writing prompt

Writing Prompt – Saying Goodbye

It’s hard to believe but it has been a year of doing the memory prompt writing challenges. I think I have come to the end, not of mining my childhood memories but of promising myself I would post one each week. My blog/writer self is going through some changes and I want to unfetter myself in a few places in order to root more deeply in others. So today’s memory challenge is for me to try and remember the times I had to say goodbye to something or someone from childhood. Of course the one that stands out most strongly in my mind is saying goodbye to my grandfather. He died when I was 12 and in some ways I feel like my childhood ended then. He was my bestest friend that I followed everywhere. I remember saying goodbye to my great-grandmother after that and not going to her funeral because I had not gone to my grandfather’s funeral. For some reason it seemed disloyal to my grandfather, whom I loved and adored, if I went to great grandma’s funeral (whom I just tolerated and who just tolerated me) and not his. I remember saying goodbye to my Uncle Fred, who was a fireman in Concord. We road in the hearse past the fire station and all the fireman came out to salute as he went by.

I remember not getting to say goodbye to my friend Teresa Randazzo who moved away in what felt like the middle of the night when her parents were divorced.

I remember saying goodbye to Sparky, my first horse, after we were hit by a car and he had an injury that would take him a long long time to recover from so we gave him to riding school near Davis so he could get the rest he needed.

It seems to me there should be more goodbyes from childhood but if so, they are buried too deeply for me to find them at the moment.

You turn, what goodbyes stand out from your childhood?


Tuesday, July 14, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |12 Comments

Writing Prompt – Ice Cream, Again

It’s summer time and the living is, well, hot around here.

Heat makes me think of cold makes me think of ice cream. So today’s memory challenge is ice cream from childhood.

The strongest memory I have of ice cream was after going to the dentist. I hated the dentist and he hated me. (He is responsible for all  but one of my dental fears, of which there are many.) After going to the dentist my mom would take me to the ice cream parlor a couple of doors down. I don’t remember the name of the ice cream place. I don’t remember anything about it except that my bribery for going to the dentist and not pitching a fit was that I would get a scoop of chocolate mint ice cream after the torture.

Nicer memories are going to Baskin Robbins when my grandmother got a craving for a black and tan sundae. I loved Baskin Robbins because they put whipped cream on their sundaes and we didn’t get that at home very often.

When I was into roller skating we would often go to Berkeley Farms after skating for a late dinner or a snack. I always had a hot fudge sundae.

At Meadow Homes pool where I would get to go swim in the summer time, they sold ice cream sandwiches in a vending machine. Somehow they always tasted better there than they did when my mom bought them at the store.

At my aunt and uncles house they served Neapolitan ice cream. Hated it. Hated that the strawberry stuff melted into the chocolate and the vanilla. I used to try to eat the pink part first, washing it down with giant gulps of water, but some of it always melted into the good part.

The best memory I had was ice cream at home. Once in a while we made homemade ice cream but mostly we bought it, almost always vanilla but sometimes rocky road. We had Bosco syrup and usually fresh walnuts or almonds from our trees that I would grind up in the little hand grinder. I loved to cover the ice cream with nuts so thick you couldn’t see the chocolate syrup. Sometimes all we had was the ice cream and chocolate sauce and my cousin Danny and I would whip the ice cream round and round until we had ice cream soup and then, drink it with a straw.

Your turn. What are your childhood ice cream memories?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |11 Comments

Writing Prompt – Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

For this week’s memory challenge I’m trying to remember the various neighbors on my block. Next door on one side, when I was very young, was an old woman named Jenny. Jenny made the best congo bars, a chocolate chip bar cookie, that was so sweet my teeth probably started to rot before I ever took a bite. I wore out a hole in the hedge going back and forth between her house and mine on cookie days. When Jenny was no longer there the Tuey family moved in. They were the ones who had the only Chinese restaurant in town. There was Linda, a few years younger than me but a playmate, a younger brother named Timmy I think and a baby I couldn’t remember. Their grandmother lived with them too and took care of the baby while the parents ran the restaurant. I remember that they grew a lot of the vegetables for the restaurant in the backyard and some of the greens would be washed and actually hung on the clothesline to dry. They had a cool clothesline that came into the kitchen. You could put the clothes (or the salad greens) on the line and then hand over hand bring in empty line and send the stuff out to the sun to dry. When Jenny lived there the house was neat and clean. When the Tueys moved in it was total chaos. Three kids and two working parents probably helped that along.

On the other side of that house was the house that straddled the corner. I don’t remember the adults that lived there but there was twin boys who came to visit and I would play with them. They loved to play up in my attic playroom with my mother’s storybook dolls. Alas the strongest memory I have of them is them throwing the dolls down the stairs and breaking them. They had a basement (well so did we) but their’s had one of those slanted doors that you could climb up and let trucks roll down. For some reason I remember sitting on the basement door and singing the song, “Oh playmate, come out and play with me.”

I don’t remember the neighbor directly next door when I was little. It must have been an unfriendly adult because I remember I wasn’t allowed to trick or treat there. But along about 5th grade the Truitts moved in. A big baseball loving family with a girl named Jan that was my age. Jan and I were friend on and off again. She’s the one who punched me in the mouth when I had braces for no reason that I ever understood and then lied about it.

Across the street was my grandmother’s best friend, Lisa deBenedetti. They had a ground level basement and you had to walk up this steep flight of stairs to get to their front door. The stairs always scared me because there was a space between each step and I thought I would fall through. What I loved best about their house was the basement. It was the collecting point for the yearly rummage sale put on by their Druids group. I used to get to try things on first and buy old handbags and high heels and hats for playing dressup. When the grandchildren came to visit we would play in the tiny backyard. I remember their clothesline…one of those freestanding ones with a center pole. I always thought it looked nicer than ours that was just a bunch of pipes my grandfather put in the ground and ran wire through. Oh, I just remembered they had a hedge of olive bushes around the front yard. Every year I would watch those olives ripen and rot on the bushes. I loved olives so much and wanted to pick them and bring them home to do whatever it was you did to olives but we never did. As far as I know they never did anything with them either.

Next to that house was Grandma Stotts (everyone in the neighborhood called her that) and Gilbert and Hazel Hills. I remember Gilbert as being really really tall and thin. Hazel had white curly hair and used crutches but I don’t remember why. She taught piano lessons.

Next to that was the duplex that, for a short time, my father lived in back when he first met my mom. It must have been a rental because I never remember anyone staying there for very long until junior high and Elivira Dorris moved in. That was about the time we had crushes on Bobby Sherman and Davy Jones and David Cassidy so we spent a lot of time listening to their records and pretending which one was going to fall in love and marry us.

There were more houses on the street but I don’t remember the people who lived there.

Your turn. Who were the people in your neighborhood?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |2 Comments

Writing Prompt – Lunch

It’s almost lunchtime here so I figured that would be a good inspiration for this week’s memory challenge. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has gone out to eat with me to learn that I am a picky eater. (I will not tell the green beans and roast beef story here since it has nothing to do with lunch.)

When I was a kid my mom would cut the crust off my sandwiches for me to take to school. There was a time when I would eat no bread at all so I would get bologna and cheese (those Kraft prepackaged sliced non-really cheese things) with mustard rolled up and held together with a toothpick. I think I remember some early kind of plastic container that she would put them in. Fruit? Nope. Never ate it as a kid and don’t eat much of it now. (Mostly it’s a texture thing.) I never ate peanut butter and jelly (again, it was the fruit and texture thing) but peanut butter and honey was a big hit. I loved the way the honey would soak into the bread during the day and by lunchtime the edges of the bread would be almost crunchy as a result. I took a lot of pickles to school, great big juicy dill pickles, like the kinds you would get in the big old barrels. Loved those. There was always dessert in a school lunch, Hostess cupcakes or Ding Dongs or HoHos. Sometimes cookies, Mother’s chocolate chips or chocolate covered graham crackers or those pink and white animal crackers. Oh, and sometimes an actual box of animals crackers but school lunch never gave me enough time to play with those.

If I was home and my grandfather was still alive, lunch might be a grilled Spam sandwich. Other lunch favorites was a grilled cheese, made with Velveeta cheese that melted so well. I used to love the way the cheese would spill out onto the grill and burn. I always ate the burnt cheese first. And of course my favorite lunch was much much maligned by everyone else in the world, peanut butter and sweet pickle sandwich. Mmm mmmm good. So good that it’s what Oliver eats in my picture book Oliver’s Must-do List. So good that it is still one of my comfort foods and my husband makes sure there is always a jar of sweet pickles in the refrigerator waiting for me should I feel the urge.

Your turn – what did you have for lunch as a child?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |24 Comments

Writing Prompt – In the summer time

When I was a very little kid, up until the time my grandfather died, summertime meant one thing – going out on the boat. My grandfather’s pride and joy was this Glasper Cabin Cruiser.

After work on Fridays he’d make sure it was ready to go, loaded up on the trailer and in the driveway facing the street so that bright and early Saturday morning we could head out to Antioch to launch for a day of fishing and playing around the water. Once we were in the boat we always stopped by his duck blinds so he could get out and rake the clam bed so we would have a bucket of bait. Once the bucket was full we were off and racing through the sloughs. I remember thinking that all the sloughs looked alike to me but Papa, he always knew right where he was going.

He would get us set up at one of our favorite beaches and then he would go back out on the boat, drifting a bit further from where were were making so much noise on the beach so he could fish. I remember that sometimes my aunt and uncle would come out and meet us at the beach so that I could play with my cousin Diane. (I’m on the right.)

When I look at this picture I can remember that ice chest that said Hires root bear on it. It had a green padded seat and my Nana always sat on it. Sometimes my mom and my grandmother would go off to collect wild berries. Me, I liked to collect rocks and clam shells and driftwood. I would make tunnels and rivers and bring the water up to watch it race around the courses I made. I wasn’t much for building sand castles but I did like to dig holes. We would roast hot dogs on the beach and drink Coca Cola and stay out until the sun was going down then race back through the sloughs to hit the dock before dark.

Papa almost always caught a bucket of catfish to bring home so once we were all back at our house he would gut and clean them and my grandmother would pack them in milk cartons that she would fill with water to freeze so that we could have mostly fresh catifsh to eat the rest of the summer. Nana’s fried catfish was one of my favorite meals of all times. Summers on the beach in the Antioch sloughs are some of my most favorite summer time memories.

Your turn. What is one of your favorite summer memories?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |8 Comments

Writing Prompt – Hair


I think I can safely say that my mom was obsessed with my hair while I was growing up. Every time she took a picture of me I would have to turn around so she could get a picture of my hair. It started when I was very young.

And kept up I got older.

And through the skating years.

And even when it was fake hair. See the bald head in the bottom right part of this picture? That was the head I kept this hairpiece on. I used to have to put my real hair up in a bun underneath and then pin this hairpiece on before competitions. I had a bunch of scarves that I tied around the top so you couldn’t see where they joined. And my mother used to spend actual money to take that fake hair to the beauty shop and get curls redone! Why did I have to wear the fake hair? I think because that’s what my skating pro used to do and we just fell into place.

And high school mascot time too.

But the picture taking is only part of the hair memories. When I in kindergarten she cut off my long hair up into a short pixie cut. I looked like a little boy. We were doing a play where we wore these paper Dutch hats and everyone teased me and told me to keep my hat on all the time. As my hair grew out, at last, I begged my mom to set it with pin curls like she and my grandmother did almost every night. She did, finally, for picture taking day at school.

School picture day was a really big deal to my mom so she was not at all happy the year I forgot to give her form that told her when it was and I got my school picture taken the way I looked on a regular day.

I had lots of headbands. Those soft fabric ones and the hard plastic ones. I had those plastic barrettes that had animal shapes. We didn’t have a shower in our house so washing my hair meant doing it in the kitchen sink. My mom would lay a towel out on the kitchen counter and I would lay down on my back on the hard tile. She would roll another towel up and put it under my neck. And then she would wash my hair, using a giant measuring cup to rinse it clear with Tame creme rinse that was supposed to get the tangles out. Afterwards I would sit on a stool in the kitchen while she combed out all the snarls. If you’ve read my book, Hugging the Rock  you might remember that there were several scenes about hair in it, including the hair washing scene from my childhood. Lots of emotion attached to me and my hair.

Your turn. What do you remember about hair from your childhood?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |30 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Embarrassment & Disappointment

My current WIP has the main character doing a lot of self-reflection. Okay, it has a few characters doing a lot of self-reflection. And since I try to connect part of me to each of my important characters it means I am doing a lot of self-reflection lately. Which isn’t always easy. So I decided to start with simple things and try to remember times I had done things in childhood that ending up in embarrassment for me and how I coped with them. There are four that stand out in my mind.

#1 In the 5th grade we were having a talent show. At the time I was totally hooked on the song Do You Know the Way to San Jose? made popular back then by singer Dionne Warwick. I do not have a Dionne Warwick voice. I do not have a voice at all. One ex used to beg me to not sing in the car with him. Another, a musician, told me if I worked at it really hard I could have a voice like Melissa Etheridge, well at least like the part when she mostly screams. So me, a singer? Not.

But I wanted to be. So I went to the audition and and turned on the background tape and proceeded to sing my little heart out. You know those contestants on idol where you cringe and wonder what in the world made them even think they could win such a thing? That was me. It was horrible. Before I even got finished the kids waiting for their turn were booing me and yelling at me to shut up. Finally some boy ran up on the stage and stood in front of me and told me to just SHUT UP. I went home in tears and never tried out for another talent show again.

#2 The summer between 6th and 7th grade I went camping with a friend to Crazy Horse Campgrounds. It was my first exposure to square dancing and I loved it. It was so much fun and everyone helped everyone else learn the steps and just have a good time. Later that summer but before school started I saw a flyer for square dancing class. It was a ways from home, too far to walk, so I had to beg my mom to drop me off. She did and I walked into the auditorium of the school and everyone was all dressed up in matching square dancing outfits. I had no idea that this was a long-established club that had been meeting for years and years. I was a kid. I had just had a good time square dancing and wanted to do more of it. They asked if I had ever done square-dancing before and I said yes. The caller gave me a funny look and pointed me to a square with a missing person. Then they started up without a single word to me. He switched out, faster and faster and faster and of course I had no idea what to do. He kept changing things and speeding up and I finally realized he was trying to get me to quit. It worked. I left in tears (again) and waited outside for 2 hours until my mom came to pick me up.

#3 In my sophomore year I moved from Mt. Diablo High School to Ygnacio Valley. I didn’t have any friends there, except for Kevin, and so I decided to join a club to try and meet people. I saw sign-ups for a play and decided to try out for drama. I don’t remember the play at all but I do remember that when I tried out people laughed (and it was supposed to be serious) and the adviser told me that I would be better off if I went and found something else to do with my spare time because there was no way I could be an actress.

#4 Also in my sophomore year… I started off the year with one boyfriend, Kevin, that I went to my first prom with but by the end of the year when there was another formal dance I was dating someone else named Matt. Matt asked me to the end of the year dance and I remember this time getting a dress that was blue dotted swiss with a bit of a petticoat underneath. I remember my mom posing us for lots of pictures in our tiny apt and how Matt had to sit down for most of them because he was way over 6′ tall and I was barely 5′ tall. My mom couldn’t get us both in the picture. I remember the dance was at some golf course and we drove a long way up a hill to get to it. I remember walking in the door and then Matt saying, "see ya!." And walked away. We had only gone out a few times and it turned out that he never wanted to take me to the dance after all. It was more of a dare to get me there and dump me, which he did. I walked all the way down that hill myself, in my fancy dress and white heels, and waited for my mom to pick me up. Not quite a Stephen King/Carrie moment but close. I never did figure out what I had done to him to make him do that to me.

I guess in addition to embarrassing moments these are also be moments of intense disappointment. Mostly what I remember, as a kid, is that I just wasn’t good enough. Never mind that I hadn’t had lessons or practiced or experience, the message I got was that I wasn’t good enough. Now to figure out how to attach some of the emotions this drudged up to my characters.

Your turn. What moments of embarrassment and/or disappointment do you remember from childhood?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |30 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – My First Prom

Since it is prom season I thought I’d take a trip back in time to the first prom I went to and see what I can remember.

It was called a Sophomore Fling, I think. It was 1974 and I was going to Ygnacio Valley High School. I had gone to Mt. Diablo for my freshman year and then my mom had us move to an apartment that was smack dab on the border between Mt. Diablo and Ygnacio Valley. I didn’t have any close friends at Mt Diablo, no best friend, no boyfriend there. At Ygnacio Valley I had no friends but there was a boy. A boy from the roller rink that I had had a crush on for years and who finally noticed me. So I switched schools for one year, going back to Mt. Diablo for my junior and senior year and causing a few rumors (untrue) about why I was gone.

I don’t remember the dance (I’m sure all we did is hug each other while we went around in circles. Neither one of us was a fast dancing kind of person.) But I remember how it made me feel.

Kevin was driving by then and I am pretty sure he drove us to the dance but maybe not since the prom pic was taken in his parent’s living room. Or maybe he came and got me and took me over to his parent’s for the obligatory picture taking. He wore a deep green slacks and a green patterned sport coat (he had red hair and it was the perfect color on him). The dress, well, I don’t know if I fell in love with it and talked my mom into it or she or my grandmother just bought through the catalog. Looking back now I think maybe they bought it for me with the idea of covering as much of me up as possible. Which is really funny if you think about how I spent 7 days a week at the roller rink wearing stuff like this.

I don’t remember the music or the decorations or anything else about that dance except that it made me feel, for a little while, like a princess.

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

Memory Writing Prompt – Dolls

When I was looking through the pictures that were already scanned to show Melodye one of my frilly dresses, I couldn’t find any. Well, I found some from the back when I did a series on my mother taking pictures of how long my hair was all the time…so Melodye, I’ll have to find the box of pics and scan them in. But what I did find, were pictures of me with dolls. Ilove love loved my baby dolls as a child. One or two of them were always with me, especially for picture taking time.

The front porch was a popular posing spot. Here I am with two of my very favorites, a Bye Bye Baby made my Ideal and a Gerber baby. Someday, when I can afford it, I’m going to buy myself a couple of those. I wish I still had them, or any of my dolls, but when I was about 10 or 11 I got the idea to donate them to the local children’s home. I wish I had saved at least one.

At Christmas there was always a picture taken of me in front of the tree at the car dealership where my mom worked. This is me with Chatty Cathy, another favorite.

My cousin Diane and I on my grandmother’s cedar chest which is sitting in my library now.

Patty Play Pal was tons of fun because she could wear my old clothes.

When it was time to pose, even my grandfather got into the act with Patty Play Pal.

And even when my cousin Jimmy was born and I had a real life baby to play with, I still brought my baby doll with me.

Debra McElroy, Leanne Ciconne, me and Linda Tuey. And of course if I had a bunch of dolls, I had to have a tea party for them, right? I had Barbie dolls, one of the old ones with no moving parts and I remember going to Rhodes Department store and standing in line to trade it in for one of the new ones with bendable legs and long blonde hair and an orange bathing suit with some kind of netting over the top of it. Less than a month after turning it in I wanted my old one back again.

Your turn, what was one of your favorite toys from childhood?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |34 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Television

Today’s memory challenge is inspired by me being a total flake, at least for a little while, to watch some television. Which got me to remembering television as a child. A really young child.

The two shows I remember most of all were the Red Skeleton show and The Ed Sullivan. Red Skeleton was my grandfather’s favorite and Ed Sullivan was my grandmother’s. I loved Red Skeleton, especially when he did the hobo clown. Ed Sullivan was boring except for Topo Giggio. Oh and there was Lawrence Welk, another one of my grandmother’s favorites.

Watching television with my grandfather meant climbing into his lap when he sat in his red nubby chair. If I was lucky, he’d have a peppermint lifesaver to share. Watching television with my grandmother could never happen until all the dinner dishes had been washed, dried, and put away.

We watched Rifleman and I had a major crush on the son, Mark. When I started to make up stories because I was afraid to go to sleep at night I’d imagine that Lucas (the Rifleman) came to my house and told me I was really his daughter and I was going to go to the ranch and live with him and Mark. When I got older I told the same story with Blue and Manalito from High Chaparral.

We watched the Real McCoys and my mom liked to tell the story about how Richard Crenna grew up around the corner from where she lived.

On Sundays I got to watch the Wonderful World of Disney as long there wasn’t something on that my grandparents wanted to watch first. After school I watched Leave it to Beaver.

Your turn. What do you remember about watching television as a child?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |15 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Easter

Since we just had Easter dinner at our house I thought I would try to remember what Easter was like as a child. Easter baskets, of course, filled with jelly beans and a big hollow chocolate bunny. We dyed eggs but mom wouldn’t hide them. They just sat in their cardboard container for me to take to school every day.

But Easter dinner, as long as my grandmother was alive, that was a big deal. Everyone would come to our house (I lived with my grandmother) for a giant feast. The meat was always a canned ham with a brown sugar glaze. Always. Scalloped potatoes. Peas and corn. Those flakey dinner rolls, heat and serve. And pie of some kind, whatever fruit was in season at the time. Those were the absolutes. As the relatives came there would be additions to the table. Some kind of jello salad. Maybe another dessert. More veggies. I can’t remember if candied yams were served here but I think so. Black olives in a little bowl that I would sneak from in advance of dinner.

When everyone was still alive and still speaking to one another, it was a great crowd of aunts and uncles and great aunts and great uncles and cousins. We kids had to sit at the card table in the living room because there wasn’t enough room for us at the big table (and because we might break something.)

What I remember most of all is the joy I felt at being surrounded by family. My family. My home. It always seemed a little too quiet after everyone left.

What do you remember about Easter as a child?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |18 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Clubs

Today’s memory challenge is inspired by my re-evaluating all the various clubs and organizations I’m involved in and trying to decide what works for me and what doesn’t. As yet, I don’t really have any answers for myself. But it did make me think about what I was involved in when I was a child.

The first club I remember was something called, I think, Great Books for Young Readers. Or something close to that. I remember taking some sort of reading test and then getting this formal letter saying I was eligible for this after school “club” which turned out to be an early variant of a gifted program. I loved it. We read books. We talked about books. We listened to recordings of plays and then went to see them at A.C.T. It was my kind of club. They “got” me there.

There was also chorus at school, an after school program back when there was still some money for the arts. We went to different schools to perform. I seem to remember that what we sang most were patriotic songs. And choir when I got a bit older.

And there were Brownies and Girl Scouts which I think my mom pushed me toward trying to help me make friends but it didn’t really work because all those girls all lived and the same neighborhood and then there was me. But I liked earning merit badges.

Hmm….I don’t think I was in any other club through school or if I was, I don’t remember them.

How about you? What clubs were you involved in as a child?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |5 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Money

This week’s memory challenge is inspired by the thought of money and how we got it as a child.

When I was really young I thought money came from the dirt. No, really.

Every few days we would walk to town, me and my grandmother, and we always took the same route. We crossed the street to get back to our side in front of the same house every time. I don’t know who lived there but I know that the edge of driveway, the lip that led from the street to their driveway, was always filled with dirt. By the time we got to that corner house someone or another would be outside and want to chat with my grandmother. I would get bored in about 3 seconds and then I would do what many other kids would do, look around for some dirt to play in. And there it was in the gutter.

I must have seen a penny in the dirt there once and then decided to always check there for money whenever I could. I’d find a stick and poke at the dirt while my grandmother chatted with a neighbor about the sales downtown or who was sick or how the roof needing fixing. And almost every time I found a coin or two. I used to wonder if my grandmother went over and seeded the dirt for me but that wasn’t her style. She didn’t believe in whimsy like that.

I tried to imagine how the money got there…did the owner of the house stop his car halfway in the driveway and empty his pockets? It didn’t seem likely but I never did figure it out.

Your turn. Did you get an allowance as a child? Did you earn money any other ways before you were old enough to get a job?

Teachers: You can use this as a writing prompt. Have students write a story about the money that keep appearing in the dirt.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |16 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Homework

Aha – this time I am getting my memory challenge post up before midnight. Whew!

Today’s post is inspired by being busy…overwhelmingly wonderfuly busy doing the things I love to do, writing and teaching and talking to great people about things we all love to do, like writing and teaching, well you get the idea.

Trying to get organized made me think about homework in school. I have always been deadline driven, much to my mother’s dismay. Those projects that teachers would give you several weeks to do? I’d wait until a couple of days before it was due, go into panic mode, and then work like a demon until I got it done and collected my good grade.

I can remember doing a report on Argentina and we had a family friend who often went there for business. There was so much I could have learned by asking him questions but leaving that report until the night before made it a wee bit impossible.

Math homework was always saved for the absolute last minute because I hated it so very much. Science was the same thing.

I always wanted to do my homework sprawled in front of the television set but I usually had to sit in the kitchen and work on it while my grandmother was fixing dinner.

hmm…looks like I don’t have as many homework memories as I thought I did. Probably because except for math I loved school. I didn’t actually MIND doing the homework, I just had a hard time getting started.

What about you? Do you have any homework memories from your childhood?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , , |6 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Imaginary Friends

This week’s memory challenge is inspired by a topic I have been thinking about  a lot – friends. As a child I didn’t have a lot of very close friends….no matter what age. But I did have an imaginary friend I called Tommy. He was a little mouse who lived behind the electrical outlets in our old house and climbed along the wires to get from one room to the next. He always beat me downstairs to breakfast. We had a lot of long conversations in my room about how disagreeable vegetables were and how much we loved chocolate ice cream. He was better at math than I was but I knew how to read.

One day he just got on a bus and went away and I never saw him again.

What about you? Did you have an imaginary friend as a child?




Tuesday, March 17, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |5 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Learning to Drive

Okay, I do know that it is Wednesday and I missed Tuesday and the memory challenge but here it is….that all important rite of passage…the driver’s license.

I didn’t get a lot of driving experience because the only car we had was the “company” car my mom got to drive because she worked for a car dealership. I wasn’t allowed to drive that because I wasn’t covered on their insurance. My grandmother had a car but I can’t remember why I wasn’t allowed to drive that.

I took the driver’s ed that was typical in high school back then. Some time in the simulators and the class car but I have very little memory of that.

I was actually a senior, or maybe it was the summer between junior and senior year,  before I took the driving test and then it was only because my mom was dating someone who had a car that I was able to use. I don’t remember the test or the actual getting of the license. In fact, I remember more about getting my own car in my senior year than anything else. I remember calling my best friend Linda Belcher and she and I went for a ride. I don’t remember where we went but we ended up back at her house eating an entire bag of Hershey’s kisses to celebrate.

Okay…I guess I thought this was going to be about getting a driver’s license but I guess I don’t remember that much about that stage in my life.

How about you? What do you remember about learning to drive?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |6 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Ice Cream

I have absolutely no idea where this idea came from but I have been thinking about ice cream today. So let’s use that for the memory prompt.

As a child my favorite ice cream flavor was chocolate mint. Actually it still is. As I child I also hated going to the dentist but right near the dentist office was an ice cream parlor. Knowing there was a good chance to get an ice cream after a visit to the dentist (which was always filled with equal parts pain and humiliation) was about the only way I could make myself get into the car. The entire time I was sitting in that odd-smelling office looking out the wavy glass windows at Concord Elementary school across the street, all I could do was think about the possibility of ice cream. After I survived all that pain and suffering my order was always the same. Mint chocolate chip. On a sugar cone.

At home we usually only had vanilla ice cream but we had all sorts of goodies to put on top. Bosco chocolate syrup was a staple. As was a selection of fresh walnuts or almonds from our trees. We had a little metal hand grinder for the nuts and I loved to grind them into a really fine powder to pour over the chocolate sauce. Sometime we had the marshmallow creme or butterscotch topping and whipped cream. But my favorite was always just the vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup that I would stir until it was soup and then drink it like a milkshake.

After skating lessons we would go to Berkeley Farms restaurant in Walnut Creek and I would often get a hot fudge sundae. Sometimes a chocolate milk shake where they actually brought you the big silver container they made it in to the table so you got every last drop of the shake to yourself.

Your turn. Do you have any childhood memories about ice cream?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |10 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – Cold Weather

It’s been a wee bit cold here in California which made me think about the weather when I was a child. I’m thinking just cold, winter weather now.

I remember that we had floor furnaces with big grates, 3 feet long by 18 inches wide. They would get so hot when they’d been on for a while but I’d come in from outside, freezing, and I would stand on the grates in my tennis shoes. When I stepped off because I couldn’t stand the heat, the bottoms of my shoes would have melted valleys from where I stood on the grates.

When I had the attic bedroom my grandmother or my mom would open the door to the attic early in the morning and then shut the other three doors that surrounded the grate. The idea was that the heat would rise to my bedroom because there was no heater up there at all. It never got toasty warm but it did take the edge off and help me get out of bed.

In the kitchen we would shut the pocket door from the kitchen to the dining toom and shut the door to the back porch. Then Nana would plug in the big space heater. It was tan with a grate on the front and I could stand in front of it until the backs of my calves were on fire. I remember it had a cloth-covered cord and I love to watch the inside of it turn bright red as it made the room, if not toasty, a little bit warmer.

I remember that hot chocolatewas best when it was freezing out. We made it with powdered Ghirardelli chocolate that came in the orange canister and had a lid that you had to pry open with a spoon. I liked to try save the canisters for a bank or storage but it was cardboard and always melted when I tried to wash it out. Marshmallows in the hot chocolate was a rarity. I can’t remember having them very often. I do remember hot buttered toast that I would dip in the chocolate though. One of my favorite comfort breakfasts as a child.

I remember rainboots I had to pull on over my shoes and I didn’t like them at all. And the funny looking clear shot booties my mom had to wear over her high heels.

That’s about all I can remember but then California wasn’t super cold very often.

Your turn. What do you remember about cold weather as a child?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |6 Comments

Memory Writing Prompt – The Kitchen

Tuesday memory challenge

Since last week was about remembering our childhood bedrooms I thought it only right to move to another important room in the house – the kitchen.

The majority of my childhood was spent at my grandmother’s house and that’s the kitchen that I remember most of all. There was a sliding pocket door that separated it from the dining room and another door to separate it from the inside back porch where we had the washer and dryer. I’m remembering the floor as being blue, white and black flecked linoleum.

Nope. I just found this picture and it was actually blue and white alternating squares.

There was a big walk in pantry with all kinds of food in it. Later my grandmother put the built-in refrigerator there and I always missed that pantry.

There was a small little closet, maybe it was a broom closet, no, it was for the ironing board I think. I remember that my grandfather kept some kinds of tools in there and whenever I had to take a Band-aid off he would go into that little closet and get the Energine to help remove the leftover sticky stuff.

There was a breakfast nook just big enough for the table and chairs. A window that looked out into the backyard and little corner shelves up high near the ceiling. One one of them was a set of chickens and a rooster, three of them brightly colored. I have them now and think of my grandmother’s kitchen every time I look at them.

The phone was in the kitchen nook and I would sit on a chair there to talk (this was back when the phones had cords attached to them.) I remember the telephone number was 685-7880. I think it used to  be MU something but I can’t remember the rest.

The stove was big, with two ovens, black and white. It had a big over and a small narrow one. It’s the small one I remember because my grandmother had perfected the timing of making her yellow cake from scratch. She’d get it all ready and pop it into the over while we ate and it would come out of the oven all hot in time for dessert. No icing, just some butter on the top. Yum, yum.

I can’t remember where the refrigerator was at all. Maybe it is was on the back porch?

Before she had the kitchen remodeled my grandmother got a portable dishwasher that she would wheel out from the back porch and hook up to the kitchen sink.

The countertop had little white hexagon tiles. I remember my grandmother rinsing out paper milk cartons so she could stuff fish or duck or pheasant into them, fill them with water, and then put them in the freezer in the basement. There was a window over the sink that looked out at the Tuey’s house. There was an open space under the sink and I remember having a bird, a baby perhaps, in a cardboard box. Maybe we put the black rabbit we found there too.

I remember someone, either my grandmother or my grandfather or maybe both, brushing their teeth at the kitchen sink with Pepsodent tooth powder.

I remember the cabinet to the left of the sink, up high, was where we had the little grater jar and we would grate our walnuts for putting on our ice cream sundaes. Vanilla ice cream, Bosco syrup, and fresh walnuts.

That’s all I can remember about a kitchen from my childhood.

Your turn.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |11 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Your Childhood Bedroom, Take 2

Today’s memory challenge is about a place where many of us spend much time – the bedroom. In children’s books we often see a lot of scenes that take place in the main character’s bedroom so I thought I would try to recall all I could about any of the bedrooms I had as a child.

Nana’s house on Bonifacio Street. Over the various years I lived there I had every bedroom except the one belonging to my grandmother. The one I remember first is the one closest to the front street. My double-bed took up almost the entire room. The closet had a slanted ceiling with a bare light bulb and a pull string to turn it on. The windows were the old-fashioned kind (I don’t know what they’re called) that slide up. In the winter when they were wet they would stick. The screens were old ones with holes that let in the flies.

For a short time we moved out of my grandmother’s house and around the corner to Almond Ave. Again my bedroom was the one closest to the street. I don’t remember much about it except that it had hardwood floors and I would practice slide-skating in my stocking feet. It was also the only bedroom that I remember having nightmares in. My mom would tuck me in at night super tight, so tight that I feared being able to get out of bed in case of an emergency. There was a ceiling light fixture over my bed and I would worry about the monsters that lived in the roof coming down through that light fixture and attacking me in the middle of the night.

After that we moved back to my grandmother’s house and I moved upstairs to the attic which was my most favorite bedroom ever. I had the entire floor to myself with a bedroom that had a door to shut and an huge open area for play. It was hot as the dickens in the summertime (no air conditioning back then) but I could open the windows on each of the floor and the smell of the orange trees would fill the room. I didn’t have to keep the room clean because there was no chance of anyone, other than me, ever seeing it.

Next my mom decided we needed to be on our own again so we rented an apartment over on Meadow Lane. I was in high school, going to Ygnacio Valley for one year, and my bedroom was a constant, total mess. I had a purple fake fur bedspread, wax candles a boyfriend made for me, a turntable (you know, one of those old fashioned record players before CDs, before cassettes) and a earring holder I made for myself out of a sheet of burlap material. The holes in the burlap were perfect to slid the hooks of my earrings through. The entire apartment had yellow long shag carpet. I had a phone of my own in my room, with my own number, and my mom would call me from the phone in her room to say goodnight.

That apartment didn’t last long and we moved back into my grandmother’s house. This time I had the middle bedroom which, in retrospect, seems really weird because you couldn’t shut all the doors to have any privacy.  My room was the one you went through to get to my grandmother’s room. It also didn’t have a closet and I can’t remember where I kept my clothes. All I remember about that room was that I still had the purple fake fur bedspread and my piano was in the same room.

Your turn. What do you remember about the bedrooms of your childhood?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |2 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Teachers

No, I didn’t forget.

Today’s memory challenge is inspired by the fact that I have recently made contact with one of my favorite teachers from high school, Mr. Foster. I had him for several years when I was at Mt. Diablo High School. He was one of 4 English/Creative Writing teachers that had an impact on me. And since he was the last one I had in high school, I guess it was up to him to finish what the other three started. And he did.

So this week I am going to see what I remember about teachers. Not everyone I ever had but those that made an impression on me.

Elementary School was Williams Elementary, close enough to walk or ride my bike once I was old enough.

Mrs. Keller, my German kindergarten teacher who spoke German to us right along with English and instilled an early love of that language. she was big, and round and could 4 kids at once so no one ever felt left out.

Mrs. Oswald, my second grade teacher who embarrassed me with the mouse incident.

I’m not sure what grade but I think it was Mrs. McMullen’s class where I brought the starfish in for show and tell and it dried out and stunk up the whole class. Everyone made fun of me but she came up with some science lesson around it and helped me save face.

The 6th grade teacher when I was in 4th grade who might have really known my dad but I was too afraid to admit we were related.

Mr. Nisonger, my 6th grade teacher. I think half the girls had crushes on him but I remember him most because he talked me into going out for the girl’s softball team and I loved it.

7th and 8th grade was Glenbrook Middle school.

Mr. Friss was the German teacher who also was the backup organist at the church we didn’t go to regularly anymore. He also taught calligraphy class but I was never allowed to take it. It wasn’t “practical” enough for my mom.

Mrs. Hackett and Mrs. Welch were both at that school and they really got me interested in writing, made me editor of the school paper, and encouraged my talent and love of working with words.

High school was Mt. Diablo for 9th, 11th and 12th grade and Ygnacio Valley for 10th grade. For the dumbest of all possible reasons and because my mom had moved us out of my grandmother’s house for a year and we lived on the border, I switched high schools for a year because of the boy I was dating. Big mistake because when I came back to Mt. Diablo everyone thought I had left because I was pregnant. (Times were different back then.)

I don’t remember many teachers from 9th grade except for Mrs. Armstrong, the gym teacher who was also the track coach and who helped me fall in love with running. She even let me try hurdles though I was way too short to be any good at it. I was fast though for the sprints though I never did beat Susan Hewlett. Oh, and there was Mr. Macomber, the English teacher, who had us write a biography of our lives up until that point and who wrote on the very last page of mine that I should ask my mom about taking me to see a shrink. I still have that and when I reread it, I can’t see what he saw in there to give him that idea.

In 10th grade at Ygnacio there was Mr. Gisch, the math teacher, who told me I better get really good at something else because I was really no good at math at all. There was Mr. Ashlock, the science teacher, who let us do really off the wall science projects like sing songs about pollution. And there was Mr. Sillonis, the creative writing teacher who made us grade ourselves, who sat in the sink in the portable classroom and encouraged us to bring things from our other worlds to share in class. I brought my skates to class and he moved all the desks so I could do a demonstration. He was big on writing what we knew but it was many years before I ever got that message.

Back at Mt. Diablo there weren’t that many teachers that I can remember for 11th or 12th grade. Only Mr. Foster stands out in my mind. I took as many creative writing classes as I was allowed, always anxious to see what unusual writing exercises he would come up with for us. He challenged us to look at simple things and describe them in unusual ways. He pushed us to take chances with our words. And he encouraged me to write as much as I possibly could because the more I wrote, the better my writing would become. I still have some of my handwritten pages from his class and when I look at them, I am instantly transported back in time, sitting in that awkward, too small desk, staring at the pictures he flashed up on the wall while trying to think of how to describe a lemon if I didn’t already know it was a lemon.

Your turn.

What teachers from childhood stand out in your mind?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , , |2 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Clothes

I have absolutely no idea where the inspiration for today’s memory challenge came from unless it is from the mountain of laundry waiting for my attention. How two people generate so many dirty clothes is always a mystery to me.

But clothing is the thought for the day.

When I think about the clothes of my childhood I think of my grandmother because for many years she made most of my clothes. I remember a blue corduroy dress that had the best skirt for twirling, it would spin out around me like a cape.

Because we weren’t allowed to wear pants to school she made me dresses and jumpers. Oh how I hated those boring jumpers – scoop neck in front and back, a button on each shoulder, a blouse underneath. They hung straight from the shoulder with no give for running or jumping or spinning.

I remember needing special shoes when I was younger for some reason – I don’t know why – but we got them at the Stride Rite shoe store.

I remember white lacy anklet socks that folded down with a ruffle around the edge. I was only allowed to wear them on Sundays when we went to church.

I remember dotted swiss, lots of dotted swiss for skirts and netting underneath to make the dress stick out from my sides (and made it tough to sit down.)

My grandmother would buy her patterns, material and thread from BeeDees store downtown. I can remember going with her to sit on the high stool while she looked through the pattern books. I looked too but my vote never counted. She was a fan of rick rack trim and I had it on more clothes than I care to remember.

In elementary school, when we did buy clothes, it was always from Rhodes department store. Every once in a while I got to pick out something fun.

I remember my Brownie uniform.

I remember in 7th grade we were finally allowed to wear pants and I got a pair of white jeans. Beautiful white jeans. I couldn’t wait to wear them to school. Well you can imagine (at least if you are female I bet you can imagine) what happened to me the very first time I wore them. Sigh. They soaked in a bowl of bleach water after school.

I remember that for high school my mother and grandmother wouldn’t let me have a navy pea coat, even though that was what EVERYONE was wearing. I got stuck with a nylon windbreaker with red and white stripes. Not even in the same comfort zone for warmth.

I remember once I started skating competitively that my grandmother was aghast at the skating outfits I wore.

She also wasn’t too fond of my first day of high school outfit

nor the succession of mini skirts that followed.

But when I joined Little People, an offshoot of cheerleading, and needing a uniform in 24 hours, she whipped out that sewing machine and made it for me.

And I remember the bright green formal I wore for my first formal dance.

Your turn. What do you remember of clothes from your childhood?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |33 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Telling Lies

The idea for this memory challenge was prompted by a recent experience on LinkedIn. This is a long intro but I have to write it out because it has been festering in me.

I have, of late, been trying to track down some people from my life that I have lost touch with. I have found some of them, a few on Facebook, a couple on Myspace, and some on Classmates. I went to LinkedIn to look for one of the best friends I had when I was living in Louisiana, the person that made it possible for me to survive living there. My college study buddy, my racquet ball partner, my confidant about all the craziness in my life, Donna Allard. I knew her husband had a business in the Virginia Beach area and I was hoping that he would be on LinkedIn and I could get back in touch with Donna via Dennis. While I was there (on LinkedIn) I decided to see if I could find a few other people I had lost track of, way back to my before I ever left California days and when I was spending a lot of time at the local horse ranch, the Lazy R. (Incidentally, I found Dennis but no response from Donna.)

Anyway, I remembered one family that we had spent time with both at the ranch and away from it. I typed in the name of the wife. Nothing. I typed in the name of the husband, bingo, there he was. I knew it was him because of the location and the things in the profile. So I clicked on “let’s connect” and added a short note. There had been only good times with this family. Lots of laughter. They were good people, mom, dad, three kids.

I got a notice back from LinkedIn that this person said he didn’t know me.

He. Didn’t. Know. Me?

These people were guests in my home many times. His oldest daughter was my son’s first girlfriend. When I found a turtle in our garage we gave it to their son who wanted a pet but couldn’t yet have a dog. When I had to get rid of my little dog before I left California, she found a home with Dougie too.

And yet.

And yet he says he didn’t know me?

He lied.

So I started to think about lies in childhood. There are three that standout for me.

I cheated at playing cards with my grandfather once. He wasn’t sure, not totally, so I lied. Flat out, bald-faced lie. He knew better. It was days before he even spoke to me and months before he would play cards with me again.

In the 6th grade I had braces. I also had a best friend (or so I thought) named Jan. Walking home from school one day (we lived next door to each other) she hauled off and socked me in the mouth. I don’t remember what exactly we were talking about but it wasn’t one of those conversations where a punch to the face was an appropriate response. My inside lip caught on my braces and ripped open. I ran home with blood streaming out of my mouth. That night my grandmother, my mother and I walked next door and reported what Jan had done. All we wanted was an apology. Jan looked her mother straight in the eye and said, “I didn’t do it.”

Everyone believed her. No one believed me.

The third lie hurts most of all. It was in the 4th grade and we were required to memorize the preamble to the constitution. Then we went to the 6th grade class to “show off” what we had memorized.

I trotted up to the front of the class and recited the words. The teacher thanked me and then asked me my name.

I said, “Susan Webb.”

Her face crinkled in concentration then she smiled. “Are you any relation to Tommy Webb?”

For just a moment, my heart raced with joy. Tommy Webb? Tommy Webb was my father. The father I had never met. The father everyone at home pretended didn’t exist. The father I felt sure held the very answer to who I was or who I was supposed to be.

But I had been trained at home to pretend there was no such person as Tommy Webb. He had been nothing more than a person passing through on his way to somewhere that didn’t include me.

I looked up at the teacher, stomach quavering and said, “No. No relation at all.”

I lied.

Your turn. What do you remember of lies from your childhood?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |1 Comment

Memory Writing Prompts – Going Shopping

At this holiday time of the year many people are racing around to malls or clicking like crazy online to complete their holiday shopping. Which led me to think about going shopping as a child and trying to remember everything I could.

The local drugstore was Mangini’s. That’s where we went for anything that was from the doctor. There was a Rexall Drugstore on the same block but I think we just went there for cards and other things. Not pills. Mr. Mangini had some candies in the store too and I remember going there to buy melt-in-your-mouth wintergreen lozenges.

Mayfair Market was our grocery store. They gave out Green stamps. I don’t remember where we had to go to get the highly coveted Blue stamps but it wasn’t in our regular circuit.

Quality bakery was where my grandmother got the occasional loaf of fancy white bread or fancy rolls for a company dinner. It was also where I lusted after a bakery birthday cake with those plastic decorations. (I never got one of those.)

Beedee’s was next to or very near the bakery. It was a hodge-podge of a store. A modern day version of a general store. They carried all sorts of fabric and patterns and my grandmother would spend hours in there getting her fabric to make many of my clothes.

There was a Rhodes department store where I got any back-to-school clothes that my grandmother didn’t make. Which means that’s where I got socks and shoes and underwear and a coat. Rhodes was also where I went to take the class White Gloves and Party Manners.

Darned if I can’t remember any other stores downtown though I remember when Sun Valley mall was built. The most exciting thing about that was that there was a gym of some kind that had a swimming pool and my mom and my grandmother joined so they could go swimming. I wasn’t allowed.

At Christmas time I remember getting the bigi Wishbook catalogs. I can’t remember going to many stores at the holidays though. Once in a while we would drive into San Francisco so we could look at all the Christmas window displays.

Your turn. What stores do you remember from your childhood? Any special or not-so-special shopping memories?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |8 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is in just a few days so of course I figured this would be a good time to try to remember everything I could about Thanksgiving as a child.

Since we lived with my grandmother it was always our house that everyone came to for the big events. I loved having everyone come over. My grandmother’s brothers, Uncle Fred and Uncle Jess, the unmarried brothers who lived together and were as different as any two siblings could be. Her other brother, Uncle Harvey and his wife Rose who gave the best hugs. I remember a few times when my grandfather was still alive that some of his relatives came too. Lorraine was married to my grandfather’s brother. I can’t remember his name right now. But Lorraine always wore tons of fancy costume jewelry. When she got tired of it she would give it to me for craft projects. Great uncle Jake and auntie Dodo would come from San Mateo. My mom’s siblings would be there too, Uncle Tim and Uncle Bud and his wife Pat. Their two kids Mike and Diane. My aunt Mary Jane and her boys Danny and Jimmy. And me.

Nana’s house wasn’t big but we always seemed to find room for everyone. We would set the table with a pink sheet and then a lace tablecloth over the top so the pink would show through. Her china was a pink rose pattern and the glasses were a delicate pink Fostoria. It was a while before I was old enough to be allowed to set the table with those glasses. The grownups got to sit at the big fancy table and we kids had to sit at card tables in the other room. If we were really bad we had to take our food into the kitchen and they would shut the sliding door so we couldn’t see anyone.

My favorite thing to do to get ready for people to come over was to make placecards with everyone’s name and some fancy squiggles. Sometimes my grandmother even let them stay on the table.

It seemed like my grandmother stayed up all night cooking and everyone who came brought food. There was a big turkey, of course, and all us kids fighting over the drumsticks. Mashed potatoes. Candied yams. Some kind of jello with fruit and marshmallows. Corn. Peas. Bread was always those flakey dinner rolls that had slices in them. She bought them from the Quality Bakery. Little bowls of gherkins and olives. Dessert was always pumpkin pie and apple pie. With Cool Whip. Scattered around the house on coffee tables and tv trays were other munchies. My grandfather’s favorite mini mints. They were little white things with a  bit of green in the middle and they melted in your mouth. There would be almonds from our trees, light roasted and dusted with salt. And there would be my favorite, sugared walnuts, also from our trees.

What I remember most was that it seemed like everyone wanted to be there. Everyone laughed and stayed for hours. The men would talk about hunting and fishing and boats. The women would talk about relatives who weren’t there and various ailments. Now, for some reason only they understand, my two uncles no longer speak to my mother which means, by association, the no longer speak to me. It’s been nearly 20 years now. No one gets together at Thanksgiving or any other holiday. One of my uncles met my children once. The other, never.

It makes me even more grateful at this time of year for my wonderful in-laws who are open and loving and remind me what family is really all about.

Your turn. What do you remember about Thanksgiving as a child?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , , |2 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Chores

When we lived with my grandmother chores were done on the same day every week. (so were meals). Ironing was always done on Mondays. I wasn’t very good at ironing but I begged until I was finally allowed to iron my grandfather’s handkerchiefs. He always used the same kinds, red bandannas. He had some pretty white ones but they stayed stuffed in his drawers.

The bandannas were 100% cotton which meant they were really wrinkled after they were washed. So they had to be sprinkled with water before I could iron them.  My grandmother had a 7 up bottle with a sprinkler cap top so I could sprinkle water on the handkerchiefs as I ironed.

Sometimes I got to rake leaves but not often. I think that’s because I’d rather play in the leaves than leave them in piles.

After dinner I cleared the table and had to dry the dishes. (No dishwasher when I was growing up.) I wasn’t allowed to wash them. My grandmother was sure that she was the only one who could get the dishes all the way clean.

When the washing machine dinged I had to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer. The one chore I had every Saturday  was to clean the bathrooms. As I got older I was allowed to dust, but that was about it.

Hmmm…..I guess I was a little bit spoiled.

Your turn. What kind of chores did you have as a kid.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |9 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Around the Block

I’m way overdue for posting and I know I missed last week’s memory challenge. I’m still in adjustment mode. But there’s still a bit of Tuesday left so let’s see what we can come up with for stepping inside the way back machine of our childhoods. I’m still working on the yard and I’m still dealing with one person in the neighborhood who is less than thrilled with what we are doing in the yard. So that makes me think about people in my neighborhoods growing up.

For the first ten years or so I lived in my grandmother’s house. Ginny was an old lady, older than my grandmother, who lived next door. She made these amazing rot-your-teeth Congo bar cookies that were sort of like a chocolate chip cookie bar. I wore out a hole in the privet hedge between our houses running over to see her after school. After she died or moved the Tuey family moved in. They owned the local Chinese restaurant. Mr. and Mrs Tuey were busy all the time. Grandma took care of baby Timmy. Linda was a few year younger than I was but we played together a lot.The grandmother used to wash vegetables for the restaurant and hang them on the clothesline, sheets of cabbage and kale and who knows what else right in-between baby Timmy’s diapers.

On the other side, I only remember the Truitt family. The house had a mother-in-law house behind it but we were never supposed to go into the backyard and bother the person living there. The Truitt’s had a lot of kids. Two older boys who were crazy about baseball. Jan, my age, and at least one little brother. Jan and I were sorta best friends for a while until she punched me in the face for no reason I ever understood and then lied about it. Mrs. Truitt used to make American Beauty Cake for our birthdays. She used to put a penny, a nickle, a dime, and a quarter into the batter. I suppose we should have worried about breaking a tooth but we were always just anxious to see who got what money.

Across the street was Grandma Stotts and Gilbert and Hazel Hills. Hazel had some disability and used crutches all the time. She gave piano lessons. Next to them was the deBenedetti family. Lisa deBenedetti was one of my grandmother’s best friends. They had a hedge of olives around their front yard and the steepest stairs ever to get up to the front door.

There was a house directly across the street from my grandmother. A duplex with close to the front and another one at the end of the long driveway. The house was white. There wasn’t much lawn but there was tree in center of the dirt. I remember Elvira Dorris living there about the time I was in Junior High and we had crushes on Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy.

But that’s not what I remember most about that house.

I remember my mother telling me that  for a few months my birth father lived in that house. That house across the street from my grandmother.

Every time I went into Elvira’s bedroom to play dress-up and let’s get married I would wonder, was this my dad’s old room?

Your turn. Who were the people in your neighborhood?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |2 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Vacations

I am on day 2 of LPC – Life Post Cubicle. It still feels like vacation which is about what I imagined. So I figured that would be a good post for this week’s memory challenge – vacations from childhood.

Up until the time I was 10 and my grandfather died, we didn’t go on vacations much. Well, I think we went to the Washington state fair and that we got out of the car and I fed a deer in the middle of the road but I don’t remember the event, I remember the picture of the event. After my grandfather died we started going on vacations. One year we would go to Disneyland, then the next year we would go somewhere my mother and grandmother wanted to go. We went to Hawaii the year that the Polynesian cultural center opened. They weren’t done with all the exhibits. We had a long, long drive to the center where we were going to stay overnight. I think it might have been some sort of a deal for my mom to listen to a time share, I don’t remember. The hotel we were in was filthy and we slept in our clothes. My mom freaked out at the lizards (geckos?) that were covering the wall of our room.

I remember the fire dancers and I remember eating poi. That’s all I remember.

I was mad because my mom invited my cousin Diane to come with us. I wanted to have my mom to myself but she was thinking it would give me someone to do things with. We must have been about 12.

I remember taking a helicopter ride from island to island. I remember picking my own oyster so we could get a pearl so I could have my “memory” set into a piece of jewelry to remember the trip.

At least once every summer we would drive to the Nut Tree which now is a bunch of outlets but back then wasn’t much of anything. A few rides, like a train, and a restaurant, and I don’t know what else that made it such a fun place for my mom and my grandmother.

We went to Santa’s Village and Frontier Village. At Frontier Village I always wore my cowgirl outfit and I used to hope people would think I was part of the show.

Other vacations – they were often “educational” ones to the California Missions or history visits that I could do reports on. Hmm…when I came up with the topic I thought I had a lot of ideas about vacations my mom and I had taken and now I can’t remember that many.

Your turn. What do you remember about childhood vacations?


Tuesday, November 4, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |4 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – Halloween

This week’s memory challenge is inspried by the fact that this week is Halloween. So I thought I’d try to see how many Halloween memories I could bring up to the surface. This one surprised me as I have very few memories about Halloween as a child.

I rememer that I couldn’t wait until the costumes showed up in the stores. They were all made by the same company and came with those one piece costumes and a hard plasic mask that made me sweat. The only costume I actually remember is one of Casper the Friendly Ghost.

I can’t remember any other single costume. Okay, wait, I remember being a clown in a costume that my grandmother made for me with a tall, cone cap.

I can’t remember going trick or treating.

I remember that my mom had a large paper skeleton that she would hang on the front door. And we had this foam like pumpkin that had a single light bulb in the center to make it light up. We’d put it in the front window.

Wow, that’s all I remember about Halloween as a child. Your turn. What memories do you have of Halloween?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |6 Comments

Memory Writing Prompts – The Dentist

I’m posting this way late or way early, depending on how you look at it because I’m about to start taking some mind-altering pain numbing medication to prepare for the dental surgery in the morning. Looking forward to about 3 hours in the chair so thank goodness for Ativan and Vicodin and Nitrous. Actually the Ativan is new for me – they usually give me Valium. You see I’m pretty much a basket case when it comes to going to the dentist. Just getting my teeth cleaned is enough for a panic attack.

So today’s memory challenge is, you guessed it, the dentist.

The dentist of my childhood was not a child’s dentist. His name was Dr. Fulgham and he was my mother’s dentist. I don’t know if I was his only child patient but sometimes it felt like it.

The trip to the dentist would go something like this: my mom would go in first. I’d sit in the waiting room looking at Highlights magazine and feeling my stomach turn itself inside out. My mom would come out wearing a big smile. A big, white, cavity-free smile.

Then they would call my name.

I’d trudge down the hall and climb into the chair. The windows were those milky glass kind that you couldn’t really see out of but I knew that Williams Elementary school was across the street. It wasn’t my school but it was the one my mom went to when she was little. I’d sit there, listening to the swirl of the bowl and try to imagine my mom small enough to go to that school.

Then HE would come in. He’d have that headband thing on that was supposed to help him feel better. He never greeted me, just dove right into my mouth. He never explained what he was going to do, he just did it. And it always hurt.

He didn’t believe in giving shots for the pain.

What he believed in were lectures. So every dental visit would end with a lecture about how my teeth were bad and how my mother’s teeth were perfect. He would ask me why I couldn’t have teeth more like my mom. Many, many years later a dentist told me I just had very thin enamel and it wasn’t my fault but that dentist, for more years that I want to remember, made me feel like crap. I’m sure that most of my dental fears started in that chair.

After the dentist my mom would walk me next door to Baskin – Robbins and I would get a mint chocolate chip cone.

It was never enough.

Your turn. What are your memories of going to the dentist as a child?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008|Categories: Memory Writing Prompts|Tags: , |11 Comments