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 Category:  General Non-Fiction
  Posted: October 6, 2016      Views: 124

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The idea of author was born over two decades ago and rooted from the unlikeliest of origin. My annual family Christmas letter describing the adventures and shenanigans of growing up "Wake".

The accolades streamed in over the decades, encou - more...

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Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.
This work has reached the exceptional level
A Facebook meme reminded me of a funny story from childhood
"Clothesline Madness" by Mary Wakeford

There is a time and a place inside each of us that holds memories-- they can be triggered by a song, a scent, a vintage car, or a location. Even an innocuous Facebook post about clotheslines and mothers can spark a remarkable memory. 
I was raised in the West Phoenix community named Maryvale in the late fifties. John F. Long was a pioneer homebuilder in the highly successful concept of a planned community--homes, shopping center, parks, businesses. My parents bought their new home after relocating from Indiana in 1958 where they raised their family and remained in the home through their last days spanning over four decades. 

As a child of four, I was convinced the community was named for me and may have sparked a narcissistic assumption of superiority over my three siblings. After all, there was no Johnville, Kathyvale or Bobbydale in my tiny world. 

Saving me from a misguided self-perception crisis later in life requiring hours of therapy to unravel, Mom abruptly nipped my alter-reality in the bud over a morning ritual of dosing the Lewis four with cod liver oil breaking the news Maryvale was named for Long's wife, and not me.

I suspect her dose of reality check sprouted when I pulled my queen of Maryvale card in refusing to swallow the fish oil. I remember being crushed for 1.7 minutes following the revelation and wondered if Mrs. Long was also named for the Blessed Mother, and pondered if Jesus's mommy had her own Maryvale up high in the sky. 

Over my parents' forty-four years of homeownership, the mid-1960's and '70's would forever alter the community with reverberations present to this day. The city of Phoenix approved a sketchy $173 million dollar expansion to Sky Harbor Airport buying out homeowners in the inner city barrios surrounding the airport, then demolishing the homes to make way for buildings and runways. Many of the displaced residents flocked to our community with cash in hand. 

With that population influx came a fair amount of crime, undesirable behavior, and a festering drug culture. The community soon began a downward slide. Pride of ownership Maryvale neighborhoods had enjoyed since the late fifties became a lost commodity as skyrocketing crime and sirens took over our quiet streets. 

My parents' loved their home, a sanctuary for their four children, then grandchildren who years later recall their second home with great fondness. The home on North 57th Avenue was loved and upgraded over the years. My parents dug their heels in as the community continued to decline, refusing to consider relocating and leaving behind beloved neighbors; the parish church that provided the backdrop during times of solace and celebration, and their local stores, shops and restaurants. 

In the early years, our backyard was surrounded by block fencing on three sides, with open access to the front yard and street, allowing Dad to park the boat he built with his own hands and talent, and moved to Arizona in sections from their Indiana basement.

Our aluminum Vistal Liner overhead camper was poised atop jacks at the top of our driveway, allowing for easy on and off loading to the bed of our International pick-up for those impromptu camping trips my mom loathed almost as much as the camper itself.

Had HOA's been in existence then, my parents driveway and side yard would have been their bane. 

To preface this story, I was a pre-teen, hanging out in my bedroom with a wayward sparrow that had been residing in my messy nest since falling out of his own weeks before. I was overseeing his flying lessons with take-offs and landings from dressers and my closet shelf. My ruffled white cotton curtains, adorned with a few fresh turds, were pulled back from the center window to welcome sunshine and fresh air through screen-less wing windows in the event flying lessons went better than expected. 

Not that screens could have stopped a bullet, but I did catch some heat for my stealth removal of them months earlier when a hippie in his underwear stoking a gun walked by my open air atria. 


Open windows and doors became taboo in our house when my parents upgraded from the 1950's era standard evaporative cooler to the installation of a costly central air conditioning unit in the late 1960's. 

I can't say for sure, but in retrospect, the upgrade may have coincided with the onset of menopause for Mom. "Shut the damn door!!" and its variation, "Were you born in a barn? SHUT THE DAMN DOOR!!" were constant reminders from the parentals--primarily the one experiencing flashes of hotness. A lecture on the high cost of cooling a home on a single-income budget sometimes followed the outbursts.

It was the 1970's. Long hair and love beads on men, drugs, hippie communes, and marijuana were the rage of youth to their parents' nightmare. It seemed Archie Bunker and Meathead types reigned supreme throughout my neighborhood, and the world. 

Many households in the hood, including my own, were equipped with CB radios synched with local police scanners to get a pulse on 'hot spots' as they unfolded in real time. Often, Dad knew of a bust before the perp's parents did. It was not uncommon to hear the scanner going off with familiar street names as Dad said, "Rita, something is going down near Harry and Joan, call and tell them to lock their doors." Mom would dutifully make the call only to report back that Harry was already on it, alerted by his own little crime fighting black box. Once the call ended, Mom would provide Dad with Moe's version of the criminal activity unfolding less than a mile away--"Wall-to-wall bears" (heavy police presence noted); "Bear in the air" (ghetto bird overhead)." "10-4 Roger out." 

This brings us to the afternoon of my mom hanging a load of the freshly laundered boxer shorts and white tees my dad favored on our backyard clothesline. 

She was likely humming to herself, or raging internally about the shit my dad had parked around her pristine house, yard and driveway depending on her hormone level that moment. 

Old Blue, otherwise referred to as The Ark, now faded, a tad shabby, and host to colonies of black widow spiders was a recurring motivation for Mom's next home improvement. Once the loan on the new A/C unit was paid off--a block fence installation to enclose the two side yards and hide the faded eyesore anchored just beyond her clothesline at the south end of our long patio was next up. 

As mom hung the last pair of dad's drawers, a young man with long hair, zero love beads, and naked if not for the pair of tighty-whity's clinging to his loin, suddenly appeared between my mom and dad's breezy underwear on the line. He was out of breath, seemingly agitated, and came from the direction of our front yard. 

I can only imagine Mom's eyes first going to his naked torso—and then his underoo's which would have created a dropped-mouth reflex. When she noticed his large cocked gun pointing her direction, her Irish eyes must have blown a fuse as she screamed "JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH!" while running Fred Flintstone-style for the back door some twenty feet away. Yabba Dabba Don't. 

Mom was not known for athleticism in any of the years I knew her, but that is not to discount the claims her moniker growing up in a Boston suburb of Watertown was "Legs". Her 'sticks' came alive that day with the adrenaline surge, beating the perp to the backdoor which was promptly slammed and locked as she headed through the kitchen to the front of the house to secure to the front door and just around the corner from flying lessons underway in my bedroom. 

Me and Woodstock the sparrow were oblivious to the drama unfolding in our backyard with the near-naked gunman, my mom, and her rapid-fire heavenly interjection requests, or in CB talk, "JMJ's"

Once the front door was secured, Mom "ran-scooted" to the bedroom I was supposed to be cleaning with the intent to grab me and head for the main hallway bathtub in the event bullets started firing through the walls and windows--two open and screen-less. The tornado training she left behind in the Midwest kicked in, and the steel bathtub in the middle of the house seemed a safe plan. 

My bedroom door unexpectedly flew open with Woodstock perched atop my finger and my room still a hot mess. I witnessed my mom's complexion move from to ashen white, followed by an expression one might muster just before a signal from the brain indicates they are about to either unexpectedly shit their pants, or experience a vasovagal syncope reflex. 

All Mom could muster was to point in the direction of my window, hands flapping, one leg coiled up high to stem the flow of scared wee-wee release, before appealing to all the angels and the saints with her likely thirtieth "JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH" within a two minute period. Quite possibly a record breaker. It's a Catholic thing--the more rapid fire repetitions, the faster the saints fly in to assist the afflicted. 

Completely unaware of the gun wielding long-haired hippy-type in his underoos coming into view behind me, I figured Mom may have been experiencing menopausal rage in noticing: 

--I was still playing with a fooooooking dirty bird with no progression on room remedy. 

--She had spied the turd splatter on the white cotton ruffled Cape Cod curtains, which would require more laundering, starch, and fooooooking hot ironing her way. 

Either scenario, it wasn't going to be good for m'oi as I braced myself for meno-rage.

As I turned toward the window and the direction of her pointed distress, the half-naked armed hippy (a fluke, because everyone knows hippies are peace loving anti-gun types) strolled by, gun at the ready, inches from my open window--and me! 

My ten-year-old-self hoped the guy wasn't dove hunting. My bedroom couldn't take any more casualties or turds. 

Mom screamed "Mary, get down on the floor!!!" between more rapid fire "JMJ's," then ran to the window trying to furiously crank one, then the other shut from a ducked position. Not an easy feat. 

Once secured, I was instructed to go lay in the bathtub. I knew that was coming--just as things were getting interesting. 

From our bathroom perch, Woodstock and I could hear Mom calling the police, obviously overwhelmed with fright and emotion as she relived her encounter with the gunman. 

It wasn't long before patrol cars converged; police with guns drawn searched the perimeter of our house and property. I was hoping to score an appearance by the ghetto bird to amp up the excitement. 

It was suspected the armed underoo may have taken cover in the parked camper sitting innocently on the driveway. It was flushed to no avail. Same with Old Blue. The only thing flushed from Dad's boat was a colony of pissed off black widows. 

As mom got her blood pressure under check, Woodstock and I were released from tub containment.

A police officer returned following a flush of the neighborhood to advise the armed hippie was actually the son of a homeowner and lived a couple blocks away. The young man awakened to the sound of breaking glass. Assuming a break-in, he grabbed the gun and confronted the intruders. They ran. UnderooMan gave chase eventually ending up on our back patio, and scaring the "JMJ's" out of Mom. 

Our family home was sold in 2002, following Mom's death at a young, healthy eighty-three years old. As she left the church parking lot one Saturday evening after Mass, she was T-boned by a hit- and-run driver in a stolen car. The impact and ensuing confusion brought her car to rest in someone's living room. Mom survived the crash with a five point broken pelvis and tail bone; and she was expected to make a full recovery. Following release from the hospital, Mom came to live with my family during her recovery. Some three weeks later, Mom woke one morning with severe abdominal pain and was rushed to the hospital. A few days after admission, she died from a sepsis infection. 

The driver of the stolen car was never identified thereby escaping prosecution for vehicular homicide. 
My mother should have had a few good years left to hang laundry--if only. 

I used to drive by our family home but had to stop. It looked worse with each drive-by. At some point during the years since Mom's death, I came to realize we can't go back to what was or what could have been. It is a waste of energy, and mentally draining. But our memories can never be dulled or taken from us, when shared to tell one chapter in a Mother's story years later.



Author Notes
The featured photo meme a Facebook share came across my page this morning, sparking the memory of the underoo'd gunman and my mom at the clothesline.

Credit to Facebook and original posting entity, unknown to me.


As always, thank you for reading and hopefully reviewing, my writing.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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