Sunday, January 17, 2016

Cold and Dark

The days were short in the winter and so even though it was not too late, it was definitely dark!  I know 5th graders should not be afraid of the dark but, I had learned too much of the real monsters that lurk in dark places.  I wish I had called my dad to come and pick me up. 

There was no way I could go back and ask to make a call with my friend's dad there. He made me very nervous when he yelled, “All friends go home now!  It is time for our family to eat and do homework.”  Take a deep breath, hustle and get home as fast as you can.  

In our town, one thing that was completely dependable was the wind.  Every morning and every night it would blow up a storm.  I had to walk on canyon road, which was like a wind tunnel.   I pulled my coat tighter around me and put my gloved hands in the pockets of my coat. I had boots on and was ready to bolt.  I never should have stayed so late. It would be a long walk home.

When I got down to Main Street it was a lot lighter there.  I started to dance a little as I waited for the light to change.  As I crossed the busy highway, I looked at some of the cars, in hopes of recognizing someone who could give me a lift home.  Everyone I saw was a stranger. 

On the other side of the road, I had to try to walk around some of the deeper puddles, but as I did, a car came close and hit one of them.  Water splashed high in the air and covered me with brown wet slush.  “Aagh! That is cold!” I yelled, "You stupid car!" but, it kept going down the road. Wow! A chill went down my back as the cold slush penetrated my coat and pants.  Some of the water seeped down into my boots. 

The wind blowing in my face was unbearable now. I started to shiver. I was turning into an ice cycle and still had four blocks to go.  The next stretch was past the old ball fields. There was no moon out and the shadows began to make me uneasy.  I guess the cold water made me more aware that I also needed to go to the bathroom.  I tried to think of only putting one foot in front of the other. 

I started to run, mostly because I was fearful of who was watching from the ballpark.  I couldn’t see anyone, but my imagination sure could! I knew at any moment I would hear footsteps behind me. What would I do?  How would I react if someone really came after me? I am not sure if could yell.  Taking in one cold breath after another, I bet even my voice was frozen.

I tried to run faster, my heavy boots hitting the ground clumsily.  Most people in the area had not shoveled their walks so the ground was uneven making it impossible to run fast.  It started to snow.  I was so frightened and so cold.  There were ice droplets hanging from my lashes.  I tried to wipe them with my wet glove, which only made my face colder.

As I rounded the corner, I saw that someone had actually shoveled there.  I thought, “Great.  I can finally run fast".  Then I hit the ice!  I slid.  My arms waved frantically and I landed flat on the seat of my pants.

“Oh, no!”  You know what happens when you need to pee and you land flat on the ground?  Well, it happened.  Yes, I wet my pants.  For a minute I was actually warm.  It felt so good against my frozen legs. Steam rolled off of the wet cement as I tried to get up. "Ouch," I rubbed my lower back before moving on.  Now I was wet from the inside out.

I could no longer run.  I had to walk.  My Levi pants were frozen and crispy.  In fact, I was walking stiff legged kind of like a zombie.  I had only three more blocks to go but they were the slowest three blocks I had ever walked.  I felt like a frozen Popsicle.  My legs and body rocked from side to side as I inched forward toward home.

I started to cry.  That was the last straw!  Warm tears rolled down my face only to turn to ice.  I could no longer feel my legs or my toes in my boots.  My gloves were so cold they were useless.  I was a stick figure in a child’s drawing.  Stick arms, stick legs, stick feet.  In fact I bet my hair was like a stick too, frozen to a crisp.  It would probably break off if I touched it.

I had walked another block when I heard someone coming up behind me. I didn’t dare look at who was chasing me in the dark!  I just knew it was catching up to me. My heart was still warm because I could feel it beating fast!  It beat so hard I could hear it in my head. Then I felt something hit the back of my coat.  “Help," I yelled.  I guess my voice was not frozen after all.  I fell to the ground.  The next thing I knew, some large monster was on top of me.  He was pulling at my scarf and licking my face. He was barking and yapping.  I heard a door bang and someone yelled, “Buck! Get over here!  Come on Buck, leave that poor girl alone.”

I was breathing hard.  My lungs hurt as I huffed and puffed.  I sat there a moment before staggering once again to my feet.  It seemed forever before I finally made my way around the last bend to my house. I could see the lights in the windows.  They looked so warm and inviting.  Ever so slowly, I walked up the stairs and opened the door.  As I walked into the house, everyone stared!  My voice croaked, “I’m home.” I stood there, a 5th grader, crying like a baby in front of my family.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Home, Where Stories Begin

Although mom had only four children of her own, there were sometimes as many as twenty-five children under our roof.  Mom was like the Old Woman in the Shoe, Who Didn’t Know What to Do.   She started one of the first Child Care Centers in Utah.  It was at a time with few rules about the number of children one person could tend.  The only law at that time was mom.
Children came and went all hours of the day and night. Parents dropped children off  before going to work, no matter what shift they were on. Each child brought a blanket and a pillow so they had their own comfort when it was nap time or bed time. Cots were placed all over the living room, a little like “wall to wall carpet”.
As you can imagine with so many children, meal time was always crazy.  The babies under two (usually only a couple), were fed first.  Then while they were content in their highchairs, mom fed the rest in shifts from the youngest to the oldest until everyone was full.  It seemed that no matter what she made, and no matter how much the children ate, there was always enough food to go around.  Everyone was nice and content after one of mom’s meals.
Every day she would bake something wonderful. Some days we had cookies or cinnamon rolls.  Other days she would make homemade macaroni and cheese.  On bread day she would say, “I wonder why this recipe never makes as much as it says it will.” This comment was always met with silence.  It was because we older children had taken a handful of dough from the underside of the bread as it was rising.  Then quickly ran outside to eat it.  We loved the homemade scones in the morning and the smell of warm baked bread in the afternoons.
When people asked, “Where does your mother work?”  We would reply, “She doesn’t work.  She stays home.”  This was amazing because I have never seen anyone work so hard.  She was always on her feet, cooking meals, baking, washing dishes, washing faces, playing Ring-Around-the-Rosy, reading a story, or dancing with the children.  The only time I saw her sit still is when the children were all napping and she was watching her one and only television show, “Where the World Turns”, a modern day soap opera.  It was boring to children so it put many of us to sleep.
We had time in the day set aside for story time, coloring, writing our names, learning our numbers and alphabet and a play time.  She was a good teacher.  During play time, she taught us how to play.  She taught some to tie their shoes and blow their noses.  She taught others to skip, jump or crawl. Whatever we needed to learn, she was there to teach us.
There are so many stories I have of growing up in such a busy place.  Swimming and splashing in the irrigation water, playing in the dugout, sharing our dolls and other toys, dressing the kittens, playing school and so much more.  We were taught life lessons of sharing, patience, responsibility, solving arguments, getting along, saying please and thank you, and having sympathy for others. Lessons were taught naturally, under natural circumstances and with natural consequences.

Many of the stories I tell, have their beginnings in this small home with all of the children and my wonderful mom.