Look to the Stars
by Alice Isom Gubler Stratton
Chapter 27
"I Want to Go Wif You"
(1938)

143 In the wintertime, we cooked on the little camp stove that heated the house. One day, Norman bathed his rubber doll and put it on a cookie sheet in the oven to dry. Not knowing it was there, I built a fire and baked it. When the air turned blue with rubber smoke, I yanked open the oven door. There, looking like a gingerbread man, lay the doll, melted flat and bubbly. Norman cried brokenheartedly.

"You can play with my old doll," Marilyn consoled, "but don't cook it."

Whenever our watering turn came, the ditch became an irresistable lure to Norman. Deliberately he lost his balance whenever he got near it. Constantly I paddled him and changed his duds, but the magnetism of that ditch drew him to it, where he helplessly (?) tumbled in. Then capering into the house, trailing mud, he'd look at me in wide-eyed innocence and say, "Spank Norman. He fall in ditch."

One day, I changed his clothes three times. He was getting down to rock bottom. Mariliyn said, "Little brother can borrow my clothes. He likes to be a girl."

And he did. He grinned proudly as he wore her dress, and managed to stay out of the ditch for the rest of the day.

Thum sucking was Norman's big obsession. By tying his hands in gloves bulky as boxing gloves, I managed to keep his thumb out of his mouth at nights, but he made up for it during the day. Whenever he touched a bit of fur, wool, or cotton, up went his thumb. Anything fuzzy was appealing. If he couldn't enjoy his thumb peacefully in the house, which he never could while I was around, he'd go outside. We had pitched a tent on the lawn in our sunken garden, and Norman would stand in the tent door, hanging on to the frayed edge of the marquisette screen with one hand, and enjoying his thumb with the other. Or he'd crawl through the fence to the 144 north of the house and get hold of an old deer hide Winferd had stretched out on the wall. Or he would go out on the square and sit down in a meadow of fuzzy foxtails. Every friendly pup that let him hang onto its neck, or cat that brushed him with its tail, inspired his thumb sucking. One day I found him by a mullein clump, rubbing the soft nap of the fuzzy leaves with one hand and joyfully sucking his thumb. Fearful that I would never break him from the habit, I hoped his wife would carry on from where I left off. He could be such a bad example to his children, going around with his thumb in his mouth. It would be like having only one hand. Of course, his wife could announce, "Supper's on." Meal times he loved, and his thumb got a chance to dry off. Often he'd watch as I set the table, and would ask, "Doing Alice, Mudder?"

One night Winferd and I went to a Sunday School Board meeting at Hurricane. Since we couldn't get a baby sitter, we consoled ourselves with the thought that since we were on the Lord's errand, the children would be looked after. (I don't recommend this philosophy to my posterity.) It was a hot July night, and our beds were outside in the tent. We wanted the children to sleep in the house while we were gone, but Norman begged so hard that we lefet him alone in the tent.

Hurrying home from the meeting, I went to check on Norman, while Winferd went to the house to check on Marilyn. Norman was not in the tent. A queer little tremor went through me, but I supposed he must have gon in the house.

"Have you seen Norman?" I called as Winferd came to the door.

"No, he isn't in here," he replied.

I felt again in his bed, and in Marilyn's and in ours. I looked under the beds. There was positively no Norman. Together we searched through the house, the clothes basket, the shower, in the closet and under everything. Still no Norman. Frantically I ran to Vernon Church's, while Winferd called and searched about the lot. Still we could find no trace of Norman. I took the flashlight and Winferd went in the car across the square. I stopped at every tree, looking through the clumps of saplings, and as just going to the church house, when Winferd called, "Here he is."

Breathing a prayer of thanksgiving, I ran to where they were. Winferd had found Norman between the screen door and the wooden door to Graff's store, just sitting, looking out and waiting.

"Norman, what are you doing here?" Winferd asked.

"I wanted to go wif you," was his reply.

Masculine ego begins early. While Norman was so little, he often felt so big. He'd put on his hat and say, "I gotta go to work," and strut out the door, his short legs making time. Everything he did was big and important, just like his dad.

When I'd ask Winferd about some little thing, he'd offer answer, "I didn't notice. I had more weighty matters on my mind."

What a pair! Always thinking big things.

Norman would often march to the door and say, "Goodbye, Alice. I'm going to California."

145 I would kiss him goodbye, and two minutes later I could hear him imitating the motor of a car as he buzzed around in his sandpile. He built bridges, roads, tunnels and dams, if only I had the imagination to recognize them. But he didn't keep his construction in the sandpile. Every meal he buzzed around his plate with a crust of bread for a car and built bridges with his spoon. Marilyn often followed suit. Occasionally their cars went down a tunnel and were swallowed. We could only take so much, especially when they started having waterfalls from their spoons with their juicy food.

Marilyn and Norman usually cooperated in their ventures. Even when I tied them up for running away, they enjoyed themselves by making a game of it.

Marilyn often had weighty matters on her mind, too. One day she asked, "Mother, will you take care of me when I have my baby? And can my husband and I live in your house while he builds a new house for us?" She shared this same concern about Norman's wife too.

One day she solemnly stated, "If Daddy had known you was going to spank your kids, he wouldn't of let you be his wife."

Another time, she breathlessly reported, "Mother, there's some horses out in Daddy's Mother's Husband's field."

As I stooped to kiss Norman goodnight, at the close of a day when he had been dreamily singing himself to sleep, he said, "Mother, my song says the buttercups say the bright moon is in the tree tops and the birds says it's the bright sun."