The Armstrong Archives (105): Round Robin and Allergy Rotation

Autumn. Alan+BoysOctober 15, 1981 What a grand idea to have a Round Robin! [My parents and all five sibs started writing letters that were mailed from home to home; each time the “round robin” arrived, we took out our old letter and added a new one. This tradition has been going on ever since and is still a treasured part of my family’s culture!]1981 Fall Pumpkin Patch My life is at a happy rest phase right at the moment, so it shouldn’t be too hard to keep up my corner of the deal. Aaron’s in school, and Michael’s getting old enough to be pretty resourceful and give me a little break while Jonny naps—which is right now. Michael is a classical music buff. He’s working with legos and listening to “that one where they get lost” (“Hansel and Gretel Overture”). I always offer to put on a record or tape before I go upstairs, and he’d rather hear classical music than a story about 50% of the time.

Alan is studying “Allergy” this month, which is among the easiest of all rotations, and it’s been sheer pleasure to have him so relaxed and happy. He has started doing a considerable amount of moonlighting to make ends met—especially Aaron’s tuition expense—but it’s fairly innocuous. He took over the contract to do history and physicals on incoming psychiatric patients at Mercywood, a private psychiatric hospital affiliated with St. Joseph’s (where he’s doing his residency). This means he’s responsible for seeing that he or some other doctor is there every evening, usually only from 1-3 hours. When he goes, he comes home for dinner and then works while I get the house cleaned up and the kids to bed…which also takes me a good 2-3 hours. There are lots of guys interested in working, so the only catch is that he ends up working undesirable times: i.e. holidays, and some weekends. It worked out as a pretty reasonable alternative to eating beans and never going out, etc., all year.

Next weekend we’re going to Petoskey to do a lot of serious interviewing at Burns Clinic, an 80-physician multi-specialty P.C. (professional corporation) on the northwestern coast of Michigan’s lower peninsula, 90 miles southwest of the Soo. Right now I would guess there’s about a 60% chance we’ll go there. The other likely possibility is staying in Ann Arbor and joining the practice of an internist here at St. Joseph’s. There are a lot of “status”-type advantages to Ann Arbor. Alan would be eligible to get an assistant professorship at the U.M., which he would probably do, and Ann Arbor has lots of everything…except cheap land. I think I’m a little pro-Ann Arbor, but Alan feels that living a slower life in the country (close to grandparents and relatives! I’m for that!) away from a lot of the corruption of city life might be better for the kids. We’ve realized that many of our differences have to do with where we grew up. At any rate, I think we’d be very happy in either place. We’ll probably decide by next spring. Carving Pumpkins…Later…Aaron generally loves school and comes home pretty tired. “It’s really hard to be good all day,” he confessed, but he’s getting along well and enjoying himself, so we’re all happy. We keep very busy with projects too. One of my favorites is the “Wonder Book,” an empty notebook he takes to school. Whenever he thinks of a question for which he can’t figure out the answer, he writes it down in picture form, and after school he, Michael, and I try to find the answers.. Today’s questions were: “How high are the Smokies?” “How did forget-me-nots get their name?” and “Why did Jesus tell the blind man not to say who healed him, and why didn’t the blind man mind him?” I learn as much as the boys! Aaron's Diary[This is the diary I kept for Aaron. I was able to keep Aaron’s diary up for 5 years, Journal for Aaronbut the other children got varying numbers of years. By the last kids, I felt happy just being able to keep a diary for their first year!]

Well, I’ve got chicken frying for supper, and it will burn if it doesn’t get turned soon. I only have a couple of personal projects going. One is keeping daily journals on all three boys and myself; one is writing my thesis (which is based on the material I gathered from the journals during the boys’ first year); and the last is making up “you were there” type bedtime stories for the boys teaching them about Bible characters, an idea I got largely from Wolle last summer, who thought some Bible story records we had for the boys really made the stories come alive. Carving Jack-o-lanternsDear Robert and Dawn [From Aaron to his cousins],

How would yo like to be pen pals? Mama will write for us if you’d like until I get big enough to write myself.

Now I am six. I like to climb trees, ride bikes, and build legos. My favorite color is red. What’s yours?

Right now I think when I grow up I might like to fly a construction helicopter, but I don’t know yet. How about you?

What is your school like now? Mama says you’re in a special class with hard homework. What do you do all day?

I’m going to Faithway Baptist School. I like everything except rest time. My favorite is gym. We got our pictures taken today. I’ll send you one. Do you and Dawn get pictures? Could we please get some?

Did you know there are blue potatoes? Last August I went to my Uncle Lloyd’s farm, and we dug potatoes. He had white, red, and a new kind: blue. They look awful but they taste just the same.

Please write when you can.

Love, Your cousin, AARON [also on the paper was a crayon drawing of “two lady bugs having babies”]



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