In 1965 (or maybe late 1964) we moved to the James house on the west side of the small town of Van. The old rental was basically a four-room house with the later addition of a bathroom and a closet converted into a tiny bedroom. There were no hallways in the house, and the large central room between the living room and kitchen served as a bedroom for us three kids. Much to my mother’s delight an old upright piano had been left in that room as well, so she got to indulge in her love of music. The kitchen, where we would gather at lunchtime—or dinnertime, as we Southerners called the midday meal–with our daddy who came home from work for a hot meal, sat at the back of the kitchen.
|Me on the left with my baby sister Sharon and brother Allen in front of the James house.|
My brother and I entertained ourselves indoors and out with his metal pedal car, his plastic green army men, my baby dolls, and the neighbor’s kids. The Hough family lived in a house on the other side of a wooded thicket of chinaberry trees next to our house, where a trail had been worn between the houses before we moved there. There were several kids of multiple ages who lived there, but my most vivid memory is of a turtle they had, that they tried to convince us was going to be put in turtle soup for everyone to eat. I feared them more than liked them because they seemed rough and a little out-of-control for my sheltered taste.
|Me and Sharon hanging on the swing set in the side yard.|
One of my favorite things about living there was what happened when we had lots of rain. The dirt driveway in front of the house would fill with massive mud puddles—or at least they seemed massive to us, enticing us to wade and play in them as if we had just been granted our own private swimming hole. Of course, Mama didn’t like it and we were in big trouble if she happened to catch us.
|Me on the donkey with neighbor teen. Note the mud puddles in the background.|
Here is where I learned to play by myself outside. There was a large cedar tree I would climb into that hid me from everyone else, but it was so scratchy I didn’t do it very often. Looking at the large cedar tree on our property now I can’t imagine how I did that! There was also a thorny thicket on one side of the house that I would pretend was a house with various rooms in it, and I would wander around it making up stories as I walked. I had to be careful not to get stuck with the thorns, though. I dropped a little plastic clown, a Cracker Jack prize, out in the yard while playing one evening and never did find it. I was heartbroken.
That house also had a huge exhaust fan in the back that was designed to pull air through the house during hot weather. No air conditioning for us yet.
Next: my public school years begin, and I survive measles.