Two children fell from the top of this slide in the playground across from the house where I grew up. One of them was my sister Patti, pictured nearest the top in this photo. The second child to fall tragically died, but the slide was not removed or altered until the old school building was replaced years after I had grown up and moved away. I am the third and lowest child in this photo, following along, as usual. photo circa 1949/50 by my other sister, Betty Dykstra Wilcox
My newest children’s book is now available on Amazon. Go HERE to order.
“Wake up, wake up, my buttercup, my flutterdown and flutterup, my painter and my cutterup, your sleepy time is done.” So begins this silly rhymed storybook by Judy Dykstra-Brown that takes a child from waking up to a go-to-sleep-lullaby, chronicling in between a day full of activities and then the bedding down of the child along with a recap of all the creatures they have encountered during the day at their grandparents’ farm, the zoo and in storybooks. “Humpa, humpa, haravan, the camels in their caravan and puppies on the spare divan are falling fast asleep . . . like the foxes in their lairs, with the fleas down in their hairs. . . . Like your playmates, your teacher, and every living creature.” Sunup Sundown Song takes a child through the entire busy day and lulls them to sleep. Charmingly illustrated with fine details by artist Isidro Xilonzochitl. Meant to be read to children of all ages.
She stamps her little foot down. A tantrum, I would guess.
She will not put these panties on. She will not wear this dress.
She doesn’t want to brush her teeth. Tangles swathe her head.
She doesn’t want her breakfast. She doesn’t want her bed.
Her grandma shuts the door on her. She’ll wait until she’s grown.
She used up all her patience on kids who were her own!!!
With tongue in cheek, I’d like to dedicate this blog to Karen over at her Momshieb blog. You might want to read her link as well! She’s crazy about her grandkids but even grandmas have their limits. The WordPress prompt word today is tantrum.
— Ilsa, damp and determined.
This little girl is Ilsa, the daughter of Ellie, the young lady who comes to clean my rental house once a week. Last year Ilsa was very shy and either hid behind her mother or sat in a corner playing with her phone whenever I tried to talk to her. This year, however, at the mature age of 4, she is an affectionate chatterbox, following me around, chatting me up, smiling a lot, even before I gave her the red licorice that she seemed not to realize she could chew and swallow. An hour after I gave it to her, she was still sucking on the end,, her lips stained with what looked like a very unskillful application of red lip gloss Staying near. When I heard her humming, I asked if she knew any songs. She proceeded to sing a very involved song that lasted at least five minutes. Either she was making it up or has an excellent memory. It was in Spanish, so I didn’t follow it as my mind tunes out and I forget to listen closely enough to try to make out the lyrics.
Afterwards, we talked about cars and dogs and cats and crocodiles and I showed her photos of Morrie on my computer. Her mother called her in twice, telling her to let me work (on blogging) but each time she eventually came back out to stand near and smile and talk and smile and play cocoon with the hanging towels and sheets that hung all around me on lines strung across the porch. Finally, she wrapped herself in a damp-sheet hanging on the line near me and started singing the same three-word line over and over again. I strained to hear it. It sounded like “Hunta para siete,” so I Google translated, but got no answer. She came close, touched my arm and continued to sing it, over and over. When I asked her mom what it could mean, she had no idea. Then, suddenly, I heard it correctly and with the correct spelling. She was singing “Junta para siempre”—“Together forever.” How sweet is that?
When she and her mom left, almost immediately, another little girl walked up to the steps leading up from the sand and climbed up to my porch. Fresh from the ocean, still in her suit, she dripped water from suit, hair and body. In one hand she held a strand of long black hair, sucking on the tip.
She is the little girl who last year had entered the house, poured four cups of dogfood into Morrie’s dish and locked him inside his cage with it. She was also the little girl who would let him off his long lead every time she walked by the porch, freeing him to come play with her on the beach. When their play ceased, she left him to run free, with several potentially dangerous situations arising. So, it became necessary for me to never put Morrie out on his own. It was a very limiting plan–for me. I ended up not going on any of the day excursions Tess and Rita and John planned because… I had to stay home with Morrie
I gave Elsie the sad news that Morrie wasn’t here this year and neglected, on purpose, to tell her I had a cat with me and she eventually climbed down the stairs and slipped away like the accomplished little cat burglar she is. No, I didn’t tell her I had a cat along with me this year.
Elsie, wet and wily.
I always wanted a set of those panties that had a day of the week embroidered on each one, but I grew up in an era when kids didn’t ask for things. I know my mom would have bought them for me if she’d known, or my grandma would have ceased her endless activity of sewing sequins on felt butterflies or crocheting the edges of pillow shams long enough to embroider the days of the week onto the baggy white nylon panties jumbled into my underwear drawer. I never asked, though. Never told.
So it was that on Sunday I’d arise and put on the same old underpants, cotton dress with ruffle, white socks, patent leather shoes. I’d take a little purse no bigger than the makeup case in the suitcase-sized purse I now carry. Into it I’d drop a quarter my dad had given me for the collection, a hanky and the lemon drop my mother always put inside just in case of a cough. I never coughed, but always ate the lemon drop, sucking on it during Sunday School and sometimes asking for another from the larger supply in her purse during church.
Why my mom never sang in the choir I don’t know. She had a fine true voice. Both of my older sisters did and so did I, once I was in high school. I remember when I was little watching the choir in their fine robes that looked like they were graduating every Sunday. They sat facing us, in three rows to the preacher’s left, as though checking up on us to make sure we didn’t misbehave or yawn or chew gum. In addition to lemon drops, my mother always carried Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum in her purse. Sometimes the gum was a bit red from the rouge she always had on her fingertips on days she applied makeup. It seemed to me like the rouge flavored the gum a bit. It tasted of clove and flowers.
“Just hold it in your mouth,” my mother instructed, my sister and me; and if we chewed, she would take it away from us. “Just chew it enough to make it soft and then hold it in your mouth.” This was an almost impossible challenge for a child and actually even for a teenager. By then, we’d learned to crack the gum and to blow bubbles even when it wasn’t bubble gum. That fine pop and final sigh of air as the bubble broke–so satisfying. The threat and memory of everything we could be doing with that gum resided in each small wad of it held in our cheeks as we sat lined up like finely dressed chipmunks listening to the minister drone on.
Hymns were like the commercial breaks on television–a chance to move around a bit and look at something other than the preacher–to ponder the curious lyrics such as, “Lettuce gather at the river,” “Bringing in the sheets” and “Let me to his bosom fly.” (Just what was a bosom fly and what had lettuce and collecting sheets from the clothesline to do with religion? Once again, we didn’t ask.)
Then we’d sit down again for the Apostle’s Creed or a prayer or benediction or the interminable expanse of the sermon–half an hour with no break. I’d listen to the drone of the flies buzzing in circles at the window, or the sound of cars passing in the summer, when the front and back doors were left open to encourage breeze where no breeze existed.
Now and then a curious dog would wander in and be ushered out by the man who stood at the door to hand out church programs. Everyone would hear the scramble of dog toenails on the wooden aisle and turn to watch and laugh. Even the minister would laugh and say say something like, “All of God’s creatures seek to commune with him upon occasion.” Then everyone would laugh softly again before he turned his attention back to telling us what was wrong with us and how to remedy it.
That afternoon, Lynnie Brost and I were going to play dress up and have a tea party under the cherry trees and bury a treasure there. We’d already assembled it: my mom’s old ruby necklace, a handful of her mom’s red plastic cancer badges shaped like little swords with a pin at the back to put on your collar to show you’d given to the campaign, my crushed penny from the train track, her miniature woven basket from South America that her missionary sister had brought her, a tattered love comic purloined from her older sister. (We’d “read” it first–which at our age meant looking at the pictures.)
I fell asleep thinking of what else we could add to our cache, to be dug up again in ten years or for as long later as we could stand to put off exhuming it. I leaned against my mother as I slept, and if she noticed, she did nothing to awaken me. She shook me a bit, gently, as the congregation stood after the sermon, singing “Onward Christian Soldiers” as the minister marched down the aisle, smiling and greeting parishioners and the choir followed him, as though they were being let out early for good behavior. At the door, we greeted the preacher again, standing in line to shake hands and be blessed, then ticked off his mental list of who had been among the faithful on this fine summer day when they could have been out mowing the grass or rolling in the piles of grass emptied from the clipping bag.
Then we drove the block home, for no one ever walked in a small town. Well done rump roast for dinner, as we called the noon meal. Mashed potatoes, brown gravy, canned string beans, a salad with homemade Russian dressing and ice cream or jelly roll for dessert. All afternoon to play. Another small town South Dakota Sunday of an endless progression strung out from birth to age eighteen, when I departed for college and the rest of my Agnostic life.
This is an essay from almost 5 years ago. Hopefully, you’ve either not been reading my blog for that long or you’ve forgotten it and it will read like new, as it did for me. I missed the boat when it came to religion, but it wasn’t for lack of experience. The prompt today is almost.
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.
We were small fry in a grown up world,
our dresses starched, our hair tight-curled
on a candlestick by mothers
who scrubbed the faces of small brothers
with fingers they had spit upon
to purge the dirt they’d lit upon.
We had no choice in any of this.
Nor in the neighbor lady’s kiss.
Sour and moldy though she might smell,
we pretended we loved it well.
So went the life in days gone by
so long as you were just small fry.
Now children pose for selfies and diss
the thought of an old lady’s kiss.
They refuse to run through traces.
Don’t allow spit-scrubbed-at faces.
Skirts go unstarched, hair goes uncurled
now that children rule the world!
Fry is the WP prompt today.