A Slice of My Life: Birthdays are Like Escalators

In 1963 my husband and I packed up our 18-month-old and moved from Columbus, Ohio to Scottsdale, Arizona.  Both sets of our parents stayed behind in Ohio.  Grandparents missed their first grandchildren and  particularly hated to miss birthdays. By September 1966, our oldest, called Butch back then, was turning five, our middle boy, Mike, had turned three in July and the youngest, Brent, was about to turn two. (This picture was about 5 months earlier.)

Badertscher sons 1966

Brent, Kenny (Butch),  and Mike Badertscher, Easter 1966

On our budget, land line long distance cost too  much to use frequently, so we would exchange calls on Friday night, and write letters almost every day. (Today we call by cell phone across the country for no extra cost, and across the world for nominal charges. It is easy to forget how special long distance calls were before cell phones.)

I kept most of the letters I received and my mother kept all the letters I wrote her.

Lost and Found

The bad news is that a rainstorm flooded the storeroom with the letters I wrote and for decades, mother assumed the letters had been ruined. The good news is that one day my sister opened a long-stored box and discovered a cache of letters from Arizona to Ohio.  So we now have a record of all those cute things our boys said and our own activities through the very busy 60s.

The letters from our parents and other relatives likewise seemed to disappear. Then we moved, and had stacks of boxes to deal with.  I opened a box that turned out to include treasures like this letter from my father, Paul Kaser, to our oldest son, on the occasion of his fifth birthday.

*In the letter he refers to F & R Lazarus Department Store, a fixture in our lives in Ohio as long as I could remember. The main store, in downtown Columbus, carried everything from refrigerators to gloves in eight stories of delights (Six above ground and two basements).

Lazarus Department Store

F & R Lazarus, Columbus Ohio, in an earlier day.

Birthdays are Like Escalators

Paul Kaser, 325 Conklin Drive, Hilliard, Ohio 43026

Monday Sept. 12, 1966

Dear Butch,

Congratulations on your birthday. You have not had enough birthdays to know very much about them, so let me tell you. I’ve had plenty.

Birthdays are like an escalator. Remember when you were here and we went to Lazarus Department store. We went up and down in the store on those stairs that move. You step on and the stairs move up. Pretty soon your head gets high enough so that you can see out onto a new floor. Here there are different things than you saw on the floor you just left. It is like a whole new world with new things to see. And then you look around and see all these things and do all the things you are supposed to do on that floor and then back onto the stairs and up to another new floor and new things to see and do.

Now you can look back and see for yourself that this is true. A while back you became old enough to go to nursery school. Since then you have gone up on the escalator (stairs) of time and now you are on the Kindergarten floor. Another year and up another stair and you will be in regular school.

Then will come high school and college and each year when your head comes up so you can see around on the new floor you have reached you will see things and do things you never thought of before.

One thing is different about the birthday stairs than the escalator stairs. Every time you go up another birthday the stairs move faster instead of all being the same speed as they were in Lazarus. And you will find that you don’t have much time before the birthday stairs move you up another year.

Above all things when you have reached a new floor (birthday) with all the new experiences and things to do, you must get busy and do everything that is to be done in that department. Because you will never be back there again, so don’t miss anything. Your mother was very good at this and can tell you what I mean.

Well be good and say hi to mother, dad, Mike and Brent for me,



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5 thoughts on “A Slice of My Life: Birthdays are Like Escalators

  1. Suzanne Fluhr

    What a touching letter. I too remember when long distance was a big deal. When I left for college, we were still in “don’t call until after 11 pm, and then someone better be dead or dying” mode. I also have a large packing box of letters: all the letters I wrote to my grandparents and parents. Letters from a first boyfriend (which I really should burn someday), and letters my friends saved for me when I lived in England in 11th grade. One of my college jobs was to sort the mail. People anxiously waited to see if they had received any letters. By the time our sons were in college, I had to call them to tell them to check their mailboxes if I sent something by mail. They didn’t expect correspondence that way. I miss letters. On the other hand, last night I had dinner with a camp friend who I hadn’t seen for 45 years. We had rekindled our ling ago friendship on Facebook. ?

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      I feel a pang when I realize that after their childhood, I have no letters from my sons. And not only do you have to remind people to check their mailboxes—I have to send a text to ask my grandchildren to check their EMAIL!! The rich record I have of grandparents and parents lives and my own life will not exist for this 100-character, snapchat generation.

  2. Bro

    Yes, he had a talent and impulse for writing letters like this. Your point about a non-letter-writing latter generation is valid, but I have kept adding to a large file of printed e-mails from friends and family members for three decades, which adds up to an extensive archive, so all is not lost. I try to keep mostly those messages that might be of interest to later generations, hoping there might be a reader for them somewhere in the distant future.

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      So glad you’re saving things. I’ll bet that you have some doozies in there. I had a large file of family emails at one time, but lost them through some computer glitch. Be sure your treasures are backed up–two places at least.


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