Our Awful Friends Part 3

Illustration by Kathleen Holdaway Swain

I entered the Land of Enchantment when I passed through that gate.  Shrubs had entangled and obliterated the tangled yard fence.  An amazement of possibilities greeted me.  Hounds and a few chickens lounged on the drooping porch.  A long-abandoned truck rested on blocks.  Old tires, stacks of lumber, pots and pans, and broken toys littered the dirt yard.  The hounds had dug dozens of holes, which the kids had expanded.  A few wild children were whooping with joy, slinging missiles of Chinaberries at each other.  I never wanted to leave.  Mrs. Awful disappeared into the house while we set about entertaining ourselves, a perfect system. 

At four, I was not concerned about social order, so I made my way to the doorless truck, shoving a hound off the battered seat so I could drive, my first opportunity to get behind a wheel.  I stood behind that wheel, turning it madly, till I was shoved over by a late-comer.  I wasn’t particularly disturbed, I knew bigger kids got the first crack at stuff, so I didn’t waste time whining, just kept shoving till they moved on.  I did hurl a broken toy car as they ambled off, but they didn’t bother to come back after me.

All around me, unsupervised kids were running wild, screaming, shoving, running over smaller kids, and just having a wonderful time in general.  Fortunately, there was a wide age-range of kids, so I was able to get in on the fun.  Eventually, Mrs. Awful made it out with birthday cake, serving it up to us on napkins.  She didn’t linger long, quickly returning to her soap opera.  We heard the organ music pouring out the window.  For some reason, she left her toddler, Becky, among us as she returned to her soaps. 

Unlike a couple of the little girls, I had no interest in playing Mama, particularly since Becky’s diaper appeared fully loaded.  I had a baby brother and grasped the significance of that drooping diaper.  Within minutes, Becky’s secret was out.  Kids ran screaming as she approached, like she was “It” in a mad game of chase.  Several tumbles in the dirt did little to clean her up.  Even though she was a baby, Becky understood and protested the shunning.  She stood bravely squalling in the midst of the melee.  Even that didn’t bring her mother to the rescue.  Jamey took mercy and turned the water hose on her, hoping to sanitize her and make her more socially acceptable as he stripped her of her diaper.  To the universal delight of the party-goers, his enterprising brother grabbed the hose sprayed the general crowd, including dogs and chickens.  Should you ever want to plan a good party, be sure to put a water hose first on your list?  We joyously ripped through the spray, fighting for control of the hose.  Our game was cut short by Mrs. Awful hurling curses at us.  If only we had not sprayed water on the television through the open window, our fun could have lasted longer.  She scooped naked Becky up and exiled us to the barnyard.  Fortunately, the barnyard was promising.

 

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Our Awful Friends Part 2

I had only been out of the bathtub about 10 minutes when this picture was made.  After that birthday party, this dress was never the same.  I never saw that little purse again.I first became aware of the Awfuls on the occasion of Jamey Awful’s fifth birthday.  I was probably about four and totally ignorant of what birthday parties entailed.  I only knew that Mother ruined a perfectly good day by calling me away from my sand pile to take a bath in the middle of the day, an unheard of event.  I was disturbed especially since she insisted on washing the sand out of my hair.  I’d just spent a good portion of the morning pouring sand on the top of my head, enjoying its powdery coolness showering down on my shoulders and the back of my sundress and saw no reason for her outraged reaction.  “I told you not to get dirty.  We have to go somewhere today.”

As far as I was concerned, sand was clean.  Mud was dirty.  Axle grease was dirty.  Chicken poop on my shoe was dirty.  Sand was white and dusted right off.  It was not dirty.  At any rate, Mother filled the tub with water and sprinkled in a bit of Tide Washing Powder and plunged me in.  That was what passed for bubble bath at our house.  I would have been content to spend the afternoon there, but she washed my hair and hurried me out, ruining another good time.  Then she brushed my stick straight hair and stuffed me in a fluffy petticoat, a white fluffy dress with red and blue polka-dots, white socks, and sandals.  Worse yet, I had to submit to a photo session.  Mother was a novice with a camera making me pose forever, staring into the sun.  She’d gone to a great deal of fuss making matching dresses for me and Phyllis for Easter and was extremely proud of the effect.  Too bad the confection was wasted on me.  When she’d said Easter outfit, I’d envisioned a cowboy getup.

Then she walked us over to the Awful’s house.  I doubt Mother knew Mrs. Awful, since we’d never been to her house for coffee, even though they only lived a couple of houses over.  I guess the poor woman was scraping the bottom of the barrel to find enough kids for a party, since I was a year younger and Phyllis was a couple of years older and neither had ever laid eyes on Jamey. 

Mrs. Awful met us at the back gate.  There were a dozen or so kids running round in the yard, so once Mother made Mrs. Awful’s acquaintance, she headed home, promising to be back for us in a couple of hours.  Mrs. Awful ushered us in the back gate and the fun began.  I was in Heaven!

Surprise at the Surprise Party

Surprise party

IllustrationbyKathleen Holdaway Swain

Connie and Marilyn were adorable little girls, born a little over a year apart. Born fouth and fifth of five children, we all doted on them, with the exception of my brother Billy, who was displaced by all that cuteness. Mother dressed them in pastel shades of the same style dresses as much as she could. Connie was fair and blue-eyed with cotton white hair; Marilyn olive-skinned, brown-eyed with darker hair. Naturally, they were inseparable. Connie, the older, was protective of Marilyn and invariably gave over to her, calling her “Myrnie.”

As Mother rocked Connie, it was obvious the sweet toddler was deep in thought. After a bit, Connie asked, “Mommy did God give me to you and Daddy?”

“Yes,” Mother answered.

Connie thought, “Did God give Myrnie to you and Daddy?”

“Yes.”

“Why, God didn’t want no kids.?” Connie puzzled.

Like most large families, we all had responsibility. Phyllis and I helped to care of the little ones. I was very scatterbrained, so whichever one Phyllis took care of got a better deal than my charge. When they were three and four, both were invited to a birthday party one Saturday afternoon. Phyllis and I dressed them in their little party dresses. Both were ready with one small exception. I left Marilyn’s little ruffled panties in the dryer till the last second. As they sat in a chair to stay clean, Mother came through and was delighted at the sight of her precious little girls. She took their little hands and led them to the car. Mother was running behind and hadn’t really had time to dress up for the party, so she just sent the girls in and went back home to fix herself up to socialize with the ladies when she got back.

On her return, as she pulled into the drive, the little party-goers were all gathered around the front steps. Marilyn was on the top step with all the children yelling for her to jump. As Mother watched from the car, Marilyn’s little party dress fluttered, the kids cheered. Mother was concerned, not remembering Marilyn having panties that odd nude color. Mother skipped coffee rushing the little girls to the car. She anxiously ran her hand up Marilyn’s leg. Just as she’d feared, Marilyn didn’t have any nude-colored panties. The ruffled panties matching her dress still waited in the dryer at home.

Mother was livid when she stormed home with Marilyn and her bare bottom. You’d think Marilyn was the first girl who ever went to a party without panties. She assumed I was at fault and not ready to hear any excuses. As Mother said her piece, it finally struck her as funny. The more we talked, the funnier it got. When the hysteria crescendoed the preacher dropped by. Naturally, he was worried to find us all with h tears streaming down or faces. Phyllis and I abandoned Mother to make her explanations.

This wasn’t my first or last mess up. I never knew why Mother considered me capable.
Connie and Marilyn's Toddler Pictures

The World’s Best Birthday Party! (Part I of II)

Reposting an older story to introduce part II.  I loved playing with these kids.  Illustrations by Kathleen Swain.

Water play at the Party

Water play at the Party

Freedom at the Awful's

Freedom at the Awful’s

The Awfuls were awesome. Even though their name was Alston, the neighborhood mothers thought Awful was a better fit. We all envied them as they roamed the neighborhood with a freedom we only imagined. They weren’t mean; Continue reading

World’s Best Birthday Party(Part II of II)

Awfuls chasing turey

Awfuls chasing turey

Awfuls in Pigpen

Awfuls in Pigpen

(Continuation of story of Jamey Awful’s birthday party, without a doubt, the most fun I ever had in my life.  If he gave a party today, I’d be there!)

Jamey’s birthday party was the most fun I’ve ever had. There had been no “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, no party hats, just fun, fun, fun. When my mother walked over to get me, I could tell she was not happy. She didn’t even go in for coffee like she always did at neighbor lady’s houses. Boy was I in trouble with my ruined party dress, lost shoes, and muddy self. She said I could never go to the Awfuls again.

I figured Mother would forget after a few days, but no……….No visits to Continue reading