Mom planted several “memories” in my brain. Things of note that she remembered from my early childhood. She told these stories often enough that they have become memories in my own mind.
Age eighteen months. Realizing that Ricky was uncharacteristically quiet, Mom walked from the kitchen into the living room to investigate. There I was, happy at play with a new toy. I had found a sprung mouse trap and was petting the thoroughly dead mouse that had ventured for the wrong bite of cheese. Soft; fuzzy; still warm—a perfect toy for a naive little boy!
Age two. We lived in Peoria, Illinois. Mom heard some unusual clinking sound on the back steps. Coming to inspect, Mommy found me in a moment of proud display. I had collected three or four quart milk bottles. One was chocolate milk—my favorite.
“Ricky, what are you doing? Where did you get all these milk bottles?”
“From the neighbors.” My reply was innocent but affirmative.
It took Mom a good half hour to walk the block and apologize and return the milkman’s deliveries to their rightful homes.
“Ricky, come eat your breakfast.” I obliged with my usual enthusiasm and clean-your-plate attitude.
One morning Mom was hanging laundry in the back yard. Spying Mrs. Rouch in her yard three doors down the block, she waved and bid a “Good morning, Ruth.”
A friendly conversation ensued. In the middle of talk, Ruth Rouch exclaimed, “We so much enjoy your son.”
“Thank you, Ruth. He’s a handful, I tell you.” Mom’s reply was telling.
“Oh, not for us. We simply love him. Almost every morning he shows up early on our back porch and asks if he can join us for breakfast. It’s such a joy to have a little boy to feed.”
My mother aghast, “You mean…?”
After that morning, I was on a tight leash in the hour before breakfast—at home.
Doorbell in the middle of the afternoon.
Mom interrupted her housework task to answer the door. Surprised… no, shocked. There was a policeman with Ricky at his side.
“Ma’am, is this your son?” The blue inquired with a smile.
“Oh, my goodness. He was playing in the back yard. Where on earth did he go to?” My mom finds the alarm that had not yet caught up with her.
“He was at the corner grocery four blocks away. Wanted to know if the grocer had chocolate milk.” A chuckle from the blue. Blushed embarrassment from the mom.
I do remember Mom mentioning tying a leash to the clothesline. I don’t know whether it was a joke or her measure of last resort.
Hey, I was headed for Hawai‘i from age two!