About Katie: Having arrived in time for the Great (?) Depression, WWII, and all other 20th century problems, I am endowed with long and varied memories. Writing classes have long been my home away from home. Other people's stories are fascinating, and sharing is growth at its best. Hope you seniors will join me with your stories. Try it. You'll like it.
Funny the things you remember. It was spring, and after a year and a half in the back seat of an Oakland 8 (that's a car for those without my memory) I was attempting to regain my sea legs. In search of a warm and comforting climate where his war wounds would not ache so much, my father had driven my mother and me through every state but two of the existing 48.
We stood in the parking lot of a cabin camp (a motel to you who came along later). It was in a dismal little town on the edge of the dust bowl. I won't try to explain that term. Suffice it to say the bowl was known to get up and change its position frequently, at the first sign of a little wind. I was aware of the grit between my teeth and in my eyes. My dress was blowing around and up my legs. My mother was ready to leave, and said so. My father was not. I had reached the age for schooling, and we must settle down. At least for now.
Within days we were in a house. Through the prairie lot to the back there was a path some other kid had probably worn through the sand to the school on the opposite side of the next street. Leftover tumble weeds rolled around in the wind and I dodged them as I traversed the path to my first educational experience.
And what an experience. I was a year late, having spent my kindergarten year in the Oakland. Everybody knew everybody. I didn't know anybody. My long socks and garter belt, hand me downs from a cold climate cousin, were making me itch, and the teacher wasted no time letting me know she did not approve of itchy kids. She moved me to the back row, where I wasn't as noticeable.
My mother had left me at the door after telling me to behave. My father was off talking politics with some unknown. I spent recess turning in circles, until the teacher told me to stop before I made myself sick. That hadn't occurred to me. No one offered to play with me, and I wouldn't have known how, if they had. You don't play much ring around the rosie in the back seat of an Oakland.
There was one other little girl that sort of stood out, by herself. Somehow our mothers had met. Late that afternoon, the girl and her mother showed up at our door. Things got a little easier, but I still didn't feel like I was in the right place. I must have been, because I was still there two years later.
In the meantime, my mother was planting the idea in my head that we didn't belong there. That it would never be home. But I still trudged along the vacant lot path, through dust, mud, and snow. My new friend remained steadfast. She still is.
We moved to another area and I changed schools. With the same misgivings and resistance. I was not going to prove to be much of a scholar. The new school did have a nice teacher, and she didn't hide me in a corner when I itched. She realized I hadn't mastered much math, but nothing was done about it. A year later one sharp old maid teacher watched me, then enlisted my father's expertise to help solve my problem.
The third year afforded me a few more chances. The new neighborhood had kids in every house, and they all came out to play. We had a nice yard with three apple trees and grass. I acquired Alice, the cat to talk to. There were many trips in the Oakland, and I missed too much school. But I was getting along with others better. My father remained my favorite companion, though I still didn't understand why we remained in this dusty place.
A few years later I advanced to the next school, and two years later I entered high school. I made friends, went to football games, joined Girl Scouts, and spent a couple of years working an after school job in a local hospital, where I was probably more trouble than I was worth.
Four days later I was packed in the back of the big black Terraplane. (The Oakland had been retired.) I was on my way 'home' to the northwest. I didn't get back for forty years, and then only for a week.
But something remains centered in my head, tapping out a message every spring. It is a smell. A lovely sweet scent that doesn't go away, bringing visions of deep rich purple. It begins to bother me around the beginning of May. It intensifies until after Memorial Day. And then it's gone for another year. I am happy again where I am. Until that last few days of May when I remember a whole town that smells of lilacs, and I want to go home.