Ruts And Gullies

We played outside. We climbed in trees. We dug holes in the ground and covered them with boards and the dug out dirt to make forts we could crawl into and hide. We roller-skated at the school – which was open 24/7 and only a block or so away. Sometimes we climbed on the roof. We got there on our bikes or by bare feet over dirt roads with ruts and gullies in them. We swung on the swings and marked out hopscotch with chalk and used broken chains as markers since they landed so well. We played four square – or two square if there was only two of us. The big boys played football on the long strip of grass that lined a string of classrooms – the wing for the first and second graders because it was the flattest. The girls hung on the sidelines dreaming of one of the big boys becoming their boyfriend.

I wasn’t much of a fan of football in those days any more than now and I had no illusions that one of those boys would like me – my sister was so much cuter than I and all they could see was her. Shallow boys.

The house we lived in was too small to stay inside much. On rainy days we had to. Our mother had drawn roses on pieces of white cloth for us to embroider – or we played dolls or board games or watched a cartoon or two – or spun in the chair that was a swivel until Mom yelled out to us to stop. Some rainy days she would drive us up to the laundromat just to dry a load or two – normally, she hung them on the line outside – the same frame my sister and I used as a monkey bar. She would leave us there and come back later. We loved that chore because the U-totem was hooked to the laundromat and we each had a nickel for a candy bar. Oh joy!

I’m so glad that I was born in the 50s. What a wonderful era it was. So fresh and clean. So trivial.

We seldom had nothing to do.

It’s possible there were greedy, controlling monsters behind it all – but they were hidden behind the veil that still existed.

Evenings the adults would gather on someone’s porch and the kids could hang out among them if they wanted to. I loved to. I loved to hear the adults talk – they seemed to have all the answers and all the best of the gossip.

Line-dried clothes.

Ruts and gullies.

Roller skates, dolls and Cooties.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Now the beast is clear.


Baby Diaper Pins

Veronica was the very first doll that I have any memory of. At some point in her early life, she got a haircut. My mother wasn’t happy, but she forgave me. I still have Veronica with her short do and she was somewhat small for a small little girl. Annie Laurie was next and she was big enough to hold just like a baby. She had a stroller too. She spent the first part of my life, rarely separate from me — she and Bar, who was my bear. He was bigger than Annie and since Annie had to go into a closet to be kept nice, Bar got to spend the nights with me.
When I was about nine, a friend’s older sister had a baby. She was only eighteen and it was quite a scandal — but we loved to love her baby. We got to use some real baby diapers for our dolls then too, whenever she got new ones. We were so excited — and plastic pants and real baby diaper pins. Diapers were fabric and required pins in those days and plastic pants — and we had to learn to fold them right. We had a blast — pretending to be mothers.
Why do girls play with dolls? Why do they think they want to mother? Is it because mothers puts dolls in their baby girls hands instead of trucks. It seems that girls, per se, gravitate to dolls no matter what.
Later I had a friend who had a minibike. She didn’t like dolls much. I played with her for awhile on it, but quickly lost interest — maybe because I knew I couldn’t have one too. I think I would have played more if I could have had one. I loved, loved, loved my pedal bike. But she went on to be very much involved with sports. I never was. I hated competition. Girls get vicious too and it looked ugly to me. I chose art.
I lost interest in having babies and being a mother too once I realized how exciting the world was and how much I loved art and wanted to make a living so I could do more of it. Kids and husbands looked like too much trouble and interference. People called me selfish. So be it. I didn’t mind much. The worst part of it was that employers always made me work holidays, weekends and evenings because, “She has kids.” I hated that and resented it very much.
Same thing again later with weekends off. “Do you have something special to do? If you do, we’ll schedule you a weekend off. She has a wedding to go to.” “No, I just want a weekend off,” was my response. Sorry Charlie. I said they should be on rotation. They said, “If you have something special, we’ll schedule one for you, but she has an event to attend with her boyfriend”. “No, I just want a weekend off so I can have a weekend off.” It didn’t matter. I had to lie. I didn’t lie, I fought and fought and finally became not a team player. There was no winning for someone who doesn’t play sports or want a weekend off to watch it.
So, once I got tired of playing games, I tried my hand at starting my own business. I didn’t like that much either. It all seemed like wasting precious time doing something I didn’t really want to. And…it required just as many games, just different — Walmart — need any more be said. Ugly competition rears it’s ugly head again. Always competition.
Now I just compete with weeds but not really. I let them have their way and the ants too. It’s hard to get in and out the front gate because cutter ants are in forage mode getting ready for winter fungus making. I just try to not let them have my feet.
A bee followed me around today. I couldn’t help thinking of the meme that asks that instead of being afraid of bees, to consider that they might have mistaken you for a flower. I just said, “shoo bee” — I couldn’t imagine how it could mistake me for a flower. It came back later, or another one did. I said shoo again and waved my hands in the air. That’s as competitive as it gets around here. And as for children, cats will have to do for now except for friends who brings theirs by from time to time. A dog may be in the future.

Annie and Bar

Her first doll was Annie Laurie, her first teddy was Bar. Bar had a squeaky ear, back in the day.
They’ve done a better job of hiding her same age and will both go wherever she does, the rest of the way — the full distance of her life if she lasts as long as they.

Sometimes she wishes that her mother hadn’t said, “Be sure to wash your hands, Girls, before you play. And when you’re through with playing with them for this day, put them all back in the cupboard just the right way.”

Some other children’s mothers didn’t care at all, if their brothers lopped the head off all their dolls.
If she had had a mother, more like they, she wouldn’t have to worry now and it wouldn’t be so sad, to wonder who will care about them, once she’s gone.

If she had had a daughter, she would have called her Annie. And Annie would have had a teddy just like Bar.