Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February Is Here Already?

Wow! I have been so busy getting things ready for the Utah Educational Library Media Association (UELMA) conference that I haven't had time to do anything that I want to do. That is the way of the world-you always have to do the things you have to do before you can do the things you want to do, or something like that.
I won't go political today except for two comments: The regime that was to bring us change certainly hasn't (same old/same old - politics as usual); and the regime that was to unite and bring us all together certainly hasn't (the divide is wider). Of course, it has only been a couple of weeks, so any time now we may have change and unity.


As I continue to write memoirs for the class I take every year, I have decided to group my memories around the places I lived. That gives a loose chronology to what I have written to date and will focus future writings. The sections would then be: 1) Clarksville, Indiana and Clovis, New Mexico, 1947-1951(mainly my memories of what my parents told me about the time); 2) Lordsburg, New Mexico, 1952-1954; 3) Roswell, New Mexico, 1955-56; 4) Hobbs, New Mexico, 1957-59; 5) Westminster, California, 1960; 6) Huntington Beach, California, 1961-70; 7) Provo, Utah, 1971-72; 8) Sandy, Utah, 1973; 9) West Jordan, Utah, 1974-until too old to write.
This memoir sample is from the Lordsburg period, 1952-54, and is the last one I wrote for my class:

The Old Green Chair

What I remember as the “old green chair” wasn’t really much older than I was. It was one of the first pieces of furniture my parents bought after they were married in Clarksville, Indiana. It was a bulky, hardwood and steel wired, over-stuffed living room chair covered in a soft, velvety, “true-green” colored material and had a solidly-built, matching ottoman. My dad said it had a long seat that was just right for his long legs. It was his newspaper-reading, radio-listening, and storytelling chair. I assume my mother curled up in it under a comforter when she was expecting, feeding, and holding me as she later did with my sister and brother. Sitting in that chair, I held my baby sister for the first time. Whenever I was near that chair, I would slowly rub the palm of my hand over the soft material and watch it change to light or dark as I reversed the direction of the fabric nap with my hand.
My folks hauled that chair and the few other pieces of furniture they owned in a makeshift trailer across the country to Clovis and Portales and Lordsburg, New Mexico. In Lordsburg, the chair ruled the living room sitting a foot or two away from the tall, narrow window that overlooked the east side yard of Bermuda grass and bottle brush trees.
Mornings, the warm, sun-bright space between the chair and the window was a delightful place to play. The window sill, wider than the thick adobe wall and only a couple of feet from the floor, held an army of small toys and was completely shielded by the chair. The dust flap at the bottom of the chair back was a perfect hiding place for contraband.
When I was four or five, all the kids used to buy little six packs of candy cigarettes at the ramshackle grocery store around the corner from my house. They were hard, white sticks of candy like peppermints are made from, about a quarter inch thick and four inches long, with one end dyed bright red. We practiced holding the candy between our fingers like we had seen our dads hold the real things and pretended to puff out clouds of smoke. A few practiced holding the “cigs” lazily out of the corner of their mouths like the grizzled old-timers and leather-skinned ranch hands we often saw lounging on the sidewalks down town. I usually just chewed mine.
My father’s real cigarettes were much more fascinating than candy, so one morning I took a couple from his pocket before he left for school and hid them behind the chair. The pungent, earthy odor of the shredded tobacco smelled much better unlit than when my dad was actually smoking. Behind the green barricade, I was pretending to blow smoke rings like my dad when my mother appeared next to the chair.
“So,” she said, “think you want to smoke?”
“Sure,” I said, elated and excited about entering into real adult activities at the age of five.
She plopped me down in the chair, slipped one of the cigarettes between her lips, struck a match and “lit up.” She handed me the cigarette and said, “Puff away.” I managed two, maybe three, drags before I became violently miserable and threw up on the polished, hardwood floor. Without comment, my mother extinguished the cigarette, picked me up and carried me to my bed, cleaned up the mess and never mentioned it to me again. However, from my bed that night, I heard her have a laughingly good time telling my dad all the sickening details. “That’ll be a lesson for him,” she declared, and it was; I never ever had a desire to smoke again.
After she painted the living room orange, my mother decided the green of the chair didn’t harmonize. While recovering the ottoman with a print fabric, she determined that she wasn’t up to a full re-upholstery job on the chair. She told my dad to move it out back for the trash men. So my dad muscled the green monster out of the living room, down the hall, and through the big kitchen, being careful not to gouge or scratch the wood floors or rip a hole in the kitchen linoleum. He had to turn it on its side to angle it top first through the back door and inch it onto the small open porch. Then he dragged it down the steps, across the gravel path, and through the gate to the trash cans outside the back fence.
Some neighbor kids were playing on the old buckboard by the barn, and they immediately ran over to watch. The chair was larger than either of the metal trash cans or the burn barrel, so it had to be broken down to either burn or cart away. My dad figured he could use some of the wood and nails and wire, and he set himself to carefully taking the chair apart. With all us children close up watching his every move, he carefully loosened the chair back-panel with a screwdriver and popped it off the chair.
Everyone jumped back a few feet with a horrified shudder. There, infesting the yellowed padding of the old green chair was a writhing colony of at least a hundred, huge BLACK WIDOW SPIDERS. We strained forward to examine this awful sight. A breathless moment passed before spiders on the perimeter of the undulating mass dropped to the ground and wobbly walked toward us.
Then all was pandemonium. Girls screamed and ran to the buckboard. Boys picked up sticks and rocks to pound the ugly creatures or stomped on them with their boots before they could escape to a dark hideaway. My dad grabbed a gas can from the shed by the back gate, sprayed the wriggly mass with gasoline, and flicked a flaming matchbook on the ground under the spiders. The chair exploded in flames and black, acrid smoke mushroomed into the warm afternoon like the atomic bomb on Bikini Atoll. The cremation of the old green chair and all its poisonous cargo was an exciting end to an old friend.

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