I was born in charge. That’s what Mom told me once after I was all grown up.
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
As much as Mom was a constant in my life; Dad was a mystery. He got up each morning, did the barn chores, ate breakfast and went off to work. When he got home, he did barn chores again, ate supper, watched Johnny Carson and went to bed. Dad liked to talk more than he liked to listen. Dad got headaches, he got embarrassed and he got angry. Perhaps in some ways, Dad was more like a kid, like me. He just went to work, instead of to school.
I liked to be around Dad, ’cause he made everything seem like an adventure. Sometimes, that adventure could turn south, for no good reason; kinda like when Loren-dee-dee-bopper had a tantrum. Except with Dad, it was scarey instead of funny, ’cause Loren-dee-dee-bopper was jut a toddler with a squeeky, whiny voice, and Dad was a big boomer. Dad was funny as all get out. Still, he hated to be teased. Once I said the blue cheese that he loved smelled just like his feet. I wasn’t even teasing; just telling the truth. That’s half the reason I hated blue cheese. He got so mad at me, it was almost as bad as when I beat him at checkers.
I knew Dad was super proud of me, ’cause he gave me a dime for every “A” I got on my report card. He said he was going broke on account of me and all my “A’s,” but he said that with those stars twinking in his blue eyes, that told he was really loved giving me those dimes. He taught me how to play checkers. Checkers was Dad’s favorite game of all time. His dad taught him how to play, way back when he was a kid. I never thought I could beat Dad, ’cause he had all those years of practice, but one day, sure enough, I won. I gloated like a puffed up rooster. Dad got so mad he Continue reading
Grandma Z and me
I hate weeds. I have since I was a little girl. Still, I love flowers and vegetables and being out in the yard plucking and pruning. I have since I was too little to remember. Perhaps it allows me to share in creation. Perhaps it gives me some feeling of control over something. Yet, sometimes I let a plant grow, just to see what it becomes. I fail to recognize, categorize, or otherwise understand whether it is friend or foe. Like camping, gardening was passed on from one generation to another.
Mom loved to garden, but she had no luck at all. The only flower she grew was gladiolas. I hate those things, ’cause everybody sent those to funerals. Smelling them made me think somebody died. The glads, as Grandma called them, were back behind the sandbox, beside the asparagus. Mom was good at growing asparagus, but not so good at cutting it, on account of asparagus grows super fast and gets woody, then it’s no good to eat. I liked the way it looked when Mom forgot to cut it and it went to seed. It got all feathery soft, like something that grew on a far off planet I saw on The Outer Limits. That show gave me the heebie-jeebies, not so much when I watched it, but after I went to bed. That’s part-way why I never slept with my toes or had sticking out of the covers.
Mom tried and tried to grow a smoke bush, but somebody kept running over it with the lawnmower. No matter how much staking and flagging she did, that smoke bush was dust. She probably should have planted Continue reading
We had just one bathroom when I was a little girl. That seems strange by today’s standards: there was never less than six people in my house. Even back when Uncle Merle and Dad were farming together, and later when there were renters, only one bathroom. Now that’s how people learns how to coöperate, negotiate, and just plain old get along.
The bathroom shared a wall and a heating register with my bedroom. Of course, I shared my bedroom with Deanna and Bonita. I always shared, from the time I was born. Well, some things were all mine, like my Easter basket, my place at the table, and any mistakes I made.
Late at night, or early in the morning Dad came a-harumphing up the stairs, before he went to bed, or before he went to work. I never knew which of those things it was, ’cause it was dark out, and I’d been sleeping awhile, and the Baby-Ben alarm clock was on Deanna’s side of the bed, and she got mad if I crossed over the middle line and got on her side. Anyways, I heard Dad let out a big stinker before he went #1. That’s the way he did it; the same way every time. A big loud butt-burp, followed by garden hose peeing. I guessed Dad had to let a stinker go first, kinda like a cork popping out of a bottle top.
Lots of times, us girls goofed around in the bathroom, ’cause we were always waiting for someone on the toilet or someone brushing her teeth, ’cause everything went on in there at the same time. I liked to pretend the bathtub was a trapeze or the high-wire at the circus, even though I never went to the real circus, just saw pictures in a book and on TV. I balanced pretty good in my bare feet or tennis shoes, but Continue reading
In fifth grade, I was in love with my teacher, Mr. Kopczyński. Now I struggle to understand my 10 year-old mind. Mr. Kopczyński was neither young, nor attactive. He was far from the most attentive teacher I ever had, and maybe middling on intelligence. Still, I loved him. I was his Favorite.
Mr. Kopczyński said he was a distant cousin of Grandpa’s, Mom’s dad. Mom just moved her eyeballs underneath her closed lids. “Well, yes, ” she sad, with her eyelids still covering her eyes. We’re all related if you go back far enough.” Then she picked up a sheet fresh from the clothesline and told me to take the other end and help her fold. She told me I was related to a Polish author with a name I could never say, and who I never even heard about in my whole entire life. Continue reading
I am certain I did many things that made my mother shake her head in disbelief. Sometimes it was amazement; sometimes it was disdain or incredulity. More than once I heard Mom say, “I can’t believe the way your mind works.” Some things I did, in hindsight, surely made Mom’s hair stand on end. I fell in love with David when I was in fourth grade. What was I thinking?
Most of the time, Dad took us kids trick-or-treating down one side of our road and up the other. That was super-fun, getting candy for no good reason, just for dressing up in a good costume and calling out “Trick-or-Treat.” I found out later than “Trick” meant ‘give me candy or I’ll do something mean,’ like soap your windows, or turn over your outhouse, or maybe stick a potato in your car’s tailpipe, like Mom did when she was a kid. I never ‘tricked’ anyone, ’cause for one thing, I never knew that was an option, and for another thing, Dad was there, and he always made me be polite. Besides, nobody ever threw cold water all over me when I yelled “Trick-or-Treat”, like some guy did to Mom and Uncle Ken and Uncle Gene, so those three got thinking about getting even. For Pete’s sake, what an old meanie that man was; he deserved to be tricked. Still, Continue reading
When I was a little girl, moms were not real people. They were mothers. Moms were kinda like s guardian angel, who kept kids on the right path, only no wings. Sort of like that picture Grandma had in the bedroom I slept in when I stayed over. The one where the angel kept a boy and a girl from falling off a cliff and getting killed, and the kids just walked along happy as larks, never even realizing they were in danger. A mom never ran and played, or caught frogs, or fell in love with boys with silky hair like Warren, or stamped her feet because nobody would listen. Sure, moms got mad, but that was only because their kids were naughty or shoes were lost. A Mom never got her feelings hurt or wished for things to be different. I remember the first time I got a clue that Mom was a real person.
I was way upstairs in my bedroom. I was supposed to be taking a nap, but I was jumping on the bed, ’cause I was in kindergarten, almost in first grade, and I wasn’t the least bit tired. I jumped right on top of my white bedspread with all the bumpy tufts on top that I was supposed to pull back before I got under the covers. All the ballerinas on the wall danced in the different poses as I flew higher and higher. I could almost touch the pointy crystals dancing around the light fixture way up there on the ceiling; the fixture my best friend from the bus Betty said she thought was so spiffy ’cause it made rainbows dance on the walls so it looked like my room was filled with ballerinas and fairies all at the same time. Betty asked me if I was rich, ’cause of those crystals. She wanted one crystal to take home with her. It’s kinda strange how someone Continue reading