On Childhood Memories: That House on Palmer Drive

In families as large as mine, it’s typical to be labeled. I was (at least in my own mind) “the writer”. In 1971 our family moved from California to Oklahoma to a too-small-for-nine-people house on Palmer Drive. We lived there for only a few years but I wrote prolifically during that time.

After we moved from the house on Palmer Drive my books were never rediscovered. As with people gone too soon, my books soon became the stuff of legends. The build up of my genius over the years (mainly from my sister Joan “the one who loved kids”) had me believing myself to be a petit Proust.

This summer my mom found several moving boxes from Palmer Drive and inside one of them were my books. I sat on my mom’s floor while she and my sister Rebekah (the “pretty one”) talked. Their voices began to fade as I realized that proof of my genius lay before me!

Later in the privacy of my own home I grabbed myself a cuppa and sat down to read the Monkey Story. This one intrigued me because it had a moral that, to put simply, astounded me:

A captivating ”moral” from a single page story

Though the moral drew me in, the story itself was achingly bad. In fact most of my books had intriguing titles but the body of my work—the corpus—was crap.

I always listed “other books by the author”. Attention grabbing titles but the stories? Meh.

Alongside my books was a packet of homemade Get Well cards I had received from my fifth grade classmates. I had contracted Hepatitis A then—probably from the cockroaches that held up the very walls of the house on Palmer Drive. I was happy to read the many, “Get well we miss you!” cards. But there was one card that stood out:

Dear Alison, don’t come back to school. We’re having more fun without you. Plus if you come back we will all get hepatitis. Your [scribbled over], Terry Bradley

He sweetens me up…
…For the kill

In the 5th grade boys are separated into two categories: cute or smart. Terry Bradley was beautiful yet hepatitis was spelled correctly. He must have received some assistance (from a Mr or Mrs Bradley? My teacher?) The stench of their snobbery encircled me like fog.

They say when you die your life flashes before your eyes. I saw myself as a well-liked talented child fly past me like Mrs. Gulch riding her bike outside Dorothy’s spinning house.

I wish now I would’ve let my own sister Dorothy (“the fierce one”) read Terry Bradley’s Don’t Get Well card back then. She would definitely have beaten up that little Bobby Brady doppelgänger. Then she would’ve lampooned me. That’s what fierce people do.

Dorothy is still “the fierce one”. I crave that now—the knowing how other people see you. If I’m not the “the writer” who then? Today when I was taking photos to insert into this story, I flipped Terry Bradley’s card over and saw this for the first time:

This hand writing doesn’t match the inside. I smell a rat.

Oof. Just call me “the drinker”.

30 Comments

  1. This is priceless. Thank goodness we can augment our childhood a bit – makes everything so much better. For example, I could not have expected such high work from my kids if I remembered correctly I was a solid B- achiever in high school. 🤣

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    1. They say we always want more for our kids than we had ourselves! I found an old report card where I had received an F that “someone” had turned into an A. Your B- would’ve been alright with me! Cheers.

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    1. Oh, gosh, I hope so! I was mad about him! All in good fun. I still think he had help from someone based on his scratchy writing on the outside of the card versus the elegant penmanship on the inside.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried to find him after I saw the card. Thought it would be fun. The only Terry Bradleys I found were from Canada. Sure! Run for the border you scoundrel!

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  2. That was funny Alison. Sometimes mom not throwing anything away is a good thing. I saw the title there haunted house’. I’m curious about that one. Ascot avenue? If I’m going to maintain my title (the pretty one) you must never post my 6th grade picture. The one (the fierce one) used to drag out when a boy was interested in me.

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    1. Though sometimes traumatic, the fierce one did enhance my childhood! You are still the pretty one through and through. I will get back to you on the Haunted House but feel like I can confirm ahead of time it was crap.

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  3. Oh, Alison,
    I love your stories!! Thanks

    Hubby and I are camping in Pocomoke State Park in Maryland. Hubby is playing on his HAM radio and receiving contacts from Oklahoma, Arizona and The Czech Republic. Hah! If we can’t travel we can still yap!

    Lots of love to you all,
    Susan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So nice to hear from you and thank you for reading! My sisters and I talk about writing a book. We have so many stories to tell. Your travels sound wonderful. My wanderlust is like an allergy right now. Can’t wait to have all this “distancing” behind us. Be well!

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    1. Boy am I glad I threw away the diaries! It’s also funny how my sisters are weighing in with their versions of truth. Seems we all see life through a prism. Nice to hear from you. Hope you and yours have been well.

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    1. Thank you for the link! I’ve just read your post and left a comment there. Love getting to know you a bit. We have much in common. Only I’m already bitchy after 50 (precocious I guess).

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  4. Alison, I love your blog posts. What a joy to rediscover the “books” you wrote way back when! I love how you had the the true writer’s presence of mind to list your other books at the beginning of your new books. Finding the Don’t Get Well card was the icing on the cake. Priceless.

    I’m the youngest in my family, so I’m forever, “the baby.” At least the bar wasn’t set very high for me. No pressure there. No expectations.

    I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving with whatever part of your family you can safely get together with this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice to see you here. Thanks for the comment and encouragement. I am also the baby but it doesn’t come with any perks when you’re number 11! We are doing thanksgiving with the kids and grands in weekly shifts this year. Very weird times but we’re happy to be healthy and don’t take that for granted. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well.

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  5. Always such a treat to see your name pop up and read your words. I can commiserate with your experience of reading childhood writings – though I have to say yours seem much more literary than mine. You wrote BOOKS for heaven’s sake! My childhood journals are covered in an on again off again series called “Cringe-worthy” because, well,. . . because they are. Yours seem much more readable. (Can you show me “Karren the Cat”?) And I think buying your monkeys in a bookstore is excellent advice. Forget the nasty card writer. I know him. He was a dork.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi my friend! Been missing you. Have to go back and do some catch up on your blog. I had to take a breather until the election was behind us. Couldn’t take it anymore—overwhelmed me. I remember writing Karren the Kitten and spelling it that way because the double R looked good with the double T. Can’t say the book was much. I think my calling was to write headlines for tabloids. I do stand by the monkey advice. No one can dispute it. Good to hear from you!

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