Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Nineteenth: Ms. Morrow

Although, the majority of school levies didn't win a majority in elections in my hometown, there was one year during the 70s when the kids won big. That's when our small district built an annex when I was in elementary school. The annex was both a new building and a bridge between the lower grades and the upper. One side was for sixth grade classrooms and the other side was for the superintendent's office, a science lab and home economics with Ms. Morrow.

In the beginning of high school, Ms. Morrow, was one of my favorite teachers--and not just because she was around six and a half feet tall, but that impressive height didn't hurt. She paid attention to us and didn't assume we'd be a carbon copy of the siblings that came before. (When you're the runt, everyone hopes you'll be a reproduction of their favorite member of your family. And I spent my early life proving them all wrong.) It's possible she was the first teacher to actually see me.

My favorite memory of her was when we were in the midst of our sewing unit--when Ms. Morrow, would compliment me on my posture at the sewing machine and my straight seams. And then when my bud T and I, teamed up to bake muffins with a jelly center. Ms. Morrow, taught us what the term "elbow grease" meant. And what SOS Pads were created for.

But then a new girl moved into town. She appeared confident, worldly, attractive and slightly dangerous. Teresa Parker, was a foster child who had been sent to a family, well known for questionable activities and wild foster children. One day, in Home Ec, Teresa turned to the students at her table and suggested walking out, skipping. And there it is . . . my corruption had begun? She was our Fagin? Or the time was ripe, during this time of history? Or all of the above?

Sadly, Ms. Morrow, decided to give me an ultimatum. Perhaps believing our relationship was strong enough. But, of course, she was wrong, and our relationship was never the same. But I'll never forget that first teacher who seemed to see me, while underestimating the world's push and pull on all of us during that time.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Eighteenth: Seek and Enjoy? Or destroy . . .

When I was a small child on the move, everyone in the house eventually learned their possessions weren't safe. Was it because I was the runt and they were "of an age" that found them with some earned change in their pockets to buy those extra items? <shrug> I have no idea what drove my destructive engine.

My first memory of, "getting into something", occurred when I was quite young, yet of walking and grabbing age. (so grabby was I) In our family of seven, the single bathroom offered a floor to ceiling, double doored cabinet that was beside the sink. The room may have been tiny, but there was a place to store the essentials. One of those "essentials" was my oldest brother's pomade.

If you have no reference for pomade, I can only share that my brother's was sold in stick form--similar to glue sticks or antiperspirant. Did I observe the sibling's application at another previous time or did I instinctively know how to use that stick? Hard to say, but I can imagine my mother's reaction, when she found me with a petroleum based wad of hair stuck to my wee cranium.

And maybe that's why the memory sticks (no pun intended)--the clean-up. Oh golly! I cannot imagine (my apologies, repeating myself) my mother's horror. She tried all of her tricks and apparently, all of her tricks were needed to remove that stubborn substance from my wee noggin.

You'd think, but you'd be wrong, that I learned my first lesson. No! There were other possessions to find, enjoy and then destroy. Did I feel remorse? I doubt it. I was on a mission to seek out and . . . find all the joy hidden within the house. Huh. And there it is--just a tyke seeking delight.

The Seventeenth: Stars in My Eyes?

You know--that moment when you meet someone and they have that "certain something" (we've heard referenced over the years) and instead of relaxing and chilling and just being yourself, you're more of a gaga super fan with stars in your eyes, trying to keep your tongue from lolling out of your mouth. Right? You've experienced this? (fingers crossed)

The last time (there's no way this has only happened once in my life), I assume I successfully placed that "K" in awkward, once again. Right from the start, one glance into those tractor beam eyes, the words in my head began to get stuck and then shift and stutter and all I could offer was a too wide smile. And maybe I tossed in an incoherent sentence or two. Or is that stretching the definition of sentence too far?

As many times as I have wished to be more attractive, at this time in my life, it seems like it might be more of a pain in the backside than a lifelong joy. One time, during a staff TGIF meet-up, my gorgeous-name-twin-off-by-one-letter and I were waiting in line to order at the bar. Within the span of 5 minutes, I watched as three men (one after the other--not all at once, mind you) approached her with overused words they must've believed would turn her head. I asked, "how do you do it? is it always like this?", and she shrugged and laughed it off. So there's that burden.

I'm glad I was there to witness that moment, even if I could've used that insight earlier in life. Looking back, this memory brings an embarrassed smile, but why? We're all imperfect humans trying to figure life out, doing our best and ofttimes struggling, wishing and coveting for what we believe someone else has. Huh. Sometimes I think I'm in charge of the current topic on this page, but today veered.
Cheers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Sixteenth: Thought Trains

Last night, as I slowly settled into the preferred sleep posture, melding muscle and bone to mattress, rather than a surface topper, my thoughts grew legs and began to stroll through past delights.

And then a bell dinged and dinged again--THIS is a delight: The gentle meandering through past and recent memories, spying something interesting, turning it over to inspect the other side--yes, this is where to find instant joy and also a way of recalling which tales have been written about before.

N and crew, are always there, whether spectating with me or a participant in the memory. Other family members drift hither and thither, as well as pets and places, and children--so many children.

And so, I must give thanks to the slumber gods for providing a . . . stage (?) for these delightful thought trains, that gently trundle down the tracks. Sweet dreams, ya'all!

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Fifteenth: Infants

No worries, this isn't another birth story--don't we save the peddling of those tortuous tales for the baby showers? No? Whew!

After our first was born, and the three of us began to go out into the world of grocery and hardware stores, we began to notice something. Strangers, mostly men, would come up to us with their faces full of love (?), amazement (?), and softly, quietly, share their personal sweet moment, when they too held an infant of their own. It lasted such a short period of time, we were left with only each other's memory as proof.

Those brief golden moments felt like we'd been welcomed into a secret society, whose members fly in as swiftly as they leave, while those who stop to share their moment, hold a special place within that society. Perhaps they're the guardians. (Stop, K. You're musing away from the moment)

Though, after reflecting on that time, I realize we either missed the moment the second time around or we simply recognized it for what it was--amazement over having been a part of this new wee life.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Fourteenth: Love of Books

My own small collection of children's books, were kept on the built-in shelves in the hallway. I'm sure some were hand-me-downs, but there were a few books that Mom had bought for me. I remember Mike Mulligan, Church Mouse stories, and I Can't Said the Ant, plus a handful of Golden Books and a lovely set of encyclopedias. I don't have a single memory of someone reading a book to me, but I know it happened. Mainly, because I can still clearly recall the feeling when I was told it was my turn to read stories to the nieces and nephews. But I was clinging tightly to what was left of my childhood.

SRA Reading Lab : nostalgiaKindergarten was a blur of children who seemed to already know each other, naps, coloring and folk dancing, but then came Mrs. Minerva Kane and her first grade classroom. I can still recall the moment, when I first tackled a compound word with her help. The delight! It was like cracking a code that had eluded me. And when we finished our seatwork, we were invited to do "extra credit". More delight! The SRA reading comprehension kit was situated on the long windowsill, under the bank of windows that looked out over the asphalt covered playground. Good golly, I loved the challenge of starting and completing each level! Yes, Mrs. Kane, still expressing appreciation for you.

Mrs. Broadbent, was the librarian at our elementary school, for a short period of time. I think she came and went, depending on whether the current levy had passed or not. When allowed, I would spend as much of recess as possible in the library, shelving books or reading and getting recommendations from Mrs. Broadbent. Once, she directed me to a set of biographies, which I began to eagerly plow through. Thank you, Mrs. Broadbent, for introducing me to nonfiction. You opened my eyes to different genres, which helped me spend that quarter, Mom might give me for the book fair.

And now? Now it seems impossible to live even one day without picking up a book and reading a chapter or two. I have several favorite authors I've read for decades, but I also have a soft spot for "first novels"--if the jacket tempts. My favorite local book shop, offers new and used, which allows me to continue with my habit without filling the house. Does that make me a habitual reader? Finally! A habit I can be proud of!

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Thirteenth: Trees

Are all children naturally drawn to trees? Have we been particularly designed to seek out the well suited acme, crest, crown or summit to be climbed and conquered? My hunch is that it's deeply embedded into our survival instincts: watching for threats, looking for sustenance or enjoying that territorial view. And like many things embedded into our instincts, we (as children) begin to seek ways to practice and play to explore and ready ourselves for our adult lives.

The trees, at my childhood home, that were the most climbable, were a willow tree and an oak tree. The willow tree was my favorite. It had (at least) a couple of good roosting branches, one of which was where the latest swing was hung. I spent a number of hours communing and escaping with that willow tree--both up in its branches and spinning on the swing. Whenever someone was visiting and happened to admire that tree, at the end of the visit you'd find them accepting the branchlet Dad offered, with a rubber-banded plastic bag holding a wet paper towel against the freshly cut end.

The oak tree, offered a spectacular view of the neighborhood, but that involved scaling (10? 12?) two by fours cut into foot(ish) lengths nailed onto the oak's torso. And since the nailing was done by oldest brother, each step held the possibility of a quick, but treacherous descent. The oak tree offered a more daring adventure, that was usually short-lived: climb, admire view, climb back down. Something you might save for a visiting friend, until your mum sees the two of you through a window and ends that adventure.

And now, the memory of N's and my small crew, checking out each tree, at the new house, to see what entertainment it offered, comes seeping in. The lovely, climbable, plum tree--until the ripe, fallen, plums began to attract the bees, the cherry tree, with a branch to sit, eat and spit pits, and the largest tree, that we never learned the name of, that would hum with bees in the early spring, hold the swing and shade us as we played King's Corner after snapping pounds and pounds of green beans. Thank you, trees. Thanks for all that you've added to our lives--especially that lovely air.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Twelfth: Grandma Weeks

Grandma's visits, once or twice a year, meant a trip to the Portland train station--a city we bumpkins rarely traveled to. And once we brought her to our home, the reliable gift of Necco wafers would emerge from her suitcase to be doled out. Which would lead to my older brother and I, heading to the living room to share and compare or to see if he could trick me into trying that 'ugh' flavor once again. Did Grandma understand that her small gift would give her a quiet moment with her middle daughter? I bet she did.

My bedroom was best suited to provide a place for Grandma to sleep, as the other two bedrooms were already sleeping two to a room. She took the twin bed, of course, and I slept on the floor beside the bed. There's one particular night, I can still vaguely recall, when I happened to wake up when Grandma was preparing for bed. I opened my eyes to see a syringe in her hand, injecting insulin into her thigh. My eyes must've popped wide a bit, because she noticed and then quietly and calmly explained in age appropriate words, how this shot helped her.

Did I ever complain about sharing my room? I'm sure I did, I was a child after all. Once we achieve a certain age, we guard whatever we believe to be ours. But once she arrived, that fell to the side. I'd like to think I felt special to have Grandma in my room. In my room, with the playful kitten curtains, that Grandma sent the money for and Mom chose the material and sewed it into a gift. Though she didn't live long enough to meet our daughters, she did get to meet N. However brief, it mattered--to me.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Growing Up Rural

My Father, when the moment was right, might tell a story or two about traveling solo to Washington from Idaho for work. He'd heard the railroad was hiring, but had watched friends and relatives go through the work and layoff cycle the railroad implemented to keep costs down and profits up. So, Dad chose mill work. I can remember mentions of walking log rafts, sorting boards on the hazardous line, and something about working and boarding in Vancouver (around the time of the horrendous VanPort flood).

And then Mother would tell the story about 'solo Dad' buying a house during his time working in Washington. (This would be the first of two houses, that Dad would buy without Mom.) Once he bought the house, he sent for Mom and first tots to join him. For my folks, choosing a property in a rural area, was more about affordability, possibility and proximity to work, than any other factors.

My folks, had a nice neighborly relationship with an older couple, whom my sibs and I grew up calling G'ma and G'pa Curly. They owned what some refer to today as a mini farm. Mom and Dad, bought milk from them, but I can't remember if there were eggs as well. * Thanks to the Curlys, I learned how to make butter, watched eggs incubating in the kitchen, saw my first rain barrel, and found out what a root cellar was like. And those chickens! One year they raised Banty hens, that loved to roost on the peak of our roof in the warm sun.

Today, when I hear people talk about ruralites and their concerns, I'm struck by how different the reasons are now than they were then. I think that present day folks, who are drawn to the rural life, seek independence and self reliance, without considering the cost of essential services when folks are spread out, rather than condensed within or near a city boundary.

I can still remember, whenever there was a school levy to vote on, the phone trees would start up-- telling everyone to vote no, that the schools didn't need that money. Which would lead my folks to push back, whenever the topic popped up, about local citizens unwilling to chip in. "How can you have community without folks chipping in their share?"

Paying taxes has such a negative connotation, especially when many of those with the most evade paying their share. Even going so far as to pay people large amounts of money to keep from sharing with the greater community. How mean and stingy is that?! Americans aren't stingy, money grubbing folk. We're salt of the earth people, who would pull over on a country road to help you change a tire or erect that wall of your new barn. True country folk know that. They've weathered a storm or two, thanks to the blessings called neighbors. I guess you could say, neighbors are another way of chipping in and sharing the load--BUT not the only way.

*[There's a story of my oldest sis, carrying the gallon sized glass jar, downhill from the Curlys' driveway. She slipped on the gravel, that accumulated along the outer shoulder of the road, knees down on the shattered jar. She can still feel the remaining bits of glass, encased in the scar tissue on her knee.]


Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Eleventh: There's No Place Like Melrose

After failing to find a way to meet other folks in Tillamook (except for the one or two I met, thanks to N's volunteer gig), I was thrilled (yes, truely) to find my people in Roseburg. There's nothing like those years when your kids are old enough for school, to help you find friends.

Melrose school, was a shortish distance from our house, up on a small rise, with a newer building built beside the original school house. Once we became a part of the school, we were embraced and treated like family. Oh--and expected to do our share. Yes, I'm thinking of you, old school bell tower and Family Fun Fair.

Vicki, the office manager, was one of those amazing people who knew what you needed before anyone else--including yourself. And what a sense of humor and love of fun! She made the office a place everyone liked to be. She'd lift your spirits and ease your load in the span of 10 minutes, all while looking you in the eye and delivering a warm yet efficient pat on your arm.

And Gary, the principal, who also enjoyed all that Vicki brought to the office atmosphere. He was always encouraging people to chase and implement those good ideas and lending a hand when needed. I'll never forget how he stopped by our house, after we'd moved north, to say hello and wish us well again.

Yes, that was a sweet chapter.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Tenth: At the Top of My Lungs

Have I always enjoyed singing? I think so. I can remember riding around with Mom and listening to her sing. She had a sweet, sweet voice until this little twerp did that ornery, "please stop", thing and that was the end of that. Yet--many of those songs still play in my head and spill out of my mouth, over 55 years later. That's some sticking power! Thanks, Mom!

I'm not sure who introduced me to musicals, perhaps my sissy K. I can remember loudly belting out, "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" and others, as I curried my horse, Sally, or while out walking down the road. I still enjoy a good musical and love rewatching the favorites when they pop up on the television--by the way, have you watched, "That Day We Sang"? More lovely songs that stick.

My small town high school had slim pickings for extra classes--it was a choice between choir and band. My parents believed what they did for their first child would be the same as what they did for their last. They had never purchased or rented an instrument for the others, so . . . none for me either. So choir it was.

Lucky for the choir, a new director had recently been hired, Mr. Puvogel (?). He was tough, gifted and believed in us. So much joy to be a member of that choir! We competed at State and scored Superiors. It was a glorious moment. We felt like we had truly accomplished something--as well as singing in Latin, and couldn't wait for the following competitions and concerts.

When the next school year began, we learned that our new director had been lured away to a bigger town, willing to pay a better wage. The teacher who had planned on retiring, was brought back. There were no auditions, no pushing to do better than we believed. I couldn't stay. The thrill was gone, but that golden memory lives on, and yes, I'm still singing at the top of my lungs. Just ask N.

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Ninth: Have You Ever . . .

Last night, as I lay waiting for sleep to lift me up into dreamland, an old delightful memory filled my brain. How could I forget Uncle P and Aunt B's farm?

I can see the small kitchen and the table where I'd join my cousins for lunch (first time seeing someone gnaw on a raw potato)-- if I was lucky enough to visit. And that barn! That's what I remember the most: the hay dust floating in sunlit air, Dutch the old horse and all of those good barn smells.

There was a summer day (maybe more than once, who knows for sure), when the three of us, G, T & thee, climbed up the worn, built-in vertical ladder to the hayloft. And then my two cousins suggested something unthought of . . . to me. "Let's jump down into the haypile!"

Was that the first time I ever "girded my loins" for a boost of courage? Perhaps, though I'm sure jumping into a river ranks in that category when you're younger than 9. Maybe that was the first time I needed to use the, "1, 2, 3, jump", method of self encouragement, because I can remember standing at the edge, looking at the haypile below and needing all my loins could offer.

The jump? The landing? Yes! It was all I hoped it would be! And then we immediately scrambled up that ladder for more.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Eighth: Raisin

My brother-in-law, K, brought a Siamese cat named Herman along, when he blended his life with my older sister's. A cat that was allowed in a house and had an interesting personality! I have to guess that that's when my obsession with Siamese cats began.

I'd grown up with the family cat, Mama Kitty, who was probably tolerated for her rodent skills, because she was never taken to a vet (that I know of) nor allowed in the house, except to be wormed. She gave birth to a litter 2-3 times a year, but it was a rare moment when one of them was allowed to mature to an adult.

So, when I was old enough to drive and earn a small paycheck, I began to check the want ads for my own Siamese cat. The first was infested with fleas to such a degree, that the cure was more fatal than the cursed infestation. I resolved to make sure the kittens weren't neglected next time. And then I found Raisin. She was a cross of a red & tabby point and she was beautiful.

Raisin was my buddy, my pal. I can remember getting up in the morning, putting her on my shoulder. She'd stay right there, as I made my breakfast, loudly commenting on my eggs. Or, how she'd go loco over her first taste of crab! Can't be my cat! Yet I failed her. I didn't heed the vet's vaccination schedule.

I told the vet that Raisin was a housecat and would never be exposed to the old distemper embedded in the earth. But one summer day, when I came home from work, when my parents had left on a trip and my friend T had come to stay, there was Raisin outside in the grass.

Though I only had her for a short period of time, I learned a long lasting lesson--VACCINATE, or feel incredibly foolish and stupid.

The Seventh: My Ethel

I remember her soft, wool, jacket against my face
 and the smells I began to associate with comfort--
tobacco, Dentyne and coffee.
 
When I was carrying age and Ethel was around, 
you'd see me in her arms.
 
She'd often slip me a stick of Dentyne of my own, 
which I'd pop into my mouth, paper wrapper and all. 

Don't knock it till you try it. ;>)

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Sixth: Jaws at the Drive-In

It was the summer of 1975--a year before my cousin C and I would graduate from high school. Cousin D, was a year or two older, so it's possible she had a job that summer. I'm guessing, because there had to be a reason she didn't join us, we were usually a trio. Did C and I, cajole our older cousin R to drive us to the drive-in theater or was it his idea? Knowing what I do of him, I'm sure he was happy to oblige, however it came to happen.

My drive-in experiences were few if any, and any possible memory I may have had would've paled compared to the party atmosphere at this Boise business. People were walking around visiting, sitting on roofs and hoods of cars, some were dressed up--yes, there was a lot to watch for this small town runt. A later in life comparison, would be to an outdoor kegger.

My cousin C and I, had played at smoking during our teen years, but we were surprised when cousin R pulled out a cigar. One puff was all it took to send C into a major coughing fit and (to be honest) it was all it took to keep me from sharing. Then it was time to settle in for the movie. Or . . . if you're lucky enough to sit by someone with very long fingernails, it was time to leave a lasting impression, because that's what happened once the great white shark began to terrorize the town. No, not to me, that joy was felt by cousin R.

Some memories are so colorful they stick for a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Fifth: Delight in the Tall Grass

I'm not sure why that particular summer was different. The cow was in the upper field with the horse(s), probably wishing they could strain against that electrified wire, to reach those taunting seed heads swaying in the breeze. Dad usually moved the animals from one field to another, to let one pasture rest. But not this year-- and that grass was tall. 

I have a vague recollection of the parental units getting the pasture ready for a big family reunion, but . . . I cannot be sure. What I do remember, is playing in that field with my older brother. We worked at flattening the grass to make "rooms" and trails between the rooms. Such joy! Working together on a common task! So rare, so wonderful! And there were baby bunnies! More joy! 

The bottom pasture was nearly half an acre and that tall grass was ripening--I'm guessing it was mid to late July. Perhaps Dad's joy came much later, when the job was finished and the 2 youngest of his brood had gotten over their disappointment over the transformation of a new playground into a volleyball court. But good golly, those baby bunnies were adorable!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Brief Musing: Power of Suggestion

I woke to see light seeping in around the bedroom window's venetian blinds. Wow, I thought, sleep came quick and lasted long! I pushed back the covers, got up and spied 12:26am on the bathroom clock. What the what?!

And now I see that June's full moon is ripening for the sixth day. But why did I wake and feel so rested? Is the power of suggestion (light seeping in) that strong?