A Bottled-up Memory…Free at Last  




                                                                                                                  Marilyn Kinsella

There they stood - two glass milk bottles on the edge of the porch. They stood there like they did every Monday and Friday – waiting, waiting for the milkman. He would come clamoring up the back stepping stones with a carton of fresh, whole milk at his side. Twice a week, like clockwork, he came. He always wore the same gray/green uniform with “Niederer’s Dairy” stitched on the pocket.




     One Monday, he doffed his matching cap as he spied my mother putting the wash on the line. “G’day, Mrs. Niemann, beautiful day, isn’t it?”

“Beautiful, indeed!” shouted my mother as she looked worriedly at the sky gathering dark wool. “I just hope this load gets dry before the rain comes!”

“Nothin’ like the smell of fresh rain on your clothes. Somebody ought to bottle that smell, they should. They’d make a million bucks.”

“Oh, you do go on with your ideas. A million dollars, indeed! Stuff and nonsense. Why, last week you were thinking of putting the milk in that new plastic stuff I read about. Don’t go putting your milk money on that scheme.”

“Don’t worry about that. With five kids to feed I don’t have a wooden nickel to spare these days. Say, Mrs. Niemann, are you in the mood for some sour cream or butter, today?”

My mom finished pinning the last bit of clothes and wiped her hands on her apron. As she picked up the empty wicker basket, she sighed, “No thank you. Not today.” She didn’t want to tell him that she didn’t have money for any extras this week.

On Friday, the empty milk bottles were sitting back on the porch – like they always did…like they always would. Or, so we thought. Their contents consumed by our growing family.

It was that Friday that my brother, Chris, decided it was time to perform his brotherly duty by chasing me around the house. My brother, Chris – a handsome teenager, if there ever was – tall, dark, hazel-brown eyes.  A little dab of Brill Cream lit up his dark brown hair. He bought a set of weights to buff up those bulging muscles. He was every girl’s dreamboat. Being seven years older, he didn’t pay much attention to me. So, when he began to chase me that day, I was flattered that he would even give me the time of day. I accepted his challenge and squealed with ear piercing yips and yaps over furniture, under tables, in and out of rooms. Just when he had me cornered, he slowed down with his arms outstretched like Frankenstein’s monster. He slowly began to drag one foot behind him and to contort his face into a snarling tangle of drool and twitches. He slowed down enough to allow me to duck under him and continue the chase.

“Stop that! Mark my words…somebody’s gonna get hurt. Take that noise outside,” yelled my mom with her free hand cupped over the receiver. She had the telephone crooked under her ear and, with her other hand, she ironed the mounds of clothes next to her. Cynically, she told her friend Peggy, “Maybe I should tell the milkman to invent clothes that never need pressing – hah!”

      The screen door flew open as I jumped off the back porch and ran to the other side of the picnic table. It always provided the perfect barrier. But, I was out of breath. I plopped down on the bench seat. My brother’s pace had slowed down. “Was the chase over?” I thought. My brother never stopped until I got a good tickling.

“Are you okay? Does it hurt? Oh, my God, you’re bleeding!” Frankenstein’s monster began to swoon as blood gushed from my ankle.

I hadn’t even felt it – the power of childhood adrenalin! As I swept out the back door and jumped down, I had knocked down the milk bottles. They came crashing down onto the concrete…shards of glass like exploding shrapnel torpedoed in all directions. One errant missile found its target.

Suddenly, my brother transformed before my eyes. As the red blood flowed out my ankle onto the green grass, his massive strength flowed out of him like an Achilles’ heel.

Now, it was my turn. (heh-heh-heh) No, it didn’t hurt. But, I wouldn’t tell him that. This was my moment. I had my brother’s attention, and I was going to milk it for all it was worth! With the back of my hand on my forehead, I acted like I was going to faint. Without another thought, my brother swooped me up in his arms and carried me into the house. My handsome brother…my hero!

To tell you the truth, it really did not hurt – not one bit. What did hurt was the iodine my mother used. That hurt like a boo-hooey! I can still smell that pungent, day-glow orange liquid as it attached itself to every nerve ending on my ankle. My brother stood helplessly by and suffered through each excruciating yowl. Finally, my mother wrapped up the whole situation with a whole roll of white bandages and the admonition…”I told you somebody was going to get hurt!”

My mother, prophet and sage!.

Later she performed her mommy duty, and, arching one eyebrow, she handed my brother the dustpan. Without a word he went out and swept up the pieces of our chase. I still bear the scar on the inside of my right leg. A shard of memory lurks just under the surface as I rub my finger across the silken skin.

Over the years I’ve discovered that many of our dreams of stuff and nonsense actually did become reality. But, who would have ever thought the advances that would take us two steps forward, would only have us take one giant-step back.  Yes, gone are the glass milk bottles, but also gone are the milkmen who faithfully delivered not only the milk, but also a little cheer that brightened an otherwise dull, gray day.

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