We called her “Sarge.”
My brothers and I knew her unflappable love for us,
as well as the part that was highly flappable.
Her jaw would set, her mouth would pucker
and rise up a half inch closer to her nose
and her voice….ho boy, that voice.
And words only sailors used. Hazel Kay Radant in the house!
Heels would click, children would salute and scurry, apologize and know full well that the love didn’t go away.
She used to pull me up onto her lap,
show me the “learn to draw ad” in the back of a magazine,
put a pencil in my hand and things got really quiet.
“Let’s draw pretty girls, honey,” she said each time.
I had a bedroom in the attic where I assumed
the pitched ceiling over my bed to have been built expressly for me. I could rest my chin on the windowsill between my chenille-covered twin beds. With a pillow under my knees, I knelt there like I was taking communion and watched the drive-in theater’s movies.
In the summer, I could even hear them.
That’s how I learned about the big world outside our housing plan in Columbus, Ohio.
She’d call me down into reality, to wash the dishes, watch my little brother.
I hated her cooking…food from cans and boxes, ‘50s style. “Set the table, punkin’ and get the box of mashed potatoes out for me and the squirt cheese.” We ate what was squirted in front of us… or so Mom thought.
All the quirks made life interesting and taught my brothers and me to be ready for anything. And thanks to Sarge, I can draw now. Today, I’m an artist and writer living on Martha’s Vineyard.