There are some stories that my mother, who is a very good story teller, tells frequently about her childhood. However much of her memory and brain function she is losing, the stories from her childhood are still vivid in her memory. I hope she never loses them.
One that I have heard many times is about walking to school.
Her family lived on a ranch which she says was 3 miles from town and probably lived there until she was 7-8 or so. So when she started school, she had to walk 3 miles from the ranch in to school, because though they had a truck, her father needed it for work. (She never told me it was uphill both ways, in the snow)
She walked with her siblings, who were older than she was (she had two siblings who remained at home, too young to go to school yet). But because she was in kindergarten, she only went to school half day and at noon, she had to walk home by herself.
She talks about how she would walk part way home until she got to a hill with a big tree on it. She would stop there for a rest and while she was stopped there, she could hear the truck of a neighbor coming from the direction of her house, going to town.
She would sit under the tree and rest until she heard him returning, then she would get up and run a ways up the hill so he would think that she had been walking all that way and he would take pity on her and offer to drive her the rest of the way home, which he did nearly every day.
She said that later she found out that he knew what she was doing and had talked with her mother about it. He thought she was cute and clever.
The other story that she tells prophesizes her life-long love of shoes and shows the birth of the vanity that I was to see in her later. There was a girl in her school who lived in town, a couple of blocks from the school. That girl's mother drove her to school every day and my mother was so jealous because the girl wore black patent leather shoes every day.
My mother loved shoes even then and would give anything for a pair of black patent leather shoes, but you couldn't walk 3 miles to school on an unpaved road in shoes like that, especially in the winter when they had to wear ugly boots.
But once my mother was going to be in a play and her mother bought her a pair of black patent leather shoes to wear in the play. The way she tells the story you realize that this was the most important event in her life to that point. Her eyes glow when she tells about the black patent leather shoes and how much she loved them.
(Knowing how parents always exaggerate things, when we took her to see the old ranch, and then to visit the location of the old school house, I took care to clock the mileage and...she's right. It was three miles each way to school.)
Today I was looking for a cassette tape that Ned asked me to try to find. I haven't looked at my cassette tapes in probably decades, so it was a fun to see what I had stoshed away. Don Sherwood radio shows, tapes I'd made of the kids at various times, tapes of my father playing the piano. A whole bunch of stuff.
But in going through them this afternoon, I found a tape that my mother made for my kids, probably sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s -- after she'd divorced my father and married her second husband. It's a tape of her memories of childhood and I don't know exactly how long it is because I didn't have time to play it all. Also, my cassette machine's rewind function is broken (as is its fast forward), so I could only play it from where the tape was stopped, midway through it.
I turned it on and by golly, she's talking about the 3 miles walk to school; and the neighbor in the truck picking her up.
The next story is about the shoes and how excited she was to have her own black patent leather shoes. I couldn't believe it. Thirty-something years ago she made a tape for our kids, and she's telling the stories that are the most important to her today, the ones she repeats over and over again. I love it that she has such good memories of her childhood.
I know if I listen to the tape long enough I'll hear the story of the aunties in the outhouse and my grandmother trying to learn how to drive.