The following is a year-old draft that I never got around to posting. I’m posting it now, before I edit out any more of whatever freshness it might have had or end up turning it into a novel:
“I am from … ” started as a meme that raced through the blog world sometime last year. It was supposed to be a relatively short piece, a poem of sorts. But it smacked of the kind of list-making that is a virtual compulsion for me, and my “poem” quickly got out of hand. We old ladies like to reminisce, you know.
So I put it aside, careful to save the memories and promising to get back to it someday to organize, clean up, edit, or whatever. Now, on a cold, overcast afternoon, I’m sitting here watching intermittent snow fall, hoping it doesn’t accumulate to shovel-worthy depths, and playing with my list poem again.
I am from …
The heartland, from Missouri stock, lovingly blended in Oklahoma with a little Old West spice, some Iowa sensibility, and a lot of Southern gentility
The land of Will Rogers, Boomer Sooner, wheat fields and hawks, tornadoes, Oklahoma!
A physician father, a lot like Marcus Welby, MD or Jim Anderson on Father Knows Best, in a Happy Days and Grease world
Feeling like the favorite, even with four siblings
Green-vaulted streets lined with sweetgum and hackberry
A white-painted two-story brick house, built in 1909, with foot-thick walls keeping heat, cold, and wind at bay
A huge old maple in the backyard that stood stoically with wood steps nailed up its trunk, a platform in its upper branches, and my plastic horses stampeding over its exposed roots
A pine outside my second-story bedroom bay window where cardinals nested every spring
Parents who permitted my long parade of pets: dogs named Bippy and Tammy, Penny and Pooch; a science fair rat named Charlie Brown; Easter bunnies, chicks, and ducklings; chameleons from the State Fair Midway; tanks of guppies and goldfish; two blue parakeets; and one white cat
I am from …
Before commercial jets, television, cordless phones, computers, transistor radios, TV dinners, garbage disposers, air conditioning, shopping malls, hair spray and hand-held blow dryers
Eating ice chips out of the back of the truck that delivered blocks of ice for our icebox (siblings argue I was too young to remember an icebox and must have just read about it somewhere; perhaps it was blocks of ice being delivered for use at parties)
Mom’s post-Depression post-WWII mantra: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without
Simmering cicada summers in the days before air conditioning
Creaking, slamming screen doors with crescents worn into their frames by swinging latch hooks
Lazy afternoons at the pool ending with rides home in a clammy swimsuit smelling of chlorine and coconut
Movies with black-and-white Movietone newsreels, previews, and cartoons before the feature
Riding the bus downtown to shop at the department stores, where attendants operated elevators to the upper floors, announcing each stop: “Second Floor. Housewares, dry goods, notions” and you said, “Out, please.”
“Digging to China” in the back flowerbed, carefully avoiding Mom’s clumps of purple iris and ducking under delicate white arches of bridal wreath
Running through sprinklered rainbows to beat the heat
Jumping with joy in the rare, cool sweetness of a midsummer shower and splashing in the gutters where it ran warmed by the asphalt
Scampering for coins as the bell-clanging ice cream man pedaled his cart up to our curb to sell cherry, grape, and banana Popsicles, crunchy Drumsticks, and Eskimo Pies
Searching on hands and knees for cherished four-leaf clovers in that yard up the hill, the one with the real merry-go-round in back
Listening to The Green Hornet, The Shadow, and Bobby Benson and His B-Bar-B Riders on the radio, before we got our first television
Watching Spin and Marty, The Mickey Mouse Club, Lash LaRue, The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Flash Gordon, and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet in the years after we got a TV
Seeing Annette and the Mouseketeers performing — in person! — at the State Fair bandshell with a dust storm in progress, depositing a deep muddy sludge at the bottom of our Coke cups before Daddy could even make his way back from the concession stand
Dressing up to fly anywhere, because flying was such a special occasion, and walking out to the plane through a chain-link gate in the long chain-link fence that lined the tarmac at the airport
Sunday-best Sundays, penny loafers and saddle shoes, bobbie socks and bobbie pins, spit curls and Spoolies, hair nets, sweaters with straight skirts or poodle skirts, Aqua-Net spray net, an entire drawer full of short white cotton gloves
Sitting on the front porch or broad front steps in the evening, with friends driving by and honking their identifying staccato rhythms
Mom calling us all a bunch of honyocks when we got a little rowdy
I am from …
Are-we-there-yet drives to cooler Colorado climes, with four sibs and two adults in my father’s Oldsmobile (any one of a long succession of them, including the purplish one that arrived with a black stripe on one side and a white stripe on the other)
A brief experience trout-stalking and line-snagging with Daddy’s favorite Gray Hackle and Royal Coachman flies in Colorado’s icy St. Vrain streams, while slathered with smelly, oily 6-12 insect repellent
Mom’s breakfasts cooked on an open fire there by the stream — trout, fried potatoes, and blueberry pancakes
A green American Motors Rambler so underpowered that it slowed to a complete stop on a mountain grade
Stopping in Boulder to buy two weeks’ worth of groceries and get the carburetor adjusted before heading up into the mountains
The vacation we spent in a cabin equipped with a pump in the kitchen sink, a wood-burning stove for cooking, and an outhouse
Daddy’s happy, booming (and probably very relieved) announcement, “Here we are home!” as we pulled into the driveway at the end of a 750-mile one-day push back to Oklahoma City
I am from …
The time a bootlegger crashed into a tree down at the corner and spilled his cargo of moonshine into the street
An all-white public school, with Colored Town literally on the other side of the tracks
A colored maid named Pearl who was like family and made the world’s greatest biscuits
Clara Luper and one of the first black lunch counter sit-ins
“I Like Ike” politics
Mom buying 20-pound turkeys for our “just family” Thanksgivings
Noisy, puffing, chugging passenger trains arriving at Union Station, while redcaps moved luggage along the platform on huge flatbed wagons
I am from …
Paint-by-number masterpieces completed at my aunt’s farm in central Missouri
Fine red sable brushes smelling of turpentine and swirled in oil paints; crumpled tubes of colors with wondrous names like cerulean blue, alizarin crimson, viridian, ultramarine, vermilion, cadmium yellow, thalo green, burnt sienna
Strathmore sketch pads
India ink and crowquill pens
Innumerable black tins of Prang watercolors with their eight little blocks of paint and cheap camel hair brushes
I am from …
Mom’s favorite Chanel No. 5 and bright red Revlon “Cherries in the Snow” polish and lipstick
Carnation-scented bubble bath and almond-scented Jergens lotion
White Rain (“Use new White Rain Shampoo tonight, and tomorrow your hair will be sunshine bright”) and green Prell shampoos, Breck cream rinse
Floating bars of Ivory Soap, great for carving
Bucky Beaver singing about Ipana toothpaste and tooth powder
Having to wear boys’ wing-tipped Buster Brown shoes, because I always wore out the toes of my girls’ shoes
Duz detergent and Bab-O cleanser
Straight Arrow trading cards from boxes of Muffets Shredded Wheat
Making salt maps for geography class
Buying almost anything at the dime store — for a dime
Collecting stamps from all over the world, stamps in beautiful colors and interesting shapes, from countries with mysterious exotic names, when the U.S. standard was a 3-cent purple Thomas Jefferson
Drinking cherry phosphates at the Veazey’s Drug fountain
Yeasty salt-rising bread fresh from the bakery at Crescent Market
78s booming on my parents’ Victrola in the living room, my own RCA portable record player spinning 45s in my room (Elvis Presley, Bobby Darrin, Johnny Cash, The Righteous Brothers, Fabian), later upgraded to one that would play the new 33s (“Victory at Sea” was my first album)
Listening to all the latest records for hours in the record store’s listening booths without having to buy one
I am from …
Dressing up every Sunday for mandatory Sunday School at Westminster Presbyterian, and attending Bible School in the summers
Having to memorize the Lord’s Prayer, the Twenty-Third Psalm, the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, the Doxology, the Beatitudes, and the books of the Bible
The King James version of the Bible
Singing in the youth choir and being taught the pronunciation “in egg shell sis”
Learning manners, the social graces, and ballroom dancing in classes — with boys!
Having to wear white gloves and learning to curtsy and make proper introductions, and how to set a proper table and when to use which fork, and how to make polite conversation — with boys!
All seven of us seated at the dinner table for dinner, every night
Reading incessantly: books in my lap at the dinner table; books with flashlights under the covers at night
Spending hot summer afternoons at the air-conditioned library sprawled in big leather lounge chairs, then finally checking out the maximum number of books and heading home, and eventually turning in the longest summer reading list at school each fall
Devouring all the Hardy Boys books, all the Black Stallion and Island Stallion books and every other book about horses I could find
Starting school each year with brand new fall clothes (the latest Bobbie Brooks plaid), carrying a big bunch of #3 pencils because they held a point longer than #2s, and 3-hole narrow-line paper secured in my treasured zippered leather notebook
Having my very own coveted subscription to Western Horseman
Sharing a fat-tire Schwinn bike with a sister until I was given a dark green, 3-speed Raleigh “English racer” of my own
Wanting a Daisy Red Ryder B-B gun for my 12th birthday, and instead getting a real gun — the refurbished Marlin lever-action .22 that my father had as a boy
School recesses spent playing tetherball, volley ball, dodge ball, hopscotch, and the newly introduced four square on the blacktop and wood tag, red rover, and softball on the grass and dirt
Being terribly shy because I blushed easily, blushing easily because I was terribly shy, and being teased mercilessly because of it
I am from …
Catching and collecting lightning bugs in a jar to make a “lantern” for my bedside table
Refusing to abandon my yellow wool blanket, even on breathless hot summer nights
Keeping a glass of water and a damp wash cloth on the bedside table to cool off during the night
The welcome drone and intermittent breeze of oscillating fans in every room
Taking turns hand-cranking the salt-filled wooden churn to make fresh peach ice cream
Sitting at wooden picnic tables under yellow bug lights, eating watermelon at open-air roadside stands where the melons were kept in ice-water-filled stock tanks
Waiting impatiently at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning while Daddy set up his 16 mm movie camera and bar of hot floodlights to record our descent
Sliding down the stairs on a sheet of cardboard, or sliding down the banister
Leaf forts and leaf fights in the fall
Burning holes in paper or roasting roly polies with a magnifying glass in the sun
Lunches of Kraft Dinner, Peter Pan peanut butter and Welch’s Grape Jelly sandwiches, or Campbell’s Tomato Soup with bacon-topped grilled cheese sandwiches
Earning money by collecting pop bottles (returned for the deposit), wire coat hangers (sold back to the cleaners), and newspapers (sold to the scrap paper company) around the neighborhood with my big red wagon
Forming a short-lived club, the Fourteenth Street Arabians, that met in the apartment/clubhouse above my parents’ garage
My first car, bought by my parents when a younger sister also became old enough to drive: a used white-over-green ’53 Buick with a rusted-out hole under the driver’s side floormat
Bixler’s Drive-In for lunch, after school and after games, and Quik’s for their 10-cent hamburgers and fries
Yes, I am from … quite a while ago.
7 thoughts on “I am from … a while ago”
Wow 30 – that took me back. I think we might have had some similar neighborhoods. A simpler time, where life was easier and maybe even made more sense.
I think this is from George Ella Lyons – the where I from exercise, right? I never thought of it as a meme. My friend Sarah Flanigan did a version of her own last year –
http://sarahflanigan.com/2008/05/10/where-im-from/ if you want to look at it. But feel free to delete the link too, if you want.
It was nice to visit your ‘home town’ it really was.
I got the idea from one of the blogs I read regularly, quite likely yours. That was part of the downside of letting it sit so long … I lost track of links that deserved to be included. Hehe, I got pretty windy, didn’t I?
Oh, this is just a wonderful entry, and I am so glad you posted it. You’re from the time between my parents’ and my sisters’.
My father and I used to stay up late watching repeats of Flash Gordon on PBS. Good stuff! And stamp-collecting…I had one of those 3-cent stamps. By the time I was old enough to understand stamps, people were complaining that it cost 13 cents to mail a letter, and those 3-centers were really cool to find.
Hmmm, what’s my time? Jimmy Carter, Bicentennial Minutemen Quarters, Kool-Pops, Mikey on the Life cereal box and the whole “Mikey died when he drank Coke and ate Pop-Rocks” urban legend, Barbie’s three-story townhouse that my sister’s ex-husband (the Princeton grad) couldn’t figure out how to put together, the Islanders’ hockey dynasty, and later, Pac-Man, and the Atari 2600.
Mikey died? ROFL. I missed that one completely. Funny you should mention Pop Rocks, though. My daughter-in-law bought some for my babysitting gig over there just last night. It’s been decades since I’ve had any; I didn’t even realize they were still around.
I hope that was the original Buster Crabbe version of Flash Gordon. That’s the one I watched. The later ones were just pretenders. 😉
Now if only I could stop thinking of more things to include. After all, it wasn’t supposed to be an autobiography.
I should greatly enjoy it were this ‘meme’ (I haven’t yet grasped what a meme is) to do the rounds again …
You’re not alone. I’m not exactly sure what a meme is either.