My Little Red Rocker
My earliest memory is from when I was three years old. It's a simple little memory, but I have had it all my life. It comes to me now and then, and I cherish it. I was aware even at a very young age that it was the oldest conscious memory I had, so I've held onto it, and I bring it out now and then, dust it off and admire it. The memory is from January, February, or March of 1970. I know this because I know that it was following the Christmas of 1969 when one of my elder sisters, Maxine, and her husband, Ronnie, gave me a little red rocking chair as a Christmas gift. This is not a picture of my own little red rocker, but it is very similar to mine. I don't know if any picture even exists of mine.
Anyway, the memory is of me getting up one morning when there was a lot of snow on the ground. I got up, put on my little robe and house shoes, walked out to the living room, and sat down in my little red rocking chair that sat in front of the big picture window. My older sisters, Phyllis, Lois and Barbara, were already outside at the end of the drive, waiting for the school bus. I sat and rocked and watched them get on the bus and go off to school. (None of my other sisters or my brother would have still been living at home at that time.) Barbara would have been 9-1/2, Lois would have been just turning 14, and P.J. would have been 15.
See? It's a simple, short little memory, but I love it anyway. Winters were real winters back then in Kentucky. I'm sure we would already have had several snowfalls throughout that winter with one or two probably being bad enough to cancel school for a few days. Back then it stayed cold enough that the snow didn't melt quickly but hung around for days or weeks. When there was a lot of snow and/or ice, the roads where we lived out in rural Breckinridge County would have been potentially dangerous to drive; some of them, like the road we usually took into town, would have been impossible to drive. When they got bad Daddy would have had to take a different route to work; but he never missed a day of work because of bad roads. Instead of taking the curvy, hilly road that crossed Dodge Creek (everyone called it "Dodge", but it was really named Dorridge Creek), he would take the straighter and newer road we referred to as Freedom Church Road.
On this morning, he may or may not have had to go the "long" way. If he had, Mom would have woke him earlier than usual. Once when the roads were bad and she was having a hard time waking him up, the family story is that she kept saying "Jeff! You need to wake up! The roads are bad, and you're going to have to leave early!" And Daddy, talking in his sleep, answered, "Yeah, and it hasn't been that long that we've even had roads out here." And in fact, when this memory takes place, the road in front of our house may actually have still been a dirt road. I don't know what year the county paved it, but I know I was very young when it happened.
Mom would have made me a nice hot breakfast after I got up that morning. In winter weekly breakfasts were usually oatmeal or my favorite Cream of Wheat. There may have been bacon or sausage. There was always home canned preserves, jellys and jams to put on toast or home made biscuits. There may have been eggs. Mom kept chickens, but at that time of the year they probably weren't laying. When they weren't laying, she bought eggs at the grocery. If it was March, there may have been a box next to the wood-burning stove holding several dozen baby chicks. Mom would order them through a business in town, pick them up when the order came in, and then keep them inside close to the heat until the weather was warmer and they were big enough to put out in the chicken yard. So when I got up that morning it might have been to the sound of sleepy little peeps next to the fire.
I wonder what I would have done for the rest of that day? It would have been just me and Mom until the girls got home from school (and that's the way I liked it; I was very much a "Momma's Girl"). I might have helped her with her housework (read: got in her way), or watched as she prepared dinner. I may have brought out some toys and played with them in whatever room she was in, because I'm sure I followed her around the house. At some point I'm sure I would have dressed warmly and gone outside, either to play in the snow or to help feed chickens and whatever else we might have had at the time. I know we would have had dogs and cats, because we always had dogs and cats.
Actually, let's see. At that age, I don't believe I had a dog of my own, yet, but I know that I was very much attached to the dog that belonged to my Uncle Harlan. It was either Uncle Harlan's dog or it was my grandmother's with whom Uncle Harlan lived until she died later that year. The dog was a big, blonde thing. I have no idea what he was -- I must ask Mom. I think his real name was supposed to have been Whitey, but everyone called him Bub. He was a great dog. He'd walk home with me if I'd been visiting my grandmother's house. And you could say to him in a plaintive, sympathetic tone, "Aw, Bub! POOR old Bub!" and he'd start howling and whining along with you.
I'm fairly certain that Barbara had her pony, a little black and white half Shetland pony named Champ at that time. And we might have had one or two of my sister P.J.'s there as well. If we did at that time, it would have been a pinto named Injun. And it would have been around this time that P.J. had a Rodesian Ridgeback named Duke who liked to lick me, and I would say (according to family legend, of course), "Aw Dawdy! Aw Doot!!"
Isn't it amazing how one tiny little memory can open up so many more? I like peering around the corners of my oldest and most cherished memories, and I tend to do that so much more often as I get older.
I'll be 47 soon, and it just occurred to me today that my mother would have turned 47 the December after this oldest memory of mine. So when she was 47 she had seven kids between the ages of 4-going-on-5 and 22. She would have had a 6-month-old grandson, a 3-month-old granddaughter, and a grandson on the way. Her son would have been drafted, done his basic training, and gone off to fight in Viet Nam earlier that year.
I can't imagine being the age I am now and having seven kids, most of them grown.
Guess I'd better stop for now. I have a feeling this post could go on forever. But I'm sure I'll peer around some corners again soon.