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Friday, 13 June 2014

A Few Early Memories

By Chlele Gummer

Woodland was my birthplace in 1937, a small community northwest of Sacramento. My dad worked for the Woodland Democrat, the local newspaper. I imagine he ran the presses as that is what he did later on in his life.

My mom stayed home with me caring for the goldfish pond in the backyard and, I'm sure, growing tomatoes and corn every summer. We lived in Woodland until I was about five years old.

In my earliest memory, I was sitting in the dirt across the street from our house. I'm guessing that I was about two years old at the time. I was pushing a small wood block left over from the construction in the damp dirt.

For some reason, I scooped up a fistful of the dirt and shoved it into my mouth. I knew I had made a mistake the instant my tongue touched the cold, grainy, wet soil.

I raised up onto my knees, held my head down and let the saliva drop from my mouth in long syrupy strands. I waited until the clump of mud fell out of my mouth. Thank goodness for saliva as it washed my mouth clean within a few minutes and I could swallow without getting dirt in my throat.

Afterwards, I continued shoving the cars around in circles making roads in the dirt.

Next to our house, in the empty lot next door, there was a huge sandpit. Maybe it was the leftover sand from making the concrete floor of the house and the small patio. I loved to play in that pit. It was especially fun in the early morning when the sand was still damp.

The best time to play was after a rain. The wet sand could be shaped into all kinds of things - roads, buildings, houses. I would spend hours in the sand pile.

One morning I found strange looking blisters on my legs. When Mom told the story she said one could actually see the blisters forming, moving up my legs. The doctor took one look and covered them with a white powder of some kind.

Then at home, for a couple weeks Mom had to have me sit still while she took the scabs off each blister and put a white oxide salve on them. Impetigo was the name of the infection that I got from playing in sand that the cats' buried their feces in. I didn't play in that sand again.

When I was five, I visited kindergarten as a guest to meet the teachers and see the room and playgrounds. At playtime we were herded outside to try out the various activities.

I loved the swings. This school also had teeter-totters, three of them. They looked like fun and I wanted to try them. I'd never been on a teeter-totter before. A second grade girl was getting on an empty one and asked if I would join her.

I was so thrilled to do something a second grader was doing. She waited for me to sit on my end, then she hopped on her seat and up I went. She told me to push up when I sunk down and hit the ground.

I learned fast and we were doing great, up and down, down and up. I enjoyed the rhythm of it and that it took two people to work it. The second grade girl showed me how she could go without holding on to the handles in front of the seat.

She put both her arms high into the air. I thought that was a smart thing to do so I copied her. Because I wasn't good at this teetering, as I put my hands into the air, my body fell forward and I banged my mouth on the metal handles.

Many times Mom would tell the story of the teacher bringing me home with my two front teeth in her hand. Dad called me Grandma until my permanent teeth came in when I was eight.

Often times, in summer, my parents played softball in the street with others that lived in the neighborhood. One day, as they were playing, I remember seeing a bleeding scratch on my heel. I used the closest hose to wash it off. And I watched it carefully as the scratch vanished.

I was so surprised I showed Mom but she was too busy playing. I checked my heel later and still there was no scratch. I thought the water washed it away.

[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


You have a great memory. Loved the teeter-totter story, especially the image of the teacher returning you home with your two front teeth in her hand.

Chlele, good story, and it made me think...I never ate dirt, but
I did ruin a lot of clothes, eating pomegranate seeds from the hedge in our back yard. I would break the hard outer shell by banging them on contrete, then dig out the tasty seeds.

I enjoyed you story very much. It was so well written. One of my granddaughters lost her two front teeth at an early age and it seemed like it took forever for the permanent ones to come in...We have so many pictures of her beautiful smile but missing those two front teeth! I had almost forgotten about this until I read your story!!!!

Such memories! Such, such memories!

Funny what little things from our childhood stick with us. Gives me a new appreciation for gardening where the cat has been. You educated me today.

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