Fourth grade

The town we grew up in was only 48 miles from Normal, Illinois; however, our lives were still Far From Normal. I loved our new house in an old, established neighborhood. The house’s wiring didn’t have 220 to hook up our stove, and it didn’t have decent lighting in any of the bedrooms; but none of that mattered to our mother, a woman who didn’t like to cook, clean, or do laundry. And her philosophy seemed to be that if it was not light enough to see dust and dirt, the dust and dirt wasn’t there.

Macaroni and cheese in a white bowl.

When we first moved there, my sister Lindy was in first grade and I was in fourth. We walked home for lunch each day and our mother attempted to create some kitchen magic on her two burner gas hot plate. One of her “specialties” was making macaroni and cheese and cutting up hard-boiled eggs into it. Try it sometime if you are in need of a cholesterol rush.

Lindy and I spent as much time as possible outside of the house. This was encouraged by our mother whose favorite phrase was

Go play.

At least she didn’t add “in traffic” to that phrase.

Two doors away was a family with two girls about the same age as Lindy and me. We Rice Krispie treatsspent many hours using all of their play equipment—it was on their two wheeler bike that I first learned to ride a bike —-and I enjoyed rearranging their lawn furniture to make small homes for dolls. This family had Rice Krispie Treats on a regular basis, and I was delighted to go there and enjoy them.

Later in life, Lindy asked my mother why she did not ever make Rice Krispie Treats, and my mother said because she didn’t like them. That was one of my mother’s life rules: if she didn’t like something, she wouldn’t make it and nobody else got to try it.

Also while we were children, whenever my mother would order a fish sandwich at a restaurant, Lindy and I would both cringe. She would ask if the fish was fresh or frozen and if the person said “Fresh” she would order it. Many, many times she would be dissatisfied with the quality of the fish and she would throw it at whatever or whoever was nearest. I used to dread the menus with fish sandwich written on them because her response was Far From Normal.

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