18

Re-post: Childhood Heroines Redux

I really didn’t like playing with dolls, much to the despair of my mother.  Back in the 1950’s, little girls were expected to want to play mommy to their inert little babies, who would just lie there in their doll beds with their sleep-a-bye eyes closed tight.  Where was the fun in that?  I craved action and excitement, like the boys had with their toys.  It wasn’t until Barbie was introduced in 1959, when I was approaching age 12, that I finally got enthused about dolls. 

Now we’re talkin’! 

I ask you, would you rather play with a typical 50’s doll that looked like this…..         baby                                                                                                      

 …..or a Barbie that looked like this…..

barbie

Who looks like a better time?  I rest my case. 

Awhile back I read an article in the New York Times about the powerful women in our country who read Nancy Drew books when they were young.  The list ranged from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Nancy Pelosi, to many women in law, education and industry whose eyes were opened to the possibilities that had seemed beyond their reach.  If Nancy could be daring and adventurous and go against what was deemed the norm for young ladies back then, well so could they. 

I remember owning some Nancy Drew mysteries, but they never became my favorite reading, although I did (and still do) love to read.  I think her books probably wound up somewhere at the bottom of my toy drawer underneath my toy Winchester repeating rifle and the wooden tomahawk my Dad made for me.  (I think there was a little derringer in there too, like the one Paladin had on “Have Gun Will Travel.”) 

My heroines were of the action variety; ones who could give the good ol’ boys a run for their money.  So I thought I would put together a list of the ladies whom I held in the highest esteem during my childhood, along with some sketches of them to illustrate my point.

First up…..Joan of Arc.

joan 

I loved reading about how Joan heard angelic voices telling her that it was up to her to go to battle to save France.  She cut her hair short (like mine!), put on armor (basically boys’ clothes), and got to ride around on her steed telling the guys what to do.  What’s not to like? 

(Except for that whole burning at the stake thing.)

Most of the paintings of Joan show her wearing a skirt over her armor.  I have a difficult time believing anyone who went as far beyond what was considered proper behavior for a young lady as she did would even think about adding a skirt to keep the neighbors’ tongues from wagging.  Joan was such an all-time favorite of mine that I created an artist trading card in her honor for my “Great Cats in Art” series, starring my cat Neferkitty—“The Pussycat of Orleans.”

pussycat

Next up is Gail Davis of the “Annie Oakley” television show of the 1950’s.

 gail2

From the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture:

“Gail Davis was an Arkansas-born actress who starred as the legendary sharpshooter in the groundbreaking TV Western series Annie Oakley, which ran from 1954 through 1956. She appeared in thirty-two feature films, was guest on a number of TV shows, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and was an early role model for young women.  

At just over five feet tall and under 100 pounds, Davis was a charming heroine on Annie Oakley who wore pigtails and stopped criminals by outsmarting them or shooting the guns out of their hands. She rode horses and did many of her own stunts. She was the first woman to star in a TV western. Many young women later said they were influenced by watching Gail Davis as Annie Oakley, a female character in a traditionally male role. In the show, Gail took care of her younger brother, Tagg, in the fictional town of Diablo and solved crimes with handsome deputy sheriff Lofty Craig.”

My kind of gal.  Plus, she had cute outfits.

Finally, we have Irish McCalla as “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.”

sheena

From Wikipedia:

“In a newspaper interview, McCalla recalled being discovered by a Nassour Studios representative while throwing a bamboo spear on a Malibu, California, beach, famously adding of her Sheena experience, “I couldn’t act, but I could swing through the trees”.  Her 26-episode series aired in first-run syndication from 1955-56.

The athletic, reportedly 5’10” McCalla said she performed her own stunts on the series, filmed in Mexico, until the day she grabbed an unsecured vine and slammed into a tree, breaking her arm. Her elder son, Kim McIntyre, once told the press he remembered watching his mother swinging from vine to vine and wrestling mechanical alligators.”

I was so enthralled with Sheena’s capabilities.  (She could really kick butt.) 

Near our house in Southern California was an orange orchard that was being turned into a housing tract development.  There had been a lot of excavating done by heavy equipment and one morning my mother got a phone call from a neighbor who said “I don’t want to alarm you, Iris, but Melissa’s walking down the street with a snake around her neck.”  (I was around seven or eight years old—Nancy Drew had unsupervised adventures too.) 

I remember sashaying down our street with the snake draped around me, a la Sheena, with a gaggle of admiring followers trailing behind.  God knows what kind of snake it was or how long it had been dead, but that didn’t matter to my mother who hated snakes of any stripe or color.  My homage to Sheena was cut short.  But I loved it….it was so cool.

I enjoy looking back at the heroines of my youth.  I still hold them dear to my heart.  I’m just so glad that there are so many more now for young girls to emulate than there were in my childhood. 

But I still think these gals hold up pretty well even after all these years.

12

Of Mice and Men

I read some reviews this morning of the new movie “Dinner for Schmucks” starring Steve Carell.  He plays an amateur taxidermist who creates dioramas with costumed dead mice posed in little tableaux. 

One of the scenes is a rodent version of “The Last Supper.”

According to the reviews, Steve’s character’s creativity didn’t stop there. 

Oh no, my friend.

 Here are some other creations:

Yes, I’m an avid animal lover (just ask my cats) and I especially loathe it when animals are killed for sport so some fat ass can hang their heads on the wall of his den. 

But you have to admit, these are wildly inventive and extremely funny.  Also, they immediately brought to mind an episode from a series I watched this last winter on HDTheater about the great homes and castles of the National Trust in Great Britain. 

Castle Ward, in Ireland, was home to an eccentric collector who had this masterpiece of the taxidermist’s art:  dioramas of boxing red squirrels, from handshake to knockout.

 

Their creator was Edward Hart, 1847-1928.  “Although ornithology was his main interest, Edward also prepared a number of mammals. These included squirrels, rats, shrews, stoats and dormice, the latter being recorded as ‘very numerous between early spring and October.’ In common with many taxidermists of the time, Edward occasionally arranged mammals into what he called ‘Grotesque Groups’, which depicted animals, usually squirrels, in human situations. These dioramas included ‘Prize Fight’ ( six scenes), ‘Leap Frog’ and ‘The Barber’ amongst others.”

Leap frogging away, as it were, from squirrels and stoats, I flashed back to memories of childhood visits to Olvera Street in Los Angeles in the 1950’s.  Many of the little touristy shops had what I’ve since discovered are called “pulgas vestidas” from Mexico—or, dressed fleas.  Often these little posthumous pests were depicted as a wedding couple, as seen here.  (But I remember some that were a bit more colorful, with the male flea wearing a brightly striped serape and the female a similarly festive rebozo.)  They have become quite collectible and are featured in some museums.   

 My mother wouldn’t countenance my purchasing any, however.  Maybe because I already owned a chameleon named Quincy, who got loose in our car on the way home from the pet shop and terrorized my mother until I managed to catch him and put him back in the bag.  Also, I regularly lobbied for a white rat and was soundly vetoed on that proposition at every turn. 

In retrospect, some dead fleas dressed up in Mexican peasant costumes really should have been greeted as a welcomed request, don’t you think?

9

Immigrants: Part Deux

Here are a few more photos to go along with my original post “We Are All Immigrants.” 

This slightly unhappy child is my Grandfather, Harold, when he must have been around 5 or 6 (I'm guessing). He was born in 1892 and little boys didn't get their first haircut until much later in those days. He's wearing his "Little Lord Fauntleroy" suit and is definitely not pleased with the whole thing. I have seen that expression on my daughter's face many, many times when she was little!

This is a lock of Harold's hair from when the golden curls were finally cut off! My mother had kept and treasured it and a few years ago gave it to me at Christmas time, along with one of the many little dolls my grandmother had made during her years as an invalid. The doll measures just barely 2" in length (not counting the the ribbon she's suspended from.) This scan doesn't do justice to the handiwork that went into her creation. The stitches are very tiny, and so is the beadwork. I have both keepsakes in the same box they came in when my mother gave them to me. Just a little something tangible from Grandma and Grandpa...

This was my Dad, Jack, when he was probably about the same age as my Grandfather in the photo above. No Fauntleroy suit for little boys in this era. It's replaced by a sailor suit, making the posing experience much more comfortable, as evidenced by Dad's sweet smile.

I find this photo particularly poignant. I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading. He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII. He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn't do it. He didn't feel he could face his children if he didn't "do his part." My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother. My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought. This scene could be a Norman Rockwell painting.

And here we have little ol' me! At least I had enough hair here to support a ribbon. My mother used to Scotch Tape a bow to my head when I was first born because I had so little hair...LOL! So this baby is going to be 63 this week, huh...

12

Richard’s Story

Polio.  Perhaps to someone born after 1957, this word probably doesn’t evoke much more than hazy images remembered from a high school history book or health class.  But to people who were born prior to that year, it was a word that held an icy grip on the hearts of parents and families across the nation.  

The polio epidemic of 1952 was one of the worst outbreaks in the U.S., with 58,000 reported cases that year alone.  The following year saw over 35,000 victims.  Nearly everyone either had a family member affected by the disease or knew someone who had been touched by it.  The cause and the transmission of polio weren’t widely understood.  Parents lived in fear of summer vacation because that time of year seemed to be the peak season for infection.  Mothers kept their children home and inside, away from any possible contact with others.  Public swimming pools were closed.  Some people even resorted to keeping their windows sealed tight, out of fear the disease was somehow borne on the summer breezes.

In 1953 I was about six years old and my older brother was ten.  Our neighbors across the street had four children, two of them grown and on their own.  The youngest, Richard, was thirteen and was often a playmate of my brother’s.  Richard was an active, happy-go-lucky kid of the 1950’s.  But that all changed forever.

In July of 1953 Richard and his family had just returned from a camping trip.  My brother had gone over to Richard’s house and the two of them were having fun playing in the family’s travel trailer.  A day or two later, Richard woke up with a stiff neck and back, which worsened over the course of the day.  A visit to the doctor resulted in his being taken to L.A. County General Hospital to the communicable diseases ward, filled with many child patients just like him.  As his condition deteriorated, he underwent a painful spinal tap, a tracheotomy and was put on a respirator.  All this without ever being told exactly what it was he had or what he could expect.  He was later transferred to Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California, which was located in our hometown.  (“Rancho,” as it has come to be known, became the hub of polio treatment and continues to this day to be an important center for rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions.)

Richard spent many months in an iron lung, the tank-like device that breathed for him because he couldn’t do that for himself.  Eventually, he regained that ability and was finally allowed to return home.  He wore a full set of leg braces on each leg, enabling him to walk, but with difficulty.  He graduated from high school in 1959.  Because of his disability, he was prevented from working full-time but made up for that by becoming a writer for publications on medical disability issues and by working with medical students who needed to know more about polio and its effects. He is also president of The Amigos Fund which raises money for patient care at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital.

Despite all that polio took away from him, he still remained a positive and optimistic person.  However, in the 1980’s Richard encountered something that had begun to affect many polio survivors:  post-polio syndrome, or the onset of deterioration of the muscles and nerves that had been affected in the initial disease.  There are several theories about the cause of this, from the over-use of muscles compensating for the effects of polio to a possible reawakening of the virus responsible for the disease.  Whatever the reason, currently there are over 1.1 million polio survivors living in the U.S. and many are facing the same situation.  Richard subsquently required an electric wheelchair in order to be able to get around.  He also had to have another tracheotomy so he could use a portable respirator.

In one of those strange flukes that are so common now with the advent of the internet and “Googling,” I connected with Richard after all these years and found that he is president of a non-profit organization called The Polio Survivors Association.  His website is www.polioassociation.org.  It provides much needed information about post-polio syndrome to anyone who is interested.  There is also a forum for survivors run by the Salk Institute called Polio Today at www.poliotoday.org.  

The average age of polio survivors is about 64.  The doctors who initially treated these patients are gone now, leaving a void in the understanding about the vagaries of this disease and its aftermath.  Richard will be celebrating his 70th birthday in June and remains an upbeat person, even while facing the loss of all the triumphs over polio he fought so hard for in the past. 

Here is a brief video slide show set to music which he created for YouTube about his experience with polio.  Please take a moment to watch it and then give thanks for your health and for those determined people who pioneered the polio vaccine. Unfortunately, many parents today take this for granted and are against vaccinating their children for any childhood illnesses. 

They need to watch Richard’s story and reflect on the lessons it holds for us all.

7

A “Shee-itty” Day.

I’ve written before about the terrors of women’s try-on rooms in department stores.  (See “Does This Teacher Make My Butt Look Big?” for the gory details.) 

But I’d like to revisit that territory today because I was, once again, in a store fitting room confronting my image in the mirror.  This time was a bit more pleasant because I actually was successful (!) in my quest to find something I liked that seemed to fit and didn’t cause me too much anguish in the process.

However, the lady in the room next to me had to have been experiencing a more trying situation.  (They don’t call it the try-on room for nothing.  You try and try and if you get lucky, something might fit.)  Time and again I heard the clack of a hanger being put back on one of those metal hooks, accompanied by a defeated sigh that sounded like a combination of frustration and despair.  The first time I heard it, I just attributed it to possibly fatigue on the part of the lady.  But it continued with one article of clothing after another. 

I certainly felt sympathy toward whomever was in the cramped room next to me, but I also had to smile because it reminded me of a shopping excursion with my mother when I was probably around twelve or thirteen.

I don’t remember which store we were in, but memory (such as it is) seems to indicate it wasn’t exactly what you’d call a “high end” department  store. 

Back in the late fifties, our usual haunt was the Stonewood Shopping Center in Downey, California.  It could be considered a pre-cursor to the big indoor malls that everyone is familiar with now.  In those days it was just a collection of separate stores under one roof and not enclosed like today’s malls.

I think we were in one of the “cheapo” stores like Woolworth’s, but I can’t imagine why we would be in the dressing room there unless they were having a real good bargain on training bras or something.  At that age, I hardly needed one, with a bra size of 28AAA—which translates to “barely discernible to the naked eye.” 

But, in the tween-ager, hope—and hopefully, breast buds—spring eternal.

At any rate, we were crammed together in a little dressing room which was quite warm and littered with straight pins and cardboard collar inserts.  A woman and at least two little kids were in the room next to us.  Apparently the adorable tykes were acting up that day and most likely had just had a head-banging fit in Ladies’ Foundations.  The poor woman was attempting to try on some clothes but the combination of unruly kids and ill-fitting clothing just got the better of her. 

The kids were wailing and fighting, and in between the tussling we would hear their mother’s running dialogue, mainly consisting of the words “Weell, shee-it-uh! in a kind of whine.  (My mother and I marveled at the way she could draw out that one syllable word into three distinct parts.)  The woman had a twangy accent so the “Weell” started out in a higher register than rest of the epithet, and the final “uh” sort of dropped off a breathy precipice.

She continued to talk over the din of the kiddies. “Here ah jest wonted tuh trah on sum clothes, and you jest…” and then she would be overcome with frustration and interject “Weell, shee-it-uh!when words failed her.  This went on the whole time we were in our dressing room until we finally decided to leave before we all came out of our rooms at the same time.  A situation my mother thought might be embarrassing for our embattled neighbor.  But then, maybe not.

It’s not that we didn’t feel sorry for her and her plight, but it all seemed so funny at the time.  When I became a mother, I ruefully came to appreciate her suffering. 

Karmic payback can be ironic that way.

Anyway, the lady’s lament went on to become a catch-phrase between my mother and me.  Whenever things were going wrong or something got out of hand, we would say “Weell, shee-it-uh! and there would be instant understanding between us.

8

Feb. Paintout: S.F.

So, the Virtual Paintout for the month of February is the San Francisco bay area.  What a lot of opportunities there are there!  Bill Guffey (the genius mastermind behind Virtual Paintout) has drawn the boundaries from Santa Rosa in the north, to San Jose in the south and east to Antioch.  That is a lot of territory in which to find subjects to paint and draw! 

That being said, I knew exactly where to find my first location: 

48 Grattan St. in the city of San Franciso

This is where my husband and his two brothers and their mother lived.  The house is a three story “flat,” and the family lived on the third floor while his grandparents lived below them and were the owners.

I did the painting from Google street view showing how the house looks today.  But as a twist, I included a drawing from a snapshot of my husband and his family out in front of the house on Easter Sunday in 1952.  (There is actually more of the house next door showing in the snapshot, with its arches and columns.) 

My husband was amazed at the size of the trees on this street now.  When he was living there, the street had few trees and the ones that were there were quite small.  What a difference almost sixty years can make!

5

Riding Herd with a Pencil

I’ve been working on some Texas related drawings lately and thought I’d post a couple of them.  The first one is of a Texas longhorn cow done with a fine point Sharpie pen.  We have a family of three of these amazing animals down the road from us.  We often stop and talk to them when we go for our two mile walks.  

There are a bull, a cow, and young bull calf in this lovely family unit.  Their horns are just huge and sometimes they put them to good use by delicately scratching hard to reach parts of their bodies with the tips.  Such beautiful colors in their hides too—tans, browns, rusts— with lots of spots. 

They always solemnly observe us as we go by.  My husband’s grandfather had a large ranch in Gilroy, California, back in the ’40s and ’50s and my husband used to help him with the cattle in the summertime.  Grandpa Joe told him that the cattle were much more at ease with a rider on horseback than with a person just walking around them.  It seems that us two-legged humans just ain’t natural, in their eyes.  Maybe that’s why this threesome stares at us with such interest when we pass by. 

A couple of Christmases ago we went to the local parade in town where all the entries are decked out in lights.  One entry was a big longhorn that had a saddle and rider on board, with Christmas lights strung between its horns.  Very festive!

The other is a quick pencil sketch of a cowboy on his horse.  It’s from an old photograph that I found when searching images on Google. 

I  liked the way he sat in the saddle–kind of self-assured and relaxed.  There’s just something about a cowboy, isn’t there?

0

Blast from the Past

I watched the Rose Parade this morning on t.v. in high definition for the first time and was really blown away by the experience.  Amazing detail! 

Even better, the city in So. California where I grew up, Downey, won the Founders Trophy for best float created entirely by community effort. 

Here’s the artist rendering of that float:

When I was a senior in high school, back in the Stone Age of 1965, my friend, Penny, was chosen as a princess for the Miss Downey Court and was lucky enough to ride on the Rose Parade float for that year. 

Lyndon Johnson was President at the time and had amused (and appalled) folks when he used to demonstrate how he pulled the ears of his beagle dogs— lifting their front paws off the ground.  (He said they liked it….hmmm.) 

So the float for ’65 was, naturally, a beagle with a huge cowboy hat.  The dog’s eyes were all googly from having its ears yanked and the title of the float was “Ouch!” 

I found a faded photo of it on the Downey Rose Float Association website:

Downey, by the way,  is well-known for having the oldest McDonald’s restaurant in the country. The 1953 McDonald’s restaurant at 10207 Lakewood Blvd. (at Florence Ave.) was the third franchised McDonald’s built and is the oldest surviving McDonald’s. It was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 1994 list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. It was one of the first restaurants franchised by Dick and Mac McDonald, prior to the involvement of Ray Kroc in the company, and it still has the original “Golden arches” and a 60-foot animated neon “Speedee” sign.

With low sales, damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the lack of a drive-up window and indoor seating, the restaurant was closed. However with both the public and preservationists demanding the restaurant be saved, McDonald’s spent two years restoring the restaurant and reopened it. Customers today can visit the original restaurant and an adjoining gift shop and museum.

I had many a meal from that place when I was a young’un!  The funny thing is, when my husband and I take our grandkids to the McDonald’s here in Texas, there are photos of this one in Downey on the wall next to our favorite booth!  Looking at them always gives me a “Twilight Zone” feeling.  Here I am, in a McDonald’s in central Texas with my grandkids, looking at photos on the wall that just happen to be of the McDonald’s I used to frequent in California in the ’50s and ’60s. 

I think it would make Rod Serling proud…

4

Happy Hallowthanksmastine!

Help me out here.  Christmas was only just last Friday, right?  Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, presents, ho, ho, ho and all that jazz?  New Year’s Eve wasn’t even on the radar yet.

Barely two days later, I walk into our local mega-mart to find the shelves are being stripped of anything remotely Christmasy and Valentine’s Day crap is hurriedly being stocked in its place. 

Out with the snowmen and angels, in with the big heart-shaped boxes of candy and the stuffed teddy bears that have “I Wuv You” embroidered on their furry chests.

All of the holidays are being compressed into one continuous frenzy.  Last August, Halloween and Thanksgiving reared their collective heads when we were all sweating bullets from the unusually hot summer here in central Texas.  The last thing I wanted to do was contemplate slaving over a hot oven whomping up another turkey dinner.  And the grandkids were giddy to try on Halloween costumes even though I knew that in the heat the polyester material would stick to them like napalm.

Halloween was swept out almost before Oct. 31st, but Thanksgiving and Fall decorations remained, joined by the Christmas onslaught—in spades.  Mass produced straw scarecrows vainly jockeyed for position alongside the more glitzy snowmen and angels. 

It was kind of like watching a beauty pageant, but without the breast implants.

I hate to be one of those old farts who preface their complaints about the modern age with “Back in my day…”, but….I will. 

Back in my day, the holidays were more distinct ( or at least they seemed that way to my little brain.)  There was a separation between Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Christmas decorations and all the attendant hoopla didn’t begin to show up in stores until it was officially December. 

 One holiday was allowed the opportunity to gracefully fade away before the next rose up to take its place.  Now, it’s all one big sales extravaganza. 

I know the economy sucks, but would it be too much to ask for a brief breather between holiday festivities before we’re being urged to hurry up and have fun (and buy, buy, buy) again?

4

The Case for a Little Benign Neglect

By today’s standards for parenting, my entire generation shouldn’t have made it to adulthood.

lg_27helicoptersThe other day my daughter attended a “meet and greet” with the teachers at the private school my grand-kids attend.  She figured it would be the usual get-together where the teacher expounds upon the lesson plan for the year, the parent listens while politely munching on a cookie provided by the room mother, and then the teacher fields a few questions on mundane topics such as “can little Herkimer wear his orthodontic headgear in class.”

Instead, my daughter was taken aback by the grilling some of the mothers gave my grandson’s second grade teacher, Miss F., a young single gal with a bookish demeanor but, apparently, nerves of steel. 

The intensity and depth of the questioning were quite surprising. 

Sarah Palin was given more leeway by Katie Couric than the young Miss F. received from her inquisitors.

The climax of the interrogation arrived when one of the mothers said she wanted to personally deliver a Subway sandwich to her daughter every day for snack time.  (I will interject here that the kids in kindergarten through second grade get out of school at 12:15, so there is no actual lunch period.) 

Our Miss F. maintained her cool while informing the mother that this was not an option.  She explained if the children want a snack, they must bring it with them from home.  Anything out of the norm would be disruptive to the class and interfere with the egalitarian atmosphere that the school was trying to project.

The mother wasn’t listening.  She pressed on by asking if she could just “hang it on the classroom doorknob” so as not to disturb anyone.  Miss F. wasn’t buying this either, but apparently it took some discussion before the case was closed.

When my daughter related this conversation to me, I raised my hands to shoulder level and made little fluttering motions with my fingers. 

“What is that?” she asked.

“Helicopter parents” I said, to clarify that I wasn’t having a stroke or something. 

She hadn’t heard that before, so I went on to explain the concept of parents who continuously hover over their kids, anticipating their every need.  These are parents who have completely invested themselves in their children, possibly setting up their kids for a rude awakening at some point when they discover the universe is not centered around them.

In the days since hearing of Miss F.’s inquisition, I’ve been reflecting upon my own upbringing.  Certainly my mother worried about things like me putting my eye out if I ran with scissors, but there wasn’t a lot of concern about many of the things that are taken for granted with child raising today. 

We rode bikes everyday and didn’t wear protective helmets.  We wandered around the neighborhood and beyond all day and into the dusk, only returning home after hearing my father’s loud whistle from the front yard. 

My mother used to put big gobs of Vicks Vapor Rub up our noses when we had colds.  If you actually read the directions, it emphatically says not to use it anywhere internally, only on the chest.  I should be dead right now.  But, if my mother had her way, she would have found a way to cure cancer with Vicks, she loved it so much.

My parents had a baby-blue Oldsmobile.  There were no seatbelts and the dashboard was solid metal.  We kids used to rattle around in the backseat and very often I would ride in what we called “the way back”, that spot that was sort of a ledge behind the backseat and below the rear window.  If there had been a quick deceleration, I would have been a projectile object.  No one gave it any thought.

I practiced a form of benign neglect with my own kids.  Yes, they wore seat belts, always.  (By that time we did have them, thankfully.)  But when it came to overseeing every little detail of their day, that I didn’t do. 

Maybe this attitude of “live and let live” was a result of my mother always wanting to know what I was thinking.  It wasn’t out of concern for my well-being.  She just wanted to know what was going on in my little head at all times.  So perhaps allowing my kids to have some independence from the Thought Police resulted in my being more of a laissez-faire parent overall.

Yes, things have changed in this country since the 50’s and 60’s and not in good ways.  There are a lot more threats out there to children than there used to be.  But kids need room to grow into individuals and they can’t do it with Mom and Dad always fluttering overhead. 

Be like my mother.  Send the kid to school with a warm tuna sandwich. 

Now, that’s living dangerously.

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