Posts Tagged ‘childhood memories’


Join me during the month of April as I blog through the alphabet. My theme will be What’s In A Name. I will attempt to write up a short fictional character sketch beginning with a different letter of the alphabet each day. Remember that a place can also be a character.

Virginia & William

They were my neighbors when I was growing up. Right next door. We didn’t see them very often but we could hear them. We were actually afraid of them because we heard them more than we saw them and we were afraid of their voices. They yelled. Not at us so we weren’t afraid of them because we thought we were in danger or in trouble. They yelled at each other.

William used to spend a lot of time in the backyard with the plants and the trees and Virginia didn’t come out very often but we knew when she was at the top of the stairs because they had one of those clotheslines that was on a pulley so when she clipped something to the clothesline it would move so she could clip the next thing and so on.

One day my big sister and I were in the backyard playing when we heard William out there. He was humming! And he was very close to the part of the fence where we were playing so we froze so he wouldn’t see or hear us. He was clipping the ivy on his side of the fence. He had those great big clippers like our dad had. I noticed a hole in the fence so I peeked through it. I couldn’t see him, only his legs moving a little as he clipped and hummed. My sister pushed me so she could see and I got mad at her. That’s when William said something.

“I see you two. What are you doing there? Are you spying on me? Come out so I can see you.” He didn’t sound mean but we were scared.

“Come on. I have something for you. Come up so I can see you and give it to you. I won’t hurt you.”

Slowly, we stood up but backed up a little so we weren’t so close to him. And there he was. He smiled at us and he handed us each a flower. They were roses! He told us he had taken the thorns out so we could hold them without getting poked. I loved flowers. I still do. It made me smile and I brought the yellow rose up to my nose to sniff it. I was so happy with my flower that I forgot to say “thank you” until my sister poked me and told me to say it.

“Thank you, Mister. I love flowers and yellow is my favorite color. Thank you.”

Then another voice came over the fence! It was Virginia. “Well hello there. I saw you talking to my William. I have something for you, too. Do you like candy? I have some candy for you and your brothers and sisters. Here you go. I’m going to drop it over the fence. You take in and ask your mommy before you eat any, okay?” Her voice wasn’t mean today. We were used to her yelling at William and her voice had sounded mean but that day it wasn’t mean.

After that day, we saw them more and we talked to them. They were very nice to us. And they yelled at each other because they didn’t hear very well so they had to yell so they could be heard. They used to give us candy and flowers and sometimes they would give us little toys. They learned our names and sometimes they would leave little surprises for us in the holes in the fence.

We moved away from that house when I was in fifth grade and they still lived there but after that, I don’t know what happened to them. I think of them sometimes and I smile.

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It’s 2:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep. I was going over in my head what I plan to do for the first day of the writing class I’m teaching at the charter school. The first day will be next Tuesday and it will be a group of 5th through 7th graders. I was wondering what I should have them call me. It seems like the only thing anyone calls me is Nana but that’s not really appropriate for a class to call me. It crossed my mind that I could joke with them and tell them to call me  Hey You then my mind jumped backward to the time I was in kindergarten. I got dismissed before my siblings but we were all supposed to walk home together so when I got out of class I would sneak into the building where the other classes were but then I got caught and they said I couldn’t wait there so I would then go downstairs in the same building to my sister’s class. She was in first grade. Her teacher, Mrs. Baker, would let me come into the classroom and wait for my sister then when she got out, Mrs. Baker would let us both stay in her room until our older brother got out then we would all walk home together.

I liked Mrs. Baker. She was nice to us and she would let us help her clean the chalk board and  put the chairs up on the tables so the floor could be swept. She told me I should not be shy and that I should call her Mrs. Baker but somehow I couldn’t call her that so I would just say “hey” until I got her attention. She used to laugh and she would say that if I didn’t start calling her Mrs. Baker, she would start calling me Joey. I used to use my middle name at the time. My middle name is Joy. So Mrs. Baker started calling me Joey every time I said “hey” to her. I would tell her “My name is not Joey, it’s Joy.” She would answer, “My name is not Hey, it’s Mrs. Baker.” Eventually, I caught on and called her Mrs. Baker and she called me Joy.

That ancient memory brought a big smile. I had all but forgotten it over the past 50 plus years. I’m glad I remembered it.

The #WeeklySmile is a weekly blog linkup hosted by Trent at Trent’s World The Blog. Go on over and take a look. Share a smile with us!

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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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Originally published on this blog on October 17, 2007, this is my post for the first #ThrowbackThursday Link Party which asks bloggers to post a blog post that is more than 30 days old. Go check it out!

When I was a little girl, my mother would take us to all the parades in town.  My mom didn’t drive so we’d all walk together, all seven of us kids and our mom.  Downtown was about two miles away but we didn’t mind because we all loved parades.  Sometimes there were programs at the civic auditorium after the parade.  Those programs were always even more fun than the parades plus we’d get to sit down instead of having to stand up out in the cold.

One of my favorites was the Christmas parade.  It was the longest and the most fun and Santa Claus always gave out candy at the end of the parade.  After the parade, my family would go to the civic auditorium for the show they always put on after the parade.  There was music and little skits and at the end we got presents.  My mom would get tickets for the show and the presents ahead of time.  My dad didn’t make a lot of money working at the cannery and there were nine of us so we got to be one of the families that got to go to the special program and get the presents.

What was it about parades that made me eager to go?  I think it was mostly because it seemed to me that everyone was happy at the parades and I liked to be around happy people.  There were clowns, too.  I loved clowns and balloons and crowds.  Sometimes, if my mom had extra money, we might get a treat to share.  Usually, if we did get a treat, it was popcorn or caramel corn.  She’d get two of whatever she could afford and we’d all share.

Another thing I liked about parades was the music.  I loved to hear the bands coming down the street and leaving, going away from us.  But the one thing I didn’t like about parades was also the music.  When the bands were right in front of us, the big round drums that the boys carried in front of them, hanging from their backs, those drums made loud booming sounds and when they boomed, the boom was in my stomach.  It made me feel like my stomach was the drum and someone was beating on my stomach.  It made me want to cry.  I remember I’d try to hide behind my mother when the drums got close enough for my stomach to boom.  My sisters would cover their ears but that wouldn’t help me.  It wasn’t my ears that were booming.  I couldn’t explain to my mother why I didn’t like it when the bands got right in front of us.  She couldn’t understand why covering my ears didn’t make me feel better.

I wish there were still parades in towns where everyone could go and see each other and eat popcorn and caramel corn and watch the bands go by and the clowns and balloons.  If there were, I could just walk toward the back of the crowds when those great big booms came to my stomach.  That just might help enough.


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On top of being sick, I’ve also been tackling tech issues. This week’s challenge is that all the movies and music that I stored on a memory card in one of my Kindle Fire devices have disappeared from the memory card. No one removed it. No one reformatted it. No one did anything with it. New memory card, or at least only a month or so old. It’s the device I got just  to play movies on for the kids when we are out of the house. It had 19 movies on it and a couple of Raffi albums. I have the memory card in my desktop running a scan and fix procedure which is anything but fast to do. I don’t know if it will work or not but it’s worth a try.

In any case, while I was sitting at the desktop, I looked around at some of the files I have there and found no less than six folders with “things to write about.” I suppose when I have finished with the memory card issue I should consolidate and edit the topics and maybe move to my laptop as I do all of my writing and blogging on the laptop. However, one of the topics just said “fig tree” and it instantly brought back memories of the first house I remember growing up in. We had a really large back yard with a lot of fruit trees in it. One of those trees was a fig tree. We actually had two fig trees, one gave us white figs and that was a small tree. The other was huge and gave us black figs. I loved that tree. It gave a lot of shade in the hot summer months (in California so the hot days were quite numerous). Later, my dad got a hold of a playhouse for us that was as big as a bedroom. He put it under the big fig tree and we played out there for hours and hours. I will have to write more completely about the fig tree and the playhouse and maybe some of the other fruit tree memories but I thought I would just mention it here and now so you would get more than just a gripe about technology!

I’m still hoping to get caught up on reading your blogs. I can do only a few at a time these days. I’ll get there, though.

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Blogging From A to Z

We had a gas stove in the kitchen. It was almost always on. Good things came from that stove and the best part was that my mother was always there, at the stove, near the stove, using the stove and wherever my mother was, I wanted to be.

My mother made flour tortillas for every meal. She was in the kitchen making the dough–the masa–before the rest of us were out of bed in the mornings. When I was dressed and ready, I would go into the kitchen and watch her. I sat at the red formica table and watched my mother bring the rolling pin out then she would dust the table with flour and take one of the little dough balls and set it in the middle of the flour. She’d begin to move the wooden rolling pin back and forth over the little ball, flattening it, turning it over, and flattening it some more until it grew big enough and thin enough to cook. By then the black cast iron griddle (called a comal) was hot enough to cook the tortillas and my mom would put the thin layer of masa on the griddle for just a few seconds then flip it over. She would spend the rest of the time walking the four steps between the stove and the table to flip the tortillas over as she kept rolling out more tortillas to cook. I was always scared that she would burn her fingers when she turned the tortillas over.

I loved the smell of tortillas cooking on the griddle. Tortillas, when they are cooking, smell of warmth and freshness. The smell meant that when the first one was cooked and had cooled a little, my mom would let me have it. I would be the first one to take the round flat tortilla and fold it in half, tear a piece off of it and put it in my mouth, tasting all the work and the love my mother had put into that one perfect tortillas.

I was always amazed that none of the tortillas burned while she rolled out more and more. It all looked so easy. Somehow my mother timed it just right. While she rolled out the tortillas, I would sit at the table and talk to her, asking her questions about what she was doing and why she was doing it and what would happen if she did it differently. She would answer my questions and sometimes she’d laugh and ask me why I was so full of questions. I asked her once why her fingers didn’t burn when she turned the tortillas over and she said it was because she didn’t use the fingers. She said she used her fingernails. That’s why she couldn’t ever wear pretty polish on her fingernails, because if she did, it would burn. Another time I asked her how she got the tortillas so round and perfect. My mom said the secret was to run the rolling pin over and back just one time, then to turn the tortilla a little bit before running the rolling pin over and back again. She said you had to keep doing it like that, roll over and back, flip, roll over and back, flip, until the tortilla was ready to cook. Sometimes she would tell me I should run and play outside with my brothers and sisters but I never did. I liked to be inside, with my mother, next to her, talking to her and learning from her. As she cooked on the white O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove, my mother and I kept each other from being lonely.

When the tortillas were all done, enough for the nine of us, she would put everything away and start on the food. I got to stay and watch and when I was old enough, I got to help her with the cooking. That’s how I learned to make tortillas and my three sisters didn’t. That’s how I learned to make the enchiladas, tostadas, the menudo, chile verde, and all the other foods our family loved to eat every day and my sisters didn’t. That’s how I got to spend many hours talking to my mother and listening to her, learning from her and letting her learn about me, and my sisters didn’t.

My mother did other things in the kitchen and I learned to do those, too. I remember that she used to iron in one corner of the kitchen and I remember her sewing our clothes when we tore holes into them. But one special thing that I loved most that my mother did in our pink kitchen was sing. She almost always had the radio on and when the radio was on, she would be singing. She knew the words to all of the songs and when there was a new one, one she didn’t know, she would take a piece of paper and write the words then she’d put it next to the radio until the next time they played the same song and when they did, she’d rush over to the radio, grab the paper and write down more of the words until she had them all. Then the next time the new song was on, she could sing it without looking at the paper. I loved hearing the music but I loved hearing my mother sing more! I learned the words to some of the songs and sometimes I would try to sing them too. One song I liked was called El Caballo Blanco. It told the story of a white horse that escaped and ran from one city to the next, admiring the countryside of Mexico. I liked that song because I had been to some of those places. When the white horse died in Ensenada at the end of the song, it always made me sad.

Sometimes my mother would take me by the hands and twirl me around the kitchen as the music played and as her mouth sang the words to the songs. My mother loved music. She loved singing. She loved dancing.

When I think about my mother, these are the times I like to remember. Those days were filled with wonder and love and the promise of good things.

(This previously appeared as The Gas Stove on this blog.)

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Blogging From A to Z

Before I went to kindergarten, after my brothers and sister went to school in the morning, my mom would put my two little sisters to bed for their nap and then she would start doing all of her chores while I sat at the kitchen table and talked to her or. Later, we would watch I Love Lucy. One of the chores that took her a long time was ironing. She would set up the ironing board in a corner of the kitchen and as she ironed, she would listen to the radio. I loved listening to her sing because when she sang, her voice was strong and beautiful and she was happy.

One morning, when I was 4, as she ironed clothes and listened to the radio, I could tell she was sad. She wasn’t singing and the radio wasn’t playing music. Instead, as she ironed, there was a man’s voice, like the man that read the news over the radio, and he was talking slowly and very quietly, almost like he was whispering. As he spoke, tears found their way down my mom’s cheeks. I didn’t know what was going on but then, my mother called me over to her and we both knelt down and prayed. My mom prayed and I listened. She was praying for someone that was dying. After we prayed, we stayed kneeling on the floor, with our eyes closed, even though I wanted to get up because my knees hurt from kneeling for so long. The man on the radio whispered words and then there was silence. I opened my eyes and my mom was crying. I didn’t know what was happening. Then the man on the radio said it was over and the station started to play music again. Quiet music.

I asked my mom why she was crying and she said it was because someone had been killed; someone who should not have been killed. She said it was a man who was in San Quentin. I knew where that was because we lived near there and we drove by it sometimes when we went to San Francisco. I knew it was a place where they took bad people; people that had done bad things, so I didn’t understand why she was crying for a bad man.

Finally, we got up and she went into the bathroom to wash her face. When she came out, she put away the iron and all the clothes even though she wasn’t finished. That morning we turned off the radio and my mom let me watch Lucy and she went to go lie down in her room.

Caryl Chessman was the name I heard that morning and when my dad got home from work, they talked about how he had been killed for doing bad things and how it wasn’t right that he had been killed. I didn’t quite understand it. I wasn’t sure what it meant to be killed. I just knew that my parents were sad because someone bad had died and I didn’t understand it.

Caryl Chessman was convicted of a number of crimes committed in 1948 in southern California. After many years on Death Row, he exhausted his appeals and was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin Federal Penitentiary in the San Francisco Bay Area. His case was instrumental in the abolishment of capital punishment in California and brought worldwide attention to the issue of capital punishment. As I read about him to write this piece, I also read that moments after the process had been started to put him to death, there was a call from a judge staying the execution but the process had already begun and could not be stopped. There were a lot of issues with his sentencing as it seems that the prosecution wrongly applied a kidnapping law to the case. Caryl Chessman had twice dragged his victims away from their car a number of feet. That had been interpreted as kidnapping, making his crimes eligible for the death penalty. He was executed on May 2, 1960.

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