‘Little Suzi’ and the Bear’s Picnic

Photo by Phil Nickell

Photo by Phil Nickell

Once upon a time long, long ago—in the 1960’s—a little girl named Suzi, her mother Wilma, and her grandparents decided to go for a Sunday afternoon picnic in the mountains of East Tennessee. It was late summer in the city near the mountains where Suzi’s grandparents lived in a small, square house with only a noisy electric fan in the window to help them through the hot and humid days.

Suzi’s granny, Eileen, made special-recipe fried chicken and her grandaddy, Manly, packed the car with the picnic basket, picnic blanket, and heavy fold-up wooden chairs. He put all these things in the trunk of the car so that Suzi, her mommy, and her granny had lots of room to sit inside. They needed lots of room because Suzi always brought her ‘friends’ with her on picnics: a tall baby doll with yellow hair, a monkey sewn from old socks, and a boy named Albert, whom no one else could see but who took up the whole middle seat in the rear of the car.

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‘Little Suzi’ and the Rotten Bananas

Once upon a time long, long ago—in the 1960’s—a little girl named Suzi and a little boy named Denny played together behind his house atop Highland Avenue. Suzi’s mother often brought her over for a visit, because her mommy, Wilma, and Denny’s mommy, Nancy, had been best of friends since high school, and they lived only one block away from one another even to this day.

On a particularly nice Tuesday in June, Suzi and her mommy got up early in the morning to have breakfast before getting ready to go to Denny’s house. They decided to have pancakes and maple syrup, which Suzi called ‘maple surple’ because it was fun to say. (She learned that from her granddaddy.) When they had finished eating and then scraped their plates into the kitchen garbage can and washed and rinsed them in the sink, Suzi’s mother reminded her to go wash her face and brush her teeth to get ready to go to Denny’s house.

“May I take Albert upstairs with me? Or do you need him to stay here in the kitchen and help you?” Suzi asked her mother that morning.

Albert was Suzi’s imaginary friend. He was a little boy her own age who went with her everywhere—even to school—and sometimes got her in trouble. When she was little, before she grew big enough to go to school, Suzi often talked to Albert out loud. But after she started first grade and some of the kids at school teased her about it, Suzi whispered to Albert, unless she forgot.

“You can take Albert upstairs with you. I won’t miss him,” her mother replied with a slight smile. But then she added, “I don’t want to hear any more sob stories about how you can’t find your hairbrush because Albert used it on the neighbor’s dog or how you can’t clean your teeth because Albert lost your toothbrush…again. I found it between the towels in the linen closet this time, you know.”

“We had better get on upstairs, Albert,” Suzi whispered to her imaginary friend.

Okey dokey, dominokey, Albert replied to Little Suzi. That was one of Albert’s favorite sayings. He also liked ‘easy peazy, lemon squeezy,’ and so did Little Suzi. Continue reading

‘Little Suzi’ and the Halloween Candy Bones

Once upon a time long, long ago—in the 1960’s—a little girl named Suzi loved Halloween night almost as much as she loved Christmas morning. Little Suzi and her invisible friend Albert every year started thinking about their Halloween costumes long before the leaves on the oak and maple trees turned bright red and orange in the fall, long before farmers brought their yellow pumpkins in from the fields, and long before her granny would ask “What do you want to be this year?”

Every Halloween since she had been old enough to go trick-or-treating on her own, Suzi’s grandmother, whom she called ‘Granny Dear’, made her a new hand-measured, hand-sewn Halloween costume. But to Suzi’s dismay, Granny Dear didn’t believe in scary costumes.

“It’s not polite to scare folks,” she said every year. So until now, Suzi had to dress up in only cute, sweet costumes: a Dalmatian puppy one year, a floppy-eared rabbit the next, a Raggedy Ann doll after that, then a Cherokee Indian princess, and, last year, an angel with a halo and wings made of wire coat hangers and wrapping paper.

And, of course, Albert teased her every year by saying, When are you going to stop wearing those ‘baby’ Halloween costumes and dress up like a real ghost or goblin so we can scare somebody for once?

Albert was lucky. He could dress up in any scary costume he wanted. All he and Suzi had to do was imagine his outfit and, poof, there it was! And Granny Dear didn’t complain about how scary Albert’s costume might be, because only he and Suzi could see it.

I think I’ll be a pirate with an eye patch and black beard this year! Albert excitedly told his friend one Friday in September right after school. The teacher had shown the class a picture of a harvest moon, and it reminded Albert of Halloween right away—he was smart like that.

After school, as they walked home from the red and white brick schoolhouse on Laurel Street to Suzi’s small white frame house on Magnolia Avenue, Suzi and Albert imagined scary Halloween costumes: ghouls, goblins, werewolves, vampires, devils and witches!

“But Granny Dear won’t sew me one of those costumes,” Little Suzi told her friend disappointedly. “She says it’s not ‘propriate for little girls to try to scare the neighbors and their little children. She says it might give them nightmares.”

I wanna have a nightmare! Albert offered enthusiastically. Can we have one for Halloween night? You could get a scary book from the library. Maybe the one we read last year about Sleepy Hollow and the headless horseman?! We had some really good nightmares after that one! Continue reading