The mulberries are mostly gone and I am letting the birds have the rest. The blackberries are just past their peak and I am only getting a couple of cups worth of berries on my daily rounds. I am waiting for the raspberries now. They are almost ripe and will likely be ready in a few days. Then I shall be busy again, smashing, squeezing and making raspberry jam. In the meantime, a trip down memory lane...
When I came into the world, my parents and sister were living in the country in Illinois. Mom and Dad bought some land and built a house-- they literally helped build it. I always have a hard time imagining Mom on the roof nailing down roofing materials but I have to remind myself that she was young and in her 20s when she did that. Mom and Dad worked different shifts at the town's GE factory so they wouldn't need to hire a babysitter or put us kids in daycare. My sister, who is Deaf, went to deaf school at the age of 3, which was standard at the time, to send deaf children to school early and give them a "head start" on communication skills and education. Mom said it was hard to let her go so early and cried for days afterwards. My sister seemed to thrive at the school and I was home with the parents, so it almost seemed like I was an only child. Sis came home on weekends and then she was gone again during the week.
The town we lived in was small-ish and had all the basics as I remember. We would get our meat from the butcher shop and I remember going with my Dad. I don't seem to picture my Mom coming, but I am sure she did. The butcher shop had a guard dog, maybe not so much a guard dog but he wasn't friendly. I had a best friend that had big friendly dogs and in my mind, I assumed all dogs were lovable, friendly dogs. I walked right up to the butcher shop dog and started to pat it on the head when it lunged at me and bit me on the forehead. I am sure I screamed, though I don't remember that detail. What I do remember is the butcher shop owner giving me an ice-cold bottle of orange soda (Crush?) and I was happily drinking down it's orange, bubbly goodness while all the adults fussed over me. I have a scar on my forehead as a result of Mr. Dog.
There was a restaurant called Al's (at least that is what I remember) and we would eat there once in a while. I seem to think that the place was owned by the neighbor that lived behind us. His name was Al. They served yummy food, or else we wouldn't have eaten there. What I remember is yummy, crispy, gooey cheddar cheese balls! How my sister and I would love to bite into these hot, round, crispy balls of cheese and then pull and watch the strings of gooey cheese stretch and we'd wind these strings of cheese around our fingers and pull them off with our teeth. I've never had fried cheddar cheese balls again after we moved and I hope one day to try them again.
School for me was a long bus ride away. I once saw an aerial picture of the town and the school was in the middle of a corn field, perhaps 5 to 10 miles away. I remember missing the bus one morning and being so upset, I cried. I ran into the house and Dad drove to catch up to the bus, waving at the driver to pull over so I could get on the bus. I was so happy as I sniffed away my tears and took my seat next to my friends, Mark and Toni.
I am a little vague on the school building, but I DO remember during a little birthday party the kindergarten class was having, throwing up all over my cupcake. I had to lie down on a cot in a darkened, spare room in the nurse's office, miserably waiting for someone to come and get me. Turns out I got the chicken pox and I had to stay home for a week. I was more upset over not getting to eat the cupcake than I was with throwing up. Mark, my friend and a neighbor, brought me my school work and I think, a new cupcake to eat.
Home was a lovely place. We had a big house (big in my 6 year old eyes) and I shared a room with my sister, which wasn't really sharing much since she was away at school most of the time. We had a sunny yellow bedroom with homemade quilts and matching curtains and matching crocheted rag rug, all made by Mom. Dad helped her pick out the colors and my sister and I had matching patterned quilts-- mine with green and hers with orange. We used to run and jump onto the rug and it would slide across the room on the smooth wood floors. There used to be a doll that sat on the top shelf of the closet that I couldn't reach and I wasn't allowed to play with until I was older. I'm not too sure what happened to that doll, but I sure do remember the temptation it called out, begging me to get a chair and stand on my tippy toes and still, I couldn't reach it.
We had a pool in the backyard. Dad built a deck and a small pool shed to store all the pool supplies and toys. I remember not being allowed to go in the pool until Mom or Dad were present and impatiently waiting, waiting, waiting. Dad kept a hose under the deck, coiled into a round pile. Sometimes we had to add more water to the pool so it was easier to leave the hose there. I took that hose out one day and swung it around doing a fancy dance (in my mind, it was on a stage with other dancers) and all of a sudden I felt hot water splash my tummy. I thought it was water from the hose, hot from sitting in the sun, but it was a wasp that had crawled in the hose and was mad from being swung around inside there and stung me 3 times on my tummy. Dad picked me up and dropped me into the cool water of the pool and I hung there on the edge, tears running down my cheeks, my belly hot and stinging. I stayed away from that hose from then on.
We lived next to a field, I'm not sure if it was a corn field, wheat field, or pasture, but I do remember Dad warning me not to go out of the side door of the garage without peeking out the door first. Snakes would slither out of that field and come to sunbathe on the hot concrete stoop and if I ever saw a snake there, I was to get Dad right away and he would take care of it. I think he used a shovel to chop it in half and then toss the remains back into the field. Dad had children to protect.
We had a deaf cat named Snowball. Long, white fur with one blue eye, one green eye. He was a handsome cat and came and went as he pleased. I was looking out of the big picture window in the living room one day and I saw Snowball sitting on the corner of the driveway, giving himself a bath. I saw the mean 3-legged dog coming up behind Snowball and I feared for him! There was no point in calling for him or yelling because he was Deaf, so all I could do was watch in horror, sure that Snowball's fate was sealed as the mean 3-legged dog came closer and closer. He barked and growled, his teeth bared in an ugly snarl. Snowball never moved, kept on about his business, giving himself a bath. You could see the puzzlement in the mean dog's face and if there was a thought balloon above his head it would have said, "Why isn't this cat taking off so I can chase it, catch it and chew him to bits?" The dog must have barked a good 5 minutes at Snowball and he never stopped bathing, never noticed there was a barking, growling dog behind him. Thought balloon above dog's head now said, "Shit! This is one tough cat! He ain't scared! *Gulp!* He's gonna whup my ass! I'm outta here!" And the mean 3-legged dog tucked his tail between his legs and ran off. Too bad there wasn't a video camera rolling to catch it on tape, that would have won the grand prize on America's Funniest Videos for sure!
Country life was good to that little 6 year old girl. We moved shortly before my 7th birthday. The parents sold the house, moved us into a travel trailer and took us down to Louisiana. That's a whole 'nother tale.