From kindergarten through fourth grade I lived in San Antonio on 155 Farrell Drive in a little white ranch style house. My dad closed in our tiny carport to make a den (and did the same thing in the next house) so we would have more room. Our front porch was long and narrow, flanked by a low brick flower bed full of deep purple Wandering Jew plants.
Directly across the street lived “Aunt Opal.” I’m not sure why we called her “Aunt,” because she wasn’t a relative to any of us in the class or on Farrell Drive. She operated a kindergarten out of her home and had 11 kids enrolled when I attended. She, along with my father, were the first two people to encourage me to draw when they saw my creative potential. I remember one of my first drawing assignments was to draw a rose using colored pencils. Aunt Opal showed us how to draw the petals with a series of crescent moon shapes grouped together. I think I still have that drawing somewhere—temporarily misplaced in a safe place completely unknown to even me, of that I’m sure.
Above is my class graduation photo. I’m in the front row, second from the left, with my mouth hanging open. I certainly don’t look like the brightest of her students, but I’d truly like to believe I was. (Girls in front—as it should be!)
Aunt Opal wore June Cleaver-like, flowered dresses in polished cotton, accessorized with a single strand of pearls, big pearl button earrings, and dark cat-eye glasses. She had perfectly coiffed hair, sparkling blue eyes and looked a bit like the TV character Hazel. She always drank Tab after school was let out for the day. I know this because I shared one with her on more than one occasion while waiting for my mother to come home from work to walk me from school across the street to our house. Ah, my first diet cola—let’s blame Aunt Opal for our affinity for them now, shall we?
After driving by that house a few years ago, I blogged about 155 Farrell Drive in “Pressed between the pages of my mind,” here. You can read about how my younger sister and I staged pool parties in our back yard, sold lemonade to neighbor children and how I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was eight years old. That same plant-filled brick flower bed was where one Valentine’s Day, my classmate Darren dropped off a box of chocolate for me, rang the doorbell, then ran away. I’ve been scaring boys away ever since!
I was taken back to that time again recently when I came across the two photos below in a dresser drawer in my parent’s guest room. Now you get to see that Aunt Opal was just as I had described her—perfect coif, polished pearls, sensible pumps and all. Below that photo, I’m on our front porch in front of the flower box, proudly holding my first diploma.
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