Shyness Stings Like a Jellyfish

Sometimes there’s no explaining what makes someone put down all her self-confidence and suddenly cower in the back seat.  That’s how I got when I started to grow up and leave my little girl years behind.  All that talk-to-much candor went mute.  I have my brother Frankie to thank for snapping me out of it.  The cure was a little like the home remedy for a jelly-fish sting.

Most of the time, Mom took all us Magpies with her wherever she went.  Except for grocery shopping.  That was special, she only took one kid with her for grocery shopping.  Everybody else stayed home and cleaned the house, or babysat, mowed the lawn, or helped out in the field or the barn.  Unless you were one of the Little Kids;

Little Kids and Loren Dee-Dee-Bopper

Little Kids just played all day long.  Big kids had to Continue reading

Absent a Miracle Worker

It seems like I always had some money of my own, when I was a little girl.  For a short time I got an allowance, but that fell by the wayside.  Sometimes I got paid for pulling weeds or chipping mortar off bricks destined to someday be Mom’s fireplace.  Sometimes Mom or Dad assigned those things as a kind of punishment for being bored or having nothing to do.  No one ever gets paid for punishment.  Most of the time chores were just part of being in a family.  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.  Once Mrs. D had some confidence, me or Deanna 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

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The Outer Limits: Friendship and Love

When I was a little girl, I was always in love with somebody.  First it was my uncles, that wasn’t real love; then it was Georgie, and Warren, and Frankie, and of course, Dale, who was the one who got away.  Those were just friends that happened to be boys that I loved as my favorite.  I loved my best-friend-Connie in almost the same way.  When I got to seventh grade, I fell in the head-over-heels kind of love.  That’s when buses shipped the Unfortunate Ones to my school after we got annexed.  That’s when I met Art.  That’s the year life started getting complex.

I bawled my eyes out when I realized I would be staying at my old school and not going to the High School like Deanna did when she got in 7th grade.  I never got the letter telling me I had to stay; every Unfortunate One got a letter.  Mom tried to tell me, but I refused to believe her.  I said “No, Dad said everyone who had to go to my school, got a letter.  I never got a letter.  I must be going to the High School,” I said.  Dad was on the school board.  He knew. Continue reading

Big People Rules

When I was in sixth grade, my world changed.  That was the year after we Annexed:  The Year of the Big Bee, the year Deanna went to High School and my school only went as far as sixth grade.  That’s the year Mrs. Taylor was my teacher, and at the same time, she was the Principal.  Sixth grade was the year I became a Big Person.

No more high-schoolers went to my school, so I guessed nobody climbed up that full flight of stairs to classrooms up there.  Deanna went to The Creek on the high-school bus with Diana and Bob, while Mike and I went to the same school we always did.  Deanna put her hair up in giant hair rollers and ratted it and attached a tiny bow that matched her dress, right in the middle above her bangs.  She looked like those girls on American Band Stand,.  She got up super early, put on a dress, ’cause slacks were against the rules for girls once we got Annexed, and walked half-way to Diana’s house to catch the bus that drove right by our house anyways.  Only so many bus stops were allowed on each mile. Continue reading

Aunts and Uncles and Cousins, Oh My

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 a tall tale or a joke or a lie, I never figured out for sure which one it was, but it was a far cry from a petrified potato.  I just kept it around as a reminder of that old saying about everybody gets fooled some of the time.

Deanna and her best-friend-cousin, Linda

My best-friend-cousin, Debbie, and Deanna’s best-friend-cousin, Linda, and Vickie’s best-friend-cousin, Sandy were at the Christmas party.  Bonita had no best-friend-cousin, ’cause all the cousins her age were boys:  Gary, Jeff, and Jimmy; they all were each others best friend cousins.  Come to think of it, maybe that’s why Bonita wanted to be a boy so bad.  Those boys were noisy and rough.  I could understand why Grandma always said boys were made out of snakes and snails and puppy dog tails; but she was wrong about that sugar and spice business for girls.  She never saw me and Bonita leg wrestle, or Deanna give the bloody knuckles, or me throw Deanna’s Tiny Tears down the stairs.  Girls were just quieter, that’s all.

Besides Grandma’s presents, I got a present from a cousin.  At some time, I never knew when, names got drawn out of a hat, and I had a cousin to give a present to, and one gave a present to me.  I never got what I asked for, ’cause I never asked for anything.  I always got something I wanted, which was the best kind of present ever:  a surprise present.  Lots of times I got a game, like Kootie, or Mr. Potato Head.  Debbie got a game called Mousetrap.  That game had lots of tinsy pieces that fit on the game board and built a big contraption of chutes and levers and a boot kicking over a bucket. Each player tried to build the mousetrap and prevent their mouse from getting trapped at the same time. All those little pieces got broken and they hurt like the dickens if I stepped on one with my bare feet.

Every uncle except Uncle Ellis had a whole passel of kids.  Uncle Ellis and Aunt Doris only had one boy, Craig.  I guessed one boy could only make so much noise by himself.  Craig’s blue eyes got wide and his lips pulled in a little when he saw all those kids, ’cause he lived in the Motor City, and only got together with the rest of us every once in a while, mostly on holidays.  I could  tell that commotion was pretty darn peculiar to him.  Craig never had hand-me-down clothes; so no stains or patches, or frayed cuffs around his coat sleeves.  He was kinda quiet like his mom, Aunt Doris.  The rest of us knew how to deal with commotion, even when we weren’t visiting.  I could read a book while the house fell down around me; I was that good at blocking out commotion.  Sometimes I never even heard Mom call me to set the  table; that’s how good my concentration was.

Grandma didn’t have a house of her own anymore, she lived with Uncle Merle, who lived across a field from Uncle Frank.  Those two were friends, but Uncle Merle was my Dad’s best-friend-brother, ’cause they were as close to being twins as two brothers could get.  Uncle Merle was so close to my Dad that he refused to go to kindergarten without his little brother.  Well, kids back then never knew they could have their own opinion, but Uncle Merle cried every day, until Grandma got fed up, and marched both little boys, one who was just four years old, and who would be my dad some day, to the schoolhouse.  Grandma was super-quiet and kinda shy, but when she looked you straight in the eye and talked to you, well, you knew you better listen.  So next thing ya know, two kindergarteners instead of just one.

I never heard Grandma shout or talk mean.  Uncle Glenn told me once if he cried or pitched a fit, Grandma just laid her hand on his and breathed in deep and that was the end of that.  I bet she was praying, “Please Lord, make this boy shut up, before I blow a gasket.”  I only think that ’cause six boys in one house is an awful lot, especially with only two bedrooms. Aunt Barbara was quiet, just like Grandma.  She grew up to be a teacher.  Maybe she always wanted to get kids to tow the line and learn a thing or two.  I never heard Aunt Barbara yell or act cross, but lots of times Moms keep things quiet in front of other people.  Sometimes when my Mom was mad, when the phone rang, she turned right around and sounded sweet as honey   She said, “Hello?” and her whole face got soft.   After she talked to a grown-up for a while, her mood changed for good and she forgot all about being mad.

When the cousins started becoming teenagers, we got together less frequent, until finally our Christmas tradition disappeared.  Then weddings started the whole get-together business revived.   I think the cousins missed each other as much as the aunts and uncles did.  I know that’s true for me.