All too soon…
The seasons came and went on Mamie Road…and the years with them. My Dad had a good job at a manufacturing plant; but like everyone else in the fifties, there wasn’t a great deal of money. My mother was a wonderful cook and there was always plenty of good food on the table. She had a big vegetable garden in the Spring and Summer and canned the abundant produce for the months to follow. An excellent seamstress, she made almost all of our clothes, except for my Dad’s. As best I can remember the little jumper I’m wearing in the photo above left was a dark blue and green woolen plaid…amazing how far I’m having to reach to produce that memory.
The elementary school was .79 of a mile. I remembered that it was a long way for a small child to walk; but just in case I couldn’t trust my memory, I used mapquest and confirmed the actual distance. Rain, sleet, snow or shine…we walked. There were little galoshes and raincoats for the wet days…warm coats, hats and mittens for winter…but we still walked.
One particular afternoon after school, I walked in the WRONG direction and got in big trouble for it! I must have been…maybe 8 years old…just the size of the little girl in the photo. A little friend of mine invited me to go home with her after school. She lived over the bridge (which crossed the large Veterans Cemetery) and down Bayliss Avenue. Altogether, about a mile in the OTHER direction. The days were growing shorter by then and it was getting darker. About the time we arrived at her house, I remember having some serious second thoughts. I called my Mama to brightly tell her where I was and what I had done. FIFTY-FOUR years and I can still hear her words: “you’d better get home right now and you’re going to get it when you get here!” Sound familiar to anyone else?! It was almost dark by then, and, needless to say, I ran the whole way home. My grandparents, her parents, were visiting at the time, and she was particularly upset with me that I had done that with them there. I was rarely spanked, but I definitely got one that day.
The Wilson family lived in the house directly behind us. They were a young family with two daughters, Sandra and Katie, who were almost the exact same age as Sharon and me. Sharon and I were happy because now we had each other and two good friends. Mr. Wilson worked at a chemical company several miles away. From time to time, he would work the second shift, and when he did would give the four of us girls a ride to school. He was kind and gentle, and my child’s instinct told me he was a very good man. One afternoon, we heard a loud explosion which literally shook the ground. Mama turned the radio on to hear the news. There had been a terrible explosion at the chemical company. She said, “I hope Mr. Wilson is alright”; but he wasn’t. He died in that explosion. I was only a small child, but I remember being very sad…especially for Sandra and Katie.
Weekends during the fifties were much more relaxed than now. On Sundays after church and Sunday dinner, we’d go “visiting” OR someone would come visit us. There would be homemade pies or cakes, fresh hot coffee or iced tea for the adults and lemonade for the kids. In the Summertime, there would often be homemade ice cream…with the hand-turned crank. After a few hours, the news would have been exchanged…the memories relived…and we’d go home. Another Sunday afternoon destination was occasionally the Memorial Park Cemetery with its Crystal Shrine Grotto. It was a beautiful setting with a cave with amazing scenes carved out. Trees graced the entire setting and in the Autumn and Spring, it was breathtaking. The trees are magnificent now, much taller than in the photo above. Sadly, now though, it is also where my husband of thirty-nine years and the father of my three children is buried.
We are a composite of every experience we’ve ever had…every person who has significantly touched our lives…every decision we’ve ever made – each of us creating our own memories one day at the time. I’m reminded, once again, to enjoy each and every one of those days, because each one is over all too soon.
Summertime in Memphis 1950…
I’m sure if I could see this house today, I would also say “I remember it being bigger“. If I had to guess, I’d say it was at most a thousand square feet…maybe less. It had a small living room, dining room, kitchen, two large bedrooms and one bath. There were six of us living there: myself, my parents, my sister Eunice who was still in high school, my oldest sister Dot and my almost 3 year old niece Sharon (Dot’s husband had tragically died in a ship explosion when Sharon was a baby). I was an “Aunt” when I was only 2 and 1/2 years old and I loved it. Sharon was, of course, more like a baby sister. As you can see in the photo below, she was, and still is, beautiful. The four of us girls (Dot, Eunice, Sharon and me) shared one of the large bedrooms. I don’t remember it being crowded…I just remember it being fun. Sharon and I would usually get in trouble for giggling long after lights out.
So many stories for Mamie Road…all twirling around in my head…
Once, probably when Sharon and I were about six and eight, Mama sent us down to the small local grocery store. It wasn’t far and was safe enough “back then”. It was early summertime and Mama was getting ready to plant her garden. She wanted us to buy ONE package of LONG cucumber seeds. Unfortunately, they didn’t have LONG cucumber seeds. So, Sharon and I reasoned that you could put two SHORT seeds together and make ONE long cucumber! Remember, they’re the ones who took me away from the farm when I was only two years old! How was I supposed to know?! It made perfectly logical sense to me. She sent it into the newspaper for the column “When Our Children Make Us Smile”. After that, I was teased mercilessly by all my aunts, uncles and cousins who had been privileged enough to stay on the farm! Years later, I was to find out through sophisticated testing, that I’m pretty much divided down the middle: half analytical and half artistic, but I STILL don’t have an excuse for the cucumbers..