The Armstrong Archives (48): The Year in Retrospect

May 10, 1978   Dear family (by our blood or His) and friends,

Here it is May! Heavy grey clouds brought us scurrying home form the library this morning against a wind so stiff Aaron could hardly pedal his tricycle. “Is this spring, Mama? The one Daddy told us about?” Aaron asked me a little incredulously the other day. I guess by the calendar it is, but mentally I’m still drifting around somewhere back in March or April where the rainy cold seems more in place. (…Now hail is pelting the window!)

Somewhere back there I missed writing some letters too. Not mentally, mind you. I’ve composed dozens of letters in the past six months…carrying a load of diapers back from the laundry room, scraping spaghetti off the dinner plates, or drifting off to sleep. A few even materialized into a paragraph or two, but none made it to the press. November was a list of 32 adjectives beginning with ”t” to describe our tempestuous, theatrical, terrible two-year-old. Here’s a sample:

Truthful—“I need a spanking…with the rod.”

Tyrannical—“Don’t move; I’ll be right back.”

Thoughtful—“How’s it work?” “Where is heaven?”

Tardy—Ever try to hurry an uninterested performer on the potty chair?

Treacherous—“I didn’t hit Michael, Jerry did.” (Jerry is a favored doll.)

Tender—“I go shopping. Get new crib for Baby Jesus!”

Transcending— “Bye, bye poot (B.M. down the toilet)! Have a nice time.”

Teachable—“Take little bites, Daddy. Lean forward!” (Who’s teaching whom?)

Teasing—“What’s the deal, Banana Peel?”

Theological—“I want to go to heaven, and Mama, and Daddy, and Cup…” (his blanket)

Tactless—“Just gas! (He announced flatly after a loud lower eruption had momentarily stopped company conversation at the dinner table.)

And on and on. What a hilarious, frustrating, marvelous age.

By December things had cooled down. Michael had become a bonafide member of the family—Aaron forgot he was ever a newcomer, and Alan was waltzing around at night whispering sweet nothings in his tiny ears—and we were gearing up for winter. December’s letter began like this:

“It’s a little hard to get into the spirit of this letter (Christmas) with a misty, grey rain dripping away at the small stores of muddy snow left here and there along the edges of the sidewalks and parking lots outside the window. Aaron keeps reminding me that we’re going to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a ‘bacation’ in ‘just one week from tomorrow’ (which is no longer true, although it was four days ago when he learned how to say it), and Alan’s been counting the days for nearly a month until this very difficult quarter will be over.”

July through December was the most trying segment of medical school for Alan, a record that will hopefully not be broken until internship. It was a great relief to all of us when school ended for the Christmas holiday.

January and February’s letters never got off the ground. It seemed there was never a time when one (or four) of us didn’t have the flu, or a cold, or diarrhea, or the flu, or a cold, or __or__or something. Alan was doing pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, and our family seemed to be susceptible to all the viruses he dragged home, which was an experience he found to be fairly common among the families of his colleagues. A letter from those months would have been pretty dreary.

March was a fairly serious month, although Alan’s hours were better and there was hope that spring might bring relief from the 30X30 ft. crawling-the-walls-in-our-tiny-apartment syndrome. Alan was in the throes of planning his curriculum for the next year and trying to get some insights into where he wants to go and what he wants to be doing for the next “X” number of years. He loves surgery but hates the hours. What should he be doing with his life, anyway?…needing to decide questions he didn’t really feel prepared to answer…Wisely, he ended up pulling out only enough brothy info. to make the few decisions necessary for now and is still keeping the rest of the pot simmering on the back burners of his mind.

April. Blessed April. The snows had melted enough for a few tramps through the woods at Kensington Park to see the cowslips, hepatica, and bloodroots shooting purple, yellow, and white heads up through the half-rotten leavens of last fall. And dates! Alan took a psychiatry rotation and his schedule became almost unbearably reasonable: 8-5 M-F with no call and no weekends…and not even too much bookwork. We went to the symphony, to a ball game, to Canada, to Sunday school class parties and dinner parties; we had company in and went over to visit friends; he took me swimming, out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, a Cuban restaurant, and to Greek Town. One Saturday he babysat all day so I could take our baby sitter out to lunch and later attend a baby shower. We did more fun things together than we’ve had time to do in the whole last 2 ½ years, and suddenly Detroit didn’t seem like such a dreary place to live after all!

Now it’s May. Right now Aaron is singing sweetly to himself, playing in his bedroom, and Michael is crawling around at my feet. Aaron is in the transition between the fierce independence of the two and the desire to please of the three. From week to week there is a noticeable increase in the pleasure and decrease in the pain associated with his appearance on the scene. Michael is right in one of the golden ages of babyhood too. He gets around pretty well and is usually very content. He thinks I live in the kitchen, and whenever he tires and wants a little attention, he crawls into the kitchen to get me (regardless of where I really am). He has also begun sleeping thorough the night lately and has started to share sleeping quarters with Aaron. Right now he’s meandered into the kitchen to inspect a sack of trash I got out to take to the trash room. I think he wants a little attention. Even though he was sitting by me in the bedroom, when he got bored, it was off to the kitchen to get “Ma, Ma!” And, Aaron’s at my sleeve, “Can I type, Mom? Huh? I wanna type. Huh, Ma, can I type?” One of the “t’s” on my list was tiring, another was trying. He is a real challenge to mother, and a real blessing. We thank the Lord every day for our two little guys.

“Ouch, Mike, what are you doing?” Michael is affectionately pulling on Aaron’s face. It’s clearly time to quit typing, even though it seems to me I just got started. Happy summer.

Love, Us

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