The older I get, the more I want to save for posterity.
My own, mainly.
I have no children and my nieces and nephews are a lot like I was when I was their age. They have their own dreams and ambitions to fulfill. All the periphery things that happened to the generation before is of no consequence to them. At least it isn’t right now, but if they have any of my DNA surging through their beings, it’ll all be important one day.
I never knew my paternal grandfather. He was killed in a tuck/train accident four years before I was born. All I know about him is that he was tall, shrewd, a very successful rancher with very prolific loins. He married my petite grandmother and together they created nine lives–my mother come in at Offspring Number 7.
My Nanny, my maternal grandmother died when I was six. I was in first grade at the time. My memories of her are few, but the ones I have are vivid. She was fond of me. She’d take me to her friends’ houses and I would perform and quote LBJ (I had no idea what a “Great Society” was, but I heard Walter Cronkite mention it a few times and like a parrot, I could repeat what I heard). Besides, it made the grown ups laugh and I learned at a very early age that hearing that sound in particular, was like Manna from heaven. I don’t remember her parlance other than she always referred to her housekeeper as “her girl”; as in, “I can’t receive guests today. My house is a mess , but thank goodness my girl is coming”.
Other people from Texas or the South grew up hearing that, too. They’ll know what that means.
My paternal grandparents lived long enough to see me through my early 20’s. I wasn’t that close to my grandmother–he lived 60 miles away, but my paternal grandmother lived down the street. She was an interesting woman. At one time, years before life had worn her down, she was an elegant lady. Almost refined in a sense. She loved plants and could grow anything. I always thought she had ‘green hands”, plus she had the damndest Southern accent. Not a Texas drawl, mind you. This was Southern.
Muthuh. Fathuh. Dinnuh. Suppuh. Daughtuh. Bruthuh. God was her Creatuh and Mary gave birth to the Baby Jesus during labuh.
I remember other things she’d say. She’d call and ask if she could come over directly–directly meaning in the next few minutes.
We’d make arrangements for her to come to our house for dinnuh and she’d call to ask what time my fathuh would come collect her–meaning drive to her house to pick her up.
She loved her garden and her lawn and loved to be out amid all the greenery. She loved to survey her botanical handiwork, but not from her porch; it was always from her veranda.
The refrigerator was always the ice box.
The living room was always the Front Room.
She sometimes referred to her car as her machine.
Cookies were ALWAYS “tea cakes”.
My life in that small South Texas town seems a million miles away now. It’s hard for me to believe that I was ever that small or ever that geographically confined, but I was. I don’t much carryover from that time in my life, but I do have select memories and the ones I allow myself to smile about, are sweet.
I can remember playing till all hours of the night with the kids on my block. Kick the can. Hide and Seek. Red Rover. Swinging Statues and then there were the seasonal things like baseball, football and of course, mud clod fights and Pea Shooting wars.
The peas came in a paper bag which had a target printed on the back. Gee, I just remembered that. They were small bags, not much larger than the bags which seeds come in. You’d pop a few in your mouth; position them in the opening of the straw with your tongue and then blow like hell.
Peas could sting flesh like hell if they were blown out of the straw with enough force. We’d use garbage can lids as shields. They worked, too.
I don’t remember swallowing any, nor do I remember putting anyone’s eye out, about which as our mothers so fervently cautioned.
Bikes were the only forms of independent transportation we knew. Bikes really hadn’t changed much, at least not in the first eight years of my life. They were all the same and standard issue looking. If you could swing it with your parents, some bikes came equipped with what we used to call “a buddy seat”. This was a thin, five-inch wide piece of metal on supports attached to the drum, that jutted over the back wheel and provided a place for a friend to ride.
See example below:
Look at that seat. It’s brutal. Man, if that’s NOT a hemorrhoid inducer, nothing is!!
And the basket in front was imperative, especially for chicks. There were square wire baskets in the 50’s and early 60’s. Then we got hip and went with wicker (in a variety of colors) attached to the handle bars by two leather straps. And might I add that the only breaks on these bikes were in the pedals and that applied ONLY to the back wheel. You had to reverse your pedaling direction in order to stop. That made for some bad ass laying of bike rubber if you going fast enough.
If someone with you didn’t have their bike with them and you needed to take them with you, you could if you had a buddy seat. But he or she would ask you for a ride by saying the following, “Can you give me a pump over to my house?”
Or you could offer first and ask, “Want me to pump you over to the Ben Franklin?”
I guess that was used because of the intense pumping action you’d force you legs to perform if toting all that weight behind you.
Then as I aged, the Spyder bike (also known as “The Stingray) came into vogue. It had an elongated”banana seat” with butterfly handle bars with more often than not, one hand break. Like so:
The “banana seat” was long enough to serve as a buddy seat, IF the two of you were thin enough. If not, the passenger got to hog the whole seat while the driver had to do all his or her “pumping” while standing up.
And here’s a strange word we used–tump. That implies to fall over, but only if it’s a very minute distance. Falling implies a distance of several feet. Tump means to fall over only a few inches, certainly no more than a foot. We’re talking about the difference between a broken bone and a skinned knee.
I’ve learned it’s an old English term that was used primarily in Texas and in the South. Perhaps it’s still used, but I hardly ever hear it anymore.
I have to smile when I think about my life back then. It was about playing, learning, growing–processing all the pain and negatives. Perhaps that process never changes–regardless of age, but it’s the simplicity within the complexity that I’m referring to here.
The woman who applied Monkey Blood (painful, lead-based Mercurochrome) to my skinned knees when I’d tump over on my bike, is almost 80 now. All those menopausal rages that so often clashed with my teenaged angst inspired by surging estrogen that was trying to find it’s place in my pubescent body, is all water under the bridge.
As she clings to this, the winter of her life, I find myself wanting to learn all I can from her. She’s my last living connection with my past–the one I can only see through her memories. I’ve still much to learn and she still has much to teach me. This is essential so I can one day teach my nieces and nephews once their lives reach the point where I am now; when looking backwards presents a far less harrowing view.
Therefore, I’ll end this reflective post now and continue this educational process. I’ll do this by calling my mother and I will…..