One sweltering summer day, mother opened the back door and told us to go out and play and that was that. We had the run of the neighborhood and we wouldn’t be expected back home unless we were hungry or in tears.
First stop, Mrs. McClannahan, who was always doing laundry because her husband didn’t believe in electric clothes driers.
Bang, bang, bang, “Hello, Mrs. McClannahan, do you have any pretzels?”She came to the door smiling with four pretzels in her hand. “Turn this way,” she said, and we shuffled around and rotated our ears toward her pointing our chins up to heaven. Mrs. McClannahan would only give us pretzels if she could pull our ears through the holes of the pretzel. The salt scraped our tender little ears and sometimes left painful welts. It was very uncomfortable, but still worth a couple of pretzels. We turned so that she could admire our pretzel earrings. “Thanks!” We took off across the street.
Bang, Bang, Bang, “Hello, Mrs. Jones, Do you have any cookies?”
“Come on in kids. I’ve just finished a batch. They are still warm. That’s the best way, they are soft and bendy when they are warm.” She dumped a chocolate chip cookie into each of our hands with her spatula. We had to toss them from hand to hand because they were so hot. She gave us glasses of milk too.
“Thanks Mrs. Jones.” The screen door slammed behind us.
My brother, John, who had chocolate smeared around his face, followed me to the sand box in our backyard. “We are going to build a tunnel,” I directed. “I’ll go get some water.” My brother was only 5 but he usually took my instructions pretty well. If he didn’t, I would put the pressure on until he saw the wisdom of my plans. I was 2 years older than he was, after all, ergo the boss of him.
Bang, Bang, Bang, “Mom, I need to get some water.” My mother who was washing dishes while watching us out of the back window filled up a plastic tub of water and handed it to me.
“I’m mopping the floor so don’t come in for a while,” She said.
“Thanks Mom.” I carried the water back to the sand box.
The tunnel was a success. We built a couple of roads and poured water into moats, drove some little cars around the tracks...
“Let’s go get some mulberries!” I suggested. The berries felt slimy and got stuck between our toes as we tried to knock more of them out of the tree over our heads with branches.
“I want to go in,” my brother said. Our feet were purple with smashed mulberries, our toe nails black. There was no way mom was going to let us into the house like that. Anyway, I didn’t want to go in. I had to think quickly to keep my brother happy.“I have some money,” I said. “Let’s go to Shoey’s.” His face lit up.
Shoey’s was a candy store about three quarters of a mile from our house. We hiked past the apartments, down one hill, and up another. The sidewalk burned our bare feet, but we could jump into the grass to cool them down. I was careful to point out the broken glass and bottle caps to my brother, but our feet were pretty tough from a summer of no shoes. We still had to run across the asphalt streets, though.
It probably took us 25 minutes to get to Shoey’s. I hadn’t bothered to mention to my mother where we were going. I thought that she might not agree with my plan, and I also thought that we would be back before she ever noticed that we had gone. She would have thought that we were at a neighbor’s house. I had 10 cents and that was at least enough to buy us some penny candy. We could even get a small chocolate bar and split it. While I was busy making the decision for us, my brother seated himself on the floor behind me where he found the Hostess display. There were Ho Hos and Ding Dongs and Cherry and Apple pies and so much more. Deep in thought about a tootsie roll versus a tootsie pop, I didn’t notice my brother opening a package behind me. He had a quarter of a pie consumed before I realized what had happened.
Mr. Shoey, looked sharply over his glasses at me. “I think that your little brother has made the decision for you,” he said.
I looked around and said, “NO!” but it was too late.
“Mr. Shoey,” I said very worried. “I only have 10 cents.”“Well, I think you are going to have to get your mother then,” he said. “OK, John,” I said to my brother. “We have to go home and get Mom now.”
“No,” said Mr. Shoey. “You need to go get your mother and your brother will stay here with me until you come back with her.”
Darn that John! He just ruined my great plan. I ran most of the way home but I made sure to work up some good tears before I pounded on our back door. Mom was always a bit softer if I looked really distressed about my sins.
Mom dashed out the door with pocket book in hand and drove me back to Shoey’s to collect my brother. When we arrived we found him surrounded by a pile of at least a dozen opened packages of partially-eaten treats.
The pain of my mother’s tongue lashing was far worse than the couple of whiffs with the paddle ball paddle.