“Young Lady, I am surprised your tongue doesn’t wear out.” Now when Ma called me “young lady” I knew her patience was just about drawn out and she was ready to sit me in the chair. That was the punishment we received most of the time. “Sit yourself in that chair and don’t you get out until I tell you that you can.” How many times had I had that bounce off me. I reasoned that it was not my fault that I wanted to know so many things and there should be a reasonable answer for every question I asked.
Every time I walked to our outhouse at the edge of the woods, I wondered why we couldn’t have pretty pictures on the walls. After all, when I was at Grammy Martin’s farm and went to the barn to use hers, the walls were a wonderful display of color. She had cut pictures from magazines and decorated every inch of the walls. It was a place where one could sit and stare for hours just to see all the prettiness! Ma said as long as the outhouse served the purpose, there was no need to sit there and daydream.
Take the time I decided I wanted to take dance lessons. I have no idea if there were lessons available, but from the advertisements in the back of our comic books, I knew I could be a world famous tap dancer if I put my mind to it. I neatly cut out the ad, enclosed my quarter , sealed the envelope and put three cents in the mailbox for Johnny Howe to slap a stamp in the corner. I would be known world wide as a tapper for sure.
Day in and day out, I waited for the two metal taps to arrive and plotted which shoes I could nail them to without Ma getting in an uproar. School shoes would not do. We had one pair in September to last us til the final school bell in June. I would use last year’s shoes that I used when I walked through the woods and mud. Oh, at last Johnny brought the little package. Ma and Dad were working at the mill, so up the stairs I went, hammer in hand. Little tacks were enclosed with the metal taps with explicit instructions to make me the world’s best tap dancer. On the toe of one shoe the tap went and soon after, I raised the hammer in victory as now I had a pair of tap shoes.
At last I had the instruction book propped on to a wooden crate, shoes on my feet and music. I had no music. I would hum and tap dance at the same time. “Syncopated Clock” was the song and the attic floor just rattled when the taps hit.
I managed to get through supper without telling Ma and Dad because it would be a tremedous surprise when they found their daughter could tap dance. For some reason, Dad hit the bed early with his western paperback that evening. Well, Ma could still hear the rhythmn, so up the stairs I went, popped on last year’s tap shoes and started humming. About a quarter way through the song, Dad shouted to Ma “What is that ungodly racket coming from upstairs? If it’s a woodpecker, get my gun.” At that point, I figured I should reveal my purchase and intent. Dad sighed, went back to bed. Ma asked me when I would ever learn not to believe all the ads I read and finished by chastising me for ruining my mud shoes. Thus ended my dreams of a world tour. At least she didn’t remind me of the miniature guitar I bought from Sears the year before when I planned to be the world’s greatest guitarist. Her only remark on that was what did I expect for fifty cents.
Gram seemed to understand that I was a dreamer. She sat on the porch at her treadle machine, quilting and I sat in a rocking chair looking out over Twitchell Pond with neither of us saying a word for hours.
My first experience with the subject of death came from an understanding neighbor. One morning I was just meandering down the tarred road, thinking about fishing or not, when I decided to stop in and visit a neighbor lady if she wasn’t busy. Ma always told us to never bother other people. Well, her bulkhead door was open and I could see her putting laundry into her washing machine. As I turned to go away, she said, “Oh, Sandra, you can come down. Come ahead.” I sat on the cement steps as she continued to load the washer. Suddenly she looked up and said, “My mother passed away this morning.” Young as I was, I knew I should say something because she looked so sad. “I’m sorry” was all I could get out. “Please stay and keep me company,” she said,”it’s nice to have you here.” After all these years, if I close my eyes, I remember the look on her face and how pleased I felt that she wanted me there, sitting silently on the cement steps as she went on with her chores. I felt wanted.
My mother saw me as a dreamer, one who wanted to know everything and one who drove her to distraction many a time, all the time loving me. My grandmother saw the potential in me when she just let me sit and dream and offered me the chance to take over her newspaper column when I was ten years old. My neighbor lady saw me as a comfort which made me feel that I was worth while.
Greenwood Center was full of good folks. Every house held out its arms to every child that wandered that narrow tarred road. No one was ever turned away if comfort was needed. It was a time for neighbors helping neighbors with each child belonging to everyone , it seems. Good times, hard times were equally shared.
I was so fortunate to grow up in that time. Were I not, I would not remember all this like a film strip passing before my eyes.