There's rosemary, that's for remembrance.
William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A sweeter time. This is a long post.

This is a post about my childhood....it is long....probably boring....but hopefully my kids will read it. There is no point...it is just a flash of memory....vivid and makes me cry now.

We were watching one of those video justice/cop type shows Friday night. This one focused on drug dealers. On one of the busts there was a shot of some idiot running, dropping weed like he was sprinkling spring seeds along a curb, thinking he could get away from 3 police cars. The arrest took place in front of a little neighborhood store.

You know how people talk about something flashing before their eyes....a memory, an image....I had one of those moments. Since then I have been searching for a particular photo.....can't find it.

From shortly after I was born until I was eight I lived on 3rd Street in Alhambra, California. We were the 4th house up, in the back, across from Mission Boulevard and right next to the train tracks. With the exception of those tracks, it was a quiet neighborhood. There was a mix of elderly and young families, my school was right up the street and my idol, Luanna King, lived in the front house with her dreamy looking brother, Ritchie.

Our house was originally the garage for the front house. My dad worked with Dick King. Dick and his wife Mildred and my mom and dad bought the property together, changed the garage into a house and added another garage space that my folks turned into their bedroom. I had my own bedroom decorated in yellow and green. I remember having a trundle bed and a dresser with glittery paint on it. I had a record player and spent hours in my room playing Hungarian Rhapsody #2, dancing with scarves in my hands until I would fall on the floor in a dramatic pose. I was a happy kid then.

In the back of our house was a dirt "catch." It would be called a culvert or a big ditch now. There was water in the catch most of the time and it held a scary fascination for me. I couldn't swim and my mother told me I could never, ever play by it, cross it, slide down the hill to it....not even think about it....I would drown and she would never find me. I was an only child then and my mother loved me.

Of course I would sneak to the catch whenever I had an opportunity and my friend in crime, Joel Trudeau, was usually right there with me. Every single time I went to the catch I was busted....I always came back with filthy shoes, crusty knees and the butt of my pants would be covered in dirt and mud. I would throw sticks into the water to gauge how deep it was, threw rocks as hard as I could to make a big splash and would tell Joel I could see fish in the water. That was a lie.

There was a small mom and pop store on the corner of 2nd and Mission....just around the corner. It was a dark, one window store with a screen door that slapped shut. The store held everything I loved; wax milk bottles filled with sugar water, dots of candy on a yard long piece of paper, candy cigarettes and chocolate syrup in a can. It also sold "smokes" my mom's favorite candy.

Every day but Sunday I was sent to the store with a note from my mom.....Please sell my daughter Rosemary two packs of .......whatever brand of smokes were the fancy of my mother. On Saturday the note asked for four packs. The store was closed on Sunday. I always got 5 pennies to spend on candy when I went to the store. I remember spending at least 10 minutes every day deciding which candy to buy......the milk bottles usually won....until Tootsie Rolls were added to the selection.

I usually walked alone to the store. There were no worries then of kidnappings, child molesters or murderers walking the streets or driving by. If Joel went with me we took the adventurous route through the catch. Even though I got into trouble when my mom would discover I had been to the catch, I was never spanked. My mom was a yeller not a spanker. That all ended the day I actually fell into the water in the catch. This one time I was alone; no Joel for company. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs and Mrs. Trudeau coming to my rescue.

When Mrs. Trudeau took me home my mother was furious....You could have drowned, you could be laying on the bottom of that catch, what is the matter with you? Do you ever listen to me? Then she realized I had lost her smokes (and my candy) and for the first time I was spanked with a wooden spoon. I also got the Do you know how hard your father works for that money? lecture.

Life went on. Obviously I didn't drown, but I stayed away from the catch after that. We moved in 1952 to Primrose Avenue and between May of that year and 1954 my life was turned inside out.

My grandmother died the summer of 1952. My mother never recovered from losing her. My brother was born prematurely in July of '52. He was a sickly baby and my mom and dad's obsession with him made me an after thought. My father changed companies and started driving long haul for Roscoe Moss Water Company. My dad was drinking all of the time and my mother started sleeping on the couch. She also started a string of affairs with me as the witness....affairs with neighbors, trucker friends of my dad, husbands of her friends and there was the famous affair with Leonard Birdsong that ended when my dad served her with divorce papers. That story is for another post someday.

The house on Primrose was large and in a beautiful neighborhood with trees and big yards. I could skate around and around the block for hours....kerplunking over the lines in the sidewalk. But, I never felt at home there for some reason. I had my own bedroom but it was a postscript room attached to my brother's room. It had French doors that my dad took down so I had no privacy and the rule was whatever was mine was my brother's.

The one familiar and comforting thing in that unfamiliar place was the neighborhood store two blocks down. Same ambiance, same notes for smokes but I remember Herbert Tarrington being the smoke of choice then. The Library was another two blocks down and that little corner of my neighborhood became my home. By the time I was in sixth grade my mother drove to get her smokes. The store became my own place, not a note destination. I walked by it every day before school and would wave to the young family that owned it. I stayed at the Library after school until it closed so I didn't have to go straight home.

I never got back that feeling of happiness and love after we moved from 3rd Street. I became a sullen, lonely kid and that probably made it harder to love me. Whatever. It is just a flash of memory now.....vivid but it makes me cry.

When we were in California last November I made Steve drive to the old place on 3rd Street. The photo I was looking for was one of me with my parents in front of the house. I can't find it now. Here is one of me in front of the garage addition (see my mom's writing) holding Sandy my very favorite dollie.


This is a photo I took last November of the house. It looked recently remodeled....and lovely.



This is in front of the Primrose house.....on the porch is my Auntie Marcella holding my brother and me with a candy "smoke" in my mouth....quite a pose don't you think? My mom and dad are standing.




This is the house now. My recluse, mildly autistic, asshole brother lives there now. It is a dump. The roof is the same one that my folks had put on in 1952. It is raggedy and missing pieces. The front porch is cracked and the steps are falling apart. The back yard is filled with soda cans and my dad's '56 Chevy Nomad is on flat tires and rusted. The one thing that is the same is the pole hand rail outside the back door that I would swing under bypassing the steps. That is my son Art being a nosey Parker on the porch.

A vivid memory.....makes me cry.


12 comments:

kenju said...

Both good and bad in this post, Rosemary. But it is part of your history and I hope your children appreciate that you took the time to write it down and post photos for them (and us) to see.

I like to go back to my hometown and see our former homes, too, and it is always sad to see them looking unloved - or worse - gone.

Mom said...

I have a vivid memory of the corner store near my childhood home too. Those stores are mostly gone now.
Thanks for sharing this vivid, poignant memory with us.

jan said...

It makes me cry too. Childhoods should have only happy memories.

I love to go back to houses where I've lived. Some have shown years of love and care and others are just decaying messes which are really depressing.

sageweb said...

Thank-you for sharing this story. Bitter sweet. It is amazing to have great and bad memories...I get memories every so often..but I barely remember a thing from my childhood.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

Wow, what a lovely - if a bit sad - gaze into your past. Thanks for sharing it and the pics with us. :-)

yellowdog granny said...

all the good and all the bad are what make you the remarkable woman you are today...

Cazzie!!! said...

I had the very same feeling when I looked back at my parent's house the other year. My Mum and Dad also divorvced but I was an adult at the time, still, it does not make life any easier..not by a long shot.

Sling said...

This made me a little sad.
I visited my ols neighborhood a while back,and not one single thing is the same.
Still,it's good that you've stored these photos and memories for the young'uns.

madretz said...

Bittersweet is a good description. I'm so glad you are sharing this story with your family and us. I wish I knew more about my parents. The good the bad and the ugly. But I know nothing of them before they became my mom and dad. Since my mom was 39 when I was born, and my dad 64, there's a lifetime of stories behind their lives that are a mystery. Breaks my heart, and now I am tearing up, too.

Miss Healthypants said...

Wow, Rosemary--this was a very powerful post. Thanks for sharing these memories with us.

Middle Child said...

Oh Rosemary...my heart goes out to you...being a child is such a huge call espcially in our times...wonderful pictures hope you are okay.

more cowbell said...

I love your stories and pictures, Rosemary.