Step on a crack, break my mama’s back.
If I lie, spit in my eye.
Sorry. Something about the memories all this childhood stuff has sprung forth from my buried, forgotten past has made me want to hijack a pogo stick. And a handful of jacks. And pick buttercups in the neighbor’s field on a sunny summer morning. And drone to my older sister (who, growing up, was as big around as a licorice stick and actually still is): Fatty, fatty, two-by-four, can’t get through the bathroom door …
Memories, mostly good, but a few, well … not so good, have resurrected from the past. The 1961 Santa photo is a fine example. Even though I was only 4 years old I really, truly DO remember my mother forcing me up on that scary bearded stranger’s lap against my much better judgment (I’m on the right; my infernally happy sister is on the left). Mama said if I cried, I wouldn’t get a chocolate chunk afterward (they used to sell these awesome chocolate candies from a glass display case in the center of big department stores). Come to think of it, chocolate is my primary motivation for good behavior today too. Anyway, for the Santa picture, I dug deep for just enough self-restraint to show my displeasure about this horrendous situation and still receive my sweet treat.
Can you say passive-aggressive?
When the green elf-hatted lady behind the camera said, “Smile!” I totally recall thinking to myself, “Nope. No. Nuh-uh. They can make me sit here but they can’t make me like it.” So I stuck my tongue beneath my teeth and delivered my ugliest pout.
I kid you not. I remember every second like it was yesterday.
Like I said … good, and not so good.
Check out the um, interesting comments from my fourth grade autograph book. Most of them were along the “roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you” vein of 8-year-old thought, but I apparently provoked a few people who were happy to tell it like it was. One of them my very own aunt. I always knew I wasn’t her favorite (Cindy was everybody’s fave).
Sour lemons, indeed. I’m the one who was named after her! (Ruth is my middle name and goes through 5 generations in our fam: my grandmother was Nellie Ruth, this Aunt Ruth was Mamie Ruth, I’m Debora Ruth, my daughter is Christina Ruth, and her daughter is Breeja Ruth. And our cat was Babe Ruth.)
Aunt Ruth may not have liked me much, but thankfully she wasn’t as demonstrative as the babysitter who tied me to the clothesline post in the yard. On top of an ant bed.
And then along came sixth grade – the time when every girl just wants to blend in. Take a good look at that picture below right. Are you noticing something different about me (I’m in the middle if you couldn’t tell) compared to my besties (and every other 11-year-old girl in the world)? Can you see why I DID NOT blend in, no, not one smidgen? When one of my blabber-mouthed classmates (the rather advanced boy who later taught all us innocents what lewd and lascivious meant) told me I was “a stacked little broad,” I thought he meant I had good posture.
Listen, you may think it was a positive thing to develop attributes early (actually, I looked like this in fifth grade too; my mama took me to the doctor to see what was wrong with me – she thought I had two tumors growing side by side). No. Trust me, it wasn’t something to be proud of. All I wanted was to be like everyone else. To NOT stick out. (Anywhere.) I was deeply embarrassed by my strange, whacked-out body and I didn’t have a clue what to do with these bouncy balls stuck to my chest. (Neither did my A-cupped mother and my training-bra-till-tenth-grade sister.)
I tried squishing them, wrapping them, flattening them and hiding them beneath yards of fabric but nothing worked.
Finally, everybody else caught up by the eighth grade and I put away my tent dresses for good.
The final memory I want to share today is my Last Will and Testament, which I typed on my mother’s typewriter as a senior in high school. Interestingly, the girls mentioned in my 12th grade Will are the same friends in the 6th grade photo posted here. How about that? Were your 6th grade friends still your 12th grade friends?
You may have to zoom in to read the will, but hey, it’s worth the trouble. It’s not often you get to be a willey, right?
Blacky, by the way, was my black dog (original titles have not always been my forte) who had three black puppies of indistinguishable paternity that Cindy and I named Dinky, Inky, and Pinky (because he had pink-ish feet). Of course the neighborhood boys called them all Stinky just to incense us.
Sweet, sensitive, girly-girl Cindy ran away to hide and cry but I threw mudballs at them till they stopped. (And I made sure there was a rock at the center of each one.)
So your childhood was like that, too, right, girlfriend? Mostly good with a smidge of not-so-good thrown in? I’d love to hear one of your fave long-ago memories, if you’ll be kind enough to share it.
Especially if you were as precocious as I was.
And we’ll sing together: Memories … misty, watercolor memories … of the way we were (now let’s just see if you can get that mind worm back out!)