Carolyn’s Online Magazine (COMe)
It was a dark and starry January 18, 1972, morning…at 1:30 a. m. my husband Monte drove me from Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, to Butler Memorial Hospital 20 minutes away.
On January 17th I’d spent the afternoon at a planning session for American Red Cross blood drives on the Slippery Rock University campus. About 1:00 p. m. I felt funny. At 11:10 a. m. my son Nolan was born.
The WordPress prompt for February 12, 2015 is Buffalo Nickel: Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year? I reached over to the side of my computer desk and picked up a stray quarter. It had the year 1972.
At the time we had a full household. Two (or three) college students (did the second one, being twins, count as two or one?) rented the long narrow room on the second floor of our Cape Cod house. My 15-year- old brother, who stayed with us during the school year, slept in the basement. Sandy, just 19 months old, slept in the second bedroom on the first floor.
For some reason Nolan cried most of the day. He also wouldn’t sleep. I’d rock him, make certain he was relaxed, rock him some more, but the minute I gave signs of getting up hishead popped up and he was wide awake. It didn’t help that the rare moments he did sleep I had a toddler running through the house. Crazy time.
In early March the University was having its first blood drive. I’ll let Monte tell about this:
- Carolyn carried her babies in a rather unconventional way for that time—a front carrier that tied around her neck and stomach. Today you see them more often. When the new blood collection started in the Newman Center, Carolyn (a trained medical lab technician) did the finger-sticks that tested the iron level of the blood. She did her task with Nolan tied to her, sleeping peacefully.
When Nolan reached 3-months-old he settled down. Then Sandy began. She would cry over…nothing…at random and I couldn’t settle her down. This went on until spring when one day I let her run around without a diaper. Guess what? She used her potty. From then on the crying stopped. The problem was she wanted to use the bathroom. I knew she was fully trained when, while staying at my sister-in-law’s cabin on Trout Lake in New York, I saw that she had gotten up by herself at night to use the toilet. Her “temper tantrums” stopped.
It was rough in these circumstances having a troubled teenager to deal with. My brother returned home when the school semester ended that June.
However, during the spring we decided to remodel our kitchen, removing the wall between the kitchen and dining rooms. We handed my brother a large hammer and said “Go for it.” He did, and the wall was knocked down in good time.
When Nolan began to stand his feet were angled in perfect ballet fifth position. Again, Monte will tell the story.
- Nolan’s duck-oriented feet—It was clear that Nolan’s feet pointed abnormally outward. An orthopedic surgeon in Butler, Dr. Coddington (one of the Steelers’ surgeons), recommended that Nolan be x-rayed for possible hip involvement that might lead to hip surgery. The doctor got mad at Carolyn when she suggested we wait six weeks before any x-ray was done. She took Nolan to see Dr. David Auxter, a Physical Education professor who worked cooperatively with the Special Education Department. Dr. Auxter recommended a set of exercises over a period of time. They worked very well and Nolan’s foot orientation became quite normal in less than the six weeks Carolyn had asked for. What a blessing Dr. Auxter was in helping us avoid unnecessary medical treatment on Nolan at a very young age.
By summer Nolan was walking—before he was 6 months old.
Through all this Sandy was a good chum. Except for the period where she cried so much she was social and would visit our friends on a regular basis. My French war-bride neighbor was teaching her how to count in French. She enjoyed spending time with my friends Shirl and Wayne and their teenagers Mark and Diane.
One summer afternoon Sandy disappeared. I couldn’t find her anywhere. We had a high-speed road a house away, and I was worried.
Suddenly I saw her coming out of a house two yards down. As I hugged her I learned she had been enjoying “coffee and jelly toast” with the elderly neighbor, Mrs. Barnaby, a widow. I sternly chastised her and instructed her not to do that again unless she asked me first, so I wouldn’t be worried. She and the neighbor enjoyed many sessions of “coffee and jelly toast” after that, as I suspended my rule no coffee for kids. Sometimes some things are more valuable than being rigid on rules. She was gaining quite an experience with an elderly person, something far more valuable than the damage the occasional “coffee and jelly toast” could do.
When we had purchased our home I was disappointed that all our neighbors were elderly. In 1972 I myself discovered the value of good neighbors.
- Carl and Louise Woodling lived next door to us. They were childless and really enjoyed short visits from the children.
- The quite-elderly Mitchells lived on the other side of us and kept an eye on the house when we traveled.
- Across the street was Mrs. McClymonds, an elderly widow. Her house was cluttered and filled with animals. But she was feisty. Monte had to race to her house to pick cherries off her tree before she decided to pull out her ladder and climb into the tree’s branches.
- Also across the street were Walter and LaWave Barber, who enjoyed music and photography.
- Mrs. Shu Sen Sah, a professor in the Math Department, lived in an apartment building, and introduced my children to a different culture.
- A very elderly lady, Mrs. Tennyson, also lived in that building. I still have a torn quilt she made for us.
Through it all I began to appreciate the number of loving grandparents my children had.