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WIFE DOTTIE is the youngest of four children, 13 years younger than her sister, with elder brothers who served in World War II. Thus, her mother and father had seen it all, as exemplified by the following tidbits of parental advice.
On Self-Defense. Young Dorothy spent her early years as a ditch-bank kid in California’s Imperial Valley, three miles from the Mexican border. When she was seven, the family moved to town, namely El Centro. And one day she came home crying because boys had beat her up on the way home from school.
“Don’t let anyone make you cry,” her mother consoled. “Keep hitting them until they cry.”
The next day, Young Dorothy did just that. And, fifteen years later, she used her mother’s advice to fight off an attacker.
On Being Intrepid. Young Dorothy’s father was a gadgeteer, with home-built radios and one of the first TVs in El Centro. Of course, all this was pre-dish, pre-cable, pre-everything but rabbit ears for TV reception in places like Los Angeles, roof-mounted antennas elsewhere.
TV reception in the Imperial Valley was a real challenge, what with a sea-level mark high up on the Holly Sugar Mill. Young Dorothy’s father had erected a TV antenna on their roof. Los Angeles, some 200 miles to the northwest, was a particularly small target and required careful alignment of the rooftop apparatus.
Three people were required to accomplish this, one assessing the TV’s reception in the living room, a relay person outside the living room window, and one on the roof aligning the antenna with a pipe wrench. Young Dorothy was the family member assigned the roof job.
When she whined about fear of getting up on the roof, her father encouraged her: “Don’t be a creampuff! What would the neighbors think?”
To this day, Wife Dottie is quite intrepid about heights. (She once had a poem published titled “Bridges,” with the line Bridges move us,/Bridges sway.)
On Education and Family Touring. Growing up essentially as an only child, Wife Dottie vividly recalls riding solo in the vast back seat of the family Oldsmobile for two-week road trips extending as far east as Tennessee. This was long before parents felt the need to entertain kids under such circumstances, so Young Dorothy was left to entertain herself reading book after book.
On one such trip, Young Dorothy was deeply into Black Beauty, Anna Sewell’s touching horse-comes-of-age classic. The death of Black Beauty’s mother brought Young Dorothy to tears, and her father asked her mother, “What’s she crying about back there?”
“It’s Black Beauty,” her mother explained.
“Well, put that book down and look outside,” her father said, “these trips are for your education.”
Young Dorothy sat up, looked out, and saw a factory with a sign reading Dixie Cup Company. “Years from now,” her mother told her, “you’ll remember this.”
And, sure enough, Wife Dottie still remembers it.
On Book Recommendations. In her voracious reading, Young Dorothy found a book in the El Centro Library written by a French courtesan.
Young Dorothy was impressed by one passage in which the courtesan described the benefit of wearing at least 11 items of clothing, all the better for being enjoyed while being removed.
Young Dorothy had recommended the book to a girlfriend, the daughter of her 4H club leader. This, in turn, prompted an angry phone call from the 4H mother concerning reading material, not to say a subsequently mother-daughter discussion.
Wife Dottie remembers her mother’s response was far from a reprimand: “Think first before you recommend a book.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021