240. The “Born” Identity

Our family’s seventeen May birthdays continue.

Today is the 52nd birthday of my daughter Teresa Marie (Ford) Opsvig; and the 21st for my great niece Kaylee Ann (Ford) Fulton. (Kayee’s the daughter of my nephew Jim Ford.)

From the very start, I want to make one thing perfectly clear about my daughter Teresa. Contrary to popular opinion, they didn’t mix the babies up in the nursery and sent us home with the wrong one. No, they didn’t. It was Teresa all right. She was just a little “different” from the rest of the Ford Horde.

For one thing, Teresa wasn’t her “real” name. We called her Terry.

For another, she didn’t suck her thumb like some of her siblings did. We didn’t use pacifiers in those days – just thumbs. But not Teresa. The wizards who are supposed to know such things warn that thumb sucking may cause the child to have a “protrusionable lisp”. In our case, the only child in the family who developed such a lisp was Terry — the only one who never sucked her thumb.

By the time she was a year old, I knew we had an alien in our midst. It was evident during meals. When any of the “normal” Ford rugrats sat in a high chair, the meal was generously spooned, scooped, hurled or plastered all over the surrounding floor, walls, and dinner guests. Not in Terry’s case, however. Even the neighbors used to come over to watch her eat. The high chair tray and her bib were almost as tidy after her meal as when she started. It was like visiting the Twilight Zone.

As time went on, we gradually came to be aware of something even more noteworthy. There was someone living in the house who was not only a tidy eater, but tidy was how she kept her “room”.

I should explain that in our house, the children didn’t have “rooms”. They had territories. Each child was supposed to keep order in the area within their own assigned latitude and longitude. Consequently, our entire household resembled the Wreck of the Hesperus.

The one shining oasis was Terry’s “room”. In shock and awe, everyone who passed by it, did so in respectful silence. Like going to church. And who was I to question miracles and other miscellaneous Acts of God?

Three of the girls loved horses, including Terry. One that she rode for a whole year, was a big black Clydesdale draft horse named Smokey, 16 hands tall. All the kids would egg Terry on to mount the horse from a running start to prove she could do it. Running from behind Smokey, Terry would leap up to reach her hands on his hindquarters and then vault into position on his back. Bareback. Oh, my. I’m so glad I wasn’t there at the time.

When Terry was 16 years old, she got her new identity. One day she announced to the family that she didn’t want to be called “Terry” anymore. She wanted to be called by her given name “Teresa”. The result of this announcement was hilarity like you wouldn’t believe. For weeks, nobody could call her “Teresa” with a straight face.

I wish I could say I wasn’t one of the kibitzers but truthfully I was. To this day, I can’t tell you what we thought was so funny about not calling her “Terry” anymore, but it evoked endless giggles and hee-haws.

For me – her mother – the turning point came one day when I called her down to supper, embedding her “new” name with the usual sly intonation – “Ta-reesa”!

Quietly and respectfully, she came into the kitchen and looked directly at me. “Mother”, she said gently. “Thank you for calling me ‘Teresa’.”

Trust me, I’ve called her “Teresa” ever since. It may have been the best parenting lesson I’ve ever learned.

Teresa went on to excel big time in high school, college, and in acting and in music. She worked her way through college at Children’s Hospital on the switchboard and later as a nursing unit assistant there and at University of Washington Medical Center. Later she worked as a “vampire” long before being a vampire got “cool”. (She was a phlebotomist – the one who “draws” your blood for your lab tests.)

Long after she and Eric Opsvig got married in 1984, she kept singing with her friends Sandy and Pam.  She’s arranged and directed music for choirs many times since.

In her spare time, she and Eric raised five lovely daughters. Four of the girls are still living at home so it’s never a dull minute for anybody who dwells there.

Today, Teresa works four days a week for Eric’s dental practice in North Bend, Washington. For “fun”, she and Eric are both near-master gardeners and their yard at home looks like the garden of Eden.

Not a bad record for an extraterrestrial baby with such tidy habits and amazing organizational skills. 

 And now for my 21 year old great niece Kaylee Ann Ford. I haven’t seen her since she was 14 months old but she’s hard to forget. She’s my nephew Jim Ford’s daughter.

Some little people are bright and some are BRIGHT. She was among the latter.

Thanks to her stepmom Sandie Ford’s Christmas letters, I know that Kaylee’s been active in drug awareness programs, singing, and in church youth groups. She toured with a company all over the United States delivering a message of abstinence to teens and young adults.

After she graduated from high school, she attended beauty school and she still works in that field. And last August, 2010, she married David Fulton in a beautiful sunset wedding. They live in Eagle Point, Oregon.

As a baby, Kaylee was an early walker-talker.



This is a scene with her mother Katie and brothers Jeff and Scott when she was 14 months old. It took place at her grandparents Don and Lorraine Ford’s house in Eugene, Oregon. The event was a party to celebrate my niece Leslie Ford’s return home from the Saudi Arabian war.  Check it out.

Finally, here’s a slideshow of the birthday girls’ photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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3 Responses to 240. The “Born” Identity

  1. Christine Ford says:

    A Big Happy Birthday to you, Teresa!

  2. A relative says:

    way to go anatow

  3. Linda Lewis says:

    Happy Birthday, Teresa! Enjoy the sunshine!

    Your neat eating reminded me when my grand daughter Lisa came when she was about two. When she was finished with her Cherrios, she was in her high chair and said, “All done.” Then she gently pushed her bowl away from her, saw a Cherrio that had spilled on to the tray. She picked it up and put it in the bowl. When she got down, she saw a piece of paper on the floor. She walked over, picked it up and put it in the garbage under the sink. She, too, keeps her room orderly. She also gets A’s in school and she’s fun like you are.
    You must have really fun birthdays with all your girls! Have a good one.

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