Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Meaning of Family

     The definition of family is 1:  a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head (household)   2:  a group of persons of common ancestry (clan)  3:  a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock (race)  4:  a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation (fellowship).

     I have struggled with the understanding of family most of my life.  My mother married three times.  (Household had several heads to live under.)  Most of the family was of common ancestry.  (Our clan was dominate of a Southern Heritage of unwritten but strictly obeyed rules.)  We were all of one race.  (That would be Southern.)  As for the "united by certain convictions or common affiliation" well, I tested that out most of my teen years.  (Fellowship was hard when you have father-figures that changed three times.  It doesn't help fellowship either when you question the female head of household over insane reasons why I couldn't do most things I wanted to do when I was age 13 to 15.)

     My birth father I have scant memory of.   Few photographs as well.   He was in the Air Force and sadly he was stationed away from us during a time when it possibly could have changed the outcome of my parents relationship.  Possibly not though as well.  After their divorce I rarely saw him and heard less from him.  I don't honestly know why.  Seeing him the few times I did brought me to tears and confusion over who and what he was to me.   He was my dad.  I knew that.   But what memories or stories did I have of him in my life?  I could think of none.  When I was in my senior year and having turned 18 he suddenly wanted to be a part of my life.  It shook me to the core.  I was afraid of him because of not knowing him.  My love and I went to meet him in San Francisco at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, a neutral spot I selected.  I could hardly stop from shaking because a part of me longed to have my father in my life but a huge part of me was angry that after all this time NOW he wanted to be a part of my life.  Like he could just pop in and we could be a father - daughter unit.   I explained to him that what I wanted was to get to know him.  What his favorite things to do were, what hobbies he had, what he did with his new family.  We parted with the agreement of him not calling me but to write to me.  I was not yet ready to open my life to him at that point.

     It still haunts me that we never moved onto the phone calls.  He died suddenly of a heart attack in 1983.  He respectfully honored me all those seven years by not calling me except for a few times when I called him.  I am saddened that he never got to see his first two grandchildren except in photographs.  I think that I am like him in more ways than I realize in that he too regretted not having tried harder to see my brother and I when we were growing up.  My father died on his sailboat, alone, but doing a hobby that he enjoyed.   A hobby he never told me about.   How is it that I never found this out?

     Bill was my first stepfather.  He was a handsome man if you like the tall dark type.  He was a ladies man through and through.  He really didn't parent me as my mother took that role one hundred percent.  Bill was the nice guy with the smile and laugh.   I never had an attachment to him like my brother.  He didn't do much with me except to drive me to my horse or just him living under the same household.  They lasted nine years and then he was gone.  I was surprised how his being out of my life left me without any sadness.  Maybe it was because I had my own personal life that was in need of living.  Having been uprooted from my friends to move to a place I commonly called "a hell hole" I really didn't care about anyone except my horse and our dogs.  I never saw or heard from him again.  

     The man who left his mark in my life was Rock.  He was there for this tribe of three women in a calm and constant way.  My Grandmother thought he was too old for my mom as there was a 20 year difference in age.  She liked him alright but wasn't sure if this was a match for her daughter.  She proceeded to go visit family in the south for awhile and let what would happen happen.  Did she think it would end?  It didn't.   My mom and Rock flourished.   My mom's Southern charm worked magic and before long they were married.   Rock had his own children and then he had me.  We became a part of the same fellowship of family.  We sailed on his boat and skied together.  It was through him I met my love.  He was an amazing Papa to his grandchildren.   There was nothing about him I didn't love and with all my heart wished that he had been my real father.   I preferred calling him Papa than Rock as I felt it was my way of defining him more as my father.  He alone could quiet my mom's stormy behavior towards me.   When he passed away after twenty-four years of marriage I knew it would be a rough sea to sail without him.  He was a gentleman unlike any I have ever known.  Honest, kind, loving, artistic, wine lover, food lover, interested in any new gadget and he never stopped learning if there was something to learn.   He and my mom were a special couple that many looked on as meant for each other or were "The Couple".  For me he was what it meant to have a father.  I felt secure in his gentle bear hug.  His short phone calls to ask about the kids or my love and I.  Going against doctors orders and going on roller coasters with us and laughing the whole time.  His laugh, his smile, his berets, his ascots, him.

     So what is family?  I certainly have had an odd arrangement.  I have more though.  I have left out the part that really is on my my mind of late.  My father had two children with the wife he married after my mom.  Yes, I have two half siblings.  I met them once a couple of years after my father passed away.  An odd visit as I was still so young that I really didn't know what to say or do with them when my father's wife called to visit.  Elizabeth and Matt.  I wanted to know what they knew about my father that I didn't get to know.  What was he like as a father?  What did they do together?   Yet here they were fatherless as I had been.  Looking at it now I wonder what memories as adults they have about him.  They too missed all the years when you remember the most about a life.  Do they have a foggy memory of what they think happened when he was alive?  Does their mother tell them about him and what kind of person he was?  I wonder do they wonder about me like I do about them?  I want to know them.   In some scary way I want to know them.  Then a part of me is afraid of rejection.  Why would they want to know me and if they did why have they never looked for me?  I mean I have tried to look them up from time to time without avail.  Will my life go by never knowing them, they who are a part of my father and me?  Do they resemble him?  Or me?  Just a little bit?  What is family?   I see my life with my love and our children and feel so much.   I feel so much....I feel so much I ache with the encompassing love I feel.  I feel like I can't tell them enough or show them enough of my love.  My consistency of love that I want them to know, I need them to know.  Loss makes you feel this.  As my life moves on I am awash with the swells of love that roll over me, like when Papa would take us out on his boat.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Wishes

     Christmas wishes when I was a child...I wish I could remember all the different ones I dreamt about.  Thoughts of Santa who would be coming to my house.   Would I hear the reindeer on the roof?  Those pretty prancing reindeer with the jingling bells on their harness, would I wake up to see them?  How would Santa slide down our chimney?   Did he get smaller on the way down?  How did he go back up?  He was magical, that could be the only way he could do all that he did in just one night.

      Looking out the living room window, searching the sky to see if I could spot Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.   Our news channel would say where Santa was in the sky.   As he would get closer to our town my mother would tell me it was time for bed.   Santa wouldn't come till I was sound asleep.   Off I would run to my bed.   I would hurry to fall asleep so that I wouldn't jinx him coming.  
     Here's wishing that Santa makes some of your wishes come true. Mine this year would be peace on earth.  How timeless that wish is...still.   

    Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 4, 2009


  I was looking out the window when I noticed my reflection looking back at me.  It made me think of when I was growing up and feeling uncertain of myself.  That feeling that I was not pretty enough compared to the girls with the peaches and cream complexion while mine was covered with bumpy teen skin.  Or the awkwardness of my chubby child body during my grade school years.  I had a hard time in grade school.  I dreaded having to do anything at the chalkboard where my back would be to the class, trying to answer a math equation or an English breakdown of a sentence.  The feel of all the eyes of my classmates watching and waiting for a correct answer or a wrong answer.  If it was wrong then I would have to go back to the front and be subjected to the class and teacher doing it with me.  I feared the times that my teacher would assign us to mesmerize a poem or read a report we had to write in front of the class.  P.E. was terrible as I was one of the those in the last pick line-up.  What a cruel decision for those teachers to set the popular girls to choose who they wanted on their teams.  You wait in a line as one by one the favorites were picked first, laughing and smiling, while I cringed to see the unhappy face they would make when the last of us were chosen.  

     Nicknames haunted me.  My mom use to call me Ellie which wasn't awful but when kids at school took to calling me Ellie the Elephant during my chubby stage it hurt.  Those taunts don't leave your memory.  In my early teen years I was called PT, which stood for Pyramid Tits, as I had nipples that stood out but no boobs.  Pretty insulting for a young teen girl.  I hated being called Ellie and my mom did stop calling me that.  It's a shame a nickname could evolve into a dreaded name as Ellie is a sweet name.  PT faded away thankfully.  

     That reflection followed me through most of my first 18 years.   I felt so ill equipped to participate in conversations.  I didn't feel educated enough or confident in what I could say.  While dating, my love brought out the best in me.  He encouraged me to make eye contact when speaking and to try to engage in conversations.  I found comfort in his genuine interest in me and who I was.  I had an overpowering mother who had a tendency to make me not feel good about myself.  I didn't dress the way she wanted, I didn't have friends she wanted me to be friends with, I didn't have the brains like my brother or the talents he had with sports and extracurricular activities.  When my love came along she really liked him.  It was like suddenly she saw I was there!  She still didn't appreciate the person I was or take interest in my pursuits but for once she talked to me like the young woman I was becoming. 

     I still can see the reflection only now I see the person I am is on the right side.  She is not the one trapped in the image on the other side of the glass though at times she tries hard to come out and take my place.   I still listen more than I talk and I do love being behind the camera rather than engaging in conversations many times.  I enjoy watching a good conversation going on, hearing the laughter, or raised voices of determination in their talk.  I always have learned much by listening.  I appreciate my quiet side who doesn't feel I need to engage in every conversation.  I tend not to put my foot in my mouth.  I listen more with my heart and try hard not to say what may hurt but to say what I feel that is more loving.  It is a can be a struggle to not say the wrong thing when you feel angry or are in a bad mood.   But I keep trying.  I want to look at myself and know that I am honest of my intentions and that I don't bring the hurtful words from my past out to my loved ones who don't deserve them.   I want my actions to be of loving open arms and that the return towards me are as open, loving and honest.  My struggle is that I take too much personally.  It is hard to let the vain, hurtful, dishonest words roll off me like drops of water that can evaporate from my heart.  Yet when I do it affects me in such a rush of peace and joy that I believe it helps when the next time those words come my way.  

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fall In Sepia

           A peaceful walk near meadows where young calves
and their mothers grazed


Trees stood barren and dark
as the sky lay a drizzle of misty rain
upon us


It all looked as though this land was under a settling 
sleep that we should not disturb

Our voices echo off the hills
"Hello over there!"
Let the quiet enter again

When leaves fall we see
the gracefulness of trees

Crossed trunks seem to be
in embracement as their
roots clasp the earth

Thursday, November 19, 2009


     My love put this beside our bed last night.  He 

has been working in the home of a elderly couple 

who no longer live there....the mother deceased and

 dad is in a memory impaired home.  He found it

 amongst some newspaper on tattered paper.   He 

copied it out while he ate lunch on their floor...a 

quiet house filled with the memories of a life now 

gone.  Which of them found this and clipped it for 

the other?  My love thought of me and it filled my 

heart thinking of him while he sat alone and wrote

 it down.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sewing... a skill from the past

     Raise your hand if you remember how to sew!  I happened to go into JoAnne's Fabric Store today (a joke of a fabric store!) and realized that the fabric stores of the past have faded away.  This store was dirty, disorganized, there were empty shelves where lovely sewing baskets use to be, messy button display stands, and oh my, the choice of fabric seemed so limited and cheap in quality.  
     My sewing days began in 7th grade.  It was then that I was required to take Home Economics where we were to learn to cook simple dishes and how to sew.  Our sewing assignment was to learn how to sew an A-line dress.  It was a fun class with a patient teacher.   I wore my dress to school along with the rest of the girls in the class at the end of the semester...I assume I wore it only once. 

     My Nan was quite a seamstress having sewn some of my clothes while I was growing up.  Once I had learned the task of sewing she helped me from time to time on some of my sewing ventures.   Some worked and some didn't work the way I had hoped but she was gentle with me and my endeavors. I would bring back hip tapestry fabric and tell her I wanted to make a maxi-dress with a certain look and she would help me find a pattern that sounded like what I was talking about and we would attempt my plan.  

     Once I was married my dear sister-in-law Sue taught me the art of curtain making.  She is a whiz at sewing anything and I felt lucky to have her give me all sorts of ideas even if I couldn't do it.  The best direction she gave me was going to New York Fabrics in Hayward which was a huge fabric store with an inventory for every project one would want to tackle.  From upholstery, to decorative, to quilt makers calico the list went on and on.   Just as you would walk into the store a sign was posted of "No Food or Drink Allowed", as if I would!  I would walk the aisles, up and down, touching them, pulling out the fabric to see what it looked like in it's full width.  The store had employee's who would keep the bolts of fabric neat and orderly often coming by where I was smashing the fabric bolt back in the tightly packed stands they were displayed on.   Always polite about your looking at the fabric they would remove the bolt I tried to put back neatly and they would redo it making sure the long "T" shaped pin was placed back in the exact location at the top with the fabric folded down neatly on a diagonal to cover it.   

     By far my favorite store was Fabric Lane in San Leandro.    The ladies who worked there were beyond my expectations!  Walking inside this store you were greeted with a "Hello, how are you today?" from the cutest little ladies you could imagine.  They all wore aprons with nifty little pockets to hold a tape measure, scissors and pins.  They all seem to be the Grandmotherly type with grey hair neatly coiffed  with a hint of hair spray to hold it's shape.  No overdone makeup just a dusting of blush and a bit of lipstick.  Today we would think they were following us around too much but for me it was just common courtesy. They really wanted to help me.  I would pick out the fabric I wanted and walk up to the large cutting table with my plan of what I wanted to sew usually on a scrap piece of paper.  If it was a window I would give them the measurements of it and tell them what I wanted to do and they would help me figure out exactly how much fabric I needed.  Did I want to double the width or triple it?  Did I know how to match the repeating pattern when I would sew the seams together and know how much extra fabric to allow for this?  Yes, they would help me with a smile every time.  The store was spotless with everything in it's place.  They seemed to have every item one could need for any sewing project and never seem to be out of stock.   It wasn't a craft/fabric store like they seem to do now.  

     When I had my girls that store was there for my sewing foray of baby clothes and receiving blankets.       I met my challenge with collars and zippers.  Still there were many other clothes I could do.   Sitting down at the oversized tables in the rear of the store were huge books filled with clothing or home projects.  I would pour over the pages just imagining what that would look like once sewn.  I loved looking at buttons as there were so many cute buttons for baby clothes.  Little bunnies, or pastel alphabet buttons, pearl white buttons in all sizes, just an endless supply of them on twirling racks.  Then there was rickrack trim and lace trim of different colors, and appliques galore for decorating.  

     I still have my sewing machine that I got in High School.  It needs some work as it has never been cleaned.  I still enjoy sewing as it feels so good when you finish a project.  My last one was a quilt and some curtains for the kitchen.  My daughters have used it from time to time as well for one thing or another.   Sometimes I think a new machine would be nice especially one that self threads since my eyes don't see like they use to.  But then I would have to deal with the dirty JoAnne's Fabric store and that bothers me.  I guess I will just have to overlook the ill kept floor and just touch the fabric and dream of what I could make.


Monday, November 16, 2009


Go, Sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them
The summer flowers depart
Sit still 
As all transform'd to stone,
Except your musing heart.

~The Autumn~ 
 ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning~

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall's Treasures...

     I don't know why I love Fall.   Yet when I take a walk this time of year it captures my attention.    From the crunching leaves I walk upon my hearing becomes attuned to the different sounds it can make.  I can hear other people walking from afar with the scrunch, scrunch sounds under their own feet.  My eyes see the fluttering leaves that fall from the oak trees I pass or those down the trail I am on.   They fall onto my hair or shoulders to come home to my house where my love pulls them off of me knowing that I have been out on a walk.   The leaves rustle upon the ground when the wind blows sending them skittering on down to a new place to lay until the next breeze moves them on an on.   The color of fall can be so dull and sad with the lifeless faded grey brown of the oaks, yet the next tree could be a flaming red Japanese Maple.   I pause to watch this free show of nature.   Bushy tailed squirrels are busy gathering nuts, jumping like daring acrobats from ground to a fence to a tree.  A flowing motion of their bodies that stop to look at me looking at them, twitching there tail to and fro and then they are off.   I look down and there I see what they are after.   Large acorns all over the ground in a bed of oak leaves.   I remember my daughters collecting them and bringing them home.   I tell myself to bring a bag next time and do the same thing.  Maybe use them to decorate my Thanksgiving table or nestle a candle amongst them in a vase or bowl.   Smooth and oblong, they feel good in one's hands.   Little acorn hats are harder to see but I find them there too.  They remind me of a hat a little fairy might use.   

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sonic Booms and War Games

     You feel a Sonic Boom as much as you hear it.  This incredibly loud rumble and shocking reverberation hits you and your heart falls to the bottom of your stomach.  It persists all the while you are hoping it stops as you are scared of what may happen.   The closest I can give an example of  is when we had the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 as that was the worst earthquake I had ever felt.   You're stopped dead in your tracks wondering when it will stop.   While a sonic boom does not move like an earthquake, you feel the jet's power all the same.  And then it's gone.   A fading away of the deafening sound that was there.   

     This happened maybe a handful of times that I can remember growing up in the Salinas Valley but those few times were enough.   In the 60's we lived not far from Fort Ord where the base was going full speed because of the Vietnam War.  Driving by the base on the way to Monterey we could see the soldiers practicing on the sand dunes in their khaki uniforms and helmets, sometimes with camouflage of nets and debris concealing them.   Kneeling to shoot at targets or running to whatever else they were asked to do.  War games to watch but they were not doing anything like that.  They were learning survival.  These boys were being prepared to ship out and fight.   Something I knew nothing about.

     Many nights I would lay in bed looking out my window and see bright lights flashing and lighting up the sky.  Like a fireworks show without the colors.   You could hear the blasting sounds that came with the display making it hard for me to fall asleep.   I think I was most scared if we took Reservation Road from Highway 1 at night which ran closest to the base.  On that road the display and noise were far louder than a child cares to see or hear.  Those soldiers practiced day and night and seemed like they did it every day of the week.  I never could understand this world soldiers lived in.  I was only a casualty of their drills till we moved away in 1972.  A year later the last troop was sent to Vietnam.  In 1994 the base was closed.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween 1969

     There is something about October that brings on a feeling of anticipation for me.  The sun's intensity is weaker making the warm Indian summer days to be enjoyed as the cool November days will be here all too soon.  The leaves on the trees with their deeper shades of browns, oranges and reds as they slowly start to fall.    To take walks and purposely step on the dry brittle leaves that crunch under your shoes.  Best of all is the day that a wild wind stirs the leaves up and around as though in a dance before your eyes. I become transfixed as I watch their performance!  Especially when cars drive past swirling the leaves in a parade of color.  

     Halloween....what should I be?  Sixth grade, the last year I went Trick or Treating though I didn't know it at that time.  Costumes came together quickly, not thought about to much.   What can you pull out of a closet.  What old clothes does my mom have?  Who will I go with?  That year I was a gypsy.   I had a long black wig and a full skirt of my mom's in my dress-up box.   I borrowed some of her jewelry of long gold necklaces, some with gold coins on them that tinkled as I walked, and some clip on hoop earrings.  Putting on a costume always made me feel like the character that I looked like.   Swirling in my skirt as it poofed out around me, my necklaces swinging around with me.  I was a gypsy!

     The night is dark, our pumpkins sit on the porch waiting for the trick or treaters to come and knock on the door.   No one goes out before dark.  I don't remember my parents ever going out with me.  It was always  be home before 9 o'clock.   This year we are not to eat apples as someone has been putting razor blades in them.  I don't want apples anyway!   Don't eat brownies as they may have marijuana in them.   I just want candy!

     We have apartments near my house that we head towards first as that means lots more candy.  Running up and down the stairs with the pounding of our feet echoing on the concrete steps of the buildings.  "Trick or Treat!"  we yell as the door is opened.   Running from the moment we leave one door onto the next.   Running down the street with all the other kids doing the same.  "What did you get from them?"  we yell to each other.   Snacking on the treats we get along the way.   Abba Zabba's I loved the best with the chewy peanut filling that sticks to your teeth.  Jujubes or Dots in chewy fruit flavors, Lifesavers, and Pixie sticks were good to get too.  Musketeer Bars or Almond Joy for our chocolate fix.  Then there was the Cigarette candies that came in a box that looked like a cigarette box.  They tasted slightly chalky with a melting way about them when you sucked on them.   Not really good to eat but fun to pretend you really had a cigarette hanging out of your mouth.  Then there was the small wax bottles that were in the shape of coca-cola bottles than had colored sugar water in them.  You would bite off the top and drink the sweet drink inside.  
     That year after I came home, I passed out candy to those who could stay out after 9 o'clock.   Not many but a few kids did come by.   I stayed at the door leaving it open while I waited.   The candles in the pumpkins had burned out.   My parents were not home, I don't know where my brother was, only my Nan home and gone to bed.  I emptied my bag of candy discarding, sorting and eating.  Such a satisfying feeling seeing all the loot I had come home with.




Monday, October 19, 2009


     A woman's belly is an amazing thing.    In our teens when we are boy crazy, we want our belly's to be flat and firm and our waists to be small.   We compare ourselves to every other girl we see to whether  they are smaller or larger than our own.   We long to have that special boy wrap his arm around us to feel that gentle curve that begins below our ribs to the beginnings of our hips.   Well, at least I did.   For me that is what I had going for me.  I had zip for breasts as they were small and rather flat.   My legs were short and not shapely as those of my friends.  But my waist could be worked with.
     I had weight issues growing up and there were times I was definitely chubby.   At those times my mom would put me on a diet which I found humiliating.   Take going to my Girl Scout meetings.  While my friends would have some cupcakes for snack time, I would be eating an apple.   Yum.  As a young teen I tried to squeeze into girlfriends size 25 Lee Jeans, not easy and not happening.  I was curvy before they made curvy jeans.   During my up and down weight days in the good times I did have a lovely flat belly.   Laying at the beach my belly lay flat if not dipping lower, my hip bones rising up on either side.  One had to be careful who viewed you if they were next to you as they could see what they were not suppose to see!   Those naughty little bikini's.

     How many movies have we watched that made us wonder what we might be doing wrong to not have that itty bitty waist?  In Gone With The Wind, Scarlett is having her corset tightened  to where she can barely breathe.   She wants to know what her waist measures to.  It is 19 inches and she is not happy.  I was happy at 22 inches, and that was sucking it in as much as possible.  I certainly wouldn't be able to hold that very long. 

      What surprised me was when I became pregnant at 22 and I was waiting for my belly to grow it didn't.  Not till I was in my fourth month did I have the beginnings of a round belly.  All the time I carried my first born I loved watching the transformation that took place before my eyes.   When my belly began to move in strange ways from kicks, elbows, and feet I was in awe of the show going on.  Tim and I would lay there in bed watching and wondering what this child was doing.   I who prided herself at having that flat belly had all but forgotten those days.   To feel the ripe roundness of this belly even in those last few weeks where I felt the need to hold it as my body reminded me with contractions in preparation of the birth to come.  My belly tightened with amazing strength and all I could do was breath.   I had this cute little stripe from my belly button to my pubic area exotically called Linea Nigra and not a stretch mark in sight.  

      After the birth I was so overcome with shock at taking care of my first babe that I forgot about my belly.  Two days later while getting out of the shower I looked in the mirror and saw this foreign belly that couldn't possibly be mine!   Jelly belly was there.   Soft, toneless and not flat.  It was like a deflated water filled balloon that went where it wanted.  I was forced to continue to wear maternity pants for a month.   My hips and waist had changed forever.   But my breasts who had been unimaginative had become full in ways I could never believe they would do.  They were beautiful and they honored me by giving my child free food.  Never a bottle to her lips except when we did leave her and then only breast milk did she drink.  Slowly I was able to wear normal clothes.   I somehow managed to actually lose all the weight I had gained with the pregnancy.    In time the buxom look deflated back to its former days.

     Having two more babies I was able to relive the dreamy days of the growing belly and the growing breasts.  After each birth I was able to get back to an acceptable size but after my third my belly began to decide to not firm up as in years gone by.   I had this unwanted gift of a soft roundness that did not want to lie flat and firm.  It was what I called the "Mommy Bellie".  After my third child bikini's were not an option.  Those bikini's went to the back of the drawer and at some point were put in the Goodwill bag.   Only a one-piece would be worn.  One with "Tummy Control".   I found that you could get panty hose with "Panty Control" so at least if I wore a skirt or dress that belly would behave.  

     When I had baby number four at 38 my whole body changed.  Losing that jelly belly was harder, the hips fought my plans of slimming down, and though I loved the cleavage I kept working on firming up my belly.  Lost cause.   Acceptance that my body loved being pregnant as it never failed me on carrying to term or in the process of birth (Though I carried every baby posterior which means that I had back labor.  I would never know what it would feel like to deliver the way most women do, and I bravely forfeited using drugs by choice except with the first birth).  

      Now at 51 I am still trying to understand my body.  The belly remains soft.  Sometimes it is flat, as in days following an illness.  I am reminded in my head of my Nan telling me to hold my stomach in and stand up straight and tall.   Yes, I do look better when I do that.  To the sides of my waist some strange lumpy bumps are starting to appear and disappear.  What is that?!   I can't do my normal crunches or ab exercises due to a neck problem this past year.  I can't wait till I am given the clear and can resume them.  I am still curvy but I am happy with that as I still have that definition of bust, waist and hip.  Larger than at age 22 but I really should have known that I couldn't go back to that size after four kids.   Those celebrity women pay others to create there svelte bodies.   The rest of us make choices of workouts or playtime and playtime with my kids while they were at home was first choice for me.  

     I will always be in awe of what my belly has done and I forgive it for not making it easy on me.   Through cramps, pregnancy, and beyond I still love feeling it and remembering the kicks, and undulating waves that entertained us.  I feel blessed that I still don't have stretch marks but if I did I would call them "War Wounds" and touch them with lotion as I would massage them.   It is a right of passage in a woman's life.   Our bodies a vessel that only we truly learn to know.  

Saturday, October 10, 2009


     Our fingers rested as lightly as we could on the teardrop shaped message reader as we concentrated our thoughts on the question we posed to the spirits who would answer us.   We sat opposite each other with the Ouija board between us,  one of us looking at it upside down and the other seeing the board spread before us.  Ever so slightly the message reader would start to slide.   As though testing the board or us into our belief that what it would say would be true.   With a sweep of movement the reader began to glide like an ice skater across the board swinging left and then right.  Our hearts would race and our excitement made us giggle nervously to see where the reader would stop as it would begin to spell out the answer.    The clear viewer allowed us to read the letter it would hesitantly hover over till it swooped to the next letter.  We would yell out the letter to whoever was not doing the board and they would write them down on a piece of paper as it spelled out the word or sentence.  It always told, that Ouija Board.

     This was a ritual that my friend Susan, her sister Pam and I would do often after we watched Dark Shadows on their TV many afternoons after school.   I can honestly say I must have spent most every weekday at their house waiting for our favorite show to come on at 3:30 during a time that we were loyal fans.  Susan's mom worked and Pam was in charge of  Susan, her brother David as well as me when I came over.    Pam was as good a friend to me as her sister was.   We loved Dark Shadows!   I think more so on a cloudy dark day, or a rainy one as it heightened our thrill for that half hour it was on.   The moment the show began with the eerie theme song we were glued to the TV.   Barnabas Collins, the Vampire looking to avenge the curse of Angelique for setting a bat on him which created his own personal hell of never dying.   Our crush on Quentin Collins and David Collins who was closer in age to us, the haunting music,  the dark gothic house, secrets, a cast of many that we eagerly felt we knew so well.  Then the music!  I painstakingly wrote the music out on paper of Josette's Theme so I could play it on the piano.  We would pretend try to talk like some of the characters and felt certain that the show was real.   The Ouija Board became our question and answer of what would happen in the next episode.  We put a lot of faith in it.   This became my beginning into the thrill of ghosts, vampires and all that could scare or raise the hair on the back of my neck.  We were quite upset when it went off the air.  The Ouija Board came out of my closet for sleepovers after that but it never felt like the days of Dark Shadows.   The belief in it had faded.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


     It's Sunday, a day we often go on a drive somewhere.  I am in the middle of the backseat of our Ford station wagon, my Nan to my left and brother to my right.  Mom and Bill sit in the front seat.  I'm drowzy and slip sideways into my Nan's lap, laying with my head up.   The lap of contentment for me.   A soft warm lap to lay my head on.   I look up at her.   My eyes notice her soft face that has  powdered makeup on it.  Her cheeks with a dusting of pink  blush, her hazel eyes behind her glasses as she looks ahead out the front window.   She has a light grey cap of hair that frames her face with fluffy small gentle curls near her ears.  She pin curls them each night with clip pins that I often find beside her bed.  I lean my head back just enough to gaze out the car window.  The trees I see fly by while the sky stays steady.  Blue sky with little puff clouds.   I turn back on my side facing my Nan.   Her body warm and comforting as she lays an arm across my child body.   Gentle caresses on my back.   I close my eyes and feel as one with her breathing.   Her belly rises and falls and a quiet sigh she gives.  My thoughts say I love you so much Nan.  I curl closer feeling her ample breasts under her dress.  All so soft and safe.   I fall into a dreamy sleep.   How long are we driving I don't know as I slumber in her arms.   She never shifts me but holds me as on we go.   I am awaken by her voice, almost home Ellen.    I open my eyes and she is looking down at me.  Almost home...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mom on the Zipline

Ellen at the end of the Zipline

Happy Valley Park

Jump Rope Rhyme Stories...Happy Valley Park

My mother told me
If I were goodie
That she would buy me
A rubber dolly.....

     My mom was the "Queen of Parties".    She seemed to come up with a party at the drop of a hat.    Growing up she planned out birthday theme parties for my brother and I.  A Cowboy theme with baled hay for decorations , Pin the Tail on the Donkey, with all of us looking like little buckaroos.   Dress-up parties where my girlfriends and I looked like miniature little ladies.   A few times I had Christmas parties where she would have a mini dinner party for my friends and myself.   This would include appetizers as well as her decorating the dining table in some way.   On my 10th birthday she said we would have it at   the Happy Valley Park which was just outside of Salinas on Highway 68 that goes to Monterey.   A venue party place that was designed just for kids.   I think all the girls from my class and other classes were invited.   My mom seemed to be preoccupied with my group of friends and concerned that I didn't have enough or that they be the right kinds of  friends.   Which was a challenge since I was a shy girl when it came to school and church but I was quite content with the friends I did have.   Needless to say it was going to be a big party with her planning it.

    Unlike today where there are places like "Pump It Up", "Rocktopia", or even the bowling alley (where my mother told me I was not allowed to go!), there was Happy Valley Park.   It had an indoor Party Room that they would set up for however many would be coming, but it was the outdoors that made this a kids heaven.    Circuitous of the property behind the main building was an oval dirt track where there were multiple bikes of all kinds you could climb aboard and go round and round, racing each other or just riding with the wind blowing in your face, laughing in pure delight.   It wasn't a flat track as it had slight  rises, gentle drops as well as turns .    In the center of the large bike track were swings, playground type equipment, a cargo type climbing rung area, teeter-totters and just about anything to keep a child happy and not wanting to leave.   After you played for an ample amount of time, you went inside the main building into one of the party rooms and had your birthday cake and drinks. After that you would be led outside to go through the Goldmine.    You would wait in line  patiently as they explained the rules of the Goldmine area and then you would  go down a narrow dirt path into a large underground room.   Just like what one imagine a goldmine might be like.   Inside there  were rough wood walls with bare lights up near the edge of the ceiling heights, spaced far apart to give light but not enough to see to well.   It smelled damp and musty inside and once inside  the floor became a fine gravel that crunched under your feet as you walked on it.   This was your time to hunt for gold in the gravel under your feet.   Everyone would find some, of course.   You were given a small little cloth bag to put your gold into and that was your token party favor.  Somehow it sounds so silly compared to parties of today where you feel you need to provide so much to your guests before they leave.  Once done with the Goldmine the best was saved for last. On the far side of the property that you could see when you were riding around the track was what I would call their version of a zipline.    Set up on one side was a platform that stood about 12 to 14 feet off the ground.    There was a cable that spanned a long distance to the end point and attached to the cable was a a swing seat with another long cable hanging down from it that dangled to the side.   One at a time we would climb up on the platform to await our turn on the ride.   An instant smile would come across your face when you were released from the platform to zip to the opposite end which felt like a great distance to me as a child.  Towards the end you would glide to a stop where you would jump off into the sand.   Ride over.   You would grab the cable that was dangling and run back to the platform with the swing seat and hand it off for the next person to ride on, run to the end of the line and wait for your next turn.   Sadly to say Happy Valley Park closed up in the early 70's and now is a gardening nursery center.  I use to wish that I could go there whenever I wanted instead of having to wait for a friend who might have a party there.  I think I remember riding my bike out to it with some friends once after it had closed and looked in the windows to see what we could see inside.  It was too dark inside so we couldn't see anything.   Outside in the back it was a ghost town playground.  The bikes were gone and all was shut up tight.   Some places in childhood can not be visited again and Happy Valley was just one of many.

My brother told her
I kissed a soldier
Now she won't buy me
A rubber dolly.....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Homes and Schools

                          Places I have lived while growing up

Roswell, New Mexico           where I was born

Atwater, California               2306 Linden Street
                                           2302 Linden Street

Salinas, California                709 Fairmont Drive
                                           812 Fairfax Drive
                                           606 La Mesa Drive
                                           6 Pajaro Way

Antioch, California              Camino Peral
                                         Crestview Drive (apartment)

Moraga, California              Bismarck Lane
                                         Magnolia Drive

                            Schools that I went to

                                              Atwater, California

Kindergarten                      Elmer Wood Elementary School

                                             Salinas, California

1st Grade                         Lincoln Elementary School
2nd ~ 5th Grade               Mission Park Elementary School
6th Grade                        Monterey Park Elementary School
                                            (1/2 year)
                                       University Park
                                            (remaining 1/2 year)
7th ~ 8th Grade               Washington Junior High

                                              Antioch, California

9th Grade                          Park Middle School
10th Grade                        Antioch High School (1/4 year)

                                             Moraga, California

10th Grade (remainder of year)    Campolindo High School (3/4 year)

                                              Alameda, California

11th ~ 12th Grade             Alameda High School

                                             Fairmont Drive

     When  I look at all the places I have lived I feel like a gypsy.  We never seemed to let the grass grow under our feet!  I never had a favorite home or a special attachment to a home.  I am certain that until we moved to Alameda my family never owned any of those homes but rented them as it seemed we lived in some for almost exactly a year and then moved.

     I did have some memories from each though.  Some good and some not so good.  Our first home in Salinas we lived on a court.  In the garage the owner of the home had a huge train track set up with buildings, trees, overpasses, tunnels and houses.  My brother was fortunate to be allowed to play with it. It's only too bad that we could not take it with us when we moved as he must have been unhappy having to leave it behind.  I wasn't allowed to play with the train set but could watch.  My brother and I shared a room and it was decorated more for a boy.  We had a trundle bunk bed with a slightly western theme to it.  I didn't really mind as I was more a tomboy at that time.  I was already into horses and made sure to watch any cowboy movie or show that was on TV.  My brother Gene was a good sport with having to share a room with a sister five years younger than he.

     Next door to me was a girl my age.  Denise had a playhouse in her side yard which had a little kitchen set up and the house had dutch doors to it.   What really caught my eye though was her Surrey.  It was yellow and had a striped red top with fringe on it.  The Surrey had a bench seat in the middle for two with a set of peddles, then there was a bench seat up in front for two.  The steering wheel was on the left side of the Surrey just like a car.  We had so much fun peddling on the sidewalk of our court.  I didn't know what envy was at that age but that was when I first really wanted what someone else had.  I have only been on one other Surrey that reminded me of Denise's and that was at a cherished home my parents rented in Carmel when our own children were young.  It wasn't in the same condition either as the fringe top was not on it and it was rickety as well.  Still it brought back those fond times I remembered.  I only wish we could have brought it home and fixed it up so our girls could play with it at home.

     Behind the homes on the court was what we called the gully.  My brother was allowed to play in the gully with the other boys but I was not.  I was too young.  The boys would ride their bikes up and down the sides of the gully as it had high sides on either bank and then a flat area at the bottom.  It was a bit like an empty canal area but made of dirt only.  I am not sure what it was used for as I never saw it with water in it.

     I can't believe that I use to walk home from my school Lincoln Elementary as a first grader.  It was  quite a walk and I think it was just a couple of us kids at the time doing this.  The best part was at one point we walked through Maple Park.   I called it the sunken park as you walked down into the park from a path which at the time seemed more deep than it really is.  The park looks different now with the new play equipment.  Still I have a sweet little memory of kissing a boy in that park who walked home with us sometimes. My first kiss to a boy!   One of those quick little pecks on the cheek.
  Lincoln Elementary was also where I had my favorite teacher Mrs. Shifley.  She came to my birthday party, at my request, and gave me the book "A Fly Went By" which I read to my children.  Written inside by her was best wishes for my birthday.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Jungle Book

I have a box of home movies that were taken by my parents when my brother and I were growing up.  Amongst all the film I found, one in particular that makes me smile and give a giggle.    The Jungle Book.   My friends and I had seen the then new Disney film and loved it!
I thought it would be a fun to do a play of the Jungle Book and invite the neighborhood kids to come see it.     We each decided which character we wished to be.  Pam was Baloo, Dora was Mowgli, Lori was the little girl, Susan was Shere Khan, and I was Bagheera.  We dressed ourselves up as well as we could though Susan looked more like a lion than a tiger as that was the closest costume we could come up with.  We made signs for inviting the neighborhood kids, invited any little brothers or sisters and we even charged admission to come and see our play.  We did slightly change the story as you can see but we didn't leave out the dancing!  If my memory serves me that there was laughter and no one walked out on us.
Last note....don't bother with was before sound movies!   It is almost odd to watch a film without sound but the quiet is enough for me and my imagination.....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jump Rope Rhyme Stories...The Galaxie

Bluebells, cockle shells,
Eevie, ivy, over....

When you are little your life is directed constantly. You don't get to make too many choices in your everyday life. Your woken from bed, fed breakfast, clothes put on and so the day goes on. At the end of the day it is all in reverse. You don't have a clue of what your parents are up to and really don't seem to care either. Just so long that it is a happy place you can feel joyful in your little universe.
I lived in the small town of Atwater, California when I was 2 to 6 years of age. It was a town occupied by a lot of Military families who were stationed at Castle Air Force Base. We lived there for that reason as my father was in the Air Force though I have no memory of my father during that time. We lived in a typical neighborhood rather than base housing, where our elementary school, Elmer Wood, was just down the street from our house on Linden Street. One door down from our house was E. L Walters Park where I got my first bee sting. It was a happy time from my memory though at that age it is hard to remember much. At home lived my brother, my mom and myself with my Nan coming over often as well. My Nan worked as a nurse at a hospital nearby. My mom was a stay at home mom and did various social events that Military moms seem to do. Teas, bridge clubs and such.
The part of what you don't know about your parents is what is really going on though. They see to it that your world seems just like all the other friends families you know. Yet military families are not like other families. We move around a lot, and often the dads are not around at all. That was our case.
Our next door neighbor was quite nice to us. I don't remember much about him at that age except for the day he got the Ford Galaxie. I was about 5 years old and the year would have been 1963. It was a warm summer evening and my mom told us we were going for a ride in our neighbor "Bill's" new car. My eyes saw this white convertible with the top down in his driveway. Wow! I am sure that was the first time I had ever noticed a car other than our own. We climbed into the backseat my brother and I with my mom and Bill sitting up front and off we went.

We drove onto a country road with no stop signs and just flew. The warm air blowing in my face, whipping my hair back. The whoosh of warm air bringing tears to my eyes as I tried to sit up higher to look out all around me. I wanted to sit up on top of the back seat and feel that push of invisible warmth. The car was wide and long with blue vinyl interior. The convertible top was hidden under a blue matching cover as though there was no top at all. Silver chrome trim sleeked horizontally down the body of the car. It was a thrill!

My other memory of the Galaxie was sitting in the car with several of my neighbor friends in Bill's driveway. Our mothers were inside the house while we waited for them. We were going somewhere. We were waiting in the backseat when one of them thought to get in the front seat and pretend to drive the car. That little smarty pants pulled the gearstick on the steering wheel while he was trying to turn the steering wheel round and round. That put the car in reverse! Thankfully we were not on a steep incline. We just rolled back out of the driveway, across the street where we stopped when we hit the curb. The car had been parked at the edge of the end of the driveway to begin with. Of course we all knew we were going to be in big trouble. I am pretty sure we didn't go anywhere as had been the plan.
My mom eventually married Bill and we moved to Salinas, California just before I started 1st grade. I didn't see my dad again till many years later. The Galaxie was sold at some point as well and our family bought a Ford Station Wagon with fake wood paneling. Not quite as exciting as the Galaxie.

I like coffee,
I like tea,
I like ____to jump in with me!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jump Rope Rhyme Stories...Go-Go Boots

Not last night but the night before.
Twenty-four robbers came knocking at my door,
They called me out for the world to see,
And this is what they said to me....
Spanish dancer turn around,
Spanish dancer touch the ground,
Spanish dancer do high kicks,
Spanish dancer do the splits!

It wasn't until I entered fifth grade that I thought much about clothes. Before that I would wear anything that was in my drawers or closet. Yet that year I noticed what girls were wearing in my teen magazines. I saw what the teen girls who went to our church wore. I saw what was on TV. What I really wanted that year was Go-Go Boots.

My family often watched "Laugh-In" when it was on TV and seeing Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne dancing in their Go-Go Boots made me wish I had a pair. At that tender age I also thought if I wore them I would have a skinny body, cute legs and dance as great as they did. I also thought I would have their giddy happy-go-lucky laughter as well.

I saw girls at school that had Go-Go Boots like a girl in my grade named Jesse. It seemed like all of the boots I saw were white which was the color I wanted. Shiny white with small heels, and they zipped up on the inside of the calf. They looked so cool with mini skirts or dresses. I still had plain boring Oxfords, Penny Loafers (with a penny in the little slot in the leather) or Keds tennis shoes. I felt so out of style though I didn't really understand what "style" meant.

I asked my mom if I could have Go-Go Boots but never really got an answer. The more I saw them the more I wanted them. In grade school the girls didn't wear true mini-skirts like the high school girls or on TV. Ours looked more like the knee length skirts that the girls at the Catholic High school wore which was behind our school. What you think and what you see tend to blur together in a young girls mind. Girls our age did not wear the short skirts.

It was at this same age that I was allowed to wear panty hose which had just come out in the stores. My mom allowed me to wear them only to church though I seem to manage to get runs in them every time I wore them so they were a one time wear. I wanted to wear them to look like the older girls, but they were itchy and tended to slowly fall down my hips with the crotch getting lower to my dress or skirt length. Before this girls and women had to wear hose with garter belts which I thought were out of date with the times. I bet they stayed up though! My other choice was to wear ankle socks or knee socks which I thought were quite childish.

With great surprise on Christmas morning I opened a box that had a pair of Go-Go Boots in it! I was thrilled but they were not white. They were black. I tried really hard to be happy about this but this was not what the girl Jesse wore or Goldie Hawn or Judy Carne. I tried them on and they were very tight around my calves. I had to imagine my legs squeezing in them like a tight skirt and then pull the zipper up over my calf with a quick zip to the top. Not as comfortable as I had hoped. The girls I saw with boots seem to slip over their calves with room around the whole leg. Mine were in a state of bunching after you wore them which made them look a bit wrinkled near the ankle. No extra room to spare.
The first day back to school after our Christmas break I picked out my outfit carefully. I had a red and black large check culotte dress which I wore with a white cotton shirt and a red scarf around my neck. I thought it looked cute till I got to school. The Go-Go Boots were uncomfortable. The tightness wasn't easy to move in for jump rope or hopscotch let alone four square. I didn't look skinny and my legs looked bigger in them. I certainly didn't feel so happy. I noticed a lot of white boots but there were some black ones as well.

I know I wore the boots many times but like so much with styles and tastes I did get over the disappointment of the Go-Go Boots. I moved onto wanting the Surfer tee shirt with the bright colors and stripes. Hip hugger pants and jeans which I wanting to have too. The Go-Go Boots faded to the back of my closet.

Spanish dancer do the splits.
Spanish dancer give high kicks.
Spanish dancer turn around.
Spanish dancer get out of town!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jump Rope Rhyme Stories...Free Kittens

I have chosen to write my first stories from my childhood. Those years of carefree
days with friends. The adventures and trouble you find yourself getting into
with ease. I am titling these The Jump Rope Rhyme stories as I spent many happy days
at recess or home playing jump rope and hopscotch with my girlhood friends.

Three, six, nine
The goose drank wine
The monkey chewed tobacco
On the streetcar line.....

It was while walking home from school that my friends and I saw the sign. Free kittens. We always walked the same way home. We would go the the crosswalk in front of the school where the chosen sixth graders with their bright orange vests and flapping flags stood at attention as crossing guards. One would blow a whistle signaling us that we could safely walk across the street. First they would enter the street, standing straight and tall, then like soldiers tip their flags diagonal to the cars. From there we went straight onto Bruce Avenue where we would turn left down College Drive, turn left again onto W. Alisal Street where my friend Cheryl would go home on Fairfax Circle, cross the busy street and head down Fairfax Drive where we would continue our walk home with my remaining friends. We would say "Bye. See you tomorrow!" as we each walked up our front walks till I came to mine.

Free kittens. It was there the next day and the next day and each time I thought to myself "I want a kitten". Why not? We had two dogs, why not a kitten? I asked my mom and the reply was a stern "No". I learned not to ask twice as the answer would always be the same.

Free kittens. Why not bring one home? Surely once she saw it it would be alright! Who am I kidding. Why not bring one home and keep it hidden? I could take care of it and it would be all mine. I didn't think too hard as when you are nine you don't think everything through. You just do things and hopefully it turns out alright. You don't plan on getting into trouble on purpose. Who wants that to happen?

In our backyard I had a playhouse. It really was just a shed with some yard items inside but I had a corner of it where I kept my dress-up clothes and playhouse toys. The dress-ups were in an old cardboard box to keep them clean atop other boxes. The roof of the shed was partially covered with a green corrugated plastic cover. It made odd wailing sounds when it was windy as it wasn't nailed down as well as it could have been. It was closed in on all sides with thick heavy wood like a solid fence. The door opened with a black lift up latch so it was secure.

Free kittens. I am going to do it! I decided to walk to the house, pick out a kitten, come home, take the kitten to the shed and I would have a kitten! Oh, I was excited! I choose not to tell a soul. That weekend I walked to the house with the "Free Kittens" sign and knocked on the door. A nice lady answered. "Yes?"
"I saw your sign for free kittens. Do you still have them?"
"Why yes we do. Would you like to see them?" she asked.
"Yes. Please."

We went inside and she took me through her house, down a hall that took us to her garage. A cardboard box with no top lined with a towel held several kittens. They were just what I wanted. All of them! I looked at them and she began to ask me questions. Questions I hadn't thought she would ask. "So you like kittens?"
"Yes! They all are so cute!"
"Did your parents say it was okay to have a kitten?" she looked at me with the look a grown up gives a child.
A pause from me. I realize I will have to lie. I want one of these kittens so much. This will be a good lie. It's not like I did something wrong, like breaking something. "My mom said it was alright. She said I could come over and pick one out and bring it home.".
"Which one do you like?" she asked.
It was the one that had three colors that I liked. I hadn't seen a cat that came in three colors before. "This one!"
"Oh yes, the little calico. It is pretty, isnt' it? Are you sure that is the one you want?"
"Yes! Can I take it right now?"
"Well I don't see why you can't since your mommy said it was alright."

I was jumping up and down inside! My heart was racing with the excitement of having my very own kitten. I picked the kitten up as gently as I could. My friend Susan had kittens once and I sort of knew about them. I knew they had little sharp claws. This one clung to me like a tack on a bulletin board. It held onto me as tight as it could.

"Do you want to know if it is a boy or a girl?" she smiled down at me.
I hadn't even thought about that or even cared but I sad yes.
"It's a girl. All calico cats are girls" she said in a satisfying way.

We walked to her front door. The kitten squirmed but seem okay attached to me in a way where her little claws had begun to pierce my skin through my t-shirt.
"Thank you for letting me have one!" I said as I jumped down the front steps.
I have a free kitten. Only I know about it. I smiled to myself. I began the walk home yet as I came closer to our house I wondered how I would get the kitten and myself into the backyard without being seen.
I went to the side gate which happened to be on the side where the playhouse was. I hurried to open the gate and to the safety of the closed door of the playhouse behind me. I pulled the kitten from my shirt which it tried hard to bring along in it's claws. It wanted to be held and curled it's small body in an odd stiff way with it's claws outstretched.
"Your okay little kitten." I tried to soothe it as it mewed at me. At that moment it passed through my mind that I had no place for it to sleep like the box the lady had for the kittens. I pulled down the dress-up box and made a cozy spot in the pile of my mom's cast off clothes that I played dress-up in. The kitten attached itself to the swirl of clothes it was laid into and began meowing more. I had no idea what to do now. I have a free kitten.

Food. I had forgotten that it would need food. I thought I would run to Susan's house and see if they had cat food. We only had canned dog food which I didn't think a kitten would eat.
Susan lived around the block from me so I could get there fast and back to the kitten. I didn't want my parents to know about my secret kitten. Susan gave me a wax paper bag filled with food they kept in their garage. She wanted to know more but I told her it was a secret and I really needed to get home. I would tell her all about it later.

I can't say that I was prepared for the whole concept of having a pet to take care of. I had not ever taken any responsibilities with our dogs and now I had a helpless meowing kitten in a dress-up box. I set some of the food in the middle with the kitten and stared at it. I thought I would go inside and think about the free kitten later.

The poor kitten. It made it through the night though I hadn't thought of all the things you should do for a pet. Like water or a way for it to get out of the box to relieve itself. The next morning when I had the chance I went out to see the kitten. It was so cute and soft. I held it and gave it more food. I found a plastic teacup and gave it water. Then it popped into my head that this was not going to work. I could never keep this a secret. I could not keep this kitten. My mom would find out and I would be in serious trouble. I had to take the kitten back.

It was actually easier than I thought. I made it back to the house with the "Free Kittens" sign and knocked on the door just as I had the day before. The lady opened the door looking down at me with the kitten clinging to me. "What's wrong dear?"
The words I said fell out so quickly. Another lie. "My mom changed her mind. I can't have a kitten. She said I had to bring it back."
"Oh I am sorry. Here let me get her off your shirt."
I said goodbye. I turned and skipped down the steps and on down the street back home. I had had a free kitten. Maybe Susan can play today I thought. I will see if she is home.

Line broke, the monkey he choked
And they all went to heaven
In a little row boat.
Slap, Clap, Slap, Clap.


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