The Naked Truth, From My Perpective

Sometimes memories are clear as a bell, sometimes cloudy.  Most the time memories are different depending on who’s they are.  One such memory as vivid as if it happened yesterday for me and two of my brothers.  Oh how different our memories are:  the facts are the same, but the emotion is completely different.  This is a summer story.  Still, it’s on my mind because both Loren and Frank shared their version with me this past year.

I told you before about our camping trips.  All eleven of us slept and changed in one big army tent with wooden poles and canvas army cots.  Man-o-man, those cots Continue reading

Itching For a New Nose

This is the time year when I close the windows and turn on the air filter.  I begin days when Jack Frost paints the fields with a layer of white icing.  Years before I knew Ragweed was my enemy, I wished for the sweet relief a killing frost would bring.  A world of itching filled late summer and early fall, when I was a little girl.  The real kind, not the figurative kind that’s good for us all.

My skin itched like crazy.  Sometimes, Mom taped popsicle sticks to the inside of my arms, so I had to keep my arms straight.  She thought that would keep me from scratching.  I scratched the back of my knees, and my ankles.  My skin itched from the inside out.  I needed to scratch down to the bone; not like the picky itch that a wooly sweater gives, or the sweaty itch that humid heat gives, or even the itch of a dozen mosquito bites.  It was an itch from the inside out.

“Stop that scratching,”  Mom said.  I looked down, and sure enough, there were my fingers right under the hem of my dress or wrinkling up my pant leg,just a-scratching away, without my permission.  I knew what it meant to have an itch that couldn’t be scratched.  Mom put a thick, white cream on my skin to help the itch go away.  Maybe it helped; maybe the itch would have been worse without that metallic smelling cream smeared all over me.

I knew the worst was on its way when my throat started itching.  I could get at the top of my throat with the back of my tongue, but that was just the beginning.  My eyes itched, the inside of my ears itched, and my nose itched. I pushed my nose up with the palm of my hand and rubbed it around and around in circles just to get some relief. That traitor nose Continue reading

The Naked Truth, From My Perspective

Sometimes memories are clear as a bell, sometimes cloudy.  Most the time memories are different depending on who’s remembering.  One such memory as vivid as if it happened yesterday for me and two of my brothers.  Oh how different our memories are:  some of the facts are the same, but the emotion is completely different.

I told you before about our camping trips.  All eleven of us slept and changed in one big army tent with wooden poles and canvas army cots.  The only time we went in the tent were:  to change clothes, to sleep, to put things away after clean-up.  That last one is the one that got me into trouble.

When I was a little girl, taking turns was part of everyday life, like breathing.  Especially with work.  Even on vacation I had jobs; only I liked the jobs better ‘cuz everything was outside.  I liked to stay in my bathing suit all day long, but most mornings the first week of August it was too cold, so  I wore jeans, and a sweatshirt.  Sometimes I wore the sweatshirt inside out, ’cause the right side was dirty. I only had one small box for clothes, so I get inventive. I was messy and Mom hated that.  She said even poor people could afford soap, so there’s no excuse for being dirty.

Anyways, I had to do dishes after lunch, just my turn that’s all, and I was in a hurry, on account of the rain clouds breaking up, and the sun was shining down, and well, pretty soon I was going to be hotter than blazes.

The dishes got stored in the tent.  So of course I marched myself right in there, lickety-split, and was marching myself right out again when I heard my name called out in an angry voice. Uh-oh, how could I be in trouble for putting things tidy and neat.  Still, that happened to me more than I liked to say, ‘cuz some times, just when I thought I was doing a good job, blammo, trouble came knocking.

“What are you doing?”  Dad said.

Yup.  That was his angry voice, all right enough. Continue reading

Once I Was Bad (Maybe More than Once)

St. Pat's 7I like to think I was a good girl.  Most the time I was.  But… once I was bad.  Well maybe more than once.  I did think for a while that maybe I was my mother’s punishment for when she was a bad little girl.   She was full of mischief.  She never told me that, but I was a good listener, and sometimes I heard her laugh about stuff she and her brothers did when they were kids.

Church could have been boring when I was a little girl.  All that Latin, and trying to follow along on the English side of my missal was dull.  That’s probably why the altar boys, my friend Frankie and his big brother Red, rang those bells every so often:  so everybody out in the pews got reminded to wake up, and so we could get back on track with the missal.  Anyways, my missal had a little red picture of bells every so often, so I could slow down or speed up, depending on how fast I read.

first communion handsSometimes I said the rosary during mass.  Lots of people did that, especially the ladies.  My rosary was white crystals.  I got it for my First Communion.  Mom’s was black.  Mom’s rosary beads were smooth from so much praying.

Other times I just looked around and watched stuff, like flies mating.  Mom said that was disgusting and I shouldn’t do that in church.  She got worried about a lot of stuff I thought was interesting, like whether I could really kill somebody by calling them up and ringing a high-pitched tuning fork in their ear.  I saw that on Twilight Zone.  I didn’t really want to kill anybody.  I just wanted to see if it worked.

Anyways, one Sunday, I guess church was super-crowded, cuz I had to sit up in the front row, away from the rest of the family.  My family took up about two rows in our church.  Same thing for my best friend ever, Connie.  She got to sit up there with me, too.  Next thing I knew, there was Annette, another friend from my grade, sitting right up there with me.  Annette had a super-strict mother who never let her wear slacks, even when she did the barn chores.

The three of us got to giggling and whispering.  I thought we were pretty quiet and not disturbing anybody until Annette’s big sister Marie came and dragged Annette out of there by the ear.  Me and Connie looked at each other and laughed into our hands.

Connie and I did everything together.  We are blood-sisters.

Connie and I did everything together. We are blood-sisters.

Connie’s eyes were wet and shiny with the giggles, that’s why I laughed.  No one can resist that kind of look.  It’s catchy, even if the laugher pulls her mouth in a straight line and looks down at her missal.  I gotta say, Connie tried to get serious.  I did not.  I was bad.  I poked her with my elbow.  Laughter stuffed down made me get a stomach ache.

Mom grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back to the vestibule.

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” she hissed at me.  She made me look straight into her brown eyes.  Her lower lid pulsed up and down.

My stomach still ached for a different reason.  All the laughter seeped out through my feet.

“Kneel down,”  she said.

I did.  Right under the little bowl of holy water.

“Kneel here for the rest of mass.  I don’t want to see you get up once.  You better be kneeling here when I come out of church. While you’re down there, ask God for forgiveness.”

I did just what she told me to.  My knees hurt.  My back hurt.  I prayed.  Mostly I prayed that Mom would forgive me.  I prayed that my guardian angel would protect me and make me good.

church I stayed right where she told me to stay.  One thing I knew for sure, I better do what I’m told when I see those lower lids pulsing up and down like that; no questions asked.  Never mind if I was out of her view.  Somehow she would know if I moved.  Some people talked about getting the fear of God put into them.  The fear of Mom was way worse than the fear of God could ever be.

All the parishioners filed out of church, dripping some holy water on my head as they blessed themselves. No one said a word to me.  Maybe somebody looked at me; my head bent down in shame, so I never knew.  At last Mom came and  told me to I get up.  She asked me if I was sorry.  Of course I was.

I heard Mom tell Mrs. R. all about it over a cup of tea.

“It wasn’t enough for her to see Annette dragged out of the pew,” she said.  “She sidled right up to Connie and gave her a big grin, without a care in the world.”

Mrs. R just shook her head and looked into her teacup like she was looking for an answer to how a little girl could be so bad.

Right then and  there I thought, I must be my mother’s punishment j ust like Father W said on Mother’s Day:  If you’re bad to your Mom, you’ll get two bad kids when you grow up.  I bet one of the Little Kids was gonna be bad, too, cuz Bonita and Deanna and Vickie were always good girls.

It sorta makes my throat tight just thinking about those two moms talking about my badness and shaking their heads.  I sure was a puzzle.

Me and Connie and Annette never ever talked about that day.  I guess we were all ashamed.

I was bad.  Being bad felt lonely.

I did other naughty things when I was growing up, some probably worse than giggling and whispering in church.  Still, that day is as bright as yesterday.  Maybe brighter.

I never got any bad kids of my own, so I must have been Mom’s punishment.  Anyways, I have no memory of my kids being bad.  They are smart, and strong-willed, and athletic, and amusing as all get-out.  They did give me a run for my money sometimes.  I do remember that.  My grandkids? That’s a different story altogether.   They are delightful.  They are perfect. They are never even close to bad.  Just ask their mothers.

I wonder if anyone else remembers being bad.  What did you do?

The Wet Pants and the Diaper

Untitled clippingI was born in charge.  That’s what Mom told me once after I was all grown up.

Maybe.

For sure, I can remember always being responsible for someone else.  I always, always, took care of the Little Kids, and even when it was just Bonita and me, I was in charge, and I made sure she was safe and I took care of her.  Even though she was only one and a half years younger than me, somehow she never seemed to catch up to me in responsibility.  I rescued her from the 4-H Fair when Black-Eyes dragged her in the dirt.

I took care of other people’s kids from the time I was 10 years old.  I got paid for it too, which was proof-positive I was responsible and in charge.  Once I overheard Mrs. B say to Mom, “Look how she plays with the kids.  She hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid herself. “

I loved taking care of kids, and I vowed I would never, ever forget what it was like to be a child.  How could I?

Of course, I made a lot of mistakes.  I was really a kid myself.  Still learning.  Still sorta inside myself, and full of myself, and looking at the world from one perspective: mine.

My Pal, Frankie, the Little Kid I was most responsible for, remembers some of my mistakes.  The biggest one:  The Wet Pants and the Diaper. Continue reading

A Smile Without a Toothpick, is Still a Smile

20121011-065510.jpg

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.

Cry-Baby Me

When I was a little girl, my smile was the best.  People commented on my smile a lot, even people I hardly knew.  My uncle Jim said I had a smile like Haley Mills because my smile lit up the whole room, just like hers. Haley was only a couple of years older than me.

A toddler girl cryingStill, I cried a lot, too.  I cried about all kinds of things.  I cried when I was sad; I cried when I was angry or frustrated; I cried when I got tired.  Back then I never cried because I was happy.  One big problem with my crying is that I was not a pretty crier. I was such an ugly crier that Mom took pictures of me. Continue reading