The middle years have passed and I have started the rapid plunge toward that final destiny that awaits all of us. Even so, after nearly 58 years, I am amazed at what I can remember of it. To me, it does not seem all that long ago, but you know what? In human terms and for many people, it was a lifetime.
I am told that I should not be able to remember these things since I was two years old at the time, but I swear that I do. My earliest memory is a tonsillectomy at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. I do not remember the actual surgical procedure, but I do remember the check in. Back in those days, the nuns at the hospital still wore the penguin outfits and they were, to my recollection, quite mean. I was only two, but it took three of them to strip me, put me in hospital wear and get me ready for surgery. I vaguely recollect kicking one of them while I still had a shoe on. I think that earned me a smack. I also remember the administration of the ether which is what passed for anesthetic in those ancient times. Beyond that, I remember waking up in the middle of the night unable to talk and not knowing where my mommy and daddy were. I was in a ward with other children and I recall a little girl in the next bed getting up to get me a drink of water. A kindness by a stranger to another stranger. Odd how those things stick in the mind.
I also remember committing a B&E at the age of three with my close friend and or arch nemesis (depending on what time of day it was), Kelly Dean Jones. Kelly was my age and one day it occurred to us to break into the Disciples of Christ church that was up the street. Bondurant is where we lived at the time. It was a very laid back and quiet community outside of Des Moines.
Anyhow, this is not normally something that three year olds would consider on their own. As it happens, David Sprague, last in a long line of juvenile delinquent brothers, was there to encourage us in our efforts. David was eight. Kelly and I were convinced that since he was eight, he must know everything and so we hung on his every word. Earlier, Kelly and I had been zooming up and down the sidewalk on our tricycles gathering walnuts and then throwing them in his yard...sometimes at each other. On one of our nut gathering rides, we pulled up in front of the church. We were throwing walnuts at each other and one of them hit the glass door of the church. David Sprague had been watching us. He walked up and told us there was a room full of toys in there to play with. All we had to do was go in. We tried to open the door but it was locked and so David suggested that we utilize our walnut collection to break the glass door window and climb in. After repeated assaults with the walnuts, the glass was proving impenetrable to our three year old throwing arms and there were no rocks to do the job that we could find. So...ever the good friend, David kicked in the lower pane of glass on the door and we went in. Strangely, David disappeared shortly after.
At some point, Kelly and I were found inside the church. We had taken off our coats and were playing in one of the children's Sunday school rooms. I think we had coloring books and crayons when our mothers showed up accompanied by the church pastor. I do not recall the punishment. I think it is probably blanked out of my mind with the other traumas of my youth. I do know that when my mother would tell the story years later, my grandfather responded that, "it was just a Disciples church." Laughter would ensue.
Not long after, we moved to Des Moines. I only saw Kelly Dean once after that briefly. We were not so impressed with each other. Life had moved on and we were older.
Today, since I've been on vacation, I drove passed the house we moved to in Des Moines. I barely recognized it because the two maple trees in front had been cut. The garage that Dad built was still in back though and seemed to be in much better shape than the house. The whole neighborhood has fallen into disrepair though. The only consistent, unchanged thing was the street. It is still made out of paving bricks. This is both cool and sad to me. Only the street itself withstood the test of time.
The house where Terry Stump and her sisters lived was still there. The place where Othal and Susie Snyder lived next door was also there with many changes. Mrs Holton's house and the Brewer house are still standing too, but all had changed with lack of care or too much repair.
The Snyders were quite elderly in 1962. They had never had children of their own and so I proved quite a challenge to live next door to. Othal kept a perfect yard, a perfect garden and a perfect car. He drove a 1949 blue De Soto that was always spotless. When they went somewhere, Susie always rode in the back seat. The thing that always fascinated me about that car was the curb feelers. It had these little chrome springy things on the edge of the front and rear fenders that would make a noise when they scraped the curb. I think this was to prevent the curb from scraping the frame.
Susie became my very good friend. She taught me how to play checkers and took me out to Othal's garden to pick flowers for Mom. She also gave me apple butter from their orchard in Adel.
Othal hated me. He sprayed me with the garden hose on several occasions for violating his lawn perimeters with my bicycle tires. To him, I was a trespasser. Even so, I had the last word. I went to Othal's funeral.
The memories just poured in as I drove through the old neighborhood today. I saw the place where I beat up Roger Ghee for making fun of me. I saw the corner where I slugged Mark Burdock for plotting against me at the cub scout meeting. I drove past the house of Cindy Veach and Tim Terrell and Mark Jackson. Mark's step brother used to expose himself to the girl's at recess. I'm sure that would land him in counseling and maybe a care facility today, but back then, all you got was a spanking. Simpler times, but more effective methods.
I also had some very strange experiences in that house we lived in, but I think I will save that for another time. Just let me say, they were of a paranormal nature. It did not help that I was a sleep walker.