Monday, December 5, 2011

THE TAYLOR FAMILY

It is funny about memories, isn't it? It seems most of my childhood memories include aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Although they say you don't recall events that happened before you were three years old, I could not have been much more than that when Uncle Jack cautioned me to be careful with the big-as-me hammer I was using to drive nails into the dirt yard of the house on Taylor Street. This was during the time Mama had to stir the vertigo causing gravy for Aunt Lizzy because she had all day long morning sickness while carrying Monica. Monnie is not that much younger than I am.

I remember how my Great Aunt Maggie's Chihuahua Princess Kay was called PK for short. I remember being shooed out of Aunt Maggie's dark bedroom after Daddy told us not to ask for any more chocolate covered cherries. She said we could have as many as we wanted. She died shortly after our visit.

I remember how Aunt Emma's snuff left thin brown streaks in the creases of her mouth. I remember playing with Jimmy on Aunt Maggie's front porch when Daddy had me sing "Oh Susanna" for Dorcas and Howard. Howard laughed that funny "huh huh huh" laugh of his because I sang "banjo on my knee-bone" like Daddy did sometimes. Dorcas made a big to-do about how talented I was. I was probably cute back then.

I remember Dorcas quickly tying the big sash on my pinafore so I could resume playing with the kids at the farm. One hot summer day she offered to pay us kids a penny apiece for every fly we killed. That may have been the same time she told me to just ignore the boy cousins when they kept saying Jimmy was the oldest grandchild.

They say my nine days younger cousin would get mad when I called him "Shimmy." I do not remember that. There is a studio picture of us together where they said I kept crawling toward him and he kept trying to get away. I do not remember where I last saw that picture.

They said Jimmy had a little rubber boy doll that he loved. I do not remember it. I did buy one that I imagined looked like his though. I bought the little girl doll too. They said Jimmy remembered our great grandma and that he called her his Cookie Grandma. I do not remember her. They said she predicted Jimmy was too smart to live a long life.

Jimmy was smarter and more talented than I. He went to kindergarten when the rest of us did not start until the first grade. His kindergarten had a fireman's pole he could slide down. He learned to read before I did and read Dick and Jane stories to me. He could count money before I knew a penny from a dime.

He would blow and pop huge Dubble Bubble bubbles just to show me he could and I could not. He would climb the ladder to the hay loft, scramble across the wide-planked floor, and tumble out the door onto the heaped up hay as I watched from the ground. He wasn't afraid to go in the dark, loud, and scary pump house like I was. He was an athlete before we knew what one was.

He could leap over the cattle guard, run down the driveway, and be back in the yard before I could cripple across those metal bars. He zoomed around on a bicycle way before I learned to ride one. He played well with all the kids and even though he won all the marbles from the guys out at the farm, they all liked him. Sometimes he let me play.

Did Jimmy and I always get along? No, we did not. Did he ever say he loved me or even that he liked me? No, he did not. Was I ever jealous of him? No, I was not. Did I adore him? Yes, I did.

My Aunt Dorcas married a handsome Robert Mitchum looking man the same year Mama and Daddy married. I never knew if Uncle Howard was kidding or telling the truth. I usually just didn't believe anything he said.

He always had a grin on his face and a cigarette hanging from his lips. Although he never hugged me, kissed me, or even patted me on the head, I think he loved me.

As was common then, Dorcas and Howard had four boys in rapid succession. If they ever wished for a girl, they never voiced it.

It wasn't long after Jimmy was born that Michael came along. Pleasant and even tempered, Big Mike was always the peacemaker and often took the side of the underdog. They said Michael and another cousin, who will remain nameless, were playing with matches and caught the pasture on fire. I do not remember that.

Dale and my brother are the same age and played together at the farm. I do not remember ever playing with them. It was not long after Anthony was born that Dorcas and Howard moved to North Little Rock to be near Children's Hospital.

Although I do not remember Nicky with "real" legs, I do remember how he stood on the back of a tricycle and used his hands to pedal pell-mell around the corners. You had to step aside quickly as he careened down the hallway. It was always a little startling to see his blue jeans covered and shoes donned artificial limbs thrown all akimbo under a chair or behind a sofa as if someone had taken a spill and no one cared enough to help them up.

I remember Aunt Loda saying the secretary of the school Nicky attended was appalled when she told her to see if Nicky couldn't just walk across the street to her house when he broke a screw in one of his limbs. The unwitting secretary said, "Ma'am, did you understand? The teacher said he broke his leg!!" Loda was serious when she said, "Well, it happens all the time and sometimes he can still walk on it." They later learned he had loosened a screw to get out of class.

He told everyone he was not allowed to eat the Pop Tarts because his mom was saving them for when his baby cousin Robbie came over.

I do not remember his three older brothers ever giving over to Nicky or him ever receiving special attention from them. He was knocked off the sofa once while scuffling with his brothers. He grabbed both stumps and screamed, "My bones, my bones!!" It frightened me but as it left no impression on them, he just laughed and piled back in on them.

The summer I was there, Nicky had ulcers on his stump and couldn't wear his artificial limbs. I remember Dorcas' washing machine would get off centered and jiggle all over the kitchen floor. Nicky hoisted himself up on the machine with those strong arms of his to try to steady it. He just bounced all over the floor along with the machine.

I spent a couple of weeks with Aunt Dorcas the summer Jimmy and I turned fifteen. I didn't see much of Jimmy because he was a popular kid with loads of friends and things to do.

Michael took care of me though. Wherever Mike went, I was welcome to go too. Those three older boys ran all over the place in North Little Rock. As I have often said, it was a different time then.

I slept in Dale's bed while I was there. I am unsure where Dale bunked and apparently neither did the friend who opened the window screen to awaken him for an early morning fishing trip. You should have seen his face when he grabbed my foot instead of Dale's. Whatever happened to that boy?

After I got back home that summer, I made plans to fix my friend Karen up with Jimmy. That did not work out because just a few weeks later Jimmy dove into a shallow pool of water and broke his neck.

I remember Grandma going to Little Rock to stay with the younger boys while Dorcas and Howard stayed around the clock at the hospital. Although Grandpa had to come back home to work, he continued to pray for God's intercession.

I remember Mama saying she found Grandpa mowing around the banks of Spadra Creek when they called to say he needed to come back to the hospital.

Later that night, I remember Daddy slumping against the wall when they called to tell us Jimmy died. His cigarettes glowed long into the night as he grasped them between his hands and sat hunched over in his chair.

I remember Grandma trying to lead me next to the grave site to say goodbye. I could not. Years later Grandma said she had lost her mother, her father, her sisters and brothers but nothing hurt like losing Jimmy. I do not remember Dorcas crying. She said she had to stay strong for Howard and the boys.

Michael was a big boy who did not seem offended that we called him Big Mike. He was a gentle soul who knew no enemies and would hurt no one. The hitchhiker Dorcas and Loda picked up along I-40 did not know that though as he listened to Loda rant about what the sleeping Michael had done and could do. The poor kid clung fast to the passenger door with a wary eye on Mike. I doubt he wanted to ride very far.

Michael was a self taught and talented jeweler working in Pine Bluff when he suffered a pulmonary embolism and died suddenly. Once again, Aunt Dorcas had to bury a child. Once again, she had to be strong for Howard and the boys.

We began calling Nicky either Nick or Anthony since it no longer seemed appropriate to call the tall, strong, and handsome man Nicky. Although Nick had a family that included grandchildren, he never lived far from his Mother.

His profession was making and fitting artificial prostheses. Many clients appreciated the fact he understood their needs.

Nick was preparing to take his granddaughter to school one morning when he suffered a massive heart attack and despite all efforts to revive him, died in his Mother's kitchen floor. She came home to find his limbs tossed to the side.

This time, Dorcas had to be strong because Howard was very sick himself. I suspect her lone son was shoring her up much more than she ever knew. She said Dale was her buddy.

Uncle Howard died shortly after Nick did. I was heartsick. Not only had I lost this man who was an integral part of my childhood, I grieved for my Aunt Dorcas' loss.

But this little lady who seemed to be shrinking daily felt she needed to be strong. She told me a while ago that she had grieved but that she had put her feelings down in a tablet, closed the book, and placed it on a high shelf. I could never bear to read that journal.

My Aunt Dorcas is now resting in the arms of God. She is bathed in the love only experienced by one who has loved.

Although I do believe the Bible's version of streets of gold and jewel encrusted mansions, I have an extended version of heaven for my Aunt.

I see meadows of green grass and streams of cool and calm water. There is sunlight from every direction but it is not hot. I see Grandma and Grandpa coming down a little path toward Dorcas. Daddy and Inez are with them. There is Jimmy standing beside Dorcas - just as he was forty five years ago. Howard has a wide open grin because Nicky is running toward them on two long, sturdy legs. Michael waves from a fishing boat in that clear stream. That looks like Mama sitting beside him. How happy Dorcas is as she is once again with her family.


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5 comments:

  1. That was one of the saddest things I ever read, and also one of the most uplifting! Wow, the Taylor family's life had such drama and charm. It was a delight to move into their world with your well-crafted words! Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful anectdotes with us. I could see the family in an amazing and perfect Heaven, God-filled and love-filled and beautiful, with Nicky running on his perfect legs, and I loved it!

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  2. Wow what a moving story of your family. My mothers maiden name is Taylor, and our Taylor's can be a strange group sometime, ah family. I loved getting to know your family, keep them close always.

    Debbie
    x0x0x

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  3. A very moving post, it has been an honour to meet the Taylor family.

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  4. Rita, your memories of the Taylor family and also your remembering Aunt Maggie and Aunt Emma caused many reflections to my youth.....and remembering you. The possible description of heaven and the family members meeting there brought tears. Thank you so very much for the memories......and you have made a very nice web site. Your Aunt Maggie died Sept. 9, 1960, so you have a wonderful ability to remember.

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  5. re your comment.He isnt a happy boy today coughed alot last night so is in pain and the meds are foul as its sugar less and bitter.Dont get why they put colour in and take sugar out.
    Anyhoo I have loads I am keeping this is just stuff I no longer want or need.I will still keep most of my vintage and all my costumes as I want to hire out eventually.
    Bit embarressing how much I have.
    Am going to my mums soon she is 8 hours away and sorting her house out so she can move and she has loads more than me think a garage sale will be in order and yes will be bringing some special things home with me hence the clean out of my shed xx

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