Thirteen Crows

"I'm not dead. (Yes he is.) I'm getting better. (No you're not. You'll be stone dead in a moment.) I think I'll go for a walk. (You're not fooling anyone you know.) I feel happy. I feel happy. (Whack.)"

Playtime

The carpet was white and the couch was still brown in the living room were the color TV was. Sometime later the couch got recovered in a rust (orange) color and the carpet became green. I picked it out after half-day kindergarten one afternoon. I said I liked the “worm trails”. I remember that moment like it was yesterday afternoon.

I remember dreading mealtime as a child and through grades 1–8. I was and still am a finicky eater and, although the my horizons have broadened, I still fear anything green. I ate a lot of cereal between meals—dry, right out of the box, and all over the floor. That part hasn’t changed in 40 years, although I no longer dump the box on the carpet in front of the TV to get the prize. (What happened to the prizes in cereal?)

When the weather was nice I spent a lot of time in the sand pile. More metal trucks and tractors rusted there than I can count. By the way, sand piles and a farm with 15 cats do not co-exist well.

The swing set I played on was made out of 1” pipe and chain from a John Deere planter. Dad made it in the barn long before I was born and it was perfect! It had a slide, two swings and a glider. Really, the glider was a feat of farm engineering.

I really don’t remember what I did inside when the weather was bad. In the winter I was at Joan’s when school was in session. In the summer I was at home with my sibs. I remember playing farm with every Lincoln Log, Tinker Toy, and Fisher Price person and animal we had. Sometimes Fisher Price people had to stand in for cows. The little short Lincoln Logs were bales of hay. Never enough cows or fence!

Honestly, I remember being outside a lot. I wrecked my bike often, played in the snow until my feet and hands were numb and made mud dams and diverted rainwater in the driveway. There was never anyone with me, it seems. These were solo activities with just myself, my imagination, and my two imaginary friends. I’ve not seen them in years. Maybe the live with Bloo and Eduardo at Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. I like to think so.

Five Channels

We had two televisions when I was young. We had a behemoth color TV in the living room and a small black and white in the kitchen where most meals were eaten. We got a grand total of five channels with the antenna—4, 5, 9, 11 and 13.

After the morning diet of my sisters’ soap operas, Dad would come home at noon for dinner and watch “Midday in Kansas” on 13. I don’t remember the times “Sesame Street” and “The Electric Company” we’re on, but I usually tried to catch both airings even through the afternoon broadcast was a repeat of the morning one. I can still sing the little ditties and quote from both shows “1-2-3-4-5; 6-7-8-9-10; 11-12” and “It’s the plumber, I’ve come to fix the sink.” Morgan Freeman was in the cast of “The Electric Company”. Maybe not his crowning achievement, but he was a pretty hip in 1974.

Of course “Schoolhouse Rock” was at its zenith (no TV pun intended). “Conjunction Junction (What’s Your Function?)” is still a cool jingle.

Channel 5 had a weekly movie that started about 3:30 PM, before the school bus dropped everyone off, and ran until 5:30 PM. Sometime during that movie, my older sibs would run out to feed the steers, bulls and heifers and rush back in. The week’s movies often followed a theme; Japanese Godzilla/Rodan/Mothra/Godzuki movies, the Planet of the Apes movies, etc. At 5:30 PM, the network news would air, ALWAYS CBS, with Walter Cronkite.

We ate meals together. We watched TV together. It would be a better story if we had read books and discussed them, but then I wouldn’t know the ingredients in a Big Mac.

Sunday Dinner

First of all, “Dinner” is the Noon meal on the farm. Breakfast. Dinner. Supper. Keep that in mind.

Mom seemed to work a lot of Sundays—probably only two or three per month, but it seemed like a lot. I know she traded a lot of holidays with nurses who had young families. I was being cared for by older sibs so I guess I didn’t notice. It was just the way things were.

I’m not sure when Mom prepped the Sunday roast, but I assume because of food safety, is was early on Sunday morning before she left for work. She’d put a roast in a roaster pan with a lid and put it in the oven.

In the morning, one of my sisters would turn the oven on so the roast would be done in time for dinner. She’d boil peeled whole potatoes and depending on the season, thaw frozen corn from the previous summer. Everyone would simply take a whole boiled potato or two and mash them up individually. There were always whole potatoes left over.

That evening we’d have supper at 6:00 PM SHARP, because “60 Minutes” would be starting.

“Shhhhhh! Can’t you see ‘60 Minutes’ is on!”

One of the best things at supper were the fried skillet potatoes. A little saved bacon fat from the metal container next to the mixer was put into the skillet with quarters or eights of the leftover potatoes. Of course there was leftover roast and corn. The potatoes, though! OH, GOD THAT WAS GOOD EATIN’!

The Daybed

Before I was born my parents squeezed seven kids into two bedrooms. There was the Boys’ room with two or three and the Girls’ Room with two double beds and four girls. When I was born we became eight, much to the dismay of the former baby of the family! I certain she plotted to kill me.

The birth order was boy, boy, girl, girl, girl, boy, girl…boy. Eighteen years separate us and nine years separate 1–7. I restored balance to the Force and Galaxy.

Sometime later, Dad finished two bedrooms in the back of the basement for the oldest two boys. I think the #3 son was put in a daybed kind of thing in the “Den”, which was really a guest bedroom/sewing room. TINY. The girls were split into two rooms as the older ones became teens.

Then, I was born—nine years after my closest sibling. My oldest sibling was days away from turning 18. My parents were 42.

My crib was put into the Den. Once I outgrew the crib I was put in the daybed with my closest brother. We shared that bed and later a double bed in a real bedroom until he went to college. (I pity him, now.) We watched a lot of MASH reruns, “Planet of the Apes” movies and a little Carson once he cobbled up a black and white TV with poor vertical hold.

This weekend while searching the linen closet for a blanket, I found my old pillow from the daybed days. I’d forgotten all about it, but the “sham” fabric is the same as the daybed cushions and comforter. The small feather pillow has my name on it in Magic Marker.

It is strange how little triggers bring back a flood of memories. Certain smells, foods, commercials and forgotten objects really do a number on me. It is like a window shade has been raised for just a moment and you get to see a scene or experience a feeling from your youth. Now, if they were always GOOD memories and not the EMBARRASSING ones from adolescence!

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