Hot as the Dickens

This week promises to be into the 90s, with growing humidity.  Just thinking about it makes me remember hot summer days when I was a little girl and a not so little girl.

I never even heard about air-conditioning when I was a little girl.  If anyone told me I would think that was make-believe, or something only rich people had.

We had fans.  Fans that we propped up in windows to cool us down at night.

I shared a bedroom with Deanna and Bonita.  Deanna wanted the fan to blow out because that would pull all the hot air out of the room.  I believed the fan could blow the sound of crickets and frogs over me, along with the smell if lilacs and peonies or fresh cut hay; whatever was out there.

Bonita never said a word because that would mean she had to take sides so she just stayed quiet like she never even thought about it.

Together we compromised.  Each day one of us got to choose.  Bonita had to keep track so she didn’t get on anyone’s bad side:  one time facing in; the next time she got to choose, facing out.

Sometimes avoiding something is way more work than just sticking your neck out and blurting out an opinion.  Anyways, I hardly ever stopped myself from blurting stuff out.  Mostly because I didn’t think about it until it was too late.

Seems like time slowed down on super-hot days in the summer.

I could just lounge around all day long and read one of my Weekly Reader Book of the Month books. Of course, I couldn’t really do that on account of chores to do, like weed the garden and hang clothes on the line and teach my cow, Ladybird, how to walk like a show cow, stopping her front feet right together and her back feet with one back and one forward, so her udder showed the best way possible. On super-hot days, me and Ladybird took a break from training.

Hanging clothes wasn’t so bad, cuz they started out cool and wet.  Sometimes it seemed like they got dry before I even got a load up, but I never took them down until the whole four lines got filled and dried and Mom said I had to, cuz that meant another job:  folding clothes.

Deanna liked to get some sort of board game going, like Monopoly.  Nancy, from across the road came over, and Tommy next door, and sometimes Diane and Mike from down the road.  Lots of kids playing Monopoly meant the game lasted forever and a day. That got super-boring.

Sometimes we played card games like Spoons, I Doubt It, and Oh Hell but we changed the name to “Oh Heck,” so we didn’t have to go to confession. That’s before I learned about wooden swearing and before I knew it was just as bad to say a word that meant the same thing as “Hell,” and maybe even worse cuz you were trying to pull one over on God.

I never told my blood-sister, Connie, about wooden swearing, so she kept on saying “fishy damn” instead of “dam it.” I figured I’d just let sleeping dogs lie on account of one rule I really liked about sinning: You have to know it’s a sin and do it anyway. I figured if Connie never knew about wooden swearing, she could “heck,””fishy dam,” “shoot,” and “fudge” up a storm and God could just tell the devil, “Sorry dude, she didn’t know.”

Mostly, we played outside cuz mothers didn’t like kids in the house. Sometimes we had pogo stick contests or hula hoop contests. Nancy was super good at hula hooping.

If the day was so hot we could hardly move, we waited until nighttime to play outside cuz by then things started to cool off and all those chores took up time during the day. Night’s when we played Piggy in My Pen. Another game that can last forever. Or at least until bedtime.

Piggy in My Pen is sorta like Hide and Go Seek, except instead of saying “1-2-3 on Bonita,” you say, “Bonita’s in my pen.” After that, Bonita had to stay in my pen, which was the boxelder tree, until she got a signal from another Piggy. The game didn’t end until all the pigs got caught. Which most nights was never.

That’s me with our dog, Bingo. Bonita’s got one of our cats. It looks like Deanna just got all our tennis shoes off the line.

The day is already on its way to being a scortcher. The air-conditioning is on. I have chores to do. The first thing I need to do is finish the edging around the flower beds and along the curb. After that, I’ll be inside reading and working on my next novel, working title May His Tribe Increase.

What will you be doing in this heat?

Locked Doors

“Why do you always start the car and lock the doors before you open the garage door?” Loved-One asks me.

“It’s because of what happened to Mrs. Bowman.”

When I was a little girl, the Bowmans bought an acre of land from Dad and built a little house there. Mr. Bowman worked at Ma Bell with Dad.  Mrs. Bowman worked at Ma Bell, too, but not the way the men did.

Dad and Mr. Bowman wore Carhartts to work in the winter and drove trucks and climbed poles to fix the lines.  Sometimes they crawled under houses and down coal chutes.

Mrs. Bowman wore church dresses to work and earrings and kitten heels.  I might have thought she was going to church, ‘cept no pretty hat. You always wore a pretty hat to church.

I guessed Mrs. Bowman didn’t have any kids when she first lived next door to us, cuz I never knew a mom that worked.  Well, Mom worked, but not after she had two kids.  I heard her tell Mrs. Bowman that she tried to work when Deanna was a baby, but it was too hard.

“At work I had a calendar with a schedule, and I had things I had to do, and they got done,” I heard her tell Mrs. Bowman.  “At home, every day was a new day.  No matter how hard I try to keep things on a plan…”. Her voice got sort of lonesome. “Well, it’s just too frustrating to try to control the chaos that comes with children.”

Mrs. Bowman nodded and sipped her coffee and looked at the floor.  Maybe she tried to keep her mind and eyes off all the chaos.

I heard Mom and Dad talking about something that happened to Mrs. Bowman on her way to work.  She opened the garage door and was heading for the car when somebody grabbed her.  She managed to push him off by stabbing him with her keys.  She jumped in her car super fast and locked all the doors.  I guess it was lucky she had long arms and didn’t drive a van like we did. Mrs. Bowman was so scared she just drove off and left the garage door wide open.

“Can you imagine that happening way out here where everyone knows each other?” Mom said.

“Just goes to show, you never can tell.”

“I’m going to put another sign on the door that says, ‘There’s six kids in here and they all have the chicken pox,” Mom said.  “That’ll keep any sane person away.”

Later on, Mrs. Bowman had three kids: Scott, Sandy, and Mark.  Scott was just the same age as Loren Dee-Dee-Bopper, so come to think of it, he must’ve been a born when the Bowmans moved next door.  Scott decided to drink some Draino and got asthma from it.  Mom said he was lucky to be alive and why would a kid drink something so horrid. By the time Mark came along, Mrs. Bowman decided to stay home with all the chaos and stop working. Bonita and I were old enough to babysit whenever Mr. and Mrs. Bowman went out to the show or to the beer garden.

I liked to read Mr. Bowmans science fiction magazines after the kids went to bed. I stories gave me the heebie-jeebies, and sometimes I dreamed about pear-shaped men hanging from dead trees, like in one of the stories I read.

Bonita and Adela

Once Bonita got a phone call when she was babysitting.

“Do you want a truck?” the caller said.

“You’ll have to call back later,” Bonita said.

“I said, do you want a truck?”

“I’m just the babysitter.  You’ll have to call back later.”

“I wanna know if you want a truck.”  Bonita told me the guy was getting sorta mad.

“I can’t answer you. Call back later.”

That’s when Bonita realized the frustrated man was not saying truck, but something that rhymed with truck.  She told me she could feel all the blood drain out of her face and she hung up with a bang.

I heard Mrs. Bowman tell Mom that I was so good with her kids because I liked to play with them.  Mom said I was still a kid myself, that’s why.  I remember thinking that I was never going to forget what it was like to be a kid and playing with kids is the most fun ever. How could anyone forget what it was like to be one?

After a while the Bowmans moved to Arizona on account of Scott’s asthma.  Mrs. Bowman said the dry air was super good for her curly hair, too.  She never had the frizzies like she did in Michigan.

It’s funny how one little question Loved-one asked brought back so many memories.   Bonita and I still laugh how she frustrated an obscene caller.  I never forgot what it’s like to be a kid. (Well, maybe the tough part has faded a bit.) Loren still keeps in touch with his childhood friend, Scott.

All the tripping down memory lane got me thinking about how the things one person says and does can have impact for a long time. I’m sure Mrs. Bowman has no idea how much I remember her or how much her words and actions stuck with me.  And I’ll bet Mr. Bownman never realized that he turned one little girl into a science fiction fan.

I’ll bet neither Mom nor Mrs. Bowman would ever guess that one overheard conversation would make a little girl make a promise to herself to never forget what it’s like to be a child.

Who has an impact on you like the Bowman’s did on me?  Do you ever think about looking them up and saying thank you?

Egghead, geek, freak, or Coo-ool class Reunion

When I was in high school, I thought I was a grown up, or at least a big girl. This summer, I had a chance to get together with a bunch of my classmates for a reunion. Looking back to my senior year, I realize now that I was still just a little girl. Perhaps a bit of a misfit, perhaps a little girl who spoke out when she should have kept quiet, and perhaps someone who liked a whole lot of people, ‘cuz, hey why not?

This is the way my high school looked like, only with more circles:

I always did like Math, even though my first high school teacher, who got awards for being a good teacher, looked me straight in the eye and said in front of the whole class, “Some of you don’t belong here.” Right then and there, I was out to prove him wrong. Cary was in my math class.

A circle for my band geek friends, a circle for my cool friends, a circle for my egg-head friends. In the middle, d-x, was me and my boyfriend. We had a secret, we were in love, and mostly everything faded out of view except that. Only it really didn’t, cuz, you know, those other circles were still there.

Cary was in my egg-head friends circles. He was quiet and studious and super-duper nice. Of course none of those things are particularly cool. Just ordinary. Cary was in the science club, on the prom committee, in National Honor Society, and the manager of the basketball team. I was a cheerleader for the basketball team, on the banquet committee, in National Honor Society, and Band. Cary and I were in a lot of classes together: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Math. Mathematically speaking, we were x in the intersection diagram. If I was a smart as I thought I was, I’d have realized that x was quite a bit bigger than d-x.

I loved those classes. So did Cary.

I had Boyfriend, so I didn’t know Cary all that well. Boyfriend was not studious. He was an athlete, football player, a track star, a baseball player, a basketball play, and even a wrestler. He was Coo-ool. He had a picture in the year book from shop class with the caption, “A dirty old rag, for a dirty old man.” That was Hilarious. Only a cool kid could pull that one off. Boyfriend didn’t talk to eggheads like Cary and me. Boyfriend loved me, he didn’t actually talk to me. But you know, big hairy deal, not everyone needs to talk.

Here’s me and Cary, back when we thought we were so grown up. (It would be funny if the picture actually had me and Cary magnified. I did that.)

Well to be honest, I didn’t even like Boyfriend that much at first, but he picked me and everybody thought he was coo-ool and I’d be a fool not to like him back. I told him if he grew his crewcut out and got on the honor roll, I’d consider him. He tried really hard, but only succeeded in getting longer hair.

Then the first dance came, and Boyfriend cut-in on someone I had more in common and liked quite a bit. Someone who could play “Yellow Bird” on the piano. That’s when I fell in love. Maybe it was Boyfriend’s English Leather, maybe it was because Boyfriend’s mother made him take dance lessons at Arthur Murray School of Dance. From then on, it didn’t matter that we had next to nothing in common, we had a secret, we were in love.

Boyfriend wasn’t at the reunion. No one even asked me about him.

Cary was the star of the reunion

Everyone remembered and knew Cary. We had such a good time catching up on what we were like in high school and what we’d done since. Cary was so delighted that people remembered him. Of course we remembered him. Cary was smart and kind. Those are things that last way longer than cool.

Here’s a photo of Cary now.

Loved-One loved Cary, too. The two of them had quite a discussion about the world, the country, and the state of the environment. I stayed for part of that, and then flitted off to get my Year Book signed. Something I didn’t do when I was busy being such a grown up little girl back when I was in high school.

Here’s the bunch of us at the reunion. To tell the truth, I can’t tell who is cool and who is a band geek and who is an egghead. But I can tell you this, I wish I had more time to catch up with everyone. I love these people.

Here’s one with me and Cary magnified, ‘cuz hey, why not?

Uncle Kenny, that’s Ken to you.

When I was a little girl I spent a lot of time at Grandpa and Grandma Z’s house. Aunt Annie was just a little girl. Uncle Kenny was almost a grownup. Aunt Annie L-O-V-E, loved Deanna. Uncle Kenny was my pal. He was my godfather, too.

I don’t remember that much about Uncle Ken from when I was a little girl, but Grandma Z told me lots of stories and so did Mom. Maybe it was Uncle Kenny’s wedding that I went to with the shiner as big as my Mom’s fist. Of course it wasn’t that big when the wedding came, but still big enough for me to be the center of attention. That was fun.

Grandma told me Uncle Kenny was a bald baby, just like I was. And it took him a while to start talking, just like Vickie. She didn’t want anyone to know he was bald, because then people would think he was a Moron. So she cut a piece of her own hair and sewed it to the inside of his baby bonnet. Just a wisp of a curl sticking out at the front, so people wouldn’t know baby Kenny was bald.

Mom told me Uncle Kenny was a pipsqueak all through high school. I couldn’t even imagine him being small. I guess he grew so fast Continue reading

I just want a Hoola-Hoop

When I was a little girl, Hula hoops were a new thing.  Everyone had one. Pretty soon everyone knew how to hoopla hoop.

I had to practice and practice.  My belly ached from trying, but I figured if Deanna could do it, so could I. I had to practice outside, cuz hula hoops are outside toys, not for crashing around inside with and knocking over precious things or decapitating stuff. Outdoors had lots of obstacles, too, like little kids underfoot, and mosquitoes buzzing and biting until whack, I gave them the death penalty.

I don’t even remember when we got hulaa hoops.  It wasn’t Christmas and it wasn’t a birthday.  Most toys come with a holiday.  We didn’t get toys just for no reason at all; unless you count inner tubes, which were for camping and were next to free at the gas station. Hula hoops cost something and even though they didn’t cost much, especially if there was a blue-light special at K-Mart,, multiplied by nine kids added up to expensive.  So ‘course we didn’t each have one.  We might have had three or maybe even four. For sure we had at least two, cuz we had contests, and cuz Nancy from across the road taught us hula hoop wars.

Me and Deanna and Bonita and Cathy and Tom from next door liked to have contests to see who could keep the hoop up the longest. Cathy had a fancy one with beads inside that swish-swished as she spun the around and around her waist.

 Nancy loved hula hoop wars a whole lot more than plain old keep-up contests.  For wars, you had to walk with the hula hoop spinning, and run into another Hoola-Hoop.  The winner was still spinning their hoop, while the other kid’s was down hanging dead as a door nail, around her ankles.  I could hardly walk with my Hoola-Hoop, let alone keep it spinning after running into something, so I usually lost at wars.

 Hula-hooping is easy as pie once you get the hang of it.  I could keep mine up for hours, if Mom didn’t have some chore or other for me to do.  Sometimes I got two or three going at once. I could even spin one starting at my neck and work it down to my knees.  I never did that for long, cuz for one thing, it’d be selfish to hog hula hoops all to myself and practice, and for another thing, every kind of play is more fun with someone else.  Even solitaire is better playing doubles.  Even reading is more fun when someone is sitting on the sofa reading along with you.  Especially if that one person is Mom, cuz she’s a super-duper reader and makes a story feel real.

Now that I’m grown, I still love to hula hoop.  I can’t make the K-Mart versions stay up.  I have a fancy, exercise hoop that’s weighted.  I can keep it up at least 3 minutes.  After that, I think of chores I need to do.  Besides, for whatever reason, my body doesn’t believe I can hula hoop for hours anymore. Still, I do have a lot of fun hula hooping with grandkids.

Recently, I got a chance to sit down and talk to Leela Mae, a professional Hooper.  She’s having the time of her life.  Read more about it Here.  I wonder if Leela Mae ever went up against Nancy at hula hoop wars.