Monday, October 21, 2013


This picture of Joan was taken in south-central Nebraska when Joan was about thirteen. We took the long trip by car from our home near Steamboat Springs, Colorado to visit Dad's relatives. With Mom, Dad, and five children (Larry wasn't born yet) the car was crowded, the scenery dull, and I didn't feel well, causing my parents to stop several times along the way. I'd like to think that Joan helped pass the time by telling us stories, but I don't remember it. She would have ridden in the front seat with Mom and Dad, leaving my brother, Duane, me, and the twins to the back seat. (Look closely at the picture and you'll see the twins, Sharon and Shirley, behind Joan.)

My memories of the trip are vague and few. I remember stopping to get gas in Casper, Wyoming and how Mom hated it because of the wind, which blasted us with gale force. But the real adventure began when we got to the home of one of Dad's cousins. There was so much mud in the long lane to their house that it was impassible by car. We were transported on a small trailer pulled by a farm tractor. The cousins we met there and the ones I met later in the little village of Overton were total strangers with whom I, at least, had little in common. My memories of Nebraska are of gray days and mud everywhere.

I love to look at this picture of my beautiful big sister. I especially remember the dress she is wearing because I wore it years later. Most of my wardrobe came from the attic where Mom saved Joan's clothes for me to grow into. Did I mind hand-me-downs? Not a bit. They had been Joan's and I was honored to wear them.

In contrast to the distant Nebraska cousins, our first cousins back in Colorado were also our first (and lasting) best friends. This is especially true of the Arnold family. Dad's sister Violet and her husband, Jack, had kids very close to our age. Lois is Joan's age, Donna, just a little older than my brother, Duane, Boyd is my age, and Jackie, the same age as Sharon and Shirley. We not only enjoyed the company of these cousins, but looked up to them as role models, somehow smarter, wiser, and more inventive than we were.

Joan especially loved and admired fun-loving Lois whose personality was nearly opposite of Joan's reserved and proper, sometimes fearful and shy approach to life. Here, in Joan's words is a description of this beloved cousin. It is the first page of what must have been a thrilling anecdote, but sadly, the rest of the pages have been lost at some point over the many years since it was written.

"It wasn't that my cousin, Lois, was bad—why she didn't have a mean bone in her body. It was just that she was so—so irrepressible. She was born with that special joy for living that you see once in a great while. A zest, a gusto, as they say, that was innate, that transcends any current psychology or Madison Avenue exhortation. My mother used to say she was spoiled. She wasn't. She was immune to discipline. She must have got three times the spankings I ever did. They just didn't have any effect. She couldn't integrate them into her special sense of life. Besides, everybody (especially Mom) loved her. She was fun. She was thin, almost boney, with long blond hair which was usually a tangle mass, and blue-green eyes that sparkled with delight and curiosity. She was utterly fearless. Perhaps it was this complete confidence that made her a natural leader."

This is from the beginning of a story about something that happened in a little one-room country school they both attended the year they had a new teacher who was "old, very, very old…wore flowered silk dresses that came almost to her ankles."

Much to my sorrow,  the pages with the rest of the story are lost. I must ask Lois if she remembers. If she does, I'll post it later.

We still see this set of cousins at least once a year and treasure their company and the memories of our past escapades. I, like Joan, am thankful for these and the many other cousins I have, know, and love.  

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