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The Turned Over Tickle Box Story

Updated on July 21, 2021

One of the Many Rescues

A Reminder

A recent newspaper article recounted an episode in which two friends’ tickle boxes” got turned over and it brought back some really fun memories. A most special friend of mine had one of those tickle boxes that frequently “turned over” for no apparent reason. And in retrospect I now wonder how she even managed a smile much less the giggles and downright hysterical laughing episodes that myself and a few other close friends were privy to during several wonderful years that included some truly hilarious moments.

Ketchup Soup

For in fact my friend had little to be amused about. She grew up the eldest child of an alcoholic father. She witnessed the effects of his abuse to her mother on many occasions and suffered from hunger and need of the basics of life because of his drinking habit. I heard about bean soup and ketchup soup. Both were made of one or the other, not both, of the mentioned ingredients plus lots of water which was then shared by herself and several siblings. She remembered with fondness the times when there might be some sugar in the house and would beg her mother’s permission to make fudge. I have the picture in my mind now as she had described how she would pull a chair up to the stove in order to prepare the rare treat for herself and her younger siblings.

Life Improves

Sometime, it must have been in her early teen years, one set of grandparents took her in. They ran a meat market and here food was plentiful. Because of their care she finished high school. Her life must have improved dramatically in this environment as she told of being in the band and winning awards in chorus and athletics. Her irrepressibility must have given her some wildly fun times now that her home life was more stable. One friend she dearly loved to visit was a farm girl. She talked of how they enjoyed hayrides and other country pleasures. Also she mentioned going to the fair and enjoying the rides on the midway. Life had definitely gotten better.

Tying the Knot

Then she married. Her mother-in-law was a kindly sort as I gathered from this piece of advice she offered. She told my friend, “If you can’t say something good about someone then don’t say anything at all.” That’s still good advice and something she took to heart and made into a practice.

Her husband became a housing contractor and they lived in several new homes. One house in particular she loved because it had a swimming pool in back. She talked of how relaxing it was to take a swim before bedtime. Then a buyer came along and it was time, once again, to move.

There are a lot of other bits and pieces of stories I recall. At some point after she was first married she and her husband lived in a very small trailer. Don’t mistake it for a mobile home because as she described it most folks’ travel trailers are larger nowadays. But she made that trailer into a cozy home by taking in sewing and by cooking wonderful, rib-sticking meals on a meager budget. At some point she waited tables. She seemed to really enjoy this employment and spoke fondly of how repeat customers would ask for her to serve them. She even shared with me a secret or two for the concoction of the restaurants most popular dishes that nary a soul but the owner was supposed to know... and I’m not telling!

Good Times, Not So Good Times

She was a genuine people lover and animal lover. For a time she and her husband were foster parents to a little boy whom they adored. After several years he either went back to his family or was adopted, I don’t know if she ever said. Then there were the older folk she cared for. And I can’t even remember the details of all the animals she adopted, both wild and domestic. In fact, come to think of it, she’s the reason I now hold the record for the number of black cats residing at one household. You see she found this half-starved, abandoned kitten ...

Anyway, again I don’t know an exact timeframe, but alcoholism invaded her life anew, this time through her husband. They had had a lot of good times together. Their lives included many friends and lots of socializing. They had on one occasion, at least, flown to the Bahamas, they enjoyed regular nights out to nice restaurants, entered into community life probably in several ways but the one she talked about most was a particular trip with some Boy Scouts. She reveled in telling about cooking a whole meal including homemade biscuits on an open fire. Whether or not her husband’s drinking was the direct cause of the divorce I will probably never know. She kept to her mother-in-law’s advice and I can’t recall her ever saying anything detrimental about him.

Another Beginning, Another End

She later remarried. In her forties she finally had a child. Surely this must have been one of the most wonderful moments in her life. Wanting more children and not having time to waste she soon was pregnant again. This time she miscarried. A third pregnancy gave her a second child and a new challenge in life for this child was born with mental and physical handicaps. As usual she took it all in stride. That’s not to say that there were not times when she must have grieved for the lost opportunities of normalcy, but she never spoke in those terms to me.

Life was now busy with mothering and homemaking. I can imagine those days. I’m sure that she was up early. There were big breakfasts on the table, nourishing lunches, hot suppers, very clean and immaculately pressed clothes, and a well-scrubbed home with well-scrubbed happy children. I know how she was about cleanliness. Anything that could be bleached had half the life of other things, but those whites were antiseptically clean! Pots dared not have a stain or a streak. I can see her now tsk-tsking over some of my oft used vessels.

But then with the children in their teens, the husband and father left. I cannot begin to fathom the despair that must have been hers. Here she was in her mid to late fifties alone at the helm. Once more she rallies and it was in this period that I came to know this remarkable lady.

Dying is Hard

I won’t go into a lot of detail about how things went from there for her. Suffice it to say that she survived with integrity and pride on a poverty level income. And from her scant resources she invariably found some to share. She was always contributing to the Cancer Society or the Red Cross or such. She baked for church affairs and donated her time and talent for sewing and crafts regularly. She bought the Mother’s Club calendar and Girl Scout cookies. She believed in casting her bread upon the waters... and it came back to her.

Because I knew her I came to share a bond with some very wonderful people in our community. Though my friend was not well known as local personalities go, she had a following. And I know that they, like me, were blessed when they either gave or received on her behalf.

So the “tickle box” story got me started on this journey of reminiscing but why does it make me cry? Well, my friend left me and this life behind a few years ago. We knew she was dying for some time. She told us “dying is hard.” I told her I loved her and that I missed her, for long before she was gone the pain and disease took our enjoyments of friendship away. All I can say is, “Nell, I’m envious of those angels and loved ones on the other side ‘cause I know you’ve probably put a turn or two on their tickle boxes!” And, “Thank you for being my friend, I love you.”


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