When Something Bad Happens, People Look to Me for Answers
I seem to have an aptitude for fixing the bad things life throws our way
One of the fondest memories of my early childhood years was weeding the flower garden at my aunt's house. That's where she taught me the difference between a flower and a weed. Until that time, I thought dandelions were flowers.
We were lucky because Aunt Mamie and Uncle Chip and their two girls lived right across the street from us, on Washington Street. In each of our yards, there was an abundance of flowers. Aunt Mamie loved snapdragons and the whole side of her yard was filled with a wide selection of many different varieties.
The vines growing up all along the chain-link fence was Honeysuckle, which was technically a flower, but it was so invasive, it was considered to be a weed--a sweet-smelling, honey-nectar succulent, but still a weed all the same.
In our yard across the street, Mom had planted what grew into a very large, long-stemmed red rose bush. This bush was at least 8 ft. Tall, by 8 ft. Long, and 6 ft. Wide. It had huge thorns on each stem, so we had to be very careful when we cut the stems making sure to remove the thorns so we could share with others.
Our Parochial school and church, St. Joseph's, were only a block or so down the street from where we lived, so we made sure to take a mixture of snapdragons and roses to the church to adorn the altar once a week.
Of course, we also used the roses for brownie points with our teachers. Our "gifts" were much more sought after than apples. They smelled wonderful, lasted a long time, and were pleasing to the eye, so you could see why we'd use them for the brownie points.
From the fourth grade to the eighth, I was one of each of my teachers' favorite students. Being a teacher's pet had benefits. They would occasionally overlook a missed homework assignment or a bad grade on a test, so, it worked to my advantage.
We were also fortunate to have a climbing grapevine arbor in our backyard, filled with what seemed like an endless supply of purple grapes. Mom would fix a batch of grape jelly and store it in Mason jars and we would occasionally take a jar to our teachers.
You see, we sometimes needed all the brownie points we could muster, because we were quite rambunctious at that age, always getting into some sort of trouble at school. Roses and snapdragons work every time.
Aunt Mamie had this pet cat, Twinkie, and we all loved playing with her. My brother and I, along with our two cousins, would pester her to keep her from ignoring us and I'm sure she was glad when we would finally cross the street back to our house.
As it turns out, Twinkie went missing one time and was gone the entire day. Aunt Mamie had us looking everywhere up and down our street to see if she had maybe wandered into someone's yard. Although we had no clue what it meant at the time, we guessed she went honky tonkin', as she was wont to do at times. At least, that's what Aunt Mamie called it.
Finally, Twinkie was found. She was out in the backyard, next to the outhouse, right around supper time. My brother walked up to her, picked her up without her usual fuss, and carried her into Aunt Mamie's house, then we headed across the street again and got ready for supper.
Our chores every afternoon were to wash our hands and set the table with plates and silverware. Mom or Dad took care of pouring our milk because we were sometimes clumsy and would spill it on the floor, which would necessitate a quick cleanup amidst some very colorful words being expressed.
Twinkie's round of extra-curricular activities eventually spawned a bulge in her tummy. My brother and I thought she was just having an extra big appetite. That was when Mom clued us in that Twinkie was going to become a mother.
Sure enough, a couple of months later Twinkie was loudly meowing and so pudgy she looked more like she was wobbling when she walked. Then, suddenly, she came up missing again. We searched high and low again, to no avail. She was nowhere to be found. Mom thought Twinkie might have gone somewhere to have her babies safely, and she was right.
It wasn't until late the next afternoon that we heard Twinkie meowing again. That was good news to Aunt Mamie because it meant Twinkie was close by. We kept calling her and she kept meowing, but we couldn't narrow down where the noise was coming from.
I went into the house to get a drink of water and, when I came back outside, I saw Mom, Dad, Aunt Mamie, Uncle Chip, and my brother staring at the crawl space opening of our house. They had located Twinkie under our house, along with four sweet little kittens.
The problem that presented itself was how to get the new mother and babies out from under the house. The 2 x2 ft-square access hole was so small, only one person could possibly squirm through to get them... Me. I was barely seven at the time, thin, and pretty wiry, so I told them I'd go get all the cats, but not without a flashlight--I was still afraid of the dark back then.
Once I was armed with a flashlight, I mustered my courage and squiggled my way underneath the house. Luckily, they weren't too far under and I was able to grab each one carefully, crawl back, and hand them to one of the adults outside. Twinkie seemed relieved and didn't make a fuss at all as I handed her and her kittens out the hole.
After I crawled back to the opening for the fifth and final time, I poked my head and arms through the hole, Uncle Chip reached down and pulled me out the rest of the way. He and Dad started dusting me off because I was filthy and had cobwebs all over me. When they were done, I scrammed back inside our house as fast as I could and took a bath, making sure to look for spiders as I washed.
Due to my size and youth, I had been the obvious choice for this task. This was actually the very first time someone turned to me to fix a problem, but it wasn't going to be the last. And, as luck would have it, it would turn into a recurring theme throughout my life. But, enough of that for now.
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