Secrets in the Boys’ Room

Statue of Scouts at the Cockrell Scouting Cent...

Statue of Scouts at the Cockrell Scouting Center of the Boy Scouts of America in Houston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never heard of Girl Scouts when I was a little girl.  We had 4-H instead.  I did know about Boy Scouts, because Dad’s friend Hal King was a Troop Leader.  He had a uniform and everything, just like he was still in the army.  Loren Dee-dee-bopper was still in diapers and my other brothers were just twinkles in Dad’s eye when he took me and Bonita and Deanna to the Boy Scout Camp.  That’s why we knew next to nothing about boys.  Deanna’s best friend Nancy from across the street went along, plus her dad.  Probably all the moms and Dougie and probably little Vickie and Loren Dee-dee-bopper, but this story is about an eye-opening discovery made by little girls.

Hal King’s Boy Scout Camp was way far away in the wood, full of tall pine trees all growing close together.  I loved to climb trees Continue reading

Friends and Work and Work Friends

When I was a little girl, my parents lives were full of work and chores and things to do.

My Dad was full of adventures and friendships.  Of course he had his five brothers, my uncles, which meant he had a leg up in adventure department.  Those guys were always thinking up something crazy funny to do. Dad had neighbor friends, too.  I knew those men; I saw them all the time:  Men that loved to laugh and play card games, and baseball with us kids.  Men who tried to teach us kids how to play old-fashioned games like Kick the Can or Flag Football, and looked all down in the dumps when we wanted to play our own games.  We preferred “Freeze-tag” and “Piggy in My Pen.”

Dad had some mysterious friends, too.  Army Buddies and Work Friends.  I hardly ever saw those friends, I only heard their stories.  I had a good imagination, so Continue reading

Lemons, Smiles, and The One

Citrus x limon flowers.

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday a dear friend from high school told me he always liked my smile.  I do like to smile.  For some reason that simple statement reminded me of something I did long ago when I was still a little girl, trying hard to be grown-up.  I wrote a letter to Ann Landers, the advice columnist.  Yes, I was so sure I was in the right and Mom was wrong, I wrote a letter to get documentation from a respected outside source.

Dear Ann Landers,” I wrote using my stationery with the violets on the upper left corner.  “My Mom forbids me to go steady. I’m not going steady, I just want to date the same boy.  I’ve liked him since 8th grade, and only this year have I been allowed to date.   I don’t have his ring or anything and we don’t say we’re going steady.  He’s just the only boy I’m interested in.  I know he’s The One.  That’s not enough for Mom.  Now she insists that I go on three dates with other boys between each date with The One.  I think this is unfair.  I am only allowed to go out on a date once a week, which is stricter than any other parents.   Mom’s new rule means I will be able to date The One only once a month.  How should I handle this situation.  Sincerely, Love Thwarted.”

That last word before my signature,  ‘situation’, proved I was grown for sure, and ‘Love Thwarted,’ well, that was better than any signature I ever saw in Ann Landers’s newspaper column.

I waited and waited, watching the mailbox every day.  Running down our long gravel drive, the only driveway with stupid black walnuts in the ruts, to assure no one else saw my letter first.  I never got any privacy.  I planned to read Ann Landers’s reply out-loud.  Preferably at the supper table.

At last my response came in the Self-addressed Stamped Envelope I provided.  That’s how I recognized it.  I opened the letter in the kitchen, ready to proclaim the respected and sage advice of Ann Landers to that ever kitchen-occupying mother of mine.  My plans changed on the spot.  I couldn’t possibly wait all the way to suppertime.  I would show Mom the error of her ways right now.  She didn’t have a clue about how the real world worked.  I was about to one-up her, big time. Continue reading

February, Gotta Love It

When I was a little girl, I loved February:  Valentine’s Day is in February;  I could almost be guaranteed snow or ice would cancel school in February; and February’s the month I was born.

It seems like we prepared for Valentine’s Day for weeks.  Everyone brought a shoebox to school, and we decorated it with crêpe paper flowers and hearts. 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 bulk 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 sorely disappointed that they didn’t receive a card on Valentine’s Day, but as far as I know that never happened in my school.  I gave a card to everyone, and I got one from everyone, too. 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”?  Or worse, what if he gave me the ‘teacher’ card that came in every box?  That would be the worst.

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.  Maybe it was because I am left-handed, maybe I’m a little dyslexic.  Who knows?  I remember Mom talking to the neighbor, Mrs. Russell and to my aunts, puzzling over why I wrote my name as if I were looking in a mirror and wondering why I couldn’t see the difference in the what I wrote and what I saw on the page.    Mom sat with me while a signed each card letter by letter, making them turn around and face correctly and march across the page from left to right.  After 42 cards,  the habit stuck, my writing was, well, right.  Shortly after that,  I wrote my name everywhere.  The best place was right by the back door, under the light switch.  I used my favorite Crayola for that:  red.

As much as I loved school, a snow day was a treat.  Me and Bonita and Deanna got our sleds out and slid down the hill next to our house.  Sometimes we slid down the driveway, but the driveway emptied into a pretty busy paved road.  If there was an ice storm, to avoid going into the road, we had to bail off the sleds.  When we tired of sledding, we went across the road and got Nancy and Dougie and Noreen and Tommy and Cathy from next door.  We all walked down to the creek, and slid on the frozen creek water under the road.  There we’d lay waiting for a car to pass by.  Nancy said the road would collapse on top of us if too many cars went over at once, or if a big truck went over.

Sometimes I got super-duper lucky and snow day would fall on my birthday.  Then we all enjoyed the classroom birthday treat at home, and Mom would make another batch of cupcakes to take when school was back in session.  It seems like it happened more times than not, but that’s surely my memory playing tricks on me.

My birthday was all by itself in the month of February;  a whole six weeks after Deanna’s.  Mom always made sure each of us had our own special day, regardless of whether it fell close to someone else’s.  No doubling up when it came to birthdays.  Still, six weeks left us longing for cake and ice cream, and the festive feeling a birthday can bring.

When I turned six, I got a birthday party. That was the rule:  six and sixteen.  Man-o-man, there are rules for everything under the sun, even birthdays. My first party

was a surprise.  I never quite figured out that all my classmates just happened to come over to my house, with presents under their arms. What a wonderful coincidence!  Frankie gave me a lovely charm bracelet.  You probably guessed it, his was the Valentine that said “Be Mine.”

I still love February.  Such a short month, it holds such promise.  The days are getting longer, and soon they will be warmer.  Sometimes, I spot crocuses  poking their hopeful faces toward the sun.

Warm Sunshine, I’m waiting for you.  I am Forever Yours.

Old Red, Old Friends

When I was a young girl, I had a horse named Old Red.  Red was my reward for riding my bike three miles every day to Mr. R’s house, where Bonita and I learned to ride.  Bonita was the horse lover; I loved Bonita.  Bonita learned to ride on Peaches, and I learned to ride on Big Joe.  Bonita’s reward was Pokey, mine was Big Red.  I loved Big Red, but to tell the truth, that horse could be a pain in the neck:  he was lazy and willful and often disobedient.  In spite of all my perseverance and persistence, sometimes my will failed to triumph over a half-ton horse.

After all that riding back and forth to Mr. R’s house, Bonita proved she had gumption and really, really, really wanted a horse.  More important, she proved she could stick though the tough stuff, so she was a pretty good bet on taking care of her horse.  Still, Mom played it safe by getting a gelding with a name that suited his temperament.  ‘Cause Pokey, was, well, Pokey.  Bonita rode Pokey every single day.  Pokey knew all the same signals as Peaches and Big Joe.  Old Red came to us a bit later, so Bonita and I could ride together.  That was way more fun than Bonita riding all by herself.  Old Red had a name that fit him, too.

Sometimes, especially on a hot day, or a day when the grass was new and and the air was full of the green smell, or on a day when the oat fields bent their heads down heavy and golden, those two horses Continue reading

A Drink to 4-H Cooking

Connie and Me when we were seven.

The summer I turned 10, I signed up for 4-H Cooking with my best friend and blood sister, Connie.  Mrs. T, my friend Annette’s mom was our leader.  She could make all kinds of delicious stuff from the Old Country, same as my Grandma Z.  She never taught us that stuff, ’cause she just knew it in her head with nothing written down.  I watched her make pierogies:  squares of dough with potatoes or sauerkraut or sweet plums,  some kind of cheese that looked like cottage cheese, but was something else way better tasting.  Mrs. T’s round face got beet-red as she plinked the pierogies gently into the steaming kettle.  She looked the happiest like that:  dark hair plastered around her round flushed face, scooping the cooked pierogies out with a slotted spoon and sprinkling the sweet ones with powdered sugar.  4-Hers had to make stuff from a recipe.

The first things Mrs. T taught us was Boston Coolers and Black Cows.  Me and Connie already knew how to make lots of stuff on account of us both being part of the Big Kids in our families, so it seemed like 4-H Cooking was gonna be a breeze.  For somebody who never did anything in the kitchen, Black Cows and Boston coolers helped her learn how to measure and mix, ’cause that’s all you do with those two things:  take some ice cream and some pop and mix them up and pour them in a glass.  Mrs. T taught us Continue reading

Sinking into Adventure

The farthest I traveled, when I was a little girl, was to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Chicago.  I traveled outside the country:  to Canada; well, to the little island of BoLo, just outside The Motor City.  Deanna dreamed of traveling to far off places.  I liked to be home.  What could I see and experience in exotic places?  My house was the best place in the world.  That’s why my friends came to my house.  We had all kinds of adventures at my house.

My friend, Daylene like to spend the night at my house.  She lived in a tinsy-tiny house just a couple of blocks from school.  Daylene was a walker, so she went home for lunch.  Sometimes, I walked over there, if I had permission to go down-town at Noon Hour.  Daylene’s house was always warm and cozy and smelled spicy.  Her mom was short and round and had big white teeth that smiled even when she just sitting there, still and relaxing.  Sometimes Continue reading