Jan 25, 2013

So, my life begins...

So, my life begins. In a small country town, where the inhabitants live nestled between the Tennessee River and several mountain ranges, I was born.  The city is called Jasper and the state is Tennessee.  It is the gateway to the beautiful Sequatchie Valley.  In the year of 1960, my life began.  It was a hot summer day.  My mother’s labor was long and arduous.  But it was nothing compared to the gift my mother was about to receive.   A year and three months later my brother Randall was born. Later in my life, my mother told me that ever since she could remember she always wanted children.
My mother and father were poor growing up.  They ran off to get married when my mom was sixteen and my dad was twenty.  They were children really.  What does one really know about life at such a young age? Both of my parents lost their mothers when they were young children.  They lived with various relatives for a short time until the grieving parent could get a handle on things.  Losing a mother can be a tragic thing for a child.  The rest of their lives they search for a mother’s love.  It’s impossible to replace it with any other kind of love.  However, they tried to find it in each other. 

Tennessee was magical to me.  I remember the smell of the air in the morning.  It was pure, like crystal clear spring water.  The mountains were endless with millions of trees from top to bottom.  Often, I would gaze at the loveliness which surrounded me.  In the back yard, there was a very large honey suckle bush.  I would pull out the stem and lick it, tasting the sweet nectar of the flower while trying to avoid the bees.  In the evening, the lights would flicker like candles on a cake from the various homes scattered across the mountain range.  Oh these were the days of innocence when nothing mattered but candy and toys to a small girl.   

My father tried many ways to make a living for his young family.  In those days, there were a lot of shops where one could buy, sell, or trade items.  They were along side of a road or a highway or even in remote areas.  My father had a shop called, Charlie’s Trading Post.  I remember looking at all of the wonderful items that he would have for sale.  There were leather billfolds, knick knacks, toys, socks, pillows, and a myriad of other items.  I had my eye on a red plastic doctor bag.  The bags were filled with everything that a doctor would need while looking at a patient. I wanted one in the worst way.  I would pick one up, open and close the bag, play with it for a while, then put it back.   Eventually, my brother and I were each given one and we played with them until they fell apart.  Unfortunately, this shop didn’t flourish and my father had to go and find a job at a factory. 

My small family moved back and forth between Tennessee and Indiana from 1963-1968. My father had a hard time finding a stable job.  So, we moved between the states several times.  I went to many schools during that period.  My first recollection of going to school for the first time was in Tennessee.  It was called East Lake Elementary School.  To a five year old, the building was huge but in reality it was a small neighborhood school. It has since been torn down. I remember my kindergarten teacher who had very large upper arms that moved like a flap on a vehicle while travelling at a great speed. Her arms would jiggle as she moved them back and forth.  I cannot remember her name though, just her arms.  In her class, I learned how to tie a shoe, write my name, and memorized the alphabet.  Learning is hard work and I told my mother that often. 

Life was not all joy at school though.  Well, at least it was not joyful one day.  My mother was late coming to get me.  I never walked home by myself.  I waited and waited.   As I looked around, I realized that there wasn’t anyone else there with me. All of the children were gone.   I felt abandoned. The longer I waited the more upset I became. Then, I cried. A teacher felt pity for me and stayed with me until my mother finally arrived.   Once I saw mom, I was relieved and ran into her arms.
I am the third from the left in the front row
While living in Chattanooga in 1967, there was an Easter egg hunt at the park a few blocks from our apartment. The neighborhood children along with their parents got together and we searched the park for the grand prize of a golden egg.  At that time, we lived in a duplex and my Aunt Linda with her husband Leonard and daughter Sherrie lived beside us.  Sherrie is four years younger than I am.  I remember that the morning dew had just lifted and the grass was still wet, but no one cared.  Like the rest of the children, I was eager to find Easter eggs.  After searching for a while, I found the golden egg.  I was thrilled beyond my wildest childhood dreams.  I ran to my mother and showed her what I had found.  Without blinking an eye, my mother told me to give the egg to my cousin because she was so small and couldn’t go out and find the prized egg on her own.  I was devastated.  Why did I have to give Sherrie the prized egg?  It was mine and I found it by myself.  Unwillingly, I gave my cousin the egg.  I don’t remember what was on the inside of that golden egg, but I still remember how I felt to this day.  This is not the only time in my life that I had to give away something to another because “they” were small and needed it more than I did.  I guess my mother wanted to impress her sister. 
In 1968, we moved back to Fort Wayne for the last time.  My father had a hard time finding work yet again.  This time we had to move into government housing.  Not only did we need assistance with housing but surviving in general.  My father, being a proud man, tried very hard to find a job.   In about a year’s time, he found a job at Fruehauf Corporation as a spray painter and stayed with that company until he passed away.  In February of 1970, my parents bought their first house on Elm Street. The day that we moved in, the temperature was 10 degrees below zero.  We had a hard time getting the furnace going, but once we did, it was wonderful and the house was large inside. I had my own room finally. It wasn’t a dream house by no means, but it meant that we were going to stay put for a while, which was okay with me.