Vickie, Loren, and Bonnie-Jo
I started babysitting for other people’s kids when I was ten years old. I suppose parents thought I was a pretty good bet, being I had the Little Kids around me all day long.
I got my first job babysitting for Bonnie-Jo, Marian, and Wade. I told you before about babysitting them while Mrs. D drove around in her Corvair because Wade opened the door and fell out in the gravel when she took a big dog-leg turn. Deanna or I stayed with the kids at the Little House, where they lived. Bonnie-Jo had straight chestnut hair, and big brown eyes and a little body heaped full of energy, just like my Bonita. Marian had super-curly hair the color of carrots and was just a tinsy bit chubby. I don’t remember the color of her eyes, ’cause all that hair curling off like that snake-haired lady, Medusa, kinda distracted me from looking at her face. Wade had blonde hair and blue eyes. Bonnie-Jo and Marian were pretty nice kids. Not Wade. He was the awfullest kid I ever knew. Mrs. D let him get away with anything ’cause he was deaf. She was just like the mother in The Miracle Worker.
Deanna, me, Bonita, and baby Vickie with Dad
When I was a little girl, Labor Day marked the beginning: the beginning of the fall, the beginning of school, the beginning of catechism. The beginning of hard frosts and sweaters, of hard sole shoes and dresses everyday, of schedules and memorizing. Of course every beginning follows an ending. And Labor Day marked that too. The end of summer: the end of white Sunday hats and sandals, the end of baseball. Right on Labor Day, we had our last big family picnic of the year. Always, always all Dad’s brothers and his one sister, Barbara, with all their spouses and all their kids. All Dad’s brothers were laborers, except Uncle Ellis; all the wives were housewives, except Aunt Barbara, she was a teacher. I guessed Labor Day was for men to stop working and rest a little, and for women to just keep on working, ’cause a woman’s work is never done. Anyways that’s what Grandma told me.
Uncle Merle worked for Consumers’ Power Company and Dad worked for Ma Bell. Those two brothers both liked to climb poles and fix things; and they both liked to tell stories. Uncle Merle was Dad’s best-friend-brother, like Bonita was my best-friend-sister. Uncle Merle and his family lived in our house and farmed with Dad, until it got too crowded. Those two had the same star-blue eyes and the same smile that tugged up the corner of their mouth when they tried to look all straight-faced and tell a joke.
Uncle Frank and Uncle Gerald worked in the Shop making cars, one for Ford and one for Chevrolet. I could never keep it straight who worked for which, but those two were always arguing about who made the best cars in the whole wide world, Ford or Chevrolet.
Dad drove a Dodge; he said those were the best, which got his two Shop brothers all riled up and arguing, while Dad and Uncle Merle Continue reading
When I was a little girl, everybody was afraid of atomic bombs because of Khrushchev pounding the table with his shoe. Plus he put Castro in Cuba with Communism. I prayed every night that Castro would stay on his side of the Bay of Pigs, and not bring his dominoes over to Florida and turn everybody into Communist, and get rid of all the Catholics. For some reason communist dominoes were dangerous. Not like American dominoes. American dominoes were safe as apple pie.
Our neighbor across the street built a bomb shelter. My school had a bomb shelter too, and sometimes we had bomb drills. My mom and dad thought there were more immediate things to worry about, like getting the garden weeded so we could put food on the table, and letting kids like me know not to poke her fingers into the tiny hole in her Keds and make it bigger, cuz money doesn’t grow on trees, and you only get one pair of shoes for the summer, and you should know better.
Nancy and Doug and Noreen lived across the road from me. Nancy was Deanna’s age, Doug was Bonita’s, and Noreen was Vickie’s age. Nobody was my age; that was okay, ’cause everybody let me play with them anyway, even though I was kinda in the gap between ages. Nancy’s dad put a paint mark on the inside of the garage door that marked each kid’s height: green for Nancy, blue for Doug, and red for Noreen. Once a year, Nancy’s dad put a new mark above the old mark, so he could see how much each kid grew. I guess he got tired of that, ’cause Noreen only had one mark, and it was way down there as small as my little sister Julie, even after Noreen was a big kid. Dad said he was going to put a mark on our garage too, just one, ’cause somebody would always be that size at one time or another. On the other hand, if he put a mark for each kid, every year, he coulda had the whole garage painted.
I often wonder why so often families have such a hard time getting together for the holidays. Somehow all five of Dad’s brothers and his sister got together over the Christmas holidays. Of course, they did all live within sixty or so miles of each other. Still, I think it was important to them to get their families together. Besides that, they all seemed to like each other so much. So did all the kids.
Grandma loved Christmas. She sewed and embroidered and crocheted away all fall, just to have something nice for everybody. She made me pajamas for my doll, Jonsi-Belle, a dresser scarf and lots of embroidered handkerchiefs, and once she gave me a little triangular box that fit right in the corner of my dresser drawer. My nose dripped all the time, which is probably why she thought I needed hankies, but those things were tough on the nose, especially the way Mom starched everything. I kept a handful of Kleenex in my pocket instead; those were way softer. That little corner box was great, though. For one thing, red was my favorite color. For another thing I had all kinds of treasures to keep in there: my rosary and scapula, my key to the box Grandpa Z made for me, some convex and concave lenses, and that rock Dad told me was a petrified potato. That last one turned out to be Continue reading
Once I started working at The Grill, I met a lot of people; people way different from me: a super tough-cool girl who had her own brand-new blue Mustang, The Gang, and grown men who had too much to drink. Once Mom and Dad came in. Of course I knew them. Still, having them as customers was way different then having them as parents.
I worked the evening shift, which was the busiest. Days were slower, so less running around, but fewer tips and more chores like raking the parking area and washing windows, and cleaning the trays. Maybe that’s what made Brenda, the day car-hop so darned grumpy. She got to pick the day shift, so she should have been happy, but Brenda rolled her eyes every time I came in to relieve her, counted out her tips, threw her apron on the counter and took off in a flash. Sometimes the Mustang-Girl gave Brenda a ride home. I never knew that girls name: she had raven hair down over her shoulders and when she laughed Continue reading