Friday, August 1, 2008

Main Street USA

After Rita's comments about my vacation plans in Tennessee she asked if we are even living in the same country. I thought I would blog a little about my memories of growing up in the south in the 60s and 70s.

I was born in a clinic on Main Street in Greeneville, Tennessee. Yes, Main Street. How small a town does this seem?

To help you picture it just close your eyes and think Mayberry from "The Andy Griffith Show." On Main Street you would find The First Baptist Church. There was The Depot Grill, which I would spend much time at. Another church that still holds a cannon ball left from the War Between the States and on the far end of Main Street you will find President Andrew Johnson's home.

When my parents took me home it was to a duplex that overlooked Andrew Johnson's backyard, I think this was the beginning of my love of history.

My brother was just 11 months old when I was born. But our home was always full since often my father's brother and two cousins stayed with us. I was the fifth grandchild on both sides of my family.

My mom's family lived in update New York, but all my father's family lived in Greeneville. With my father's six brothers and sisters and six cousins living there, everyday was a family reunion. My great-grandmother and her sister (and her family) also lived in town. Within a year of my birth there would be four more cousins. Within the next couple of years the total of grandchildren reached 19.

When I was two our landlord referred us to Shriner's Hospital in South Carolina bacause I had been born with a dislocated hip. I spent months in the young children's ward.

My brother Mike and me (in my body cast)
Next to me was a little girl that had been born with no arms or legs. The Shriners would provide her with the prosthetic arms and legs at no charge. The Shriners operated on my legs several times. I then spent months in a body cast and leg braces.

I was shuttled between home and the hospital between surgeries. I really have no memories of this time. One doctor thought it was good that I didn't have any memories since this was a very painful process.

Even as a young child I was a cheap date. My dad and his cousins took me out for the day and at lunch we ended up at the Depot Grill. My "Aunt Pearl" worked there so our family was often there. (It wasn't until I was in middle school that I found out Pearl wasn't my dad's aunt, but my grandmother's!) When it was finally time to order, I whipped out a fried bologna biscuit I had stashed in my purse during breakfast. Let me tell you—I have never lived that one down. Hey, I was only two.

When I was four we moved to the Washington, D.C., area when my dad began working for Western Union. We lost our constant playmates, but I think my mother was much happier to not have people just walking in and out of her house.

As an adult I can understand how difficult it can be to not know how many will show up for a meal while living on a strict budget. And to be fair, the influence of some of the "guests" was not the best on two small children. There is even a picture of me in a crib (while I was in my body cast) where I am giving Don (my dad's cousin) the evil eye for drinking a beer.

This is just a bit of background information before I tell some of my memories. My love for Tennessee has always been very strong and I can't wait to visit it again for our vacation.


Mrs.RGS said...

Thank you, Kim, for opening your life to us. A fried bologna biscuit -- what a story. And all those relatives -- the good and the not so good of a close family. I'm glad you don't remember anything of the surgeries, they must have been brutal. But, those are the experiences that make us what we are today. It made you the sensitive caring person that you are. It caused you to know deep down of pain and suffering. It deepens the character.
I'm looking forward to reading more. When do you leave for your vacation?

Kim said...

We leave next week on Saturday morning. I had to take David to his doctor's appointment on Friday and she wrote a special prescription for him. She asks they make special arrangements for David in the lines. Disney always gives us a pass that lets us enter through the handicapped gate with little or no waiting. We are hoping for the same type of pass at Dollywood.