Sunday, February 03, 2008

Like the Back of My Hand


I dream about it.

I've dreamt about my hometown all my life, but the older I get, the more I dream about it. I see the old home, the old trails, the hideouts, the town characters, the cracks in the old sidewalks that the town laid many years ago when it was once proud and up-and-coming. I see the interiors of homes I haven't been in, in years, and the people that lived in them, talking to me like it was yesterday.

When I'm awake, I can imagine it just as clearly.
it's still there the memories are strong tins cans crisco cans raspberries gardens straw hats belts chokecherries bread canning cowboy cookies and teaspoons tea Sunday dinners with Grandpa and Grandma leaf piles nuisance ground hands out of car windows whipped by long blades of sharp grass Canadian geese honking won't be long now fires burning pastures mowing gardens plowing bed making hospital corners dumping the pot porches and slop pails screen doors slamming on the way to Toots' house PK gum and rolled chins tall imposing steps old persian rugs pianos and women talking playing alone imagination running wild looking up through tree branches wind kissing cheeks tasting milkweeds playing house mud pies bugs barn spiders haylofts Dusty Smoky prairie roses peonies in water veined hands crocheting Dad's hands on Mom's legs cattails in kerosene floods trains trips cousins driftwood hospitals piano lessons dreams horses bicycles freedom washing dishes and Star Trek books on shelves discovering new worlds wallpaper transister radios late in the night Macabre Theatre door creaking no borders everything possible no worries love always love changes but it's still there the memories are strong

overalls wide paintbrushes kerosene cleaning tree swish swosh swish swosh bark stained with years of paint leading down a path to a pet cemetery and Hawkeye and Chingascook can I be Chingascook today Popeye shared bathwater Iten's water service cisterns graindoor sidewalks hand-me-downs Outer Limits ceiling grate peek nightmares slanted ceilings that certain smell as I press my nose against the window screen noon 6pm 10pm town whistles county fair quonsit hut blue ribbon jam Egg Pants Tonto George's general store from another time Friehboldt's Garage dime fridge pop swinging from the gas sign Dad filling up Old Man Friehboldt checking the oil exploring behind discovering old jail bars ghost firehouse horse-pulled truck curling rinks town pumps Bordnick's farm equipment cacophony vs. Hughes' livestock menagerie potato bugs canning wringer washer hanging reaching pinning squinting gathering folding the smell oh the smell crisp stiff alive tarp paper garages anti-anti-I-over1 scared running laughing screaming late Sunday night meetings jumping off church steps hide 'n seek around the church in the fall cold running until we see steam rising off our skins in the moonlight breathing so deep sore throats in the morning no regrets alive so alive so young was it all a dream
Memories rush over me one to another...
silver threads among the gold rope swings I dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair Grandpa napping on the porch Grandma making pound cake with that broiled coconut brown sugar butter topping in the kitchen bike riding down the center of main street look no hands discovering hidden paths back alleys abandoned house begging to be explored the river always the river bridges looking down wondering what it would be like to jump scared yet excited floods dikes sandbags moving away until the water goes down taking the army 'duck' through the waters to the parked cars marooned at the junction Sunday afternoon drives to nowhere cousins dropping in food laughter catching up part of something bigger roots family history cobbler aprons long hair in buns large hands in bread dough warm arms wrapping themselves around you feeling like you are SO special because you are loved so loved those capable arms and legs that love you sucumb and it's your turn to be strong for them wheelchair cat's-cradle those last years together end too soon and you're weeping at the coffin bending over kissing cold lips not caring what anyone thinks feeling for the first time real loss Grandma I will miss you so much you are my best friend remembering sleeping with her, breakfasts of cocoa and brown sugar toast only she makes that special smell of her body as you snuggle with her at night after Grandpa is gone and she's alone Grandpa who gave you pink peppermints whisker rubs and called you his little girl Grandpa who napped on the porch age made no difference they were love


McCall's (Henniman's). Skogmo's. The Spot. Dick's Corner. The Hartz Store. The Tastee Freez. Coast-to-Coast hardware. Ice rink on the banks of the river, lights strung overhead. The dam. South Pembina. The airport. The [old] museum. Crossing the Red, then the Pembina. Ukranian church dome. Old 81. Old Pembina with the vines growing up the side of the old Methodist Church. Ancestors' rocking chairs in the museum...the old museum that seemed like a treasure chest of old area artifacts. Many a summer was spent touring the row upon row of exhibits, taking in as much as possible. Imagination working overtime wondering who the people were that once owned that dress, that gun, that book. So MUCH stuff that each display area was a mini Fibber McGee open closet. Even the walls were covered with treasures all the way up the the ceiling. The Park nearby had a monument towards the back, almost hidden by the now older trees. The white pyramid-like steps led up in the center to a pillar. Names and a dedication, barely legible, told of a war to end all wars, and the local boys that wouldn't be coming home again. I would climb that monument thinking it was magical, touch the white stone, rough and hot in the summer sun. Who were these people who were just names now, I wondered as a child. I was in awe of someone who would sacrifice so much. Bike home over the bridges, daring to stop and look down to the river below. Such a long way it felt, and sometimes there would be a pull in the back of my mind to jump...jump! A little thrill would run up my spine at the thought mixed with incredible fear. I almost drowned once. I was with my mother and her friend Glennis Friebohldt at the Emerson pool on a sunny summer afternoon. I wandered away from the wading pool area. I was little, but could see more people were having more fun in the big pool. I wasn't afraid to try it. I tentatively lowered myself over the edge into the pool, intending to hang onto the side. But the pool was very busy that day, many jumps, splashes, and waves. A wave caught me and lifted my body, and I panicked. My hand slipped, and before I knew it, I was floating away from the edge, I couldn't grasp it, and I was sinking...I was scared, but at the same time, as I went below the surface, I kept my eyes open...I was facing up, looking up, seeing the light above me grow smaller as I sank...The next thing I knew, I was laying on warm cement, coughing up water...Glennis was there. She had seen me as I began to sink and dived in and rescued me. Years later, despite still not knowing how to swim, I love water, and remember that day, and how peaceful it seemed. A few moments of panic, then quiet...
1 - Ante Over (also Andy I Over; Andy Over; Annie, Annie Over the Shanty; Anti-Anti-I-Over; Nicky-Nicky-Nee).

This old and popular boys' game requires a building over which the ball is thrown. In the gymnasium a curtain is often stretched across the center.

The two teams take their places on opposite sides of the building. A player of Team A calls "Ante Over" and throws a softball over the building. The Team B players attempt to catch it. If someone succeeds, he and his team mates dash around the building and the player holding the ball attempts to hit one of the Team A players, who may take refuge by running around the building. If he succeeds, the hit player joins Team B. and the ball goes to Team A. If no one catches the ball when it is thrown over the building, the side doing the catching calls "Ante Over" and the ball is thrown back. The side wins which has the most players when play ceases.

In some sections the boys call "Pigs tail" if the ball hits the building and bounds back. It is then thrown over again. (Mason and Mitchell, "Active Games and Contests", 1935) - From Hard at Play: Leisure in America, 1840-1940