Awful Christmas

Our neighbors, the Alstons were both just a smidge off-plumb.  Mother never referred to the kids any way but as “the Awfuls”,  so I inferred that was the surname of these totally undisciplined urchins.  I was unceasinly envious of their unbridled freedom.  They ate, slept, and rambled at their pleasure, while I chafed at the unreasonable restraints of my miserable life.

Like the rest of us, they couldn’t wait for Christmas. Every year, they starting finding their presents about a week before Christmas.  Daily, one of them turned up something new. One day, Randy had a brand new basketball. The next, Jamey had a new baseball and glove. On Christmas Eve morning Davey buzzed by on a beautiful new Spitfire Bike with a horn. Boy, did that make me mad! I had asked my Mother for that very bike. She said Santa didn’t have enough money to bring me a bike. That didn’t make a bit of sense! Why would money matter to Santa? She stammered around a while and finally said parents had to help Santa with expensive things. Huh, it didn’t look like Santa needed too much help at the Awfuls.

Finally, their mom made up her mind they wouldn’t find anything before Christmas. For the first time they could remember, they learned about rules. Mrs. Awful kept an eye on them every second they were in the house, only letting them play in the living room or their bedroom. Well, they could go in Crazy Granny’s room, but she screeched every time she saw them, so no luck sneaking around in there: no chances to dig under their mom’s bed or prowl through cupboards and closets, no long afternoons in the attic. She kept them outdoors until dark unless it was cold or raining. It was nice seeing them suffer the way the rest of us did. I heard she even made them do a few chores.

That year, the week before Christmas, the Awfuls played with a collection of rag tag leftover toys just like the rest of us. No one had had caps for cowboy pistols for months. My old red wagon had a broken handle and couldn’t be pulled, only pushed. I couldn’t sucker Billy into pushing me very long, so we had to take turns. We had jumped on Phyllis’s pogo stick so much the stopper on the end was gone and it buried up in the dirt instead of bouncing. Billy’s cars had most of the wheels off, so they weren’t good for much. Even the Tinker Toys were worn out. Daddy had backed over our big tricycle, so it was a goner. Things were looking pretty bleak. We all needed Christmas!!

The Awfuls were still empty-handed Christmas Eve when a miracle happened. Becky was climbing the Christmas Tree after the cat for the hundredth time when the tree-stand broke, dumping Becky, cat, and tree all out in the floor. Becky would have been fine if she had fallen on her head, but she fell face first and knocked out a tooth bloodying her nose. You never heard such caterwauling in your life. By the time Mom and Pop Awful got in there, it was exciting. The tree was spread across the room, the terrified cat was zipping around the room, and Becky was a squalling bloody mess. Crazy Granny chimed in from her room, so it was quite a party.

Mom and Pop Awful grabbed Becky and left instructions for the kids to mind their grandparents while they took Becky to be repaired by the doctor. This shouldn’t be too hard since Granny was wacko and Grandpa was deaf and went straight to sleep. This was just the chance they had been waiting for. They searched the closet and dressers in Mom and Pop’s room first. Nothing there, so they checked the attic. It was spooky, but empty. They checked all the kitchen and bathroom cupboards……nothing. Finally, they thought to check Crazy Granny’s room. Of course she shrieked, but Grandpa kept snoring. Bonanza!!!! Granny’s closet was full! They pulled out bats and balls, puzzles, a tricycle for Becky, scooters, erector sets and more. It was everything they’d asked for. They ripped into the toys but eventually realized Mom and Pop would be home soon.

They were about to pack everything back up when Davey hatched a wonderful idea. “Let’s give Mom and Pop a big Christmas surprise and hide all this stuff.” With barely time to hustle the packages to their room and slide them under their beds, Mom and Pop Awful and snaggle toothed Becky got back from the doctor. Mom gave them all their supper and rushed them off to bed so Santa could come. No boys had ever gone to bed more enthusiastically.

They tried to stay awake for the fun, but finally drifted off. Awakening to Granny’s screech, they realized the search was on. Sneaking to their bedroom door, they heard Mom Awful’s panicked whisper. “They’re gone!!! All the presents are gone!!!! Someone must have stolen them. What are we going to do?

Pop Awful was sure Mom had just made a mistake. “They can’t be gone. You just forgot where you hid them. You were worried about the kids finding them again. Let’s just think and keep looking.” They looked everywhere….all the closets……under the beds……the attics. Nothing! The Awfuls peeked from behind their door, stifling their laughter as they watched Mom and Pop tear the place up, looking for the missing presents. Just then, they heard a fateful, “quack, quack, quack” as Becky’s little wind up duck marched out of their room, straight up to Mom and Pop. They ripped the door open, found presents spilling out from under the bed, bicycles all over the room, and their Awful Christmas started.

Rock and Roll, Mama!

When I was a kid, nothing would have shocked me more than the thought of hurting my mother. Despite this, when I was about ten, my brother and I came upon my mother rocking the baby, one of her few opportunities to take a break out of her impossible day. She had very little lap for the baby, since she was hugely pregnant with another baby. Most often, she drifted off for a little nap herself. We thought it would be fun to surprise her by pulling on the back of the rocker, tipping her back. She must have been shocked or extremely good-natured, because she laughed out loud. Foolishly inferring we’d pleased her, we rocked her even further back, with her continued shouts of, “Stop! Stop! You’re going to drop me!” Because she seemed to be having so much fun, we kept it up till the chair tipped backwards, leaving her stranded, lying with the rocker back on the floor, swollen feet high in the air, under the weight of two babies, one on top of her belly, the other inside nearly ready to pop out.
We were horrified, thinking we’d killed her. The baby was howling at being upside down on her incapacitated Mama. Of course, Mother could do nothing to help herself, except shout, “Help, get me up! Get me up!” I thought we’d killed her, and probably the squalling baby, as well as the one on the way. The two of us struggled to get the chair up, learning a valuable lesson in physics at the same time. It’s a lot easier to tip a pregnant woman over than to get to her upright. I do believe the only thing that saved us was her bizarre startle response, since the whole situation struck Mother as funny. Since then, I’ve never tempted to tip another pregnant woman over.
woman in rocker

The Great Gum Heist

Linda First GradeMy mother broke me from stealing. It’s just as well. I wasn’t any good at it anyway. She was having coffee with her friend, Miss Frankie. I was bored and used my ingenious ruse. “I gotta go to the bathroom.”

Mother warned me. “Okay, but don’t meddle and don’t touch anything!” No wonder I took a wrong turn. She never trusted me. I dawdled as I made my way to the bathroom off Miss Frankie’s bedroom. This was the 1950s. This wasn’t the master bathroom. It was the only bathroom in her Quonset hut with an add on in the back. Delightfully, for me, Miss Frankie was a relaxed housekeeper so I could see a lot without meddling. Clothes and shoes covered the floor. The open closet doors displayed shoe boxes, handbags, dresses, and nighties. I walked around in her red high heels while I surveyed the lipsticks, lotions, scarves, and a hairbrush decorating her dresser. I considered trying her lipstick when I spied an open pack of Dentyne Gum. Immediately, I peeled a piece and popped it in my mouth.

I shed the shoes. Chomping my gum happily, I strolled back in to join Mother and Miss Frankie at coffee. “What is that in your mouth?”

“‘Uh…..gum.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“Uh…I found it….on Miss Frankie’s dresser.”

“You are not allowed to take things. That is stealing. Take it out of your mouth and tell Miss Frankie you’re sorry.”

i took the gooey wad out of my mouth and held it out to Miss Frankie. Reluctantly, she accepted it. “I’m sorry, Miss Frankie.” I’m sure she was, too.

“That’s okay , Honey.

That was the end of my stealing. I have never even wanted to steal again.

Ruth Elaine and the Exploding Baby (Part II of II 1930s memoir)

Repost of earlier post few readers saw:

Out of respect for the family, Mr. Kinnebrew dismissed school at noon. Ruth Elaine, normally socially invisible, wandered from the office with her lunch bucket, mystified to find herself Queen of the Playground. The big girls jostled for position around her, shoving lowly first graders to the side, demanding details of the catastrophe. “Did it set him on Continue reading

Terror at the Camp Out (Halloween Story)

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The backyard campout was all Billy and his friends could talk about. My cousin Sue and I furiously watched them build a tent out of old quilts stretched over the clothesline, furious we couldn’t camp out with them. No girls allowed! Continue reading

A Few Good Senior Moments

reblogged from Oyia Brown

Oyia Brown

1An elderly gentleman had serious hearing problems for a number of years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear 100%.

The elderly gentleman went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, ‘Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.’

The gentleman replied, ‘Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!’

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Two elderly gentlemen from a retirement center were sitting on a bench under a tree when one turns to the other and says: ‘Slim, I’m 83 years old now and I’m just full of aches and pains. I know you’re about my age. How do you feel?’

Slim says, ‘I feel just like a…

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Me and Oil Can Harry

imageMother was stuck taking us everywhere she went, even to buy a new washing machine just  days before her fourth baby was born.  She never asked anyone to keep us since that would have insured she had to return the favor and keep someone else’s monsters in return, probably some of our killer cousins.  She was always on guard against that.  We followed her into Continue reading

Conquering Corwin (Part !)

ConanIn my family of “Mixed Nuts” Cousin Corwin was the winner, hands down.  When he was about twelve, he and his twin Kelvin got in a little “dust up” with the police, so it seemed like a good time to get out of town.  Aunt Essie called Daddy, asking if the twins could come spend a few days.  Now if the image “twins” brings to mind thoughts of “barefoot Continue reading

Broken Hearts and Pink High Heels

Kid in pink dot heels          Mother was always last on her own list, but she’d had enough when she admired Cousin Franny’s new dress, and Franny turned her nose up and said, “This old thing.  It ain’t fit for nothing.”   Franny was a doll-like woman who reveled in only weighing ninety pounds and wearing a size four shoe.  She dressed beautifully even if she charged her clothes and had to outrun creditors.  She took pleasure in making sure other women in the family couldn’t ignore her, putting them down at every opportunity.  Her girls were daintier, cuter, better dressed, and she had to work hard to get them to eat; a stark contrast to our voracious appetites and hand-me-downs.  I always wanted to be a picky eater at Franny’s, but her goodies always suckered me in.

“This ole thing,” was the last straw for Mother, a giant of a woman at five feet and one hundred and ten pounds.  She always indulged herself and made sure she had a new dress and shoes after having a new baby.  Spurred on by Franny’s snotty put downs, she pinched back nickels and quarters her whole pregnancy and was able to buy enough fabric to make two beautiful spring dresses and buy two pairs of matching pastel pumps to finish off her gorgeous ensembles.  She agonized over which to wear at the first family gathering to show off her slender figure and new baby. Finally, she decided to wear the green and save the pink outfit for church Sunday, her first back since having the baby.  Not surprisingly, she was the center of attention.  Her dress clung to her tiny waist as her post-partum bosoms imposed on her bodice.  All her sisters in law praised her eye for design and her perfect sewing.  She wore an apron to protect her new dress while helping get lunch on the table and carefully kept a burp towel on her shoulder while feeding her pretty new baby.  Her only regret was that she hadn’t been able to show off the pink dress and pumps that day, too.  Even better, Franny was bewailing her fifth pregnancy that day.  She was miserably sick but Mother saw her envious glances between episodes of throwing up.  It was a perfect day.

Mother needn’t have regretted not being able to show off her pink shoes that day.  She could always count on her children to anticipate her needs. At eleven Phyllis was a girly, girl. She got in Mother’s make up and gowns at every opportunity.  She wore dresses and wanted her hair curled every day.  She had coveted the beautiful shoes months before when Mother slipped them in. She was able to put them out of her mind when they disappeared deep in Mother’s closet, but as Mother twirled around in her new dress and mint green high heels, it was more than Phyllis could stand.  She was overcome with jealousy and righteous indignation. Mother had two new dresses and matching shoes to match and expected her to wear old scuffed saddle oxfords!!!  Phyllis sulked self-righteously until it got the best of her. Kicking the hated saddle oxfords far under the bed, she slipped in Mother’s closet to just see how the pink shoes felt.  They were perfect!!!   She had to wear them just a little while.  When she took a trial stroll by Mother, Mother didn’t say a word.  Okay.

After lunch that day, the kids went out to play. Predictably, it was not long before howling brought all the mothers flocking to the front yard.   The appropriate mother dragged the damaged kid in for examination and first aid, while the others ordered their kids to stop jumping off the high front porch in the mud.   Mother made a horrible realization.  Phyllis had abandoned her normal prissiness and joined the others, primly jumping off the high porch into the mud in Mother’s new pastel pink pumps……the ones she hadn’t even worn once!!!!!  Mother ordered her indoors, confiscated the precious shoes, and set Phyllis to cleaning the mud from the inside and outside while pondering the inevitable consequences she could expect once Mother had time to deal with her.

The shoes cleaned up better than Mother expected, so Mother was somewhat mollified and Phyllis’s life was spared.  The next Sunday came and went, and Mother looked great at church in her fancy new pink outfit.  Even that snooty Sally Greeley admired her.  Life was good.

Time rocked on.  Mother went to town on Thursdays to buy groceries and run her week’s errands.  She dressed in her pink outfit and was blissfully pushing her cart through the grocery store, generously acknowledging the compliments of all the other ladies who were also doing their Thursday shopping.  Mother was shopping for seven, so her cart was heavy as she teetered her way toward the checkout, a vision of pink loveliness.  An unhappy snap interrupted her pleasant jaunt.  Horrified, she looked down to see the heel of her pink pump snapped about one inch up its four inch height.  Worse yet, the break was not complete.  A thin sliver of dainty pink leather held the broken portion dangling crazily.  She looked around, hoping no one had noticed.  Fortunately, she and a couple of the children were alone in the aisle.  She sent one of them speeding for a roll of cellophane in hopes of salvaging her pride.  The tape held almost till she got near the front of the store, betraying her just as she was chatting with her friends, and of course, Sally Greeley was right there waiting for her, pretending to be sympathetic.