• 54°

Something not nice, said

Parents worry about their children saying something not very nice, especially in public. Of course, when I was growing up, Art Linkletter had his famous television show, “Kids Say the Darndest (nicer word) Things!”
This recollection has to do with a family south of my boyhood home on the Old Concord Road. At the time, Spence Hatley and his family were living in the house two doors down from mine, across from the Earnhardts, adjacent to Old Concord Road.
The house to which I refer was behind the Hatleys and a little further down. It wasn’t on the road, but a little ways into that forest which was lately logged. My friends Charlie and Pam, who now live in my old boyhood home, tell me that fast-growing pines were planted there, post-logging.
Some future little boy will be able to wander in that future woods, as I wandered in mine of the past; but unlike me, he will have to content himself with a forest limited to mostly one species of tree.
I can still picture the day lilies growing along the dirt drive to that “house in the woods.” Other people recall the dwelling, drive and lilies, namely, new friends Bob and Betty, who moved into my boyhood home in 1976, two years after my mother and I left. They stayed for 16 years.
The other, “forested” house was also owned by our landlord, but wasn’t in as good a shape as ours, despite our rocks and weeds (but I enjoyed those rocks and weeds, mind you, except at grass hand-slinging time, and would not have had it any other way).
I was around 6 years old (1957), playing at the Hatleys’ house, when new neighborhood kids made their presence known. They walked down from that house in the woods into the Hatley’s yard in search of playmates and play.
Those unfortunate children’s clothes had a threadbare look, as if the very “skeleton” of the cloth’s construction showed through. I have bought clothes at Goodwill which looked a lot better, so their garments evidently stayed with them a lot longer than some of those Goodwill contributions stayed with their contributors.
I won’t go into vivid description (“written HD”), but these disadvantaged youth had not been to a dentist for a while. When they talked or smiled, it showed.
One day, when these “children of the woods” were playing, I walked over to them and politely (or impolitely) said: “I can’t play with you anymore, because my mother doesn’t let me play with white trash.” (This was another of those recollections of my childhood which my mother sometimes loved to tell, though just why, I’m not exactly sure.)
Their mother told my mother of my “words,” and she was horrified (as I am, even now, at the recollection). My mother stated she never said such a thing! I believe her; and my father was not the sort of person to make some quick, “point-blank,” superficial judgment of someone, either.
Perhaps I picked it up from the television dramas back then, i.e., “Playhouse 90,” “General Electric Theater,” etc. (My comment that day led to some “drama” of its own.)
So I guess I’ll blame TV, since I was already under its influence, sometimes running around with one of my mother’s scarves tied around my neck, portraying Zorro. (The scarf, however, instead of being solely black was mixed with green and red, the overall design: “paisley.”)
I have memories of playing with those children at other times following my “pronouncement.” In my memories of such occasions, none of us seems to be the “worse for wear,” so my thoughtless speech of that “fateful day” must have soon been forgotten by both sides.
Years later, after that house in the woods was long abandoned, I walked by and looked into one of its windows out of curiosity, seeing only darkness. Though it was a sunny day, only the smallest speck of direct sunlight managed to make its way between the forest shadows. Reaching the house, it could make no further headway against the shade sheltered there within walls, floor and roof.
Looking back, perhaps what I said on that 1957 day was just one of those things which pops into a child’s head, then pops out of his mouth. In my case, it evidently popped in the air like a bubble and evaporated, fortunately leaving no long-term effect on either the “pop-er” or the “pop-ees.”

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