Story written and published in 2003
Yesterday I received a call from a childhood friend. We went all the way through school together, from 1st grade through 12th. We have one of those relationships that endure the years no matter how long it is between conversations. Each time we speak I’m transported back in time to East Lake. Her grandmother lived in the next block to ours. Her mother was one of the few of our generation who worked outside the home so Barbara came to her grandmother’s house after school. We walked home together and played at one house or the other. Usually her grandmother’s as there were no little brothers there to interfere.
Barbara had a female dachshund named Sausage. Sounds better than wienie. She was transported for babysitting just like Barbara was. Grandmother Tucker took care of everyone. We all loved that dog so much. She met us at the door and played right along with us. Until… one day she was under the living room sofa. Well, part of her was under the sofa. You know how animals are – if their head is hidden, they are hidden. She had her tail sticking out and I backed up and stepped on it. For some reason, she reacted differently to me after that. She would meet Barbara at the front screen, sitting up on her haunches so she could see out. When she saw me, she turned around and made sure her whole body was under the sofa.
Grandmother Tucker’s house was a treasure trove. There weren’t a lot of toys. We didn’t need them. Under the same living room sofa was a box of little, glass bottles and some other trinkets that escape my memory. For some reason, I remember the little brown glass bottles well. We never seemed to tire of playing with these things and others that I’ve forgotten. The house was full of antique furniture. There was a big, oak dining room table and a little table in the kitchen. The back bedroom belonged to a boarder. She was an older lady who gave piano lessons. I think she had been a teacher. She was a little bit crippled and walked with a cane. I remember her always being well dressed, usually in a dark color.
The whole house was sort of dark and cool. There were, and still are, a lot of trees in the yard which gave great shade. They also made those little seed pods we called helicopters. We gathered them up and threw them as high as possible so we could watch them whirl their way back down. It was so much easier to entertain children back then.
We sometimes went outside in the back yard. There was a garage full of old stuff, but we weren’t allowed in there. I think her grandmother was afraid we would get hurt. In the yard, there was a circle of bushes we could climb inside of to play. It was like having a dollhouse. If we tired of this, we went in the front yard to play hop scotch on the sidewalk or sit in the porch swing.
We had another best friend who lived two blocks in the other direction from the school. Sometimes she would walk home with us. One day all three of us were in the porch swing. Big mistake as I had put on a “little weight.” You guessed it, just as we really got the swing going, my end fell. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then. Of course, when my end fell, they fell on top of me. How embarrassing. To make it worse, they thought it was hilarious when they got over being scared. It was giggle city until Grandmother made it outside.
One of my fondest memories of Mrs. Tucker’s home was snack time. She would open a can of date bread, slice it and spread cream cheese between two pieces. It was so good. I had never had this before, and not too many times since.
When we were older, Barbara and her mom and dad moved to Roebuck Gardens and she didn’t walk home with me anymore. I got to visit there too and we had good times, but never the same as the old days at her grandmother’s. We would sit up all night talking, giggling and eating sauerkraut from the can. I know, it sounds terrible, but we loved it. We wrote stories about the Beatles and decided that Paul was our favorite.
Sausage was still around and still avoided my feet. Barbara’s dad taught him not to come into the kitchen. We could sit there and eat and he would sit back in the den and watch. As we became adults, went separate ways and married, our activities changed but we still got together. I was always very close to her mother. She was a good friend and could listen to my problems objectively and give good advice. When I was selling colored glassware via home parties, Barbara and Mrs. Tucker had lots of parties for me. Their houses were full of this glass. I guess Barbara’s still is. Her dad is still living in the same house, but she lost her mother several years ago. It had been a long time since I’d seen her, but just knowing she was there gave me comfort. I really miss her.
Barbara and her husband James Marbut are soon expecting their first grandchild. It seems just yesterday that I was crocheting baby things for their children. Sausage has been gone a long time. The last “picture Christmas card” I received from them, they had a big, auburn colored dog named “Aubie.” (Guess where they all went to college.)
Oh, how time flies. No matter what we have shared, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of her is our childhood in East Lake. Grandmother’s house, the box of trinkets and the date bread with cream cheese. I’ve tried to block out the porch swing.
May 16, 2003
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