The Periwinkle Village part two of three

Back to Sequoia

I wonder if the TV takes too much blame for the demise of the America we knew back on Sequoia Dr. We had a TV on which we would all gather round and sing along with Mitch, or in my father’s case croak along with Mitch. And he would hurry home from work so we could all watch the Mickey Mouse club together. My sister and I would don our uniforms, I think it best to include the photo as trying to describe those uniforms might be difficult. You can see the smug look n my sister’s face in this photo, I think perhaps because she had secured the pink fuzzy slippers. I mean, really, who wears pink fuzzy slippers with a cowboy skirt! My blue bathrobe would have been a perfect complement to that exquisite footwear. That determined looked on my face is pretty natural for me, it came early and it still exists today. I don ‘t know how the Mickey Mouse club uniforms came into existence, and it seems my mother must have had to donate some of her stylish hats to complete our ensembles, but there they are,  and all was well in the 1960’s on Sequoia Dr. I am sure the Mickey cottage came from my love of the Mickey Mouse Club!

      The Mickey Cottage

And then along came Peter….

 During the summer my main pastime was building tents with my best friend Peter Terry. Peter and I are only days apart, both second children and we lived right next door to each other. We were destined to be buds. Our tent making supplies came from our mother’s close-lines; we would take those billowing clean sheets and drape them over sticks, brooms, fences or whatever we could find, then secure the edges with rocks. In those tents we discussed major world philosophies or something important like that I am sure.  We created a world of our own, never to be entered by sisters Penny or Beth. And what was wrong with them anyway, they didn’t even try to enter; they were too busy playing dolls.                  


Peter was always so fascinating; here he is showing me the wonders of his thumb!

Peter and I  (and of course Suzi B who always hung with us) were like minded visionaries, opportunists. I know this because there was a day we saw an opportunity. Potatoes were presented as an opportunity one day in Peters front yard. Yes, hard as it may be to believe, there they were lying on the ground; it was you might say a perfect-potato-opportunity. Neither of us questioned why this opportunity was presenting itself, we just seized the moment. We sat down and ate those raw potatoes, every last one of them. A little while later our tummies were upset and so we told our mothers only out of necessity. They looked alarmed. “Potatoes!” they said, “Why would potatoes be in front yard.” To which we had no answer. The next question was why would we eat the potatoes, other than the obvious answer of it-was a perfect-potato-opportunity, we had no answer for that either. Our mothers did not believe us, they were sure we had eaten toadstools instead of potatoes. We protested, we knew potatoes when we saw them! It wasn’t long before we were lying next to each other in St Joseph hospital with tubes down our throats. Suzi B somehow avoided this torture. It took almost forty years to get the truth out my mother, poor Peter and I had ingested potatoes just as we had said and had our stomachs pumped for nothing! Our mothers certainly did not deserve those flowers.

The great flower heist occurred shortly after the potato incident, it was days before Mothers day and we were feeling a bit bad about the worry we had cause our mothers earlier. Besides Beth had gotten a small loom and a potholder making kit and Penny and Beth were busy constructing potholders as gifts for our moms. We had nothing, what were we to do, and then once again opportunity presented itself. As we looked down Sequoia Dr. we saw flower bed after flower bed of daffodils. A daffodil bouquet would be so much better than a potholder. We were under the understanding that God made the flowers and so they were a free commodity to those who might need them. And we needed them. We secured my little red wagon and started up and down the street, plucking blooms from every flower bed we saw. Now sequoia was a busy street of interconnected people whose lives intertwined, I am not sure how we pulled off the great flower heist without a mother intercepting us, but by some miracle we did. We anticipated surprising our mothers with this abundance of yellow blooms and hid them with our wagon in our latest tent. By the next day our flowers were looking less vibrant and s we made a decision to present them to our moms early. We split our bounty and each went to find our mothers. And they were surprised for sure!!!! We spent the rest of the afternoon writing notes of apology to everyone on Sequoia Dr. while our mothers baked cookies as a piece offerings. The thing about flowers is they grow back….sooner or later. And Sequoia Drive had enough charm even without daffodils. After that there was no doubt that everybody on Sequoia Drive knew the names of Peter Terry and Kathy Kayler. I am sure the Daffodil Cottage stemmed from the memory of the great flower heist….but look there are no daffodils our front, a couple of little darlings probably picked them all for their mothers!

In the fall of 62 Peter and I headed off to kindergarten. We walked to Thompson elementary holding hands all the way; we were so excited to be as mature as our siblings who were already in school. We arrived bursting with anticipation and energy to be greeted by Mrs Reedmond. Picture, if you will, Mrs. Reedmond, a pencil thin lady, with a permanent bent position, her hair tightly tied back in a bun, a gray baggy dress, nylons with a seem in them, black tie oxford shoes and glare that could knock you over with one look. She had been teaching kindergarten since the middle ages and was less than thrilled to see these two jumping beans in here class. It wasn’t long before we were in opposite corners starring at the wall.  On the way home we decided we were not going back, we would find professions that did not require a kindergarten education. We could always build tents; over the years we had a few successful lemonade stands, so that could be an option as well. It was lucky for us that class was overflowing and the decision to open a second kindergarten class was made. I am sure we were on the top of Mrs. Reedmond’s list of kids to be sent to Mrs. Hails class. It was Pearl Hail’s first year of teaching and she loved our spirit. In fact I discovered early in the year that I liked coloring on the thrice folded brown paper towels with a texture much better than the plain white newsprint. So when it came time to draw she would motion for me to go get my brown paper towel. I wonder how our lives would have changed if we had been forced to stay in Mrs. Reedmond’s class. Peter’s cottage ended up red white and blue reminiscent of the outfit he has on in our picture. The bunting in the front reminds me of the sheets we used to drape all over the back yard.  

Get a Life…and you can quote me on that! Kathy Bradway

The next year we moved, and by third grade Peter had developed a serious case of boy cooties which is horribly contagious. The magic of those Sequoia years slowly subsided. Perhaps that was “The Good Life.”  Yet that seems so past tense. I think it is time to,”Get a life…and make it a great one!”  And I believe we can, in fact I know we can. For the magic we had on Sequoia Dr. is still simmering in me. It is just waiting to reinvent itself into new neighborhoods, where everybody knows your name. Neighborhoods where daffodils bloom in flowerbeds up and down the street and you can shout hello to your neighbor from your front porch. Special places where you can smell the barbecue coming from the backyard in the evening, and people accept you for who you are (even if you are a bit different). Wonderful neighborhoods of people who let themselves get intertwined with the lives of their neighbors and where connections last a lifetime.

Stay tune for part three of three


Get a Life, The story of the Periwinkle Villages- part one of three

Periwinkle Village

My vision is to re-create the kind of place that existed in my childhood, and to go beyond re-creating that place, to create a new improved version of Sequoia Dr. and Manford Heights. In the Periwinkle Village there will be adorable affordable cottages each unique but equally wonderful. In this village we will realize that yes we are our brother’s keeper, and if the worst that can happen is you do more for your neighbor, than they do for you then, that is a blessing in itself. In a Periwinkle Village no matter your age or status you are a vital part of the community, and the residents of a Periwinkle Village realize that this sense of purpose and priority has a positive influence on life.  These villages are special places for special people who want to connect with others, and who understand the treasures we will find when we do.

I started my life in an atmosphere of caring and love, where my independence was encouraged and my ideas (except for maybe the potato episode and the flower caper noted in part 3) were encouraged. At this midpoint of my life I don’t want to look backward and believe that the best is behind.

Our cottages are a mix of storybook architecture with a little of this and a little of that…and a some of myself and a twinkle of Christine. And if you know me, you know there is always a story with a bit of this and that mixed in. So this is the story of the Periwinkle Villages, complete of course in “Kathy style” with all of this and a lot of that.

“The village concept did not come to me; it grew out of my life experience and then took on a life of its own. I know what I envision this village to be, I am not the creator of this concept, I am the guardian of the Village. It will create itself, because it already exists in my memory and perhaps in yours.” Kathy Kayler Bradway

It all started a long time ago in a place far-way…well really not so far… ( just on the other side of town actually)…on a street named Sequoia.

Looking back…

A bit about Suzi-Barbara

I had an imaginary friend when I was little, or so my mother says. But to me Suzi-Barbara was more real than many of the people I have come to know since. Suzi-B as I affectionately nicknamed her lived over the tracks past the creek in our backyard. My father questioned how I knew this, since I was not allowed to cross the creek or the tracks, nor was Suzi-B. I explained to him that I had ridden my bike to her house. There was a bridge over the creek so that explained that.

He replied, “But you still would have had to cross those tracks. ”

Being a good and obedient child I would never cross those tracks without permission so I explained I went around the tracks. My father did not let this drop; he and I went on countless excursions in pursuit of Suzi B’s place never crossing the railroad tracks, while trying to get to the far side. We came to the conclusion she must live in Port Huron over on the east side of the state where the tracks ended. I was in Port Huron recently and found myself glancing around still looking for Suzi-Barbara’s house. When I got home I found it, it existed inside of me, it always had. Now Suzi’s Barbara’s house is in the Periwinkle Village. She is joined there by many other cottages each with their own unique character and inspiration.


My father Ralph, here at the house on Sequoia with his two special daughters.

 Daddy told a fib!

When we were driving around looking for Suzi Barbara’s house my dad used to let me shift the gears in the car. He told me he let me do this because I was special and he told me not to tell my sister Penny.

Suzi and I kept this secret for years, until one day in the midst of a heated sibling argument I blurted out, “Oh yea, well dad loves me best cause I am special, and he lets me shift the gears on the car!”

There was a look of pure shock on Penny’s face!

She replied,” He does not! You found out dad lets me sift the gears cause I am special and you are lying!”

My father had been caught in his fib, it was kind of amazing it went on as long as it did. Although my father was not in the “special “rating with either of us for a while after that, I did come to realize he was right about Penny. She is very special and I am lucky to have her as a sister. The Penelope cottage designed especially for my sister Penny.

Good ole Sequoia Dr.

That was life in the 1960’s on our little street called Sequoia in the subdivision of Manford Heights located in Davison, Michigan. Next door to us were the Terrys, then the Dodds who owned the local diner, down the street were the Kneeshaws and across the street was Marianne’s house. Marianne was a social child perhaps much more so than her parents so her house was called, at least by my family, Marianne’s house. I am reconnected with Marianne now, thanks to Facebook. Facebook also connected me to my babysitter, Carole Clay. When she reached out to friend me on Facebook I asked her how I knew her.

She said,” I was your babysitter on Sequoia Dr.”

I questioned how old I was , to which she answered,” two.”

Carole who is now my dear friend and 15 years my senior, can name every family up and down the street and a she does this she always say, “Well Kathy you remember the….”

To which I reply, ” I was only two!” It has become our routine.

Carole and I

I recently took a trip with her to North Carolina to look at a spot her brother would like to develop into a Periwinkle Village. On the long ride home that got extended by 6 hours do to a flat tire in the middle of Pudunk West Virginia she tried to keep me awake in the wee hours of the night by naming the neighbors on Sequoia Dr. It doesn’t surprise me that Carole and I hooked up again after 50 years that is just the way things have been happening with my Village quest. What is surprising is it as if those 50 years have never passed when Carole and I are together. We did catch up on most of those years during our road trip. The thing is, Carole gets what the Periwinkle Villages are supposed to be because she lived on Sequoia Dr, where everybody knew your name. You might have lived somewhere like Sequoia Dr.too.The names are different but small town America in the 1960’s held a special charm  In our cottage line up you will see Melinda Ann, named for Carole’s daughter who lost her battle to breast cancer 5 years ago. She loved Mackinaw Island so this cottage has a special Mackinaw Island feel to it. It is my hope that everyone will know her name as well.






Last weekend I had a chance to visit two senior communities with a friend of mine. My friend Karen had worked for the first company and wanted me to see a community. Karen has worked in most applications of senior living for the past two decades, most recently in sales and marketing. I am a boomer and Karen is 15 years older than I, so we are both looking at senior housing from a personal perspective.

We made the trip for two reasons, first because I have ideas for a new format for senior living that I would like to see implemented before I hit senior housing, and I like to see where the market it because of my design business that focus’ on senior living design. Secondly my folks are in their mid eighties and while they are healthy and active I need to know what options there are for when that may no longer be the case.


Today I will deal with the first model, which is more the existing model of senior communities across this country.


We walked in a in the lobby was a large reception desk to the right and a fireplace straight ahead. It was a gray day outside and walking in did not warm me, it was sort of depressing. A dark print carpet was on the floors and the walls were a shade of tan. The window treatments were the same color well made but the jabots with tails I see in every community I go in. The furnishings were formal, Chippendale sofas and wing chairs in shades of tan, green and rust. Nothing was what I would call dated and in fact it was pretty nice in comparison with many I have seen. Straight ahead some grapevines and silk flowers were attached to an arch which is a red light with me that this place was going to be pretty stale design wise. My first thought was …no, mom wouldn’t like this. (she is fussier than my father)

A delightful gal who was in charge of marketing offered to give us a tour. We sat down in an adjoining room that was an atrium with lots of light and color, I immediately started to feel better about the community. The community was actually very nice and had recently been updated. I know as a designer I am probably more fussy about some things, but there where a lot of borders which I have not used for a decade. Small thing, but I do think that often firms that specifically design for senior environments aren’t overly concerned with using the freshest design elements. So it was nice, well coordinated, clean, and the residents seemed to be enjoying themselves. In fact there was a lively bingo game going on while we were there. The model was attractive and they let the residents have individual choices in regards to there own apartments.

Residents are allowed to have pets and there is an abundance of activities. I asked about a workshop for my father and was shown a small craft room with a workbench and some sparse tools, so I don’t think it got much use but she was open to letting him start a woodworking group and expanding on it. They had raised garden beds outside and an indoor garden room for the winter months.

The menu was tantalizing and the common spaces where well thought out and attractively designed. (even with those borders)

So I talked myself into that this might be a nice for my parents someday…though I would have to maneuver them past the entrance which was the area needing the most improvement in the community. (that is a big mistake from a marketing perspective) We thanked the gal for the nice tour and we walked out and commented how nice it was. But never once did I say to myself WOW this is where I would want to live. Karen argued the convenience since she was used to selling that…but did she want to live there? Not particularly. Why? It was certainly very nice but it seemed like a place for old people. A very nice place for old people, but my Karen and I don’t see ourselves as old and neither do my 86 year old parents. So no matter how nice it was, that is the problem.