Way Back When Part 1

My sister sent me a poem the other day, forwarded by email from friends.  “Isn’t this just us”, says the heading and I began to break it apart and found memories I couldn’t get away from. This was how it began.

A little house with three bedrooms,
one bathroom and one car on the street.
A mower that you had to push
to make the grass look neat.
That was the house I grew up in. Three bed rooms, one for my parents, one for Mary and then mine. The walls were covered with ripped and torn wall paper. You could roll marbles down the slanted hallway to my sister’s room. It was one side of a double house. I guess today you’d call it a duplex.We could hear the kid next door when things didn’t go quite as she would like. Her name was Suzanne and she got her way a lot.
Jeanette lived on the top floor. Jeanette came to live with us when I was a baby and my mother had TB. Momie was in a sanitorium for two years and Jeanette became a second mother for us until I was nine and she went off to join the WAVES. I suppose in today’s terms she would be called a Nanny.
When Momie came home from the hospital Jeanette stayed with us to help my mother. I have memories of her playing Flight of the Bumblebees on the piano. Both my sister and I took piano lessons. Mary did a lot better at the piano than I did. I think my dad finally talked Momie into letting me stop the lessons.
My room looked over on a paved square behind the house. It looked like a parking space but it was nowhere near the drive way.The land lady offered to wall paper my room one summer and told me I could choose the paper. In the end I had a choice of two…pink or blue – the cheapest. While we were gone in the summer she did the job. It was a shock to all of us that the wall paper did not go to the floor behind my bed. After all the bed was against the wall and no one would know.
I recall my mother saying to me when I was cranky “You must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.” and I would wonder how I could do that since the bed was against the wall.
In the kitchen on the wall
we only had one phone,
And no need for recording things,
someone was always home. 
The phone was at the bottom of the stairs in the hall with a very long cord so it could be taken up stairs when my parents went to bed. It was a double line so we were only to answer on two rings, but if you were sneaky you could listen in to the other line when it rang.
When you made a call you spoke to an operator who said “number please”. The numbers you called always had a word preceding the number… Winchester 4592…usually the name of your city. (and yes that was our number!)
I had an old rotary dial phone when  my grandchildren came to visit one summer and a friend of theirs looked at the phone intending to call his mom and asked “How do you work this thing?”
We only had a living room
where we would congregate,
unless it was at mealtime
in the kitchen where we ate.
My dad had an old Morris chair as HIS chair in the living room. He had built a box on one arm . He would lift the lid to find all sorts of treasures in the box. When he was a smoker it held cigarettes but when he quit, it had tape measures and pencils and odd little tools.
It this house we ate in the dining room. My mother prepared the meals.We always had our meals served in serving dishes and the dishes were passed around the table. You had to take a serving even if you didn’t like it. I didn’t like creamed celery but it was one of my dad’s favorites. When I came home from college for Thanksgiving my freshman year, my mother forgot it was not my favorite  dish. She was trying to welcome me with something I liked. I sat down and looked at the dish that was passed to me, hesitated, and passed it along to my dad ignoring the rule to take my tablespoon full. No one said anything. It was then I knew I had grown up. I could make my own decisions.
Mary and I helped with the dishes.We took turns washing them until we decided to bomb ships (the dishes) with the dish rag. Enemy ships were the ones that sank. If they would float they were ours. After that Momie took charge of washing and Mary and I would dry or put away. To avoid arguments, Momie would prop a poetry book in the window sill and we would learn poems. I can still recite parts of “The little toy dog was covered with rust….”
more to come
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4 Responses to Way Back When Part 1

  1. newtreemom says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories… this was lovely to read.

  2. Lynn says:

    Ahh, such nice memories…it sound like you and your sister are very close…I am so lucky to have that special kind of relationship with my sister as well…so so lucky!

  3. Great memories, Fran. I love that early part about getting up on the wrong side of bed. We do say things that must sound so odd to little kids. Love the phone part too. My mother-in-law had a wall rotary until she died in 2000. The grandchildren loved it. And finally, the creamed celery/grown up story. There are little moments like that aren’t there? They tell us we’ve moved to a different stage in our lives. Thanks (like Bob Hope) for the memories!

  4. #3 says:

    Enjoying this post, mom.

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