Sunday, November 23, 2014



At my age, most of what I'm thankful for are memories. I'm glad I lived through the times I did. I'm happy my parents were who they were. I'm thankful my Dad had a traveling bone and my Mom was eagerly willing to hitch a ride right along with him.

I remember waiting impatiently on the platform for our train to come whistling and screeching down the track like a huge living thing coming to take us to unknown places. I remember as a little girl being at the station in Chattanooga so that ever afterward the song, Chattanooga ChooChoo, had a special meaning for me. I remember kindly Black porters, taking the time to admire a proud four-year-old's new cowboy boots. And eating at tables with snowy white tablecloths.

And I remember traveling by car. My parents usually both worked and Mom's paycheck was set aside for "traveling funds" so we never had to hurry but could afford to meander across the country from north to south and east to west. I remember the anticipation of motels and restaurants. Now, I mostly go to predictable places that all the look the same and taste the same - the Hampton Inn and Cracker Barrel - but back then, there were no chains so every stop was an adventure. Today might the a piece of salty county ham as tough as shoe leather and tomorrow, the most heavenly biscuits and gravy you ever put in your mouth.

I remember passing through deserts and forests and mountains and crossing wide rivers and struggling through blizzards and blinding rain. I remember going to the rodeo in Laramie and the horse races in Phoenix and beach in Southern California.

I'm glad I grew up in a time when children were free. My cousins and I wandered the town dump hoping to find the secrets hidden in letters and down back alleys scavenging in the trash for magazines and catalogs for our scrapbooks. We rode our bikes across town to the library and down to the river. And in the dusk of the summer, all us kids of all ages played Ditches through the backyards amid the lightning bugs.

I remember buying two nickel ice cream cones (because it was the same amount of ice cream but you got two cones) at the corner store and waiting in a long line at the movie to see Elvis in Love Me Tender. I remember that we were given 15 cents in addition to the dime to get in - 5 cents each for a pop, a bag of popcorn and a candy bar. On some lucky days, we got to go to the drug store for a chocolate soda after. I remember poodle skirts and fringed plastic jackets and bloomer shorts and penny loafers.

My family treated children equally. If we all went out to eat and you wanted a T-bone steak, you got it. When the whole big bunch of them went to the Eagles on Saturday night, our dads and uncles and cousins danced with us like we were grown ups.

When they got together for their beloved marathon poker games, we were allowed to play too but it was a learning experience. If you thought you were old enough, you didn't whine if you lost your allowance. You didn't ante out of turn. You paid attention and played, seriously, by God, or not at all. I hate poker to this day.

I'm glad I was young and running around when every bar had a live band and no cover charge and every place was jam-packed. The Club Royal and Stonyridge and the Fox and Hounds and there was a favorite place in Elwood...I forget the name. It was a time when the authorities turned a blind eye to marijuana and I guess to drunk driving too because I never knew anyone back then who got arrested for D.U.I. although many probably could have been.

I remember going to the drag races at Bunker Hill (the track is for sale now, I read) and the motorcycle races at the track on Dora Road. Decked-out choppers were the prestige bikes to have then and Jim Driscoll (Cisco) had the most beautiful one of all.

And I remember Vietnam, not so thankfully. Back then the guys coming home still wore flack jackets and boonie hats and long hair and an attitude of wariness. We swore after that we'd never let it happen again but, of course, we did. We watched our brothers go and then we sent our sons. I can never quite understand how that works.

I remember Canal Days and the looked-forward-to sidewalk sales in front of all the shops downtown - Beitman and Wolf and the Francis Shop and Resnecks and Wassman's and Max's Gentry shop and Woolworths and Kresge's and Mark's Camera Shop and Gillespie's and Sonda's. Shopping to be followed by lunch at the Sweet Shop and maybe bag of Pop Morris' wonderful candy. Yes, all those places were on the downtown block then.

I still think of those days as the glory years of rock and roll but I suppose every generation feels that way about their own era. Are there bands now that will become legends like the Beatles and the Stones and Led Zeppelin and CCR.....? I expect there are.

I'm thankful I was in love once and was loved in return. That's not to say it turned out so well in the end. Jim was far from an ideal husband and I was far from an ideal wife but still, I wouldn't have given up those feelings for a more mundane life. I was sort of into roller-coasters back then although eventually, I got off and never wanted to experience those stomach-churning emotions again.

Motherhood was much the same. I was not a natural mother. Although I loved John dearly, I had no aptitude for understanding babies. While other mothers sighed and regretted their children growing up, I couldn't wait. My best time as a mother was the teenage years. I enjoyed teenagers then and I still do.

I'm glad Jim and I moved to the farm out past Lagro though two people more ignorant and ill-suited to be farmers you couldn't find. But I remember all the animals and the garden and the creek that ran by the yard and the hilly woods. I remember Marty the great silver Collie and Buddha the enigmatic yellow cat whom we inherited with the house and Spot the calf and Spot the other calf and Tessie the hateful milk cow and the pigs and the rabbits and my beloved chickens and ducks and geese and guineas. I loved that place and that life.

So, memories. They are what last when everything else goes away. Hopefully, your, like mine, are mostly good ones.

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