Luise Wilkinson

My name is Luise Wilkinson and I’m 24 years old. I was born in Media, Pennsylvania and my family has lived in the same house since I was about three months old. My parents also grew up in the area . I went to Garnet Valley Jr/Sr. High School. It was a pretty small school, 150 per class. Then I went to Wheaton College, which is a private Christian College outside of Chicago and I graduated in 1988. 1 worked as a waitress and took Graduate courses for a semester, after which I got my job here in Old Orchard Beach and I moved to Maine. One of the reasons I moved here is that I worked here for a number of summers at a camp, in the Bath area. I will work at the camp this summer too. That camp is a pretty big part of who I am and what I am today. When I was really little my mom and dad both worked at a camp on Cape Cod and from the time I was four on, I was there every summer. First I was just a staff brat. Mom worked in the dining hall and my father was on the board of directors. The staff and the purpose of the camp is Christian oriented. But a lot of the kids who come are not. The way we found out about it is my doctor (my pediatrician) is the director’s daughter and that’s how we kind of got involved at the camp, through Hope. So I went there for a long while, I guess through Jr. High 9th grade. And then the last summer I was there just wasn’t as good, it wasn’t the same. I was in a different camp, within the camp and I just didn’t like it as well. So I decided to try, a sister camp here in Maine run by the director’s son, Peter. So I came up here it was the summer before 10th grade. I was a camper for a month. It was the first time I’d been away from Mom and it wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t real homesick although I remember it was weird. My father was overseas that summer working. By the time I left I knew I wanted to come back the next summer. And I’ve been there every summer since. First I was a camper for three summers as a worker. I worked in a store and kind of helped around with cleaning. I was a counselor for three summers and now, this will be my third summer as the waterfront director. I think I’m definitely a product of my parents. My mother was a high school teacher before I was born and has now gone back to teaching. My father was a math major and I’m a high school math teacher. So that comes together pretty well. She (my mother) taught biology and seventh and eighth grade Science. (Not math) Scientific though which is in the same category. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, especially in sixth grade. I knew where I wanted to go to school. I knew I wanted to go to Wheaton while I was in seventh and even eighth grade, kind of young. In high school I don’t really remember what I thought I wanted to do. I thought about maybe being an accountant, something mathmatical I knew. And I’m not even really sure when I got to school if I knew I was going math/secondary ed. It just evolved that way and I never changed my major around. I was pretty much set on it all the way through. (My opinions and feelings) I think they’re are also influenced by my parents and summer camp . They just all go hand in hand. The church, Christianity and God is a very big part of my entire family. That’s really how our family’s based, as far as what keeps us together. I think a funny or unsual thing about my birth is my birthday’s November 11th, which is 11/11 and I was born in 1966, which is a multiple of 11, and I was born at 11 o’clock in the morning and the minute was 32. It was the big joke in the delivery room that why couldn’t Mom wait a minute longer and then they would be all elevens. It’s kind of stupid, and my favorite number is now 11. It’s kind of silly. I don’t really remember any other real stories (about my birth). I remember I had to wear braces on my feet because I was born pigeon toed. My Mom always said how I’d sit in my little jump seat, and I pouted, because I couldn’t move my feet around there was a bar between them. I have a brother who’s three years younger than I am. I was very ticked off when he was born because Mom left and didn’t come back for a little while but and the first thing I said was that his hands were so small. I was just amazed at his hands were so tiny. But David and I have always gotten along fairly well. We’re similar as far as how we care about people, the way we treat other people, that kind of thing. Both love camp, talk about camp all the time. Our friends kid us about the stories that we have, cause we always have a story. But, very different too. He wants to work with sail boats for the rest of his life. I love the ocean but I would never want to work with sail boats. There are a lot of differences but we still have that tie with religion and with camp and David and I have a very good friendship. I mean it’s more than just ya he’s my brother. We talk on the phone a lot. He goes to the same college I went to. He’s a Junior at Wheaton, which is fun. He wasn’t going to Wheaton, because my parents both went there too. There was no way we were going to get him on campus there, but we did. None of my real grandparents are living any more. They’ve all since passed away. I think my favorite grandparent, and the one I remember most, was my mother’s father, my Pop Pop. I named him so that’s what he is called. He used to stop off at our house on the way home f rom work to see me, because I was the first grandchild. He used to always bring me dolls when he traveled. I have dolls from all over the world that he’s kind of collected for me. That I’ve kept. Not really expensive ones, but ones with native costumes. My mother’s family is German. He spoke German and unfortunately he died before I was old enough to be interested in my heritage. (How old were you when he died?) I guess like first or second grade, pretty young. Its really interesting because my mother’s natural mother died when she was six so I never knew that grandmother at all. Pop pop remarried very soon after that so that he could have a wife to raise his daughters. Then they had a son together, so my Mom has a step brother. I don’t consider my Mom Mom my step grandmother, but she is. It’s really interesting now as I’ve gotten older to see things in my personality, or things that I like that have to be from that grandmother that I never knew, and that my Mom never knew either. There are things in our personalities and things that we enjoy doing, the crafts, I’ve always enjoyed horses even though I’ve never been around them a lot and she was an equestrian. Just kind of things like that. I guess also true in how we kind of deal with things. My grandmother is just nothing like my mother and her sister. I mean nothing at all alike. To see that, now I can understand why, but I love my Mom Mom. She’s wonderful. She’s a wonderful person. Not quite your typical grandmother. She doesn’t bake cookies and make sweaters and (she’s) kind of laid back. My parents have been wonderful. I think they’ve been great parents. They’ve been there for me and supported me. We’ve never really gone through that I hate my Mom and Dad stage. There have been times when I wasn’t able to talk to them like maybe I would like to be able to to just call Mom and tell her about whatever. I respect them and at the camps I’ve worked at they’ve always gotten along with all the people there the older staff, the people their age, the counselors that are now more my age or David’s age. They’ve always gotten along very, very well with all those different spectrums of ages. Mom has been, I know, a guide to many in things (dilemmas) with dating and this, that and the other thing. Sometimes that’s been a rub because we don’t have that kind of openness in a relationship but . . . I guess in some ways those other people need her in that way more than I do so I guess that’s good. They’re (parents) very even keeled as far as their temperments go. They’re not likely to fly off the handle. My father will never speak a sentence before its completely thought out in his head. It can drive you crazy at times. They’ve done alot of work on our house. They don’t go on extravagant vacations all the time. They’ve always taken David and I with them when they’ve gone away. They saved for a long time when they were first married just so they could have a house and provide an education for David and I. They’re very much family oriented in that way. Really giving up of things for themselves to provide for my brother and I. On most things there really hasn’t been a situation where we’ve differed alot (on opinions). David and I never went through a rebellious stage in high school. We never went out partying all the time so there were never those kinds of confrontations, where you will not do this oh yes you will. We never had anything like that. We’re all Christians and we all have the Bible and Christ as our example. There’s not alot of difference there either. Not because their opinions have been forced on us but that’s because of how David and I have chosen to go. I hope that I can be as good parents as my parents have been and that my kids will turn out, I think as well as David and I have. As a child I liked to be outside alot. I think I was a bit of a tomboy. Our next door neighbors were boys. Two were older and one was younger than I am. So I used to walk to school with them every day. There was one other girl in the cul de sac where we lived. We did everything with the guys. In the winter time we would always be outside sledding and ice skating on the rink they froze next door and have snow ball fights. I n the summer I would be a camper down in the woods at the creeks near the trestle. I was outside a lot making forts and all sorts of things like that. I don’t remember specific things that were happy or sad. Over all it was really fun and a happy chldhood. There were not problems at home as far as my parents arguing or fighting or anything like that, so that doesn’t figure into it. I had friends that I had for a long time. My friend Johanna and I met in kindergarden and she is still one of my best friends now. That’s been a friendship that lasted a really long time. In junior high I had Mrs. Miller for Math and she was at that time probably in her mid 50’s. I guess she’s retired now just in the last year or so. I had her for Algerbra and I hated her. I could not stand her. She took 10 points off if you missed an sign. She drove me crazy. I cried to my parents and didn’t like Algerbra or math and I couldn’t do it. It was horrible. She was leaving for a Sabbatical in January and by the time she left I was very very sad to see her leaving. She made it a lot of fun once I got used to her idea of grading. I could it as long as I was careful with my signs rules and everything. I saw that Algebra could be a lot of fun and I was really sorry to see her leave. She was someone that I have kind of maintained contact with. When I did a practicum class in college I did them with her at my high school. That was really interesting to see her in a totally different light. It was different for someone in college taking education classes and having a little more experience than an eighth grader sitting in her class. Then she would throw erasers and chalk and just give you a hard time when you would answers questions wrong. She was one of the people that I would hope to be like as I teach. I use some of her techniques. I give partial credit on my quizzes and that’s definitely something that Mrs. Miller didn’t give. She required neatness and orderly work. Some of the ways of teaching (math) have changed a little bit. Some things that I saw when I went to do my student teaching I’d never seen before, but they were pretty much taken for granted. There have been changes that were made (in education) over the past 15 years time. I’ve known a lot of my friends since early childhood. You could see in Jr. High some different tangents being taken. I was always the straight and narrow. I was the good one who didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t cheat, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink and didn’t party. That’s a choice I made and who I wanted to be, but at times it was really hard to deal with the pressure and teasing for being like I was. I don’t think there was anything wrong with who I was. My behavior wasn’t quite par for the course as far as teens. I was naive, too, especially in Jr. High and High School. I took the brunt of a lot of jokes. Sometimes that really bothered me because I didn’t feel like I was worth much. I wasn’t the most popular person, not that I wanted to be, but I was in a struggle with myself as far as who I was and what I did. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be this person all of the time. I’ve made amends with that now and with myself. One of the best things that I remember about High School that I was proud of and that I had worked to accomplish was I played field hockey and lacrosse. It was divided the jr. high school 7th, 8th and 9th and the senior high 10th, 11th, and 12th and that’s how it went for sports. My freshmen year they took tryouts for sr. high lacrosse and all the 9th graders tried out. There were four of us that were chosen to play “up” as they called it. I felt really good about that. I guess I was a pretty decent athlete, but I didn’t think so at the time. I wasn’t very fast but I realized later that I had a real sense about the game. Not necessary skills, but I knew where I should be whereas some people were dealing with raw skill and didn’t have any head knowledge of the game. That was exciting. It kind of related to how I related to the other kids. The coaches always had me running the drills and leading the team on the field. I would call plays but I was never elected a captain because I didn’t have that kind of “big person” status. The fact that I was chosen by the coaches was my own pat on the shoulder and I knew that in my head and so it didn’t bother me quite so much. I also succeeded in playing the flute. I took lessons every Saturday morning in Philadelphia for 5 years in high school. My sophomore year I had a solo. It was “Stars and Stripes Forever”. The piccolo part for that. It was great. I was every small and stood on the fifty yard line. It was great to hear judges comments and to know that I was a good flutist and that I had that kind of ability above my pears made the efforts, lessons and practicing worthwhile for me. In developing who and what I am, it came from the church that I attended. We switched churches when I was in the 9th grade. From one that I was really starting to enjoy. I was getting to know and like the kids but it was out or our district. We switched to one that was across the street from my high school. The problem was that there weren’t a lot of other kids from my high school at that church. There was only one other girl to whom I know it didn’t mean anything. It’s a great church and I really enjoy going there now, but I think when I was in high school my real growing came from my summers at camp and my counselors. One was a Wheaton grad and was influential in my wanting to go there because of the kind of person she was. I had a real opportunity to let them know me for me and who I was. There I could really be myself and be like I wanted. They didn’t know my parents at all. These people know more who I really think I am than anyone else. I guess as I got older and become more of an adult I would hope that as far as what I’m doing, it should be making me happy. I’m not out to be making a lot of money, or to be famous or anything like that but on most days I really do like my job. I like working with math every day because I love math. I like being around kids and have always enjoyed working with teenagers and being around teenagers. Sometimes (my job) is really frustrating because I feel like I’m not getting across to them the values that I’d like to see them have being polite, not swearing all the time and being more adult like than they seem to act. I don’t know (if I’ve become an adult). Have I? Sometimes I catch myself think here you live, by yourself and you’re 550 miles away from Mom and Dad, and they have no clue what you do all the time. I have a job that’s my job and sometimes it really catches me off guard. It doesn’t seem like I’m still quite old enough to do that. College just doesn’t seem like it could have passed by and its three years old. Sometimes I don’t think I am an adult yet and other times I am very much one. Sometimes I’ll stand in the front of the room and all of a sudden I’ll realize it’s really. I think at heart I’ll always be one who likes to have fun and kind of be a kid in that way, but I think I’m pretty responsible for a 24 year old. Paying bills cause stress for me especially lately since my roommates just left and I’d been getting a really good deal on rent from her. On a teacher’s salary it’s not easy, especially at the bottom of the totem pole. I don’t feel any other stress as far as being an adult. There’s a lot of stress from work and getting things accomplished there. Sometimes I like to worry about if I’ll get married but that will happen, when it happens, if it happens. There isn’t an ethnic part of my family which has given us traditions. There probably would have been if my natural grandmother, on my mother’s side had lived. They were very German. When Pop Pop remarried they broke with that German tradition just because it was a new wife who didn’t know that or understand that at all. Probably it was emotionally painful for him and he needed to get away from it. We’ve come up with our own traditions especially around the holidays. Christmas Eve up until a couple years ago would either be at our house or my aunt and uncle’s house. We would exchange gifts with that side of the family. Christmas Day my Dad’s father would come over to the house and we’d have breakfast together, Christmas lunch has always been at my great aunt’s, who is quite the cook. She’s wonderful. The ideas of Christmas and celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter are not the presents and the candy and the idea of a huge, big meal. We get together as a family at Thanksgiving thanking God for everything he’s given us. Christmas and Easter are really celebrating the birth, death and resurrection of Christ and what that means in each of our lives. It’s really neat in our family because we’re all Christians. There’s not a black sheep anywhere. There’s not anyone who’s really strayed from that. Which I think is really unusual and something that I’m very grateful and thankful for. I love giving presents to my brother and my family. I love thinking of great things I can give them but that’s not really the meaning of it at all. The real reason for the holidays as why they were originally founded is why we really celebrate them. The gift that I got that was the most important to me was a ring that my parents gave me on my 16th birthday. I lost it this summer. Actually I didn’t have it on when it was lost. A friend was holding it for me and it fell off his finger. But that was really hard to lose that I really liked it a lot. It meant a lot that they had given it to me. It was the colors of my high school. I didn’t get a class ring. I had hoped that someday I’d get it or kind of give it to someone else and start passing it down. It’s gone so I think about it a lot. This wasn’t really my first experience with death. My Pop Pop and my grandmother, my father’s mother, had died when I was in first or second grade. I knew that they had died and that they weren’t there anymore and that they were in heaven but I didn’t know them long enough in my life for them to have a huge impact on my life. They lived half an hour or so away so I didn’t see them all the time. I had a girl, a friend die when I was in high school but I didn’t know her very well. She went to another school. I had met her over the summer and she was a cancer patient so it wasn’t a sudden but more of a understandable death. My first real experiences with death that have been hard came after my junior year of college. That’s pretty late I think for most people. That was when my grandfather died and that was the first time I went to a funeral. I was at school and my dad had called that morning. I remember getting the message and it didn’t really bother me that he had called during the day which probably should have. I was siting at a pay phone in a Laundromat when he told me. It was hard because it was summer school and I didn’t know a lot of the people there then or wasn’t really close to them so I really didn’t have anyone to talk to. That was hard not having a person I could go to give me a hug when my family was so far way. I flew home for the funeral decided to spend the money to do that just because being at the funeral, both my parents and I felt that would be important, that later on I’d probably regret it if I weren’t there. I guess the thing that I remember the most about it is David and I were up in the balcony of the Church. It was a church that we had gone to when we were little. We were walking around before the service and came down and they were wheeling his casket into the sanctuary. It was a closed casket service and they were just wheeling it in. Coming down the stairs I just stopped in my tracks. I must have lost all the color in my face or something and my brother just stopped. I couldn’t believe my brother was saying this to me. He put his arm around me and said “Luise, it’s all right. Grand dad’s in a better place now. Him saying that kind of makes you smile to know my Grand dad was in Heaven and with God. You couldn’t wish for anything better for a person. Later my senior year there was a really bad week at school in March. I had just finished student teaching and that Sunday one of my roommates sister died of a brain tumor and so we went to that funeral. That again was just a real powerful experience more happy than sad. Of course we were mourning the loss for Karen but incredible because this girl Karen was a Christian. What she had done and how she had given her life to God and what she had done with it was amazing and inspiring just to hear about her. Her father, at a memorial service said how it was hard because at this point in life most father’s would be giving their daughters away to be married and here he was giving his daughter away to God. I think the hardest decision I had to make was right after I graduated from college and had to decide where I wanted to work. I had an offer from a Christian grammar school in Wheaton which was right across the street from the dorm that my brother would be living in the next year. It was in the same town where I went to college. It backed up on the house that I lived in my senior year. It was right on campus. I would have been teaching eighth grade math. It was a really neat school though. Then I had an offer from a public jr. high in Pennsylvania and I had to decided between the two of those. It was a horrible couple of weeks. On one hand I wanted to go to Illinois on the other hand I wanted to stay in Penn. All these different things were soaring through in my head. I think for the time I made the right decision not to go to Illinois to take the job in Penn. The job in PA fell through, two days before I was supposed to start because of certification problems. That was really hard. I thought about it, I prayed and pondered over it, looked over the good and the bad. I really thought I had made a wise decision and all of a sudden it fell through. Sometimes I think that maybe I should have taken the job out there but I try not to dwell on it since it is water under the bridge. These’s nothing I can do about it. What’s gone is gone. I didn’t really want to teach in Christian School because I think it is necessary to have good role models in a public school. I think I am a good role model. So in some ways I didn’t want to teach in a junior high I wanted to teach in a high school. There are a lot of ways where it really did work out for the better. I waitressed at a restaurant instead of teaching. Then the girl that I lived with for over two years had been placed up in Westbrook. She worked for S. D. Warren which is a division of Scott Paper. When she was hired, she saw the ad for a teaching job in the paper. She said why not apply for it see what happens? Ten days after I saw the ad I signed the contract which was really quick. I made two trips to Maine in that time. It was nuts, but I really think it was a good decision. I think I have learned a lot from my time here and just dealing with kids. I think probably from just what I said before you can tell that God is something that’s very important in my life. I would say that Christ is the center. He is what is most important in who I am and what I do. I don’t really like the word religious because think religion kind of conjures up ideas of going to church or going to confession or kind of the act of doing that. I think Christianity is more than just an act. It is something that is important to me every day. I struggle with it at times and I keep trying to make myself better. I keep trying to give what I’m doing to God every day and to let Him have an input on decisions. That probably sounds really bizarre in some ways. Sometimes I think it sounds weird. when I hear myself say it. I can’t see any purpose in anything if you don’t figure that (God) into it. It just doesn’t seem like life makes any sense. You need to have a reason behind doing things. I guess my reason is that how I carry myself and my actions in school and in what I do that other people will say there’s something different there. Maybe not now or today but maybe one of my kids, who I have now, will later on think Miss Wilkinson had something different about her. There was a calmness, something there. And they wonder. Hopefully that could be a beginning for them. I haven’t seen bright lights or anything like that but I have seen evidence of Christ and how he has helped me in my life. Just dealing with and breaking up with someone and knowing that that’s not the end of all the world. Life is so much more that having a boyfriend. I like knowing that God has my future in his hands. There’s a verse in Jeremiah that goes “for I know the plans that I’ve made for you declares the Lord. Plans that will prosper you and give you plans for the future. Keep that in back of your mind and to know that is very reassuring and I have seen how that has worked in other people’s lives. I have a friend. To look at her when she was younger and to look at her now its incredible. She was just partying all the time sleeping with whoever she felt like and had a really horrible home situation. To see her now, she is such a happy person who is so sure of herself. She is so much more fun to be around now. She really likes doing things for other people, she was very selfish. So it is neat to see those differences in people. This is all really tying together as far as an inner strength. Just knowing that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and nothing that I will come across in my live is going to be too hard for me to handle. I know that with God on my side whatever the challenges are it may not be a success. If I go out and try for the Olympic field Hockey team, I’m not going to make it. I can tell you that. That’s not the kind of challenge that I am talking about. Just dealing with people and dealing with pressures of my job and trying to get things done and make things meet, and all those kind of things. I don’t need to worry about those things. They are going to be taken care of that I know. I have to be wise in my finances and there is responsibility put on me, but when I am being responsible then I am really taken care of. When I am being faithful to God he’s being faithful to me. Providing what I need. I guess my advice would be, to my students that I have, and the kids that I work with at camp is for them to be their own person and for them to not be afraid to stick up for what they believe is right. I think too often kids these days do things because everyone else is doing them. They should make decisions with their head before they start making decisions with the heart. I wish for everybody to be able to know Christ because I think that’s of great importance, but I can’t force that on anyone. I can’t enforce any of my ideals on anyone, but I would hope that they would consider what kind of effects their actions are going to have. What they will have on other people now and on them on the future too. They need to think about what part religion plays in their family life and from that get some meaning out of it for themselves. If Catholicism is what’s in their family, if they go to church they should really think about what it means to be really a Catholic and just spend some time. Not just going to CCD classes or whatever, but thinking about what the implications of that are. For kids that are in Protestant church it’s the same thing or even of the Jewish Faith or whatever. They really should spend some time thinking about their religion, whatever it is. So that it means to them so that its not just an assumed religion because mom and dad did it but that it’s theirs. I think I feel pretty decent about myself right now. There have been times when I haven’t felt very good at all about who I am. To just look at things and say “Oh you messed this up again, you are not doing this, you can’t decide about that. I look at it day to day at the things I have done, it’s a lot easier to feel more positively. I think there’s always room f or improvement and now I can be a better friend, a better witness, a better teacher better whatever I am doing. I think there is always room for improvement, but I think over all that I know I am not down on my self all the time. I can be critical and accepting, so I think it’s a healthy balance.

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