Ten Years Old and Counting by Estelle Cade

When I was ten years old we were living in Whitman MA. I remember my parents driving us down the street to show my sister and me our new school. It was the Pleasant  Street  School, grades one through six ( I don’t think there was a kindergarten class there), and our house was at the other end of Pleasant Street. Up to this point a city kid, I looked at this new school in horror and exclaimed, “How can I learn anything in a wooden school?”

When I had a birthday and turned eleven, I saw a movie with Carmen Miranda singing and wearing one of her fanciful head-dresses and a marvelous pair of cork-soled shoes on a very high platform. I yearned for a pair of cork-soled shoes, exactly like hers, naturally, and for that eleventh birthday my very dear great aunt gave me a beautiful pair of cork-soled sandals: flat heeled, as naturally befitted my age and station in life, as they say. But, the edges and straps were bright red and the linen on the front part was embroidered with a bright red tropical bird. My sweet aunt did her best to fulfill my desires and I wore the sandals happily all summer, probably pretending that I was wearing those amazing Carmen Miranda platforms. (My love of shoes began when I was about three years old.)

When I was ten, going-on-eleven, I learned how to be the new girl on the playground, no longer having my Best Friend since Grade One, at my side. The girls looked me over, a couple of them came to speak with me, asked my name and so on, but at the end of the day my sister, a first grader, and I walked home from school together.

Another day—recess again—a girl came over to me, told me her name and said, “Let’s walk around together,” so we did. (No planned games here – the boys must have done something, but kept out of the girls way as they walked around or stood in groups, talking,) At afternoon recess this same girl joined me and asked, “Would you like to be my friend?”

Quite surprised I agreed that I would be her friend and she said, “Ask your mother when you get home, if you can come to my house after school tomorrow.” We lived on the same street, and as my mother said I could go to her house, we became Best friends for a long as I lived in Whitman.

So, when I was ten going-on-eleven, I learned that I could learn something in a wooden school—more than you’d think, perhaps. It was a double-graded classroom and as I’d already covered the fifth grade work in my city school, I readily absorbed the sixth grade material I heard all day.

I learned that loving relatives will try to capture just the gift you really hope for, and perhaps succeed a bit anyway, and you feel cared about in a special way.

And I learned that while lonely and a bit scared in a new setting, a quiet manner and some pleasant words can help you make a new place for yourself, and new friends to spend time with.

And then, when I was eleven going-on-twelve…oh, but that’s another story for another day.

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Bubble Gum Explosions by Noreen O’Brien

Bubble gum—Bazooka Bubble Gum. The hours and hours of practice put into blowing giant, head-sized bubbles; the gum would be long past the point of being pink, much less containing flavor.

Kathy, Mary, Louise and I, sitting out on the front stoop, usually mine or Kathy’s, chewing, snapping—disgusting noises, really—poking our individual tongues through our individually chewed gum, blowing into the gum, rather than through an open mouth. Sometimes the bubble would pop early on, small, worthless; but sometimes, I swear it took long minutes of carefully calculated huffs and puffs around our tongues and into that gum. Bigger, bigger, bigger, then POP!, a bubble big enough to cover the entire front of our head, across nose, eyes, forehead and into our hair, ultimately exploding into a mass of sticky mess and guffaws of silly giggling and laughter. Continue reading

Time Was Not Our Friend by Janet Keyes

I tried to think of an occasion when time got away from us. Maybe we are the only people who never experienced that, or perhaps we never felt embarrassed enough to remember it. Or maybe we had such an experience and found it so traumatizing that our minds have completely blocked the memory.
I do, however, recall an incident when time was not our friend. We were young, with two small children. We liked to go out square dancing a couple Saturday nights a month. We also did western style round dancing a couple Tuesdays each month. These recreations gave us a break from our routine, and gave Allan’s mom and my mom some quality time with the little ones. As responsible parents, we always left a phone number where we could be reached in an emergency.
On one such evening we were going down to the square dance at the Westover Air Base in Chicopee. We had called ahead to make sure this was a phone that would be answered throughout the evening. You just never know with a government agency. We were reassured, and Continue reading

Mom’s Secret by Janet Keyes

When my older children were young I got into a health food kick. I even asked the Easter Bunny to bring no chocolate, just healthy things like nuts and sesame logs. I was not just being mean; a couple of the kids were slightly allergic to chocolate. The children seemed a little less enthusiastic about Easter baskets in those days.

I sometimes made cookies from ingredients bought at the health food store on Miles Street, even including soy flour.  Occasionally the cookies were pretty good.  I also made my own granola, using stone-ground oats, chopped dates, sunflower seeds, organic almonds, and a hint of honey.  Lightly toasted, that granola tasted great.

My cupboards often contained brown paper bags labeled “Stone-ground Bulgar Wheat” and other earthy crunchy things.  My kids were not truly deprived of chocolate, as they could go next door to Grandma Keyes’ house and get a little chocolate almost any time.  They thought I didn’t know, but I could see the little chocolate rash on small buttocks at bath time.

Sometimes I also had a craving for chocolate.  One day I bought a can of Nestle’s Chocolate Quik to have on hand for my little emergencies.  How could I hide it from the kids? Ah, yes.  I cut up a brown paper grocery bag and created a neat wrap for the Quik container.  Then I used a black Flair pen to label it “Stone-Ground Broccoli.”  This was perfect, and I could place it in plain sight on the top shelf of the cupboard.

This ruse worked well for about two years. Then one day I walked into the kitchen and saw a chair next to the counter near that cupboard, and twelve-year-old Julie and seven-year-old Peter standing next to the kitchen table, where the Stone-Ground Broccoli container stood open.  Both the container and the kids looked at me accusingly.

“Mom! How long have you been hiding Quik in this disguise?  This has been on that shelf a long time!”

Busted! My chocolate secret was destroyed, never to be replicated again.

No Nuthin’ by Estelle Cade

No secret stairways,
No hidden rooms,
No spectral visitors,
No magic brooms.

No twisting passageways,
No buried treasure.
Watch for low tide lines,
Be sure to measure.

No mossy cave marks,
No bony guests,
Only seaweed, pebbles, shells,
No echo of a lost ship’s bell.

No pirate ship
No pieces of eight
No yo ho ho,
No bottles of rum.

No Treasure Island,
No Captain Hook.
Oh go away, Nancy Drew,
You’re in a different book!

 

Winter Wonderland? by Mildred Grant

Waking early to discover nearly a foot of new snow on the ground seemed a wonderful way to start our Christmas vacation.

 “Let’s get our sleds out and go up past Uncle Will’s to just past the Bear’s Den Road and slide back down to the bridge,” Chester suggested.

Before Allen, Eleanor, or I could answer, Mom responded from the kitchen. Continue reading

Child of the Wind by Mildred Grant

“Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I!”

Two lines from a song we sang in grade school. I wonder whether my mood is called to answer that of the velocity of the wind or does the wind match my thoughts and feelings?

We were on summer vacation and I was feeling restless. Though there were occasional patches of blue sky, the clouds in the west looked increasingly ominous. As the wind began to rise, so did my exhilarating need to out race the buffeting gusts of air, so I ran straight into the now-howling turbulence. Sensations of fear to joy took over. As the branches of apple, pear, and maple trees were writhing in wild abandon, I joined them in their dance. Being young and of average size for my age, about six or seven, it wasn’t long before I was securely wind-pinned, lying against a stone wall. Out of breath, I watched as the fury slowly subsided to a gentle summer breeze. The sun reappeared. No longer restless, the lingering sense of excited fear and joy in the whole experience soon settled back to the calmer feelings of my ordinary way of life.

POPSICLES, BEER AND BREAD CRUST! by Lettice Randall

When I really take the time to sit and think about my father, one thing that comes to mind about him is that he never, ever, raised his voice at me even if I probably deserved it. My mom was more the disciplinarian and Dad was the one who thought up the fun things to do. He taught me how to fish in the little brook near our home, and he even had me baiting my own hook at a very early age. And while Mom was more the academic, Dad is the one who encouraged me to tell stories about things we’d see or talk about. These subjects ranged from the deer we’d see in the woods near our home, to the tree fort we were planning to build.

Another image that comes up when I think of my dad is orange popsicles and beer! Sounds like a strange combination, I know. But Continue reading

Little Mr. Yellow Shirt by Mildred Grant

 There had been a couple of times when choir participants had been visited on stage during a performance by their child who didn’t appreciate being left behind in the congregation, but this didn’t appear to be one of those times.

 About three years old, dressed in brown corduroy pants and a neon yellow sweat shirt, he wandered into my range of vision at my left. He seemed oblivious that he might be doing something unusual or inappropriate. Neither the choir director, waving his arms, the accompanist’s vigorous playing, nor the stage full of adults singing full-bore, seemed to faze Yellow Shirt.

Up the steps of the stage, taking a casual left, he inserted himself into the front row of the tenor section of the choir. With complete self-assurance, he retrieved a chocolate cookie from his pants pocket and nibbled off a sizable bite. He stayed, munching contentedly, for a few minutes, and then wandered down the steps, carefully, one at a time, taking a detour beside the accompanist. Cookie remains back in his pants pocket, he put his hands in the air, working his fingers as though playing the keyboard. Continuing his journey, as the congregation let out a communal sigh of relief, Little Yellow Shirt started a leisurely stroll up the next aisle over from where I was sitting. Suddenly, he was scooped up by an older boy and whisked out of sight.

Beautiful by Lori Thatcher

 “Don’t cut my hair, Ma. I need to go to a beauty place, pleeeease,” I whined. My mother told me to stop whining, but I kept on—I knew it was a request, not an order.

I talked fast hoping she wouldn’t say we couldn’t afford it. “Janey got a perm and everyone loves her hair. No one likes my hair. I hate my hair.”

“Come here.” She peered at me and I peered back from under my too-long bangs. She fluffed up my straight, shoulder-length brown hair and sighed. “We’ll go tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was Friday and I would have to wait until Monday to show off my beauty-place hair, but I was thrilled!”

Friday at school was two days long. I ran all the way from the bus stop, charging across the stubble in the corn field. Ma met me on the doorstep with her old black pocket-book. We walked to the neighbor’s house and got a ride into town.

The place smelled smoky and there were old men sitting in chairs against the wall, but I was delighted when the man draped me with a black plastic cape. I couldn’t see the mirror, but I watched the hair fall onto the floor and imagined what everyone would say on Monday. I felt special, a trip to town just for me.

Monday morning, my hair was messy, but I combed it all the way to school. I marched into school beaming and everyone smiled at my beautiful hair. When Janey asked me where I got my hair done, I said, “At the beauty place.”

She said it looked like someone had put a bowl on my head. I didn’t care. My Ma hadn’t cut my hair. She took me to a beauty place, and I felt beautiful.