Absent a Miracle Worker

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Vickie, Loren, and Bonnie-Jo

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.

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Castro’s Dominoes

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.

Fallout_shelter_photoOur 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.
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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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Riding in Cars with Canadians

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

Little House on the Farm

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

Eat, Pray, and Castro

When I was a little girl, everybody was afraid of Atomic bombs because of  Castro, Cuba, and 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 convert everyone to Communist, getting rid of all the Catholics.  The 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 everybody new shoes and staying away from the snow.  Mom told me not to eat snow, because it was full of radiation, and I would get poisoned.

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.   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.

Nancy’s dad dug the bomb shelter behind the garage, on account of the communists in Cuba. He asked Dad how come he wasn’t building one.  Dad just threw his head back and laughed with all the silver fillings in his teeth showing, “I’ll just come over here, with Rita and the kids.”  Nancy’s dad rubbed the space between his eyebrows  and let out a short huffing sound.  I guess he didn’t think Dad was so funny.  After a while,  Nancy’s dad seemed to get tired of the bomb shelter, just like he got tired of keeping track of how much his kids grew, ’cause he stopped talking about it, and Nancy said they never had any drills, or went in it, or anything.  I heard Dad tell Mom it was a good thing, ’cause the whole family would be roasted alive if a bomb ever did hit near us.  Mom said it seemed like a good place to stored canned goods, anyway, so it wasn’t wasted.  It’s super important not to waste stuff; almost as important as remembering to pray before going to bed.

We had a bomb shelter at school with a big yellow sign telling everybody where the bomb shelter was, and the same whistle as the Noon Whistle warning everybody if a bomb was coming to get us.  It was a bomb if the Whistle went off and it wasn’t noon.  I guess Communists don’t have Noon Whistles, or they would drop the bombs at Noon, and nobody would be the wiser; they’d just start eating lunch, like every other Noon Hour.  Anyways, the bomb drills were just like tornado drills: go quietly to the shelter, no running, or pushing.  Tornado alarms were the same as the Bomb alarm, so if the real thing came,  the only way to know it was a bomb was if Teacher started passing out the food saved up down there in the shelter.  That was only for bombs, not for tornados.

After a while, the coaches for the boys’ teams used the bomb the shelter for a weight training room.  A girl wasn’t allowed to go down there unless a teacher was with her, and then only for some special reason.  I was down there once, but Mr. Maize told me to get out, ’cause I was staring at some sweaty high schooler laying on a bench and lifting a big heavy barbell, like Hercules.  I never saw anything like that before in my life.  Dad lifted heavy stuff, like when he was fixing the hay baler, but he never just laid down in his shorts and lifted stuff up for no good reason.  Mr. Maize grabbed both my shoulders and turned me around and said, “Get out of here, and don’t come back.  Ever.” It smelled like old dirty socks and towels left balled up in the corner of the bathroom for a week, so that was okay with me.

Mom told me radiation from bombs was everywhere, and the snow washed it out of the air, so don’t eat snow ’cause then I would get radiation sickness and die.  I ate snow anyway, ’cause there it was, all white and crisp and clean, and just begging me to grab a handful and eat it up like ice cream.  Oh, I loved the crunch and the coldness.  I did get sick, too.  Really sick:  throwing up, fever, and chills, for days.  I thought I was probably dying from radiation poison, but I kept quiet about the snow, ’cause I would feel really sad to die and be in big trouble too.  Between throwing up and sleeping, I prayed that I would get better, and promised God I would stay away from snow-eating.  I got better, but I didn’t keep my promise.  Bonita told me it was okay, ’cause God knows everything I do even before I do it, so He already knew I was going to fail when I made that promise.

There sure are a lot of things to worry about in this world, most we have little or no control over.  So I try to limit my worries to the things where I can at least have some impact:, like make sure I eat right and get enough sleep, and keep in touch with all the people I love, and lend a hand when I see people need help.  It’s still a good idea to avoid waste, whether that’s wasting money, energy, or resources.  Oh, and one more thing:  I keep praying.  So far I’ve got a pretty good track record with prayer, anyway, I haven’t died of radiation poison yet, and I have to admit, I still like the taste of fresh, clean snow, especially the crunchy kind.