One of our many moves when I was a child was to Barling, Arkansas next to Fort Chaffee. Mom and dad became close friends with a couple, Joe and Gussie and their daughter Barbara (on the right in the photo) who lived about two blocks from us. When Joe and Gussie decided to have Barbara become Catholic, and mom and dad became her Godparents. After we left Barling, we saw them again several years later when we returned to the states from Germany but hadn’t seen them since that time. I looked up Barbara a few years ago only to learn she had passed away in 1999 at the age of forty-seven. When I advised dad of Barbara’s passing, he told me she was a sickly child and perhaps that is what caused her to die so young.
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This was the time when the song “Let the Little Girl Dance” by Billy Bland and “Peppermint Twist” was out. When we went to the NCO Club at Fort Chaffee on Sundays, dad would play those songs on the jukebox and I would dance and twist on the dance floor … I had the whole floor to myself. We would also have BBQs and swim at the park in Fort Chaffee with friends of mom and dad. I often played with my friend, Susie, who lived next door to us.
While in Barling, my younger brother Kevin came along. We called him by his middle name Keith back then, and when he got older wanted to be called by his first name. He was nine days short of being six years younger than me. Having been the youngest for six years, it took me a while to give up that role! It ended up being better to play with the baby instead of being jealous. Momo took the bus to Barling to help mom out when Kevin was born. It was good having her with us and she was there for my birthday. The following month we went home to Opelousas to spend Christmas with family.
I started having strange dreams while living in Barling. I often had a dream of a small door on the wall by my bed, and I would open the door and go through the door. Inside were witches flying. I felt I was in a fairy tale like Hansel and Gretel. Before I would wake up, I come back through the door and back into my bed. I also dreamed that there was a swimming pool which was one hundred feet deep in front of our duplex. I was in the swimming pool and kept going down, and knew I was drowning, but woke up. I still have odd and strange dreams.
Mom and dad spent time with Glenn on his homework and as a result I learned from what they were helping him with. I learned to read before I started school. The priest at Fort Chaffee realized I knew just as much as the children in Glenn’s catechism class and therefore asked mom if I could make my First Communion. She agreed and I made my First Communion before I started school. I was the only child making my First Communion on that day wearing a light blue dress with a hat. Mom and dad were kneeling next to me in the chapel.
In Barling, one had to be six years old by October 1, and my birthday isn’t until the next month so I could not start 1st grade that year. Back home I would have been able to start school. So, I ended up being a year behind my age during my school years.
We were at the chapel a lot. I don’t know if it was for Glenn’s catechism or if perhaps was doing volunteer work there. One time there was a bat flying around in the chapel when there were just a few of us there. Once I was explained to what bats would do, I naturally became afraid. I still hate bats to this day.
Hearing in Mass that God always was and always will be was just too difficult to comprehend that there is no beginning and would be no end to God. At my young age, I asked the Priest about it. His response did not provide clarity to my question. As I have learned, there are many things that can’t be understood and therefore may just need to be accepted.
Recently my husband Larry and I went to Barling and to the duplex where I lived years ago. The woman currently living there let me in to look around the apartment. It was much smaller than I remembered. The brick wall on part of the inside were painted white and there were changes in the small kitchen. The memories from there were both mostly good with some bad. I know mom and dad drank while we were there, but I don’t remember them being drunk. I do remember dad being mean, but in thinking about it, mom was often mean, too.
Next, we went to what was then Fort Chaffee, which is now privatized. The chapel where I made my first communion is still there which is now a wedding chapel. Larry took photos of me on the steps of the chapel just as he took a picture of me in front of the duplex.