Setting the bench: Shae Anderson pushes down on bench as Jeanne Jeppesen, Rex Nelson, Evan Anderson, Becky Christensen and Bruce Nelson watch.
Evan and Shae.
Plaque for grandchildren who have died.
Marie Anderson Walker's poem for Brenda inscribed on plaque.
Wayne Nelson and Evan Anderson survey a job well done.
Shae speaks about Brenda and her love for children.
Sarah Morrell picked the flowers.
Evan sings the words of Marie's poem (which was longer than the verse
on the plaque) to a tune he composed with Joe Clark.
After Brenda died in 2000, we wanted to create a fitting memorial for her. We decided on a bench, and over the years, members of the family contributed to a bench fund that grew to $200. Several years ago, Marie Anderson Walker wrote a poem in her honor for the bench. A year ago, plaques were made to spur the project on, and Jeanne and Alan took them home to Utah and found a man who would make a nice bench for us. He got it done and they brought it to reunion this year.
By a marvelous chance, Shae was able to come to the reunion this year, along with Evan. He selected a spot near the swing where mothers can watch their children play. They helped set the bench in cement, and Evan led a group of young men to the hill to pick up flat rocks to place over the grass at the site.
We had a wonderful ceremony-- Shae spoke, Evan sang and Shanan said a prayer.
Mama's vanity, 2012. Its metal stool padded with satin wore out over the years.
It’s easy to distress furniture.
Just put five or six good-sized
rocks into an old sock and flail away at your piece like a Mafia hitman.
Wipe the sweat off your brow, and
voila' —you’ve got a beat-up antique.
Mama would never forgive me
if I did that to anything, let alone her precious bedroom set.
Besides, it’s no stranger to
Wayne and Joyce could seldom afford new
or matching furniture, with one exception. During the 1950s, after an exceptional wheat harvest, Daddy
and Mama bought a bona fide bedroom set: a tall, five-drawer dresser, a vanity
with a large square mirror and tiny satin-covered stool, a three-drawer
nightstand and a double bed with square headboard and footboard. In blond oak,
the lines were clean and sleek in the “Scandinavian Contemporary” style. With a
red satin bedspread, their bedroom was complete.
A dresser drawer shows the original oak finish and brass hardware.
The double bed seemed vast to me
53 years ago, when at age four, I crowded in with my parents. Though Mama gave me three inches on her
side of the bed, I thought they were extremely selfish not to scoot over a
little—after all, they had a lavish 54-inch wide mattress!
I look at the bed now, and it has
shrunk. How did two full-sized
adults and sometimes a baby sister manage to spare even three inches for me?
Sometimes Andi, Shanan or I brought
a tummy-ache with us, so the bed and nightstand no doubt received an occasional
baptism in vomit.
We moved twice a year—at the end
of May, to our dry farm home, and at the end of September, to a rental house in
town. Daddy and his moving crew—sometimes his sons, heaven help us if it was
Joyce and the girls—loaded furniture into the green farm truck for the 20-mile
trip. Sometimes the dresser and vanity stayed in town through the summer; other
times they were moved. The bed always got moved.
One term depicts moving day:
“%&**%$#.” Daddy was always in a hurry to load and unload. He could back that truck up nearly to
the doors of the two houses covering some of the steps and saving a lot of work
for his crew.
He took all the furniture in one
trip—and it was up to Mama to haul pots and pans, clothing and books in
numerous round trips by car.
Lacking muscle, the girls were often
assigned to carry the slats, wooden boards that supported the mattress.
Though Mama swaddled her precious
bedroom set with quilts and blankets, it got banged around—Dad’s famous saying about
what it did to furniture was: “Seven moves is as good as a fire.”
The large dresser and vanity
filled both of the small bedrooms my parents used. Like many folks during the
1950’s and 60’s, Daddy smoked, and some of his smoldering Camels stained pieces
of the set. Luckily, cigarette
burns were the worst consequence of the times he dozed off while smoking.
Daddy and Mama shared the big
dresser, and stored important papers in the middle drawer, which had three
compartments. One of them held memories of Holly, who lived only
four months—her birth certificate, the few photos they had of her, some tiny
baby clothes. On June 6, 1976, the Teton Dam burst ten miles east of us. As we rushed to get out of the flood’s
path, Mama wrestled that drawer out of the dresser and into the car trunk. She
was the only one who had the sense to grab irreplaceable items.
The three section drawer held my parents' important papers.
When Daddy died in 1989, Mama kept a pair of his jeans unwashed
in the dresser for quite a while. Sometimes she buried her face in the worn
denim, in his scent.
Mama died in 2009 and some of us
gathered on a Memorial Day weekend to sort and inventory her things—a big job,
since with her Great Depression mentality, she saved everything. Then we
gathered on a summer weekend to distribute her belongings.
Bruce and Danny pitched an army tent
in the yard to cover our parents’ possessions. Judy, the executor
of the estate, had come up with a great system: we placed the names of her eight
living children, and of Marie representing Brenda into a hat. For each item on the inventory, a name was drawn, and that person
got the item. After nine draws,
the names went back into the hat and we started over.
Previously, we had each indicated
which three items were most important to us, so negotiation, consideration of
others’ desires, and trading went on throughout the process. At sundown, all
had meaningful legacies and there was plenty left for the grandchildren before
one truckload went to Deseret Industries and another went to the dump.
I was happy to inherit the bedroom
set. Once more, Bruce and Dan wrapped the furniture in blankets and loaded
it into Spencer's Toyota truck. The
Scandinavian Contemporary bedroom set rode across Idaho, blasted by heat,
plastered by bugs and shaken by semis.
All the way, I wished that the set
looked like it did the first time they brought it home in the farm truck.
A professional quoted a hefty
price to sand, stain and re-varnish the pieces. Someone suggested distressing
it—but I didn’t have the heart to punish it any more than we already
For 18 months the bedroom set sat
in the crowded garage as I pondered how my amateur DIY efforts might destroy my
inheritance. When Spencer got married and begged for a dresser for their unfurnished
apartment, I gave him the one I’d been using, and with my clothes hanging out
of laundry baskets, I had to do something. I decided to paint.
As I sanded and puttied the gouges
and burns, memories flooded in. On a drawer, a child had scratched “Mom,”
starting with an extra tall M.
“Which of my delinquent siblings
vandalized this dresser?” I wondered.
On the next drawer, “Dab” was
scratched in the same style.
Dad's drawer labeled "Dab".
It all came back. Mrs. Van Houten, my second teacher,
despaired that I would ever figure out the difference between d and b. “You’ll be ‘Deddie’ all your life,” she
As I sanded, I remembered myself
as a child, scratching the dresser with my baby sister’s ducky-headed diaper
pin. Brenda caught me and punished me, but “Big deal,” I thought—I
had labeled those drawers! (As if Dad and Mom needed help remembering whose
drawer was whose!)
I haven’t changed much—Norm chides me for labeling pantry shelves, saying, “We can tell the difference
between green beans and peaches!”
Somebody—not me—wrote in crayon on
the dresser box behind a drawer. There was a lot of dirt in the bottom three
drawers and the box behind them, probably because the dresser was stored at the
farm for a time.
The vanity after being sanded.
The dresser after being puttied, living in our garage.
Though gouged and burned, the furniture is solid, with tongue and groove workmanship, as sturdy as the
day it was built—1951 (the year Norm was born) in Ohio, says the stamp on the back of each piece.
When I painted the nightstand, I hoped
to replicate its former blond oak color, but I choose a shade too dark and even
with some careful antiquing by Norm, it didn’t have the look I
wanted. It sits in Emily's home. They just moved from a tiny home to a big home across Idaho Falls, and it is an heirloom to
anchor her to our shared past.
I chose a creamy ivory paint for
the vanity and large dresser, and replaced the tarnished bronze hardware. (If anyone in the family wants the old hardware, I'd be glad to send it!)
Close-up of paint and hardware on vanity.
The dresser sits in our bedroom,
massive and beautiful. In the
three-section drawer, my socks and underwear have never had it so good!
Miraculously, the vanity’s 42-inch
square mirror, sporting a campy decal of a rose, a compact, lipstick and nail
polish, has survived intact. Clear
plastic brackets clamp it to a supporting sheet of wood, which has its own
beautiful wood-grain patterns. The
vanity practically shouted, “I need faux crystal handles to match my brackets!”
The wooden frame behind the mirror with beautiful wood grain landscape.
It sits my office, which doubles
as “the good guest bedroom” when it isn’t buried in papers. I shared a bedroom
growing up, I shared a bedroom in college, and I’ve shared a bedroom during 35
years of marriage. So the
four-year-old in me has decorated this room—my first all-to-myself room—in pink.
My reflection in the vanity mirror
has changed through the years, first in Daddy's and Mama's bedroom, now in mine.
Because I see their image in the background, loving me and holding me accountable
to their principles, I can look myself in the eyes in that mirror. I’m glad my grandchildren will be able
to see themselves in that mirror.
Grandchildren can see themselves in my parents' vanity mirror. Notice the small
Dear Family,I've been thinking about all of you and decided to write to update you on our activities instead of a lot of phone calls.
Bruce and I got to go to Moscow, Idaho last week for his annual meeting of the NIATT advisory board (I think it stands for the National Istitute for the Advancement of Transportation Technology). Pat came to take care of the kids while we were gone. The kids had a great time with Nana and kept her busy running around. We stayed in Riggins in our favorite motel on the river, right where the Little Salmon joins the Salmon River. We ate at a new place this year and got to sit outside. It was beautiful weather. The next morning, we didn't go on our regular hike along the Rapid River, but just drove North to Lewiston. We stopped at Hell's Gate State Park alongside the Snake River. (There sure are a lot of rivers, aren't there!) We wandered around an interesting Lewis and Clark museum, and then drove up the hill to the Jack O'Connor museum. He was a famous big game hunter and outdoor writer years ago. He was from Arizona originally, but raised his family in Lewiston. He did a lot to bring notice to Lewiston and helped the economy by writing about the ammunition made there. The museum had many, many mounts of the animals he and his wife shot on their hunting trips around the West and in Canada, Iran, India, and Africa. His and his wife's guns were there. I had no idea how many different kinds of antelope live in Africa, from the tiny Dik Dik to the huge ones like Oryx and Sable. I kept wishing Erik and Danni were there. I think they really would have enjoyed it. I'll include a few pictures.
When we got to Moscow, we went to the dinner for the NIATT board and heard two student presentations. One was about a new hybrid race car that the students built from the ground up. They made pretty much everything except the tires, including the hybrid motor. The other was about hands-on learning techniques in the classroom, teaching traffic studies. I even piped up and asked a question! Bruce went to his meetings the next day and I stayed inside and enjoyed the exercise room, the pool, and the TV while it rained outside. On Friday we attended the Engineering Expo in the Student Union building. The projects are really cool, and we enjoyed looking at all of them. It was over too soon, but we had a book on CD to make the drive home go by quickly. We didn't mind the long drive too much, and we wanted to get home, so we skipped a motel that night and drove all the way back to Twin Falls. It was a nice break for both of us.
Joel is in track and enjoying his track meets. He is in the Teacher's quorum now. Todd is the first counselor in the Deacon's quorum. Kurtis is playing Soccer and continuing violin lessons. He performed in our ward talent show. Will is enjoying preschool, and getting more and more ready for kindergarten in the fall. I am planning to go to Wood Badge scout training for a week in June. Mom gets to come stay with the kids then. Bruce is the assistant scoutmaster. We are staying really busy with scouts, sports, and school. I love you all and wish I could have some time to talk to you on the phone or see you individually.