Archive for the ‘childhood stories’ Category

When my kids were in their teens, they became followers of The Princess Bride cult! They discovered the movie and watched it over and over and over again. We bought the VHS tape then the DVD. My daughter now owns it on Blu Ray. It got to the point where they could recite the dialog as the movie played. When they had friends over, they watched the movie. In the hundreds of times they watched it, I never sat down to watch it with them. I would me in ear shot and most of the time I could see them, especially when it was a mixed gender group of friends watching it, but I always gave them room and never sat down to watch it. Every time they watched it, I would remind myself to sit down and watch it some day when they were out of the house but it never happened.

Then this weekend linkup was announced and I figured it was my chance to watch, at least I would have an excuse, and it is on Netflix so no money involved. Yay. So I watched it last week. Did I like it? Well, I kept meaning to watch it again so I could write a good post about it but I guess I didn’t like it enough to watch it a second time. Why? Well, something you don’t know about me is that I don’t find a lot of “humor” funny. I don’t like slapstick. I don’t like the ridiculous being passed as humor. I don’t like “jokes” about bodily functions. Yeah, I’m kind of a dud that way. So I didn’t find a lot of humor in it. Yes, there was some humor that I thought was truly funny. And even though I grew up in the times of the women’s liberation movement and hated it, having been brought up in a very traditional hispanic family and believing that the woman’s place is indeed in the home and all that. Somehow along the way, from the 1970’s to now, I grew up and realized that I was wrong. So it kind of bothered me that it was all men made out to be the heroes and it also bothered me that Buttercup expected everything to be done for her as if she were a fragile flower. I didn’t like the “As you wish” attitude.

What did I like? I loved that it was a grandparent reading to a grandson. The family aspect of it was wonderful. The reading being passed on from one generation to another was very authentic to me. It showed the value of generations of a family interacting with one another and it showed how storytelling and reading are valuable. And even though the grandson was at the age where he did not at first value the reading or the grandfather, by then end, he valued both and looked forward to more visits from the grandfather and, presumably, more storytelling. I love storytelling and I have a lot of stories that I’ve told my kids and students. I love how at first they aren’t too interested but as soon as the story gets going, they are hooked! That part was very real to me. I’ve had it happen.

If I were rewriting it (and I will admit that I have not read the book) I would write it as the grandfather telling/reading the story to both a grandson and a granddaughter. I would write in some kind of dialog about the gender roles and maybe, by the end of the story, each of the grandchildren might see some valid points in the other one’s views. Oh, and I would clean up the language so it would be more understandable, a little more modern. I think that would add to the story.

Will I watch it again? Yeah. I will. Not sure when but maybe the next time we have a cold, rainy weekend and I don’t have grandchild duty, I’ll put it on and give it another look. Then maybe I will write about it once again.

Do I recommend it? Yup! I hear the book is absolutely wonderful, too. Maybe I’ll pick up the book one day.

If you’d like to read more blog posts about The Princess Bride (book and movie), check out the linkup!

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My regular readers will remember reading about the not so sweet side of my dad. That is all true but I am choosing to remember the sweet side of my dad, especially now that he’s gone (he died in May of 2015).

One of these memories is of when my mom went to the hospital “to bring home” my little sister. My brothers were at school. My sister and I didn’t go to school yet. My dad stayed home to take care of us. I remember sitting in the corner of the kitchen, out of the way, next to my sister, while my dad mopped the floor. He was cleaning as much as he could while my mom was gone so she would not have to do it when she got home. So he scrubbed the floor then waxed the floor while we sat and watched. He talked to us the whole time. When he was finished and the floor was dry, he moved the chairs back to the table and we sat as he baked cookies. We weren’t used to him baking or cooking but when he did do it, we knew there were be special sweetness to enjoy. He didn’t use a recipe. He just did what he remembered. He made little bite-sized cookies for us. They had anise in them and were covered with powdery sugar. They were delicious. My mouth waters for them when I remember.

A few years later, I remember him making candy for us. He hammered a nail on the kitchen wall and when the candy was “cooked” and cool enough to touch, he hung the mixture on the nail and began to pull it into a long, thing rope, pulling over and over until it was just right. Then while it was still pliable, he cut it into little pieces, just big enough for our little mouths. It was delicious pulled taffy. He didn’t do that often but when he did, it was such a treat, not just the edible kind but the kind that made us look up to him with smile and sweet love and anticipation.

That’s the part I like to remember when I think of him. That, and dancing with my feet on top of his; “reading” the newspaper with him before I could read; having him push me on the swings; listening to the stories he told us about his childhood.

I hope you all have wonderful, sweet memories of your dad to look back on.

Happy Father’s Day.


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Blogging From A to Z

When I was around nine years old (around 1964), my dad went to go see about a car he wanted to buy. We had a family car but he wanted to get a car for him to drive to work in so that the family car would “last longer”. Besides, he explained, my oldest brother would be driving in another year so it would be good to start looking for a car that he could drive to work so that my brother could drive my mom around town. She didn’t drive so when she had to go some place, she would walk. Sometimes that meant walking or riding the bus across town with sick kids in tow or sometimes it meant having to walk home from the doctor way after it was dark. My dad worked in a cannery so in the high season (May through November) he often had to work late into the night, until all the trucks coming in and going out had been unloaded and loaded.

A few hours after he left, he came home with a new car. It was a little Volkswagen beetle. It was from being new. It needed paint. It had some bumps and bruises and the interior was well worn. He had gotten a good deal on it and it was very cheap on gas so he was happy. We all thought it was a great car. It was cute. It was new to us. It was different from anything we had ever driven in. We all ran out to the driveway to see the car and we all wanted to go for a ride. So we all piled in the car…all NINE of us. My youngest sister sat on my mom’s lap in the front seat and the other six of us sat on laps in the back seat. Off we went! When we were only about two miles away from home my dad realized that the gas tank was almost empty. We had to get gas or we would end up walking home. Luckily, there was a small gas station a block away (the Spartan gas station which was still standing the last time I was in town around six or so years ago).

There was just one problem. My dad didn’t have any money on him and my mom had left without her purse so she had no money. My dad found about thirty-five cents in his pocket and my oldest brother had fifteen cents. Between the nine of us we managed to come up with something like 78 CENTS for gas. When the young man came to the window, my dad said he needed 78 cents of gas. Seeing the incredulous look on the kid’s face as he took in the back seat packed with kids sitting on each other, my dad added that the car wasn’t ours. We were just test driving it. The kid pumped the gas and cleaned the windows. My dad waved him away from checking the oil and said it was fine as he handed the young man the 78 cents for the gas.

Taking the money, the kid looked at my dad and said, “Sir, I think maybe you should look for a bigger car.” My dad nodded and we drove off with a straight face. It was only when we drove out of the driveway that we all cracked up at the look on the kid’s face as he counted the nine bodies packed like sardines in the back of the little white Volkswagen beetle. I’m sure the kid could hear us laughing blocks away!

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Blogging From A to Z

I remember sitting for hours and hours as my mother untangled my hair every couple of days. There were four of us girls and she would line us up and we would take turns coming and sitting on our knees between my mom’s legs as she brushed out all of the tangles. Then when she finished, she would start again only this time it was putting our hair in curlers. She used to use large pink rollers for where our hair should have large curls then little ones for the smaller curls and finally pin curls (using bobby pins) for the tiny curls around our faces. We always had long hair and it took hours to take care of it but it was important to our mom that our hair be just right so she spent long hours making sure it looked perfect.

One summer she put a Lilt home permanent in my hair because my hair was very fine and would not hold the curl for very long so she permed it. I remember the chemical smell of the product and how important my mom said it was to get the time perfect or my hair would burn. I didn’t want my hair to burn and I sat obediently, not making a sound or moving a finger, so that my hair would not burn.

I think that’s what taught me to always have long hair. That’s the way I was raised. It was ladylike to have long hair, not short hair. In fact, all four of us sisters still have long, long hair, even though we are all in our late 50’s. That’s just the way we grew up.

I think too that the importance of women having long hair is one of the reasons my mom took it really hard when she had to have chemo therapy last year. She dreaded losing her hair but she knew it was coming. When it did, she refused to leave the house. Even though I had bought her a number of pretty scarves and hats to cover up her baldness, she would not go out except to doctor appointments. She wanted a wig but she wanted it to look like her own hair because if it didn’t, people might think she was bald! Go figure! I offered to buy her a wig online and have it delivered to her but she was afraid it would not be right and then she would feel bad about returning a gift and she’d keep it. So finally, I was able to go visit her. I had been going down to see her every couple of months but had not been there since before she lost her hair. When I got there, I made it a priority to take her to the next town over (well, a few towns over; it took an hour to get there) to a shop I had found online and I had her fitted for a wig. She finally found one that she liked and the woman who worked there was wonderfully patient with her until my mom was happy with what she had found. She was like a new woman with that wig! She was ready to go shopping and out to eat wearing her new wig!

I guess for us, maybe we’re like Samson. Our strength is in our hair. We keep it long to keep our strength. It doesn’t matter if it is almost completely gray. It’s the length that holds the key to our ladylike ways…to our strength.

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After reading a friend’s blog post I couldn’t help but recall the first time I was successful at one of those things that everyone could do but me.

I think I was in fifth or sixth grade so probably around 11 years old.  My brothers and sisters, even the younger ones, could do that thing where they fling a towel at something and make it snap. I couldn’t.  That was only one of the many things I couldn’t do that everyone else could do.  Whistling was another.  I still can’t whistle to save my life. But on this one day, two of my brothers were determined to teach me how to fling that towel.  They kept giving me lessons but I couldn’t quite do it.  It was something about not being able to snap my wrist correctly.  I kept trying.  We were in the dining room and all of the sudden, I did it!  Yay!  Then there was a big “oops”!  I had hit a long hanging runner of my mother’s ivy plant that she had hanging on a planter on the wall.  And yes, it had snapped off!  I began to get really nervous about getting in trouble.  Then came the “oh no!  Oh no!”

My brothers kept saying it was okay.  I should just pretend that I didn’t know anything about it.  I should not confess like I had thought I should.  They were adamant.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it was because they were afraid they would get in trouble for teaching me to do that inside the house.  I should have listened to them.  I didn’t.  When my mom came in the room about five minutes later, she asked what had happened to her plant and I apologized and explained that I had done and how it had happened.  I should have listened to my brothers.  She was mad.  She slapped me and called me a few choice names.  She was really angry.  She didn’t usually spank us or yell at us like that but she was angry.

Now it’s kind of funny but then, it was not.

Yeah, sometimes it’s best to listen to the voice of experience, even if it tells you to do something you don’t think is right.  Actually, I’m not  to sure about that conclusion.  I’ve never been good at lying, either out and out lying or by omission so I’m pretty sure I could not have pulled it off even if I had tried to listen to them.

Some days are like that.

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It’s Christmas once again and the world is beginning to fill with magic just like I remember from my childhood. Secrets hide behind every corner –good secrets, not the bad ones; grownup secrets about the gifts that are hiding in packages and then the secrets of the children hiding something “naughty” they did that they think no one knows about—especially Santa.

One year, when I was about to turn five, my parents put a miniature tree downstairs in the basement which had been converted into bedrooms for my three brothers. We had not ever had any kind tree, other than the big one we had in the living room and it made us feel that the small tree was really special…two trees in one house! My mother helped us decorate the tree with tiny little ball ornaments. They didn’t put lights on it and it was kind of plain looking so my mom put some little packages she had wrapped up for us under the tree. I remember that the small presents, all wrapped in shiny paper, really made the tree look even more special to us kids.

One weekend, a little over a week before Christmas, my mother and father went shopping. When they had been gone a while, my brothers started talking about the presents. They said we should each open one present. We all had to open one because, according to my brothers who were all older than my sisters and I, if we had all participated, none of us would tattle on the others and we wouldn’t get spanked. They said once we had each opened a present, they would wrap them all up so that my parents would never find out that we had opened them. It would be our secret.

It took them a long time but they finally convinced us to do it. I was elected to be the first to open a package. I picked a shiny red one with a red and green plaid bow. Inside was a white box that now I recognize as one for jewelry but at that time I didn’t know what might be inside. I opened it and found a layer of white fluffy cotton. Once I picked up the cotton, I saw a gold shiny key. On the round end of the key were little pink flowers and clear rhinestones. I picked it up and realized it was a pin to wear on my clothes. Just as I began to smile, we heard the back door open and my parents came in. Before we could hide the evidence, my mother was down the stairs watching us try to hide the package.

She was so angry! She kept asking me why I had done it. I told her everyone was going to open one. In fact, my sister had her box in her hand, ready to open it. My brothers denied it and told her that they were trying to get me not to open one but I wouldn’t listen to them. Besides being angry, my mother was really hurt. I could see it in her eyes. She was disappointed in me and I knew she wanted to cry. The look in her face made me want to cry, or maybe it was knowing that I was going to be spanked! Then she and my father said Santa was not going to bring me any presents because I had been such a bad girl. That was worse than a spanking. I cried even more.

That was a Christmas  I won’t ever forget.   I hurt my parents; I found out that my siblings wouldn’t always get me out of trouble; and I disappointed Santa!

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The First Time

Suicide is something I’m not sure I will ever understand.  Intellectually, I understand the whys of it, but emotionally,  well that’s something altogether different.  I’ve known quite a few people who have chosen this exit path.  All in all, there have been about fifteen to twenty suicides among friends and family.  As a lot of my readers know, two of these have been my brothers.  Each of these tragedies has left its mark.  This week another friend also chose this route.  It made me think of the first suicide I was aware of.

The first time I encountered a suicide, I was about five years old.  I think it was the summer before I began kindergarten.  I didn’t know what it meant for someone to die but I knew it was a very sad thing.  My father’s uncle had died a few months before and for the first time in my life, I had seen my father cry for the uncle who took his father’s place when his father ran off before my dad was born.  My dad’s tears meant that dying was something horrible.  So when my oldest brother, Carlos, came home and told my mom that his good friend Tommy had died and that he had killed himself, I knew the emotions; I knew it was a very bad thing that had happened.  I remember how my mother, who had been making tortillas for our dinner, turned absolutely white then had to sit in the chair at the table.  She cried and cried and kept asking “Why?  Why?  What could be so bad in his life that he would kill himself?  Why?”  She kept asking Carlos if he was sure it was true.  She sent my brother to Maio’s Market on the corner to get the evening paper.  Later, when my dad got home from work, my mom, still shaking and having  trouble keeping from crying, told him what had happened.  They talked about how unbelievable it was; how Tommy had always seemed to be such a happy-go-lucky kid; how incredulous it was that he would take his own life.

I remember how my mom took care of her kitchen radio after that.  She always had before but after Tommy died, she took special care of it.  She didn’t let anyone touch it and she refused to clean the greasy fingerprints that Tommy had left on it the last time he had been at our house.  You see, my mom’s radio kept her company in the kitchen where she spent most of her day preparing meals or cleaning up after meals for her family of nine.  She would sing along with the radio and listen to talk shows and the news on it.  It was her lifeline to the world outside of our house.  So when the radio broke, she was more than sad.  My dad wasn’t able to fix it so she had no radio.  When Tommy was over one day, he asked my mom why the radio wasn’t on.  She told him it was broken.  Tommy took it apart to fix it and he did!  My mom was very grateful and wanted to pay him but she had no money that day.  Mom told Tommy that the next time he came over she would have a treat for him.  He said it was okay, she didn’t have to pay him.  He smiled at her through his black framed glasses, clearly proud of himself.  Mom hugged Tommy and thanked him before he got on his bike and rode home.

Mom never got to pay Tommy.  A week after he fixed her radio, Tommy hung himself in his parents’ garage.  He was thirteen.

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