GUEST POST “My Twenty Three Years As An Orphan” ~ by Mike Sackett
I can’t decide if I’m seeing my old life as Walt and Mary’s late-hatching egg through smoke, fog or dust…but something is making those years hazy, so it might be all three.
After popping out five Depression-era peeps in as many years, Mom and Dad took a decade or so off to watch Seabiscuit blow by War Admiral, the Japs blow up Pearl Harbor and Hitler blow his brains out before deciding to add a baby boomer to the family menagerie.
Of course I took being somebody’s baby wren for granted…that was who I was and that was who I thought I’d be forever.
And I was right…
…until a new forever came flapping through the ether and made me into the motherless old puffin I am today.
So I’ve spent the last twenty three years as an orphan…a long time to be without Mom’s chicken noodle soup or her soft boiled eggs smushed into a cup with a slice of the soft, white Styrofoam we called rat bread, (after hearing that Canadian lab rats got cancer from eating the stuff). NOT such a long time to be without Dad’s barely-subsonic Sunday drives to church that put us all in a mood to meet our Maker.
Mom never learned to drive, not that she didn’t try. But she’d only get behind the wheel after a shot of whiskey to calm her nerves.
The whiskey didn’t seem to work that well as I recall.
I remember as a four year old, flying in slow-motion somewhere above the back seat of Dad’s green Plymouth as Mom plummeted off the road and down an embankment before finally coming to rest in Herring Run Stream. Betty Prosser, who was moonlighting as her driving instructor, was still staring blankly at the dash, listening to the sizzle of cold water on the hot engine as Mom exited the car, muttering words I didn’t think she knew.
Not that we needed a car.
Nobody drove their kids to school in the fifties. The bus fare was a dime but most of us walked to school so we could spend all our money on candy or a Saturday Three Stooges festival at the Arcade movie. Why the hell anyone ever thought Shep was funny is beyond me but we kids didn’t care. We were there for the air conditioning.
Like most people who’d lived through the depression, Mom was a penny-pincher who used to tell me never to leave a penny lying on the sidewalk.
And why would I? In those days a penny would buy me a licorice whip or some sugar buttons on a paper strip or one of those little wax soda bottles filled with sugar syrup.
Finding a nickel was a big deal and if I was lucky enough to see a quarter…well, I trembled with excitement before picking up one of those babies.
Mom was also a mother hen who walked me into Sister Mary Katherine’s first grade class on my first day of school and even waited outside in my old VW Beetle when I was sworn into the army.
I’m painfully aware that my pre-orphan reminiscences might seem like something straight out of the Stone Age to this tech-connected, mic’d-up generation of cybernetic mouthpiece mumblers, but to Mom the fifties were a time of googly-eyed, ‘what will they think of next?’ new-fangledness.
She was born above her father’s music store in south Baltimore in 1908. Her father, Rutherford, played every instrument in the store and was a trombone player in Baltimore’s Electric Park Band.
For a couple of decades, Electric Park lit up the worlds of working families who’d never seen an electric light bulb but who now could walk with their children in the dark of night along brightly lit walking paths leading to the gazebo in the center of the park where the Electric Park Band played John Philip Sousa marches and old favorites like De Camptown Races and Swanee River.
Mom told me how handsome her dad looked under the gazebo drenched in white light in his bright blue uniform with stripes down the trousers and a big tall hat with a white feathered pom-pom on the front.
Angels have white feathers too…or so I hear.
Mom, if you’re listening would you mind spreading your angel’s wings and paying me a visit?
Please, Mom. I’ve been an orphan far too long.