Susan Marie Ford Warden, my fourth child, was born on Saturday, January 19, 1957 at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital in snowy Dubuque, Iowa. She is 54 years old today.
Susy’s only cousin that was born the same year is Jenny Ann Ward. Jenny is also a fourth child. Her parents are my brother-in-law and sister-in law, Bob and Arlis Ford. Jenny is married to Jim Ward and they have two sons, Joshua and Jacob. Jenny is a jewelry artisan. (It would be jolly if Jenny and Jim and Joshua and Jacob eat jars of jelly and jam and Jello in June and July.)
My brother-in-law Tommy Fitzpatrick is holding son Tim and I’m between Joan and Richard.
Susy seemed perfectly normal till she was around, oh, 5 years old or so. At that time, she took up a artistic career as a drawer of dogs. Crayon at the ready, she drew pictures of dogs on new and used paper, toilet paper, the stairway walls, any other walls not already encrusted with ink, pencil lead, or crayon wax, the backs of old envelopes, and, seemingly, on any writable surface in kindergarten at Stevens Elementary School in Seattle.
One day, the kindergarten teacher corralled me at an Open House at the school. “Mrs. Ford”, she announced grimly, “Have you ever considered getting Susy a dog?”
“Well, no”, I stammered. “See, we’ve got all these kids. Unless the dog was the size of a horse, its days would be numbered.” The teacher wasn’t amused.
“It’s obvious that Susan desperately wants to have a dog”, she said, pulling out a sheaf of Susy’s dog drawings and fanning them out on her desk. “For the sake of her emotional health, you should look into getting a dog.”
Fumbling through the drawings, I heard myself saying, “Well, thank goodness, she hasn’t been drawing dinosaurs. We might be able to squeeze a small dog into our crowded domicile, but a T-Rex? Not on your short and endangered life!”
Just kidding. Actually, I strode home planning to take immediate action. And we did. The next day, my husband Gene brought home a handsome little boxer puppy.
We should have named him “Hungry” because that was his most prominent attribute. Instead, someone named him “Yankee”, which was actually more appropriate because he immediately fostered a revolutionary war. One puppy is not enough to share among 7 small children. Don’t try it, unless you’ve had some extensive training in armed combat.
Fighting over him didn’t seem to bother Yankee, though. All he needed was knowing where his next bowl of food would be coming from, and the location of some more shoes to chew on.
The climax of this drama happened a few days later. Not finding a shoe handy, Yankee did some serious chewing on Susy’s left ear. Fortunately, he didn’t chew it all the way off. He just mangled it enough so it didn’t look like an ear any more.
The doctor at Group Health was very encouraging. He said Susy’s ear will probably get its regular shape back, maybe by First Grade. She was very brave. She never complained, even when the nurse gave her a shot.
The next day, she marched off to kindergarten with her head held high. No deformed left ear was going to get the best of Susy. But she never came home with any more drawings of dogs. The paper she brought home that afternoon was a drawing of a horse. Amazing. I didn’t even know she could draw horses.
On the next day, and the next day after that, more crayon drawings of equines were appearing. All over the house. Pretty soon, little Gretchen was trying to draw them, too. Next thing I knew, Gene was hauling all the little girls to the library to get “horse books”. I soon found myself urgently thinking of ways to avoid another confrontation with the kindergarten teacher.
Before writing today’s blob, I was digging through my stash of memorabilia from the kids’ school years. Every Christmas, I used to weasel out of figuring out creative presents for Santa to bring. What we did was to ask anybody who could write, to make out a list of items they might like Santa Claus to choose from.
This was a very serious task and one that was never completed in only one day. It was actually quiet in the house while these lists were being compiled. They were frequently re-copied to be as neat as possible. When she was only six, daughter Teresa typed hers on a typewriter to be absolutely sure that legibility would be pristine. The lists were very detailed, and they showed a concerted effort to be reasonable.
By reasonable, I mean that – like it or not – they knew that Santa was going to be bringing pajamas and socks, so it was best to be polite and ASK for pajamas and socks like they really wanted them. Nearly every list included “pajamas” and some form of socks or leotards. Then, their duty fulfilled, they could get on to the good stuff. As Mrs. Claus, I always appreciated their diplomacy.
By the time she was 8 years old, Susy, aided and abetted by Gretchen and Terry, had swept the whole family into what I think of as the Ford Horde’s Equestrian Age.
WANT by Susan Ford
1. 1 pair of pajamas
2. Glamour Puss, stuff she is silky and soft. (Editors note: And she’s not a dog.)
3. Family of four beautiful palomino horses
4. Riding academy complete with 4 horses plus a corral
5. Kookie Komber
6. The Circle X Ranch with Jane West and Jonny West with the house and barn
7. Western Frontier Town, over 170 pieces
8. Scale Model Truck and horse trailer
Was just getting to the best part of Susy’s story but time runneth out. Stay tuned tomorrow if you love horsies. . . . To be continued.