Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Remembrance of Windfalls Past

Wendy at On the Front Porch is posting about choosing corn today. Reading that was like taking a bite of Proust's Madeleine cookie--I was thrown back to remembering a week when I was 11, and how I earned the first money I ever made by picking, shucking, and selling corn. My friend and I spent a week sitting in her father's field. He had advertised self-pick corn for five cents an ear, or ten cents if we girls had picked it.

It was hot. We had a blanket spread out under an oak tree, and we might have had folding chairs. Our job, when not picking corn, was to sit there and wait for people to come by the field, count their corn, and take their money. We had a cooler of water, and some books to read, and no adult supervision. Today, I am kind of amazed that our parents let us sit in a field by the road, all by ourselves, for hours at a stretch every day. We were only a couple of miles from my friends house, though, and it was pretty rural out there.

I have heard some theory of memory that claims we record more memories in our childhood and youth, and then as we get older, it's like watching a movie on fast-forward. We haven't recorded as much data. The details that jump out are fewer, and those we have are not as vivid. I think that's definitely true. Think about being a teenager, or being in college, and then think about being 32, if you've gotten there yet. Is there a memory and an overarching feeling that just takes you right back to being 32 the way there is for 15? It's like my early life was recorded in higher definition than the rest.

So I have many sensory impressions of that week, the mud between the corn rows, the sharp leaves, and the worms and bugs. Lord, the worms and bugs. The extremes of hot sun and cool shade. And I also remember that I was reading the novel version of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. And that sometimes my friend and I got along great, and sometimes we bickered, and once we had to go find a phone to use, so we walked across the road and knocked on the door of a trailer, and the girl who opened the door was someone we knew from school. She was a sweet girl, and I remember thinking, "Mustn't let her feel embarrassed that she lives in a trailer." I guess I was a snot-nosed kid, but I meant well.

Ooh, and the big payoff, and where I was going when I started this post, was that at the end of the week, my friend's dad paid us each $100. I have no idea if he took a loss on that corn or not. But $100, it was astronomical! We had a big shopping trip to spend it. There haven't been many times since when I felt that rich, you know? Isn't that the way that goes?

I bought, among other things, the Footloose album ON VINYL, and a big pink hobo purse made out of sweatshirt fleece, with mesh accents. The purse I am carrying this very day is exactly the same shape and size. I just love me a big purse, always have.

15 comments:

Wendy said...

Hey, I'm famous now. :)

I love your story. It's amazing how vivid your memory is of that moment. I know what you mean about the hi-def thing. There are some things that are so clear and others that are so... not. I love your adorable list of you what you bought.

Is it even possible that we were once young girls who bought pink purses and record albums and watch teen movies and wore lip gloss?

Doesn't seem quite real at times.

Great post!

gretchen said...

When I was about 9, the neighbor kids (who were all at least 5 years older than me) had a fireworks stand in front of their house. This was Texas, and not in the big city, so you could do things like have a fireworks stand in the front yard when you're 15! Now, Texas in July is hot, and I mean HOT. Sitting out in that little fireworks booth was miserable. So they conned ME into taking the noon to 2 shift. They payed me a nickel an hour plus all the Black Cat firecrackers I wanted! Man, I thought I was really something. Can you believe my mother let me do this?!

Amy said...

I totally remember when you got paid the hundred bucks! I was just in awe--it was like, "How will she EVER spend all that?" And now, looking back, I'm impressed that y'all survived in that heat, sitting out there all week!

Amy said...

Also meant to add...I bet you're the only blogger who mentions Proust and Footloose in the SAME post. It's your niche!!

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

You are so right, and I never thought about it before. But my older memories are so much more numerous and vivid. The moss on the rocks at camp, the chocolate cake my cabin won for winning the swimming race . . .

Maybe the weights that come with being grown-up curb our excitements and crowd our memories. I don't know. But this post gives me some good thought food.

Michele said...

Nice post. I remember stuff from my childhood but can't remember what I had for dinner yesterday.

Keely said...

"It's like my early life was recorded in higher definition than the rest"...love that. So true. I have vivid, vivid memories of when I was 8 or 12 or even 17, but the last 5 years are a big blur.

I had the Footloose album on tape. It was the first music I bought on my own.

Camp Papa said...

Perhaps you should think of it as a character building exercise, since y'all would have to have picked 4000 extra ears of corn to have broken even on your pay.

And, you were only about a half mile from (the farmer's) house...if that makes a difference in how abandoned you felt.

The Dental Maven said...

What would we be without our childhood memories? I'm always curious as to why certain memories remain while others fade. Either way, I'm thankful for them.

Bex said...

i felt like i was right there with you shucking corn.

i feel you on the memory thing. i remember a lot from my childhood and - ahem - not so much during college.

i made $100 every time i made honor roll. it was like hitting the jackpot. i'm sure i was very braggy and obnoxious about it.

Sara said...

A hundred bucks! Dang!

So there are Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (Footloose.) Wendy blogging corn today, you selling it along side the road as a kid, my husband selling it along side the road now. There's some DaVinci Code of corn in there somewhere, I just know it.

My pap lived in town and always envied the farmers selling corn out of their pickups on the side of the road. He always wanted to set up a table in the front yard to sell the fruits of his garden. I'm still sorry he didn't live to meet my huckster husband.

I was just telling my kids this weekend how he used to pay us kids 5 cents for every cabbage moth we caught out of his garden.
I hope I'm helping them make their own awesome cache of memories.

This post was rich with goodies! I was right there with you, sweating under that oak tree. :)

Becky said...

Yes Sara, I think Kevin Bacon is the river that runs through all of this!

Bex, $100 for honor roll! Sweet Moses! I want to go back in time and whine to my parents about this!

You know, on the memory thing, the way I think about it (because I keep coming up with bad technology metaphors) is like if you're saving photos to a big new hard drive, and at first you don't compress the photos, because you've got plenty of space. So they're all there in full high-def glory, but as time goes by, you shrink the file sizes more and more because the drive is getting full and there's lots more to come. Maybe. Obviously I will soon be taking an endowed Chair of Neuropsychology at Harvard.

Christine said...

Ahhh, summer memories. And 100 dollars would have been a fortune to me, too. And I'd have bought Footloose, too, had I had a record player to play it on.

You're so right about the memory thing: I remember so vividly things that happened when I was 12, but college? Um, I seem to remember graduating and I'm hoping there's a piece of paper somewhere that says so...

Jenni said...

the footloose soundrtack and a sweatshirt purse. LOVE IT.

bernthis said...

I have trouble remembering much from any time in my life. I wish so much I could recall more but it's true the most distinct ones are from my childhood. 100 bucks, that would have been like a million today ;)