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If I could take a walk through Moorpark, I’d start at the Estes Ranch.  I’d walk down the long driveway that led to the house and pretend I was a kindergartner again.  I remember that first day when the bus driver almost forgot to drop me off and mom chased after the bus to make it stop.  I was terrified she’d get hurt.

I remember going to Aunt Barbara’s house the day we moved.  Mom was going to drop me off while they unpacked, but I remember falling apart at the idea.  I did NOT want to stay.  Julie tried to cajole me with how we were going to make Christmas cookies and learn how to wrap presents.  I wasn’t impressed.  I bawled.  Frankly, it was a temper tantrum, but I knew better than to scream and kick, so I simply cried.  It worked.  Mom said, “If you come back with me, you’ll have to take a nap.”  I was absolutely ok with that!  I still don’t know exactly WHY I didn’t want to stay, but I suspect it had to do with the exponentially greater chance of getting in trouble around Julie.  I didn’t like the whole “get in trouble” thing.  We all have our hobbies.  That wasn’t mine.

I’d sit beneath the magnolia tree, a blossom in my hand, and inhale the subtle scent of it.  I’d stroke the soft petals and close my eyes remembering the little girl I was when I did that the first time.  I’d read a book and listen to the muffled sounds of the cars driving by on the highway down the road just as I did back then.

Lady would be there.  She’d chase jackrabbits, bark at gophers, and she would not get into poison or a fishbone.  I can’t remember which it was.  I’d scratch behind her ears and wrap my arms around her neck again.  I thought that dog was the most amazing animal ever.  She was a good dog, but no, she wasn’t the most amazing.  However, when you’re five, you really don’t have much to compare with.  I mean, she did everything your average dog does… she fetched, she sat, she loved long walks…

I’d go up the steps, into the house, and look around the living room.  I can still see mom and dad peeling off the wallpaper.  There were so many layers of paint and wallpaper!  I see the penny colored floral couch beneath the window at the end of the room.  I’d walk through to the dining room and relive the day I “rang the bell” for dinner.  I bought that porcelain bell in Las Vegas.  This time, I wouldn’t ring it.  I’d leave it alone.  I don’t know if it would have survived all of the moves, but I’d have liked to give it another chance.

I’d go through the kitchen and out the back door.  Was there a swing set out there?  I can see one in my mind, but I don’t remember ever swinging on it.  I know that on the other side of the house there was a basketball net.  Bear and Kelsey played out there one afternoon.  I remember them talking about Schwinn being at Uncle Lon’s house.  Bear wanted to go see him, but I got the idea we wouldn’t be going.  I remember killing red ants with my toe until one bit me.  Then I decided that wasn’t such a good idea.  I think I also went inside to put on shoes.

I’d go look in the fields and see the lima beans.  I’d wander up the drive to the old ramshackle barn and look around again.  I would not, however,  go back into the old outhouse.  Oh that was a terrifying experience.  PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYEEEEEW!

Maybe we could all take a walk across the fields, follow the aquaduct, and go to the other side.  This time, maybe Lady wouldn’t smash her head into the concrete side of it.  Poor dog.  She looked so confused!  How I loved playing in the concrete pipes they had laying around there.  When I think about it, it amazes me that I didn’t get bitten by snakes or spiders.  Sometimes Bear and I would walk along it for a ways and then along the rail road tracks over to David and Julie’s house.  That was fun.  I remember going to the Tipsy Fox and feeling like I was back in Fillmore.  It was weird, but I remember it.

I think I’d like to ride the bus to school once more.  I wonder whatever happened to that little boy that told us flatulence was caused by an elf in your bum that struck a match.  I felt sorry for him.  He really seemed to believe it.  Did he grow up to be a scientist?  Is he an actor or a plumber?  Oh, my wouldn’t that be funny?  I remember going to a birthday party and falling in love with the little playhouse at the house.  It made me think of Hansel and Gretel’s candy cottage.

I think I’d rather forget the night I came home from Julie’s and Bear was gone.  I know Dad made the best choice for his family, but I missed Bear.  He was such a great big brother.  I missed him going hunting and bringing back a rabbit.  Why?  I don’t know.  I just did.  I had my bear though.  He’d bought me a little golden bear with a blue and white striped “shirt” and a wind up key that made it play some kind of music.  I wonder whatever happened to that bear?

I swam at Aunt Barbara’s house– well, I did until the time she decided to “help” me learn to swim and pushed me under and away from the ladder.  I was pretty much done with swimming after that.  I can still feel the burning in my throat and nose as I choked up the water.  She meant well, but I was done with the whole “learn to swim” thing at that point.  I think I spent more of my time sitting outside the pool petting Pug.  Well, that and wiping Pug’s drool off me.  Ugh.

There was an elderly man who lived across from us in what was once probably some kind of bunk house or something.  It was shaped differently than our little house or the big one in front of his.  He gave me a really old trunk.  I don’t know what it was made of, but I think the inside was pasteboard or something.  Inside was a very old doll with eyes that had fallen inside the head.  Mom had that doll fixed for me.  Loved that doll.  When I was eight, I wanted to decorate my bed with her, so I put her on it, but she slid right off onto our hard tile floors.  The porcelain head didn’t survive.  I still get the shivers at the sight of those eyeballs.

Aunt Barbara gave me a Polly Flinders dress for my birthday that year, not to mention I always had Julie’s hand me down ones.  Loved those dresses.  The odd thing is, I don’t remember moving from Moorpark that summer.  Why don’t I remember moving FROM there?  I remember moving to that old house and into the apartment in Mesa… but I don’t remember leaving.  Strange, isn’t it?

If I could take a walk down Mountain View Street in Fillmore, I’d wander up to the old house and imagine that Dad’s motorcycle was still there.  I’d sit on the front step and stare out at the street…   I’d look next door.  Was it Mrs. Clark who lived there?  The woman who taught mom to tat, crochet, and knit?  She had a son or grandson.  I didn’t like him at all.

I’d go into the house and remember the feeling of evenings after dinner when I’d walk up and down Dad’s back with my bare feet.  I’d remember playing house with him in my room with my little kitchen.  Vyonie slept in there for a while.  I’d close my eyes and listen to the undulation of voices coming from the living room while I fell asleep.

I’d slip out the back steps… oh the memories of just those steps alone…  Look, there’s the prickly pear plant where I grabbed a pear bare handed.  I’d see the garden.  I remember sifting dirt on screens, shoveling dirt awkwardly, and watering it with tin cans that had holes punched in the bottom.  Coffee cans.  There- I see it.  The refrigerator where I put the black velvet evening purse that Vyonie gave me.  The shelves left ridges in the back of the velvet.  I remember a rhinestone studded bow on the front and a twist clasp.

Across the street, I see the school.  Oh I loved that place.  It was magical to my eyes.  I remember playing on swings, racing behind the older kids as they went to the back corner to pick grapes, and of course, the slide.  I can still feel the wind rushing past my head as I slid down the chute.  I see the tunnel racing at my head.  Too late, I realize I need to duck.  Blood.  That freaked me out.  I’m sure I panicked as never before… at least until I thought I was drowning later that summer.  Poor mom.

I remember running home from that school crying.  Two older boys were teasing me and pulled up my dress to show off my unders.  I was mortified.  Mom knew their father and I remember him making them apologize.  I kind of felt sorry for them.

It was almost Christmas… I wanted to open presents.  Remember the set of suitcases you pulled from the closet.  It had a pattern.  Either polka dots or harlequin diamonds.  I can’t remember which.  I’m leaning toward diamonds.  I loved the round topped flat bottomed circle one with the loopy strap.  I’d love to see one of those again.

Dad’s birthday.  We bought him a Sons of the Pioneers Album and hid it in the treadle machine.  I pulled it out almost the minute he got home.  Ruined that surprise!  The following Christmas, you almost didn’t let me know about his slippers for Christmas.  I promised not to tell or show this time.  I don’t think I did.  Is that the Christmas we moved to Moorpark?  I think it was.

I remember escapades with Julie, chicken pox (which I was sure you said chicken box and wondered where the little boxes of chickens were that I expected to erupt all over my skin), and 7-up.  I remember Stacey.  I don’t know how old she was or why she played with a little girl like me but she took me to her house, showed me all the beautiful paper things she had, and I thought her name was Steaky.  I remember A&W, the El Camino, and the Mustang.

Most of my memories of the boys and Vyonie are group oriented and vague.  I have several of Bear- probably because he lived there with us the whole time.  I remember him bringing me treats, walking me to TG&Y, laughing at my pathetic attempts at “hitchhiking” and A&W.  I remember Vyonie being in our room but vaguely. I remember when she gave me that purse and something about her getting in trouble at school for punching a girl who mocked the way I talked.  I only have one memory of Schwinn there.  I doubt I could ever forget it.

I remember the first day of kindergarten and Mrs. Greene.  Mom made me a mat for naptime and I remember thinking I had to leave it at school when I left.  I was so disappointed when mom said I should have brought it home.  We sang songs, made puppets, and learned how many syllables are in our names clapping with each one.  I loved school.

Odd… I can’t remember leaving.  I remember arriving at the Estes Ranch in Moorpark but I don’t remember leaving Fillmore.  I’m sure we drove past the Tipsy Fox.  Did we drive past the one near Moorpark and Aunt Barbara’s too?

If I could only take another walk down Mountain View and see it as I did then… everything larger than life… everything new and exciting… everything secure and familiar…

Thank You-

Thank you for dresser drawer beds and whisky shot glasses instead of bassinets and sippy cups.

 

Thank you for little smocked dresses with mice scattered across the fabric.

 

Thank you for prickley pears and magnolia blossoms.

 

Thank you for piggy back rides and starry nights.

 

Thank you for sleepovers on the roof and under a bush.

 

Thank you for slingshots, pellet guns, roller skates, and no knee pads, wrist guards, or helmets.

 

Thank you for swimming lessons, violin lessons, ballet lessons, and never letting me overschedule my life.

 

Thank you for instilling me with a love of music, beauty, and poetry.

 

Thank you for letting me swing out over the highway  on a rope attached to a tree branch.

 

Thank you for rides in the back of pick ups- without seatbelts or carseats.

 

Thank you for cookie batter, cake batter, and pie crust with cinnamon and sugar.

 

Thank you for bedtimes and curfews.

 

Thank you for fried balogna sandwiches on Roman Meal Bread, celery sticks with peanut butter, and thermoses full of cold WHOLE milk.

 

Thank you for weeks at grandma’s, trips to Oklahoma, and camping in the desert.

 

Thank you for dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits,  hampsters, goldfish, oh, and the kangaroo rat.  Poor little thing.

 

Thank you for opportunities to fail as well as succeed, to get hurt as well as have fun, and for not trying to make me live in a bubble.

 

Thank you for years of financial sacrifice so I could have a good education.  Your grandchildren benefit daily.

 

Thank you for being you.  As uncle Gene’s song says, you’re so good at it.

Concert Garden~

It was in a concert garden

And the fun was at its height,

And I’ll tell you boys, the wine began to flow;

When a young man in the corner

Slowly rose with hat in hand;

Said it’s surely growing late boys, I must go.

 

Chorus:

Somebody’s waiting for me.

Sombody loves’ me I know.

Somebody’s wonderin’ where I can be,

And what can be keeping me so.

Somebody’s heart is sad-

Waiting so anxiously.

There’s a light shinin’ bright

In a window tonight

And somebody’s waiting for me.

 

Oh you must have a sweetheart

Someone in the crowd exclaimed.

As they handed poor Jack his package due.

So he said, “Come go with me;

“I will show her to you boys.

“She’s the only sweetheart that I ever knew.”

 

Then he led them to a cottage

Pointed through the window pane

Where an old mother sat with bowed down head.

She’s my mother; She’s my sweetheart.

She’s the one I meant tonight.

So you see I told the truth boys when I said.

 

Chorus:

Somebody’s waiting for me.

Sombody loves’ me I know.

Somebody’s wonderin’ where I can be,

And what can be keeping me so.

Somebody’s heart is sad-

Waiting so anxiously.

There’s a light shinin’ bright

In a window tonight

And somebody’s waiting for me.

 

Dad rarely sang this one.  I don’t remember it on the “programme” very often but I do remember distinctly the first time it fully pierced my heart and I truly heard the words.  I memorized it the next day.  It’s probably the song I still sing around my house and in the car the most.

 

… Somebody’s waiting for me…

Camarillo~

Oh how I loved those trips to Uncle Lon and Aunt Marilyn’s in Camarillo.  It usually started with a call from Uncle Lon.  He’d pull the plug from his washing machine and call dad telling him, “The washer’s on the fritz.  Won’t spin.”  I think it was code for, “Stop being a hermit and come socialize with your family.”  Whatever it was, I loved it.

 

Uncle Lon lived in a huge (in my childish eyes) old Colonial house he’d purchased for the ridiculously low sum of 20k or something like that back in the early seventies or late sixties.  I don’t ever remember him in any other home and he lived there until I was graduated from High School. 

 

The house has several memories that come back to me every time I think of it.  The big double doors.  The way the bathroom smelled when I came in from the jacuzzi.  Somehow the chlorine mixed with the air freshener and the shampoo to create a perfume that is etched in my memory.  The wooden folding chairs in the closet next to that same bathroom.  I thought Uncle Lon must be RICH because of those chairs.  The odd things a kid assumes.

Aunt Marilyn’s tiny frames.  They held pictures of her and her mother or sisters.  They were all black and white and the frames were beautifully intricate.  They fascinated me.

 

The upstairs bathroom.  I was entranced by a padded toilet seat.  I can’t imagine why now but as a child it screamed of decadence.  Snort.

 

The front bedroom with its patchwork of carpet squares.  I remember thinking it was so exciting to have a room with different textures AND colors in the carpet.

 

The food.  I remember the food.  Aunt Marilyn almost always had a cobbler made.  (She probably did it once but in my mind, Aunt Marilyn’s equals cobbler.)  Their pantry always had the best cereals and cookies (stuff my parents never bought!).  And then there was the Sees.  She had an appreciation for fine chocolate and there seemed to be a box of the stuff in the house all the time!  (Again, it was probably only at holidays or something but it SEEMED like all the time.  Aunt Marilyn cut every single piece in half so as to know what she was eating as she did.

 

I loved her voice.  I loved to hear her talk.  I have no idea what she ever talked about- I don’t think I paid attention.  I’d just sit in the room and read a book while she filed her nails (in my mind, Aunt Marilyn is always filing her nails) and read her magazines.

Magazines.  She had a system.  With a stack beside her, she’d go through the magazine first, ripping every single tear-out inside.  Whether free perfume samples or renewal/subscription cards or even coupons, if it wasn’t a full glossy page, it came out.  Then she read.  Mom and I always found it slightly comical.  Ok, we found it hillarious.

 

The backyard was a paradise.  There was a moderate patch of dichondra… I thought it was beautiful.  In my mind, it was “one leaf clover.”  I even sang the old song, “I’m looking over, a lawn of clover…”  There were flower beds with zinnias.  I don’t know what else- I can’t remember.  I just remember the zinnias.  The patio took up half the yard and was fully covered.  It had a porch swing, a single swing, and some kind of table I think.  The other half was a cover over the jacuzzi.  I loved that jacuzzi.  Then, of course, there was a side yard where he grew turnips, beets, and rhubarb.  Sweet peas.  Green Beans.  Oh I loved their garden.

 

Out front, was the world’s most beautiful avacado tree.  We always left with grocery bags of avacados.  I hated those things- but I loved the tree. 

 

At some point, Dad’s guitar would come out and the best part of the visit would come.  We’d all call out our favorites- I think dad dreaded my requests. 

 

“… they call the risin’ sun.  And it’s been the ruin of many poor girl…”

 

I was the mother of three before I knew he was singing about a brothel!

Mimi~

When we moved to Landers on Christmas Eve 1983, we brought with us my Christmas present.  A black lab mix (dumbest animals on the planet.  Why is it that you take a smart dog like a lab, mix it with any other dog, including other smart ones, and you get a stupid mutt instead of a smarter one?).  I named her Mimi after my best friend Noemi.  A little boy at our church a Wells Road Baptist Church, Sean, called her Mimi since he couldn’t say Noemi.

 

Mimi was a fun and playful pup like most.  She grew into quite a character.  You see, we didn’t allow animals in the house when I was a kid.  It just didn’t happen.  This is important to this story.

 

Once it got hot, we’d leave the sliding glass door open to get a breeze through the living room.   It helped cool the house and the fresh air was always nice.  Especially after a rain.  There is nothing like the smell of the desert after rain.  If they could bottle that, I’d spritz it through my house daily.

 

Mimi wanted in.  She just knew that life would be grand in the house.  I could see it in her eyes.  She was also the world’s most patient dog.  I kid you not.

 

She’d lay there next to the slider on the cool arch covered concrete and wait.  After ten or twenty minutes, she’d flop one paw in.  We’d pretend to ignore her as we read or worked on whatever projects we had going.  Her head came next.  Whap.  Down on the green carpeting.  You could almost see the sheer bliss in her eyes.  “Soft green stuff.  I wonder if this is what grass is?”   Another ten or fifteen minutes later, we’d see the next paw. 

 

Here it got interesting.  She was laying parallel to the door but now she’s twisted awkwardly.  Over the next ten or fifteen minutes, she’ slowly inch around so that her head and paws were laying exactly where they were but the rest of her body was now perpendicular to the doorway.  The game was afoot.

 

She’d inch. Minutes and minutes would go by with each tiny crawl inward.  It took hours sometimes.  But eventually, the last paw would end up inside the door and mom would say, “Mimi,” in a low warning tone.

 

She’d jump up and rush back out.  Seconds later she’d be laying on the cool concrete parallel to the door.

 

Minutes would tick by.  Then a paw flopped on the inside of the door.

I had old-fashioned parents.  They had crazy ideas about them being the authority and I being under their authority.  I was expected to obey, without question, and without complaint.  And I did.

 

I only remember two spankings.  I know I must have had more.  I remember dad explaining to me when we lived in Fillmore- I was probably five- about when it is appropriate to spank a child.  Dad taught me the concept of direct defiance.  I’ve wondered for years if it was because I had been defiant or if it was because I expressed surprise at not getting a swat for something I assumed I would have. 

 

Regardless, Dad explained that disobedience was not obeying but was not always deliberate.  Sometimes people honestly forget or dont’ realize that they’ve disobeyed but direct defiance was another story.  He used the illustration of a lamp.  He told me that if he said not to touch the lamp and then a few hours later I walked into the room and touched it absently, it is disobedience.  However,  if after being told that, I reached for it when his eye was turned or even without, that was direct defiance and that was direct defiance and always required a swat.

 

Both of the spankings I remember, are the ones that felt unjust at the time.  Now that I’m a parent, I understand that they were both prompted by fear for my safety and that they were justified regardless of my understanding at the time.  Amazing our our perceptions change with experience.

 

The first was just two to three years after that lesson.  We lived in Apache Jct. Arizona and I rode the bus daily to John Hancock in Mesa.  I got on the bus at six in the morning and returned around five each evening.  It was a very long day.

 

One afternoon, the bus broke down.  The school owned several fifteen passenger vans that bussed in the students from all around the Phoenix area.  We had to wait for the one that went to the Scottsdale area to return for us.  It was very dull very frustrating, and meant that I’d arrive home at approximately bedtime.

 

One of the teachers lived just a few streets over from us and offered me a ride home.  I didn’t think twice.  I took the ride and when I showed up on our doorstep around four p.m. instead of around seven as expected, my mother was very upset.

 

I remember her telling me to “grab my ankles” and bend over.  Oh boy.  I tried but I was so upset at being in trouble for doing something that I thought was so right.  I didn’t understand at the time what the problem was.  I didn’t understand it for years.  I had children and still didn’t understand how frightening it was for her.  I now realize that while I saw the woman as a trusted teacher, my mother knew nothing of her except that she was somehow connected with the school.  She could have been anyone and exposed me to anything.

 

Another three or four years later I came home from church and was told not to come downstairs with bare feet.  Apparently a glass was broken in the kitchen and they were still trying to mop up the glass.  I went upstairs gleefully and didn’t emerge for several hours.  Barefoot.  My father, at the first step onto the linoleum, turned me around and sent one stinging swat to my backside.  I was more embarrassed than hurt by it.  I truly thought he’d meant not to come RIGHT BACK down, not that I was to keep shoes on for some indeterminate amount of time.

 

Of course, I knew without any doubt that his reaction was out of concern for me and my feet.  He was probably remembering a certain evening with a crochet hook.  However, I remember feeling as though it was unjust.

 

It took another ten to fifteen years to understand his decision.  For many years I assumed that I only remembered the two spankings I didn’t deserve.  I now realize that the truth is, I only remember the two spankings that were spured by more than ensuring obedience.  They were prompted by concern for my safety.  Love shaken by a touch of fear.

 

I love them and I love what they did for me.  Spankings and all.