Friday, May 22, 2015


{You guys!  I finally sat down and wrote a little about my childhood. I think I'll keep adding to it when things come to me.  It's purpose is to have something of myself to pass down to my boys one day.  I didn't know it would be so much fun, though!  I hope it brings you a giggle or two today.  Get your own story down!  Your words matter.}

1.        Perhaps the story has been told one too many times by my Dad, so my memory may simply be based upon his memories.  The house at 3950 Bridgewater Lane began with a mere slab, and with it, a new name for me.  My Uncle Karl, missing half a finger, was hammering away alongside my Dad on wooden beams, the pillars and makings of a place that would later cradle a family of souls.  I was toddling around, pigtails and dimpled thighs, making up my own words and tripping over toolboxes with ungracious tact.  Karl said, “You know, Jerry, she looks like a little Lulu.” 

My Dad never turned back.  I was his Lulu from then on.  Sure, I was also Becke’ and Honey Pie and Sugar, but only he could call me Lulu and get away with it.


2.        The carefree summer days always rise to the surface when I think of Bridgewater.  I can smell my Mom’s tanning concoction, Johnson’s Baby oil with iodine bubbles swimming about.  I loved to give it a good shake and watch as the oil tried to collide with the iodine.  For a few minutes, it was a brownish orange mix that seemed to get along like the best of friends.  Mom would oil herself up real nice and I would help spread it across her back.  She would lie out on her lawn chair and watch me and Devin (my older brother by three years) play.  As in play, I mean, climb the mound of gravel that was waiting to be spread on our circle drive.  What kid doesn’t relish having her own mountain?


3.        Once I unwillingly overcame my fear of riding a bike (Dad puts me on a hill and down I go), Mom, Devin, and I would set out on mile long bike journeys together.  I see the dirt roads and feel the welcome relief of pavement greeting us once again. Up and down we went until we made it back home.  The hills that about killed us on these rides became our shouts of glee when the first snowfall would hit.  Before the last hill, we would go past Adam Eichler’s big brown mansion of a house, Adam being one of my first crushes.  As a preteen, I would play one single game of Life with him which is as far as that childhood crush ever went. My best friend later loved him for a spell.  It’s funny how these things fall.


4.        The creek that ran under the bridge by our home became the stomping grounds of a couple of kids who loved all things critter.  Well, all things but the lizards that Devin would lock me in a small bathroom with.  If I had known then that those lizards were probably more scared of me than I them, it might have helped matters.  To this day, all I can hear is the scream of a little trapped girl, banging the wooden door with all her might just to be free of the blue shiny tailed menaces.  I guess I didn’t like my older brother so much after that.


5.        The front porch quickly became my play area.  I would chalk large hopscotch squares onto the concrete slab and jump my way across.  I would build forts and sit with every single doll I owned, making sure each was well fed and groomed.  I had a plethora of dolls, from China to Barbie, but Cody was my favorite doll ever.  He had bright blue eyes and hair the color of sunshine.  He smelled delicious, almost like a real baby should smell.  The doll maker even gave him fake boy parts.  Gasp!  I was equally intrigued and equally horrified every time Cody needed a diaper change.  God must have thrown back His head and laughed at me, knowing He would one day give me four real boys, each with very real boy parts.  Cody is stored up in my garage.  He probably deserves better than that.


6.        What is it about girls that need good girlfriends?  I was lucky and got one of my best friends while in preschool.  I have a whole slew of childhood memories that include Amy.  There are two that stand out above the others.  Both were adventurous and daring, which is so unlike me.  But that was Amy, unlike me in all ways.

On our five acres, we had an old camper that sat in the middle of the field.  It was quite the distance from the house, at least for a couple of nine year olds.  Whose idea it was to sleep there, I will never remember.  When we pulled back the curtain to peer into the darkness and saw a pair of glowing cow eyes staring back at us, we about peed our little panties.  I’d like to say we finished the night in the camper, but I think I was so scared after that that I blocked out the rest of the cow alien event.

My other favorite memory of me and Amy at Bridgewater (we had roaring good times at her house that deserve their own written account) is when we saddled our horses and took off.  I mounted Joe the Bay and she sat atop Betsy the White.  We were queens and pioneers and cowgirls, wrapped into two pre-adolescent bodies thirsting for one glorious swig of freedom.  We made it all the way to Gulley Road, which was quite the distance for a couple of old horses.  It was that day that I discovered I like adventure but the sight of home is even better.


7.        The shop was my Dad’s territory and it was massive.  It sat atop a small mound where White Lightening, the best truck in the history of ever, was always parked.  Even though the shop felt huge to my little eyes, it was safe.  There is something reassuring about seeing your Dad at work, whether it be clipping cattle in the chute (that we pulled inside when it was freezing) or tinkering away on a tractor.

Seeing unforgiving sawblades, explosive power water sprayers, and big red toolboxes didn’t unnerve me but instead created a sense of trust and comfort in my Dad.  If he could handle these beasts, then he must have the rest of the world under control as well. 

There were big heaters tucked away in the upper corner recesses that glowed red in the winter time.  They kept Dad warm when he had to play Santa Clause and put together little red wagons the night before Christmas.

Dad’s office was nestled inside the right quadrant of the shop where his current blueprints lay sprawled across his giant desk.  I can still see the sticky fly catcher dangling from the ceiling, beckoning me to take a peek at guts and dying flights.


8.        Right past the large red farm gate that separated yard from pasture was the pond.  The pond held little significance to me because there were no fish in it.  It provided water for the cattle and looked pretty enough—in a murky pond kind of way--and that was about it.  One day that all changed.  Dad decided we didn’t need the pond anymore and so he got out a giant beast of a yellow machine, backhoe, I guess, and started digging large trenches so the pond would drain.

Enter my panic attack.  The so called non-existent fish were flopping and my heart was pounding to the cadence of save the fish.  Mason jars in tow and buckets galore, I plopped my cut off jean short self into the muck and mire.  Let’s be real here.  It was mud, pure and simple:  glorious mud that sucked my legs right under, threatening to hold me hostage forever.  Nevertheless, it might have been the most fun thing I’ve ever done, grabbing fish and tadpoles and all things swimmy, saving them in clear containers. 

We dumped what we could into the creek.  The next day, I loaded up the tadpoles, with the punctured Mason lids screwed on, and begged every other fourth grader to take one home. (Can’t you just hear the string of curse words at the 3 o’clock pick up line when kids climbed into the back seats with their new little tailed friends?)

Mrs. Whitlach, a 5th grade teacher close by, took the remainder of my orphaned tadpoles and dumped them into her large aquarium.  It might have been the nicest thing a teacher has ever done for me.


9.        No land is complete without a barn and truth be told, for the last few years at Bridgewater, the barn held my heart. I started showing cows in fairs when I was 11.  My first heifer was Dolly, black and furry and not a bit of harm to her.  Her halter was blue and she didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. I don’t remember winning much with Dolly but she gave me a love for all things bovine and boots. 

My next heifer was Sweetie and her name lied to us every single day.  Sweet 16 was sassy and pompous but a winner in the ring.  I am pretty sure the angels got paid overtime every time I tried to walk Sweetie around our pasture at home.  Like a true pre-teen devoid of any common sense, I would wrap the length of her rope around my wrist.  Not just once, but around and around and around and around.  My thinking was that she would never be able to get away.  Her thinking was that she would just have a little party by dragging me all over the field. Now, I hate to mention this, but my idiocy was not limited to just one occurrence.  Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, because I still have rope burn scars on my hands today.

Along the way, I started showing steers as well, knowing the payout at the end could be better.  Steers just might be the most amazing animals on planet earth.  For the most part, they are devoid of emotional drama and will remain loyal despite all odds.  At first, it emotionally annihilated me to put my pets down at the end of the season, but one bite of juicy steak later and I knew our family had a good gig going.

The funny thing about cows is that they need even more drinking water in the winter than the summer.  Maybe it’s because they have to eat and eat in order to stay warm.  I can remember grabbing the red handled axe, trying to puncture the ice in each of their giant tubs of water. The giant icebergs would just float around, daring me to stick my bare hands into the depths to fish them out. Nothing about raising cows was easy, but it sure taught me about life.

It’s probably not fair that the first mention of my sister, Kiley (about 6 at the time), is about the time she tied her big fat heifer, Coal Dream, to the rod iron fence.  We had to bathe our show cattle regularly, mainly to try and grow their hair and teach it how to lie correctly.  Kiley drenched one side of Coal Dream with the hose and was trying to get to her other side, but the 1200 pound gentle giant wouldn’t budge. Now Kiley wasn’t afraid of anything and she was determined to get her way.  She found the “hot shot” livestock prod that works well in getting stubborn cattle to move by zapping them with a little shock.  But, Coal Dream was soaking wet tied to a dad gum lightening rod.  I could tell you about the bellering of that poor animal, but you really need to ask my Dad to make the sound.  His vocal chords hold back nothing and you might find yourself in a hot mess of hysterical tears.

The day Sweetie became a mom turned quickly bitter.  Her little girl was crippled in her hindquarters.  Sweetie’s pride and joy was a rich shade of amber, like her grandmother, Zula. Her eyes were rimmed in black eyeliner and heavy mascara.  She was a knockout.  But, she couldn’t walk.  Kiley cradled her and held on tight, wanting to take away the brokenness.  I learned that day that not all brokenness is healed.  We buried her deep and a touch of my own innocence went right into the grave alongside of her.


10.      The exact replication of my Dad came about when Kirby entered the world.  I was seven.  He came out with a broken collar bone, thanks to his massive size.  He was a gentle giant from the start, though.  He had to put up with Kiley bossing him around (apparently being 15 months older made her his mommy.)  Kirby would don his superman pajamas, and run as fast as he could, thinking he was flying.  Screaming “Booter Boy to the rescue!” his red cape would soar as his dimpled cheeks melted every heart that stood in his path.  He was endearing, this little blond and curly Q’d boy who had a fetish for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and volt battery powered four wheelers.


11.      Every young girl needs a diary. My first diary was covered with Anne from no other than Anne of Green Gables.  I was in 5th grade and had important things to say, apparently.  I tattled on Kiley and how she kicked me in the middle of the night.  I chronicled our vacation via motor home, all six of us (Amelia was yet to be) piled in to discover the great West. I wrote about my first serious babysitting job:  my baby cousin Trey for a whole week!  He loved to cry but gosh was he cute.    I wrote my first song that went like this:

Raindrops keep on falling

They just keep on falling

Sunshine never shines

Not in mind

The second stanza redeemed the first and allowed Jesus to bring light back into my soul.  I guess I was a melancholy from the start, feeling the weight of the world on my sun kissed shoulders.


12.      I loved sitting around our curved bar to eat as a family.  We rarely sat at the big table and I was just fine with that.  We plopped ourselves onto the high back wicker barstools and sat down to something delicious every single night.  I won’t lie:  Mom could cook.  (Still can.)  We had the ever popular 1970’s Tupperware in shades of mustard, brown, and orange.  Come to think of it, our wallpaper, countertops, and carpet carried those same hues.

We licked the mashed tators and roast off our lips and then proceeded to do the dishes.  The kitchen sink overlooked the pasture and if you lifted the window, you could catch the faintest hint of honeysuckle. 

The kitchen bar beckoned sleepy school children who stumbled in, hoping the oatmeal would lift their eyelids.  The bar provided a secure platform for endless hours of schoolwork including Presidential reports and algebra equations. The bar begged all to come partake of what God had provided.  The mustard yellow bar was the bedrock of the home.

No comments: