Mr. Schutter: His legacy

Teachers have always been important to young people and the communities they serve. Strong educators are vital to our country and the overall health of our democracy. There are many studies that show significant academic growth when students receive skilled, specific instruction in the classroom, and when teachers are clear in communicating what they want students to learn. Our school districts invest in training, helping classroom teachers learn, practice and implement important instructional methods which help students.  

Academic growth and the techniques employed to foster student achievement are, of course, important. But exceptional teachers not only spur academic growth, they also leave an impact on their students, providing direction for their lives, positively affecting relationships, career choices, and even their character.

These teachers leave a legacy.

For many former Vicksburg High School students and athletes, one such person was Mr. Paul Schutter, former math teacher, track and football coach and long-time community member. Mr. Schutter passed away last month, and his family and friends are being reminded of the exemplary legacy of this kind, gentle man.

A yearbook picture which shows his delightful sense of humor. He and his coaching friends shared this jacket for their yearbook pictures.

Mr. Schutter was a servant in his commitment to organizations and others. His funeral home page is filled with comments from former students, neighbors, co-workers, and lifelong friends. These comments emphatically speak of the words of encouragement he gave them and the excellence he firmly demanded both in the classroom and on the playing fields. They speak of his innovation and creativity as a teacher. They speak of his good, fun-loving nature.

There was never a doubt about the depth of his commitment and love for his family. He and Marilyn were married for over 65 years. They created a loving, stable home for their three children, a haven where their children’s friends always felt embraced. They eventually welcomed many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mr. Schutter also lived a life of faith. He daily “walked the walk” of humility and compassion. He showed up. He spoke carefully. He lived with intention. He was a blessing to many people, and, in turn, he was blessed in his relationships with his family, friends, and community.

One of his granddaughters, Danielle, shared with me how amazed she was by all the kind words and stories about her grandpa. “He just had the best life. You couldn’t even write a story about a better life than my grandpa had.”

Mr. Schutter in the classroom. He kept a careful, close eye on all of us.

His example of a well-lived life is a gift for everyone he leaves behind, a comfort for all of us who loved him.

How lucky we were to know him. To cross paths with him in our lifetime. To witness his ready smile and twinkle in his eyes. To feel his strong handshake or firm hand on our shoulder. To receive his guidance when we needed it.

A quote by Colin Powell tells us that “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence.” By all measures, Mr. Schutter’s long, fruitful life reflects success.

Thank you, Mr. Schutter, for the many lives you touched and your life of integrity.

Thank you for your legacy.

It’s a Fine Life

The lost is found

I thought I had lost her, but today I found her tucked in a little box in my top dresser door.

This tiny ornament.

I’m sure she doesn’t look like much to most people. She’s very small, a bit faded, and starting to crack. But she is a symbol of how special I was to my grandmother.

My grandmother never spoke those words—I doubt she spoke words of affection to any of her eight grandchildren. That just wasn’t her way.

She wasn’t a traditional grandmother who baked cookies or babysat. She was often gone on trips or wintering in Florida during her retirement. She didn’t appear especially sentimental.

But when I was a child, I often went up the hill to her house to decorate her Christmas tree. She didn’t like wrapping presents or decorating. I did, so I was enlisted. Each year when she opened the ornament box, she would pick up this little angel and say, “This little angel decorated the first gift I ever received from you.” It always gave me pause. It always made me feel loved.

Here is our grandmother listening to our daughter Amanda read.

When my grandmother died, I found the little angel when we were going through her belongings. Grandmother hadn’t put up a tree in many years, but the tiny ornament remained. I took the little angel home, looked at her from time, and eventually forgot where I put her.

Now she’s back on our tree where she belongs, reminding me of the importance of grandparents. Of how their words and actions last well beyond their lifetime.

It reminds me to be intentional and to speak of my love to my own grandchildren.

Even if I think they aren’t listening.

It’s a Fine Life

Holiday Magic

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

During our childhood everything seemed heightened during the holidays: The village was decorated with lights and garlands; retailers enticed shoppers with beautiful displays; Christmas trees glowed in front windows.

In my memory, this season in our childhood was magical.

In elementary school, we spent under $2 for a gift for a classmate; boys bought a boy gift, girls bought a girl gift. And after lunch, recess, and reading time, we had our Christmas party and exchanged those carefully selected gifts. I remember paper dolls, coloring books, candy, cap guns, and tiny toy cars. We played games, we sang songs, we ate delicious treats.

Christmas Day, probably 1966. We were up early every day, but on Christmas we found it impossible to sleep. Present opening and stockings were probably finished by 7 a.m.!

My mother marked the yearly showing of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” on our family calendar, and on the much-anticipated night, my brothers and I sat on the floor in front of the television—a Zenith color console—and watched the holiday special. We raced to the bathroom during commercial breaks—there was no pause button or rewind. If we missed a scene, we wouldn’t be able to see it until the following year.

Our childhood joys were simple and uncomplicated.

Vicki (Cross) Ackerman shared similar sentiments with me this month, attaching several photos in her emails. Her dad, Tom Cross, contributed to the festivities around the village by decorating his Shell Station with light and bright decorations during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Adding to Vicki’s family’s excitement was an annual visit by Santa—her dear Uncle Duke Wdowicki–who filled waxed bags with “peanuts in their shells, orange slices, ribbon candy, and chocolate covered cream drops.” Vicki said she has searched everywhere for those cream drops and has “never found any that tasted quite the same.”

Vicki (Cross) Ackerman shared this picture with me. Santa was visiting in front of her dad’s decorated Shell Station. Such sweet memories!

How special our childhood memories. How amazing when tastes and smells can nearly take us back in time.

Like most parents with young children, we worked to create some holiday magic for our own family on a tight budget.

During the late 1980s, we could still “layaway” Christmas presents, making payments—without interest—for gifts or even items we needed.

I had a layaway at Boers Dress Shop, and in mid-December I visited the store to make my final payment and take the items home.

Bella Dekker would be working that day. I had known Bella my whole life. I went to school with her children, and she had a wide network of friends in the community and strong family connections.

Bella had a loving, giving nature. She was strong and direct, and you could always count on conversation. The twinkle in her eyes. And a huge hug when parting.

She was a village fixture.

She asked about our little girls, whose new pajamas and holiday dresses she was bagging. I told her that they were fine, but I suspected they were beginning to question the whole Santa Claus thing.

Our niece Megan and daughters Elizabeth and Amanda celebrating Christmas in the late 1980s.

“Ohhhh, Kaaathy,” she replied, “I always tell my kids I believe in the magic of Christmas. Of the season. How else can you explain all the good things that happen? The gifts? The food? The kindnesses?”

Exactly right, dear Bella.

During this season, we recognize the spirit of kindness and the joy we can find in togetherness. The importance of words spoken. The surprises and tokens of love we give.

And sometimes, we can even believe in the magic.

It’s a Fine Life.  

Cabin Coziness

One of our plans for the first fall of my retirement was to go on a fall color tour. Dennis and I have always taken fall color drives. One year we took a long weekend and drove north to the Petoskey area, but we had never been able to really make a trip out of it.

We were cozy in the old cabin. I love seeing the smoke curling from the chimney.

But my recent retirement made a getaway possible.

Initially, we talked about going east to view New England in October, but as fall grew closer, driving north through Michigan and ending at the family cabin in Ontario made the most sense.

We enjoyed exploring and seeing the sights in Traverse City and Marquette.  We discovered restaurants, visited parks, and took scenic drives. But the time at our family place on the northern shore of Lake Superior was the most memorable.

The view from our side of the river.

The journey north from Sault Ste. Marie was breathtaking. The mountains were a tapestry of color: reds, oranges, golds, yellows and greens glowed in the sunshine. My pictures don’t capture the beauty and vibrancy of the trees. Every turn of the highway presented another breathtaking view of Lake Superior and the glorious Canadian forest.

We arrived at the cabin on a sixty degree day, set up camp, and walked the property. That night the temperatures fell into the thirties and the rest of our stay was windy, damp, and cold.

The beach was cold, windy, and beautiful.

It didn’t matter.

We were buttoned up tight in the old cabin. We kept a fire going in the fireplace and woodstove the entire time.

We talked, played cribbage, read books, and prepared simple meals.

It was cozy.

It was relaxing.

It was a perfect reminder to be thankful for simple things: warmth, shelter, food, family and friends.

It’s a Fine Life

Hope

Hope

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Hope. Hope for the future. Hope for better days. Hope for healing.

My family is holding fast to hope.

I often write about the “good old days” of my childhood, but when it comes to health and the well-being of my loved ones, I am thankful we live in 2022. These are good days in so many ways.

Within the last year, my brother Scott became critically ill, and after many appointments, phone calls, and a trip to Mayo Clinic, my brother was diagnosed with a rare cancer. In late spring it was determined that he needed a bone marrow transplant.

We four siblings were tested, his children, nieces and nephews were tested, but his best match lives somewhere in Europe.

My dear brother and I in July, relaxing for a few minutes at his daughter’s cottage after testing at the University of Michigan’s transplant center.

Can you imagine the communications and technology involved in the securing and shipping of a donor’s cells? These cells have been frozen and delivered to the University Hospital in Ann Arbor’s transplant unit where my brother is currently going through the grueling process of preparing his body to receive this life-saving gift.

What an amazing world!

What an amazing medical community!

What an amazing donor—a person willing to disrupt his or her life to save my brother’s life.

We are praying for my brother’s health. Holding fast to hope. Trusting in this process.

Here we are in probably 1962. Such medical procedures weren’t possible then. I am so thankful for 2022!

Thank you, scientists and medical teams.

Thank you, anonymous donor.

Thank you, 2022.

We are holding fast to HOPE.

It’s a Fine Life

Grand Openings

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

I recently returned from a week in Ontario, a time of rest and renewal at our family retreat on the northern shore of Lake Superior.

Here is our old place. It never really changes.

I look forward to our days there all year long. We travel north, cross the Mackinaw Bridge, skip across the Upper Peninsula, hold our breath at the border, and then wind our way along the rocky Lake Superior coastline to our cabin. It takes most of a day, and when we finally leave the confines of the car and stretch towards the pines, it’s like we’ve left our worries behind.

The driveway to our camp. Just looking at this helps me relax.

It is rustic, but not too rustic, as we do have indoor plumbing and electricity—but it’s rustic enough that I have no cell service, that the nearest shopping center is an hour away, that our favorite entertainment is gathering around a fire and watching the stars appear in the clear Canadian sky.

Here, we have no garbage service. Cottage owners cart their weekly refuse to an area landfill, a twenty-minute-drive from our camp. Yes, it’s a bit inconvenient, and out of a sense of duty, I take the dump trip with my mother, a woman who has never met a stranger.

My mom and I. She could teach the Dale Carnegie Course “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

She loves conversation and is actually looking forward to this journey to the dump saying, “I need to see if my buddy is still working there.”

“You have a buddy there?”

“Well, yes, I talk to him every year.”

Of course she does.

She has a “buddy” at every stop we might make—the gas station, the camp store, the lodge where she buys her fishing license. This is no surprise, especially since she has spent time up here every summer of her life.

So we roll the windows down, and my mother and I, along with her dog and two extra-large leaf bags of garbage begin our trek.

On our way we pass a tiny roadside restaurant—open but neglected—its surrounding yard and even edges of the parking lot are decorated with several cast-off lawn mowers, a couple old grills, and numerous rusty and broken lawn chairs. The place has been on this road a long time. A decade ago, it held some promise, but no more.

I can’t imagine opening the tattered screen door and entering the establishment.

Across the faded cedar siding of the low building is a banner that reads, “Grand Opening.”

My mom says, “I heard that Grand Opening was long time ago.”

“Well, maybe they have lots of Grand Openings?” I reply.

We discuss this and conclude “Maybe every day is a Grand Opening?” And we smile.

Isn’t that how we want to greet each day? To embrace people we love? To treat those we encounter along the way?

We repeat the phrase several times as we pull into the dump. I climb out and grab the garbage as my mom talks to the attendant–her buddy–and he smiles, remembering her from the year before.  

Yes, every day is a Grand Opening.

My new mantra.

Sunset over the bay. It’s a little slice of heaven.

It’s a Fine Life.  

Americana’s Naked Truth

Young, enthusiastic, and giddy with a job which offered more than minimum wage AND included benefits, I wound my way on the country roads on my way to work. The sun rose optimistic in my rearview mirror—my 72 Catalina hugged the curves, floating over the bumps and potholes, her old head lights startling the occasional skunk or rabbit. I had landed my first teaching job—unheard of in 1982. My fellow Michigan State University graduates had moved to Texas or the West Coast, and bumper stickers read “The Last One Out of Michigan, Turn Out the Lights.”  I had applied to every school district in a one hour radius of our newly established home. One principal called, I interviewed, and he offered me the job.   I taught high school English in a paint-chipped, leaky classroom in a small, southwest Michigan district. I had five different professional outfits, two pairs of sensible pumps, a faux-leather briefcase, and a twenty-two-year-old’s optimism and innocence. And I struggled, too ashamed to ask for help, willing to take on more and more as the daily assignments and themes piled higher and higher on my desk. But “what a lucky break” and “it’s a great opportunity” and “just keep trying” constantly played in my head, blocking out the threatening clouds, fatigue and despair.

Yearbook Picture from my second year of teaching.

So, I cherished this thirty-minute drive through southwest Michigan, and as the year progressed—and my energy level and enthusiasm sagged—I cranked the AM station higher and savored the sights on the way. The same cars met me every morning, the same deer scavenged in the winter snow, the same trees began to bud, and the same little man waved at me every morning. I think I noticed him in early March—probably after we experienced the “spring forward”– standing by his garage in his little gray work suit, holding his little gray lunchbox, sipping coffee from his little metal coffee cup, his thermos upright on the ground. He tipped his cup at me. And then he was there every morning. I waved—he tipped. I smiled—he smiled. Oh how I loved rural America! Pretty soon I began to roll my window down and extend my hand in friendship, waving wildly as I passed—you see it was too early to sound the horn. If horn sounding had been acceptable, I would have toot-toot-tooted some cheerful tune for him. The smells of early spring, the sounds of the wind passing, all buoyed me as my little, reliable friend cheered me on. I told my co-workers about this little man. I pointed out the house to my husband.  I thought about pulling into my little man’s drive, saying hello, and sharing a morning cup with him.  What a great country!  It couldn’t get any better.

But then, the lightning bolts of reality grounded me. The first day of April, I hummed along, anticipating spring break, extra sleep, and a much-needed reprieve from my teenage students. My hourly lesson plans scrolled through my head. Everything seemed in order. I followed the curve, and my little friend’s house was in sight. I extended my hand, turned to smile, and there he was—naked—just standing there, slack-bellied and expressionless against his garage. No coffee cup, no thermos, no little gray uniform.  A fuzzy, electricity slithered down my spine to my toes. I gripped the wheel. I looked straight ahead. It couldn’t be. It couldn’t be. Not my little friend. Maybe he was wearing a nude colored jumpsuit. Did they make such things? Maybe they changed the color of his work clothes. Did they make flesh colored work clothes?

I think there was— probably still is—something in my face which must invite such behaviors. “You have an open face,” a friend once told me. ”People will tell you things.”  (This friend is a retired psychiatric nurse—that should have been my first clue that this face could result in such behaviors from strange men.) I had been flashed several times while a student in East Lansing. I had lived above a thirty-something flasher when I student taught in Battle Creek. And now I had been flashed by this little man, tarnishing my Mayberry countryside.

I knew that appearances aren’t always what they seem. People can surprise you. It was like the time my brothers and I were part of the Buckaroo Rodeo Show in the sixties.  Sleepy-eyed, we watched the show every Saturday morning in our pajamas. From our couch, we admired Buck’s cowboy accent, his confident smile, the way he spoke to the “Buckaroos” in his audience. One Saturday my mom and dad dropped us off at the television studio in our new cowboy boots and crisp western outfits to be a part of Buck’s young audience. We perched on small bleachers, smiling when the cue card said “SMILE,” clapping when the cue card said “CLAP.” And when the television camera was off, Buck snarled, telling his stunned Buckaroos to “Shut up!” and I heard him say to the woman applying his make-up, “God, I hate kids.” Suddenly Buck’s smile wasn’t quite so sweet—his buckskin costume not quite so genuine. I wrapped a protective arm around my youngest brother, checking to make sure my other brothers were within my reach. So you see, I should have been skeptical of my pastoral drive and the little man. I should have somehow seen the truth coming.  But I didn’t.

Today, I still enjoy the backroads, but I am not nearly as innocent.

I survived my first teaching placement, receiving a glowing evaluation and an invitation for another year of the same. A new suit and boots made their way into my closet, and I changed my morning route. I finished my year traveling different roads, but my new path wasn’t nearly as sweet.  The red-wing blackbirds trilled along the ditch banks, as the spring uncovered the litter decorating the sumacs and cattails. The red barn sported fresh paint and a neat paddock, but behind the white picket fence, the lone farmhouse’s curtains were drawn tight.

It’s a Fine Life.

A Dream Fulfilled

I contracted pony fever in fourth grade. It simmered and rose throughout the weeks, kindled by my dad’s stories of his boyhood. He and my Uncle John grew up on our farm with gentle draft horses and a beloved pony named Major, a favorite character in Dad’s tales of their childhood adventures.

My infection reached a critical level one evening when our new neighbors, the Wickies, rode the mile to our farm on horseback for a visit. Each of the four kids (ages five to fourteen) had a pony. And while they weren’t wearing fringed western gear like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and they didn’t talk like the cowboys in the movies, those kids sure seemed like they knew what they were doing.

After a short conversation—and several pony parades—the Wickies smiled down at my brothers and me, waved, and turned their obedient steeds towards home.

They were living the best life I could imagine.

My quest for a horse-fever-cure began then in earnest.

I read my mom’s childhood novels by Marguerite Henry, checked numerous books out of our school library, and certainly dropped countless hints and suggestions about horses. 

My life just wasn’t complete. I needed a pony.

One Sunday in early spring we headed home from church. Dad had chores to do that day and had stayed home. As we pulled into our driveway, Mom said, “Kids, look at your dad!”

I peered over the station wagon’s backseat and there, in the driveway, was my dad, leading a beautiful brown pony.

This is Buttons in the pasture beside the house.

We tumbled from the car and ran towards Dad.

“Woah, woah, woah.,” Dad directed. “You need to come slowly. And DON’T stand behind him.”

We crept quietly forward and stood beside Dad.

“Is he ours?” I asked.

“Yup, his name’s Buttons,” my dad replied.

I stroked Buttons’ brown face and touched his whiskered, gray-velvet nose as he swished his tail and stomped his feet.

“Okay, come on, let’s go,” Dad said.

My dad was always casual and brief in delivering instruction; he subscribed to the theory that it was best for children to just “figure things out.” He quickly showed us how to put on the blanket and cinch the saddle. This was after he removed the saddle’s stirrups explaining he didn’t want us to “have our feet caught” if we fell off the pony.  

Then Dad helped me into the saddle, led us into the back yard, and set us loose.

Now, even though I had read everything I could find about horses, I had never really been on a horse. 

I had ridden the ponies that circled endlessly at the county fair.

When I was four, I sat in front of my dad on his horse, Monty Boy, as he slowly walked around the pasture.

But Monty Boy had been gone since I was five, and carnival pony rides don’t really prepare a girl for independent riding.

So, without stirrups and previous practice, I bounced off Buttons every time he moved to a trot. After every fall, I scrambled to my feet and my brothers and I cornered and grabbed Buttons’ reins. Dad was nowhere in sight–busy with his work and unavailable. He must have assumed we were happily and skillfully riding our new pony.  

To add another insult, at day’s end, Buttons bit me as I gently removed his bridle, leaving a painful purple imprint of his teeth just above my knee.

I love this picture of Dad and three of my four brothers. This is about the time of Buttons and our pony mis-advertures. This was my brother Steve’s birthday on June 1. Dad would have been working in the fields all day.

I never did “figure out” and master riding—or overcome my fear of being bitten or thrown from my longed-for steed. It turned out that Buttons was gifted at brushing off his young riders and viciously biting whenever my dad wasn’t in his sight, which was most of the time.

I don’t think we kids complained or asked for help. I’m not sure Dad ever fully realized our difficulties.

I never succeeded in making Buttons behave. I confess, I am an equestrian flunky. My illness cured.

But I will never forget that day: the thrill of my dream fulfilled, the sight of that beautiful pony, and the happiness in my sweet dad’s smile.

It’s a Fine Life

Managing the Past

I am a keeper of memories: great-grandmother’s canning jars, Aunt Ethel’s china, grandma’s gingerbread cookie cutters. Labeled containers stand in our basement holding newspaper-wrapped tidbits from times past: bits and pieces of childhood tea sets; a great-aunt’s christening gown; elaborate, empty perfume bottles.

When my grandmother died twenty years ago, I was the designated recipient of an old trunk filled with mementos from her life. She trusted that I would know what to keep and what to discard: What to share and what to keep private.

Her parents’ courtship letters fill a brown lunch bag. Sympathy cards sent after my grandfather’s death sleep silently in a shirt box. Her childhood and college scrapbooks crumble and wait. Faces I recognize, and many I can’t identify, are suspended in sepia and black-and white photographs.

Several photos and a letter from Grandma’s trunk. She gave me the carved necklace before she died.

I haven’t begun archiving, digitizing and sharing the pieces of my family’s history.

And soon my husband and I will be the caretakers of his family’s past, as his mother, the last of her generation, died in January.

It is emotional. It is cumbersome. It is overwhelming.

I need to get started.

Many of our friends find themselves in the same situation: the responsibility and care of a family’s history which continues to grow through the decades.

There are the obvious generational differences. Our children operate electronically. They take massive amounts of pictures – beautiful pictures – with their cell phones. These photos don’t take up physical space. A few are printed, but most are stored digitally.

That’s just not how I operate. I like something I can see. Touch. I like a calendar. An old-school planner.

I inherited my love of dishes from this gal: my Grandmother Oswalt.

When it is this next generation’s turn to take the baton of family treasures, they will not want most of it.

I can respect that, but I sure don’t understand it.

My thirty-somethings and most of their friends are minimalists, as evidenced by the lovely, discarded china and crystal at my favorite resale shop. I long to adopt the odd Haviland plates or the Jadeite coffee mugs that find themselves abandoned on the back wall’s clearance shelf. I wish to carefully launder and display the hand-embroidered pillowcases and dresser scarves tangled at the thrift store.

I will be the last in my family willing to use and store impractical treasures: dishes or glassware that can’t be quickly microwaved or run through the dishwasher; trinkets and figurines that need regular dusting; uncomfortable Victorian chairs with lovely carved frames.

My best friends also confess similar attachments. Several months ago, one of our friends put a picture of an unwanted set of Candlewick glass plates in our group text messages. She was going through her stepmother’s belongings, didn’t want the set to go to Goodwill, and hoped one of us would re-home them.

All seven of us considered them. None of us needs them. One of us now houses them.

So, I realize that I am not alone, and while that is a comfort, I am searching for the right mix, the correct volume of save or release.

Place cards from our wedding, my grandparents’ crystal pitcher, old silver plate, figurines. Just a fraction of my sentimental holdings.

Perhaps there’s an enrichment course taught by an old gal like me? Someone who appreciates the past but knows how to manage the future? Someone who has also struggled with the whispers from a task undone?

And someone who won’t judge these invisible tethers around my heart?

It’s a Fine Life.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

I have discovered a new author: Erica Bauermeister. She had me at the first paragraph of this book with an amazing extended metaphor that continues for several paragraphs. Rich text. Beautifully written.

Summer’s End

Summer ends and fall begins, signaling a change in our routines and an end to the freedom of summer.

When we were children, summer meant that at some point, we would spend time with our cousins. Besides my brothers, my cousins were my first friends, and we all looked forward to being together.

We saw our cousins who lived nearby frequently during the summer. Most of our play was outdoors. Our mothers insisted that we go “run around outside,” and that was always okay with us.

We had big shady yards for wiffleball, croquet, and tag. We had lofts in our barns for straw-fort-building, and the various family farms offered countless secret places for hide-and-go-seek. We loved to play survival scenarios, pretending to hunt and forage for our food, building lean-to branch cabins for shelter. Somehow we avoided the poison ivy that I’m sure lurked in the shade.

My cousins, Amy and Jennifer, and I played together on the beach at the family cabin.

Our up north cousins we saw less frequently, but our closeness today was nurtured by overnight stays and time together at our grandparents’ home and the family cabin.

Jenn and I, playwrights and sleuths.

My cousin Jennifer and I wrote plays–mostly about pioneers and Pilgrims–and tried to entice our brothers to practice and perform them. (In hindsight, I think Jenn and I had watched too many Shirley Temple movies.) Our scripts were detailed, and the rehearsals proved frustrating–mostly for the persnickety-sister- directors–and I don’t think one of creations ever made it to the stage.

We then moved our skills to crime solving. We used magnifying glasses and flour for footprints, trying to figure out what was getting into Grandma’s chickens or who had been walking in the garden. We were confident, persistent sleuths.

A meeting of a few cousins last summer.

I loved my cousins in childhood, but I love them even more in adulthood. I didn’t think that was possible. And although our time together is less frequent, it is definitely memorable.

It’s a Fine Life