TRAVEL BUG TALES: DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
When I say I was brought up in a sheltered environment, I’m not sure whether I’m bragging or complaining. We led a very orderly structured life, frequently thrown into an upheaval by my dad’s job. Perhaps that’s why my mom was fanatical about everything being a certain way. She just kept hoping that if she maintained things just so, maybe that next move would never come.
You got up when Mom said and went to bed when Dad said. What’s more there was little to no variation in the times of those events. You ate what Mom put down on the table for you to eat. You wore what Mom told you to wear. You got a quick snack when you got home from school and then you did your homework. If you got through with your homework, then perhaps, according to what time it was, you could go play, but you came home the second Mom stuck her head out of the house. During dinner, Dad watched the news and after dinner we were allowed to watch one TV show. You went to school every week day and to church on Sunday. No one smoked. No one drank. My parent’s didn’t entertain anyone except the neighborhood kids and those occasions were usually lemonade and popcorn on the screened-in back porch. I certainly didn’t think of myself as having a restricted life, but when I stayed with my cousins, I found out I certainly did have one.
Aunt Helen and Uncle Billy
Aunt Helen was a full grown woman, but when I was twelve, we were almost the same size. I remember her as always being dressed up – never looking scruffy the way my mom did around the house. A childhood disease had crippled one of her legs, so she walked with a limp, but more often than not she was sitting down. Whenever she was sitting down she was smoking a cigarette. The only word I had for her in my childhood vocabulary was exotic.
Uncle Billy was tall, very tall. Somehow their kids were his kids and not Helen’s, which I didn’t understand, but they were still my cousins. Uncle Billy was a longshoreman. I had no idea what that was, but it meant that he did not always get up and go to bed at the same time, the way we did. I did understand that Helen was my dad’s sister and Billy was not related to me in the same way, but I sure felt closer to Uncle Billy than I did Aunt Helen.
Uncle Billy was and is a fisherman. In my favorite memory of him he is fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Up until that moment I thought fishing was something you did in a boat or standing on the side of pond with a cane pole, but Uncle Billy and another uncle were chest high in the waves. A wave washed his wallet out of the pocket of his overalls and to my dad’s astonishment, Uncle Billy was more interested in reeling in the fish than he was in his wallet. Serendiptiously, the wallet washed up on the shore and except for a little water, everything was there. That kind of luck has never been mine.
Doylene and Niecie
Doylene was and is one of the most elegant creatures I have ever known. She has always been long, tall and willowy. She has long blonde hair, wide blue eyes and porcelain skin. She’s a little older than I am, but on that particular summer I felt like a gawky ugly duckling next to a graceful swan.
Niecie, short for Denise, was more my sister’s age and I was so fascinated with Doylene that I can recall very little about her sister from that trip. I know she was there and that she spent time with my little sister, but the rest is erased.
What I remember most from my visit was a walk we took. It seemed to me we walked much further than I was ever allowed to go on my own. In fact, the school was down at the end of our street and I had to ask permission to go there. What’s more we walked to her boyfriend’s house. A boyfriend was completely beyond my keen.
We only stayed with Helen’s family for a night or two. Then it was time for us to head over to Aunt Sis’s house where we spent most of our time during that visit. Come back next week and I’ll tell you about our days there.