Remembering childhood

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

What is it about holidays and festivities that turn our minds to memories of the past? We watched the July 4th parade from the embankment of Peachtree Parkway South and, of course, “saw” in memory our little girls caught up in the squealing, cart-wheeling, candy-catching melee of an all-day celebration.

I remember well the July 4th in New Jersey when all three of the girls – one each in Cadette, Junior, and Brownie uniforms – walked in the parade together and allowed me to join them because I was wearing the leader’s uniform and pulled rank on them,

It usually managed to rain in Haddon Heights before dark fell. All the phones in town were ringing: “Will they have the fireworks at the park?” “What’s the rain-date again?” “How are we going to know if they cancel?”

It was a small enough town that everyone knew whether the fireworks were off or on simply by picking up a blanket and heading for the baseball park. If the blanket was wet by the time you were walking up 10th Avenue, it was raining. If it was dry, it wasn’t.

I don’t know why my memory box suddenly sprang open today. It may be that the explosions overhead during the fireworks display joggled some memories loose, all in disarray.

For some reason I can’t fathom, I’m thinking of how my mother used to “flop” us with sheets smelling of sunshine. When I was quite young, our clothes dryer was a rope that zigzagged across the backyard to toss to the skies sheets and towels, miscellaneous clothes, tablecloths and pillow slips.

My mother was not a well-organized person (her legacy to me) and sometimes it was nearly dark before the wash got dry. She’d order us to go wash up and brush teeth and if we were ready and our toys put away, we’d get “flopped.”

Good incentive. We loved it.

Mom put the bottom sheet on, and I’m thinking this sheet was probably the top sheet last time. Since the top sheet barely stayed on the bed, it certainly didn’t get as soiled as the bottom sheet, allowing Mom to reduce that part of the laundry by half.

I should note too that there was no such thing as fitted bottom sheets in our lives then. In fact I don’t believe I had bottom sheets with mitered or elasticized corners until we were married in 1956, and they were the gifts of pitying relatives.

But back to flopping. Our roles – my brother’s and mine – were to lie very straight and very still in the middle of the bed while Mom accordion-pleated the top sheet and flung the sheet, anchoring the bottom hem, until the billowing white cotton flared over us and dropped like a fog to cover us.

We giggled and wriggled and cried out, “Again, Mom. Do it again!” and she’d sound very strict as she scolded, “You didn’t get your feet clean tonight. Just one more flop.” But instead of stopping, she’d give us two or three more flops and we giggled anew for every one.

My mom took life seriously, and it’s hard for me, at such a remove, to remember her laughing or joking. She must have; I just can’t remember. I knew from early on that she snared my daddy primarily because she wanted children. She was 38 when I was born and 40 + when Fred came along, and I will say she and Daddy made sure we had everything we ever needed. Not necessarily wanted, but needed.

She lived long enough to laugh and love and spoil her three granddaughters.

Maybe that’s why I got to sentimentalizing on the 4th of July. Mom’s birthday was July 5th. She lived, although not particularly happily, to be 90 years old, and died in 1988.

You deal with the memories you have.

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