This is the little house of my childhood; until I was in high school, it had no porch, so imagine six people in three tiny rooms and an attic. We thought nothing of it, having learned to find our way around elbows and outstretched feet.
The kitchen table was round, covered with oil cloth and before electricity, an Aladdin lamp, with its fragile mantle, sat at the very back. My father had “his” chair. When we were not eating, one would find him sitting sideways in the chair, legs crossed, cup of coffee within reach. His shirt sleeves rolled above his elbows or nearly so, hat slung on the back of his head and his mind going a mile a minute.
Because the house was small, I was one to go outside and stay out for most of the day. Ma and Dad taught us boundaries. In my mind, those boundaries were very important and must never be crossed. I could walk “down” the road as far as the ledge on the tarred road and then , with bared feet, mince my way over the gravel section to my Uncle Roy’s house. I was never to go down past his house. Never!
If I walked “up” the road, I could go as far as Dan Cole’s farm because I delivered the Grit newspaper, but never should I go to the Lester Cole farm and bother them unless I saw Danny or Elwin and was invited. Never!
I was taught that to bother a neighbor was probably one of the worse things a kid could possibly do. It reflected on them, so unless invited, I never went to a house and rapped on the door. Of course, in my mind, that did not include my cousins’ house. I hopped and skipped through the woods on the path between our houses, paused to smell the trilliums and the red Stinkin’ Benjamins, passed the ledge, hopped the brook , around the corner and there was the house! That was not off limits as long as I did not overstay my welcome and of all things, if a family was getting ready to eat, you did not stay…leave immediately!!
I loved Sunday afternoons because my Grampa and Grammy Martin usually had visitors. If my Aunt Cecile and Myron Winslow came to visit, Dad always went across the field to visit Myron and always came home laughing at some joke they shared.
I overstepped my boundary one Sunday when I was at Grammy Martin’s. There were some people I did not know and I thought about going home. Frank and Leah Waterhouse asked if Beryl and Ethel were my parents and I said yes. Well one thing led to another and I stayed a few minutes longer. Oh, boy when I got home, Ma asked if she had seen a car drive up Gram’s driveway so I had to tell her that yes, they had company. I told her what happened but that did not spare me the half hour I was forced to sit in the kitchen chair until she told me I could get up.
There didn’t seem to be any boundaries when we got in the car with Dad. Other than the many trips we took to East B Hill, his favorite of all places, he liked to take us to Greenwood City. He liked to talk to Wilbur Yates, who ran the little store and gas station and we picked out a dime’s worth of penny candy. Dad would joke on the way home and call him Wheelbarrow Yates to get us laughing. He had an awful sense of humor, but Ma shushed him a lot and told him to behave himself in front of us kids.
Once he drove us down to the Martin Road and then took us up a back road to an old abandoned farm. He loved to look for Indian artifacts and we attacked the apple trees. Oh, the apples were huge. He said they were “Woofrivers” which I think in later years I learned were Wolf River apples. I don’t know. I have not seen any in years and the apples were so huge you held them in both hands. I think we also got some grapes as Dad seemed to know where all the old abandoned farm houses were as we motored along. Maybe one was Bert Morey…I don’t know as he always pointed out Tracy’s Flat, the Penley Place and the Ames Road and told us some history as we rode along. I think when Ma and Dad were first married and some of us kids came along, we lived in logging camps. Dad and probably one of his brothers built the house we lived in and God knows he was no carpenter. It was a square box, evenly divided down the middle with stairs to the attic for the marking point!
The other place we were allowed was in Locke Mills at the school house and any functions we were in at the time. I did join a 4-H club which fizzled after a short while. I like to think my attempt at making mayonnaise had nothing to do with the woman giving up her leadership.
Boundaries and respect. I can’t think of anything more important that was drilled into our heads. We might not like that summer people were now occupying our fishing holes, but we were to keep quiet and find another.
That was a long time ago . I can still feel the hardness of that kitchen chair when I did not adhere to the boundaries. Somehow it stuck long enough so that I tried to instill the same theme to my own four children ..boundaries and respect…..and the look on my Ma’s face if I forgot!!