Monday, March 6, 2023

The Creature

 Growing up on rural James Street in Morristown NJ, we got to know the neighborhood homes and parents like our own.  Kids in the 50's and 60's had tremendous freedom to explore the surrounding wooded area-- check in for lunch and dinner. Though we were out of sight much of the time, the neighborhood  moms kept tabs on us.  "I have eyes in the back of my head!"  Mrs.McGrady often reminded us.

We got to know each mom's 'specialty.'  Any one of the neighborhood kids would agree that Mrs. McGrady made the BEST cinnamon toast. We filed to her front door one by one early in the morning just to hear those words--"Come in and have some cinnamon toast!"  Little Scotty Engleman was so smitten by her cinnamon toast that he wanted to marry Mrs. McGrady one day.

Mrs.McGrady was also a nurse.  So all accidents; skinned knees, bee stings, bleeding cuts in need of stitches--choking children were rushed to her door.  And she was always ready.  I remember one Easter a babysitter gave me my very first home permanent while my mom was in the hospital.  It was such a disaster that my dad rushed me to her door--"Marge, can you please do something!"  I'm afraid even Mrs.McGrady could not make it better!

Mrs Engelman knew everything about nature--birds and plants and animals. Her children were named appropriately Holly,Scotty, Forrest and Heather....

If we had a question relating to anything in nature, we would go to her--and she would always be interested and have an answer.  

One hot summer afternoon I was digging in the dirt to find worms for our fishing trip back at the stream.  Nancy and Sue always wanted me to dig for the worms. They were fat and plentiful that day.  As I unearthed each one I  dropped it into a can.   I poked my shovel into the dirt once more and discovered something horrifying; so shocking that I gasped and dropped my shovel.

It was a creature--but one I had never seen before. I ran in the house to find a little box but told no one about my discovery.  There was only one person I wanted to tell.  I scooped him up into the box shuddering as I closed the lid.  Mrs.Engelman was in her yard gardening-as usual.  I ran over and got down on my knees next to where she was digging. 
"Mrs. Engelman-look what I found!"  I opened the box and her eyes widened just as mine had.
"Well...what could this be?"  she said. as perplexed as I was.
She told me she would take it inside and see what she could find out.

At that time, the only resource available for researching such things was the encyclopedia.  Mrs Engelman must have searched to no avail.  From that time on though, when we saw each other we would look at each other and nod--we had a secret--an amazing discovery.  Only time would tell what I had unearthed.

 I never did find out what this creature was--and I always wondered --UNTIL  the writing of this story!
And thanks to the internet--Google search more specifically, I finally have the answer! 
(...after 65 years!)

And here it is-with that creepy eye on the top of its head!  Meet the Cyclops Worm!

If only I could tell Mrs. Engelman!




Sunday, March 5, 2023

Five Year Old Hits the Jackpot!



That’s me in my mother’s arms—1952.  I remember many shopping trips at the 'Food Fair' during my first nine years living out on James Street in Morristown, NJ.  I grew up with six brothers, so my mom did a LOT of food shopping.  As a young child I looked forward to being given a penny  or a nickel to put in the gum ball machine on our way out of the store.  I loved bubble gum!
I remember one particular shopping trip when I was perhaps four or five—it was like a dream come true!
One of my brothers and I were bored so we walked ahead of my mom collecting little cardboard circle cutouts we found on the floor throughout the store that had come out of boxes being unloaded.   Well it suddenly occurred to me that this little circle was the size of a coin.  (I was not a naughty little girl-just curious and inventive)  While my mom was checking out the groceries I walked out and slipped the cardboard circle into the gum ball machine and turned the crank—to my utter shock and delight….the ENTIRE gum ball machine emptied out onto the floor!  Talk about a jackpot! 

I’m sure my mom was embarrassed and I’m quite sure I did not get to take my ‘winnings’ home….but it sure was fun to imagine that I did!