The adults in my life yarned tales. Many Sunday afternoons were spent visiting aunts, uncles, my parents' cousins, and even just friends. Ah, the Sunday afternoon visits and falling asleep on the way home from some far off relative's home sometimes. One aunt, Nome,- short for Naomi, had particularly engaged me on these visits. Her children were much older than I, meaning not much playing. Aunt Nome with an understated style made up this delightful story of a mouse that lived under the bottom step of the stairs. The stairs were interior stairs with a little landing at the bottom and a heavy door, with that single step into the living room. That wonderful step had a perfect round hole in one side. I would stare and stare in that hole to see the mouse while the adults chattered. It kept me busy imaging I saw that mouse. One year, when I was much older, they gave me a 4 inch mouse made of a slimy material popular at that time. I had quit looking for that mouse, but that was quite a joke.
I can remember a cousin of my dad's, who was a bit older than my father. We were sitting around the table eating doughnuts and he explained the goodness of a plain cake doughnut so well that I still think of him when we get doughnuts. Again, the stories were of a time far away, yet they were real because of the words they used and that I listened. Talk of outhouses, pumps, skinny dipping at the river, good homemade food filled my head.
Neighbors sat outside on summer evenings and talked. I almost enjoyed listening to their stories over playing. I did a fair amount of both, though Our next door neighbors built their house in 1921. The wife told me stories of when she was a little girl, like the day I was awarded my Bible, she told me how she got hers in church, too. I remember playing with her daughter's kitchen toys- they were made of metal, very sturdy. She told me many stories of her girl, who was the same age as my mother.
Teachers were great. Not only did they read great stories, they told great stories from their childhood or their children's. The 2nd grade teacher I told you about when I wrote about my father, explained prejudice to us. When she was a little girl they had a African American hired man and he got cut, his blood was red like hers, and that's how she knew they were the same, and we should think of everyone the same, too. I remember also she had us to ask our parents if it was all right to read from the Bible at Christmas time, and we all thought that it was strange she asked us.
Another teacher talked about the sacredness of cemeteries. When she was small, they lived next to a cemetery and it had very tempting hills. Yes, they gave into temptation and then were in trouble for rolling down those hills. I believe she also was the one who told us about Prohibition. Her father owned a general store and customers would try to hide that they were buying ingredients to make beer, but some were so bold they didn't mix up the ingredients, just asked for them straight out.
Great books, too- From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankmiler, and another one that went on and on about a swamp in FL, but the writer never got to that story. And I can never forget Pippy Longstocking. What wonderful flights from my desk at Oakview Elementary those stories took me!
School was so much more than book learning and tests. We really bonded with our teachers because they shared so much with us.