Schu was in the habit of climbing into the combination washer/dryer after a load of warm clothing had been removed. Mom went to get the dried load and was greeted by Schu Schu, staring at her with wide-open dead eyes through the glass door. Mom had a few nightmares after that happening. What adds to the story all these years later, is that we had a taxidermy project in biology class. Mr. Ole Engleson got a charge out of that one. I went as far as digging Schu Schu up, but there was no way I could finish that assignment—stuffing my Siamese cat.
I got over it and went on to spending time with my friends, often planned by exchanging notes in class. We folded chewing gum wrappers into chains. I have a fuzzy memory of 100 feet of chain snaking back and forth across a floor after several of us girls linked our chains together. Stored in my cedar chest is a gum chain of under 20 feet—green, white, yellow, complements of Wrigley’s Doublemint, Spearmint, Juicy Fruit—and a few red wraps from Cinnamon Clove.
As per music, I favored The Everly Brothers and Righteous Brothers over the Beatles. I’m sure I drove my dates nuts because I sang incessantly with the radio. KOMA out of Oklahoma City was the “oldies” station of choice. Sometimes the static proved too much so I tuned in a station from Sioux City, Iowa.
Since I didn’t drive I needed a ride to school. I marked on the calendar “school” and/or “home” and paid a quarter each way to whomever we owed gas money for transportation. My freshman and sophomore years I rode in the neighbor’s green ‘53 Ford. As a junior with a classmate down the road. When a senior, my little freshman brother, Gaylen, drove us in our white pickup. Gaylen and I had drifted apart my first three years of high school, but we renewed our close relationship once he started going to high school. We remain great pals.
During bad weather and often for extracurricular activities, I stayed in town with Grandma and Grandpa Reikofski. I have a picture in my mind of Grandma, who didn’t talk much, at the oak pedestal dining room table, either writing letters or reading True Story Magazine (she believed the stories were true). She also crocheted area rugs made of plastic Wonder Bread sacks. Grandpa was a delight. He’d lift up his belly and say, “My chest fell!” He’d also spoil me with pancakes smothered in crushed pineapple along with the syrup. Grandma cooked rice and raisins on the back of the heating stove. I loved feeling pampered without siblings around.
My grandparents closed off the bedrooms to conserve heat. During bad winter weather, I slept in Mom’s old room with a mountain of quilts piled on so heavy that I grunted when I tried to crawl out.
The highlight of those years, and when I felt most myself, occurred when I sang. School choir and glee club, and church choir with the occasional solo. Singing, especially in church, had become my pasture hill where I sang praises and worshiped with all my heart.