Today blob is starring my niece Christine Marie (Fitzpatrick) Milner. ‘Cause it’s her birthday. A BIG one. Her 60th. That’s hard to believe for those of us who remember her back in her playpen days of glory.
Here she is, in the nude.
Even as a wee one, Chris definitely had a mind of her own. One time, my brother Richard Gorman told a story about her that demonstrates that.
According to Richard, our brother Jimmy – clowning around as usual – performed an “experiment” on Chris when she was about 14 months old. Chris knew her 3 maternal uncles well, – Jimmy, Leo, and Richard – but she always pronounced their names as “DIMMY”, “EEYO”, and “WITZURD”.
Jimmy made up his mind he was going to “train” her – like a parakeet in her playpen cage – to call him “Unca Looie”, instead of “DIMMY”.
So one day, armed with a box of soda crackers, Jimmy seated himself in front of the playpen, and offered a cracker to Chris.
“Chrissie want a cracker?” he invited. “Yeth”, replied Chris enthusiastically. Her Uncle Jimmy holding out a cracker, pointed to himself and said “Say ‘Unca Looie’”. Chris shook her head. “No!, she said. “DIMMY!”
After two or three cycles of this, it dawned of little Chris – no dim-wit she – that one of her uncles was being silly again. Smiling merrily, she kept playing the game for several more rounds, always resisting the cracker with “No! DIMMY!”
Finally, impatient with the withholding of the crackers, she began trying to grab one by reaching through the bars of the playpen, but it was just beyond her reach.
At this point, Richard got into the act. In response to the next “Chrissie want a cracker?”, Richard shouted “Unca Looie” and was rewarded with a cracker.
Richard wrote, “Subsequent requests to Chris for the appropriate response had me chiming in with “Unca Looie” until I’d consumed all but 2 or 3 crackers in the box.” Thirsty from all the salt, he headed to the kitchen for water to gulp down. Coming back, he saw Chris sitting in the playpen, happily munching on a cracker she had managed to snatch from the unwilling hand of her defeated Uncle DIMMY. Victory was hers.
Richard finished the story with “We knew then that the experiment had failed. Christine can’t be bribed with Saltines.”
As the oldest of the Gang of Six Fitzpatrick siblings, Chris was indispensable during their growing up years. This is how her little sister Rene‘ (Fitzpatrick) Melchior describes it:
“Chris was always the second mama in charge. Mom needed one because she had her hands full. Now I feel the same as Mom and delegated a second mom at my home, too. (Editor’s note: Meghan, how did you get so lucky?) It is wonderful. Chris did a great job in this position.
I was told that she was babysitting us at the time I began to walk for the first time. I’m sure Mom would have preferred to keep me slow and on my knees since she had so many to chase.
I remember Chris as a cheerleader. I always wanted to be a cheerleader, no such luck for me. She was in the plays at school, sang like an angel, and had a great boyfriend. When she had sleep overs with her friends, she never made mom take us away from the party, and hide us in a closet, we were always part of the fun. I remember Chris’s senior year she walked with me to school my kindergarten year, and made sure I was OK. How many seniors would do that. I don’t know where my brothers were – I don’t remember seeing them around on the way to school.
Shortly after my Kindergarten year Chris was whisked away to a school far far away. I don’t exaggerate, she thought it was too far away also. When she called home crying, I felt so bad I couldn’t help her like she did for me.
When Chris started at UNI I remember visiting her in her home, it was wintertime. We played outside, then came in to have hot chocolate and M&M’s. Wow was that great. This was the beginning of spending long spurts of time with Chris after she was married. Mostly in the summer. It started to be just for fun trips, then there was the summer I had to retake Algebra!!!, but Chris came to the rescue and found the help at her home so I could still stay with her. One of the many times Chris has rescued me from myself. That is a novel in itself.
When Chris’s family was coming to visit I was always counting down the days till she came. When she had Heather and Corey things only got better. One summer I remember riding all over Ankeny with Heather strapped to the back of my bike. It was a blast. First we hit the park, then Baskin Robbins before we went home for a nap. I could go on and on, but I’m sure my brothers want a whack at her too. Don’t believe anything they say about her.”
Next, we’re going to hear from Chris’s husband (and love of her life) Mark Milner. Here’s what he wrote for the blob today.
“As Chrissy approaches the BIRTHDAY WE WONT SPEAK OF (ala Harry Potter) I have a few stories or testaments to her various talents. I guess I could start with a La Salle High School Talent show. We had been dating awhile . Chris was a great pianist and great singer. She was solo on stage singing a cool Broadway ballad which she had hinted was for me. Despite being near her parents and although a good Catholic young man, my mind was blazing SHE IS SO HOTTTTTTTT !!! I WANT HER I NEED HER FOREVER !
Then there were the college years. The prim and proper Tom and Joan Fitzpatrick let the prim and proper Christine Fitz choose St.Theresa
College,,,,a Catholic ALL GIRLS school in Minn.
Ah, it was 1969 the summer of Woodstock. I visited Chris a few times . When the nuns let me into her hallway (a preview of later airline body searches of 2011), I found she had another talent —CARD SHARK.
It was like I stumbled into a Riverboat Casino game parlor. Chris and her roommates had like 3 or 4 games going at once. I think Chris was a consultant for Robert Redford’s movie THE STING. Really !!! I’m not kidding.
Halfway thru college, Chris and I got married. I continued to appreciate that my wife was a fun-loving yet calm ‘take charge’ person. If there is a crisis she can handle it. Like on our honeymoon in Maine. We were off the coast of Maine in a small speed boat. It was driven by a rookie/goofy local boater (no, we have not drifted into an old Tim Fitz story). The rookie captain sank our boat. Chris cant swim very well but she stayed cool. Luckily we sank in the middle of a BIG YACHT race. So we were saved by really rich, pissed off sailors. Really I’m not kidding !
Gee, how do I encapsulate her almost 40 years in Ankeny. There were the early years as a young mother while she taught kindergarten for North Polk schools; later her stint as Adjunct Professor at Iowa State University in Education, or now ‘tech goddess’ as a customer trainer for Apple computers in Des Moines.
Often when Chris and I are out and about in central Iowa, young kids, teenagers, giddy parents, Presidential candidates, Apple clients are waving or calling ‘Chris,,,Chris,,,how are you?’. Really !!! I’m not kidding.
Yesterday, Chris wanted to rush down to the Iowa State fair to go to one of their small out door concerts. We did. The fair can easily have 60,000 to 100,000 people there at one time. We got thru the crowd, went to the small outdoor concert venue, took a seat with 5,000 other people and within 5 minutes I hear off to the side, behind me,,,,,,,’Is it her ?,,,,is it Chris, our Kindergarten teacher ??? Chris,,, Ms Milner.’ They were so happy to see her I was hoping they would buy us Corn Dogs !!
I guess I’d say,,,,,,I know how Brad Pitt feels. Sure, he was a very recognized actor. But for years now, he has become ANGELINA JOLIE’S husband. He gets used to “Isn’t that Angelina Jolie’s husband ? ” or ” Hey, isn’t that what’s-his-name,,,Angelina Jolie’s husband ?”
It’s the price I pay for having a beautiful, smart, talented wife. For over 40 years, I’ve always known I’m a very, very lucky guy.
Now for a word or two from the children of Chris and Mark.
“ I will never, and I mean NEVER forget the look on my mom’s face when Dan and I announced we had a bun in the oven (aka Jake Daniel Roecker).
Dan and I drove to Colorado for Thanksgiving. I was about 2 months pregnant and my parents had NO IDEA! We held up a banner with the letters “ADEM. YGIOTW” (which stood for, Arrival Date Early May, Your Grandchild Is On The Way) Side note, my whole life’s special moments have been in “Mom Code” cards, notes, signs etc. So I chose this method, well, because it was fitting and it took them FOREVER to break that stinking code.
I think I had already said “come on people” and then they finally started figuring it out. Once mom knew what it said she was filled with all kinds of surprise & joyfulness and came running to Dan and me with the most joyful shock on her face. The best.
The point of me thinking of that image – I dunno. But, I think of it often and as I was thinking about her yesterday, it always came crashing into my brain. I do know she loves her kids like mad, she loves her grandkids like mad and she has always been our #1 cheerleader for good and bad. She is a great mom. She knows the ups & downs of motherhood and knows there is no greater gift. I think that for all her accomplishments and successes her #1 pride & joy is her role as mother & ‘Kiki’ (cuz we don’t say the grandma word 🙂 and aunt too! She was beyond happy that I was now going to have that same gift in life.
She is one of the most thoughtful people on the whole planet. She is an ambassador for kids. She has a knack for thoughtful gifts that start wonderful traditions. She is just awesome!
2) That woman is one cool lady! I think it is really something, the new career she has found herself with Apple. And….she loves it! I really look up to her for her new re-invented life after retirement.
Yikes! My brain is so scattered. We leave tonight for Utah visit and I have so much more I can say about my mom. I’ll take a break for now and regroup my brain and send more later. THANKS!!!!!
Now, here’s a word from Chris and Mark’s son, Corey Milner.
She then got into the car driven by my father who practices the winter skill of pumping the brakes at all times of year. After arriving at the restaurant Rebecca made it about 2 steps and vomited on herself.
It was right then that I fully appreciated just how fabulous my mom is. She took Rebecca to the bathroom and cleaned her up (with sesame street Kleenex) and we were able to stay and enjoy the dinner. Rebecca was nervous about meeting my parents and instead was treated like a daughter. It was great!”
And, finally, Chris’s mother Joan (Gorman) Fitzpatrick reminded me that since retiring from teaching kindergarten, Chris has worked as one of “Apple Geeks” at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar in Des Moines, Iowa.
As a surprise to no one, Joan wants to inform us that Chris is a great daughter, sister, wife and grandmother. And niece, I might add. And great cheerleader in high school and college.
Before she retired, and while she was still teaching, after school hours, she taught students that were learning to become teachers at Iowa State University.
Joan remembers how Chris’s kindergarden pupils loved her. “When we went shopping, if we ran into one of them, they would embrace her around her legs, and say ‘Hi, Mrs. Milner.’ She taught a couple of generations of children, and is always invited to their graduations.”
So I hope all this gets you better acquainted with my talented, caring niece. She is truly a joy to behold. Or as my nephew-in-law, her husband Mark Milner would say, “Really! I’m not kidding!”