Category Archives: childhood

CFFC Challenge: The Letter “J”

Judith

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week directs us to post a photo of something beginning with the letter “J” that contains at least six letters. Believe it or not, it took me a good ten minutes to come up with such a word!  I was about to resort to the dictionary when I spied this photo on my desktop. I had used it just a few days ago, but earlier, when I went to put it away, my eyes fell on the purse and I started to wonder what I would have carried in a purse when I was three years old. It seemed like a good subject for a poem, so I left the photo there to remind me to try to do so after I did Cee’s “Fun Foto” post. It didn’t occur to me for a long time, that since my name is Judith and it was a photo of me, that I could do both at the same time. 

Cee’s “J” Challenge.

 

Church Purse

What does a three-year-old put in a purse she takes to church?
Held primly on her lap as legs swing freely from their perch.
Feet dangling from the pew above the varnished floorboards where
fifty years of townsfolk have walked enroute to prayer.
Small straw purse grasped tightly in two nail-bitten fists,
too little for a lipstick or store receipts or lists.

If perhaps the sermon stretches on too long,
what can she find inside this purse that she has brought along?
Black plastic strap she’s twisted securely ‘round a finger—
once she has unwound it, how long will the marks linger
pressed into her chubby flesh, like four little rings
she surveys as she unsnaps her purse to view her “things?”

A single piece of Juicy Fruit in case she gets a cough.
A snap bead and a single bud that happened to fall off
the rosebush of that big house as she ran ahead to linger
on their way to church and squeezed it with her finger
(and perhaps her thumbnail) until it finally snapped.
She’d peel off its petals later as she napped.

She knew she shouldn’t do this. They’d told her this before,
but her parents walked so slowly, and those naps were such a bore.
God may have seen even the smallest sparrow fall,
but were single rosebuds seen by him at all?
That lady they belonged to was so bossy and so haughty
that she provoked the saintliest children to be naughty!

A single plastic wrapped-up toy she worries to and fro
from her last night’s Cracker Jacks bought before the show.
She softly rustles cellophane between her restless fingers,
then sniffs them to determine if the caramel smell still lingers.
Mama gently elbows her to say she should desist––
fluttering her hand a bit, loosely from the wrist.

She looks for things much quieter in her little purse.
Her snap pistol is noisier. This marble would be worse,
dropped upon the church floor where it would roll away.
If she caused such a ruckus, what would the preacher say?
Something at the bottom feels so round and sticky.
Probably a Lifesaver gone all soft and icky.

A little lace-edged hanky that Grandma tatted for her.
She said that she would show her how, but she’s sure it would bore her.
A folded piece of paper. Crayons––one blue, one red.
If the sermon goes too long, she can color instead.
Mama will not mind and neither will her Dad.
Sister will be embarrassed, but she cares not a tad.

Later on her Daddy’s eyes will start to close,
but she’s sure her mom will nudge him before he starts to doze.
That’s why she is sitting right there in the middle
to correct his snoozes and her daughter’s every fiddle.
Sister is so perfect she needs no reprimand,
so she sits on the outside, removed from Mama’s hand.

After the sermon’s over, the collection plate
passes here before her, certain of its fate.
She’ll unsnap the little purse and reach down far inside it
to try to find the quarter where she chose to hide it
stuck in her silly putty in a little ball.
Now she wonders whether she can remove it all.

The people farther down the pew look in her direction
to try to see the cause of the collection plate’s deflection,
so her quarter is surrendered to join the coins and bills
piled there around it in green and silver hills.
It is the only quarter blanketed in blue.
It is a nice addition, this unexpected hue.

Sister looks disgusted, but her parents do not see,
That quarter cannot be traced back to her now, luckily.
Church will soon be ended with a prayer and song,
and when the music starts up, she will gladly sing along.
 She still dreads church but she gives thanks, for it could be worse.
She could be forced to live through it without her Sunday purse!

Temporary Rivers

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This is my sister Patti, college age, walking barefoot out to her last big adventure in the ditches of Murdo, South Dakota after a July rain. Not quite the gusher depicted in my childhood vignette below, but nonetheless, Patti’s final puddle adventure. She had taken my visiting niece out. The next day the neighborhood kids rang our doorbell and asked my mom if Patti could come back outside to play again! Ha.

Temporary Rivers

When the rains came in hot summer, wheat farmers cursed their harvest luck, for grain soaked by rain just days before cutting was not a good thing; but we children, freed from the worry of our own maintenance (not to mention taxes, next year’s seed fees and the long caravans of combines already making their slow crawl from Kansas in our direction) ran into the streets to glory in it.

We were children of the dry prairie who swam in rivers once or twice a year at church picnics or school picnics and otherwise would swing in playground swings, wedging our heels in the dry dust to push us higher. Snow was the form of precipitation we were most accustomed to––waddling as we tried to negotiate the Fox and Geese track we had shuffled into the snow bundled into two pairs of socks and rubber boots snapped tighter at the top around our thick padded snowsuits, our identities almost obscured under hoods and scarves tied bandit-like over our lower faces.

But in hot July, we streamed unfettered out into the rain. Bare-footed, bare-legged, we raised naked arms up to greet rivers pouring down like a waterfall from the sky. Rain soaked into the gravel of the small prairie town streets, down to the rich black gumbo that filtered out to be washed down the gutters and through the culverts under roads, rushing with such force that it rose back into the air in a liquid rainbow with pressure enough to wash the black from beneath our toes.

We lay under this rainbow as it arced over us, stood at its end like pots of gold ourselves, made more valuable by this precipitation that precipitated in us schemes of trumpet vine boats with soda straw and leaf sails, races and boat near-fatalities as they wedged in too-low culvert underpasses. Boats “disappeared” for minutes finally gushed out sideways on the other side of the road to rejoin the race down to its finale at that point beyond which we could not follow: Highway 16––that major two-lane route east to west and the southernmost boundary of our free-roaming playground of the entire town.

Forbidden to venture onto this one danger in our otherwise carefree lives, we imagined our boats plummeting out on the other side, arcing high in the plume of water as it dropped to the lower field below the highway. It must have been a graveyard of vine pod boats, stripped of sails or lying sideways, pinned by them, imaginary sailors crawling out of them and ascending from the barrow pits along the road to venture back to us through the dangers of the wheels of trucks and cars. Hiding out in mid-track and on the yellow lines, running with great bursts of speed before the next car came, our imaginary heroes made their ways back to our minds where tomorrow they would play cowboys or supermen or bandits or thieves.

But we were also our own heroes. Thick black South Dakota gumbo squished between our toes as we waded down ditches in water that flowed mid-calf. Kicking and wiggling, splashing, we craved more immersion in this all-too-rare miracle of summer rain. We sat down, working our way down ditch rivers on our bottoms, our progress unimpeded by rocks. We lived on the stoneless western side of the Missouri River, sixty miles away. The glacier somehow having been contained to the eastern side of the river, the western side of the state was relatively free of stones–which made for excellent farm land, easy on the plow.

Gravel, however, was a dear commodity. Fortunes had been made when veins of it were found–a crop more valuable than wheat or corn or oats or alfalfa. The college educations of my sisters and me we were probably paid for by the discovery of a vast supply of it on my father’s land and the fact that its discovery coincided with the decision to build first Highway 16 and then Interstate 90. Trucks of that gravel were hauled to build first the old road and then the new Interstate that, built further south of town, would remove some of the dangers of Highway 16, which would be transformed into just a local road–the only paved one in town except for the much older former highway that had cut through the town three blocks to the north.

So it was that future generations of children, perhaps, could follow their dreams to their end. Find their shattered boats. Carry their shipwrecked heroes back home with them. Which perhaps led to less hardy heroes with fewer tests or children who divided themselves from rain, sitting on couches watching television as the rain merely rivered their windows and puddled under the cracks of front doors, trying to get to them and failing.

But in those years before television and interstates and all the things that would have kept us from rain and adventures fueled only by our our imaginations, oh, the richness of gumbo between our toes and the fast rushing wet adventure of rain!

 

This is a rewrite of a story from three years ago. The prompt today was ascend.

Dental Retaliation

 

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Dental Retaliation

Do you remember toothbrushes lined up on a rack
in the medicine cabinet, at the mirror’s back?
Your father’s brush was ocean blue, your mother’s brush was green,
your sister’s brush the reddest red that you had ever seen,
whereas your brush’s handle had no color at all—
as though it was the ugliest sister at the ball.

How you yearned for color, reaching for your brush
as the first summer’s meadowlark called to break the hush
of the early morning while you were sneaking out
to be the first one out-of-doors to see what was about.
Making that fast decision, your hand fell on the red,
thinking your sister wouldn’t know, for she was still abed.

You put toothpaste upon it, wet it at the tap
and ran the brush over each tooth as well as every gap.
Each toothbrush flavor was different, your older sis had said,
so you thought it would be different brushing your teeth with red.

Your father’s brush was blueberry, your mother’s brush was mint.
Your sister’s luscious cherry—its flavor heaven-sent.

“But because you are adopted,” your sister had the gall
to tell you, “they gave you the brush with no flavor at all.”
You waited to taste cherries, but that taste never came.
That red brush tasted like toothpaste. It tasted just the same
as every other morning when you brushed with yours.
You heard your sister stir upstairs, the squeaking of the floors.

You toweled off her toothbrush and hung it in the rack
and started to run out the door. Then something brought you back.
You opened up the mirror and grabbed her brush again.
A big smile spread across your face—a retaliatory grin.
The dread cod liver oil stood on the tallest shelf.
You were barely big enough to reach it for yourself.

You dipped her toothbrush in it, then quickly blew it dry.
Replaced it, shut the cabinet, and when you chanced to spy
your own reflection in the glass, each of you winked an eye.
Then you ran out to cherry trees to catch the first sunbeam
and brush your teeth with cherries while you listened for her scream.

Yes, we really did have a cherry orchard behind our house. You can see the trees peeking up behind the wild rose bushes directly behind the trellis in the picture above. This is my older sister Patti and I.  Yes, she really did tell me I was adopted. (I wasn’t.) No, I never did smear her toothbrush with cod liver oil. The retaliation part is just a mental one, sixty-some years too late, I’m afraid. She has since redeemed herself.

The prompt today is toothbrush.

Campamento Estrella 2017, Day 1

Day one of Campamento Estrella (Camp Star) In San Juan Cosala, Jalisco, Mexico was a huge success. The point of the camp is to make each child feel like a star, and this year the counselors seemed to feel pretty happy as well. Art, poetry, dance, games, studying about the history of their town and how to improve it, kind treatment of animals and  health and hygiene are all stressed this year. Friday will culminate in a performance and refreshments for parents and other family members.  This is our third year for this camp.  Thanks once again to Agustin for playing such a vital part as well as providing the garden area of Viva Mexico for us to use for the camp.

Click on first photo to view all and read caption.

Sweet Harmony

Two years ago, when I visited friends from my childhood that I hadn’t seen for scores of years, we had a wonderful time  going through a box of mementos and then gathering around the piano to make  music as sweet as the memories.  Susan is a wonderful pianist and Karen a professional-level singer with a lovely soprano voice that always sends chills down my back.  Patti and I, good high school altos that we once were, created the harmony.  A perfect day with three of my favorite people whom I don’t see often enough.  Sweet Harmony for sure.

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Small Reunion

The pianist deftly presses out her chords.
The soprano’s voice slides smoothly from her throat
while we others strain until “Dear Heart” syrups our vocal chords
and we slip with less effort up and down the scale—
old friends singing even older songs.

The small dog snuggles in,
balancing on the plush chair back.
The mother of the pianist and the soprano
observes from her frame atop the piano.
All husbands out and about on other business.

Old letters reread, old memories pulled from forgetfulness,
each of us is left at the end richer—hearts refilled
from a shared past. Every word
has been a song of its own—
our notes blending together
in perfect harmony.

The prompt today was harmonize. This is a rewrite of a piece blogged two years ago. I’m getting ready for Camp Estrella so there won’t be much time for blogging for the next week!  

The First Day

daily life color243 (2)With my sister Patti, 1953, setting out for that big journey across the street for my first day in the first grade.

First Day of School

In our house, a pencil sharpener fastened to a shelf
with a little handle I could turn myself.
All the curls of wood and lead safely caught within,
as I gave the pencil sharpener one more little spin.

Five newly sharpened pencils, clutched tight in my hand,
then bound into a secure bunch with a rubber band.
Dropped into my school bag with eraser, tablet, ruler.
Everything unused and clean.  Nothing could be cooler.

The school warning bell rings out as my saddle shoe––
crisp black and white, unblemished, for it’s stiffly new––
makes its first step out my door to cross across the street
and with other six-year-olds, to find my proper seat.

Lynnie, Henrietta, Sheila, Diane, Sharon.
Clevie,  Meridee and I, Rita, Linda, Karen.
Lyle, Keith, Clinton, Jeff, Georgie, Jimmie, Billie––
come from all directions, running willie-nillie

to get to school before the bell sounds its final peal.
All those years of playing school finally here for real.
We stand in lines inside the room as she calls our names.
No more days of playing random childhood games.

Reading and arithmetic, that little cardboard store
where we learned to count out change, make shopping lists and more.
Spelldowns standing up in front, facing towards the class.
Your hand up when you had to ask for the bathroom pass.

Marching all around the room singing “Charming Billy.”
Can he bake a cherry pie? Those lyrics were so silly.
Then we stomped and pointed–our volume without match
as we sent the boys out yonder  to the paw paw patch.

Are you too young to remember? Or is it that you’re old,
your remembrances supplanted, your memories grown cold?
Do you not recall  the ink wells and chalk erasers?
The recess bell, the sandbox, the swingers and the chasers?

The teeter-totters creaking and the merry-go-round?
Every playground adventure? That cacophonous sound
of shouts and jeers and teasings, the tether ball and slide.
All the joyous sounds before we were called inside

to spend time with Alice and Jerry,  and with “Run, Spot, run,”
reading words over and over before the day was done?
They swirled around in all our brains––phonics, words and numbers
stirred our active childhood minds from their former slumbers.

It was so many years ago that we set out that day
upon a road that later would carry us away
from that square white building with its tower and tolling bell
that for the first eight years of school we would mind so well.

Streaming in from all the sides of our little town––
brilliant students, dunces, class bully and class clown.
It was a collaboration that ultimately made
eighteen little boys and girls ready for second grade!

The prompt was collaboration.

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There are two faces in my first grade photo that I have no memory of.  They left before second grade.  I am the little blonde girl in the middle of the second row. If anyone remembers the little girl next to me or the little boy next to her, (two years after writing this post, I chanced to come upon it and the name Danny Boe came to mind for this little boy. Does anyone know if that is correct?) please let me know if you know the name of either of them and I’ll add him to the roster.  In second grade, they were replaced by two newcomers, Clifford Leading Cloud and Judy Toni. Eleven of us in this photo completed all 12 years of school together.  Our first grade teacher was Mrs. Sandy. Her husband, Pink Sandy, taught generations of Murdo kids how to swim in Johansen’s stock dam!

Correcting a Wrong

I made a misstatement in my last “Odd Ball” post for Cee’s prompt.  I mistakenly said it was a photo I’d altered with my photo editing program (Photos, by Apple) when in fact it was a detail from a collage I did while at forgottenman’s house in Missouri a few years ago.

In response to the photo I posted, I got this query from anglogermantranslations:

I just made out ‘party politics’ in the newspaper clipping. Is it something political then? Do we see Trump’s hair ruffled by the wind in the left bottom corner? And feathers of a big bird? Is it a rebus? Are we looking for a particular word?
Which sent me on a quest for a photo of the entire piece.  An hour or so later, I have discovered this photo in my archives, along with a few other detail shots of the collage:
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And yes, anglogermantranslations, it is a political piece, although Mr. Trump had not yet come upon the scene in a political sense when I created it. He is a product of the theme, however, that dealt with the vanished innocence of our society and how the natural order of things has been taken over by big business and the profit motive. Was I right or was I right?

At First

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At First

Days were not over half so soon
when we ate passion with a spoon.
Swirled chocolate at the Frosty Freeze

melting in the prairie breeze
hot and redolent of soil—
chaff of wheat and rattled coil.
Summer days and summer nights,
rolls in grass and water fights
with uncoiled hoses, cooking pans,
rolled up cuffs and soaked white Vans.

Passion then was not so much
a thing of kissing or of  touch
as of smells and sights and taste.
Baking beans and paper paste.
Brand new tablets, pencil shavings.
Summer nights, then autumn cravings.
Cattle lowing, school bells,
Cool spring water from deep wells.
Throats that ached from drinking it,
brought to light from ancient pit.

All these simple remembered things
that thinking about passion brings:
spin-overs on the monkey bars,
rides on bikes and naming stars.
It’s true some passion rides on night
with pressing lips and gentle bite,
or trembles on the fingertips
straying over breasts or hips.

Yet simpler loves bring lesser rations
of what adults consider passions.
Words like passion must be allowed
to be unfettered, like a cloud
and not confined in connotation,
dictionary or denotation.
Sometimes passion can be bright—
A meadowlark or soaring kite.
Sun-chapped lips just touched with mist
long before they’re ever kissed.

The prompt word today was “Passionate.”

Transformation

Tottering on stubby legs,
Reaching for the world,
Another child once nested
Now slowly comes uncurled.
Stretching out and learning,
Forgetting childhood woes,
Opening to each new thing,
Reforming as she grows.
Meet her in the springtime
And meet her in the fall.
The child you met the first time
Is no longer there at all.
One more child a woman,
Now a mother, now a grand.
Always we are changing,
Led by nature’s hand.

Libraries cannot answer
If changing has an end,
For we know not if transformation
Ends around the bend.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/transformation/

At Play

“Ring Around the Rosie” for my sister’s birthday & a backyard production of “Cowboys.”

At Play

“Annie I Over,” ” New Orleans.”
In shorts or dresses or cutoff jeans,
we ran and threw and played and shouted.
our pent-up energy thus outed.
“Send ‘Em,” “Ditch ‘Em,”  “Cops and Robbers.”
“Poor Pussy” turned us into sobbers.
Do you remember these childhood games?
All vastly varied, with different names?

Before TV or internet,
games were as good as one could get
for transport from reality.
Back when we were cellphone-free,
“Drop the Handkerchief” we knew well
along with “Farmer in the Dell.”
“London Bridge” went falling down
each birthday party in our town.

All the long-lit summer nights
“Cowboys and Indians” staged their fights.
“Cops and Robbers” led to searches
of school ditches and behind churches.
The whole town our playing ground,
each chid lost, each child found
in hours long games of “Hide-and-Seek.”
Count to one hundred.  Do not peek!

In childhood games of girls and boys,
imaginations were our toys.
Does such magic now reside
in minds of children safe inside
their cushioned worlds of rumpus rooms,
sealed safe within their  houses’ wombs?
For dangers real now lurk in places
that formerly hid playmates’ faces.

Safety dictates different measures
for insuring childhood pleasures.
But oh, I remember so well
joyful flight and heartful swell
of friends pursuing through the dark
back then when life was such a lark.
Now children seek  play differently
on cellphone screens and Smart TV,

scarce imagining a world
with internet not yet unfurled.
Our world had not yet been corrupted
with connections interrupted
with wireless servers on the blink,
for we needed no further link
than friends pounding upon our door
to come outside and play some more!

daily life color161 (1)Stylish cowboys Karen Bossart and sister Patti.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/playful/