One day or evening, I witnessed the strangest thing: thunder during a snowstorm!  So much for the Fleetwood Mac line, “Thunder only happens when it’s raining.”  (I’m told it happened near South Bend, Indiana on the day before Thanksgiving 2004.)

One day during a Swiss meeting, Heidi, Candice and I discussed Christmas traditions in Switzerland and the U.S.  Heidi mentioned St. Nicholas Day.

Though in America, St. Nicholas Day has been incorporated into the Christmas celebrations, in Europe it’s still celebrated as a separate holiday on which Santa, who is St. Nicholas, patron saint of children, goes around and gives toys to children.  Christmas is more of a holy day than a gift-giving day.

Candice said, “Yeah, we have St. Nicholas Day in America, too.”  What?  I had never heard of it being celebrated here in America.  In fact, I never heard of the holiday, period, until probably German class in high school.

We were soon both educated, with me learning that some people in this area of Wisconsin did celebrate it, and with Candice learning that it wasn’t celebrated everywhere else in the country.

This news also surprised Peter, who had always seen St. Nicholas Day on calendars–while I never did.

In German class, somebody brought it up; as it turns out, even in Wisconsin, even in the S– area, not everybody celebrates it.  It was probably just people of German descent, since Laurie had lived her whole life in S–, just as Candice had, but had never heard of it before.


Probably during the week of December 8, Peter sat in the computer lab in Chase one day as people worked on end-of-term papers for Persuasive class.  These papers were long–Candice’s teacher required at least twenty pages–and the biggest grade of the course.  They were research papers, and the culmination of everything the students were taught in class.

Then the power went out.

Even football players cried because they lost their papers without saving them beforehand.


For Christmas, Peter and I would go to my house.  On or before December 20, Peter and I made homemade butterfingers and Christmas cookies.  The butterfingers were peanut butter encased in melted baker’s chocolate.

Peter filled two tins with butterfingers and cookies as a peace offering for my two big brothers.  Would they accept him or torment him?

Very early in the morning of December 21st, probably around 5am or earlier, Peter and I sprang out of bed and rushed to get ready on time.  I had showered the night before, and Peter probably had, too.  I believe we were on time getting out the door.

Peter’s parents drove us to a gas station, which was the S– Greyhound bus terminal.  We waited there with our few bags, packed according to the busline’s specifications, me worrying if I had packed them right.  Our parents paid for the tickets, which were $80 for a round-trip ticket to South Bend.

The bus arrived, we boarded, and off we went.  The bus took much longer than a car to reach Indiana.

Without a Walkman or a book or anything at all to entertain myself, and without even a window seat, this ride was interminable and dull.  When we switched buses in Milwaukee, I saw a teenager with a Walkman, and envied him.  Peter and I could get very talkative on dates, but it worked better in the privacy of his car or one of our rooms.

Now I learned what a layover was.  Having never ridden in an unchartered bus or on a commercial airplane, I had never been exposed to the concept before.  Now I knew it meant a long wait.

At one layover, there was an arcade with lots of games in it, including one that made my eyes bug out: It had 3-D, holographic images made from real images of real people with real voices, not computer-generated images and voices.  I had never seen such a thing in a computer or arcade game before.  The future was here!

Unfortunately, just as he often did, Peter spent a lot of time playing games.  (The Campus Center had two arcade games in the area which is now the Pub, but then was just a place to sit around.)  I wasn’t into arcade games, so I just stood there and watched, bored.

Over Christmas, since our finals were done and we had no room for books, we had little to do: I found myself sitting next to Peter as he played games on my family’s computer.  I don’t recall complaining, but I was BORED.

Finally, we got to the South Bend terminal, which was actually the Michiana Regional Airport (or whatever they called it in those days: They’ve changed the name in recent history).

Dad picked us up–but our luggage was gone.  There were two buses going to South Bend; the Greyhound workers had put our luggage on the one going on to Cleveland.  Our luggage did more traveling than we did.

So for a day or two, we had no luggage, including the Christmas presents, and had to go out and get necessities such as toothbrushes and hairbrushes.  Peter was mad.  I was upset, too, but he was irate.  He did have quite a temper.

I penciled this poem on a Poetry class poetry packet sophomore year:

“Greyhound at Christmas”

They sent our luggage to the wrong place
Will we ever see it again?
Only one change of clothes
No toothbrushes, no presents
Just irritation
Our first ride on this busline
Great first impression

Finally, our luggage did arrive.


I went up to my room and discovered, in a pile of mail, a letter saying I was a finalist in a poetry contest!  I had sent them this poem, a high school class assignment, on October 30:

Now melancholy
Lively greens become golds, reds
Cold overpowers

Peter was happy for me.  I was happy for myself, too, of course.  However, the letter said if I didn’t buy the book in which the winning entries were to be published, my poem may not be published in it.  My parents refused to buy the book.  I never heard from the contest people again.

Back then I thought my parents denied my chance to win this poetry contest, but now I think it was a scam.  That would be terribly disappointing, though, because I like to think that my poem was good enough to be a finalist, and that I didn’t just get the same letter as every other entrant.


Peter said Mom’s accent was very strong; this surprised her.  I had never noticed it before.  Now I do, but I believe it’s a Michigan accent, not the South Bend accent Peter thought it was.  After all, native South Benders sound like the TV!

I’m not sure when exactly this was–it could have been either the summer of ’91 or, perhaps, even during senior year of high school–but one day, Dad and my brother L– drove me down to the main branch of the South Bend Public Library to pick up a job application.  L– said, as he often did, “Doesn’t somebody have a license?”

But he didn’t understand that because of NVLD, driving still scared me half to death, even though I (barely) passed the driving and written tests (a 5-question test on a computer).  Downtown driving was especially terrifying, with all those cars, lanes, and parallel parking.

Though my parents kept wanting me to drive them to church on Sundays, I kept asking not to.  I felt like a freak, like the only teenager to hate driving, but that was how I felt.

When we got to the library, one reason I needed college was evident: I was too terrified to even go inside and ask the clerk for an application.  Dad or L– reluctantly went inside and got it while I waited.  I had a lot of growing up to do, and I hoped to get this at college.  I would.

Now, in December of 1991, once again, it was time to apply at the library downtown, this time for the summer of 1992.

Though the positions were filled with work-study college students before I even got looked at, at the time it was a great triumph because I went right on in.  No more was I so shy that I couldn’t even go inside to ask for an application to fill out.

Peter was proud of me, I was proud of me, and my parents were probably proud of me, too.


My brothers tormented us at Grandma McCanmore‘s house.  We left the living room for a bit, but later on foolishly came back, hoping to just sit down and enjoy the comfort of the easy chairs.  My brothers were sitting on the couch; L– cried out, “More!”

Peter’s present to me was a glass nativity set with many beautiful pieces–but they were all broken.  We didn’t know if they had been broken on the bus, or if they had been accidentally packed that way at the shop.  Whatever the case, he, terribly disappointed, said he would take it back and get another one.


One day, my Dad said, “So when are you two getting married?”

Dad may have meant it as a joke, but Peter grinned and piped up with, “In three and a half years.”

So, you see, now my parents knew our plans.  And Peter made it very clear to them and to me that marriage was on his mind.

Later on, when Peter and I were alone, he said, “Actually, I think we’ll have to make it four years instead of three and a half.  That’ll give me some time to get a job first.”

That was sensible, and though adding six months was disappointing, I agreed to it.

After one of our late-night talks, it was time for him to go to bed on the air mattress.  He went downstairs and then I went down for something.  He said that while I was upstairs, he had “just been praying that it’ll work out [between us].”  He said with a smile, “I think it will.”

January 1992

Life at Roanoke: My College Memoirs–September 1991 through May 1995

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: