Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Best Birthday Ever

As a parent, you always hope that your child is filled with great memories of their childhood. I'm sure that my mom, who became a parent at the ripe old age of 17 years and 3 months, had that in mind when she threw me a birthday party in our dinky, 800 square foot home on Cedar Crest Circle.

To the right is the only picture I have of that day. My three best friends from first grade were there (counter clockwise) Ericka Couch, Lisa Smith, and Beth Fruechtenicht. There's a board game sitting in front of us...but I couldn't tell you what it was and without this picture, I wouldn't even have remembered that I had The Flintstones for birthday hats and blowers. I couldn't tell you what was on my cake - if I had one number candle or seven.

What I do remember - as though it was yesterday - is that I was a very happy girl. I don't know if you can see that from my face, but gosh, I was happy.

And why was I happy? Two specific reasons - the guests and the best birthday present that I've ever received in my entire life.

The guests were my three best friends from Indian Village Elementary school and also, members of my family (aunts, uncles, cousins + my mom's cousins and their kids). All of us, squeezed together in that small amount of space sounds claustrophobic, doesn't it?! At the time, it didn't seem anything but fun. I'm sure that my mom, though, was frantic and worried because later on (much later on as an adult), she told me that she ran out of cake and food because so many people showed up that she wasn't expecting.

I probably received a fair number of birthday gifts that year but you know what - that's a blur to me. The only gift that really mattered is what my parents got me.

For the big event, I was shuttled out on to the front porch area (this area wasn't a "porch" per se as much as it was an enclosed part of our house - like a mudroom - with no heat). I was instructed to face the outdoor window and no peeking!!! That window had a view to my neighbors houses across the street - the Wooden's and the Boice's.

I remember the crowd of people who were all standing behind me, waiting for the revelation of the big moment. And then my mom said, You can turn around now.

My smile was the biggest smile you can ever imagine and I squealed with delight. It was everything I ever wanted - a big girl bike. It was a lime green bike...equipped with a white flowered basket, multi-colored plastic streamers hanging out of the handle bars, and a banana seat.

That bike stayed with me for most of my childhood. If it would have had an odometer on it, it would have had thousands of miles racked up on it because as a kid living on Cedar Crest Circle - that's what we did. We rode our bikes. We didn't have to have a destination...we just rode them. Sometimes we rode them by ourselves (in a circle - Cedar Crest, Pinecrest, Cedar Crest) and sometimes we rode in a pack....taking the same route, perhaps stopping at Scott''s Court to play a game of kickball, or sneaking off to play in the forbidden ditch (catching tadpoles), or making our way up Sandhill to play in the area that would later take the life of our friend Delores.

There was a third reason why this was the best birthday ever. It was the last birthday I remember where I wasn't conscious of my father's drinking issues. At my party, I didn't remember that he wasn't there until just before the unveiling of my bike. I didn't remember that he was drunk off his ass and he brought people to my party that I didn't even know.

And why didn't I remember these things? Because my mom made sure that I was distracted so as not to notice. She wanted my birthday to be the kind of birthday that all little girls deserve to have....one filled with lots of happy memories. It worked.

Mommy, it was the best birthday ever and as long as I live, I will never forget how special I felt that day.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Save the Date

Postcard of Cathedral, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Wanted to share this since I have received such overwhelming support from all of you.

Dear Kristina,
Msgr. Schulte has asked me to respond to your request to receive adult Confirmation here at the Cathedral. He feel that he can grant your request. Bishop Rhoades will be celebrating Confirmation for the adults on May 23, 2010 at 11:30 a.m.. In order for you to do this, you would need to attend the preparation class for that here at the Cathedral on Sunday, April 25, 2010, at 2:00 p.m. in the Parish Center Library. Please let me know if you are attending, and I will add you to our class roster. May the Lord bless and keep you always.

Sr. Marilyn Ellert, OSF
Pastoral Associate

It may seem like such a small gesture on the part of the leadership of Cathedral however, this is the best gift ever and I will never, ever forget the kindness that has been extended to me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Coming Full Circle

When I started Child of the Fort - a couple of years ago - I couldn't tell you exactly what prompted me to do it. Maybe it was a combination of things - the Christmas holidays, being off of work on vacation, my longing for my hometown...I didn't know why...I just felt the need to write. And when I thought about a name for the blog, this is the first one that came to mind. I was literally - a child of my hometown and I'd hoped - an example of the good that Fort Wayne had to offer (from my particular generation).

I've written about people, places, and things. It's amazing that my memories of my childhood are as crisp and clear as they are given the fact that sometimes, I can't even remember what I did three years ago!

SO - why is there a picture of my grandfather's obituary at the top of this posting? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Today is the anniversary of his death. If you were to read over the past couple of anniversary posts about him, you'd see that his absence has left this gaping hole in my heart. This year though, I'm feeling a little differently. While I still miss him, instead of sitting here and sobbing for hours about him (on this anniversary), I am holding myself together quite well.

It's not that I don't miss him (duh - of course I do!). Something for me is different this year.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how angry I had been at God - because of my grandpa's early departure from this earth. I had held on to that anger for over twenty years. Something happened in late 2009 - and miraculously - that anger is gone. I can't explain it. Well, maybe I can't articulate it.

So this anniversary of Grandpa's departure - I actually have a gift for him and so if you'll humor me for a moment....

Dear Grandpa,

I have a really awesome surprise for you. First, your last words to me - they have never left me and despite my rebellion and anger - they finally sunk in. But hey, you know that I'm a stubborn girl and that sooner or (much) later, I'd listen to you.

Second, I have renewed my relationship with God and the weird thing is - it feels right and it feels natural.

Third, I joined a church here in the Indy area (and that wasn't easy - had to visit quite a few to find the one that felt like that glove fit). But that's not your gift. Your gift is this. I have committed myself to finally going through with the Sacrament of Confirmation. You know I should have done this years ago, but one thing (parents divorce and our many moves) after another (my anger) kept me from recommitting myself.

I've done all of the research, talked to folks, and I will go through with my Confirmation this year. I have my fingers and toes crossed that I will be allowed to go through this process at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I wrote to Msgr. Robert Schulte and explained the importance of my recommitment taking place there and why it would be like coming full circle for me. I know that wherever it takes place, YOU will be there with me - just as you were there for my Baptism (as my godfather).

I love you with all of my heart and soul. Thank you for...everything...you know I couldn't possibly even begin to write down what I mean by that! xoxoxo

So really, I think I understand now why I started Child of the Fort. Yes, it was (and is) about sharing my memories of growing up in a city that had more character than most will ever have. Yes, it was (and is) about reliving some of the most significant times of my childhood (and that includes the people, places, and things). But really, I think it was about coming to terms with the sadness and anger I felt about the loss of my grandpa. You see - just like Fort Wayne - he is my childhood.

Like Fort Wayne, he was always there and offering up fun, food, and tidbits of information that I soaked in - but didn't always realize the significance of - until many years later. He is gone. The Fort Wayne I grew up with doesn't exist in the same way either. And while both realizations are hard to accept - they are what they are - and I can either be angry or I can feel warm and fuzzy and thankful because really, how many people can look back at their childhood as fondly as I can? While I hope lots can, I know that I am lucky lucky lucky.

So today's post - I guess you can call this a growth moment for me, eh? :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ice Skating at Reservoir Park

Ice Skating at Reservoir Park (1912)

Photo Credit: IPFW ContentDM

I looked far and wide for a picture of the Reservoir Park Ice Skating Pond - the one that *I knew* and experienced however, I didn't have any pictures in my own collection and a web search yielded very few results.

I picked this picture (yes, even though it is from almost 100 years ago) because it comes close to how I remember the place that my mother used to take me and my sister skating to. I remember the "big hill" (which is what I called it), the crowds of people (young and not so young), and the odd shape of the ice pond. I even had my own pair of ice skates! No rentals for me!

I've never talked to my mom about Reservoir Park - if she went there often as a child - but I got the distinct feeling that she had been there a lot. She was very comfortable with where everything was and when we first stepped out on the ice (one hand each in her hands), I felt like I was with a pro.

She glided across the pond with ease. Me - not so much. I fell. Lots of times. She would tell me - Kris, you need to bend your knees a little bit. Don't stand so stiff. It's advice my husband STILL repeats today and advice that my body still ignores (thus the number of times I still manage to land on my butt - not while ice skating but while navigating the ice outdoors). By the way - my sister Patty was a pro also. She's always been WAY more coordinated than me. Ice skating, gymnastics, cheerleading. Yep. She inherited my mom's coordination gene.

When I think about Reservoir Park and ice skating with my mom and sister, I am reminded of something that I purposely ignored in my teen years (and later in my adult life).

My mom - who had me when she was seventeen - no high school diploma - second child within 11 months of me - married to a man who didn't have a high school diploma and many times - not even employed - worked at KMart and at other places...well...she really did a lot for me and my sister. She made sure that we experienced Fort Wayne - probably - in all of the ways that she had. But of course she was working with a budget of practically ZERO.

And for that, I am grateful. Even if I forget to tell her :).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Death of a Timeless Man

Msgr. J. William Lester Obituary

When I was alerted by my husband that Monsignor Lester had died, I felt a terrible sadness in my heart.

Monsignor Lester
was this pillar of the Catholic community and not only did lots of people know him but his presence and influence was felt over several generations - in fact - four generations of my family.

Several of my family members received the sacraments of baptism, reconciliation, eucharist, and confirmation. There were home visits, hospital visits, last rites, and funeral services.

My mom and aunts went to Central Catholic High School and they, along with my grandpa and great-grandma were faithful congregation members at churches where he presided.

My husband and I were married by him - June 2, 1990 - in Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

The weird thing is - I wasn't "close" to him like I was to the priests that were in service at St. Therese (Father Rock, Father Frank).

I think because he was "old school", I held him at arm's length because I knew how much my grandpa (and others) respected him and I never, ever wanted to offend him. With Father Rock, I would crack jokes or poke fun at something and we would both have great belly laughs over it. With Monsignor Lester, I was serious and on my best behavior.

I knew Monsignor Lester had retired from his duties at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I knew that he was certainly up there in age. But I guess what I wasn't prepared for, was the death of this man who I thought of as timeless.

And because I had recently renewed my relationship with God and the Catholic Church, I always thought that I'd run into him again. And like always, he'd remember the face, but struggle with my name :).

But unfortunately, it is not to be.

God bless and keep you Monsignor Lester. I know that you are in a better place and that your life here in Fort Wayne was adored, admired, and appreciated by multiple generations of families. You touched many of our lives in ways that cannot be fully articulated. You will not be forgotten.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Key III Candies

Key III Candies
4211 Earth Drive
Fort Wayne, IN

Photo Credit: Me! Taken in May 2008

My family and candy have deep, deep ties! Not only do we love candy, but some family members have even worked for candy companies.

Wayne Candies Billboard
My mom and my Aunt Carolyn both worked at Wayne Candies. I don't remember that period of time but what I do remember is when my mother went to work at a NEW candy place called Key III.

Key III Candies was a solid bike ride from my house. It was on Earth Drive which was right off of Sand Hill Drive.

Key III existed in this warehouse structure and their main purpose was to make awesome candy!

I asked my mother how she came to work there and she told me that folks from Wayne Candies had left the company to start up Key III. They asked her to come work there and she did. My mom had all sorts of jobs within the candy factory but her most favorite was "quality control". I have to laugh because my mom, who was rail thin, loved her some candy and she could eat lots of it and you'd never know that this is how she passed the time of day ;).

There were two sets of memories that I have of Key III Candies.

First, my mom got to bring home the "rejects". Oh my gosh - when you grow up poor - "rejected" candy is like heaven on earth. She used to bring home boxes of chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate covered peppermint patties - oh - and the chocolate covered carmel nut thingies were THE BEST!!! When the company started experimenting with the white chocolate - well - those were the boxes I tended to leave alone ;).

My second memory was when we had the opportunity to take tours of the facility. I remember the big mixer machines and the conveyor belts where the chocolate was gracefully set up to coat those luscious buttons of carmel nut clusters. Everyone seemed to be wearing white from head to toe.

I haven't been inside Key III Candies in over 30 years (wow!) but my gosh, if I just close my eyes and concentrate real hard, I can still remember those awesome, chocolate smells.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Cathedral

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

1122 South Clinton Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46802-3130

Photo Credit: KFH (May 2008)

God and church have always been a factor in my family's life. My great-grandmother...Helena Starost Roy Kline...was a Catholic girl, through in through. She raised her three sons - Wayne (my grandfather), Walter Jr., and Kenneth as good Catholic boys. When Wayne and Walter Jr. grew up and married (Kenneth died as a boy), their children also continued the Catholic traditions.

The downtown churches - Cathedral, St. Mary's, and St. Patrick's were the three churches that generations of my family belonged to. I can find old newspaper clippings of marriages, funerals, first communions, baptisms, and school attendance.

Although much of my childhood revolved around St. Therese, most of my life's major events have taken place in Cathedral.

Photo: 1967 (from left) Wayne Roy, Kristina Frazier, Helena Starost Roy Kline, Patricia Frazier.

I was baptized there, I was married there, and my grandfather's funeral was held there. When I was a young adult, I sang in choir and attended mass there. I wasn't an every week person but I certainly considered myself a Catholic girl.

When I left Fort Wayne, all association with my Catholic church (in general) ceased. Part of that was my uncomfortableness with living in the Indianapolis area (it's still too big for me and doesn't have that small city/big town feeling that Fort Wayne always gave me). The other reason I didn't attend church was that I was pretty angry at God for taking away my grandfather. Even though I had expressed this opinion to Grandpa (while he was close to death even), he was very steadfast in his belief of God and was even perturbed at me for ever mentioning (me) "not believing in God anymore".

For 22 years, I have carried that pain with me - my grandfather's hastened and unfair death, my anger at God, and some of my grandfather's last words to me.

2009 has been a horrible year. You see I haven't posted much this year on my blog and I can tell you that much of that has to do with the heartbreak, heartache, and misfortune I have experienced this year.

Recently though, that anger that I've been holding on to for 22 years has dissipated. I can't tell you what happened exactly - it wasn't just one thing...it was a series of events and signs that made me realize that it was time to let go.

I still miss my grandfather but I know that I was one of the luckiest chicks on earth - to have had a man in my life who taught me so many life lessons and who loved me unconditionally...what more could anyone want? I no longer deny my belief in God and suddenly, I have a yearning to be close to my Cathedral again.

When I think about my Cathedral, I feel a sense of peace, a sense of awe, and I feel close to the things that have always been important to me (but you know, time/space sometimes makes you forget what those are). If I lived in Fort Wayne, I'd be right back there - singing in choir, attending mass (mostly) weekly but unfortunately, I don't live there anymore and now, I have to find somewhere else to continue the Catholic girl traditions.