Nothing had been said. Little brother and I didn't notice anything different, probably because we spent our days out in the woods rustling wild horses and outlaws.
But on that day we were called in early for dinner to find Mom and Dad's bags packed and standing by the front door. I excitedly asked, "Are we going on a vacation?" The response was to go wash up and leave our cowboy hats and cap guns in our rooms.
As for little sister, at the age of almost three she was in her usual frilly dress. She never had to wash up cuz she never got dirty.
Little brother and I returned to the living room as a 1954 red and black sedan pulled into our driveway.
Out stepped Mrs. Hoff. She had short curly, wired hair. She wore a dress accompanied by the durable black shoes of a working woman in the 1950's. She had glasses and behind them were beady gray eyes of steel which showed no emotion.
She walked with purpose. She marched into the house and straight up to my parents, briskly shaking their hands.
Mom turned and introduced us. Mrs. Hoff gave each of us a brisk nod. There was no smile on her face. No word was spoken.
And I knew right then and there.
I didn't like her.
She reminded me of a Hawk and from that day forward we would refer to her behind her back as Mrs. Hawk.
With formalities over, Dad announced that he and Mom were taking a trip. They would be away on a boat for most of the summer entertaining clients who used the services of the small tug boat company our family owned.
While they were away Mrs. Hawk would be taking care of us. We were told to behave and listen to Mrs. Hawk. And with those words along with hugs and kisses, off our parents went, walking out the door with Mrs. Hawk, who returned alone with her bag.
We children were stunned. It all happened so fast that we didn't have time to react (probably planned that way). Mrs. Hawk had us quickly moving. She directed little brother and I to take baths and return in clean PJ's. She ordered us to remove our beloved Cowboy Boots and place them in the garage. She informed us that boots would no longer be allowed in the house.
We returned to find Mrs. Hawk cooking dinner. She stood over the stove with a cigarette dangling from the side of her mouth. Mrs. Hawk's cigarettes stunk as bad as her cooking.
We were sent to bed early that night after being warned that once in bed we were not allowed to get back up. I lay awake with a child's feeling of doom.
Yet the next morning dawned as only a child can experience it. I jumped out of bed, happy to be alive and greet the new day. I pulled on my socks, jeans and favorite cowboy shirt. Strapped on my cowboy belt and slid my cap gun in the holster. I grabbed my cowboy hat and went in search of my boots and "grub".
I came upon Mrs. Hawk in the kitchen, once again at the stove with a cigarette in her mouth. She took one look at me and her eyes turned as cold as -35 degree steel.
Instead of the morning greeting I was used to, the words out of her mouth were, "Back! Back to your room to change!! You are to wear a dress! Little girls do not dress like boys!!! Now go!!!!!!"
Oh boy did I go...back to my room as fast as my little legs could carry me. I did what I was told, putting on that stinkin, scratchy dress and squeaky tight shoes. With head and eyes downcast I returned to the kitchen to eat what I could of a terrible, cold, runny egg breakfast.
Little brother lucked out. It was ok for him to dress like our Cowboy Heroes. He had already left, out to fight the bad guys for another day. As for me? My day would be spent silently helping Mrs. Hawk clean.
It was a tough day for a six year old. No matter what I was directed to do, it was never done right or good enough. By the end of the day I was exhausted.
Day two was the same as day one. It was agony to see the kids come home for lunch and return to run the miles of woods across the road from our house. I spent the second day silently doing whatever Mrs. Hawk told me to do and listening to her criticize my well intended efforts.
On Day three I came to breakfast in the same dress I'd worn two days prior. Mrs. Hawk was on me like the name I'd given her. "That dress - you have already worn it! Go put on a different one!!" I replied in a subdued voice that I only had two dresses and I was only supposed to wear them when we went to Church.
Mrs. Hawk looked at me in disbelief and marched into my bedroom, throwing open the closet doors to see for herself. When she returned and I could see she was angry.
But terror turned to happiness when she briskly said, "You may change into your jeans and...your...other...clothes. You may go join the other children - Just go!!!"
Didn't take me more than one minute to be changed and on my way.
The days of summer passed and as children do, we adapted as best we could. I could sense Mrs. Hawk didn't like me anymore than I liked her. I could tell she didn't care one way or the other about little brother. But she adored little sister.
One day Mrs. Hawk informed us that on the following day we'd be taking a trip to British Columbia, a short distance away. She told us we would try to meet up with our parent's boat, which was due to dock for the day in the area.
We were going to get to see Mom and Dad! Little brother and I talked. We were sure that when Mom and Dad saw how unhappy we were that they'd save us from Mrs. Hawk. With little sister in the front seat and little brother and I in the back we headed out on our journey the next morning.
The back seat of Mrs. Hawk's car was soft and we sank down so low that little brother and I could barely see over the front seats and front window. We spent most of our time looking out the side windows but soon became bored.
Boredom led to fidgeting, fidgeting led to kicking, kicking led to pinching and pinching led to starting to hit each other. Mrs. Hawk, with her trusty cigarette hanging out of her mouth told us to immediately stop or she'd turn around and we wouldn't get to see our parents.
We settled back down and soon came to the Canadian border. We kids knew the drill having traveled to Canada many times. You stop and talk to the nice man and he lets you into his country. Same for coming back into the United States.
Brother and I had a game we played when we went into Canada. We held our breath as long as we could when we entered into Canada. The one who held their breath the longest "won".
As we passed into Canada there was a heated debate between us as to who had held their breath the longest. The debate went straight to pinching, which led to an all out slug fest.
Suddenly we felt the car speeding up and turning sharply. We were turning around! Mrs. Hawk announced that we were returning home and we would not get to see our parents on this day.
Upon hearing her words, little sister started crying, "I want my Mommieeeee and Daddieeeeee!!!!" Followed by, "I have to go Pottieeeeeee!!"
Mrs. Hawk put the pedal to the metal and the car took off at full speed back down the road we'd just come.
...And right past the nice man whom you are supposed to stop and talk to before you enter into the United States.
The nice man started jumping up and down and waving his arms. Little brother and I looked at each other, wide eyed and with O's for mouths.
We didn't go much further when through little sister's screams we would hear a siren. Little brother and I turned to look out the back window to see a police car with lights flashing following us.
But Mrs. Hawk paid no mind. A few moments passed and I said, "Mrs. Hoff? I think the policeman is following you." She ignored me and kept driving.
A few more moments and the policeman was now next to Mrs. Hawk motioning her to pull over. Little brother and my eyes were now as huge as saucers and our mouths were wide open. We wondered if Mrs. Hawk was going to jail.
Mrs. Hawk pulled the car over. Above the wails of little sister we could hear Mrs. Hawk say she was very sorry she hadn't stopped and then something about terrible children.
Whatever she said appeased the officer and off we went at a more sedate speed, in silence all the way home. We'd lost our opportunity to have our parents save us. We were surely doomed.
Summer continued and somehow we all survived. The day finally came when Mom and Dad returned. Little brother, sister and I rushed out to greet them, jumping up and down with joy while Mrs. Hawk stood like a sentry in the doorway.
Mom and Dad told Mrs. Hawk how pleased they were to see their children so happy and hoped she'd return the following summer.
Note: Although we told our parents how unhappy we'd been with Mrs. Hawk, she did return for a few weeks the second summer. We again shared with our parents how unhappy we'd been.
That was the last time we saw Mrs. Hawk.