Sunday, December 21, 2008

Leif's 18th Christmas 1992 - Manhattan, Kansas - Almost 18 years old

We only lived in Puerto Rico for two years and then Peter W. retired from the army after 24 years of service. We moved back to Manhattan, Kansas, to the old stone house and Peter elected to use his GI Bill benefits and go to back to school at Kansas State University to get a teaching degree.

We bought the old stone house in September 1973 when we moved back to Kansas from Germany. When Peter W. got orders to the JAG School and we moved again in the summer of 1976, he talked my mother into living there and taking care of the place, and renting out the extra 3 bedrooms to KSU college women. Now we were going to "kick her out." She always knew she would have to move if we came back and wanted to move it, in after living there for 16 years, I know it was a shock.

My brother, Donovan, was a custom home builder at that time, and he built a house for Mom in the "Kundiger Addition" on the south side of town. It was quite a rushed time for all of us, as she was packing to move out, we were trying to move in, and at the same time, doing a lot of painting and remodeling. Leif was a great help with all of it. He was strong and capable, and also had many good ideas. I'll write more about working on the house later.

It would have been better for Leif if he hadn't gone to three high schools. That made it hard to have the friendships and kinds of experiences so many teens take for granted. Unlike his older brother, Leif was reticent, shy, and did not mingle and make friends easily, so leaving his Puerto Rican friends behind and going to a new school wasn't easy for him.

Leif could be talkative, open, full of fun and had a great sense of humor, but he didn't show those characteristics until he knew someone and felt comfortable with them. On top of that, he had his own sense of style, which was also influenced by his two years in Puerto Rico. He didn't fit any of the cliques in Manhattan. He said there were three main ones, the jocks, the skaters and the farm kids. He didn't mention the academic types. Leif wore colorful clothing, let his hair grow very long (which wasn't the style then), and liked to wear a long, brown leather coat and combat boots.

Leif was 17, and although he was born in Kansas and had lived there as a very small child, we had moved away when he was only a year-and-a-half old. He had been back for visits when he was five, ten, and a young teen, so he did know the house, neighborhood and something of the town, but had no friends there. He did have two cousins still living in the area.

He didn't have his driver's license yet. Both my sons surprised me by not even asking to get their driver's licenses until they were 17. I didn't want him just learning to drive from us, partly because I felt someone with a different authority would make more of an impression, and partly because there would be a discount on the auto insurance if he took driver's education.

We found out that Manhattan High School was offering driver's ed in summer school, but it started before we were able to make the move, so we put Leif on a plane and sent him to Kansas to stay with my mother and take the course.

We got back to Manhattan at the end of August 1992 and Leif was already starting his senior year at Manhattan High School. He tried out for a part in the school musical, but didn't get one and was very disappointed. He felt that the parts all went to kids who had been there at the school for their whole high school careers and that even though he was really good, he didn't have a chance. I didn't see the tryouts, but having seen him as Kenicke in "Grease" at Antilles High School, I know how talented he was. After his experience in Puerto Rico, I didn't try to go out for soccer. I wish he had.

Leif did make some friends at MHS but only one really close friend, Jason Palenske. They remained friends for the rest of Leif's life.

Our first Christmas back in Manhattan we still had the small tree (artificial). You can see that it wasn't any taller than Leif. All our Christmas ornaments, and the tree, fit into one large box. As the years went by from 1992, Leif would tease us about the accumulation of Christmas decor, which mushroomed from one box to six and the tree "grew" much larger. Leif never seemed to care about Christmas decorations. What interested him were the family gatherings, the food, and yes, the presents.

This photo of him on Christmas of his senior year in high school, shows a tall, slender young man who had learned in Puerto Rico to carry himself well. He was becoming the "GQ Pirate," which was his "handle" for a long time.

January 28, 1993 he turned 18 and he got his first job, working for Idelman Telemarketing, and had some significant spending money, which he used to get a cell phone when it wasn't yet common for high school kids to have them, and for music CDs and cool gadgets, and began his "career" of introducing them to us.

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