Misbehaving Cooks

Spicy aromas coming from the kitchen made my mouth water. Maybe if I begged Mom, she’d let me taste something. Bracing myself on the stairway banisters, I began to swing down three steps at a time. Before reaching the main floor, I heard Mom yell, “Supper’s ready!”

Daddy and my sisters flowed out of the living room into the kitchen ahead of me. One brother made a bee-line out of his room at the end of the hall to the table and the other brother quickly stepped in from the entryway. They all looked as hungry as I felt. Hints of garlic, onion, oregano and basil hung tantalizingly in the air.

Mom had placed two large jelly roll pans of homemade pizza on the center of our table. One sister exclaimed, “Those look beautiful!” She was right. The crisp crust around the edges were a light golden brown. Although topped with plenty of melted cheese, I could see chunks of meat, pizza sauce and mushrooms below. Beside the pans were shakers of Parmesan cheese and dried peppers. Continue reading


Crazy Baby Sister

An old man sat in the corner of our living room on the davenport. I liked his kindly look and the rosy glow of the lamp’s light on the room’s peach-colored wall behind him. Laying down on the floor where he could see me, I began to kick my legs up into the air. Mama stepped into the living room, reached down and patted my bottom as she scolded, “Kathy, quit showing off.”

At two-years of age, I had already come to understand my place in the family. With parents who were 45 years old the year I was born, comic relief was clearly needed. It was a good thing I showed up! I enjoyed entertaining people and making them laugh. As the youngest child in a family of seven children, I had a ready audience.

There were times I didn’t even know I was doing anything funny, but when I realized what was happening, I hammed it up to the hilt. Big words are hard to master for little mouths. My mispronunciations made two of my sisters who were 5 and 7 years older than I was shriek with laughter. When cousins came to visit, they would prompt, “Kathy, say hamburger.”

Rather than trying to say the word correctly, I proudly said, “Hamberger-ger-ger!” I loved the response when I said it wrong. There was absolutely no incentive to say it right! Continue reading

Oh Momma!

Trembling, I slid up onto the huge dentist chair. It was big and roomy even for an adult, but since I was just starting second grade the chair felt as big as a room. It was hard and slippery. To the left of the chair was a small round white spit sink. Despite being so young, I was familiar with dentist visits. My teeth were riddled with cavities.

Today was a school day. In the waiting room Daddy had told me that I could either go to school for the rest of the day or go back home after my appointment. In first grade, my teacher had been Sister Donna; this year I had Sister Mary Michaleen. Even though she was older and stricter, I still preferred being in school over visiting the dentist.

I hated the waiting room. I always heard the horrible whine of the drill as the dentist worked on someone else. There was always a bitter smell in the air, too. My brother once told me that teeth burn from the friction of the drill. The smell reminded me of Mom singeing the hair and pinfeathers off chickens before cooking them.

If waiting in the waiting room was horrible, waiting for the dentist in his huge, hard chair with nothing to do but stare out the window in front of me was far worse. I wanted to cry, but my Mama would have said I was too old to do that.

The dentist finally stepped into the room and briefly peered into my mouth at the tooth he wanted to fix. Then he stood directly in front of me and slowly began to fill a syringe with Novocain. It had a very long needle. That was all I could look at as my body went icy cold with terror. Continue reading

Special Treat

Nearly vibrating with excitement, I climbed out of the family car Daddy had parked on a side street. My family lived on a farm near the village of Stratford and in the late 1950’s we didn’t visit the big city of Marshfield often. My being able to come along on shopping trips was even more infrequent since I’d started attending grade school four years ago. What little I remembered from preschool visits, served to fill me with inflated expectations.

Mom sewed all the dresses that my sisters and I wore, so I knew we would be visiting fabric stores, but those didn’t interest me as much as the drug, jewelry, stationery and five and dime stores. The first place my mother visited was J C Penney’s fabric section. I thought, “Good, we can get this part of our shopping trip out of the way first, then do the fun stuff.”

Looking at floral fabrics that Mom would sew into pretty dresses wasn’t so bad, but then she sat down at a table to look at pattern books. After what felt like hours I begged, “Are you all most done?” She wasn’t. We visited two other fabric stores. Finally, laden with packages, we visited a drug store for a special hair tonic to prevent Mom’s graying hair from turning yellow, a jewelry store to drop off a broken watch for fixing and a stationery store for a writing tablet. Continue reading

Holba Dodgen

Glancing out the window, I noticed shadows cast by trees and shrubs in the yard had grown long, finally appearing cool and friendly. Sunset was an hour away. Earlier in the day the sun had been hot and the air overly humid so I had stayed indoors. Now was my chance to comfortably enjoy my backyard.

One of the first things I wanted to do was visit my newly transplanted apple tree near the backside of my property. It made me happy to see how healthy his leaves were. I greeted him, “Hello Harold Haralson, have the deer been leaving you alone?” Several silver reflective ribbons that I’d tied to a few of his branches flapped in the breeze, glinting brightly in the late evening sunshine. As if answering a comment he’d made, I answered as I turned to continue my yard inspection, “Yes. It does look that way. Very good. Carry on.” Continue reading

The Millionaire

The school bus lumbered to a stop at our mailbox. I lightly bounced down the steps and ran toward the house across the small bridge that spanned the ditch. Through the years Daddy had taken my six siblings and me to school every morning and come to pick us up every afternoon. This year, only Betty and I were still going to school so we started taking the bus. I was in sixth grade.

 Autumn sunshine was slowly turning the world golden. I raced to change my clothes so I could play outside until supper. When I burst into the living room, I found my brother-in-law Jim plugging in a television set. Shock made me stop and stare. Our neighbors had one, but Mom and Daddy had repeatedly said they didn’t want a television.

Jim looked over his shoulder and said “Hi squirt.” Seeing my surprised expression, he explained, “This is my television set. I’m giving it to your folks because I rejoined the army. Agnes and I are moving.” Continue reading

Cold War’s Plan ‘B’

I stood and stared uncertainly at the flowerbed under my kitchen windows for a few minutes. My hands holding the shovel clenched. I was scared to start dismantling it, but just as scared that if I didn’t start working on it soon I’d chicken-out. This flowerbed hadn’t been dug up for more than eight years. Would I be physically able to pull the dense vegetation apart, let alone out of the ground?

The original four small Russian Sage plants that I’d planted there now dominated 75 percent of the bed. Jammed between them were great whorls of purple bearded irises and purple spider wort that had gone crazy by sending roots to where there wasn’t even soil. Fat clumps of double daffodils fought for space with tall stalks of quack grass and even taller yellow mystery flowers. Continue reading