Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cake Diva

Kellie Ann Turns 11
I don't know what it was with me and multi tiered birthday cakes but I always wanted one.  Every year Mom would ask me what sort of cake I wanted and I would answer " a three layered cake" and she would produce a three layered cake and then wonder why I was not overjoyed with it.  It took some digging but we got to the root of the problem, what I wanted was a three TIERED cake not a three layer cake.  She had nailed it the year before with a three tiered chocolate cake, but not knowing that such cakes needed internal support it sagged in the middle a little, still not a bad effort for a novice.  By the time my eleventh birthday rolled around Mom had begun taking cake decorating classes and this was one of her early forays into full fledged cake decorating.  When I think of the thousands of cakes she did since this one I am amazed.  Almost as amazed as my son was when he saw this picture and realized that I had been young once too, and said with shock and amazement that bordered on insulting "Wow Mom, you were cute back then!"  Well...hmmm  Thank you?  I guess...I like to think I still am, for what its worth.  Now I do not even remember how old I am.  I have to count it up each time.  I spent one whole year thinking I was about to turn 40, but I wasn't.  I was about to turn 39.  Now if I claim the correct decade I am happy with it.  Funny how that happens.   It goes the way of the birthday party I guess.  We have not had one in years, now we just go to a nice restaurant and maybe there is a gift to open, maybe it was purchased a month or so in advance when the opportunity came along... 

Long ago and far away...

Me around the age of 9, I still have the yellow painted chair....
Jamie around age11 with her Christmas bike
 That is the Clancy's house across the street
Chapter two is all about my childhood and the first question was who was your best friend in the neighborhood.  That is easy, it was Cathy  Clancy.  We spent a lot of time with Cathy, usually around supper time when she would often show up on the door step.  We thought it was funny because we knew her Mom was a good cook, and Cathy was always skinny, so who knows why she always came over to join us for supper, and more importantly why didn't she ever get fat double dipping the way she did?  Oddly enough Cathy Clancy is also the asnwer to question number 3 "Was there a neighborhood Bully?"  Sad to say that Cathy was that as well, but even more sad to say she always managed to turn Jamie and me against each other.  We were always locked in a battle two against one and Cathy was rarely if ever going it alone.  Jamie and I however threw each other under the Clancy bus every chance we got.  It was pitiful really, us fighting tooth and nail to be in good with Cathy when we both knew full well she would drop us in an instant to go be with someone she thought held higher status.  That did unite us though in our mutual disgust and shame at how we were treated and had been treating one another.  Cathy never did get past treating us like red haired step children, but happily we did get past putting up with it.
      When we were not fighting for Cathy's favor we would hang out in the neighborhood play hopscotch on the sidewalk or playing yard games like duck duck goose, hide and seek and the sort.  Then the kids would all be called in for supper one by one till only one was left who would wander home out of boredome or lonliness.  We also rode our bikes and skateboards and rollerskates.  One day I was making my way out the front door in my way too big roller skates that I insisted on getting because they were the style I wanted at the right price but not in my size.  I reasoned I would grow into them, and I did, but roller  disco was way out of fashion by the time that finally happened.  Anyhow, I was making my way to the sidewalk when I tipped my foot forward to use the stopper to help me get down the step only to realize as I pitched forward that Jamie and Cathy had unscrewed them and set me up to fall.  I have mixed emotions about that...It was pretty classic I have to say and dang funny too, but I could have really hurt myself, and it was upsetting to me that risk of serious injury was not in any way  an impediment to them in their quest for a laugh at my expense.  That was life with Cathy though.  I would get really bent out of shape if I was not honest with myself and admit that I would have done the same to Jamie if I had thought of it first.
     One of the questions in this chapter is "How was your neighborhood lit, street lamps or porch lights?  The answer is both.  Actually there had at one time been no street light but then the Clancys petitioned to have one put in and once it was installed they realized that it shone right into their bedroom window.  That is why we spent our summer evenings throwing rocks at it.  Mr. Clancy promised cold hard cash  to the one who could bust the bulb...We never did actually cash in on that.  we were usually freaked out and forced indoors by the swarms of June bugs  that circled the light  before any of us could land the money shot.   I know it seems like this chapter is all about the Clancy's but life on Plaza for us back then was.  

Elementary Schools

Ranchvale Elementary School
I actually attended two elementary schools, the first was Ranchvale Elementary out in the sticks north of Cannon AFB.  I attended first and second grades there and remember it for lots of reasons.  The first is that it was a self segregated school, not black and white as you might imagine, but Country and Base.  There were the country kids and the base kids, and we stuck to our own kind.  For some reason the Country kids were given higher status.  It could be that they and their parents were not moving away anytime soon, and the faculty kept that in mind, it could have been that they had more money, it could have been blow back from the whole anti military climate of the time, but for the kids it boiled down to one thing, they had horses and got to ride them, and we didn't.  We base kids felt like the red haired step children because we weren't from around there...The irony for me years later is that "Yes, yes I was from around there, my Mom was from Amarillo, not 100 miles from Ranchvale Elementary School, and while my Dad was in the Air Force he was every bit the country kid that they were, horse included.    It was several years too late by the time I connected the dots.  But other cool things happened regarding Rannchvale.  The seeds for the first episode were sown in my first grade class when I sat in Lona Starky's room.  She would later remarry Dwight Waldo and change her name accordingly.  That is how I met her the second time years later when Steve and I got married and moved into the Waldos  fourplex apartments and she became our "landlordess"  We have maintained our friendship over the years and I just saw her a few days ago.  I also have had a friendship over the years with Susan Brockmier who had become the principal of Ranchvale Elementary and I had the supremely weird privilege of helping her paint and decorate her office at my old school.  Weird because I was back as an adult in a school I had not been in since 1974, and in the principals office on equal footing with the principal herself....yup, weird.
Sandia Elementary School
     The Elementary school I spent the bulk of my time was Sandia Elementary.  It was a one story building about 7 blocks from my house.  I remember when we moved to the neighborhood Mom driving us along the route in our new black Buick Regal and pointing out street names and landmarks so we could find our way home.  There was a big playground with swings and monkey bars and the forbidden "wall" and "Tower"  The wall was a large undulating ladder made out of welded steel rods about 4 yards long and 8 or 9 feet high.  It was hard to climb because of the undulations, and not all that much fun.  The tower on the other hand was just that. A good 15 feet up in the air with a chain ladder on either side and a welded railing surrounding the platform.  We were expressly forbidden to play on these two pieces of equipment during school, but that did not stop us from getting our fill of them both  during the summer or in the evening when everyone had left the school for the day.  I often wondered why they would install such tantalizing structures and then forbid us access to them.
     Inside the school was a paved courtyard called the patio.  After lunch we were corralled in the patio before going to our classrooms and we would hover around the edges to stay in the shade, the boys on one side and the girls on the other.  It was in the patio that I did my stint as a "Jump Rope" monitor in the sixth grade.  I handed out ropes to the younger kids, helped them jump rope and then made sure the ropes got put away at the end of P.E.  It earned me a "Principals award for leadership" which I still have to this day, somewhere...
   Corporal punishment was still practiced in my school and I got swats a couple of times, both for talking.  Seems a little extreme now that I think about it, but I had been warned.  In Mrs Anderson's 4th grade class if she had to get on to you for bad behavior your name got written on the board.  If she called you out again you got a mark by your name.  Three marks before the week was out meant you had to stay behind on Friday and get swats on your butt with a big wooden paddle.  Nobody wanted to get into Mr. Simpson's 6th grade class.  As the only male teacher in the school it was known that his paddling was the worst of them all. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Something New in the House

I clearly remember the day we got our first microwave, at least I clearly remember parts of it.  I have a vague notion of waiting in somebody else's car parked on main street probably in front of the old Woolworth's Department store while Mom and her friend went inside to pick something up.  I think that something was the microwave oven.  I tried mightily to find a picture of the model we owned on  line, but there was nothing that came close to that pale yellow dinosaur.  I liked it because it was so user friendly.  You only had to decide how long you wanted it to run, turn the knob  to indicate the number of seconds/minutes required and then hit the start button. 
 ( note the conspicuous absence of a key pad here) No fussing with power settings, or defrost settings, it was either on or off and that was it.  And it was built like a tank too!  I think we used it at home for a solid 15 years before it went on to Mom's shop to work for at least another 10 without ever needing to go to the repair shop.   I say I remember the day clearly because I will never forget how Mom Jamie and I gathered around our new space age wonder and watched as it cooked bacon on a paper plate right before our eyes.  We were shocked and amazed, and hooked!  From then on why turn on the stove if what Jamie later dubbed the "Micro-slave" could do it quicker and on a paper plate that did not have to be washed.  That I guess was the beginning of our paper plate streak too.  It was before the whole recycle thing had caught on, we were not asked to reduce our garbage when I was a kid, but  just to please keep it in its proper place, what with the Indian crying over the trash strewn highway and the little white on green stick figure throwing garbage in a can with the catch phrase "Pitch In"  Or Woodsy the Owl "Give  Hoot!  Don't Pollute!  But back in the early seventies recycling was on the hippie fringe and not mainstream at all.  So we had our stack of paper plates and a stack of plastic paper plate holders that would keep the paper plate from catastrophic failure long enough to eat whatever was on it -piping hot and fresh from the microwave.  I did not realize how enmeshed in my life the microwave had become until I moved from home for the first time when I was 17.  I had graduated high school and moved to Amarillo with the girl across the street, Cathy Clancy.  I was standing in the kitchen of our apartment with a saucepan of cold Kraft macaroni and cheese and not the faintest idea of how to re-heat it for my lunch.  I went to throw it in the microwave when I realized I did not have one anymore and I could not  imagine how I could heat it on the stove without cooking it to death.   I called  Mom long distance ( also a big deal back then)to find out how to reheat food without a microwave.    Fortunately my life without a microwave did not last long.  The staff at Cannon Chapel all chipped in and gave us a nice new ammana model for a wedding present.  I will never forget one of the chaplains saying " A Microwave oven?  Dang!  All I got when I got married was a picture of Jesus at the rock!"

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Just 30 more minutes...PULEEEEZE!

Medical Center
Of course my bedtime  changed over The years but there are benchmarks that stand out in my memory for different reasons.   I remember being sent to bed at a very young age and hating that we had pillows so flat they hardly mattered.  Mom and Daddy had big feather pillows, but Jamie and I had  pillows that were made from a coral colored floral print fabric that when folded in half, and let me say here for the record that not only did they fold in half they folded easily in half,  still had barely enough loft to lift our heads up off the mattress.  When we whined about them and asked why we could not have "real" pillows like theirs we were told that big pillows where not healthy or safe for little children...I am not sure exactly where the danger was, possible suffocation?  Chronic neck pain?  Who knows, but what I was sure of a few years later was that no matter what harm could befall me from an overly lofty pillow there was nothing that the handsome Dr. Gannon of "Medical Center" could not cure.  At this stage in my upbringing I had moved past the 7:30 bedtime of my early youth and had gained a whole hour!  At first flush this seems like a real victory but not on Medical Center nights.  You see, It came on at 8 o'clock  and it was an hour long show.  I always got hooked into the story during those last 30 minutes of my day and invariably I would be sent to bed promptly at 8:30.  I would ask to stay up for the last 30 minutes of the show, but I don't think Mom ever relented.  Her stock reply was that I knew I would not be able to see the whole show, so why did I start watching it in the first place?  This was before the days of a TV in every room, so it was watch what she was watching or go do something else.  It was not lost on me even at that young age what a looker Chad Everett was and I always held out hope that this would be the week she would fail to notice the time.  So I gambled and lost over and over again.  It would seem a sorry and pitiful thing except it lead to one of my all time favorite things...going to sleep with the flickering blue light of a TV on in another room casting shadows under the door. It may be why I still fall asleep to a TV show flickering in the dark every night.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Home is where the Heart is

I have lived in many houses in many places, but one house rises above all others as the place I think of as home.  None of us live there anymore.  After Mom's stroke we sold it to a friend so that Mom could move to Roswell and live with Jamie.  But I think it's safe to say that we all still think of it as home, even Zachary who found it to be the one constant in his nomadic Air Force Brat life.  All roads led back to 921 West Plaza, even after I had grown and gone, when I said I was going home I meant this house. There are so many memories of our life there I cannot begin to capture them all, but here are the ones that come immediately to mind while looking at this picture.  
First I remember our front yard which was made of white rocks instead of grass.  Believe it or not we learned to run across those rocks into the melting summer asphalt and across the street to Cathy Clancy's house barefooted.  The first trip of the summer was always the hardest, but by the time August rolled around we did not even give it a thought.  You might think that because the yard was not lawn that maintenance would be minimal.  You would be wrong.  Weeds would come up all over the yard and because of the rocks you could not mow them down, they had to be pulled, or so Mom said.  Have you tried pulling a weed out of the sun baked sod of the southern High Plains?  I do not recommend it.   Imagine my surprise when my soon to be husband Steve said "why don't you just spray them with round-up"   What is this "round-up" of which you speak I asked.  He turned me on to herbicide that day and it is one of the enduring reasons I love him so.  Speaking of Steve, please notice the mimosa tree growing in the front.  It is what you might call a late bloomer if you think it should be leafed out and in full flower in February.  Steve thought so, and since it wasn't he attempted to cut it down.  We put a stop to his butchery just in time.  We pointed out that dormant and dead are two different things.  We saved that tree and it still stands today, having grown big and sturdy enough to support the weight of three grand kids who climbed up into the cool shade of its canopy each in their turn.

To the left off the garage are buried three dogs,  our beloved Panchito and Conejo, who grew up in that house right beside me and Jamie and Granny's dear Little Bit .  We had thought we would put Milford's ashes there too, but now that the house is sold to another, we'll take Milford with us to our next and hopefully last house.

You can also see poking up over the roof of the house the swamp cooler.  Its a bit of a dinosaur today, but when I was growing up all the houses had them, and what little I know about mechanics I learned working on the swamp cooler.  

Now the road home leads to  Roswell, a town I never lived in.  It seems sad and strange not to take the familiar roads to my old town and my old neighborhood,, until I see all the familiar faces and things surrounded by new walls, and then I realize I am back home after all.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

The bathroom sink

The book asked today if my dad shaved with a straight  razor or an electric one.  I do not know.   I only vaguely recall ever seeing him shave.  I was generally not out of bed yet when he was getting ready for the day, so do not recall how he shaved, though I know he must have.   All men in the Air Force have to shave, and I do not recall ever seeing him with a beard, though I do remember his whiskers. What I can recall about my dad and the bathroom sink was the ever present bar of lava soap and the faint residue of motor oil and grease left behind  after he did his best to scrub clean after work.  The lava soap was not meant for us, but I used it anyway, who could resist soap with bits of rock embedded in it?  And the truth be told, it worked pretty well after a hard day of making bricks out of the ashes at the bottom of the grill, or digging a hole in the ground at school.  I liked getting my hands dirty back then and still do today.  I have tried to wear gloves but they just wind up getting in my way or getting full of holes so on the rare occasion when I do try them out, they are ditched withing the first thirty minutes or so of any given project.   As a result my hands have prematurely aged, but ainokea, it is what it is.  I have more fun using my hands than admiring them.  I suspect Daddy felt the same way about his hands, they were tools to be used and use them he did.  I remember his finger nails were mangled on one hand after an industrial accident, the details of which escape me.  Mom did tell me  though that he had to have a skin graft on his fingertips and they took the skin from his chest, so from then on he had hairs that would grow from his fingertips, but because he used his hands so much they were always worn down.   So how did he shave?  I cannot say, but I think  pumice soap and mangled fingernails is a reasonable substitute.
Update: After reading the blog to Mom she says that Daddy shaved with a saftey razor and shaving soap...