Tuesday, September 09, 2014

I'm tired of spelling peripatetic. Let's call it my Gypsy childhood from now on.

I assume Mother left the Wyant farm out of our wanderings because we didn't actually move out of the Eagleville area, but that isn't the only place she missed, and there is one that I am not sure where to place in our journeys:  Our first stay in Harlem, which is an unincorporated area of Kansas City.  I know I was in the second grade when we were there that time, because they tested me and decided I was ready for third grade.  That would mean we were there at some point before we moved to Eagleville.  It must have been very brief, because I don't even associate a house with that time, only a school I hated.  It was a miserable time indeed.  

Now comes the big move to Harlem from the Wyant farm.  I literally cried myself to sleep some nights in our tiny three-room upstairs apartment, homesick for the country.  Two of my dad's brothers lived in the downstairs apartments with their families.  When one of my aunts would spray for cockroaches, the pesky creatures migrated to our apartment.  Then Mother would spray, and they would move back downstairs.  

There was a bedroom for my parents, a tiny living room, and a tinier kitchen.  I slept on the couch.  I'm sure my parents intended this as a temporary place until we found something bigger, but nobody told me, and I assumed we'd be there awhile.  There were some positive things about the apartment:  For the first time in our lives we had running water, and down at the bottom of the stairs was an indoor restroom, the first we had ever had.  Oh, we shared it with the other tenants, but it was an improvement over the outhouses we were used to.  My cousin Alice, who lived directly beneath us, was my age.  They had a television, and I took to going to her house after school to watch whatever was on at that time.  Alice was excited about Peter Pan (with Mary Martin as Peter) and insisted I join her to watch it one evening.  

Before long both parents had found jobs, and one of their first purchases was a television.  Mother said it was the only way to keep me from moving downstairs with my cousin.  

I don't know how long we lived in the apartment.  I do know we were still there on Halloween, because my cousins and I were trick-or-treating and knocked on the door of an elderly couple who asked where I lived.  "In that big house down there that looks like a barn," I said.  

I didn't know they were our landlords.  My cousins were mortified.  

The only thing that helped me get over my grief at leaving the farm was our close proximity to the Missouri River.  Our apartment house was just across the road from the levee, so all I had to do to find solitude was walk to the top of the levee and then down the other side.  I could walk right to the river's edge if I wanted to.  It was a great consolation to me, and I find it rather poetic that I still live very near the same river.

This picture I took of my dad and some out-of-town cousins at a later time shows the levee on the river side, with the ASB bridge in the background.


3 comments:

TARYTERRE said...

Moving is always traumatic when you're a kid. Sounds like you adapted. That's a GREAT vintage photo.

Jon said...

I'm enjoying reading about your history, and that's a great photo of the Missouri River. Much like you, my family moved a lot when I was a child. Children seem to be more adaptable than adults. I was so used to moving that it seemed like a natural part of life.

Thanks for letting me know that you wrote about the Villisca ax murders. I just read your June posts.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I love reading your memories of your younger years. Brings back some for me too. I lives a gypsy life too as when I was 21 my folks had moved 21 times. Mostly here in the same town though. That picture of your Dad and cousins is a good one.