(For me, fireflies are such a wonderful reminder of childhood)
Sweat puddles and drips down to her seven-year-old feet
like the ice cream will soon do.
A sweltering Texas summer.
Grandpa grins through his cigar, proud of his summer income.
Peaches in boxes and sacks.
Peaches in crates
lined up on tables beneath his covered stand.
A pocketknife cuts off a slice of sweet fruit
and extends toward a willing customer.
Grandpa smiles again, pleased with the satisfaction on the consumer’s juiced face.
The ancient Black man, mouth empty of teeth, dismounts his horse.
Grandpa readies a fresh peach. “Afternoon, Washington.”
Washington nods, mumbles, shows his gums.
Grandpa adds another peach to his hand. “Take these for your ride to town.”
The man smacks his curved-in lips together,
up and down, up and down,
a toothless man’s “thank you.”
The walk-in cooler an instant relief.
But the bushels of peaches offer no jokes,
no Grandpa conversations.
Outside, parched again, she accepts the quarter and returns Grandpa’s smile.
A short walk toward the small diner.
The lady in a pink uniform and matching hat says, “Vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry?”
The ice cream, scooped. The cone, topped with a pink, cold delight.
Fifty steps back to the peach stand.
Fifty steps back to Grandpa.
The ice cream drips and threatens to disappear.
But the heat is no match for Grandpa’s disposition.
His smile and character remains solid, strong, and real.
(photo of Grandpa taken in the early sixties)
She was told how fun it would be to watch the parade in small town Fredericksburg, Texas. “Exciting for a four-year-old.”
“Look at that float!” “Carolyn, do you see the clown?”
No. All she saw was the backsides of wiggly people in front of her. The tall, thin man’s suspenders holding up the back of his pants. Arms that pointed to the sky holding miniature American flags.
But she could see behind her – from the grassy field all the way up to the sky.
And there it was. Something she could lay eyes on. Something she found curious and exciting.
She let go of the hem of her grandmother’s, hand-sewn, polka-dot house dress and began to run.
How did he get up there?
Would the man hurt himself when landed?
She continued on, her eyes following the man’s decent from the sky.
The pokey grass would not deter her. Nor the buzzing of summer wasps around her head. The near collisions with jumping grasshoppers were not a distraction.
The man was getting closer.
Panting, yet familiar voices frantically called her name.
When her parents and sister caught up to her, Carolyn pointed to the man.
They were right.
Exciting for a four-year-old.
She chokes on the water and knows what she needs. A concession stand with vending machines.
A flimsy cup no bigger than the size of her small hand drops to the tray and is filled with soda, carbonated water, and ice. A Bruce’s fried pie (lemon or apple, please). An ice-cream sandwich melts instant chocolate on her fingers.
She musters up courage and waits in line for the high dive. Children chatter with excitement, with anticipation. But Sparky Carolyn stays quiet in her nervousness. Perhaps she’s not so sparky after all.
It’s her turn. She makes it up the tall ladder. Her toes rest on the end of the board.
She looks down. It’s a long way to the water.
“Hurry up!” Someone yells.
I’ll go down too far. I’ll run out of air on the way back up.
She backs up and returns to the ladder. Children sigh at having to move aside. She reaches the safety of the flat, hot concrete.
Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow.
Back in the safety of the three-feet depth, she rejoins her friends. She sips tea and eats crumpets under water like a queen. The three girls resurface and giggle at their immense creativity.
“Don’t worry. One day you’ll wake up to find they’ve grown.”
She looks at her friend, then down at her own flat chest.
Tomorrow. Maybe it will happen tomorrow.
“Me” at Northwest Pool in Austin, Texas. (1950-60’s)
This is Mary Jane.
She is a paper doll created by Milton Bradley Co. in the 1950’s.
This is me, created by Mom and Dad in the 1950’s.
This is Paper Doll Me created by, well, me a few days ago.
Why a paper doll? Why here? Why now?
So, this isn’t my brain on drugs. This is my brain “memory sparking”. I think I’ll call her “Paper Doll Sparky”. Maybe “P.D. Sparky” for short. Or “Sparky” for shorter.
I can tell by looking at her that me, I mean Sparky, and Mary Jane wouldn’t have had a lot in common back then. Not that you should judge someone by appearance but she looks like Miss Goody Two-Shoes. I bet she followed all the rules and never once tried to do something new, challenging or creative.
Too bad, so sad.
I bet she never once hid in a gutter, yelled at her mother, or grew to get caught by the principal for smoking cigarettes in the girls bathroom in middle school (we called it Junior High back then).
In fact, she looks just like Lori, the tattle tale girl who ratted me out for lying to my mother when I was five.
So, I stole, I mean borrowed, some of Mary Jane’s clothes. They are mine now and Sparky can wear them for better purposes than to have mundane tea parties with preppy little girls who never climb trees or scrape their knees.
But don’t let the clothes fool you. Wearing one of Mary Jane’s prim and proper dresses won’t take the girl out of her true skin. (Besides, she’s made out of cardboard).
She’s packing up now, getting ready to see what kind of troubles her memories will stir up. As Dad used to say, “Time to separate the sheep from the goats.”
To be continued …
I decided to look up one of my favorite words along with my favorite poet. Here’s what I got:
What? Emily Dickinson hasn’t posted anything within 14 days??
And then I thought of how we rekindle our own imaginations – through the eyes of children, of course.
Then, I thought of Shel Silverstein.
But this is my all-time favorite:
And, by the way – Just because Emily hasn’t posted in a while doesn’t mean she’s not alive.
see more here
Sad, isn’t it?
Yes. Very sad. Because they’re not elephants.
Elephants never forget. They even teach their babies how to play in the mud. Elephant babies are lucky.
My parents always tell me to stop playing in sludge. I tell them that mud is not sludge. I tell them it’s magic fudge.
I like that, magic fudge. How could grown-ups forget how good it feels when it squishes between your toes and oozes between your fingers?
It’s like The Little Prince said – “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”
Yes. And “only children know what they are looking for.”
Will we be like them when we grow up?
Who’s growing up?
daily word prompt- Sludge
Photo one credit
Photo two credit
Photo three credit
The wonderful thing about writing down memories is keeping them. Because later, like me, you will find those written words.
I wrote this 26 years ago when my son was two years old:
As grown-ups, we have learned much about life. But we learn much more by watching children experience and discover the world anew. I am about to be the grandmother of my fourth grandchild. I have much yet to learn.
Childhood and it’s atmospheric beauty!
(my daughter’s first child — my second grandchild)
I am forever grateful.
Mom has given me cherry-flavored Lundren’s throat lozenges for my sore throat. I keep them in my coat pocket. At playground time, I am the most popular girl at the swing set.
It is springtime. We have an incubator in our lunchroom. It has chicken eggs in it, real chicken eggs that you can’t eat. Each day I go first thing to see if the eggs under the warm light have started to crack. I picture little fuzzy yellow chicks coming out to greet us after they have broken free and clear of their eggs. I picture nestling their fuzziness in the palms of my little hands. It will be the best day ever in this boring kindergarten class. We wait.
Meanwhile at the same time:
April 16, 1963: While jailed in Birmingham, Alabama for leading anti-segregation protests, Martin Luther Kings writes a letter that says, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” “For years now, I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘wait’ has almost almost always meant ‘never’.”
We wait until Mrs. Perry gets tired of them. She throws them out! She gave up! I am sooo disappointed. I realized then that some things don’t happen the way you want them to. Eggs don’t hatch if you give up.
I kept thinking that maybe we could have helped those baby chicks be born. It was all so unfair.
daily post prompt: Egg
No longer can I fill these shoes.
Yet I remember a time
when the patent leather formed neatly around my feet
soft, worn, comfortable
Soles carefree and made of ease
durable for playing chase and hide and seek
or freeze tag in the dark
the lining soft enough for catching fireflies
and my parents goodnight kisses
The tips firm, protecting toes that so easily stumbled.
The heels perfectly made for scuffling
for dragging my feet when it suited
Shoes, easy to pull off for bedtime stories
and tuck-me-in time.
No longer do they fit, those shoes
Yet, it matters not.
I have merely grown into a larger size
the soul intact.
art by C. Dennis-Willingham