Category Archives: childhood

Where I Am From

 

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Where I am From

I am from Annie-I-Over and London Bridge, the upstairs trunk filled with my mother’s Eastern Star formals and my older sister’s discarded prom dresses.

I am from backyard cherry trees and grain sacks piled in the old cinder block garage. From the lame dog that dad named the arithmetic dog because he put down three and carried one, from that winter when the three little Judd girls perished on the prairie during a snow storm, their gloved hands rising from the snowdrift, their ungloved hands, one each, in opposite pockets of their snow parkas that were not sufficient in the prairie winds and drifting snow.

I am from sounds in the prairie night. That sudden popping noise and choruses of mice families in the walls, my oldest sister in late from the Vivian dance, trying to sneak quietly up the wooden stairs to our upstairs all-girls loft, my middle sister in her purple bedroom, me in my yellow and red with the green linoleum, my oldest in her green and black and white checked refuge whose windows opened up to the front porch roof and sunbathing a story above pesky neighborhood boys with ice water in glasses or simply inquisitive eyes.

I am from the creak of playground swings in the schoolyard across the street. From our neighbor’s cocker spaniel that they let me pretend was mine, me cross-legged in the dirt of their front yard in Levis and a checked shirt with my dog in the triangle of my legs.

I am from Frosty Freezes and Mowell’s Drug Store. Cherry phosphates and chocolate Cokes, Russian Peanuts and love comics I could only buy if they were at the bottom of the stack I bought ten at a time—my entire week’s allowance. My mother’s instructions only countermanded by the cooperation of Jack Mowell, who never looked beyond the top three in the stack.  Archie and Veronica, Casper the Ghost, Richie Rich and then—Love for the duration of the stack.

I am from hay rides and watermelon feeds at the Thomas family farm down by the river. Wood ticks and sand bars that sucked you in. I am from White River boys and mean White River girls who said they were their boys and to leave them alone. I am from a sudden stubborn nature that didn’t listen and so had my first kiss standing in the field between two cars––one being my car with  Jones County plates, the other the car of a Mellette County boy from White River who would make me dizzy as often as we could arrange it for the next two years.

I am from Job’s Daughters and 4-H, the apron I spent all summer sewing that made it to the State Fair where the judges declared it to look “hastily made.”

I am from a book handed to me at the age of 16 that began, “Listen, Violet, I am going to tell you a wonderful story and it’s all about the birds and the bees.”

I am from choke cherries and meadowlarks, riding in the backs of pickups, picking up pop bottles along the highway ditches, and bouquets of sweet clover and alfalfa and snake grass. Stealing corn from the neighbor’s fields and overnights in our own fields down by the river to switch the irrigation pumps at midnight, my older sisters in a wrestling match, throwing each other in the irrigation ditches and my dad’s ghost story ending in “You’ve got my golden hand” and his hand descending from the pitch black to grab my upper arm.

Screams under the summer stars and the half-full moon. The yip of coyotes and an occasional marauding coon. All the spirits of departed Sioux natives and homesteaders as well as a few ghosts of our own. Perhaps ourselves coming back to investigate our pasts. Haunted by the whole surrounding vast emptiness of rolling plains and empty skies between the vast amount of stars and grass and seeking souls who frequented those spaces that made the emptiness not empty but full of things with space enough to grow and move into whatever we were becoming.

 

I published this for Mary who asked for more results from the exercises we did at our writing retreat a few week ago. I believe this was a 20 minute timed writing to the prompt, “Where I Am From”. If you’d like to tell us where you’re from, please link your essay in the comments below!

Reined-in Adventures

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Reined-in Adventure

My first mount was a hobbyhorse, I’d ride him up and down
all around the basement, if not around the town.
In summer we would come outside and ride along the walk
that my sister used for hopscotch–all scribbled up with chalk.

With reins clipped to his harness, I maintained a healthy clip.
Careful over sidewalk grooves, avoiding every dip.
Never did he tarry as we hurried on our way,
for when we reached our destination, I would feed him straw and hay.

Then, being very hungry after my vigorous ride,
I’d put away my pony before I went inside
and I’d become the pony and my mother would feed me
carrot sticks and cabbage hay, sitting on Daddy’s knee.

I’d whinny with each forkful. I’d toss my head, then prance
upstairs to my nap to dream of England and of France
where policemen still rode horses along the city streets,
racing after robbers and other heroic feats.

And in my dreams, my horse and I would have a glorious ride
more dangerous than earlier rides we had had inside.
Charging after bandits, fording rivers and
forsaking backyard sidewalks for dirt and stone and sand.

We’d clamber up steep mountainsides to try to find a pass,
then kick up rocks while sliding down to sail through fields of grass.
We’d conquer all the beaches, then roll through fields of clover,
having wilder adventures until my nap was over.

Prompt words for today are hobbyhorse, harness, groovy, tarry and straw.

Dear Diary, Aug 20, 1958

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I recently found my old diary, pictured above. I was eleven years old when I wrote the entry below.

Dear Diary

August 20, 1958

Dear Diary,

After I got up I started to clean up living room and finished after dinner*. Then I read, played cards and watched t.v. Patti and I just had a fight. She wanted to listen to her radio and I was listening to t.v. or I should say watching it. Anyway, it causes a little static when the t.v. is on too so Patti turned off the t.v. I kept turning it on and she off. Well, finally I shut if off for a while and went up to listen to her radio. She didn’t like that either because I was humming, so she told me to read a book.  I wanted to watch one of my favorite programs so I turned on the t.v. She started crying and I can’t bear to see a woman cry so I turned it off and told her for a girl of 15 who thinks she’s a lot older, she sure was a baby sometimes. For that, she hit me with a book hard.

P.S I’m writing the part about our fight outside.

………….

*We called lunch dinner back then.

Love the last line. Ha!!! Sorry, Patti, but this was too funny not to share. She now lets me watch TV whenever I want to plus she pays my land taxes and signs my income taxes for me and performs all sorts of other generous sisterly duties.  xooxox

All Hallow’s Eve

 

All Hallow’s Eve

The children are ebullient as Halloween grows near—
the day when even scaredy cats put away their fear
and dressed as itchy scarecrows with straw stuck in their britches,
 go to meet with zombies and ghosts and ghouls and witches.

Little tiny mummies wound up in mommy’s sheet
naively think they won’t run home at the first witch they meet.
When they knock on neighbors’ doors, it is their fondest wish
that they’ll be met at once with piles of candy in a dish.

M&M’s or Hershey bars, popcorn balls or Snickers.
When their bags get full, they stuff the pockets of their knickers.
If any folks procrastinate in answering their door,
retaliation calls for soaping windows. Maybe more.

Only Scrooges turn out lights, do not hand out treats,
and when they hear their doorbell ring, sit stubborn in their seats.
So get your candy ready, for night will soon be falling

and all your neighbors’ ghoulish kids will for sure be calling!

Prompts today are falling, procrastinate, naive, ebullient and dish.

If you’d like to see a recap of last year’s Halloween in Missouri, here ’tis. https://judydykstrabrown.com/2017/10/31/happy-halloween-from-morehouse-missouri/

Summer Courtship

Our back yard. Lots of places to hide in yards like this up and down the block, as well as in the deep ditches of the school yard across the street.

Summer Courtship

Those summer nights of hide and seek where we were willing quarry,
our efforts to make curfew were too often dilatory.
Our neighborhood adventures stretched out under the stars—
those shadowed venturings abroad, hiding behind cars,
in barrow pits or hedges, darting through the dark,
avoiding passing car lights and the dog’s insistent bark.
Bigger kids the kingpins of this nightly sequestering,
lying still as death with our fears of capture festering.
That titillating strain of remaining undetected,
somehow in our memories has made us more connected.
How we so consistently lay spread out on the ground
cowering, but secretly hoping to be found
by that special someone who, in our pre-teen flush
even then, in passing, could bring about our blush.
All this search and parrying that we called summer games
very soon would fill our lives called by other names.

 

Prompt words today are strain, kingpin, nightly and dilatory.

Dream World

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Dream World

My little nephews were quite the rapscallions,
with tinfoil armor and mop handle stallions
they conquered their foes and made off in their galleons
to sail the wild oceans, and then this wild pair
got into their airplanes to sail through the air.
You barely could tell that the swing set was there.

From morning to night, they were batting or pitching,
expounding on hockey and football and itching
to escape the tame lives that they would be ditching
as soon as they grew up. Then they would be soaring
in airplanes and gliders and missiles less boring.
Their engines fired up, the crowds would be roaring

for the heroes they’d be, taking off into space,
vanishing upwards with barely a trace—
off to adventure, intent on the chase.
They would catch up with life and grab onto its tail.
They’d travel each highway and ride every rail,
pass “go” every round and get out of jail!

Life in short would be anything but dull and tame.
It would be a wild spree—an adventurous game
wherein they’d be heroes, ensconced in their fame.
At least this was their theory when they were young,
when adventure was made up in mind and on tongue
and all of their upcoming conquests were sung!

But childhood dreams often go far astray.
They tend to evaporate as day-to-day
we slowly grow up and enter the fray.
Now one’s an accountant, the other a doc,
and there’s little adventure and even less talk
of being an astronaut, pilot or jock.

Yet who knows in the nighttime what sorties are planned?
With their heads on their pillows, do their wishes expand
to soar off to adventures more wild and grand?
Perhaps in their dreams they go back to their youth
and to pastimes less sane—more reckless and uncouth.
Perhaps in their slumbers, their dreams become truth.

The prompt words today were air, theory, rapscallion and itching. Here are the links:
https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/rdp-saturday-air/
https://fivedotoh.com/2019/02/23/fowc-with-fandango-theory/
https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/your-daily-word-prompt-rapscallion-february-23-2019/
https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/itching/

The Holy Apewoman of Mexico

This post made years ago at the very beginning of my blog answers today’s prompt of “conjure” perfectly, so here it is again after a small edit:

The Holy Apewoman of Mexico

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 My dialogue takes place between my 7 year old self and my 70 year old self who, ironically, is writing this in Mexico.


Childhood Dreams

7
The mysteries
of Grandma’s barn
and basement—
whole lost worlds there.
Our own attic—a door held down
by a gravity never challenged.

I wanted to see
the hanging gardens of Babylon,
Mexico and Africa—
all these places from books,
their pieces jumbled together
like puzzle pieces
in the deep recesses of my closet,
scattered,
but ready for assembly
some day
when I would
make my future memories
happen.

70
I crouch with myself at seven—
sharing imagined dangers
in deep closets,
trying to conjure the world.
So many small town stories
overlooked
while I dreamed of living
in those fairy tale places
of Bible stories
that stood on a shelf
sandwiched between
the Bobbsey Twins
and Tarzan.

Some of us spend our lives
trying to be like books,
then spend our old age
trying to remember childhood,
mainly remembering
childhood’s dreams.

*

The prompt word today is conjure.