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March 31, 2005 - Thursday, 10:38 a.m.

The Early Years 1960-1964 -Wisconsin

My mother and father were married in June of 1959, after which they promptly moved from North Dakota to Boston, Massachusetts. They'd stayed there while my father went through 6 months of job training. At the end of that training they headed back to North Dakota. My mother returned to her family farm near Velva, while my father traveled on to Portland, Oregon to look over the job transfer he'd gotten after his training was completed. They ended up turning down the job in Oregon, and moved to a small town outside of Milwaukee named Brown Deer after the Christmas of 1959.

I was born on March 27th, 1960 at Columbia Hospital in Milwaukee. I was born just after 1 am in the morning, the first of five daughters. As fate would have it, the lady in the bed next to my mother named her daughter the name my mother had picked out for me. So, rather then being named Leslie, I was named Melissa. Thank you, God. My mother said that when she went into the hospital it was winter, but when she came home with me a week later is was spring.

I was really my mother's first exposure to babies, and I made her a little nervous. Everything was new to her. My father, on the other hand, was an old pro with babies, and he relieved my mother on the weekends, feeding and bathing me. My mother said I was a little colicky, and that it was probably because the doctor told her to start me on cereal at 6 weeks.

I was just over a year old when Maureen was born. I don't recall her being born; I guess I was too young. I don't have a lot of memories from the five years that we lived in Wisconsin, but there are some.

My earliest memory, or what I recall as the earliest, was sitting outside of the garage at the house in New Berlin. We'd moved to 5840 S. Dunvegan Dr., New Berlin sometime in the second year of my life . It was sunset and I remember watching the sun going down behind a big old tree that was across the road. The sunset was beautiful. My parent sitting in lawn chairs, watching it with me.

I recall standing in the corner by the front door, while my dad took a picture of the house, with Maureen and me standing there. I remember running across the yard to my dad, I think these memories are probably simply recreated from the viewing of the pictures he took that day. I also remember an old rusty beige car that had holes in the floor board that my mother drove.

Camille was born in 1963. I don't remember my mother being pregnant, but I do remember Camille coming home. I was three by then, and adored Camille. I wanted to hold her all the time. My mother tells a story of how, when Camille was about 3 weeks old, my mother put her in the buggy in the garage. She was going to take a shower, and my dad was watching Camille, who was sound asleep. He was working in the yard, and I came by and found Camille crying. My mother recalls getting out of the shower and with a towel heading for the bedroom to get dressed. As she came out into the hallway, she saw me walking through the kitchen, coming towards her with Camille in my arms. I basically had a hold of her around the waist and hugged to my chest. My mother incredulously asked me if Daddy had given me Camille. I explained, that no, she'd been crying so I got her out of the buggy. My mother asked me how I got the door open to the house with Camille in my arms, and I told her I'd laid Camille on the concrete step, opened the screen door from the garage and then picked her up again. My mother, I am sure was trembling at the thought. Camille's head was unsupported by me, but she seemed quite content as I handed her over to my mother. What is truly mind-boggling is any attempt to imagine how I got Camille out of the buggy. The top of the buggy hit me at about mid chest, best my mother could get out of me was that I'd climbed up on the wheels and then lifted her out of the buggy and crawled down off the wheels with her in my arms. It was truly amazing that I didn't drop her.

I remember Tommy Rodger's birthday party. We went and saw Mary Poppins at the theatre in 1964. I remember very little of the movie, but I recall sitting in the theatre, and that it was a big deal.

Once I started picking up and holding Camille, I think I must have been relentless in my quest to hold her. At 3 to 4 years old, I wasn't so good at keeping a hold of her, and I often dropped her for which I was often scolded. I recall only one time. I got yelled at and in an indignant huff told my mother I was running away from home and going to Philip's house, a little boy I played with up the street. I went to my room that I shared with Maureen and packed my mother's little square brown vanity suitcase. The only thing I recall packing is my pillow. What was I thinking?! My mother did the equivalent of waving good-bye. She'd called up the street and spoke with Philip's mother. I was cleared to spend the night there. I remember that I knew we were going to my Aunt Beverly's house for dinner that night, and that we were going to have macaroni and cheese, my favorite meal.

I recall my night at Philip's house, a memory only I could have, and that no one could have reminded me of later. I recall we all sat around a square dining room table and it seems the light over the table lit up the table but not very far from it was dark. They served tuna casserole, which I recall I hated, and I remember longingly thinking of the macaroni and cheese I COULD have been eating had I not run away. I recall the bedroom door opening in the night and the light from the hallway spilling into the room. I suppose I'd been crying and woke up Philip's mom, on top of which I wet the bed and the bed had to be stripped and remade. My next memory of that event was arriving at home the next morning, which must have been a Saturday, as my father was home. I recall standing in the hall area facing the kitchen. My father was standing in the corner of the kitchen between the sink and the stove. Tommy Rodger's mom was down the hall. I distinctly remember my father standing there and scolding me with and upraised finger and telling me how I was to NEVER run away again. What was going through my mind? All I could think of was what a waste of energy his scolding me was. I had NO intention of EVER running away again, and it had nothing to do with what he was saying to me.

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