Friday, November 28, 2014

A Christmas Story for you, Jake's Tumbling Tree

I have drawers full of children's stories I have written, some published on Kindle, but most with a stack of rejection notices. This one was prompted by an incident my sis told me about her son, who is now all grown up. So here it is: He flew across the room, like a tumbleweed in the wind. At the window, he stopped, his velvet brown eyes twinkling, half hidden under a shock of straight auburn hair. His bright red snowsuit gave him a rounded look, like a bouncy rubber ball. Jake was so excited! How he wished Mom and Dad would hurry. They'd never get to Grandma's at this rate. He could just see it now, the tree, sparkling with red and gold trim. And the special lights that play Christmas Carols. And under the tree, piles of gaily wrapped gifts. "Ohhhhhhhhh, do please hurry," he thought, hopping from one foot to the other trying not to burst. It seemed forever before Mom and Dad loaded all the gifts and food into the car. Finally, they were on the way. Jake hummed to himself and watched the snowy fields zip by. It took a very long time to get to Beatrice, where Gram lived. And then, there it was. The dear little white house with blue trim. In the windows, electric candles burned brightly. Out of the car he bounded, and up the walk he flew. Grandma was waiting at the door. He was still small enough to be scooped up and hugged like a teddy bear. Jake was quickly out of his snowsuit and off the see the Christmas tree and all the gifts. His nose crinkled, he could smell turkey baking. Very soon , it was time for dinner. The table looked like a giant Christmas gift, all red and green with gold trim. Even the spoons and forks were gold. Candles twinkled like magic stars all up and down the table. Jake hardly tasted his food. He was dreaming of all those gifts under the tree, just waiting to be opened. When it seemed he could wait no longer, dinner was over and everyone moved to the living room. This year Jake was four years old, he could open gifts all by himself. Wrapping paper and bows soon littered the floor. Jake got a big yellow truck, a game and some books. How he loved story books. There was a lumpy red sock, full of candy, apples, crayons and small toys. Jake lay on the floor, holding his truck and listening to the jingle bell lights play Silent Night. He reached out his hand to touch a green ball. It was smooth and shiny. Suddenly, the tree was moving. And then it was on top of him. It fell right over! Nothing hurt, and the grown ups were picking up the tree and checking him over. At first, he felt like crying, but instead he began giggling. That tree really like him. It came right down to see him and his gifts. Soon the tree was back in place, as sparkling as ever. Everyone had a good laugh. Jake would remember this Christmas for a long time, his Christmas of the tumbling tree. Merry Christmas to all

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Texas and Baby #Two

By the time we were expecting our second baby, we had been transferred to a base at Wichita Falls Texas, further south. But we still got snow, I remember it covering the car and everything else in sight a few times. The summers were HOT to say the least, and I spent a good deal of my time walking , towards the end of the pregnancy, every day. We met so many people at each base, good friends we kept in touch with for many years. Regretfully I have lost touch with them all now. Some I met in the hospital, after the birth of babies, we all had common ground and spent time watching our babes grow up. We had good times and met some wonderful folk along the way. We had some neighbors who would do anything for you, and did when they could. Their trailer was rather dirty as they had dogs that would be in heat and mess up the floors, and she never scrubbed. When our second was born, Dick left Doug with them while he took me to the hospital, I had him go home as soon as possible, knew they were kind and caring but was antsy about Doug being on their floors. Another neighbor had kids that would take our children's books off the shelf and tear out the pages. Mom said, "oh , isn't that cute, they are reading." I had taught our kids to treasure books and treat them carefully so was a bit upset about her attitude. Our second baby was due in July, about my dad's birthday, the 16th. Back then, there was no induced labor, if you were late, you were late. The summer dragged on and I was miserable from the heat and being so late, I walked and walked. Finally, on the 17th of August, little miss Laurie was born. She was big for me, weighed almost 9 pounds. But so pretty. And we were pleased to have a boy and a girl, now I could do ruffles. I did too, all those cute little dresses that she wore, lacey and poofy. She looked like a little doll. Her first year she grew slowly, only weighing about 20 pounds when she was a year old, so little she could walk right under tables. But she was fine, just small boned and petite, still is. I had a tough delivery and they wanted me to wait awhile before considering another child. Back then, no pills, not many options, and they offered me one that did not work. So not far down the line, we had number three on tap, and now we were not caring if it was a boy or a girl as we had one of each, so either would be wonderful, as long as good health came with it. We stayed in Wichita Falls til David arrived, another perfect little guy. Three kids under four years old was a handful, and we were young, I was barely 21 when I had all of them. We grew up together, and it was a ball, so glad I had so much energy back then. Wish I could grab on to some of it now. Laurie and Dave were born on the 17th and the 16th of August, barely one year apart, and lots of folk thought they were twins. When Dave was one, he and Laurie were about the same size. Life was good, days were full. And again, we moved. This time to Chanute Air Base in Illinois. By now the kids were all in school, I was room mom, teaching Sunday School, and heading up scout troops but still had time on my hands. One Sunday our preacher had a sermon about leaving our footprint in the sand. Funny, a few days later I saw an ad in the paper for foster parents and the desperate need. An omen. We signed up and started yet another journey.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Texas, the first years

When you live in one place all your life, moving across the country is like going to a foreign land. I grew up in Nebraska, with only one trip out of state, to the Dakotas for our one family vacation. We drove across Kansas, Oklahoma, and into the top of Texas, our base was in Amarillo. The dirt was sandy and red, there were critters, funny things call horned toads, snakes, things I was not used to. I thought my mom would like the toads so I fixed a cardboard box, put bugs and a dish of water in it, and mailed it. Silly me, thought the Post Office would keep it right side up and be gentle with it. Mom opened a box with dead toads in it of course. We moved into a tiny 8 by 25 mobile home. Front room and kitchen combined, bedroom with a bathroom in a closet. But it was our first home and a special place. I cleaned and tried to cook, had many disasters there, including a pyrex dish of beans I baked that exploded. Meat was confined to spam as the frig was a tiny thing with no freezer or storage space for much more than milk and eggs and margarine. Air Force pay was not much, I remember my allotment check was $57.00 a month which needed to cover food and some utilities. We had frequent dust storms, coming from the north and blowing red dirt from Oklahoma in so thick it was hard to breathe, we hung wet towels over the windows to catch as much dust as possible. After the polio I had been told I would not be able to have kids, nothing inside was in the right place due to muscle damage so we were very surprised a few months after we were married to find out I was expecting. Our house was way too small for a family of more than two, so we went looking for a cheap solution. Found a burned out trailer really cheap, and Dick refinished the inside. It was much longer, maybe 50 feet so felt much bigger. We got it fixed and moved into a trailer court outside of town. By the time that first baby was due, it was mid February and we were snowed in. I remember Dick being panicked and trying to shovel a way to the base, in "case". Snow plows did the job, and we got to the hospital in plenty of time for the arrival of Doug, our first precious baby . I remember trying to make tiny blue jeans, back then they were not a buyable item. I made tiny felt cowboy boots and a fringed white shirt for him to complete the out fit, he was such a cutie. His dad did not like to be bothered in the night so I had a big job keeping him quiet, one night I grabbed a gallon jug of milk from the frig with one hand and dropped it on my toes, breaking most of them. We had a dog, a border collie named Judy, that adored Doug. She would sit by his bassinet, and if he stirred at all, she came and got me. I could put him outside in the sun and she would sit right beside him and guard him. I don't know what happened to her, but she was a great dog, really nice pet. Before long, Doug was walking and talking and guess what, baby number two was on the way.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

High School Years

I loved high school. We got to choose elective classes which was wonderful, I always picked choir or chorus,and orchestra and art classes, and English classes like creative writing. The first couple of years were pretty normal, by junior year things changed. The summer before I had met a cute fella that lived down the street, first major crush. Of course he totally ignored me. By summer, I had passed my life saving tests for swimming and was teaching a class at the YWCA. So I rode my bike there in the morning, then out to College View, a suburb of Lincoln, to help my grandparents with lunch. Then home, and by evening I baby sat with the neighbor kids til late evening. So when junior year started, I was pleased to have tap dancing as my elective sport, and debate for English, neat teachers, fun classes , all was just about perfect. until the day I got a blinding headache at school. Not something I ever had. Went home and to bed. A few days later, went to the bathroom and could not get up off the toilet so had to call mom for help. They found I was running a high fever. The diagnosis was polio, which was at that time a big epidemic. The hospitals were full so the folks set up a hospital bed in the living room and kept me there. The first 6 weeks required laying on boards to keep my back straight, real comfy but better than the next step, hot packs devised by Sister Kenny. Mom would put them in the pressure cooker, pick them up with tongs and put them on my back to loosen it up. In a few days they stopped that as it was boiling my blood. Therapy was no picnic either, after things have not moved for months, they don't want to. But we worked at it. In the mean time I was doing classes at home with an intercom system. I got to talk to the kids at school and take part in classes. We had an exchange student from Belgium that year, he came to the house to see who was on the other end of the box, nice meeting him. His name was John and his uncle was royalty in his country. Well, the year went on, and one day I heard the doc tell mom they were going to get a wheelchair and help me learn to get around with that, the legs were not doing too well. I was not happy about that, and my sisters started coming down at night and helping me stand up by the bed. When the doc came back and saw I could do that, they fitted me with a long leg brace and crutches and I became mobile again. Sort of. At least by fall I could do well enough to go back to school. So my senior year, dad went back to high school to get his GED. We graduated together at Pine Wood Bowl. About half way through the year in Chemistry class, I got to know a kid named Dick. I was walking to school and home, about 18 blocks, carrying books and my violin. So when he pulled up beside me one afternoon and asked if he could take me home, I said yes. We started dating, what sort of dating we were allowed then, which was visiting each others houses for supper with parental watching. Plus 2 sisters that hung over the bannister and giggled at us. By the end of the year, we were talking about a future. I started to the U of N, and he went off to basic training in the Air force. College was a challenge, lots of distance between buildings, and I was not fast enough to get to class on time. I struggled the first semester, and dropped out. No motorized wheelchairs of accommodations for handicapped were available then. After a short time, I found a job at a new store opening in down town Lincoln, and rode the bus to work everyday, that was a fun job, at Hested's Jr department store. And I had a paycheck, which was helping put away money for a wedding and future. But down the road a few months, I fell going down the stairs to their basement and crunched the metal brace into my ankle, messing it up big time. Took a big cast to make it start healing. So I was married when Dick came home on leave and I wore a white cast with my white wedding dress. It was still a nice wedding, have pictures stashed away to this day. After the wedding, we loaded up the car and headed to our first base, in Amarillo Texas.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Big House on Q

Four of us fit nicely into the little house on N street, loved the big yard and the neighborhood, but with baby 3 on board, the tiny bedrooms left no where to go. Not sure how we got so lucky, but found a big house on the corner of 29th and Q. Back to 1/2 block from Gram and my Aunt and Uncle and family. There was no yard to speak of, just the space between house and street front and side and to the other side, a neighbor. But the house had a big porch, nice for sitting on hot days. As you went in, the hallway had a big bench seat and a stairway up to a landing, then another stairway down to the kitchen or on up to the bedrooms. The windows were leaded glass, quite fancy. The living room was big and opened to a large dining room. And a big kitchen to the side of that. That's all there was to the main floor, but we gained 3 upstairs bedrooms, a basement and an attic for storage. Brick sidewalks made for fun roller skating, you could create weird noises while bumping over the bricks while humming. The night my youngest sis was born, dad packed us into the car with mom in labor and headed to the hospital. He left us with windows cracked and doors locked and instructions to stay put and quiet til he returned. He just took long enough to get mom in side and settled then took us to our Aunt's house. She put us to bed, but in the night came in to tell us we had a sister named Pamela. When mom and Pam got home, we could not get near her as she had picked up impetigo in the hospital, so we had to gaze from a distance the first few weeks. Was so good when we could finally hold her. Those were my junior high and high school years, Whittier being the junior high. I did so want a bike but back then we had to earn our own things so I spent a year baby sitting and doing odd jobs til I saved up $20 for the bike. Dad took me shopping and we found an old green one in decent shape and took it home. What freedom, I rode all over the place with the wind in my hair., loving every minute. The one time I got smart and did a "look, no hands" ride, I hit gravel, came down on my behind and got a rear end full of gravel pieces. We had DPs or displaced person students then, and I remember a Latvian student named Carlos. We got to be acquainted and he spent time at the house, mostly playing ping pong. Back then people came to the US because they wanted to be citizens and take on our way of life. We never locked doors, and roamed the area all day as long as we were home on time for meals. One car per family was the norm, and the dad drove it to work leaving the rest of us to walk wherever we needed to go. We had a long walk to school, and did it no matter the weather. Snow days were rare, NE is always snowy in the winter. And no cell phones to check in with. The year I was 13, my gram got sick. She got cancer, likely from all the chemicals used in her beauty shop. She let it go too long, and even after surgery could not get better. Mom moved her to our house, we put a bed in the dining room and cared for her til her death. I had thought of being a nurse, but after those 6 months, I could not face the thought of watching people die. Gram was so close to me, I took it really hard and got sick myself after the funeral. She was a great lady. I thought she was much younger, she always had her hair fixed and looked so nice, and the year she was 76 she climbed a ladder and painted the outside of her big house, so I thought she was about 50. When mom told me she was in her late 70s I found it hard to believe. I had a penchant for stray cats dogs and people, was always dragging home something that needed(in my eyes) caring for . Don't know how mom put up with all that, we always had an odd cat or so around. Brought home a scruffy yellow kitten I named Pat, he got hit by a car which I didn't know til years later. I looked and looked for him, then one day my Aunt brought me a kitten that had a pedigree, a Persian. I named him after my dad's brother, Peter Wiser Bockoven Jr. He lived with us many years, always getting in fights and coming home beat up. Back then we didn't keep pets in the house much. Before I could think, I was high school age and the last chapter of life at home began.