From the Fortress of Solitude
Our train has stopped once again in Luneville, or at least you'd think so if you completely trusted my slightly warp memories of how things were in our simpler times. I will confess a naughtiness in my descriptions of how things once were. I can't resist. But know this, a kernal of truth in a shell of fancy lies at the heart of each paragraph.
These pictures from Grandma Violet's albums show a simpler more innocent time. Remember hopping on your bike and shouting to your mother that you're off to play? Remember your mother's admonition, "be careful". If you're mom was a worry wart she'd add "Where are you going?" In those days only the most fanatical of helicopter parents dropped the dreaded bombshell "Stay in the yard!" An order to "Stay in the yard!" was the death sentence to play. The kids in my neighborhood confined to their own yard had few friends. We felt sorry for them.
Today many children are lucky to get permission to step outside. These juvenile inmates watch the seasons change through their living room windows. They yearn to grow up, abandoning their childhood for the freedom of the teen years and an end to the confinement imposed by mothers fearful of unknown terrors lurking in every bush and around every corner.
Even after growing up, some never stray far from their comfort zones; never taking a risk, never testing their limits in a competitive university or work environment. These poor souls were bred in captivity, held on a leash and domesticated to the point of uselessness.
I saw something unusual as I drove home from the Space Center yesterday. Just before reaching 1100 North I saw a boy who looked to be ten or eleven years old. He was dressed in a nice golf shirt and shorts. He looked like he was about to go somewhere. He stood in a deep puddle at the end of his gravel driveway. Both his hands were at the bottom of the puddle dredging up the mud. He stood up as my car approached holding two handfuls of thick rich mud. "Is he going to throw that mud at my car?" I thought to myself.
He saw me. I smiled. He face brightened. He held out his muddy fists for me to appreciate. I gave him a thumbs up. Was he going to get a good thumping for getting so dirty? Perhaps, but the smile on his face told me that whatever the punishment, the experience of a puddle thick with mud was worth it. He was free. My faith in humanity was partially restored.
Speaking of mud and unkempt, unleashed children left to fend for themselves; may I present a few pictures of children who once lived on 38th Street, Rapid City, who only now in their advanced years, are showing signs of civility.
This is Jilane Williamson as she looked in the 1970's. Notice the high forehead? I think Luella was experimenting with polygamist hairstyles and fashion back then. That dress strengthens my theory. Honestly, doesn't Jilane look like your typical young Colorado City girl of today? Yep, there she is with her simple down home looks, walking home from school to her father, three mothers and 22 brothers and sisters.
Another picture of Jilane, now a bit older. A bit of a tom boy I think. She's sporting a new, almost human hairstyle. Luella was correct to hide her unnaturally high forehead. The freckles are more pronounced in this photograph, giving her that Tom Sawyer look. The yellowing teeth are a bit of a shock. Before you judge her dental hygiene, let me remind you that the color of one's chompers were not a concern back then like they are now. Black, yellow or white - it didn't matter. At least they were straight, making Jilane decently good looking for a South Dakota gal.
This is Annette, the youngest of the Williamson clan. Nettie was born practically perfect in every way; such an oddity in our family. Odd because it is my firm belief our family was a spiritual testing ground.
"Charles and Luella have married. It appears they plan on starting a family," I imagine one of their guardian angels saying to the other.
"Unlucky for them," the other answered.
"They're slated for that odd lot of spirits over there."
"What, all of them?"
"Yep, all of them."
"Why, what have they done?"
"Their experimenting," the angel said as he pointed skyward. "They want to know what will happen if you place several of 'those kind' in the same family. They call it psychological sibling mixing."
I believe there were seven of us being held in that premortal corral, meaning Charles and Luella's eighth child was unexpected. A normal one was selected and sent along. Did she come willingly? I don't know, but here she is, our family's caboose, making the rest of us look well past our sell by dates. Yet strangely enough, she's taken to us. We're all counting on her to sneak us past the pearly gates when our time is called.
You're my favorite Nettie. Don't you forget that?
Princess Leia and Jabba the Hut in their early years. Both our handicaps are visible in this photograph. Kim's large protruding tongue and my beckoning for food to satisfy my insatiable appetite are easily seen. I believe I got my hands on that stuffed toy shortly after the photograph was taken. We have the photographer to thank for saving my life. He removed the stuffing from my windpipe just before I suffocated. The animal looked so delicious; I couldn't help myself. I knew Luella wouldn't let me slobber it down so I had to act quickly.
Kim and I, a few years later. Luella tells me I had a sore on my hand which is why I favored it so in this picture. Notice how Kim grew into her tongue?
I'm loving those suspenders! Amazing at how life repeats itself. I had suspenders then and am considering them today. Shouldn't every 50 plus male have a pair of suspenders on hand to keep his pants up?
This picture was originally black and white. Grandma Violet colored it by hand. Who could afford color photography back then? We were lucky this photo was taken on film and not a tin type. I'm guessing this was taken in 1963, just after the first film cameras were available at Rapid City's Sears and Roebuck Department Store. Notice my hair style hasn't changed in 50 plus years? Kim, on the other had, enjoys experimenting with her's (and not for the better). Why change a winning appearance from the past. Stick with what works.
This picture was taken in September 1959 shortly after our small family moved to 39 East Signal Drive, Rapid City. I'm standing, Kim is seated and Grandma Elda supports us. Elda was Charles's mother. She looks so young in this picture.
I just noticed the back lawn, or should I say weed patch. No wonder we all have allergies!
I'm on my throne.
My highchair was my favorite place in the entire universe. I knew food would be forthcoming when Luella strained to hoist me into that chair (and I mean hoisted - I had a big appetite). I loved food then and I love it now. I like it hot and in enormous quantities.
Keep it coming!
Luella tells me that I was picky in presentation. I'd toss my plate to the ground if any of my food touched when plated. Mixing flavors was a No No! Just a bit of juice from my canned peas leaking into my mashed potatoes would send me into a violent temper tantrum complete with kicking, screaming, head spinning, eyes bulging and obscenities shouted in a guttural Latin. I mellowed somewhat after the local priest paid us a visit and bathed me in holy water. He also advised Luella to wear a crucifix whenever she fed me.
And finally, my Pièce de résistance ! My one great masterpiece from my childhood. I was a struggling young artist, always looking for interesting subjects to draw and paint. Leonardo had the Mona Lisa. I had my sister Janice, reluctant as she was to see this creation with her school picture as it's centerpiece.
How did I get the $10 bill drawn correctly, having probably never seen one. Remember, a nickle in your pocket in those days was gold. It must have been dad's pay day. I'm sure Luella reluctantly surrendered the money after hours of begging and most assuredly kept a close eye on me as I worked in my basement studio.
This is yours Janice. You're welcome to it if you'd like. I thought about framing it and giving it to you for Christmas. Would you value the hours spent in its creation? Would you cherish it? Would you pass it on to your descendants? Hmmmm. Better keep it in my permenant collection.
(See Bob. You're not the only gifted artist in this family!)