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So there’s a bunch of weirdos walking around dressed as clowns scaring the living sh*t out of people all over the United States. Honestly, I can only ask, “What. The. F?”
Here’s what I’m thinking…
It takes quite a bit of work to get all fancied up and made up like a clown. There’s the costume, the hair, the make-up, the sometimes assorted props; it just seems like way too much effort put into doing something that is terrifying people of all ages. Is it really worth it? It’s enough for me to get up every morning, take a shower, blow dry my hair, apply some sort of facial cleanser, moisturizer and makeup, so I can’t imagine waking up one day and saying to myself, “Hey, I’m gonna take an extra hour or two to make myself up as a clown, walk around silently in my neighborhood, and cause children to need hundreds of hours of therapy, scare dogs, and freak out every passerby I see.”
I don’t mind clowns. There are plenty of friendly, happy, helpful people out there who dress up as clowns and perform at parties. They try to bring joy to people, make people laugh, and spread happiness. Now these evil, weird, creepy clowns are walking around ruining it for all the nice, not-so-creepy clowns out there, and that’s just rude. Stop ruining everything for the good clowns!
I can only imagine that the people dressing up as the creepy clowns don’t have much going on in their lives to begin with. I’m all for scaring people at Halloween. I think it’s a lot of fun. I also enjoy it when Ellen Degeneres has people on her show and she scares the crap out of them. It’s hilarious. But I think the creepy clowns are taking this a bit too far.
In all seriousness, someone is going to get hurt. The next thing we’ll hear on the late night TV news will be that a group of people beat up a man dressed as a clown and he’s now clinging to life in a local hospital, or a creepy clown was slowly following a couple of teenagers down a path in a park and one of the teens pulled out a knife and stabbed the clown to death. It’s going to happen- something bad. It’s only a matter of time.
My youngest son, who is in the seventh grade, came home after school yesterday and told me that everyone is talking about the scary clowns. He said that there are several children who are so frightened, they have decided to not go trick-or-treating this year.
Now the clowns are ruining Halloween? Not acceptable.
So, here’s my message to you, Creepy Clown-folk…
Enough is enough. It was sort of funny the first time, but now it’s gone too far. There are stories about a woman being attacked by a clown, a child followed by a clown, teenagers chased by a clown with a knife. It needs to stop, or we’re going to have a plethora of dead clowns lying around in places all over the country, and that’s not good for anyone.
You are freaks, and you need to get your sh*t together. Rather than roaming around aimlessly in your clown suit, find a job or go volunteer at a soup kitchen somewhere. Do some good. Stop scaring innocent people, or you yourself are going to get hurt. Or worse.
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I wasn’t able to include every single person I loved or who influenced me growing up in this particular post because it would have made it way too long. Just know that I know who you are, and so do you...
I grew up in a small town. I’m talking no stoplights, no fast food, no need to lock your doors at night small. My parents, younger sister, and I moved to the tiny town just before I started kindergarten. My father was an Indiana State Police trooper. He felt that a very small town would be the perfect place to raise children because it would be safe, quiet, and (I’m certain), it would be easier for him to keep an eye on my sister and me when we became teenagers. He was right. We never got away with anything. And really, we were both too scared to do anything bad, anyway. I’m pretty sure if I had done something bad, my dad wouldn’t have hesitated to throw me in the slammer. I’m not kidding.
As a teenager, I complained about how boring the town was and how there was never anything to do, but as I look back on my time growing up there, I realize there was always a lot to do, and there were more people than I ever knew looking out for me.
The first memories I have of moving to Kentland, Indiana were of the house my parents bought there. It was a total mess. There were wild raspberry bushes growing in the side and back yards. The grass hadn’t been mowed in, I don’t know, years. The house needed a new paint job both outside and inside. The carpets were filthy, there was animal feces all over the place, the wallpaper was peeling off the walls, and then there was the basement. I was convinced there was a group of large, predatory monsters living down there that would come upstairs in the middle of the night and kill my entire family. I thought my parents had gone crazy. How in the world did they expect me to live in that hovel?
We cleaned, we mopped, we tore wallpaper (really, my parents did 99.9 percent of the work), we painted, we cleaned some more, and eventually, the little, ugly, unlivable house became livable. After a few months, it was even pretty.
During a day of cleaning, the first of our neighbors came to visit. I was delighted to see a very pretty woman standing on our front porch holding hands with an even more beautiful, dark-haired, brown-eyed little girl. She had long pigtails that were hanging down her front, almost long enough to touch her belly button. I wished I had long hair like hers.
The neighbors introduced themselves as Sharon (the mom), and Kim (the daughter). Kim’s dad, Rick, was also an Indiana State Police trooper, and he knew my dad. I was instantly hooked. They invited me to go to the local grocery store with them, and I was more than happy when my mom agreed to let me go. Not only did I want to get to know this Kim with the long, beautiful pigtails, but I wanted out of that dusty, dirty old house.
We were lucky to have a grocery store in our little town, called Murphy’s, owned by the Murphy family. Most of the other people living in the towns near ours had to travel to our grocery store in Kentland, or across the Indiana/Illinois border into Watseka (they had a McDonald’s, so the town seemed huge and exciting to me), or go even further to West Lafayette, which was (in my opinion), a booming metropolis where I would eventually attend college, in order to get their groceries.
As I entered the store with Sharon and Kim, I noticed that every cashier waved and said “Hello!” Sharon grabbed a grocery cart, and Kim and I jumped inside. It still amazes me to think we were both small enough to fit in one grocery cart together back then. Sharon went straight to the freezer isle, pulled out a box of popsicles, and let Kim and I each pick one. We rode around in the store, licking our frozen treats, as Sharon did her shopping and chatted with each store employee and other customers. I didn’t understand how Sharon could have possibly known everyone in that store, but she did. I didn’t feel strange or bothered. I loved all the people and their happy faces telling Sharon how cute Kim and I were, many of them welcoming me to Kentland. I felt like I was home, sitting right there inside a grocery store at Murphy’s.
In a very short time, Kim became Kimmy, and also my very best friend. I had no idea then that we would grow up together, attend both high school and college together, and remain best friends to this day. She’s the Godmother to my oldest son. I am the Godmother to her son. We’ve been in each other’s weddings, attended each other’s family funerals, supported each other’s accomplishments, and helped each other through the worst of times. Her family became my family, and mine hers. What a precious gift this little town of Kentland had given me on that very first day in the grocery store.
Little did I know, there were more gifts to come.
I loved kindergarten. My teacher was Mrs. Russell, and I thought she was the most beautiful, kind, and smart woman (besides my mother and neighbor, Sharon, of course), in the universe. On my first day of school, I wanted to walk. Back then, we felt safer. Small towns were ideal for letting your child walk to and from school. However, my mother was having none of it, and she told me she wasn’t about to let me walk all the way to school without her. I was angry, so she let me walk a block ahead, while she stayed behind, just walking a bit slower, but still watching me. I looked back hundreds of times to make sure she never got too close, and if she did, she got the “stink eye” from me. After all, I was five years old, starting school, and I was ready to be independent.
The large, brick, old elementary school building housed grades K through 6. The classrooms seemed large to me. The hallways smelled of Pine Sol, and the bathrooms were tiny with ugly windows and scary sounding flushes. I avoided going into them as much as I possibly could. But this was a new start for me and a place where I could meet other children. I loved it.
Our Principal, Mr. McKnight, was a big guy, always smiling, always kind. I remember feeling very sorry for him when he had to paddle the “bad kids”, because I could see in his eyes that he really didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t sure he was cut out for “principalling”- he was just too nice. I think he hated the paddling more than the kids he had to paddle.
Our lunch lady made us homemade lunches. She’d come in before the sun would shine and roll the dough for her chicken and noodles, chopped carrots, and set out trays for all the students lucky enough to enjoy her food. There were no microwaves or food in plastic. It was all made from scratch by that woman and her helpers, and we were lucky to be able to eat it. We had no idea then how lucky we were- too young to appreciate a woman spending hours to make sure her students had a hot, healthy meal every day.
My elementary school music teacher, Louis Yuen, was asian. I was thrilled. I’d barely ever seen anyone who looked different than me, so I was fascinated to be around him. He was friendly, talented, and encouraging. He was the first person to tell my parents that I could sing. I loved his class. Every day I looked forward to music and I belted out the songs Mr. Yuen taught us. Eventually, we had a bit of a special relationship. Mr. Yuen and his family lived very close to us, and when I got older, he and his wonderful wife allowed me to babysit for their young boys. Their boys were adorable and sweet. I believe they have both grown into two of the most educated, kindest, intelligent people to ever grow up in Kentland. I’m pretty sure I had nothing to do with that, but it’s nice to remember that I used to babysit for them.
We found a church called The Covenant Federated. In our little town, most everyone was either Catholic or Christian/Presbyterian, and I believe there were also a few Baptists. We would get dressed up every Sunday morning and go to church where I met some of the best people I’d ever meet in my life.
Reverend Moore was a round-faced, balding, adorable, God-loving, gentle man who, along with his wife, Benna, quickly became friends with my parents. I loved them. Life was always more relaxing and happy when they would come for a visit. Reverend Moore had a contagious smile and the kindest heart of anyone I knew. He would do terrific sermons every Sunday that were full of humor and grace and made it easier for me to understand how to begin my relationship with God.
That church filled with those people surrounded me with love and support from the time I was five-years-old until I left for college and moved away. I won’t forget the time I sang a solo one Sunday morning, hit a high note and my voice cracked. I was devastated. Looking back now, it was such a small little mistake, most people probably didn’t even notice, but at the time, I felt awful. I finished my song, went to sit in pew next to my mother, and sobbed. I tried to hold back the tears, but I couldn’t help it.
Not even a day or two later, I received cards in the mail from several of the members of our church. These small notes were filled with words like “brave” and “beautiful”, “proud”, and “love”. Mrs. Batton, a sweet, spunky, always well-dressed woman wrote that I had the voice of an angel. Mr. Riegle, a quiet, strong, loving man told me I was brave. I know there were other notes, and I am sorry I can’t remember every person who wrote to me, but those notes made me feel special and loved, and made me realize that making a mistake was okay, and that those people loved me whether I could sing a perfect note or not.
Mr. Vincent, one of the kindest men I’d ever know, and our neighbor across the back alley from us, would sit in his backyard in the early evening and listen to me sing. I don’t know why I used to go in my backyard and sing, but I did, and so I suspect, all the neighbors heard me. Some, I’m sure, were not as thrilled about it as Mr. Vincent was. He saw my mom outside gardening one day and told her that maybe she should think about getting me some voice lessons or something.
“She’s really pretty good.” Mr. Vincent gave my mom one of his nice smiles, and went back to his house where his wife and three girls were probably waiting on him to start grilling dinner.
Luckily for me, we had a woman who was one of the choir directors at our church who also gave voice lessons on the side. She had a strong, perfect voice, and little did we know at the time, had graduated from Juilliard. Who would have thought that in our little town of only about twelve-hundred people, we’d have a practical celebrity living just two streets away from us? She may have been the most talented person living in all of Kentland, but she was so modest, no one would have ever guessed that about her. But I figured it out pretty quickly.
My mom called this woman, Doris Williamson, and set up my first voice lesson. She charged us five whole dollars per lesson, and, during that first lesson, I had no idea that I was learning from one of the best singers and teachers I could ever know. After lesson one, I was hooked. And low and behold, Doris (or Mrs. Williamson, as I would call her), lived in a house with her parents (two sweet, older, special, talented people), and her super-talented daughter, Elaine. Elaine was a couple years older than me, and if anyone had the voice of an angel, it was her.
We became friends. She was like a big sister to me. She protected me, cared for me, taught me. She covered for me once when I’d overslept on Easter morning at Sunrise Service at church. None of our alarms went off that morning, and my entire family slept through the service. I was supposed to sing a solo that morning, and I was mortified when I finally did wake up that Sunday. I asked my mom if she would please call Mrs. Williamson and tell her what happened, but my mom told me it had been my responsibility to have been there, so I had to call her and apologize.
I thought I literally might die of shame. I dialed the phone number for the church and asked for “Doris Williamson, please.” Doris came to the phone, and I started bawling like an idiot. I didn’t even know if she could understand the words I said, but she assured me everything would be fine, these things happen, and not to worry, because Elaine got up and sang for me. Just like a big sister, would, I imagined.
Singing opened doors for me in that little town. We had this mysterious, ultra-talented, high energy, high school theatre director, named Mr. Cornell, who put me in several of the plays he directed at the high school. He was tough, but fair. He liked fast music, big voices, and perfection. He made me a better singer, a better actress, and he helped me find the confidence I needed to get through high school. I’d found a place, something I was good at, and it was in a tiny little town, in a little school theatre, in a high school that was smack dab in the middle of a cornfield. That man was an inspiration for me and so many other students who needed a place to fit in. He stayed in contact with me through college and afterwards- just checking up on me every so often. It was always evident that he cared. You just don’t find people like that very often.
I had a sophomore English teacher who didn’t listen to some of the other teachers I’d had who told her I wouldn’t be able to handle placement in her “gifted” English class. Back then, no one really understood that I had Attention-Deficit Disorder or Dyscalculia. I think some of the teachers thought I was nice, but maybe not that smart. And honestly, I didn’t think I was very smart, either. But Karen Molter did not agree. She knew I desperately wanted to be in that English class of hers. Each year her “gifted” class worked together to write a book, and I was dying to be able to participate. So, Mrs. Molter figured out a way to get me in there, with a group of some of the most gifted kids in our class, and I helped write that book. In fact, I was an assistant editor of the book, and I was in Heaven. I think Mrs. Molter may have been one of the first people to ever see past my sometimes weird personality, my ADD, my math issues, and believe I could write. What a gift she gave me that year. I loved writing that book.
Speaking of learning issues, my heart still goes out to my ninth grade Algebra teacher, Mr. Scott. He was soft spoken and so kind. He would meet me before school started or after school to give me extra help with math. He tried his best to help me, but I was practically a lost cause. No matter how many times I looked at him with my blank stare while he tried to explain one of the problems, he never got upset or angry with me. I’d never met someone so patient. I could only imagine what he must have been thinking, “This girl is the worst math student of all math students in the entire state of Indiana!”, but he never once said a word or made me feel stupid. I am fairly certain that was the year his entire head of hair turned gray and then all fell out. I still think about him and can’t believe how hard he worked trying to teach me and how patient he was. I still hate Algebra, but I don’t blame him.
I teamed up with a girlfriend, KC Dennis, in that sophomore English class, and we became the best of friends. She was in every “gifted” class since elementary school, popular, pretty, and sweet. She had a great sense of humor, was a terrific writer, and a great athlete. In fact, if KC wanted to do something, she did it, and she did it well. To this day, I don’t think there is anything KC can’t do. She has always been and still is spectacular.
KC’s dad was my dentist. He was a funny, lovable, messy genius type of man who knew I was terrified of any and all dental procedures. He’d always be sure to calm me down at every visit and give me a little extra medicine to numb my mouth. After I graduated from college and I needed a job, Dr. Dennis let me come work for him, even if it did drive him nuts when I would throw away papers he thought he needed. He was a bit of a hoarder, so I was really just trying to help out. I should also mention that not only was Dr. Dennis one of two dentists in our town, he was also the County Coroner. It made for an interesting summer job for me that year. It was gross, but he had some great stories.
KC and I joined the high school swim team and were lucky to have an awesome coach who was patient (sometimes), hard-working, smart, and expected the best from his swimmers. He definitely brought out the best in KC and me. We loved our time on the swim team, we weren’t too bad at swimming, and, just like how Mr. Cornell helped bring out my talent for theatre, Mr. Tony Hiatt, our swim coach, brought out the swimmer in me. He pushed me to work hard, and the work paid off. He respected me as a person and didn’t treat me like a kid. He let me babysit for his beautiful, little red-haired girls, Meagan and Jenilie. They were precious girls, even if Jenilie cried the entire time I would watch them. I have always hoped I didn’t do something to scar her for life. She really didn’t like babysitters! Now both Meagan and Jenilie have children of their own. I bet Jenilie’s daughter doesn’t cry as much as her mom did!
Each year for my birthday, my parents would take my sister and me to the fanciest and best restaurant in Kentland. We may not have had McDonald’s, but we had The Old Colonial Inn, and that was much better. Owned by a hard-working and dedicated couple, David and Mary Ryan, the Old Colonial Inn was beautiful. It was located on main street, right across from the courthouse, and they served “fancy food”, like shrimp, steak, and french onion soup. I had the happiest of birthdays there, with Dave, Mary, and their staff bringing me cake or ice cream at the end of my meal and wishing me a “Happy birthday”.
One summer, Mr. Cornell picked me to join my friend Elaine, and a few other singers to do a small show there. I’m not sure if it’s still hanging there in the back hallway, but there used to be a picture of all of us in that show on display at the Colonial Inn. I loved that place and how warm and friendly everyone was who worked there. David and Mary hired me to babysit for their son, Joe, every once in awhile, who was, hands down, the easiest and most well-behaved child I had ever babysat in my life. I almost felt guilty at the end of the night taking their money for watching their child. I’m not sure what Joe is up to now, but I’ll bet he’s a success. He was one smart kid.
My friend, Hallie Knepp, lived right across the street from David and Mary Ryan. Hallie was two years younger than me, but had the street smarts of a thirty-year-old man who lived in Brooklyn, New York. She taught me how to ride a bike. I think she was riding a bike without training wheels by the time she was three-years-old. We’d grab Kimmy and would hang out in her mom’s car, pretending like we knew how to drive, using straws or pencils as “cigarettes”, because, well, we were cool, and eating mustard sandwiches. Her older brother, Daren, and his friend, David Gross, would terrorize us by bringing out knives and not letting us out of the car or locking us up in Hallie’s attic. Good times. Just to be clear, they never stabbed us with the knives, they just pretended they would hurt us. I do think I remember there were some tears, though.
Hallie had the most beautiful of baby dolls, that, if I remember correctly, her mom used to order from London. I felt so lucky and fancy when Hallie would let me play with those dolls. They were the most amazing dolls I’d ever seen. I wanted one of them so badly. More than once, I wanted to pretend I’d forgotten I was holding one of the dolls and run home with her tucked under my arm so I could keep her all for myself. I never did it, but I really wanted to. I’m glad I decided against committing theft back then, but, really, those dolls were gorgeous.
Hallie’s mom, Pat, was also beautiful and always smelled like perfume. Not heavy awful perfume, but a soft scent that smelled like no one else but Pat Knepp. She was extremely talented. She could decorate a plain, ugly room and have it looking like a ballroom in minutes.
The Funk family lived down the street from me- first Don and Nancy Funk with their sons Matt and Dan, and then Dick and Elaina Funk with their boys, Ted, Jason, Ben, and Chad. Their family had a lot of history in Kentland and owned a famous seed corn company that, I believe, is still in existence today.
Dan was my friend, and I really liked that guy. He wasn’t afraid to hang out with me, a girl, and he liked a lot of the same things I did. One Halloween, he let me help out with a Funk family haunted house we put together in the Funk’s basement. It was a huge success, and we scared the living daylights out of many of the neighborhood kids that year. Matt Funk was way too handsome for me to talk to, so I did my best to avoid being in his presence any time I was at the Funk house. When Dan and I went to high school, he joined me in Mr. Cornell’s theatre productions, where we played most of our roles opposite each other. We had the best of times acting and singing together and learning as much as we could from Doris Williamson and Mr. Cornell.
When Dan’s family moved out of the house down the street, Dan’s uncle, Dick and his family moved in there. Elaina Funk was pretty and sweet, and she would throw fabulous parties. She would let me come down and help her set up and get ready. She even paid me, which was just an extra bonus. She was patient as she showed me how to make different recipes, and she never got angry when I ruined a few salads. With four boys, she had her hands full, but she always kept them all together. They were a fun family, and I can still remember passing by their house and seeing Dick in the yard gardening while wearing khaki pants. He had to have been the town’s best dressed gardner, and his lawn has always been beautiful. There must be something to gardening in khaki pants.
During the time I grew up in this little town, there was a family whose members were always there for us, the Steve and Paula Ryan family. Steve was the county prosecutor, and by that time, my dad was a detective at the state police. Dad and Steve always had a lot of stories to tell and criminals to arrest and prosecute, so it was fun hearing their conversations. The Ryans lived way out in the middle of nowhere, cornfields on every side of their property. They had horses and a pool, and they’d invite us over for every fourth of July. Our parents were good friends, and Paula would come to just about every swim meet I had, every choir concert, each school play, and everything else I would ever do, and take pictures.
She had a gift for taking lovely photographs, and when I graduated from high school, she presented me with several albums full of pictures of me doing everything I had done all throughout the four years of school. She didn’t miss anything. Thanks to Paula, I have pictures of everything I did back then to show my own kids (and prove to them I really was on the swim team and did perform on stage). What a gift! How lucky I was to have a friend like Paula. It was almost as if she loved me as much as my own mother did.
When I was a senior in high school, the day before high school graduation, five of our classmates were in a horrific car accident. Four of them died. That day changed our lives in that small little town. There were only sixty-four students in my graduating class, so the loss of four of our finest and smartest was devastating. We lost that security and feeling of being “safe”. We hadn’t had to face a situation that big and sad in our young lives. The thought of people I saw every day, friends I had cared about who were my own age could be alive one day and gone the next, was too much for my young brain to comprehend.
My dad heard the sirens that night and bolted out of the house, after checking to make sure I was asleep and safe in my bed. He arrived at the scene to the most painful and awful experience he’d seen in his entire police career. Maybe he’d seen worse things, but this time he knew the victims, and they were his daughter’s age, so this time, it was not only horribly sad, but personal.
My dad did his best at the scene to try save their lives, but they were already gone. All but one. One boy still clung to life, as my dad held a the bag attached to the IV that was in the boy’s arm. He said the boy was singing while he was trapped in the car- staying awake, trying to stay alive. That boy lived. I visited him in the hospital shortly after the accident and then again at his home once he was released. He’s a professor now and a writer, a father and a husband, and the best concert pianist I’ve ever heard play. He’s amazing. Every member of our tiny community was devastated when we lost those kids, but that one boy, the way he held on and was able to survive, gave us all hope.
That accident changed everything. My dad had to inform a few of the kids’ parents that their children were gone. After that, my dad was never the same. I think it was just too much to have seen those kids in that car. Our hearts were broken- every single one of us who lived in Kentland, Indiana, was changed. The only good to come out of that terrible tragedy is that, I think, it brought our community together and closer. We took less for granted, and we hugged those we loved just a little bit tighter. I think of those classmates of mine who lost their lives in that car accident, and I have no doubt that, if they would have lived, they all would have done something great with their lives. Heaven is lucky to have them now.
Kentland was small. It wasn’t glamorous. There weren’t many “rich” people living there. We only had a movie theater when someone would buy it, fix it up, own it for a little while, then have to let it go because it just didn’t make enough money to keep it open. We didn’t have many famous people from Kentland. But we had places like Don’s Drive In, where you could get a Jumbo Burger and a Boston Shake every summer. We had the Kentland Pool, where I worked in high school as a lifeguard, and watched over nearly every single child living in Kentland in the 1980’s. If I didn’t babysit for the kid, I probably watched him swim in the Kentland Pool or taught him swim lessons, or plucked him out of the deep end of the pool while he was slowly sinking to the bottom. Some of those kids were not the best of swimmers.
We had Sharpe’s store, run by Mrs. Sondergrath, where my parents would buy my shoes, and where KC’s Aunt Peg would help you find a bra or pair of underwear when you needed one. We had Harvey’s Dime Store, and a hardware store.
We had an optometrist's office where doctors Reed and Curtis would check your eyes and get your glasses if you needed them. And Dr. Reed was just about the friendliest person you could ever meet. He spoke to everyone he would see, and he never stopped smiling. I never saw him in a bad mood, not ever. After seeing him on the street, you’d spend the rest of your day happy. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I babysat for his kids, too.
We had a courthouse and lawyers and judges. Judge Molter hired me to work in his office one summer I was home from college. He was the best, most fun, down-to-earth judge I’d ever seen. I got to work there during a murder trial (we didn’t see many of those), so it was a pretty exciting job for a college student. In his spare time, Judge Molter would ride around on his riding lawnmower and mow lawns. I mean, where else but a small town in Indiana would you see your Circuit Court Judge outside mowing your lawn? And he did. He mowed our lawn. He did a darn good job, too. Once Judge Molter’s son was old enough, he took over the mowing. He was a good kid and worked hard. I wonder what he’s doing now? I’ll bet it’s something great.
We had the Nu-Joy restaurant where people would go on Sundays after church and order the hot roast beef or hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, and finish off with a piece of pie. My dad would meet friends there from time to time and they’d have coffee and tell police stories. I think Dad and Reverend Moore spent some time there together talking about how fast my dad drove his police car and how exciting it was when “The Rev” (that’s what my dad called him), got to go on a call with my dad. The Rev was not only the minister at our church, he was also the Indiana State Police Chaplain, so he and my dad spent a lot of time together.
And then, many years later, after I had grown up, moved to Michigan, and got married, we had a funeral for my dad in Kentland, Indiana. Even though none of us but my mom lived there anymore, that was where we spent our childhood, so there was no other place we would have had Dad’s funeral. We called Reverend Moore, who had long since retired from being our church minister, and asked if he would please come back and perform our Dad’s funeral service. He came. He held us and cried with us. He told us the good stories about my dad that we really needed to hear at that sad time. I’ll never forget how he helped us get through those few day following my father’s death.
Others came, too. The church was packed the day we had my father’s funeral. Many of the people I’d grown up with in Kentland were there, even if they’d moved away. My heart was broken, but again, those people from Kentland were there with their hugs, their support, and their love. I remember flowers sent by old classmates like Annetta, Ginny and Shelia, with sweet messages letting me know how sorry they were that I had lost my dad. It was truly amazing that people I hadn’t seen for years took the time to come to the funeral, send flowers, or a card.
The Miller Family- Larry, Mim, Pam, Sean and Jodi, not only sent flowers and cards immediately after my father’s death, but continued to send them months and months after his death, as well. It’s as if they were letting me know that they hadn’t forgotten about him or me, and they weren’t going to forget. Their support meant the world to me during the worst time of my life. Mim and Larry had hearts of gold and cared about everyone in Kentland, and the surrounding small towns.
Several years after my father passed away, Larry and Mim were on their way to church and were hit by another car. They were killed instantly. At that moment, Kentland lost two more of its best and brightest. I’m sure Mim and Larry are up in Heaven now looking down at their children and smiling as they watch their daughters mother their own children, and their son be a father to his daughter. They would have made the best grandparents. But I know they are up there bursting with pride as they watch their kids keep their family together.
As a child, and especially as a teenager, you never see the gifts that are sitting there right in front of you. Growing up in a small town in Indiana surrounded by nothing but cornfields, you don’t realize how lucky you are. You wish for more- you think life might be better in a big city, or anywhere else. You crave more opportunity, more friends, more excitement, less isolation.
But then you become an adult and you look back on the memories you have growing up in that tiny little town. You realize then that the best gifts you could have ever had were those people right down the street, the girl who made the donuts you picked up on Saturday mornings at the grocery store, the people who gathered at your church every Sunday, the woman who followed you around with a camera just so you’d always have memories of what you did in high school, the teacher who never gave up on you, the classmates who came together when you lost four of your own, and the best friend who made you the Godmother of her son.
I know I’ll never live in a town like that again. I am not raising my sons in a small town, either, but I’m happy I have the stories about Kentland, Indiana that I can share with them as they grow. I haven’t been back there in a very long time, but I plan to take my boys there one day and show them the tiny little town in the middle of a bunch of cornfields that raised me and guided me into becoming the person I am today.
And that will be the very best gift of all.