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Thursday, February 05, 2009

from light to dark in a few hours

One year we lived near the railroad tracks in a depressed little town north of here. Dad took a small church as pastor - in an act of kindness, I think. The church basement smelled of mildew, and only a handful of the townspeople attended. My dad always cared about poor communities and so-called lost causes. But after less than a year we moved back to our old home town. Dad went into a new line of work, no longer a pastor.

A bright spot in the year of the dingy, depressed town was a family of five beautiful girls. It was as if Sweden had airlifted a gift and set them down gently for all of us to enjoy beside the lake where they lived. Not that they were Swedish, I don't think they were, but they were perpetually blonde and tan, with the whitest teeth, biggest eyes and sweetest dimples. They charmed us all with their worldly innocence. It didn't hurt that they also had a colored TV. (This was 1966, so: Flipper the dolphin, and funny-wacky-leggy Phyllis Diller in flashy dresses and spiked hair and ankle boots.)

My 14-year-old brother was in love with one of the gifts - Candy, who was his age. Yes, that was really her name.

One summer evening after dinner he asked me to walk to their house, and I was happy to, since Candy's sister Barb was 10 like me. Off we trotted down the tracks, which led us straight to a radiant evening in Sweden-land. Even the girls' mother was full of cheerful goodwill and prettiness.

Time flew as we played, laughed and ate chocolate chip cookies, and before we knew it, dusk was falling. Reluctantly, we said good-bye to Candy, Barb, and the gang, and skipped the mile and a half home over the tracks as the sky darkened.

Arriving home in the dark, we recognized immediately that our house was not so full of cheer and prettiness as the cottage of the blonde beauties. Our poor dad and mom had no idea where we had been for the past 4 hours! My brother, four years older than I, had not mentioned our plans to them. As the younger guilty party, I was not deemed as culpable, so I did not suffer the sound whipping he did.

I wonder if my brother thinks of the family by the lake with guilty pleasure as I do.

87 comments:

kanmuri said...

This is a really cute story. I enjoyed it a lot! :)

Be one with the Fro said...

I am the 2nd comment on here...That is a FIRST!

My sister and I always created mischief, but I would take the sound whippings -as you so eloquently put it- being that she is 6 years younger and I am an overly protective sister.

Leena said...

That was nice to read from your memory book :)
And those drawings, are they made by you, they are skillful.
Warm greetings from snowy Joensuu!

NJ said...

I really enjoyed your story Ruth. I have a few just like it so I guess that's why it's reminiscent for me. Those days of not having a care in a world that are cut short and the lessons of child hood.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Kanmuri, it seems so long ago.

Ruth said...

That's kind of you Tiffany. We younger siblings owe you a lot. I learned a lot watching my siblings get whippings.

Ruth said...

Leena, come in and warm up, the fire is lit. Yes, I drew the cartoons, thanks. Have to keep practicing.

Ruth said...

Thanks, NJ. I was thinking about this story before posting, wondering if there was something else going on that I didn't know about. I wonder if it wasn't only not knowing where we were.

But yes, this seems like another lifetime.

shicat said...

Isn't it funny,the moments we remember from our past. How clearly they play in our mind,while other moments are gone forever. I really loved this story, memories of our innocent youth. It brings back so many memories that I wish we sitting across from one another so that we could share them. Like a great book your stories draw me in and help me find places I haven't been in a long time. Thanks Ruth

Ruth said...

Cathy, I'd love to sit and reminisce with you too. Michigan stories, if you grew up here too.

My friend Inge talks about this a lot, why some memories stick and others are forgotten like dust in the wind?

renaye said...

i like the sketch!

i don't really remember my childhood other than studying and going tuition.

Montag said...

We used to spend summers in Marine City. At the end of the driveway, there was a railroad running down to Algonac.
There were summer carnivals that in my memory were brighter than the aurora borealis.

And there was a beautiful blond girl...who wore a blue bathing suit, and grasped the fronds of a weeping willow to swing out over the river.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, Renaye, no kid stuff?

Ruth said...

Montag, Algonac, MI?

So you too have a beautiful blonde memory. I suppose many do. Your image is like a movie.

Barry said...

Been there. Seen it. Done it. Felt the consequences.

Kathy said...

What a sweet story ♥

Dakota Bear said...

Ruth,

I love your recollection of childhood memories. The drawings are cute.

Childhood memories are wonderful. I remember how as a child we had the freedom to go on "adventures". We would walk for miles. Find tadpoles in ponds and see many other things of nature. We would visit our friends homes and play for hours on end usually outdoors.

Such a difference how children are raised today.

rauf said...

i think you should be thankful for your strong foundation Ruth, you know the value of a smile now.

The illustrations are very powerful
the TV looks very alive. i think you should take this seriously Ruth. Do you remember the name of the doll you were carrying ?

dutchbaby said...

Such a lovely childhood memory. Your drawings are terrific! I would trade my calligraphy skills for the ability to draw in a heartbeat!

Sandy said...

Ruth this was really enjoyable to read and to have it accompanied by a cartoon, great job.

Glad you escaped the whipping!

Loring Wirbel said...

As the oldest, I was always the one blamed, though in most cases I deserved it. I would annoy my sisters constantly with tricks like driving the mini-Barbie car off the roof, filled with firecrackers. It was only in the teen years that we stood up for each other - and I was mostly to blame for being the intimidating jerk earlier on...

Oliag said...

Dear Ruth - First, I love your drawings!...I'm also impressed that you can get them on your blog like that..especially the little TV...how did you do it?

Second, The memory is sweet...something to cherish and hold...it is so well written too..I could travel that memory with you...I personally could see this as the start of a short story...have you ever tried writing short stories?

Last, I originally started my blog as a place to capture memories as well as a place for photos...thanks for reminding me - even if I could never write as well as you!

Susan said...

((SIGH))

Why aren't you writing children's books? Or at least a memoir?

I'm just sayin'.

Prasad said...

the younger ones always get off easily! :P

photowannabe said...

Interesting. Being an only child I created my own problems and didn't have siblings to plot and plan and just do innocent things with. Maybe you are right Ruth. There probably was a whole different dynamic going on that your young mind knew nothing about.
Love your memories and the sketch to go with it.

Gwen Buchanan said...

happy and sad...

Are you sure those journals aren't filled with many more stories and drawings like this?...

Beetle said...

What a lovely little story! Life is made up of all these little incidents - if only we could recall more of them :O)

Ruth said...

Hi, Barry, I feel a story coming. Bring it on!

Ruth said...

Kathy, life is a crazy, sweet adventure, right?

Ruth said...

Dakota Bear, we were out all day, we'd go home for lunch and dinner, then back out. It must have been the evening-ness turning to dark that got us in trouble this time.

renaye said...

hmm.. not really any particular kid stuff i would say. kid's life in malaysia is pretty overwhelming when comes to studies. i don't remember having a teacher telling me to do other things other than studying and than excelling in national exams. if u don't excel in exams, u r not consider smart. so that is about asian society.

Ruth said...

rauf, thank you. Drawing, like writing, takes practice and tweaking. It isn't easy to make them right, but with time, skills improve. I need to work on it every day so my hand gets more fluid.

The doll's name was "Stacy."

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, thank you, but you surprise me. I would have guessed a calligrapher would be able to draw!

I should have kept at it more through the years.

Ruth said...

Aunty Sandy, I think I still feel guilty that I didn't get the spanking.

Ruth said...

Loring, amazingly, I have -0- stories of my brothers annoying me or being jerks to me. I think the age difference must have made them be nice. They were 4, 6 and 8 years older than me, and they protected me. Yet still, I cried and bawled like a baby if I failed at a game or thought someone was mocking me. Jeepers, I was such a wuss. Maybe I would have been less of a wuss if they'd toughened me up a bit.

Ruth said...

Hi, Oliag. Thank you.

I took a pic of the TV drawing and loaded it as a small image. Having a white background on the template makes the white background on the drawing blend and disappear. And I made my borders white too, so they don't appear.

I did try a short story. I got the first half set up, and I got lazy and didn't finish it. I'm used to writing poems, which are short. I'm used to focusing on the weight of one word.

Cool! I hope you'll dedicate some of your posts to memories.

Ruth said...

Susie Q, because I don't know how to start, and I am lazy. I don't know how to get over the first hurdle, and I don't even know what the first hurdle is.

It's about laziness I think. This is quick and easy.

I'm just sayin'.

:D

Ruth said...

Prasad, would that be you too?

Not only were my parents old enough to be my grandparents, making them mellow, my siblings spoiled me too.

Ruth said...

Sue, I wonder if the family of girls was considered too worldly by my parents, and they didn't approve our going there at all. Maybe my brother had been told not to go, and he disobeyed. These are things I am only guessing.

Ruth said...

No stories, Gwen, but there are some sketches around from high school and college days.

I wonder if you practice drawing every day. You are very, very hard working. You have accomplished so much with your craft because of your talent, but also because of your discipline.

Ruth said...

Is that you, Babs? I recognize that :O).

It's the stories that connect us, I think. Like when I watch the Olympics, I don't get interested in the events until I know something of the athletes' lives.

Ruth said...

Renaye, I have heard about that in Asian families and cultures. I think this is the direction some American parents are moving too now. But even more than academics, parents push their kids into activities: soccer on Monday, cello lessons on Tuesday, ballet on Wednesday, tennis on Thursday. I think it's a very tough question just how to balance play and accomplishment, but kids learn a lot by playing on their own I think.

ds said...

Hi, Ruth!

Came late to this, but love the drawings, and the story. The others are right--you should try short stories (or perhaps a prose poem?). Wonderful post.

Edward Yablonsky said...

Poor communities and lost causes. A visit down the track. I enjoyed your account and those days of innocence and uncomplication. I wish we had that ongoing elusive luxury of those childhood years. We have the use of our minds to voyage back to an earlier and more innocent time in those "poor?" communities. They had other compensations many of us in this present do not have.

Ruth said...

Hi, DS, thank you!

And thank you for getting me to talk about poetry again, at your place.

Ruth said...

Edward, thank you for that. I'm remembering through the feelings of a child, the small, dark, shabby house we lived in. But your insight helps me consider it differently. I knew some wonderful people in that town, beyond the blonde beauties too.

Peter said...

What a nice reading (even neglecting the reference to Sweden)! I was going to ask the question about the illustrations so perfectly fitting into the story, but the answer is already there! I'm not surprised... but anyhow very much impressed!

Ruth said...

Peter, I thought of you when I wrote this, because of the references to Sweden.

I feel very satisfied right now, after seeing your workers' Notre Dame, what a treasure. Now I want to know where the one in Istanbul is, since we didn't see it when we lived there.

mystic rose said...

This made me sad. I felt both sides, the worry and fear your parents must have been through.
Why guilt though? Kids just dont notice time.

Ruth said...

Hi, Mystic. :)

Guilt is the food of Christians, protestant and Catholic alike. We are given it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. What is right, what is wrong? These are delineated every moment of every day. Black and white. If you did what is wrong, the shame is bitter. The flesh of the brain that ate that food doesn't forget it easily.

J and Z said...

oh ruth, you've brought back such vivid memories by mentioning flipper and phyllis diller...ooo i wanted to be her when i grew up....maybe i am now and i just don't know it...AAAAAAGGGGHHH - i'll have to start calling my hubbie fang....

Ruth said...

J and Z, hahaha, that's so cool you wanted to be Phyllis Diller! She is such a stitch. And still around. How about that long cigarette holder!

CSouthwell said...

I do wonder about saome of the things i remember, and whether they would have anywhere the same significance to anyone else.

What made you remember this story?

Poutalicious said...

I make notes while I work all day and then when I come home I go to the computer and start editing. Journals are really good in that way for me.

Deslilas said...

Sweet and bitter memories.
I try without success to remember the title of a movie about children playing along a railway track with a very good song !

Deslilas said...

I remember "Stand by me".

Ruth said...

Hi Charlie. That I don't remember, what made me remember this event.

It is fun when you realize your memories mesh with someone else's, especially when you share a fondness for a memory.

Ruth said...

Yes, Pouty, that would actually be very useful. I think I'm going to use one today for planning the garden.

Ruth said...

Hi Daniel, it's so nice to see you. It's been a long time since I saw that movie, it is a classic.

renaye said...

well i think the american kids have much more balanced than most asian kids' schedule when ours is mon - chem tuition, tues - malay tuition, wed - math tuition, thurs - eng, fri..... and the list goes on.

so r u a lecturer in michigan uni?

david mcmahon said...

You have a captivating writing style. The literary world needs you.

Seriously.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

It is funny that you shall always remember them as they were then...blonde, tanned and dimpled! I wonder where they all are now?

Bob Johnson said...

Thanks for the beautiful story Ruth, My Dad won our first color tv, and we were the only ones on our block to have one, my Dad won it in a sales contest, my first show I watched in color was Tarzan,lol.

Linda Pendleton said...

Nice story. It was such a different world back then, such an innocence, a santuary.
Linda

Linda Pendleton said...

That was sanctuary.... LOL

Deedee said...

Great story Ruth! The grass was always greener at other kids' houses! I remember similar incidents from my childhood in which I was the one who got the whipping!

Ruth said...

Renaye, it sounds grueling. American kids would protest.

No, I'm not a lecturer or professor. I'm an academic adviser for students.

Ruth said...

Hi, David, welcome, and thank you very much for the encouragement.

Ruth said...

Pamela, I wondered too, and I googled Candy but didn't come up with anything. I imagine she's married and changed her name. They'll never need face lifts as far as my memory is concerned.

Ruth said...

Well Bob, that's cool and amazing. You must have been excited. Yes, I watched Tarzan every Saturday morning, along with Mighty Mouse and The Lone Ranger.

Ruth said...

Hi Linda, welcome and thanks. I'm afraid my brother didn't think it was a sanctuary, poor guy.

Ruth said...

Hi there, Deedee. It's true. What is at your own house seems ordinary and mundane, only because you're used to it. I remember even loving to wash dishes at my friends' houses.

Lorna said...

You are a very good writer. I loved every word.


~Lorna

Merisi said...

My heart goes out to you and your brother, for having been punished so severely for an innocent act.

Since you mentioned Sweden, I trust you have read Astrid Lindgren's books, so full of a happy childhood.

Greetings from V.,
M.

Congratulations on winning a spot on David's POD list, which brought me here. I am grateful about that! :-)

Ruth said...

Hi there, Lorna, thank you, and welcome.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Merisi! I'm glad you brought David's post to my attention, that's very nice.

I'm afraid the severity of the punishment was one of the last straws for my brother. He spent many years away from my parents. Thankfully he came back and had many wonderful years living near them.

I haven't read Lindgren, so thank you for the recommendation.

Moannie said...

Hallo Ruth. I am new to you blog and thanks to David at author blog I shall add my name to what I imagine to be a long list.

I love this gentle story so very much, a lovely snapshot of innocent childhood when kids could walk a mile or two down a railroad track to be seduced by the beauty of a new family.

Ruth said...

Oh hallo to you, Moannie. Your words are so kind.

And your photos of yourself and your babies were the same gentle balm to me.

Edward Yablonsky said...

Yes Ruth. I appreciate your reply. I think you uaed the term "Lost Causes" Nothing is ever lost, I feel. I have read of the Akashic Record wherein nothing is lost and events revolve to makwe their courses again , and all for our benefit.

Gwei Mui said...

Hi there Ruth,
Just spent time reading through your latest and the comments.
WOW I agree with it all your words are extremely haunting and very beautiful. I've been thinking a lot lately about childhood - maybe there's something in the air. Edward's right nothing is ever lost, we might misplace it, forget about it, but we never "lose" anything even when we think we have!
Please keep writing I wish you all the best - amazing
:)

Ruth said...

Edward, I hadn't heard of the Akashic Record, though I've heard it called the collective consciousness. It's a fascinating theory.

I'm grateful that my parents taught us that people were never 'lost causes.'

Life cycles are remarkable. So many seeds that 'died' and come to life when you least expect it.

Ruth said...

Oh hello, Gwei Mui, thank you so much.

Sometimes I try to remember something, but it seems to be gone forever. Then it gets jogged and pops into my head at an unexpected moment.

I guess we all have that. Another thing, it's hard to know when to give up on something and not drag it around any more.

Christina said...

Aww... I bet you had fun while it lasted though. : ) Too sweet!

Ruth said...

Yep, Christina, it was nothing but fun. I almost named this post 'reality check.' :)

Edward Yablonsky said...

The akashic record is mentioned by Edgar Cayce It is infinite memory,so to speak a continuous history out of time and nothing is lost and we have free will and all events are churned around for our benefit. Nothing is ever lost in the big picture. We grow hopefully in life to know more of this picture and we never stop growing.

Edward Yablonsky said...

Ruth. The Akashic records are fascinating and contain infinite knowedge we will never scrath the surface of. I have some fascinating posts on my blog. Tell me your opinion of the Halls of the Sphinx. Crystal Links provides such a plethora of materail to give the mind and spirit a work out.

Edward Yablonsky said...

Ruth:I really appreciated your post . Learning is fascinating and growth encouraging. That is why I continue to grow in the infinite space of learning. That makes me an observer, I guess.