County Spaces

I don't know much about how kids are relating to each other on gender issues now, 41 years ago there was still a lot of ingrained ideas about what gender did which things. I was never happy when I was excluded because I was a girl. In fact, I was down right cranky about it!

I could (can and still do) bat a ball where there was no one to catch it, catch a football, run, dodge and make a touch down, throw a softball from 1st to 2nd base, run, ride my bike, fish, climb a tree and anything else as good some boys. Not better than ALL boys but better than some. I didn't need to be the best, I just wanted to play. I would get really frustrated that I had to prove it over again every time a new boy joined a group.

I'd like to think that people realize now that anybody can do any thing any other body can do within the limits of their physical and mental abilities. It's your size, build, training and desire that "measure" you, not your sex, color or anything else.

Back then there was too much I was not encouraged to do "because I was a girl" that I really wanted to do. I REALLY wanted to be an astronaut. Enjoying sex in my teens left me with children before I ever got to see if I could be one. (Note to young females - there are many careers you can not do with a child to take care of - BECAREFUL or don't dream)

As I couldn't be an astronaut I have had hopes one of the grands would get off the planet. So far no takers.

We used to play a lot of games with our Uncle Arr. One of our favorites was "Drunken Astronaut" We would all climb up in the big tree at Grama and Grampa's house. Uncle Arr would go first and crawl way out on a large but flexible branch. We would climb up behind him and clamp on in a row behind him.

Lacking seat belts and oxygen masks we would immediately "Blast OFF!" for space. The branch would start shaking and bouncing and we would all hang on for dear life as the "pilot" got us past the moon and the inner planets and head for Mars.

But then, oh woe! The pilot became inebriated! Then the rocket would veer from one side to the other as he tipped waaayy to the left, recovered, slipped upside down, flipped back up, and just in general flopped all over instead of driving.

The last time we played we were all wrapped around the branch like hot dog buns with limbs when the pilot got to his feet and mis stepped on purpose to come down with all his weight on the branch to set it REALLY bouncing up and down.

It gave one lurch as his skinny butt dropped on it with all his weight but didn't recover.

CRACCCCKKKK! Five kids screaming and the ripping of the limb from the tree brought my Grampa running out from the barn. He got there just after the last flight to Mars landed in a shrieking, freaking heap under the tree.

Some of us had the wind knocked out of us momentairialy but when we could breathe again we were still laughing. What a ride! What a landing!

Grampa had more of a fit because we broke "his" tree than because we fell and could have been killed or broken. He chased us into the house where Grama made sure we KNEW we could have been killed and Uncle Arr had his seat of education warmed because he was the oldest and should have known better.

The tree was cut into firewood for the brick bbq stove in the back and we piled it up while Grampa chopped as punishment. There were no more games of Drunken Astronaut - there were no branches big enough for all of us to fit on. That must be how childhood ends....you run out of places you fit in to play on as you get bigger so eventually you become a non playing adult because all the things that were fun were dangerous and NOW you know better.


Fun for Four

One day we were running around in swim suits. It was hot and we had played in the sprinkler most of the morning. We had run in for kool-aid and were sitting around in the dining room playing records as we cooled off. One of the albums was female singers and one of the songs was "Big Spender". We were singing along, as always, and really getting into belting out "Big, big spender!" It was making us laugh and snort kool-aid out our noses when Vee stood on her chair and hootchie-cootchied as well as sang.

Now, I think Mom told us to settle down, so we did. But we got talking about it and ended up running up stairs to our rooms and finding all our can-can half slips. We got towels from the hall closet, wrapped them around our heads to make turbans and pinned them the long way around our necks to make capes of them. Add 3 cancans apiece, a little of Mom's red lipstick and we thought we looked like this ->.

We raced back down to the dining room. The other 3 ran right outside to the porch. I hustled to open the front windows and start the record over before Mom saw me! We wanted to surprise her. I turned the volumn up fairly loud and joined the rest of the troupe.

We giggled, hiding down behind the porch railing, through the first song but when Carmen Miranda started singing we climbed up on the wide ledge that ran around the porch and started doing a can-can! A few neighbor kids rode over to see what all the noise was about and we shook those slips like maracas! We ended with the customary "turn your back, flip your skirt up move" then turned and took our bows!

The next song was "Big Spender". We must have seen the movie about Gypsy Rose Lee because we knew that dance, too. The turbans were peeled first. After a few sexy moves,for girls that were 8,9,10, & 11, the capes followed. We were bumping and grinding like pros! (ask us, we thought we were GOOD!) Next we started wiggling out of the slips. Vee even threw one to the crowd, to share between all 4 of them! They were laughing up a storm and we danced even more energetically.

Mom must have been on the phone or something because she only just got to the door as we started the last chorus. She did a lightning fast overview of the action and in less than 2 seconds she realized what we were doing, (strip tease) where we were doing it, (in front of God and everybody on a 14 inch wide ledge 8 feet off the ground) who was watching, (a girl and 3 boys from the 'hood) and that we were down to one slip apiece and our swim suits.

Now, I have sent grown men running when I shift into Female Demon from Hell in a Rage. It's only happened a few times in my life but I even impress me when I am rightously angry. I learned most of it from Mom.

There was that hateful, scraping noise from the needle being dragged across the record but it was drowned out by the "Voice of Death" screeching, "Get down from there RIGHT NOW and GET IN HERE!!!"

We hit the floor running and, from experience, sad to say, headed right for our rooms. Mom pounded up the stairs behind us. I don't know where the neighbor kids went but I know they were gone before our feet hit the first step!

Arr was last as her legs were the shortest and she slammed the door behind her in an instinctive reaction to the fear she felt. I screamed, "NOOOOOO, she'll just get MADDER!" and tore over to rip it open just before Mom cleared the last step. I got a good look at her face and almost slapped the door shut again, but freaked out and just ran to the far end of the bedroom.

You need to know we put on plays, puppet shows, circuses, talent shows and animal acts all the time when we were kids. We never had one end like this! We were all in a state of shock because we had gone from giving a prime show to being threatened with death in under 10 seconds. You just can't change gears that fast and not suffer for it.

She stomped in the door, looked at us all huddling in the corner in fear and then cut loose on us. "What do you think you were doing? Do you realize you could DIE if you fell off the porch? Where are your BRAINS!? What will YOUR FATHER SAY! Are you TRYING to make all the neighbors HATE ME!" She was so enraged she had to stop to breath.

I knew what came next, again, from experience. "Valerie MARIE, GET OVER HERE!" she shrieked as she pointed to the spot on the floor in front of her. I didn't go fast, but I went. My eyes were on my feet to see where I was walking and to avoid looking into the face of the "Goddess of DEATH".

Her hand yanked my chin up so I had to look at her and she brought her face down to mine. Right on cue, I started to cry. "What were you DOING!" she hollered into my nose. At this, the rest of the girls broke into sobs. They thought she would KILL me.

Through the sobs I gasped out, "We were just singing and dancing!"

Staring with the concentration of a predator and using the "stare of mind penetration" I could see the click in her eyes when she registered that I believed I was telling the truth. She released my chin and stood up.

Knowing she would get no better answer from any of us and that we couldn't hear her over all the crying her shoulders slumped under the load of "what the neighbors would say" we had just piled on her and she just shook her head really slowly, back and forth, for about a minute.

"I want you all to go DOWNSTAIRS, pick up ALL THE CLOTHES and TOWELS, then get BACK up here and STAY IN BED until YOUR FATHER gets home."

We went past her so fast her blouse rippled in the wind of our passage. There was going to be no DEATH!! We were still crying but that was because once you started it was hard to stop. I didn't have to tell them anything. We got every bit of our "props" and were back upstairs before she got to the first landing. We blasted by her again, streamed into our room and I dropped my load then closed the door behind the last girl in.

Now Mom wasn't really a monster, it just seemed that way when you were short and she got angry so quickly and completely. We had a real talent for setting her off till we learned all the invisible rules of life better.

The kids had all flung their loads anywhere and leaped into their beds. I stood by the door and saw the mess we had made. Somehow, I knew that wouldn't sit well with Dad. "Come on, guys! We have to put all this stuff away neatly or we will REALLY catch it when Dad comes home."

"Mom said to go to BED!" Vee challanged me with a glare. She was alway hardest to be older than.

"So? We will be VERY quiet, shake it all off, fold the towels and put the slips back AND THEN go to bed!" I insisted. "You know how Dad HATES a messy room!"

Everybody looked at everyone and the concensus was we had better do anything we could to lighten our punishment. There was a short rush while we helped each other get it all picked up and put away, then we went to bed.

First we all discussed what got Mom so angry. We did lots of singing and dancing acts. One of our best was "Ain't We Sweet". Vee said it was the stripping part but I told her we were wearing our swim suits! It was the same thing we had worn all day! We never did figure it out then, we just all feel asleep from nervous exaustion.

I just hate a story with a bad ending so I wanted to make one up for you. The real ending was we slept till Mom called us for dinner and Dad never said a word to us about our latest show.

I would guess that, once again, what Mom saw as a criminal act that would ruin her as a mother with the church and the neighbors Dad saw as his wild animals having a good day. He probably laughed his head off and was sorry he missed it! Mom would have spitted and sputtered at him but he would have said she handled it just fine. We were punished enough.

So we cleaned the room for nothing!!

Later in my life I was to try and explain to a 10 and 12 year old pair of females why it was OK for your boyfriend or neighbor to see you on the beach in your swim suit but NOT OK to model them for the boys in your bedroom. It made me dizzy and I KNOW they didn't get it.

I remembered the "Big Spender Day" and I understood Mom's point of view better. By then I was in my 30's. It is true that "You will understand when you are older" - at least sometimes.


White House Flash

We are going to have to fast forward soon, as I have a friend I hope won't screw up her life as much has I did mine and I need to get to the year I was 15. I will back track and fill in as often as I can. For today we are going to have a special memory from the white house, a few more when I can find time, and then we will begin moving to the Red House. So 6 to 12 is going to be hard and fast.

One of the first things I remember from the white house is Mom sending me to the store one night just before dark. You could give a 7 year old a ten dollar bill and do that back then.

Every Friday, because by now both the parents were working, we had pizza and pop for supper. It was usually followed by popcorn and a movie, if we had been good, that we got to stay up late to watch.

I was sent for an 8 pack of pop in 16 ounce bottles, a gallon of milk, for breakfast, a loaf of bread and a bag of pop corn. Obviously, Mom wasn't thinking straight or she would have realized that I was going to have a pretty heavy load for a kid. I certainly never thought about it!

I trotted down to the little store, the kind with candy by the pound and that cut their own meat, got my groceries and went to the check out. The nice man there bagged everything but the pop and sent me on my way.

I started out well enough with the bag on one arm and carrying the 8 pack with the other. Then the bag started to get heavy. I switched them over, quite a juggling feat. It didn't help much. It was getting darker, my arms were aching, I couldn't walk too fast because of the load and THEN...I heard footsteps behind me!

The street lights snapped on and my shadow made me jump! The mystery walker was getting closer! I hurriedly put the pop down, got both arms under the bag, picked up the pop, quickly, with both hands and tried to walk faster. The stepper behind me walked faster.

My arms were giving out again! Now what! I thought about leaving the pop and coming back for it, there was only one more block before home. Someone (the walker) would take it and I would be in trouble. I couldn't go any faster and he was RIGHT BEHIND ME! Oh, cripes! I was in a panic and almost crying.

Then this nice voice behind me asked, "Can I help you with that, little girl?" His hands reached toward me.I almost peed my pants! I stopped and looked up to see an older, new neighbor boy. He took hold of the carrier of pop bottles and lifted it out of my hand. I got both arms under the heavy bag, gave it a heft to settle in and looked at him again. I didn't really know him but I always liked him after that. Still do.

I didn't know what to say. "Uh........," was how I started, "Thank you," was the middle and, "I just live over there," pointing with my now semi-freed hand, was how I ended.

Neither of us said another word. I lead us down the rest of the block, up the steps to the door and told him thanks again, just set the pop there and he did, then walked off into the dark. My second hero! (Dad's are always the first heros!)

I watched that boy in sports through school, saw his wedding notice, lived several doors down from him later in life, have even spoken to him in passing. I don't think he ever knew how much his small kindness meant to a little girl just trying to do a good deed for her mother. I'd really like to post his real name, but won't.

I will just wish there were one of those kind of boys for every little kid in a pinch!