Distinct dinner bells called us from play

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Before she was my teacher, I knew her as one of the East Park Avenue mothers. I suppose she was always a teacher, but to me growing up, she belonged to Doug, George, Lee and Patrick.

They lived on the same side of the street on East Park Ave. Only one house, the Dunns’, separated ours from theirs. Henley Street ran along side our yard, so it was technically one house and a street that kept us from being side-by-side neighbors.

Many afternoons our backyard was full of kids. We might be playing kickball or dodge ball (I hated dodge ball) or we might simply roll down the hill that was on the side of the house.

We knew playtime was ending when the dinner bells started ringing. There were two of them, each with a distinct sound, and the kids they belonged to knew which one was calling them home.

One of my fondest memories of this grand lady involved that dinner bell. It was a fall afternoon and we were having so much fun, probably playing chase or hiding in the imaginary camp we had in the bamboo.

Anyway, we didn’t want the fun to end, but the sun was sinking and it was time for supper, baths and probably last minute homework. Well, the dinner bell started ringing. We knew immediately it was Patrick’s bell, but he didn’t seem to hear it.

Well, if he wasn’t worried about responding to the call home, we weren’t concerned either. So, we kept playing and the bell kept ringing. Then after several minutes, it stopped.

We stopped too at the sight of Patrick’s mother heading up the street toward our house. To say her steps were determined does not begin to describe it. I think if you listened hard, you could hear them marching toward us. Even from a distance, we could tell she was not smiling.

Sensing trouble coming his way, Patrick darted across the side street and raced through the Dunn’s backyard, hoping, I suppose, to reach home before his mother reached our house. For our part, we rushed inside to avoid ratting out our friend for not leaving when the bell first rang.

I smile remembering that afternoon and all the days playing and rushing home to our mothers’ calls. It was a great way to grow up.

Years later in high school, I was in her journalism class. It was my first taste of writing for anything other maybe English class. I fell in love with working on the school newspaper.

In that class, I learned about journalistic writing style and using the arrangement of words to capture the reader’s attention. Upside down writing I called it. How surprised I was to discover Patrick’s mother knew about something other than being a mother.

More years passed and the Park Avenue kids grew up and most moved away. One day, I was at Mother’s house when our down-the-street neighbor stuck her head in the back door to say hello.

She reminded me that I once told her I wanted to grow up to have lots of children — oh and to write. I don’t remember the children part, but I’ve managed to do both things.

Last weekend, they held a birthday celebration in Opp for that wonderful East Park Avenue mother who was also my journalism teacher. I claim her as one of my examples and inspirations. First, she was an example of how to be a good mother and second, someone who inspired me to write. She also is, to me, the definition of a strong woman.

I saw pictures of the event and Mrs. Wilda Lee Page at age 100 looked amazingly like I remembered.

In fact, if the need arose, I think this strong, amazing woman might still be capable of pursuing a child ignoring a dinner bell.

So, happy birthday, Mrs. Page, from one of the East Park Avenue bunch, and thank you for being a great role model.