Sunday, January 20, 2008

You are Rarely as Cool as You Think You Are (PART 1)

As young girls, my sisters and I idolized our babysitters. We always hoped our favorite, 17 year-old Carmalita, would be available to baby-sit when Mom called Carmilta's home from the beige phone in Dad's den. We watched intently as she dialed each number and the rotary dial slowly turned backward between the numbers. With our fingers crossed we’d sit believing hope could make it so, and that she would come to our home to tend us. With long golden brown curly hair, we believed she looked like an angel. And she acted like one too, especially when she let us stay up fifteen minutes passed our bedtime for being good.

Carmalita was splendid, but the drive to her house was a downright thrill. We traveled up and down some very steep gravel roads to get her at her farm house in the country. My sisters and I would chant, "Woooooaaaahhh," all the way up the steep incline and shrill, "Weeeeeeeeeeee!" with our arms raised like we were on a roller coaster ride as we made the sharp descent. Truly picking up the babysitter was as much fun as having a babysitter that let us shirk our bedtime.

Soon after Carmalita turned 18, she got married and she never babysat for us again. This was a difficult transition for all of us. Finding a babysitter willing to tend us that we were willing to accept, was no easy task for Mom.

However, soon we found Lynn. She lived down the street and walked to our house for each babysitting job. With no ride to the babysitters to look forward to, it was a huge disappointment for us. While Lynn was no Cramalita, and always made sure we were in bed right on time, we grew to like her. A little. We definitely had had much worse.

Most babysitting nights followed a usual pattern. After my parents would go over all food instructions and bedtime routines, they'd finally leave, mom's heels clicking on their way out. Dad's Stetson after shave would linger in his den long after our parents had left the house for the evening.

But there was no time for melancholy, because Lynn would immediately call us all into the living room. After walking through the wooden craftsman entryway to the formal room, she would stop in front of the console that held a black and white television surprisingly much smaller than the furniture's overall size. There on the gold carpeted floor she'd lie flat on her stomach and tell us to scratch her back.

With her tall athletic body face down in front of us, my sisters and I would obediently line up along her lengthy back and start scratching. After about 2 minutes we'd be bored. But she promised if we kept scratching she'd take us to her house sometime and let us jump on her trampoline. In this manner she'd coerce us into scratching a few minutes longer.

Several weeks later on another babysitting occasion, our little fingers started to peter out and we were miffed that there had not yet been the promised trampoline time at her house. So she upped the ante by promising a trampoline sleepover. This excited us and got us aggressively scratching for several more minutes.

One afternoon, during Lynn's senior year, we were tired of back scratching. It was late fall so the promise of a spring trampoline jump was not very enticing. All my sisters had chickened out on the trampoline sleepover weeks earlier in the summer. I was only one that actually spent the night on the trampoline. However, since I awoke with wet pants after a cold night on the stretched tarp toy, neither I nor Lynn were anxious for another such slumber party anytime soon.

So Lynn paused, and then as if the best idea since hair mousse had just hit her, she promised she would give us some of her old 45's in exchange for a back scratch.

While we only had a simple brown record player that locked up like a suitcase covered in peeling tweed fabric, our record collection was lacking even more. We had a pile of children's records mom had purchased at a garage sale that included Yellow Submarine, Puff the Magic Dragon and How Much is That Doggy in the Window. But we were tired of the juvenile tunes and did not listen to them much anymore.

My younger sisters squealed with delight at the deal. I was still a little leery - after all, 45's of popular music seemed too good to be true.

"Promise?" I asked?

"Yes, I promise" Lynn confirmed.

"Cross your heart hope to die? Poke a needle in your eye?"

"Yes, yes all those things, just scratch." Lynn replied.

So my sisters and I, with great fury, scratched her back for a long time that afternoon.

After that evening, Lynn got busier with her school schedule and never was able to baby-sit when my parents needed. But every time we saw her walking past our house on Maple Street, we'd ask about the promised records we had earned. And Lynn always said she'd bring them over in a couple days. She had followed through on the trampoline promise so we did not worry too much. But weeks continued to go by and it seemed as if she may never get around to delivering the highly anticipated, promised goods.

One day, when we had almost forgotten about the bargain entirely, we came home from school and found a small stack of old 45's on the dining room table. Mom explained that Lynn's mother had brought them by earlier that morning.

We shrieked with delight, dropped our school papers and ran in unison down the stairs to our record player in the basement. There in a large utility room with a deep-freezer, washer, and dryer, my sisters and I danced around our record player. Over and over we played the round records listening to the small variety of late 60's and early 70's pop songs including Sugar Sugar, American Woman and I Think We're Alone Now. All the while we were clueless that such hits by The Archies and The Shondelle’s had fallen out of popularity years prior.

It seemed my knowledge of popular of music remained forever hindered after that. I never realized how badly until years later in Mrs. A’s 9th grade Algebra class.

To be continued...


  1. Trampoline sleepovers where cool, but who had to be on the outside climbing over people was such a pain if you needed the facilities in the night.

  2. Having become a teenager in the ‘50s and waiting to be a Beatnik, “cool” had for me a rather unique (and now obsolete) meaning.

  3. Michelle (Debbie's little sis.)January 21, 2008 at 10:36 AM

    You're filling in so many gaps of my own childhood. I have a picture of myself sitting on Lynn's lap. I had long forgotten the woman's name or anything about her but as I read your blog it all started coming back to me. I don't remember Carmelita at all but I do remember Lynn, scratching her back, and listening to those records 'till I had memorized every word. Thanks for clueing me in on my childhood!

  4. One: It's Tommy James and the Shondelles. I know this because my band decided to cover a song of theirs because, quite frankly, lots of people got notoriety for doing that. :D

    Two: that backscratching thing was kinda weird...

  5. I'm with Bart on the backscratching. While I can dig where having a whole bunch of little girls scratching your back might be kinda fun, it does seem a little odd.

  6. Hi Debbie,

    Ma'am, I have this theory that I could put you on Mars and you would file these amazing, enthralling blog posts.

    Remember, I want to be first in line for autographs when your work is listed on the NYT bestsellers' list.

    Say G'day to the family for me ....

  7. All that back scratching nowadays could put that babysitter into serious trouble. ;-)
    I came over from David, thanks to you both for the fun while reading your story!

  8. Thank God for hand-me-down hits, right? If not for somebody else's cast-off music, I wouldn't have the varied taste I have today... if you could be here when I hit 'random' on the playlist, I swear you'd send the guys in the white coats for real... 'Ecleclectic' might be the most polite description of me, musically speaking....

    I LOVE this post! Brought back a lot of my own memories... just like Debbie's Little Sis says... that's a lovely gift to give someone - memories they'd forgotten all about. Wow. Thank you.

  9. An interesting and captivating post. Looking forward to Part 2.

  10. Your memory rocks!!!
    Sugar sugar uh uh uh uh u h uh
    honey honey
    I think we're alone now- there doesn't seem to be anyone arou ound the beating of our hearts is the only sou ound
    American woman- stay away from meeee American woman- come on let me be eee
    - Christine- sister

  11. Hey Debbie- I just started my own blog-

    will you be my editor? :)

  12. When I babysat I would nose into the parents record collections. Led Zeppelin blasting through the speakers as I danced crazy with the kids.

  13. i love when you have time to post! you are my favorite.
    i, like many others, am a little weirded out by lynn's fetish with backscratching. but i love the glimpse into your early lives. thanks for sharing!

  14. My youngest loves back scratches and if it's not hard enough, it tickles. :)Of course, I love that part.

  15. Greetings from England.
    I found your blog via Stacy of The Rambling Traveler while she was being spotlighted on David Mcmahon's site--whew! what a mouthful! Anyway, I love your blog, I love reminiscing my childhood through your stories and will be lurking from now on. Have a great week!

  16. my friends keep asking me where part 2 is????
    see my new cupcake web site!

  17. Always here, Debbie.

    Your No.1 fan

  18. Your fan club in the Northeast is patiently waiting for part 2.

    Hope to see you soon.

  19. Thanks for stopping by my blog today and leaving a comment!

    Come back soon!


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  21. I have no recollection of this. But very much remember "Sugar Sugar" AND "American Woman". I must have listened to those records a thousand times. It makes me want to go home and download those songs on my ipod for old times sake!!!


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