Five things that made me happy today – 1/22/22

What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.

John W. Gardner

1. It was 40 degs and cloudy when I got up. It was sunny starting about noon, but the temperature never got above 45 deg.

2.Two deer seem to have decided my yard is their favorite place to nap in the sun. They were here all day until just before 4:00 pm.

3. Decent session at the Wellness Center. I know you must get tired of reading about the same day, day after day, but if you think you’re tired you should try living it. I’ll be so glad, if (when) we ever get out of this pandemic.

4. Cool/cold day lunch of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich.

5. I was late getting started on the story I promised you today. I published it, although I’m afraid it’s a little disjointed. It took me a while to develop a through-line.

How about you? What made you happy today?

Summer in Texarkana

Mama happily moved around the country with Papa and the kids. She also made it a priority to return to Texarkana any time she could – but definitely for long stretches in the summer. Not only did she have her folks living there, but she also had many friends from her girlhood.

I’m eternally grateful to have had the experience of living in a family who not only loved each other – they also liked each other. There’s something restful and supportive about having people around you who understand all the references of old family sayings without having to explain them.

Mama’s brother was a Presbyterian minister,. He had two girls, Anne and Mimi, who were almost exactly my age. Oh, well, okay then, Anne is 20 months older, and Mimi is 2 months older, but who’s counting? One of my earliest memories was of me and the cousins sitting in an old galvanized washtub in the backyard of Nannie and Gankie’s house in the hot, hot summertime.

The three of us were at the beginning of the baby boom – born in 1943 and 1944. Even though Uncle Bill wasn’t in any danger of the draft because of his profession, he and Aunt Jan had been in a hurry to get their family started. I was born six months after Papa left to go overseas during WWII. Uncle Bill, Aunt Jan, Anne and Mimi lived in Helena, AR, but they, like Mama, made an effort to return during the summer and at Christmas.

After Papa came home and got transferred to Houston, we lived within a six-hour drive of Texarkana. Since I lived such a nomad life, I always loved being in Texarkana. When I was little and people asked me where I lived, I always said, “I really live with my Nannie and Gankie in Texarkana, but they make me stay with Mama and Papa some of the time.” My sisters joined the family in 1948 and 1950, so we added them to the mix.

Breakfast was bacon, eggs, and biscuits. My grandmother made a batch of biscuit dough every morning. She rolled out, cut out, and baked about a dozen biscuits, leaving enough of the dough to have a “starter” for the next meal. My grandfather wanted to have “hot bread” with dinner, so Daisy, Nannie’s maid, would add flour and a little bit of baking powder, and a tiny bit of water to the dough, and make enough biscuits for dinner. She counted one per child and two per adult, depending on who was there. Leftover biscuits were stored in the refrigerator, and put in an appearance – toasted – at supper.

As soon as breakfast was over, we took Gankie to the bank and picked up Daisy. We took her back to the house so she could make the beds, dust, vacuum and clean the bathrooms. Meanwhile we went to the curb market or Safeway to get vegetables and meat for lunch. Nannie had a miniscule refrigerator so we shopped for and bought whatever looked good for one or two days. After we did the shopping, we drove back to the house, and delivered the ingredients to Daisy so she could prepare dinner.

Nannie had a swing set, and a sandbox in her back yard, so the kids played there until it got to be too hot. Then Nannie would fill up an old galvanized washtub and we would all squeeze in and get cool. Mama, Aunt Jan, and Nannie would sit out on the brick patio and drink cokes while they shelled peas, or cut up string beans. About 11:30 we would all pile in the car and drive down to the bank to pick up Gankie for dinner.

On the way home from the bank, we stopped at the Ice House and bought ice – two bags of crushed ice and a 50 pound block. The crushed ice was used for tea, and to store soft drinks in the ice box on the back porch. That way we could get a Coca-Cola or a Grapette without opening the refrigerator and cooling off all the leftovers. The refrigerator had a tiny ice compartment that held two ice trays that you could get the ice out of by pulling up a long lever. It took a long time to make ice, and there was no way we could have had ice tea or ice water with our meals without the crushed ice from the Ice House. The block of ice took a lot longer to melt than the crushed ice did, so we could keep it in a second cooler with an ice pick and just chunk off pieces if we wanted to have something cool to suck on in the afternoon while we were supposed to be taking a nap.

Dinner was always at noon – it was too hot to cook in the afternoon. We had green beans, cornfield peas or turnip greens, seasoned with bacon fat, rice, potatoes, yellow squash, fresh slices of tomato, etc, We usually had a raw onion to cut up and put on the green beans, turnip greens or peas. Those onions were REALLY hot, but Daisy sliced them ahead of time and put them, with a little sugar, in a bowl of ice water. By the time dinner rolled around a lot of the heat had been taken out of them. Gankie liked to add pepper sauce to the vegetables – hot peppers preserved in vinegar – in a bottle with a shaker top. When the vinegar ran out, you just added more vinegar and you could keep that one little bottle going for quite a while.

After dinner, Gankie took a short nap while Daisy finished up the dishes, and gathered up her dinner to take home. Gankie took her back to her house about 1:30 and then went back to the bank for the early part of the afternoon.

We spread quilts on the living room floor to take our naps. It was entirely too hot to go upstairs to the bedrooms in those days before air conditioning. The rule was we had to stay on the quilts, but we could read, or play cards as long as we didn’t disturb the adults. We always had at least two oscillating fans blowing in the living room, and, as long as we stayed still it wasn’t too bad. By 1950 the Public Library had been air conditioned, so, sometimes one or another of the adults would take us down there to get new library books before our naps.

On hot summer afternoons, when we were little, you could find Mama, Aunt Jan, and Nannie sitting in the shade, sipping cokes and visiting, while the three of us played in the grass.

Abbie, Anne, and Mimi

About 4:30 the sun had gotten low enough in the sky to start cooling off a little, and usually a breeze would come up. The kids were ready to go back outside by then, and we had some great games of Red Rover, Mother, May I?, Hide and Seek. Other girls from the neighborhood would drift by and join us. Mama, Aunt Jan, and Nannie would bring out lawn chairs and sit in the shade and fan. Gankie got home around 4:30, and would join the ladies to bring them up to date on all the happenings of the day. Afternoons were when they spent most of the time moving hoses and sprinklers around the yard – always fun for us to run through. Often there was a thunderstorm in the late afternoons that sent us all scattering inside. The best part of the storms was that they didn’t last very long, and when they were over, we were allowed to wade in the gutters.

We had a cold supper during the summer – SlangJang, salads, sandwiches, hot dogs, etc. Often after supper we would walk down to the drugstore, one block away and get ice cream cones, or popsicles. Often we would take a long walk around the neighborhood, stopping to “visit” with whoever else was sitting outside trying to catch a breeze.

It was a wonderful way to spend the summer. I feel sorry for my kids who never really knew all that unstructured time.