Saturday, October 17, 2009

For Megs- My Autobiography, Condensed

Above photo: Me, circa August 1988, about 18 months before the end of my time living in Kewanee, IL.

I got an email from Megs the other day asking for my recollections of childhood in Kewanee, IL. While I have many memories from childhood, I think mine was always a race to get to the next thing. Let me explain.

We moved to Kewanee after my 2nd Grade year. My youngest sibling at the time was Katie, and my mom would soon be pregnant with my sister, Abbie. My childhood up until this point was spent in the LaSalle-Peru area of Illinois; my childhood was marked by new babies and new houses; my childhood was constantly in motion. I think knowing this helps explain my comfort with being occupied at all times, and my awkwardness with "down time."

My running reflects this upbringing in that I'm always training, always in motion, struggling to enjoy the moment of the "now" because I've already moved on to the Next Thing on the List. My career/current job also falls in line with this (Dinner for 250+ people, activities and prizes? OK!). Enough analyzation, let's get to the memory portion!

For Megs

1. What was life like when you moved to Kewanee (not because of the move, just life in general, at that stage in life)? Well, I had just finished 2nd Grade at St. Patrick's Catholic Grade School. The prettiest dress I owned was my First Communion dress, which I later wore for a family portrait when we moved to Kewanee. My best friends were Elizabeth Janz, Jenny Bichl, and maybe Missy Marchesi, but I also remember Kim Gergovich (which I think is a cool name), Joey Reardon (because we were the first kids in line to First Communion- both short!), and Eric Duchaine. I remember living down the street from the new kindergarten teacher, Miss Kasperski, and she still lived at home with her parents and siblings. I remember Saturday mornings marked by watching cartoons on television, eating donuts from The Baker's Dozen bakery (right next to D'Angelo's Salon, across from the Westclox factory), or sometimes we would have the frozen glazed donuts (which tasted exactly like fresh Krispy Kreme donuts, I swear). I was pretty happy, I think.

2. What were your reactions to the house, the town? Had you ever been to Kewanee or heard of it? I remember driving to Kewanee for the first time with my mom and visiting the house before we moved in. We met the old woman who was selling the home, and got a tour. It was very much an "old lady" home at the time, with lots of knick knacks and strange smells. I remember having to dress up for the trip, and I don't remember any other kids with us, except for maybe Katie, who was the baby at the time. The house, I thought, was too big, cavernous. I had never heard of Kewanee before we moved there, but plenty of people knew LaSalle-Peru. And I was only 8, so my traveling was limited to wherever my parents took me. I remember moving day, and arriving at the house to absolutely every aunt and uncle we had- plus all four grandparents- moving things around, carrying boxes, making a huge pot of chili in the kitchen (which at the time had this awesome red wallpaper and a red telephone with rotary dial), running through the halls under people's feet, getting lost and having to back-track (The upstairs was an apartment when we moved in, and the hallway was blocked. There was a wall just past what was my high school bedroom, right next to mom & dad's room, and so that far end of the hallway- from the hall closet to the bathroom- was inaccessible from the front stairway). Total chaos from Day One.

3. Was the transition difficult? Did you share your feelings with parents/siblings? For me, no on all counts. If I had to guess, I'd say that Eric and Lisa would have had more reason to be pissed than I would have, especially Eric, who came to Visitation School in 8th Grade. Adolescent awkwardness! Lisa and me, I think, assimilated pretty easily. I think having so many younger sibling diverted my attention from missing anything. Plus, by this point, I was used to the constant motion of my life, and had learned to not attach feeling to anything/anyone, since experience had shown that there was a good chance that things could change in short order.

4. What feelings did you keep from parents? Many times growing up- and especially as the number of siblings increased- I would secretly wish to be an only child, or to have not so many siblings. Remember that episode of "The Brady Bunch" where Jan wished she was an only child? I related to that, the feeling that there was too much going on around me to feel like an individual, the feeling that I would always/only be identified as part of a group. I also hated the fact that I had to wear glasses, and I remember several times coming home from school, sobbing, and throwing my glasses against my bedroom wall because I was convinced that I was going blind.

5. How do you see living in Kewanee, growing up in Kewanee, as a part of your life? What did living in Kewanee then mean to your life now? I see my time in Kewanee as another transitional phase: another stop on the journey, and never thought of it as permanent home. I only lived there for (maybe) 10 years before leaving. I have lived longer in Escanaba than anywhere else in my life, and even now I don't consider this permanent. A part of me thinks that finding comfort in a location, whether that be a state, town, or dwelling, is a sign of complacency, which in turn would breed contempt. I think a person needs to travel in order to become who they were always meant to be. Travel=education=evolution. I'm still testing that theory out, though.

Living in Kewanee for those years only reaffirmed my earlier life, and my life today. That is, it was a base, it was a place to be at that moment, on your way to the next place. It was, for me, never meant to be a permanent place. The constant motion I remember from early childhood has followed me to this day. I love to travel, to explore, to learn new things. Kewanee's options were exhausted early on for me- it was never a place I ever wanted to return to. "Life" was always somewhere else, and it was always the exact opposite of where I was.

And that, dear readers, is your glimpse into my world.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My First Love: Fashion

Yes, friends, its true. Fashion has always been my first love. I remember clothing from my childhood, remember favorite outfits, favorite dresses, favorite hand-me-downs. That's me, age 4, and the caption on the back of the photo reads "Birthday dress from Daddy" in my mother's unmistakable script. My earliest memory of fashion is probably when my family lived in Brownsville, TX. I remember sitting on a chair in our living room, looking at these beautiful stamps I found. They were Christmas Seals with very ornate pictures of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus in rich blues, deep reds, and gold. I decided that they would look best...on my legs. Rip, lick, attach, repeat. Improvised textured tights at age 3!

Other highlights from my childhood include thinking about how genius Garanimals were and thinking that the "L" and "R" on my tennies were for "Lisa" and "Rachel," not left and right. I liked dressing in the same clothes as my sister, like we were twins. See?

Even at such a young age, I could appreciate the classical nuances of a nautical-themed outfit. I remember one dress in particular that I absolutely hated. I was in first or second grade, and my mother asked me to try on a dress. I balked, scrunched up my face and refused. It was ugly, I said. Just try it on, begged my mother. I relented, and hated it even more. My mother gushed at how "smart" I looked. This dress was a drop-waisted number with long sleeves, bib collar, and the skirt was pleated. It was done up in a brown, pea green, and burnt orange paisley. Yes, this was ca. 1978. I took the thing off as fast as I could, and probably cried when my mother told me I'd be wearing it for my school pictures. What?! Not. Happy. At. All. When I look at that picture now, I see the beginnings of a very good actress.

Why all this talk about fashion, dear readers? Well, last night's Project Runway episode left so much to be desired. Boring boring boring! Nothing exciting or new. Plus, I'm still a bit pissy that Icky Nicolas won last week's challenge. I'd like him to go away now, please.

So I've been catching up on the Spring runway shows in Milan via the New York Times and Cathy Horyn, and must say that I am in love with Bottega Veneta's collection. And that led me to a blog I've heard of and visited in the past, but never really followed. Well, that's all changed now! Please get your daily fashion fix at The Sartorialist. Its worth the time, promise.

Have a great weekend everyone.