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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I Love Aunt Arlene

 

IMG_4297Dad and his brothers taught me a lot about how siblings love each other. They had one sister, Barbara, who was just like Grandma only she smiled all the time and said funny things. Besides Aunt Barbara, each of Dad’s brother brought an aunt along. Aunt Barbara was the only aunt that was a “real” Crandell, only she had a different last name.  Every other aunt put away their first last name, which came from their father, and took up the last name of the man she loved more than anything. All of my aunts taught me a whole lot about family.

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Aunt Arlene with Grandma

My aunts never meant to teach me anything. They were busy talking to each other and telling their kids what to do. And talking about their husbands, and recipes, and how to keep their hair from frizzing up.  Of course Aunt Barbara taught us stuff accidentally on-purpose, like not to fight with each other. She was a teacher during the day, so even when she wasn’t with students, she just taught stuff without even trying. Plus, she wrote down crazy things her kids fought about like whether the spot where the bed got wet was round or square. Aunt Barbara was funny as all get out, but still, that silly-fighting stuck with me. Every time I got in a fight with one of my sisters, I thought about whether it was one of those bed-wetting fights.

Aunt Arlene was the quietest of all the Aunts. She was super-pretty. Not in a glamorous sort of way, like Marilyn Monroe. She was more like Continue reading

Quiet Veterans

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008

Memorial Day Commemoration 2008 (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

I suppose my uncles never needed an excuse to get together.  Every summer, we had picnics galore.  Starting out with Memorial Day.  That day was like the kick-off of summertime.  I never thought about Memorial Day as a day to honor veterans.  That’s because all the veterans I knew kept pretty mum about war memories.

All my uncles were veterans.  Dad and Uncle Ellis and Uncle Merle were in the Army.  Uncle Frank was in the Air Force.  Uncle Glenn was in the Marines.  All those brothers fought The Big War, The War to End all Wars.  That’s when Dad got his appendix out, on account of Continue reading

Valentine Protocol, Penmanship, and Pride

I wish my artwork was (is) this good.

I wish my artwork was (is) this good.

When I was a little girl, I loved February:  Valentine’s Day is in February.  So was my birthday; that’s a story for another day.

My whole class got ready for Valentine’s Day for weeks.  Everyone brought a shoebox to school, and we decorated it with crêpe paper flowers and hearts. I had lots of shoe-boxes to pick from on account of everyone getting new hard sole shoes at Baldy’s shoe store way back in September, special for school starting.

Art stuff was hard for me.  I got paste all stuck in my hair and all over my clothes.  I liked to taste paste, too.  The smell got all up in my nose and begged my fingers to put some in my mouth. Yummy.  Teacher said it was no good and would make me sick, but it never did.  Not even a little bit.

Mom brought home little store-bought cards in big bags from the grocery store, and I printed MY name on the back.  Then I got to choose which card went to each student in my class.  I had two Bettys in my class and two Lindas.  I’ve heard about kids being sore or sad that they didn’t receive a card on Valentine’s Day.   I gave a card to everyone, and I got one from everyone, too. That’s just mean to leave someone out.  Who  got which card was the tricky part.  I wanted to make sure I express my love for that certain someone in just the right way.  Should Frankie’s say “Be Mine” or “Forever Yours”?  And what if Frankie’s to me just said, “Friends”?  What if he gave me the ‘teacher’ card that came in every box?  That would be the worst ’cause that meant he never even thought about which card he gave me.

I almost flunked out of Kindergarten ’cause I went haywire on my writing.  Valentine’s Day saved me.  All year, up until I had to get my cards ready for the party, I wrote my name  wrong.   Mom talked about my printing to everyone who would listen:   all my aunts, Grandma Z, and even Betty’s and Nancy’s moms.

Mom said, “Why do you write your name like you’re looking in a mirror?”IMG_2812

I looked at my name, clear as day, just the way it was supposed to be.  What in the world was she talking about?  I wrote just like everybody else.

Mom said I had to get my name right or I might not go to First Grade.  She never said that to me; I just heard Continue reading

A Smile Without a Toothpick, is Still a Smile

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For some reason, I’ve been thinking about toothpicks lately.  Mom and Dad always had toothpicks handy, so did Grandma and Grandpa and all my aunts and uncles. When I was a little girl, setting the table included salt, pepper, butter, and toothpicks. Toothpicks were like the period at the end of the meal. All adults grabbed one.

Kids never needed toothpicks for cleaning stuff out of their teeth. That’s because nothing ever got stuck there. Grown-ups had bad teeth, or they chewed too hard, ’cause stuff was always getting caught in their teeth. Maybe it was like Aunt Phyllis and the radishes,

“I like them, but they don’t like me,” she said, which made everyone laugh and nod their heads. Grownups like to talk in a kind of code language. Aunt Phyllis really meant, “I burp when I eat radishes, and I hate how it tastes, plus it’s down-right embarrassing.”

Anyways, kids’ teeth were sharp and white, not jagged and filled up with silver like adults. Maybe that’s why stuff got stuck in grownups teeth. Grownups were always picking at their teeth. Dad leaned back in his chair after supper and ran a toothpick between his teeth with one hand, and looked far off like he was bringing up some poem he remembered. That’s how I knew he was settling for a little talking and one last cup of coffee. Mom poured the coffee and combed through her teeth.

“Where’s the toothpicks?” Dad said, if the Table-setter forgot them. The Table-setter scrambled to get the little china pitcher, which must’ve been from way back when Mom had a toy china set of dishes, and the only thing that was left was that tiny pitcher, which was now precious, ’cause Mom’s brothers, my uncles broke all her other dishes. Brothers can be a bother, and hers were kind of mean to her, putting bugs and stuff in her bed and doing mean things to her dolls, and bringing friends over that made fun of how skinny she was, and teasing about how she had to go in the “fresh-air room” on account of her skinniness.

“Where’d these come from?” Dad said about some new toothpicks.

“I picked them up by mistake at Kroger’s,” Mom said. “We never had round toothpicks before.”

“Well, they don’t work. I need the flat ones.”

Hmmm…. I thought. Why does the shape of the toothpick matter?

Mom carried a toothpick or two in her pocketbook, and Dad had one in his shirt pocket, if they got somewhere and no toothpicks. Most restaurants had a pile of toothpicks waiting at the cash register, ’cause everybody and their brother needed a toothpick after eating. Not kids, though. I never saw a kid picking at their teeth. Nothing ever got stuck in a kids teeth.

I ate apples and carrots, which are natural teeth cleaners. I read that in a book. That’s why horses never get stuff stuck in their teeth and why dogs get bad breath a lot: one likes apples and carrots, the other one never eats that stuff.   20121011-070240.jpgMaybe adults forget how apples keep doctors away, ‘ cause that’s another thing about adults, they go to the doctor way more than kids.  Except for Dad. I never knew about him going to the doctor.  Ever.  He had no time for that sort of nonsense.

Now that I’m older, I find that stuff gets caught in my teeth a lot. I wish I was in the habit of ending a meal with a toothpick. 20121011-071207.jpgI might be spared some embarrassment when I discover a smile tarnished with spinach since lunchtime. If you see that, be a friend a hand me a toothpick. Please.

Now and Then Friends

Connie and me at 4-H camp

Sometimes I wonder what makes friendships last.  Is it a common history?  Shared interests?  Intellect?  Points of view that mesh beautifully?  When I was a little girl, I had all sorts of friends:  Betty, my best-friend-from-the-bus;  Connie, my blood-sister-best-friend;  Debbie, my best-friend-cousin; Bonita, my best-friend-sister.  I suppose Mom had friends, too.  She had Extension Club and Church, and of course family.

I never thought about Mom having friends, when I was a little girl.  That’s ’cause mothers are not real people.  Well, not real like kids are real.  Moms never get sick, or need anything, or want to do anything except take care of kids and maybe have more kids. Oh, and talk about kids.

Mom visited all the time with Mrs. R, from across the street.  Mrs R was  Nancy’s and Doug’s and Noreen’s mother. Us kids played cowboys and Indians or piggy-in-my-pen, while those two moms talked all afternoon.  Moms never played.  They just watched kids playing.  Most of the time,  they didn’t even watch.  Play kinda bores Moms.

Mom went to Extension Club, same as my friend Betty’s mom.  At Extension Club,  moms got together to Continue reading

Talkers and Story-tellers

Mom’s family was way the heck different from Dad’s family.

Mom’s family was full of fast talker.  They had so much to say, their words stumbled over each other trying to get out in the world.  Uncle Tony and Grandpa, and Aunt Mary and Aunt Clara all had something to say about everything going on in the world.  All those uncles and aunts lived to be about a hundred or more, and the whole while they talked up a blue streak.  Sometimes I wondered if anybody was listening with all that stuttering, and shouting and waving of hands.

Dad’s family was full of story-tellers.  All those brothers laid out stories about this person or that dog, or maybe a cow who jumped fences or a fish that could do tricks,  ’til I never knew what was true and what they made up.  Aunt Barbara told stories, too.  She was quieter than her brothers.  Still, she could tell a story so I never forgot. Continue reading