Friday, April 20, 2012

Love in the Seventies

By Colleen Sutherland

Sheila pedaled home on her bike, cursing out the bell bottom pants that flapped in the wind, threatening to get caught in the gears. That happened too often. Bicycle clips never worked because bells had too much fabric. Still, she wouldn't be one of those old ladies who wore something that was in fashion decades before, refusing to change with the times. Bell bottoms were in, so she wore them.

The trailer park was at the edge of town, far away from Sheila's job, but then trailer parks are always at the edge of civilization, accessible to the occasional Midwestern tornado. It was where the young started out, where the failed elderly spent their days before going to a nursing home. It was where rednecks drank their beer in old lawn chairs propped against the sides of their trailers so they wouldn't tip over when the beer got the best of them. It was where students lived.

Sheila worked at the insurance company downtown as a secretary/receptionist. She handled claims, too, but wasn't given the title of claims adjuster because then her boss would have to pay her more. If she complained, he would find another student's wife who wouldn't.

She put up with it because she and Bill needed the money so he could continue his studies at the university. There was their future, his education ending perhaps in a medical degree if he could get his grades up enough to get into the state's medical school. It was the cheapest school in the United States, the lowest rated, but maybe even that school might not accept him. If nothing else, he would get a good white collar job, then it would be her turn to go to college.

Meanwhile, they lived in a third rate house trailer in this dusty trailer park. Bill worked as a handyman to cover the rent. When he wasn't busy mowing lawns and repairing toilets, he was supposed to study. Sheila typed his papers for him, sometimes late at night, editing them as she went along to make them fit the guidelines the college provided. Footnotes seemed to be beyond Bill, so she did a little research on her own to pad out the papers to the required length.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Magic Ball

The ball is glass and blue and purple and pink. Ellie runs all around with it, around all the grown-ups, around all the lawn chairs, around all the bigger kids. She runs into the garden and points it at a flower.

"Brrrring! Flowers unite!" she says.

She runs to the next flower.

"Brrring! Flowers unite!"

She runs to a pot.

"Brrring! Flowers unite!"

She runs to the patio.

"All right," she says, "Lets go!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Love in the Sixties

by Colleen Sutherland

Years later I would say to the kids, “You missed the Sixties” with pity in my eyes. Yet if it hadn't been for the 1960's, I would never have married their father.

We met in a corner bar on Clark Street. I was trying to avoid the neighborhood bag lady who wandered in and out of local establishments. She smelled of oatmeal and booze and sweat. She wore all her clothes on her back, which worked in the winter but was not so good an idea on a hot spring day.

I made the mistake of doing something socially responsible once after I'd been to a lecture at Hull House. We were supposed to care for the poor back then so I helped carry her filthy bags down the street. After that, whenever she spied me she trailed me to talk to me about my lack of morals. All that winter she showed up wherever I was. When I took my wash to the Surf Street laundromat, there she was, staying warm on frigid days. For extra warmth, she stuck her bum into a warm dryer whenever someone had just finished using it. I took to taking a bus to the next available laundromat.

She was a communist, she said. Back in the days before photo IDs were required, I would see her patiently waiting at the library polling place to vote. The poll workers tolerated her whims, because after all, what was one or two commie votes? She was crazy but they left her alone.

It was fine for them but whenever she spied me, she was after me, talking about the loose morals of women in their mini skirts and tie died shirts and lack of bras. Back then I didn't need a bra. No droop, no point to it.

That afternoon, I saw her coming down Fulton Street and ducked into the bar. I was close to my apartment and I sure didn't want her to know where I lived or she would be pressing my buzzer over and over, day and night.

“Give me a lemonade,” I told George, the barkeep. Back in those days, I wasn't a big drinker. Pot was cheap and available so why wreck my liver on booze unless some guy was paying the tab? Times change. Laws change. Highs change.