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.

 

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!

Battered, Beloved, Old Toys

img_1701My mother has a collection of toys some of which are more than fifty years old, not collector edition type toys, just old junky stuff like cheap plastic fire trucks, broken race cars, a metal tractor, a few green plastic army men, and a few leftover circus animals from a forty-year-old Fisher-Price Circus. The prize item is an articulated Tonto who is missing his right hand. He is forty-two-years old, and thankfully not anatomically correct since his pants are long-gone. Eight of the ordinal dozen ever-popular monkeys from a Barrel of Monkeys still survive along with partial can of battered pick up sticks. Except for the Barrel of Monkeys that belonged to my younger sisters, most were scavenged from my kid’s toys that were being tossed. Every grandchild and great-grandchild who has visited in the last forty-four years goes straight for this rag-tag collection and scatters them over Mother’s living room floor, no matter that most are in some stage of dilapidation. My nephew, age eleven, is pictured here playing earlier this week. Clearly, neither Mother, nor any of her descendants suffers from the sin of false pride.

The Most Fun You’ll Never Have, Kathleen’s Amazing Bathroom Tour!

 

imageKathleen Swain and her daughters

Upper Left, Linda Swain Bethea, Right, Phyllis Swain Barrington

First Row Left, Kathleen Holdaway Swain (see how deceptively nice she looks)  Connie Swain Miller, Marilyn Grisham
It’s discouraging writing about my mother, Kathleen Holdaway Swain.  Despite my long, rich history of complaining endlessly about the trials of dealing with her, she keeps getting the best of me.  It’s made worse because I tower over her, outweigh her, and am much more physically imposing, but then, who isn’t?  I do my best to take care of her, and should I exhibit the slightest impatience, onlookers treat me like I am maligning a saint.  Granted, she is tiny, far less than five feet tall, has a squeaky Minnie Mouse voice, and looks like a delightful little old church-lady.  Though she smiles and greets every soul she meets, inwardly she is malicious and conniving, constantly plotting to make me look bad.  Sometimes it doesn’t take much.

Not so long ago, my sisters and I took Mother on a girl-trip.  We were laughing just before we got out of the car about the way she’d lecture us against potential bad behavior before she had to drag the five of us hyenas (her word) into a store or business. When we inevitably started to ask for stuff, anyway, despite her stern warning, she’d fix us with a look from Hell and warn, “Don’t start!  Just don’t start!”  That dried us right up.  

First of all, Mother is the slowest person in the history of Motherdom, in case I never mentioned it before.  As she walks along, she keeps a look out for lost coins in the parking lot and frequently finds them, additionally stopping to greet all passersby.  This was the first stop of the trip. I was hurrying ahead leaving her to drag up the rear, since I had to buy gas, thinking my sisters could keep her out of trouble.  Rather than dawdling with them as they got out of the car, she came running behind me like her life depended on not getting left, and believe me, it was not because she intended to buy gas.  She has four daughters to take care of that.  As a joke, she picked it where our conversation left off, calling behind me, “Linda, wait for me!  I want you to buy me…….”

            Not realizing we had an audience of a couple in their late sixties, I called out behind me, without bothering to look, knowing she was just continuing our conversation from the car.  “Don’t start!  Just don’t start!”  Men in their fifties and sixties just love Mother, assuming she is just a sweet, little old lady, just like their dear mother.  They have no idea of the trouble she is capable of.  The man glared at me, striding into the store, leaving my poor, mistreated, little, old mother alone and uncared for, abandoned in the parking lot.  He took her by the arm and helped her into the store, making sure she had all the attention she needed.  He fixed her up with a sandwich and coffee, after fixing me with a scathing look of hatred.  I had no idea what I might have done till she rubbed my nose in it later.  I only wish he’d hung around long enough to know she was on her way to destroy the bathroom, literally, but more on that tomorrow.

To be continued…….

 

Camping

   image Dirty Dog

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We just got back from camping on the Gulf Coast.  We had fun and I learned a couple of things. First of all, if you think you might fall and bust your fanny, carry your extra glasses.  I was standing behind the trailer trying to wave Bud in as he backed the trailer up and Buzzy wrapped me in his leash, plopping me flat on my keester. I fell flat, banging right on my glasses.   I hadn’t gotten in Bud’s line of vision yet, so he thought I’d wandered off, as I am prone to do.  He continued backing up, but fortunately I was able to get out of the way before he flattened me.

Although the fall did kill my glasses, I escaped.  I was worried whether I would have a black eye, but luckily I didn’t.  If I had, I would have to have blacked both Bud’s eyes or I would have been ashamed to be seen when we met friends later.  I was able to get the frames replaced, using the same lenses.  What a relief.  I had dreaded trying to get by with just reading glasses till I could get new ones made.  I will never go off without a spare again.

Buzzy had a fine time camping as always.  We patrolled the camp several times a day.  He got to meet new dogs, see an alligator, smell the Gulf, roll in some different flavors of mud, walk on the beach, and sleep in the camper.  His favorite part of camping is sitting on the bench seat between us at meals.  He doesn’t get a place at the table at home.

Nutsrok Meets VanBytheRiver

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https://vanbytheriver.wordpress.com/2015/07/29/a-wordpress-summit-2/?c=3435#comment-3435

Okay, Now that Van, from Vanbytheriver has posted about our meeting last week, I have to catch you up.  It was so much fun.  I sent her a picture, but she swore she’d know me anywhere.  I guess she didn’t think there would be that many round ladies in a blue-and-white gingham checked shirt and white knee pants with wild silver hair grinning like a possum and waving like mad on the Septa Platform.  Believe it or not, it turns out she was right.  I knew her the minute I saw her!  She had a smile a mile wide, probably because she was anticipating a  serial killer and pleased I didn’t look the part, so if you’re looking for a convincing serial killer disguise, try mine. Turns out, my daughter had warned me that Van might be a serial killer, till I reminded her I’d set up the meeting.  Wouldn’t it have been an amazing coincidence if we had both been serial killers stalking each other instead of WordPress bloggers meeting up for the first time?  What a premise for a story!

We laughed and swapped stories like we’d grown up together.  I feel like she’s my sister, now.  We tried on hats in a consignment shop. Van looked adorable in the cute little paper hat with a flower.  I looked like a crazed Southern Belle in my white veiled wedding hat.  All I needed was a mint julep to complete the picture.  You’ve probably already wondered what in the world in was doing in that hat in my Ask Auntie Linda pictures.  Well that explains it.  I did end up getting a complete set of Roger’s Silver Plate for eight in a lovely case for $42.  I just love vintage stuff.  I had more fun than I’ve had in such a long time.  I wish I could meet all my WordPress friends.  If you ever want a meetup, let me know.  If you haven’t read Van’s article, please check link above.  She is not a serial killer, as far as I know.

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