The Farm in Rehoboth

My Dad sent me a copy of the January, 1999 Rehoboth Reporter because an article about the Kinne family farm is in it. I scanned it in along with the pictures included below and on flickr. I should get permission before transcribing and confirm my suspicion that the author is the son of my grandparents’ close friends Artie & Ellie, but I’m throwing caution to the wind once again.

Kinne Farmhouse Rehoboth, MA
The main house on Blanding Road, Rehoboth, MA.

Kinne Barns
The barns and outbuildings.

CowsHeadedForMilking
Cows headed from the fields to the barn for milking.

BenLaddyApril1938
My grandfather, Ben Jr., and his dog (or the farm’s dog?) Laddie, April 1938.

Ben, Calf May 1938
Grandpa again, this time with his calf, May 1938. I think he was very interested in his work, like his father and grandfather, to the point where he wrote about his calf & cow stats in a letter my Grandma sent my Dad while he was in Vietnam.

Kinne Farm 1942
The fields. Poking around on Google maps at street level (Blanding Road and Summer St, Reboboth, MA; I’d link but I’m lazy), it looks like there are still big power line towers in the area, not that it helps me tell you where this picture was taken from.

Betty, Donnie, Gertrude, Eva 1942
My grandmother, Elizabeth (Betty), her half brother Donnie, her sister-in-law Gertrude, and my great grandmother, Eva, in the Fall 1942.

Betty 1942
I’m not quite sure what to say about this. Ben & Betty must have been dating at this point. I think she’s sitting on a horse carriage/trap that my grandfather drove around the farm when he was a wee lad (I should have scanned in pictures to support this), but I could be wrong.

Betty, Johnny 1946 adjusted
Grandma & Dad, Fall 1946. Grandpa’s photography skills weren’t that great in some ways, but I like this picture. It looks like it will all come into focus any second now.

John
He looks ticklish. And this counts because it gives me a chance to tell the manure story. Dad wanted to grow and get big so he could do big boy things (presumably) and so his grandfather and the farmhands (more likely the farmhands) told him that cow paddies were good for growing plants AND little boys. He used to stand in them in bare feet until someone set him straight. I can totally see the little boy in this picture believing that, kicking off his shoes & stripping off his socks to go stand in manure to help him grow.

Suzan, Ben Jr, John 1947
A well-loved family picture: Suzan, Ben Jr., John 1947.

Ben, Sue, Duke 1947
Baby Aunt Sue K, Grandpa, and Duke.

John, Sue 1951
My Dad and Aunt Sue K with sunflowers, in front of their house on Blanding Road in Rehoboth, MA (visible in the background).

First Day Of School
Another view of the house and Johnny’s first day of school!

Donnie, Johnnie, Duke Aug 1951
Donnie, my Dad, levitating almost above the clothesline on Duke, 1951.

John & Jenny
John & Jenny, definitely still in Rehoboth.

Cuss cuss cussidey cuss cuss
This is actually at the farm in West Woodstock (now LDT, ltd). I included it because it shows one reason Dad chose the Marines over the farm (anything but the farm): he and cows did not jive well at all, though he was in Future Farmers of America in high school.


Kinne Farm
Frank DeMattos, The Rehoboth Reporter, January 1999, Volume 11, No. 1

Blogger’s Note: There are pictures in the newsletter not included here. It’s worth looking at the original on flickr in the original format – page 1, page 2, page 3. I suspect the young man on the pony in the picture on page 3 might be my grandfather, Ben Jr.

Today if you drive down Blanding Road to where it intersects with Summer Street you’ll see an area of Brambles, young trees struggling to grow in sandy soil and a weathered storage shed which unfortunately blocks the view of Sun Valley Country Club. Where men now chase after little white balls, cows once grazed in verdant green pastures. This was the site of the Kinne dairy farm. It was a beautiful scene as one drove down Blanding Road; the barn being built so close to the road loomed up and almost overpowered the viewer with its four massive silos. As one approached further a magnificent dairy farm immaculately maintained came into view. A row of maroon milk trucks stood like silent sentries awaiting inspection, gleaming in the afternoon sun. The trucks were washed every day to be ready for the next morning’s milk delivery, and washed they had better be for no detail of the farm management escaped the owner’s attention.

John Tyler Kinne started his dairy business in what is now the Mt. Pleasant district of North Providence in the 1920s. This once rural area of farms and open land was quickly becoming urbanized. Times were good and the city of Providence was growing. Second generation Italians and Irish were leaving Federal Hill and the inner city and building single family homes with neat lawns and clipped shrubbery in this lovely residential suburb, a far cry from the crowded neighborhoods of three-decker tenements in which they had been brought up.

Kinne soon realized he would have to find a new location for his business. He decided on a property in Rehoboth that had been owned by Thomas Reynolds, himself an astute dairyman. Uncle Tom as he was known ran a fairly large farm for those days (early nineteen hundreds). His hired men loved on the property in a dormitory-like environment as commuting was not feasible. Providence seemed a lot further away then and none of the men had cars; although the trolley did run regularly between Providence and Taunton, they did not always have the fare to take it.

Editor’s Note: Read the Memoirs of Anna Hass Morgan to get a clearer picture of Rehoboth at the turn of the century.

Tom’s sister Lavinia Grant did the cooking for the men. She filled them with delicious Yankee meals of baked beans, Johnnycakes and strawberry cobbler to name a few of the delectable[s] she served. Lavinia’s cooking certainly must have helped augment the meager salary of seven dollars a month for a seven-day workweek; however it did not include room and board.

John Kinne now had the land he needed to expand his business and this he did. A feisty man he worked along side his men and he did this until the day he died on his tractor on the farm he loved.

After John Tyler’s death in 1939, his son Benjamin (Ben) took over the running of the farm. He improved on his father’s already successful business, putting an addition on the barn, if one could call it that, for it was larger than the original. He pasteurized and homogenized the milk right on the premises. A mechanic was hired full time to repair the trucks and other farm equipment.

Ben named his farm Locust Grove Stock Farm. The name was imprinted on the trucks and company milk bottles. The bottles had an outline drawing of the farm in orange and blue. Visibly stated on the trucks was the claim that the milk was Grade A Golden Guernsey but as a matter of fact most of the herd was made up of Holsteins and Ayshires. There probably were a few Guernsey cattle mixed in; Guernsey’s gave very rich milk but not in as great a quantity as the Holsteins.

Ben was a quiet man but the help soon learned to interpret his silences. If every truck was not immaculately cleaned for the next morning’s delivery, a stare was enough to alert his help that he was not entirely pleased. No aspect of the business was without his close scrutiny. No much got by Ben Kinne.

He was a proud man, not arrogant but justifiably proud of his farm and the business he had developed. The farmhouse was across the street from the barns. A large rambling house, it was the scene of many parties especially in its outdoor screen house. Both this and the barns were kept in pristine condition. Hired men not only mowed the lawn around the house but in front of the barns also. Fortunately the farmhouse is still very well maintained by Thomas Blythe its present owner. In the 1950s Ben built a house for him and his wife Eva on an adjacent property and left the running of the farm to his son (also named Benjamin) and son-in-law. His daughter and husband lived in the big house, Ben Jr. a little further up Blanding Road in a house originally built for hired men. It is hard to believe, however, that Ben bowed out entirely. The business continued to grow and prosper until one horrible night in July 1953 when this beautiful establishment was destroyed in a disastrous fire. After the calamity efforts were made to restore the business but it was never to achieve its former glory – too much had been lost. An open barn was experimented with but was not successful in New England’s harsh climate. Eventually the farmland was sold to the Asquino family who built the present day Sun Valley Golf Club. Ben Jr. moved to Vermont and bought a large farm near White River Junction. Gertrude the daughter and her husband moved to Seattle, Washington. Ben Sr. who never really recovered from the great loss stayed in the new house on Blanding Road. He passed away in 1959. They buried him in the Rehoboth Village Cemetery next to his father John Tyler. His stone reads “Benjamin Kinne 1896-1959” but people who knew him well knew that 1959 was the date they buried him for he really died six years earlier on a terrible night in July of 1953.
Calgon! Take me away! (well, back to the beginning of this post)

Previously Deleted: The [first] Sister

I deleted a post a couple weeks ago and I felt like I deleted a 3-4 year chunk of my life, a key piece of my story. I did it because without realizing it, I violated privacy and trust by including specific details and speculating about others. In addition, what I wrote brought up some painful memories for people I care about and empathize with, though I feel like some of my words were misinterpreted, which is a classic mistake that beginning writers make. Part of that was my writing, which was read out of context with the rest of the pieces in this blog.

I sincerely apologize to all of you for violating any trust, reminding you of an awful time in your lives, and for possibly pushing you further away, but I cannot let the omission stand.

For those that did not know my family then, I’ve obscured your identities as much as possible. If you read this and are miffed that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, please take the time to read the rest of my entries; I’m guessing you think my life was one thing because my parents were the people they were with you, when it didn’t turn out quite like that. I also don’t mean this to be a pissing contest about who had it worse, whose life was more traumatic, who had less. Everything is relative; I am trying to get at the truth, understand & accept myself, and get closer to forgiveness. I only ask the same of you.

I think I was in 4th or probably 5th grade when Ella came to live with us. She has several siblings, most of whom had been split up and placed with different families. One of my Aunts, who I imagine has a lot in common with Christina Crawford’s portrayal of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, decided that Ella needed to go. After talking with my brother and I, all of us agreed that Ella should come live with us.

Mom and Dad moved out of their bedroom, which was the largest bedroom, and moved into my room, which my brother and I had shared when we first moved into the house when I was 2 or 3. Ella and I each took a half of the back half of the big bedroom, the front half being occupied by the washer and drying racks (a dryer was too expensive to run), and a large closet Uncle Bert had built.

Ella and I got along reasonably well, although not without conflict that was usually initiated by me. As I recall, I was so annoying sometimes, I even annoyed myself – 10-12 is a difficult, awkward age, tweens are reaching for teenagerhood, young adulthood, and slowly saying goodbye to childhood. I was also the silly kid, the stubborn kid, the tomboy who would take dares or challenge myself to them, the short kid – one of my nicknames growing up was Midge, short for Midget. Once, in 5th or 6th grade, my Dad called me a flake, a prime example of his unintended insensitivity; he had to explain that he meant it affectionately when I closed up and turned away from him

All of us admired and loved Ella. She was one of the most determined people I know. Not only was it so awesome and cool that I had an instant sister that I could talk to about boys and clothes and make-up and girl-stuff, but she was a great role model also. She sued the school district so she could play hockey on the boys’ hockey team (and won) because there wasn’t a girls’ team. She dealt with racial slurs with understandable outrage, including an unintentional one from me at dinner one night. Just as my father had unintentionally called me a flake, I called Ella a name at dinner one night, a name that I didn’t realize was a bad until she said something equally nasty to me and left the dinner table. Eventually it was smoothed out, though I suspect this was one of the wedges between us.

Ella was the one I asked about my first kiss, since she and her boyfriend picked me up from my first boy-girl party. Ella listened to music I’d never heard. She put makeup on every day before school. She was more fashionable than I was. I worshiped her, emulated her, I name-dropped, I associated myself with her as much as possible.

Once, Ella and my Dad were one-upping each other at the dinner table about who could run faster. It got to the point where my Dad threw down the gauntlet and they raced about a quarter of a mile south down Route 12 (the only feasible place to race). Ella tripped or overextended herself and sprained her knee. Dad, after helping her limp home, was so angry with himself that he punched our refrigerator and dented it. This was the only time in my early childhood that I saw him lose his shit. The only other time I heard either of my parents coming close to that, he and my mother had an argument after coming home from a friend’s house one night. There was some shouting, maybe a door slamming, and then quiet murmurs of them talking things over calmly.

I also remember Ella spending a summer working at her a friend’s family camp on a lake in New York. We all piled in the car, drove her to camp, made sure she was settled, and drove home. At the end of the summer, my parents made a really great dinner for her, even Dad contributed with grilled a whole chicken. The only problem: he got so caught up in catching up with her or watching a game that he forgot about the chicken and it was so burned, the skin and exposed bone was charred. The meat inside was still edible, but that burnt chicken was a long-running, ironic family joke for a while.

Other things happened, not-so-great things. Ella was told by a teacher that he’d improve her grade if she would help him with a few things, wink wink, nudge nudge. At the time, my mother worked in the high school cafeteria; the next day, she spoke with the principal. Ella was moved to another class and the teacher – I’m not sure what happened to the teacher.

When Ella went to college at UVM, we all piled into the car again to get her settled into her dorm in Burlington. I don’t remember events, though there must have been many, between this and Ella’s wedding in November, 1985. To me, her wedding on par with Princess Di’s wedding, which Ella had woken up early to watch in July 1981. She asked me to be a bridesmaid. I felt so grown-up to be asked, even though I wasn’t allowed to stay at the hotel with her other attendants, and I took my duties seriously, though there weren’t exactly any duties involved other than acting appropriately, not calling attention to myself, and helping as much as possible.

After she got married, Ella and I drifted further apart for a lot of different reasons – her in-laws welcomed her into their large family and she became busy being the wife a young lawyer. I don’t remember hearing about her pregnancies or the births of her children, but I may have forgotten about it in the turmoil of my family falling apart (the year following her wedding, in January of 1986, my parents separated). I can only guess that the way the family fell apart was embarrassing to her (or more likely, her Bible-abiding in-laws) – my father had an extra-marital affair with the a much-younger woman who became my stepmother.

Whatever the case, we did have an amicable reunion in 2000 at my mother and stepfather’s house. My brother and his family were there, my husband and (at the time – sorry Henry) two children were there. It was a nice afternoon and while I intended to stay in touch, and she probably intended to stay in touch, it is difficult to lift yourself out the day-to-day and make the effort to make new connections out of old memories. I’m trying to give us both an excuse for not staying in touch after that, but really, there is no good reason. It just happened.

In 2008, during one of the trips to Florida to help take care of my Dad, I asked my mother to call Ella and let her know what was going on. As my Dad got closer to death, which is hard to determine in someone who is so good in maintaining the illusion of normalcy, I asked my mother again to call Ella. I had called Ella’s sister, who was also very close to our family; I had reconnected with when her when we lived close together as adults and I had current contact information for her. I should have gotten Ella’s phone number from my mother or her sister instead of trusting my mother to take care of this one thing. Unfortunately, she put it off until after my father died and Ella did not have the opportunity to say good-bye to him and vice versa.

Watching my father’s face when he spoke with her sister, I wish I had gone directly to Ella instead of trusting my mother to call her in time. I am angry that the morally right thing did not happen and I feel partly responsible for that. On the other hand, any number of other people could have let Ella know – why should I feel responsible for someone else’s inaction? But I do because I should be the nice one, the generous one, the bigger person. I knew what was right and when I spoke to my mother about it the second time, I should have taken care of it myself instead of letting her fail to overcome the procrastination.

The Youngest Cousins

I was the youngest cousin on both sides of the family for a while: I think I was 9 or 10 when Scott & Dottie got married, bringing Jimmy into the family and not long later their daughter Cindy was born. On the Harlow side, there were 7 older cousins and my brother when I was born. When I was 2, Uncle Bert & Aunt Sue S, who had difficulty having children of their own, adopted my cousin Wendy, who is exactly one week younger than I am.

My grandmother latched onto out close birth dates and treated us very much like twins, an idea I can understand now that I have two children very close in age, but being treated like a twin did not sit well at all with me as a child.

At big Christmas gatherings, I would try to sit as far away from Wendy as possible so my gift would be a surprise – with more than 10 grandchildren, my grandmother made all our gifts and there are only so many gift ideas one can come up with every year. Wendy, wanting to be close to me, never quite understood what I was trying to do, and often moved closer to me. If I complained about this, I was chastised, and Wendy got her wish to sit close by, and we tried to coordinate present opening.

I vividly remember a family birthday party – we were 5 or 6 – and Wendy wanted so much to celebrate with me, to celebrate her birthday at the same time as mine that I threw a tantrum and ruined my own party. Both of our actions and reactions, I understand now thanks to my own kids, are perfectly normal for children that age, but I have felt awful for years about things like this; I should have been closer, shared more, done more, been more, instead of just being okay with the kid I was.

When Wendy and I were small, Uncle Bert & Aunt Sue S lived in a house off of Bowman Road (I’m not sure which house), which is off the North Road in Barnard, VT. I have 3 memories of that house.

I remember going there for dinner once, which probably happened often because my Mom and Uncle Bert were very close and my Dad and Uncle Bert got along like long-lost brothers. Shortly after we were done eating, Aunt Sue S made Wendy go to bed while my brother and I played quietly and the grown-ups continued talking. I remember feeling bad for Wendy, feeling guilty that my Mom wasn’t so strict with bedtime. I also remember that house as being really open, light, and that it had a lot of exposed wood (maybe it was an A-Frame?).

I also remember my Dad fooling around driving home once. We got to the bottom of the hill on Bowman Road and Dad wiggled the steering wheel back & forth on the flat part before Bowman meets the North Road. Mom asked him to stop and of course, smiling, he did it again to be funny and annoying. I enjoy doing things like that as well and try to walk that fine line between being funny and annoying.

The last memory I have of that house is sledding down Bowman Road. Uncle Bert, I think, borrowed a long toboggan (or two?) from someone and we all brought our sleds and went sledding one moonlit night. Bowman Road is (was?) a dirt road, which is plowed in winter, but it was basically packed snow that night. I don’t remember how many times we went down the hill, but I do remember riding on the toboggan only once or twice. I remember that it was slippery and, as any good sledder knows, you don’t walk in your sled track (likely tire tracks), you walk up the hill next to them.

For a while, my parents spent a lot of time with Uncle Bert & Aunt Sue S. Uncle Bert was (and still is) a carpenter, although his work is exceptional and he is more of a craftsman. I’m not sure what Aunt Sue S. did, but I do remember her always being friendly to me, which made me feel bad for my cousins.

After my brother moved into his own room, she and my mother drew pictures on the walls in my room – the decorating budget had been blown on his room and the plaster and lathe walls in the house required a lot of work to update. I’m not sure how the existing wall-paper stayed up even after it was painted (I think before we moved in). So Aunt Sue S. and my mother spent an afternoon drawing on the walls in my room; I remember Raggedy Ann, who was larger than even they were. A large, smiling yellow sunshine, with rays come of out of it, and maybe a large sunflower and/or a bee. I did have part of the wall that I was allowed to draw on, but that quickly lost its’ allure since it wasn’t forbidden anymore.

I’m not quite sure when or how things started to go bad, but our two families grew distant. Uncle Bert and Aunt Sue S. divorced and each remarried. I know from my cousins that growing up in Sue’s house was not pleasant and that she was not the most nurturing mother to them. The last time I saw her was at Wendy’s wedding; I was polite, but avoided her as much as possible. I doubt that I would recognize her on the street.

Sometimes, my family feels like Humpty Dumpy – never to be put together again, nor should it be. All of the family members who have divorced are better people because of it; they were all able to grow, learn, accomplish things they never would have had they stayed married to the same people. I just wish they had been able to be better parents then (and some of them, better parents now) and kept us all safe and protected. As a parent, I consider that to be one of my most important jobs, though not to the point of being a helicopter mom. The dangers to your children are not all on the playground or in playing in the street or climbing that tree: some of the dangers come in the form of people that you know.

Raison d’être, Part 2: Intent & Style

I am sometimes very blunt, too blunt for some people, insensitive, even. I removed a post last week because I hurt someone that I deeply respect because I was so blunt. I was upset beyond words and my reaction took me back to, one of the worst, most awkward versions of me. I’ve been mulling over that post, which I am editing and will repost, and my apparent lack of sensitivity. My self censure has been bothering me a lot, so here is another attempt to explain this blog and my intent.

Dorothy believed that if you told someone something truthfully, and honestly, you were giving them something, a kind of respect. – A. S. Byatt, The Children’s Book

The above quote, from a great book that I highly recommend, could be about me. I am blunt but not out of a lack of finesse, although I am a terrible liar and would be an awful actor, but because telling the truth and speaking with honesty are the simplest, least complicated way for me to communicate. When I start lying and telling half truths, I have to remember not only the lie, but the intent behind it and the final outcome I was hoping for; I am much too forgetful to pull this off. With truth and honesty, there is no effort, no remembering – it just is. By being honest and actually talking about something with you, or in this case writing about something, especially sensitive subjects, I am showing that I trust you enough to handle it, that I trust myself to handle any adverse reaction you may have. All of that trust implies a mutual respect, beginning with my respect for whoever ends up reading this and the hope, however naive it is, that the respect will be returned and therefore mutual.

My truth, my memory of an event, is likely to be very different from someone else who witnessed or participated in that same event. Memory is subjective. Experience is subjective. The simple explanation, without getting into psychology, neurology, or philosophy1, is that people are different – of course their memories of the same event will be different as well.

There are different ways of interpretting events. I am reminded of things like Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, which I did read at one point because it helped my mother. Many people also find comfort in faith, but after a crisis of faith in early high school, I am an atheist. I believe God (or Gods) are a neurological construct, that we really are God(s), but not in a mystical/spiritual kind of way; really, that those who believe in God are both fooling themselves and self-comforting. But if that works for you, if that helps you live a happy, productive life, so much the better – live and let live. Faith – in God, in people – has not worked out well for me.

However, I do seek out practical advice and read about the experiences of others, usually experiences that are much worse than mine. I have tried and stuck with different things (therapy, exercise, medication, meditation) that have a noticeable effect and strike a chord with me. I am slowly recasting some of the things that have happened, trying to re-tell them (to myself, anyway), in way that I am the victor rather than the victim. I saved this excerpt two years ago, to remind myself:

Before I sought the wisdom of the professionals, though, I did jury-rig my own program for managing those flashbacks, using techniques of “mental mastery,” as it were, that I’d learned in yoga. For instance, I tried to recast the images playing in my head, sometimes imagining they were moving around physically to different parts of my brain. I also inserted into the sequence of flashbacks the image of the man’s miraculous turning and fleeing, and my mystical feeling of omnipotence in that moment.

My therapist later gave these methods a stamp of approval. Being able to re-conceive the meaning of an assault to one of empowerment versus self-blame proves a deciding factor in overcoming trauma. “You didn’t almost get yourself killed,” she said to me. “You saved your life.” Recreating a narrative also helps a survivor overcome a fragmenting of memory that is typical in trauma. “It is difficult to see more than a few fragments of the picture at one time,” writes Herman, “to retain all the pieces and to fit them together.” The sufferer struggles to reconnect disjointed visceral and rational memories of the trauma. Healing, writes Herman, “involves the active exercise of imagination and fantasy.” The psychologist Mary Harvey includes in her seven-point checklist for the resolution of trauma simply to gain “authority” over the memories.

“The Art of Defying Death,” Elizabeth Kadetsky, The New York Times, October 14, 2009


I have been thinking about writing a memoir-like thing for a long time. Most of the things I’m writing about in this blog I’ve written about in my journal at least once, if not many times. I’ve poured my emotions out, both good and bad, and experienced and re-experienced events. I’ve done my best to understand why things happened the way they did, why people did the things they did. I’ve walked in my parents’ shoes and the shoes of the other people in my life, I’ve thought about what they might have experienced. I’ve thought about how things could have or should have happened. Perhaps this hasn’t been the most productive way to spend my life – just think of the other things I could have been occupying myself with! I don’t think writing about everything is going to purge it forever from my memory, but I’m hoping that when I’m done, I’ll finally allow myself to focus on other things with the same intensity.

There is not a lot of emotion in my writing-style, particularly in this blog. Part of the reason is my admiration for minimalism, which began with my introduction to Marguerite Duras via her novel Moderato Cantabile, though many of you may be more familiar with her from the French movie L’Amant (The Lover), which is based on her autobiographical novel of the same name.

My writing style also is also heavily influenced by several of my college classes, most memorable, Richard L. Enos’ classes. We were assigned complex reading material, for example parts of Aristotle’s Rhetoric, and asked to write a single type-written page describing which type of argument is most important/effective and why: ethos (credibility), pathos (emotional), or logos (logical). Another one-pager I remember agonizing over was whether or not rhetoric (in all its forms) is an art or a craft. Is being succinct any different than being blunt?

One final note on my writing style: for almost ten years I was a technical writer. Initially, I wrote manuals for a C/C++ toolkit for the telecommunications industry, then for telecommunications software and equipment, and finally process and audit documentation for another telecommunications service provider. Good technical writing should include intense evaluation of the reader – when, where, and how are they going to use what you’re writing? What information are they going to be looking for? The more you know about your subject and your reader, the better the documentation will be. And the theory, often neglected or deigned as unimportant, is that better documentation leads to happier users, a boost in the company’s reputation and bottom line, and fewer calls to the help-desk. Good technical writing is succinct and informative; as a result of striving to be a good technical writer, the rest of my writing has become more succinct and informative (I hope).

What do you need to know about my past to understand who I am, why I act the way I do? Who can I help by writing this blog? Will writing about it publicly finally take the visceral memories down a notch, so that the next time I remember & re-experience, it will be easier to get over again? What do I need to remember about the past to keep myself and my children safe? What do I need to remember so that I am a good mother to them? What will I tell them if/when they are curious about me?

I have not told them about many of the things I am writing about. While this is freely available for anyone to read, none of them have asked about how things were when I was growing up. There are a few stock family stories – all of them funny, some of them self-deprecating – that I tell them, but nothing close to the secrets, some of them not-so-secret, that I am writing my way through. I hope that in writing about things the way that I am, when/if they do come asking questions, the answer will be here waiting for them and that it will help them to be less naive than I have been. That they will be proud of me, as I often am of my parents, for surviving what they did and becoming the people they are/were.

So yes – I’m blunt. Yes, I’m trying to be objective while telling these stories from my point of view without pouring my heart out because really: who wants to read that?


Footnotes are your friend

  1. I highly recommend listening to Radiolab’s Memory and Forgetting podcast.
    take me back to where I was

Packed, Ejected, and Self-Protected

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The first time I was thrown out of the house was the worst.
Dad and Julie bought the house in Barnard and I continued spending most weekends in Dad’s custody, only now there was a new insta-family to fit into with Julie and the twins, Peter, and Jessica. I also began dating my first serious boyfriend that fall, the fall of my sophomore year, and I started going to high school parties with that first serious boyfriend, who was two years older than I was.
Julie and I were on very good terms in the beginning. She gained my trust by approaching our relationship as a peer rather than as an adult. I talked about birth control with her and, as a pot-smoker wise to the ways of avoiding getting caught with it, she offered to get it for me if I ever got into it. So cool! So awesome! Like having an older sister or a better, cooler, hip mother.
My brother had taken time off from college that fall to decide what he really wanted to do and ended up, after much discussion, joining the Navy. My father heavily discouraged him from joining the Marines. Devon went into basic training in January, 1988 (I think) and graduated from basic in February. My mother and, I think, his girlfriend and her mother (who had become a close friend of my mother’s) flew to Florida for the ceremony.
Although I was to spend that weekend (and perhaps an extra day) at Dad and Julie’s, my Mom asked Dad’s youngest brother, Joel, to house sit since it was the middle of winter and someone had to keep the wood stoves going so that the pipes wouldn’t freeze. We did have a permanently installed propane heater that functioned as a back-up, but it was not adequate enough to heat the whole house – there was no duct work, so all the heat was concentrated in one downstairs room. I doubt it would have been able to keep the house warm enough even if it ran the entire time she was away. And there were the 3 cats to consider.
While I thought things had been going well with my boyfriend, he had been less than happy with our relationship. I’m still amazed that we managed to go out (i.e., date) to begin with. First of all, two years is a huge age gap for high school kids to bridge successfully. It was also his senior year of high school, a year when you finally begin to make important decisions about The Rest Of Your Life – the year you finally begin to be acknowledged more as an adult. In addition to the age difference, there were huge social & economic differences between our families; he was also from a more well-to-do family that circulated in a far different social circle than my parents. While everyone knew or knew of everyone in Woodstock, I don’t recall our parents ever socializing.
So for a lot of reasons beyond the standard “I don’t like you that way anymore,” my first serious boyfriend unfortunately chose that weekend to break up with me. I was blindsided and heartbroken as he explained this, and probably cried the entire ride from Woodstock to my Dad’s house.
I came into the house sobbing and went right to my room, which was conveniently close to the door so that I didn’t have to walk through the living room, where Dad and Julie were watching a movie. Dad must’ve heard me come in and heard me crying or realized something was wrong when I didn’t come back out of my room to watch TV with them. He was very sympathetic and managed to calm me down enough so I could explain what had happened, I know he said comforting words and hugged me or rubbed my back like he had when I was little and overwrought.
I don’t remember if he went back out to the living room or if Julie started while he was trying to calm me down. “She’s a slut – she should’ve known this would happen. Just leave that little slut alone, she doesn’t deserve ….” I don’t remember all that was said.
I do know that eventually I couldn’t stand being talked about that way, that Julie had gotten physical with my Dad, and I went out into the main room to defend myself and him. It didn’t go well. I shoved her and she shoved me back. Dad got in between us, trying to placate her and, I suppose, protect me at the same time. Julie said she didn’t want me in the house, Dad told me to go pack up my stuff (a weekend bag and my school bag, probably) and meet him in the car. I don’t remember what he said to me during the 15 minute ride to my Mom’s house.
I find this funny now, but probably wasn’t aware of it then: I re-enacted my mother coming home the night my parents separated. I came in the house, paused long enough to register that Joel and his girlfriend Debbie had probably been making out on the couch, that they had also been smoking pot and sprayed Lysol to cover it up, and went to my room. I came out once to go to the bathroom, but spent the remainder of that night crying alone in my room. As far as I remember, my Dad left without saying anything to me, I don’t know what he told Joel about what happened, and Joel may have knocked on my door to see how I was doing.
The next day Joel did his best to cheer me up – children of alcoholics are nothing if not good at coping, and in the Kinne case, coping usually means gallows humor and laughing at anything that can be made remotely funny. He asked me to come along with him to Grandma’s, who had moved in with her new boyfriend Henry, a traditional Vermonter who lived in South Pomfret. Beyond that, I don’t remember the rest of that weekend.
I refused, for as long as I could, to talk to my father. It was even longer – probably the next summer, before I forgave him and Julie and stayed at their house again. I was wary for a long time and knew I shouldn’t trust either of them, but he was my Dad. He loved this woman and that obviously wasn’t going to change; I had to make peace with that somehow, and so I gradually gave them my trust again.
In the wake of being thrown out of the Dad & Julie’s and the break-up, I started smoking and drinking in earnest. I was 15 at the time. Smoking was relatively easy – the Cumberland Farms in Woodstock didn’t card for cigarettes yet and the Woodstock Inn had a cigarette machine on the lower level near the bathrooms we used when we were hanging out on the Green, which was the place to meet up and find or make a party. I had also made older friends who had cars and so I started going to a lot of parties. Alcohol was easy to get; the drinking age had been 18 in Vermont and my brother, 4 years older than I, had been grandfathered in when it was changed to 21. So the older kids that hung out, the hangers on who were 2 or more years out of high school, would buy cases of cheap beer or get kegs. And then there was the Killington ski bum connection, which meant alcohol and various places to have parties.
One night I went with my friends to someone’s party in Killington. I distinctly remember standing alone on a deck with a keg in the snow drinking as much as I possibly could. Who cared, anyway? Certainly not my parents. The rest of the extended family had pretty much gone their separate ways as well – all of my older cousins were starting their lives with jobs and marriages and babies. I drank so much that night that I started throwing up before we left the party. My friends borrowed a mixing bowl for me to hold in the car on the way home. I’m not sure what they said to my mother when they dropped me off, but I do remember Mom taking care of me, Uncle Terry being disapproving and concerned.
I don’t know what Mom said to me as I was trying to recover the next day. I have never been able to handle alcohol well – if I have too much, I inevitably throw up;  it’s just a matter of how much and how long I vomit. I know my mother was concerned and I know she made it clear that just because I felt like no one cared about me didn’t mean that was the case or that I could act like that. I think she may have even grounded me. A part of me was glad that someone cared enough to punish me but also pissed and rebellious – how dare you ground me, I thought we were friends!
You may be saying “Wait. Friends? She’s talking about her mother, right?” Yes indeed, I am. My relationship with my Mom began transforming into that of a friendship in 6th or 7th grade. Mom and I became very close after Dad started working at the post office. We basically went from a full house on weekend nights (well, weeknights too, for that matter) to just the two of us – Dad was working and my brother was out with his girlfriend. Almost every Saturday in 6th-8th grade we listened to Solid Gold Saturday night, now Rock & Roll’s Greatest Hits! with Dick Bartley. We played cards or board games and sang and danced in the kitchen. We watched movies – new and old; Alfred Hitchcock Presents was sometimes on and the Vermont PBS would sometimes play old movies. We talked and laughed and had fun together.
In a lot of ways, I made it through everything because of my friendship with my Mom. But soon, even she was moving on. She began dating Bill, a guy that she met at a Parents Without Partners meeting in Hanover.
In addition to dating, my mother was having problems paying the mortgage and utility bills on the house. The primary heat was wood heat, and with my brother gone, she would have to hire someone to chop and stack wood for the winter of 88-89. My Uncle Terry moved in for a while, in between apartments – he needed a place to stay and my Mom needed help with money. He moved into my brother’s room and brought his two cocker spaniels, Misty & Piper. Our cats – Tiger, Marco, and Maggie – were less than thrilled about this. So in the summer of 1988, Mom sold the house and after looking all that spring for a place within the school district, ended up buying a condominium in Wilder, which is in the Hartford school district.
There was much discussion about what would happen with me because of the move. Would I live full-time with Dad and Julie? No, that was untenable for obvious reasons. Would I change school districts and start all over in Hartford? Ultimately no – I was about to start my first year on the varsity soccer team in Woodstock. I was in all-honors classes except for math, which I had dropped in 8th grade, the year my parents separated, mainly because I couldn’t ask for help in understanding Algebra.
In retrospect, I wish my mother had kept me with her and forced me to change schools but I suppose, after 2 or so years of having upheaval and no say in the shape of my life, she thought I should be able to stay with my friends and teachers at WUHS. Some additional information that I haven’t shared: in 8th grade, I applied to private schools hoping to get a scholarship; Woodstock was and still is a wealthy area where many children are sent to private schools for one reason or another, and I though going away would help keep me safe from everything going on. Phillips Exeter Academy and Phillips Academy Andover were not interested. In 9th grade, I applied to an international exchange program, which went well until the question of money came in. Ultimately, we couldn’t afford it even with the assistance that they could provide. So I was stuck in spite of trying to get out.
August, 1988 marked the beginning of soccer practice. Mom drove me to Woodstock for these practices and made arrangements with Aunt Freda for me to stay in one of her rooms for part of the week. She had another boarder, a quiet elderly man named Tom Hazard, who occupied one of 3 bedrooms in her house on High Street and could use the little extra income that my Mom would pay her. My room looked out on the backyard and toward Mt. Tom.
Until May of my junior year, I was constantly on the move according to this schedule, with a few Fridays at Aunt Freda’s:
Monday: Aunt Freda’s house
Tuesday: Dad’s house, after being picked up at 10 or 11 after his shift
Wednesday: Aunt Freda’s
Thursday, Friday: Dad’s house
Saturday & Sunday: Mom’s house
I still made honor roll, I kept up with my honors classes. I think that was also the year I took both French and Spanish or it was the year that I took 2 math classes. I kept working as a chambermaid on weekends at the Braeside Motel, which I had been doing on weekends since the year before, having started in 8th grade babysitting the manager’s daughter Loren.
I started dating a guy I had had a crush on since 7th grade, a guy I think I probably would have married if I had stayed in Woodstock and taken another path, a guy who’s family was just as fractured as my own, so we understood each other and were very happy together.
I decorated Dartmouth notebooks, the notebooks I preferred for all my school work, and kept a journal in them. I wrote poetry and tried short stories. I wrote letters to my friend Suzanne, decorating the envelopes with drawings and quotes from songs. I read a lot of books. I still went to parties and drank and tried other things, but for the most part I didn’t go overboard.
In short: I went inward and created a pretty believable facade.

Bohus Stickning or What I Do In My Spare Time, ed. 1

I started knitting again when we lived in IL and found a knitting group here in VA two years ago. I came across Wendy’s Keele’s Poems Of Color on the Knitter’s Review forums when I was exploring color work and have loved those designs and the story behind them for quite some time.

Last year, against all my previous intentions, I learned how to spin. That is, spin yarn from fleece/unspun fiber, not the exercise spinning, although I might be able to do that as well. For a while, knitting was touted as the new yoga – for me, the new yoga is spinning. Both are relaxing, both are hand-work that results in a physical transformation, but when it’s going well, spinning is very calming and centering.

In April, Loudoun Needleworkers went to Willow Hawk Farm‘s spring shearing and I ended up sharing 4 fleeces with another spinner, Jenni, so that we could try fibers from different sheep breeds. Jenni and a few other friends skirted the fleeces (picked all of the poopy, yucky part out) and Jenni & I split washing duties.

After washing, most fleece needs to be further prepared (combed, carded, or flicked) for spinning. In May, my husband gave me a Schacht Matchless wheel and a Strauch 10th anniversary drum carder for my birthday & Mother’s Day. The drum carder, by the way, is used for blending fibers into batts, which look a lot like batts of insulation, and is actually not as helpful as I had hoped at handling large amounts of washed fleece.

All of these things – Bohus Stickning, fleece, carding, and spinning – came together over the summer; I am currently knitting the Red Palm Cardigan. The pattern for is in Poems Of Color but I am making it in shades of blue instead of red. Another difference between this sweater the orginal bohus sweaters is that mine lacks angora, which gives the bohus sweaters a subtle halo of fuzz. In addition, all of the yarn that I am using is handspun.

Final Batts
These are some of the batts that I made using my drum carder that blend the brown wool from one of the Willow Hark farm fleece from a sheep named Abigail (1/2 Romney, 1/4 Finn, 1/8 Corriedale, 1/8 Merino), with a braid of blue-faced leicester from Miss Babs in the Regent colorway (blue), and white cormo that I got from a very generous spinner during the first-ever Spinning Loft Retreat, which happened last spring as well. By varying the percentage of fibers blended, I was able to achieve some very subtle color changes from cormo->BLF->Abigail, which was really just an experiment for me as a new spinner & carder.

Blending Experiment: Final Skeins
These are all of the skeins of spun yarn that I ended up with from the carding experiment, from light to dark, with 100% cormo at the 9:00 position, 100% Miss Babs BFL at 12:00, and 100% Abigail at 3:00. All of these are 2-ply yarns, which means there are 2 strands of singles (what gets spun initially) twisted together to make the yarn.

Most of the Bohus sweaters are yoke sweaters, which means all of the color work is done over the shoulders, rather than, say, near hem edges on the bottom or the sleeves or in an all-over color work pattern. They are worked from the top-down in the round, which means (basically) that you knit a starting at the neck and working your way down to the bottom hem, stopping at the armpit to make each of the sleeves. The pullovers and the cardigans are constructed the same way, but when you are done knitting the body of the cardigan, you cut (with scissors, no less) right up the front and knit a button band on. This is a steek and it strikes fear in the heart of many knitters, but I hear if it’s done properly, nothing will unravel.

bohusDetail
My first yoke that goes from dark to light to dark shades, as does the original red palm cardigan. I miscalculated the color that I needed to start with and end up frogging it (a.k.a., ripping it out or unraveling it) because I ran out of colors before I should have.

bohus progress
My progress so far, arms and all. If you look closely at the yoke, you will see the colors go from light to dark to light as opposed to the sequencing in the original and in my first attempt. I have another 4″ or so and I’ll start the ribbing for the bottom hem.

I had to prepare and spin more of Abigail, which is what I’m using for the main body of the garment. I still have more fleece, but here is a closeup of the 3 additional skeins (about 1416 yards total).

Abigail Close
As you can see if you look closely, this is a 2-ply yarn as well.

I’m hoping to finish this by the end of next month so that I can wear it while it’s still cold. I am able to carefully try it on, so I know it will fit. At this point knitting, particularly with this project in the all-stockinette stitch stage, is so easy that I can do it without having to look at it most of the time, which means I can do other things (like watch TV/movies) while I knit.

So, uh, that’s what I do when I’m not digging up the past in writing, poking around on etsy, or keeping up with my suburban mom gig. Oh! Here’s the project on Ravelry (for you ravelers out there) and the complete photoset on Flickr.

Separation & Divorce

I have written the following sentence so many times that I hope this is the last:
On New Year’s Eve, 1985, my mother came home and my father did not.

They had gone out with friends to (I think) The Woodstock Inn, which had either made the evening affordable for locals or it was a rare extravagance for them. I was 13 and stayed home with my brother (17) and his girlfriend watching movies and the Times Square coverage on whatever station Dick Clark was on at the time. My mother burst in – I don’t remember whether it was before or after the ball dropped, I don’t remember what she said, if anything – and went to her room in tears. This was the first sign that I had that anything was wrong.

The next day, there must have been a talk with one or both of them about falling out of love, how sometimes people grow apart and become different people, and that they were separating. My father collected some of his belongings and said good-bye to my brother and I individually. I was in my room, in my closet pretending to look for something or putting clothes away, basically, I was pretending to be strong, pretending that it didn’t bother me that he was leaving. What could I have said anyway? It was clear that something was wrong. My father said something about it not being my fault, that really it had nothing to do with me; it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could be to blame somehow, but it was the 80s and it seemed like everyone was getting divorced. In my family alone, Uncle Bert and Aunt Sue S. and Uncle Terry and Aunt Sue K. were separated or divorced by then.

My father got a room at the Queechee Gorge Motel, a room in one of the stand-alone buildings with a kitchen/living room and a separate bedroom. I began to spend weekends with him. He was working at the Post Office in White River. It was, I think, his second year there and he hadn’t built up enough seniority to be on a day shift; he was working from 3 – 11 or 5- 2 or something like that. So I was left to hang out in this totally cool hotel room, sleeping on the couch (or perhaps the bedroom had 2 beds), watch cable TV, which we did not have all the way out in Barnard, eat what I wanted when I wanted it, sleep when I wanted. A rare treat for a 13-year-old getting more freedom and independence. One night I watch A Nightmare On Elm Street, turning the TV off every time it got too scary and then turning it back on again because I was captivated. I searched the cupboards for something to snack on and to check out what was there and discovered a box of Arrowroot biscuits, which have a picture of a baby on the front. I’d never seen these cookies before, except maybe in the store, and Dad had them in a cabinet that didn’t have other food items in it. This was the first time that I realized that my parents weren’t telling me everything.

The real story, the whole story, as I understand it, is that my Dad, who turned 40 in 1984, was going through a mid-life crisis and was having increasing difficulty dealing with his PTSD from being in combat in Vietnam. At my mother’s urging, he began seeing a psychiatrist at the VA for help with the PTSD. Around the same time, the Volkswagen dealership he worked at had to close and he began working at the Post Office. One of the attractions of the Post Office (other than a steady paycheck) was that as a an independent agency of the United States government, any military service counts towards years of employment (but not seniority): his 4 years in the Marines would count toward his pension and eligibility for retirement.

In the short time he had been at the Post Office, Dad had met Julie, mother of twins who born in November 1984. Julie was in an unhappy marriage and I assume their affair began, as most do, with talking. I’m guessing they were friendly, had a few heart-to-hearts, and it just took off from there. The New Year’s Eve that my mother came home crying and without my father, Julie had showed up at the party they were at. I’m not sure what was said and don’t want to speculate, but it’s clear that my Mom (along with everyone else there) was able to figure out what was going on.

In the months following their separation, Dad tried to make things right with my Mom. They went to couples therapy for a while with someone in the Spooner building (for those who know Woodstock), which sometimes began or ended with them having lunch or a drink together at Spooner’s (great restaurant that is/used to be in the same converted barn). Once, I saw them making out in the backyard. Years later, when I talked to Mom about this, she said that Dad did try to patch things up and did stop by the house, but he had to be careful about his visits so that Julie wouldn’t know because she would drive by to check. My mother also started getting phone calls from Julie, most if not all were just hang-ups. This was only a few months into the separation between my parents.

Ultimately, my Mom decided that the relationship couldn’t be saved and my Dad decided that he wanted to be with Julie. Dad got an apartment that spring on High Street, a few houses down from Aunt Freda1, who is really my grandmother’s sister and therefore technically my great aunt. Another neighbor was the Watsons, who were both in my mother’s class at WUHS and who’s daughter, Sudie, was in my class and a friend. The closest neighbor, right next door, was the Barry family, with two boys who were ahead of me in school. I mention this because it becomes important to an event that happened the following winter.

My brother graduated from WUHS in June and went to UVM in August. I have a picture that I should scan of Dad, Devon & his girlfriend, Me, and my Mom that was taken at the house right before we drove him to Burlington to get him settled in his dorm. When Devon turned 18 in February of 1986, technically custody/visitation and support for him became moot points. And from August on, they’d just have to agree (or let my brother chose) where to go on vacations and for the summer. I was the remaining thread tying Mom and Dad together over custody/visitation, support, and health insurance.

Mom and Dad were amicable, still friendly if not friends2, and so when Dad got the apartment on High Street, I spent Friday and Saturday with him and weekdays with my Mom in Barnard. At first, this was a dream come true for me. To live in downstreet3! To be able to hang out at the library as late as I wanted or walk to the movies or go swimming in the river under the iron bridge or in the pool at the Rec Center, all without having to convince one or both parents to drive me there. While Dad lived on High Street, I also discovered boys and parties with older kids, parties with drinking and (probably) pot (and probably other things), but I didn’t get quite as involved in all of that as I would later.

On night in the fall or winter of 86-87, Dad and Julie had a night off, a Saturday probably. They had plans to go out to a party or a bar. They began drinking (and probably smoking pot, as I would discover later that Julie did that often) before they left the for the party. When they got home, at 1 or 2am, not only were they plastered, but they were fighting loud enough to wake me up. I don’t remember what the problem was, just that they were loud, slamming doors and throwing things.

The back window in the door to the apartment was broken in the course of this fight. At a certain point (probably the window breaking) I got up and got dressed. I was terrified and was going to run out the front door and get away, to anywhere but there. Dad managed to get Julie inside the house, since part of the fight had become about her wanting to leave and go home, and so he caught me before I could get out the door and told me to go to my room and wait it out.

Julie got riled up again, managed to get into her car, and in trying to back out of the driveway, which went up hill toward the back of the house in the shape of an upside down J, miscalculated and backed her car into a corner of the Barry’s house. Literally: the car hit the corner of the house, dented the corner wood support beam, and cracked some of the clapboards. I remember tow lights, Mrs. Barry (who I later worked with at the Creamery) and Mr. Barry probably came out, but I’m pretty sure there were no police. I’m not sure how that’s even possible in a town as small as Woodstock, so I’ll chalk it up to everyone wanting to mind their own business and not get involved.

I was ashamed, terrified, and stunned that someone could actually be like that, exploding in anger and completely irrational. I never knew about any fights between my parents because they both use the penetrating, stony silent method of dealing with anger, calming down before they talked about what was bothering them. To see this irrational tantrum rocked my world and not in a good way. I asked Sudie at school that week if she had heard anything; her whole family woke up and was trying to figure out what was going on.

Dad forgave Julie though. Having had an alcoholic mother, it makes sense that he would be able and willing to do that. That spring or early summer they bought a house off route 12 on the other side of Barnard, close to the Bethel border, and got married in the summer of 1987 on the lawn at that house. In time, I forgave both of them too, but I should have taken it as a warning of what was to come.


Got Footnotes?

  1. For Woodstock people and family, she and Fred Doubleday were cousins and were both named after their grandfather or great grandfather.
  2. They would have remained friends if Julie had not been insanely jealous and insecure, afraid that Dad would get back together with my mother, a hope that I gave up on in 1990.
  3. Old(?) New Englanders say this instead of downtown.