Walking to School

One thing on many parents’ minds is how their children will get to and from school now that classes are in full swing. Some students take the bus while others are driven, but how many children walk to school anymore?

During the first six years of my education in the 1960’s and early 70’s, we were living in Tucson, Arizona. Because of my visual impairment, I spent the first five and a half years at a state school for the blind before being mainstreamed into a public school. Because these facilities were too far to walk, and there was no bus, my parents drove me to and from school each day. However, I read stories about other children walking to and from school and longed to be able to do that.

When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973, my wish came true. For the first couple of years we lived there, our house was at the top of a hill, and the elementary school my brother and I attended was at the bottom. During sixth-grade, I delighted in walking to and from school with other kids.
When I started seventh grade, the junior high school was farther away. Dad wanted me to walk, but Mother prevailed, and I took the bus. I did walk half a mile to and from the bus stop each day, and that was fun.

In the spring of my eighth grade year, we moved to another house that was not within a school bus route. This time, Dad said I could walk, and Mother didn’t argue. It was a mile, the longest I’d ever walked. The route took me through downtown, so when Dad walked with me, he showed me how to cross busy streets with traffic lights by listening and watching the direction the vehicles were traveling.

Once I got the hang of it, I loved the long walk to and from school. I often stopped downtown, either at Brown Drug or The Palace Café, and had a milkshake. That was my after-school snack.

High school was a different matter. My main obstacle was a busy street with no four-way stop sign or light. At this point, I was given a cane that I held in front of me while standing at the corner in the hope that someone would stop. Hardly anyone did, and I often waited a long time for a break in traffic before dashing across.

After that, it was smooth sailing, through the park and up the hill. Thanks to that intersection, though, I soon lost interest in walking, especially in winter when the boardwalk up the hill was slick with snow and ice, and there was no railing. I was only too happy when my parents started driving me to and from school each day, although I could tell my father was disappointed.

I understand his disappointment. Because he had to walk to school every day as a kid, it was only fair that his children should do the same. I wish I’d continued to brave that intersection. Better yet, I could have taken a longer route.

In the good old days, many children in rural areas walked over a mile to and from school each day. I remember reading in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder about Laura and her sister walking home from school one day during a raging blizard.

Nowadays, I see children getting off of school buses every day but rarely encounter them walking to or from school. Because of security concerns, real or imagined, many parents are too over-protective. This is sad. Whatever happened to the good old days?

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Cottage by the Sea

Cottage by the Sea
by Debbie Macomber
Copyright 2018.

After losing most of her family as a result of a mud slide near Seattle, Annie retreats to the seaside village where her family rented a cottage for several summers. By a miraculus twist of fate, she is able to rent that same cottage. A physician’s assistant, she finds a job at the local clinic. In her quest for healing, she affects the lives of a shy six-foot artist with whom she falls in love, her reclusive landlady, a teen-ager with an abusive stepfather, and other characters, all needing relief from their troublesome burdens.

I’ve always enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s work, and Cottage by the Sea didn’t disappoint me, but there are a couple of things I don’t like about this and other books she has written. First of all, the author uses way too much unnecessary narrative. As I’ve said before, it’s better to show and not tell, and too much narrative bogs a story down. Another thing I don’t like is her use of adverbs. It’s always better to use a stronger verb, and in the case of dialog, what a person says should speak for itself without the adverb. Because Debbie Macomber tells such heartwarming stories that make me feel good, I’m willing to put up with these pitfalls.

That said, Cottage by the Sea was a great end-of-summer read for me. According to the author’s note at the beginning, a mud slide near Seattle actually happened several years ago. I like the way this author uses real-life events to tell a compelling story. I also appreciate her not including descriptions of sex. There are better ways to show two characters in love like kissing, hugging, hand holding, and body language. Sex scenes are unnecessary and bog a story down.

I downloaded this book from Audible, and it was hard to put down. The narrator did an excellent job portraying each character. Although one minor plot detail could have been handled differently, I found the ending very satisfying. If you don’t have time or enough money to retreat to a seaside village, I suggest you read this book instead. You’ll be refreshed.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Re-Blog: Lemonade Memories and a Summer Cookie Recipe

In celebration of National Lemonade Day, which was yesterday, here’s a delightful post from Alice Massa on the subject. Although my mother baked cookies on a regular basis, sadly, our family’s lemonade recipe only involved opening a can of Wyler’s or Country Time. If you have a better lemonade recipe or other summertime memories, please feel free to share them either here or on Alice’s blog. Enjoy these last waning days of summer.

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Lemonade Memories and a Summer Cookie Recipe

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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My Career as a Bowler

As a kid, I was forced to try a variety of sports in school physical education classes. Unfortunately, due to my visual impairment, I was not successful at any of them. I either fell on my face or was hit in the face with a ball. When throwing, my aim was terrible. When I was in college however, I discovered a sport I could do pretty well.

In 1981, I was entering my second year at Sheridan College in my Wyoming home town. I was required to take at least two semesters of P.E. It was time for me to quit procrastinating and do it. I signed up for bowling because to me, that seemed to require the least athletic ability and the chance of injury was slim.

The first few days of class were humiliating. No matter what I did, the ball always ended up in the gutter. Fortunately, nobody laughed at me, which they would have done in elementary school. However, in between frames, I watched other students bowl strikes and spares and heard them cheering for one another and was depressed by the realization that no one was cheering for me. I took comfort in the fact that at least I wasn’t getting hurt.

The instructor saw that I was floundering and tossed me a lifeline. She arranged for me to have a lane all to myself so I would have an opportunity to practice continually without having to wait for others to bowl. She also worked with me to perfect my arm movement so I could aim the ball right down the center of the lane.

Gradually, I improved. My gutter balls became less and less frequent and I began hitting more and more pins each time I bowled. One day, I finally bowled a strike, and the alley reverberated with the cheers of my classmates.

By the time the holidays rolled around, my average score was seventy-six. I loved the sport and wanted to practice in order to improve my game. I even watched the professional bowling tour on TV. I was living at home at the time.

The problem was that since I couldn’t drive, it was impossible for me to borrow the car and drive to the bowling alley whenever I wanted. So I constantly begged my parents to take me bowling, which they readily agreed to do most of the time. We often went as a family with my younger brother Andy tagging along. At Thanksgiving, when my uncle, aunt, and cousins from out of town were visiting, I even talked them into bowling with us, and we all had a wonderful time.

AsChristmas grew closer, I became somewhat depressed when I realized that the bowling class would not continue the second semester. I had really come to enjoy it and wondered if I would ever bowl again. Then, to my wondering eyes on Christmas morning, there appeared a bowling ball, a pair of shoes, and a bag in which to carry them. My parents even gave me an electronic bowling game. They had realized that I was serious about this sport, just as Andy had been serious about tennis a few years earlier.

Through the years, I continued to bowl. When I was studying music therapy at Montana State University in Billings, I occasionally bowled with a group of students from the residence hall where I lived. While completing a six-month music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota, I often bowled with a couple of organizations for the blind and visually impaired.

When I started working at the nursing home in Sheridan after my internship, one of the activities we offered residents was bowling. We set up a makeshift alley in the recreation room, and my job was to set the pins. They had to be arranged on the floor just so, and when a resident knocked them down, I had to pick them up. I grew to appreciate the automatic pin setters at the bowling alley.

At one time during my fifteen-year stint working with seniors in nursing homes and other facilities, I got involved in a women’s bowling league. I was on one team, and we met once a week and played against other teams. This was short-lived because the team broke up after a few weeks due to lack of interest. None of the other teams in the league had an opening, so that was that.

Since then, I’ve been married and widowed and moved twice. I have no idea where my bowling ball and shoes are and don’t know if I’ll ever have an opportunity to bowl again. That doesn’t matter. I can still remember standing at the edge of the lane, my feet behind the black line, my knees bent, a bowling ball in my right hand, swinging my right arm back and forth to gain momentum, then letting fly as my arm swung forward, watching the ball roll away, out of my line of vision, and hearing the satisfying clatter of pins being knocked down.

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Note: A slightly different version of the above was published years ago in an anthology of Christmas stories written by authors with disabilities. After reading Mike Staton’s post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors, I was inspired to rewrite and post it here.

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How about you? What sport, if any, were you good at when you were a kid? Did your parents take your interest in this sport seriously, buying clothes and equipment you needed in order to participate, driving you to and from practice, even practicing with you? Please share your memories, either in the comment field below or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to reading about your sporting adventures.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Our Buddy

The first vehicle I remember from my childhood was a white Mercedes Benz with four doors and a trunk. The interior seats were of a gray and white decorative pattern. Before my younger brother was born, my parents and I took many trips from our home in Tucson, Arizona.

We called the car Buddy. After my younger brother was born, when he was old enough, Dad started calling him Buddy, and I was confused. My brother’s given name was Andy, so why was Dad calling him Buddy? I was too young to understand that “buddy” was also a term of endearment.

Three years after my younger brother was born, after a second car was purchased, Buddy took Dad and me all the way from Tucson to Sheridan, Wyoming. The year was 1971, and I was ten years old. Dad would have gone on his own, but on the night he planned to leave, while we were eating supper, he asked if I wanted to come, and I said yes, since I was always up for an adventure.

We left that night. Because it was close to my bedtime, I camped out in Buddy’s back seat while Dad drove for a few hours. When we stopped, he unrolled a sleeping bag on the ground near the car. We were still in Arizona.

The next day, we drove through the Navajo Reservation and into Colorado, stopping at Four Corners, where Dad said we lost an hour. That night, we ended up in Durango, and I remember thinking it strange that it was still light at eight o’clock in the evening. That night, we visited several bars. Years later, this experience inspired a poem from my collection, How to Build A Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

The next day, we stopped at Mesa Verde, then spent the night with friends in Beulah, and the following evening, Dad left me in Denver with my maternal grandmother while he drove the rest of the way to Sheridan.

I stayed with Grammy and Granddad Hinkley in Denver for several weeks. During that time, Dad and his mother, Grandma Johnson, went to Las Vegas and back to Denver, where they picked me up. We drove to Sheridan in Grandma’s Cadillac because Buddy quit working after Dad reached Sheridan the first time.

We’d come here because Grandpa Johnson died in the fall of the previous year, and Grandma needed help with the family’s coin-operated machine business. During the weeks I spent in Sheridan, Buddy sat neglected in front of Grandma’s house. Dad was too busy running the business and keeping me entertained to worry about fixing the car. When we drove anywhere, we either used Grandma’s car or one of the company vehicles. When it was time for me to start school, Dad drove me to Denver, again in Grandma’s Cadillac, and I boarded a plane for Tucson. I wondered if I would ever see Buddy again.

In October of that year, Buddy somehow managed to get Dad home safe and sound. Two years later, we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, so Dad could run the business full time. We had two cars: Buddy and the other Mercedes Benz we called 220S Baby. We rented a U-Haul truck to carry our earthly possessions. Dad drove the U-Haul, towing Buddy, while Mother drove 220S Baby.

After we settled in Sheridan, Buddy eventually retired and was relegated to a space in our driveway behind the garage. When Andy became a teen-ager, Mother wanted him to fix up and use the old car, but Andy wasn’t interested, and Dad didn’t like the idea for some reason. She eventually gave Andy her old Fiat when she bought a new Subaru. There were other cars, a gray Buick station wagon, a number of pick-up trucks and a van that were used mostly for the coin-operated machine business, a Plymouth Reliant station wagon, a Mitsubishi, and a red Subaru station wagon that Andy inherited after Dad passed away and gave to his son as a graduation present. For a couple of years when my husband was alive and partially paralyzed by two strokes, I owned a red wheelchair-accessible van. However, our Buddy, a reliable car for years, will always be foremost in my memory.

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How about you? I’d love to hear about the first car you remember when you were growing up. What color and brand was it? What did the interior look like? Do you remember where it came from? Can you think of a specific road trip you took with your family in this car? Please share your thoughts either in the comments field or on your own blog with a pingback here.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Tidbit: Excerpt from That’s Life

This excerpt is from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems. Click here for more information and ordering links. I wrote this several years ago after visiting my brother and his family in Florida and dedicated it to one of my nieces. Click here for a recording of me reading it.

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THAT’S LIFE

For Ana

Oh you of thirteen years,
when told you can’t go to the mall
or sleep over with a friend,
please understand that’s the way life is.
If you grow up thinking
you’ll always have your way,
you’ll be sadly disappointed
so better put on your big girl pants—
deal with it.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Reblog: On Bars and Drinking

Blogger Alice Massa’s post from last week inspired me to write about a trip I took with my father when I was ten years old. What does that have to do with bars and drinking? Well, read on, and you’ll find out.

This re-blogged post from several years ago includes, among other things, a poem from my collection, How to build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, that details a stop we made, during that journey, in Durango, Colorado. Next week’s post will outline the whole trip. Meanwhile, click here for a recording of me reading the poem. Then click the link below to read the original blog post containing it. Enjoy!

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On Bars and Drinking

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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