Somehow, since a little boy, my whole life has been filled with beauty and wonder-filled adventure. Well, except for the time I was afraid to sit on a plastic lion in the barber shop to get my hair cut. Oh, and I became lost and fearfully alone on a beach of Lake Michigan, not knowing which way to turn to find the wooden steps leading back up to our vacation Motel.
I always felt dearly loved by my beautiful and talented mother, Lola, and my handsome and reliable father, Herbert. They were serious-minded and pleasant and cheerful at the same time. They also fed me and gave me things.
I thought my big sisters, Becky and Peggy, liked me because they smiled and talked nice to me and did things for me.
My older brother, Roddy, was like a benevolent Prince, and as his loyal subject I eagerly did almost everything he told me to do. We did a lot of fun things together like playing catch, making slingshots, having snowball fights, racing bikes, shooting marbles, throwing pocket knives at the grass, catching bees in a jar. We never heard of a Frisbee. Didn’t need to. A Hills Brothers coffee can lid would do just fine.
My little brother, Marty, was a great audience for the made-up stories that I liked to tell. He would laugh or feel sad at all the right times during my presentations. Cheering him up cheered me up.
We lived and played on the sidewalks of a perfectly charming neighborhood in Flint, Michigan. Our cute Cape Cod style house had the grandest oak tree of our block out front and a sandbox and room to play ball in the backyard. Half asleep on my lower bunk, I could hear the happy clinking of milk bottles being delivered to the porch outside my bedroom window.
My little neighborhood boy friend lived just two houses up the street and he had a pogo stick in his garage and a big red fire engine in his toy box! We used to try and catch a bird by propping up a shoe box in his backyard with a stick attached to a string. We placed pieces of Wonder Bread in the grass under the box and hid behind a lawn chair and whispered and waited for the Robin to come around. And we waited. And we waited. Pulled the string and missed. Pulled the string and missed again and again. Until, one day, we caught it and we did not know what to do with it. It was a little scary to actually catch a real bird.
I walked to Coolidge, a red brick grade school with a gray slate roof just a few short blocks away. My mother often sent me to buy bread at the corner grocery store. Next door to that was the drug store where I bought Tops baseball cards. I chewed the flat stick of pink powdery bubble gum while I looked for my favorite Detroit Tiger player. I eventually either traded away all the cards to my friends or clothes-pinned them to the spokes of my bike for the impressive sound of my motor.
Our family had “quiet time” every morning in our living room, before school, where my mother would help us learn Bible verses with the alphabet. The verse would start with “A” and then “B” and so on. She would also read Bible stories and play the piano as we sang and sometimes marched around the living room keeping time with wooden spoons and pots and pans.
My father was the Pastor of the church just beyond the gate of our backyard and across the gavel lot. He never seemed to mind if I hid under his desk in his office even if people were there. He kept his shoe polish and buffer brush in the lower right hand drawer.
My parents, with the help of the people of in our church, put on a live nativity scene for the city every Christmas. I was a shepherd boy who sat by a real campfire at night and saw the Angels with my own eyes and walked to the manger in the stable and saw Mary And Joseph and the baby Jesus. My brother and I got to help feed and water the donkey and the cow and the sheep during the day.
I got a new suit every Easter. I carved Zs for Zorro up in my climbing tree hideout. I pretended to hear and see dangerous animals on the loose. I played Cowboys and Indians with Dime-Store holsters and cap guns and home-made tree limb bows and arrows.
I built a ten foot long zip line attached to a tree and the corner of my sand box. I held on tight with my ear too close to the pully. It was a very quick ride. Actually, I fell out of the tree. I had a small record player in my bedroom and listened to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sing, “Oh, let the sunshine in. Face it with a grin. Smilers never lose and frowners never win.”
I watched the Dave Garroway show and Jack LaLanne in the morning. The Arthur Godfrey Show at noon and Queen For a Day on TV with my mom in the afternoon on week days. On Saturday morning, sprawled on the floor with my bowl of Cheerios, I watched Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and the Howdy Doody show. On Saturday night we watched Sea Hunt and Perry Mason after our weekly bath. On Sunday night after church we watched Ozzie and Harriet and Bonanza.
I remember riding in a hot car with the windows open and my head on my mother’s lap as my dad was driving. We were traveling to church Camp meeting in Anderson, Indiana.
My mother died when I was ten years old. I believe I must have been one of the most prayed-for little boys that there ever was.