Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Summer 1960

Carmelita in her backyard - June 1960
          Carmelita, or Carmel to family and friends, had been hurriedly pulling the last of the laundry off the clothesline and on her way into the house to start dinner when she noticed a spent bloom that needed plucking. 
She was a mostly contented woman, married nearly eleven years to a man who could still make her smile, and was affectionately called, “Momma” by two daughters and a son.  They owned their own home, and, since she had recently, finally, earned a driver’s license for the first time, had just purchased a second car.  She was slowly getting over her nervousness to drive, and had been proud to drive all three of her kids to the brand new outdoor pool for swimming lessons.  The only unnerving part was Davy’s constant screams of terror this first week.  The girls, Sandy and Pamy, who had no fear of the water, were thrilled with the daily lessons, and already clamoring to go the river to swim.   Pepper would be all for it; he had grown up swimming in Grays River from early childhood. She hoped Davy would settle in eventually, but, as she herself was deathly afraid of the water, perhaps he sensed that.  She hoped not.

Something had pushed her to finally let Pepper teach her to drive.  Maybe it was the difficulty of getting all three kids ready and onto the lumbering old city bus, not to mention the long ride, that had finally made her realize a driver’s license would be a nice thing to have. She had to admit, being able to just get in the car and drive had opened up a world of possibilities, one of them being swimming lessons. Besides, she would be 30 years old in August – it was time to put some of those childhood fears behind her.

Sandy holding a black cat; neighbor Lisa watching

Sandy loves cats!  She wants to keep this one, as her other cat, Muffy, was recently run over in front of the house.  Momma and Daddy said "No. No more cats for right now." Her friend, Carol, has just received her very own camera, and has been taking pictures all over the neighborhood.  She took the above picture of Sandy's momma, and her momma didn't even know she was taking the picture! 
Summertime on Lorry Avenue - playing cops and robbers with the neighbor kids, Lisa's older sister, Nyla, and her brother, Ike.  Building a makeshift jail on the far side of their house, of folding chairs and stolen bedsheets.  Their parents both worked, so it was a good place to play.
At the end of Lorry, just before it curved around and became Sherley Avenue, was what seemed to Sandy a huge vacant lot, affectionately dubbed "Up, Down and Around," which described to a T what all the neighborhood kids did there on their bikes. Swarms of kids would be tearing down the street on two wheels if they were old enough, or with the creaky sound of training wheels if they weren't quite so steady yet.  Up they'd go, climbing a short hill onto the well worn bike path, scrambling around the lot, the slight thrill of the bumpy downgrade, back onto the street and around the corner, only to repeat the route over and over until a chain fell off, or someone's mom called them home for meals.
Lemonade stands dotted the street, vying for customers, when the days got hot and sultry. The neighbor kids would get together at the house where the road curved and put on plays and performances, charging a nickel if they could get it. The spectators were mostly stay at home moms, with toddlers and babies on hips.  

This was the summer that Sandy quit smiling, not because of her grandpa dying, although that may have been part of it, but due to a broken front tooth.  At nine Sandy loved tetherball, the ring bars at school, riding her bike, playing marbles and Girl Scouts. While crossing on the rings one afternoon, one swung back to smack her in the mouth.  The school must have called home, because her mom met Sandy at the front door that day, with tears and a look of distress when she saw the broken tooth.  Her Momma cried, "Oh honey! Your beautiful tooth!" From that day on Sandy, intentionally or not, doesn't smile with her teeth showing.  
Neighbor Lisa, Sandy still holding that black cat, Davy and Pamy - July 1960
Sandy hates her new "pixie" haircut!  Her momma decided, probably due to those two weeks of swimming lessons in June, that Sandy's long hair was a pain to deal with, so her hair is chopped off.  No one looks too happy in this picture, taken by neighbor Carol, who is still having fun with her very own camera.  Sandy wishes Daddy and Momma would relent regarding the cat, but it's not going to happen. 
In August, Carmel will celebrate her 30th birthday.  She'll receive a cute card from her neighbors, with an "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" that will make her blush. Pepper will tease her about it.
The whole family will go to the local drive in movie to watch "The Shaggy Dog".  Sandy and Pamy will go camping with their babysitter, Kay, and Kay's parents to Mt. Rainier National Park. School will start in September, and all will seem normal.  Then, on September 15, 1960, Sandy will go kiss her momma good-bye before she leaves for school.  Her momma is still in bed, because she has a bad headache.  She's wearing her turquoise chiffon nightgown, Sandy's favorite.
When Sandy returns home that afternoon, the house will be silent.  She'll walk through, calling for her momma and she'll get a funny feeling.  She will remember later that it felt like her momma's presence was absent.  A few minutes later, Mrs. Moss, the neighbor across the street, will walk in the front door and tell Sandy that she needs to go to her house, that Pamy and Davy are already there.  Mrs. Moss will tell her that her momma and daddy are at the hospital.
Life changes in the blink of an eye.


  1. I could relate to so much of what you wrote, including the broken front tooth (from roller skating). I also came home to hear that my mom was in the hospital quite a few times, however, it sounds like your story might have a sadder outcome.

    This is a beautifully written post, Sandi.

  2. Oh, I'm so sorry to learn all this, but so blessed that you have written it so well, and that you took me right there to the scene. I am so very glad you are writing these wonderful vignettes and sharing them with me. Love you, dear Sandi. :-)

  3. This is a very moving story. Thank you for sharing it.


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