Teresa D. Tells All

By , Park Ridge, IL
Katy: Tell me about your life growing up.
Teresa: I was born in Flint, Michigan and moved to Grand Blanc, Michigan when I was 6 years old. I was raised by my parents, and had 3 brothers and 1 sister. I was the oldest of the 5 children. My two very best friends growing up were Lori Smith and Genna Folsom. We all lived within a few houses of each other, and had been friends since Kindergarten.

Katy: Was there anything major that happened in your life? Please give the details.
Teresa: The one thing in my life that I feel affected me the most was a car accident that my entire family was in on September 11, 1973. All of my family was hurt in the accident, especially my father who was hurt the worst. The EMT’s thought my father had passed away in the accident, but he had bad head trauma which left him brain damaged for life. This affected me because at age 13, being the oldest of 5 kids, we did not have a father from that point on in my life. My Dad spent time in the hospital and rehab and never came back home with us. With all of the special care my father needed that I learned at a very young age that life can be over in an instant. We think we have our whole live ahead of us and one simple out in the car and that all changed for him. I know now that we do not necessarily have a whole lifetime, and we should live for now.

Katy: What made you move to Park Ridge—love, job?
Teresa: It was love. I met your father, we had been dating and he had to move to Michigan or I had to move to Illinois. With the Chicagoland area offering more jobs than the Flint area of Michigan, I moved. We got married, bought a house in Park Ridge right away because that is where Dad grew up. We wanted to be in the same neighborhood because we wanted you to go to the same school that Dad did when he grew up.

Katy: When did you find yourself really growing up and maturing?
Teresa: Going back to the car accident in 1973. Being the oldest I had to help because my Mom was at the hospital a lot (7 days a week). I had to take care of my brothers and my sister by making sure they were fed and basically take over the role of their Mother, because my Mom was away with my Dad so much. I basically had to grow up over night because I had to take care of the other kids.

Katy: What role did Religion play in your life-is there a difference between now and when you were younger?
Teresa: No, not really. I was born & raised Catholic. My family is very devout Catholics. There was a time in my life after that accident that I questioned some things because we were always taught that God was so good, and I did not understand how God could let what happened to my father happen. Then as I got older I realized that things happened for a reason and that other people had far worse things happen in their lives.
I have pretty much practiced the Catholic Religion my whole life.

Katy: Moving on to happier thoughts, where was your favorite vacation? Where did you go to just get away from things?
Teresa: My favorite vacation was probably one we took when we were younger. My parents took the family to Colorado. I had never been that far west, and the mountains were unbelievable. I had never seen such beauty, and we had a really great time traveling all over Colorado. As far as a place to go get away or alone, when I was younger I used to go to my room and put on my headphones and listen to music to be by myself and think. As I got older I found that if I was by myself reading that a quiet good place to be.

Katy: How did you meet your husband? How did you know he was the one?
Teresa: I met him through work. I knew he was the one because we had been friends for about two years, and we got along so well. I think it just hit us both that we got along so well, and were both single so why not start dating. Our dating lead to marriage, then to you.

Katy: How is life different compared to when you were a kid?
Teresa: I think the biggest difference from then to now is the internet. We never had the computers in school; I think you kids have such better resources. You can pull up anything on the internet and find out what you need to know. When we were younger we had to go to the library and look up things in books or use the dictionary. It was a bit more difficult to find out information in my time. The internet has changed education so much

Katy: Which time did you like better—then or now?
Teresa: I think now. I like now. I like the way things are now. I think it’s easier being a mom than a kid. Now is good, I’m happy now.

Katy: If you could move anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Teresa: I would probably go to Michigan because I like Michigan; I like growing up in a smaller, quieter town and I just really like Michigan.

Katy: How do you think life would be different if some of the bigger things in your life didn’t happen, such has “the accident” or meeting your husband?
Teresa: Probably if the accident never happened, I would have never met your father because through the way things went, like where we moved after the accident, I would have never gotten my job at the bank, which is where I met your dad. So if that never happened, I wouldn’t have gone to the bank to look for a job; so that changed a lot of things.

Katy: What were your jobs growing up?
Teresa: My very first job… well I worked a co-op job working in a dentist’s office then when I got out of co-op, I work at Kresge’s, which is like K-Mart. Then I got my job at the bank and I’ve had banking jobs pretty much my whole life.

Katy: What schools did you go to?
Teresa: I went to Holy Redeemer for middle school, then I went to Grand Blanc High School; I took some classes at University of Michigan in Flint but never finished. I worked a lot then I had you kids.

Katy: What was/were the factor(s) that made you choose Park Ridge rather than Grand Blanc?
Teresa: Mostly, I think it was the jobs because Grand Blanc was a GM town and GM was already closing up a lot of the shops there so jobs were hard to find in Flint, whereas jobs in the Chicagoland area were good and paid a little bit better. And we just did it strictly by how it would affect our future.

Katy: Tell me about your wedding day.
Teresa: We were married here in Chicago. It was a very warm day. It was July 21st. It was very hot. We were both very nervous but all of our family and friends came to support us. It was a very happy day.

Katy: Tell me about your kids.
Teresa: Jason was born December 27th, 1983. He, being the first, was very scary. I remember holding him for the first time thinking “gosh, I hope I can do this.” But that goes away soon when you have to just kick in and start doing the kind of stuff moms have to do. There was a big span of time between him and Ryan. He wasn’t born until December 25th of 1993. Ryan was early; he was a big surprise. We woke up Christmas morning and we had Ryan Christmas day. Needless to say, we had a different but very good Christmas. Katherine was born November 10th of 1995. I was very excited and probably less nervous about the pregnancy because I had been through it before. But we were very excited when we found out that you were a girl because, having the two boys, we knew you were probably going to be our last child so we were really hoping for a girl and we got our wish.

Katy: Why did you choose your career? What made you choose what you do?
Teresa: When I started working at the bank, I really like it. I liked being in the different departments I was in; mostly I dealt with mortgages and loans. It was just something I like to do. But unfortunately with not finishing college, I was limited with what I could do in a career. So I stayed in the bank because it was decent money and it had good benefits.

Katy: Tell me about your siblings.
Teresa: I was the oldest. I had 3 younger brothers. We were all a couple of years apart. Then my sister came along. We were 11 years apart so as much as I wanted a sister, I wasn’t as thrilled when she came along because I knew we wouldn’t be able to grow up together. My brother Pat and I were the closest growing up because we were only a couple of years apart. I’d say that for the most part, we always hung around each other and played in the neighborhood together. Back then you ran out in the morning, came home for lunch, and then came back home for dinner and did that all over the next day. But nowadays it’s a little different. Back then, no one had cell phones so parents knew that their kids were in the neighborhood but they didn’t know exactly where. Now, with all the cell phones and technology, everyone knows exactly where someone is, when they will be home, who they are with, etc. but as I said, all my siblings and I got along, and my sister and I are closer now because we are both moms with husbands and houses and responsibilities.

Katy: You say you had three brothers? What about Uncle Jason?
Teresa: Well I had a fourth brother later on in life when my mom got remarried after what happened to my dad in the accident. My mom and my stepdad had a son, Jason. But growing up, I had three brothers. Now, he is all grown up with a wife, a son, a house, and a career. I consider him my little brother but I guess he is not so little anymore.

Katy: We have that in common: I have a half brother also. Tell me about that.
Teresa: Yeah I guess Jason is your half brother. I always consider him as your brother, and not your half-brother. I was married before I met your father. It was a bad marriage but I got Jason out of it, which was great.

Katy: What historical things happened during your life?
Teresa: Everybody talks about the day John Kennedy was shot but I don’t remember it I was just three years old when that happened. I remember my mom talking about it later on in life. And I know that was a very tough day. I remember the day that one of my favorite presidents, Ronald Regan, passed away. I thought he was a great president and the day he died was very sad because he had been married to his wife a long time and you could tell that she was so lost without him and it was just a very sad day for the country because he was such a loved resident. I remember the day the Vietnam War ended only because all the church bells rang out when they knew it was over and they leaders signed everything to end the war. I do not remember the war because I was young in the 60s and 70s.

Katy: Where were you and what were were you doing when 9/11 happened?
Teresa: I will never forget 9/11 because I was at home because I was on a week of vacation and I was just cleaning the house when a friend of mine called and said that I had to turn on the radio to the TV and that I won’t believe what’s happening. I spent the rest of the day watching the television and I was just in total disbelief that such a horrible thing could happen here in the United States. It was a very sad day.

Katy: With those thoughts of 9/11, how do you feel about the Navy SEALS killing Osama Bin Laden?
Teresa: Well it’s probably against my religious upbringing, but I was ecstatic because he deserved to die, he was a very evil man. And don’t think we should have taken him alive, he needed to just go. We needed to just move forward. I know someone else will take his place. But that was the best thing that could have happened. He just needed to die. That was a very happy day for most Americans and those who lost someone in 9/11. Justice had been served.

Katy: Tell me about your grandparents.
Teresa: I don’t remember much but on my mother’s side, my grandfather had died when I was just a couple of years old but my grandmother lived by me after I graduated high school and moved out on my own. I was very close to her because I used mow her lawn, drive her to the grocery store because she couldn’t drive, and so much more. She retired from the bank I worked at so I used to take her to a lot of the bank functions. She was a lot of fun; she was a nice grandma. On my father’s side, my grandfather died when I was in my twenties; he died of old age, but lived a very good life. My grandmother had a stroke when I was probably about in my teens; she lived a few years after that before she passed away. She was a tough lady, she ran the household with her seven kids. She used to baby sit my family because my parents had to work so much and she was a very tough babysitter. I always said I had a mean grandma and a nice grandma, and she was the mean grandma.

Katy: What were your parents’ occupations?
Teresa: My dad worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad, he was the yardmaster, which meant he ran the whole yard when the trains came in. Every once in a while, my dad would let us go in with him on the weekends to just hang out with him for a little bit. I remember one time during the Christmas time; they had a Santa Clause come in for the families of the railroad workers. We got to go on the train with Santa around the yard for a little bit. My mom worked for General Motors, she worked in the payroll office. She worked when a lot of women didn’t work; she worked until she had my brother David, who was baby number 4. She had it tough because back then, they didn’t have all the microwaves and the Costco’s, which make life now easier. Once David came along, she only came in a couple times a month on payroll days. She only went in on the days when my dad had off from the railroad so he could take us fishing. He spent his whole day putting worms on hooks; I don’t think he actually got to throw a lure in the water.

Katy: Do you understand your mother more now that you are a mother?
Teresa: Oh yes and I’ve told her so—I have told my mother that I love her very much and I appreciate her so much now that I am a mom with a teenage daughter. When I was growing up, I always had to get in the last word; I was never really disrespectful, but I always had to get in the last “fine!” in as you walked out of the room. I always remember my mom saying “someday I hope you have a daughter just like you!” and I do! And she always has to get in the last word; she always has to tell me how wrong I am. Which, I guess, it’s a good thing to have your opinion but you need to know not to cross the line and remember to respect your mother. But some day, I’ll be wishing you to have a daughter just like you too—it’s a family wish! (laughter)

Katy: You grew up with four (and eventually five) other siblings; do you see a difference between the way my brother and I act opposed to the way you and your siblings acted?
Teresa: Oh absolutely! When we grew up in that small town, everybody had large families; everybody had five, six, seven kids. Nowadays, you get some families that have larger families, but I think for the most part people have two or three kids because it is so much more expensive. At that time, not everybody was going to college after high school, whereas now you guys have to go to college, there’s just no way you can’t go. So I think larger families were easier to afford back then and now it would be a lot harder to afford all those kids.

Katy: Tell me about the pet(s) you had when you were younger.
Teresa: We never had a dog until I was probably a teenager. My mom was afraid of dogs and she didn’t want one because both my parents worked all day. But we had a dog later on—a little Dachshund—but I was older so I wasn’t able to enjoy it as much. But our little Jack Russell now is the best; she’s a good dog, a little spoiled, but a good dog.

Katy: What did you expect life to be like in a new place? What did you expect Park Ridge to be like compared to Grand Blanc?
Teresa: I was really scared because even though Park Ridge is not in the city, it’s real close to Chicago. I was kinda nervous that I was going to not know where anything was of course, and that I was going to get lost because it was a bigger city, and I was right. Dad bought me a big map when I first moved here and I kept it in the care in case I ever got lost. That was before all the GPS systems. But that was probably one of the biggest things—that I didn’t really know anybody, I didn’t know where I was going. I had a comfort level in Grand Blanc: I knew almost everyone, I knew all the areas, I knew the malls, and I knew every place to go when I was growing up. But coming here, I didn’t know anything. But it was a good experience; I got to experience a lot of new things I wouldn’t have in Michigan. But yeah it was a little scary. And with Michigan being so many hours away, I didn’t get many visitors at first.

Katy: Tell me about school.
Teresa: I liked school; I was probably an A- or B-student, occasionally a C-student. I didn’t do any sports in high school, but I did them in junior high; my brothers were the athletes. I pretty much just went to school then worked. That was pretty much my high school life. I have not been back to any high school reunion after being out of high school about thirty years now. I’ll surprise them for a reunion. I figured I wanted to wait until everybody changed a lot. So now that we are all fifty, I figure that’s a good time to go back and see everybody. I still talk to the real good friends I had in high school.

Katy: Who would you want to see the most at your reunion?
Teresa: The people I want to see the most are the famous TV couple who were the head cheerleader and the star football player—the “Mr. and Mrs. Popular.” I would love to see him bald with a beer belly and her looking like she could use a good work out because they were both just gorgeous and a cute couple and everyone was always envious of them. So it would probably be fun to see them, but they probably still look gorgeous now. I’d also like to see some of my favorite teachers—to see how they’re doing, if they’re still alive.

Katy: Any childhood stories that made an impact on you?
Teresa: One Christmas (this was really cool), my dad took one of his work boots and stomped it in the ashes of the fire and made footprints and made it look as if Santa came in through the fireplace to the Christmas tree and back. I knew what was going on because I was old enough and I didn’t believe in Santa but all my other siblings did.
My parents were so excited and my siblings were so excited and I felt so big because I was in on it and I watched my dad do it. It was so cool to see the look on my parents faces because they were so excited and my mom pretended to be angry because Santa made a mess in her house. It was so cool. My dad also stuck a piece of red cloth on the wood as if Santa got his pants caught it or something. (laughter) But that was really cool.





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