Written for Gwen's 70th Birthday Bash, September 29, 2006; from her ever-loving siblings.
1. I distinctly remember your distress at having to set your own hair in pincurls, age about 8. I taught you gradually: the first time you did one, I did the rest; the next time you did two, I did the rest; and so on until you found you COULD DO IT!
2. Then there was the time I short-sheeted your and Jo's bed because you never made it before school. Unfortunately it was on a Wednesday, when we all went to prayer meeting and got home late. You tired girls were so upset at this trick that I had to undo the sheets, then sit between you and rub both your backs until you fell asleep.
3. I remember that you and Eddie went to Bethel College and were so poor that, as you reported, when money ran out you ate nothing but carrots until the next paycheck.
4. One of your babies had to have a blood transfusion at birth (RH negative factor) and thereafter screamed so much of the time that you got little rest--you would wheel the baby about in the baby carriage until it fell asleep, but the minute you tried to put it in bed, it would start screaming again. (Which baby was this? Peter?)
5. Another time you were pregnant, but the death of the fetus poisoned you. I don't know the details but it was a bad time.
6. All the dolls! It's been such a pleasure to go to Dick and your house and see the dolls everywhere. And the quilts. Especially the quilts. Wonderful designs and colors. Shelves full of bright fabrics. Two or three sewing machines....
7. Now I must thank you for three things. One: the sunflower wall hanging. Two: the gorgeous dragon wall hanging, a masterpiece of design and execution. Three: the Red Hat Society quilt you and Loey sent me, which is on our front room chair for visiting women to read, and laugh.
8. The reason you get so many quilts made is that you are always, everywhere, quilting. As soon as we start talking, a quilt square appears from the hidden depths of your bag, and needle, thread, and thimble (I think), and away you go.
9. I think of the struggles you have had with the two sons, Peter and Josh. And with the teachers and students of your schools when you were principal, and some church people. You aren't very tall, but you are surprisingly tough-minded and able to handle situations I would run from.
10. When we visit Vern and Sally, there's sure to be a call from you, and you and I go out for lunch to Applebee's or somewhere. I talk, you listen, and you always have something wise to say. Thank you, Gwen.
11-20 (When Paul gets these written, his memories will be added here. In the meantime, go to Jo's section for 10 temporarily-added memories....)
21. I remember when you and I held hands and sometimes hid in the grape fields when going to get milk at night in Reedley.
22. We were scared when the high school boys gave Dad a bad time--looking in our windows and turning wheelies in our driveway.
23. You and I got more spankings--for chewing gum in church and reading the Song of Solomon rather than listening to the sermons. You used to be obnoxious on long car drives; we called you "Goop-boss-hick-cry-bear." (My, have you changed!)
24. You and Jo played dolls endlessly. You were the leader and Jo was your shadow--these leadership qualities showed later in a career in administration.
25. You, Jo and I played in the sandbox and made sand cookies and cakes which we decorated with flowers, potatoes, fine sand from the wheels of the car and powder from flowers.
26. You and Jo were good at jacks, jump rope, marbles, while I tended to play team sports (basketball, baseball, etc.). I was involved in school but you and Jo were playmates. Paul and I were closer friends.
27. I read to you on the ship to keep you from throwing up. The book I remember reading was The Yearling.
28. The first year of boarding school, I would find you tucked under my blankets at the end of my bed. I'd try to get you back to your bed before Erkie would find you. I also think you hated recitals--most of us did.
29. You were "The Queen" of dress--more particular and better sense of color and dress. I envied you because I was too heavy and got kidded for being a "fatty."
30. I felt I helped you with English, and judging by your publications I did a good job. The student became better than the teacher.
(temporary 11-20, until Paul adds his)
11. the castor oil rubbery pills we handed out as "candy"
12. swinging on the double swing Dad made in Reedley, eating fresh zwieback, rolling the middle into a ball, making a wish, then eating this with our eyes closed
13. wading in irrigation ditches and then crossing our fingers behind our backs when telling Mom we hadn't done that
14. listening to Betty's Mitveezel stories; getting terrified by her telling us about how we would be tortured before the 2nd Coming of Christ
15. my wetting the bed, you getting gum into my hair at night
16. trespassing into an old house near Marion Wiest's place, dumping flour and dried-out potatoes on the floor
17. pretending to be sick in Windsor, going to the "sick" room where there was a ladder to the attic, where stage props were kept; trying on costumes and hoping not to get caught
18. sweetly singing duets in church, especially "Love One Another," after which we'd resume our fighting
19. tagging after you and Lois Jungas when going to school in the freezing Mt. Lake winter; Grandma would give us a nickel to buy candy in that little store on the way home
20. when Mom got tired of our fighting and threaten to make us wash window until we ended up laughing at each other
31. in Reedley playing in the sandbox where they butchered hogs; using the impressive running-water apparatus Paul built in one of the old sheds
32. waiting for the bus out at the corner; Roxy Radcliffe would always give trouble--like kicking over the small black kerosene burners that were used when road repair was being done; when his Grandma tried to discipline him, he'd climb up on the roof and laugh at her--we thought he was Really Bad.
33. having our hair in long braids; then we both got it cut and changed our minds when it was too late; our fancy Toni perms made us look like frizzy twins
34. the Wiebe twins had convinced us there was a boogie man in the Mahabubnagar well, and we were scared to death of going near there
35. getting dust from wheels, spitting on it and rolling it into a ball, then swallowing it while making a wish; (we sure were into making wishes)
36. roaming everywhere during our ship trips; Dad would bring 10 games along, which he brought out one at a time; Betty, Paul, you and I winning the ship's contest with "Mortgage on the Cow"
37. playing paperdolls and cutting out clothes in catalogs that happened to fit or almost fit the dolls--you always got the beautifully dressed-up bride, me always the plain groom; playing Raggedy Ann (you) and Raggedy Andy (me); it's a wonder I didn't become homosexual since I always had to be the boy
38. sitting on the bed next to you, furious, both of us refusing to eat after Dad spanked you
39. following your orders unquestioningly so you'd include me in your play, giving you the chance to learn to supervise others; don't you think you owe me a kickback in your administrative pay?
40. your sneaking into my bed at Boyer, both of us waiting in dread for Erky's heavy footsteps down the hall when she'd come make you go back to your bed
41. your teaching me how to hide things under my mattress before morning inspections; having Erky pray for us "little girls who had been naughty"
42. playing duets in Kodai, you on treble, me on bass clef; playing March Militaire for opening of assemblies; having our recitals together
43. your wool sweater I borrowed without asking, and then washed in hot water and shrunk; you were not happy
44. Mugwad, you and me being three hillbillies in a skit for one of Kodai's many Talent Nights; the hole in Mugwad's swimming suit, visible with binoculars to the boys in Boys' Block
45. the David Lockwood problem: I liked him, he liked you
46. sneaking out of Bruton, hiding under the thick passion fruit vine hideout or walking out on the 3-mile road at night; when we went back a few years ago, looking at what had happened to Bruton compound and crying
47. with Bets, traipsing through Europe and in Hillsboro in the shorty coats Mom fixed up for us out of missionary-barrel coats; I wish I had told Mom thank you for trying so hard to make us look okay
48. both of us not loved by Miss Malinda Penner
49. being bridesmaid in your wedding; I thought everyone's eyes were on ME
50. the very memorable time we 4 siblings--Paul, you, me, and Loey (along with Frank and Gary)--had together in India a few years ago ; then the extra gift of time with you in Kuala Lumpur and the neat trip to the Grand Canyon with you and Dick
51. Gwen, you definitely set the fashion pace for all of us! You can put together a smashing outfit every time, and then look great in it! This must be a natural gift, since we grew up on "missionary barrel" clothes, hand-me-downs and little guidance on what to wear and how to wear it.
52. I remember a most entertaining weekend with your leadership women's group at a lake house. I dumped everyone in the lake trying to sail, and you took it in stride--as you do everything. We played games, ate great food, had wonderful conversations.
53. What to me is most memorable, Gwen, is the almost superhuman strength you displayed to get through the cruel combination of a divorce, a new and very challenging job, geographical relocation, and Peter's accident. Unbelievable. Anyone else would have gone under.
54. You also manage to maintain charming femininity while charging full speed through the daunting field of male chauvinists you have encountered as a student, professor, and woman-at-large. I remember sending you a greeting card showing a woman in a skirt on a ladder: the message was that "when climbing the ladder of success, there is always someone above you trying to push you down, and someone below trying to look up your skirt." Well, girl, you absolutely glided up that ladder with virtue intact.
55. Example of above: out-foxing the obstructive and nasty dissertation advisor by pretending humility and sweetness and turning him into an ally. Wish I had been there to witness THAT! Well done!
56. Another example of above: proving to "Teflon" and his gang that the best revenge is success.
57. You make the best quilts in town. End of story.
58. Perhaps better than any of the rest of us, you escaped any of the dark side of our upbringing, not by running away from it, but by working through it, defeating and illuminating it, and coming out the other side positively glowing.
59. You have raised wonderful children, and contributed substantially to the quality of life and upbringing of grandchildren and stepchildren as well. The best there is with "tough love." You have Mom's gift of seeing through external behaviors and understanding what is really going on with "little people" and then using what you see to respond effectively.
60. On top of everything, you write funny, poignant stories about life, then get published in professional journals using yet another writing style. Wow!
Hey, 10 items don't even begin to cover the territory. Can I have about 1000 more???
Love to you. Gwen, one of my favorite and most dynamic role models.
61. Hearing that my older sister was playing chicken on the roads outside of Hillsboro
62. Showing you hand-drawn paperdoll clothes when you were house-sitting a home on the lake in Kansas; I remember saying a lunchtime prayer: "Thank you, God, for allowing me to draw such beautiful doll clothes."
63. Getting a long-distance call from you when such calls were so expensive. These were used only for tragedies, which seemed more tragic because they were conveyed through these rare long-distance calls.
64. Working with you on Phyllis's birthday quilt
65. Jointly going into the doll bed business with you and Betty
66. Eating at Cheapest and Best in Rajasthan
67. Buying camels, giraffes and elephants in Jodhpur
68. Waiting for Mr. Singh to fix our car on the road outside Jaipur
69. Eating Keralan food at Palm Lagoon
70. Dinner at your house in Texas