I remember living on Gardener Park Drive. We lived at the end of the street, near a cow pasture where we would climb a fence to explore only to be chased out by a big black bull. I remember the thrill of the chase, and climbing back over the fence in what felt like the nick of time. I remember our neighbors. They had more children in their family than the five we had in ours, so I felt we were somehow related. My mother was best friends with the neighbor woman, Rita.
I remember a cow from the cow pasture somehow ending up in Rita’s living room, and the same day, an owl had some how ended up in our own living room.
There was a play house in our back yard where my sisters and I would have tea parties and marshmallow lunches. My brothers would explore the woods behind our house. They called an area there Peter Pans Hide Out. We walked to school in the mornings, across our back yard and small open field beside Peter Pans Hide Out. I hated school. I was painfully shy and thought all the kids laughed at me. One morning, rather than walking to school, I ducked into the woods and hid the entire day in Peter Pans Hide Out.
My dad was moving up the social ladder in life. He had many cocktail parties. My parents and their friends would gather around my father’s player piano and sing daddy’s favorite Al Jolsen songs. I loved hiding at the top of the stairs and listening to daddy belt out his best imitation of Jolsen. I’d peek around the corner and watch pretty women in cocktail dresses dance, a little closer than they probably should have, with each others’ husbands while holding in one hand long slender cigarettes and lipstick stained whiskey glasses that would be refilled often with ice cubes and pee colored liquid.
Dad would catch me watching in awe, and call me down the stairs, and then holler up for my two sisters to come down. He’d have the three of us sit on the top of the upright piano and sing to his guests, “nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the mornin’. No one could be sweeter than my sweety when I meet her in the mornin’. When the mornin’ glories twine around the door, whispering pretty stories, I long to hear once more…. ” When we’d finish our recital we were helped down off our perch, and given hugs and bourbon kisses by all the guests, then sent upstairs to bed.
I grew up thinking that one day I would be like those grown ups, and I would also be a singer. I was only right about part of that. In my life time I have given out many hugs and many bourbon kisses.