Fresno Times Chapter One By Matthew Carlson

joanie and kids#1

Fresno Times                   Chapter One                   By Matthew Carlson

2036 or 3636 or 3036 Maple street…  I cannot remember the exact address, but it was on Maple Street and there was the number 36 somewhere on that mailbox, which was sitting on a metal pole of some kind, a horse shoe form with a flat bottom, its’ little door that creaked when you opened it. The mail man would put up the little red flag on the side when he had left mail. The flag was made of metal too.

The mail box sat in a claimed garden area, fenced off  by a small wall of red bricks surrounding it. Inside, there were lots of rose bushes,  lots of Four o’ Clocks too with  small reddish-pink flowers that were very pretty and would always close their blossoms at around four.  That’s where the name came from, Four o’ Clocks.  Of course, as a child I wondered how the flowers could tell time like that…

The house itself was yellow when we arrived; it became olive green with brown edges afterwards, though I have no memory of painting it. How did that happen? Who painted it? It must have been us, three boys with our divorced Mother. But I can only remember painting the bathroom and learning how to stain the cabinet furniture with a sponge. The bathroom was a unique one, with two doors, one from the hallway for us and then one door which was direct from Mom’s master bedroom. She even had a dressing room that led to the bathroom. I remember that bathroom so well, have no idea why. There was nothing special about it, there was a shower and a separate bathtub, it was I suppose a kind of ‘communal  hub’ in those days, where the family crissed and crossed with our many activities: showers, baths, brushing teeth, hair, going potty, peeing;  Mom putting on her face, spraying hair spray,  and as kids do too (like their parents) lots of looking at ourselves in the mirror; checking out teeth and pimples, hair styles, clothes that we wore and so on. It was also a library, for reading: our favorite comic books never far from reach: Superman, Batman, The Avengers, Casper The Friendly Ghost to name a few.

Mom worked every day of the week, so when she would come home, her arms would be full of groceries in paper bags. If we didn’t get up off our butts and help her, there would be hell to pay! Star Trek would have to wait, or Lost in Space. Too, our weekly chores had to have been finished beforehand. The schedule was on a wall in the kitchen and it was divided up into 3 specific tasks: kitchen, living room and bathroom. Each of us was responsible for one of the three tasks and for a period of one week. Then it would change. If you were cleaning the kitchen one week, then the next week, you would clean either the bathroom and then the living room. Keeping our bedrooms clean was an individual obligation.  Merk was the only one who was incapable of washing a spoon so that it was clean and had no notion of how to keep his room tidy either. His regular occurrences of spilling milk at the dinner table were often explained that “so and so had dropped him on his head when he was a baby”. Thinking about that statement now, I realize that that was certainly a comment coming from my Dad in ‘all his splendor’, probably saying that my Mother had dropped him when he was a baby and of course saying that in mixed company so that he could reap the rewards of his provocative ways…. “Oh I did not Hurb!” from Mom.

Of course, how that worked psychologically on Merk, I have no idea. I’m sure that his absences or distractions during mealtime were more likely that he was growing so fast, or perhaps thinking about sex, or maybe both.

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