|Contest Entry for the SENIOR CENTER FORUM
Senior Contest: NEW PROMPT: "I REMEMBER WHEN.."
We could use a man like Herbert Hoover again,
Didn’t need no welfare state
Everybody pulled his weight
That was my parents’ generation; I came along with green stamps and dishes in the Duz box. We lived in the suburbs of a small town. That’s what you call country. We were five miles from town, just past the speedway, and before you get to the Diary Freeze. Be careful driving down route 234 because it’s curvy, and sometimes the curve dips to the ditch. There are a lot of deer on the road and a few walkers making their way to town, usually teenagers hitchhiking to get to a date or a game.
My brothers did. They hitchhiked everywhere, not me. I am the girl. I stay at home, in a little two bedroom house with a converted attic for the boys in a place called, Bradley Forest.
It you make it out our way, you can sit on the porch and listen to the trees sing while sipping sweet ice tea. My mother taught me that; listening to the trees I mean. We had a lot of trees. Couldn’t tell ya what kind, just large, lots of leaves in the fall and during the summer when the breezes blew-- some that sang.
I prefer sitting on the back porch then watching Lawrence Welch with mom. That’s ‘old music’. I don’t understand why they don’t show more of my music, like Herman’s Hermits, or Tom Jones—now they can sing. American Bandstand is pretty good, but I’m not allowed to watch it because of the dancing, so I sit out here on the back porch with the windows hooked to the ceiling and the air blowing through the screens, and the trees singing strong.
My brothers finished mowing the yard and left for town hours ago. They will go straight to Coke’s Pharmacy. That’s where everyone goes, so everyone will be there, sitting at the counter sipping on a vanilla coke and scanning the magazines.
It’s a long boring day at home for me, but then that’s what girls do, except the town girls—they get to shop at Bobby Brooks on Fairlawn, or go to Peebles on S. Moore Street, you know, someday someone should put all the stores together—that would make it easier to shop.
It’s not so bad though, I have my transistor to listen too and my friend, Cheryl said I could go with her and her parents to the drive-in tonight. I love the drive-in, the pop corn, the warm summer air, and of course, watching the other cars. The things you see! They don’t show that on TV.
The phone is in the kitchen, hanging on the wall, just inside the back-door. That’s another reason I like sitting on the porch, close to the phone. We are four rings, but our neighbor, Mrs. Leddon is three rings. She’s a bit elderly and always picks up on my phone calls. I’m not sure she hangs up when I ask her to. I don’t have boys calling me, I’m only fourteen, but I still don’t like her listening to my conversations. I only three minutes for a call and she spends most of the time saying, “Hello, hello.”
“Mrs. Leddon, I have the phone.”
“Mrs. Leddon, it was four rings, I have the phone.”
“Susie, did she hang up?” my friend, Cheryl asks.
“I don’t know, what’s up?”
“We are not going to the drive-in tonight, sorry.”
I could imagine my friend screwing her face into an ‘I’m sorry’ pout; it’s a cross between a puppy face and the way Lucy pouts when Ricky tells her she can’t be in the show.
“That’s okay,” I lie.
“But, ask your mom if you can spend the night, we’ll have a pj party,” Cheryl spoke fast with her excitement.
I hesitated because of my father, I always hesitate because of my father’s wrath; there was much to consider when it came to him. I would have been home before him, if I were going to the drive-in, but spending the night meant I would not be home when he stumbled in and that could play hard on my mother. He didn’t like for me to be anywhere but home.
“No, I can’t,” I finally sighed.
As long as it took to reply, Cheryl must have assumed I went to ask mom, but I didn’t, I know what is expected of me.
When my father says my name, I have to be up and moving while he’s telling me what he wants or needs. I answer in ‘No, Sir ‘or ‘Yes, Sir’ at all times. But, I have rules of my own too. Never get close enough that he can reach you, and if you hear his truck pull in the drive-way late at night—hide. There’s no protection from parents, you learn to survive. I learned to be invisible.
I remember those days with powerful clarity. I remember the smell of my house; the pledge, the floor-wax, the smoke, and my father’s breathe. I remember hanging the clothes out on the line, even in winter; taking down the ice sheets and shirts and carrying them in to hang over the floor register for drying.
We roll the boy’s shirts and stored them in the frig (Frigidaire) to keep from wrinkling. We have an old Coke bottle with a cork thing on top to sprinkle water on the shirts when we are ready to steam iron them. We also have pant forms that we slide down the legs of the boy’s slacks and then open. They hold the fabric straight to preserve creases while drying.
There are a lot of interesting things about the past, but I also remember the pain. The beliefs that folks have, the way people are treated, and the box that I lived in.