It was the Euclid house. His house was the Oak house. We played together all the time. I spent a lot of time at his house. His name was Branch Wolf. Is that not the coolest name ever? He was in my grade. I just recently saw a second grade class picture that one of my friends (Ronn McDaniel) shared on Facebook. I kept looking at the row behind me and I kept looking at the guy with the glasses and red shirt, with the blue neck trim. I kept looking and looking and recognized the smirk or the half smile, or whatever it would be called. It took me a few days. I kept going back over it and looking at it and studying it. Until finally, it hit me. It was Branch. My kid friend, Branch. He is the fourth from the left in the picture in the back row. I am in the middle row, third from the left. And the best thing about this picture is that it is second grade and it was Mrs. Eklund’s class. My favorite teacher. I wrote a blog post about her a while back. You can read it if you want right here. https://peggielarsen.com/2017/04/26/mrs-eklund-was-my-favorite-teacher/
Branch lived a few houses down from our house on the corner. The corner of Euclid and Oak. He had such a cool house. Victorian. We played a lot of games. In the basement of the house there were a ton of games. It was a game storage room. Every game you could imagine. The kind of games where you had to use your brains and your imaginations. The kinds of games where you learned things. Educational games. He also had a ton of Hot Wheels. I can still smell the plastic Hot Wheels tracks that we put together to make roads. I also remember Monopoly and Sorry and Trouble.
I also remember a piggy bank he had. It was a First National Bank piggy bank. His dad worked there. The bank was cool. It was square shaped with a picture of the bank on one side and then just plain gold color on the other side. It had a tiny key to open it. They key turned and the whole back side of the bank came off. For some reason I really liked that piggy bank.
We played outside a lot. His driveway was kind of a hill. It seemed enormous. I drove by it a few months ago and it looked so tiny. It is so weird how when you are a kid everything seems bigger and faster and scarier. Summer days were fun. We played outside all day until dark most of the time.
We used to take the skateboards and sit on them and then zoom down that driveway out into the street. Luckily Oak was a quiet street. Luckily it was not Euclid or there would easily have been squished children or drivers having heart attacks.
One day during the summer, we had been playing outside all morning and it was getting close to lunch time. I was starving. His family offered lunch to me. The sandwich choices were liver or ham. I thought to myself, how amazing, someone else likes liver. I used to love liver and onions. Yummy! So, of course, without thinking there might be some other kind of liver, I said liver. We went in the house and there on the plate was the liver sandwich. Um, wait a minute. This didn’t look like liver. This wasn’t liver. It looked a little familiar. My dad used to eat it. The light colored disgusting paste-y looking something in a tube. The tube or outer wrap was kind of yellow orange in color. It was liverwurst. OH MY GOD! I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t eat liverwurst. I remember sitting there thinking. I was thinking how I was going to get out of eating the liverwurst. I can’t remember what I did. Ham was one of my least favorite lunch meats, so I am pretty sure I didn’t ask to switch. I may have eaten a few bites and then feigned fullness. Morale of that story is to have liver defined every single time it is offered. Every.single.time.
I think it was the next day or that afternoon we were playing outside again. We were playing with a ball. It wasn’t a basketball, it was one of those red playground balls. I always wanted to have one of those to take home. Those were the best. We used them at school for kickball and four square. We were playing on the driveway and just messing around with the ball. Bouncing and kicking. Kicking and bouncing. On the next bounce I leaned over to grab the ball and Branch went to kick the ball. Well, his boot landed right in my eye. Immediate shooting pain. My hands covered my eye and I started to cry. I know he felt terrible. He definitely did not do it on purpose. He was afraid he was going to get in trouble. I felt bad. But my eye felt worse. My first shiner. After the sting wore off and the bruising started to develop, I felt pretty cool. Very few people had black eyes. Very few. My journey to becoming a badass began.