Museum of Me

Museum of Me: Collectors Corner

Welcome to the latest exhibit in my . . . 


This month let's visit my . . . Collector's Corner.

I was nearly 3 when my sister was born. When my mom was in the hospital recovering (back then . . . for nearly a full week!) and my dad was at work, I stayed at my grandmother's house. I'm sure this was pretty distruptive for their household (and my grandmother wasn't big on sustained one-on-one time with her grandchildren, generally), but I had my grandma and my great grandma to hang out with during the day, and my uncle (who was still in high school) to entertain me after he came home in the afternoons. My mom, being a loving and organized sort of mom, did a lot of advance planning so my time away from home would be a fun adventure. She had little "surprises" prepared for me to open each day. . . little toys I could play with, special little treats to keep me occupied.

I don't remember any of this, of course. But I do remember the stories my mom told me. And I remember one of my "surprises" very well . . . because I loved it so, and it remained one of my very favorite toys throughout the rest of my childhood.


It was a child-sized Blue Willow tea set! And it came with a little black wooden cupboard for storage and display.

It might seem strange now-days . . . to think about giving a 3-year-old a porcelain tea set. But, remember. These were the days before plastic! Our toys back then were . . . wood, porcelain, metal. They were substantial. They broke sometimes. They had sharp edges and lead paint. We were taught to be careful.

And I was!

Apparently, I played with that tea set constantly while my mom was in the hospital with my new sister. I set up tea parties all day long. I had tea parties with my grandmother and my great grandma. I had tea parties with my uncle. I had tea parties with my dad. I had tea parties all by myself. I loved setting them up. I loved putting the tea set back in its little storage cupboard. Over and over and over again!

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Apparently, when I finally met my baby sister for the first time, I forced her tiny baby hand into one of the tea cups . . . and was apparently quite put out that she wouldn't "play." (After all, for months I'd been promised a sibling who would "play with me". . . )

New Baby Little Kym Baby Di John Yvonne January 1962

There are no photos of me playing with the tea set. Or of the tea set at any point in my childhood. (Although I do have this photo . . . of the first time I met my sister, there with my mom and dad at my grandmother's house when they came to take me home.)

In fact, my tea set . . . is long gone! As a much loved toy made of porcelain . . . it became lost to me over my growing up years. Probably a piece at a time. A handle here, a lid there. Cracked plates, lost sugar bowl. Eventually, it was just . . . gone. 

But I never forgot it!

One day several years ago I was browsing in an antique store . . . and there it was!

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A child sized porcelain Blue Willow tea set -- just like the one I'd had as a child! 

I nearly cried from the nostalgia when I found it, and - of course - I bought it on the spot. I've picked up more pieces over the years whenever I find them, and I'm always on the lookout for a little black cupboard like the one I'd had with my set (although my dad thinks a great uncle might have made it for me; he can't recall exactly).

These days, I keep my little Blue Willow tea set on display in a china cabinet in my dining room . . . 


right across from my grown-up sized Spode Blue Italian china collection . . . 


Some things from childhood? They really stick, y'know?


Thanks for visiting The Museum of Me. Watch for new exhibits . . . each month on the 2nd Friday.

And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. 


Museum of Me: On the Cusp of Adolescence

Last month I "opened" the Museum of Me. 


And this month I'm back with another exhibit. . .  Growing Up: On the Cusp of Adolescence.

From the early 1990s until 2007, I worked as the Executive Director of a private women's foundation in Grand Rapids. (Best job EVER.) (The foundation has since "spent down" its assets and is no longer an active foundation.) Anyway, early in my tenure at the foundation, Harvard researcher Carol Gilligan had just published a groundbreaking piece on the developement of adolescent girls. Gilligan found that girls at age 11 were on top of the world. They were confident, sure, outspoken. They knew who they were. But. By age 16, those same girls were . . . not. Gilligan found that as they went through adolescence, girls quickly got the societal/cultural message that they should keep quiet and say nothing.

Back in 1991 - as a personal "survivor" of that very phenomenon AND as the mother of a 2-year-old daughter - I was deeply disturbed by Gilligan's findings. I made it my mission at the foundation to do whatever I could to change things for the girls of the 1990s. (Of course, recent research finds that not much has changed for girls in the past 30 years. It's hard to move the needle when it comes to social and cultural norms. But that's for another day.)

I used to keep this photo of myself in my office at the foundation.


It's me. Age 11. 

I've always loved this picture of myself as a young girl. There aren't many photos of me at this age/stage of my life, so it feels . . . precious. It was taken in the summer of 1970 when I had just returned home from two weeks at my first-ever sleep-away camp experience. Although I had a great time at camp, I had also been terribly homesick, and I was thrilled to get back home to my family and my house and my own room . . . which had been totally transformed while I was away! So I'm posing here, fresh from camp (wearing my trusty camp sweatshirt) in my newly-painted and decked out room at home.

But there's more to this photo than just a welcome-home-from-camp memory. Because in this photo, I am on the cusp of adolescence. And I can see it.

I was an 11-year-old with Big Ideas! I knew what I liked, and I was pretty vocal about what I didn't. I was a ballet dancer and a swimmer. I was learning to play the flute. I loved to read and was proud to have been the school spelling bee champ for 3 years running. I liked to draw and make things. I liked to play games and had a big imagination. I bossed people around a lot. I had a crush on Donny Osmond. And David Cassidy. But I was also a Motown fan and loved listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. I dreamed about being an astronaut. Or an artist. Or a fashion designer . . . even though I wasn't worried about the clothes I wore. If you asked me then, I'd have told you I was was smart and fast and strong. 

Just like Carol Gilligan said . . . the "me" in that photo, age 11 . . . was confident, sure, and outspoken.

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A few weeks later  . . . I started middle school. And then several months after that, I moved half way across the country and started a whole new life in a new state in a new (and bigger) junior high school. A lot of my 11-year-old confidence and sure-footedness . . . evaporated. Some of it was puberty. Some of it was family turmoil. Some of it was moving and losing familiar people and childhood friends at a pivotal age. Most of it was just that mine field that is . . . adolescence. A lot it was the pervasive cultural and societal messages about who was "pretty" and how girls "ought" be. Those messages? They did me in. 

For a while.

Eventually, I found my footing again. I practiced things I was good at. I stopped feeling bad about being smart and "bookish" and an introvert. I started keeping a diary. I shed toxic relationships and dropped friends-who-weren't-really-friends. I went to college. Met Tom. I stopped trying to be someone I wasn't.

And gradually, I . . . found myself.

In the end, I "met up" with my 11-year-old self again . . . and became more like her.
(Turns out . . . we have a lot in common.)
And these two photos of me in my new purple bedroom - on the cusp of adolescence - are a perfect reminder to me. . .  of just that!


Now that I've officially created The Museum of Me, you can watch for new exhibits . . . maybe once or twice a month. And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. (It might be fun?)


Introducing . . . The Museum of Me

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately . . . about blogging. Why do I do it? What might I have left to say after 12 years of doing it? Why does anyone read it anyway? Should I continue this blogging gig or give it a rest?

That kind of thing.

And I came to the conclusion that . . . I really don't have answers to any of those questions, but I think I'll keep showing up anyway. It's sort of weird to think about blogging. It's very . . . personal, really. It's all about . . . me. What I think. What I'm doing. What I'm thinking about doing. 


It's like I'm curating . . . a museum about myself.
Or something.

Ultimately, I decided . . . to just go with that. To continue on . . . talking about myself . . . in much the same manner as I have been for 12 years now. And to embrace that whole Museum of Me concept by . . . creating it. Like with actual, occasional EXHIBITS in the Museum of Me. You know . . . like in a real museum.

So. Welcome to  the . . . 



And its inaugural exhibit:  The Oldest Thing From My Childhood Still In My Possession

Meet Billy Bear.


He's the much-beloved, fur-loved-off-him teddy bear from my childhood.

I don't know much of his backstory. He was a gift, but I can't remember from who, and I have no idea when he arrived in my life. But he certainly became a favorite early on. Here he is, for example, at Easter in 1961. (I would have just turned 2.)

Kym yvonne 1961

I'm not sure when I started calling him "Billy." But I can tell you that I named everything "Billy" when I was a child, so it's not surprising. Many of my toys were "Billy." When I made up stories, "Billy" was often the main character. I even had an imaginary friend named "Billy" who worried the crap out of my mother. (Thankfully, Dr. Spock said it was "normal," which comforted her somewhat.) (Billy-the-imaginary-friend disappeared not long after my sister was old enough to play with me, by the way.)

Anyway. Billy Bear was a constant companion for me, and appears in many of my childhood photos. Here I am, in the fall of 1964. Still wearing the sweet coats. Still clutching Billy Bear in my arms. Now with an added pocketbook! (My obsession with bags began early in my life.)

Kym 1964

At one point, Billy Bear wore a satin yellow ribbon around his neck. And he has a music box inside. There was a little key in his back, and when you wound it, he played The Teddy Bear's Picnic. As you can see, I wound the key (lost for decades now) quite often . . . 


As I grew older, I parted ways with most all of my toys - even other favorites like my Barbie dolls and my Liddle Kiddles collection. I'm not terribly nostalgic about my childhood toys, really. I don't need to have them in my possession; my memories are enough for me. But Billy Bear? He managed to avoid all my purges.

He even went to college with me! 


My kids thought he was pretty creepy. He's very . . . flat. Kind of stiff. Not terribly cuddly in the ways "modern" stuffed animals are cuddly. And I'll admit . . . those eyes are super vacant. But he certainly had staying power for me.

These days, he sits atop a bookshelf in my sewing room . . . keeping an eye on things for me.


That Billy Bear . . . he's seen it all!


Now that I've officially created The Museum of Me, you can watch for new exhibits . . . maybe once or twice a month. And if you're a blogger and you'd like to create a Museum of Me along with me on your own blog, let me know. I'll send you my "exhibit schedule" (a list of my prompts) and we can talk about ourselves together. (It might be fun?)