Monday, October 4, 2010

Time In A Bottle

This weekend was the celebration of Stafford's 125th birthday. When Stafford celebrated its centennial in 1985, one feature was collecting items for a time capsule that was to be opened in 2010. The centennial was celebrated Labor Day weekend in 1985. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time.

We all knew that Randy's mom, Marie, had put something in the time capsule for the first Fritzemeier grandchild. Back then, it wasn't all that common for expectant parents to know the gender of their baby. And, while some people did have that second sonogram later in the pregnancy, we wouldn't have wanted to know anyway.

So when the time capsule was sealed up back in 1985, no one knew whether the first Fritzemeier grandchild was a boy or a girl. We also didn't know if Marie had put any other mementos in the capsule.

Jill's package

Last month, the local newspaper printed a list of people who had items in the time capsule. And we discovered that Marie had left something for all her children as well, including Randy, his brother Lyle and sister Kathy.

We didn't find out what it was until Saturday night, when the time capsule items were available at a special presentation at the school.

It was a bittersweet night for our family, a night of laughter and of tears. It was like a hug from Marie to discover the box for Jill, the first grandchild, and letters for the rest of us. It was especially meaningful because Marie died unexpectedly in October 1996, 14 years ago this month.

When I saw the "Made with Tender Loving Care" label on the bottom of Jill's centennial doll, I thought about how true that label was: The doll was made with loving care by a grandma who didn't even know her yet. The letters were like time had been sealed in a bottle, just for us.

Just seeing her writing brought tears to my eyes. And we were so blessed.

The time capsule had been penetrated by moisture. Not everything survived its 25 years beneath Stafford's surface. And while there was some damage to the letters and the doll had some mold, we were able to have our treasures.

Some of the ruined items found in the time capsule.

Kathy came Saturday night with her two girls, Amanda and Emily. When Marie died 14 years ago, Amanda was a baby and Emily hadn't even been born.

Before Jill opened her box, Amanda asked why there wasn't a box for the other Fritzemeier grandchildren. We explained that the first grandchild's birth had been eminent, but Marie didn't know when or if other grandchildren would appear on the scene.

What a special surprise when Marie actually addressed that very issue in her letter to Jill:

I don't know whether you'll be able to read it or not in the photo. She wrote:

September 5, 1985

Dear First Grandchild,

We are looking forward to your arrival soon. This is Stafford's Centennial year, so you will be a centennial baby. Stafford has been having lots of big celebrations this past week, and we'll be burying this time capsule tomorrow, so I thought I would include a note to you and tell you how much are going to enjoy having a grandchild. We will enjoy all other grandchildren also, but at this date, we do not know of them or when they might arrive.

On Labor Day, I had a craft booth on the downtown streets, where I sold things I had made. I am including a centennial doll that I made. If you are a boy and do not care for this, perhaps someone else in the family might like to have it.

Looking forward to meeting you sometime this month and planning on enjoying the next 25 years getting to know you.

All our love

Grandma Marie
& Grandpa Melvin

Jill was born on September 17, just a couple weeks after the time capsule was buried.

In the letter, Marie underlined "all other grandchildren." So even though Brent, Amanda and Emily didn't get a package or a letter, they knew how much they were anticipated by Marie and Melvin, who truly did love being grandparents.

We all wish Marie had gotten her wish and had spent the 25 years getting to know Jill, Brent, Amanda and Emily.

Also in Jill's package was a program from a centennial pageant, a centennial edition of The Stafford Courier and two clippings from The Hutchinson News, where I was the Focus editor. Ironically, they were articles from the Wednesday edition of The News, in which I always wrote food features. Jill noticed that one of the articles talked about nutritious lunches, something that is still relevant to a granddaughter who turned out to be a registered dietitian.

At the time of Stafford's centennial 25 years ago, Kathy was a sophomore at Emporia State University. In her letter, Marie wrote that Kathy had come home from school for the centennial celebration and was returning to continue her studies in elementary education there.

She wrote:

It will be interesting to see what has taken place in the next 25 years. I hope you have a good, happy and prosperous 25 years. ...

Your Dad and I hope and pray that you will find a loving partner to share your life with you and that you will have much happiness and joy from life.

We love you!
Your loving Mom and Dad

Kathy with Emily and Amanda - October 2, 2010

In both her letters to Randy and Kathy, Marie talked about growing older.

She worried about being a burden to the family. It was obviously on her mind as she wrote the letters in 1985:

I should be 78 years old when you receive this, if I am still on this earth! If I am getting senile or suffering from mental deterioration, do whatever needs to be done with me. At this writing, I am struggling with the problem of Grandma Laura Ritts as her mind is in a very confused state. Her name is on the waiting list for the Stafford rest home, Leisure Homestead, and hope soon to put her there, where she can be under their care.

It took Randy, Kathy and I back to the night in a Wichita hospital when the doctor told us that Marie would never be "Marie" again, even if she survived the debilitating stroke. And even though this whirlwind happened so quickly, we all remembered praying that she not be kept on the earth if she couldn't be the mom we knew. She had made her feelings perfectly clear in that regard. So even though she couldn't express them as she lay in the hospital bed, we knew - without question - what her "vote" would be.

So less than 24 hours after the stroke, she was gone from this earthly home and going to her Eternal Home.

The letter for Randy and me had the most damage. But we were still able to read it.

Dear Randy & Kim,

Just a note from this centennial celebration that Stafford has been having this week to let you know how glad we are to have you close by. About a month ago, you moved into the James Johnson house, and soon you will be presenting us with our first grandchild. We are looking forward to being around to anticipate all our future grandchildren and will be as excited for them as we are for #1. ...

Dad and I love you both very much and hope you have had a happy and prosperous 25 years. Love from Mom and Dad

And as a postscript to us:

Price of wheat $2.75
Loan price $2.95

Me, Randy, Jill and Eric.
Brent came home for the weekend and ended up with a 102.4 temperature, so he stayed home from the time capsule unveiling.

I'll have more from the quasicentennial weekend, but this was my favorite part by far.

And, just so you can have the same soundtrack as I have had rambling through my mind for the past few days, here's Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle."

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