In which our toilet freezes solid and we make friends with Sarah, the shower spider.

Chapter II of Your Blogger’s Memoirs.  Click here to read Chapter I.

The year is 1979.  The month is September.  We now join our young hero and heroine (why, they are just babies–only 23 and 22 years old, respectively!) and they have moved into a creaky old farmhouse in the Finnish fields of Pelkie, in the western quadrant of Baraga County, Upper Peninsula, Michigan.

But first!  We have some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy.  (If you understand that sentence, you have just dated yourself.  If you don’t understand that sentence, perhaps you’re as young as our protagonists.  If you want to know…scroll quickly to the end of the post.  You’ll see!)

You clever readers will have noticed a new format on this blog.  (Kathy’s not done formatting yet, oh no!  Change is the only constant in life, right?)  After you read the enticing “lead” to your daily blog, you must now click on the link you see below.  You click and you will arrive–faster than Dorothy clicks her red heels together–at the bulk of the blog.  There you will glimpse the exciting photos and “the rest of the story”.

If you’re enticed, please click the “Continue reading” link now. 

Very good.  Look how fast you arrived!

The second order of business:  we must thank our sponsors.  The first person I must thank for the inspiration of these memoirs is Kathy McCullough over at reinventing the event horizon (notes from the edge).  I discovered her blog through Robin over at Life in the Bogs and I’ve been mesmerized ever since.  She’s writing a memoir about growing up with her Mafia daddy.  She’s a great writer!  She’s got me on the edge of my seat wanting more.

Of course, she’s a good blogger and doesn’t mix up her pronouns.  She doesn’t start a paragraph talking about “Kathy” and end up switching it around to “you” and eventually “me”.  She probably hasn’t meditated for a decade and become confused about her identity, or maybe she’s just a good journalist and knows you must keep your identity constant, so as not to confuse the readers. 

Kathy figured that if Kathy is writing a memoir, so can she. (Got that readers?)

A second reason for the memoirs:  Thanks to the scanner which has come in my life, which now allows old photos to be resurrected.  It has been a blast!  (Although, unfortunately, there are not many photos from this stage of the blogger’s life.  And absolutely none from our escape to and from Texas.  Which will make this all very tricky.)

Our new young Yooper at his first Thanksgiving dinner with dog, Bucky.

You have now read over 400 words without hearing any more about our young hero and heroine.  Let’s return to them.

They have just moved to the wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and are now living…on a farm.  Yes, a farm.  Not in the midst of the woods.  Not along the shores of the beautiful lake.  In a farm. It’s a decrepit, falling-apart farm, featuring a dilapidated barn and an ancient farmhouse. 

The hero has been employed at the L’Anse Sentinel, the local newspaper.  He arrived for his interview in a suit, which was probably a little overdressed.  Only ten percent of Yoopers (residents of the Upper Peninsula, as you might recall from yesterday) wear suits only for funerals and weddings.  Certainly not for employment.  Bad strategy, you Trolls.  (Trolls are from the Lower Peninsula, below the bridge.  Below the bridge, get it?)

If the Publisher Boss didn’t dismiss Barry immediately due to the suit, he should have when the Coffee Incident Happened.  The interviewing Boss asked Kathy and Barry–would they please make coffee?  It was with one of those new-fangled coffee makers like half the people on the planet now own.  But in those days, they had never used a plug-in coffee maker.

Our two heroes would not admit to the Interviewing Boss that they didn’t know how to use the fancy coffee maker.  Because any idiot can make coffee, right?  So they try to figure out where to put the water and the coffee and turn on the machine and–WA-LA!!–water drips out everywhere, all over the counter and down onto the floor! 

Huge humiliation ensues but the Boss is kind.  Barry is hired. (Kathy can never figure out what they did wrong in the coffee-making enterprise.  She makes coffee most days now and never, ever, spills water all over the floor.)

They move into the old farmhouse in Pelkie with their sloppy-kissing big black lab named Bucky.  (Forgot to tell you about Bucky, didn’t I?  He was their first child.  I won’t tell you about his early demise, yet.)

The farmhouse was–how can I say this politely?–rustic.  The shower existed in a sauna in the basement.  A sauna is a rock-heated steam bath utilized by the Finnish folk who migrated to the New World and brought their bathing preferences with them.

If you didn’t want to start a fire, heat the rocks and sweat in the sauna before work, you had to tiptoe down old rickety steps to a moldy often-flooded basement to shower on a wood pallet.  We often saw last night’s spaghetti floating in the drainhole down in the depths.  We quickly made friends with a huge shower spider whom we named Sarah.  Sarah the Shower Spider.  (You can now see that our hero and heroine were already a little…how shall we say it?…odd.  Even back then.)

We installed our woodstove in the front room, the chimney pipe dangling out a front window.  We started our hardy wood-cutting enterprise with our sputtering chainsaw.  We spent hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weekends, cutting downed trees for our heating pleasure. 

Almost every photo in this particular time period is missing a head. Except for photos of the dog. Please note the plow in the background. Every good Yooper deserves a snowplow for Christmas.

Kathy got a job as the Personnel/Public Relations assistant at the local hospital.  She wore a baby blue pair of pants and matching vest to the interview, come to think about it.  (What was it about baby blue and the late 1970’s?) She was later hired to oversee the Administration and Business Offices. 

I still shudder to think about this naive little 22-year-old chick as the boss of older women (then probably younger than I am now).  Not only was she young, she was a Troll.  She didn’t know anything!  And some of the employees made sure that they let her know that she was an outsider, an imposter, a–gasp!–college graduate who really should go back down below the bridge where she belonged, gosh darn it.

Fortunately, not everyone thought that way.  But it was the first dream-dashing moment in our heroine’s life.  Why doesn’t everyone like me?  she sobbed to her bewildered husband every weekend as they drove up to Houghton for solace.  (Good thing she eventually found meditation.  Sounds like the baby had a severe insecurity complex, doesn’t it?)

This moving to the “wilderness” was not exactly what the young folks anticipated. 

Back at the farmhouse things were a little chilly.  No one was home all day to feed the fire so the house was–how shall I put it?–freezing.

The toilet bowl froze solid one day while we were at work.

I kid you not.

This seems like a good place to cease the memoirs for today.  Pondering that frozen toilet bowl.  You may take a moment to appreciate your current warm abode, as shall I. 

During the next installment we shall meet Tasha, the half-coyote puppy. 

P.S.  This note is for you commenters who wanted to hear more about our Circle Tour around Lake Superior in 1977.  Readers, readers!  You are lucky that I remember that we actually drove around Lake Superior.  My memory is so challenged that it would be impossible to write a real memoir.  Barry is still shaking his head after reading yesterday’s memoir.  “I don’t even like s’mores, Kathy!” he insisted last night, “I’ve never liked s’mores!”  He could tell you details about our Lake Superior Circle tour, I swear…  Your heroine only has a vague recollection of black flies, jutting black rocks and trees. 

**You’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do, Lucy!**  from the I Love Lucy show.  We ’70’s kids grew up listening to Lucy and Ricky make jokes, didn’t we?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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29 Responses to In which our toilet freezes solid and we make friends with Sarah, the shower spider.

  1. This is priceless, Kathy, just priceless. You are right about the powder blue–something I had totally forgotten about. It was everywhere.

    And thanks for the shout-out–and praise of my pronoun usage. (You use them there pronouns right well yourself.)

    I’m loving your story–not to mention the photos!

    Kathy

  2. kiwidutch says:

    Kathy I’m giggling at the wood stove pip hanging out the window, and a little confused because I have no clue what /who a Yooper is… or for that matter…Ethel.
    (TV programmes we don’t get here I’m rashly assuming???)

    I also realise how much I hate the cold because I’m still in shock at the sight of the three of you in the last photograph, with OPEN jackets sitting outside and I can see SNOW on the ground!

    If it were me in that photo there would be 6 layers of clothes, three scarves, two mittens, a hat and a portable heater if I could manage it LOL.

    A frozen loo? oh ah !!! … on many levels an “inconvenience”.!!!

    • Kathy says:

      Dear kiwidutch… what can I say? A Yooper is a resident of the Upper Peninsula. Ethel was Lucy’s sidekick in the show “I Love Lucy” from the 1950-60’s. The photograph you mentioned was deleted because…well, you will have to read today’s blog to discover why. I was in the midst of marital discord.

  3. john says:

    Detail, my dear, detail! How did you happen to find this house and is it or are remnants still standing? You know these things are important, how else will they know where to put up the historical markers when you are gone. Anxiously awaiting the next installment (you do realize we expect this to take at least through the New Year to complete, Valentine’s day would be even better)

    • Kathy says:

      JOHN! You can’t tell ALL these details. You don’t want to embarrass the former or current owners. No. I will tell you secretly, though, in case you would like to drive by sometime you are in the U.P. As for Valentine’s Day…maybe you’ll be satisfied for a few more days?

  4. I can’t wait to read more!!!
    Escape from Texas? I wish I would get that lucky.

    • Kathy says:

      My pod-ner (partner) says I have to write about our Texas escape VERY carefully. I wish we had grabbed you on our way out.

      • LOL If you escaped before 1997, I wasn’t even there yet….. but you can come and bust me out now! 😉

        • Kathy says:

          You are just a tad bit younger than our oldest, Michaela. Do you want to guess where he was conceived? And when? Busting out of Texas, of course! (Not sure if I am going to share that fact with the general public or not, yet. It’s rather safe in the Commenting Replies, I think though.) And about your busting out–can you be ready tomorrow night at midnight?

  5. Brenda Hardie says:

    I’m grinning as I search for something I must have missed….first you mentioned a link…can’t find what you mean by that and second…kiwidutch mentioned a picture of the three of you in open jackets sitting outside…no such picture shows up here…so am I lost? I’d sure say you have some ‘splainin’ to do! LOL
    Sure did love your story-telling today Kathy! I LOVE reading about people’s lives “back then”. Even about Sarah the Shower Spider….ewwww. And yes even about the frozen solid toilet…brrrr! I want to hear more 😀 this is like you’re dangling a carrot in front of us, just out of our reach!

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda…sigh…by now you know about all the deletions and craziness which surrounding this blog. I am still in recovery. I will need a Blog Recovery group to attend. Ha ha! What a crazy day yesterday was. But I loved your email. So much.

  6. Sybil says:

    Lovin’ dees stories Lucy.

    Dat whole “continue readin’ ” ting you wuz so hopped about din’ happin’ an dere wuz no photo of three of youz outside.

    Ricky

  7. Karma says:

    Enjoying your story very much!

  8. OM says:

    A blaga saga, LOL!!
    I wasn’t growing up in the 70’s but I did catch an I Love Lucy show or two, LOL!!! Probably the decade before that, though….
    :)) xoxoxoxo
    OM

  9. Pingback: Tense marital moments disrupt blogging memoirs « Lake Superior Spirit

  10. Susan Derozier says:

    Your coffee story really struck home. Same thing happened to me, would you believe? I actually always loved the smell of coffee but never drank it until I was in my mid thirties. Started a new job as secretary to dean of college of liberal arts and sciences and his seven (not dwarfs) asst. deans. I still can’t figure out how I got it so wrong either…but the same results. A compassionate “older” woman in the next office came through with instructions. And baby blue….yes yes yes! Though I am older than you, I recall the period clearly!
    Love this!

    • Kathy says:

      Really? The very same thing? Wonder what we did wrong? Can you remember what you did wrong? My memory would really like to know. By the way…seven asst. deans…dwarfs…funny! P.S. I may never mention baby blue clothing again. Ever. LOL!

  11. Kathy, you’re like my sister, naming spiders. She had a big one named Olivia in her hovel when she lived in New Mexico. Enjoyed your account here – it’s amazing looking back – did you ever figure out why heads were missing in your photos?

    • Kathy says:

      I’ve (mostly) quit naming spiders in recent years, Barbara. It was only in our early years that we were a little silly. (HA!) Barry says the heads were missing because we were using one of those early “box” cameras and for some reason you couldn’t line up the view-finder with the camera hole. (Did that make sense?) At least on that camera, anyway… So he says.

  12. Colleen says:

    Kathy, I love love love this! You are an amazing story teller. And your gift with words, oh my goodness girl !!!

    So many matching moments and similar times…….

    • Kathy says:

      Really? Really? My story-telling self wants to dance wildly around the house at your words…and apprentice herself to that there Woman Who Runs With The Wolves. What do you think? (Or, as a polite person would say: Thank you. Your comment means so much to me.)

  13. Pingback: If you lose electricity click here for toilet flush expertise « Lake Superior Spirit

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