iowa

August 9, 1964

Care of the guestbook

August 9, 1964

It wasn’t unusual for most of my father’s parishioners to recognize me and my sisters –they only had one pastor and we were his only daughters. It was significantly more difficult – impossible, even – for us to learn all of their faces and names. It was far more startling to be recognized in Iowa, since we only visited every other year and hadn’t lived there for twelve years.

IS IT MY IMAGINATION OR DOES THE YOUNGEST CHILD HAVE A SNEAKY SMILE?
IS IT MY IMAGINATION OR DOES THE YOUNGEST CHILD HAVE A SNEAKY SMILE?

When we stayed with my mother’s mother in Graettinger, my sisters and I would walk downtown in the morning. A sign claimed Graettinger was “Home of 1000” but that was at its peak. It was less than that in 1964.

Penny Candy_edited-1

5&Dime

Candy

We bought penny candy in the five and dime and sat on a Main Street bench to eat it. Old ladies and elderly gentlemen paused at the sight of young, unfamiliar faces in town. Then the data fell into place. “You must be Vance’s girls.”

KODAK BROWNIE CAMERA MANUFACTURED 1957-1964
KODAK BROWNIE CAMERA MANUFACTURED 1957-1964

Our cousins were there, too.  It seems like, “Just one more picture,” and “Okay, Let’s do that one over  again,” ate up most of the day.  The nine of us posed and posed and posed!

CAPTION - WHAT EVER YOU WOULD LIKE!
From left to right, top photo far left, Janet Knutsen, Kathy, Celeste, Wayne, Roger; bottom row Joyce, Carole, Greg, Mark – very front, Nancy

Estherville, where Grandma and Grandpa K lived, was a veritable metropolis compared to Graettinger. It’s much easier to go incognito in the big city.

This diary entry was a reality check.  Grandma and Grandpa K were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary in 1964 and they seemed ancient. I’ve been married 41 years and I feel like I’m – at most – half their age but the math might prove me wrong.

I’m no good at math; I choose to live in denial.

GRANDMA AND GRANDPA KNUTSEN ON THEIR WEDDING DAY
GRANDMA AND GRANDPA KNUTSEN ON THEIR WEDDING DAY

 

 

July 31, 1972

July 31, 1972

 

Joyce in princess garb, circa 1972
Joyce in princess garb, circa 1972
Me in Princess dress, trying to make it look like my hair is as long as Joyce's.
Me in Princess dress, trying to make it look like my hair is as long as Joyce’s.
Janet, trying not to look like Nasty Blackheart
Janet, trying not to look like Nasty Blackheart

Somewhere, that silly super-8 film probably exists but I don’t know where and I have no idea how to transfer super-8 film to DVD. Forty-four years of technological strides has rendered everything I knew about shooting or editing film obsolete.

In my right hand, super-8 mm film which UCLA required Project 1 students to synchronize with 16mm soundtrack (left hand). Digital was but a dream!
In my right hand, super-8 mm film which UCLA required Project 1 students to synchronize with 16mm soundtrack (left hand). Digital was but a dream!

If my memory serves me well, the “movie” described above was a spoof on a classic melodrama and employed cue cards.  My cousin Glenda must have been visiting from Iowa. She was Janet’s age (19). At 21, I was a little old for these shenanigans but one of the things I loved about coming of age when I did was how it forced us to create our own entertainment.

Cousin Glenda (circa 1974)
Cousin Glenda (circa 1974)

Let's Build A Stage_edited-1

Just to remind you, in 1972 there were no cell phones with games and apps galore. There was no VCR in case you wanted to watch a movie during the day – if you wanted to see a movie, you had to plop your butt in front of the TV when it aired because another opportunity might not roll around for years. There was no internet, connecting you to carefully chosen friends all over the world. We made friends with the kids on the block, whether we had anything in common or not. Proximity was probably the number one factor in forming and maintaining relationships, whether friendship or romance.

Backyard Theater

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how drastically almost every aspect of the way we live changed in my lifetime. I’m not advocating a return to the past, but there was an innocent exuberance in the ease with which my sisters and I would decide, “Let’s put on a show!”

Talent Show

I miss those sweet summer days.

July 24, 1968

VISITING RELATIVES IN IOWA JULY 1968
VISITING RELATIVES IN IOWA JULY 1968

July 24, 1968

OUR FAMILY WITH GRANDMA O, SUMMER OF '68
OUR FAMILY WITH GRANDMA O, SUMMER OF ’68

I didn’t see a great deal of my grandparents growing up because my family never lived in close proximity to them. We went to Iowa every other summer and they visited us in California in alternate years. When I was little, it was cause for great celebration. My grandfather smoked Marlboros then and when the house smelled like cigarette smoke it meant they were in town. In my eyes, they were perfect.

WITH GRANDPA K IN THE SUMMER OF 1968
WITH GRANDPA K IN THE SUMMER OF 1968

It wasn’t until I was a teen-ager that I began to see them as human beings with strengths and weaknesses just like the rest of us. Grandma O had buried two husbands and outlived most of her friends. Her loneliness and the difficulties she endured due to aging were depressing and disturbing – something I didn’t want to think about at all when I was 17.

My grandfather Knutsen was a charismatic extrovert who always sang “I’ll take you home with me, Kathleen” when they came to visit us. I adored him so it was hard to reconcile my growing awareness that he hurt my kind grandmother – not physically, but emotionally and psychologically. To his credit, my father never treated my mother with such disdain and he didn’t allow us to disrespect her either.

My children were privileged to grow up in close proximity to their grandparents (and cousins).

Kids, Cousins, Grandparents

 

July 12, 1968

Fishing with some of our relatives in Iowa.
Fishing with some of our relatives in Iowa.


June 12. 1968 Revisedanimated-fireworks-image-0051animated-fireworks-image-0065

animated-fireworks-image-0072Milking the cow

Judging by the October 1955 photo above, even at four I wasn’t a “thank god I’m a country girl” type.  Still, I couldn’t help wondering what my life would be like if I’d grown up in Missouri instead of Silicon Valley.

Most of my cousins – almost all of my extended family – lived in the Midwest in 1968. Every other year, our family loaded up the station wagon and drove to Estherville and Graettinger in the northeastern corner of Iowa.  There are aspects of Iowa that are buried deep in my subconscious, images that are inscribed on my brain – brick or white houses, humidity and mosquitoes, dinners with fresh buttered sweet corn and strange puffy homemade bread. The smell of coffee wafted through the day – coffee and musty old books. The basements, which all contained a washer, dryer and toilet were damp and a little bit scary even though that’s where we always played.  It was cooler down there even though sometimes it was still so hot all we could do was breathe and sweat. I hate to sweat.

My grandfather, commonly referred to as R.S. by all grandchildren, was a real go-getter, a non-stop talker. Even after retirement, he didn’t quit; he took volunteer work in a funeral parlor, probably to remind himself on a daily basis of how much more vital he was than the average man. In a box in his basement, he stored the obituaries of all his friends. The basement also held a pool table and assorted recreation equipment but my cousins and I enjoyed the obits most. I suppose our fear of death – and its imminence for all the aged people of Estherville – made it an object of high hilarity.

We had no idea how quickly time could pass.

With adult cousins on my father's side
With adult cousins on my father’s side
With adult cousins on my mother's side - at the tiny (very tiny) Spencer airport
With adult cousins on my mother’s side – at the tiny (very tiny) Spencer airport

 

 

 


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