Hives on Thanksgiving   Leave a comment

We moved from Grand Coulee, Washington to Oregon when I was 14 years old. The Teamsters Union could not prevent my dad from being laid off from his job on the Grand Coulee Dam where he and his two brothers, Dutch and Fred, worked construction building a road across the top of the dam. I can’t remember if the road was completed or if the job stalled, or why my parents did not stay in Washington and look for work. Some things I never thought to ask and now my parents are both gone. Our adventure began with my parents deciding that Oregon seemed like a nice state to live in, and the belief that my father could find work driving a logging truck. We set off without a town in mind. We would choose the right one when we saw it. We drove to Portland. It was too big, so we continued south looking for a place to settle. My younger brothers were three and six years old. Bill the youngest began washing the car windows with kleenex. He would spit and clean, and spit and clean. Mom began to think that Bill was picking up on the stress of trekking into the unknown with nothing but what we had with us, and that he was doing something he could control like obsessively washing the car windows. Either that or he was just a bored three year old. We had only lived in Washington for six months when Dad’s job ended. I has started school in Grand Coulee and ended my 8th grade year there in 1970, but we moved across the Columbia River to a different small town,  and I began my Freshman year at a school in Coulee Dam, and had just started to feel okay about moving away from Chadron, Nebraska where I’d left all my grade school friends at the Assumption Academy, and  just as my new classmates began to feel like friends, we loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies minus the black gold and moved to Oregon. I think it was on this road trip that we stopped at a motel and dad said to mom, “Go in and get us a room.”

Mom said, “I’m not going in, I’m a mess.”

Dad said to my older sister, “Becky, you go in. ”

She said, “I don’t wanna go in.”

My three year old brother said, “Sonabitch, I go in.”

We finally landed in Lebanon, Oregon and lived there for six months. My father never found a job.  My mom worked sporadically, hardly any hours, at a little market near our house, our cold drafty house. I joined the swim team, we were on food stamps, I bought a red peace sign about the size of a basketball and hung it in my bedroom window.

The week before Thanksgiving, my mom said, “I think we will have chicken for Thanksgiving.”

“No turkey?” I said devastated. “How can we have Thanksgiving without turkey?”

We had turkey. And that afternoon on that rainy Thanksgiving, I broke out with hives. Never had them before or since, but I think it was the day I realized how poor we really were. My sister and I took a walk, then Becky and I sat on the bed, wrapped in blankets, reading from mom’s big book of prose and poetry. We read Edgar Allen Poe stories aloud to each other and poems about the road less traveled and the loveliness of trees. That winter my mother taught my dad how to read with a book she found at the library called, “Why Johnny Can’t Read.”

Christmas came, and somehow, my mom had presents for us. Mine was a slim book of poetry. My sister, Becky,  had recently moved to Seattle. She took a civil service exam and was thrilled to begin a new job as a government telephone operator transferring important calls overseas. Becky bought me a navy blue heavy knit skirt that reached my ankles and had a wide belt with yellow butterflies on it that tied in the front.

My brother Ted was home on leave from the Navy when he and Dad moved Becky to Seattle before Christmas. I rode along and stayed three days, then rode the bus home.  Again I have no idea how they paid for the gas or my bus ticket. Money Becky had saved? Ted? I will find out from these siblings, but know that memory works in mysterious ways. Author Milan Kundera said something to the effect, “Something occurs, and the work of forgetting and transforming begins and it becomes our memory.” What we decide to forget and transform is entirely up to each individual, and so the same happening becomes that person’s memory, remembered differently than the person experiencing the same event.  My cousin Valerie moved from Chadron and was with my sister in Seattle. Valerie and I took a walking tour of the city while Becky worked. We stood at the bottom of the Space Needle and looked up. We rode the monorail, and I was flashed by a man in a raincoat while we waited at the bus station, and then approached by people called “Jesus Freaks.” All in all, a great learning experience for a 14-year-old country girl. I bought an “Easy Rider” poster of Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda  that did not impress my mother, but my boyfriend Dusty Corrall, (his real name) thought it was cool. He picked me up in Albany, Oregon at the bus stop when I returned from Seattle, and he took me to his workplace where  all types of military meals were freeze-dried and then shipped to Vietnam.

I read a quote the other day, “Without trouble, there ain’t no life.”

Thanks mom and dad. Thanks Dusty for helping me steal the “Mary Street” sign, and thank you siblings who accompanied me on that bumpy road that was all ours no matter how we remember it.


Posted November 24, 2010 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: