The Innocent Years

Every now and then, however, my folks would throw a party with their younger friends. Then it became an evening of loud music, dancing and bootleg gin. They’d cut the bad gin with gingerale and maybe a little lime. I think they called it a Gin Buck. They let me drink straight gingerale. The dancing was fun watching. I thought that my mother doing the Charleston in her funny straight dress without a waistline was hilarious. I’d usually watch what was happening for awhile and then go to bed. In the next room, I didn’t get much sleep.

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Ted Ewing was the name of the kid who lived next door. During that last summer, we had some good times together. We played in the woods. We built forts in the dirt back of his house.. We played with a dog that lived up the road. We played marbles. We hooted and hollered around. And sometimes, on my front lawn, we’d just he on our backs with our hands behind our heads and gaze up at the sky. We’d try to create faces and shapes out of the cumulus clouds—or sometimes talk about the future.

“Hey, Byron, whadda ya wanna be when you grow up?”
“I dunno. Maybe an artist. Or a flyer. How ’bout you?”
“Think I’d like to be a doctor. Or maybe a fireman.”

Ted Ewing’s family moved back east during the depression. We traded comical postcards and notes occasionally over the years. He grew up to become a soldier—a second-lieutenant with the US Army’s 106th Infantry Division during WWII. He was killed in Europe, December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge.

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When my mother walked out, she took only her clothes, a little money and me, (The piano came later.)

The end came fast. Unexpected. I was totally blind­sided. They say that kids usually sense the troubles. Well, I didn’t. I had no idea my dad and my mother weren’t getting along. They hid it amazingly well.

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