Tag Archives: childhood memories

Total Recall



Total Recall

The world of our grandmother has been subsumed
by modern conventions but is exhumed
when remembering the cabin where all our relations
 joined us each year for summer vacations.

Ping-pong and campfires and dunks in the lake.
Muddy dirt beaches on which we would bake
and turn brown in the sun, turning over in turns
to inspect our tan lines and moderate burns.

S’mores over campfires and mulligan stew
cooked on the coals and trips to the loo
making our way in the moonlight at night,
battling mosquitos and all things that bite.

Slapping our necks and our arms and our knees
at chiggers and ticks and horseflies and fleas.
Such glorious penance to pay for the fun
of cousins and swimming holes, horses and sun.

Vacations contemporary just don’t equal
those trips of our youth that have no modern sequel.
They live in our memories where we remember
Pleasures of July we recall in December.

 

Prompt words today are ping-pong, contemporary, cabin, subsume and grandmother.
Again, this is fiction. The camping memories were actually from church camp in the Black Hills
where I went every year. Loved it.

Noises in the Night

Noises in the Night

She was six years old and alone in a room that had noises in the wall. She would curl up into a tight little ball under the covers and concentrate on the friendly sounds––the tapping of the pendulum of the clock which hung on the wall beside her bed and the water gurgling through the heating pipes. The muffled voices of her parents down below in the living room. She liked these noises. They made her think that she wasn’t alone.

But she could hear other sounds of the summer night–– the sudden loud popping noise that she thought was a gun until daddy told her that it was only houses settling, or the sound of the elm tree outside her window scraping against the brick on the chimney or the wind as it whined through her screens, making the venetian blinds scrape against their wooden window frames. She could hear things in the walls, too––noises that sounded like people walking and high shrieking noises that daddy said were just mice and not robbers.

The sheet felt muggy on her bare legs and she kicked it off and rolled over. She lay on her stomach and slipped her hand beneath the pillow, sliding it back-and-forth against the trapped coolness of the percale. She glanced at the noisy pendulum clock Santa had brought her for Christmas to help her learn to tell the time. It was her first real clock and it was in the shape of a Shmoo.  She could just make out where its hands were from the light of the streetlamp shining through her window. It wasn’t very late.

She flipped over and slid her legs over the side of the bed, feeling the slight stickiness of the linoleum on her feet as she walked to the window. The air had cooled a bit and it had started to rain. A slight breeze tickled the hairs on her arm and sifted the rain onto her nose as she pressed it close to the screen to smell the mustiness of the wet night grass.

She wondered when her older sisters would get home and come up to bed. It was lonely in a room all alone in the upstairs of a house that had robbers in the walls.

 

For MMM’s Sunday Writing Prompt

Loam

Loam

My roots are in the soil of the place I once called home
and still I feel a part of that South Dakota loam.
It had rich humus that gave life to all that seeded me,
clay to hold my memories and sand to set me free.

Lest I give the impression that they’re gone without a trace,
a myriad of memories lie rooted in that place.
They flit like prairie moths through everything I do,
then sink back down into my heart like rich Dakota goo.

 

Prompts for today are impression, myriad, flit and home. (Loam is a fertile soil of clay and sand containing humus.) Photo by Nikola Jovanovic on Unsplash. Used with permission.

First Friends

Click on photos to enlarge.

First Friends

Friendship need not be dazzling at every bend and turn.
It can be a placid river, devoid of roil and churn.
It can merely listen—a sympathetic ear
can be enough to cancel out sorrow, anger, fear.

Friends are one of life’s delights that nothing else replaces—
initials in a school desk that nothing else defaces.
School assignments dreaded, but then attacked together,
countless outings faced as one in mild or stormy weather.

Dazzling feats accomplished: sports, exams and proms. 
Secrets shared together that we’d never tell our moms.
Giggling under covers, far into the night,
regretful tears and tight embrace after a childish fight
.

What can replace a friendship in which every secret’s known?
Even after years apart, when we’re matured and grown?
In every single mother, grandmother or wife,
there are those kernels of  memory of the first friends of her life
.

 

Word prompts for today are assignment, delight, dazzling and friendship.

After the Town Reunion, For Jim


After the Town Reunion
For Jim

Sandwiched in age
between
my two older sisters
and ten years my senior,
he is someone from so long ago
that he seems more myth than actuality.
Yet when he asks me to write a poem
about hummingbirds,
even now, more than a year after the reunion
and sixty years since I had seen him before that,
honored to be noticed,
as little kids are with older kids,
I comply with his wishes.

My first hummingbird days, Jim,
centered around the trumpet vine
that clung to the trellis
on the south side of our big front porch.
It was the side you wouldn’t have seen
as you walked from your house to the grade school
across the street from us,
but it was where
both hummers
and I
loved to hang out.
I lay on the porch on my stomach
on a folded-over blanket,
chin on my fists,
legs crossed at the ankles,
to watch their thrusting flights,
or stood on the concrete sidewalk—
roughened to prevent falls on the ice in winter,
but its numerous small ravines
filled nonetheless with my flesh—
the remainders of knees oft-skinned
while attempting to round its curve
on roller skates,
or simply from falls during rushed passages
in the heat of a game of hide-and-seek
or cops and robbers.

Whether I lay or stood
made no difference
to the hummingbirds
who executed their
sweep and dart, then paused suspended,
wings creating great outspread parasails
that held their small bodies
motionless in mid-air as they sipped
nectar from the speckled throats
of orange honeysuckle blooms,
profuse and heavy on their tangled vines.

Shifting to the nearby grass,
I closed my eyes to the music of their wings,
opened my eyes to see their blur—
another smudged memory
that moved too quickly
out of hearing
and of sight.

 

And, lest you, like Jim, think I have been neglecting hummingbirds in my poetry, HERE and HERE and HERE are three links to poems that at least mention hummers.

Memory Box

Above is the entire box. Below are enlargements of each square. Click on photos to enlarge. even more.

Over fifty years ago, my sister Betty gave me a memory box for Christmas.  It was an old box used to store type-setting letters with thirty compartments, some of which she backed up with paper and decorated with a buckeye, a small bird, a basket of dried flowers. It was up to me to fill the rest. I remember sitting that Christmas and choosing photos from my family album to put in some of the boxes and over the years I have added other objects that together tell the story of my life. I had the box hanging in my studio, but when men recently installed wifi wiring, they knocked it off the wall and a number of the pieces fell out of the box. Others rolled away and were lost. So, during this three months of isolation, I’ve spent more time in the studio and so for several days, off and on, I worked on refilling the memory box. In some cases the glue had soaked through the photos. In other cases the photos have nearly become invisible. I found backing material for some squares that had no backing, added items from the many drawers of items in my studio. Here is the finished project, mostly restored to its old order but with many additional items added as well. I was going to try to tell the story of each square, then decided that I would tell the stories as people queried me about them. If no one is curious, I’ll let the memory box tell its own story. If there are any squares you want me to tell the story of, make a request and it will be met. The memories span a time period from 1947 to 1987, when I got married. Above is the memory box, with all of its warts.

HERE is an Explanation of the “6 Coeds Narrowly Avoid Disaster in the Mountains” square, and HERE is an Explanation of the square with the quinine pills and pins.

Easter Hunts

IMG_4046

Easter Hunts

My toy cannon muffled by an egg stuffed in its snout.
Easter grass and sugar eggs hidden inside and out.
My parents’ Easter soirees were things of grand design.
The pink nests were sister’s and the yellow ones were mine.
One disappeared behind the mirror, one behind father’s chair.
At the end, still one nest to be found, I knew not where.
Suckers, Peeps and sugar eggs, jelly beans and gummies—
sought out and stuffed in Easter baskets, then stuffed in our tummies.
My folks went to such bother, whereas I must say in truth, 
If I’d been asked, I’d rather have just had a Baby Ruth!

 

Prompt words this Easter Sunday are truth, soiree, disappear, cannon and mirror. (You didn’t make it east this time, folks!)

Sweet Clover

Photo by my sister Patti Arnieri

Sweet Clover

Before our dad told us its real name,
we used to call it wild mustard.
What did we know about sweet clover except for its color
and that summer smell, cloying in its sugared perfume.
It filled the air and smothered the plains—
bright yellow and green where before
brown stubble had peeked through blown snow.

On these dry lands, what flowers there were
tended to be cash crops or cattle feed.
Sweet clover or alfalfa.
The twitching noses of baby rabbits brought home by my dad
as we proffered it to them by the handful.
Fragile chains we draped around our necks and wrists.
Bouquets for our mom
that wilted as fast as we could pick them.

Summers were sweet clover and sweet corn
and first sweethearts parked on country roads,
windows rolled down to the night air,
then quickly closed to the miller moths.
Heady kisses,
whispered confessions, declarations,
unkept promises.
What we found most in these first selfish loves
was ourselves.

The relief of being chosen
and assurance that all our parts worked.
Our lips accepting those pressures unacceptable
just the year before.
Regions we’d never had much congress with before
calling out for company.
That hard flutter
like a large moth determined to get out.
Finding to our surprise,
like the lyrics of a sixties song,
that our hearts could break, too.

Hot summer nights,
“U”ing Main,
cars full of boys honking
at cars full of girls.
Cokes at Mack’s cafe.
And over the whole town
that heavy ache of sweet clover.
Half promise, half memory.
A giant invisible hand
that covered summer.

The dVerse prompt today is to write  a poem about a flower. Nice coincidence that I was working on this poem for a book about growing up in South Dakota and had just asked my sister if she had any photos of sweet clover. She did–and here are both the poem and the photo.

Memory Games

Memory Games

Half over-achiever, my other part is zen.
Sometimes I concentrate on now, other times, where I’ve been.
This morning’s evanescent. I can’t remember shit.
I know I found my car key but what did I do with it?

Ameliorating circumstances? Sorry. There are none.
I simply have no memory of what  I have just done.
I know I wrote a poem, but I can’t recall a bit.
I haven’t the foggiest memory of what I said in it!

It’s said I have good judgment and a judicious mind,
but as to short-term memory? I fear I’m in a bind.
I remember blow-for-blow what happened as a child.
My college years I recall well. My twenties are well-filed.

When I write, the memories pop readily to my brain.
It’s only hours later that the memories don’t remain
of what I have just written or the words that I have used.
The present and my recent past simply are not fused.

So if you want a memory, please choose one in my past.
The farther back, the better, if you want my reply fast.
Fifty years ago are fine. The details I’ll relate.
But details of this morning? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait.

Prompt words today are ameliorate, judicious, zen, evanescent and bit.

Our Gang Comedy

Nancy Merrill is sponsoring a photo challenged entitled Nostalgia. Here is my take on the matter:

I think the year was around 1952. We were gathered for a play put on by the two cowgirls at the top of this photo. Susan, the tallest girl and also the older sister of one of the cowgirls, doesn’t look overly enthusiastic about being there. I was the little blonde girl overacting in the second row and the sister of the other cowgirl. I was their “mystery personality.” Anyone who guessed who I was (The Sunbeam Bread Girl) got a prize. They put on a few of these productions and I always thought they were wonderful.  The year before, my mystery personality had been Bonnie Braids (of Dick Tracy fame.) When they called out, “Who knows who the mystery personality is?” Bobby Lathrop yelled out, “That’s Judy Dykstra!!!” and I cried. Ah, nostalgia