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.

Towing the Party Line of Yesterday

As soon as I turned 16, Mom said it was time for me to get a summer job.  She drove me around to restaurants near and far until I had my very first job.  The first job, I told you about already.  That was at M-76 Drive-In .

When I got a little older, Dad took me over to Bell Telephone, so I could take a test and maybe get a job as an operator. He introduced me to a bunch of people, like I was the best thing he ever made. Back when I was a little girl, and even since I’ve been grown up, operators were super-duper important.  Operators could save a person’s life.

Way back to the beginning of my memory and until I was somewhere around six, we had a crank phone and a party line. I could get my friend Betty with two longs and a short.  The operator was one ring.  It could be short or long. The operator got the call out to where it needed to go.  The operator could even find somebody’s dad if she needed to.

Later, when we got a phone with a dial, we used the operator if we needed to call long-distance or if we needed help, like an ambulance or a fire truck.  We never needed that kind of help, just the long distance kind.

We had a party-line back then.  Everybody did.  Maybe rich people could have a private-line.  I never knew anyone that rich.  A party-line wasn’t about having a party, it was about sharing.  Five or six families used the same line.  Everybody had a different ring, and you only picked up the phone and answered if you heard your ring.  You could pick up the phone and listen-in on neighbors, but that was rude and impolite and not nice, and nosey on top of that.  If I picked up the phone to call a friend and somebody else was talking, I had to hang up right away and not remember or tell who was on the line, let alone what they said.

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Monopolizing a party-line was rude, too.  You only said what you needed to say and got off, cuz maybe somebody else needed the phone.  If I heard a click while I was talking to Betty or Daylene, or Diann, or Connie, we said goodbye right away.  Dianne and Betty were on my party-line, but Daylene and Connie lived in town, so they had  different party-lines. A click meant somebody needed the line.  It was bad manners to keep on talking if somebody needed the line.  There could be an emergency, or something really important someone needed to know.

Dad sold extensions for Ma Bell.  Back then, people didn’t really own phones, they rented them.  It cost extra for extensions and even more if the family wanted something other than black or if they wanted a Princess phone, which was sleek and slim and came in lots of colors.  Dad talked people into new phones when he went to houses to fix  the phone or line.  Once he even sold a phone for a woman’s bedroom. That woman answered the door in a red nightie, and Dad was super-nervous and sweating about putting a Princess phone in her bedroom. That is, until he saw a “giant of a man, naked and smiling” in her bed.  I never knew whether that made Dad feel less nervous or more, but it sure made Mom laugh her guts out when he told that story.

1959_bremen2c_indiana2c_telephone_subscription_ratesWe still had a party line when I had my first high school boyfriend, Wayne.  I wasn’t allowed to call Wayne, because for one thing, girls weren’t supposed to call boys.  Besides, he was long-distance.  Long-distance cost extra money, and we had none of that.  Wayne called me, and we talked and talked and  talked.  Sometimes we ran out of things to say and just listened to each other breathe.  We only had one phone, so I stretched the cord up behind the stairway door, so I could get some privacy. Even in our house, people were supposed to be polite and never listen-in to phone conversations.

Of course, sometimes sisters can be mean. Deanna showed me how to lift the receiver really slow, putting my finger under to clicker, and letting it up so slow, nobody could hear the click. She covered the talking end of the receiver, so her breath wouldn’t give her away.  She could listen-in to anyone’s conversation that way Even mine.

If I heard the click, meaning someone wanted to use the phone, Wayne and I kept hanging out on the phone.  Once Diann’s mom, Mrs. C said, “Get off the phone,” in a super-aggravated voice.  I hung up without even saying goodbye. Good-golly, love can make a person do some really rude and impolite things, and can even drive a somebody else to be that way.  I felt my heart beat in my ears after Mrs. C got so bent out of shape.

I knew right away that I failed the operator test.  The whole thing required copying numbers from one page to the next.  I never did get the hang of remembering phone numbers.  I kept turning the page, writing, turning the page back, erasing, turning it back again.  Dad never told me the results.  I bet he was super-disappointed and maybe mystified, cuz I was a math whiz, so why in the devil couldn’t I remember phone numbers?

Dad got over his disappointment and I soon regained his pride.  I went on to other jobs, many requiring me to remember numbers.  I came up with tricks to help me remember and to catch my mistakes when I made them. I still have a difficult time remembering phone numbers, but I no longer need to.  Thanks to “favorites” and speed-dial, and a built-in phone directory, the only number I need to remember is my own.

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This is how bloggers communicate when they meet in person!

There’s no such thing party-lines, long-distance or phone etiquette anymore. People talk to anyone, anywhere.  And sometimes they don’t even talk. They message, and text, and Snap-Chat, and FaceBook.  Sometimes I find myself recalling “conversations” where no one utter a word.

Do you remember party-lines and phone etiquette?  Do you long for the good old days, or are you content with more efficient ways of communicating?  Or is it really more efficient?

 

Vickie: The Littlest of the Big Kids

When I was a little girl, I had a little sister named Vickie. Vickie was the first baby I remember Mom bringing home, mainly because I was always trying so hard to get a peek at her.  Vickie was the littlest of the Big Kids.  The Big Kids had the most responsibility when we were growing up.

I had to stand on my tippiest-tip-toes to barely see Vickie wrapped up tight in her pink striped receiving blanket in that eyelet covered bassinet. Once, or maybe more times, I tipped the whole kit-n-kaboodle over on top of me and spilled Vickie right out into my lap.  There we were, under the bassinet, little rays of sun coming through the basket weaves, like a cozy hide-away smelling like Ivory Snow and baby oil.  I felt like I just swallowed one of those sunbeams, until Mom sucked in her breath really hard, as if she was getting ready to blow up a balloon , as big as the giant one that I saw outside the Dodge car-store.  I knew that sound meant trouble.  After that, Mom gave me a little stool to stand on, then I could see Vickie with no trouble at all.

img037Vickie had blond hair and blue eyes and a beauty mark on her cheek; not the cheek on her face either, the other one that only people who are really close to her ever get to see.  I helped Mom change Vickie’s diapers, so I saw Vickie’s beauty mark lots of times.  Having a beauty mark means the angels marked you special ’cause you’re so beautiful.  Mom had a beauty mark too, on her big toe; she told me once that she almost got missed, but an angel grabbed her by the big toe, just as she was diving down from heaven.  I don’t have any beauty marks.

Mom read us a book one time about a little angel that couldn’t get her star shined up good enough and kept getting in trouble with the head honcho angel, probably Michael, but the book didn’t point any fingers, you’re not supposed to tattle.  The littlest angel always tried really hard to keep up with the bigger angels; she just kept rubbing and rubbing her star, never quite satisfied.  For some reason, Vickie always made me think of that angel; probably ’cause her white hair floated around her head like a halo and her eyes were so true-blue, she must have gotten them in heaven, and her lips were like a little rosebud; or maybe because she tried hard to keep up with the other Big Kids.

Dad drilled  holes in two boards, and threaded big thick hemp rope through the holes;  he tossed the rope over a giant limb of a boxelder tree growing right outside the house, and voíla,  we had two swings.  Sometimes Deanna, me and Bonita pumped way up high and jumped out to see who could jump the  farthest.  We did this so much, the grass just got tired of trying to grow around there; not even weeds would give it a try, and we had weeds everywhere.  If it rained, a big puddle of rain-water sat there right under the swings, then we had to run and jump to get on the swings and not get our shoes wet.  One day Tom and Cathy, from next door, and Doug and Nancy, from across the road, were over and we had a big swing jumping contest.  Two at a time jumped and then we marked a line in the dirt, so the next jumpers could see how far they had to go to be the winner.   All us kids got really excited and we lost track of where Vickie was; she was too little to jump, she couldn’t even get up in the swing by herself, that’s how little she was.  I guess she wanted to be a Big Kids ’cause the next thing I knew BAM! one of the swings hit her right in the mouth.  That swing almost knocked one of her dog-teeth right out of her head.  The tooth just stayed that way, all loose and dangly, reminding me that I let her get hurt,  until she got to second grade and it was supposed to come out.  Then the tooth fairy left her a whole dollar bill, and a note thanking Vickie for taking such good care of that tooth for such a long time.

We had a cousin, Janet, who was the same age as Vickie;  Janet was Uncle Gerald’s and Aunt Millie’s little girl.  Janet had the same angel-blond hair and angel-blue eyes as Vickie’s, and the two of them sucked the same finger of their hand when they got tired.  Sometimes I asked Vickie if I could have some of her finger juice; she just shook her head “no” and laughed; that was a pretty funny joke we had.  One Sunday, Vickie got right in Uncle Gerald’s car when it was time to go home.  Uncle Gerald turned around in the driver’s seat to count his kids; he saw Vickie there and thought she was Janet.  I guess he was a bad counter, ’cause he had one extra little girl.  When he got all the way to his house, and Aunt Millie sat the supper-table, they realized they had an extra kid.  Uncle Gerald just laughed because he thought Dad was playing a joke on him; those brothers were always playing jokes on each other.  In the meantime, everybody else searched frantic-like for Vickie.  Whenever something was lost and Mom wanted it found, I dropped everything and started looking, ’cause Mom got super-grouchy when she was looking for stuff and nobody helped.  We even had a special prayer to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things: “Tony Tony, look around, something’s lost and must be found.”  That day  St. Anthony must have dropped everything, because everyone was praying, even the non-catholics.  I bet a whole lot of  prayers were left unanswered,  on account of all the ones going up about Vickie; and the entire time she was at Uncle Gerald’s having a bowl of ice cream.

Vickie was the last of the Big Kids:  Sometimes I was trying my darndest to be like Deanna, who just wanted to be left alone, Vickie was trying to be like Bonita, who was trying to be Dad’s best boy.  Maybe we were always in some version of that swing contest, we just kept swinging and jumping and trying hard to make our mark, and once in a while something got knocked loose.  I guess we all got lost now and then, sometimes we didn’t even realize it.  The  most important thing is that someone is always there to dust us off when we got knocked in the teeth and someone is there to celebrate when we find our way again.

Happy Birthday, Vickie

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O Johnny, O Johnny, Heavens Above

When I was a little girl, Mom brought home a little brother she and Dad named John Ellis:  the last of nine, the third boy.  Well to be honest, I was not such a little girl anymore; I was 14, and in 7th grade.  My little Johnny was a bit like a puppy who I could cuddle and love and talk to endlessly,   a sweet oasis in my otherwise tumultuous life.    John gave me a reason to stay a child a little longer,  and helped me appreciate life.

Seventh grade was a mixture of fun and heartache:  On top of adolescence,  I had 60  city kids join my 30 country classmates;  I had more than one teacher, all of which I’d never seen before; I fell in love with Arthur, one of the city kids, who broke my heart; and President Kennedy told school kids to get in shape, and then he was assassinated.  Amidst all that, there was my Johnny, a sweet bundle of pure joy —Well, almost.

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                                    Johnny, Frank, Julie, Marcia, and Loren

John needed lots of attention because he had severe allergies which affected his skin and gave him asthma.  Twenty minutes, every two hours, according to doctor’s direction,  I helped bathe John in Balnetar bath oil, which helped relieve his itching.  Then I greased him up in Crisco, which Dr. Cookingham, the specialist, said was the best skin moisturizer around.  John went without a diaper, again Dr. Cookingham, but sometimes I thought this was a practical joke from the doctor, because John peed all the time, and his bottom was the only  skin clear and soft as a, well as a soft as baby’s behind.  Mom made John thick mittens out of flannel and the tops of old socks which I pinned, high up on his shirtsleeves and pajama-legs, so he couldn’t scratch in his sleep.  Most people smell talcum powder and think of babies, for me it’s pine tar and shortening:  what a sweet smell.

There was a whole bunch of stuff that John stayed away from:  wheat, milk, soy, eggs, chocolate, barley, dust, dander, pollen, mold—including anything with a fermented ingredient—no bologna, no mustard, no catchup, no cheese; you get the idea, I’m sure.  We had to replace a real Christmas tree with a plastic one, we carefully spaced any baking with eggs, absolutely no frying of an egg, and we could only cook a tom turkey for Thanksgiving dinner because of John’s egg allergy. Once he had an asthma attack because Mom switched from Gerber to Beechnut rice baby cereal; it turned out Beechnut added coconut oil; that was before food labeling requirements.  Once when he was a toddler, he got his hands on an oleo wrapper and collapsed on the floor.  No EMTs, no ambulances, Mom rushed him to the hospital, 30 minutes away, for an epinephrine shot.

In those days, every child got a smallpox vaccination; not me.  That was too dangerous for John:  he was at risk of  contracting the disease.  When he was still a baby, not talking yet, Mom gave him a his first haircut, which led to a skin infection over his entire body, yet another rush to the hospital, this one the most serious of all.   Mom came home one day and told me John might not make it, the infection was so severe, the doctor had John packed in ice.  My little Johnny stretched out his hand and said his first word, ” Mamma” to a mother, who I could see, even through all my teenage angst, felt absolutely powerless to help him.

What my little Johnny gave me was lots of storytelling time while I bathed him, some of which was about my woeful teenage life, because he didn’t care;  permission to still play like the child that I almost wasn’t anymore; lots of experimenting with wheatless, eggless, milkless recipes; and of course lots of laughs.

John ate Rice Krispies and 7-up for breakfast, had his own drawer of special cookies, and he didn’t have to eat anything “that makes my throat itch.”  Believe me, he learned to work that one.

Mom had a special song for John:

Oh, Johnny, Oh Johnny, Heavens above,

Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, How you can love,

You make my sad heart jump for joy,

And when you’re near I just can’t, sit still a minute.

He loved that song.  I had one, too:

Johnny get ang-ery, Johnny get mad.

Give me the biggest lecture, I’ve ever had.

I want a brave man, I want a cave man.

That made John ball up his fists, bare his little, baby teeth and hiss at me, then we both laughed, a wild abandoned laugh.

Mom always told us to eat our spinach (or green beans or tomatoes, or whatever) and we would grow hair on our chest like Popeye.  John, ever the puzzler, asked Mom, pointing to his crotch, “What do you have to eat to grow hair down here?” Deanna, Bonita, and I covered our mouths to stifle our shy teenage giggles.

John stayed my buddy, he even offered to be my ring bearer when I got married. He joined the wrestling team in high school, he took his date to the prom in a vintage Mustang, and he let a greased pig go in the middle of the high school, and married a beauty who is his best friend.   He doesn’t remember that much about me, because I was grown and he was growing, but thanks to Mom, I kept up with my little Johnny.

I still love talking to him, except now it’s much better, because it’s a two-way street:  what he says is as important to me as his listening skills.

Many years ago, when he was remodeling the old farmhouse he and his family now live in, he asked me, “When will people stop thinking of me as the baby?  No one listens to me.”

He paused, considering what he wanted to say next. “Loren says the exact same thing I do, and people listen to him.”

“Loren’s got one thing you don’t, John.”  I told him.  He looked at me with his clear steady eyes, just like our father’s.

“He’s got grey hair.  Just give yourself a little time.”  I said.  You’ll be surprised how much more people will listen when you have a little grey in those curls.”   John’s pulled on his chin and looked far away like he was thinking through a riddle, then he raked his fingers through his hair, and a smile started up one side of his face.  “You could have something there.”  he said.

Of course I was right, I always have been a pretty smart cookie.  The house turned from a ramshackle ruin to a beautiful home, then John took another risk and started his own business.  He’s everyone’s go-to guy in a psychedelic electrician’s van.  Still and all, he’ll always be my sweet little Johnny.

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                          John, Mom, and Loren

Shhh… help me keep that last part a secret.

Hurray for the Fun is the Pudding Done

These 40+ year old sleds are completely origin...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a little girl, summer lasted an eternity. I thought school would never start again. Once school started, I looked for snow.

Before I went to bed, I knelt in front of Mom and her part-knitted mittens going round and round on four needles for the next kid who poked a thumb through last year’s.  Mom was a knitting maniac.

Way away in the spring I was gonna make my first communion, so I practiced the Act of Contrition kneeling down in front of Mom and her knitting. The Act of Contrition is the prayer I had to say after I confessed all my sins and had my soul scrubbed clean for Jesus. It’s a special pray to say you’re really sorry for all the bad things you did or might be planning to do, and you promise with all your heart to keep away from sinning and not to even think about it. Prayers say things fancy for God. I had to say, “Oh my God, I am heartily sorry, for having offended thee,” instead of just “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, God.”  I guessed God likes fancy words.

My friend Beth got to pray with her own words.  She was Methodist. If I could do that, I’d pray for snow, that’s for sure. Anyways, I had to say fancy words like “I detest all my sins, because of Thy just punishment.” Being Catholic sure was good for the vocabulary.  Mom said God knows what everybody needs.  No sense in bothering him, if he already knows everything.  He’s different from Santa, who only knows Continue reading