In case you’re wondering, Hico is a very small town in Hamilton County, Texas. It was founded in 1856. According to early day reports, by 1907, more cotton was bought right off wagons on the main street than in any town in the world. But I digress, my grandparents lived in Hico for many, many years and as a child I spent much time there. There were some Christmases with the entire family of aunts and uncles and cousins. I always loved those holidays because my grandparent’s house had a fireplace! I knew for sure that Santa Claus couldn’t miss that and I was confident there would be even more presents that year.
But the most vivid memories are the summers that I spent there with my cousin, Jane Ann, who was a couple of years younger, but who shared the same love of paper dolls that I did. Now back then you didn’t buy paper dolls at a toy store, you cut them out of pattern books that you could find in the fabric section of what passed for department stores in those days.
Hico was a very small town and our grandparent’s big, old house was close enough for us to be able to walk to town. Within a day or two of our arrival, Jane Ann and I would walk downtown, first to the post office to visit with Thoma, a lovely lady who worked there and who took the mail from our grandparent’s mail box for us. She nearly always had a treat for us as well. Our main goal, however, was the store where we knew there might be an extra pattern book or two from the past month that one of the clerks would have kept under the counter just for the likes of us – our grandmother kept them informed of our visits. But before we carried the heavy pattern books home, we stopped by the local drug store to have an ice cream cone, it was always fun to climb up on the tall stools at the counter and watch the man who worked there load up the cones with, what we were sure was the best ice cream in the world. Then, with ice cream smeared faces, we would head for Mama’s house with the pattern book. And if we were lucky we might even be able to find a wallpaper sample book that we liked to have to make furniture for the paper dolls.
We would spend days, cutting out dozens of ladies and men and children from the pattern book. We always had large families – Jane Ann had an older brother, but I was an only child. I wanted lots of children in my paper family – I carried that desire on to my real family many years later.
We played for hours on the floor of living room there in my grandparent’s house. Sometimes we argued over who was to get a particular paper doll and sometimes those arguments resulted in tears. I do remember one summer when I finally succeeded in getting a prized paper doll much to the disappointment of Jane Ann. Later that year when I learned that she had injured her arm, I felt so badly that I had my mother put the disputed paper doll in an envelope and send it to Jane Ann.
The memories of those summers still play out quite vividly in my mind. The sound of the crickets and the birds in the trees that surrounded the house and could be heard so clearly as we lay in our beds on the screened in sleeping porch. I can clearly remember watching my Grandfather milking the cow in the evenings; running up and down along the fence to the small pasture playing with the young calf, poking grass through the wire for him to wrap his long tongue around.
Lovely memories, made even more dear since I was able to reconnect with, not only Jane Ann, but four of my cousins, their husbands and wife. They came to Dallas where I was visiting my oldest son, David. I hadn’t seen most of them in over thirty years and it was the most fun ever. We met at David’s new house – so new that there was no furniture to speak of and they all brought lawn chairs and we sat around his big empty den and laughed and remembered and ate pizza. Those are very poignant memories for me these days because the husband of my cousin, Laura, died this past year of cancer and Jane Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year.
How blessed we all are to have beautiful and happy memories!
The old black and white photo is my grandparents and their five children.
The next is of the house today with the families of the original five, well, without me. We had been out of touch when this was taken. The last photo is a corner on the main street in Hico.
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