Digression (2) –My Early Life (Four To Six yrs old)–
As we left off, I was four years old and we were living in a house converted from an old army barracks. We played around the house and with the other children in the neighborhood.
In back of the house was a green trailer. On one occasion as we played on and around it, I told my two sisters to get up in the back and I bent down to pick up the tongue; then I told my sisters to jump off. I quickly realized that I was not strong enough to hold the weight and fell as I dropped the tongue. As it happened, the tongue bounced when it hit the ground and came down on my neck. You can bet I didn’t try that again. On another occasion, while playing in the back yard, my step sister Dee sat on an ant bed. She was learning to walk (about one year old) at the time and tended to over balance a lot. When she fell, she generally fell on her bottom as babies do. This time she happened to be standing in a red ant bed. We heard her start screaming and mother came running out.
“What’s going on”, she shouted and, “What did you do?”
“She sat on the ant bed”, my older sister and I shouted back. Meanwhile, Dee was running around screaming and waving her arms. My mother grabbed her stripped of her diaper and started to brush the ants from her legs. Then mother carried Dee into the house to put something on the stings. My mother always had something for stings, cuts, scrapes, and the like. In this case it was probably Calamine lotion; but I don’t remember exactly.
My step mother was fond of visiting with the women in the neighborhood. Afternoon would often find her at the big house at the end of the street where a bunch of the neighborhood women gathered in the big kitchen to drink coffee and talk.
On one occasion, I recall my mother bought a couple of kites. I remember flying one of them at the end of the street near the big house. I remember the kite pulling at my arms, letting out string to make it go higher, and reeling in string; as I tried very hard to control the kite. I do not recall ever flying a kite again.
There is another story from this period that I’d like to tell. My sister “J” came down with the Chicken pox. For two weeks she was kept in the house, dobbed with Calamine lotion, and not allowed contact with the neighbor hood children. As she recovered, I contracted the illness. I was not looking forward to two weeks stuck in doors. I can tell you.
“Go out side and play”, my mother unexpectedly said. I was surprised; but quickly went out. Apparently, the women of the neighborhood got together and talked it over. They decided that it was likely all we children were going to get Chicken Pox and it was better if all of us got it around the same time. So, instead of being quarantined like my sister; I was sent out to infect the neighborhood. That was the attitude parents back had then, if a child was going to contract a childhood disease like Chicken Pox, Mumps, or Measles best to get it over with early. It was said that childhood diseases are much harder on adults, so best to have it as a child and develop an immunity.
Back then, nobody died from Chicken Pox, Mumps, or Measles; which makes me wonder are children today less hardy, less strong than we were?
Somewhere around my fifth year we moved from the barracks house to a larger house on the corner of the same dirt street. It had a huge oak tree in the yard that I longed to climb; but it was larger than I could reach around. One of my uncles, I think suggested nailing boards to the trunk to make a ladder to the lowest limbs. I started to do that; but I am pretty sure I never finished.
I started 1st grade while we lived in the house on the corner. I remember the traumatic experience of being taken to a classroom and abandoned there by my mother; but after I got used to it, I enjoyed school. There were lots of things to do and new friends to play with. The second traumatic experience that year came after Christmas vacation. My mother told me I had to go back to school.
“Where do I go? What do I do?” I ask. “Do I go to a new classroom or the same one?” For me Christmas break was an ending and returning to school was a new beginning. I was confused; but seeing my friends and my old classroom relieved my anxiety. We moved again the summer I completed the 1st grade; this time to a whole new town.