Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Be as familiar with observation as you are with the place you live."  ~ Maasai proverb

I LOVE looking!  ...not just looking, but looking really, really closely at Nature.  When I was small, I'd lay in the front lawn on my tummy, and watch the ants and the beetles hustle through the shoots of grass, and climb over sand particles, and run away from each other in fear.  It was an entire world that was utterly oblivious of me and the big world I lived in.  But wars went on there, too, and things ate, and listened, and walked softly, and lived and died.

The best place of all to look was at Mrs. Froelick's house... well, not her house.  I'd never known anyone to actually go into Mrs. Froelick's house!  She owned the lot next to her house, too, there on Berryman Avenue in Culver City where we lived.  Her whole vacant lot had once been a fruit orchard, but it'd morphed into the most heavenly, heathen land of weeds taller than we were, with gold-and-brown moths that we would catch in glass jars, and prickly, thorn bushes, and tiny, tiny violets that grew on the ground underfoot.  Heaven!  Nature can be cruel, though.  Those thorns made me bleed... but catching a fuzzy, darting moth in mid-air always made up for that.

Those were the days of May Day... not the more modern May Day... the old one where you danced in a large circle at school with your entire class around something the teacher called a "May Pole."  Mrs. Rightmeyer never told us what a "May Pole" was... or maybe I wasn't listening...  On May Day at home you'd work hard making paper May Baskets that you filled with stolen neighbors' flowers when you ran out of your own flowers, and then you'd leave one on the front door knob of each neighbor's house.  You'd ring the doorbell, and run away, giggling, to hide from the "surprised" lady who would open the door, and say, "I wonder who left this on our door?" just loudly enough for us to hear.  I guess it was an even trade, because the neighbor always got to hear giggling from behind her flower-less bushes.

One day in the Spring a black-and-white half-grown puppy-dog-mutt arrived at our door.  After pleading with Mom to let us keep him, the one thing my brother and I thought we had perfected, she said, "No, absolutely NO!"  That didn't mean much to us, because Dad would be home soon, and we could get around him much easier.  But Dad said, "NO!"  Then Mom said, "We'll keep him for ONE DAY!  That's ALL!"

The next morning Mom had decided that it would be a great idea to offer the boisterous black-and-white puppy-dog-mutt to Mrs. Froelick!  

Now you'd have to know Mrs. Froelick and why I can still see her in my mind's eye...  She was old.  Not old, like in kid's terms.  She was OLD to my parents!  Heck, she was OLD to my grandparents!!!  Mom said she was at least 80 years old.  

Mrs. Froelick went out every single day in her "Machine."  That was its name - "The Machine! ( Oh, to you and I, it's the car.)  This "Machine" was one of the oldest cars my Dad said he'd ever seen.  It was like in the old, old, old, black-and-white movies where the star had a "driver" and she sat in the baaaaack seat of a looooog black car!  Mrs. Froelick would put on a large-brimmed straw hat with a floaty veil that wrapped around the crown of the hat, and she would tie the ends under her chin so the brim covered both her ears.  Now that I think of it, we lived very close to MGM Studios, and it could have been that she was once an actress... or at least an extra.  The few times I'd see her more closely, she'd had a wistful smile and kind, dreamy old eyes.  Then she'd start up the engine of the "Machine," and she'd drive away.  She never drove faster than 8 miles an hour, according to my Dad... Dad's always know those sorts of things!

Well, that next morning Mom had put the dog into the bathtub right after I'd gotten out of it, and scrubbed him down until he looked presentable.  Then I added a ribbon tied in a bow around his neck.  Mom told him that he'd better make a good impression on Mrs. Froelick, or it was going to be the dog-catcher for him!

Mom knocked on her door, and my brother and I stood behind her with our arms wrapped around this mutt of a dog.  The door opened, and my Mom said, "Mrs. Froelick, we just found th..." and the dog jumped out of our arms, dove into the old lady's house, and into the darkness.  Then Mrs. Froelick turned and disappeared into that darkness.  Then we heard scraping and scratching, and some sort of purring (C'mon, Terry... "purring?"  YUP!  Purring!)  Then out came Mrs. F with the mutt in her arms.  She announced, "His name is Frolic!"  She was smiling from ear-to-ear, and she had nice teeth, too!  "Frolic and I are going to take a drive in the "Machine" in 27 minutes.  Thank you so much for this lovely gift," and she shut the door.

Remember when you were little?  Remember how you coud sit on the sidewalk and watch some adult doing something, sort of like you were at the movies?  Well, my brother and I sat on Mrs. Froelick's sidewalk in front of her house for 27 minutes, waiting to see what would happen next to "Frolic Froelick"...

The front door opened, and Frolic leaped out like a frog and landed just about where my brother and I were sitting, staring.  Then he played hopscotch without the rules on the sidewalk, raced back to Mrs. Froelick, jumped up nearly touching her face with his... all the froth from his mouth slathering down the front of the lady's long black dress.  He lifted his leg on each of her flowering bushes, stopped and stared me in the eyes and licked my nose, and then laid a gooey kiss on my brother's crew-cut.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Frolic wandered, in her lady-like way, towards the "Machine."  She turned and said, "Frolic!" in her soft but audible voice.  "We're leaving..." and opened the passenger door.  Frolic finally got the idea, and he did a "hop-skip-and-jump" into the car, and while she wafted her way around the car to the driver's door, Frolic leaped back-and-forth into and out of the backseat twelve times.

She shut the her door, said something we could't hear to Frolic Froelick, and he sat, back straight as an arrow, in the passenger seat, and off they went at a breezy 8-miles-an hour to parts-unknown.

It happened exactly that way every day forever, I guess.  My brother and I were bored with watching the show about three days' later, though.  Frolic never changed, Mrs. Froelick never changed, but Jack and I got older.    


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  2. OK I have to know, how long did the old dear live and what happened to the dog when she passed? Great story!

    1. I don't know, I'm sorry to say. We moved away to Connecticut when I just turned 13, and they were together for sure until then. As soon as my husband and I moved back here to California, we drove over to Berryman Avenue, and there was no Mrs. Froelick's house, and even worse... no more empty, weedy lot nextdoor, either. The whole two lots had been demolished so a 2-story strip apartment building could take its place... NO FAIR! :\