I will always remember the summer of 1969. I had just finished the 5th grade.
I had become a huge Braves fan at the start of the baseball season, and I had the plastic batter’s helmet, the fake mitt, and pennants hanging on my bedroom wall to prove it. Living in a suburb of Atlanta at the time, I had been on hand to witness one of Hank Aaron’s homeruns, and I even had a crush on Phil Niekro, the pitcher.
Next door to us lived three horrible little boys. Bradley was a year younger than I was, his brother Bobby was 5 years old, and the smallest child was named Frankie.
All summer we played pretend baseball…no one had real equipment, just plastic bats and balls. Of course, we were the Braves. At night, I would hold a transistor radio to my ear and listen to the games. I also played Barbies with the girl down the street, splashed around in our small metal pool with the plastic lining, and I pushed my baby sister in the stroller a lot to give my mom some relief. It’s funny that I don’t remember it being too hot outside to play.
That was also the summer when my mom thought that I was filling out quickly and needed a “training bra.” I never really understood what my bosom was supposed to be training for, but she told me I needed one. So, she gave me the speech about how I was growing up and purchased a small bra.
Rather proudly, I tried it on and ran into the den to show her. At that very moment, Bradley knocked on the screen door, and when I looked up, he was peering through the screen to see if I was home. Standing there in my new bra and underwear, I turned around and ran shrieking through the house, slamming the bedroom door.
Moments later, my mom came in my room, assured me that Bradley hadn’t seen anything, and that at his age, he wouldn’t understand what he had seen anyway. I never was too sure about that because after that episode, the local boys wouldn’t let me be Hank Aaron any more…I had to be a cheerleader.
In July, my father was beside himself with anticipation about the moon landing. He absolutely drove us crazy about it, and it didn’t help that the week before, he had been opening a window at church and his hand went through the glass resulting in multiple stitches. So, he was homebound and couldn’t do much. Finally, the moon day arrived, and we sat in front of our 21-inch black and white television with tin foil on the rabbit ears to watch the whole thing. Just as the space craft hatch was opened by Neil Armstrong, our TV chose that moment to die. My dad yelled and banged on it, to no avail. It was truly dead. So as millions of viewers watched the amazing sight of men walking on the moon, dad sulked.
While all this was fascinating, nothing was more entertaining than the mom next door.
When she got mad, she brought out the fly swatter.
Youngest boy Frankie was 3 years old and constantly in trouble. One day as late evening approached, Frankie was sitting in his little red convertible car. It was made of metal and had to be peddled for the four wheels to move. (Honestly, I coveted that little car and wished I had owned one at his age.)
It had rained earlier and was much cooler outside. So, Frankie’s mom yelled for him to come in and put on a sweater.
Now, poor Frankie couldn’t pronounce the letters “L”, “S”, or “R”. If you asked him his name, he would say Fwankie.
That day his mom started to get mad because Frankie wouldn’t come in. Furiously, she burst out of the screen door brandishing the fly swatter.
As an implement and tool of discipline, I thought the fly swatter was rather cushy…I mean, I had been spanked by the best: of course, the usual belt, paddle, bedroom shoe, a hairbrush once, and even a spatula. So, the fly swatter was a new one for me. But it evidently was frightening to Frankie.
He began to yell.
“I DON’T WANNA PUT ON A FWEDDA. PWEESE DON’T HIT ME WITH THE FWY FWADDA!!”
Translated, that meant he didn’t want to put on the sweater, nor did he want to be hit with the fly swatter.
Absolutely fascinated by the entire scenario, and cracking up at the missing consonants, I stood there giggling. His mom sent me home.
But you know what’s really stayed with me from the summer of ’69? To this day I still call a fly swatter a fwy fwatta.
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