The walls are permeated with the laughter and tears once shared I fill the room as best I can with today’s sunlight I open the window but the breeze does not sweep away the past A life once lived clings tightly My fingers touch a picture frame Frozen in time you cradle a child I can feel the love in the smile on your lips Your fingers gently brush the hair from my face Behind my eyelids I’m swept away I am once again that small child safe warm loved You always smelled of lilacs Today the memory of your face is as vivid as yesterday Other times it is but a faded shape in the mist You are always with me a part of me Copyright (C) 2018 Penny Wilson *Today is not only the first day of winter but it also would have been my mother's birthday. This is something I wrote a couple of years ago. Although she's been gone for many years now, I still miss her terribly.
I posted this in 2014. I’ve decided that I’m going to re-blog some of my posts that I feel would be of interest to newer followers. I hope you enjoy this piece. 🙂
My very early childhood was unusual, to say the least. My brothers, mother and I moved a LOT. I’ve been told I was born with wheels on my butt.
After my mother left my father, she was married to a man for a few years that was a migrant worker. As a family, we followed the fruit, picking as we went, to earn a living. We lived in Picker’s Cabins or tents or the back of the station wagon.
This was in the early 1960’s. Most people don’t realize that in the 1960’s, 83% of the migrant workers were white families, just like mine. Today, the migrant workers are mostly Hispanic. The working conditions are no better today, in fact in some instances, they are worse.
Most of the Picker’s Cabins had no running water or electricity. Women cooked on communal stoves or over open fires. The toilets, if there…
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Hi Mom. Happy Mother’s Day. I miss you. This is a pretty setting. I’m glad you have a place away from the road.
I wish that I could talk to you. There are so many things I would share with you!
Dave & Bruce seem to be doing ok. Dave has found a woman that he really loves. They’ve been together for several years now. Bruce & Janette have carved out a nice life for themselves. They have a nice home; I think you would like it. It’s in a beautiful area.
** Today would have been my Mother’s Birthday.** I miss you Mom. I know you are watching over me. I can feel your presence very strongly at times. I love you. This is for you.
The walls are permeated with the laughter and tears once shared.
I fill the room as best I can with today’s sunlight.
I know how odd these cut up tennis shoes must look. But bear with me and I will explain.
I’ve told you a bit here and there about my childhood and my upbringing. My mother was the Queen of Frugality. We wore 2nd hand clothes growing up but sometimes there wasn’t even the money for that. But my mom made do.
She had 4 kids to clothe, feed and raise. Most of the time Mom was on her own to accomplish these things. So she had to get creative.
We were always growing out of our clothes. To get us through the summer, if our shoes were getting too small, Mom would cut the toes our of our shoes, like in the picture above. The toes of our too-big-feet would stick out over the end of the shoe. This was a make shift sandal that my mom created.
For the rough and tumble of childhood play, especially in the summertime, this was a perfect solution that did not cost my mother a dime!
By the fall, somehow, Mom would come up with the money for us to have shoes to start the new school year. They wouldn’t always be new shoes, but they would be clean and they would fit.
Looking back, it’s a pretty odd thing to do, I suppose. But back then I never questioned it. It was just something Mom did.
My mom was probably one of the most unusual people you would ever meet. I’m sure a lot of people say that. But let me just give you a sampling.
My mother is a complicated person to describe. When I was a small child she had me believing in gnomes and fairies. With her words, I could imagine a magical, beautiful world filled with wonder and enchantment.
My doll house did not have Barbie living in it, but elves. The moving neon lights outside the stores at night were lit and powered by small beings (elves again?) inside that were throwing levers and turning knobs to make them move. Every mushroom was an umbrella for a tiny fairy!
My mother could cook a gourmet meal over an open campfire and tuck us into bed that night snug and warm. We may be living in a tent, but we felt safe and secure. Mom made sure of that.
My mother raised 4 of us kids, mostly by herself. She had no real education. She graduated from high school and her chosen profession was waitressing.
My mother’s Picker was broke. You know, the thing inside us that we use to “Pick” a mate. Hers never did work right. She married 5 times. Badly.
We lived on commodities, pinto beans, peanut butter and pancakes. One of my favorite meals to this day is fried potatoes, pinto beans and cornbread. This was a meal we ate often.
With the wages my mother made, things were very tight. There was NO extra money. Mom would make light of it and we would have a pancake eating contest that night at dinner. Because pancakes was all there was to eat. If there was no money to buy bread, our school lunches would be a sandwich made on a homemade biscuit.
My mother would go hungry if it meant one of her kids could be fed. There were times when she did just that.
One of my mother’s “Picks” was a man that picked fruit for a living. So we followed the fruit. Doing so meant that we would live where we could while traveling. It might be a “picker’s cabin”, which was basically just a wooden structure to keep the rain off of you. Or we might be living in a tent or sleeping on the ground.
If you ever want a real eye opener about this kind of lifestyle, you should watch the YouTube video called Harvest of Shame. This was broadcast on Thanksgiving Day in 1960.
This video is about an hour long. You will be amazed and horrified at how these people were treated. There is one man in the video that made the comment “we used to buy slaves, now we just rent them”. He was referring to the migrant workers.
In this documentary, they show mostly black people, but in the 1960’s, more than 80% of the migrant workers in the US were white. White families just like mine.
Despite the hardships of day to day living, I had no idea that we were “poor”. I was a happy kid. I was loved and cared for.
Looking back, my mom is the one that had the hardship, not us kids.
I mention a poem by Erica Jong in a post that I did previously called The Ruined Book. You can see that here if you’d like: https://pennylanethoughts.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/the-ruined-book/
I was asked why I did not include that poem in my post. An oversight on my part. Here it is. Enjoy.
nothing new can be said.
The stars on a clear night
of a New England winter;
the soft air of the islands
along the old
pirate gold shining
in the palm;
the odor of roses
to the lover’s nose. . .
There is no more poetry
to be written
of these things.
The rainbow’s sudden revelation–
The cliché is true!
What can one say
with you, little heart,
but you are
no less miracle
for being ordinary.
I had a house fire about 30 years ago. I lost most of my possessions in the fire. One thing you are not told about a house fire is that there are other things besides the fire that will ruin things.
Smoke, for one thing. A good portion of my clothes survived the flames, but no matter what I tried, I could not get the smell of smoke out of them. They all had to be disposed of.
The other thing that ruined a lot of things was water. The firemen, God bless them, had to hose down everything. The water ruined every book I owned. Being a lover of the written word, I owned a lot of books. All gone.
There is one book from that fire that I still own. I cannot bring myself to part with it. It’s a bible that my Mom gave me when I was in my twenties.
The outside of the bible is smoke stained. The pages are swollen from the water. Many of the pages are stuck together and would tear if you tried to separate them. The pages are also wrinkled and water stained. The pages are no longer the crisp white that they once were.
This is one of those Big Family Bibles that used to sit on the coffee table in most homes in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
As a kid, I would take this book and pour over the big glossy pictures inside. I loved art as a child and studied the greats. Leonardo, Picasso, Rembrandt, etc. The paintings on these pages were fascinating to me. The realism and beauty just captured my imagination like nothing else.
Of course the Written Word was also a fascination to me. I would read different passages from Revelations and just quake from fear. Around Christmas time I would also enjoy reading about the birth of Christ.
Growing up, I learned to read and developed a love of reading very early. I thank my mother for that. She had me reading long before I started school. I don’t know if this is true or not, but there is a family story that I learned most of my alphabet from the back of a Prince Albert Tobacco Can.
We were dirt poor growing up. So books were very important to me. I could travel and experience things through books that would never happen in my real life. I had a great reverence for books. The first time I ever used one of those Book Drops that drops a book down into a big metal box like a post office box, I shuddered! To treat a book like that was sacrilege!
As a kid, I loved summertime, because it meant that I could read as much as I wanted to without pesky school work interfering. I would walk to the library, all the way across town and come home with as many books as I could carry by myself. I averaged reading a book a day in the summertime.
So I have this Big White Family Bible that is ruined. Yet I hang on to it. I pack it away in a box and it moves around with me from place to place, rarely seeing the light of day. Once in a while it would end up on a book shelf, but most of the time it was exiled to some storage box that was filled with other things that I can’t seem to part with.
One day I have inspiration for a craft project that would make use of this old bible. I think that this is a wonderful idea! It would give this old bible new life and it would be like passing down a family heirloom.
I go into the spare bedroom and at the bottom of a stack of boxes is this box with my old photo albums and this bible. I pull the book out and run my hand over “genuine imitation” leather that is the cover. The bible was once white, with the words Holy Bible in gold on the front.
I take the bible into the living room and sit on the couch. I haven’t cracked the cover on this book in more than 20 years. I hesitate.
I turn back the front cover and I smell smoke. Around the edges of that front inside cover is a little black mold that settled in after being wet. I turn that first page and it’s as if I’d been slapped. On that first page is a dedication to me from my mother when she gave me the bible back in 1980. (I think)
My mother had beautiful handwriting. She came from the days that good penmanship counted. Her handwriting is unmistakable.
I remembered that she had written that dedication, but it had been so many years since I’d opened this book, I’d long forgotten what was written there.
I don’t know how my mom put up with me. I was hell on wheels. I’m sure she was worried about my soul and felt I needed some guidance. She referenced several things in the bible that I could turn to should I need it.
Exploring the bible, I found a few scraps of paper tucked between the pages for me from my mother. Most of these referenced a bible verse that she wanted to call my attention to.
One scrap of paper was a clipping from a magazine. The clipping was a poem. At the bottom of the piece of paper, it said “To Penny” in my mom’s handwriting.
The poem is called Ordinary Miracles by Erica Jong. A lovely poem that my mother dedicated to me.
This ‘book’, still holds reverence for me. But not for the religious reasons most would have. I hold it carefully. I run my hands over the cover lovingly. The pages between the covers are filled with memories of my mother and filled with love. Inside there are memories of my childhood and times that were both bad and good.
Get rid of this “ruined” book? No. No way.
I walk over to the bookcase and slip my bible onto the shelf, it’s smoky spine facing me. It will sit on the book shelf as a proud member of my collection.
The best thing about living on Cherry Street was Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller owned 8 or maybe it was only 6 run down little houses. The upper row faced Cherry Street and the bottom row faced Beverly Drive. I can remember us living in 3 different of his houses at one time or another.
Mom waitressed most of the time, raising 4 of us kids. It was hard on her, I’m sure. Mr. Miller’s houses weren’t fancy, but they were there when we needed them. I’m sure my mother and Mr. Miller developed a relationship of sorts after a while, since we had rented from him on numerous occasions.
I don’t remember a lot about how Mr. Miller looked, except that he had gray hair. He was a kind man with a bright smile.
In the summertime, Mr. Miller would pull into the neighborhood on his motorcycle. It was a big bike with the saddle bags on the back and all the bells & whistles. He would spend time giving all the kids in the neighborhood rides on it. He didn’t give rides in the way you would think. He would pile as many kids on that bike as he could! There would be a couple in front of him, on the tank, a couple behind him, maybe one on the handle bars and maybe even one on the front fender! Then he would slowly putt around the neighborhood with all us little kids squealing with delight!
Now days, of course you would never think about doing such a thing! The parents would sue!! But this was in the 1960’s, when the world was much different than it is today.
Mr. Miller made sure that every kid that wanted a ride had a turn.
Mr. Miller must have loved kids. He would save the toys that were left in his rentals and pass them out to the needy at Christmas time.
Mr. Miller’s houses were furnished. Even though they were a bit shabby, he tried to decorate or dress them up a little. When you moved into one of his houses, not only would you find furniture, but you would also find pictures on the walls.
I was in elementary school when we lived on Cherry Street; so some of my memories might be a bit fuzzy. But I do remember Mr. Miller always being very kind and patient.
One hot summer day, I poked my head inside the open front door of a house that I knew was vacant. There was Mr. Miller, with sweat pouring down his face. He had sawhorses set up with a piece of plywood on top for a make-shift work table. He was slopping paste on the back of a strip of wallpaper.
I think Mr. Miller Loved wallpaper! Maybe it was cheaper than sheet rock & paint. Whatever the reason, he used the stuff a lot!
I can remember a bathroom that was wallpapered with pretty ladies in big hats. Some of the ladies where applying lipstick. Some of the ladies had big feathers in their hats. I thought that paper was so pretty and glamorous!
One bedroom that I remember quite well had a ceiling that was wallpapered with a background of dark blue with white stars covering it. You slept under the stars at night!
Life on Cherry Street was hard for my mom. She was struggling to raise 4 kids alone. Back then, you didn’t get Food Stamps, you got commodities. From the government, we got big blocks of cheese or big cans of peanut butter. The kind where you had to stir the oil back down into it.
Money was Always tight. There were times when we would have pancakes for dinner; because that’s all there was. Mom would try to make light of the situation. We would have a pancake eating contest! I could Almost eat as much as my big brothers, but not quite.
Clothing was either church donated, hand-me-downs, or second hand.
In the summertime, to make our shoes last longer, Mom would take scissors and cut the top of the toes off a pair of tennis shoes, so that as our feet grew, the toes could hang out over the front edge. These became our sandals for the summer. Somehow, Mom always managed to get us shoes before school started in the fall.
Looking back on this time is bitter-sweet. I was very young and very innocent. I never felt that my life was a hardship. I was happy. I had friends; I had a family that loved me. I went to bed at night tucked into my nice warm bed, under the stars! I didn’t know that I lived any different than anyone else did.
I thank God for Mr. Miller and his houses on Cherry Street.
I decided I needed to post whether what I write is “read worthy” or not. It’s the act or writing that’s important. So be warned, you may see some ramblings here!
I was thinking about one of my favorite meals growing up. Get this- Pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread. Heaven!!
Now there is a Very Specific Way to eat this delightful meal. First you lay down your bed of fried potatoes, then you spoon on lots of beans, being sure to get plenty of juice. You put this right on top of the potatoes. To top it all off, you crumble cornbread all over the whole mess. Delicious!
The beans, of course were cooked with onions and bacon or Ham Hock. Yum! The potatoes fried crisp with onions. And the corn bread always came out of the oven in one of Mom’s cast iron fry pans; cooked to perfection, a golden brown!
My mom raised 4 of us, mostly by herself. So money was tight. Always. I have 3 brothers that ate like they had hollow legs! This simple but filling meal was a way to get us all fed and filled up inexpensively.
I Still love this meal!! You could also make it with those little white Navy Beans. Oh My!!! I love those!
I think it time I put a pot of beans on to soak!