. I know that Dylan and Raven both loved coming to Grandma’s and exploring that back yard. There were many interesting and wonderful things hidden in that back yard. You can just over dad’s should see the old swing set. That was what Jakki ran to when we got to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s hosue.
My mother makes quilts (you can find her on Etsy if you want one!) This one covering the old guest bed on Kinser Pike. Since Thanksgiving is about family I will share a quilt story. Mom made quilts for each of the boys when they were really young. Those quilts were with the boys everywhere they went. At one point they were tattered, torn and ready to be retired. So we decided to throw them away. You would think, by logically telling the boys that their quilts had seen better days and that Grandma would make them new ones (and in fact had already given them new quilts) they would rejoice and move on. Instead we had to ask mom to repair the quilts. They still have the original quilts they got when they were tiny. They still use them. Along with several other quilts they have gotten over the years. Each one is unique and special. Each one made by their grandmother. We even have special quilts not eh boat. The magic of grandma. Making things you can never let go of! That is a part of family, giving gifts that people cherish. Things like circular slide rules (my dad started my love of gadgets with one many years ago). Or other things that you remember the person when you hold them. Family isn’t the object, but the memory! Valuable life lesson about quilts. They are awesome to catch oil when changing the oil in your car. However if my mother made the quilt don’t tell her that is what you use it for. She gets grumpy about oil changing on her creations.
The man in the foreground is my grandfather Raymond Johnston. We are riding the antique trains in West Baden/French Lick Indiana. Interesting story, the train cars were restored cars that had run on the Chicago lines. They came from the Pullman car company Aurora Illinois (just outside Chicago) it was on a car like this bound for the city of Chicago that my grandfather met my grandmother. It was also, train cars like this that my great-grandfather worked on. He was a finish carpenter for the Pullman car company. The circle goes round. In this one most of our family (the boys were not born yet) riding on a car, with my sister and my grandfather, as well as some of our kids and their grandfather and grandmother (our parents) in a Pullman train car potentially built by my grandfather’s father, or my great-grandfather, and my kids great-great-grandfather. Seems like the perfect Thanksgiving ending. Family is the most important thing. Now, grandpa had the right idea in this picture. Sleeping with all the noise around him. He was smart like that. Always prepared to deal with the noise of grandchildren.