Would tonight be the night? Had I been good enough? I knew I had placed my books softly on the table and completed my homework. I had ironed 12 shirts (mother took in ironings for a living). What more did I need to do? Just maybe I would get to watch a program on T.V.
Would it be “I Love Lucy”? She sure was crazy, stomping those grapes with her feet. Or maybe it would be Spring Byington in “December Bride”. Some nights it was a mind stretching program called “Twilight Zone”. There was always a twist at the end. During those 30 minutes I would be busily trying to come up with the conclusion. I guess my thoughts just weren’t bizarre enough. I never did get it right.
But best of all was the night that the black and white, tiny screen in the corner would show a line profile…and then Alfred Hitchcock would walk onto the screen and fit his face into that profile. I knew we were in for a treat. Throughout the whole program my brain was buzzing, trying to stay a step ahead of the plot. On a really good night, I figured it out before the end.
In preparation for the television viewing, Joan would place a quilt on the concrete slab floor of the little living room. Ann, Sara, and I would get our pillows and get ready for our entertainment. Since “Eata Bita Popcorn” was a business that was run out of the back room, we usually had popcorn to stuff in our mouths.
Some evenings, we just gathered around the piano, pulling music from a cardboard box containing sheet music. We sang until our throats gave out; songs like “Coming In On a Wing and a Prayer”, “Stardust” and my favorite, “Sentimental Journey”.
Joan also played an accordion. It was fascinating to watch the back and forth movement of the instrument, while at the same time she moved both hands on different kinds of keyboards to play the song. One side looked like a piano. The other side had round buttons to push. She needed a three-sided brain to make music.
Since playing with regular cards would be a sin, we made up games with the “Flinch” cards. Joan had pointed fingernails, so you never wanted to sit across from her when you played “Slap”. She was serious about winning, and you could get hurt if you got in her way.
At bedtime, we all headed for the “standard” size bed, so it was a wee bit crowded when we piled in. Scary stories would be told, complete with sound effects. One night, the scary story happened outside the bedroom window. It was summertime and the windows were open. The closest house was across a vacant lot. The slamming of doors caught our attention. Our eyes grew wide and our hands reached for each other as we watched two men carry a body out of the house and place it in the back seat of a car. Without turning on the lights, the car backed out of the driveway and drove away.
Boy, did the stories fly then. Was the body dead? Where had they taken it? Should we call the police? Sleep eluded us that night.
Joan cooked the very best fried chicken and her roasts were so tender they fell apart. Even though I would be stuffed to the gills, I would finish off the meal with a piece of her delicious Dutch apple pie.
All too soon, my stay at Joan’s would be over. She would drive me across town, I would climb the outside stairway to the two rooms where I lived with my mother, and my life would revert to its former environment. I felt like I had been on a 24-hour pass and had now returned to my prison. The warden always met me at the door.
We had no T.V. The radio played non-stop sermons. My meals consisted of oatmeal for breakfast; no raisins or brown sugar. Lunch was a hamburger patty, no bun. Boiled potatoes and green beans from a can would complete the meal. We drank room temperature water. Cold drinks were bad for you.
I honestly don’t remember eating dinner.
Bedtime meant I had to sleep with my mother. Hanging off the side of the bed so I wouldn’t accidentally touch her, I would long to return to Joan’s. She made my childhood so very special.
She was my sister.
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