Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Self-Portrait, Earliest Memories


Diane and me, in wildflowers. Riding in a baby carriage, being angry, bawling that my friend Diane (being littler) was sitting comfortably in the shade of the hood while I was at the end, in the sun. The carriage was being pushed by someone named Virginia.

Riding on my dad's shoulders down the hill in the dark to get ice-cream, and returning home to find Santa Claus had come. He left a set of little blue plastic dishes, and my beautiful Baby Sunshine baby doll. She was also called, sometimes, Baby Dumpling--(after the real baby of a friend of my mama's--actually, Blondie and Dagwood's first baby Alexander was called 'Baby Dumpling,' so that's where it all started, in the funny papers!)

Playing with my mother's old dolls, a blue celluloid baby (which I left outside to be ruined--(all her arms and legs fell off), and another of her dolls which I loved, with a china head, real hair, and a smile with real teeth--(which I also left outside for the dog to ruin). She was my mother's, when she was a little girl. The doll's name was 'Norma,' and she still resides (her china head glued back together) in a box in my attic.

I remember playing in Bacopickle's garden, the fence, the hollyhocks. I always carried a big smooth oval rock around, pretending it was my 'baby.' John, Bacopickle's husband (but never my 'grandpa') once sent me a letter (an exciting thing!) telling me to 'be a good girl,' and to 'go sit on a tack,' or maybe it was 'don't sit on a tack.' Whichever, I was pleased and thought it was funny.

A watermelon 'bust' at Dry Lake. My cousin Jerry and I kick sand on the campfire to put it out. The big people heap praises upon us. We kick more sand on the fire. I am going to marry Jerry. Jerry kicks a big desert turtle on the top of its shell with the heel of his boot. How mean! I am not going to marry Jerry after all.

My brother's black dog, Sparky. My brother jumping over a fence, followed by Sparky. I remember looking for Sparky after he was poisoned, suspecting that he was buried under a red hill of dirt in the yard, digging to find him.

My old black-and-white tomcat, Que-Ball. I dress him up in doll clothes and haul him around in my wicker doll-buggy. He is docile and loving and content. He lays on his back and purrs, wrapped in a little blanket. Sometime later, I am sitting on my Grandma Bacopickle's lap in the big rocker. Que-Ball is on my lap, purring, his claws pushing in and out like cat's do when they're happy. One of his claws catches a big scab already on my knee and pulls it off. The knee becomes infected, and we go to see Dr. Dr. Drummond (the doctor who delivered me), where his pretty nurse, Cherry, fixes me up with a new bandage.

I remember going on vacation, a picnic of sorts. I need to go potty and I'm taken out to a private wooded place. Later on, I discover my privacy was invaded--someone took my picture! I feel betrayed and humiliated. I am enraged and embarassed seeing this photograph.

We are in Whitney, Nevada, where my dad is thinking of buying a store with my Uncle Leffel. I find a nest of kittens, one dangling by its neck between two shelves under a counter. In Whitney, I make a 'cradle' of my hands to rock a tiny baby turtle, (a fingerplay mama taught me): Here are mother's knives and forks, here is mother's table. Here is sister's looking-glass, and here's the baby's cradle. We leave Whitney after a short time and come back to California. (My brother, who was 14 at the time, informs me that there was a big magnesium mine that opened up, and since it was wartime, there was a great demand for magnesiuim. Dad and two of our uncles, Leffel and Ray, thought a store would be a good idea. We stayed there for only six months, so it probably wasn't.)


Someone holds me up to peer over a high fence where a little girl who has no arms plays. They tell me how she can feed and dress herself, and write, anyway, with her toes. I am impressed. Someone holds me up to a window, where a sick girl named Yvonne is darkly quarentined behind a screen. Say "Hello," I am told. "Hello," I say, but I feel something dark inside my chest that I can only equate now to Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year.


The sound tin cans made when they were scraped in the sand. Filling up empty bottles with the sand, patting it down flat when they were full. The taste of sand, the wonderful smell of it. Pouring it out, and scooping it up again.

Making 'pets' out of the little white balls of fuzz that grew on the creosote bush beside the house. In the summer, they turned, like dandelions, into tiny yellow flowers. The smell of wildflowers in the spring. The hillsides were covered with wildflowers.

The tobacco-smell of my grandpa. The powder-smell of Nanny.

Outhouses. Grandpa and Nanny had a seat with a lid on theirs. Ours was just a hole in a board. My little potty chair inside, by the ice-box. My little rocking chair.

My butcher-boy outfit with flowers embroidered across the front. My coat with little buttons shaped like deer.

The 'bean' tree in our yard, a locust tree, I think. I gathered the long, thin green pods and 'cooked' them.

I remember seeing a movie cartoon where Mickey Mouse cut a loaf of bread into slices so thin they were transparent. You could see the knife passing through.

Biting the skin on my mother's elbow because it felt so good to my teeth. --Never hard enough to hurt, but it must've been really annoying to her....

Misunderstood! I am standing in the front seat of the car, between Mama (who is driving) and Mrs. Lambly, (who is all dressed up) and who has white hair and shiney dangling earrings. I admire her earrings, am about to touch them, when mama scolds me, tells me to "stop it." I realize that she thinks I will pull them through the piercings in the lady's ears. My feelings are hurt that she thinks I'd do something so stupid. I just thought they were pretty things, and I was going to tell her so.

The rusty water towers on the hill above our house. The silver milk cans in the barn. The way the cream wrinkls on top of the milk.

Rinaldi's Meat Market; It smells of the thick sawdust covering the floor, ankle-deep, and of salt. I like to come here with my mother. The earthy smells of the mine shafts daddy works in, of the burning carbide in the miners' lamps, of cool wet rocks.

All of these before I was four, before we moved away from Red Mountain.

3 comments:

liz elayne said...

all of these memories...incredible. (you have actually posted for sunday scribblings here! this was the prompt for sunday.)
thank you for your kind words today on my blog. i greatly appreciate them...

i love the image of the bean tree...a story rests in that one. of course many stories are alive here...love it.

slickdpdx said...

Great post. Did you find Sparky? How did you know he was poisoned?

pepektheassassin said...

I did not find Sparky, but Que-Ball lived with us for a long time after we moved. He was a scrappy old cat. He once took on a dog to save a kitten up a pole. His ears were torn to shreds from catfights. He smelled bad. His teeth were rotten. I watched him say goodbye. He was crossing the street, and stopped on the other side and GAZED at the house for several minutes, then went on his way, He never returned.

How did I know Sparky was poisoned? Somebody must have told me so.