Jilly D.

It’s a “chuch,” Sue Ellen said.

In Pictures and memories on December 3, 2012 at 12:24 am

Sitting in front of the window, my cousin Sue Ellen and I sat arguing one afternoon. We were several months shy of four years old. Susie came to stay a few days while Aunty Har went to the hospital in Minneapolis to have a baby.

Harlene and Arlene married two of the Swenson brothers, Jim and Bob. My aunt Harlene and uncle Jim  and my mom and dad were my close extended family. Sue Ellen and I were 6 weeks apart. Sue’s birthday is in May. Mine is in July.

Sue would have a baby sister before I would. But my baby sister was going to be named Julie. Mom and Dad had told me so. But now Sue Ellen’s sister got my sister’s name because she came first. I had a problem with that.

I was supposed to be named Robert, after my dad. Once Arlene and Bob settled on Jill when I was born not a boy, they’d decided they wanted a Julie. Aunty Har delivered first. The day she left the hospital with Julie to come home, my mother would arrive .Mom had fallen down the stairs to the basement and her water broke. The nurses experienced some confusion over the Harlene and Arlene thing with both Mrs. Swensons talking about a baby girl Julie.

That afternoon while her mom was in labor, Sue and I looked out onto the corner intersection. The window seat provided a wonderful second story perspective on a tree-lined street adjacent to a city park in River Falls, Wisconsin. The building across the way had a spire. There was a song I’d learned in Sunday School that involved folding your hands interweaving fingers into a fist with your index fingers pointed upright to form a steeple and the thumbs the door to the chapel.  When you turned your elbows out and twist your fist inside out you see the people in the pews; the digits of my fingers. I knew it was a church. I told her so.

“That’s a church,” I said and pointed out the window.

“That’s a chuch,” Sue Ellen agreed. She couldn’t say the letter r. Her baby talk made me mad. Like I needed a reason.

“NO. It’s a church,” I said again.

“Yes, it’s a chuch.” Sue smiled at me and her freckles danced across her cheeks. She had darker brown hair than me and looked the spitting image of my aunty Har.

“No, say it. Say church.”

“It’s a chuuuuch,” Sue tried.


“It’s a chuuuuuuuuch,”





Cousins. Birthdays. Christmas. Backyards. Games and toys. Meals and memories. Backyard carnivals for Muscular Dystrophy and handfuls of coins collected to send Jerry Lewis. We watched Lawrence Welk and Ed Sullivan so we could see the Sunday night Disney movie. The Parent Trap. Herbie.

Playing the Dating Game, Prom Queen, Barbies, Slinky, sliding down those white carpeted stairs on our butts, rock polishing in the basement, Lucky Charms, Sugar Smacks, and Fruit Loops for breakfast. The troll dolls and lipsmackers, fishnet stockings and 45 records. Mom eventually let me stop wearing anklets and saddle shoes, but they still had to be Stride Rights. Sue and Julie got to wear penny loafers and Keds and thongs.

Sue and I went to different elementary schools. I graduated a safety guard from Lakeview. We would have eventually been classmates at the same high school, Robbinsdale, if my folks hadn’t moved to Wisconsin when I was in 9th grade. But cousins are always cousins. Whether you keep in touch as kids or not. Church is chuch.

So grateful for our renewed connection this October when Sue came to visit the Finger Lakes with her sister Julie and our cousin Sandy, I felt her healing touch of “chuch.”  Stories to keep and spires in the sky and the street view of wet sweet Maple leaves in oranges, yellows, reds, greens in a little town called River Falls. Or Ithaca, where it’s gorges. I just know when and where I feel home.

There’s a new place I’ll call home. Someplace where it feels as familiar as church with the stained glass windows in my kitchen; a personal sanctuary in Shindagin Hollow atop Buffalo Hill deep in the woods.  The Hills of Ithaca.

  1. HA! I knew the moms were sold on the name Julie but never thought of the big sisters wishes! Did you think I was name stealer when we were little? Can’t wait to see those windows!

  2. JIll, I love this piece; wonderful writing and an introduction to your new home. I am so glad you found a place (with stained glass windows in the kitchen) you love and can have your dogs peacefully. You are a mover, and inspiring.

    Cheers, Jackie

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