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From a Crab's Perspective

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by Ann Ulrich Miller

Posted on September 18, 2013 by Web Dreams

Stepping Forth ... the beginning

I have decided to share parts of my work-in-progress on this blog. I am writing my autobiography from my teen-age years, titled Stepping Forth: The Challenges of an American Girl Growing Up in the 60s. I will try to add a new piece every week. I hope you enjoy these segments ...

Introduction

From a very early age I was a writer.  I loved to write stories and share them with others.  At age 6, I pecked out my first short story on a manual typewriter in the basement of our home in Monona, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, all of those precious stories from childhood have vanished.

In 1966, I started keeping a diary. I was 13 years old.  I don't know why I waited until that age, but most likely I needed to record the many feelings and experiences going on in my life.  The following is an interpretation and an intensely edited version of those years in my life that helped form the woman I became ... and still am.  Fifty years later, I am grateful to have kept all of these diaries, despite the burden of toting boxes and file cabinets around with me throughout the ensuing years.

A little background is in order. I was the third child born to my parents, Marv and Marion Schumacher. Both my parents were born in Madison, Wisconsin, and grew up on the east side. They were married during World War II, in August 1943, when my father was stationed in San Diego. He was a sergeant in the Marine Corps and Mom had come out from Washington, DC, aboard a train, after leaving her job as a government office secretary. My oldest brother, Jon, was born in November 1944 in San Diego, and after the war ended the little family moved back to Madison, where brother Jim was born in June 1947.

I was the first girl, born on July 17, 1952. My mother had miscarried a baby before I was conceived, the result of an infected cat scratch on her arm. Three siblings followed: another brother, Paul, born in February 1955; my sister Laurie, born in March 1958, and sister Alice, born in August 1960. Altogether we were a family of eight. I grew up in our modest suburban house at 5505 Winnequah Trail, which remained the family abode from 1950 through 1993, when my parents sold it and moved to Nevada.

Our neighborhood in the Village of Monona (later to become a city) was friendly, safe, and middle class. Monona was almost totally Caucasian in the '50s and '60s. As a suburb of Wisconsin's capital city, it was an ideal location to raise a family. It consisted mainly of families that were stable, employed and with similar morals and philosophies. Our father worked for more than thirty years at the same company, Madison Kipp Corporation, on the east side of Madison, where he had started out before joining the Marines. He worked as a human resources manager and later as a safety manager. Mom stayed at home strictly as housewife and mother. I am convinced she had her hands full with six kids.

By the time I was 13 and started keeping a diary, my oldest brother Jon had gotten married at the age of 20 and was a father. My nephew, Geoff, had been born in November 1965. Jon, Barb and the baby lived in Monona, not far away, and I was called every so often to baby-sit. My brother Jim, who was soon to turn 19, was destined for Vietnam after failing to make it through his freshman year at Whitewater State College.

I was in eighth grade at Winnequah School in April 1966, when the diary had its beginning.

1966

'Keep and Bear My Secrets'

 

My first journal entry was made on Sunday, April 24, 1966.

 

"I had better warn you," I write, "that on this paper and on the papers I will be using, the secrets of my life will be placed. Please keep and bear my secrets, for they are more than precious to me. In this diary I will reveal many of the wonders that I know." The next day, Monday, April 25, 1966, I write: "We are having such lovely spring weather here in Monona. I even have a slight sunburn. I love it when the sun is pondering upon the Earth with its green, green grass. I am in love with the heat and long for a big grassy hill where I can romp all afternoon and listen to God's creatures living. Yesterday I had that longing very strong. It seems that I am only a step away from the hill until another person comes and spoils it. If only I could be alone for once!"

 

I was the youngest member of our local Writers Club, which met monthly at the Monona Community Center. "At 7:30 this evening I attended the monthly Writer's Club meeting. I really didn't learn anything much, but I am beginning to feel more like I belong to the group. I am ashamed of it sometimes because I am only 13 and every other member is at least 28 years old."

 

I also write about a boy that I liked at the time who was in high school. I knew him from band and even though I didn't really know him that well, he definitely had an impact on my eighth grade affections. "He goes to the high school, so I hardly ever see him. When I do, I feel so wonderful inside. My heart starts to beat until it putters. It is a wonderful feeling. In school I see his blue, blue eyes staring into mine. Then I shut my eyes and nothing happens. So I concentrate on school work so that teachers won't call on me."

 

On Tuesday, April 26, I talk about what a "wary day" it was. "Sometimes it rained, sometimes it was just gray. My feelings have been gray also. It seems as if I am neglected by everyone. I feel friendless when I go to school. Every day it's the same thing. I see Kathy and Sue at lunchtime. I see them in Home Ec class. Don't they ever get sick of me? I know they do. What has happened to me? All of a sudden I realize that I am down as low as it can get. I can't smile or chat with anyone at school before I get a sneer or a small unfriendly antic. This afternoon I couldn't help crying. Then God spoke to me and soothed me. He told me that after I show the real me, people will recognize me. He told me to do a good job on my books and they'd be published. This dried my tears and I suddenly had a big faith in God. As long as I am with Him, I will never be lost. I truly believe this, and if only everybody believed this, there would be no wars, no crimes, no selfishness."

 

I write about my eighth grade English teacher: "Mrs. Powley is such a wonderful person. She understands me. Mrs. Brown tried too hard to understand me, but Mrs. Powley fills my lonely heart with life. Yesterday she lent me a book, The Elements of Style. It is helping to improve my writing. I am deeply grateful to her, and someday I will owe part of my success to her."

 

Adolescence is a challenging time and being 13 was not always fun, as my entry on Wednesday, April 27, 1966 reveals: "Everybody is trying real hard to please me. Now Mr. Stoker, the Monona librarian, has lent me a book called Journalism Today. Besides that, my mother has some graduation formals that were Paula Franke's and will buy them from Mrs. Franke for me, if they fit and I like them. Although I will be wearing Chris Borstad's formal for my graduation dress, my mother is still going to buy the white dress for church and parties.

 

"School is still rough, but when I realize that I am at the most difficult stage of my life now, I feel better and know that in later years I will look back at myself and laugh. I know that I am no longer a child because I don't laugh and have fun like I used to. Yet I am not an adult either. I am very confused when there is so much hatred and bad attitudes in the world. But I know it will be better. Maybe I am so unpopular because I've lived too long in this area. People know me too well. But I can't let that stop me from living. I am frightened. I can just see how similar high school will be with what is now. It is a frightful and dangerous thought, but life must go on. I am not that deep down. So what if I'm a nobody? Others feel the same way I do, I am sure."

 

To Be Continued

 

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Ann Ulrich Miller

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