Thursday, July 01, 2010

Gretchen's 7th Birthday Party and Going Through "Culture Shock" -- Chapter 4 in My Life Story

Me (left) with a handful of guests
My 7th birthday party was far and away the largest party I ever had.  Mom invited just about every little girl I knew, even if they were somewhat older or younger than I was, for a dress-up tea party.  Mom decorated straw hats for Anna and I to wear with our dresses -- mine was navy with pink roses, I believe.  And no cheaply made store-bought princess costumes for us, no, Mom gave us REAL grown up dresses to wear.  Mine had skinny straps that she tied up to make it fit better, and a little short jacket to help hold everything in place.  I felt so pretty and so grown up.  One day we were at a store getting some things for the party, and we happened upon these high-heel clogs (you may remember these from the '80s, very popular) that came in pretty small ladies sizes.  Mom got some for each of us to wear, and I remember saying "These FIT me!" (they didn't really, of course, but with no backs, it seemed like they did).  Looking back, it was pretty generous of Mom to go all out for those dress up outfits for us!  At home we put on our heels and hats with our summer shorts outfits and clunked around the house.  "We look like the girls on Hee Haw!" I said.  Of course, in my mind, those girls were pretty.

The day of the party was just so fun.  Lots of girls came with their hats and gloves and baby dolls in strollers.  Mom took my picture with each girl with the polaroid camera -- and each girl got to keep her picture.  We sipped Tang from Mom's wedding china teacups and ate little sandwiches and cookies (must have taken Mom forever to make all that food and wash all those dishes!  There were tables of girls everywhere).  I remember distinctly that I made the effort to wipe my mouth the way I had seen grown-ups do, using both hands and going around the mouth.  It seems silly to remember that, but my Uncle Ron later asked me about my party and if I remembered to be dainty.  He said "Did you wipe your mouth like THIS?" and demonstrated prissily dabbing his mouth, "Or did you wipe it like THIS?" and he scrubbed his mouth wildly.  "Neither one!" I told him, and showed him my very grown up method.  He was probably cracking up at me.  I certainly took myself seriously.
That night, after the party was over, my family went out to eat with Uncle Ron and his family at a restaurant in Cincinnati that my siblings and I dubbed "The Round and Round Restaurant".  It was at the top of a hotel by the Ohio river, and the floor of the dining room did in fact, slowly turn the whole time you ate, to give the diners a view of the skyline and river.  I could not believe my incredible good fortune to be able to EAT at this EXCITING restaurant on MY birthday!!  I was more than on top of the hotel, I was on top of the world!

Less than 2 months later, my family said goodbye to our relatives who lived near us in Cincinnati, and boarded an airplane -- we were moving to Green Bay Wisconsin.  I was not sad at all.  It seemed like a wonderful adventure, but I remember people crying as we left.  Little did I know that this move would involve quite a bit of culture shock for us!
On a Sunday in Green Bay
Our family loved football, and had been Bengals fans, but became Packer fans right away after we moved (even though they were TERRIBLE).  The Wisconsin fall became wintry much quicker than it had in Cincinnati, and the signs in the small city of Green Bay were green and gold, like their football team.  But the biggest adjustment for us was a language adjustment.  The people we met in Green Bay referred to us as "from the south" (if you are truly from the south, you will laugh reading this!), and for some reason could NOT understand us very well when we spoke!  It was mutual, there were many things that my Sunday School teachers or the other children at church said that we couldn't make heads or tails of.  Once I asked where the drinking fountain was.  No one had a clue what I meant (later I heard someone call it the "bubbler" in a strong northern accent).  Someone kindly told Anna and me "I like your "bar-ETTE" and we were puzzled.  Sounded like barrette, but we had ponytails with hair ribbons -- soon we discovered that anything you wore in your hair was referred to as "bar-ETTE".  It went on, we called soft drinks "pop" and everyone there called it "SOE-dah", my sister was called "AH-nna", they had "malk" fresh from the "coes", at the grocery you put your things in a "baig".  These regional differences made the three of us a bit shy at first.  Nathan and I hesitated in making friends, and I remember Mom praying with us that we would each find a friend.  Anna, being younger and in a different Sunday School class, came home saying she made a friend the very first week."

We stayed in a hotel for a while after the move while our house got ready, and that is my first memory of sitting and doing paper and pencil schoolwork.  I was in second grade and Nathan was in third, and we found the work quite doable.  With three kids and our cat Peaches with us in those little hotel rooms, Mom was probably trying to keep us from going crazy, but I thought staying in the hotel was just part of the adventure.  Once Peaches got out of the room and made a beeline for the pool area (all the rooms surrounded the atrium).  Catching her was SO exciting!  For years we would mention "remember when Peaches got out of our hotel room?!"

Before too long, we moved into our house.  It felt HUGE to us, and was out in the country, surrounded by cornfields, acres of woods and bordered by a small river (which froze and we could ice skate on it!).  To our delight, the house was carpeted with bright orange and lime green carpeting.  We thought it was glorious -- obviously our parents did not concur, and it was replaced quickly.  Anna and I sat between the living room and family room the day before it was going to be torn out, and sang "Orange, orange, orange orange!"  Mom was kind not to snap at us, I'm sure it was pretty annoying, but we loved the orange.
With Angel in our Osh Kosh outfits
I have vivid memories of that first winter in Wisconsin.  The snow fell so deep and thick and there was no end to playing in it!  Grammy and Grandad flew up to spend Thanksgiving with us and brought one of our friends from Cincinnati, Angel.  We took them to see the wildlife sanctuary, where you could feed the hungry Canada Geese, bought real Osh Kosh clothing from the Osh Kosh outlet and went sledding.  One time in the dead of winter, our friend's father drove me and Anna out onto the Bay for the first time.  "Know where we are?  We are driving on the water!" he told us.  We could NOT believe it.  As far as our eyes could see was the frozen Bay, dotted with ice fishing huts.  It was a slightly queasy feeling, but he assured us it was safe.  Of course, there were many other vehicles out on the Bay as well.  Once time, driving home from church, our minivan could just not go any farther in the deep drifted snow on our road.  We all got out of the van, and followed my Dad through the waist-deep drifts.  Anna and I wore snowsuits over top of our Sunday dresses every week, and boots over our dressy tights.  It was common to bring your dress shoes with you in a bag, and change into them once you arrived.  So wading through the snowdrifts after Sunday church, we were properly dressed for the elements.

I adjusted to the "culture shock" we initially experienced moving just 9 hours north, and quickly made friends, and found all the fun things to do both at home and around us in Green Bay.  For several years, that was my childhood home, and I remember that lovely house so fondly.  We read Little House in the Big Woods after moving to Wisconsin, and felt very much that we lived right where Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa lived in the woods.  Thankfully, we did not need to worry about panthers and bears, but other than that, we totally related with those stories.  I'm sorry for the lack of photos in this post -- I just don't have access to all the old family photos.  I'm linking up at Mommy's Piggy Tales, where we're writing the stories of our youth.


Janette@Janette's Sage said...

This is just are leaving behind, not only great writing, but great stories for your children...awesome.
I laughed over the "orange" carpet, because it was in style when I was young and we had it.
I loved your story on your party...I threw one of those for my daughter and I hope she has such fond memories.
Your mother was just precious!!
I wore those clogs in the 80's
Enjoying so much...thanks for your comment on mine, I laughed,

Emily Benzing said...

I seriously laughed so hard when I read the "orange orange orange" part! I had similar feelings about both the pink carpet in the den and the chandelier in the bathroom upstairs in our house now. :)

You know what part comes next don't you? MEEEE! :) haha.
This post made me wish I could remember Green Bay.

Gretchen said...

Elmo, I have a few more years before you come along! You'll be my ten year old post, though. :)

Donette said...

Sounds like the Green Bay residents are Scandinavian, like my in-laws. "Baig" and "Soh-duh" were the first two words that I noticed sounded different. And Dan used to tell people that his girlfriend was from the South!

But alas, proof that I am raising Wisconsin kids - Alli already calls it the "bubbler."

Crystal said...

What a fun adventure you had with the move! Its funny how different parts of one country talk to differently but somehow speak one language still. When I was young I remember my family saying we were going to CA (from WA) and I was so worried because I wouldn't know the 'language' down there!!
Thanks for sharing!

Janna said...

You gotta love the WI accent:)

Oh I'm so gonna have a tea party birthday for B when she gets older. All my dress up clothes were from Mom's closet. Those were the best!

Susy is one lucky girl to have all these fun stories of momma to read!

gianna said...

Okay, so I'm from MN and we DON'T say soda--we say pop! but everything else is what it is. Oh, we don't say bubbler, either. And not all WI born call it a bubbler either. But it's pretty funny that just 9 hours makes that big a difference. But it certainly made a huge impact on you!