Sunday, August 19, 2012

A memory of childhood...

Taffy Truck

My World at 5
Growing Up in New Orleans
by Rian

I see shade trees, small neatly kept houses, broken banquettes (this was what we call sidewalks), and a short winding street.  I feel comfortable, very much at home.   I like this neighborhood.  People are friendly, no one is afraid.  My house is next to the corner grocery.  We're lucky.  Mr. Sam, who is the Grocer,  is our friend.  He saves me little loaves of bread which he gives out as lagniappe.  Lagniappe is "a little something extra", and is standard in New Orleans.  Sometimes when I'm in the store, I eat a small red potato right out of the vegetable bin.  Mr. Sam doesn't mind, and it smells and tastes fresh and musty..

I also visit in the back of the store where the Grocer and his son and daughter-in-law live with their two children.  They have a kitchen, a living room, a dining area, and an upstairs where there are a few bedrooms.  They also have a backyard adjoining ours. 

Our house has a small wrought iron porch in front. From there you enter through a living room, and then a dining room, where there is a floor heater.  I can feel it's warmth, and can smell the combination of gas and hot metal.  It feels good. I like to dress over the floor heater and feel the warm air on my skin.

I can also smell cigars and taste fried chicken.  It's a Sunday, and daddy is home, smoking his cigar and reading the paper while mama cooks.   I feel secure and loved.

The kitchen is right after the dining room, and the den is behind that. The den runs the width of the house across the back.  Daddy had it built on after he and Mama moved here. On the right side there are 3 bedrooms separated by one bathroom with a gas wall heater.  My brother has the room next to the den for himself, and my older sister and I share the next room. We have a set of twin beds with Wagon wheel headboards.   In the hall outside the bathroom is a table with a small round black metal phone.

Outside my parent's bedroom, which is the one in the front of the house, is a window box filled with succulents - some sort of cactus.  I can see them clearly, and remember the feel of their soft fur-like leaves, that if broken open, have a strange fluid inside. 

We have a car and a T.V.  The year is 1950, and I'm 5.

I don't have to take naps anymore, but I never really minded them.  In the summer when it's  really hot and humid outside (and we don't have an air-conditioner, but we do have an attic fan), striping down to your undies and laying on clean sheets with one of those humming black metal fans cooling you is not exactly unpleasant.

Down the block is a China-berry tree. My friends and I pick the berries and throw them at each other.  My best friend lives across the street.  Her parents are not as nice as mine.  They yell at her and make her eat when she doesn't want to. Sometimes she throws up.

I have another friend who lives on the opposite corner.  She has 8 in her family.  She and her twin brother are the youngest.  She's very nice.  So is her mama.  We don't see her daddy much, and her older sister is mean, but I like to play at her house.  It's very old, and very big; and her mama makes candy by boiling sugar.  They have a great beast of a dog, tall and brown and hairy.

There's a drug-store about a block down from my friend's house.  My friend and I go there.  Sometimes they hold Yo-Yo contests outside on the street. Older kids hang out inside, so Mama doesn't like  us to go .

There's a Taffy Wagon that comes down our street.  It is white with red trim, with windows all around so you can see all the strings of taffy hanging inside. You can also see the man pulling the pink taffy and wrapping it in wax paper.   The wagon is pulled by a large horse with a hat on with holes cut out for his ears.  I think the taffy is 5 cents.

Only about 2 blocks down is St. Anthony's School and Church. It's close to Canal Street.  This is the main street running into Downtown.  Mama and I take the Streetcar to go Downtown.  Mama always wears a hat and gloves, and  I have to wear a dress.  I don't like to shop, but eating lunch at Maison Blanche or D.H. Holmes is fun.  I like Shrimp RĂ©moulade.  And Mama always gets me  a treat at the Dime Store before we catch the Streetcar home.  Downtown smells like molasses.  Mama says this is probably because of the Jackson Brewery in the French Quarter which is right off Canal Street and on the Mississippi River.  The sound of the foghorns from the steamboats on the river echo in my ears.

Sometimes I play in our backyard on an old wheelbarrel turned upside down.  The tire is my steering wheel and that wheelbarrel becomes my own private plane.  Other times I cut out  paperdolls from old Sears catalogs or play with  plastic cowboys and Indians - the kind that had bowlegs that fit on the horses.  When it rains the gravel and puddles become boulders and streams! I have a doll called "Tiny Tears".  This is my favorite - although my brother takes it's arms and legs off on occasion.  However, lucky for me (and Tiny Tears), they can be popped right back on!

My life is getting ready to change.  School beacons.  And even though the thought of going to school is exciting, something inside me doesn't want to go.  I'm afraid, but don't know why.  
Perhaps even at this tender age of 5, I fear the inevitable loss of my "freedom".


  1. How memory associations flow! Fried chicken and cigars. I have not smelled a pipe since 1945, but if my grandfather's cherry blend floated down the street I probably would turn on the spot and follow it to the owner.

    1. Yes, my dad smoked a pipe also... but he smoked a cigar more often. The smell of both are associated with home and growing up.

  2. Oh Rian, I feel that you have written this just for me and my longing to know New Orleans. Thank you! Sounds wonderful and magical...especially the Taffy Truck.
    thank you for sharing!

    1. I guess I was one of the lucky ones, Norma... my childhood was happy. New Orleans is a special place (although I'm sure everyone's home town is special). But I do have some wonderful memories. Thanks for reading.


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