I was born in a small town in northern Maine called Winslow. I was born at home because I wanted to be close to my mother.
The town had one Catholic church and one Protestant church. There was a grade school, high school, a small city hall and a library where I picked up my books each Saturday. Also there was a Grange Hall where the farmers came to town to hold their monthly meetings.
One of the Grange meetings Mama took me to was a baby contest. I was 4 years old at the time and too big to be in the contest, but I wanted to see all the cute babies. They had prizes for different categories.
When the last prize was given out and the contest was over, I left my mother’s side and walked with my dolly all the way down to the stage. I went up the steps and onto the stage.
The Master of Ceremonies said, “Well, what have we here?”
I said, “My dolly didn’t get a prize.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to do something about that!” the man responded. He gave me a beautiful hand-painted baby rattle.
I was thrilled to death, but I’m not so sure Mama was! I walked back to Mama and the audience went wild with applause and laughter.
Papa died when I was 5 and my brother was 7. Mama made our large home into a nursing home for elderly patients. Being a Registered Nurse enabled her to make a living for us.
ONe mile from Winslow, across a bridge over the Kennebec River, was a larger city called Waterville. It had three movie theaters, a larger bank, post office, Woolworth’s, J.C. Penney’s, and a fancy department store. Every Saturday I went to the movies for 25 cents and to Woolworth’s to buy 10 cents worth of candy corn.
During the summer months I had several errands to do for Mama. First, I would go to the bank and stand on my tip-toes to reach the lady in the cage and give her the envelope Mama had given me. Then off to the post office for stamps, then to the drug store for the drugs Mama needed for the nursing home. Sometimes I had to wait for the drugs to be filled, so I would have a ham and cheese sandwich at the soda fountain. I should mention that I was only 10 years old at the time.
Mama was too busy to take me shopping for clothes, so I would have the lady in the department store help me select some dresses to take home in a big box for Mama’s approval.
Mama told me never to accept a ride home from anyone. One day, a man stopped and asked if I would like a ride home. I said, “No, thank you.” It was one of the doctors that came to the nursing home. Mama explained to him what she had told me about a ride.
I never resented any of the responsibility that I had as a child, as it helped me to cope with the trials and tribulations I endured in my later years. There are many good memories of the life I lived as Mama’s little helper. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Helen Hampton is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.