Brian’s Column: Up on the Farm

9: Fields of the grandparents: Splendid icing on childhood’s cake
Brian R. Wright

[Link to Episode 8]

Note: These columns are a series I am making into a volume of my memoirs, working title: Volume 1: Overland Park Ways. You may follow the links at top and bottom of page to go to preceding or succeeding episodes. The series starts here. {If the [Link to Episode <next>] at the  bottom of the column does not show an active hyperlink, then the <next> column has yet to be written.}

Note: Image showing my brother, Forrest (L), then Grandpa Fobian, then me (R) with barn in the background. This was a fully working family farm of roughly 500 acres, near Centerville, Iowa.

In the 1950s and very early 1960s my brother Forrest and I would go with Mom and Dad to my grandmother’s farm in Iowa. These were annual golden interludes, usually of a long weekend, sometimes longer, in my childhood… most of the photos of this chapter are from the week our family was at the farm in the summer with my mother’s sister June’s family—Forrest and I had four cousins who lived in Battle Creek, Michigan: Jim and Karen, twins, two years older than I, Marie, one year older, and Marsha, one year younger, close to Forrest’s age. This visit was much like a rare family reunion; even my aunt Donna, single, a public health nurse, came down from wherever she was at the time… might have been Des Moines.

What a great week. Fun and games for us city kids: catching tadpoles in the pond behind the house, jumping around on the hay in the barn, warily watching Big Hog Tommy in his pen, making the rounds of the chicken coop and machinery garages, riding on the tractor with the men—Grandpa Al Fobian had three sons: Kenny and Lee, lithe and strong-backed 20-22 year-olds about to spread their wings, who did the lion’s share of the farmhand work… then Darrell, maybe 16, still in high school. Continue reading

Brian’s Column: Reflections on a Noble Soul

Forrest S. Wright (1951-2007)
Seeds for new life and understanding

On May 7, 2017, it will be an unbelievable 10 years since my dear brother Forrest Steven Wright passed away at the tender age of 56. The column below was originally penned and posted shortly following his memorial service, then reposted two years after that. Since losing him then so unexpectedly, I have also had to say good bye to my mother (2/26/13) and to put my to sleep my trusty benevolent feline presence, Tabby (4/20/17). Losing Tabby reminded me, in particular, of Forrest and his Zen appreciation of all creatures great and small. I miss you, bro. Good night sweet boy.

The Original Postings

It seems like yesterday, though it’s been exactly a week since I accompanied my sister-in-law Grace and their children to the funeral home in Rochester, Michigan. Through varying waves of tears, we caringly helped one another move the process forward to yield to my brother Forrest a resting place attended by proper ceremony.

The whole affair turned out in its way as a work of art.  From visitation day, to reminiscences, to the honor-guard rifle salute—Forrest was a Vietnam vet—I can’t conceive of a better release for a finer being. So many friends and loved ones came, thank you so much. Grace, my nephews and nieces, my mother, and sister were all so wonderful.  Here are some parting words that have been put into print: Continue reading

Brian’s Column: Additional Notes on the Running Start

5. More on our family’s preschool setup for bro and me in the Overland Park years
Brian R. Wright

[Link to Episode 4]

Note: These columns are a series, I will make into a volume of my memoirs. You may follow the links at top and bottom of page to go to preceding or succeeding episodes. The series starts here. {If the [Link to Episode <next>] at the  bottom of the column does not show an active hyperlink, then the <next> column has yet to be written.}

This column dedicated to my brother, Forrest Steven Wright (1951-2007), in commem-oration of the 10th  anniversary of his death, May 7. RIP

From the previous episode’s closing, you can see I feel betrayed by my parents, to some extent, but mostly shanghaied by these strange adults who seem to have some unstated power over my parents. They are the ones filing me into this wretched regimented Romper Room setting called kindergarten.

But before proceeding with my personal seminal story of this maiden forced-schooling voyage, here’s a little more info on the family context and setup.

First instead of hitting you over the head with yet another of the cute pictures of my brother and me being bundled up to go to the house of God on Sunday, let me show off my mom on one of those occasions. As most women, she liked to dress and get out of the house once in a while. When else would she get the chance? [In those early years, my parents did not go out much at all, but they did have friends—Jim and Jean Clark, and Bob and Virginia Love—who lived within a few miles and the couples would visit one another’s homes, in sequence, on Friday nights for food, drink, and cards.]

Yes, as early as I can remember we were a churchgoing family. I’m sure it was a joint decision. Dad’s mother came from a large Chicago family, the Elliotts, who had roots harking back to the War for Independence…  I believe the Elliott clan had a staid upper-middle-class Presbyterian preference. Even if Dad had personal misgivings about the church’s teachings or, if on his own, he might have not attended at all, he was not one to take a stand against the social conventions of his significant others. Continue reading

Brian’s Column: Speaking of “A Christmas Story”…

2: Previous column, “To  Change a Tire,” unleashes a golden memory or three
Brian R. Wright

[Link to Episode 1]

Note: These columns are a series, I will make into a volume of my memoirs. You may follow the links at top and bottom of page to go to preceding or succeeding episodes. The series starts here. {If the [Link to Episode <next>] at the  bottom of the column does not show an active hyperlink, then the <next> column has yet to be written.}

In that column, I was referring to a rite of passage from boyhood into teenhood, which was the simple act of learning to successfully change out a flat tire on the family car. And I pointed to the scene in A Christmas Story, where Ralphie Parker goes to help his dad to do just that… having a slight misadventure in the process. 🙂 The movie and that funny little sequence conjure up a remembrance of my own nuclear family life in middle America, and one of my very first images…

… where my little brother Forrest, the would- be passenger in the photo right, tries to turn his tricycle into an airplane! It was 1951, or thereabouts. The Wrights had just rented a small flat in Kansas City, as we waited for our home to be built ‘out in the country’ of suburban Overland Park. Dad had been promoted to a sales job for paper products of the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment (KVP) company, for whom he had worked since coming back from the service (WW2) then graduating from Western Michigan University (go Broncos!).

It occurs to me now that we were well off enough to be able to afford to give both Forrest and me fairly new and modestly appointed tricycles at a young age. [My parents, as many of the aspiring middle class of those days, were Sears & Roebuck mail order fans. Sears typically had three models of everything, from wagons to lawn mowers: 3) the cheap, economy version, 2) the reasonably priced, higher quality, middle of the road option, and 1) the highest priced, bordering on bragging rights, top of the line Sears product. Mom and Dad always bought the #2 model.] On this fateful night I was about 3 1/2 and Bro had just turned 2. Continue reading