Through Any Given Door

0.i Poem, Lineage, Table of Contents


Teller of Tales

This tale is a history, a fable, a prayer
of those gone before me, now gathered with care.
The diaries and pictures and letters enclosed
deciphered my kin and what they supposed.
Those who are living, their stories intact,
Those gone before us, who knows what was fact?

I met not the aunts nor uncles you’ll greet
Met not the grandparents whose waltz is complete.
So I presume who they were by looking at me,
our blossoms and thorns twining through this same tree.
Our shadows and secrets for so long passed down,
those thistles and thorns now replaced by a crown.

It was back in the thirties my parents did meet,
then married, had children with ten little feet.
I am the youngest, this teller of tale,
unearthing my family, removing our veil.
I’m descended from Clemens, the kin of my dad
(who married a Chatfield—a girl some thought bad).

I’ve written of both, their histories, their lives,
of Mom’s other husband and Daddy’s three wives.
I wrote of my brother, my sisters and me,
recording our past, with hazed memory.
Futures are clouded by sins of the past
with history rewritten by those who come last.

Through bloodlines, through love, through bad luck and tether,
not matters one whit what binds us together.
Those gone before are a part of us still,
a dram of our blood, a slice of our will.
They watch over us with wonder and trust
and guide us from birth til we too turn to dust.

I know they’ll excuse me, my gaffes and asides,
tis those who are living who might have my hide.
Some snort, some are angry, some threaten, some rear,
some nights I don’t sleep from the scorn that I fear.
But it’s none of my business what they think of me,
I wrote what I deemed ’bout this family tree.


Family Lineage

Noreen “Babe” and Carl 1947

Carl John Clemens (my father)
8th of 13 children of Mathew Sylvester Clemens and Barbara Nigon
Born: Sep 25, 1905, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Sep 16, 1986 (age 80), Santa Rosa, California; prostate/bone cancer
Occupation: Farmer, construction laborer, iceman, record store owner, dime store manager
Married (1): Feb 4, 1933, Noreen Ellen “Babe” Chatfield, Colusa, California
Divorced: Dec 1953, Sonora, California
Five children: Larry, Carleen, Betty,  Claudia, Cathy
Married (2): 1956, Irene Venita (Tregear) Whitehead (1886 – 1959)
Married (3): Sep 25, 1961, Marie Lenore (Macdonald) McCartney (1917 – 2011)

Noreen Ellen “Babe” Chatfield (my mother)
10th of 10 children of Charles Henry Chatfield and Nellie Belle Chamberlin
Born: Sep 29, 1915, Los Molinos, California
Died: Nov 9, 1968 (age 53), Whittier, California; suicide
Occupation: Worked in family store, seamstress, cook/housekeeper for Catholic priests and private homes
Married (1): Feb 4, 1933, Carl John Clemens, Colusa, California
Divorced: Dec 1953, Sonora, California
Five children: Larry, Carleen, Betty, Claudia, Cathy
Married (2): Jul 31, 1955, Raymond D. “Ray” Haynie, Carson City, Nevada (1912 – 1964)
Divorced: 1956, living in San Jose, California

Clemens siblings, Sonora, California, 1950
Carleen, Claudia, Cathy in middle, Betty, Larry

1. Gordon Lawrence “Larry” Clemens
Born: Jan 14, 1934, Chico, California
Married: Jun 16, 1956, Marian Louise McLellan, Upland, California
Two children
2. Carleen Barbara Clemens
Born: Mar 13, 1935, Watsonville, California
Married: Mar 15, 1953, Charles Evans “Chuck” Albertson, Sonora, California
Three children
3. Elizabeth Ann “Betty/Liz” Clemens
Born: Dec 3, 1939, Watsonville, California
Died: Oct 8, 2004 (age 64), Sacramento, California; lung cancer
Married: Feb 1, 1958, Anthony Leo “Tony” Duchi, Jr., Whittier, California
Four children
4. Claudia Clemens
Born: Mar 28, 1942, Vallejo, California
Died: Aug 21, 2011 (age 69), Escondido, California; lung cancer
Married: Sep 16, 1956, Bobby Milton McDaniel, Sparks, Nevada
Divorced: May 1973, California
Five children
5. Catherine Frances “Cathy’ Clemens
Born: Aug 16, 1948, Sonora, California
Married: Oct 7, 1967, Robert Kenneth “Bob” Sevenau, San Francisco, California
Divorced: 1973, Santa Rosa, California
Two children

Table of Contents

Part I

Front Matter
0.i Cover, Poem, Family Line, Table of Contents
0.ii Billet-Doux, Dedications, Credits
0.iii Prologue

Faded Snapshots (1.1 – 1.99.9) 
Sonora, California (with history and backstory)
1943 – 1953

Part II

Torn Pictures (2.01 – 2.39)
San Jose, San Francisco, Hawaii
1954 – 1957

Part III

Home Movies (3.01 – 3.46)
La Habra, San Francisco, San Jose
1958 – 1968

Post Memoir Sketches

Post Memoir (4.01 – 4.10)
Final stories of Carl, Larry (Gordon), Carleen, Betty (Liz), Claudia, and Cathy (Catherine)

© 2017/18. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Mari Baughman says

    Beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing this. I have enjoyed reading your weekly offerings and am enjoying reading it in full. You have put a lot of love and humor into the writing, which makes it real, and fun for readers!

  2. Jill Hicks says

    Hi Catherine, it’s Jill, Marceline’s daughter, this was so fun to share with my mom today… she loved it! I told her we will do it again on the next one! Great job girl, take good care. XO

    • Please give your mom a huge hug from me. She was the catalyst for me to write this book. I’m glad you’re able to share it now with her. I gave her a copy of the book years ago when I’d finished it. She had no idea what had happened to all of us, and was mad that neither of my parents reached out to family for help. Se was also more upset with my dad than my mother, which I thought interesting. Ah, the lives we lead…

    • Linda Albertson Jucker Thompson says

      This is Wonderful. I really enjoyed reading all of the information on family members. The dates mentioned in Sonora bring back so many memories of time spent with my Aunt, Uncle (my Dad’s Jesse Irwin Albertson’s brother) and cousins, Chuck, Odin and Nancy. Looking forward to reading more.

  3. Jon McGuire says

    A web serial… always learn something. It’s especially nice to learn of real people and their lives. The messiness and all! Well done.

  4. James Chatfield says

    Catherine, you are the best. Outstanding as a writer, terrific as a poet, and just delightful as a storyteller.

  5. Beautiful Catherine.

  6. Edna M. Bowcutt says

    Thank you so much for sharing your family with everyone. Love, love, your stories.

  7. I am so proud of your courage. You set the stage perfectly!!!