We have lots of company this weekend. I’ve written about my sister Susan. Now my other sister, Mary Ann, also from Massachusetts, has come to visit. She is eight years younger than I am and is a Postal Service employee back home. So far, she thinks her post office is fairly secure in being able to continue operating.
Every family has stories that get told over and over about its members. Mary Ann’s famous Bowler family story is about the time she disappeared. It was summer time, when all the kids in the neighborhood played outside all day long, coming home for a brief lunch or supper before running off for a softball game, to ride bikes, to go to the playground, or hang around in the playhouse in someone’s back yard.
But on this particular day, Mary Ann didn’t come home with the rest of the kids. My mother’s method of calling us home was a whistle that hung on the wall by a string that she could grab whenever she needed to call us. Everyone in the neighborhood knew that whistle, and even if we didn’t hear it (selective deafness?) someone’s mother would say, “Your mother’s calling you!” and off we’d go.
But repeated whistles, becoming more and more frantic, did not produce Mary Ann, who was probably about five years old at the time. Soon it was time to call Dad home from work to help look. The entire neighborhood was mobilized to search for her, as well.
Finally, the police were called. The squad car pulled up in front of the house, which caused the people who were not already searching for Mary Ann — shut-ins, workers on the night shift, newborns — to come out to see what was going on.
As our parents were talking to the police, a cry went up, “We found her! We found her!” Someone had thought to look under my brother’s rowboat, which was leaning up against the garage waiting for a fishing trip. There, curled up for a nice long nap on a warm summer afternoon, was Mary Ann, totally oblivious to the chaos and worry she had caused. We were all relieved and treated her with kid gloves, for about eight hours, and then it was back to real life — playing.
Also here this weekend is my cousin Mary, who drove up from Omaha. Mary is very much younger than I am, the daughter of my mother’s much-younger sister, Kay. When I had my second child, Mary was a young teenager, and came to Winona to be my mother’s helper. She took care of Cassidy and Morgan while John and I worked (and played), and we became close.
I used to stay at Mary’s family’s house for school breaks when I was at the College of Saint Teresa, since the trip back to Massachusetts was so expensive. Mary and her siblings would be sent upstairs to wake me up (at noon), and would creep into the room and with tiny fingers open my eyelids and scare the stuffing out of me, staring like the Seven Dwarfs at Snow White!
So, what I meant to say is that I wasn’t going to write a column today, but here it is anyway. I was also going to say that Kent Stever would write in my place, and here is his reminiscence of Memorial Days past. As we prepare for Winona’s 2012 Memorial Day ceremonies, I thought you might like to read what it was like back a few years.