Archive for the ‘memoirs’ Category

The Dogs I’ve Loved ~ Poochie

Poochie

one cute dog

Poochie was my first four-legged friend.  He was a small dog with sandy blonde hair.  I was three years-old when I knew and loved Poochie.

Memories of my third year are short snippets of time sketched in my mind.  Poochie curled up in a little ball, basking under the sun in our front yard is an image that never faded.  My love for him is a feeling I’ve never forgotten.

I was temporarily in a wheelchair from a childhood bone disease when Poochie was my dog.  I’ve always wondered if I was confined to the little chair when Poochie met his last day on earth.

I’ve always thought it rather odd that I remember anything at all about my third year, but it makes sense now that I’m an adult, considering all that happened and the way things were.

We had plenty of love in my family, but from what I understand, my third year was much like the rest of my childhood.  Our lives were chronically hardened with strife.   On occasion and unpredictably, fear from violent emotional explosions that led to all sorts of trouble visited our family, yet we were familiar with unfortunate circumstances and that each time could have ended much worse than it did.

I had a boyfriend when Poochie was my dog.  He was also three years-old.  We spent a fair amount of time sitting on my front porch steps together.  I remember the way I felt being around him.  I know I loved him.

According to my mother, the little boy and I had deep conversations about life.  “Lord, I couldn’t believe the things the two of you talked about.  I used to stand there at the door listening and just shake my head,” she says.

A child in our neighborhood had thrown a rock that hit my head and knocked me unconscious.  Afterward, even as my mother had made it clear to everyone that nobody would ever hit me with a rock again, my boyfriend and I didn’t play on the days when the child who had thrown the rock was outside.  

Upon reflection, the accident may explain memory problems I had for the best of my childhood and maybe to this day, but I was hit in the head again during fifth grade.  I had decided to play baseball, but the boys didn’t want girls on the team. 

“Easy Out!  Easy Out!,” the boys shouted enthusiastically.  The pitcher tried hitting my head with the ball every time I approached the batter’s box.   Finally, he succeeded, and I quit playing baseball.

The brain is amazing and so is the human spirit.  I later found ways to cope with what I thought was normal, like my less than good memory and, “the bad things,” my grandmother said I had seen.  “You were too young to see what you saw,” she would later tell me.

My third year was in the late sixties.  The place was in the heart of the North Carolina Blue Ridge mountains.  We were not poor by the standards of the day and perhaps we were Middle class.  The stories I’ve heard about medical treatments I endured during those years sound like we came from a time I thought was in history books before I entered this world, which reminds me of the way I met my first boyfriend.

He and I were born minutes apart, in the same hospital room, delivered by the same doctor, separated only by a thin hospital curtain, which the doctor had left open for the laboring hours preceding our births. 

“We talked the whole time we were in labor,” my mother tells me.  “The beds were side-by-side.  Nurses came in to prep us and that’s when the doctor pulled the curtain closed, but we still went on talking.”

The boy’s mother and mine were best friends.   I was due several weeks before her child was, but as it happened, we were born on the same night.  The boy came first.  His mother, lying in her hospital bed, told them to open the curtain again, which they did. 

“What’s wrong over there?”  she asked my mother.  “Why haven’t you had that baby yet?” 

Looking over at my mother, still in labor, the woman noticed that Mother was still wearing her teeth.  “Lord God!,” the woman shouted to the doctor.  “She can’t have that baby ’til she takes out her teeth!”

The doctor ordered my mother to take her teeth out.  “You were born just as soon as I took them out,” she tells me. 

“Why did you have your teeth in?” I asked my mother, many years later as she told me the story.

“Well, I can’t remember, but I guess I didn’t want that doctor seeing me without my teeth,” she said.  “He was a good-looking doctor.”

I realized I was born in pure vanity, but I come from a long line of women who expect good-looking doctors when they get to a certain age in life.  I recently noticed that my doctor is pretty cute.  I’ve seen him for years and have never once thought about his physical appearance.  I wonder if this means I’m getting to that certain age.  Alas.   I’ve truly regressed, if that’s possible in this piece of writing.

My sweet boyfriend wasn’t there the day when I was sitting on the porch steps and saw our neighbor back her car out of the driveway, running over Poochie in the process.  I wanted to help Poochie, but I couldn’t.  I don’t know if it was because I couldn’t walk or if the accident simply happened too fast. 

Later, my mother said the woman wanted to apologize and that she had made me cookies.  I wanted nothing to do with her cookies and doubt if I understood what an apology meant.  My dog was gone.  In my three year-old mind, I fully believed it was the woman’s fault for backing out of her driveway at a speed that I was sure had been too fast.  By the time she heard me screaming, it was too late to save Poochie.

Mother said my boyfriend and I sat on the steps and talked about what happened for days afterward.  “The two of y’all came up with the idea that you would go to her house and poke her eyeballs out like she had done to Poochie’s.”  Mother says I pointed two fingers to show her what I had in mind.

My family and I did go to the woman’s house.  Apparently, I behaved well, but I didn’t like her house any more than I liked her car.  From my point of view, both were way too big for one person.

I did not eat her cookies.  I was sad for a long time. 

For years, it hurt to remember what I had seen and I did remember.  I also missed Poochie in a terrible way.  I’m glad the images of the accident finally faded and that today, my memories only include him basking in the sunshine, and how it felt to love a dog.

The next dog that came into my life was a long funny looking Wiener dog.  I’ll tell you about him, and my life when he lived with us, in an upcoming post about, “The Dogs I’ve Loved.”

 

12/30/12 Post updated to allow ‘Likes’ 🙂

 

Homeless with Dog

People and Pets

Her name was Free.

“A day-tripper,” I had jokingly called myself before that day, which was the day I became homeless.  It was also 9/11/01.

My headlights on my otherwise wonderful little Subaru didn’t work.

“You can go to Walmart parking lot to sleep,” a teenage friend of my son’s suggested.

My son said I could sleep on his sofa, but I gratefully declined.

I had just moved out of a house where the well water was seriously contaminated.  Eventually, sewage backed up into the bathtub.  My landlord was twiddling her thumbs across the street, where the water was good.  I’d had no choice but to leave.

My furniture was in storage and I’d made a good plan, but like all plans, you need a backup.  I failed to make one.

I had obtained a house sitting position from a friend who was leaving for one month.

She was flying to Connecticut on September, 12th, 2001.  Her house was in town and convenient for me to go look at rental places.   She said my dog was welcome.  Like I said, it was a good plan.

I moved out of the sewage filled house a few days before my friend’s scheduled flight.   After bringing in drinking and cooking water for an entire year, living beside people who put rebel flags in their yard and a few times called me in the middle of the night to tell me that I was, “going to hell in a hand-basket,” things were looking up for me.

I used the first few days of my transition freely.  My dog and I went to my favorite camping spot on Mt. Pisgah.  I would meet my friend and get her house key the night before her flight.

That morning I packed my things.  It was foggy and quiet on top of the mountain.  I was the only camper, which is how I liked it up there.  I had my coffee and took a slow walk around the campground with Free.

That afternoon I drove down the mountain into town and decided to visit my son and use his phone to call my friend.  I walked inside his apartment and as usual the television was on.  I sensed something was wrong.  My son and several friends were sitting there with stunned looks on their faces.

“Do you know what happened Mom?” my son asked.

“No.”

“We’ve been attacked by terrorists,” he said.  I thought for a second that it was another conspiracy idea one of his friend’s had.

I didn’t have my glasses on and couldn’t see the details of the television footage.  “What is that?” I asked.

“Dude!” one of the visitors said.   “It’s the Twin Towers burning.”

I watched the billowing smoke on the small television screen for a few moments.  I was confused.  I didn’t know what to think or feel or do.

Terrorists I thought.  What the hell does that mean exactly?  I wasn’t used to hearing we’ve been attacked.

I walked outside and called my friend about meeting her for the house key.  Being a day-tripper meant I needed to work my plan before dark.  Shelter was on my mind and time was getting away from me.

The basic necessities in life call you to action no matter what else is happening.

“Everything is cancelled until further notice.  I don’t think I’ll be flying anywhere for a while,” my friend said.  “I’m sorry,” she added.  “I know you were depending on staying here while you looked for a place, but I’ll be working since I can’t leave.”

My friend worked at home as an acupuncturist.  The environment was not right for my dog and I to stay there with people coming for quiet healing sessions.

I didn’t know where to go or what to do.

The thought of sleeping in my son’s apartment was intolerable to me for several reasons, one of which was the condition of his girlfriend’s cat’s litter box and another was the hippies who drifted in and out from all parts of the world.

My son moved out when he was sixteen to travel across the country with his girlfriend.  They returned after a couple of months, got jobs and rented an apartment together.

I never imagined that my son would leave home that early, nor had I imagined I would ever be on his or anyone’s doorstep wondering where to sleep.

I’ve learned in my life that anything can happen.  Things we imagine could never happen to us, can and do.

I knew many people.  I had many friends.  I’d be fine, I thought.

I assured my son I was safe for the night, but when I told him I was going to the nearby Blueridge Parkway to sleep in my car at one of the look out points, he became worried.  “I wish you would stay here, but Walmart would be safer than the parkway Mom,” he said.

I wasn’t going to Walmart to sleep.  I knew that much.

Free was with me and I felt that she would keep me safe.  I figured the parkway would be quiet at night.  I soon discovered that my son knew more about that than I had.

I left my son’s apartment and went to a place where I could think, The Waffle House.   Free slept in the car.

It was late Autumn and the weather was nice, but that would soon be over.  Winter was on the way, which I suddenly became acutely aware of.

“James!” I said.  “What a surprise seeing you here.”

He pointed to his table.  A woman smiled and waved.  I assumed he was on a date.

James was an eccentric, but level-headed man in his late fifties.  I knew him from downtown Asheville.  We often found ourselves in the same groups; gathering around coffee, artists and good conversation.

I told James of my unexpected plight.  I tried to keep myself together, but James was an odd character.  Being around him made people want to tell the truth.  His eyes filled with compassion and understanding.

“Here, take this,” and he put a fifty dollar bill on my table. “Go across the street and get you and your dog a room tonight.  I know the owner.  I’ll call him and tell him your dog won’t hurt anything and he’ll let you stay.  The price is forty-five even.  That’s all I have now or I’d give you more.”

James always did show up at the strangest times.  People often talked about him downtown.  The hippies thought maybe he was an informant.  They were a little paranoid.  Others thought he was with the CIA and some spoke of him being an angel.  They said he would show up right when somebody needed saving from a situation.  I’d seen it happen a few times myself.

“Thank you James.  I really appreciate this.”  I remember him holding my hand for a minute before returning to his table.

I don’t remember anymore the order in which the events occurred over the following weeks after 9/11.

I remember feeling numb about being homeless.  I listened to the radio stations reporting on the tragedy every day.  I felt like I didn’t have the right to feel bad over my situation.  My family and I were alive and this became the most important thing in my mind and heart.

My family lived four hours away.  I wanted to stay in the mountains to be near my son.  He may have moved out, but he still needed a parent.  I just had to go about it in a different way than most parents of teenagers do.

The friends I had either couldn’t or in a few cases, simply wouldn’t let me stay with them because I had a dog.

The way people treated me when I didn’t have a place to live surprised me.  Perhaps the tragedy of 9/11 had an effect on their perception of my situation as it did mine.  I’m not sure, but the people whom I had considered close friends sure changed when they feared I might ask something of them.  I don’t know what they thought I would ask for, other than a place to sleep for a few nights and a phone during the day, which I quickly learned was too much to ask.

I think people are scared that if they help someone a little, then the person will take advantage of them and never stop needing the help.

Other people quickly assume that no matter what the situation, like a bathtub full of sewage and contaminated drinking water, that if you’re homeless, then you got yourself there.

Three nights of sleeping in my car on the Blueridge Parkway was enough.  My son was right.  Walmart parking lot would have been safer.

My next plan was to rest for a couple of days at my mother’s home, which was about four hours away.  I needed to recover from shingles.  I needed a bed.  I needed to know that somebody cared if I lived or died.

My only and older brother called while I was there.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Michelle!” my brother said surprised.  “What are you doing home?”

My brother and I had always had a knack for using humor to talk about hard times or difficult emotions.

“Well,” I responded. “I’m homeless.”  It was the first time I had used the word and I used it casually hoping, I guess, that we would laugh about the situation.

“You’re what!” he screamed.

“Homeless,” I said, truly clueless about what was coming next.

Fortunately, the time I was homeless lasted less than three months.

Telling how it all came to be, what it was like being homeless and all that happened as a result is a lot of telling.

The family ordeal over the harsh words my brother said to me over the phone that day had a strong and long-lasting impact on me and my heart.  My relationship with my brother has never been the same.

I could tell about the amazing cell phone my mother helped me buy.  Amazing not in features, but in power.  I haven’t charged it in years and it still works! 

The phone was my connection to my son and Mother.  I’d never before felt such a strong need to be in contact with the both of them every day, as I did during the weeks following 9/11.  I wanted to know where they were and that they were both safe.  I wanted them to know I loved them.  I was scared.

I could tell about the beautiful camping area Free and I stayed for a few weeks and what happened there, but that story stands alone.

I could tell about the mysterious way I met the housing inspector who knew about the bad water where I had lived and who offered me a garage apartment without charge, which is where I stayed for one month.

The photo above is my beloved Free lying beside the bed in that apartment.  It was a brand new bed with the plastic still on it.  The place had hot water and power.  I was very blessed.

Mostly, I remember the radio.  All day, every day and at night, I would lie there on that bed beside Free with a camp light on and listen.  

I remember having to take medication for anxiety.  It was a very hard time. 

I called hundred of landlords, but nobody would allow a dog.

Finally, I received a call from a woman whom I had never heard of.  “I’m calling you about the rondette,” she said.  I had never heard of those either.

“I’m not sure you have the right person,” I said to her.  I assumed the place she was describing would be way out of my price range.

“Oh yes,” she said in her self-assured way I would learn to like.  I wrote your name and number down to call you back about it.”

“Okay,” I said.  “How much is the rent?”  A rondette on the side of a mountain sounded pretty cool.

I gasped when she told me it was only $350.00 per month.  “Do you allow dogs?”  I asked her right away.

“I’m actually leery of people who don’t have dogs,” she said laughing.  “Tell me about your baby.”

I was there shaking hands with her within an hour.

It was a magical beautiful place.  There were old time flowers growing in the garden by the bedroom window.  They smelled like my grandmother’s face and hand creams.  Windows surrounded the little space.  From the small, but very green and cozy backyard was a view of the city below.

“I don’t know if this place is big enough for you and your dog,” she said.

I liked her.  We had on nearly the same outfit and literally, the same brand of shirt, same color and same size.  A purple soft cotton LL Bean button down.  

She turned out to be the best landlord I’ve ever had.  She was trusting, helpful, kept her properties in great condition and rented below the fair market price.

“If you don’t rent the place to me now,” I told her, “tonight we’ll have to sleep there,” I added, pointing at my little Subaru.

Her eyes widened, but I had told the truth.  The garage apartment had been rented to a family and I had to move out.

“Call it home then you two!”  She smiled, handed me a key and went on her unusually merry way to a funeral.

It was home and it was sweet.

Free learned to walk backwards in the small rondette

Free in her chair in our little rondette.

Free bit his nose to remind him it was her home and he was a guest.

Tiny visits and curls up in my new bedroom.

From this room I could literally watch the old time flower garden grow. 

Freedom on wheels

magic is in the movement

The story I wrote about my having been confined to a wheelchair at age three was mostly true.  In this post, I’m going to tell you the whole truth and a little bit more.

I was supposed to tell 4 bold-face lies as part of this writing project, but I told more truth than lies.

Below is a copy of my story.   I underlined the parts that are NOT true.   The whole truth is in blue.

I was confined to a wheelchair, as a result of a childhood bone disease when I was a toddler.  The doctors told my mother I might never walk again.  I hated that chair! My brother, who is ten years older than me, used to take me and my little chair on wheels to the top of our steep road, which was deep in the mountains.  My two older sisters would stand at the top of the road, holding my chair, with me in it of course, until my brother made it to the bottom.  He would count to some number, which was their clue to let me go.  I would fly down that mountain in my little chair!  It was great fun!  The best I can remember, my brother always caught me.  My mother didn’t mind this game. I wasn’t happy the day I put my foot on the floor and was able to walk again because I had to give up my little flying chair.

The truth:

“A little doll’s chair,” is what my mother says the wheelchair looked like.  “It was just so small.   It didn’t look like it was for a person.”

I had Kohler disease, which is a rare childhood bone disease.  It attacked my ankle bone when I was three years old.  The doctors did tell my mother I may never walk again, but they also told her that it could go away as mysteriously as it had appeared.

I didn’t hate the wheelchair.  I’m pretty sure I loved it.  My mother says that I had crawled around for several weeks before she, “put her foot down,” and demanded that I be taken to the nearest hospital for x-rays.

Putting weight on my foot was intolerable.  The little chair gave me freedom to go outside and play.  At three years old, I guess you live in the moment.  I was too young to understand what never being able to walk again meant.   I was also too young to know the danger of flying down that road, but then sometimes, our memories play tricks on us.

About ten years ago, my mother and I visited the place we lived when I was in that wheelchair.  There was a housing complex with relatively small one story dwellings that was turned into offices for the Juvenile boys home.  My dad worked there and we had lived in the complex, which was for the employees and their families.

Mother and I were both a bit shocked.  The metal fence surrounding the property surprised her.  It was one of those tall fences with thick rolls of barbed-wire on top.  The place hadn’t been fenced in when we lived there.

I remembered the houses being massive with tall and wide dark windows.

“There’s our house,” Mother said.  There weren’t any big houses and the windows were those small rectangular ones you see in beach houses.

I remembered front porch being high up off the ground.  I sat on the steps every day, weather permitting, with my three year-old boyfriend, talking and waiting for the school bus to drop off my older siblings.  I remember being happy when he was there.  We were the best of friends and had terrific conversations about life.

There were only two steps, very close to the ground.  I couldn’t believe how much bigger things were in my memory than they were in reality.

I looked for the steep road where I took the wheelchair flights.  Mother pointed out our road.

“That’s it!”  I was completely astonished.  It was indeed a hill, but didn’t measure up by any means to the one I recalled.

I told her about flying down the mountain road.  She says she didn’t know anything about that.  I sure remember it.  My sisters say they remember too, but oddly, my brother doesn’t and he’s the oldest.  I think he forgot many things he did to his younger sisters.  Like the time he put me in a garbage can and rolled me into the road, but that was later and it was a country road.

I remember clearly the day I put my foot on the floor, which I did every morning, and it didn’t hurt anymore.  The pain was gone!  The bone disease went away just like the doctors said it might.

I didn’t mind giving up the little chair, but I did think I should get to keep it for a souvenir.  I remember wanting it.  Mother says she didn’t think I needed it and donated it to another family.

My ensuing enthusiasm for using my legs was grand.  At age five, I led a large marching band in the Christmas parade because the band leader said I was, “the best little marcher they ever had!”  I took jazz and modern dance classes, but then we moved to the country.  Dancing the way I had learned would have been considered a sin.  This disappointed me, but I soon discovered bluegrass and clogging, the latter of which was a required class in the elementary school I attended.

I didn’t have a bicycle though.  I’d had one when I was five, but then my brother got involved.  He let go of my bike before I learned to ride and I had a bad accident.  I was hurt pretty badly.  I heard my dad ask my mother if I would still be able to have babies.  I was confused.  She told him to shut up and get the car.

Because of that accident, my dad wouldn’t let me get near a bicycle for years, even though my brother always had one.  My two sisters never wanted one, which I always thought was weird and it didn’t help me when I pleaded for my own.  Finally, my dad gave in on my thirteenth birthday.

We went to the local bicycle shop, which was also an auto-parts and lawn-mower shop.  Everyone there knew my dad.  I’d been there with him plenty of times and they all knew I’d been begging for a bicycle for a long time.  I was often invited inside the owner’s house next door and his wife would give me milk and homemade cookies.  I loved her cookies and she made them the day I got my new bicycle.  It was a great day.  My dad let me ride it home, which was less than half a mile away.  You could throw a rock from there to our back door.

I loved that bicycle.  I could ride it fifty miles without thinking a thing about it and I did, often.  There’s a long story about what happened to that bike, but it is one sad story, so I won’t tell it here.

I grew up, had a son and bought us both bicycles when he was three years old.

His was a tricycle, but he begged me to take those two extra wheels off.  “Your bike doesn’t have them Mommy,” he said.

We took the wheels off, but I had a person at each end and several in the middle to catch him if he fell.  He did fall, but he didn’t have far to go and it was in the soft grass.  He didn’t get hurt.  He got up as fast as he could, before any of us could get to him and jumped back on the bicycle.  It was very funny.  I remember him looking back at us as he rushed to pick that little bicycle off the ground.  He never used those extra wheels and we had years worth of fun riding together.  We still enjoy riding together.  I like that.

I can’t go cycling like I could before being struck with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or fibromyalgia.

However, I do have a fun bicycle.  I call it my magic little bike.  It brings out the best in me when I ride it.   I absolutely love moving and feeling the wind on my face.  That’s part of the magic.  Being able to move without pain.  (The trick to that is being on a flat road.)

My little bike also has pink and white streamers and an awesome bell!

Occasionally, I’ll still take my hands off the handle bars and hold them in the air.  I like that too.

Thanks for visiting Dogkisses’s blog!


sweet memories

“Mother of the Year” is written on the front page of the little book my son made in elementary school.  I’m pretty sure all the moms of the students in his class were elected.  The year was 1993.

Today I was trying to find something on the bookshelf and came across the book, which is an entirely wonderful personal treasure.

The first page says he is happy that I was elected.  Then he goes on to say why.

“The best thing about my mom is that she’s fun to be with and nice.”

The next question asks him what the most important thing his mother has taught him.

He wrote that I taught him to, “Stop wars and boms.”  Boms, not bombs.

He drew a picture of me, holding my palm out with the word stop written beside my mouth in one of those little cartoon type clouds.  There was another person with a gun and he wrote the word “okay”  beside that person.

I guess in a child’s mind stopping war and bombs is that easy.

The next part was written in larger letters:  “Don’t use Drugs!”  He spelled that right.

The next page reminds me of how much energy I had.  “Mother on the Move” he titled it.  I scanned it but it’s almost twenty years old —

mother on the move, before fibromyalgia

I love my little book.

My son and I had a great time in his childhood.

I actually could clean a house in ten minutes.  I played with him all the time but I only played Lacrosse once.  He must have thought I was pretty good.

From Art to Antidepressants

The best part about the recovery center was that my mother was there, and alive, which was the only thing I could accept.  The next best part was that she was happy there.

The west side of the long one-story brick building was the arts and crafts room.  Big windows and wide glass doors offered patients a clear view of the pretty Pine trees that surrounded the hospital. 

I remember taking afternoon naps in my parents bedroom while my mother was away, which seemed like forever to me.  I cried when I looked out of her bedroom window where I could see my grandmother’s front porch.   I loved that porch, but without my mother, nothing was the same.

The few visits we made to see her were like gold to me.  Nothing was more valuable than my time with her, especially after that awful night when the ambulance came to our home.

The long wooden table where my mother’s spirit and creativity thrived appeared enormous… and a wonderful fantasy land for a child’s mind.

“This is what I’m making,” she told me as she showed me her end of the long wooden art table.  I could tell it was her work area.  Her art pieces and tools were colorful and organized.  Her first project included small figures, some not yet painted, which became my older brother’s Chess set.

My mother speaks fondly of her short time there.  She talks about how she was completely withdrawn until she finally expressed anger in a group therapy session.  She speaks of the kind counselors and how each of them had been through similar experiences as she had.  She talks about the art and crafts she made, the nurse whom she came to like and the good friend she made during her stay.  We don’t often talk about this time in our lives, but once in a while, the subject comes up.  Like the vitamin she remembers taking.

“You should ask your doctor about that vitamin,” she’ll tell me.  “It would make you eat and gain weight.  It was a big black pill,” she’ll say, but I’ve never met a doctor who knows what kind of vitamin it might have been.  I know it was not an antidepressant.  She said they didn’t give her medication.  Just that one vitamin a day.  Clearly, it was the people, Mother’s art and time for herself that helped her heal.

My very favorite of the crafts she created while there was a village of elves.   An odd formation of drift wood served as the foundation, as Earth is for us humans. 

Elf reading and relaxing in the wood

Elfin Oak

She had crafted and painted each elf into a unique character.  They lived in a magical fantasy land, but it was easy for me to pretend their world was as real as mine.

The elves had everything they needed.  Families, food, stores and friends, all of which my mother had meticulously created.   Their faces were full of joy.  The village was surely a happy place.  One elf carried a bucket of water and another a bundle of sticks.  The child elves played with toys.  Life seemed to work in the village of elves.   I dreamed of living there.

For some reason, even though I’ve asked several times throughout my life how it happened and have been told, the details of how the village was destroyed have never stuck in my mind.

One day after school, I discovered the village on the ground beside our front porch steps in more pieces than my eight year old mind could process.  I don’t like to think about that.

On my bookshelf, as I write, there are two emerald-green ceramic praying hands that she made during her recovery.  I cherish the hands, even though I usually keep them behind other objects and books because they still, sometimes, remind me of what happened that night she had to go away. 

My mother finally came home, but our lives were never the same afterward.  My parents eventually divorced and I went to live with Mother.

I think about the wonderful crafts my mother has made since then.  I have a framed picture of a little girl wearing a hat and holding a kitten (a cross-stitching pattern from a cover of the Saturday Evening Post) that took Mother an entire year to complete and nearly that long to save the money for the frame.  I adore and love my gift.  She made each of her children, after we grew up, a different picture.  I like mine the most.

My mother is a talented creative person.  I still have a red velvet evening gown she made for my Barbie doll.  She made our childhood clothes.  She made my cheerleading uniform.  It was the early ’70’s and short skirts were popular, so she shortened mine a little to make it more stylish.  I loved telling everyone that she made it.

She also made two of the most beautiful prom dresses for my sisters that I’ve ever seen since, but my sisters say they were the only girls at the prom who were not wearing spaghetti straps.  I was too young to understand how this made any difference, since they were the most beautiful dresses I’d ever seen in my life.

Mother worked every day hand-stitching pearls and sequins on the dresses.  One was a light pink and the other a shimmering pale green.  My sisters were beautiful and in those dresses, they were prettier than any of my dolls.

I watched and anticipated with great excitement the day I would see my pretty sisters in those dresses.   Unfortunately, my daddy had a shotgun waiting for their dates when they pulled into our driveway.   My sisters had to run in those elegant dresses out our back door through the cow pasture to meet their dates at the other end of our road.

So, you see, my mother had a hard life, which is how she ended up at the treatment center.  She was almost lost to us that night, before the men in the white coats came to save her life.  One of them bent down,  looked into my eyes and said, “Your mother is going to live.  You saved her life.”

I wish there were still places like the recovery center under the Pines where people could go when they are in great despair.  Nowadays, when you go to a hospital for a mental or emotional problem, unless you can afford a private place, you are treated more like a prisoner than a patient.

Your rights that have been taken away will be put in your face if you dare stray from compliance or attempt to have a say in the matter of your treatment; a say that somehow rubs a doctor or nurse in the wrong way.

It’s all about which drug they can get you on as quickly as possible.   Things have changed, that’s for sure.

I think there are definitely good changes — yet many are to change what should never occur in the first place, such as the patient abuse going on within the confines of our modern-day psychiatric institutions/hospitals.

Other outdated approaches need to be reinstated, such as personal exploration through art and friends, which I believe can be as beneficial as any type of treatment and without bad side-effects.   Science has told us they have seen that friendship changes brain chemistry. 

The ‘staff’ who worked at the mental health treatment centers were true counselors in the sense that they were recovered alcoholics or had survived a breakdown.  They had been where their patients were, so they understood.

Today, the former oasis under the Pines is remodeled.  They don’t have the big arts and crafts room anymore.   And vitamins?  I don’t hardly think so, as my mother would say.

 

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.

PHOTO IMAGE of Elfin Oak via Flickr by StarrGazr

About the image, from Wikipedia:

The Elfin Oak is a 900-year-old tree stump in Kensington Gardens in London, carved and painted to look as though elves, gnomes and small animals are living in its bark.

She neglected her apples

a curious girl, an old lady and an apple treeOf course I’d been told about stealing and the Ten Commandments.  I had also been specifically instructed, perhaps too many times for my rebellious nature, not to take, I mean steal, apples from the old lady’s yard.

“She’s stingy and mean,” my mother would say.  “She would probably come out and hit you with a stick or something.  There’s no telling what she would do if she catches you in that yard!”

The woman’s house was the last house on the road and beside of it was the dirt road that was beside the, “sewer.”  She lived on what we called, “Sewer road.”

About twenty or thirty feet from the curve, where Sewer road went straight ahead and our road took a sharp right, her house was on the corner.

You could smell the odor and most of the children in the neighborhood wouldn’t play on that corner of the block, which is what our neighborhood was; one block in a small rural town.  I guess the old woman was glad the smell kept us away, but I was curious and had a bicycle.

I’m not sure what it was that made me want to take those apples.  I didn’t understand why she wouldn’t come outside, be nice and give a person an apple.

I’d ride my bike around the block and every time I passed her house I secretly hoped to get a glance at her.  Sometimes I’d see her raking leaves and I would slow down, but she wouldn’t even look at the road.

There was another woman who had an apple tree in our neighborhood.  She was younger, but was still old in my young mind.  She was married and lived closer to the main road than to Sewer road.  Her apple tree was right there at her front door.

The lady’s house down by the sewer sat further back into the woods, leaving her unattended apple tree to a curious girl like me.

I would put on one of my older sisters’ bra.  I could stuff up to three of four apples in each cup.

My friends would dare me.  They couldn’t believe I was so brave and at thirteen, this was pretty cool I thought.  Most of them wouldn’t even walk that way, because of the smell, but they were also scared of her.  Plus, I had one of the few bicycles in the neighborhood.  I often rode alone.

I was taught that the best apples were the ones that had already fallen, but not yet eaten by worms.  I was also told that picking from the ground was simply the right thing to do.  My dad’s folks said that leaving the good ones on the ground, and that meant ones without worms or with only one or two wormholes, was being wasteful.

The old woman’s tree was quite abundant.  I don’t think she ever even used her apples!   Wasn’t she being wasteful?

My friends and I did enjoy eating the apples.  I think that matters.

My mom said that the other woman was stingy too, but that if I knocked on her door and asked politely, that she might give me an apple.  So I did.  I never wore out my welcome, which was at best tentative.

“Yes, I guess you can have one, but take it from the ground and only one,” she would say.  “I’m going to be making jam soon.”

Well I knew that I would never taste her jam.

For some reason, I liked better the apples from the tree down by the sewer.  Both trees produced red and crispy apples.  I guess hers were better because I didn’t have to deal with her like I did with the other woman.  Neither of them were pleasant people.

We didn’t have much to do in the town I lived in.  My grandmother always said, “Idled hands are the Devil’s workshop.”  I guess she was right.

Much laughter occurred when my friends saw me returning, apples bobbing around on my flat chest.  Sometimes one in each pocket of my shorts.   I couldn’t see how that woman ever missed any of her neglected apples.

I guess I shouldn’t have taken, I mean stolen, those apples, but I did, and much fun was had.

Gotta have a bike!

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Apple Trees via Wikimedia Commons