Most of the events in my book took place within a year’s time. One mountain I climbed the year before and Mt. Elbrus a year after my marathons on every continent. Mt. Denali I climbed the year after that, but even though I was very busy accomplishing my goals there is so much more that happens in a typical lifetime. I love to read and I become emotionally attached to a good book. Memories for me, good or bad, trigger subjects for writing. I can’t help myself to want to write about them especially childhood memories.
When I was a child, my parents didn’t go out in the evenings for entertainment and I never had a babysitter. But one night very unlike them, they had arranged to play cards with neighbors. They were an elderly couple at least in my eyes, as a child of 6 or 7. I had never been to their place but I was brought along that evening. As the foursome, my parents and the neighbors, Forrest and Angie sat at the kitchen table playing cards I sat and rocked in the hardwood rocking chair by the old wood parlor stove. Their place was a former one room schoolhouse and except for a curtain partition blocking off privacy to the bedroom the rest was one open room. Since I had never been inside before my curiosity would get the best of me and I would quietly get up from the rocking chair and walk around the place never touching anything but simply poking around. After awhile the visit came to a close as my parents feared I was getting too curious or they were getting tired. I don’t know but they got up to leave and Forrest went over to sit in his hardwood rocking chair which I had been borrowing that evening. He got rocking so hard he rocked right over completely doing a complete summersault in the air. At first I was shocked, then I began to laugh, and so too everyone else once they realized he wasn’t hurt. What surprised me was that Forrest never lost his pipe from his mouth as he spun through the air. Amazing the simple pleasures of childhood, even if it is laughter at someone else’s expense, never leave us.
Another thought hit me as I was thinking of my childhood days. I loved to have my grandmother visit us. Incidentally, her name was Madelyn and you’ve probably surmised, I was named after her. She didn’t drive so she would come on the train or someone would go and get her. She would spend a week or two with us. She was a great help, mending, ironing, darning socks and cooking. One summer day we were on the porch and my grandmother thought it was a good idea for me to go barefoot. Every child should go barefoot in the summer according to her. My mother, a nurse, didn’t think this was a good idea and I had never been allowed to go barefoot. However, at my grandmother’s suggestion, I peeled off my shoes and socks and stepped off the porch. I hadn’t gone more than 10 steps when I stepped on a bumble bee. I screamed, my mother gave my grandmother an, “I told you so look,” and my grandmother felt terrible for suggesting it. But the worst was yet to come; first the swelling occurred from the big toe where the stinger attached itself to my knee. It was very painful indeed. The stinger didn’t work its way out until the middle of that winter.
The next day we got up to go to church. We were not early and as we went in the church was full and we quietly walked down the aisle until we found a pew. My grandmother, a heavy set woman, was in front of me. As she genuflected before going to sit, she stepped back onto my big toe. That black high heeled dress shoe with that horrid square heel is still impressed in my memory. I couldn’t scream, I couldn’t cry I was in church. I was afraid of the priest and I didn’t want to upset my mother or grandmother. It was embarrassing enough to go to church with one slipper on that foot. We didn’t leave either. Not a word was spoken about how I felt perhaps they didn’t know it was my big toe. I kneeled and I am sure I prayed that my toe was still attached.
I don’t remember after church what was said but the next day I was taken to the family doctor, the one who later came to our house when I had chickenpox, measles and mumps. As I grew older we went to his office for my annual checkup for summer camp, I was rarely sick or hurt. But this bee sting caused me a lot of embarrassment. The doctor told my mother I was not to walk on it for a week and to keep the leg elevated. The next morning, my grandmother went back to her home and my mother went to the antique shop which my parents owned and I went with her. I lay on an antique Victorian sofa with china closets lined up and down the aisles and customers walked by me all day long for a week that seemed like an eternity. Somehow I survived and it strengthened me mentally more than physically I believe. When I am off on my hikes and climbing mountains I think of so many of these memories. It is these memories that sustain me and keep me going, and I’m happy for the outlet to write them down and share them with you. What childhood memories fortify you?