One good memory from childhood could save a man’s soul… I think he was right. Judy Dykstra Brown invited me to write on the subject of childhood memories and list ten good memories from my childhood so…
1. “The best pancakes in the world are at the depot,” said dad, waking up his sleeping kids. “You can wear your pajamas. Come on!” And it was THIS station and who knows? It could’ve been THIS day!
2. “Let’s go mail letters, MAK. Get your bike.” I got my bike (I was six) and my dad got his and we rode our bikes to the mailbox.
3. “Here’s your new brother. You must take care of him.” Suddenly there was a baby on my lap. I wasn’t much more than a baby myself, only 22 months older than the sleeping bundle wrapped in yellow blankets.
4. “The good Lord knows who should have girls and who shouldn’t,” said my grandmother combing the tangles out from my long hair in the back where I could neither reach nor see. “Your Aunt Jo has two boys and that’s as it should be.” She braided my hair. “You come down every day and I’ll fix your hair, Martha Ann.”
5. I ran across the field of golden grass, a big brown paper supermarket bag open behind me. When I stopped at the big oak tree, to collect some of its golden leaves for a school project, I saw the bag was filled with seeds it had harvested as I ran.
6. “Martha Ann, do you want to come out with me and get the eggs?” I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. It was still dark and cold in the living room of my grandma’s house where I was sleeping on two easy chairs pushed together. Of course I wanted to. I’d do anything with this woman whom I’ve grown up to resemble, who gave me her white, white hair. “Come on. Put on your coat and boots.” And out we went into the December Montana morning.
7. “Sometimes we have bad days, honey, and people are mean to us. Your cousins were mean to you today. They shouldn’t have taken your doll. They don’t understand that you love your doll.”
“Am I really a sissy, Aunt Jo?”
“No, honey. You’re a brave little girl. Here’s what I do when people are mean to me and I have a bad day. I go by myself and count my blessings.”
“You count all the things you are happy about, all the good things and things you’re grateful for. I’ll start. I’m grateful that you are here spending the summer with us. I never had a little girl and now you’re my little girl until your mom and dad come home. Your turn.”
8. My dad was ill and not getting better. I knew he would not get better. I went to the VA hospital with him one afternoon and I know he got bad news from what he told me. When I got home, I had to get ready for my softball game. I lived for baseball, but this was the best we had because we were girls. I played center field. Most of the other girls couldn’t play very well so no one ever hit the ball out where I was. I stood in the sunlight sucking on my glove. Then I saw my mom and dad had come to the game. They were setting up a chair under a tree for my dad. My team was up. I hit one home run after another — six in all — just in that one inning because my dad was there and he was watching the game. The pitcher started rolling the ball over the plate, trying to walk me, the only way they’d ever get up to bat again. When we were finally out and I went back out to field nothing, my mom and dad left.
9. “Those are the mountains, MAK.” I looked over my dad’s ear at the far away blue shapes on the horizon and never forgot.
10. “Let’s go play catch, MAK, as soon as you’re done with the dishes.” I would give almost anything to have that chance again.