Linda Palmer Remembers A Visit to Ninie's...
I look at my grandkids these days and can't help but be sad for what they're missing. Not that I have a problem with the technology that keeps them happy. I don't. In fact, we have four Kindles, three televisions, two tablets, and a PS4, all of which I enjoy as much as they do. I also love watching them play baseball, basketball and football, where memories are definitely made, but can't be as good as the ones I have.
I missed being a fifties baby by three months. I don't mean I was a sixties baby. No, I was born in the forties. My grandmother, who was divorced from my granddad, managed a boarding house in Little Rock. It had two stories, a wide front porch with a bench swing, and a refrigerator full of glass water jugs, each with a boarder's name on it. Ninie had no car, no air conditioning, no TV, and a single telephone out in the hall that everyone used. Her personal living space consisted of two rooms and a closet. Her bathroom was shared with everyone on the first floor and held a bathtub with clawed feet.
My two sisters and I loved sleeping over. I can still hear the tick-tick-tick of her wall clock and the whir of the oscillating fan that kept us cool at night. I can still see the comforting hall light spilling into her dark living/bedroom through the transom window over the door as I tried to fall asleep. In front of the house and one block away lay Main Street with some department stores and a couple of five and dimes. There was also a side street where a store sold fresh roasted peanuts, a few of which a man out front would scoop into our tiny hands as we passed on our way to go shopping. They were freshly shelled, warm, and salty. My mouth still waters at the thought of them.
The five and dimes aka dime stores were a favorite place to spend the quarter that my grandmother, who we called Ninie (a child's mispronunciation of Irene) gave us. I almost always spent mine on a ring, a penchant I still have today. They were usually gold in color, adjustable, and had a colored stone in them. I preferred blue. Sometimes I bought a coin purse made of clear or patterned plastic with a zipper closure. Other times, I bought a sewing kit consisting of a needle, thread, and square-tipped scissors. Yeah, a quarter went a long way in those days.
Downtown was great, of course, but the best times we had were in the house itself. Ninie rented to single men with day jobs. That left their rooms empty when we were there. I don't remember if they left their doors open or if Ninie let us in, but my sisters and I were allowed to play in the downstairs rooms if we didn't touch anything.
Since dress-up was my favorite pastime, I traveled up and down that single hallway many a day, wearing a pair of Ninie's high heel pumps and toting whichever of her purses I'd picked out. No matter which one I chose, I'd find a box of Chiclets peppermint nugget gum left inside it. Looking back, I realize she must've put it there for me to find. At the time, I just thought I was one lucky girl.
And I was--lucky to live in a kinder, gentler time when women wore a hat and gloves while shopping. Lucky to be perfectly safe swinging alone on that big front porch. Lucky to have Ninie, who was a mother figure to those guys, something I didn't even realized until her funeral years later, when some of her former boarders told us how much she'd meant to them.
Seems their memories were as precious as mine, and that made me even happier to have them.