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Mary To The Contrary

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A Wound That Never Closed

My high school years are filled with memories, some good and some not so good. This is one of those memories that was not so good.

I was 15 years old and working for the family that owned the bowling alley in our small town of Lebanon, PA.  I babysat their children and my brothers, Michael and Patrick, worked as pin boys in the bowling alley, which was next door to their home so we three would go to work together after school from 5 – 10 PM.  In those days we didn’t have automated bowling alleys, pin boys like my brothers gathered the fallen bowling pins and re-stacked them. It was hard worked but my brothers enjoyed it.

One of the other pin boys was a handsome young man named Ammon Peffley.  I found out later that the word Ammon meant Greek God, which made sense because he was so good-looking. Ammon was also 15 and in my class in high school and we met at the bowling alley.  I had a mad crush on Ammon and my brothers somehow sensed this. They were typical brothers, always pestering me about Ammon.

Pin boys

The man who owned the bowling alley would take each of us home in his big old Chevy at the end of the day.  The boys would sit in the back and I would sit in front. One night we were all in the car waiting for the owner, my brothers in the back seat (no sign of Ammon) and they asked me what I thought of Ammon Peffley.  I didn’t want them to know how I really felt, so I replied something like “I can’t stand him!” and other descriptive words to make sure no one knew the truth. What they never told me was that they had silently put Ammon in the back seat and he was listening to everything I was saying.

For the rest of my high school years Ammon Peffley ignored me and never spoke to me.  I was the President of one class and he was the President of another. He would speak to everyone at lunch except me.  He never asked me to dance at the sock up, and when I was a Junior and tasked with putting the sock hop together I eagerly waited for him to ask me to dance – I was very popular then – but he wouldn’t ask me.  He was a quiet boy, stoic in fact, but likable nonetheless. He was Captain of the football team with my good friend Pat Anderson. Pat asked me once why Ammon didn’t like me and I said “I have no idea”.

Still, I would still be faced with Ammon Peffley.  I knew that I wanted to be a nurse, and heard about this elderly couple that needed some help on the weekends so I volunteered to care for them.  As it turned out, it was Ammon Peffley’s grandparents. Every Saturday that I would be working with them at their home Ammon would visit them. He would see me and mumble something inaudible.

When the senior dance came around I was still holding out hope that Ammon would ask me, and everyone was waiting and wondering who Ammon would be taking to the dance.  All the pretty girls were spoken for and I was one of the few left – it should to be me.  I had set things up so that I could bring someone in my neighborhood, you know, just in case, but never really asked him because I wanted Ammon to ask me.  He didn’t. After class one day we (the “in” crowd) were all at the malt shop, and Ammon walks in and everyone asks him who he is taking to the prom and he replied “Susan Hill” – a person I was not fond of.  He later told the boys that the nuns sat him down and told him that he had to ask Susan Hill to the prom. Out of spite, I did not go to my senior prom.

high-school-prom-1

Several years after high school when I was in nursing college, my brothers and I were home sharing stories from our days in high school.  We spoke about the fun we had at the bowling alley and they told me what happened that day in the car, how they questioned me about Ammon and that he was hidden in the back seat.  I have cried many times since learning this.

Michael is now dead and Patrick is too old to care, but I never got over it.  I understand that Ammon married and had children and died in his 50’s.

This is one of those wounds that just never closed.

 

Vegetables, Fruit Trees and Hobos

My parents inherited a parcel of land in the suburb of Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  To a Texan, this ⅓ of an acre was a smidgen of earth, but in this part of the world, a parcel of land this size would house eight double homes with eight backyards and eight outhouses.

In the summer, Dad decided to increase our food income by planting all sorts of vegetables: beans, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn. He did the planting, convincing my mother that he needed a full sized tractor to assist this modern day farmer. My brother said it was more like a planter of yesteryear without the horse.

Of course, there were four of us kids to do the hard work-planting potatoes, sowing seeds, keeping the rows free from weeds, and harvesting the veggies.   

There was always something to harvest throughout the season.   Early on it was stripping the snap bean plants, then after the beans, tomatoes were pulled from their plants to ripen from the vines to line up on our backyard fence.  Later is the summer, our father, after a hard days work, would come home and with a giant metal tub, go out to our ”farm” and snap off dozens of corn cobs, and bring them into the house. Mom would boil them up and with a pound of butter on the table, always a steak or prime rib, several other veggies, and often an apple pie for dessert.  We would sit down to, a royal feast you could say.

Also around our land he planted fruit trees, including apples, pears and peaches.  Each year the fruit trees grew taller and more abundant as my father would nurse them with his green thumb, and each year people in the neighborhood would help themselves to the fruit, which was fine by him.  My father so enjoyed sharing our bounty with the neighborhood that he never minded cleaning up the spoils on the ground.

hobo-code-4

I also remember that, in summer, hobos would come to the house. The word was out that Mom was a soft touch. My mother always gave them a sandwich and a soda, and in those days the sandwich slides were big, thick slices of freshly baked bread, stuffed with either thick slices of ham, a sirloin steak, or maybe miles of Lebanon bologna and cheese with lots of mustard.  The hobos would sit on our porch and chat with us kids, and in those days no one ever thought of anyone stealing from us – what was there to steal?

These are the things I remember.

 

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