Taking a break from politics
My mother was a British war bride. My father had met her when he was stationed in Liverpool during World War II. They fell in love, got married and then came me.
I was 1-year-old when the war was over. Nine months later, mom and I joined Dad in Iowa. His mother and eight siblings had lived on a farm in Emmetsburg. It's still there. My cousin's family cares for it.
Mom and Dad chose to live in Spirit Lake. My first memory is one of me sitting on the kitchen table in the old GI housing, while my mother tied my shoes. She was crying. I have always thought that she was probably missing England, which must have seemed so far away …
The GI housing was a rather rough situation. But I stood my ground (with hands on my hips and my chin in the air). I told the little boys to stay on THEIR side of the complex! At one point Danny Dayton threw a Coke bottle and hit me in the back of the head. My mother and a neighbor lady carried me to a clinic that wasn't far away. I still have a small place on my scalp that has a scar with no hair. I wonder where Danny Dayton is now?
My father was a carpenter and the year before I turned five, he built a house for us. It was kitty-corner from the Methodist Church, next door to Dr. Scott's and across the street from the Phelps house. Dad painted it red.
I loved that little house. I slept in a bedroom with my baby sister, but they made a playroom for me in the attic with a pull down staircase. It was there that I made paper dolls, cut clothes for them from the Sears catalog, listened to the exciting sounds of Iowa's crackling thunderstorms and saw frequent bolts of lightning. The rain on the roof followed. I felt safe inside.
It was also along the sidewalk in front of our house that my father held onto the back of the bicycle seat, as he ran beside me and finally let go.
The kids played cowboys and Indians in an empty lot nearby and I remember a boy who may have been 11 or 12, putting a stick under his arm, falling to the ground and pretending to be dead. I was very relieved when he stood up and laughed!
In the wintertime I took my little red sled and spent entire Saturdays climbing a small hill nearby and then “swishing” down it, with all of the other children in the neighborhood.
One winter there was 10 feet of snow (according to my mother) right outside our front door. My father dug a tunnel from the house to the street and we crawled through it. I thought it was wonderful!
I walked (by myself) to kindergarten. I remember the feeling of the sidewalk beneath my feet (finally without boots) in late February or March. Mrs. Landstrom was my teacher and I loved her. Miss Johnson taught me how to read, in the first grade.
The Easter Bunny always put a brand new box of color crayons in my basket. I loved the smell of them at the time and even now, whenever I open a box of Crayons, the waxy fragrance takes me back.
My mother bought a player piano for us and took the player out, so I wouldn't depend on it when I started taking piano lessons. But before she did that I loved pushing (with all my might) on the two pedals and pretending that I was already an accomplished pianist.
I don't remember being brought into the discussion, but during the summer, after I turned seven years old, my parents decided to move to Oregon. Dad had no job there, but my mother thought the weather would be similar to England's. She didn't like the hot summers and cold winters of Iowa. So they sold the house, our furniture and everything else but the car and a few of our favorite toys. Dad put a board over the backseat and floor and we played there as we drove across the country — for a week — with no seat belts! (We stayed in a different motel every night.)
Finally they hollered when we crossed the border into Oregon and my little sister (who was only two) said, "If this is Ogun, let's sit down!" We wound up in the small town of Lebanon, where I lived until I graduated from high school. My father continued to do carpentry.
At first I missed Iowa terribly. And for a long time I had dreams about being back there. My friends. The snow. My little room in the attic. When I went to school in the fall, the kids in Oregon made fun of me because I read so fast. I was a year ahead, because Oregon schools didn't have kindergartens at that time.
I am now 73 years old and I wonder if anyone is still there who may have gone to school with me — anyone who went down the slopes with their sled, too. Or maybe someone who passes the house that my Dad built (every day) but doesn't know about that little girl who still loves the house and her memories of Iowa very much.