Category Archives: Childhood memories

Uncornered

    Uncornered

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Corners are the great equalizer, for it is a fact that no matter how large or small the house, every corner is exactly the same size. I remember being so small that I could fit all the way into a corner, right up to where it bent. If I was facing the wall, I could hold my head straight and fit my tongue into the crack that spread out in an L to form the two sides of the corner. If I faced outwards, I felt less punished and more ready to branch out from the corner into the kitchen, perhaps, with the refrigerator to be visited and a cherry popsicle to be collected on my way out into the world of my house.

Lying on my back on the purple living room rug––a floor that, although it extended to each corner of the room, had no actual corners itself. No chance of punishment. Facing downwards on the rug was entertainment: playing jacks or putting together a picture puzzle, moving paper dolls around their world of Kleenex box furniture, pot and pan swimming pools and matchbox coffee tables. In this paper universe were treasures purloined from the jewelry boxes of our mothers. Rhinestone bracelets became flapper necklaces and ruby-colored rings bangle bracelets. A folding fan stretched from side-to-side of the corner became the dressing room where Debra Paget donned her dressing gown, slipping out of her red paper high heels.

In the corner of my sister’s closet was the little cave I’d carved out of the shoe boxes and cardboard boxes of cast-off toys. There I’d wait for her to arrive home with friends in tow, to eavesdrop on their conversations in hopes of finding out who the boy was who had called her on the phone and hung up without identifying himself when he asked if she was there and I’d said no, she was out on a date. I might discover what she was going to give me for my birthday or hear any of the interesting secrets shared by girls four years my senior. But instead, it was the corner I fell asleep in, to wake up hours later when my mother called us down to supper.

“Where’s Judy?” I heard her ask my sister from the bottom of the stairs.

“She’s not up here,” I heard my sister answer as she went hop skipping down the stairs, two at a time. Even after I heard the door close at the bottom of the stairs, I stayed quietly where I was, barely breathing.

Five minutes later, I heard my sister clomping up the stairs again—looking in every room, the bathroom, under beds, in every closet except her own—I guess because she knew I couldn’t be there since she’d been in her own room for the hour before supper. I stayed quiet, giggling inside.

After my sister went downstairs,  I sneaked quietly out into the hall and down the stairs in my stocking feet, then creaked open the door and went running around the corner into the kitchen and dinette to take my usual place at the table—on the bench against the wall.

“Where were you?” my sister asked, “You weren’t anywhere!”

“It’s a secret!” I answered, and to this day, my whereabouts that day are an unsolved family mystery.

“Where was she?” They ask each other. Then, “Where were you?” they ask me again, but try as they may, no one has ever cornered me to give an answer.

For the Word Press Weekly Photo Prompt–Corner.  The photo is by my sister Betty Jo.  The commentary is a story formerly blogged by me.

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.

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, please let me know and I’ll add them 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.”

Summer Evenings Turn to Fall

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Summer Evenings Turn to Fall

Back when we drank summer through paper soda straws,
we played cowboys and Indians, hiding out in draws
that we imagined wilder. Our hearts beat with fear
of fictional opponents who might be drawing near.

We had no euphemisms for our enemies.
We only knew our fear of them, silent, on our knees.
Little did we know then, during childhood games,
imaginary enemies would assume other names.

No ditch big enough to hide, and no night dark enough.
No more cops and robbers. No more blind man’s bluff.
Strange that in those peaceful times the games we chose to play
were a mere foreshadowing of what is real today.

Back when summer filled our cheeks with melons and with berries,
why didn’t we fill balmy nights with princesses and fairies?
Back when life was summer smooth, we lusted after roughness,
as though we’d gain maturity through violence and toughness.

Feigning valor not yet gained, we knew not that tomorrow
we’d have the fears we’d feigned for real––the terror and the sorrow.
Childhood evenings filled with shouts and laughter interspersed
were in reflection adult games that we just rehearsed.

 

The picture is my sister Patti and her best friend Karen.  Note the saddle placed on the makeshift “horse.”  

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

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/