Wednesday, January 16, 2013


In the summer of 1952, my best friend and I took a crash course in tap, ballet, and ballroom dancing.  Our mothers sewed valiantly the costumes required, including a short-skirted white satin military tap uniform (lined in red for exposure when doing a high leg move) and matching red, star-studded cadet hat.  I looked like a nutcracker.  We were all of 11, and had triumphantly sprung out of our sedate shells, rushing toward the bright lights of prepubescent dance recitals.  Oh the excitement of performing before adoring audiences packed with parents - all convinced we were the next Shirley Temple.  We wore makeup and grown-up stockings, we were something to see!  And then we danced.  I honestly don't remember that part, but it must have gone well enough.

Imagine this is me
Brush step and step, brush step and step, brush step and step,
pickup hop step toe

The following fall, my friend Carolyn and I tried a dance duet for a talent show.  We wore white blouses and rhinestone-embellished, aqua short skirts.  I guess when you dance, something has to glitter.  We clickity clicked to the piano rendition of "Walking my Baby Back home," and all went well, meaning nobody fell down and all the clothing stayed on.

Clickity-Click, Clickity-Click

I can remember tap dancing all over the house when Mother wasn't around.  She had this thing about scratching the floor.  What was a budding talent to do?  Answer:  Practice the clarinet...or the piano...or blow my water-filled bird whistle (it looked so like a canary and was yellow too!).

I grew dizzy, but could not stop!

What my poor parents suffered in aggravation is unknowable, but I am certain tuning me out became a regular practice.  Perhaps that's why they were always encouraging me to go outdoors and blow beautiful bubbles - for all the world to see!

Beautiful pink and blue glass-like bubbles!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Mrs. Johnson lived across the road from Grandfather in a two-storied farmhouse with a huge front porch.  In her yard was a bubbling spring with a small but well-built spring house.  Inside even in summer, it was dark and cool, a welcome refuge in the heat, complete with a dipper hanging on a nail for a cold drink.  Mrs. Johnson was popular with ladies who gave luncheons requiring watercress, which grew prolifically in the spring water.

She always spoke softly and never showed temperament, which was a testament to her inner strength since hers was not a life untouched by tragedy.  The second of her two sons suffered from birth defects which compromised his walk and his speech; even so he worked with his father and brother in their family owned garage.  She and her husband seemed happy and all seemed well until one day he walked into their smokehouse and shot himself in the head.  No one could ever understand why and it remained a mystery.

This all  happened before I was born, and I only knew Mrs. Johnson as the soft-spoken, nice lady who had a cow and traded butter for eggs with my Grandparents.  I also knew her huge white, demonic goat named "Billy."

With no pictures, I sketched my recollection of "Billy"

Once in a while, Mrs. Johnson would tie Billy on the bank across from my grandfather and Billy would clear the tall brush and fill one of his enormous stomachs (one for grass and one for little girls).  I would be seized with a desire to befriend the shaggy, surly creature whose inscrutable stare gave no clue of affability or hostility, just alien-eyed wonder.

Again, no pictures so imagine this is me

I eased up the bank carrying delicious grass for Billy to sample, making sure I wasn't far away from his rope's end.  He made a goat sound and tossed his head, sending up little red flags in my fearful mind.  Perhaps he's just eager for grass, I reasoned.  With that I threw the grass to him and fled for my life.

Me, better swift than sorry.

It was an indisputable good move on my part since I lived to tempt other fearsome foes another day.  Mrs. Johnson soon came and moved Billy back to his night lodging.  She was to be admired for all her courage.