Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tar Bubbles

When I lived in Los Angeles, I enjoyed going down to the La Brea Tar Pits to stare out over the still surface of the largest of the pools and watch gas bubbles slowly form little black igloos, linger a moment, and then more melt away than burst. They’ve been doing that for millions of years, and never seem to run out of the gas to create the bubbles.

My mind’s a lot like that. Thoughts, ideas, and memories from deep within me will work their way to the surface of my consciousness, remain for just long enough for me to acknowledge them, then vanish to rise again without notice or warning. Where they come from and how they were formed I have no idea. I suspect it is some sort of short-circuitry in my thought processes.

When I thought of my school days, little bubbles of memory began breaking the surface of my mind. I realized that putting 16 years into a one page blog might be a tad difficult. But here are a couple of bubbles that rose to the surface while I was contemplating it:

Because I’d broken my leg badly just before I was to enter first grade, I had to wait until the next year. I first attended Loves Park Elementary—though I’m sure it had another name—in Loves Park, Illinois. Shortly after I started school, the United States entered WWII. My three male cousins all went into service immediately, and I distinctly remember my prize possession being a military-type jacket that made me feel very grown up. 

I loved “The Weekly Reader” a very early form of news magazine made especially for elementary students.

I remember going from door to door selling packets of vegetable seeds to raise money for the school to buy a motion picture projector. I hated going door to door selling packets of vegetable seeds, no matter how noble the purpose. And of course just before the projector was purchased, we moved and I transferred to another school, Harry Morris...which was located on the south-west outskirts of town and had a total student body of 68. In one of life’s little serendipities, after more than 60 years, I am once more in contact with two of my Harry Morris classmates, Dan Sable and Marion (then) Bender.

I remember the mothers—mine specifically, of course—taking turns walking to the school in winter to make hot soup for us for lunch: Campbell’s Tomato and Chicken Noodle were of course our favorites.  I remember “milk money” and buying pints of chocolate milk.  I remember The Bugville News, my first literary effort, which was a “Newspaper” relating the various disasters befalling the insect citizens of Bugville. I would tack each “edition” to the school’s front door, like Martin Luther.

I remember hating recess if organized sports were going to be involved. They would always choose up teams and then argue over who had to take me, and I would go into the bathroom and cry. Recess was not a fun time.

But I also remember many a happy hour, walking home from school, spent wandering through a side-of-the-road dump, breaking bottles.

I remember learning to ride a bike. Because my family was what was referred to as “lower middle class,” my dad bought me a used bike much too big for me...I could barely reach the pedals...and one day riding down the hill from school I could not stop and sailed directly into cross traffic where I was hit by a car. Luckily, I wasn’t hurt. But I was very badly shaken, and following my experience with my broken leg—caused by being accidentally jumped on by a playmate—it reinforced my aversion to doing anything which might cause me physical harm. Odd how such incidents when we are children can remain with us through life.

I remember with great, great fondness my teacher, Mrs. Larson, who always reminded me very much of Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Larson was who God had in mind when he created teachers. Her exact opposite was another of my teachers, Mrs. Hines, a red-headed harridan who, for punishment (which was frequent), would make us write every verse of the Star Spangled Banner.

Oh, Lord, I remember so much. So many people; so many more lost to memory. If I allow them, the bubbles rise faster and more thickly, until the surface of my mind is like a vast, rapidly boiling pot and I can no longer separate one bubble of memory from the next.  I seem to be approaching that point as I write this, so it is time to turn off the burners for now. But don’t be surprised if the bubbles start rising again before long.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

When we moved into the house 2 years ago, I put all my yearbooks onto a shelf and took a few minutes to thumb through them. I could remember everybody as they were back then. All the old feelings came back, good or bad.

The odd thing is I see some of these people online today and after looking at a recent picture, wouldn't recognize 90% of them if they were in front of me and wearing a name tag. But I remember their stories.