Fighting the Weasel Monster

I posted this back in 2010.  Yesterday, a small cat crossed in front of the car.  She had short little legs that made her almost slink.  If it weren’t for the slight calico markings on her dark coat, I might have thought she was a weasel.  Mom and  the weasel popped into my head and I started to laugh.  

When I was a little girl, I lived in a big house full of mysteries.  The windows had shutters operated by ropes inside the house, except paint made the ropes stick and there was one window which had shutters that never opened.  I could only see the shuttered window from the outside, so sometimes on rainy days, I searched the inside, looking for the secret window.  The basement floor was dirt, and sometimes animals like moles would make their way into the house.  Once a skunk got in there and got scared, and woke us all up in the middle of the night to a dreadful smell.   There always seemed to be places to explore and mysteries to contemplate in that house.

The bottom corner of each bedroom door had a half-circle of wood missing. Maybe  a hungry wood-eating monster took a bite out of each door.  Mom said squirrels lived in the house before we moved there because  the house was empty for a while.   I tried hard to imagine that house empty, no one there at all, and it seemed impossible, my house was a house that needed noise.   Continue reading

Queen Anne’s Lace

Description: Honey bee on calyx of goldenrod
Description: Honey bee on calyx of goldenrod (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had it all in my head this morning.  I knew exactly what I wanted to write about, even if I didn’t have the details.  That is, until I read my Best-Friend-Blogger’s post this morning, and that’s when I knew I must change directions.  That’s the way it sometimes works for me:  the details flow through my fingers when I’m not paying attention, and I focus on a weed.

When I was a little girl, the pastures were full of flowers:  Milkweed, clover, grasses, mustard, coffee, dandelions, cornflower, picker bushes, rambling rose, and Queen Anne’s Lace.  Me and Bonita and Vickie went on adventures in those fields.  Every step was full of different smells and tastes.  Of course we tasted things.  Mom told us we could die or get a stomach ache.  We never did.

The front view of a Four-leaf clover.

The front view of a Four-leaf clover. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clover grew way down low under the clothesline.  Deanna tried to find a four-leaf clover, ’cause Continue reading

Would you like to ride on a Star? Carry Moonbeams home in a Jar?

I can count the times on one hand, maybe even leave out the thumb, the number of times my family went to an amusement park when I was a little girl.  When we did, it was like rolling up all the fun of a week-long vacation into one day.

Of course, I always went to the County Fair in August, but I only looked at the rides.  For one thing, I was busy with Lady Bird, in the 4-H show, making sure she kept her tail clean.  Dad took to us kids to every single display of old-fashioned tractors, trucks and tools  He said, “This is what we used when I was a little boy.” He had that happy grin on his face, like he was sharing something super-interesting, that no kid could live without.  Why would I care about something that happened such a long, long time ago?  Those tools were rickety and rusted looking, and some of the needed horses to work.

Mom told me when she and Dad were dating, he liked to take her to the Fair, too.  Once a hawker was gathering people around to tell them about a treatment for hemorrhoids.  He shouted out in that special carny voice that’s way louder that a normal voice and each syllable is pronounced distinctly, so you know exactly what he’s saying; that same kind of voice Mom used when she’s angry, and she wanted me to know she meant business, only a carnie left out the angry part.

“Many people are embarrassed to tell their doctor they have hemorrhoids,” the carnie shouted.  “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”  Dad and Mom saw the crowd kind of shuffling around and looking down, like Continue reading

Lessons from the Tooth Fairy

Remember what it was like to lose your first tooth?  It seemed to take forever.  At my house, the tooth fairy took forever to come to my house; she made no overnight delivery.  I learned a lot about delayed gratification when I was a little girl.

Of course Deanna lost some teeth way before I did.  She always did everything first.  Anyways, after the Tooth Fairy left her a quarter, I checked my teeth everyday.  Vickie had a loose tooth, but that didn’t count, ’cause hers got knocked loose when my swing hit her in the mouth after I pumped way up high and jumped out.  Vickie’s tooth dangled there for what seemed like forever, before I even got one loose tooth, but it never came out.  That’s how I knew how to start wiggling mine, just checking to see if one was loose.  Deanna got a whole quarter for each of her baby teeth.

The first tooth to get loose was on the bottom, middle.  It wasn’t really loose, but it squeaked a little, so I started working at it, and after a while it was loose for real.  I tried everything to get that tooth out.  Nancy, from across the road told me to tie a string to one end and the other to a door knob, then she slammed the door hard.  That failed.  Deanna said she lost hers when she chomped on an apple.  That failed.  Pretty soon that tooth was so loose, Continue reading

Soldier Brothers

My Dad was in the War, way back before me or Deanna were born, and way back before he met Mom.  His brothers were in the War, too:  Uncle Frank and Uncle Merle, and Uncle Glenn.  Uncle Ellis was in the Korean War.  Uncle Gerald never had to go because the President said Grandma had enough sons in the War.  Grandma said ‘enough is enough’, and even though that made no sense, I knew just what she meant.

Dad told me he was in the War way back before I was even a twinkle in his eye.  I don’t believe that one minute, ’cause I can’t imagine my Dad without a twinkle in his eye.  Same thing for his brothers:  blue eyes like the sky, that danced like they had stars, in broad daylight, if you can imagine that.

Dad and his brothers never talked about being in the war, except that Dad got a purple heart for getting his appendix out, and once Dad found a German shepherd dog that he kept around for a while and that’s how he fell in love with German shepherds.  I asked Dad if the War was scary, Continue reading

Flowers for Mother’s Day

One time Mom asked me who I would want for a mother if I didn’t have her.  Right off I said my best friend Connie’s mother, then I stopped and thought about it a minute.  Nope, I only wanted Connie’s mom so I could live with Connie.  Connie’s mom was terrible about putting pony tails in Connie’s hair; Mom could put my hair back in a pony tail neat enough to stay all day long.  Connie’s hair was always coming loose and sticking out all wild-looking.  Not Annette’s mom that’s for sure.  She was good at sewing and cooked food from the old country, like nobody’s business, but she was super strict, and probably would make me stop wearing shorts in the summertime; Annette never got to wear shorts.  Betty’s mom knew a whole lot about other people, but if I lived with Betty, I’d get a big sister and a big brother; one big sister was enough for me to keep up with.   I told Mom I guessed I better stick with her.

“Hmmm,” was all Mom had to say to that and she got a look on her face like she did when she was studying a new dress pattern and wanted to make sure she got it right, ’cause she hated to tear stitches out.

Sunday was Mother’s Day, and me and Bonita had our eyes on the lilacs.  Not full bloom yet, but about half-way. Close enough.  I got dressed fast and hurried up Bonita and Vickie, so we could get outside before Mom noticed.

“Where’re you going?” Deanna hissed at me, as she was brushing her teeth.

“To get some lilacs for Mother’s Day.”  I said.

“Mom said not to pick those flowers unless they were fully bloomed.”  Deanna shifted her weight to one side and put her hand on her hip.  She spit out her baking soda and salt solution like she was mad at the sink.  We didn’t use toothpaste ever since Dad said no matter what he did, us kids wouldn’t squeeze from the bottom, and toothpaste was too expensive to waste, and besides that, baking soda and salt are the best for teeth, which was probably true, ’cause my teeth really sparkled.  Anyway, Deanna sure did look like Mom standing there, looking down at me, like I already should know better.  That just made me more determined to get those lilacs.

I could smell lilac all around me as soon as I stepped out on the back porch.  The sunshine made the grass all dazzly and the dandelions looked just like baby suns, all shining and happy looking, so I sent Vickie to pick a bunch, while Bonita and I tackled the lilacs, and grabbed some mustard flowers from behind the Brooder House.  We had to work together to get the lilacs, ’cause the flowers were way up high; so I pulled the branches down, and Bonita ripped the flowers off.  That was pretty tough, but we managed to get a giant armful.  Mom was gonna love these.  Some of the branches stayed down, but the lilac bush had a lot of branches still sticking straight up, so I was pretty sure Mom would never notice.  Then we all went to the side of our house to top our bouquet off with some white quince.  Now that was super-fun, ’cause we called those bushes ‘snow bushes’.  The flowers were just right for shaking.  I got Vickie to sit underneath and Bonita and I just shook and shook, and made those flower petals snow down all around Vickie, sticking in her blond hair and all over her dress.  She looked up at us with her blue eyes dancing, reaching her hands up and laughing up at us.  That was keen as keen can be.  We almost forgot we were getting a bouquet for Mother’s Day.

“Bonita and Adela, where are you?” Mom called from the back porch.  Almost always when she called like that, it meant me and Bonita were close to trouble or already there, so we high-tailed it to the house.  For sure, Vickie was safe, she was too little and innocent to be in any trouble.

“Look at you,”  Mom said.  That’s when I saw those sick yellow-green dandelion streaks all over Vickie’s dress, making it look like she puked all over herself, plus her socks were all wet and muddy looking sticking out of  her pretty Sunday sandals, with  old flower petals stuck all over them and in her dress too.

Mom clicked her tongue in the back of her mouth, and she smiled at us, but it looked kind of like she  pasted that smile on her face, ’cause her eyes looked droopy like mine felt just before I cried after somebody hurts my feelings, and she moved around fast and jerky, like she did when she was a little bit mad about being late.  Plus, Loren lost his shoes again, and Deanna was scurrying around looking for them.  As soon as Bonita and I heard that, we started pulling toys out of the toy box, ’cause for some reason, Loren was always putting his shoes in there, and no one sat still when Mom was looking for something and it was time to go to church, ’cause any minute she might have one of her screaming banshee fits, and nobody wanted that, especially on Mother’s Day.

When it was time for Father Wishmaier to tell us what the Bible story meant, he changed up his mind, and just told us about how we should be good to our mothers instead.  Everybody in the world knew that, nobody needs to say it.  But that day, he said something that stuck with me.  Father said we should be good to our mothers, because if we don’t, we’ll have two kids just like us when we grow up. After church, I asked Mom if she was bad when she was a kid and if she thought I was her punishment, and if I was, did that mean I would still have two kids like me, or if I was off the hook.  She just rolled her eyes over to Dad and said, “I’d like to figure out how your mind comes up with the things you do,” and she pretended to be disgusted with me, but I could see by the way her eyes danced that she was feeling more like when I came home with my report cards and had all A’s.

By the time we got home, the lilacs were all droopy in the vase Mom put them in,  and the dandelions were hanging their heads down resting against the sides, looking sad and almost dead; only the wild mustard flowers still stood at attention, looking all happy to be in the house and where people could see them.  When Grandma got there, she said, “Look at these, don’t they just make the house smell so good.  I bet the Magpies picked those for you.”

“The loveliest centerpiece a Mother’s Day table ever had.” Mom said, and this time I could tell her smile was for real.

In the years since I’ve seen some Mother’s Days almost exactly like that one when I was a little girl.  The one that sticks in my memory the clearest is when my oldest plucked all my tulips and held them out to me with gleeful anticipation with dirt and bulbs still hanging from the limp stems.  If I could choose anyone in the world to be my Mom, I would still choose her.  If I was her punishment, I’m sure by now, she’s more than earned her way into heaven with her love, her restraint and her wisdom.  She’s the best Mom a little girl, or a big girl could ever want.

The Magpies

Building a Ride

Besides baseball, when the weather was warm, I loved to ride my bike.  When I was a little girl, I learned to ride a bicycle much later than most of my friends.  It was difficult to learn with limited smooth surfaces to practice on and when the driveway leads downhill into the road, and especially hard without a bike of my own.

Deanna had a bike ’cause she was oldest; oldest kids got a lot of stuff they handed down when they outgrew it, but I was pretty sure it would be a long time before Deanna outgrew that bike, she seemed about as tall as Mom already, and besides that, her bike was a big bike.

Aunt Annie, who was a high-schooler, gave her bike to Deanna.  Deanna didn’t let me ride ’cause she said I would tip it over and get it all dirty and dented.  Deanna’s bike was shiny blue with white stripes, and looked just like new, ’cause Aunt Annie lived in town and had a sidewalk all around as far as a person could walk or ride.  We had a little sidewalk shaped like a backwards L, one side to the garage and the other to the clothesline, enough to roller skate, play hopscotch, and jump rope, but no room to build up speed on a bike.

One day Dad brought home a truckload of old bikes.  He hitched up his belt and combed his fingers through his hair, as he told us all about his great find.  He just vibrated with happiness.

“There’s your new bikes.” he said.  “Look at all those perfectly great parts.  These bikes were going in the junkyard, and I got them for FREE.  Can you believe it.”    Dad told us all about how we would work together to get new bikes for all of us, even Deanna, if she wanted a brand-spanking-new bike.  I got all quivery inside thinking about taking those old things apart and making new bikes; by the way Bonita looked, she was just as excited:  she started hopping on one foot, then the other, her brown-brown eyes looking as twinky as Dad’s blue ones did.  Usually Bonita’s eyes looked kind of sad, even when she was happy on account of the brown, almost-black color, but this day, she just dazzled all over like the way a blacked-eyed-susan does right after the rain stops and the birds start singing in the trees and the whole world just shouts happiness.

There must have been about a hundred of those bikes: big bikes, little bikes, red bikes, blue bikes, boys bikes, girls bikes all stacked up in the tool shed.  None of them worked.  Except of course for Deanna’s.  She parked her bike on the other side of the shed, up close to the wall, like she thought ‘broken’ was like the measles, and her bike might catch it from that pile.  I had the measles in kindergarten; Mrs. Brown had to wake me up to send me to the bus, and the high-schoolers were coming in the room already.  I knew high-schoolers used that room after I went home, but now they were all looking at me all curious, like they never saw a kindergartener before, so I felt way littler than I really was and I wished I was even littler.  When I got home, Mom saw the spots all over me and sent me right to bed; I didn’t even care ’cause I was so tired.

For a while, Bonita and I just planned out what our bike would look like.  Hers would be silver, mine red.  Red was my favorite color, everything I could get red, was red: red jacket, red beret hat, red mittens in the winter.  My red crayola was all worn down, so it’s hard to get a smooth line.  We got the bikes all sorted, turned them upside down so they rested on the seat and the handlebars, they we tried out the gears and then the brakes.  I liked propping a big bike up and climbing up on the seat and pretending it worked.  I could ride no handed like that, with my eyes shut.

Bonita and I just imagined like that for weeks, dreaming about our new bikes and what they would look like.  Dad helped us find enough parts to put two whole bikes together that worked perfectly.  Mom showed us how to paint them with spray paint, first an undercoat, then put on masking tape where we wanted a design, then a top coat of the main color.  Red for me, just like I dreamed.  Of course, by now, you know about me and paint.  I was red all over for quite a while, and not like that joke about the newspaper, ’cause spray paint goes all over the place and doesn’t just wash off.  The smell of paint got all up in my nose and head and stomach so I had a headache and felt queasy, too.  That was awful.  My Keds had red speckles, from helping Bonita, all summer long, that was a bonus prize, ’cause now I had red on all the time.

Those were the best looking bikes I ever saw.

I learned to ride, after a lot of falling down, bruising, and Deanna was right, my bike got dented and sometimes I fell so hard, grass got wedged in under the fender.  I learned how to ride no-handed and put my feet up on the handlebars, and a few other tricks.  I still think about that bike, when I get my 1o-speed out in the spring.   I still coast down the hill standing on the pedals, feel the wind in my ears, and lean over the handlebars with one leg pointing back, just for the pure glee of it.

I felt proud of that bike, and my part in putting it all together.  Best of all, I got a chance to experience the sweetness of anticipation becoming reality.  That’s a sweetness every child should get the chance to taste.