I was a girl once… and young
* Winter 1967, kindergarten – Ice storm, attempted to walk the 2 blocks home, but opted instead to crawl as I couldn’t stand up. Some mom picking up her children offered to give me a ride home, which I gratefully took. Only when I got home and mom let me know, did I remember, “Never take rides from strangers.”
* Spring 1968, 1st grade – Heide came to pick me up from school often, peering in my class window. She was often invited. I think I remember not always being thrilled that she was out there, interrupting my class.
* My folks took friends and family lodgers into their small home on 18th Street from time to time. They had a room in the basement and took supper with us upstairs. We had a fellow named Richard (Red) Hughes stay with us while he went to the University. He was a kind, teddy bear of a man from near Winnipeg, Manitoba (a place called Portage la Prairie). A favorite memory-turned-legend in our family was when Red bet Heide (probably in early-elementary) a nickel that she couldn’t finish all the chili left after supper. Heide, always keen to the value of a dollar (or a part of one, anyway) took the challenge and won the bet!
* Later, my cousin (actually my mom’s cousin, but as a child those distinctions are blurred), Pam Norgart, lived with us while she getting her nursing degree. I always thought she was so beautiful and so classy. I begged her once when she had some of her college friends over to help me make a list of their beauty practices. I think I worded it as if it were a school assignment, but I’m thinking that this awkward request was probably seen for what it was. Anyway, I remember the girls condescending to spend at least a little bit of time in helping me make a list. I don’t remember anything that was on the list, except that Pam tried to remember to push her cuticles back with a towel each time she dried her hands – ha!
* Spring 1969, 2nd grade – For Easter, my dear mom had made skirts and ponchos for Heide and I to wear. I liked the skirt and LOVED the poncho. I felt so hip wearing it. The week after Easter, I begged and begged my mom to allow me to wear my Easter outfit to school. She refused over and over, she wanted me to keep them for church and dress up and worried I’d ruin them playing at school.
Sadly, I must have wore her down, because I distinctly remember her raising her voice in exasperation, “Alright, go ahead wear it, but if it gets ruined, that will be it!” I was overjoyed.
I arrived at school before the bell and played on the playground, waiting for school to start. It had been a wet spring and the playground hollow was filled with melted waters, at least a foot high if I recall. Not so high that a girl with knee high rubber boots could walk in without the waters coming over the boots.
It was so fun wading through the waters, feeling the cold through the rubber, but wiggling dry toes inside. There were a number of us so equipped and it just seemed like a great adventure. That is until… I took one large step forward but my back boot stuck in the mud below and held my foot fast. What was there for me to do, but overcompensate for the pull backwards and sure enough, I landed on my bum in that freezing water, poncho and all.
I remember being in Mrs. Gregory’s 2nd grade coatroom all wet and terrified and sniffling as I waited for my mom to bring me dry clothes. Whatever she would say, I knew I deserved it. I had promised to take care of my new outfit and instead it had been bathed in mud that morning. I love my mom, of course, but I had another reason that morning because when she arrived she had a bag of dry clothes and underwear and forewent the expected lecture only saying gently something like, “Here you are; here are some dry clothes for you.”
* Spring 1970, 3rd grade? – A friend (probably Debbie Johnson) and I got it into our heads that it would be nice to clean one of the bathrooms at school before we went home. We soaped and scrubbed every sink, mirror and wall (I don’t remember touching toilets). Only when I got home to a scared and exasperated mother did I think that my mom would probably be at home worried for me when I didn’t get home right after school.
* Probably near 3rd grade – Our neighbors across the street, Grandma and Grandpa Gilbertson rented out their basement to a young couple whose dog had puppies. Over the course of time, and one very long evening in particular where Heide and I ran back and forth across the street many, many times relaying questions and answers back and forth from them to our parents, we acquired a jet-black wire-haired Terri-Poo which we named Pretzel. Over the course of the years to come this beloved pet would run away more times than I know and would need a pathetic-looking cast when he broke his back leg, but he is a happy, happy part of my childhood memories.
* Fall 1971, 5th grade – began clarinet lessons at school. I would continue to play in school bands all the way through my junior year of high school, playing my Uncle Jerry’s wooden clarinet with silver-plated keys.
* Upper elementary – After reading my first Nancy Drew mystery, I started a detective club with a few friends and we walked around the neighborhood looking for mysteries (there not as easy to find as in River Heights).
* Vishwa Bahl was a young man from India who began working at City Hall where my dad worked when we were growing up. My guess is that Vishwa had graduated from the University (engineering?) and stepped right into work for the City. After a time, he returned to India to marry a beautiful woman named, Saroj, who he brought back to the United States to live. My folks befriended them and they became regulars in our home for holidays and special days. After my college years, I connected up with them during a long layover that I had in Texas (Houston, I think) where they had eventually moved and reared their family.
* Upper elementary – Heide and I and whoever was going from the neighborhood, would walk on summer days to the Elks Pool (about 12 blocks away and on the other side of S. Washington St!) On the way home we’d stop to spend a little change at the Valley Dairy store 15th and S. Washington or at a little shop behind the Country Kitchen (later the shop would become Tent and Awning). At this shop we’d often buy a hard, fruit-flavored candies that were sold in round tins and beautifully decorated with flowers.
* Upper elementary – Once while walking home from the Elks pool a van pulled over and a fellow got out to ask me and a friend or two (Heide was probably there too) directions to somewhere (which of course we didn’t know). At the time I did remember “Don’t talk to strangers” and I remember being a bit anxious, trying to keep my distance a bit. Only later, when teaching my own children did the creepiness of this situation come back to mind as I heard myself say “beware of strangers,” “keep a distance from curbs,” and “adults will ask adults for directions (not children).”
* Fall 1973 – I began junior high school and attended South Junior High School which, at the time, was on the corner of Cottonwood St. and 13th Ave.
* School year 1974, 7th grade, late fall – Schroeder Middle School had a fire which prevented them from using their school the rest of the school year so South and Schroeder began a split-shift schedule for the remainder of the year. If I remember correctly, South began school at 7:00a and went until 12:00 noon and Schroeder began at 12:30p and went until 5:30p.
South was at least 15 blocks away from home and on the other side of what was our main commercial street at the time. A handful of us would walk together to and from school each day, but after the fire a collection of parents figured out some car pooling so we would not have to walk to school at 6:30a (good idea, right?) We were still left to walk home, though, at noon when school let out. On our way home, especially if it was particularly cold, we’d stop at a little mom and pop restaurant called Phil and Lil’s. It was happily situated about 1/2 way home, on the northeast corner of the intersection of Washington St. and 13th Ave (there’s a Starbucks there now). They would let us come in and sit at a booth to visit while we warmed up a bit. While we waited they would even serve us water (to which we would add packets of sugar).
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized the great presumption this was on our part to invade their place of business so often and the kind people “Phil and Lil”must have been to allow a group of young teenagers come and mess up their restaurant while they provided a haven of warmth as we made our way home.
* Spring 1974, 7th grade – My family moved out into the country, from 1022 S. 18th St. to what we would call Belmont Acres, Rural Route 1, Box 103; a 10-acre farmstead that I would learn later had been built by Dana’s great-uncle, Clifton McIntyre in 1925. As the city grew southward the property was re-addressed as 5616 Belmont Road.
* Late jr. high – My Welsh pony, Ruth, (with the help of Heide’s Welsh, Duke) delivered a little filly, which we named Surprise because that’s exactly what she was. We had no idea Ruth was pregnant until the morning we got up and wondered what that was outside standing near Ruth. It was a mercy all went well for her on her own.
* My folks were always willing to open their home to help a family member in need. After moving out to the farm, I remember a number of folks who stayed with us for various reasons. I remember my dad’s brother, Uncle Warren, lived with us for a while after a particularly difficult time in his life; my cousin, Scott, lived with us while he was getting established in a job here; and my cousin (again, my mom’s cousin really), Buttons (Liz), spending a summer living and working around the farm with us.
Aside: My mom was reared by Buttons’ mom (Aunt Mary Anderson), so my mom and Buttons, although years apart in age, always had a sort of big sister-little sister relationship and were fairly close all my mom’s life.
* Summer 1976, between 9th and 10th grades. In a movie of Tom Sawyer, I loved a scene which showed the whole town coming together for a 4th of July celebration with a parade and games and food and fireworks. I had been nostalgic about small town life for a long time (thinking my mom’s hometown of Drayton would be an ideal place to live). Since it was the American bicentennial I wrote a letter to the local newspaper, suggesting that our town have a similar day’s event that would bring the “townfolk” together for a 4th of July celebration of our own.
Well, somehow that idea must have gotten into the right hands, because I soon was notified that the city was on board for such an event and would like to have a morning parade followed by a fair-type event at one of the city’s larger parks where there would be food stands (not the town potluck of Tom Sawyer’s day) and games for all with a fireworks show to end the day. What’s more? I was asked to ride in the parade as the “Honored Guest” and the genesis of the event was chronicled and credited in our local paper and I had my first (and last) radio interview.
My parents invited my dad’s siblings and family to spend the day with us. I remember a drizzly, but happy day riding down University Avenue as the honored guest, but I don’t remember partying in the park (if we did, it was not for very long). As I recall we spent most of the day at my parent’s farm home, celebrating with family and probably a pretty good fireworks show courtesy of my uncles.
* Fall 1976 – I began high school and attended Red River High School on 17th Avenue.
* My dad’s grandpa (Alfred) was remarried after his wife died young, so Ray’s dad (my grandpa) and his two siblings grew up capitalizing the C in our last name LeClerc. However, the other three half-siblings from the later marriage for some unexplained reason did not capitalize the c. So when we’ve had multi-generational reunions, some have come with t-shirts saying: “It’s Leclerc!” as a bit of fun rivalry for the cousins of Dad’s generation.
* May 1979 – I was selected to be in the Red River’s seven-women singing group, The Velvetones. The previous year’s members select their replacements and Barb Burke, class of ’79, chose me with a mashed up verse sung to the tune of Mr. Sandman, ending “Mr. Sandman, bring me Kim LeClerc.” I was totally taken by surprise. Until they began singing I don’t think that I had ever considered that I’d be a part of that fun group, a group I’d watched since my Sophomore year (the incoming year back then) perform at some of our pep rallies.
I would be part of the group’s tenth year, so we called ourselves V10 (it shocks me as I write to think of them being in the V40’s by now!) Things have changed since, but back then we sang songs from the 30’s and 40’s and dressed accordingly. We chose our own names, mine was Isadora Prudence, and our schtick was that we believed ourselves to be sexier and more superior to all those around us as well as to those we sang to (and often towards each other), even while being ridiculous sometimes in our choreography. V10 would include the returning Junior from the previous year (now a Senior to carry on the traditions), Lori Koppelman as well as six newbies: Jodie Storhaug (who is still a very dear friend of mine; see blog post), Teri Hallgrimson, Cathy Krile, Cathy Cook, and Susan Oltmanns (the new Junior). The Velvetones’ signature song was (and still is, I believe) My Mama Done Told Me, which was sung every performance even as other songs might come and go.
December 1979 – I asked Dana to a Sadie Hawkins dance and he said yes. We were not yet a couple but both part of a wider group of theater/music friends who did a lot of outside activities together, including this particular Sadie Hawkins dance. Unfortunately, Dana and I, neither of us who drank, ended up driving two friends home who had been drinking that night. Although Dana and I were together only as friends, it was still a maddening end to a fun night.
* December 1979 (our senior year) – Dana and I were beginning to come to the realization that we both interested in each other. One particular day before Christmas break choir members were excused from regular classes to attend a day-long workshop being put on by visiting members of the MN Opera. Dana and I ended up sitting next to each other throughout the day which was a bold step in front of classmates that had been pushing us toward something more than friendship, but especially for Dana who in the past had been pretty vocal with his buddies about girls being a waste of time and money.
* December 31, 1979 – Dana invited a small group of friends over to his home in the country for some skating on their rink. It was a beautifully warm night and with lights strung down the center of the rink and a warm warming house to retreat to when we got chilly, it was a lovely night to be out laughing and playing with friends. Around 9 or 10 the small group had been whittled down to just Dana, Tim Kinzler, Lori Koppelman, and myself. I remember we went inside for awhile to watch White Christmas and then back out for more skating/warming house rotations. We ended up staying late into the early hours of the new year, 1980. Watching Dana’s boyish prowess on the ice and laughing a lot at his funny sense of humor really began to endear me to him and I began hoping things would develop further between us.
* January 1980 – While preparing for a voice lesson in one of the practice rooms in the band room, Dana unexpectedly knocked on the door. In his athletic way, he kept his feet outside the practice room, but swung his upper body in, hanging on the door knob, and asked if I would ever mind if he asked me out sometime. I remember feeling elated, and not wanting to blow this, when I responded yes.
* January 19, 1980 (Saturday) – Dana and I went on our first date! He was a little late for the early show so we did a little shopping at Target before heading to the Crown Colony theater (42nd Ave. N) to see The Jerk (Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters), then we went to Mexican Village (S. Washington) to eat. We have tried to celebrate this January 19th anniversary ever since!
* Winter 1980 – Red River’s Concert Choir was making regular bus trips to UND to practice with their concert choir for a concert of Haydn’s Mass which we would all be doing with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (with conductor, Bill McGlaughlin) at UND’s Chester Fritz auditorium. I looked forward to every trip as Dana and I had begun to sit with each other for these rides.
* Early spring 1980 – Dana and I made it official that we were a couple.
* May 1980 – I won the Concert Choir’s 1980 National School Choral Award, an award voted on by choir members as someone who most reflects what is positive about the choral program at Red River. I was very honored. But more prized to me, though, was the award Dana and I received from our choir director, Mr. Ken Sherwood – the Concert Choir’s Slush and Mush Award for sappiest couple.
We were probably the most prominent couple in the choir that year as both of us were quite involved with other choir/theater extension groups – Dana was in a four-part male singing group he’d helped form, called Volume, as well as the Madrigal Singers, I was a Velvetone, and we were both active in various theater productions. In addition, other choir members who may have had boyfriends/girlfriends might not both be involved in choir. But sappiest? We weren’t…we couldn’t be…we were very careful to manage our PDA, Public Displays of Affection. ( : Mr. Sherwood made a big deal about the great number of couples who had been given this award who had gone on to marry. Embarrassing in front of everyone, but not at all distasteful to hear. Four years later Dana and I would join those ranks.
* Summer 1980 – I was hired at Sears and would work there for five years while I finished my undergraduate program.
* Fall 1980 – Began my freshman year at UND and pledged Delta Gamma Fraternity.
* January – May 1983, junior year, at the invitation of my high school Velvetone friend, Jodie Shores (now Storhaug), I moved in to UND’s Scandinavian Cultural Center, known as the Honve House.
* Spring 1983 – Dana and I became engaged.
* Summer 1983 – my family hosted an exchange student from France, Geraldine Renaudan (or Ran-a-dan as we’d often call her in jest).
* July 14, 1984 – Dana and I were married at Immanuel Lutheran Church (corner of Cherry St. and 17th Ave.). We took a wedding trip camping in the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, onto Billings, MT, to Yellowstone (staying at the Yellowstone Inn), to Cody, WY, back to Billings, and then onto Medora, ND and camping at the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park before heading home to our new university apartment. We lived at 514 Carleton Ct, #212.
* August 1984 – began student teaching in a mildly mentally handicapped classroom (“Educable”) under Jeannie Fosse at Kelly Elementary (on Cherry St.)
* October 1984 – began student teaching in a classroom of more mentally challenged students (“Trainable”) under Kathy Olson at Valley Junior High School (University Park block).
* January 1985 – began student teaching 4th grade under Gayle Schmisek at Lake Agassiz Elementary school (6th Ave. N). Amber Richardson was one of my students. Later (in October 1988), she would become my niece as her mom, Laurie Kim, would marry Dana’s brother, Larry.
* May 1985 – Dana and I graduated from UND. Dana had finished classes after his fall semester and I finished my course work in May but we both attended the spring graduation.
* August 7, 1988 – Dana’s mom, Lois Darlene McIntyre Young, went to be with the Lord following a fairly short illness after her April diagnosis of brain cancer. She had been in a coma state since May or June of that year. She was 55 years old.
* November 3, 2004 – My mom, Myrna Mae Anderson LeClerc, went to be with the Lord following a prolonged illness after her diagnosis of breast cancer. She was 62 years old.
* October 2014 – My dad’s Quonset is being disassembled and removed. It needs to go, but I’m sorry to see it come down. It was always the first place I looked for my dad when he was outside. It was home to ponies and chickens and frozen-eared cats as well as the staging ground for all sorts of adventures my dad and his best friend, Jim Eck, would be engaged in. It meant “farm” to me as I was growing up and was the sight I was aiming for whenever I was coming home.
* December 11, 2015 – I got called “old” for the first time today (by somebody other than me I mean). I was talking to one of our mid-20 something teachers around a table at my school’s annual Christmas party. I don’t remember what the conversation was exactly, but I said something and the gal across from me said something by manner of agreement and trying to give a compliment, “I knew if I asked the old people…”
I called her on it in a teasingly dramatic fashion and I could tell she was embarrassed that, as she put it, her “outside voice” had leaked out and we moved on in conversation. Although I have daily reminders of my aging self and am under no illusions that others may mistake me for a younger person, it was a bit sobering to actually hear it expressed from an outside source – outside of my own thoughts and mutterings, that is.