Roblyn Avenue, 1953

Marianne as a little girl, on the porch of her grandmother’s Roblyn 
Avenue home. (Photo courtesy Marianne McNamara)

The first thing I saw when Dad turned our car down Grandma’s street in Merriam Park was the sky-high catalpa tree in her front yard. It was the only “cigar tree” on the block, and when I spied it, I knew we were almost there. It was a beautiful tree, with frilly white flowers in the spring that magically became long, brown seedpods in late summer.

The Juliet Avenue Neighborhood Ladies’ Annual Open House

Kaycee Torkelson, Janet’s niece, helps out 
at the Neighborhood Ladies Annual Open House. (Photo courtesy Janet Lunder Hanafin)

In 1973 we invited the women we knew in the neighborhood—most of them, like us, mothers of preschoolers. We knew the mothers of the teenagers who babysat for us, so we invited them too. And we invited our elderly neighbors who indulged our children riding Big Wheels over their lawns. We scheduled the party the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, when, we reasoned, mothers needed a break from their children. Our written invitations flatly stated, “MOMS ONLY.”