The blogs just keep rolling out! Memories are flooding back as I think about my childhood. I think now I should turn to various odds and ends of my memories of Ms. Alice.
My cousin John once said that he “met” the Price is Right at Ms. Alice’s. So did I. I remember watching Bob Barker everyday. Usually this was around our nap time, right after lunch. Ms. Alice would watch the Price is Right and some soap operas. I learned early on that the elderly people in the world seemed to really like Soap Opera for reasons that I still don’t fully understand.
Then again, I think anyone can identify what it feels like to sit down near a TV, doing something else, and to slowly get roped into the show that’s on.
By the way, Plinko has always been my favorite game on the Price is Right. One of my friends informed that Plinko is everyone’s favorite game.
Ms. Alice had an assortment of toys. I had almost forgotten entirely about it, but the toys we played with most often were the Tinker Toys. I’m so glad I was able to play with Tinker Toys as a kid. Today’s children have a higher access to digital entertainment through the rampant presence of video games and electronics, but for a long time, I grew up playing with things like Legos and Tinker Toys.
If you don’t know what Tinker Toys are- they’re little pieces that fit together in strange ways. If you really planned it out and paid attention, you could probably build something nifty contraptions with the Tinker Toys. They’re pretty versatile.
If it stormed, Ms. Alice would unplug her TV, and we would all go outside, sit on the front porch, and watch the rain and listen to the thunder. It’s a foreign concept to many people today to unplug the TV during a storm, but she unplugged it so that lightning wouldn’t strike and burn out the TV. Sitting outside on the porch was always a really peaceful experience.
If we were sick, Ms. Alice would crush up an aspirin and put it in teaspoon full of honey. I think because of this, from a very early age, I was always under the impression that aspirin tasted like candy. Also, I can’t eat honey these days because it’s just too sweet to me, but it wasn’t too sweet when I was a kid- maybe the aspirin balanced it out.
I would always open the drawers in the kitchens and look through them. Ms. Alice would say, “Quit plunderin’!” When I found out later that plundering meant stealing, I had no idea why she would have accused me of plundering. Then I realized it was a joking way of telling me to leave the drawers alone.
Ms. Alice and Mr. Charlie had a pin full of baby chickens behind the house. Most Southern people call them “biddies.” I remember the odd smell that the chickens had, and I remember Ms. Alice feeding the biddies in the pin.
I also remember the great experience of Ms. Alice going into the chicken house and bringing out newborn kittens. They were tiny and mewed a lot.
Later on, there was an incident when one of their dogs had killed a kitten, and I thought she meant one of the tiny kittens. I actually got to see the dead kitten at one point- it didn’t bother me, believe it or not, because I was actually more concerned with the fact that, in my mind, it wasn’t a kitten- it was pretty close to being an adult cat. I remember insisting that it wasn’t a kitten. Again, when I heard “kitten,” I thought of tiny, newborns with closed eyes.
Only after many years when I had the chance to see newborn kitties did I realize that I hadn’t dreamed up that experience of the tiny mewing kittens in the chicken house.
Ms. Alice was adamant about getting the kitties out of the chicken house; she was afraid the chickens would think the kittens were actually mice trying to steal their eggs and try to kill them.
Sometimes, we would all pile into Mr. Charlie’s truck and ride down to the farm, right into the middle of the cow pasture. I was never allowed to get out, but I remember it still being fun to go down there. I also remember that Mr. Charlie had two trucks- a green one and a blue one. Blue was my favorite color, so I was always glad when we took that one, but I think the green truck was newer, and I do remember I realized it was nicer on the inside at one point.
The rarest occasions saw us going to Dothan to do shopping. Usually we shopped at Food World, but I don’t remember very much about those trips.
In Ms. Alice’s dining room, there was a picture of The Last Supper hanging on the wall. I always remember staring at it as a child in wonder, knowing that it had some deep meaning, wondering what was going on in the background, and always asking about Jesus.
It seems like Ms. Alice also had a Horn of Plenty hanging on the wall, too. I’m almost certain it was an actual Horn of Plenty, but sometimes I think it was a picture. I remember thinking how amazing it was that someone could make grapes that were not real grapes.
Speaking of grapes, that was another thing we ate frequently at Ms. Alice’s house- raisins. Oh, yes, I remember that so clearly now. I love raisins, even today.
Ms. Alice had three different dogs while I stayed with her. The first one she had named Snoopy, but I can’t remember what kind of dog he was. I think he actually looked like Snoopy from the Peanuts comic- he was white with black spots.
The second one she named Poochie. Again, I can’t remember what kind of dog he was, but I can see him a little more clearly in my mind. She didn’t give a name to the last dog that I can remember, but I called him “Brownie” because I was a kid and a dog needed a name. I think he was a bull dog, but I’m not sure.
My brother and I always colored on brown paper bags, the kind in which you carried out groceries from the store. We would sit in the back room and draw profusely with color crayons.
Ms. Alice was the first person to explain to me that when you use a sharp color crayon, it goes dull. My brother was the blue crayon one day, and I was getting upset that the sharpness was going away, so Ms. Alice had to explain to me that the color crayon did that when I used it, too.
We would spent hours sitting outside in the swing on the front porch. A few times, the swing fell. If you’ve never been on a porch swing when it fell, then consider yourself lucky.
We would sit on the swing for no good reason. We should just sit and swing and enjoy the outdoors. I think a lot of times we were waiting for the mail or waiting for my mom to come get us.
Well, folks, this has been a great ride through my childhood and remembering Ms. Alice. There’s not a whole lot more to tell on my part, because I honestly don’t remember much more. All I can say is that I loved Ms. Alice a whole lot, and she was a great influence on me in as a kid.
I especially am glad to have learned all I did from her when I consider how many children in those first few years of their life don’t have that same kind of warm, nurturing environment.
So, in closing, I would like to give something of an exotic story to tie into my memories.
I once read a story about a Buddhist monk. He had a disciple that was intelligent and determined, but he lacked a very necessary quality to find enlightenment- the senior monk called it “grandmother mind.” “Grandmother mind” is the ultimate level of compassion and caring, he said, and without it, you cannot understand the universe.
That being said, I was the recipient of “grandmother mind,” the ultimate compassion and caring from Ms. Alice at an early age, and so I understand just how precious it is, not just for children but for everyone.
With that, I close this entry, and I offer my gratitude to everyone who has been reading my story of just how fantastic Ms. Alice’s Wonderland really was.