I know that I am belatedly writing my thank you letters...the contest over In The Gutter is over. However, since I had already fizzled a few brain cells thinking about the narrowing down process, since I have so many I could thank, I felt it only appropriate that I complete the circle and actually write the letters I had intended to.
First, I want to thank you all for being my best friends. We've gone through a lot together and we're all a lot closer for it. I'll never forget the day Mom died, as friends and neighbors gathered downstairs to bring their comfort and grieve (quite loudly at that..as an eight-year-old, it actually spooked me a bit) with Dad, we gathered upstairs, circling our wagon, pulling in tight to plan our future without Mom. We were all too young to be without Mom, but we knew we had no choice. The household would be ours to run and we weren't going to be caught unprepared. Job lists were discussed and tentatively prepared, then fine-tuned as we went until we had a system that ran smoothly. We followed this for the next eight years.
K, You were only 15 and too young to be a mom...especially a mom to seven younger siblings (and take care of laundry and meals for 3 older siblings). You knew that. We knew that. Sometimes your directions were met with some resistance. I know it had to have been hard for you, but you did it. You took over laundry for twelve people, meals for the same....you did delegate many parts of these tasks, such as hanging loads to dry on the line, taking them off, folding and putting away. You made sure though that the laundry was always done, hot meals were always a part of our menu, and so many of Mom's special ways and traditions were followed. You did a great job and still do. I still call you so many times for a certain recipe, to share big news, or just to reconnect with you, which just gives me a good feeling of security...you are always that nurturing big sister!
Jo, You also ran a lot of the main, essential tasks. You made many meals. You were the head planner of piano sing-a-longs and game nights. The boys loved to tease you because you made it just so fun to tease...you were (and still are) full of life, laughter, and love. You were always the one to lead the rest of us into destinations unknown. You were the first to leave the country for a year, nannying in Finland after high school. Remember the $1.46/min. phone calls we made, all of us timed for about 5 minute increments in those infrequent calls we made you? And the packages and letters we sent back and forth, snail mail? Then, on to the big Twin Cities, then college. Because you made it seem less formidable, one by one, we all followed when our time came to leave home. We still are such good friends and call almost every day. Being in the same stage in life, we have a real good comraderie and can toss ideas back and forth from mothering to kid illnesses, from pregnancy woes to business ideas.
Ja, You taught me about all the girl things I needed to know. One day, you informed me that I do need to wash my hair more often than just our once a week, Saturday sauna night. When I resisted, you told me that if I don't take care of myself and my hair, I need to get it cut short (I was laboriously growing it out). You told me pick a day during the week to wash it. I picked Tuesday. You enforced it. You pulled me aside one day and asked if I knew anything about periods. I said no. You told me all about them and what I will need when that inevitable day arrives. You told me that the rest of you girls had gotten yours close to the age of 14. I'll never forget the shock when that day came that I got my period and I was only 12. But, thanks to you, I was prepared. You taught me a love of dressing nicely (...eventually. I was a hideous, stinky tomboy until I started to develop. Maybe God knew I needed a jumpstart on development so I would begin to practice a little better hygiene and fashion consciousness), the love of smelling good with good old fashion deodorant and, eventually, perfume. I strove to dress like you, do my hair like you, smell like you. You were my role model. I even admired your career choice as an adult and followed your footsteps to nursing school.
B, We were close enough in age that we began our friendship in some pretty good spats and squabbles. That didn't last. When we became good friends, it's never gone back. We've probably never had a cross word since I was in Junior High and you were in High School. It could have been even earlier than that, but I know since we began hanging out together, we've always gotten along and been very, very close. You started your family before me and let me haul your kids all over creation...you must have been very trusting! :) Then, eight months after you had your last baby, I had my first. Every time I have an absolutely life-shaking, earth-shattering, traumatizing (at least in my opinion) event with one of my kids, I call you and you are SO calm. Your response is usually, "Well, she sounds like a normal kid. I remember when so-and-so was little, she used to do that. It didn't last long. I would just....." and then you would give me ideas on how to deal with it. I would try it and lo-and-behold, it worked! You've pulled me out of the rafters (of panic) more than once! Now when you've been taking care of the two little girls (and the others before they get on the bus in the morning), we've all been basking in our extra time with you!
G, You were always my little buddy when we were growing up. I always remember when I finally got my own room at home, I still didn't like sleeping in there by myself so very often I would let you and Ka take turns (or together) come crash out in my room. You so bravely came to visit me in Finland when I was there for a year. You were only sixteen and for how so very shy you were, I was so impressed that you travelled there all by yourself. I had the best time toting you around there, showing you all my friends, running around Helsinki and the train stations, even at night. That was such of a safe time there that, as long as you could weave through the streets of partying drunk people on Friday and Saturday nights, you were fine. Now you're in the midst of motherhood yourself, with your teeny brood. Our similarities in life are coming together more and I've been really enjoying the time we've been able to visit and swap mom stories now. You're still the sweet person you've always been and I truly enjoy that.
Ka, As the baby of the family, you were just this innocent little gem. Although you were quite spoiled by all of us, it never spoiled your demeanor or personality. You were always such of a generous child. Every Christmas and birthday, everyone could always count on a gift from you. Never mind the fact that usually it was a recycled gift...I remember once getting someone else's book wrapped up and so lovingly given to me. My 4 y.o., your namesake, actually had a very similar personality to yours. Now, even as an adult, you are just a joy to be with. I love when you call me during your "down time" and we can just each grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and yak until it's time for one of us to go tend to kids again. Our friendship has been very valuable to me and as your life too is becoming increasingly more like mine (with your three in the same age range as my youngest two) we have more and more in common again.
Without my sisters, I wouldn't be who I am today. For that I thank you all.
To my loving husband,
I thank you so much for being who you are and allowing me to be who I am. With your acceptance of who I am and encouragement to strive to who I need to be, I have bloomed twenty-times the person I was when I married you. Anytime I decide to pursue anything, you are so encouraging. You believe in me and have such confidence in what I chose to pursue that I derive confidence from it as well. My success had so much to do with your faith in me. Because of all the situations I went through as a child (death of my mom for one and many others that I don't share with many), I was who I thought I should be. With your nurturing and encouragement, I've found a me I never knew existed.
I think we've had an exceptional relationship from the start. We've had our rougher patches...they seem to come though only every several years. They're not even that bad but definitely we're not as patient with each other and tend to bicker a little more. Then when we get through them, we become even closer than I ever imagined we could be.
Your patience for me to work through some of the post-childhood issues has been so second nature that I don't even think you realize what you have done to effortlessly help me move through that phase. It has been so smooth, outwardly no one else would even realize I was working through anything. On one hand, I use my running and karate to physically reground myself. However, it's not always as simple as that. A run or workout might not totally cut it. You know me well enough that you can sense that I need a little extra distance or "me" time without me even having to say it. In fact, it's such of an innate sense that you just kick in when you sense it, and make sure that if I'm going out to the store, for example, and get the usual onslaught of requests from the girls to come with (and you know I almost always take one or some or all of them), you just firmly tell them, "No, I think Mom needs to go by herself this time." And you're always right on!
I love you to death and love our time together. I hope we grow really, really old together. Thank you (and I thank God for you)!
*I could write so many more thank you letters but I think that the others I would love to thank, I will or have posted about in a different form that basically says the same...that I love them, think the world of them, and am eternally grateful to have or have had them in my life.*