THE VOICE OF MY MOTHER

“Life isn’t like those books you read”

my mother is saying,

she is standing in the doorway to my bedroom;

Her arms are folded together, Indian-style,

“You are going to find out,

Life isn’t like Nancy Drew’s” she repeats angrily.

I keep my eyes on the page of my book;

I refuse to make eye contact with my mother.

Nancy Drew is solving a mystery.

I want my life to be like Nancy Drew’s;

I want to live with my father and a housekeeper

who makes cinnamon toast and hot cocoa,

who doesn’t have a mother interfering in everything.

I don’t respond.

The words in my book are blurry from my tears that

fall onto the page.

My mother and I have had yet another argument and I escaped

to my room, to sit on my bed and read, hoping to forget.

I am thirteen years old.  My mother is right.

Life isn’t like the one Nancy Drew leads; I learn that for myself,

but I never forget the words of my mother, spoken bitingly,

grimly, ruthlessly.

Many years later, I found myself wondering – did my mother ever

wish to be like Nancy Drew?  Was she sharing her harsh reality with me?

Life hasn’t been like Nancy Drew’s but I still have some of her books and

occasionally enjoy reading them.

I never told my sons that life wasn’t like that of the Hardy Boys.

I don’t tell my granddaughter that life isn’t like Nancy Drew’s–or, for today’s

generation, that of Harry Potter’s.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted July 10, 2009

Updated October 9, 2018

PROGRESS

My grandparents’ lives

were relatively simple

compared to that of

my parents,

and in the adult lives

of myself and

my siblings;

My grandparents had

no social security numbers,

no telephone numbers–at least

not in the beginning–

and when telephones became

available, the numbers were easy

to remember–GRanville 2334 or

Kirby 8846 (the first was Grandma’s

number and the Kirby exchange was

ours)

Their address was 1957 Baltimore Street

and a zip code was only two numbers;

their was 25.

It cost a penny to mail a letter. (When

I was a child, a first class stamp to

mail a letter was 3 cents.

There were streetcars (often called

trolley car) to take you where ever

you wanted to go. the fare was

five cents and you could ask for

a free transfer slip if you needed]

to change to another car.  There

was no need for my grandfather

to drive a car; a streetcar could

take him where he needed to go.

I think my father was the first

in the family to buy and drive a car.

My memory is that of a 1953 Chevrolet

that my father bought–he was loyal

to Chevrolet for many years.

My grandfather enjoyed a successful

career as a tailor; he created men’s

suits.

My grandmother was a cook in

the home of a well-to-do family

before she married and settled down

to be a housewife and mother.

She could be bossy and opinionated

but never with her grandchildren

who all adored her.  I think it’s

safe to say, she adored us, too.

My parents were both born

in Cincinnati, Ohio, and all

of their children were born here

as well. It was a fairly simple life

in Cincinnati when my grandparents

were young adults , where you paid

cash for everything. There were no

credit cards. They had a house payment

and once a month

grandma went downtown to pay

the utility bills and house payment

in person, with cash.

My parents met when they were both

teenagers, and my father had a metal

social security card with his number

stamped on it.

My parents’ marriage began

at the tail end of the Great Depression,

an event that greatly influenced my

mother’s entire life;  she would

always be frugal and reuse everything

that could be recycled and used again,

and sometimes more than twice,

items such as newspaper, wax paper,

aluminum foil and definitely all leftovers

from a meal.

It took them 9 years to save up enough

money to buy their first home,

at 1618 Sutter Street; this is the home

where my memory begins; I was going

on 5 years old when we moved into

the Sutter Street house;

My mother was one of a few working

mothers in the 1940s when most mothers

stayed at home.

My mother also took in laundry and I was

often corralled to iron hankies and other

simple items; mom also sold greeting cards

from Cardinal Craftsman and would send

me to pick up her order at 8th and State

since my car fare was only a nickel whereas

hers would have been a dime.  I also sold her

greeting cards to the neighbors generally

for five cents each.    My mother was as

frugal as it is for a person to be; she

bought our Christmas tree on Christmas

eve when very little was left on the lot

and she could get a tree for a quarter.

But mom had a charge-a-plate for Shillitoes

and sometimes sent me downtown to shop

for her.  she sent me downtown every

Saturday for several months to pay a

dollar a week for a new coat she had in

layaway at Lerner’s. (When I was older

and getting married, I bought my wedding

dress at Lerner’s too).

In 1955 my parents bought a brand-new

house; it was their dream house at

7099 Mulberry Steet; It was unfinished  inside

and unpainted–we children sanded woodwork

and they waited a long time before painting

the walls. (I believe someone told them it

was better to wait a year before painting

indoor walls).

All that being said, my father loved new

gadgets and we had the first television set

on our street. He bought a new Chevrolet

every few years.

My father retired from Formica –the only

place he ever worked at and my parents

retired in Florida in a mobile home park.

I obtained my social security card when I was 16,

to have it when I started searching for part time

jobs and found my first full-time job at Western

Southern Insurance a few months after my high

school graduation.

My married life began in 1958

and in 1961 my husband and I

and our one year old son

drove across country  to California.

I find in my life

we have a great deal more

to remember besides

a social security card–

along with

addresses

telephone numbers,

cell phone numbers,

account numbers for credit cards

We are a generation of numbers

and computers

digital cameras,

cell phones

but in 008

I bought a house

that is all numbers *yikes!)

this is, I think, Progress

where a woman

(and not a young one)

can buy a house–

My grandmother would

applaud me if she were

still alive.

Maybe she did..

and maybe she had a hand

in helping me buy my house.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted Day 3, October 3, 2009

Updated September 14, 2018

 

 

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REFLECTIONS

The following was written by me in the 1970s when I took over compiling the BEACHY BANNER, the elementary newsletter published by mimeograph by the school my children attended in Arleta, California. . I began writing about my experiences as a volunteer at the school, working in Mrs. Ranslow’s first grade class. After we moved farther away from Beachy School, I would drive the children to and from school; having a little extra time waiting for school to end for the day, I began volunteering in the first grade classroom.   The following was one of my first columns which I called “REFLECTIONS”

We passed an empty lot the other day. It had a big chain link fence all around it and large signs ominously warning that trespassers would be prosecuted. It’s hard to find an empty lot nowadays.  There just aren’t any.

In my father’s boyhood, the empty lot–usually one at the corner–was a source of a great deal of entertainment. Boys got up baseball games. They played kick the can and run sheepie run.  In the winter time, they would build up a big bonfire and hang around it to keep warm.  Amazingly, they never got arrested for building fires in the empty lot.  It was generally accepted that empty lots and young boys belonged together.

There were still a lot of empty lots to be found when I was a child in Ohio.  There was one particularly large empty lot  down at Denim street,   at which festivals and carnivals would be held, sponsored by various local organizations.  The rest of the year, we would search painstakingly through weeds  and brush, our efforts sometimes rewarded with the finding of a half-buried coin or trinket left over from the last carnival.

My favorite empty lot stood at the corner of Pulte street (one block over from Sutter Street, where I  lived) On this corner there were a barber shop (where we traded comic books) and a saloon.  There was this big empty lot behind the two buildings, a portion of which was paved with a smooth cement.  It was a most ideal “skating rink” in the neighborhood and we would skate around in circles for hours, pretending to be at real skating rinks.  Sometimes we even had roller skates on. There was always something to do at an empty lot.

I sighed as we passed the chain link fence with its no trespassing signs.  “It’s such a shame that the empty lots are gone” I said.

“Is that a singing group?” one of my sons inquired.

“What happened?” his younger brother asked. “Did they die?”

 

Sandra Lee smith

Originally written February, 1977 – True story!!

*If this is something enough of my readers enjoy, I will continue telling more of my “Reflection” stories.  Let me know!! — sls

STRANGERS

we’ve become strangers, you and I,

who once shared our bodies and bed,

Although I recall the way you would smile,

And everything you ever said,

It’s more than the distance that keeps us apart,

For time has taken its toll,

We’ve gone separate ways;

Our lives have been changed,

Events spiraled out of control.

I long to be with you, just one more time,

But sense that the die has been cast,

I couldn’t have known,

As I laid with you then,

that last time….was really our last.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted March, 2009

Updated September 1, 2018

TREES (THE END OF A LIFESTYLE)

We left behind

Mulberry, fig, olive,

Orange, tangerine, nectarine,

Kumquat, walnut, lemon,

apple, avocado,

pomegranate, peach,

macadamia nut,

and loquat,

All growing in our yard;

Also left behind,

the Jacarandas and Magnolias,

that bloom in spring

along with

various bright shades of crape myrtle

lining the streets with brilliant

patchworks of color.

We have come to a place

Where the most common

are Joshua and Yucca trees,

Gnarly and bent

and prickly with thorns,

Reminders that

the desert is

a hostile environment.

But in our own back yard

in our new home,

there is a tall and stately mulberry tree,

another kind of reminder

that even some things grow

in the high desert,

Challenging us

to discover for ourselves

what will grow, here,

and what will not.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally written in 2009 under the title of “Trees”

Updated August 28, 2016

WOOD

In downtown Salem, Oregon, there is a unique present-day carousel,

at which volunteers are constantly working on and building

new animals for the carousel;

The latest achievement was an elephant for the carousel;

When I visited my girlfriend, Bev, in 2012, we visited Salem’s Riverfront

Carousel and made purchases at the unique gift shop.

I am fascinated with wood; presently many of my pieces of furniture were

made of oak.

Things I loved and lost were a pecan headboard and white painted

wooden knick knack shelves that girlfriend Rosalia had given to me.  My

ex left those things in Florida, (on our return to California,) claiming he

didn’t have enough room for all

my things. Also lost was a corner hutch that I bought years ago and dearly

loved. Some things cannot be replaced.

On the other hand, I have a wooden handled knife that had been my

Grandma Schmidt’s–my sister Becky gave it to me before she died.

In Salem, Bev &  I rode on the carousel;  we had extra ride tickets left over

and gave them to a mother and two children – they were delighted.   Once

was enough for a couple of grandmothers.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

originally posted January 29, 2015

Updated August 24, 2018

 

 

HUMAN SPIRIT

In beating hearts of mice and men,

of creatures large and small,

The spirit of humanity

may be the  greatest gift of all,

 

The human spirit, ever caring,

Leads all other beings along,

As Noah led them two by two,

So do we care with right from wrong;

 

But when a dark soul without conscience,

Abuses life randomly without cease,

justifies the killing of God’s creatures,

Not differencing man from beast;

It makes no difference, man or beast,

When standing at the pearly gates,

Who Saint Peter beckons forward,

What anguish cries those dark souls make.

 

The Sixth commandment God gave Moses

“Thou shalt not kill”–and naught was said

whether creatures great or small

by man’s hand should ever end up dead.

 

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally posted February 27, 2015]

Updated July 31, 2018

SIMPLE JOYS

A stack of books, waiting to be read,

And going to the public library instead,

A really good chick flick that makes you cry,

Rocking a baby, singing a lullaby,

A telephone call from a long lost friend,

Reading a book that you don’t want to end,

A game of Scrabble that goes on for hours,

A walk in the rain in gentle spring flowers;

A big dish of ice cream your most favorite flavor

A roll of Lifesavers that you can savor,

Toasting marshmallows on a cold winter night,

The sight of Canadian geese taking flight,

A fantastic roll of your own photographs;

Two scampering pups that make you all laugh;

An old recipe box that your grandmother treasured

And an old set of spoons with which she would measure

Ingredients into a large yellow bowl;

Seeing a granddaughter achieving a goal,

Your very best friends sitting round the table,

A yard-sale dress with a designer label,

Reciting a poem that you learned years ago,

Making angels in a fresh layer of snow;

Chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven,

Grandchildren running to give you some hugging;

It’s a bowl of hot soup with crackers and tea,

these are all simple joys that mean most to me.

–Sandra Lee Smith

November 7, 2009/Updated June 27, 2018

 

HOW LITTLE WE KNOW

In the great scheme of things,

how little we know,

even after a lifetime

of learning and reading and listening,

and absorbing into our minds

all the knowledge

being imparted.

At the end of a life

when a person is old and feeble

and has begun to forget

all that he has learned,

He will forget only as fraction

of all there is to know.

Who can learn it all?

Could one person

read all the dictionaries

and encyclopedias,

Study all there is

In the Universe

and remember it all?

But to what end?

To lie in a bed

soiled and forgotten

with no memory?

 

Sandra Lee Smith

May 29, 2009

Updated June 21, 2018

ONE

One can be the loneliest number;

Two is always a pair,

Three is the trinity or three musketeers,

Or Goldilock’s famous three bears.

Four is two couples going out on a date

Five is a handful of fingers;

Six of anything makes a collection,

Seven is Seagram’s and lingers.

Eight is  enough was an old TV show;

The number of planets is nine

Ten Commandments were give by God,

Eleventh hour –the latest possible time.

Twelve, of course, makes a dozen

And a film about twelve angry men;

There are also twelve days of Christmas,

Which takes me back to UNO again.

But one has no need to be lonely –

One God one earth, one moon and one sun

a whole number all by itself,

A single entity  – that’s one.

I am a human, myself, just one.

Not half of another, just me —

Responsible only for my thoughts and deeds,

and my soul – for all eternity