Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Butterflies and Memories Part 1

I have decided that memories are quite a lot like butterflies. Some flit in and out again, darting between receptive brain cells but never staying long. However, others sit for a while and leave permanent impressions, light and airy as they may be.

It's amazing how many butterfly memories one can recall, given the opportunity.  Having recently undergone an extensive period of quiet, restful sitting and slumbering,  I have remembered quite a number of things that have occurred during my lifetime.  It's not that I've just remembered them, nor has my life "flashed before my eyes"; most have been floating in my brain cells for many years. However, I've been putting them in an order of sorts.

Most of these remembrances have no historical significance whatsoever, and will be boring in the extreme to most who read them, but they are occurrences that have shaped my life. Some memories are of historical happenings, and readers of similar age will have similar memories -- when I finally get to the historical stuff (H) -- but there is only one (H) in this Part 1.

My earliest memory (don't laugh or doubt) is of my first (as in one year old) birthday party, cake and all. At age 6 or 7, I began to describe it to my mother. She told me there was no way I could have remembered it, but my description of the room and the view from the window was so exact that she finally had to agree that it truly was a memory, as there were no photographs of the occasion, and our family lived in that house only a few months past that date.

I have lost any memories of things that happened from then until I was about 4, except discovering my first pet, a cat named Black Pepper, doing his "business" in a bushel of peanuts on our back porch. I must have been about 3 at that time.  

I have only  "snapshot" memories of happenings from age 4 to 6 when our family lived in El Paso, TX.   These include:

       * Mama taking me to the first movie I ever saw, starring Deanna Durbin. I still remember the melody and some of the words to a song she sang in the film.
       * seeing the lit-up 1938 community Christmas tree in downtown El Paso after we left the movie; it was a thrilling sight for a 4 year old, and seemed to reach to the vaults of the sky.
       * moving from a room in a rooming house to a big house on Hill Street, which had about 25 steps from street level to front door (I recall I fell down them several times).
        * visiting the little girl across the street even after Daddy told me not to (my little friend had German measles, and although I didn't know it at the time, Mama was pregnant with my baby sister, born 1/1/1939).
        * the spanking I got (with a razor strop) from Daddy when he found out I had played with my sick friend.
         * seeing my baby sister's bald head in bed with Mama.
         * my two year old sister putting Black Pepper in a dresser drawer, where he stayed all day. We could hear him crying, but didn't find him until bed time.
        * playing with the boy next door and getting stuck in the cactus bed between our houses.
        * losing my first tooth in a piece of apple during a supper with my parents' friends, Mr. and Mrs. Pollard.
        * Mr. Pollard teaching me to eat the skin of the potato because that's where all the vitamins are (I still do that);
       * Mrs. Pollard, "Podough," giving me the Minnie Mouse quilt blocks.
        * going to Juarez, Mexico on the bus with Mama when she went shopping for  groceries (Mama told me when I was in my 40's that Juarez was the only place she could afford to buy meat, and she didn't know if she bought beef, pork, horse, dog or cat, or something else entirely, and she didn't care - meat was meat).
      * seeing wild canaries nesting in the trellises over the patio of our home on Montana Street.
      * eating stucco sand with a spoon with my friend, Edna (is that called pica?)
      * starting kindergarten and my first school book, which was in Spanish, "Juan y Maria en Casa" (I've written about my first day in school in my diatribe against a certain brand of canned evaporated milk.)
      * a strange landlady who stood on a chair in our kitchen and stuck her finger in an open light socket -- on regular basis (I think we didn't live there very long).
       * packing up to move to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Mama crying because she couldn't take our furniture.

I was almost six when we moved to Las Vegas. I don't remember the move at all, and I don't remember my first day at school, first grade, but I do remember:
       * my teacher, Mrs. Kole.
       * my good friend, Cherry, the only black girl in the class, perhaps in all of Las Vegas.
       * a boy named George, who called Cherry the "N" word and made her cry, and I punched him in the nose and made him cry, and bleed, and Mrs. Kole sent me home with a note.
       * Christmas of 1940 when I got a pair of roller skates and a doll with jointed legs and arms, held together inside with rubber bands. The doll was dressed in a red dotted swiss dress with a white apron, and had long black braids, tied on the ends with red ribbons. On that same day, my younger sister "wound up" her legs and arms until the rubber bands broke and the arms and legs fell off. Mama couldn't fix it. That was the last doll I ever got as a present. When I get to heaven, I want long black braids and a red dotted swiss dress with a white apron. Do you think God will let me dress that way, or will I be content with what I get?;
       * Mama accidently pushing a fine crochet hook through the palm of her hand, and having to cut off the hook end to pull it out.
       * getting a new baby brother in April, 1941.
       * having to move from our furnished apartment because the baby cried too much to suit the landlord, who lived upstairs.
       * our wonderful new landlords, Mr and Mrs. Carpenter, who loved all of us and the baby; we loved their big house, where we lived in the entire upstairs.
       * Daddy coming home from the CCC camp on a Friday night after dark and Mrs. Carpenter's Chihuahua bit him on the leg, tore his pants and drew blood.
 (H) * December 8, 1941. I sat on the stairs and listened to the radio when President Roosevelt announced that Congress had declared war on Japan.

I have posted earlier about my Daddy going to the Army sometime after Pearl Harbor. In reviewing some old documents just this past week, I discovered that he did not actually go to the Army until May, 1942.  He was sent to an Army base at Grand Junction, Colorado, to teach automotive mechanics.  Mama and the rest of us moved to Albuquerque, some 75 miles away, where Mama had obtained employment as a bookkeeper/secretary at a large electrical wholesale company, as there was no employment available in Las Vegas.  My memories of the actual move are sketchy, at best, but I remember that we "moved" on a Southwest Trailways bus, all of our household items (no furniture) in boxes in the luggage compartment. We rode together on the back seat of the bus, and my poor mother, who all her life suffered from motion sickness, had to manage 4 children age 7 and under and be sick at the same time. I cannot imagine how she did it.

End - Part 1

If you have endured this far, your reward is a photo or two of my 2010 day lilies which, for the most part, have bloomed without benefit of my hovering presence. Several varieties have already "shot their wad" and I'll have to wait until next year to enjoy watching them bloom.



Hilary said...

I love your snippets of the past. The butterfly analogy is quite fitting. Your poor mom with the motions sickness - she raised a good daughter who defended her friend. I'd have paid to see you punch that kid in the nose.

Snap said...

Love the photos ... butterfly and lilies ... also love your words ... your memories. I've been thinking about you and all the bad weather. Ack! Nice to hear from you.

rhymeswithplague said...

Very enjoyable reading, and the photos are, as usual, magnificent!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Pat, You have an incredible memory... I seem to remember VERY little of my early childhood. I loved reading your memories....

The Daylilies are gorgeous...

Hope you are doing okay --in this horrible HEAT.

Abby said...

Pretty pics! And writing down "snapshots" of memories is a good idea. I'll have to try that sometime.

Peter said...

Such a lovely Post Pat (even if it had me almost weepy at times... yes Me!). Laura says to tell you how much she appreciated listening to it as I read it out to her.

It is marvelous what we can remember. Do you remember in little colourful pictures that you can almost see? (I do). I can't claim to remember back to my first birthday, but I do know that my earliest memories are from just before 2 years old.

Thank you for writing all those butterfly memories down, we are really looking forward to the next part.
Big hugs,
Peter, Laura, & feline friends!

P.S. I'm sure God would love you to have the long black braids, red dotted Swiss dress, and white apron.

jinksy said...

I'd love the chance to sit and listen to you reminisce in real life. Such storytelling has been one of my pet loves ever since I was a tot. That's what lack of TV etc allowed to blossom unhindered way back then!

Arkansas Patti said...

I just loved your memories Pat and some could have been mine.I too can remember "way" back though I think terrible 2's was the first.
I loved how you punched that kid. Just wish my similar incident had an equally noble ending. They're what makes us who we are today.
Very enjoyable trip.

TSannie said...

Wow - I need to sit back and think on my memories...

Loved reading about yours. I can't imagine having to cut a crochet hook off...brave mama...

What wonderful snippets of your past you've shared, Pat!

Anna said...

I loved that, Pat!

NitWit1 said...

You prodded me to briefly explore my memories. At the moment the earliest was playing with my dog Snookie which is pre-4 years. The most vivid is the day my parents brought home my adopted younger sister as an infant. I just turned 4.

However, I loved your post. I remember Dec 8, the exact console radio/phonograph we sat listening to FDR.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

This was a WONDERFUL post!!! I loved hearing all these memories...and I loved your analogy of memory to the butterfly! What a fantastic way to think of it! Your photos, by the way, are incredible!!!! My favorite, of course, is the butterfly! I so loved this! Love, Janine XOXO

Angie said...

I truely believe your first birthday memory ...as I experienced some thing similar. When I was about ten or so I started to ask who lived at the house opposite the large white gate ...Mum would reply with a shake of the head followed by 'no idea' or 'you must have imagined it'. It was years of me asking and adding a tiny detail here and there before she remembered anything ...with shocked look, she recounted a visit to a distant relative who lived exactly where I described and she had taken me ...in her arms ... the once ...when I was 9 months old.

Love your 'butterfly'memories ...what a wonderful read.
Take Care xx