memory challenge prompts

Memory Writing Prompts – Being Sick

Today’s memory challenge is inspired by the fact that I am trying to cram in all sorts of doctor appointments into my busy days while I still have the better health insurance.

So I am thinking about getting sick and going to the doctor when I was a child.

When I was sick, the throwing up kind, my mom brought out this small child-sized pale pink bucket. That was my sick bucket. Easy enough for me to carry around and small enough to fit next to me on the couch. I was sick a lot so that came in handy. Anyone who has read Hugging the Rock might remember that Rachel also had a sick bucket.

When I was sick, the next door neighbors would bring me fried prawns and fried won tons from their restaurant. It shoudl have be the worse thing in the world for my stomach but it always made me feel better.

I remember going somewhere when I was very young to get, what was it, the polio shot or sugar cube or something? I remember being held over my mom’s shoulder and waiting in a very long line.

I remember getting the measles and staying all alone in my room except for my deaf cousin Danny who was the only one who would come in and play games with me.

I remember the face of the pediatrician I went to but not his name. But I remember he had great vitamins he would give me when I went in for a visit. When he retired my mom made me go to her doctor, Dr. Byers. I hated him. I really did. He was a pear-shaped man with dark hair and dark glasses but that wasn’t why I hated him. I hated him because he always pointed out all the ways in which I wasn’t like my mom. And I really hated that he was the one that pierce my ears with one of the very early ear piercing guns. He marked my ears with a pen and he still screwed up and made them lopsided.

Okay, your turn. What do you remember about doctors and being sick when you were a child?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |10 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Being Excited

Today’s memory challenge is inspired by the fact that I am still waiting to finish the day job and get on with the rest of my life. My actual last day of work is 10/31. I only work 4 days a week so that means 15 working days left. (I get depressed if I count actual days.) And because my term date is a Friday and normally I don’t work Fridays, I will instead take that last Monday off having a 4 day weekend before the last week.

What all this means is I am very impatient for one phase of my life to end and the next phase to begin. I suppose I am impatient for the old to be done and excited for the new to begin,

I think many of the sleep problems I have now as an adult stem partly from my impatience/excitability as a child. I would be so excited before an event, any event, that I couldn’t go to sleep. I would get up out of bed at least a dozen times and go find my mom and ask if I could get up yet.

Birthdays were the worst. I would be so excited that I would actually make myself sick. My mom worked during the day so my birthday was never celebrated until she came home from work. That made for a very long day that built up and up and up until usually I was too sick to enjoy my birthday. One year my mom decided to let me open one present when I got up in the morning. Just one. She told me that the night before but when I got up in the morning there was no present in my room and she was gone to work. My grandmother told me to call her and ask her about it so I did. That’s when she gave me the first clue. I spent the day following clues, some of them time-based (and my grandmother was the guard) that led me around the house and the yard to find a variety of little gifts. Barrettes for my hair. Socks. A clear vinyl tote bag that had pink polka dots on it. An umbrella that matched the bag. And so on. When my mom came home we had dinner and the birthday cake but by then there were no more presents to open. Knowing me, I probably threw a selfish temper tantrum at the time but I remember it as one of the few birthdays where I wasn’t constantly in the bathroom being sick from the anticipation and excitement for the day.

Your turn. Tell about a time in your childhood that you impatient or excited.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |10 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Plants From Your Childhood

What I remember first about plants as a kid was that there were never any inside. There were a few potted flowers on the front porch but not much. Usually a Christmas cactus someone received as a gift or a pot of hothouse mums that were bright and cheery around Easter and looking dead by fall. In the back yard we had a fruitless mulberry that I felt sorry for every year after it received its annual pruning that result in a giant mass of knuckes, reaching for the sky.

In the backyard there were a few walnut trees that I loved. They were huge!

My rope swing was in one of them and I would climb on the fence, holding onto the rope, and then launch myself like Tarzan. When the walnuts would ripen we would spend a weekend gathering them and then laying them out on screens to dry. Peeling the skins would turn my fingers green. Later I would help my grandmother crack the nuts and freeze them.

There was an apricot tree in the very back yard. (We had two back yards.)

I was a horrible to that tree. I didn’t like it for some reason. Maybe because I really don’t like apricots at all…the texture….bleck. As a kid I used to hammer nails into that poor tree just to see the sap run.
The rest of the backyard was mostly just dirt because nothing would grow under the walnut trees.
In the front there were a couple of trees that I only remember as huge. I don’t know what kind they were but there were a pair of them, one on each side in the front and surrounded by grass. They were always “base” when we play hide and go seek or the batter’s box when we played baseball.

Along the side of the house were three orange trees.

When we opened the windows on that side of the house the citrus smell would flood the rooms.
There was a privet hedge between my grandmother’s house and the house next door.
When I was really young, an old woman I only knew as Ginny lived there. She made the best Congo bars. I wore a hole in the hedge sneaking over to see her as much as I could.

In the parking strip next to the street there was nothing but Lippia, a flat ground cover that was covered with little white flowers in the summer and the little white flowers were covered with bees. Every bee sting I ever got was from going barefoot on that ground.

There were flower beds up next to the house but not the orderly kind. It’s funny as I think about it now – my grandmother was such a neat and tidy person inside but the garden never seemed to bring her the same kind of joy. I don’t know that she ever added plants as much as she just took care of what was already there.There were some roses, planted on little mounds with dirt basins around them.
I’d get in trouble for breaking the side of the basin but I liked to watch the water rush out of the break. Next to roses were lots of calendulas.
I think they were supposed to keep the bugs away from the plants.My favorite of all the plants in the yard was the nastursiams.
They were a project in school. We planted the seeds in egg cartons and brought them home. My grandmother didn’t want them in her front garden but eventually I got her to let me plant them near the roses. I think she was sure they would die but year after year they kept coming back.

Out of all the plants in my childhood garden the only ones that were California natives were the walnut trees.

Your turn. What plants do you remember from your childhood?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |9 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Nicknames & Best Friends

Nicknames and best friends.

I had neither.

I know that sometimes nicknames are cruel and kids use them as a way to tease one another but I don’t remember hearing many of those. I do remember hearing those shortened versions of a name, those fun and sometimes funny names that were obviously bestowed upon a friend with whom there was a shared memory or two, a history. I so wanted that. Somehow in my head a nickname meant you belonged somewhere, that people noticed you when you were there and would notice when you were gone. As it was I drifted on the sidelines.

Best friends. The partner in crime and tears through-out childhood. Or so I’m told. Since we lived with my grandmother for most of my childhood, we were in the old folks neighborhood and I was the only kid around. There were people at school I hung around with but after school they all walked home together to their neighborhoods, playing outside, together, until they were called for dinner. Sometimes I went to play with Teresa and Leanne but it was obvious they had a special relationship because they lived close. Kathleen was a friend because her mother and my mother were best friends. So we would play together when they got together but otherwise didn’t know much about what was going on in each other’s lives. For a while Jan lived next door, maybe a year or two, and I tried so hard to be her friend but it didn’t fly, didn’t last.

There was one girl that I think was my best friend at the time, those two years in Junior High, Jane Beesley. Or maybe it was Beasley. I don’t remember. We spent all our time together and then she moved to go to school in Pleasant Hill and I stayed in Concord. We wrote letters, old fashioned handwritten letters that have been lost in one of my many moves. After my freshman year of high school the letters stopped and I don’t know what happened to her. I’ve tried to find her via the reunion sites and such but no luck.

In high school there were people I knew, people I ate lunch with, people I did a few things with, but no one that wanted to be my special friend. (I am not posting this for anyone to feel sorry for me. This is just me remembering things.) The adult me can look back at the young me and realize that I was so afraid all the time that I probably telegraphed that and sent out “keep away” vibes.

Your turn. Did you have a nickname? A best friend? What do you remember?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |14 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Disappointment

Sorry I missed doing this last week. This week’s memory challenge is once again inspired by my dayjob and the fact that I have been let go but am on a delayed depart. I am here until the end of October which is weird, very weird, indeed. My friends here are a help with their smiling faces but a few other co-workers are acting oddly, like they could “catch” whatever I have. Some are downright rude, which I don’t understand and leaves me feeling a bit disappointed about my final days here.

So I tried to think of a time I was disappointed as a child. I’m sure there were many times, imagined or real, but the one that stands out the most was second grade in Mrs. Oswald’s class. For some reason I adored that teacher. I think it had to do with reading but I can’t remember the details. What I do remember is the mouse with my name on it. When we started school, the very first day, she pointed to a board with a bunch of little gray mice on it. She had cut them all out and dressed them in little red jackets. Each one had the name of a student. I quickly found mine and smiled. I had an imaginary friend at the time called Tommy the mouse so I easily imagined all the grand adventures we would have together. Mrs. Oswald explained that as long as we were good, our mouse would stay on the board. But if we were bad, the mouse would come down.

Days went on. People who had their mouse still on the board got asked to do all sorts of special things with a teacher that I adored from afar. They stayed after school to clean the blackboard. They got to take things to the office. They collected or handed out papers.

One day I was reading my book at my desk. There was a scuffle of noise beside me. I don’t remember who or what it was about. Mrs. Oswald heard and asked for quiet. The noise continued. I wanted to get back to my book. I went “Sssh!” just once but it was one time too many. Mrs. Oswald flipped out and ripped my mouse as well as I don’t know how many others off the board.

I promptly burst into tears. My mouse not only wasn’t on the board but when she took it off she really did rip it and it was missing an ear. I kept crying.

Mrs. Oswald called me a baby and got a piece of chalk. Then she walked to the back of the room and drew a circle on the floor. On the edges of the circle she drew a rattle and a baby bottle and a pacifier. Then she told me to sit in the baby circle. Alone.

I spent the rest of the day in that circle and even though my mouse went back on the board, ripped ear and all, the next day, it was never the same. I hated that class, that teacher, for the rest of the year.

Your turn. Write about a time when you were a child and someone or something disappointed you or took you by surprise.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |14 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Life Altering Events

This week’s memory challenge is inspired by this period of change I am in with the dayjob. Last week my company and another one have merged to form a new and hopefully stronger company. The changes are just beginning. We have a new name and a new stock ticker symbol. There will be layoffs which will bring more changes for those that lose their jobs. Those that stay will have to learn to adjust to the new company. This is one of those life events they talk about that gets in the way of eating and sleeping and thinking about anything other than the coming week.

I’ve had a lot of life changes as an adult but when I think about life changes in my childhood the biggest one came when I was 10 years old. That was when my grandfather, my best friend, died. From that time on my life was marked as before and after. I don’t know if I was more talkative and adventurous before Papa died but somehow I think so. I think I took my courage for life from him and when he left me I didn’t know how to be brave anymore.

My grandfather was a big man, a former smoker (not in my lifetime) who took to chewing on toothpicks and peppermint lifesavers to help deal with the oral fixation. He was a surveyor for the Contra Costa County roads but I didn’t know that as a kid. All I knew was that he left every morning with his big black lunch box and never came home soon enough for me.

He was the only one who would ever play basketball with me in the funky dirt court with the hoop that never had a net. He drove an old green and white station wagon to work but what he liked to drive best was his big old Glasper boat. He had a duck blind out in the Antioch sloughs and there was clam bed in the pond. We would always stop for him to rake a bucket of clams before heading out for his favorite fishing haunts. He was a hunter and a fisherman and the freezer was always full of duck, pheasant, catfish and sometimes venison. He wasn’t a reader except for a glance at the evening paper and he wasn’t much for television except for the Red Skeleton show. I love Red because Papa loved Red.

Wherever he worked in the yard or on the house, I was right there with him. My grandmother would have called me “in the way” and “underfoot” but he just found something for me to do right alongside him and never once made me feel unwelcome. He wasn’t a softie though. Not by a long shot. I can’t remember once ever hearing the words “I love you” slip through his lips. And oh how I wanted to hear them.

When the cancer came for him it hit his bones first and knocked this giant of a man down faster than bowling ball headed for a strike. I remember feeling shell-shocked at the sight of this big man flat out on his back on the couch. For weeks he didn’t move and I sat on the floor beside him, mostly just watching him sleep because he didn’t have the energy for much else. He went to the hospital and I remember seeing him there in the hospital bed, only briefly. The hospital was no place this outdoor man. He came home soon after that and died at Easter.

I didn’t go to the funeral.

I was asked once if I wanted to go and I was so scared, so absolutely terrified of trying to live my life without him in it that I couldn’t imagine watching them put him in a hole in the ground. So I said no. Oh how I wish I had said yes.

I remember the after funeral part. Where everyone came back to my grandmother’s house bearing gifts of food that we didn’t have the stomach to eat. It piled up high on the the table in the dining room. Jello salads and hams and bread and butter are all I remember but there must have been more. I sat on one of the dining room chairs that had been pushed back against the wall and watched all the grown-ups swirl around me, hugging one another, sharing memories of my grandfather, crying and sometimes even laughing, together.

But no one talked to me.

From where I sat I could see my grandfather’s favorite chair. It was bright red and covered in some sort of nubby textured material. I tried to picture him there, a toothpick clenched in his lips as he shifted the newspaper into one hand and patted his lap with the other, inviting me to come sit with him so we could read the comics together.

But the picture wouldn’t come into focus anymore.

Childhood is often a series of life altering events. That’s the one that stands out the strongest for me. What about you? Is there a life event from your childhood that calls to you even now?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |5 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – In the Neighborhood

How much do you remember of the neighborhood where you grew up? I decided to try this, not in any order, just writing down the memories as they came to me.

I grew up in Concord, California on Bonifacio Street at the corner of Grant. Back then it was a fairly quiet street. We were a couple of blocks from the Catholic church and a couple of blocks from the high school but as a kid, those things didn’t interest me much. I usually went the other way, toward town. My grandmother walked to the grocery store most of the time. It was a Mayfair market and it gave out Blue Chip stamps that we would lick and stick into books that would ultimately buy my grandmother a new sewing machine. I think the gas stations gave Green Stamps or some other places did but for some reason it was the Blue Chip stamps that my grandmother collected.

On the way home from the grocery store we might stop at Rexall drug store which had a section near the pharmacy of glass figurines, often the little Josef Originals.  Or we would hit the Quality Bakery where my grandmother would buy a loaf of dutch crust butter top bread. If I was really, really good I might get a tea cookie with a dollop of chocolate in the middle. I loved to stare at the fancy bakery cakes with the ballerinas in the middle. I was never allowed a bakery cake for a birthday – only the homemade ones.

There was a BeeDees (sp?) store that was general store of some kind. I remember that’s where we went for my grandmother to buy all her fabric and thread and sewing supplies to make most all of my clothes. There was a hobby section in there with trains and stuff but what I fell for were the collections of glass animals. I can’t remember the name of the company but they usually came in a set of three animals on a little piece of cardboard, a family of animals. I collected those for years.

I don’t remember many other stores downtown. Oh, there was a Rhodes Deptmartment store where we went for coats and underwear and shoes. Gas stations around town that gave out stamps of birds that I could lick and stick in a collector book. There was the Todas Santos Plaza which I think was called something else like Concord Park when I was a kid. We didn’t stop there too often as my grandmother always had a list of chores that needed doing.

The Sun and Moon Chinese restaurant that was owned and run by the Tuey family was near there. They lived next door to us.

I know on the way downtown was a little store on the corner, probably our version of a Quik Stop, that my grandmother didn’t like but eventually she would let me walk up there for emergency milk or butter. I had to walk past a long, dark alley where there was usually a drunk or two hanging out and they always scared me. There was an actual liqueur store around the corner from that but we always crossed the street so as not to get too close. In later years I used to sneak down there to buy my copies of Writer’s Digest magazine.

For a little while my mom and I moved out of the house on Bonifacio and around the block to Grant street. What I remember most there is that the backyard fence was the same fence for the Queen of All Saints Catholic school. And the kids from that school would throw their garbage over the fence all the time. My mom used to get so mad and gather up all the garbage and take it to the school but they never did anything about it. The convent was on the corner. As a non-Catholic I was fascinated by all the goings-on at the church and I used to love to hear the bells that seemed to always be ringing.

There were a few houses that stand out in my memory – the deBenedetti house across the street because the basement was ground level and the house itself up a steep flight of stairs that always scared me. The woman who lived there, Lisa, was my grandmother’s good friend. They were both in the local Druids organization and every year the Druids had a huge rummage sale to raise money. The rummage was dropped off in Lisa’s basement and I always got to pick through things early. I think that’s where I got addicted to finding gems at thrift stores.

Hazel and Gilbert Hills lived next door to the deBenedettis. It was a white house with the best front porch. Grandma Stotts lived with them too. Hazel had some sort of illness that had her in crutches for life. She gave piano lessons and I loved it in the summer time when she had the windows open and I could hear the music drift out and across the street. All I remember about Gilbert is that he was very tall and very thin. They were so kind to me. I found a black rabbit in their front yard one time, under the bushes, and got to keep it for most of a day before my mother did something with it.

There was a house on the corner that I don’t remember by who lived there but by the fact that I would always find spare change in the dirt that collected at the bottom of the driveway. On the other corner was where Bing Cuneo lived. I don’t remember much about that family except their name. Another block down the street was a house that was in an unincorporated section. They had a well, which I thought was cool and a goose which was very mean. I could never get close to the house because of that darn goose.

Whew – that’s a lot of rambling about the neighborhood but as always happens, one memory helps me remember another, and so on, and so on.

Your turn – what do you remember about your neighborhood growing up?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |24 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Athletic Competitions

(edited because I remembered more)

This week’s memory challenge is inspired by the Olympics.

Many kids are naturally competitive. I don’t know how much it was about the competition for me as it was to prove to someone in authority (teacher/parent/etc) that I was the best and therefore “worthy” of something. (I had a lot of self-esteem issues as a kid and brought a few of them forward with me into adulthood.) So this week I’m going to try and remember all the various athletic competitions I have been involved in. Academic ones I’ll save for another time.

My very first experience with athletics was dance class with the Art Linkletter Dance Studio. The little studio bus would come pick me up and take me to class. I tolerated ballet but I loved tap. There was some dance to a song that had “duck” in it – I can’t remember.

I played on girl’s softball team in 6th grade but wasn’t super good at it so I quit. I played 3rd and someone stole my brand new mitt. I never played softball again.

I started riding horses in the 5th or 6th grade, not mine at first. I helped a friend keep Lady, her husband’s horse, well exercised.

One day Lady horse took off with me high in the hills of Martinez on day. I slipped from the saddle, my foot caught in the stirrup and I was drug for who knows how long before I fell loose. As if that wasn’t enough I rolled down the side of a really muddy hill. That was the day of my first and only ride in an ambulance. I was sore, of course, yet no broken bones. What was the most scary was that I couldn’t see. I opened my eyes and saw absolutely nothing. At the hospital it turned out that I just had scads of mud in my eyes and once they were flushed out, I could see again.

After that my mom decided if I was going to get hurt on a horse it should be a horse of my very own. Enter Sparky, half Clydesdale and half Quarter Horse.

He had no personality and was used to at 6’5″ 50-year-old man riding him all the time. The perfect horse for a 12 year old kid, right? Not. He wouldn’t even get in the trailer for us to take him to his new home and he wouldn’t let me ride him so I walked him, and I mean WALK as in holding his lead, from Martinez to Concord (with a stopover in my grandmother’s backyard.) He threw me more times than I can remember when I was being ditzy about him, not paying attention, and he’d grab the bit and haul butt from wherever we were.
I had him until we were hit by a car walking down Clayton Road. A girl had just gotten her driver’s license and freaked out at seeing a horse on the road. She hit us and we just happened to be in the small unincorporated section which meant there was a long block of barbed wire. I went over Sparky’s head into the dirt lot but he fell into the wire and wrapped it across one hip and around the other side.

It would have been months and months of therapy before I could ride him again and we didn’t have that kind of money. And truly, we had no connection at all. My mom gave him to a place in Davis that taught vaulting. His big back was perfect for 2-3 kids work off of at the same time. The horse of my heart of was Sheikh, an older Arab that came into my life as an adult. With him I played with barrel racing and pole bending (our favorite.) Man I loved that horse.

At Mt. Diablo I was on the track team. I think the coach was a Mrs. Armstrong. I was pretty fast, loved to run sprints, but Susan Hewlett was faster. For the one year I went Ygnacio Valley I got a girls track team started over there too.

I was also on the tennis team for one year. (How could I forget that?)

But that athletic event that occupied most of my childhood was roller skating.

I roller skated competitively (that’s back when roller skates had 4 wheels, 2 on each side not in a straight line.) I skated at Skate Haven Roller Rink in Walnut Creek, CA. The rink is long gone ( I think there’s a Jiffy Lube or some such thing there now.) I started skating in the 5th grade. I went to a skate party that one of my teachers had organized and really wanted to start taking lessons. My mother said no.
I was a child with constant stomach aches and an intense fear of the family doctor. They wanted to take x-rays of my stomach. I said no.

My mother finally bribed me with some skating lessons if I went to the doctor. They didn’t figure out anything wrong (and I drank gallons of Mylanta all through childhood) but I did get my lessons. My goal was to learn how to do the “shoot the duck” move. After that I was pretty much hooked on skating. I took Saturday morning lessons and then stayed at the rink the rest of the day. It was a while before I was old enough for my mom to leave me there for the Saturday evening sessions. She thought they were too “rough” with all those hippie type teenagers hanging around.

Soon I joined the rink’s skating club and that meant getting to attend that Tuesday night club class. There was a uniform for the class and I remember being so excited when I got mine for the first time. Classes were taught by George Hammond and Peggy Harden. Soon Peggy became my personal skating pro and I was taking private lessons. In exchange for some lessons I cleaned her house and exercised her husband’s horse Lady. For all of Junior High and the first 3 years of high school I pretty much lived at the rink. Once I was a member of the club there were skating tests you could take. Every couple of months there would be a test center at our rink and if you were ready to go to the next level, you could pay a fee and try to pass. There were tests for figures, freestyle and dance. Figures and freestyle were individual events for dance you needed a partner. If you weren’t already assigned a partner you could get paired with a total stranger on test night. That was hard! There was an older gentleman, I don’t remember his name, but he was always a great partner for me because helped me keep my nerves under control. I still have the little metal pins they awarded us when we passed a test.

Before long it was time to compete. I started off competing in figures, which is a single event. If you’ve ever been to a roller rink and seen those big circles painted on the floor, that’s what you use for figure skating. There were various figures you had to learn to trace and, of course, stay on the line. Forward, backward, changing feet at the intersection of the circle, three-turns at a specific spot. I was good but not great though I did like the challenge.

Next Peggy started looking around for a dance partner for me. There really weren’t that many boys my age at the rink so for a while she tried pairing me with her husband Fred. Soon another skater came along that was a better match for him. (Mercury Morden) and I ended up with another man nearly twice my age, Dan Alley. Mercury and I were on again off again good friends at that time, always depending on whether or not we had a crush on the same guy.

Things I remember most about roller skating:

Dan picking me up after school and taking me right to the rink for lessons.
Skating at the rink in Santa Cruz where the floor was warped.
Having to wear nylons for competition and how much they burned when you feel on the floor.
Locking wheels with a partner which always resulted in a really bad fall.
Meeting Kevin Wilson, first real boyfriend, at the rink.
Walking up to Foster Freeze for snacks in-between skate times.
Having a wheel come loose and roll across the rink….worse yet, having the ball bearings come out.
Buying Reva’s old skating costumes.

I never was a shining star at roller skating but days spent at that rink are some of my most favorite memories.

Your turn. Tell me about athletics in your childhood.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , , |8 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – In the summertime

Since we are still very much in the midst of summer I decided that this week’s memory prompt would be anything I could remember about summer vacations when I was a child. What follows is in no particular order, just as they pop into my head. This is a great way to prime your own memory pump – give yourself a category such as this – and then just brain dump everything that comes out. One memory often leads to another.

When I think of summertime back when my grandfather was alive it always had to do with fishing and going out on the boat and skimming along though sloughs out on the delta near Antioch. We’d stop at his duck pond first, where he and my uncles had their duck blinds, and Papa would rack a bucket of clams from the clam bed that we could use for bait. Then off we’d go to some semi-secluded beach. My mom, my grandparents and sometimes my uncles and their wives/girlfriends, but often just us. I would divide my time between trying to sit still to fish, following my grandmother and my mom went they collecting berries, or playing in the water.

Summertime meant the PowWow parade that marched right down the corner of my street, just a few house away, so we always had the best view. And it would end up at the high school with the Boy Scout Jamboree. Fireworks were watched from the roof of the shed.

I remember hot tar bubbling up between the cracks in the sidewalk between the street and our front porch. I remember the bees that swarmed daily on the Lippia grass. I would often get stung because I would refuse to wear shoes.

I remember swimming lessons in some guy’s backyard pool, I think his name was John. I hated him, hated the lessons. When I was older (and could actually swim) I remember going to Meadow Homes pool and spending the day hanging out by the pool. I could get an ice cream sandwich from the vending machine and for some reason they always tasted better there than anywhere else.

At home summertime meant sleeping in, unless my grandmother had chores for me and she ALWAYS had chores. Summers were usually a lonely time for me when I was little as there were no kids in our neighborhood at all. (We lived in the grandparents part of town.) My mom sent me to the city day camp and I got ribbons in fire building, archery, potato peeling and lots of them for running. What I remember most about daycamp was that it was the only time I got to have Kool Aid. The counselors would mix it in these tall old milk jugs and we would get to drink some on the way from camp to the swimming pool.

After my grandfather died my mom, grandmother and I would go on vacations for a week or two. Every other year it was a kid-friendly one like Disneyland. The other years it was an adult one where I could guarantee I would be bored. We also took day trips to Frontier Village and Santa’s Village and the Nut Tree.

Since my mom worked and my grandmother was always busy with chores, I spent a lot of my summertime on my own. Often this meant doing reading or doing craft projects. On rare occasions my aunt Pat would actually allow me to spend a summer day with my cousins at their house in the county. I remember catching lizards and thinking that was some of the very best fun of all.

Toward the end of summer my grandmother and I would walk to BeeDees where she would pick out material and patterns that she would use to make my clothes for the coming school year. A trip to Rhodes department store for my winter coat and I was usually ready to go.

As I got older, tween and teen years, summers just meant more time with the horses or at the skating rink.

Your turn. What are some of your childhood summertime memories?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |2 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Your first job

I never babysat as a kid (which might explain why I was so unprepared for motherhood.) I did work once a month for mom stuffing billing statements into envelopes. And I cleaned house for my skating pro in exchange for skating lessons. But the first real live job I had myself was at Woolworth’s Drug Store in the Park ‘n Shop center in Concord.

(No, this isn’t the one I worked at. I don’t even know if it is still there anymore.)

Why Woolworths? Because they had animals in the back of the store.

They had fish, which I thought were kind of boring but they WERE animals.

They had turtles which I really loved.

And they sold this little plastic lagoons which I know are horrible for them but I confess that as a child in the sixties, I had some.

And they had lots and lots of birds like these which I could watch for hours.

When I went to apply for the job I had to meet with the manager, Mr. G. He was tall and wore dark rimmed glasses and looked like a science teacher. He had a thick accent from some slavic country. He didn’t like the idea of hiring a girl but he needed help. He said a classmate of mine was applying as well, Vint Vastine.

Mr. G asked me a lot of questions and I must have answered them okay because then he took me over to show me the most important thing in the store.

It wasn’t quite that old of a cash register but it sure wasn’t one of those new-fangled computer ones. He showed me how the cash register worked and how to make change. You always counted the change back to the person to end up with what they gave you. If they gave you $5.00 and their total was $2.97 you had to count back, $2.98, $2.99 when you put the pennies in their hand, then $3.00, then $4.00 then $5.00. He said you always put the change in first. To this day what irks me about people making change (ESPECIALLY in the drive-through) is people give you the paper money and then try to balance the change on top. And they NEVER count it back.

Before he would hire me, Mr. G gave me a math test. But not on paper. I had to do it my head. Fast. I passed but not with the flying colors that my classmate, Vint Vastine got on the same test. Vint got to work the cash register and take care of the animals and I was sent over to the lunch counter to wait tables. Sigh.

The only good thing about that was that I learned how to make one of these:

The gal who ran the lunch counter didn’t care for me being there. She was an old-timer and she got all the tips. I did clean-up and filled sodas. I didn’t stay there very long. I took a job at Bob’s Big Hamburgers. It wasn’t a chain, just a little hole-in-the-wall place that made single, double and triple hamburgers dripping in barbecue sauce. Boy they were good. We’d leave the sauce simmering on the fire and cook up the burgers then dunk the entire burger in the sauce before we put it on the bun. My friend Linda Belcher worked there too and we had a lot of fun working together and having our current boyfriends meet us at back for quick breaks.

I remember dating someone name KC (can’t remember his last name) who drove a black El Camino and for some reason the song Old Black Water by the Doobie Brothers always makes me think of him.

The hamburger place was right next to Dutch Pride dairy, the only drive-through dairy in town. It was also the place that Dennis (also can’t remember his last name) worked. Dennis drove a bright orange Ford Fairlane (50s? 60s?) I think his dad worked at the same car dealership as my mom. The dairy had a huge walk-in freezer which was also nice for, ahem, quick breaks, during the short time I dated Dennis.

(Laura, just so you know, when I started this post it was just about Woolworths and Mr. G. I remembered the rest as I was writing it out.) (And Jama, I haven’t forgotten I owe you a picture of Simon.)

I didn’t last long in the food industry. Lousy hours and pay and not enough time for boys. I stopped working until after high school where I promptly went into the exciting field of corporate accounting. But I’ll save that for another time.

Your turn. What do you remember about your first job?


Tuesday, August 5, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |24 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Getting in Trouble

Today’s memory challenge is brought to my mind as we begin training our new dog Cassie. There are limits to be set and boundaries to be pushed. It is all a part of growing up and being a part of a family.

Kids get in trouble. It happens. I was such a nervous child that I didn’t get in trouble very much. I was always terrified that something really, REALLY bad would happen to me which was all in my head. My mom or my grandparents could say good morning to me in the wrong tone of voice and I would burst into tears. The strain of trying to be perfect and of course never succeeding took its toll on me from childhood into adulthood.

I can only remember three instances of actually getting in trouble though. One, I don’t know what I did but I had to have been 10 or 11, but I made my mom so made that she threw a couple of pillows at me. I think she must have wanted to do more but didn’t. And as I write this I am remembering more – the one thing I did wrong all the time and probably was what made her so mad – was not clean my room. In her younger days my mom was a real clean and neat freak. The vacuum cleaner never cleaned things good enough for her so she would get down on her hands and knees after vacuuming and pick things up off the floor. I never kept my room clean. I mean, we are talking disaster zone. And like most kids I didn’t see the big deal since I could always find what I wanted and she could always shut the door. But she didn’t like to do that. She wanted it clean. Many a time I would come home from school to find out that she had cleaned my room for me. It was the only time I ever got really really angry. I would have a full-out temper tantrum and throw things around the room and make it even messier than before. That was probably what happened the day she threw pillows at me.

In Junior High I had a horse named Sparky. We boarded him a ways from home and one day my mom and my grandmother came out to watch me ride. There were a couple of cute teenage boys working at the place and I was trying to show off. I tried to jump on Sparky bareback without using the step I usually used (He was huge. I was short.) I missed and fell off into the dirt and halfway under him. I said “damn” and my grandmother slapped my face right there in front of everyone, including the cute guys.

But the time of getting in trouble that I remember the most was with my grandfather. My grandfather was my world (until he died when I was 10.) He taught me how to play cards and I wanted to play with him all the time. Even though he was tired after work he indulged me a lot. He never “let” me win and I got tired of losing all the time. So one day I cheated. I was so sure that I had been sneaky enough to not be caught but of course he knew. He just said “you cheated” and packed up the cards. I remember very well that sinking feeling in my stomach that I had done something unforgivable, that I had disappointed him, that I had broken something that couldn’t be fixed.

Your turn. Can you remember a time you got in trouble as a kid?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |11 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Animals

This week’s memory challenge is about animals. Animals are an important part of childhood, both the ones we choose to bring into our homes and the ones we come across outside playing and exploring. I have been an animal lover all my life even though I haven’t owned very many.

The first animals I remember being around weren’t mine even though they lived in the same place I did. There was my grandfather’s hunting dog, Gippy, a Brittany Spaniel and there was Toby, a black lab that belonged to my cousin but lived, a short time, with us. I wanted a dog of my own but it would be a while.

There was a black rabbit, for a few days, that we caught in the yard, a wounded bird of some kind that I remember in the box in the cove under the kitchen sink. When I went to my cousins house a bit in the country we would chase and catch squirrels.

There are pictures of a fish tank in my children’s photo album but I don’t remember having anything to do with them. I did have one of those turtles that you are not supposed to have any more, the ones they sold with the little plastic bowl with the island in the middle.

The first dog I had was a little Pekingese/Pomeranian mix I named Lisa who loved my mom more than she loved me. I wanted nothing more than to have Lisa sleep on the bed with me and she wanted nothing more than to sleep with my mom. In retrospect I was probably a bit too excitable for her.

There was a stray cat I named Fluffy who let me feed him on the back porce and whom my mom insisted I must never touch because cats would give me ring worm. It was many years before I ever felt comfortable around a cat.

In junior high I had a horse named Sparky, the totally wrong horse for me, half Quarter Horse and half Clydesdale. There was no great love between us. He was the first horse we looked at and I told my mom I loved him because I was afraid she’d change her mind and not let me get a horse.

I wish my childhood had been filled with more animals.

What about you? Tell me about the animals in your childhood.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |14 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Your Memory Lane

Today’s memory challenge is random due to the overwhelmingness that is my life right now. (see previous post – basically I am here, will try to keep up with these posts, but am not able to get around to read and respond much anywhere else. I apologize in advance. Both my kids are in their own respective rough patches of life and I can’t do a darn thing to help except for love them like crazy. If you’re a parent, you know what I am going through. It hurts to watch them hurt and not be able to do anything to change it.)

Random memories from my childhood.

I remember having one of the very early Barbie dolls that looked like this:

and when the new Barbie came out my mom took me down to Rhodes Department store to trade it in. We traded in my old Barbie and something like $1.00 and we got the new one in exchange. She had an orange bathing suit with some kind of netting over it and her arms and legs bent. I never ever liked it as much as my original one.

After Barbies, I went on to Little Kiddles and I really liked these guys. I had pretty much the whole set and figured I’d grow up to date a blonde-haired guy named Biff. (I didn’t.)

Also big were these Kiddie Kologne dolls that had strange perfume smells.

There really weren’t any kids in the neighborhood where I grew up so I had a lot of dolls and a good imagination.


I never had a shower in the house where I grew up so it was a bathevery night before bed. My mom used to give me bubble baths with soap that came in these dispensers like cartoon characters. I must have had 50 of them lining the bathroom wall.Much to my grandmother’s dismay.


And of course snack time was big after school and I would often opt for a space food stick

and wash it down with some Hi-C. Mmmm….good.

I also remember when the telephone company first came out with the Princess phone. My mom got one in her bedroom and I got the little mini phone on a keychain. When I got older and started dating, my mom got me my own Princess phone with my own number (mom was single and dating too) and we used to call each other from our bedrooms to say goodnight.


What would I find if I followed you down your memory land?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |21 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Illness

Today’s memory challenge is inspired by me not feeling so great. I know it is emotional/psychological whatever, partial meltdown due to all the construction stuff across the last week and a half and a lot to do with not feeling like I can write anymore (which is slightly different for me than not feeling like a writer.) Anyway, I am going to try to NOT think about that and pretend instead that I am just a regular kind of sick, the kind you get over after you rest for a few days.

So today’s memories are about being sick as a child.

When I was little and I had the stomach flu or just an upset stomach (which happened with much regularity) my mom would always bring me the little pink plastic bucket. It was half the size of a regular bucket, just right to hold on my lap.

We lived next door to a family that owned the local Chinese restaurant (back then there was only one). When I was sick their grandmother would always send over my favorite foods – fried won tons and fried shrimp. My grandmother would worry that it would just make me sicker and that I wouldn’t be able to keep it down but it always made me feel better.

I have had a “nervous stomach” all my life. An ulcer at 5. I used to get so excited about activities at school that I would make myself sick and miss them completely.

The only time I was in the hospital as a child was when I was 4 and I had my adenoids taken out (but they left my tonsils because back then they still thought they did something useful.) I remember getting a new doll for the trip to the hospital. Her name was Suzy and she was one of those life-sized dolls that would walk with you when you held her hand. My mom left Suzy in my hospital bed when she took me for a walk and one of the nurses was quite surprised to find her in my bed.

What do you remember about being sick as a child?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |26 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Backyards

I’ve been MIA for a bit while the major driveway/patio overhaul has begun. Update on that soon.

Today’s memory challenge is inspired by the work being done outside our house. Setting is important to our stories and often we can take pieces of our past to help us ground the settings in our book. Think about just one yard from your childhood.  What stands out most in your mind?

For the first few years of my life my mother and I lived with my grandparents in the house my mother had grown up in.  Back then it seemed huge but when I go to Google Maps now and look at the picture of it now, it looks so small. The two big trees in the front yard are gone. (I remember standing against one of them when I got hit in the eye with a softball.) It’s still painted yellow and the big front porch is still red. We used to have lots of grass up close to the house, perfect for doing somersaults and cartwheels and standing on my head It was an oversized lot so the backyard had plenty of room for adventures. Closer to the street there was a long patch of lippia that made a flat mat of green with little blue flowers that were always covered in bees.

It was the backyard though that I loved best of all. Going out from the washer/dryer porch there was a long porch attached to the house. From there you could go down to the scary basement. There was a door from my grandparents bedroom to go outside and there was even an outdoor bathroom. Not an outhouse but an actual flush toilet in a tiny closet on the porch. It was great when you were out playing and didn’t want to run in the house.

Tight off the porch there was a huge in the ground clothesline, stationary, not one that spun. The metal bars holding it were fatter than the bars on the playground I still used to try and spin myself around on them.

There was a huge two car detached garage, one half had my grandfather’s boat and the other my grandmother’s seldom driven car. Some car repair tools and I don’t know what else was in there. The big place for tools was the huge shed (the size of a garage) behind the closeline. It had an old roll-top desk that was filled my grandfather’s woodworking tools and various nuts and bolts. It was always dusty and filled with cobwebs but I didn’t mind. There was a small hole in one side, a couple of feet square, so Gippy, my grandfather’s hunting dog, could get in out of the rain.

Next to the shed there was a fenced off section that I wasn’t supposed to go in but of course I did. There was a giant pile of bricks left from whenever they took out the fireplace (before I was born.) I used to try and stack them up to make a fort. The weeds always grew tall in here. I don’t know what kind of weed it was but it was the one that had 5 or 6 long needle – shaped things that we could use to spear flowers for making flower necklaces.

Beside that section was the back back yard. Or the way back yard. The incinerator was back here and the fence dividing our property from the neighbors was just a wire fence with a grid of about 4″, big enough for me to get my hands through to pet the dog on the other side.
An apricot tree was back here too and I would forever get in trouble for hammering nails into the tree so the sap could run and I could watch it dry to shimmering golden teardrop on the trunk.

We had giant almond and walnut trees (taking care of them was always a chore) and one of walnut tree had a rope swing. I could climb on the fence and jump off with the swing and feel just like tarzan! I had a basketball hoop (no net) on the side of the garage with a dirt court. I couldn’t wait for my grandfather to get home from work and play HORSE with me.

There weren’t many plants growing other than the fruit and nut trees (oranges, apricots, lots of walnuts and almonds) so I don’t know where I got my love of gardening.

The yard, like the house, was old and run-down and more than we could take care but my happiest childhood memories are playing in the backyard.

Your turn, tell me about one of your favorite backyards.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |6 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Your first kiss

My first kiss was in the summer of 1972, just before I started high school. 

Okay, I had been kissed a few times before then (John Gosnell in the 7th or 8th grade), but that’s not the one that I remember.

My mother and I were living with my grandmother again in her house on Bonifacio street. I had been skating for a while at Roller Haven in Walnut Creek and it was there that I met Kevin Wilson. Kevin was a keep it to himself kind of guy, roller-skating just because his mom wanted him to get some kind of exercise. He had bright red hair and freckles and worked as hard at ignoring me as I did trying to get him to notice me.

But notice me he did. Much to the dismay of all the other girls at the rink. He would skate with them but it was me he walked up to the Foster Freeze for snacks between practice sessions. It was me he would talk to on the phone for hours and hours. 

I lived downtown in old Concord. Kevin lived in new town, closer to Walnut Creek. We weren’t old enough to drive and our parents weren’t too crazy about us being so crazy about each other.

Kevin was a future successful businessman. He had a paper route and he was dedicated to delivering on time. That also meant he had a bike, an old-fashioned single speed bike. And that he was used to riding it long and far. One summer day he called me and then hung up again almost as soon as I said hello. Later he said he wanted to make sure I was home but I remember worrying that he didn’t like me anymore. 

About a half an hour later there was a knock on the front door. It was Kevin! I went outside and we stood together but apart under the orange trees in the driveway. I leaned back against a tree. Kevin leaned back against the car. We didn’t talk much, just stared at each other for a while and then Kevin stepped forward and quickly kissed me.

I was shocked, happy, and scared all at the same time.

As soon as it had begun, it was over. Kevin said he had to get home for his paper route. He hopped back on his bike and was gone. I drifted into the house in that hazy dreamlike state all-too-familiar to teenage girls and plopped down on my purple fur bedspread with a giant smile covering my face. I turned on the radio in time to hear the new song by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, Too Late to Turn Back Now. Before the song had finished playing I had mapped out the rest of our lives together.

Your turn. What do you remember about your first kiss – or any memorable kiss?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , , |10 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Childhood Sounds

Last week was all about the smells of childhood. (Okay, of my particular childhood.) This week it is about the sounds. Sound isn’t used as often as smells in sensory description but it should be. I have heard it said that if you can put a sound in the scene it will stay with the reader long after the smell has faded. But sounds are hard.

My grandmother whistling. She whistled all the time. When hanging the clothes out on the line, cooking, cleaning, she loved to whistle and was good at it. (Me, I never learned how.)

Church bells. We lived just a couple of blocks from Queen of All Saints church and the bells were a part of growing up for Sundays and holidays. Each time they surprised me as though I had forgotten them from the week before.

A doorbell that buzzed. The doorbell on our house was one of those round domes (rusted) that you pushed and it let out a long BUZZ.

Slamming of the WOODEN screen door.  We didn’t have a fancy door with one of those air thingys that let it close slowly. We had a wooden door with screen inset. It slammed great! I know the screen on the back porch was forever having to be tacked back in place because the dogs would poke holes in it.

The sound of sprinklers. We had one sprinkler that twirled in circles and another that moved side-to-side that we would try to jump under.

My grandfather sharpening his razor. He still used a razor strap.

My grandfather sharpening the carving knife. I don’t know what it was called but it was a long-handled thing that he would use to sharpen the big carving knife, sliding the knife up and down several times.

My grandfather sharpening other things. There was a small gray sharpening stone that lived in the kitchen junk drawer.

The slap of cards on the dining room table. My grandfather and I played a lot of cards together. I wish I remembered the name of the games we played. I do remember the sound of the cards against the polished dining room table.

Opening the garage door. We had a detached wooden two car garage. The doors slid from side to side on little metal wheels. One half of the garage had the boat and the other half was mostly junk. I can’t remember there being a car in the garage until after the boat was gone.

Closing the shed. The shed in our backyard was big, bigger than a one-car garage. I don’t know what it was used for originally in the house but it was my grandfather’s workshop and storage place. It had a set of doubledoors that we had to open to let in all the light. But to close them there was a big wooden arm that swooped down from the inside. I was always afraid of catching my fingers in it.

Sheets snapping in the wind as they hung on the line. My grandmother always preferred the sheets hanging out on the clothesline to dry in the sun. I remember the sound of her snapping them as she folding them too.

Knocking down the walnuts and almonds. In the fall we would use the long poles to knock the walnuts and almonds out of the trees.

The hammer cracking walnuts and almonds. After they were down, and dry, we could eat the nuts. We’d sit at the table with a tiny little hammer and crack them open.

The boat engine starting up. Summers were spent fishing or at the beach so I remember a lot of sounds associated with putting the boat in the water, getting it back on the trailer again. The sound of it starting up the first time of the day.

The sound of the water slapping the boat. Fishing from the boat meant finding a quiet spot and sitting there (often for longer than I could sit still.) I remember the sound of the waves hitting the boat while we waited for the fish to bite.

TV Shows. Lawrence Welk and The Wonderful World of Disney. Gunsmoke, The Real McCoys.

Filling the dog’s water dish. My grandfather had a hunting dog that was an outside dog. His water dish was metal and it was bent funny so it didn’t sit level on the ground. I can still hear the sound of the water (no hose) hitting the pan.

The Pow Wow parade. We only had to go to the corner and we had a front row seat to the parade every fourth of July.

Fireworks. We could sit on the roof of the shed and see and hear the fireworks being set off at the high school just a couple of blocks away.

Football games. Because we lived so close to the high school and because back then it was a small town, we could hear the games, the crowd, the announcers even, right in our backyard.

The drop of the door to the basement. We had a good-sized basement (unusual for California) with steep stairs. My grandmother’s canned goods were kept down there. Once I was back up topside I could release the basement door and it would thump loudly back into place. I had many a nightmare about being left on the wrong side of that door.

My grandfather’s radio. He had a transistor radio that he kept in the kitchen so he could listen to the ball games. I remember the sound of the static as he rolled the dial, trying to get a station to come in a bit more clear. I knew it was a single that I would have to be quiet for a while.

My grandmother’s sewing machine. It seemed like the sewing machine was going all the time. For many years my grandmother made most of my clothes. She made all my costumes too.

Duck calls. The night before going hunting my grandfather would practice his duck calls with the wooden duck whistle.

Your turn. What sounds do you remember from your childhood?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |20 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Childhood Smells

Sensory details add so much to our writing. There are some smells (or the memory of that smell) that take me instantly back to being ten-years-old again.

Sawdust. When my grandfather worked with wood I would watch the shavings gather beneath the sawhorses, snatching them up by the handful. When he ran the power saw and the sawdust would pile into little hills I filled my pockets with the little chips of wood.

Mercurochrome. That stinky, smelly, stain your fingers red, antiseptic stuff that all my friends parents used but we never did.

Bactine. What we used instead of merchurochrom.

Mud. I have always loved making mud. Still do. As a child I would make rivers of mud all over the backyard whenever I could get away with it. I’d make little boats from a half a walnut shell filled with mud and then I’d stick a twig in the middle with a leaf speared on the twig for a sail. I’d race my walnut shell boats, spurring them on with a burst from the hose until I got yelled at by my grandmother.

Orange blossoms. There were three oranges trees on the side of the driveway and when they bloomed, the smell was everywhere. I could open my window upstairs and the whole room would smell like oranges.

Tar. It filled the cracks of the sidewalk and on hot days in the summer I would watch it nearly bubble. I’d poke it with a stick until someone caught me.

Burnt rubber.  We had a floor furnace with a big metal grate. In the winter time the house was freezing and I would straddle the furnace. But sometimes I would stand on the grate until the rubber on the bottom of my tennis shoes started to burn.

Dinner mints. I think that’s what they were called. Little white hard candies with a mint center. My grandmother kept them in the china cabinet and when I opened the door, the mint smell would hit me and I would have to swipe some.

The incinerator. Yes, we used to burn our trash. Every Saturday my grandfather would fill the incinerator barrel with the week’s garbage and lit it up. I loved to go out there with him and watch the flames. The outside of the barrel was rusted through in spots and the ashes drifted out.

Old Spice after shave. It was the only after shave my grandfather ever used.

Mimeograph machine. My grandmother belonged to the Druids and was in charge of the monthly newsletter. Every month she would cover the kitchen table with newspaper and bring out the mimeograph machine. She’d put on her gloves and coat the roller with purple ink then crank out copies of the newsletter until the smell of ink filled the kitchen.

Singed ducks. After a good day of duck hunting my grandfather and my uncles would pluck all the feathers off the ducks. Then my grandfather would hang them in the basement and get out the blowtorch to carefully singe any remaining feathers from the birds.

Aquanet hairspray. The smell of hairspray makes me gag but it also reminds me of the high beehive hair my mother would wear and how she would spray for several minutes to glue it all into place.

Body powder. My grandmother had a white container filled with powder and a big powder puff that she used after every bath. I loved to open the container and smell it but I always got powder all over everything.

What are some of the smells you associate with your childhood?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |20 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Childhood Food

Food is such a powerful memory magnet.

Much of the food around our house, until I was ten-years-old, was dictated by my grandfather. He was a meat and potatoes kind of guy so we had a lot of meat and potatoes. Roast beef every Sunday with mashed potatoes. Fried catfish that absolutely melted in my mouth. Duck he had shot himself (and we would pick the BBs out while we ate). Shepherd’s pie which I remember only because it usually meant I would go to bed hungry. (I am not a person who likes their food all mixed up and I would usually only eat the crust.) About once a month my grandmother would make corned beef and then I would beg for a bowl of cereal or something else to eat. I have never acquired the taste for it. Creamed tuna on toast was a fallback when nothing was available or she didn’t feel like cooking.

My grandmother made grilled cheese sandwiches in same grille she used for making waffles – you could flip the irons over and use the flat side. It squished the sandwiches really flat and all the cheese was melted. It was a long time before I could eat a grilled cheese sandwich that wasn’t smooshed flat like a pancake. Cheese was Velveeta. I loved fried bologna and grilled Spam. In my lunch box I took bologna sandwiches (mustard only) with the crusts cut off and Ding Dongs or Ho Hos or Hostess cupcakes.

There was a lot of Bisquick used for waffles and pancakes and biscuits. We had turkey for Christmas and ham for Easter. Always. It wasn’t often but sometimes I got Kool Aid or Hi C or Tang. Carnation made this chocolate breakfast bar that I remember liking a lot.

My grandmother had a yellow cake she made from scratch and timed it so that it came out of the oven just when dinner was done. She’d make a single layer and then serve it with giant globs of butter. I loved Bosco syrup on my ice cream and loved to whip the ice cream until it was a soup I could drink with a straw.

My all-time favorite sandwich was (okay, still is) creamy peanut butter on soft white bread with slices of sweet pickles.

What about you? What foods stand out in your memories from childhood? I know I’ll remember more once someone else chimes in.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |22 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Childhood Bedroom

Tuesday Memory Challenge – Your childhood bedroom

Growing up I lived in several places. There was my grandparent’s house, a couple of times.. There was the little house on Almond Avenue my mom rented for just the two of us, for a few years on our own. It was just around the corner from my grandmother’s so we were close if she needed us but far enough away for some independence. I don’t remember much about it except that it was where I was first afraid to go to sleep at night which led to me telling myself stories in my head which led, eventually, to writing.

For another short while, in my teen years, my mom rented an apartment which was right on the edge of two school districts and for some reason (okay, there was a boy involved) I convinced her to let me switch high schools for a year. I wish she had said no. After a year I went back to Mt. Diablo and I never found my niche in high school after that.

In the apartment my bedroom usually looked something like this:

The carpet is shag, of course. The bedspread was a purple fur. My mother hated it but she let me have it. There was a record player for yes, records. The globe lit up. There’s a bottle of perfume on my dresser which was the first perfume (maybe the only) ever given to me by a boy.  My earrings were hanging from a piece of burlap. I made that earring holder myself. I made most of the earrings too. My mom had finally given up on telling me I couldn’t wear dangles. The hairpiece was for skating competitions and the clothes on the bed were skating outfits.

I can see an e.e. cummings book on the bottom shelf and Rod McKuen’s Listen to the Warm (the small orange book) on the floor. On the far right there’s a giant Troll doll and, if you look carefully, there’s a purple wax castle candle that a boy made for me. (Not the one that gave me the perfume but the only football player I ever dated.) The bulletin board is filled with quotes and pieces of poetry and probably notes from a boy. (Not the boy who gave me the perfume – he didn’t do notes. And not the boy who made me the candle – he barely talked, let alone wrote notes.)

This is a room where I spent a lot of time alone. A lot of time crying over the aforementioned boys and many others. This was the room I ran to when Matt Blake made a fool of me at the Junior Prom. This was the room I hid in when someone TPed the front door of the apartment (and not in a nice way) and no one ever owned up to it. This is the room where I wrote a lot of poetry. This is the room where I stood between being a child and a young woman.

But it is not the bedroom I remember most and best of all.

My favorite bedroom growing up was when we were back at my grandmother’s house and I had finally grown old enough to have the only bedroom upstairs. It was almost the attic, but not quite. I think they called it a story and a half. You went up the very steep stairs and there was a long room that we used for storage and a finished bedroom. Before the bedroom, off to each side, was the actual attic where we stored the Christmas decorations.

The wide open space before the bedroom was my playroom. I could be as messy as I wanted to and it didn’t matter because no one ever really came upstairs. I was able to use it as a playroom for a long time before I was old enough to actually move upstairs for sleeping. I did countless craft projects up there, string art and those purses where you glued on fake stones. I drew, poorly but I drew. Did puzzles and spent a lot of time making things up because most of the time I was up there alone.

I loved having my friends over for tea parties. (Debbie, Leanne, me and Linda)

If you look close at the top of the picture you’ll see that if Leanne had moved back, her head would have hit the roof. And you can see one of the little doors to the actual attic. Chatty Cathy is hanging out in the high chair and Little Kiddles are on the floor. I only have to look at this picture to remember so many things about being ten years old.
I can remember when my uncle took my Chatty Cathy doll with him on a trip and I never got her back. I can remember getting the big doll that is standing next to me when I was in the hospital to get my adnoids out. I look at Debbie and i remember the Puff the Magic Dragon episode. I see Leanne and I remember playing Batman and Robin. And Linda, Linda used to live next door to me, for a little while. Her parents owned The Sun and Moon,  the local Chinese restaurant, and when I was sick they would bring me my favorites, fried won tons and fried prawns. My mother always said it would make me throw up but it always made me feel better.

I loved that upstairs bedroom. There were two windows, one at each of the long ends. If I opened the one in the storage area I could see and smell and almost touch one of the three orange trees that lined the driveway. If I opened the one in my bedroom I could look out into the Tuey’s backyard where Linda’s grandmother hung strange things on the clothesline, like the vegetables they grew in the garden to use in the restaurant.

There was no heater upstairs so winter was cold. The only heat I got was from one downstairs, one of those floor ones with metal grate. It was right at the bottom of the stairs and there were doors on all four sides of it. In the winter time my grandmother or my mother would get up, turn on the furnace and then close all the doors except the one to the upstairs so some of the heat would find its way to my room. In the winter time I would stand on the grate until I felt the heat through my slippers and I burned waffle marks in the bottom.

Your turn. What do you remember most about a bedroom from your childhood?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |11 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Your Mother's Purse

When I was a child the purses I remember my mother carrying were always big with one of those snap closures at the top that could pinch the skin if you weren’t careful. No over the should casual bag for her. The outside might change, I don’t recall her having a large collection but perhaps a navy blue or black for fall/winter and a white or tan for spring and summer. The insides though, they were almost always the same. 

– – – A wallet, as I remember a fat one that held the checkbook too. 
– – –  A coin purse, one of those squeeze to open kind. 
– – –  A keyring that wasn’t a ring. It was a crossed teardrop sort of thing and you unscrewed one knob in order to slide the keys on. The top of each knob was a green stone. 
– – –  Lipstick in a gold colored case/tube. Why the different case for the lipstick I have no idea. 
– – –  Compact, or pressed powder as I believe it was called back then. 
– – –  A plastic rain bonnet, one of those little folded up accordian pleated kind. 
– – –  A silk scarf – one that was big enough to cover her hair (often raised high on her head) and protect her stylish “do” from the wind. 
– – –  A few bobby pins, safety pins and BandAids 
– – –  A pen that was usually one of those plastic ones that had advertising on the side
– – –  One of those fold-up/collapsible cups 
– – –  A small package of Kleenex 
– – –  A few doses of Mylanta tablets that she always carried for me 

Edited to add:

Gum. How could I forget that she always had gum? Wrigleys or Dentyne.
Dental floss.

Your turn. What do you remember? What was in your mother’s purse?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |21 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Your First Car

Since I’m not going to be doing any Teaser Tuesdays for a while I thought I’d try something new around here. Every Tuesdays I will post one memory question and hope people will all chime in with their answers.

This week’s memory challenge – your first car.

I turned 16 in 1974 but I didn’t get my driver’s license at 16 like so many other kids did. For one thing, I only lived a couple of blocks from the high school so walking was easy. For another thing I was a girl who dated guys who usually had cars. But the main reason I didn’t get my license right away was because there was no car for me to drive. My mom worked for a car dealership and drove a company car which I wasn’t allowed to drive. Eventually a friend of hers allowed me to borrow his car for the test and I got my license when I turned 17. Which meant, of course, I wanted a car. I was going to be a senior and I had visions of upping my coolness factor for at least my last year of high school.

I had a job at a local burger joint but would have to borrow the money for a car from my grandmother, which, according to her, gave her a vote in the car I bought.

My way cool aunt had a car for sale and boy did I want to buy it – a blue 1965 Mustang that looked something like this:

I refused to admit that I was too short for the car and that I would be looking out through the section of the steering wheel instead of over the top of it. I sat in that car and imagined pulling into the parking lot at Mt. Diablo High School (after driving around a while “to be seen” of course) and suddenly being someone who mattered at school.

Alas my grandmother and my mother consorted to keep my coolness down in the freezer section and insisted, instead, that I buy this, a 1970 Dodge Dart Swinger.

Sigh. Granted, in later years when drag racing at the Fremont raceway was a part of our life, that car might have made me a little more popular. But as a fairly invisible senior in high school, it didn’t help a bit. And when I married my first husband, the only thing insisted was that I sell that car ASAP.

So what was your first car and how did it come into your life?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |29 Comments