Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mountains, the Ocean, and Body Piercings-Firsts for a Texas Girl

Decades ago—(just make a rough estimate)—when I was eight years old, my parents decided to drive from the West Texas Plains to Long Beach, California to visit Mother’s sister and her family. Imagine the days of no commercial television and no air conditioners in cars. We owned an old Ford, and knowing that we would drive many miles across desert, Daddy bought a canvas water bag to hang over the radiator cap. “This might save our lives,” he said, “or we might need it if the radiator boils over.”

So, off we go across New Mexico, Arizona, and California to the coast. I am the middle of three sisters, so I usually had to sit between them in the back seat, with the “hump” in the floor under my feet. The life of a tourist in those days does not compare to the joys of a modern road trip. While it wasn’t as bad as circumstances were for the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, the hours and days couldn’t have been pleasant, yet I only remember having a good time. I suppose this is God’s way of taking care of innocent children.

When the first mountains came into view in the far distance, the blurry sight entranced me so much, Mother made one sister trade places with me. She probably did this because I was near-sighted but did not own a pair of glasses at that time. Since the temperature soared to around 110 degrees, we drove with all the windows down. To have the best view the mountains, I stuck my head partially out the window. Even though the wind almost blew my head off, if I squinted I could make out the shape of the peaks and the snow on tops of a few. I’ve never forgotten the thrill of seeing my first mountains.

After three days of grueling travel, we arrived at our aunt’s house in Long Beach. Her name was Irene, but we called her Aunt Sister, because Mother called her Sister. Now I can’t remember if Aunt Sister called Mother by the same name, or if she just used Mother’s real name. The beach wasn’t visible from her house, but late in the day, we walked down to the edge of the water. The roar of the ocean, the gentle splashing of the waves, and the blue-gray water almost scared me to death. I’d never seen anything so immense, so vast. I found my first shell and created a crude sand castle.

The day before our visit ended, Aunt Sister took me by the hand and led me to a back bedroom. She closed the door and told me to sit on the dresser stool. “Sweetie,” she said, “I have some beautiful gold earrings I bought the day you were born, and I’ve saved them just for you. Would you like to see them?”

“Uh-huh,” I said, loving earrings, because Mother always wore a pair in her pierced ears. I thought they were very pretty.

The earrings lay in a small white leather case lined with felt. She opened it and let me see. “They’re so beautiful,” I told her, and asked, “Can I touch one?”

Aunt Sister explained that the small 18-karat gold hoop earrings were mine, as soon as I allowed her to pierce my ears. I jumped up from the stool and said, “Do it now.” She questioned me a little until she was sure. Then, as I sat on the dresser stool and watched in the mirror, she pierced my ears. (Those with a weak stomach may hit the mute button.) First, she put clothespins on my earlobes to deaden them. Then she dipped a needle with white thread in alcohol, removed one clothespin, held a cork to the back of my earlobe, and shoved the needle through the lobe. She repeated the process on the other side, tied the threads in a loop, and dabbed each one with Campho-Phenique. She opened my hand, placed the case in my palm, and kissed and hugged me. All this time, no one knew Aunt Sister had pierced my ears—not even Mother.

On the drive back to Texas, I carried my special gifts in my hands—the small case that held the earrings in one, and a bottle of medication to dab on my ears every few hours in the other. And in my heart? Precious memories of love, generosity, nature’s wondrous creations, and a road trip I’ve never forgotten.
Celia Yeary

ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS-a Texas Historical
Available in eBook: The Wild Rose Press
Available in print:, B&N


  1. Sorry, but that just down right hurts! I wish the doctor had used clothespins when he pierced my ears. LOL. Or topical or something...

  2. Great story, Celia! I loved how you caught your first glimpse of the mountains, even with your near-sighted vision. Something I relate to, since I needed glasses very early on but didn't get them until later.

    How did your mom react when she found out about your pierced ears?

    Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul:

  3. Your story reminds me so much of myself. My Aunt was my favorite person when I was a child. She once gave me a permanent when I visited and my hair looked like Bozo the clown. My Mom had a fit. They never really liked each other. (grin)

  4. That brings back a lot of road trip memories from when I was a child. Our station wagon constantly overheated, my father would drive by the last gas station for miles (we'd have to stop and drop on the side of the road to go the bathroom), and we often drove around with the windows down to cool off. LOL

    Recently while driving up to my mom's, our air conditioner went out. The temps were over 100 in the San Joaquin Valley. My DH wouldn't roll his window down because the noise from the wind was too loud. Meanwhile, I sweltered in the sun with my window rolled down. Sopping wet, every 10 minutes or so, I'd lean forward to let the hot wind cool down my back. LOL We had the air fixed before coming home. (grin)

    Wonderful blog. :)


  5. Celia,

    Your aunt must have loved you very much to do something so special for you.

    What a lovely story.


  6. SKHYE--I don't remember the pain. When I was in my thirties, I got a second set of piercings in one of those mall booths, where they use a "gun." I wanted one above and to the outside slightly of the original ones--you know. I braced myself, but it was so quick, it really was almost painless. I think those booths have been outlawed--don't know. Anyway, I always wear diamond studs in the top ones, and somethng sort of dangly--like Sarah Palin's trailer trash earrings--in the regular holes.Celia

  7. Hi, Chiron--I figured you could relate to the near-sightedness.My family used to go to the drive-in, and I'd stand behind Mother and ask--what's happening? Why is so dark? Who is that person? And when the credits rolled, I'd ask her to read them to me.Annoyed the heck out of my two sisters. That's when Mother finally realized I was practically blind.
    My mother adored Aunt sister. She could do no wrong--she knew Irene had the earrings. Celia

  8. MARY--my aunt was gorgeous and I envied her petiteness and her beautiful face.My mother was very, very pretty, too. Only my younger sister turned out really pretty.
    Yeah, permanents-- everybody got permanents--especially me, because I had a Buster Brown haircut--straight as a stick. My little sister had the same haircut, but her hair curled up and did not look like mine. I got all the recessive genes in the family--believe me. Celia

  9. Marci--Oh, those road trips. We took many of them. But we had no money--zilch. Once we drove to Colorado to see the sights, but with little money, we stayed in stranger's homes--"Room for rent." five of us--in one room.I wouldn't do that today on a bet. Celia

  10. Thanks, Sandy--I never understood why she treated me special--I was the middle one, the plain one, etc. Maybe she thought I needed special attention. Gee, I don't know. she was something though. Once, when I was still a kid, she taught me to make Thousand Island Dressing with mayonaise, ketchup, and sweet pickle relish. I thought that was the grandest thing in the world.Celia

  11. Hi Celia,
    Your post took me back a few years when my family lived in California. I was four years old. We road in an open jeep and my two sisters and I had the worst case of mosquito bites ever. I still remember the Calamine lotion. Loved your post and the feelings you expressed.

    LoAnna aka Cierra James

  12. What a wonderful tale, Celia! I enjoyed reading about your trip. I love that Aunt Sister singled you out for the earrings. I bet your siblings were jealous of the attention you received.

    I have a cousin (real name Priscilla) who grew up in a family of 4 boys. They called her sister, and eventually all of us did. I still call her Sister to this day! Only her husband calls her Priscilla. Luckily she doesn't mind having two names.

    Do you remember when you got your first pair of glasses? For me it was third grade. I flunked a reading exam at the elementary school. My mom was so surprised, which was strange actually, when one considers that all 3 of my older sisters wore glasses. Hmmm. I'll have to ask her about that one.

    Oh and as one of the younger kids, I had to ride in the 3rd seat of our station wagon, the one that faced backwards. None of us knew back then about my motion sickness, but I was always queasy when we got anywhere. To this day, if I have to sit in a backwards seat, I turn around and face the front!

    Enjoyed the read.

  13. This brought back memories of an early family trip from Texas to Yellowstone Park. I too remember my first hazy glimpse of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. They looked like huge blue thunderclouds rising above the horizon. Thanks, Celia, for bringing back the memory.

  14. MAGGIE--I had an Uncle Brother, too.I didn't get glasses until 7th grade. No one paid attention that I couldn't see anything. In classes, elementary on, the teacher alwasy placed me in a front row seat so I could see the board. She didn't question--no one did. My parents only recognized this for certain when we went to the drive-in movie and I had Mother to tell me everything that was happening and read the credits, etc. finally, she said, "Well, I guess Celie Ann can't see a thing past her nose." I think she used that term because my nose was always in a book or in a music book at the piano. Thanks for replying--Celia

  15. CIERRA--those early campimg trips alwasy imprinted us some way, didn't they? Calamine lotion, mosquito bites, poison ivy, scratches and scrapes--ahhh, such fun. thanks for commenting! Celia

  16. TERI--I still love the sight of mountains in the distance. a few years ago, we drove to Ashville and drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway--I just ooed and aaahed all day. There's nothing like the sight of the Rockies, though, expecially covered in snow. Thanks!!Celia

  17. Great post! It reminded me of all those trips we took as a family (I know all about the hump in the middle!), and when I got my ears pierced! The neighbor girl a 'teenager' pierced them for me.

    Thanks so much for the review on Blue Spring's Queen!


  18. Celia, you have the best stories. I love reading your memories!