West Caldwell, New Jersey

During the summer of 1988, Chris was invited to return to the Gina Bachauer Piano Competition as a guest/former winner.  While there he met a lady from Clifton, New Jersey, named Eleanor.  She encouraged him to move to New Jersey and teach out of her studio.  We were thrilled at these prospects!  New Jersey and the New York City area held great allure for me!  We poured over maps and discussed all the opportunities we would have there at length.  At last things were looking up for us!  Chris left at the end of November to go ahead of us and prepare the way and begin teaching.  

We discovered that a painting Chris' Grandfather Giles had been given which we had in our possession was worth $3,000, so we sold it to make the move.  The artist was James Harwood, the first Utah painter to be accepted into a Paris salon.  My research shows that he was the head of the art department at the University of Utah at the same that Chris' grandfather was heading the music department.  They must surely have been friends. We figured this was a good cause!  As I recall, Bill Hill, a renowned artist we met through Spencer Taggart, noticed it on our wall one day and recognized the artist.

The kids and I stayed in Logan to pack and tie up loose ends.  It was a major undertaking.  I had to box everything up and arrange for a moving van all while continuing to work at the library full-time.  The piano complicated the process because it had to packed and handled so carefully.  On the day the movers came it was nearly 25 degrees below.  We then temporarily stayed in an apartment my parents were renting to stay in while they were working in the temple.  The kids may remember that we couldn't stand to leave our cat, Tuxedo, out in the nearly 15 below temps, so we brought him into the apartment.  We knew Grandma would have freaked if she'd have been there that night.  We found him a home shortly thereafter.

We bid our farewells and took the AMTRAK across the country to Newark.  A few years later I got a call from the travel agency we had used to buy the tickets.  Apparently the clerk had pocketed our money after she gave us the tickets.  That trip was an adventure and actually an enjoyable experience.  We wandered around the train, looked out the window, ate our train snacks which we had purchased with all the aluminum cans we had recycled, and played some games.  We had a six hour layover in Chicago, so we left the train station and hopped on a tour bus.  We went clear to the top of the Sears Tower.  Before I had left the Merrill Library, my fellow employees generously collected gift money and gave it to us for the trip.  So very nice of them. Such a blessing to me!  We used that money for the tour bus in Chicago and other travel expenses. 

Chris greeted us in Newark, and our adventure began!  I was very very excited.  Chris must have borrowed a car from someone because we did not have a car for a month or so as I recall.  We arrived in our new residence, and Chris returned to the train station sans car occupants the next day to get our bags.  Taggart accompanied him and came home with an exciting story about a Black man performing some sort of tricks in Penn Station in Newark and then giving Taggart a kiss!  Perhaps this was a good omen.

Our boxes had arrived before us, but nothing had been unpacked, so I set to work doing that.  I walked the kids to their school about 2 miles away and then walked back to get them.  Later in the story some saintly neighbors let them hop in with them.  I'm sure we appeared on the border of disaster to our neighbors.  This was all new and different for all of us.  We arrived around Valentine's Day, and fortunately the weather was mild, although it soon grew rainy.  We could walk to the library and a shopping center a few blocks away.  

Once we plugged into the ward things went better.  Then we got a car, and that made us feel more human.  I was asked to write a roadshow--"A Rudy Awakening".  All of the kids were in it.  They probably remember what they were better than I do.  

(note to reader:  Please be gentle with me during the NJ chapter.  Things were unraveling, and my stress levels were unprecedented.  Consequently, my memory of some things is blocked.  I apologize.)

By April Chris and Eleanor had parted ways.  After he semi attempted to move on from that shock, he got a temp job in a shoe factory.  I had a series of temp jobs--some of them I could walk to.  One of my favorites was at Glory--a Japanese-owned company that made counterfeit money detecting machines.  I answered the phone and fielded messages.  I particularly enjoyed the Japanese employees.  They were very generous with the exotic snacks that they brought back from Japan.  I'll never forget the company party that I was invited to--Tag and Chris went along as well.  The bus was headed for a Yankee's game at Yankee stadium, but the rain was coming down so horrifically that the game was called.  Someone suggested we find somewhere else to go.  All the Japanese began shouting, "Libutty Pahk!  Libutty Pahk!"   The driver changed directions, and I soon learned that "Libutty Pahk" meant Liberty Park--the New Jersey side of the Statue of Liberty!!  None of us but Chris had as yet been to New York, so I was jazzed!  Tag too!  The downpour intensified.  I have some very very poor photos of all of us hovering under unbrellas.  You can't make out ANYTHING--not even any human forms!  But we were there!!

Another job I worked was at the Good Humor headquarters.  Fortunately, that job carried a major perk.  The walk-in freezer (which had formerly resided at Yankee Stadium) was now "retired" at the Good Humor office, and my ultra awesome boss insisted that I fill a bag daily with ice cream bars!  He knew I had three monkeys at home! It was a summer of unlimited ice cream at our house!  The kids will never forget it!  My job there was to field distress calls from street vendors in New York.  Talk about meltdowns!  That boss, Barry, seemed to have a quasi-relaxing job--nice nice guy.  He was a reader and introduced me to John McPhee, one of Princeton University's writers-in-residence and loaned me several books.

I also had a three week gig in the city which I describe elsewhere in this story.  At some point I was introduced to Discovery Toys and became a consultant.  The adventure in that job was in arriving at my destination!  It was always a surprise to me!  No GPS.  One time I was giving a toy party near Newark, and on the way home--well after 11--I misjudged and turned left instead of right.  I ended up right in the middle of Newark!  Not wise.  I enjoyed demonstrating toys and especially having the toys in our home.  I worked hard and earned a 32 volume set of Book of Knowledge books which for some reason had seemed very important to me.  When we left West Caldwell I never saw those beautiful books again.

Finally, I landed a temp job at Silver, Burdette and Ginn which any teacher will recognize as an educational publications company.  Perhaps you remember Ginn readers.  Here I tested the newly- developed math tutorial computer software.  My job was to play around on it all day and try to get it to crash so that the bugs could be worked out.  One of my co-workers was a Jewish gal named Rachel, and I remember she had never had a ham sandwich!  Why do I remember that????  My boss was a chauvinistic guy from Syria named Savio. This company was located in Morristown--right across the street from our stake center.  My job eventually turned into full-time permanent employment when they needed a librarian to catalog a room full of periodicals and books.  My "mad" library skills must have leapt up at them off of my resume because they were thrilled to find me! Incidentally, this picture of me at the keyboard was featured in the company's software catalog that year!

My boss in the library was a Chinese gentleman in his 30's.  He peppered me with questions about sex education!  He was starved for any and all knowledge on that--my later experience in China reinforced to me just exactly how much the education system there was deficit in that! I don't know if this would qualify as harassment these days, but I told him about the resources I knew about.  I'm sure he took this opportunity in the U.S. to hunt down any and all facts he could find!  Part of my cataloging included organizing TIME magazines from the beginning of its inception.  I also cataloged New York Times Magazines which I LOVED to read!  I also learned that a market existed for my appliqued sweatshirts here at this company!  I could hardly keep up with the demand!  Then I started taking whole wheat bread in to sell.  You'd have thought I was Martha Stewart (who actually just lived one village over.  I don't think she'd hit her stride yet.)  Apparently NOBODY baked or sewed--two skills I took for granted.  My reputation spread.  They bought the bread at $4 a loaf as fast as I could make it.  Getting wheat to grind was my biggest challenge, but fortunately I could swap out with someone at church for a bit of their food storage.  So at this point of my life, I was working all day and sewing and baking bread into the night most days.  No wonder I wanted a night off to sing! Read on!

 (appliqued sweatshirt)

(and another.  I took orders and actually did a blue-footed booby for someone!)

One of the editors at Silver Burdette invited me to join a female barbershop choir called the "Suburban Sounds".  I was so nervous to audition, but I was invited to join!  Unfortunately, I had not come on board in time to be ready to perform in Carnegie Hall with the group, but I DID attend!  That was an adventure.  I took the bus in and then walked way way way up to Carnegie Hall.  This was the FIRST time barbershop had ever been performed in Carnegie Hall, and the group looked fahbulous and sang even better!!!  I was so happy for them.  But then came the long treacherous walk back to the Port Authority to catch a bus back to New Jersey.  The year was 1989 and unfortunately pre-Gulianni. I had to step over drunks and was solicited by beggar after beggar.  As I recall, the street was dark as well--I think I must have walked along 8th Avenue.  It couldn't have been that dark, but it was very VERY scary after 11 at night!  It was pretty stupid of me, actually.  I didn't get back to New Jersey until about one in the morning.  Fortunately, the bus stop was just a half block from our house.

Singing with "Suburban Sounds" was a life highlight!  I LOVED it.  They were a very professional group, and the director, Sunny, was magnificent.  We practiced once a week in Montclair--most of the members were from Staten Island, but for some reason we practiced in New Jersey.  We attended some day long workshops, and I believe some of the quartets from the group competed nationally.  The downside of all of this was that I was forced to drop out after about six months.  The group was preparing for a competition.  They took these competitions very seriously--wigs, professional make-up, standardized undergarments!  The costumes were expensive. It was ALL expensive.  I remember driving home from my last rehearsal and just sobbing my eyes out--I felt so so sorry for myself.

My trip to Carnegie Hall was not my first time in New York--perhaps third or fourth.  I LOVED NEW YORK CITY.  I LOVED NEW YORK CITY.  I LOVED NEW YORK CITY.  Still do.  I can't get enough of it.  I think it is the antithesis of my agrarian humble beginnings and feeds some basic adventurer hunkered down deep inside me.  It makes my soul soar, and I am very comfortable there.  My first sight of it was one night when we were driving.  We had gone up a "hill", and I could see it way off in the distance.  Then some friends of ours volunteered to take us in for a night on the town.  Kristy and ? Monson.  We had done the roadshow with us, and they were fun.  ? worked in the city, and they eventually moved to London a few months later.  On this particular night, we started in a Japanese restaurant, and then ? drove us straight through Time Square and down to Battery Park to see the Statue of Liberty.  Then we made our way all the way up to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine near Columbia University for a 100 piece percussion concert.  Wow.  Of that music Chris said, "I feel like we should all be lying on the floor unclothed to listen to this!"  It was pretty primal!!!  I remember being so high after that trip.

Chris eventually took a position at UPS where he worked part-time for a couple of years, even after the kids and I left.  It was only part-time, and we had to take him quite a ways to get to the job.  One tiny little Subaru just didn't work in NJ.  The distances were too far, and with both of us working it was difficult.  We were not even coming close to surviving there.  Not even close. 

John came up to do some business and dropped over our way for dinner.  He offered to pay for me to make an appointment with a patent attorney to see about patenting my graduate puppet project puppets.  I made an appointment in a fancy law office and drug my big old bag in.  The lawyer inspected my puppets and told me I needed a copyright, not a patent.  I didn't get around to a copyright because I was on a very slippery slope at this point of my story.  But I let loose with a "Well, I'll be darned..." several years later when I was once again living in New Jersey and discovered a similar product in a toy store in upstate New York. 

(Young Women's girls camp in Woodstock, NY.  Shelly's first year,

and I was the ward YW president.)

(Taggart said, "This is the best day of my life!")

Shelly attended part of fifth grade and all of 6th grade in New Jersey.  We'll have to wait until she writes HER story to get her full slant on that experience.  I remember that she attended the maturation lecture in fifth grade and was surprised by the sophisticated questions her classmates asked!  Shelly made friends.  One particular friend invited us to go with her mother and sister and her to New York City for one of the school holiday days.  We  traipsed all over and ended up at the Museum of Natural History.  Thomas had just been fitted for glasses the day before and was WOWED by his new world--especially the view from the Empire State Building!  Shelly began Young Women and took her first temple trip to Washington DC.  I made a special new dress for her and gave her a journal that we share and still pass back and forth.  She excelled in 6th grade.   Her two teachers marveled at her for some reason.  Perhaps it was her autobiography speech.  She began, "When your ancestors came from Europe they settled right here.  Mine kept walking!"  She took that chance to tell them all about pioneers. I think she stressed the importance of journals in our religious culture.  She said the teachers in the back of the room were nodding their heads. Shelly took a great trip to the U.N. with her friend Inger Crickenberger.

(Paddington was part of the summer reading program 
at our library.)
Taggart had a dinky little toy-sized bike that he found somewhere (I think it may have belonged to our neighbor Billy) that he used to ride to school.  He just wanted WHEELS so badly!  I admired that in him.  I think he needed a way to get to baseball practice. When we first arrived in NJ, we took Thomas to a modeling agency that did ad work for Toys R Us.  When I had worked at Gia's in Logan, one of my waitress friends Jenny  had modeled for Seventeen,  and she thought Thomas should be modeling.  We took him to one place in Salt Lake, but they wanted a portfolio which cost plenty.  So when we got to NJ we gave it another crack.  The modeling agent looked over at Taggart who was nonchalantly uninvolved and said, "THAT'S who should be modeling!"  Unfortunately, NOBODY modeled.  Taggart had a bully named Carmine DelGaddo--an Italian kid.  Bullies were new matters for us, but before we figured out a solution, Taggart turned the kid into a friend.  End of story.  I'll NEVER forget the day the school called and said that Taggart was deaf and that I needed to call his pediatrician immediately!!!!!  What the???  How could we have missed that?  When he got home from school, I did a little quick and dirty test which involved him sitting with his back to me and me whispering his name.  Nothing fancy.  But he turned right around.  The nurse sheepishly called me on Monday to say their machine had been broken.  Sheesh people...Taggart's class was the quietest overall in the lunch room all year, so his whole class got to go to Coney Island!  Some reward!!

Thomas could hear, but apparently he couldn't see.  Sorry about those weak eye genes, Buddy.  He took off in leaps and bounds in New Jersey!  He learned to read!  He could finally give in to his deep cat passion because at one time we had like nine!  I remember calling the school one Friday afternoon to tell the secretary I was coming to check the kids out.  I didn't tell her that I was bringing them home to watch our Maine Coon cat, Abby, have her kittens!  It was a learning experience after all!  Thomas excelled in art at school.  I received several notes from his amazed teachers.  We had suspected it all along, but it seemed to blossom in New Jersey.  He sang "Savior, May I Learn to Love Thee" as a solo in sacrament meeting.  Such a nice voice.  He fought for the game control remote like a scrappy little animal, and consequently those "skills" improved too.  Hours and hours of Bubble Bauble.  It seems like his class fieldtrip was to the Bronx Zoo.  I was impressed with the exotic nature of the kids' bus trips!  This is a picture of Thomas at the base of the Statue of Liberty. If there was ever a good natured all around swell sport, it was Thomas.  He seemed to ride the waves of this chapter better than anyone in the family.

One thing all three kids got a good dose of in New Jersey was swimming.  We had a neighborhood pool that they frequented EVERY day.  I was off working, but their father took them to the pool every day.  Taggart basically taught himself just by bobbing around in the deep end and figuring it out.  Thomas clung to the side for awhile, but then even he got the hang of it.  At the end of the summer all three were jumping into the deep end and looking like swimmers.  Between swimming and limitless Good Humor bars, it wasn't a bad summer.

Except that my father died in August.  The following June after school was out, Taggart and Thomas and I climbed aboard the AMTRAK again and returned to Utah.  Shelly had made a small fortune babysitting and had been planning to fly home anyway, so she got to fly by herself.  The plan was that Chris would return to Texas unencumbered by the four of us and crank his way through to the end of the doctorate that had been "abandoned" a few years earlier.  We figured he could live in the car, whatever.  I would find a job and support the kids and myself.  That was the plan.

Many of the details of this chapter have been gently omitted.  It has been a difficult chapter to write because the emotions are still raw when I resurrect them even after nearly 30 years.  I have chosen not to get dark.  My first stab at New Jersey carried so many points of light--the Woods, the Crickenbergers, serving with Daryl in Relief Society, the Daughterys, the two nannies who introduced me to Strand's on President's Day in New York, so many other ward members, our neighborhood, the novelty of living in such an interesting gorgeous state--in the same country but soooo different, discovering the New Yorker within me, taking such deep solace in so many self-help books--especially The Road Less Traveled, President Forsythe who hired me to redo his filing system--I think he just wanted to help us out.  What a dear man and such a pleasure to encounter his son many years later as a BYU China Teacher!  I loved the beautiful countryside where we sometimes took rides.  I enjoyed the performing gigs Chris had--especially the Easter recital in Newark.  In so many ways, New Jersey (both One and Two) has made me who I am.  "Praise the bridge that carries you over."

(Carla and Dave Wood with Lindsay and David.  
Carla "kidnapped" me and took me to New Hampshire for
an Exponent II retreat.  Wow, oh wow...)

(Jockey Hollow near our stake center where
Washington wintered his troops)

( soup kitchen where we volunteered  for several months.  We
actually spent part of a Christmas Day here.)


Popular posts from this blog

Pleasant Grove

Provo, Utah