As a little girl growing up in the 1950s, my life was pretty much straightforward. Society and parents were more relaxed and parents needed to be more creative to invent activities for their children.
My mother was such an interesting, complex, and creative person. I don’t think anyone knew her as well as I did. There were many sides to her character. She knew the art of being a lady, setting a formal table, and tending to the many plants and flowers in our yard.
But the tomboy spirit was probably the most interesting. These stories are so numerous they would fill a book all of their own. For this purpose, I chose one to share. I have never heard anyone else that had this experience especially shared with their mother.
One afternoon I heard her promise my two older brothers that she would take them somewhere after dark. I wasn’t sure what it was but I was not about to miss out on the experience.
My father was not happy with whatever she was planning. He told her she was nuts and it was absurd to even think of such a thing. He was a blue-collar worker and worked very hard but that was the extent of getting dirty. Today, my father probably would be called a metro male. He didn’t like hunting or outdoor activities and was very concerned about his appearance. Well, what did I know? All I knew was that my brothers were all excited about this venture and I was not missing anything.
Before I knew it, my mother was explaining to the boys what they needed to do to get prepared for the plan. I became excited and she told me that I didn’t need to do anything to prepare.
Finally, after waiting the whole afternoon, it was time to leave. I couldn’t stand it any longer and demanded to know where we were going. Mom told me that we were going out to the city dump. Back in the 1950s, we didn’t have garbage companies that came around and picked up our household garbage. We went to the dump once a week so; I didn’t think anything much of what she said. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why we were going at night and why my brothers were so excited.
My brothers, sister, and I got into the car with my mother and started on our way. Once again, they were so thrilled about this great adventure, I did not question. A few minutes later we arrived at our destination. I noticed that my mother turned out the car headlights before the entrance of the city dump and drove slowly. I began to question what was about to happen because none of this seemed normal. I was told to be very quiet and the boys and my mother started whispering to each other.
“Mom what are we doing?” I asked anxiously. She whispered, “When we open the doors, I need you and your sister to quietly climb up on the roof of the car.” Okay, I was about eight years old—was she kidding? Why were we in the city dump with the lights out and climbing on the car roof? The doors opened and in silence my sister and I climbed up on the roof. She then whispered to the boys, “When I turn on the headlights start shooting.” Beyond frightened, I asked, “Shoot what, Mommy?” She replied, “All the rats that are going to be running around.”
The next thing I knew, the lights came on and hundreds of rats were running everywhere and the boys and my mother were shooting them. I can still hear them shouting, “I got one!” I think my screams from the roof of that car are still floating around in space over fifty years later. I have no memory of anything that happened after that moment for the entire evening. By the time I was ten years old, I was on tranquilizers to sleep. No one could figure out why I was so sensitive. Apparently, they never went on an adventure with my mother and the boys.
A couple of weeks later she decided to take the boys frog-leg hunting. Once again, I didn’t understand what she was taking about. She calmly explained to me that you hit the frogs in the head with a club to knock them out, cut their legs off, and throw the rest of body away. Then you come home and cook up the legs for dinner because they are considered a delicacy. My father once again expressed his disgust with this escapade but he didn’t stand a chance of changing her mind. I ran to my bedroom panicked because I never wanted anything to do with her adventures with the boys again in my lifetime.
A few days later my mother became ill with pneumonia. My father told her that is what she gets for chasing out through the swamps for frog legs. I walked slowly into my bedroom with a devious smile, thinking, that will teach her.