Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Horse Tails ~ Dub and Ilene

     Even though Antioch was a "Hell-Hole" I met some amazing people who came into my life while living there.  The two that became like foster parents to me were Dub and Ilene Freeman. They both were in their sixties and I had never met anyone like them  before in my life.  When after almost two months had past my horse Duke was finally brought from Salinas to the new town.  Dub and Ilene leased a 10 stall barn at the Antioch Fairgrounds where they kept their three Tennessee Walking Horses and boarded out the rest of the stalls.  The barn was divided by a long open corridor with stalls opposite each other.  The first two stalls had been converted into a tackroom on one side and their office opposite.

     Neither Duke or I had experienced such a clean, fresh smelling barn as this.  Our previous stable life was lacking in both.  Each stall had a thick rubber mat on the base of the floors with thick layers of pine shavings atop.  The stalls were cleaned twice a day, feedings of oat hay twice a day, alfalfa if the horse was being worked more and sweet grain as well.  I think Duke was in horse heaven.  The tack room was neat and tidy with plenty of brushes, hoof picks, shedding blades, and any other needs for grooming.  I could use mine or their's as it didn't matter as long as I put them away where they belonged when I was done.

     Dub was a long distance truck driver and went on the road for a week at a time for deliveries a couple of times a month.  They had a grown son who would come help clean and feed when he was away.  Dub was small of stature with a wiry body.  He had slightly bowed legs that seemed like he walked on the outsides of his feet.  His face was deeply lined and tanned as he spent a lot of time outside.  He greased his very dark hair  and I can still see him combing it back with a small black comb he kept in his back pocket.  He didn't wear a typical cowboy hat but a small crown and brimmed one of light brown.  He always wore a plaid Western shirt that he kept a pack of cigarettes in the front snap pocket.  His voice was deep and gravely and I am sure it was due to all the smoking he did.

     The first thing you noticed about Ilene was her pursed painted red lips.  Then you saw her carefully applied face makeup of bright blue eye shadow, mascara with blushed cheeks and a lightly powdered face.  Her face was wrinkled in a softly lined way and she never smiled a lot yet she was a sweet person through and through.  Her red brown hair was worn atop her head in a big round bun with short curly bangs.  I never saw her wear her hair any other way.  She wore slim stretch pants that zipped on the side with a small belt or Wrangler blue jeans and a neat Western woman's shirt tucked in.  She tucked her pants inside her boots.  She wasn't big but her small belly did stick out roundly from the high waisted pants she wore.   The both of them smoked constantly.  One cigarette would be almost done and they would light a new one right away.

     Ilene had a crock pot that she would bring from their home each morning with soup or chili ready to eat by noon.  They would always feed me.  I could never say no because it was always so good.  The office had a small portable heater so on cool days it was nice and warm inside.  A radio would be on a country station all the time and that must have been how I came to like old time country music.  On the white wood paneled walls were photographs of Dub riding his horses at Horse Shows and some ribbons he had won.  An old metal desk for writing on with a chair Ilene sat at, a small table where two chairs were and where we would eat at and which the crock pot sat on, Dub's chair (he was the only one who sat in that chair) which was nearest the door and some shelves with mugs, bowls, and odd items were.  There was a small refrigerator in the corner with the top being used for storage.   They just expected their boarders to eat there with them.  Dub would talk to me about Tennessee Walking Horses which I knew nothing about and I could listen to him for hours.  I learned more about horses from him than all the previous years of riding I had done.  He never said a harsh or mean word to me.  He fondly called me Hippie and after awhile I finally asked him why he called me that.  I thought it was because of the hippies since I wore my hair long, straight and in my face.  He told me that he called me Hippie because my hips were big!  I just about died and no longer liked the name.  Apparently all the good food Ilene was feeding me was adding to my weight.

     He taught me how to use the cross-ties in the barn, how to use hoof polish, and how to get my horse's coat to shine like a copper penny.  Dub taught me how to clean and take care of my tack.  He would get the saddle soap out and expect me to clean my saddle and bridle.  No other person had shown or told me that.  He taught me that if my horse had a foul smell in the hoof area while I was cleaning it that first of all it meant I wasn't cleaning them enough and second to pour a little bleach on it, swirl it around, then rinse with water, and it would help it heal up.  I didn't own a horse blanket but he had plenty and would put one on my horse in the winter.  It helped to keep the coat from getting long and wooly.  He taught me the importance of walking my horse after I had worked him when he was sweaty.  I would come back to the barn after walking all around the fairground barn areas and he would say keep walking he's not cooled off enough.  Sometimes he would throw a cooling sheet on my horse which seemed to speed the cooling off faster but most of all it kept your horse from getting a chill during the walking around.  He taught me how to use a lunge line to warm my horse up before riding and later to use two lunge lines hooked to the bit to train my horse while I walked a distance behind.  He was a wealth of knowledge that I am grateful to have learned from.

     Dub and Ilene's Tennessee Walking Horses were very tall.   My horse Duke looked like a pony next to theirs.  Tennessee Walkers stand higher on their front legs because of the thicker front shoes.  Dub also put weighted chains on the front legs while he was training them and they sat just above the hooves called the pastern.  He would rub some kind of oily substance like vaseline that protected that area of the leg.  I never saw his horses hurt, bloody, or abused.  Of course nobody does this anymore as it is considered cruel but that was very common at that time.  When you use the weighted chain in training it makes a horse have to work harder to lift their legs.  Once you take the chain off the horse, he lifts his legs even higher which accentuates the unique Walker action of high stepping.  He also would use a special wig piece on the top of the tail which gave the look of the tail being carried higher than a horse normally does when he had them in horse shows.  All his horses had very long manes and tails.  The tails were wrapped up to keep them from dragging on the ground and getting dirty.  He let me ride one of his horses once and it was like floating on air.  The action of movement was a gliding feel and you could cover a lot of ground because of their long legs and fluid movement.

     The lesson that Dub taught me that made the most impact though was not what I had expected nor was it one that would be called a typical horse lesson.  A friend of his had a mare in foal who came to stay at the barn to give birth.  She was a beautiful Quarter horse and to watch her walk around with her big belly was a treat for me.  To put my hand on her sides and feel the foal within kicking and moving was amazing to a 14 year old.  Dub had said if I was around I could watch as long as I was quiet and paid attention to what he said.  I hoped so much that it would be during the time of day I went to the barn.  One day I came and she had already had the foal early in the morning.  He was a  cute little guy with such wobbly legs.  My friends and I at the barn couldn't get enough of staring at the two of them.  Dub would tell us to leave them alone and take care of our own horses.  The day after the mare gave birth she started having a fever and not doing to well.  The vet came out and checked her and her baby.  I don't know what was said but it wasn't good news.  I later heard it was a uterine infection that happened after birth.  A couple of days later the mare died and her little foal an orphan.  I came to the barn to witness the hauling away of that beautiful mare.   I had never thought about this part of an animal's life cycle.  I had never thought what happens to a horse when it dies.  This large bed truck had a motorized wench chain that was wrapped around the horses back legs and reeled her into the bed of the truck.  I don't know how they got her out of the stall but I assume they had backed the truck into the barn and maneuvered her out of her stall into the corridor with the wench.  It was heartbreaking to say the least and every girl at the barn was in tears.  Dub was quietly talking to his friend who owned the mare and foal and it was agreed that the foal should stay at the barn and not be moved.  Ilene was quick to come up with a foal size blanket which they put on the little guy.   Being in school I wasn't around as much to see all the work it would take to keep this foal alive.  All the feedings I was not aware of.  Someone had to stay at the barn round the clock for awhile.  As awful as seeing the loss of the mare it was a delight to watch the foal grow.  Foals have lots of energy just like a kid and need exercise so as soon as he was strong enough they would take him out for walks around the fairgrounds.  He wore the cutest little halter and jumped, pulled, and tried to run in all different directions nickering and neighing the whole time.  He grew fast and soon enough it was time for him to leave.  We all were going to miss him.

     For awhile I kept thinking what if that had been my horse.  I couldn't imagine life without him as he was my best friend.  I had friends who had horses that had been hurt or had lameness but they got better and continued riding.  Not one had lost a horse to death.  Dub tried to explain in his way that these things do happen.  It wasn't expected of her to die.  No one could have known she would get an infection and not respond to the medication.  It came down to it that there was not much that could have been done.  At least the little foal was healthy and would be just fine.  I know Dub and Ilene had seen other horses pass on and though upset this had happened they quickly shifted to the care of the little foal.  How little did I realize that I would have to face a dark day in the months ahead.
Where is the beginning, and where is 
     the end?
That life should revolve in an
     endless circle,
As on a Merry-Go-Round that
     goes up and down.
What course does my life take?
     Do I give do I take?
Am I the recipient or the reciprocal?

As in a dance I twirl to see
     the rainbows,
I leap through the storms.
     This life, God given, is the bitter, is the sweet.
I will savor its fruit and
     feel it's passions.
These gifts I humbly partake of.
     I am blessed to feel.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lapse of Judgement

     I have been going through old photo albums that I had collected from my mom's house months ago.  They have sat in piles on my long wooden bench by my front door.  They are just waiting for me to open them to reveal stories that are familiar and stories I haven't a clue about.  Initially when I brought them home I scanned through them in a hasty way.  I knew if I committed to sitting down and really looking at the photos I would be there for a very long time.  All of Thanksgiving went by as well as Christmas and I didn't even move them out of the way.   I didn't have a good place for them as the closet that has other family albums in it was cluttered and disorganized.  It is a closet that I would like to get into but it really needs a good clean out which is a project for after the holidays, not during.  

     The holidays have past and I have no more excuses.  Bringing one album out at a time to the table I begin the slow task of dismantling them.  I am going to take out all the photos from these albums because they all are on magnetic pages.  What an awful invention those magnetic page albums are!  The photos stick like they have been glued onto the pages.  When I take them off it has to be done slowly and carefully or else the photo can tear.   Then there is the yellowing to the photos and sometimes ridges from the page that keep the photos in place is permanently imprinted on them.  They come off the pages curled and I place them in piles of  familiar faces or unknowns.  The unknowns I will throw away the others to be sorted by month and year.  I figure I will have to place a heavy book or two on them to remove the curl.  

     At first I systematically place them without really digesting the images.  It isn't till I notice that pages go by where I am not in any of these photos that I start to wonder why.  I thumb back through the piles I have made figuring that I have just overlooked myself but no, I am not in any.   I look through the pages ahead to see if I show up.  No.  I realize that this is when my mom is dating my future new stepfather to be, R.  The years of 1973 through 1974 is the album I am working on and these are their times dating together.  It brought back a lot of memories that even though I did remember, somehow seeing the photos reminds of when I was left alone as a young teenager while my mom and he dated.  It is the time I was left not for an evening, or a day but left for days as in two to seven days that troubled me most.  

My mom far left, R. with the beret and my love the far right at the helm 
(before we knew each other)

     Seeing page after page of what they were doing left me wondering if they knew what I was doing?  Did it matter that a 15 year old was left alone at home for all their times together?  What kind of parenting is that?  More than a few of these dates were when they would go sailing down the coast of California and one was of when they were out of state.  I am floored!  There were day trips as well but I was not included.  I can understand not wanting the teen daughter to tag along but really, if you are going to leave town you should think about what to do with her.  I would.   It was during their dating my Nana was not with us but had gone to visit her sister in the south.  I am sure she was not aware of the fact that I was left unattended.    Maybe it is good that I don't have  clear memories of how I handled taking care of myself but I guess I did the best I knew how. In fact I am sure that I was delighted that she had left me alone!  That doesn't mean it was the best solution though.   I was a mature young teen but more because I did have to take care of myself.  We did have a dear couple who lived downstairs from our apartment who I am sure kept a bit of an eye on me.  Yet I was getting myself to and from school which was an easy walk to home.  Did I cook?  I wasn't much of a cook except for desserts so what did I eat?  Whatever I could find I guess.  

     I don't know what my mom must have said to R. while they dated.  It wouldn't surprise me if she didn't tell him that I was alone.  I won't let myself be hurt or angry towards him.  I feel angry with my mom for not being a better parent to me.  That she would just leave me to go have a good time.   But what if something had happened?  There were no cell phones then and I sure don't remember her leaving me information of where she was at if I had needed to contact her.  

     I am a grown woman who shouldn't react in a childish way by holding onto the resentment of what she did.  Yet I do feel that I am entitled to mourn the loss of a normal childhood.  I do remember situations  I was put in that no 15 year old should have happen.  I also know I could have gone really wild which I didn't.  I did have some bit of judgement when it came to the wrongs I could have done.  I had my horse and a life at the stables where I could be safe and busy.  Thank God for my horse.  

R. and myself at the helm

     We moved to a new town in the Fall which was a much better community than where the "Hell Hole" was.  Out of an apartment into a townhouse all paid for by R.  That same year I started being asked to go sailing, meeting their friends at the Yacht Club and meeting his grown children.  They got married in September of 1974 and we moved to his townhouse in yet another town.  I went to a total of three high schools in three years.  I had a hard time keeping friends due to all the moving.  I came to think that having a solid friendship like when I was in grade school would never happen.   I also didn't let it happen.  All these peers at the various high schools had been friends for so long and came from normal backgrounds it appeared to me, what did I have?  What if someone asked about my life?  At school I was a warm and engaging friend but outside of school it was just my horse till I started dating my love.  It was not like anyone called to go hangout or go to a movie.  I made it clear I had a boyfriend who was older and we didn't do the high school dances or sport activities.  

     So where does this go in my heart?  How do I keep pulling these photos out, seeing my mom and R. with smiles on their faces, with people I did not know, going to places I would not see?   On one hand I feel that it is wonderful for my mom to have met the man of her dreams at long last.  That someone did sweep her off her feet.  Who wined and dined her.  It sounds romantic.  A happy ever after story for her.   On the other hand I feel sad about those years of not having my mom around to be a mother to me.  Every girl should have a mother who shares the values of being a woman, who listens to them when they are sad, who cares about what they do whether it is good or bad.  I know my mom was there but she was in a survival mode.  I know this to be true.  That is another story..... 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Sea...Birth...Life...

      It reaches towards me with it's powerful release, extending out and around me, drawing me in and in and in.  I close my eyes and can feel it without it touching me that it wants my thoughts, my soul, my heart.  Then it withdraws, almost silently with just the sand sizzling from the loss of the liquid life that has pulled away.  Just as you feel you want it back, even though its power frightens you, it comes back crashing loudly to let you know it's demands.  I give it what it wants and at the same time I am open to the peace the sea has given me.  How can it know me so well?  I am just a visitor, a mere woman amongst many who watch, swim, glide upon, and study it.  Yet it knows me in ways I never knew about myself.  It has taught me every time I have sat on the shore, walked on the beach, sailed upon the top rolling waters, or clambered upon rocks that hid secret pools with treasures from the deep for those of us who walk the land, to admire and question.

     Though I have never lived by the sea I visited it often as a child to have picnics at the beach with family or friend's families.  At any picnic, I always managed to grab a sandwich with sandy hands and make a unpleasant face when that first bite would give an unexpected crunch.  Ones hands would taste salty from filling a pail from the ocean while making a moat around a castle.  Collecting shells, sand dollars, and driftwood to decorate the outside, taking such concentration to finish yet knowing the sea would take it back.  It's a sacrifice gladly given since this place does not belong to us but to the sea.  

     The sound of the sea speaks to me.  This unknown voice that drowns out my thoughts sometimes and at other times helps me to understand my thoughts.   It seems to know what I need without hesitation.  It's endless song that I never tire of.  Every once in awhile a sudden crash of a wave awakens me from my inner thoughts as though to remind me I don't belong with the sea.  I am merely visiting for a time.  I wondered if when we moved farther away from the sea it would remember our times together.   

     I have a fear of the ocean from trying to ride waves as a young teen.  I had felt so good when I jumped through the waves out a short distance to wait for a incoming wave.  My friends and I laughing and enjoying ourselves.  Yet it was like the sea needed to remind me I wasn't from her and to remember I am just a simple child that may have forgotten the respect the sea needs.  The wave came like the others but I wasn't prepared and was pushed to the bottom and tumbled around before she spit me out onto the beach.   My suit was filled with sand. My mouth was filled with salty sea water which I spit back out at the sea.  My heart was racing and I was scared.  Had the sea tried to take me or save me?  From that day I was guarded around water and stopped riding the waves.  I didn't want that to happen again.   I would walk the shores and splash in the gentle waves but that was it.   

     The sea came to me when I when I was in labor with my second child.   I felt the sea rise up in me as my body gave rise to the waves of contractions that brought me back inside my thoughts of fear.  Like riding waves I feared the fall and what would happen to me.  My midwife, Peggy saw that fear and rode the waves with me.  Her voice helping me to trust my body and ride with abandon.  Her voice telling me "Down and out, down and out" which I did.   To be open and let go.  As long as I could hear her voice I didn't feel alone.  If my eyes closed she was there to pull me back from the place where fear begins.   She led me to where I could feel my own power and to trust my body.  I was on a journey quite different from my first born child.  This one I rode atop of,  feeling emotions that I had never had before.  My love rode with me as well though he could not see the waves that tried to swallow me.  Peggy would be on one side of me and he on the other, their voices softly urging me to see the nearness of my child within who soon would be in my arms.  I spoke words occasionally that made no sense to those in the room, my mind wanting me to flee this moment.  Can I escape?  The pull of the waves constant in their response to my thoughts gave me two waves back to back.  How could I do this?  My fellow wave riders brought my thoughts back to the present.  Let it go.  Trust your woman's body that through the ages each woman giving birth has done.  

     The last wave came and then there was calm.  A peace for me to see what I had longed for.  A time to collect my thoughts and prepare for the best wave to come.  My child, after living in an ocean all her own, would leave my protective womb to slide into our world of light and air.  To feel her descent and rotation as she slipped into our hands so open and ready to hold.  Upon my breast she was laid where the warmth of her small body melted with mine.  Her buttery vernix spread upon me, the last of her sea world, as our hearts blended into a new harmony.  I was in a lagoon of joy.  I marveled at her seashell ears so softly shaped.  Her small toes, her feet, her dainty fingers and hands that had swam, kicked, and fluttered inside me just a short time ago.  Would she remember in some inner place those rocking lullabies I sang to her while I held my swollen belly?  Now we rock on a chair while I sing more lullabies to her.  We rock on a gentle sea of mother and child where her small hand lays upon my breast.  Her fingers gently hold mine while we both are lulled into our own world together once more as one.  

     The sea will always be there in my life.  With each birth of my next daughter and son it called to me.  I knew I could rise above the relentless waves that tried to toss me about and throw me off my course.  Peggy's voice, my love's touch guided me along.  Yes, even when Peggy wasn't at our son's birth she was there.  The sea echoed her voice to me knowing this was a time I needed her.  

     As the years have drifted on and I have had other visits to the seashore.   I once again have time to listen and to be heard.  I found myself to feel so free on a recent trip where I watched my two sweet nephews plunge into the gentle waves near the shore.  They threw long-tailed looking seaweed about with giggles of glee which the wind blew down the beach.  They danced in and out of the swirl of water that tried to lull them closer to the pounding waves, but they danced back to shore.  Running, ever running without a care just as I had done as a child.  Only the third brother, a wee little toddler, felt the fear of the sea as it played games with his brothers.  I watched his careful movements to the water's edge, his turning away from the cold, chilly water.  Not ready, not yet.  He chose to be farther up on the sand where the water does not touch.  I want to tell him "Henry, it's okay, your time to jump and run will be here soon enough."  The day passes by with the wind sending sea breezes blowing through our hair, the kiss of the sun upon us as soon enough the winter days would be here.   Sand clings to our toes in hopes we bring some back to our cozy beds to leave a bit of grit and sparkles on our sheets.  Our dreams will be of waves, birds, boats bobbing on top of the water, and the laughter of a day filled with fond memories.  The pleasure of knowing we will come back and play again.  

     There are times I think I would like to live by the sea and walk the shore anytime I wanted to.  To look for the treasures that I may find along the way.  To watch the birds with spindly legs who run in and out from the lapping waves.   To listen to myself and the thoughts that wash over me.  I ask, "Will you listen to all that I say to you for as long as it takes?"   And  the ocean calls out, "Tell me, I am here."   

~   I dedicate this to my dear Peggy and my niece Shannon for the lessons of life you both have shared with me.  Thank you....I love you both.   ~




Friday, January 15, 2010

Horse Tails ~ Pat

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady upon a white horse
With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes
and she shall have music wherever she goes

     The first horse I ever owned  I never rode.  I don't know what possessed my parents to buy her, but to me my dream had come true.  Pat was an older Palomino but not a kids horse.  Apparently my parents didn't understand how to choose a horse for a beginning rider let alone ask for advice.  When I first saw Pat she was at a tumble down, junk strewn ranch.  Old tractors, piles of old fencing, rusty wire coiled and smashed against the barn were scattered around the property.  There were other horses boarded here in corrals along with chickens, goats and cows.  The corral fences were gnawed upon by the horses over the years giving them a look that made you wonder if the horses could bust threw them easily if they wanted.  The feed troughs were in the same condition made from old plywood.  You could hear the banging of hooves against them by the horses and goats waiting for their next feeding.  

     Pat was a tall mare and in my eyes she looked like Roy Rogers's horse Trigger.  My imagination soared thinking of our future rides together.  She walked around lazily with chickens running from under her hooves as she came towards us.  I had a bag of carrots in one hand and a carrot at the ready in my other hand.  My ten year old height gazing up at this huge horse while I smiled from ear to ear.  Her muzzle eagerly reaching out for the carrot which she bit ever so gently and immediately reached for the remaining half.  Then she blew out and breathed me in, looking for another carrot.  I reached up with my empty hand to pet her forehead down towards her nose.  That was what I did with Pat.   My stepfather would bring me every once in awhile for me to feed carrots to her.

     We eventually moved her to a ranch on Old Stage Road out in the rolling countryside of Salinas at the base of the Gabilan Range mountains.  We had a man ride her to the new ranch who appeared to be the only one who could ride her.  Here she had a large open pasture to run on with and a couple of donkeys for friends.  Out here there were Red Wing Blackbirds singing on the telephone wires and on the fences.  You could hear the hum of those wires so distinctly. It was so quiet and peaceful.   It was a wonderful place to run around on even if I didn't get to ride.   I was still taking riding lessons just down the road never knowing that I would not get to sit on her back.  

     It wasn't long after that she took to escaping her new home.  A bit of a Houdini and a jumper.  Maybe it was because she had room to run around in without obstacles that encouraged her to take flight over the fence.   I would hear about this from time to time since the property owners would call and tell us they had to go and bring her back.  Finally the suggestion came that we should hot wire the fence line.  What a job.  My stepfather and I went to the hardware store and bought bags of  porcelain insulators, wire and of course the  charger.  We spent the day out there with him putting the system together.   I ran around just happy to be in the country.  We figured this would work.  She wouldn't escape and for a time she didn't.   Same day that he is working and I am running around pretending to be a horse I guess, I get too close to her while she is running around.  Blam!  I am down on the ground in a split second gasping for air for what seems like forever till I can inhale.  I have been kicked in the diaphragm and the air knocked out of me.  I lay there not knowing what happened.  I couldn't yell so that my stepfather could hear me.  At last I got up.  Pat had resumed grazing without a bit of guilt as to what she had done.  I learned a valuable lesson when running around with a horse running around as well.  I had learned not to walk behind a horse at my riding lessons but like a child you forget lessons you learn.

     For her next trick she somehow fell into the septic tank at the ranch.  How she did this unclear to me.  The septic tank was not in the pasture but near the house on the property.  Turned out to be a good place for her to do this since it made it easier for when a tow truck had to be called to get her out.  Can you imagine when the tow truck driver arrived to find out what needed to be done?  Thankfully it all went well.  She wasn't thrashing or getting out of control.  She was just stuck.  Smelly but unhurt, she was rescued from the tank.    I think my parents were getting to wonder what they had gotten themselves into by acquiring this horse.  The owners of the property had to be tired of this mare who did nothing but get into trouble.  A suitable buyer was found soon thereafter and that was the end of my having a horse for the time being.  It didn't stop me from wanting another one though.  I kept up my longing and vocal wishes to my parents.  I had hope that they would give in if I just was patient and persistent.  



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Big Brother

     My brother is five years older than I am.  We shared a room together till I was in second grade.  Even still I spent plenty of time with him after we had our own rooms.  He was there for his little sister and I looked up to him.  I may have played with dolls but I was more happy being a little tomboy.   Maybe that is why he wasn't mean to me.  Maybe I was more like a little brother.  When we shared a bedroom together it was done in a boy style.  We had a trundle bed of rustic blonde wood with a matching dresser.  The prints on our bedspread and curtains were a large plaid of dark colors.  There was a rocker as well.  Nothing girly in that room.

     One birthday Gene received as a gift a model of Frankenstein.   After he put it together he set it in on our dresser.  I was scared of that model with the red eyes and creepy face.  I felt like it was watching me.  It gave me nightmares staring down at me in my bed.  It later was placed on the top shelf of our closet where the door could be closed.  More of the toys in the room were of his which I didn't mind, like model airplanes and cars.

     He taught me many board games that we played together.  I don't remember him getting mad at me if I didn't understand the game.  The only game I had trouble with and didn't enjoy playing was Stratego.  I just didn't get it or enjoy it.  Another game he did was to set up playing cards at the end of our hall like houses which he could even get to go two stories high.   Once the cards were set he would go back aways and shoot them down with rubber bands.  He taught me how to do this as well.  Simple times together.  

     We both liked anything cowboy.  I was into anything that involved cowboys because of the horses they rode.  I loved horses!  Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and Zorro were a big hit with us.  He had several cowboy birthday parties where we would get dressed up with cowboy hats and boots.  Our little 45 record collection of music in our room was country tunes which I only wish I still had.  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans being my favorite.  

     To me my brother was my protector.  As long as he lived at home he seemed to look out for me.  I didn't always like that but he took on the big brother role with purpose.  He was a focused student and always did well in school.  He was actively involved with the youth group at our church and he enjoyed  singing  with the "Up With People" group.  He played piano for awhile and then went on to playing guitar.   He played baseball, did swim team for the high school and also was big into Boy Scouts.  He and our stepfather spent hours building model airplanes which then they would fly.  To me he could do anything and do it well.   I on the other hand failed with piano, struggled with school, was bored with youth group at our church, and didn't do swim team let alone know how to swim.  I somehow lived in his shadow.   I didn't resent him though at all.  I did wish however that someone would notice my interests like they noticed his.  When Gene wanted to learn how to fly sailplanes the whole family would drive to Fremont so he could do this.  Yet only Bill, my stepfather, would go when I took horseback riding lessons.  My mother never went. 

     When my brother was accepted into the Air Force Academy after high school I lost my protector.  He left in the summer after graduation and never moved back home or to California after that.  His visits were scheduled like leaves from the Military.  Not long or frequent.  My parents paid little attention to me but rode on the coat tails of pride in their son being accepted into such a prestiges school.  I had hit the rough, rebellious age of 13 and wasn't exactly a happy teen.  Another year and half later my parents marriage ended.  Another man left my life.  My brother while not abandoning us was out of my life due to his commitment of duty with the Air Force.   Bill left us and my life without a glance back.  I was left with my mother and grandmother but most of the time I was just left alone. My grandmother visited her sister often and my mom went back to work.  We lived in an apartment in a town I hated.  All I had was my horse.  Thank God I had my horse.  I cried into his neck and mane many a time.   My lifeline to normalcy was hanging out at the barn at the fairgrounds daily.  I forgot about family life the way it use to be.  I forgot about my brother except for when he could visit.

     Life did eventually improve.  Those rough years past on to better days for all of us.  A new marriage for my mom, then my brother married and then I married as well.  There were times we didn't always agree and I am sure there will be more times we won't but I do know I have a big brother who is in my life.  He has a different way of seeing things than I.  I react with a lot of emotion whereas he is more analytical.  He is still learning about the little sister he left when he went off to college.  I changed a lot during his years away as well he did too.  He left me just as I was becoming a young woman.   We each carried our pains of what happened when Mom divorced Dad and when she and Bill divorced.  His more different than mine.  He became more devout as a Christian and I became less so.  We each have a large loving family, he with three boys and I with three girls and then my one son.  We both hit the jackpot with spouses and have stayed married to them, he 34 years and I 32 years.  I believe we both had the same desire with our marriages, that we would marry for life and have stability for our children.  We both have moved around a lot when it comes to homes yet we have each lived the longest in our current homes.  The best thing my mom did do was see to it that our families got together once a year since my brother lived out of state.  It was a way for our children to get to know each other and to reconnect as a family.  Looking back I appreciate that more and more.  For all the difficulties of her as our mother, on those trips we were able to build good memories.  I don't know had she not planned this how often it would have happened that we would all be together.  

     My brother and I are bound together just like most siblings, yet we each carry the confusion, the mystery, and of present the aging of our mother. Because I live near my mom I have become the liaison of her health.  Her denial of her health makes every detail of wanting to help her difficult.  How could we be her children I have asked myself.  We who love without conditions to our family, who support our children and their interests, who want our children to not have secrets or taboo topics with us.  I wonder what personality traits are carried on from our parents at birth.  Am I like my dad?  Am I like my mom?  I don't think I am either but I am choosing to be me.  Not someone I can't identify with.  Does my brother wonder this too?  I can see my big brother when we are little kids.  We may not have been close in age but he took the time to be loving towards me.  One of the sweet memories is of him trying to teach me to drive his brand new Firebird with a stick shift.  He took me to the mall's parking lot when it was quiet and no other cars around.  So patiently he tried to teach me yet I stalled it out constantly.  He never got mad or said forget it.  He just was there, calmly letting me learn while we shared time before he went back to school.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ice and a Needle: Southern Rule #2

     The ice on my earlobe is dripping down my neck and the pain on my lobe makes me pull the ice away.  Heidi is telling me to keep the ice on there so it will get numb.  I put it back on the front of my earlobe and every so often switch to the back.  We're laughing and talking like any 13 year old's would.   About boys and friends.   

     Here I am at one of the coolest girl's house from school.  She has invited me to spend the night and I am just feeling so lucky.  Her bedroom is huge and she has her own bathroom.  Her bedroom is twice the size of my parents bedroom!  Heidi is beautiful.   Long dark brown hair with these big brown eyes.  Really white teeth and an incredible smile.  Her family doesn't seem to hover over her perhaps because she is the youngest with brothers.  I feel like the ugly duckling next to her but I am so happy she has invited me over.

    Heidi wonders if I want my ears pierced.  I tell her my mom won't let me.  She asks why, whats wrong with pierced ears?  Heidi offers to pierce them.  My mom doesn't need to know.  I can hide them.   It doesn't take me long to say yes.  Heidi goes and gets some ice and brings it back to her room.  We have music playing on the record player and she is telling me how she will be doing it.  I need to keep the ice on my ear till they feel really numb.  She finds a sewing needle and some matches.  She is telling me that once my ear is numb that she will light the match and run the needle through it.   That's to sterilize it.  Then she will poke the needle through my ear.  Once that is done she will leave the needle in for a short time and then put an earring on afterwords.  

     Heidi has lots of of earrings.  Long dangling earrings with small beads that look so hippy like.  I want to be a hippy.  If this will get me closer to that status then I will do it.  I want to be cool.  I want to dress like the rest of the cool girls.  She finds some small posts that I will wear for a month till my ears have healed then I can wear any kind of earrings I want after that.  

     I think my ear is quite numb now.  She has marked my ear with a pen so she will know where to put the needle through.  I am a bit scared as I don't like needles.   Then she does it.  I do cry out but then she is done.  My ear feels hot and is pounding but not as bad as the numb feeling.  I don't know how many ears Heidi has pierced but she doesn't seem to think anything of it.  We have to wait now for my other ear to be numb.  She puts the post in the ear while we wait.  I can't believe that now I too will have pierced ears.  All my girlfriends have pierced ears and none of their mom's minded.  What is the big deal?

     The next day when I go home I walk in the door hoping to not see my mom.  I wear my long hair parted down the middle and covering my ears quite well.   So far so good.  It's not like my mom and I sit face to face much or talk if I can help it.  Except for dinner where we all sit together.  The first day I am fine but the second day at dinner I am caught.   She wants to know what I have on my ears.  I tell her there is nothing there.  She persists and then pulls my hair away.  The posts are plain to see.   She is livid.  I am told to take them out, right now!  I am sent to my room, which is a common event at my age.  When all else fails send Ellen to her room.  Grounding was a weekly deal as well.  My mom must have eyes everywhere!   

     I come up with a great idea.  When I leave the house I put the earrings right back in.  When I am home I take them out.  Heidi tells me it will take longer to heal taking the earrings off and on like that and to use alcohol to keep them clean so they don't get infected.  So this is what I do.  This plan works for a week till one day I come home from school and I forgot to take the earrings out.  Busted!  I said she was livid before, well now she is furious with me.  My lesson is I can't fool my mom and get away with it.  I should know this but I keep trying to outwit her.  I stop wearing the earrings and just keep asking her when I can get them pierced.  If I do this long enough maybe she will give in.

     Southern rule about pierced ears.  Pierced ears are what cheap women do.  I guess she is telling me that my friends with pierced ears are cheap women in the making.  No proper young lady wears them.  Clip on earrings are fine and I can wear those.  They don't make cool earrings that clip on!  What hippy wears clip on earrings?  This is the logic I received from my mom.  Looking back at it I can understand her feelings that way based on her upbringing.  She wasn't seeing that styles and opinions had changed or attitudes towards them as well.  For her there was no reasoning of this issue.  When I was 15 she finally relented and let me get them pierced.  It was done by the doctor she worked for who did it in his office.  Yes, at that time you went to a professional to have it done.  Anyone else and there would be problems.  If you look at my ears you can see where Heidi pierced my ears as the holes never fully closed.  It bothers me that the doctor didn't do it in the same place or check to see if an earring would go through the first holes.  My victory was won and proved that one could have pierced ears and not be a floozie.  My mom never did come to approving of them but she stopped arguing with me on this.  Of course I was allowed to only wear small hoops of gold.  Not the kind that dangle.  That came soon enough though.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Southern Rules

     I could never have survived living in the south.   I have lived in the very liberal state of California almost all my life and I would have broken every Southern rule that existed in the unwritten book every good Southern girl knows forwards and backwards.  They were taught all this from day one when they were born.  From the moment my mom was picked up and held she became the Southern Belle that one reads about.   It is not to say my mom didn't do something wrong in her youthful days.   Yes, I am sure she too tested her Mama and Daddy but she did it with a sweet Southern smile when she apologized. 

     When I was a young teen in the 70's my mother became   overly concerned about who I was having as a friend.  I knew that when I brought someone over the first thing she would say after she would say "Hello" would be "And who are your people?".   None of my friends could understand this "Who are your people" deal.   What does that mean?  The next thing she would say as my friend would look at me in question not knowing what to say would be "And what does your father do?".  Now that they could answer.  

     For some reason these are important answers to know.  It tells a lot about that person as to "Who are your people".   It means where do they come from or are they from a long line of old family from the south.  I have been in a department store ladies room and my mom would hear someone with a Southern accent and she would ask "Are you from south?".   Nine times out of ten they would be from some southern state.  If they were from Alabama that would be exactly what would be asked after that.   "Who are your people?".   I would listen to my mom ask "Do you know so and so?".   Then they would ask "Do you know the so and so's from Montgomery?".  I was amazed at the connections of the Southern relations!  There was always some family they could connect with or know.

     I can only assume that where you come from is a very important thing to know.  It must be like what station in life you are from.   Pity someone from the wrong area or wrong family.  I never learned the purpose of knowing this and the need to ask this with my friends.  I would usually get around to asking in a conversation where a person lived.  It just didn't sound like the way my mom would do it.  Hers was said in such an important way.  Mine was casual but it was more of a way to develop a friendship and I certainly didn't ask the personal way of "Who are you people"!

     The rudest question was  "What does your father do?".  What kind of thing is that to ask someone?  Apparently that too is an important thing to know.   I guess if your father did not have in important job they may not be a suitable friend to have.  I for the life of me cannot see the importance of that.  Yet to my mom that was what she asked.  Believe me she did try to steer me away from some of my friends upon finding them less than what she wanted for her daughter.  The higher vocation one's parent was the happier she would be.  She would be so polite and gratuitous  when they came over.  Without asking me she would invite them to do something with the family.  This was my friend, not hers!  She made it hard to want to bring friends over with her inquisitiveness and suspiciousness.  My friends thought her stiff, formal and she made them uncomfortable.  If I was not to bring a friend over and she had not met them then she would have to talk to their parent on the phone before I went over.  

     The Southern ways never leave you even if you move away.  Her southern accent did disappear oddly.  I can't remember her having it while I was growing up.  My Nan's stayed till she passed away.  My mom tried hard to instill her Southern upbringing in me and some I do have and I do like.  These though were the top of the list of insane.


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