"Left for Pensacola, Florida Dec. 16, 1943 and received commission June 6, 1944
15 day leave and gave Willie diamond June 27"
By the time I came along, the youngest of 4 children and when they were 43 years old, Dad had stopped calling my mom Willie. But they loved each other in a deep, quiet, supportive, partners-through-thick-and-through-thin sort of way.
My oldest brother is almost 15 years older than I am. My sister is 13 years older, and there is roughly 8 years difference between me and Denny. There were times when I felt like an only child with siblings. When there was nobody around to play with and I was tired of amusing myself, I would go pester Mom or Dad. I used to have one on one conversations with them in what I would call their "natural habitats".
When she wasn't cleaning, cooking or doing other chores, Mom could be found in her sewing room. It was off the kitchen, and you had to pass through the bathroom to get to it. In the afternoons, NBC soap operas (Days of Our Lives, The Doctors and Another World) were turned up on the TV in the kitchen, just a little too loud so she could listen to them as she worked. Just inside the door, the ironing board permanently stood on the right, separating me from my mom sitting at her sewing machine. I am convinced that if she were ever challenged, she could have sewn a house together. She made everything from crafts, curtains and quilts, to bathing suits, business suits, and holiday dresses.
(On a side note, Mom went through a period when she made pantyhose dolls, where she had to hand stitch to sculpt the face. She actually made an almost life size doll that looked like herself. It sat in our dining room for the longest time, and it would completely freak my boyfriends out when we got back from dates a little after curfew. We would give her a cup of coffee or a magazine every now and then, just to make it weirder.)
So I would wander into the sewing room, lean on the ironing board, watch her work, and ask stupid questions. I remember asking her about when she dated Dad, and when they fell in love. I didn't understand when she said she didn't "fall head-over-heals in love" with my father. What?!! Doesn't everybody fall in love they way they do in the movies?? It took me a few years before I finally got what she was talking about.
Somewhere I had heard the term and asked her if I was an "oops baby". She didn't miss a stitch and answered, "Yes, but a welcome one."
Dad was harder to track down, and was a man of few words when he was working. His "habitat" was anywhere outside on the farm. This was his workbench, in our detached, two car garage.
Everything was dusty, dirty, greasy, and it looked like complete chaos - but I always thought there was something beautiful about it too. I was under strict instructions not to move anything - he knew where every nut and bolt were. There was a spinning baby food jar organizer that hung off to the left, above the bread box. Don't ask what was in the bread box - I haven't a clue. See the vice hanging off the side? I'm lucky to have both eyes still in tact, because I used to put rocks in that and crank it until they cracked or exploded.
So I sat on a little stool and watched Dad do whatever he did at his workbench. I was always very fascinated when he used the grinder thing (on the right in the bottom photo). Thank goodness my fingers and I were smart enough to stay away from that when Dad wasn't around.
Other times, I shadowed him as he tended to things around the farm. My questions to Dad were always about what was going on at the time.
"What's that for?"
"Where do you put that?"
"Why do you cut the teeth out of the baby pig's mouth?! Doesn't that hurt??!"
"Where are the cows going? Can I ride in the big truck?"
"Can I sit up there with you?"
"Why is there only one bull in that pasture and there are so many cows?"
"Can I slide down that?"
"Why do we have to pull the 'hair' off the corn stalk?"
"Can I come with you?"
You get the idea. I must have driven that poor man crazy. And of course, I don't remember a single answer. I probably didn't give him time to reply in between questions.
On Sundays, he would always read me the "funnies" from the newspaper. I'm sure I didn't understand any of those comics either. Didn't matter. I just liked being around him.
Yes, I was the spoiled "baby" of the family. I like to think that I was mostly spoiled by the time I had, alone, with each one of my parents.