28 March, 2012

Living in the Country near Madison

My mother used to curl my hair.
I don't remember anything until we moved into the country. I had a friend, a little boy, who lived on a farm close to our house. His mother was a tough woman with an apron, always working  in the kitchen, cooking and baking.  I remember that there were flies everywhere. I suppose I noticed it, because we didn't have any flies in our house. 

The house we lived in was made of brown colored brick, two floors. I don't know if it was really brick or siding that looked like brick. Downstairs there was a kitchen, where we spent most of our time, a living room, which we only used in the summer, my parents bedroom and a back porch, where I got my weekly bath in a little tub.  I slept upstairs. But even when I was little I learned to quietly get out of bed and lie on the heat unit between floors where I could hear the stories on the radio. It couldn't have been a heat unit, because the only heat was from the wood stove in the kitchen, but it allowed some of that heat into the upper story. I suppose my mother must have found me asleep on the floor, but she never commented.

I used to watch my mother carrying water from across the street, a bucket in each hand. It was the time of the second world war, so she churned her own butter from the cream she bought from the farmers in the neighborhood. She also had a big vegetable garden, because everything was rationed.

In the yard was a big tree, with a hole around it, where I used to look for snakes. They were only garter snakes, so I wasn't afraid. Behind the house was a small woods, where I used to look for violets. Of course I didn't know in those days that violets grew like weeds. My mother always acted very happy when I gave them to her.

I started school when we lived there. I had to walk quite a distance to kindergarten.
It was probably less than a mile, but to a five year old it seemed forever.  I attended the afternoon session, and my mother sent me off at 11 am. I dawdled most days and was only on time, when the postman picked me up and delivered me to the school. Miss Branch scolded me everytime I was late. I ignored her mostly.

One day in class, near Easter, the children were supposed to trace a bunny. I was seated at the end of the table and when it reached me, Miss Branch said to put the bunny away, we were going to do something else.  I sat and stared at that bunny. I wanted to trace it and I was furious. I never forgave her. After that , whenever she called on me I refused to answer the question, when she told me to do something I ignored her. 

Once, during the winter, I came into class  when the school was closing. Miss Branch was shouting at me like a banshee, and I picked up my milk (we had already paid for it), sat down, drank it and turned to leave. My mother told me years later that Miss Branch was not polite to her at the parent teacher's meetings and she never understood why. I laughed because I'd never said anything, and Miss Branch didn't either.

I started wearing glasses when I was a bit more than 2 years old. My eyes were crossed, and at school I was teased incessantly on the way home. I suppose that was another reason why I dawdled to school. My friend up the road from me had a big sister and sometimes she escorted me home. Then she would tell my mother what had happened on the way home. I never said anything about it. Perhaps that's why I'm so horrified at the way kids are at each other now.

 I don't remember having any friends at school, but I do remember a girl called Beth. She had an exquisite face, almost mystical looking. So the name Beth became a person with that look. Names were something magical for me. Everyone with the name Mary looked alike in my opinion, etc.

My first year at school was bad enough that my father decided to have an operation on my eyes. But more about that later.

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