I was walking through the bleachers at the fairgrounds to the girls’ dormitory where I stayed for 9-10 days in June every summer during high school. Danny Awl pointed at something and asked, “What is that?” I looked the direction he was pointing and saw a gate.
“A gate,” I said.
“No,” he said, “What is THAT?” I looked again and saw a sanitary napkin on the gate, realized his intent was to ridicule me for being female, and continued walking to the dormitory, freezing him out. He and his friend laughed.
Danny Awl was a year older than me and had a reputation for being a bit of a delinquent. One time at a 4-H meeting, that had met at the old schoolhouse, the Reche clubhouse, Danny had came in and sat down right behind me. Someone up front was reading a report that contained the words, “juvenile delinquent.” At that point everyone turned around and looked behind them. I, seemingly caught up in the mob spirit, turned around too. Poor Danny had no one to turn and look at; he had turned and looked at the wall.
My parents did a lot for me, sent me and a dairy goat to the county fair every year, starting when I was in junior high, drove me to evening rehearsals of the swing band, for the year I was in it, evening football games for the two years I was in the marching band, paid for guitar lessons that I was able to walk to and from, swimming lessons and transportation there and back, sent me to Foursquare camp, took me to Unitarian camp, equipped me for campouts with my cousin, Mary, paying the fees, drove me the approximately 100 miles to the rendezvous point, or gave me bus fare to get there and back. Daddy reshaped a shallow stream into a lake resort for many great swimming seasons of my youth, and there’s probably more I still haven’t realized yet.
Mama had made a cloth doll for each guest for my birthday when I turned 7. She made an invitation for each girl in my class, I thought. But I was not able to find one for Patsy Tomiyoshi. Patsy looked too. And yet my mother was one of the most liberal, inclusive people I knew. She couldn’t have been xenophobic could she?
The tone of my relationship with Mama was sweet and superficial. She wasn’t someone I could confide in. If I had told her about the incident with Danny Awl, she would have gone into lecture mode and never heard my pain and confusion.
Mama and Diet
“What is that?” another student had asked while pressing his finger into my sandwich and leaving a dark indentation in the middle of the sandwich of my mother’s homemade bread. He had disappeared in the crowded outdoor 2nd grade lunch area before I had had a chance to answer. I had gingerly eaten around the fingerprint, loathing to throw even that away, but could not bring myself to eat the section misshapen by his heavy touch.
My mother was amazing. In the 1950s and 1960s when hardly anyone had heard of whole wheat bread, and long before bread machines, she lovingly prepared my lunches and those of my father and brothers, including homemade whole wheat bread or pastries daily for years. When in high school it became my responsibility to make my own lunch. I decided it was easier to skip lunch and eat when I got home.
I wouldn’t know how to make a loaf of 100% whole wheat bread as fluffy and sliceable as Mama did. Of course my diet would continue to evolve after I would leave her care. I would eventually settle into a diet that wouldn’t include bread at all except for unleavened, slow-cooked sprout bread, and never sandwiches. But then I’ve always been a diet extremist. I was raised that way.
Mama used to bake bread from whole wheat flour that she had ground – immediately prior to its use in recipes – in an electric mill. She made delicious treats at Christmas and Easter out of unrefined sugar, freshly ground whole wheat flour and honey. She made all the bread that went into the school lunches, and what was available when I got home from school. My mother made a nice chiffon cake for birthdays that required a lot of egg whites usually from our own free-range chickens) being fluffed in, then folded into the whole grain dough. She milked a goat and sometimes made cheese. She also sewed a lot of our clothes. Throughout most of her adult life, Mama was a dairy goat farmer, milking twice a day for most of the year. I too learned to do these things. I had a milk goat that was my 4-H project. I cared for her including milking her twice a day, except when Molly was pregnant, 4-5 months out of the year. I learned all the steps in making home made bread.
My mother strictly guarded the diets of her first three children. They were not allowed candy, soda, ice cream, pastries, pastas or breads other than the more wholesome ones that she made. She made candy at Easter and Christmas. She made chiffon cake at birthdays. She made bread or crescent rolls almost daily. Mama and Daddy were distraught to discover that, in spite of their strict diet, their children had cavities! They instituted a strict regimen of tooth brushing. I am grateful for the healthful diet my parents provided.
My mother’s mother was from a Swedish enclave in Nebraska. My mother’s father descended from immigrants from the British Isles. He traced our lineage to the younger sister of David Livingstone, the 19th Century Scottish missionary to Africa.
My parents met at a Methodist Church in Denver. I’m not sure how dad happened to be in Denver. Perhaps he was stationed there with the Navy.
When I was small, I had taken piano lessons for a few years. At a young age I had known that I wanted to play the guitar, and my parents facilitated that for me when I became a teen. The summer before my sophomore year of high school, my brother, Jeff, and I both started guitar. He was 15 and I was 14. We took a five-day course at a place called Valley Fort, which in those days was kind of a park. Now it is a restaurant. The teacher was impressed by how well we were changing chords after only one day of study, until he realized I was holding onto one of the chords and Jeff the other, strumming at appropriate times, like a bell choir.
I was starting my sophomore year of high school and my little sister was starting kindergarten. Kasey was beyond cute, she was so adorable it was unreal!
I caught a mouse, capturing it in a jar. Kasey wanted to pet the mouse and stuck her finger in the jar. Of course the mouse bit her. She blamed that on me, saying I had told her the mouse wouldn’t bite! She had a little cut on her finger from the mouse’s teeth. Fortunately it didn’t get infected.
My little sister, 10 years younger than me, had come into my life when I was 9 years old, a little red-faced bundle, born in my parent’s bedroom, lying in a little bassinet by the bed, when I first saw her, sleeping fitfully. She had soon become my favorite doll. She loved to be held. When I had been left left babysitting, I was obligated to hold her the entire time as she would cry whenever I put her down.
Once when my little sister and I had been alone in our bedroom, an incident had happened that had horrified me. Kasey had fallen. She had been about six months old, and she had fallen off a high built-in bed to the linoleum-covered concrete floor three feet below. She must have rolled over quickly, and I had not responded quickly enough to catch her. She had landed on her back with a dull thud, her eyes were open and she seemed okay, then her little hands started shaking like she had palsy, and she started screaming. I had picked her up, rocked her, patted her back, and started walking around the house with her to soothe her. She soon quieted to sobs. Mama had said, “It feels good to be held and patted.” Had she not heard the thud? Did she not know that her baby fell? Well, I wasn’t going to tell her. Maybe Mama had known, just didn’t think I needed to be berated for it. Babies fall, and we learn to foresee hazards and have quicker reactions.
Once when Kasey and I had been three and thirteen we had both peed the bed. I have no idea how it happened because I had not been incontinent for a good ten years at least. We were in bed together and when I had felt her warm wetness against my hip, apparently, I had lost control of my bladder too. Mom had been very pleasant about changing the bedding for us.
I had been 13 and my paternal grandparents had been at our house for dinner, probably sometime during my time in the 8th grade. Suddenly, I bolted to the sink and rinsed out my mouth. The reason was that I had taken a sip from the wine glass near my plate and what I had mistaken for Sauvignon had in fact been urine.
Daddy poured a small serving of wine to his children starting at about the age of 7. He wanted to instill in us the practice of moderate drinking with meals. In the progression of my substance use, I would eventually settle into several decades of sobriety. At this writing, I don’t drink anything with more alcohol than a standard Kombucha (1-2%).
My little sister had been three years old at the time that she refilled my “sauvignon”. She probably was too young for wine in Daddy’s judgement. Why did she disappear behind the wide central concrete pillar of the table Daddy had built, squat over my emptied glass refilling it, then replace the glass by my plate with a mischievous smile on her face? Later she would characterize herself as a “practical joker.”
Moreen and I got paired up to hold each other’s feet during sit ups in PE during my sophomore year of high school. Moreen didn’t like President Kennedy’s proposal for civil rights. She also said he should have “totally flattened” Cuba. I thought civil rights was very important. I had been very moved watching To Kill A Mockingbird, and then also read the book. The book and movie tell the story of a black man framed for the rape of a white woman seen through the eyes of the daughter of the lawyer for his defense. I loved Martin Luther King’s, I Have A Dream speech, delivered August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for civil rights.
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I also admired the non violence of Mahatma Gandhi, and admired King for emulating Gandhi.
I disliked the Bay of Pigs invasion completely, and was glad it had not been more destructive than it was. Of course the missile crisis was scary, very scary. Soviet missiles on Cuba? Yikes! Moreen seemed to think that she would feel more secure with a hawkish President, while I felt just the opposite.
Eisenhower is the first president I can remember. I had liked Ike. In early 1961, when President Kennedy had been inaugurated, I was still in Junior High. My parents had allowed us to stay home from school that day to watch the inauguration. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” Jack had said in his speech.
Kennedy had spoken at the United Nations General Assembly in September of 1961: “For in the development of this organization rests the only true alternative to war—and war appeals no longer as a rational alternative. Unconditional war can no longer lead to unconditional victory. It can no longer serve to settle disputes. It can no longer concern the great powers alone. For a nuclear disaster, spread by wind and water and fear, could well engulf the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the committed and the uncommitted alike. Mankind must put an end to war—or war will put an end to mankind.” How wonderful it had been to have a president one could be proud of!
One day Moreen told me Kennedy had been shot in the head and killed. I didn’t believe her. Then we all were called to a special assembly and I learned she was not lying. I wept most of the rest of the day.
Vice President L. B. Johnson was sworn in to replace Kennedy. I didn’t have as good feeling about Johnson. I didn’t like his accent. I will say I was pleasantly surprised when he got behind Kennedy’s civil rights proposal and moved it forward.