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.
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. Continue reading →
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.
One family of renters stayed in the Little House for years. Mrs. D got to be a pretty good friend of Mom’s, anyway they had a cup of coffee together almost every day. Mrs. D drove a Corvair, she had three kids, Marian, Bonnie-Jo, and Wade. Mr. D went to work everyday in the Shop, just like most other dads did, when I was a little girl.
I’m sure Mrs. D had a first name; I could never use an adult’s first names, unless of course, it was an aunt or an uncle. That was disrespectful. I liked Mrs. D a lot, ’cause she was way different from my mom. For one thing, she was round as a pumpkin and she had what she called ‘dirty dishwater blond hair; Mom was never round unless she was expecting and her hair was brown as a black walnut. I never saw anyone so round as Mrs. D in my entire life. And she wore pants; my Mom wore house-dresses almost all the time. Mrs. D tucked Kleenex in strange places, like in her sleeves and between her thighs. Sometimes I wanted to ask her, ‘how come you don’t have pockets in your clothes, so you have some place to keep your Kleenex, especially that one between your thighs?’ That Kleenex down there really got me thinking: Why was it there? Did she put it there on purpose, or did she just lose it in that great big lap of hers? I decided she forgot that she put it on her lap, and it just got wedged in there when she stood up, then she couldn’t see it anymore, so out of sight, out of mind. Polite people would never say, ‘Hey lady, you got a Kleenex stuck between your legs,” and everybody at my house had good manners. On the other hand, she could have put it there on purpose, ’cause I supposed that was just as good as tucked up her sleeve, and it never, ever popped out of there by accident.
Mrs. D really liked Mom a lot; and I liked Mrs D, ’cause she was so darned interesting, and mostly she was happy. Sometimes I thought Mrs. D tried to be just like my mom. That was impossible. There was nobody like Mom. She smelled wonderful, like vanilla and baby powder and clothes-fresh-off-the-line, all mixed together into one happy smell. Mrs. D smelled sour and sweaty with Glade sprayed on top. Mom told me never-ever to say anything about the way Mrs. D smelled; it was off-limits to talk about how people smelled. I already pretty much learned that lesson after telling Dad his feet smelled like blue-cheese. People can get really hurt feelings about Continue reading →
My Mom and Dad had a Little House, and us kids had a Play House, when I was growing up. The Little House was a milk house, when Uncle Merle and Aunt Lucille and their kids shared our home. The Play House was a dog house way back when Mom and Dad raised German Shepherds. That was before I had any memory at all, which was a long, long time ago.
The Little House was right next to the barn. It was really, really little: a teeny-tiny kitchen, a living room, and two bitsy bedrooms, and of course a bathroom with a shower; there was no room for a bathtub. All those rooms would probably fit inside our fronchroom; the little house didn’t have a fronchroom or a dining room, just all in one room. It didn’t have a porch, and no backyard, no upstairs and no basement, no place to do laundry, and no telephone. Renters stayed in the Little House.
Renters pretty much kept to themselves, except to come over and pay the rent or use the phone; mostly they came over to use the phone. Renters weren’t supposed to call long-distance, but they did anyway, sometimes without even asking. That was like stealing, ’cause long-distance cost money. If the renters asked and didn’t pay for the long-distance minutes, that was stealing and lying, which was double bad. Mom hated it when renters came over and just gabbed on the phone for no real reason, that was a rude thing to do; plus Mom couldn’t help but listen to one half the conversation, which made her feel rude. Being polite was super important to my Mom. Sometimes the only way I could tell she was irritated with somebody was because her lips pressed together tight and her words got super distinct: I could almost hear every letter of every word if Mom was mad. Maybe that’s how I got to be such a good speller, on account of listening to Mom talk so clear. She wasn’t so concerned about being polite to me though, Continue reading →