Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Earliest Childhood Memories

For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD,   my confidence since my youth. Psalms 71:5

How far back can you remember?  Are you one, two...five years old?  Are things fuzzy around the edges or can you remember faces and places, smells and sounds, fears and tears, giggles and wiggles? In my writing group, a challenge was put before us to write about our earliest memories.  After I completed my story several weeks ago, I thought around my birthday might be a fun time to post it on my blog.  I'll take you back to the '50's and '60's  in So. California.  What a blessing to have grown up as I did.

“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.”  This nursery rhyme decorated my bedroom wall; wooden plaques of cut out characters told the story.  Trying to focus, Jack and Jill literally tumbled down the wall, their appearance fuzzy and multiplied across the surface.  My eyesight needed some intervention.  Probably somewhere between the ages of two and three, I remember the trips to the eye doctor, Dr. Riffenberg.  He had an office in a brick building somewhere in the big city of Pasadena.  My mom and I walked up cement stairs, followed by a long cement hall and dark red bricks following us inside as well. In the dark office I sat in a chair surrounded by big white machinery and eye charts.  Dr. Riffenberg wore a white coat and had dark hair streaked with grey.  He had very thick glasses himself with funny circle glasses attached to those; like glasses for his glasses.  I just liked saying his name maybe that is why I remember all this.  Minor surgery correcting my vision problem soon took place, but all I remember is the sherbet.  My mother saved my stitches, first evidence of repaired brokenness. 
I lived with Mom and Dad in Arcadia, California.  My mother’s parents resided nearby as well. Randomness defines many of these memories, all very sensual.  A huge avocado tree shaded the backyard with leaves so big and shiny for me to collect in bundles. In the front yard, a fuchsia plant dangled its unique blossoms as I sat and did the same, dangling my feet off the front porch. I plucked off the flower to “pop” them open.  The colors stunningly brilliant, but sometimes, the magenta petals would bleed unto my little sweaty palms.
  The Helm’s Bakery truck navigated our street on the weekend.  The smell from Heaven of fresh baked bread and donuts continues to weaken me to this day.  The baker‘s van opened in the back to high-glossed light-grained wood cabinets with trays that slid down on a slant, revealing the fresh baked and glazed treats.
The jelly-filled, messy but my favorite.

 Our milk, in glass bottles, magically appeared in a wire milk container that sat at our front door.  The drive-through dairy, close by as well, burned down one day.  I remember the smell of the fire and feeling scared seeing the smoke clouds billow up and darken my sky.
This is the actual dairy in El Monte

  Nancy, my cherished, simple, first-loved doll, I held close.  My mother sewed us matching outfits. I loved shoe boxes, coloring books, and play dishes.  Building my own towns with the decorated shoe boxes, and saving bottle caps to make flowers from, my artsy-craftsy side came at an early age. 
  Thinking back to these days, I am disappointed that some memories of important events in my young life, I do not remember, like the birth of my sister Lauren at age three and the physical move to West Covina at age five. Since my grandparents lived close by, I am sure they kept a good eye on me during these eventful times.   My sister’s presence in my life never had a start; she’s always existed for me in a positive way. 

My father, a quiet, hard-working blue collar genius, read the paper every morning and put tons of sugar in his coffee and iced-tea.  When we first moved in to a brand new house in the new suburb of West Covina, the huge back and front yards came lacking any landscape.  While mom worked at organizing every corner of the inside, my dad began with the dirt.  He built a square frame and nailed chicken wire across it, placing it over his wheel barrow.  With each shovel of dirt across the back yard and front yard, he dug, sifting out the rocks and concrete debris.  We had piles of big rocks and piles of little rocks.  Covered from head to toe with dirt, I learned that drinking from the hose was OK.  Somehow, the rocks and piles of unwanted rubble disappeared and my dad’s canvas began to take shape in our yard.  I always went with my Dad to his favorite places on Saturday, Pick’s Hardware, the basement of Sears in El Monte, and the Japanese Nursery. Funny, but each place had a distinct smell. Pick’s Hardware smelled of oil which covered the nuts and bolts in the bins, a frequent stop of my father.  The Sear’s basement, popcorn of course, but the nursery was my favorite; wet, earthy, fresh rain on a hot day smell. (I will have to post a pic of me at age  five or so with my Dad, but they are all on "slides" so this may take awhile). 

I remember the crunching sounds of the pebbles laid out on the pathways as I walked in my buckled sandals amongst the giant tropical plants, imagining the wild animals at any turn.  My dad took the time to find unique greenery that he tenderly cared for with such pride.  I learned so much about gardening and horticulture from my dad.  In our front yard, we planted festuga grass, agave and ajuga ground cover, but my favorite,  a chorisia speciosa floss silk tree, (Japanese). A lime green trunk with big thorns kept the cats away, but the beautiful pink blossoms, almost orchid like, came at spring.  I spent many summers raking the skinny long leaves then plopping down under it to read my favorite Nancy Drew mystery or Laura Ingalls Wilder book.

President Kennedy, assassinated in Dallas, Texas on a November morning, a third grade memory that still today, is very vivid.  Our principal, Mr. Prickett, called an assembly where the children gathered in our cafeteria.  He bowed his head and prayed for our President.  Dismissed from school, I walked home, which was just across the street. Through the backdoor, I greeted my mother crying in the bathroom.  Once a month, we heard the air raid siren go off, just a few blocks over between the library where I spent a lot of time in the summer, and the fire station.  Behind these buildings sat Bethany Baptist Church where Mrs. Cubak’s passion for Jesus spilled over into my own heart.  In my childhood room with hot pink carpet and a pink-tinted mirror, I bowed my head and accepted the Lord into my heart at age nine.

Mrs. Grace Cubak today at age 95! 

John 14:26 (NIV)

 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Within the sanctification of our Christian walk, things can start off a little fuzzy.  When you take a part in His beautiful creation around you, sit under the shade of his grace, explore the colors of his character, breath in deep the fragrance of forgiveness, and allow God to sift you for his purpose, sorting out the rubble and dispose of it,  memories become sweeter in time.  As much as we want to take control sometimes, the pink-tinted mirror and the glasses on top of glasses in our lives still reveal a child of God in need of a savior.  Today I am still walking on His path, hearing His “crunch” footstep at my side when I listen. Sometimes to a fault, my parents tried hard to have things perfect. Many times, reality became a hard lesson for all of us.   Blessed to have forgiving, loving parents; unconditional love became a concept I easily understood. Becoming a parent myself, that same love for my children and from my Lord, continued to teach me more and reminded me to create happy memories for my own children. I only pray that is so.

Acts 20:32 (NIV)

  “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.