MaryHelen Cuellar [MH or Mimi]

  1943 -
  City of Birth:
Macon, Georgia
 
 

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I am adding this additional chapter to my introduction, because after I initially wrote the introduction, it was very difficult to come back to it and try to make sense of all that I have experienced through the various stages of my life and the trials that I have endured or overcome.  I wish ...


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MaryHelen's Story > Chapters > The Long Hot Days of Summer

"The Long Hot Days of Summer" 

 

Date Range: 01/01/1951 To 12/31/1951   Comments: 6   Views: 8,895
Attachments: No
 

ESSAYS OF CHILDHOOD IN THE FIFTIES:

 

 

 

The hot Texas sun beat down mercilessly on us.  There were no trees in the post-war boom development; just row after row of stucco houses.  The only relief from the heat being in their cool dark cave interiors, lying on the linoleum floors.  The sun seemed so close that I felt I could reach up and touch it, and to look at it was impossible without squinting.  We hopped barefoot from one foot to the other on the sizzling pavement, and when our feet cried out for surcease would then step gingerly onto the prickly dry grass with it’s cockleburs and stiff blades, almost no better than the pavement.  To wear shoes might have been an answer, but no self-respecting Texas child wore shoes in the summer; we went everywhere barefooted and surefooted, and wore as few clothes as possible.  When fall came and shoes and clothes had to be donned, we squirmed and wiggled for days like newborns trying to get comfortable, the shoeleather pinching, and the starched cotton scratching and chafing, and dreaming of the days when we could once again go unclod, half-unclad, and definitely unironed throughout the long lazy hot summer days.

 

We were walking to the newly built shopping center, hopping along the sidewalk like just developed baby frogs,  fresh from being tadpoles.  When we got to the cross-street, we stood like statues for a minute, staring at the black-tarred road, and glancing sideways at each other to see who would gather up their nerve first, to dash across, feet barely skimming the top of the black substance which was already starting to bubble and boil, although it was barely ten in the morning.  On the other side after flying across, barely looking for cars, our minds on the trial by fire, we would lift up first one foot and then the other to see who had won first prize—no black marks on the feet which would last for days; no amount of scrubbing would remove that tarry mess.  The bravest would pinch off a piece of the tar and chew the “Texas Chewing Gum”.  I had only tried it once-tasteless and chewy, it left your teeth and gums too black for days, and a day long scolding was not worth the showing off.  Before crossing, we would sit and pick out the burrs from our feet as the tar could also imbed the stickers for days.  The only ones that came out immediately upon penetration were the thorny cactus like spines that stuck straight up out of the ground, and drew blood.

 

Giggling and laughing, heads hung low to avoid the direct glare of the sun, we hopscotched on our way, and avoided the sidewalk “cracks” like the plague.  Any schoolchild knew what would happen if you stepped on one of those!   The oasis of the strip mall with it’s awning shaded sidewalks loomed large in our minds, and the three city blocks of pavements, each block equaling a half mile, stretched to infinity in our imagination, but the thoughts of the cherry-limes, root-beer sodas, and strawberry sundaes at the soda fountain in Rexall drugstore spurred us on.  We could sip and sit in the fan-cooled store on the red plastic seats all day for a nickel treat.  Of course, if you sat too long, sometimes the sweat from your barelegs stuck you to the plastic, and the sucking sound as you pulled yourself free hurt your ears more than it hurt your legs to be pulled free.

Our laughing goddess of an aunt, with her long dark hair, crisp white shorts and shirt with the collar turned up, tucked in, and belt around her tiny waist, herded us like baby lambs to our destination.   At the time, she seemed like a worldy adult, but if the truth be known, she wasn’t much older than us, just having crossed the puberty threshold into that mysterious world of teen-agers.   She would spend the day with us, and it never felt like we were being “baby-sat”, an abomination that we sometimes had to endure.  Mostly, we turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of the various live-in sitters that our mother employed to watch over us while she went off to the magical Oz.  They would click and cluck and secretly be glad when we left the house to “play”, running the streets as we could then without fear of any bodily harm except from the chiggers and burrs and an occasional scraped knee.  We surely were a “handful”, being 6 of us in a small 3 bedroom house, and the “housekeeper” as we called her, having to share a bed with the youngest sister, sometimes a twin bed, but usually my sister and I would sleep head to head with our toes touching the head and foot of the twin bed, so as to give the stranger among us and our baby sister the larger bed.  We would run laughing from the house as the substitute mother chased us with her broom or dustrag, vainly raising her voice, never gaining the attention or respect that she was demanding, rarely telling her even where we were going.  Our parents never bothered us with that type of  question, why tell a mere hired hand?

 

Besides, we almost hardly knew ourselves when we left the house where we were going or where we would end up…….there were twenty-five identical houses (with 3 floor-plans) lining our block on either side with at least 50 children to play with.  We knew all the neighbors with children, and the ones who didn’t have them were not worth knowing to us, and reclusive (why would you want to live on our block if you did not have children)?  We were within walking distance of both the elementary (three blocks north) and the junior high (3 blocks to the south) and walk we did, in gangs each morning, without any fear of being snatched off the street by a predator.  If you were important enough to be going to high school, you lounged to the corner, and caught the bus to the school 3 miles away.  Most of the families on the street had one car, but if your family was rich enough to have 2 cars, then you moved to a more affluent neighborhood, and besides, why would you need two cars when all the schools, churches, movies, and stores were within walking distance?

 

And about the movies!  Saturday afternoon movies were our baby-sitter.  Shiny quarter in hand, we would walk the 3 blocks to sit enthralled through the news, short subject, weekly serial, usually Flash Gordon or the Lone Ranger, cartoon, and feature (usually an adult movie which was mostly over our heads, but who cared—they would all be rated G these days anyway).  Sitting in the dark in a row with my siblings and friends, few adults in the theatre, enthralled throughout the short afternoon, we would exit in a trance, still in the roles of the actors left behind.  The biggest dilemma of the day would be how to spend what was left of the quarter after admission was paid.  There would be a dime left over, enough for a bag of popcorn and a coke, or a bag of popcorn and candy, or a coke and candy, but never all 3!  If you got popcorn, you almost always needed a coke, but the candy loomed large behind the glass display case.  If I was lucky, I could talk someone into sharing, and we could have all 3, but one of my sisters would never share!  And I hated eating or drinking after my smelly brothers.



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Member Since
Aug 2007
Agnes Williams said:
posted on Feb 15, 2009
Ooooooo

I am SO enjoying your writing!!


Member Since
Aug 2007
Archibald Sharron said:
posted on Feb 15, 2009
Going to the movies

Miss MaryHelen, these are delightful. I truly thank you for sharing. I felt the same about my smelly brothers as well. With regards, Archibald Sharron


Member Since
Feb 2009
MaryHelen Cuellar said:
posted on Feb 16, 2009
Agnes and Archibald

Thanks so much for reading them; much less leaving a comment!


Member Since
Jan 2009
Sam Henderson said:
posted on Feb 16, 2009
MaryHelen

Our community is very caring and supportive; and we all get excited when people share great stories :) Most of our the people on the site keep their stuff private (which is perfectly fine!) and so the people who do share publicly is a neat thing :) Thank you!


Member Since
Oct 2009
Henrietta Giseppe said:
posted on Mar 17, 2010
MaryHelen

I just found your stories from a comment on another story. I read them all. And enjoyed them very much. May I ask why you stopped writing? You should continue - you have a gift!


Member Since
Feb 2009
MaryHelen Cuellar said:
posted on Mar 17, 2010
Thanks Henrietta

I seem to have stopped writing when my grandson Cameron had to have open heart surgery; I was gone from home for 3 months & couldn't seem to get back into the rhythm of it.  Just realized about a month ago that I was depressed about him even though he is now doing well. And I have been traveling quite a bit throughout the holidays & another trip coming up soon.  I do want to "finish" my memoirs though for my children/grandchildren.  I appreciate that you read them all and thank you for saying you enjoyed them and that you think I have a gift.  It's a nice incentive for me.