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AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Elizabeth
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Chapter OneRebecca's Life 1951 to 1965
Rebecca Johnson tried and tried to recall being born or at least being an infant. Various people she had met throughout her life could recall that time in their lives, but she could not.
However, there was still a lot of territory for her to recall from pre-school all the way to beginning of 8th grade in high school. In remembering different moments of her life, she could feel the old pains and heartaches return; and in the moments of great happiness, she would savor the feelings and keep the memories deep within her heart.
The earliest memory, which Rebecca could recall, was the first time she climbed out of her baby crib. She was old enough to sleep with her other two sisters in their big bed but apparently, she was the only one who thought so. One summer morning, Rebecca awoke only to find everyone gone (to her mind, anyway). As she listened, she could hear "everyone" downstairs towards the kitchen area talking and laughing. Rebecca cried out for someone to come and get her from her crib several times but no one came. Frustrated, Rebecca put one leg over the railing, then the other and slid down the side. She was so excited that she had mastered getting out of bed by herself, but by the time Rebecca slid/toddled down the stairs to the kitchen, she had forgotten her achievement and was angry with her family because they had ignored her cries for help. Rebecca's temper did not last very long and her mother praised her for doing such a "big" thing, as getting out of bed and coming down the stairs - all by herself. From that time forward, Rebecca would climb out of bed without anyone's help or permission, which meant that she could climb out of the crib any time she wanted - to play instead of sleep.
One Christmas season, a major storm hovered over their city and the high winds knocked down the power lines. The city was without electricity so the houses in the area were cold and dark. It was a frightening time for little Rebecca - the house seemed spooky and scary - especially with the bright white light of the lightning bolts showing through the windows and the booming sounds of thunder. The Johnson's were all huddling in the den, under blankets with candles giving them the only light. Being Christmas, Rebecca knew that her new Tiny Tears doll was in the other room near the Christmas tree and she wanted her doll desperately. The only way for her to get her doll was to walk bravely into the living room, which was at the other end of the house, alone with a flashlight. The house seemed twice as large in the dark but she went ahead, found her doll, and occupied herself by lovingly playing "mommy", instead of concentrating on the storm.
The Johnson's house seemed like a castle - it was a two-story, granite house located at the bottom of a hill (from the street level) with large trees, small lake and a long curvy, gravel driveway. One of Rebecca's elementary school friends Julie, told her years later that her mother had told her once "Stay away from that house - we don't know who lives there." Julie said that the granite house did not look like the other brick houses in the neighborhood and her parents thought mysterious people must live there.
The interior stairway had 13 steps, which Rebecca would count every time she went either up or down; and she and her sisters used to take turns sliding and bumping down each step, while riding on a blanket with one of the other sisters pulling.
The second story floor was hardwood and in the winter, very cold, while the first level had carpet. There were two bedrooms upstairs where Mr. & Mrs. Johnson shared one and the three girls shared the other. The bathroom had red and white tile and for some reason Rebecca never liked the red color but did like the room because it was small and compact. When she was very little, Rebecca used to share the bathtub with her mother, as she was too young to bathe alone. One evening while bathing, Rebecca asked her mother with total innocence, what "those things were" and her mother replied that Rebecca was growing up and could bathe by herself. What fun Rebecca had playing in the water - she now had the whole bathtub to herself!
The main level of the house consisted of a living room, den, kitchen, breakfast nook, and a dining room. Off from the kitchen was a door leading to the screened breezeway where they would have summer dinners (supper). There were three screened doors and the girls were constantly being told, "Don't slam the doors." as they were either running in or out - which they usually slammed anyway. Standing in the breezeway just after a rainstorm and watching the changing colors of the yard with so many different shades of green and smelling the freshness of the rain, was something Rebecca did many times throughout her living there. That wonderful memory came alive every time it rained.
The breakfast nook had a door, which led to the basement, the one area of the house that Rebecca did not like. It had an earthy odor, as only part of the basement was finished with concrete, and was dark except for two light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The stairs leading down to the basement were made of wood and Rebecca tripped and fell down them once. She was ok and not injured but it did make her more careful walking down those wooden stairs. The open area held the washer and later on the dryer, and at the other side of the room was where Rebecca's father kept his tools. The next space was a room with a fireplace alongside one of the walls. When Rebecca's father was starting his own company back in the 50's, he used that space as his office. To Rebecca however, it just seemed like a cold, empty room made of concrete with granite walls.
Rebecca had a Great, Great, Great Aunt Cleo who used to visit from time to time. She was of course, old - well, she looked old to Rebecca. Which side of the family she came from was unknown - it was not important anyway to Rebecca. One thing that her Aunt used to do just for her and not for her sisters was take out her false teeth and show them to her. Rebecca did not know about false teeth back then and thought her Aunt was removing her actual teeth. Being the last daughter born to the Johnson's and having two older sisters sometimes made Rebecca feel left out or omitted, which was no one's fault because she was too young for many of their activities. Rebecca believes that was the reason she thought it so special, that someone would do something so unheard of as to take out their teeth. It was something done just for fun, between her Great, Great, Great Aunt, and herself.
Before Rebecca was old enough to start kindergarten, she used to take naps in the afternoons with her mother on the sofa. Rebecca would snuggle up next to her and fall asleep. Around three o'clock every afternoon, Rebecca would start to awaken as she could hear their parakeet loudly chattering, the neighborhood kids walking home from school, and her mother working about the house. While she was still lying on the sofa listening to these sounds, she would have the briefest feeling of abandonment. The feeling did not last but a moment and Rebecca would hop up from the sofa ready to see her sisters when they arrived home from school. Rebecca used to wonder how she could sleep when so much was happening around her and felt as if she was missing something exciting.
The favorite place in the house to play and hide for Rebecca was inside closets, especially the kitchen's lower cupboards. She would remove all the items and make herself a little house. Rebecca would take books, toys, blankets, pillows and a flashlight and be all comfortable inside the little cubbyhole. Rebecca was in some closet, somewhere about the house, on most any day. When anyone was looking for her they had to yell "Rebecca, where are you?" She had so much fun in her own little world.
During the summers before Rebecca started elementary school, she would spend afternoons with a hammer and nails. Her mother would locate pieces of wood and allow Rebecca to hammer away all afternoon. Rebecca would make wood boxes and other masterpieces and felt as if she were creating wonderful things. Working with wood kept Rebecca occupied for hours. It is a wonder that she never hammered her thumb, but she never did.
The front yard was full of pine, dogwood, and oak trees and every autumn the Johnson's girls would rake the tree leaves, pile them up, and run and jump in them. They would do this over, and over again. And many times Rebecca would make houses out of the leaves by taking the garden rake, outlining all the rooms and pretending it was her house. Fall was a really, fun time for her.
When winter came, Mr. Johnson used to wake the girls from sleeping when it was cold enough for him to ice the sidewalk. He would take the garden hose, water down the sidewalk and get out their sled. Once the water turned to ice, they would spend what seemed like hours sledding - until their mother would call them all back into the house to get warm and return to bed. Their neighbors probably thought they were crazy sledding down a sidewalk at night but their friends thought they were lucky. Rebecca spent most of her childhood outdoors.
When it was time for the three girls to be punished by their father (their mother used to say, "Wait until your father gets home!") he would take each daughter one at a time into the bathroom and give her a spanking (remember this was in the 50's). Frances the oldest sister, would go in first and come out crying ... then the middle sister Amy, would go in and come out crying ... finally it was Rebecca's turn. She would go in and her father would say, "Now Rebecca, I won't spank you but you have to go out crying like your sisters" and she would say "Okay"! Rebecca never actually recalled her father ever spanking her (however, she was sure he must have) but she did remember her mother making her chose a cherry tree switch and swat her legs with it. Cherry tree's small limbs are strong and have little knobs all around. It is very painful to whip a leg. If any of the girls did not pick out a sturdy switch, they had to go outside and chose another, stronger one.
It was certainly not the same for Rebecca's two sisters - when they in trouble, they were punished to the extreme. Their father, by using the backside of a hairbrush, his hand or a Cherry tree switch, would cause whelps and sometimes bleeding on the back of their legs. Their mother would use her hand or a switch and caused the very same damage - but the damage was so much more than physical. Emotional scars were set deep and those types of scars were difficult to overcome and never forgotten.
Every few months, Rebecca's father would sit in his large chair in the den and let the girls "wash" his hair. They would get all sorts of items from the refrigerator such as ketchup, mustard, eggs, mayonnaise, salad dressing - anything they could find and he would sit there to let them shampoo his hair. He said that he enjoyed the feeling but not the mess and then he would go shower. They had such much fun and could not wait until the next time for him to have a "shampoo".
Once when the original movie with Mary Martin playing Peter Pan was on television, Rebecca was so taken by the movie she was determined to fly. Rebecca imagined how wonderful it would be to "fly" any place that she could imagine. She just knew if she believed hard enough and clapped her hands, that she could fly like Peter Pan. Rebecca would spend hours practicing jumping from one living room sofa to the other using her Chinese paper umbrella as support. She did not know why her mother never noticed she was jumping on the living room sofas, which she of course was not allowed to do, but perhaps she did and left Rebecca alone for a time to work out her dream. Constantly Rebecca would fall short of reaching the other sofa and land right between the two, on the floor. However, that did not stop her determination. One day she decided that she had "practiced" enough and it was time for her to fly "for real". Rebecca took her little umbrella, climbed onto the roof of the house and jumped off. Of course, she did not fly but she did not get hurt either and was so glad no one had seen her jump off the roof. For a time after that Rebecca was not allowed back on the roof - how her mother found out, she never knew.
Another memorable time was during a summer's evening. Rebecca's older sister Frances had a brown horse named Coco. There was an area at the back of their property for Coco in which was enclosed by barbed wire. Every evening, the three sisters would go down and "help" Frances brush & feed Coco. Rebecca was too little of course to do much of anything but stand around and watch. When they finished brushing Coco, usually around sunset, they would close the gate behind them and run as fast as they could back to the house. Rebecca was always last, could not run as fast as they and it frightened her to walk back to the house in the dark, by herself, from the back of the property. One evening Rebecca noticed that they were almost finished and decided to start running back to the house so that she would be first and leave them behind. Rebecca runs as fast as she could towards the house - only to be stopped by the barbed wire gate that was closed - she runs directly into the wire. One barbed hook went through her eyebrow, right above her right eye. She literally saw stars! Her father ran down, pulled the barbed wire out and a doctor gave her a tetanus shot. Her sisters never ran back to the house leaving her behind after that ... and she never ran again before checking the gate!
Rebecca's preschool days were filled with imagination and innocence.
Rebecca's elementary school was just around the corner from their house and all the kids used to walk to school. Everyone passed one particular house every day. They all knew not to walk on that yard or they would be in big trouble. The lady who lived there was supposed to be a very mean woman and terrible things would happen if she caught one of the kids stepping foot on her grass - they all knew this to be true, even though none of them had actually met her. Well, you know what happens when kids are told they are not supposed to do something - they of course do the exact opposite. It was a constant battle as the kids approached that house as to who was going to be walking on the inside toward her lawn (her house was lower than the street level). Whomever was on the inside (and it did not matter if you were a big kid or a little one) was pushed by all the others and you would slide down into her yard. Then it was a scramble to pick up all your books and papers and climb back up before "she" caught you. Rebecca was pushed down her lawn many times and helped to push others - it was great fun. Only once did she hear someone from the house yell "Get off my lawn!" Pushing kids down that hill was the one game Rebecca used to play while walking to and from school every day. All the kids played it, year after year.
In kindergarten, Rebecca would fight with one particular little girl. Once when fighting with her over a toy truck, the teacher sent both of them to different corners of the room as punishment. Marsha became Rebecca's first elementary school friend and they were inseparable.
One of the television shows that Rebecca used to watch was "The Popeye Club". It had short movies, cartoons and games similar to "The Mickey Mouse Club" but for younger kids. The Popeye Club was aired "live" and would have a studio full of kids. One time when her Brownie troupe (they were all around eight years old) was selected to be on The Popeye Club, her friend Marsha and she wanted the same chair - so they fought over it - literally - they had the chair between them. Rebecca and Marsha never considered that their argument would be televised but it was. Their mothers fussed at them and then laughed because it was actually so funny. Rebecca and Marsha used to race down Rebecca's driveway which consisted of rough gravel and Rebecca would always fall about half way down and Marsha would win the race. They kept racing anyway and Rebecca kept falling down. Rebecca has a nice little scar on her knee as proof - but they always remained friends through most of her elementary school years. Their friendship ended as so many do, because Rebecca later moved from that neighborhood and changed schools.
Excerpted from Rebecca's Mid-Life by Elizabeth Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Rebecca's Life 1951 to 1965....................1
Chapter 2 Rebecca's Life 1965 to 1970....................23
Chapter 3 Rebecca's Life 1970 to 1989....................30
Chapter 4 Rebecca's Life Southern Europe....................51
Chapter 5 Rebecca's Poems....................57
Chapter 6 Rebecca's Life Africa....................59
Chapter 7 Rebecca's Life 1996 to 2006....................92
Chapter 8 Rebecca's Happiest Times....................133
Chapter 9 Rebecca's Dreams....................138
Chapter 10 Rebecca's Hope for the Future....................145
Chapter 11 In Addition ....................150
Chapter 12 Healing....................154
Chapter 13 The Move....................161