Archive for the ‘Childhood’ Category

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile. Not for any reason except I say these words to myself often. I realized I hear them all the time, too, but never stopped to really think about what they mean. As a writer, that’s a horrible state to be in. Not thinking about the meaning of words. It’s akin to walking naked into a coffee shop, ordering a hot latte, then proceeding to pour it all over yourself. You realize first that you’re naked, second that you’re in a coffee shop with lots of other folks, and third, it hurts.

It hurts more than normal.

Here are the words in a sentence, then I’ll break down what they mean to me in three #MondayBlogs.

Here it is –

I would, if I could and I should, but I won’t.

Would. Could. Should.

First up is Would.

Mirriam-Webster online definition states –

—used to indicate what someone said or thought about what was going to happen or be done

—used to talk about a possible situation that has not happened or that you are imagining

—used with have to talk about something that did not happen or was not done

I want to focus on the second and third definitions. How many times have I used the sentence, “I would do (x,y,z passion thing), but I have this (a,b,c not passion thing) to do first.”

“I would…, but….”

My world darkens as I think about it right now. It becomes dim, gray, and lifeless. Inside, I know, my soul yearns to do the passion thing. But I don’t do it. My excuses are just as varied as the sunrises and sunsets. Then the blame game starts. It’s who’sit’s fault, because they didn’t let me. It’s what’sits issue because they made me feel guilty.

My Grandma Blakney always said, “Be careful when you point a finger. There are three pointing back at you.”2015/01/img_1797.jpg

I know it’s an excuse when I say it. “I would, but…”

I am a self-flagellating human being. In our society today, it’s normal to be that way. I’m not skinny enough, so I have to do this horrible binging and purging thing. I don’t look as young as I used to, so I have to use this or that cream, scrub, and injection to be young again.

Even healthy has become a self-flagellating experience.

How many times have I told myself, “I would eat healthy, but it’s so expensive. I would exercise, but it’s cold outside.” Knowing full well that they are excuses. To top it off, there so many advertisements that tell me the way to healthy is to buy this or that product. Those fuel my excuses.

But the truth is, it comes down to the word, “Would”. And it hurts.

My grandmother was full of deep wrinkles, earned in Depression Era hard labor. Her first and middle fingers were stained tobacco yellow and her teeth were Medicare approved inserts. Her hunched shoulders carried the weight of a lifetime of experiences no one, in this age, could understand.

But her eyes were sparkling merry sky blue mischief making portals to her happy soul. And in her later years, she was the wisest, most beautiful person I ever knew.

I would be like her.

Next Monday, I’ll talk about the word “Could”.

For now, tell me what you use “Would” for and how does it make you feel?

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Mother’s Day

Incessant beeping
Curled form on an elevated hospital bed
Once beautiful dark hair
grey, listless, stuck to a sweating forehead
Cancer-ridden lungs struggle
I hold her hand, bend and whisper one last time,
“It won’t be long now, mom.
Happy Mother’s Day.
I love you.”

M. Harris, May 11, 2014
http://www.marlieharris.com

Living on a ranch when you are a preteen can be exciting some days, but most days are boring. There is plenty to do, however, most of it seems like work for a kid. Such as raking leaves from the lawn, doing dishes, playing in a corral for the millionth time. Yes, things that seem exciting at first, can take on a patina of boredom pretty quickly. Take for example, the day my brother and I were in the loft of the main barn.7630265-cartoon-red-barn It was a huge, red barn with white trim just like those pictures you see in magazines. The lower part was filled with riding tack, hay, and various currently used ranch equipment and tools. But the loft, now the loft was enormous and while it was built to hold bales of straw and alfalfa, it was actually full of antique wagons and buggies. These were all located around the outside walls of the loft, while it’s middle was clear and clutter-free. It smelled of musty leather and rusty metal.

And on this Saturday, the main doors were thrown wide so the sun streamed in with a brilliant glowing radiance. Dust particles danced in the light like fairies at a summer solstice. The peak of the interior roof was probably fifteen feet above us. Along the main central framework was a rail that ran the length of the barn and out from the open doors about six feet. On this rail was a block and tackle rig that held a thick rope. The rope and rig were used to lift the bales of hay from the ground up into the loft area for stacking, although we estimated it hadn’t been used that way in a very long time.

BnT pulleyMy brother and I were exploring the wagons when I came up with a very brilliant idea. If we tied the ends of the rope together we could create a sort of swing. And, if we took turns sitting in it, we could push each other the length of the barn and pretend we were Tarzan, swinging from vines.

“What a grand idea!” We both exclaimed.

“Let us do this thing right now!” We chattered gleefully.

The first hurdle we came upon was the rope itself. It was so thick and stiff it was difficult to tie into a knot.

The second hurdle was when we finally got the knot tied to our satisfaction, its curved swing was too high off the ground to be able to sit.

I was an industrious child, however, and wouldn’t let something like these small details deter us from having an adventure. The knot was big enough and hung just low enough you could link your fingers together over it, lift your legs and be pushed through the barn. I felt like a genius and a grand adventurer as we took turns swinging on the rope, back and forth, back and forth … back and forth.

It took no more than twenty minutes of swinging before my brother was complaining that his arms hurt, this was boring, why did he have to push me when I was so much older… blah, blah, blah.

We took a break, I looked up at the back wall of the barn, and inspiration captured me once more. Halfway up that wall was a ledge, probably no more than two feet by two feet square. A wooden ladder was bolted to the wall and it reached up to the ledge. I had no clue why it was there, but an idea had formed. An adventure awaited and I would show my brother a wonderful, thrilling experience.

I turned to him as he squatted down, picking wooden splinters from a furry piece of wood he’d found.

“Bradley P., how would you like to be the first person to fly in a barn?” I looked at him intently, gauging his excitement. So far, he wasn’t very excited. His mussy blond hair partially covered his eyes and he absently brushed it out of the way as he looked up at me.

“I guess so, Belly.” His enthusiasm was so lacking, I almost felt the air suck away and out the barn door.Tarzan-Filmation

“Bud, honest, I think we can make you fly. Just listen to me, okay?”

I proceeded to explain in detail, using my hands, voice, and lots of gestures. I pointed to the rope, to the ledge, to the open barn doors on the opposite side of the wall. Recognition and understanding began to dawn in his eyes and on his face. He stood and walked to the rope, reaching above himself and clasping his hands together. He looked at me, disappointment shadowing his face.

“I don’t think there is enough clearance for my feet. I don’t think I can hold them up for that long.”

He was probably right. I gazed back and forth between the rope and the ledge for a moment. Then the answer came like a freight train screaming along a track.

“I have an idea!”

I grabbed the rope from him and pulled it with me as I walked to the ladder and climbed up three steps. I stopped and crooked my arm through the rung and began re-tying the rope farther up itself. This was easier because there was more rope to use, but it was also harder because I had to hold myself up there and tie at the same time.

It’s amazing what a person can do when they are determined, especially a young person.

I tied it as tightly as I could and held it while my brother climbed up beside me, then past me, took the rope and continued to the ledge. I climbed down and stood at the bottom, trying to calculate in my head where my brother would most likely reach the bottom of the arc he would be making as he swung down from the ledge.

“I will run with you to the end of the barn and catch you before you go out the door, okay, Bud?”

I faintly heard a small voice say, “Okay.”

I put my hands on my hips and yelled, “Go for it, Bud!”

I waited.

And I waited.

It seemed as if my brother was going to chicken out. I started to walk toward the ladder, to help him down and that’s when it happened.

He fell off the ledge.

My heart seemed to stop and climb into my throat as I watched his tiny body hurtle down from the ledge. Here was my brother free falling through the air toward the floor of the barn.

Then I realized he hadn’t fallen, he had jumped and he was holding onto the rope.

He was doing it. He was actually flying in the barn.

I was ecstatic. My idea had worked!

My envy was overwhelming. I wished I had been brave enough to go first. Well, by gosh, I was gonna go next, that was for sure.

My brother reached the bottom of his arc and swung out and I realized a couple of things in that instant.

One, he was going a heck of a lot faster than I had figured.

Two, his feet were about two feet from the floor of the loft.

And then he swung past me. My clothes and hair fluttered at his passing.

Oh crap, I knew I would have to catch up to him and get him before he got to the door.

Oh.

Crap.

I started sprinting after him. I realized two more things as we passed the halfway mark on the barn.

One, he was going too fast for me to catch him and therefore…

Two, he was going to fly outside the barn doors.

Now, my heart raced, my lungs filled with air as I put on a burst of speed and closed the gap between us, reaching frantically for his feet.

I didn’t make it.

I slid to a stop just as he swung out into the sunshine, the block and tackle rig following it’s rail the full six feet to the end. There it stopped. It stopped quickly and completely.

My brother, however, did not stop swinging. He continued to swing out, out, and finally up and up, until he was past the horizontal mark of the rail by about three feet. Then he hung there for what seemed like eternity.

I stood helpless and gasping. My little brother had turned during the swing across the barn and was facing me now. I could see his eyes so big and huge and hazel. His mouth open in a rictus of silent scream. His knuckles white as they clenched the rope in a death grip. His pleading face saying everything he couldn’t actually say. Help me.

My stomach clenched and time seemed to stand still. I tried to think of anything and everything to save him. My mind was numb and churning. I was going to kill my brother. I had killed my brother. I was in so much trouble.

Then time started again and he started his swing back.

He was coming back!

I wasn’t going to lose my brother. I could save him.

I opened my arms and took a wide stance. I was ready to grab him as he swung inside and toward me. His legs and feet hit my belly and chest with a solid thump. The wind whooshed out of me, but I wrapped my arms tightly around him. I grimaced at the pain, however, I was determined to hold on, bracing my feet against the floor.

I slid.

And I slid and I slid. I imagined Superman braced against a runaway train, sliding against the momentum.Supermantrain

Yes, I do imagine like that.

We finally came to rest in the middle of the barn. My brother hanging from a thickly tied rope and me, hanging from his legs, both our eyes squinted shut.

I opened mine first and looked up at him. His face was squinted shut and so were his eyes. If you can ever describe a face as squinting shut, it was my brother’s. The silence was only broken by an occasional bug buzzing lazily.

I stood up and gently took hold of his pant leg.

“Hey, Bud, you can let go now. We stopped.” I shook his leg lightly to let him know it was okay. He didn’t move.

As a matter of fact, it took me at least ten minutes to get him to open his eyes. Then it took another ten to convince him to unclench his hands, drop into my arms and then slide to the ground.

We sat there on the floor of the loft, not speaking, watching the dust motes dance in the sunlight. He was massaging his hands to get the circulation back into them and I was thinking. I was thinking of all the “what ifs” that could have happened and I could have lost my brother.

But they didn’t happen.

I stood up and took out my pocket watch to look at the time. It was almost time for dinner.

“Hey, Bud, we gotta go back home. I don’t think we should tell mom about this.” I put my watch back in front pocket of my jeans and reached down to help my brother up.

“Yeah,” He said softly, “I don’t think she would understand anyway.”

We walked to the stairs and started down to the ground level. My brother was in front and he suddenly stopped and looked up at me, a question in his eyes. I raised my eyebrows.

“Do you think we could slide off the roof of this barn? I saw a stack of hay on the side when I was out at the end of the rope.” His hazel eyes looked at me with a different kind of pleading now.

“Sure, Bud, let’s take a look tomorrow. I think there’s a story about that.”

DonotenterThe one thing you should never say to a child, “Don’t do (whatever you don’t want them to do).” The first time my mother said those words, we were living in Fallon, Nevada on Mesquite Lane.

On this sunny, summer day in mid June, my mom said to my brother and I, “Don’t go out into the desert at the end of the lane. There are mines out there you could fall into and we would never find you.”

What we heard was, “There are mines out there.” Mines with gold in them. Mines with amazing jewels. Mines with Pirate’s treasure like on TV. That’s all we heard.

“There are mines out there.”

The call of adventure was just too much to turn away. My brother, Brad, and I decided…

— okay, let me pause here and say, to be honest, my brother never really decided anything. He would agree with pretty much any hair-brained idea I could come up with. —

…that a fast jaunt out into the desert with our bikes wouldn’t be a bad thing. And, I reasoned, we could be back in plenty of time so that no one would know we were gone. The story we told Grandma was we were going down to the twins’ house to play for awhile.

The first problem was, we neglected to tell the twins we were pretending to be at their house.  The second problems was we also neglected to tell them where we were headed.

THE ADVENTURE

Because of this, no one knew we had gone to the end of Mesquite Lane and out into the desert, with its grease wood, sagebrush, scorpions, and lizards. Where the mystery of the mines waited for two industrious kids to find the millions in gold doubloons hidden out there.

I was a very imaginative child. I lived in the stories of my mind. The bubbles that floated inside my mind were half formed and not as rich in texture as they would later be. However, they were still just as vibrant as a nine year old girl could imagine. I was an avid reader since the age of three. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Dr. Seuss started me out, then the Berenstain Bears, but it was the Hardy Boys who captured my adventurous spirit.

We rode our bikes to the end of the gravel road and then past it. The line was crossed between the real world and my imagination. There was no going back now. The late morning sun beat down and warmed the sand to a temperature that would blister a bare foot. Summers were easily in the high nineties by June and mid one hundreds by July and into August. It was normal to have a day that the temperature would reach one hundred and fifteen degrees by two in the afternoon. The heat waves were stifling and the sand was scalding. Living in the desert, we learned not to go outside without a light colored long sleeved shirt on. The shirt would protect us from the suns rays. Water was scarce. It was a desert after all. But we learned to live in it. We always carried water.

My grandfather had given us an old, metal, boy scout canteen encased in a canvas BS Canteencover. If you got the canvas wet, put it in the refrigerator overnight, the next day, it would keep your water cool as long as you left it in your pack away from the direct sunlight. It was a faded army green color and I imagined that we were army soldiers. We were trudging toward the battlefield, with sticks of grease wood for rifles. I said as much to my brother. He looked at me with big, wide, hazel eyes, “What kind of battle are we going into, Belly?” Yes, he called me Belly. That’s another blog post in itself.

“We are in World War Two in the desert in France. The Nazi’s have invaded. Our unit is under attack and we have to save them. The battle is just over that little rise. Can you hear the gun fire?” I pointed toward the little bump that seemed far away in the desert, hoping it wasn’t a mirage. He nodded, his small seven year old hands gripped his rifle tighter.

“Our soldiers we are pinned down over there. We have to find them and help them. But first, we have to look for the mine where we hid guns and ammo out here last year.” I squinted my eyes, feeling the sweat trickle down my cheek, and scanned the horizon. There was no way I was going to tell my little tattle tale brother about the bags of Spanish gold doubloons I imagined lay out there in a mine. He would go tell every kid and adult he could find. No, I would keep it secret and be the great adventurer who found it. My name would be in the Stillwater Gazette.

“Lets go, soldier.”

We started out again, walking with our bikes because the sand was too deep to ride them. Within minutes, Brad started complaining, “I’m tired. Why is it so far out there?” His tanned face was squinted up in an ugly whining mask. “I’m thirsty. Can’t we stop for a drink?”

I sighed and kept walking, not bothering to answer. He wouldn’t be satisfied with what I said anyway. The grit settled into the creases of my face. It felt grainy, but also made me feel like I was a real soldier. Just like one of the Magnificent Seven.

It seemed like hours, but, finally, we reached the small hill and trudged to the top. There we stopped in wonder. Both of us put our hands above our eyes to shade them from any mirages. This was better than any mine, or battle, or anything I could come up with. I grinned and looked at my brother.

“Do you believe this?” I asked in excitement.

“No way!” His smile crinkled his face and the muddy sand cracked around his mouth.

Before us in a small bowl-like structure. It was the biggest, best, motorcycle track we had ever seen. It had hills and bumps and hard pan. We could play for hours on this. It was a bicycle rider’s heaven. This was so much more fun than a mine. We had found a playground in the desert.

We raced each other down the hill with our bikes. This was a kids nirvana and we played for hours, although it only seemed like minutes to us.  Not only did we save battalions of Army Soldiers, we won Grand Pris motorcycle races against impossible odds.  We jumped the Grand Canyon like Evil Knievel.  We were heroes for that gorgeously hot day.

THE AFTERMATH

The sudden chill in the air alerted me that evening was upon us. I looked up and it seemed as if the sun was setting much faster than I realized. The pink, orange, and deepening blue of the sun set was beautiful, but ominous. We were out in the desert, needed to get home and get home fast. I barked out, “Bud, we have to leave, now!” He looked up at the sky and without another word we both started running with our bikes toward home.

I didn’t know exactly what time it was, but it was probably close to ten p.m. That meant, we had missed dinner. Oh this was bad. My stomach growled and cramped, not in hunger, but in fear. There was no getting around the fact that we would be in trouble. We were much later than we should have been.

The trek home seemed to take a long It was full dark by the time we walked our bikes into the dirt parking lot outside my grandparents’ house.

My heart started beating faster when I saw that there was a police cruiser sitting there. Every light in the house was blazing. The porch screen door was open. This was definitely not good at all. I looked at my brother standing next to me, his bike leaned against him, his arms down, resting his hands on the banana seat of his bike. He face was ghost white in the pale illumination from the house. He looked so small and fragile in his fear. I felt guilty. The kind of guilt that you have as the oldest child. The one who always gets us in trouble and has to find a way to get us out. Only this time we both knew there wasn’t any way to get us out of this one. We were late, the cops had been called. We were in it deep.

I took a deep breath, walked my bike over and leaned it against the chain link fence. My brother did the same. I went first up the steps. I was the oldest after all.

What happened was a blur of adult activity. Questions were lobbed at us like hand grenades. So fast, direct, and explosive that we couldn’t answer them. So I just stood there, nodding occasionally, looking as scared as I felt.

Mom said quietly controlled, “Where the hell have you been?”

“We were out in the desert at this track…”

“Don’t you lie to me, young lady. You were out looking for those stupid mines I told you not to go after.”

I hung my head, “No, we found a motorcycle track…”

“Stop it! You know what happens when you lie. Dad, please talk to her. I’m so mad I can’t think.”

Grandpa – “Punkin’, you know you scared the hell out of all of us, don’t you?”

I nodded.

“You could have killed your brother. Do you want that?”

“No, sir.”

“I used to make your mother go get her own switch when I had to spank her, but we don’t have switches out here. I am going to have to use a belt.”

I cringe inside. “Yes, sir.”

My brother starts to cry softly.

Mom interjects, “See what you’ve made your brother do? He’s crying because of you.”

I look at him and then look up at my grandfather, feeling the responsibility completely. “Don’t whip him, Grandpa. I was the one who made us go out there. I wanted to see the mines and find the gold.”

Grandpa sighed, shaking his head, “There ain’t no gold out there, Punkin’. They would’ve found it by now. There’s just holes in the ground. You can’t even see ‘em until you walk right into ‘em. And they’re so deep that no one would ever find you or your brother. I don’t want to do this, but I have to teach you a lesson. You’ll get a spankin’ in the morning, before breakfast.”

My back end started hurting as I imagined what was going to happen. I wouldn’t cry though. I never cried. Hot tears burned in my eyes. I blinked rapidly, still looking at the linoleum floor. “Yes, sir.”

“Now take yourself and your brother to bed. I have to talk to Gary.” The officer took a step closer and stood straighter.

“Mr. Blakney, it looks like it’s all okay. I don’t have to make a report if you don’t want me to.” Officer Gary was mom’s friend. He was a boy friend. She sometimes spent the night with him. He owned a police dog so we couldn’t go see him, because his dog was mean. In 1979 he was shot in the face by a bank robber he had pulled over for speeding in Carson City. He didn’t know the guy had just robbed a bank. I heard they had to put down his dog because no one could control it. Mom went to his funeral. I never saw her cry though.

That night was sleepless and scary. I had heard stories of my grandfather whipping my mom. He wasn’t exactly easy on the task.

THE SPANKING

When morning came, I got dressed. My brother came in with a stack of his underwear, “If you put on a bunch of mine, maybe it won’t hurt so bad.”

I seriously considered it, until I realized that number one, his wouldn’t fit me and number two, grandpa would know. Parents always knew. “Thanks, Bud. But I will just get it over with.”

His hazel eyes filled with tears. “I don’t want you to get a whippin’. We were just playin’. Nothing bad happened!”

I awkwardly patted his shoulder, “It’s okay, Bud. It’ll be okay. When I’m done, we’ll go play in the wood pile. Does that sound good? I think we should go to Mars, what do you think?”

He straightened up, smiling brightly and innocently. He was such a good kid. So trusting and loyal for a little tattle tale brother. “Yeah, that would be great! I’ll wait for you outside!” He ran out, slamming open doors as he went.

I stood from tying my shoes and smoothed down my shirt. I was ready. Walking quietly into the kitchen was easy. Grandma was at the stove, frying bacon. It’s sizzling and popping sound so familiar. The smell was overwhelmingly delicious. I wondered if I would ever enjoy the smell of cooking bacon again. I walked past the kitchen bar and out to the side porch where grandpa sat, a brown leather belt draped over his knees, smoking a cigarette.

“Morning, Grandpa.” I said, as I walked up and turned to face him. I set my shoulders squarely. I might as well stand tall. It was gonna hurt like hell either way.

He looked at me with eyes so blue the sky was jealous of the color. “Mornin’, Punkin’. You ready for this?”

I didn’t look at him, but I didn’t look down either. I looked over his left shoulder at the mountain lion skin hanging there. “Yes, sir, I am.”

He nodded and stood up creakily. “Then turn around and bend over. Put your hands on your ankles. This is gonna hurt me more than it’ll hurt you.”

I did as I was told. The spanking hurt like hell and I never understood how it hurt him more. It stung, bled, and I grunted a few times as the slap of leather burned over a previously hit section. His aim wasn’t the best because he hit my back half the time.  I think I got twenty lashes. That’s what Mom told me when I was older. I don’t remember, I took my mind to a thought story bubble, of a girl running in a field of dandelions in the sun. No pain, no fear, just running and playing.

When I came back, it was over. I straightened up, hurting everywhere.

“Go have your Grandma look at that back and butt. Have her put some Mercurochrome on the cuts.”

I did as he told me. The cure was almost as bad as the cut.  I was stiff and sore for a few days and I also learned a very valuable lesson.

THE LESSON

Was it a lesson on how to listen to your parents when they tell you not to do something?

Short answer – No. Long answer – Oh hell, no!

I learned that if I was going do something I wasn’t supposed to do, I better pay damned good attention to the time. I asked, begged, pleaded for and was finally given an old windup pocket watch my grandfather had.

I cherished that watch and we were never late for dinner again. Our adventures took just enough time to fill the day and then we were done. It was a child’s version of the short story.

I think I learned it pretty well!

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Until next time…

M.