main sport played by kids in our neighborhood was baseball. I've
mentioned before we had an unusually long season, mainly because
it stayed warm for so long in Beaumont.
The fact is, we just loved the game.
There was a city park about 3 blocks from our house as the crow
flies called Roberts Park. It consisted of a square city block of
grass, a kiddy swimming pool, the deep end being 3 feet, and an
area that was meant to be a baseball diamond. I guess it had once
been a proper diamond with lime marking the baselines. By then,
though, the bases, home plate and the pitcher's non-mound were simply
dug out places in the dirt. The baselines were merely strips of
dirt, and there was a chain link backstop that held up pretty well
over the years and legitimized the description "diamond". It all
worked. Once in awhile we would decide to move outside of our front
yard (our mother was the only parent on Emile who let us play in
the yard and ruin her holly bush, which was our home plate). One
of the leaders of our gang would make contact with a "team" consisting
of kids who lived in neighborhoods on the opposite side of the park
from us and challenge their team to a baseball game, usually on
the nearest Saturday.
We were playing such a game one year, uneven numbers, but we always
ignored that. I think our team had about 10 kids and the opponents
were maybe 14. It was that kind of mix and close to the actual total.
Remember, I'm old. We also didn't pay attention to innings, either.
We played until it was near dark or until we had to go home. Our
mother worked in a doctor's office as a nurse, and Saturdays were
half days ending at 1. She drove by the park, stopped, got out and
gathered us together and did a head count. She didn't say what she
was doing and just drove away, and we resumed play. Minutes later
she returned. She opened the car door and unloaded carriers of those
little Coca Cola's, the 6 1/2 ounce green bottles, then leaned back
in the car and brought out a bag. All of us kids ran to see what
she had. She had driven the several blocks to C & C Grocery on the
corner of Avenue C and Washington Boulevard, bought Cokes for every
kid AND, even more exciting, a Hershey bar apiece!
We were beside
ourselves with glee. I mean, 2 dozen kids all given a free soda
and candy? This was unheard of in our neighborhood because few,
if any, parents would have been able, or willing, to spend this
much for unnecessary treats, not for all the kids, anyway. I was
about 8 and my brother Butch would have been a year older. I'm not
completely sure of the ages here, but we were definitely elementary
What sacrifices she had to have made to spend a nickel for each
drink and a nickel for each candy bar, I'll never know. I do know
from grocery shopping trips with her every Saturday that she never
could spend more than $15-20 a week on groceries during those years.
She always paid with a $20 bill and always breathed a sigh of relief
when she got change back. That $2.40 was a big cut into that budget.
I don't remember whether I thanked her or not. Shame on me if I
didn't. I remember other kids laughing and jumping around and calling
out thanks to her and being so excited at this impromptu party,
and I remember feeling proud that this was MY mother who did this
She packed up the empties to return for the 2 cent deposit, got
into the car still dressed in her white starched uniform, white
hose and snow white Clinic shoes and drove away, an angel in the
eyes of so many grubby kids. I can't remember if she had a bottle
opener or if the grocers had opened the bottles for her at the store.
incident seems to relate to her insistence that no one at our house
was allowed to eat in front of anyone unless we offered to share.
If Butch and I got candy or some other treat and we were in the
front yard with our friends, we shared or we would be jerked inside
the front door for remedial instructions on how we were supposed
to behave. If anyone came to the house, EVER, she wanted to feed
them. This was a behavior that continued to the end of her life.
I bet there was some connection to having grown up dirt poor and
feeling shame, deprivation, envy, sadness. I wish I knew.
© Frances Giles
"True Confessions and Mild Obsessions"
January 18, 2015 Column
Related Topics: Mothers
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