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In the summer time and back at our Grandparents place, my sister and I would play down at the creek all day long when we could.  It’s amazing we never got swept away in a flash flood which seemed to happen quite often.  The creek would become a raging river.  We didn’t have TV or a phone so we would keep ourselves busy playing outside.  There wasnt any sleeping in or staying up late either.  Grandpa would come and wake us up at 5 am in the morning, time for breakfast and we would go to bed by 8 p.m.  There were several times we got the belt for having wet the bed during the night.  Those were times I felt Grandpa was too harsh.

I was able to go to summer camp in Hot Springs, Arkansas when I was 8 years old.  I was so excited!  Mom bought me a purple bathing suit with a yellow and orange stripe.  It was special to me.  Craft time was one of my favorite things of the day.  I also learned how to swim while I was at camp and couldn’t wait to get back to teach my sister.  I didn’t get homesick like so many of the other kids.  Homesick?  What’s that?  I’m having the time of my life! Who would want to go home?  There are so many fun things to do.

Sabbath was a special day.  Our Sabbath started Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, where we would set aside all our everyday work and play.  We were not able to ride our bikes on the Sabbath, or watch TV when we were in town, but we went on long walks with our Grandma who couldn’t wait to show us her latest find such as an old abandoned house or a huge rock you could climb on and overlook the ravine below.  She would also take us up the creek where it forked,  and we just thought it was all amazing,  all the while pointing out birds, plants and flowers.  Just enjoying nature.  We were also able to get out our colorbooks and color with my 64 crayola crayon box.  I was happy with the little things in life.  How quickly we forget to stop and remember the Sabbath Day and to reflect on what we have and not what we don’t have.  We should take time to count our blessings!

 

 

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Second grade,  I was going to public school in Leslie, AR.  I caught the bus at the dirt road which was probably a half mile walk up the logging road from our property.  Grandpa would always warn me, “Don’t let the bus come down this road, they won’t be able to turn around.”  But I knew he didn’t want anyone to know how we lived.  Because there was a turn around.  I got teased all the time at school and called names.  I  had two dresses I wore that I bought with the money I earned picking apples that fall.  $16.  I always had to wear dresses.  I wanted so much to be like the other girls, to fit in and have nice clothes.  I begged to go on field trips and only dreamed of being able to go and wear shorts like all the other kids, but I wasn’t allowed.  I had to stay back at the school while everyone else was having a good time.

Everyday after school, I enjoyed coming home to find my sister waiting in the tree that we called the “horse tree” because it grew straight up a couple of feet then across about a foot or so and then straight up again to where you could sit on it like a horse.  We would play school and I would teach her everything I learned that day.  She was a great student!  In fact, she was able to move on to second grade by the time she was old enough to start school.

We had started going to church in Clinton, Arkansas which was about 20 miles away.  A small Seventh Day Adventist church of about 60 people.  Our first visit to church, we didn’t have shoes to wear.  A family from the church, The Boyd’s, who happened to live nearby stopped by one night bearing gifts of toys, clothing, etc.  We built a huge bon fire and had a great time with their family.  After they left, Grandpa made us throw a bunch of the toys into the fire.  They were not appropriate or too violent.

I was tutored for my third grade year, I would go to the Boyd’s house to do my homework assignments.  Their daughter was also getting tutored.  She was a grade or so ahead of me.  She had what I called a normal family.  A Mom and Dad.  Nice home, running water.  Big family, 5 children and 1 on the way.  Her dad got killed though in a plane crash while her mom was still pregnant with their 6th child.  They had just spent time as Missionaries in Africa too.  They were such a neat family.  Being with them that school year, I learned how to ride a bike and play red light/green light.  Rode a horse bare back with Vonnie.  Never again!  They taught me so many things including hygiene and table manners.

It was fall again, time for school to start once more.  Heading into fourth grade.  Now the church had decided they were going to start a school in, what I’m going to call, the multi-purpose room.  Mrs. Hightower was going to be our teacher.  She came out of retirement to teach just a handful of us kids.  Myself, and 3 others – The Huggins Girls.  They were coming from public school, and their parents didn’t come to church, so they were considered wild.  As we out grew the temporary facility, the church bought the house behind the property and converted it into a school.  So, starting in my 5th grade, we had 11 kids grades 1 thru 8 in a one room church school.

Now, during the school year, Mom would rent a house in town .  But after school was out, we would move back to stay with our Grandparents.  While we lived with Mom, we got to watch TV.  We ate candy like it was going out of style.  We had no restrictions.  So it was total chaos.  My Mom suffered from depression and was in and out of the hospital a couple of times from nervous breakdowns.  This caused a lot of strain on us kids.  Most of the time it was up to me to make sure dinner was on the table and lunches packed for school.  That would be whatever food we could find.  Since we were on welfare, food stamps would run out by the end of month.  We were usually forced to eat popcorn for lunch and dinner.   Laundry piled up like there was no tomorrow.   We didn’t have a car, so we had to walk to the laundry mat with dirty clothes piled high in our wagon and walk back with the wet clothes to hang on the clothes line.  Life was tough.

Every once in a while,  Grandpa & Grandma would come and help out during the school year.  They didn’t have a phone to warn us.  But they usually stayed away.  They didn’t even really come to church. To them, everyone was a hypocrite.  Grandpa even tried to start his own little gathering, but that didn’t last long.  I thought it was because we had to kneel on the hard floor for so long in prayer.  Grandpa would read out of Ellen G White writings for it seemed like hours.  Grandma was really the only one that read her bible.  Grandpa and Grandma both were so consumed in the legalistic’s of religion.  You had to do good works to be saved.   You had to be perfect to enter the realms of heaven.Nevertheless,  I knew Grandpa loved the Lord and it was evident in his singing “How Great Thou Art” throughout the day.  His favorite.  Love that hymn.  I just feel bad that they didn’t live free and instead they lived in fear.

Mrs. Hightower was an awesome teacher.  I wanted to be a teacher just like her when I grew up.  She read to us everyday after recess.  She played the piano like an angel.  She was very musically talented along with knowing everything about English.  She was always correcting us, such as “May I”, not “Can I” and double negatives were a no no.  Ain’t was not a word.  She spent a lot of time with us students during Christmas to put on a play.  Her influence helped me be confident to sing in a trio and play piano in church.  She was such an inspiration to me.

My best friend, Katrina, and her family was a big influence in my life too.  She and I would play for church; her on the organ and myself on the piano.  We also loved playing duets together on the piano.  Her Mom and Dad were the best parents in the world.  Her family was everything I dreamed of.  They had a beautiful A Frame house that her Dad built.  They had a baby grand piano in their living room.  Everything was gorgeous.  They had a car, they had food on the table and in their pantry too.  I had a lot of fun times and fond memories of doing things with Katrina and her family.  Hiking, canoeing, cave exploring.  It was exciting.  They were a great role model for me.

The church was a very positive influence in my life thanks to the Watson’s, Harpers, Hightowers and June Willoughby.

It was in the fall of 1971 when we were on our way to Arkansas.  My Grandparents packed us up in their Ford pickup with a  camper on the back.  My Uncle Leslie and his wife joined us with their Jeep Station Wagon.  We were off on our journey.  Our trip took us through Salt Lake City where we stopped to take a dip in the salt water.  Uncle Leslie’s clutch also went out while on our trip.  I remember riding in the Jeep with him when he couldn’t shift down coming to a stop light and we actually made it through the light without needing to stop.  Silly about the little things I remember.  Another time we  stopped and spent the night on the side of the road in the rocky mountains.  Either Grandpa was too tired to drive any further or we ran out of gas.  That was freaky sleeping at night on the side of the road with traffic whizzing by.  Especially the semi trucks coming down the hill.

We finally arrived in Leslie, Arkansas only to find the Nature Doctor’s camp abandoned.  Now what were we going to do?  To make light of the matter, Uncle Leslie started teasing me that my leg was shorter than the other and he would have to be the Doctor and fix it.  He made me laugh and I would forget, for a moment, that we had no place to live.  Grandpa already knew people in the area (since they had spent time down here before) and in no time he had leased 20 acres out in the middle of nowhere.  This place was accessible only from a dirt road and then the road into the property was an old logging road.  Could have been a covered wagon road as all I knew.  No utilities.  No Electricity.  No running water.  No house.  Nothing.  Just lots of oak trees, snakes, and a creek that ran thru the ravine at the bottom of the sloped north end of the property. 

The first part of winter was harsh living in a tent sleeping on straw beds.  My sister and I slept together under piles of wool blankets huddling together to stay warm.  Grandma cooked over an open fire.  We baked bread in the hot coals by wrapping it in tin foil.  No running water, this meant using outhouses and baths were scarce.  We stunk , our hair was dirty and matted.  We were technically homeless.  Now the first priority was for Uncle Leslie to build shelter because his wife was going to have a baby.  The first hogan was built.  This is an indian style home which is built out of logs that have been peeled from their bark, chisseled on the ends to stack in an octagon shape and chinked with cement mortar.  The fireplace is made out of stone/rock and is placed in the middle of the room with the chimney going up through the roof.  The floor is cement.  I’m guessing it was probably no bigger than 200 sq ft.

Just after the 2nd hogan was built for us girls (my sister, Mom and myself), my Aunt Dorothy had her baby.  A little girl.  Grandma said she was little enough to fit in a shoebox.  Never did get to see her.  Uncle Leslie packed up and moved on but not before they made a  trip to Mexico bringing goods like Sea Salt, Sea Weed, Cane Sugar and jump ropes for us kids.  My Mom had gone on this trip with them, rumors was she had taken off with a friend to California but Uncle Leslie brought her back.

Eventually, we got electricity out to the property.  Grandpa built his log cabin.  It was one  big room.  Open concept (haha) with kitchen and living room.  Fireplace made of stone, up against the wall, defined the two spaces.  There was a loft on each end,  just big enough to fit a twin bed in each one.  No walking space around the beds.  You would climb a ladder up to the first loft and take the cat walk across to the other side.  Pretty tricky.  This was my Grandparents sleeping quarters.  Then Grandpa built an additional room off the back where my brother stayed. 

Mom got her settlement, which was not much.  We got some new toys, bunk beds and a dresser.  She bought all the appliances for the log cabin and also for our kitchen, a small building that was built near the hogans.  We would eat our meals outside at a large picnic table.  One time, there was  a 6 ft black snake coiled up on our refrigerator.  Another time, my sister was sitting on the outside barrier for the kitchen that was filled with sawdust and covered with tarp.  This was some sore of insulation around the kitchen.  We noticed a snake slithering out,  she was sitting on a copperhead!  Found tons of them.  They loved the warmth of the sawdust.  My Mom also stepped on a copperhead in the woodshed.  We could her screaming a mile away as my Grandpa came running out in his boxers and chopped the snakes head off.  Amazing none us were ever bitten by a snake. 

I can’t forget to mention the steam bath Grandpa built down by the creek.  On Friday’s we would all take a steam bath and dip in the creek even in the middle of the winter.  Brrrr…

My Grandparents had the most amazing garden.  I’m thinking it was probably at least an acre.  They grew everything from yellow tomatoes to zucchini and squash.  Cucumbers, lettuce, watermelon and cantaloupes galore.  Corn, onions, turnips, potatoes.  Fruit trees.  Did I mention the strawberries.  That was my favorite.  My sister and I would stem strawberries for it seemed like hours for my Grandma to can for the winter.  The garden was our main source of food growing up as vegetarians.  Our water source was from a natural spring which was up the road from us.   Grandpa would take huge barrels in his truck to fill up with water for the garden.  This was our drinking water too.  Grandpa would often let me drive the truck back from the natural spring, in granny gear, to not slosh too much water out of the barrels.  Fun times.

Memories of the food my Grandparents prepared are none to compare.  No one baked homemade whole wheat bread with honey  like they could and Grandpa’s homemade ice cream was to die for.  Grandpa’s favorite saying was “Shut my mouth wide open!” while eating something he loved.  For breakfast, we would have waffles from an amazing homemade waffle batter made from oats that would have to sit in the frig overnight before cooking.  We had every topping imaginable to put on our waffles, canned strawberries, blackberries and/or applesauce in the winter and of course fresh fruit in the summer.  I just love fruit topping on my waffles with peanut butter.  It’s a comfort food.  My Grandma would also make gluten steaks, roll them in brewer’s yeast and fry them up in vegetable oil with onions.  Yum!

There is something to say about living a simple life.  Living off the land.  No TV, no phone.  Although, I couldn’t imagine now living without running water and indoor plumbing.  Maybe this is why I don’t like camping in a tent out in the middle of the woods.  I like my amenities.

My Grandparents

I was the first granddaughter, need I say more?  Grandpa called me “little woman.”  He doted over me not only because I was the first granddaughter, but because I had a medical condition.  I was born with a heart defect.  A hole in a valve that caused blood to collect in the lungs.  Now it was my paternal Grandma, who was a nurse, that first noticed something was wrong.  I wasn’t crawling at the age most babies started crawling.  Cried a lot when I was held, etc.  After finding out about my condition, my dad would lay me on his chest at night while I was sleeping  just to make sure I was still breathing.  I had open heart surgery when I was two years old.  My scar is not the typical middle of the chest up and down but it goes from the middle of my chest under my left arm to almost the middle of my back.

Grandpa was a very strict and stern man but had a very loving side to him.  He was jolly.  Liked to joke around.  He was loud and boisterous at times, in a playful way.  You just didn’t want to catch him in a bad mood.  He had a hot temper and didn’t put up with any back talk.  My sister and I would know that from experience.  We both got the switch on our bare legs a lot.  Grandma was very sweet and quiet.  If she did say something, I would hang on her every word.  Her smile was infectious.  She was tall and slender.  Very shy.

My sister and I were finally united with our Mom and living in an apartment in Walla Walla, Washington.  I don’t remember where our brother stayed, but I’m assuming my grandparents took him in during that time.  The transition between living at Aunt Arlene’s in McMinnville, Oregon to living with my Mom is really fuzzy.  However, I do remember finishing first grade in Walla Walla.   I walked to school and was thrilled to use the crosswalks – Walk, Don’t Walk.  Learned that my teacher was a Seventh Day Adventist and how she told me she was a vegetarian while sitting together in the cafeteria eating vegetable soup.  I felt we had something in common.

My grandparents were Seventh Day Adventist.  Not to say that this is a bad thing, but they were way over the top.  Total religious fanatics.  They decided to swoop us up and move to Arkansas convincing my Mom on the promise that her arm would be healed by this “Nature Doctor.”  This would be another sudden change for me, just when things were getting somewhat back to normal.  I was actually happy.  This short stent is the only time I can remember that my Mom was not living with or near my grandparents throughout the rest of my childhood. 

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Grandparents, especially my Grandpa.  He was everything to me.   It’s just now looking back, that I realize how silly it is to think you need to seclude your family from the world and live in fear.  I am so looking forward to sharing my experiences while growing up in Arkansas.  It will blow your mind.

Would love for you to follow along as I write about my life.  My first blog I  posted was “My First Memories.”   I will attempt to unfold the events in my life as I remember it.  My hope is that you will have an understanding of what it was like to walk in my shoes and that  you will be blessed by what God has done for me in my life.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Carol

My dad was away at war – Vietnam.  Mom was busy partying with her friends.  I was only 6 years old but it was up to me to make lunch for my younger sister and brother.  Yum, another day of white bread and butter with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  Not the traditional family meal. These were the days that you could send your child to the corner grocery store with a note from your Mom that she needs to buy a pack of cigarettes.  My brother was notorious for running off and my Mom would tie him to a tree out in the front yard.  In these times, I would often go to the school playground to be by myself to daydream of going to school.  I would be starting first grade in the fall.  Couldn’t wait!  I still remember seeing the world globe in the class room window.  It was a little intimidating but exciting at the same time.

I was so in love with my dog BoBo.  I had her since I was 2 years old.  She had a need to chase cars.  I scolded her often.  With tears streaming down my face, I would tell her not to do that because she would get ran over.  I think at times she was crying too.  But one afternoon, I called out to her and she did not come.  As I ran to find my Mom, I fell on the gravel path along the way and cut my knee open.  I kept running.  Crying.  You know, my knee still bares the scar.  Later that evening, Mom had to tell me they found BoBo in someone’s backyard.  She had been hit by a car and the Vet had to put her to sleep.  Every time I think back to this day, my eyes swell up in tears.  I loved that dog and she loved me.  How can this be?

I was Daddy’s little girl.  I was his princess.  He showed me off.  He was so proud of me.  I knew it and felt it even though I have no real memories of him before he left to Vietnam. I just knew he loved me.  After returning from war, he came home only to abandon us.  I trusted him when he told me that day while leaving, I thought to work, that he would be back.   He didn’t come back.  Over the years, I would pray every night that my Mom and Dad would get back together again.  I would occasionally hear my Mom on the phone with him late at night just holding my breath that he would say “I’m coming home.”

Before I go to the pivotal moment of my summer in 1970, I want to recognize my Aunt Jean and Uncle Jim for being there for us and coming to visit and taking us to Pixie Land.  Great times.  Loads of fun.  I remember the go-carts the most.  Uncle Jim scared me for going too fast. Didn’t care for the ride on the Shetland ponies.  Scared of horses.  If it sounds like I’m a scardy cat, I was. For crying out loud the world globe scared me.

Fried Macaroni & Cheese is what was for dinner, sitting around a table with a bunch of rambunctious boys.  Not myself cooking this time, even though it sounds like that would be something I might have done back then as a child.  I couldn’t eat.  I was too shy and the food was terrible anyway.  My Mom was out going to a party in Portland with friends.  Us kids were staying with a neighbor for the night.  The only thing I remember next changes our lives dramatically.  I had wet the bed that night so I was moved to the couch in the front room.  I always felt that this was important to tell because I would have never heard what was to come next.  In the middle of the night, there is a knock at the door.  Awakened from my sleep on the couch, I heard two police officers tell my babysitter that my Mom has been in a car accident.  Head on collision.  She was taken to the hospital.  Now, unknown to them, I stayed quite and pretended I was still sleeping while the devastating news was unfolding.  The next morning I was told nothing!  As if it never happened.  I knew better, but why were they not telling me anything?  I didn’t understand.  We were shuffled off to stay with this lady, that later I learned was from the church, who took us in until my Aunt Arlene could come and get us. Now, I was pretty upset because no one confided in me what was going on with my Mom.  It was all hush hush and I didn’t like it.   As I sat at the piano alone in this strange home, I quietly played a song for my Mom. Of course it was made up because I didn’t know how to play.  But at that moment, I felt this emptiness, a pain, that maybe I’m all alone.  I didn’t know what happened to my Mom.  Was she okay?  Was she alive?

Aunt Arlene took us in to live with her.  I remember being able to walk to school carrying my lunch bag with me.  Arlene always did my hair up everyday and I had cute little dresses to wear.  Always had a snack after school.  It was a real family, but I missed my Mom.  I asked everyday, “When do I get to visit my Mom?” Finally, after what seemed like forever, I was able to go visit her in the hospital.  I remember the drive there.  I had flowers in one hand and her favorite fruit in the other.  Couldn’t wait for her to eat the huge grapefruit I had carefully picked out for her. I remember the first glimpse I saw of my Mom in the hospital.  Looking down the hall, I saw her sitting in a wheelchair.  She  looked beautiful, with her long black hair.  As they wheeled her back to her room, I followed with uncertainty.  I handed the fruit to my Mom and wondered why she was using only one hand to peel it. After this visit, I wasn’t going to see her again for nearly a year later.  She was in rehabilitation to learn how to walk again.  The car accident affected her whole left side.  Her left arm paralyzed.  She had been in a coma for 3 weeks.  Had some brain injury.  After going thru the front windshield from the back seat, she is lucky to be alive.

This is the first memories of my childhood and are still burned fresh in my mind as though it were yesterday.  It’s been over 40 years now since that summer so long ago.  These incidents shaped who I am today and will give you an understanding as I unfold the rest of my story.  It will allow you to walk in my shoes.  It will show you how this affected my life with feelings of abandonment and loneliness.  A part of me, the little Carol, had to grow up too fast but always wished she had that childhood of a Daddy who loved her and a Mom to be a Mom.  Presently, I can only say that God can fulfill that need for me and make me whole.  He will never leave me nor forsake me.