I lived in a big farmhouse, with many rooms and doors, when I was a little girl. The Frunchroom was my favorite. That’s was the cozy room at the front of the house. That’s the room where indoor adventure happened. That’s where I learned a lot of things no one was trying to teach me.
The Frunchroom had long windows with starched white curtains and four doors: one came in from the dining room and one went out to the front porch; one was for the bedroom that me and Deanna and Bonita slept in, and one for the one Mom and Dad and baby Vickie slept in. I loved to listen to that low talk between Dad and Mom, and sometimes whisper-laughing ’cause it was night and us kids were in bed and they were afraid to wake us, but I, for one, had my ears wide open.
Spread across the wood floor in the Frunchroom lay a wool flowered carpet, with a wide checkered border around the edge. The border was how Mom knew where to put the furniture: the davenport, the rocking chair, the lady’s armchair, a man’s armchair and foot stool, and Dad’s recliner. Mom put end tables and lamps that looked like candles, only no fire, lightbulbs instead, so everyone could read or knit or crochet or work a puzzle. That was way before we had a television. Mom read me long books from the library, a tinsy bit every night before prayers and then off to bed. I loved those books and wished we could skip prayers, which were just big words in a row with no meaning, but trouble if I forgot how to string them all together. I liked meaning, and stories and stuff that made me want to hear more.
I cut my lip on Dad’s recliner, ’cause recliners were way different then they are now. For one thing, the armrests were wood. For another thing, a panel at the bottom popped up on a metal hinge when Dad pulled up on the lever, then he pushed another lever and the footrest slid out on wooden slats, so his feet could fit perfect. Getting that chair adjusted just right made Dad’s breath come out like a long, sad yawn from deep down in his belly, while his throat made a deep down rumbley sound that was just like my cat Davey’s purr. Dad shut his eyes for a little catnap, ’cause pretty soon he’d be thinking up something to do, and first one lever pulled in, then the other pushed down, and up stood Dad, hitching his right leg and feeling the back of his pants to make sure his wallet was still in place. It never fell out, but he checked it just the same ’cause that’s what responsible, grown men do. They don’t take chances that things will be right, just because they always have.
I liked to sit in Dad’s chair, ’cause it smelled like wood and furniture polish, which was about the same as smelling like Mom and Dad in one cozy chair. I liked to push and pull those levers and make the footrest go out and snap back in. That was against the rules, ’cause I might do it wrong and break Dad’s chair. Bonita liked the footstool the best; she pretended it was a horse and she was Lone Ranger or Cochise, or some other good guy. I pretended Dad’s chair was the stagecoach. The footrest had to be out for that, ’cause the driver always had one foot up against a board, maybe two feet, if the horses were running away, like they almost always did, ’cause some bad guys were always after the stagecoach. Once I had to climb out and get the horses calmed down, just like on The Lone Ranger, ’cause robbers were chasing me and the horses got so spooked. With riled up horses, the only thing to do was grab them by the bridle up close and show ’em whose boss. I stood up on the wooden arms-rests and inched out toward the footrest, ready to jump. Instead of leaping out like a cowboy, I slipped and split my lip wide open on the wooden armrest. I bounced over on the footrest and landed with my head stuck in there between the wooden slide-outs that held the footrest to the chair. Salty blood filled my mouth until my lip swelled so much I could see it down there below my nose. I guessed nobody polished stage coaches, so they weren’t so slippery.
I must’ve wailed out louder than all get-out, ’cause Mom came running. She hugged me tight to her chest just like the statue of Mary hugging baby Jesus to her chest. The sweet smell of Tide and the clothesline got all inside me and turned my crying into hiccoughs. Mom never complained about the mess I made of her shirt, all blood and tears and snot. She forgot to scold me, and she never said, “See, that’s what you get,” which was the truth. She knew I was a pretty smart little girl and could figure that part out on my own.
That scar stayed with me long after I grew up and had kids of my own; a tiny white line, that maybe only I could see. Kinda like my own private reminder of my vulnerability. I still like to have a little high adventure and I still make plenty of mistakes, although I rarely jump on furniture. It often takes a little rote learning and growth before the meaning becomes clear. At any rate, I’m at my best when I’ve had enough rest and I don’t leave anything to chance.