My earliest memory is of a red-and-white swimsuit I got when I was four. It was a one-piece with halter straps. Thinking I looked really fine in it, I instructed my brothers Randy and Dale to start calling me "gal." Yikes. I'm glad I don't remember anything earlier than that. No telling what foolishness was running through my head. Five was the age when things really started getting stored in my memory bank. For the baby and toddler years, of course, I have to rely on old black-and-white photos and home movies.
A few weeks ago, Mom, Rex, and I watched a DVD containing the films Dad made of our family throughout the '50s. It starts out in grand fashion—with baby me smiling and kicking on my parent’s bed. Being the sixth of seven babies and the only girl, my epic birth must have been the impetus for Dad to finally spring for a movie camera.
For two hours, we watched that DVD and remembered. Mom looked so sad when it was over. We asked her what was wrong, and she started crying. Barely able to get out the words, she squeaked, “I wish I had held you more.” Rex reassured her that she held us plenty. And I told Mom that there’s no such thing as holding your children enough. It can’t be done.
There wasn't a lot action in Dad’s films, except for things like opening gifts, petting dogs, riding tricycles, and going round and round on kiddie rides. We mostly just posed in front of the camera, holding up Christmas or birthday gifts and Easter baskets. One of my favorite action scenes is where I'm standing between Randy and Dale, all of us in matching pajamas with feet, and we take turns kissing each other.
The birthday cakes we had growing up were always homemade and always delicious, but usually lopsided and made with whatever ingredients Mom had on hand. To make them festive, she added food coloring to the icing—blue, green, pink, or whatever color she hadn't used in a while. Sometimes she'd get really fancy and shake colored sprinkles on top. We thought those cakes were great when we were kids, but we’ve teased her a lot about them since, so she thought Dale would enjoy one for his party.
|Dale's "special" cake|
Except for the “Harley-Daleson” motorcycle cake and party favor bags containing mini bottles of Corona, the main theme of the party was childhood memories. I gave Dale a pound of Walnettos—a favorite candy we used to buy at the five and dime—in a black gift bag with
YOU'RE WELCOME on the front. Now that's funny. I just love a sarcastic gift bag.
Mom got Dale a paddle ball—one of those cheap wooden paddles with a ball attached by a rubber string. Back in elementary school, we had a gift exchange every year at Christmas. There was a $1 or maybe $2 limit, and the decent thing to do was buy a gift as close to the limit as possible, maybe even go over a few cents like Mom would. Dale came home from school so mad about the gift he received being a paddle ball—which cost less than a quarter in those days—that he rode his bike to the kid's house who brought it to school and gave it back to him. When Dale opened his gift from Mom, he said, "Now you're just opening old wounds."
The years went by in a flash, and yet it seems like a lifetime ago that we had home movie night at the old homestead on Parker Road. While Daddy would load a movie on the reel-to-reel projector, Mom would remove the picture on the wall and hang a white sheet in its place. As images of ourselves flickered across the “screen,” we would watch mesmerized. When a reel came to an end, Daddy would command, “Get the lights!” Then he'd rewind the reel and load another one while we impatiently waited. It was always an exciting time.
Watching those same movies on the DVD now sure isn’t the same. The magic is gone. And the nostalgia is overwhelming. Plus, the company that transferred the film reels to DVD added cheesy background music since the original films had no sound. I sure wish they had just added audio of an old film projector running.
I'll be the next sibling to turn 60. How did that happen? After all, I used to be a baby. And as long as I have Mom, someone actually remembers it.