View from the Front Porch

I used to sit on the front porch late at night (late for me was just after dark) and I’d sing.  I would sing whatever song came to mind, hoping that I’d be “discovered” by one of the neighbors.  Now, exactly what the heck the neighbors were supposed to do from where we lived I hadn’t completely worked out.  I just hoped that I’d be discovered like Lana Turner or some of the other starlets circa Hollywood many years before.  I had no understanding that Rubberneck Avenue was four hundred miles away from Sunset Boulevard.

This much I did understand: I didn’t think John’s Sweet Shop was necessarily the place to hang around in.  Not too many people other than the immediate neighborhood families patronized his little candy store.  That wasn’t going to do me any good.  Besides, I wasn’t old enough and Mom would never let me “hang out” anywhere.  We didn’t “hang out” in our family, unless it was laundry.

Mom didn’t work outside the home nor did she drive.  Her entire world evolved around the homestead, a California Bungalow with a front porch, a side kitchen door, and a back door that led out to the garden.  Variety was not one of Mom’s things…she liked routine and familiarity.  Hence, she ruled the kitchen and most of the other rooms in our home.  If we were out of sight, we were soon in trouble. You didn’t cross Mom.  There was no “Wait until your dad comes home” parole. Mom asserted the authority just fine on her own and competently kept us in line.

Back to the front porch; during the school year, I’d sit there on a Friday afternoon or Saturday, watching the cars go by and hoping that one of my school friends’ moms would drive down our street.   There was always the slight chance they’d stop and invite me to go home with them and play for the afternoon.

In my mind, anything would beat playing with the Brat. We argued incessantly, and never really liked the same things.  She was far too tomboyish for my taste; and she knew far too much about the world and wasn’t afraid to laud it over me. She’d seen puppies born at Butch’s house.  I was not invited, so having been kept from some of the more pertinent details, I didn’t want to even contemplate the horrors that were involved.  Nor did I want to pretend I would understand anything that the Brat and Butch had already covered.  Yep; I was very backward…and if I waited for Mom to inform me of anything pertinent, I’d be forty-five and an old maid, living at home, still wondering what the hell life was really all about…

So, I considered the options out there.

  • One, I could be discovered;
  • Two, I could choose to take care of my parents just like Alice up the street, who never married and cooked and embroidered and did all kinds of crafts.
  • Three, I could become a nun and forego ever having to understand where puppies came from.
  • Four, I could attend college and get my degree in teaching…

A teacher didn’t have to listen to her mother; her mother’s rules would have no bearing on her private, classroom arena.  As a teacher, I would have complete control, so I knew just what I was going to do: I buried my head in books instead, working hard to amass good grades and I would mimic all the wonderful teachers I’d had in my elementary school, taking a bit of each and morph all the good things into one successful, caring teacher, who granted each child a place to grow and was loved by all of them.

  • Five came from Mom:

“You’d better marry someone with money, Annette, because you’ll need a maid.”

Okay; so I wasn’t good at mind reading…I didn’t know that Mom would have been happy if I’d picked up a dust cloth in between company and holidays.  Marrying for money had absolutely no attraction for this little girl…I just wanted someone who would allow me to be me, protect me as in days of old, and gently and patiently explain the finer details of life and not laugh at me for being so naive.

Obviously, I’d overdosed on too much Robin Hood! In America, Maid Marians never existed, and no one had quantified the idiosyncrasies of Old England for this unfortunate, twentieth century born, American girl.