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Posts Tagged ‘growing up’

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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.

Julian Street ran from one end of town to the other, east to west. Much of it was commercial but the part where I lived was a lot more residential. Well, I didn’t really live on Julian. I lived around the corner. It was pretty much  a quiet two lane one way street on the part where I lived but there was a gas station on the corner and another a few blocks east of me and a Safeway grocery store a block west of me. But other than that, it was all houses. Later on there were some apartments but when I lived there there weren’t any. It was quiet enough that my mother let us walk to the grocery store around the corner. We actually had to walk along Julian but it was safe back then. I’m not sure what the speed limit was then, I would guess maybe 25. Then you have to remember that there were a lot less cars back in the early 1960’s.

I mentioned that gas station a few blocks east of us? Well, it was the first time we had seen a gas station with a store inside. My dad could buy beer and wine in there and we could buy soda and ice cream and candy and sometimes, when Safeway was out of something my mom needed, we could go to the gas station to find it at the store inside. When one of my brothers or sisters was sick, with a fever and nausea, my mom would send one of us to the gas station store to buy a little bottle of Coke syrup which she used to get rid of the barfs. They used to have this deal there, too, where you could take in your own empty bottle and they would fill it with soda from the fountain and it was a lot cheaper that way. We had a big family and we really didn’t drink soda because it was too expensive but once in awhile, as a treat, we would be allowed to buy the fountain soda and have them put it in our gallon sized bottle. What came in a gallon size bottle with a narrow pour spout and a handle that we could take to fill up with soda? My dad’s wine jugs! We usually took them in with the label removed and cleaned off but once we took in an empty wine jug with the label still on it. When Ben, the old man that lived across the street came over to have a cigarette with my dad, my dad decided to play a joke on him. He got the root beer that was in the wine jug that still had the wine label on it and he poured us each a glass of soda but didn’t say anything about it being soda. When we came to drink it, Ben’s eyes just about popped out of their sockets! He thought we were all drinking wine, including my youngest sister who was only about two at that time.

I remember those days with fond memories. Julian Street is a lot different now. I know for a long while it was a pretty bad area. The whole neighborhood had gone downhill. That was about twenty years after we moved away from that area. Now I hear that it has gotten to be a pretty nice area with homes selling for a million dollars! It’s strange to think that I once lived in a million dollar home, only it wasn’t worth that when I lived there. Far from it!

One of these day I’ll go back to town and go visit Julian Street and see what it’s like. One of these days.

Alexa

Babs

Curtis

Diane

Eve

Fran

Grandma

Harold

Iris

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Re-posting an old favorite:

One of my fondest Christmas memories is also one of the saddest.  It happened in 1978, the year I got married.

My mother lived in Long Beach, California and my husband and I lived in Santa Monica.  His parents lived in Mexicali, Baja California, which is about a four or so hour drive from where my mom lived.  I had never missed a Christmas at home.  It was very important to me that I not miss being home, not just for my sake but for my mother’s.  I knew she wanted me to be home.  So we consulted with everyone and figured out a plan where my husband and I would drive to Mexicali a few days before Christmas.  We would have an early Christmas lunch after opening presents with his family, then we would leave there and come across the border by one in the afternoon or so.  We would then drive to Long Beach and be there for a late Christmas dinner and opening presents with my family.

We were staying on the U.S. side of the border, in Calexico, at my husband’s grandmother’s house while we were down there.  On Christmas Eve when it was time for bed, I couldn’t sleep.  I talked for hours and hours.  My husband heard about every one of my Christmases that night.  I think I was nervous about being with my new family (I had just met them two months previously and had not spent much time with them) and also nervous about the timing of the drive to my mom’s house.  I didn’t want anything to go wrong that would keep us from spending a part of the holiday with my family.  They were all waiting for us, including a number of nieces and nephews who weren’t going to open presents until we got there. So I went on and on about Christmas and about birthday cakes (my birthday is on Christmas).  I think I recalled every single gift I had gotten in my 22 years!  Finally, I let him fall asleep at what was probably about three in the morning.   I stayed awake after he fell asleep.

The next day, everything on his family’s end of the planning went well.  By nine we were finished opening presents and our lunch was being prepared.  We ate by noon and even though I offered to stay and help with the clean up, we were ushered out of there so we wouldn’t be late getting to my mother’s house.

To get on the road, we had to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.  The road we took to get from my in-law’s to the border, was the fastest route.  It had businesses on one side and a very high fence on the other side, which served as the division between the third world country and the richest country in the world (at least in those days).  As the road approaches the border, the last mile or two, the fence is just a cyclone fence and you can see right through it, (at least in 1978 you could; I’m not sure what it’s like now).  We slowed as the road ahead of us narrowed from four lanes to the two border patrol booths that were open.  It was not a long wait but to me, it was way too long.  Because there was little traffic that day, there were no cars between us and the cyclone fence, giving us full view of the “dividing line.”  As I sat there, I looked over and watched as families congregated at the fence, exchanging gifts through the openings in the cyclone fence.  Once I realized what it was that they were doing, the excitement I felt about being on my way home left me along with my breath.  For what seemed like forever, I couldn’t breathe.  I was riveted to the scene before me.  There were mothers and their children passing crudely wrapped gifts from one side of the fence to the other.  On both sides of the fence, people were smiling and chatting as they exchanged Christmas gifts.  It seemed to be normal to them, and I’m sure it was.

I was struck by the fact that these families could not embrace or pass any gift bigger than three or so inches to the other side.  The families’ economic differences were clear.  The ones on the Mexico side of the fence were very poorly clad, especially for what was a crisp December day with the promise of rain in the sky.  The ones on the U.S. side were better dressed and wore shoes and coats appropriate for the weather.  The families although together, were very far apart in many ways.  Before I knew it, I was crying.  My chattiness was gone and we drove home to my mother’s house in almost complete silence.  When we arrived, being there with my family, in the same piece of earth, was more special than it had ever been.  I could hug them and kiss them and hold them near to me.

That was the Christmas in which I left my childhood innocence behind in many ways.

 

For a lighter Christmas Story, click on the link:

Baby Jesus Bridge

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Blogging ideas sometimes come out of nowhere. That’s what happened this weekend. I was on Facebook participating in a group for a giveaway for LuLaRoe clothing. The topic was something like “tell a funny school story.” At first I couldn’t think of anything funny then out of the blue comes this memory that cracked me up. I had forgotten all about it but I was glad that my memory was jogged!

I loved school. I always have and always will. I get excited about all kinds of learning; all kinds of schools. I never wanted to miss a day of school. But then one day…

It was in eighth grade. Social Studies class, which was my favorite class. It was right after lunch. I had a cold and had been sniffling and sneezing. I was ready to go into class and do something fun; learn something new and interesting. When we got into class, the teacher, Mrs. Newt, announced that almost everyone in the class had failed the unit test so she was going to give everyone ten minutes to look over their notes and then take the test again. There were only three or four people who had not flunked it. I had gotten an A. So what were we going to do, I wondered. She answered before I could ask. She said those of us who had passed could take it over for a higher grade or we could sit and read or do homework while others took the test. Well, I had gotten 100 per cent. Couldn’t do better than that. I didn’t want to sit and read. I didn’t have homework with me because it was in my locker.

Just then, I sneezed again and as I blew my nose, I noticed that the balled up tissue in my hand was red. My red felt tip marker had bled into the tissue and it looked like blood. The light bulb went on! I can’t believe I did it but with the next sneeze, I wiped my nose, making sure the red marks on the tissue were showing and I kept the tissue at my nose. I raised my hand and when the teacher looked at me, I pointed to the tissue covering my nose. Mrs. Newt said, “Oh! Your nose is bleeding! Here, go to the nurse!” and she handed me a hall pass.

Off I went. The nurse had me lay down on the bed then she called my mom who sent my brother to pick me up. I got to go home. I didn’t intend that but it was okay because the only other class after that was Reading in which the teacher (who I still believe was senile) wanted us to read Les Miserables but the school didn’t have a class set so she had us sit and listen as she read the book aloud to us. So I didn’t mind missing that class.

I had seen that it was fairly easy to get out of class and even to be sent home. It didn’t hurt that I was one of the good kids and was well liked by the teachers and the nurse. I never did anything like that again. I still can’t believe that I pulled that and that it worked!

__________

The #WeeklySmile is a blog linkup hosted by Trent. Come on over and have a laugh or two!

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My mind tells me that I have written about him previously but I can’t find any such post so today I will tell you about Mr. Henry who was my first period teacher my freshman year in high school so he was my first high school teacher, so to speak. The class was called Emerging Nations. It was taught by three teachers, each for a different quarter and the first quarter was more geography. So during my first quarter, Mr. Henry taught us the geography part of the class. That was the first time I really understood the seasons and the movement of the planets in our solar system. He used different sized spheres to simulate the planets and their orbits and a very bright light for the middle. The lights were turned off and he had some of us hold spheres and walk around the “sun.” During that time, he held the globe with which he simulated our orbit while also turning the globe on its axis so that we could see why we have winter while the southern hemisphere has summer, and so forth. That was the first time it made sense!

I also did a few after school jobs for him, typing and copying worksheets, for which he paid me. Then in my junior year, I was his teacher aid. Sometimes I supervised his class while he had to run to the office. Sometimes I typed and did clerical stuff. Not for pay but for school credit. In the summer I did a lot of typing for him and got paid.

Aside from being my teacher and sometimes employer, he showed he trusted me many times and we had a lot of deep talks about philosophies and psychology and world conditions. He treated me like an adult. He valued what I had to say, or at least I got that impression.

Through the years, I have kept in touch with him, even now, forty-two years after my graduation. During the most difficult times of my life, I have called him to talk and his advice has always helped me make decisions and hang on to my sanity.

John Henry was an excellent teacher. I have been a better person for having had him as my teacher.

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46 Years

I was sitting in my eighth grade English class, first row, third seat back. The intercom rang and Mr. Grayson picked it up with his usual cheery voice. It was a very short conversation and when he ended the call, his eyes were wet. As he walked to the front of the room, he took out his handkerchief, took his wire rim glasses off, wiped away the tears, blew his nose and tried to go on with class. He struggled for the next ten minutes, losing his place in the lesson, mid-sentence. Finally, he gave up and told us he was giving us the rest of the period for free time and asked us to keep quiet and to ourselves. We asked what was wrong. He told us that the call had been bad news. A former student who was now a sophomore at the high school across the street had collapsed in gym class and had died. The student had been a favorite of his, that’s why the Office staff had called him.

This was really scary to me. Tenth grade. Two years older than me. My sister was at that high school across the street. Could something happen to her? Why had the boy died? It didn’t make sense. I tried to read my book but I couldn’t concentrate.

Today, forty-six years later, his sister posted on Facebook and talked about how much she missed her brother and how she regretted not knowing him in his adult years. His sister is now my friend. I became friends with her when I got to the high school later the same year that her brother died.

He wasn’t my brother but I have thought of him often and of his death, which was later discovered to have been caused by an aortic aneurysm. I think that’s what it’s called. I’ve often wondered how that could have gone undetected during his annual physical for the athletic program (he was a basketball player for the high school). It did happen and it impacted so many people, not just his family. I’m sure we all thought about him often over the years.

Forty-six years.

 

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1966 was an interesting year for me. I was in fourth grade and not the most popular person at the school.  We had just moved to that neighborhood during Spring break.  On my first day of school, I was walked to my classroom which was empty and told that my class was on a field trip that day so I would have to spend the school day in another fourth grade class. I did and when school was out, I still hadn’t met my teacher or any of my new classmates because the field trip was an out of town one so the bus wouldn’t be back until later.  Not only did I not get to meet my class and teacher, but I had to go through the “first day” twice.  And to top it off, I missed a field trip to one of the California missions.

I had left a school where I had a lot of friends and good teachers so to come into a school where I had no friends and no history with any of the teachers was frustrating.  It stayed that way for the rest of the year and then through sixth grade.  I never made many friends.  I was the odd one out.  I knew a few people but they were in other classes and they didn’t play with me or hang out with me at school.  My older sister’s friends accepted me so I knew them but they weren’t in my class either.

I’m pretty sure the girls in my class didn’t want to hang out with me because something horrible happened.  It was about a month after I started attending that school. I was sitting in class and when I got up to go to recess, I felt the back of my dress stick to me.  I pulled it away then I felt it was wet.  I didn’t know what it was.  I knew I had not wet myself.  So I stood against the wall all during recess.  The rest of the day went on like normal, but I was aware of everyone staring at me. Even my teacher stared but she didn’t say anything.  I went up to the board during math to solve a problem.  No one said a word to me about my dress. Then it was time to go home and I walked home.  When I arrived home, I went into the bathroom and realized that the wetness I had felt was blood.  I didn’t know what was going on.  No one had told me anything to let me know that at some point I would bleed.  After that day, I wore my heavy coat in class all day.  I even wore it during P.E. to run around and to play ball in. I wore it every day left in fourth grade and every day in fifth grade until we saw the movie that explained what was going on. Then I knew to count the day.

To this day I cannot get over the fact that the teacher said not one word about it.  Not that day.  Not on any other days after it happened.

Inspired by a prompt in The Daily Post: Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

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Lisa

Yesterday, while checking Facebook posts, I saw a post I had missed earlier. It was a post made in a group for people who graduated from my high school in the 70’s decade. It’s a nice way to keep in touch with some of the people I used to know and it also serves as a way to remember a lot about growing up and about the city I grew up and lived in until I went off to college.

It was a sad post. It told about the death of a friend; a friend I had not seen in many, many years but have thought of often and have even asked others about her. Lisa was my sister’s friend and a year older than me. When I went to high school, they had been there for a year and knew how to navigate the high school terrain. I didn’t have a lot of friends there. Sure, I knew half the people in ninth grade but it seemed that once we got to that stage, everyone went off in different directions, chasing their own interests and trying to fit in as part of the school’s social scene. That, added to the fact that I didn’t share a lot of classes with the people from my old school, left me without many close friends to “hang out” with. Lucky for me that my sister was there and she and her friends welcomed me into their social circle. Lisa was always kind to me, just like I belonged in the group. She never treated me like someone’s little sister that she had to put up with. We ate lunch together and walked to our lockers together. We sat together at lunch time, watching all the others in their own little groups. We met each other after school and walked home. We went to school dances together. We laughed. We teased each other. We protected each other from anyone who tried to hurt one of us and mostly, we had fun together.

Once ninth grade was over and I had found other groups to fit into and had busied myself with lots of after school activities and a job, I remained friends with that little group of my sister’s friends, the group that had been my lifeline that first year of high school, but I didn’t hang around with them very much anymore. I did see Lisa after school when we walked home and once my sister started driving we would give her rides to and from places. We were still friends. When she graduated a year before me, she got married right away and I was at her wedding. My sister went to college. I became busier than ever as I had a job, was very involved with school clubs and was the editor of the school newspaper. We lost touch with Lisa.

Through the years, we’ve heard bits and pieces about Lisa’s life but I hadn’t heard much about her in at least fifteen or twenty years, although I have asked people about her. No one seemed to know much as everyone had gone off to live their own lives over the years and it is just now, as most of us are reaching the late 50’s and early 60’s that we are all coming back together, seeking each other out.

And so, when I read Lisa’s name on the updated “Fallen Friends” list yesterday, my heart skipped a beat and tears found their way out of my eyes. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her being gone. It may sound strange to some people that I would react this way to news of her death. Afterall, she wasn’t a part of my daily life. It’s not like I saw her or even talked to her recenty. But she is a part of my life. She was important to the person that I was and the person that I am now. And I suppose it’s a reminder that my turn on that Fallen Friends list might be coming up sooner than later. I think too, that it is sad to me because it signifies a closed door. I won’t be able to get in touch with Lisa or talk to her ever again. No matter how many times I ask people or how many searches I run on the internet, I won’t be seeing her again. The door has closed.

I know it should be a reminder to run out and knock on doors that will open and look up other people, other old friends, before more doors are permanently closed. And I will do that. But for now, for today, and probably for a few days to come, I’ll think of Lisa and her bright smile that welcomed me into the group that first year of high school. I’ll think of Lisa and her groom as they danced at their wedding. And every time I hear that old song, Daddy’s Home, I’ll remember how special it was to Lisa. And I’ll miss those days when times were simpler and our futures were bright.

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The other day I took my daughter to get some shoes.  She had been complaining of backaches and when I looked at her feet I realized she was wearing a very worn out pair of canvas Mary Jane shoes which had absolutely no support.  I told her she needed new shoes so off we went to Payless Shoesource for their BoGo sale.  She found two pair and tried them on.  When I was paying for them, I took the time to examine them carefully for any defects.  The cashier, I think, thought I was strange for checking them out so closely but I didn’t care.  I have learned to examine things, especially shoes, before handing over the money for them.

When I was in fifth grade, I wanted some white shoes I had seen at Karl’s Shoes, a now defunct shoe retailer.  My mom said I didn’t need them so if I wanted them I would have to earn the money and pay for them myself.  So I decided to do just that.  I babysat my cousins.  It took a while to earn the money for the shoes because I wasn’t allowed to babysit by myself.  I had to go with my older sister and so we had to share the money between the two of us.  Once I earned the money (I think they were about $12; it was 1967)  I told my mother I had enough and asked her if my dad could take us to Karl’s when he got home from work.  She said my father would be too tires so if I wanted the shoes I would have to walk to the store and buy them.  Of course, I wasn’t allowed to go by myself so my sister and I walked the mile to the small shopping center to get my shoes.

I picked out the shoes.  There actually wasn’t any question in my mind.  I wanted the same pair I had seen a couple of months before.  Luckily, they had one pair of white shoes in my size.  All the others were in black but what was special about these shoes was the color.  I had black shoes.  I wanted white ones.   I was careful to try the shoes on inside the store before buying them.  I walked up and down the length of the store and across the width of it.  My mother had told me to make absolutely sure they fit before I bought them.  So I did.  I must have walked a mile inside the store before handing over the money for my shoes.

I was so excited to have those shoes!  I practically ran the mile home to show them off.  When I got home my mom told me to put them on so she could make sure they were the right fit.  Gladly, I put them on and modeled them for her, walking back and forth in front of her.  I turned to see if she was happy that I had my shoes and she was shaking her head.  She told me to turn around.  I did.  She told me to take them off and look at them.  I did.  I saw nothing wrong but clearly my mother did.  Then she told me to turn the shoes around and look at the back of them.  I did.  That’s when I noticed that one heal was black and the other heel was white!  I tried not to cry but couldn’t help it.

My mother made me walk back to the store right away.  She said I should get my money back or a pair with matching heels.  I knew it had been the last pair in my size.  I walked back and showed the salesman the shoes.  He looked in the back and assured me it was indeed the only pair of white shoes in my size.  They had others that were similar but they weren’t what I wanted.  Then he offered to bring me the same shoe in black.  But I didn’t want it in black.  I wanted to cry but I knew that if I did the salesman would laugh at me.  So I didn’t let my self cry.  Instead, my tears betrayed me and came out on their own.

The sales man looked at me and apologized.  He didn’t know what to do to make me stop crying.  Finally, he brought out some black shoe polish and turned the white heel black.  He showed me that no one would be able to tell that one heel was white.  I asked him what would happen when the polish wore off.  I had older brothers that used to polish their shoes and I knew that the polish would eventually wear off.  He said he would give me a tin of the black shoe polish to use when it wore off.

It was the best he could do, he said.  I was forced to decide if I wanted the shoes bad enough to accept the polished heel as a match for the black heel.  I knew my mother would be upset but I really wanted those shoes.  So I reluctantly accepted the shoes, the black polish, and a polishing cloth that the salesman gave me and walked home, dejectedly.

I really loved those shoes.  I took good care of them and polished the heels often.  I even put up with my mother scolding me every time she remembered about the shoes and every time I wore them.

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