Life on Kingsbury Street was joyful. My mother and father slowly and carefully purchased furniture for the house and I usually accompanied them on their shopping days. I’d watch my father opening and closing drawers to be certain that they slid smoothly in and out. He ran his hands across the finish to determine if it was well done. He wanted to invest in timeless pieces that would last for a lifetime with my mom. The two of them would get so excited when they found exactly what they had hoped to encounter. There was even more celebrating when the tables and chairs and sofas and beds were delivered.
For me the best purchase was a television which my parents placed in the dining room for which they had not yet found a table that they liked. It would become the focus of entertainment for us in those early days of television when everything was black and white. Shows were mostly of thirty minute duration and the bulk of them were comedies and westerns. For me there were wonderful children programs that my mother allowed me to view in the mornings.
What I most enjoyed, however, was watching comedies with my father. I did not always understand the nuances of the humor but I thrilled at hearing my father laugh from deep down in his belly. I still remember his favorites, Sid Caesar, Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton. There may have been more but my mother limited my time in front of the television to an hour and a day and she monitored the programs to be certain that my young mind would not be subjected to adult entertainment.
Our neighborhood was a child’s dream with neighbors who seemed to adore my parents. On one side there was an older couple with teenage children. They took my parents under their wings often providing help and advice to them. On the other side were a man and his wife, the Wrights, who had not yet begun a family with children. Mrs Wright was a professional artist and her husband was an architect. Their house was filled with modern avantgarde furniture, paintings and sculpture. To me they were exciting people much like Auntie Mame and I loved going to their house. Mrs.Wright taught me to draw and often told my mother that she thought I showed some talent that should be cultivated. I still remember the times under her tutelage as being wonderful.
Behind us were duplex apartments where a woman who was old enough to be my grandmother lived. She and my mother became fast friends immediately and the two of them shared a morning cup of coffee in our kitchen almost everyday. The woman cared for her elderly father so she was never able to stay for very long because she feared that he might leave the house and get lost. In fact, one day such a thing actually happened and i remember walking through the neighborhood with my mother hoping to find the poor soul. When we finally saw him he was crouching in fear wearing nothing but the skin with which he was born. I was shocked but my mother soothed my worries by explaining that the old man was sick and he did not realize he was unclothed.
My best friend was a girl my age named Merrily. Her parents had divorced, something that was quite foreign to me. She sometimes lived with her mom and sometimes with her dad and new stepmother. Whenever she was back in my neighborhood her family invited me over to play with her and we enjoyed each other so much. I loved her name and her dog that was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. She was a happy girl with beautiful hair that reminded me of my mom’s lovely locks. I had somehow been stuck with thin baby fine hair that always seemed inadequate for making ponytails and braids like Merrily sported so beautifully. We shared secrets and laughter as though we were sisters.
Around the corner from our home was a UTotem convenience store that I sometimes visited with my father. He’d let me have a cold soft drink from a huge cooler filled with ice. The proprietor of the store was a man named Shorty which I thought was hilarious because he was a large imposing soul with a smile as big as his girth. He and Daddy told each other the latest jokes and discussed sports, a topic that I knew nothing about but made be proud that my father was so knowledgeable. Daddy seemed to be able to to talk anyone while I always felt very shy.
On Saturdays we often visited a music store where my father would purchase a new classical music recording. Back in the fifties the stores allowed customers to listen to selections before making the final purchase. I got a thrill out of wearing the headphones, listening to the symphonies and voicing my opinions to my dad who seemed to take my critiques quite seriously. I learned a great deal about music and famous composers from him even though I was not yet old enough for school.
We had not been living on Kingsbury for very long when my mother and father announced that my mother was going to have a baby. In those days nobody knew whether a girl or a boy would arrive so my mother prepared a room with neutral yellow colors. I was excited about the baby but a bit sad that his impending arrival required my parents to dismantle the room that had served as my father’s study. It had held a draft table where he worked on designs for his mechanical engineering job. I loved watching him carefully create the schematics by hand. They were strange but beautiful to me.
One time my father had used his tools to create a scale drawing of our house. Then he built a replica of the home using balsa wood. The finished project looked just like our house down to the smallest details of cedar shakes, bricks and roofing. I thought it was the most remarkable thing that I had ever seen, but more than anything I was in awe that my father was able to create something so magnificent. I never knew what eventually happened to the miniature rendition of our house, but after the room was converted to a nursery I never saw it again. To this very day I wish that someone had saved it. What a treasure it would be!
Things were changing and soon enough my mother was gone for a time. My aunts would watch me while Daddy was at work during the day. At night he came home after visiting my mom at the hospital to tell me that I had a new brother named Jack Michael Little who was born on January 6, 1952. Soon after the baby and my mother arrived to much fanfare. The house was abuzz with visitors and relations who cooked and cleaned and cared for me and my mother while she recovered from the birth. Michael as he would always be called slept most of the time in a bassinet in my parents’ room. If I was very good and promised to be quiet I got to tiptoe in to see the baby boy with his dark hair and dark eyes. Life would change but it would be quite nice. Not only was our family growing, but Houston was changing rapidly. It was on its way to becoming a major city and I would be privy to its rise.