Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

School Stuff

I just Anderson off to kindergarten and I am feeling a little conflicted about it.  It’s an end but also a beginning and he was happy, all smiles as they drove off to school.  Next week he takes the bus!  Lots of changes for all of us.  It got me to thinking about school and first days so here’s a list of the things I used to love about going back to school.

New clothes–it was one of the few times we got new clothes when I was growing up.  We could count on a new outfit for the first day of school, Christmas, and Easter.

Friends–We didn’t live in the same neighborhood as my school friends so I didn’t get to see them during school breaks.  The first day of school meant I got to see my friends again.

Books–I loved books but we didn’t have them at home and my parents didn’t believe in borrowing from the library so going back to school meant I got to be around books!

Teachers–I liked teachers (at least most of the time) because they helped me to learn things so going back to school meant I got a new teacher and I would also get to know my siblings’  teachers because they were older and when school was over, I got to go wait for them to get out of their class and sometimes their teachers would let me go into the classroom to wait.

Those were the givens.  There were other bonuses like hopscotch and dodge ball and jump rope but the ones above were the ones I really looked forward to!

What about YOU?  What did you like about going back to school?  What did you not like?

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A couple of weeks ago, on a particularly warm day (for Portland, OR) I finally took out a popsicle from my freezer and gave it to my grandson.  I had been waiting for months to be able to introduce him to popsicles.  On this particular day, we were going outside to sit on the patio and then to ride his Little Tikes Pick Up Truck that he got for Christmas but doesn’t get to use much in the Oregon rain.  I figured we would take the popsicle outside and he could be as messy as he wanted to be.

He had no idea what it was.  He just knew it was supposed to be something good because his Nana was giving it to him and I had a big smile on my face.  We took it outside and I unwrapped the blue popsicle and handed it to him.  He took it and said “welcome” (until this week, he said welcome instead of thank you) and then he just looked at it and held it by the stick.  I told him it was yummy and he should put it in his mouth, warning him that it was cold.  It’s a good thing he trusts me or it may have melted before he tried it.  He hesitantly put it to his mouth and licked.  He smiled and said “cold”.   But it didn’t take him two seconds after that to stick it in his mouth and keep it there. 

He really enjoyed that popsicle as he sat in his truck.  He smiled and kept saying “yum yum” as he licked away.  And he was smart enough to hold it away from himself when it began to melt rapidly.  A few days later he had a second one, this time a red one.  He enjoyed that one and even shared it with his mommy.

The popsicle experiment went well.  Hopefully our weather will hold up and he’ll get to have the rest of the popsicles from the freezer soon, at least before our winter begins here, which won’t be long from now.

I love introducing him to new things that he’ll like! 

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The Mighty Mo~reposting

I grew up in a large family.  There were seven kids plus my mom and dad.  My dad was the only one who worked, as was the norm in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.  My dad drove a fork lift at one of the local canneries.  The only way there would ever be any money for Christmas gifts was for my mother to save money in a Christmas Club account at the local Bank of America where she made a weekly deposit.

One year my brother David, who was about eight years old that year, fell in love with a toy he saw on a TV commercial.  It was a cannon that shot hard plastic balls.  It was called the Mighty Mo.  The commercials showed the Mighty Mo crawling over and through rough terrain all on a miniature scale, of course, but it looked really neat.  The clincher was the footage of the cannon balls launching out of the Mighty Mo!

David had to have one but we were taught to not ask for anything, not even for our birthdays or Christmas so he couldn’t ask for one.  We lived a block away from Safeway and my mom used to send us on daily trips for the odd supply she needed before the next week’s big grocery trip.  Safeway carried a few toys then.  They placed them on the shelves high above the produce department as those shelves were normally empty.  On one of the trips to get something for my mom, David was thrilled to discover that Safeway had about two dozen Mighty Mos on their shelves!  After that day, David volunteered to go to Safeway every single time my mom needed something.

Every day David returned from his Safeway run to report exactly how many Mighty Mos were left on the shelf and every day, as the number dwindled, he gave my mom his report in a sadder and sadder tone.  First there had been two dozen then only eighteen.  Soon there were less than a dozen and when there were only four left, David was really sad. About three days before Christmas, David reported, with tears in his eyes, that there were no Mighty Mos left at Safeway.  When Christmas arrived, David was the only one of us that was not excited about it.  We all wanted him to be happy like we were but nothing got him excited.

On Christmas morning, we got up and my big brothers helped us girls get dressed and ready to go upstairs to open presents.  That’s what we did each year because it gave my parents a little extra time to get up.  When we got upstairs, David was the last one to go into the living room where the tree was with our Santa gifts unwrapped.  When he came in he found us all with huge smiles on our faces and our eyes intent on his face.  He didn’t know what was up until he looked under the tree and found his Mighty Mo with a big red ribbon on it!

We all enjoyed that Mighty Mo for several years.  David especially liked to shoot the cannon balls out of the Mighty Mo from the top of the stairs in the back yard.  It was a fun toy.  I only wish my brother David was still around to tell the story himself.

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Note: This is a story written in the point of view of an eight year old child.  Although I wrote it many years after that horrible day when I was in second grade, I hope I have captured the day as I experienced it so long ago.


After eating  lunch, I went to wait outside the classroom door with Lydia and Denise, my best friends.  Our teacher, Mrs. Baumann, let us into the classroom every day after she finished her lunch.  We helped her correct papers and get things ready for the rest of the day.

We had been waiting for a long time.  She never took this long.  It was getting cold.  We got tired of waiting so Denise went to the door and knocked.  The door opened and Mrs. Baumann came out.  She looked real sad.  Her eyes looked wet.  She let us in.  She gave us papers to staple and went into the back room with one of the other teachers, Mrs. Quail.

The girls and I were really excited because our second grade class was putting on the Thanksgiving assembly later that afternoon.  Some of us had Indian headdresses to wear and some had Pilgrim hats and two of the boys had turkey feathers to wear.

The teachers were whispering in the back room.  The phone rang.  Mrs. Baumann talked for a little bit then we heard her hang up.  They whispered then the two teachers started to cry loudly.  They weren’t even trying to hide it.  Something terrible must’ve happened because the phone never rang.  It was only for emergencies because we were so far from the other classrooms and the rest of the school.

The teachers just cried and cried.  We looked at them.  I asked Mrs. Baumann what was wrong.  She said we would find out later.  Just then, the bell rang and she went to the door to let the rest of the kids inside.  She didn’t even wait until they were all quiet and in a straight line.  She just let them in.

When everyone was in their chairs, Mrs. Baumann tried to stop crying.  She couldn’t stop. As she cried, she slowly started to talk.  She said that President Kennedy, Caroline’s daddy had been shot earlier that morning.  She said she had just gotten a phone call from the office saying that he was dead.  We all looked at each other, then at her.  We could tell that we were supposed to be sad but I don’t think any of us was sure.

Mrs.  Baumann had us put our heads down on the tables and pray for Caroline’s daddy and for Caroline because she didn’t have a daddy anymore.  I  was sad when I thought of Caroline not having a daddy anymore.  Then Mrs. Baumann said that we might not have the assembly that afternoon because of what had happened.  Almost the whole class started crying, especially the first graders that were in our the class.  We had all worked so hard to do a neat job cutting and pasting our costumes.  It had been very hard to learn all those songs for our program.  Some of us had parents coming to watch.  Lydia’s  mother was coming and so was Denise’s.  My Mommy was supposed to come too.  I was sad because she was going to walk all the way to school with my little sister and there wasn’t even going to be an assembly.

Mrs. Baumann asked us to sit quietly with our heads on our desks and think about what had happened in a place she called Dallas.

The phone rang again.  After she hung up, Mrs. Baumann announced that we would have the assembly after all.  We were all happy about that.  We stopped crying.

We had the assembly but some of the classes did not come.  We walked to the auditorium, put on our headdresses, hats, and feathers and sang our songs.  We did a real good job.  We all smiled proudly as the audience clapped.  Not very many parents came that day.  Denise’s mother didn’t come  and Lydia’s mother didn’t come.  My Mommy and my little sister were there.  Mrs. Baumann said I could go say hi to them when we finished the program.  I was proud that they had come to see me.  My Mommy must’ve been proud of me too because she was crying.


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When I was growing up, my family didn’t place value on books or reading or writing. For me, it was horrible because I loved them all. From as early as four or maybe before, I loved to play with letters and words. My mother thought it was strange. I was the fifth of seven children and the only one that would rather stay inside, playing with letters. I didn’t know they meant anything. I just loved playing with them. I used to cut letters out of the newspaper and play with them, arranging and re-arranging, much like Scrabble tiles (which I never even saw till I was in high school).

One day, on a thrift store trip, I saw this wonderful toy that I just had to have. My mother didn’t know why. She discouraged me and offered a doll but I persisted. She finally relented and bought me the toy….the learning toy. I loved to sit and play with it and when my mother said I had to go out into the backyard with the other kids, I would take my toy with me and sit on the steps. What was this toy? I never knew what it was called. It was an oval shaped orange slate with metal bars that had wooden letter tiles on it. You could move the tiles around the oval till they got to the right metal bar and then you slid the tile in there, creating words. I was too young to know about words. Too young to read; too young to write. So I just played. One time, my brother, David, ran by me on his way down the stairs to play tag with my other brothers and sisters and he told me I had spelled it wrong. I didn’t know what he meant. He said if I moved the “t” behind the “a” it would say “cat.” That’s how I found out that letters could mean words and that words could say things.

I kept my orange word toy for a long time, even after I had learned to read and write. Then it got lost. Decades later, in fact only a year or so ago, I was at an antique shop with my daughter and there was a plastic version of my learning toy! It was smaller and it was round instead of oval like mine but it was almost the same. On the box it said “Spell-o-matic” and there was a company name on it. I went home and looked online, typing in the Spell-o-matic till I found one that was just exactly like the one I had as a child. I bought it online and a week later I received it in the mail. I treasure it.

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This is the story I wrote for a class many years ago. It is the one referred to in Catching Fire. The story is quite long (3,000 words). I have posted the first part here. I will post another part in a day or two.


            I like to listen to my parents when they talk at night and they think us kids are all asleep. One night I heard my parents say something about how they owed too much money and my father didn’t earn enough to pay it all back.  Then they said they wished they didn’t have seven kids and I cried because if they weren’t my parents, they would only have six kids and they would have more money to pay the bills. Our house was real big and it was one of the oldest ones on the block. Inside, it had four big rooms, and two kitchens and two bathrooms. Mom and Dad were saying that we should move. My father said that the newer houses cost too much and they wouldn’t be big enough for our family anyway. My father said that he wanted to stay in this house because it was only five minutes away from the cannery where he worked.

            The next night they talked some more about the house. Finally my father said that the only thing to do was to make our house bigger so that we would all fit in it. “If we open the basement, we can make rooms down there and we can rent the other side as an apartment.” My mother agreed. “Yes, that way we will all fit in the house and with the money we collect for rent on the apartment, we will have enough to pay the bill.” I fell asleep and was happy. I didn’t have to find new parents because they would have enough money now.

So we all started to help him to make rooms in the basement. My oldest brother was ten and my little sister was two, but all of us helped. The boys were old enough to dig out all of the dirt while us girls got our sand pails and filled them with dirt and carried them to the pile where my father showed us to dump it out.

One afternoon, a big dirty yellow truck came to our house. They drove it onto the front lawn. The back of the truck was kind of round and it kept turning and turning and turning the whole time. Then some mushy gray stuff poured out into the window my father had made in the basement.

            Even Ben, the old man across the street, came to help. He was very old and skinny and he walked real slow. He used to call my father ‘mi hijo‘.

            By the end of the weekend, the basement was almost finished. During the following week, my father would hurry home from work and start varnishing, putting in linoleum, and gluing paper on the walls. He would work down there while we ate dinner and even after we’d gone to bed, we could hear my father yelling at my mother, “No, not like that, you fool! It won’t match if you do it like that… mejor vete! Just leave! I’ll do it myself!”

            I tried to sleep but I could still hear them talking. Later when I woke up in the middle of the night, I could still hear them down there. It was only for a few nights and soon the boys each moved into a room downstairs and the four of us girls got mad because we had to share the same old room upstairs.

            Soon, there were people coming in and out of the house looking at the apartment that used to be my brothers’ bedroom. Some people moved into the apartment in a few days and we all had to act different. We couldn’t run down the hall anymore and we couldn’t make noise when we played out in the yard.

            Then, one weekend, my father started to build a room at the back of the “apartment.” We called it the “cuartito.” It made the apartment bigger and my parents said we could get more money for it.

            Every time someone moved out, the phone would start ringing and people would want to rent. Sometimes, my parents would tell us to be extra noisy when the people came over and to go out into the yard and have a lot of fun so we would and the people would go away real soon.

            Most of the people were older than my Mom and Dad. None of them had any kids for us to play with. Sometimes the ladies would act like our mothers, but nicer. One lady used to buy us toys and I remember that one of them used to look at us and cry. My mother said it was because she didn’t have any kids of her own. She made my older sister a dress for school and she made me two of them because she liked me better and besides, it was my first year in school so I needed the dresses more.

            One time my parents rented to some people and it turned out that they had a little boy named Kenny. They had paid their rent so my parents told them they had to pay more for Kenny. Kenny used to fight with us girls and my brothers would beat him up when no one was looking. My parents knew about the fights but they said maybe they would move out if Kenny kept getting beat up. My father hit him with the car one time, but I guess he didn’t do it right because Kenny didn’t even have to go to the doctor. My Dad did have to get some bumps out of the car with the hammer though.

            Another time, when it was raining, a man ran to the door. He said his name was Chino but he wasn’t. He asked about the apartment. My parents rented it to him but didn’t like it much when his wife came in from the car. They made funny faces at her. Chino’s wife was very pretty. Her name was Victoria and she had blonde hair. She was gonna have a baby and she was real fat. Later, when they left, my parents talked about the baby. “But the poor baby. What will it be? Okie or Puerto Rican?”

“Who knows? I guess it will have light hair, but curly, don’t you think? They agreed.

After Chino and Victoria had lived there for a while, they got real friendly with us. We used to go and play a real long game when it rained. We used play money and little green houses. It was fun. I wished the money were real so I could give it to my parents. They needed it. Chino spoke to us in Spanish. He used to tell us stuff about how dumb Victoria was and laugh at her because she didn’t understand what we were saying.

            When my parents went shopping  one day, I leaned back real hard on my chair and I broke the big window behind me. Chino heard me crying and came over with a tape thing. He went away on the car and when he came back, he had a new window with him and he put it in so my father wouldn’t hit me when he got home.

            Sometimes, when Chino was at work, men would come and go into the apartment. One day Chino came home early and one of those men was still there. He got real mad and threw him out and threw a small brown box at him.

            That night I heard him tell my parents about it. I was embarrassed and glad I wasn’t in the same room because Chino was crying. He said that Victoria was crazy. “Look Vince, there’s nothing you can say to change my mind. She’s totally crazy. Since I met her the family told me but I thought she would change with time. I’m tired of telling her…nothing goes in. Those men are taking pictures of her. They use the pictures for dirty magazines. I can’t stay quiet any longer. You would do the same if you were in my place.” He said he would go away and take the baby with him, even if he had to go to court and have them take Victoria to a hospital.

            A few days later he came in real happy and told us they were going to have another baby. He said he hoped the next one would have black hair like him. The baby they already had looked too much like Victoria and he wanted one that looked like him.

            They moved right after the baby was born and we used to go to visit them in San Francisco. They always had candy for us. The new baby had blond hair, just like the old one. Chino said his hair was almost like that man’s that he had thrown out of the apartment.

(To be continued.)

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This is a piece I wrote two years ago.  It is inspired by a prompt, “headlights in the rain” and from childhood memories.

I was so tired.  I wanted to be home, warm, safe, in my bed, but I wasn’t.  My mother and my brothers and sisters and I were walking home from the movies.  It was dark and late.  We had stayed all afternoon.  We watched both movies and the cartoons over and over again.  My mother gave us money to get food at the snack bar when we complained we were hungry.

We wanted to go home but my mother said it wasn’t time yet.  So we stayed longer.  Finally all the movies were over and everyone had left.  We were the only ones there and the man came and said we had to leave.  So we did.

When we walked outside, it was dark and cold and raining.  My little sister complained that she didn’t want to walk.  She cried and told my mother to call our father to come get us.  My mother said no.  She said our father should be asleep now and we couldn’t wake him up.  So we started to walk.

This wasn’t the first time.  It happened all the time.  When my father didn’t have to work on the weekends, he would drink beer.  A lot of beer.  Then he would fight with us and with our mother. My mother always let him say things to her and even hit her but when he started to hit us, she would get mad at him.  She would find a way to send us outside or in the other room where he couldn’t hit us.  Then she would come and tell us to get our shoes on and our clothes ready because we were going for a walk.  We had to be quiet.

And that is what happened today.  He drank his beers.  He yelled at my mother.  He hit her.  Then he started yelling at us.  When he got up to hit David, my mother distracted my father and motioned for David to leave the room.  Then we got our jackets and quietly waited for her.  It didn’t take long.  We went to the movies, walking quickly and looking back to make sure he wasn’t following us.  Then we watched the movies and waited.

Now we are walking home, and I know we are all hoping he will be asleep when we get there, or the fighting will start again and we can’t leave at night time, because all there is out there are headlights in the rain.

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Grandma’s Sandals

[Note: My grandmother is 97. Yesterday I got word that she has very little time left. Funeral arrangements have been made. I am flying out to Texas later today. This is a story I wrote about the times my grandma used to visit us when I was a little girls. It is part of a collection of short stories. I am posting it here to share a little of my grandma with you. I hope you enjoy it.]

Every year, in the summertime, my grandmother comes to visit us all the way from Texas, where she lives.My grandfather drives her to the bus station in Texas and three days later, we go to the bus station here, to wait for her and to bring her home with us.She stays for two or three weeks and then she is gone again, til the next summer. (more…)

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