I'm sure it was mid-morning since I do not remember the day being super hot at this time. Lela had taken the cooled firm potatoes from the pot, cubed them. All ingredients needing chopping were sitting nearby. It was now time to mix the sauce before joining all three containers into one. Mark and Lela were having a discussion and I was sitting at the kitchen table. As in all homes the kitchen is the heart and draws all to its welcoming center. In the old house, the original kitchen was dreadful and Dad remodeled it for Mom. To our young selves, it was incredible and beautiful. The walls a bright, inviting yellow. A corner window with the sink in the center. Off to the right of the sink were cabinets followed by the gas stove followed by the refrigerator. A small empty area was next before the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room. Old newspapers were on the floor here for the pet food dishes. Back to the kitchen sink, the wall to the left (it was a rectangle shaped room) held more counter and cabinets. The back door was on this wall. Our kitchen table was golden walnut and with matching chairs that had green vinyl seats. I'm sure the seats were replaced a few times over the years, though I always remember them being green.
The table was not an original of Dad's, however it was refinished by him and in later years by Mark. That table could tell stories and at another time I will tell one about Mark. This is Lela's series of summer stories. The table was in the center of the room. It was not a large room, with the focal point being the table, not too many steps were needed to reach from counter to table, stove to table, sink or refrigerator to table. I wish I could recall the funny story that set us off that morning. Lela stepped to the 'fridge' to grab the Best Foods Mayonnaise. As she pivoted around to put the jar on the table, Mark rose from his chair, and before I could yell, "look out!", contact was made. Mark's head collided with the mayonnaise jar. In slow motion, the loud smack of head and glass could be heard as six eyes turned upward to watch the jar smash into the ceiling. Shattering shards of glass scattered everywhere. White mounds of mayo flew in all directions and struck, stuck, and left white slashes on every thing. Between the instant shock of the scene, Mark's bleeding skull, we stood silently. Only for a moment. Looking about we fervently wished Mom was home. Just to hear her comfort us and say it was only an accident. And, more importantly, tell us to gingerly step out of the kitchen (we were always barefoot in summer) so as to not cut our feet. Then she would clean the mess.Lela was in charge and that day she ruled. First commanding everyone stand still and then after looking at the top of Mark's head and determining it could wait a couple minutes, she proceeded to lay out the game plan. She would get the broom and sweep the glass and mayonnaise globs into a pile. Once that was completed, she had Mark sit on the step stool and washed his head and examined the cut closer. Fortunately, it was only a surface cut and not very deep. It had already quit bleeding. Next, she helped him off with his T-shirt to keep the broken shards of glass and white mayo splots inside. Okay he was now down to his shorts...his overies not his undies...that would be just too silly for us to do in front of each other. At least at the ages we were then. I'm guessing Lela was probably around 12 which would mean Mark was around 10 and I am around 7. Cuz when we were much younger, bathing in the laundry trays on the back porch or splashing in the creek in our birthday suits would not be a big deal. Now, however, Lela & Mark were big people and much more self-conscious of their bodies.
Anyway, Lela sent Mark to the shower. I was around on the other side of the table and did not get much, if any, of the mayo on me. After Mark was out of the room, Lela finished sweeping the floor. When Mark returned, we all picked up glass from the counter tops, stove, sink and then began washing. It was a big, big chore. I cannot say we were having 'fun' yet. All the cupboards and walls had to be washed. All the fixin's and potatoes had to be tossed. Lela orchestrated us well and the mess disappeared in a couple hours. I really do not know if Lela started over making another potato salad, though knowing her, she did. And, I'm sure she washed clothes to removed any shards of glass and remaining mayonnaise marks. By lunch time Mark and I were off doing important things, I'm sure.
Lela had dinner going before Mom and Dad came home from work. Mom usually arrived around 1740 and Dad around 1800 or 1830. He would work on projects in his shop until called for dinner. One of us kids would be the dinner bell, as in, "go tell your Dad dinner is ready." We are in our usual places at the table. Dad at the head and Mark opposite. Mom on the side near the stove and refrigerator; Lela and I on the other. Lela sitting nearest Mark and I nearest Dad...just in case I needed help. Conversation was the usual regarding work; what we did that day; were the cows fed and milked; chickens fed; weeds pulled in the garden? All pleasant and ordinary..........until.
Until Dad stopped speaking in mid-sentence and his eyes shifted upward. The three of us followed his gaze and our eyes widened even more. Mom saw the exchange and followed
our sight line. Silence. Briefly. Very briefly. Then thunderous, yes, thunderous is the best descriptive word for the sound bursting from we three. Thunderous laughter.
Uproarious laughter. Contagious laughter. You know the kind. Mom & Dad were heartily laughing along with us. Tears coursing down our cheeks. Laughing so hard we could not
catch our breath to explain the large gob of white on the kitchen ceiling. Once we started to regain ourselves, gasping between deep gut-bursting gushes of giggles, the story
was told. Rules are rules. Outrageous behavior at the table is not allowed. All things in moderation. Laughter is welcome. Uncontrolled is not. Since it seemed apparent
we three could not regain our decorum, we were banished to the back porch steps. Now, this is not real punishment. Mom felt meals and nutrition were essential, so we took our
plates with us. We were never told to be quiet or stop laughing, only, leave the table. So, you understand, we were not in trouble for the flying mayonnaise as that was
an accident and almost all of it cleaned up.
We were still in the old house and I am not sure if Mom & Dad were even talking about the new home yet. The old one was in a 'U' shape with a huge walnut tree growing in the 'U' section. This was the front of the house and some summers there was a double bed out there near the tree. This is where Mom and Dad slept. Across the back of the house was a screened enclosed porch. The wringer washer, standard washer and dryer, laundry tubs and another double bed were here. On one end was the screen door which made the usual slam bang when we quickly passed through. As I said, we received the 'yes' response and delightedly headed to the brooder house. Here we would find old army cots. It didn't take long to shake off the dust from the heavy, green canvas bags and unload the contents. Placing the wooden pieces in order we quickly snapped the legs into place. The army green canvas unfolded and the cot was now ready to have the end pieces attached. Once they are installed, the cot is pulled into a tight, flat alignment. Now, where to put them? Sometimes we just had them outside in the back yard, though most years we put them in the orchard.
We had pear and walnut trees in the back field. This was a perfect setting to put our cots, sleeping bags, lanterns, and other 'important' treasures we each felt was necessary to have for our comfort. We were allowed to sleep out in the orchard for a few weeks until it was time to harvest. Pears came first, and we had to remove our stuff when the crew came in to pick the pears. In fact, we had to heed the very clear rules about crossing the bridge to the orchard. As in, Do Not cross! There were two reasons. One, get out of the way of the workers, naturally. And, two, for safety. The pickers were also advised not to cross the bridge to the home side. The creek was the dividing mark. We had irrigation ditches along the tree rows and it was so much fun to slosh barefooted through the ditch. Of course Dad and the orchard manager had differing opinions. More than once we were scooted out of the orchard and directed back across the bridge. Again, that was only during the harvest weeks.
We didn't mind moving and we did not always place our cots with each other. Usually summer brought cousins, friends and other kids to camp on our little farm. Remember the Rules that were stated clearly and often, if necessary? A basic day would start with breakfast and then outside we would go; repeated with lunch and then dinner. Unless you were at Grandma Marshall's home. Then it was breakfast, supper and dinner. Chores were mixed in also and it was our individual responsibility to get them done. Once we were old enough to no longer need care, Mom went to work. On our own, we followed the rules and still had oodles of hours to play as we wished. We are thankful for the manner our parents raised us. In one way, you might think we were kicked out of the house to stay out of Mom's way. True, we could have gotten into some serious mishaps and it would not be known until one of us reported it. The true gift given with our 'freedom' was creativity. We did not have many toys from the store and electric/techno gadgets were years away. What we did have was Dad's shop. In many of his bins we found nails, nuts & bolts, screws and other doodads. A piece of wood, nails around the top outside edges and those wrapped with twine made a fine barge. We would build a pulley system across the creek and load plastic animals on our little barge and transport them across to holding pens and custom built farms. We would make all kinds of things. Dad cut a 55 gallon drum in half and welded the two halves side by side. Attached through the center would be a large hand held type beater; like the ones used for mixing ingredients by hand...only much larger. With a board attached about a quarter of the way in from the end, one could sit on the board seat, bend forward and use the hand crank beater to propel the makeshift boat forward. Cool! Thanks, Dad. Of course, after a bit this slow mode became boring, so once again we made a larger pulley system to move ourselves along the creek. This leads to more memories, however, I will leave this area right now and get back to sleeping out doors in the summer time.
As memory serves me, this summer Lela did not want to sleep outside under the trees. She was growing up and found insects and other creepy crawlies annoying to a young lady. She decided to use the bed on the back porch. The one with the rounded chocolate brown metal headboard. Since we shared a room together, you would think by summer she had her fill of my company. We were not likely roommates. More like the 'Odd Couple'. Lela wanted everything in its place and spotless. My side of the room was messy and comfortably disorganized. With summer here and the living was out doors, I still enjoyed the cot and sleeping bag. I also didn't mind picking out a spot to be by myself. Yet, Lela did not like being alone, even on the back porch. With little persuasion, I joined her on the porch. We told stories. Lots of creative stories. I wish I could remember some of them. A lot were about the people living on stars and on the moon. The man in the moon was not alone. As we became drowsy and drifting off to the land of nod, we discovered a need. Everyone has a moment just before dropping into sound sleep of a need. Sometimes it might be the, "I should have gone to the bathroom before getting in bed"; or, "I forgot to say my prayers"; or, "I left my book in the other room and I will not have anything to read when I wake in the morning." Some of these were true at times, however, we shared a sisterly bond for one thing every night. We wanted chocolate pudding. That was not possible unless one of us made pudding during the day. This summer took place back in the olden days, we had both luxuries....preparing pudding by cooking or using instant pudding mix. The little prepared pudding cups you get in the grocery were a few decades away. (I have the pudding dishes we used back then when a serving size was between a quarter or half cup.) Anyway, when making the pudding it likely yielded six servings. Fortunately we usually made two boxes in order to have lots of pudding servings and leftovers. Lela and I might add to our 'forgot' list the matter of sneaking a couple dishes of pudding to the back porch. Did I mention we had an old refrigerator on the back porch? Ah, yes, just the place to put the dishes of pudding, we both agreed. Also on the do not forget list was spoons. Lela was quite clever in this regard. Do not leave spoons in the fridge, it just might give someone else the idea of an easy-to-grab late night snack. Thusly, chocolate pudding in bed sometimes was a reality. And the headboard? Well, it really was metal and swirling colors of chocolate brown. When telling stories each night, they all concluded by reaching our hands over our head to grab some chocolate pudding; whether real or imagined. The first time Lela scooped imaginary pudding from the headboard to serve us and our friends on the stars, we burst into little girl giggles.
Summer time and the livin' is easy. Summer time and two
little girls in printed pj's snuggle under cool, white crisp sheets. Summer time and the stories are silly and fun. Summer time in the chocolate pudding bed.
Did I mention we had incredible parents? And the rules? Clearly given and understood. If this were not so, then we would not be on our way to Fort Bragg, California in the black 1948 Plymouth loaded with our gear for a week at the beach. Not many kids today could be trusted or safe at such a young age to go away without adults. My parents and most of our friends' parents raised us with trust and confidence that we truly knew the difference between right and wrong. Picture this: Lela is sixteen, Mark is fourteen, and I am eleven.
Our parents had a small cabin just a short distance north of the Ten Mile River Bridge in Fort Bragg, California. They had been renting this cabin for many years and I don't recall a time when we did not have the cabin. The rent was $14 a month and the owners were the cough drop brothers. Dad made renovations over the years. Taking it from three small rooms to two nice sized rooms. There was a sink for running out water and we all looked forward to the short hike down the hill to fetch water. By time we arrived each spring, the berry bushes had heavily grown over the cascading creek and serious work had to be done to cut away the vines to clear the path. When taking a bucket for water we were to look in each of the three water barrels. Dad had a pipe taking fresh water from the top of the creek delivering it to the three barrels, with remaining water flowing back into the creek. Lifting the lid on each barrel we looked for water spiders. Whichever one had the spiders was the indicator of the cleanest, safest water. Dip the bucket, and no need to worry about the spiders as they always quickly scattered. Carry the water back and place the bucket beside the sink.
Inside the cabin was a small wood stove with a flat top for cooking. Dad installed a propane copper-colored chandelier. A table large enough for all of us and near the door was brownie film. The second room had twin and double beds. In the cupboards you would find non-perishable food. Of course we brought lots of food and drinks with us. If we followed the rules, as each one of us turned sixteen we would be able to drive to the cabin and even bring along a friend.
The outhouse was out the front door, right turn, right turn and up the trail a few feet. The door faced the Ten Mile River Bridge and ocean. You could sit there and watch the traffic on the Ten Mile River Bridge, watch the river slowly move along, view the sand dunes and watch the ocean waves. There was no need to close the door unless you wanted privacy from the other people near the cabin. Even with the door closed, there was still a peephole and you could easily see out. Now, remember before heading to the outhouse to grab the brownie film (aka TP) from the hook on the wall. The hook was probably a large nail. When friends or relatives came along it was a given that one of us would give the outhouse a shake if a little kid was inside. You could not knock it over, Dad made sure of that. But, you could really give someone a nice scare if they did not know that. LOL r us.
We arrived in the afternoon and unloaded the car. Each of us took on chores to get the cabin ready. Dusting, sweeping, putting away groceries, placing sleeping bags on beds or cots, and our personal bags beside the one of our choice. Mark most likely started clearing the path to the water barrels. After all was done, Lela fixed dinner. All of us feeling very grown up and a tad thrilled to be on our own, made sure everything was just 'so'. From the cabin we could see the Ten Mile River finish its westward flow into the ocean. The light-colored sand dunes were between the river and ocean. We could hike down the hill to the river, wade across to the dunes and on to the ocean. Or, take that same hike and just wade the final few feet of the river straight into the ocean. Sometimes we would walk across the bridge and over to the beach; and, other times we would walk or hop into the car and head a bit further north to the beach with lots of huge rocks, caves, sand and places inviting us to climb, swim, dash through a water cave between waves; or just toss down a blanket and do lots of nothing. Going on north we find shell beach that is down the cliff side. We can take the steps down, though it is far more interesting to just pick a spot and climb down through the rocks, sand, vines and brush. When we were young the beach was thoroughly covered with shells. Today, it would be rare to find one or two, since the steps are nicely improved and lots of people visit the beach every day.
Day one was the drive and set up. Day two, what to do? We packed a picnic and headed to the nearest sand beach. After walking quite away along the shore we picked a cove to ourselves. We all headed into the ocean to swim. Did I mention our parents trust? Back then, taking along a life vest was not the 'norm'. In fact, I do not think we ever brought such things with us...with or without parents. We body surfed for awhile. Lela went to the blanket to put on sun lotion and stretch out to begin her summer tan. Mark and I climbed high up on the cliff rocks, timed the waves to catch them at their deepest before jumping off. I left and wandered the beach in the opposite direction. Mark was heading to the tall rock that sits solo on the beach...part beach part ocean. He decided to climb to the top. There were years of well worn trails and everyone climbed it at least once every summer. While a huge rock, it was dirt covered and had some small trees and other vegetation growing about. At some point in time we all met and enjoyed the picnic lunch. Sandwiches, potato salad, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and kool-aid or tea. Lela put on some more lotion and flipped over. Mark and I decided to pop the large bulbs on piles of sea weed. A beautiful day at the beach. A nearly perfect day at the beach in Fort Bragg. Later we met back at the beach blanket to find Lela snuggled between some rocks and trying to get into as much shade as possible. She had just awakened from a nap and realized she was seriously burnt. Uh, oh, problem. Big problem.
We quickly gathered our picnic things and headed to the car. Once back at the cabin we tried cooling Lela and putting on some medicated lotion. The only cool water was from the
barrels. We did not have refrigeration so anything cooler was not possible. Lela was getting redder by the minute and together we realized we could not stay any longer. By morning,
the blisters that were beginning to form would be worse and she would need medical assistance. Time to go home. Lela tried to keep as cool as possible and we kept reminding her to
drink. Mark and I quickly hauled everything out of the cabin to the car. Packing properly was not a consideration. We were also concerned about Lela's eyes swelling shut. While
Mark knew how to drive, he was not a licensed driver. Lela was feeling the pain. It was intense. She drove home as the degree of pain continued to increase as the deep red skin changed to blisters.
She was so careful and patient on the drive. Approximately five hours later we were home and grateful Mom & Dad were there to give Lela the medical care she desperately needed. Lela
also made the correct decision to leave right then since, as predicted, the sunburn continued to worsen over the next fews days. Of course the experience was a learning one. Mom & Dad were sorry Lela
was burned so badly, yet, very proud of her and the actions taken. Were we ever allowed to go to the coast by ourselves again? Sure. We did the right thing at the time and that always builds
trust and confidence. Of course, on future trips, we watched over each other to be sure no one laid out in the sun (or fell asleep) for a long period of time. Every trip was an adventure.