A Child Again


It was during the summer of 1928 that I last knew my mother.  I say “knew” because she had tuberculosis as long as I remembered, and was in a sanitarium or struggling at home much of the time.  But she raised my five sisters and me and spread her love among us. That year my father took a job as time-keeper in a logging camp in the Sierra.  Perhaps the clear warm summer days and the cool nights at the five thousand foot elevation would improve her health.

As timekeeper, he prepared the payroll, and among other duties, ran the commissary, which carried shoes, clothing, tobacco, candy, and he phoned the sawmill, Pino Grande, the food order for the cook-house and the families. Pino Grande would forward the order to the company headquarters in Camino, where the order would be assembled and arrive on Friday evening in the camp. He was the one-man office, on duty, and on call around the clock.  Only the camp boss could relieve him.

There was little work for any of our family there: the one room cabin was simple, and used mainly for eating.  We slept on iron cots in a grove of small pines behind the cabin, and spent our days visiting with the few families there, riding on the locomotives, visiting the sites where logs were being loaded on cars, and gathered with others in the evening to talk and sing.  There was no electricity in the camp, so no radio.and lighting was from kerosene lamps. Meat and bakery goods were purchased from the cook-house, which my sisters cooked on the wood stove the camp provided.  My mother was feeling pretty good. It was an idyllic life.

But fate said “Nay”.  We returned with our mother to Sacramento for school in the fall, but the next spring she relapsed and died in a sanitarium. The next summer when school was out, we children returned to the camp.  We adjusted to our loss, and lived another pleasant summer in the camp. Then again, my father brought us back to Sacramento for school. Since he wouldn’t return from the camp until around October, when snow shut down the operation, I was now deemed “the man of the house”. During those years, I had grown to be rather independent.  I resisted my sisters’ efforts to order me around, and at the age of ten acquired the youth’s attitude of “know it all” two to three years before I should have. Our mother’s love had been meted out among us, and our father, when he was at home, seemed swamped with maintenance.

In Sacramento we lived next to the County Hospital.  My sister, Jean writes in her memoirs of the superintendent, Dr. L’Oiseaux, occasionally having dinner with us, and also treating our various illnesses. He was single and lived in an apartment down town.  All I remember of him was his flowing white mustache.  He was replaced by Dr. Albert Dunlap, for whom the hospital built a beautiful large house next to the hospital and a block from our place. It was a mansion among the simple houses in the area. His first wife, of whom I remember little, died, and he married Ruth, who soon had a daughter, Caroline, to join her step-sister, Margaret.  Their daughters spent much time playing with my sisters and me at our house.

Ruth Dunlap was beautiful; sort of the fairy-tale beautiful.  She had beautiful clothes, always neatly dressed, and drove an eight-passenger Cadillac. When we came back to town for school that fall, I was probably still dirty and grungy from the summer’s play.  I suppose my father left money with my older sisters for new clothing for them and for me, but Mrs. Dunlap intervened, and took me shopping for a complete new set of clothes.  She brought me back to her house for dinner with her family, and later led me to their guest bedroom, and went into the spacious bathroom and started drawing water in the bathtub. She left, after telling me to undress and get in the tub, and call her when I was ready.  It was a large bathroom and a big tub, not like the narrow one at home with claw feet.  She came in, handed me a small towel to cover my innocent privates, knelt on the floor and tackled my body.

How long had it been since my mother had washed my hair, scrubbed my back and chest and sang a song as she scrubbed the soles of my feet?  Was I a neighbor lad who needed a good cleaning, or was I the son she never had?  I remember the pleasure of her bathing me, but what were her thoughts at the time?  When I was thoroughly clean, she left, telling me to dry myself and put on the new pajamas she had bought.  I went into the bedroom.  She had turned down the covers of the bed.  I got in and she tucked the covers around my shoulders, bent over and kissed my forehead, said goodnight, turned out the light and quietly left.

I was a child again.



George W. Parker

May 2011

This entry was posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015 at 4:54 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “A Child Again”

  1. Theresa Renée Tossas

    Hello George Washington Parker III,

    We are Cousins!!! I would be thrilled to receive an email, from you (God willing you are still active) or your descendants. My great Grandfather was James Kelley, son of Edwin Kelley and Elizabeth Parker. Saginaw, Michigan.
    And we are also, DNA matching, quite closely on ftdna!

    xoxoxoxoTheresa Renée

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