November 27, 2014
My very first song that I remember singing to myself, while watching TV was this: “It’s Howdy Doody Time/It’s Howdy Doody time/Bob Smith and Howdy too/Say “Howdy do” to you/Let’s give a rousing cheer/‘Cause Howdy Doody’s here/It’s time to start the show’So kids,let’s go!” I would sing it at the top of my lungs, and I can could even feel it in the pit of my stomach. Ironically the TV show didn’t give me pleasure, but more of a horror, due that I found Howdy Doody slightly sinister. Nevertheless my grandparents gave me a slightly smaller version of the Howdy Doody doll. At first, I didn’t want to open the package, because it had a nice picture of Buffalo Bob holding Howdy on his lap. On the package, there was the phrase in small print: “Say kids, what time is it? Then in big print: “It’s Howdy Doody time!” Once the package was opened, the spell was broken, and the doll became mine. It was no longer his time, but my time.
I placed the doll on my rocking chair that faced my bed in my remote bedroom, quite away from my parents’ room. As a procedure and since I was a nervous sleeper, I would say goodnight to the doll. Also I would make sure that it would face me, in fact, the way I was positioned in bed, I could look directly in his eyes. Either my father and mother would turn off the light after falling asleep. I never liked to have the lights off before I fall off to sleep, because I was petrified of the dark. Once the lights were out, I felt I was entering another world. In fact, my bedroom seemed to change its mood, or took a life of its own. I noticed the shadows, caused by the tree that was in front of the back porch lighting would sway if it was windy outside. It didn’t exactly scare me, but I was thankful that I was in a covered bed, full of blankets, and therefore I could hide my eyes.
I have often woke up to the sound of the chair rocking back and forth. Once I’m fully awake the sound stopped. I could barely see it in the dark, but I could make out Howdy Doody’s eyes staring at me. I went back to sleep - but this happened maybe three or four times a week. I would never leave my bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, because I not only found my bedroom scary in the dark a.m. hours, but also I was fearful of Howdy. I always had the feeling that the doll was alive, but never sure. I would notice little things like maybe his head would be tilted in a certain direction, when it should be facing the bed. Or even once, I found his leg crossing his other leg, which I thought was impossible, due that I always placed Howdy on the chair with his legs straight out. I would never obsess about it, but I have to say the thought of it was in the back of my mind. Thinking back now, I think I was suffering from a mild version of “pupaphobia” which is a fear of puppets. I never told this to my parents, or any grown-ups, because I was embarrassed about my fears.
One rainy afternoon, after many days of hard rain, we had a mud slide, which totally destroyed our home. What was once a structure became splinters, mud and nothing else. There wasn’t even a foundation. In fact the house was built on the side of a hill with stilts facing down the hill. If we were in the structure, especially me, we would have been killed. My bedroom would have been the first to get hit by the mud and rocks. We were fortunate that all of us (the family) was out that day. The tragic thing is that we lost everything in the house. In fact, we were basically homeless, and if it wasn’t the kindness of our neighbor, we wouldn’t have a shelter over our heads. A few days later that neighbor came up to me with something in his arms. He brought me closer to him, and he said “look what I found on the hillside.” It was Howdy, but a very battered Howdy with one of his eyes missing and also his left hand. This always bothered me, because I’m left-handed, and for some reason I thought this was a bad sign. I wanted to throw the doll away, because I felt my entire life went down that hill, and I didn’t want to have this ‘object’ to represent the only toy or object that I owned and what survived in my life. Nevertheless the adults around me thought it was a good luck charm of sorts. So the one-eyed, one-handed Howdy was cleaned-up and placed in a chair by my sleeping bag in our neighbor’s living room.
Now that I’m 60, I still have this doll. In fact, I place it on a chair facing my bed. At this point and time, besides my mom, this doll has known me for the longest time. I would like to think that my last sight, before dying in my bed, will be looking straight at Howdy’s face with his one eye gone.