Remember the latex-y smell of a new red rubber kickball? Remember the tinny, hollow, bouncy sound the ball made when it hit the ground? Remember how much air that textured ball would get upon a good, swift, hard kick?
Childhood memories are a funny thing: some recollections of our youth are so vivid that you can instantly delight not one, not two, but often all of your senses in precise detail as if the memory is as recent as a day or so ago.
The absolute earliest vision I can evoke from my memory banks is that of a gift; a present from my maternal grandparents, Benjamin and Frances Mindlin. My grandparents had driven from their home in Bloomfield, Connecticut to our home in Dover, Vermont for a visit. My mother told me later in life upon rumination of this story that I was about two, but not quite three years old.
To this day, I recall the joy and excitement in anticipation of my grandparents’ arrival as their car pulled into our driveway. After cordial hugs, kisses, and hellos; my grandparents presented me with a brand new red rubber ball. What a gift!
Tink, tink, tink….the sound reverberated as I bounced the rubber sphere eagerly and sloppily on the driveway as a wobbly toddler would. Tink, tink, tink…continued as my brand new ball bounded down the driveway faster than I managed to keep up. Tink, tink, tink……pop……….phiiizzzzzzzz. Just like that, the air spewed out of a pierced hole, faster than convicts on a prison break and my brand new toy was deflated flat. Ruined. No sooner had I risen with the glee provided by my red rubber ball had I collapsed into the ultimate sadness, as my dog sunk his teeth into the fleshy, springy object he chased down the pavement.
Shortly thereafter, or so it seems in the fuzzy and worn memory cards, my family was preparing to move out West. The reality of this relocation meant nothing to me at such a young age, my comprehension being limited to the trauma that ensued when my dad threw out my itty-bitty skis. As my father tried to rationalize with my irrational three year old self, my tantrum escalated. How was I supposed to know that our destinations of Texas, New Mexico and ultimately, Oklahoma had no ski mountains?
My journey from Vermont to Texas is piecemeal at best, with the lively mariachi band that strolled through the San Antonio marketplace being a joy to recall. Otherwise, I have negative snippets of the adventure: the larger-than-life bug that was in our motel bathtub (seriously, it was as big as my little girl foot….okay, no, it was the size of Godzilla and my shrieks probably alerted everyone staying at said motel that something was dangerously afoot); the neon green, algae-filled swimming pool that the motel encouraged my parents to let me take a dip in (have no fear, they did not let me go near the vat); the complaints from my mother how god-awful Texas was and my father’s supreme disappointment in how small the Alamo really was in real life.
New Mexico brings back fonder memories, so much so that I do hope to take my family there some day. The pictures of visiting the Grand Canyon with my Grammy (my dad’s mother), who had come to spend time with us are near and dear to my heart. The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest of nearby Arizona are seared into my brain, as are my mother’s comments proclaiming her love for the area. Najavo Fry Bread (or sopapillas) combined with refried beans bring me *RIGHTBACK* and warm my heart with the love of the time I spent there. Seriously, when I visit again I will likely have that be my first order of food to roll around in emotional happiness.
The recollection of losing my hearing while in New Mexico is non-existent up and until I was being fitted for my new ear molds. Shortly thereafter, we relocated to Oklahoma with a builder my father had worked for building housing for the Navajo Indian tribes; they were going to continue building low-income housing for the Cherokee tribes in the Northeasterly portion of Oklahoma.
My mother spoon-fed me a version of events surrounding my hearing loss which she insisted is why we up and moved from New Mexico to Oklahoma (something about a shotgun to kill the doctor who she deemed as the culprit who caused my hearing loss). My father always corrected her that we followed his work to Oklahoma, and I now know that is likely the more true version of the stories.
Lately, when times get chaotic or too fast-paced for even my liking, I reflect back on my ten years in Oklahoma. I honestly miss so much about those years and that part of the U.S. Everything people here in the Northeastern part of the U.S. think about Oklahoma is pretty close to being true: things are much slower paced in the more rural parts of the state; people are so very kind; and the mid-western drawl has a life of its own.
My memories of Oklahoma take on a life of their own! Again, food based memories are seared in my brain’s taste buds as I think back to happy times with my parents – nothing like Wednesday night at Lorene’s Restaurant. A fried chicken dinner was $1.99! $1.99 people……and this was the 80s, not the 40s! My father would get so excited as I would swap him my breast for his drumstick. I would get so excited when my father would let me get a gigantic, mile-high piece of chocolate cream pie or uber-delicious sticky, pecan pie; all home made from scratch by Lorene and her kitchen staff themselves. White creamy gravy drowned our mashed potatoes and my mother would gag, ask us why we would eat such library paste, and gag again as my father and I would devour the heavenly fatness on our plates. I chuckle at the idea that my dad allowed me to order frog legs for dinner (and I have instant heartburn at my willingness to consume an amphibian from a local pond/lake).
Friends of mine from my days in Oklahoma are now refreshed in memory, thanks to that social media forum called Facebook. Recently, from my childhood friend Nicole, I learned that Lorene’s has closed for business. My brief sadness was not for the emotional food memories, but instead, more likely the closing of another chapter of memories I hung onto with both of my parents who are now deceased.
I relive various memories with each posting of those Oklahoma childhood friends who remain in the area. I know some day I will venture back that way and show my children where the bulk of my childhood was spent, so they can embrace some of the places where the thread of my very character was woven by the people and places that surrounded me. I will show them exactly where I used to catch the tarantula spiders to sell to Tommy on the school bus for $5. I will show them the great Grand Lake where I caught my first three pound catfish (with a fishing pole, thank you very much, no “noodling” or Hillbilly Handfishing for this girl) and spent many a summer day cooling off in. I hope to show them Fairland Elementary/Junior High/High School where I went from 3rd grade to 8th grade; where I was a Homecoming Princess, where I found my love for running track and field, and where my classmates and I went through all the requisite angst of tweendom with the aforementioned Nicole, Tina, Tammy, Talana, Tracey, Amy, Holly, Lisa and oh so many more!
And to think, the reminiscing began all with a bouncy, red rubber ball.