The Adventures of Bubba and Tallulah
Dedication:To Baby Loiselle (You havent been named yet. Dont let your grandma Kiddo name you, shell call you Gaylan Sloane.)
Title:Bubba and Tallulahs Adventures
I was trying to think of a present to give you because I am very excited that you are coming into this world. I came up with lots of ideas, but a book about your dad was what I decided on. I thought that maybe one day, when youre old enough to read, you and your dad could sit down and enjoy this book together.
Im your Aunt Mikki. Mikki is short for Michelise Beth. My brother Russell, your dad, was my best friend when we were growing up. I call your dad Bubba and he calls me Piggy Tallulah. In the south, people call brothers Bubba. Piggy is from when your daddy saw a commercial for Trident Sugar-less Chewing Gum with Peggy Fleming the ice skater. Tallaluh comes from the movie, Bugsy Malone with Jodie Foster. I told everyone I wanted to be called Tallulah. Your daddy was the one who made the nickname stick. Because your grandpa was in the Army, we moved a lot. Moving meant that your dad and I had to depend on each other for companionship each time we got to a new place. Thats not to say that we always got along. Believe me, there were times when we were ready to kill each other. But there were also lots of times when your dad made me laugh, when he got into trouble with me, or when he was just my friend.
Quarry Heights, Panama
In the late 1960s we moved to Panama. We moved when your dad was about a year old. Your grandma (Kiddo) and grandpa bought him Tonka trucks for Christmas. He used to ride these trucks up and down the hill in the parking lot. Your dad and I shared a room in Panama that had bunk beds. While we lived there, your dad got his Cat in the Hat doll and his Fleagle Beagle doll. His Fleagle Beagle doll would travel half way around the world with him in later years.
Out behind our army quarters was a red hot chili bush. The Panamanian children in our area grew up eating food prepared with chilies. They thought nothing of taking small bites off the little chilies. We would dare each other to take bigger and bigger bites.
One day your two year old dad, tagged along on my trip to the chili bush. Now, your dad has always been a hearty eater and that day he was hungrier than ever. He saw us taking bites off the chili peppers and couldnt resist. But because I didnt stop him or tell him how hot the peppers were, your daddy grabbed a whole handful of those chilies and popped them into his mouth.
He began to chew. Then he began to cry and after that he began to sweat. Somewhere between the bush and our house, your daddy began to turn blue. When I got him home and Kiddo saw the state he was in, she became very furious. I told her he had eaten chilies. She realized his tongue was swelling and this was making it hard for him to breathe--hence the blue effect. He was going into shock. Kiddo wrapped your daddy up in a quilt and fed him crackers and water until he calmed down. His face changed from blue to pink and I knew I hadnt killed him.
It was also while we were in Panama that your dad had lots of accidents. He fell down stairs and fell off the see-saw. Thus began his extensive medical record.
When we left Panama, we moved to Alexandria, Virginia. We lived in Southport apartments. Kiddo and grandpa used to clean the apartments and Kiddo would work in the rental office. We lived on the bottom floor.
Southport is where your dad and I had swimming lessons. Kiddo decided it would be great for us to learn to swim. During the summer we went to the pool every morning. Your dad would just jump right in and bob around. Not me, I hated the water. I remember the last day of swim lessons. The instructor wanted us to jump off the diving board. Your dad(only about 4 years old at the time) walked right out to the end of the diving board and jumped off. But I, on the other hand, kind of slid off the end of the board and hung on for dear life. Your dad stood on the side of pool giggling. It made me mad, and I let go even though I was scared.
During the winter in Alexandria, we would go outside and play in the snow. One winter, your dad was so anxious to go outside, he forgot to put his socks on inside his rubber boots. Pretty soon they filled up with snow and his feet were frozen. He kept going inside to shake the snow out-but he never did put on socks.
We also went to Vacation Bible School in Alexandria. I remember making popscicle stick picture frames and drinking warm grape Kool-Aid.
St. Bethlehem, Tennessee
We moved from Alexandria to St. Bethlehem, Tennessee in the early 1970s. We lived on Covington Street and your Great Aunt Bilimac (Mama Mac to us kids) lived on Garth Street, right around the corner from us with Daddy Jack. She lived there with her six children, Cindy, Kari, Kevin, Ketchel, Bruce, and Kip. Kip was closest to our age and was therefore a likely companion for mischief.
Kip was always trying to think of ways for us to earn money. Pet rocks was one of our least profitable ventures. He talked your dad and me into stealing rocks out of a neighbors brand new gravel driveway. Then we used my cousin Ketchels model airplane paints to decorate the rocks. We were so dumb we set up shop on a card table in front of the neighbors gravel driveway. There we were with our sign that read, PET ROCKS-25 cents each. We sat there all day but nobody bought one. We were getting ready to pack up shop when the neighbor came home. We very quickly began to gather up the stolen rocks, but the neighbor saw them anyway. He recognized his rocks even with faces painted on them.
Kathy Davis was our next door neighbor on Covington Street. Your dad and I couldnt stand her, but there was no one else our age to play with. When your dad and I built a T-Pee in the backyard, we charged her admission. And when Kiddo made me invite her to my birthday party, I told her it wasnt my idea. I told her the only reason she was invited was because my mom said so. She came any way. Kathy Davis was also the one that gave your dad and me chickenpox. When your grandpa was in Cambodia (there was a war), Kiddo took your dad and me to the Davis house for Thanksgiving dinner. Kathys parents didnt think it was important to tell us that she had chickenpox. A couple days later all three of us came down with spots. Your daddy had them so bad that there wasnt a place he could scratch that didnt have a bump.
Kip got a Junior Scientist Lab Kit for his birthday the next year. He would mix up all kinds of solutions in the test tubes and pretend he was creating something incredible. He once mixed up a solution and put it in a Tic-Tac container. He dared your daddy to drink it, which he did with little hesitation. Then Kip told him he was going to die. Your daddy ran into Macs kitchen and told her and Kiddo what Kip had made him do. Kip showed everyone what he had put in the container. The bottle read, Hydroponic Solution. Everyone panicked. Nobody knew what Hydroponic Solution was. They decided to take your daddy to Fort Campbell to have his stomach pumped. After Kiddo and your daddy got back to Macs, we all discovered that the deadly Hydroponic Solution was nothing more than water.
There used to be a lady that lived behind the Daviss who would give your daddy and me peppermint stick candy. She was an elderly lady whose husband had died and her children had moved away. She loved to talk. We used to visit her and she would show us her flower garden and all the things she had collected during her lifetime. She had a Chihuahua. Your daddy and I used to think it was the funniest looking dog.
We had a pepper colored Persian cat named Stepper when we lived in St. Bethlehem. Your daddy decided that Steppers whiskers were too long one day and just cut them off. For weeks after that, Stepper would get stuck in places he was too big for, and he walked funny shaking his head the whole time.
St. Bethlehem is also where your daddy used to ride his bike under the big oak tree in our front yard. Hed pedal really fast, grab hold of the lowest branch and let his bike fly into the road. I remember sneaking popscicles out of the freezer in Kathy Daviss garage with your dad. The freezer was in their garage and they never kept the door shut. When the 1st National Bank of Clarksville opened within walking distance, your dad and I used to walk to the bank and trade in our pennies for dimes. Later that week wed go trade our dimes for quarters. We loved going to the bank.
That same summer, we were nosing around the backyard when Kip told us we were going to buy some candy. Your daddy and I knew we didnt have money, but we knew Kip probably knew how to get some. And he did.
Kips next door neighbor had a small shed in his backyard where he saved soda pop bottles for the deposit money. Kip told us the man had given us permission to return some of the bottles for him and that we could keep the money. We walked to the corner store and borrowed a shopping cart, which we wheeled right up to the shed door. We loaded up the cart and pushed it to the store. We made several trips until we had enough money to buy what we wanted.
With our pockets and our mouths stuffed with candy, we headed home. We sat on the curb in front of Kips house eating candy until our mom and Mama Mac pulled up. They asked us where we got our money.
Stupidly, your dad and I replied, "We returned the bottles for the neighbor and he let us keep the money."
Mac shook her head and said, "Kip Edward! You know hes on vacation and hes saving those bottles. Youre just going to have to find a way to earn the money to pay him back."
This same neighbor had a three story porch with stairs leading from the ground to the top floor. We used his stairs to play army men. We had pretend wars and would throw your dads GI. Joe doll from the top story.
This was the same summer that Kip took us into the woods to search for real, living dinosaurs. He left us there to find our own way out. We also loaded our squirt guns with Kool-Aid and hid in the ditch on the side of the road. We took aim and squirted cars that drove by with their windows down.
It was also that summer that your daddy and I got in big trouble with Kiddo. Mama Mac was fixing dinner for her family and Kiddo told us that it was time for us to go home. We cried and complained that we wanted to stay for dinner. I told Mama Mac, "All mama feeds us is soup and sandwiches. She never fixes us a real meal like you do." Your grandma was so mad at us. She dragged us to the car telling us she couldnt believe we would tell a lie like that and how could we make people think she didnt feed us. But you know what? When we got home, your grandma fed us soup and sandwiches.
In 1976 we moved to Canberra, Australia. I was ten and your dad was eight. When we were flying to Australia, your dad taught his version of checkers and cards to anyone on the plane who would play with him.
Your daddy and I used to walk to school every day together because Australia didnt have school buses. We would leave very early so that we could explore the sights and the corner grocery store on the way to school. On our way to school we met Gavin Ellis and his brother Jason. We used to walk with them and tell jokes. We invited them to our Halloween party the first year we lived there. Australians dont celebrate Halloween so they thought it was kind of neat to learn an American custom. The party fell on daylight savings day, and Gavins family forgot to set their clock ahead an hour, and they showed up for the party an hour early.
Down the block from us was a huge pine forest. This land was protected by law, but you were allowed to use the forest for picnics and stuff. Your daddy and I used to spend hours every weekend climbing the trees, riding our bikes on the paths, playing in the stream, and trying to catch what we thought were wild horses that lived in the forest. We werent really bright--we actually thought that if we caught a horse, our mom and dad would let us keep it. It wasnt until I was an adult that I found out that those horses belonged to someone and they used to get loose in the forest once in a while. Another thing this forest had was a huge storm drain. Your dad and I used to sneak flashlights out of the house and go exploring in the drain. That is until one day we went far enough to upset the bats that lived in the tunnel. It scared us to death when we saw those things hanging upside down from the ceiling. We screamed and started running. This upset the bats who proceeded to fly out of the tunnel. We thought the bats were after us. We never went back inside again.
The second year we lived in Canberra, a mall opened up about a mile and a half from where we lived. This was a big deal, because all of the other malls were downtown. Australia didnt have malls every mile or so like they do in the states. When we got our allowance on Saturday, your dad and I used to put forty cents in our piggy banks, and take the rest to the Cooleman Court Mall. Kiddo and grandpa used to let us walk. This was a big deal to us because we were at a mall without our mom and dad and we had money to spend. We would spend what seemed like hours going from store to store looking at everything. Lots of times we wouldnt buy anything except a soda or something. Sometimes we would buy comic books.
Our favorites were Archie, Donald Duck, and Richie Rich. Most of the time though we would save our money to make big purchases later on. Your dad used to save his money to buy Lego. He used to have so many Lego pieces he could build an entire city.
We spent our Christmas vacations in Australia at Pretty Beach. We would camp at the top of a cliff. Your daddy and I even got our own pup tent to camp in. We would stay up late and tell stories. We had to walk through some pretty swampy areas to get to the stairs that led down to the beach. The first time we went to the beach, your daddy got leeches stuck on his legs. We didnt know what leeches were and so we ran back to camp screaming. Grandpa pulled them off and then put salt on them to kill them. We made it a point of walking the long way to the beach from then on.
Your daddy and I used to love to go down to the beach early in the mornings and pop the Portuguese Men-of-War that had been left on the beach by the outgoing tide. We would get a pointy stick and run up and down the beach poking them to hear that great, POP! It was at this beach that your daddy and I almost drowned. We were floating on a raft and the tide carried us out so far that we couldnt get back in. We were yelling for help and frantically paddling with our hands and feet. Your grandpa is a very strong swimmer and he came out and saved us. He also saved a little girl from drowning that same summer. She was on a raft and the tide was pulling her towards the rocks on the side of the beach. Your grandpa swam out and rescued her--by that time, hed had a lot of practice!
Kiddo and grandpa took us on hikes and picnics at Tidbinbilla National Park. It was a nature reserve not that far from where we lived. We would take hikes to see koala bears, kangaroos with their joeys, cockatoos, lorikeets, and emus. The emus would chase us if they thought we had food. There was a park on the way to Tidbinbilla called Cotter Dam. There were places for families to camp and barbecue. You could also swim in the creeks that fed into the river. Our whole family would pile in the car and head for Tidbinbilla. Your grandpa usually promised to buy us ice cream when we got to Cotter Dam. One particular weekend, a nudist colony was camped there. As we drove through the park we saw naked people playing volleyball and riding bicycles. I dont think that mom and dad wanted to stop for ice cream, but our dad had promised. They didnt want us think there was anything wrong with naked people camping. So your grandpa parked the car and we all got out. He gave us money to go into the little store and get the swirled sherbet cones we all loved so much. While inside, your daddy and I got an eye full.
Waiting at the counter to be served were a whole group of nudists. Our most vivid memory is of the lady who had on overalls, with no shirt, eating an ice cream cone.
Right before we moved back to the states, two brothers named Justin and Andrew moved into the house across the street.. Their dad was a milkman and he took us to the milk distribution center one night. We got to ride on his milk route and help him with the empty bottles. Justin and Andrew were the first people we knew who had a trampoline. We would knock on their door all the time to see if they were home just so we could go for a jump.
Canberra is where Kiddo and grandpa bought your daddy Micronauts for Christmas. Micronauts were space figures who lived in modular homes that your dad could build out of interlocking pieces. The micronauts had space vehicles too. These all had special doors and compartments that would open up.
Your Kiddo and grandpa used to bowl at night during the week and your daddy and I would tag along to the bowling alley. Your grandpa would give us a little bit of money and we would sit at the snack bar counter buying piece after piece of penny candy. One night, your daddy told your grandma in a concerned voice, "Mama, that lady was just in the boys bathroom and then she went up to Hans in the snack bar and said, Give me a hamburger in a mans voice." What your daddy didnt know was that La Cage Aux Folles was in town and that that lady was really a man dressed in drag.
Australia is also where we went to see the Sydney Opera House, where we first ice-skated with Ginny Eddy, and where we got to go to parties at the American Embassy. Its where your daddy and I built a fort in the crawl space under the house and pretended we were spies. Its where the Greek family who lived behind us used to invite us to all their parties. Their little boy Spiro used to shoo the Gallahs and Cockatoos out of his familys garden with a cricket bat. Its where we went to our first rugby game and our first pub. And its where our whole family went to camp with other families from our school. We slept in cabins, ate camp food and sang songs I cant remember except for, Lilly the Pink.
I could go on and on, but someone has to type this book up for me and Im already past my deadline. I just wanted to let you know some of the things your daddy and I did together when we were kids.
There are lots of things your daddy can tell you about that I didnt get a chance to. Things such as when we had dust blown on us from Queen Elizabeths helicopter or when we got to sit with Muhammad Ali on our flight from California to Nashville and get his autograph. Or maybe he could tell you about Christmases at our Aunt Sherrys house in Greenbriar, Tennessee when we would get into trouble with our cousin Joey. Have him explain controlled baby-sitting and how he handled his first speeding ticket. Ask him about the time he wore make up to a dance and the time he got his ear pierced. My favorite one of all time, have him tell you about
juggling on the side of the street in front of our house wearing a fuzzy toilet seat cover on his head.
Welcome to our world!
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