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Thursday, 12 September 2013

August Nights in Arkansas

IMPORTANT EDITORIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Stories for this blog are limited in length to 750 words. In recent weeks and months, however, many have strayed over that line – way over, in some cases.

So, to save my time and sanity, stories longer than 750 words will no longer be published.

Mission creep has also affected images lately. It is time consuming for me to prepare them for publishing so I am now imposing a limit of two photos per story.

I'm sure you understand. You can see all the rules and suggestions here and they are always available at the How to Submit link in the upper left corner of every page.

By Marcy Belson

It was a different world. We drove through Silverton, Oregon, this week and I was reminded of the summers I spent in Arkansas as a child.

We visited family in August because that was the slow time for my father's work. Two weeks usually which included the travel time. But it was a fast trip both ways - my father was a man with a heavy foot on the gas pedal and we always traveled with a full car, so there were usually two or three drivers.

My mother would pack a picnic hamper and we would eat as we moved down the road. When the hamper was empty, our meals were taken at the truck stops when the car needed fuel.

We had to stop at truck stops because the trunk of the car had a water heater-sized tank of propane and that is what was propelling us, not gas. My father had converted the car during the war years when gas was hard to come by.

We traveled 24 hours a day with one night at a tourist cabin. We would arrive at the first home we visited in Oklahoma, my father's uncle. We would stagger into their living room and the aunt would start for her kitchen to prepare a meal for us.

Then we would get back in the car and travel another few hours to my mother's hometown in Arkansas.

My father's family lived up in the mountains on a farm. One week was spent with them and then my mother and I would go back to town to visit with her family while my father took the car and visited his relatives who were scattered around the countryside.

I realize now that my father didn't like to stay with his in-laws. They frowned on alcohol and my dad, on vacation and a drinking man, was not to be thwarted.

Apparently my parents had an understanding about this. My dad would show up on the last day and we would be packed and ready to start the long road trip home to California.

One year there was a glitch in this plan. I contacted chicken pox from my cousins in town. I was too sick to travel, especially with a car full of relatives. It was decided my mother would stay with me until I was able to travel and we would take a train back home.

After several weeks, we boarded the train. My first trip, I was excited and since I had no experience riding a train, it was all just wonderful.

But it was war time, the train was filled with young soldiers in their Army uniforms sitting on their duffle bags in the aisles. One young fellow, probably a teenager, smiled and spoke to me and offered me a Hersey bar. My mother told me "no.”

I was surprised, but she took me aside and told me to be quiet and not talk to "strange men.”

About the only thing I remember of that trip was that we had to change trains in Kansas City and we took a walk. My mother told me we were near the famous cattle yards and it smelled that way.

We sat up for the entire trip; it must have been very hard for my mother. As a child, I could at least curl up in the chair and sleep. I think we were on board for three days.

Well, what I started out to say was that my grandparent's house had a big wrap-around porch and the adults would sit out there at night after dinner with a cup of coffee and a cigarette while the children chased fireflies with a Mason jar and a lid with a slit in it.

I have fond memories of a swing with pillows and a chaise lounge that could hold a couple of little girls.

When we went inside to go to bed, the sheets smelled like warm sun and the bedrooms had a faint odor from the cedar closets. The closets were a secret pathway from bedroom to bedroom. It seemed like such a big house to a little person.

We were never there more than the two weeks and usually the trip was only made every other year but the memories are so strong. I hear the thunder and lightning. I smell the rain. I see my grandmother standing at the stove stirring oatmeal. Let the good times roll.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Marcy, Even though our stories' details are different, your lovely memory piece takes me back to my childhood experiences. Just last week, my writing group, made up of women in their 80's, picked the topic of "vacations," and almost everyone chose to write of vacations in their childhood, even though many have traveled widely since.

Beautifully written.

Ah, lovely our childhoods were, with visits and reunions and big porches and fireflies flicking their green candles off and on in the moist night air. Takes me right back Marcy B. We'll be taking those trips in memory until we are no more.

Just wonderful Marcy, a trip back in time and place...so many lives we all have had and so many intersections where they meet..from Father's little quirks and family's quirks about father's having a drink..If only folks would really see how much alike all of us are, I think the world would be easier for all...but we love to compartentilize (a word?) somehow it makes us feel special...or not, mostly....I never heard about the use of propane for cars, and no one of my parent's generation to talk to about it now either...made me remember how often my Mother would be at us for spilling the sugar all over the table with morning cereal time..in the 50s and she would say, if you only knew how scarce sugar was during the war and how we were so careful not ever to spill a grain...oh Ma...how I miss you....

I am awash in childhood memories. Thank you for taking me there, Marcy.

Thanks for giving me a trip down my own memory lane. I, too, remember the rations. I was thrilled when my dad was able to get us girls a few pairs of nylon stockings.

Wonderful imagery. I was right there with you.

A wonderful story, Marcy, or rather wonderful stories! There are a few in here, beautifully woven together.
And as I reached the fireflies, I had to smile, having written about one special one tonight in my blog. Yet another sweet coincidence. :)

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