Yesterday, I told you about going to the library to hear a local author. Local in this instance means that we grew up in the same small town. He moved away, I stayed. He has been divorced and remarried and now has children. I have been widowed, resided alone for over three years and have no children (of my own). Life experience has made our journeys very different but the context in which he wrote about our hometown, got me to ruminating about my own childhood. Those people who were not family but who were like family. Those people who had an impact on your life that didn’t make the grand gestures or get accolades from the community. The just lived a good, solid life.
My parents have been married 50 years and they still live in the same house in which I spent my childhood, teen years and early part of my adult life, up until the age of 24 when I got married. I went from living with my parents, to living with my husband, to at the age of 43, living alone.
I thought about how my neighbors were all family, for the most part. How my grandfather owned the mountain that is behind my parents house and half way out what was the gravel road we lived on at the time. It is now a paved road, grandpa is no longer with us, the land has been split up or sold off and things have changed. That road has become a meaningful part of my childhood memories for many reasons.
In the winter months the milk truck,driven by Harley, and the school buses would rut out the roads until the school buses couldn’t get through and they didn’t cancel school very often back then. You went to school!! So we would have to walk out to the end of the road to catch the bus. This was back in the day, before “car riders” and lines for miles to pick up the kids. They threw you on the bus and you had to fend for yourself. On my bus, you got a completely different education than what you had gotten at school during the day.
When Harley would come through with the milk truck on Saturday and Sunday mornings, he would start blowing the horn on the truck a good distance away from our house. We would run out on the porch in our night gowns, jammies or whatever we had slept in the night before with our tousled heads still showing signs of restless childhood sleep. We would start waving even before he got into sight. Then we would hear in his familiar wail of…. “HHHHHHHEEEEEYYYYY YYYYOOOUUUUNNNGGGAAANNNSSS”!!!! As I am typing this, I can hear him yelling it.
It was always a thrill that someone was making sure that he said hello to us kids. He never drove through and yelled, “HEEEEEYYYY PPPAAARRREEENNNTTSS”…. No, we were the people he wanted to say hello to. We were not important to the outside world. We were after all… just kids. We were those little noisy creatures who drove our parents to insanity. We were just two of the kids on his milk route. He drove around to several farms and picked up milk. Then he would haul it to a neighboring town. For all I know, he yelled at all the kids on his route. In that instant though, we were Harley’s favorites.
He wasn’t highly educated, he didn’t have a great deal of money, he wasn’t classically handsome. He was just Harley. No matter where you saw him, he was Harley. He is an important part of my memory because he made two little girls feel special two days a week. Hearing his truck coming around the bend in the road, above which my cousin’s home now sits, would send little bare feet skittering from the breakfast table or from in front of the Saturday morning cartoons just so we could get a passing greeting.
Harley, like so many who used to live in that neighborhood of my youth, is gone now. The rattle trap red milk truck has long since rusted, the road is paved. Time changes everything.
Memories are powerful things. For a moment, just a moment, I was transported back in time to that little girl who for 30 seconds to a minute felt important to somebody outside her family.