Watermelons and station wagons

I think I was around 10 or 11, which means we lived in the Prospect House. It was summer. We went on a vacation. A family vacation. I’m not sure what spurred this vacation. I have no idea why. We never went on vacations. We never did family outings. We never did family pictures. We never did family stuff. Not that that is bad, we just never did. 

The destination was Arkansas. Why? I don’t know why. I don’t think we knew anyone in Arkansas. The trip was taken in a station wagon. You know, the colored panel ones with a crap ton of room. We could spread out in the way back and not have to worry about being seat belted in. It was not a law then. We could sleep way in the back and be comfortable. The humming of the engine, the sound of the tires rolling down the interstate made it easy to relax and fall asleep. That gentle noise always put me to sleep. 

It seemed like we drove forever. Forever in kid time. It had to have been a couple of days at least. I remember when we got “there,” we stopped at a grocery store. We bought a watermelon and some other items. I only remember the watermelon. It had to be solid dark green though. That’s what dad wanted. Those were the best kind of watermelons. Why that is significant to me, I’m not sure. We went to the place where we were staying. It wasn’t a hotel or anything like that. It was a house. It was a cabin/house in the woods with lots and lots of trees. There were no other houses close by. It was strange. It was like a scary movie. I wouldn’t realize that then, but now, that’s what I feel. 

This house was big. It had lots of room and a big deck on the back. We played outside. I don’t remember doing any other kinds of activities while we were on vacation. One of the days I went out back and was playing in the “yard,” if you could call it that. There really wasn’t a yard, just trees. The deck was sloped, so there must have been a walk out basement in the house. 

The details are vague. It’s weird, I remember the watermelon clearly and the next incident clearly. That’s it. I remember nothing else about the trip. I remember nothing about why we were there. I remember nothing of what the inside of the house looked like, just the outside yard and the deck.

I went out to play in the back. I noticed that I could hang on to part of the deck and swing under it, like gymnastics bars. I wondered if I would get slivers from the wood. I thought I would try it. I was bored. There really wasn’t anything to do. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, my typical summer attire. I don’t think I was wearing shoes. I grabbed the deck. It was good. No slivers. I started swinging by hanging on to the boards with my hands and swinging my legs up underneath the deck. I felt something. It felt like fire. It was stinging. I wanted to let go, but I couldn’t. If I did I would fall on my back or my head. I had to wait until my legs came back down and then out from underneath the deck. My leg was burning like crazy. Once I could let go, I looked at my leg. The pattern was a circle, then another circle in that circle and finally the center. My skin was red and puffy. Huge bubbles of skin. Red bubbles of skin. Skin on fire. Stinging skin. I was screaming and jumping up and down. 

Unbeknownst to me, up underneath the deck was a flying ant nest. I never even knew there was such a thing. After I had run back in the house and told mom and dad what had happened they went out and looked. I wasn’t going anywhere near there again. My leg was on fire. It hurt for days after that. I think mom put something on it to help with the sting and the swelling, but it didn’t seem like it helped much. 

So that was the extent of the family vacation. I can’t remember anything else about it. I used to envy my friends who went on vacations every summer. After that vacation, I didn’t care if I ever went on another one again. 

A babysitter named Corrine and a Banana Splits lunchbox

It was the Euclid house. It was fall. The mornings were cold. It was a contest. We wanted to see who could make it to the babysitter’s house without wearing a coat. It wouldn’t have been bad, except we rode our bikes, so it always felt like the wind was blowing right in our faces. We rode the whole width of the street. We thought we were cool. Brats riding bikes in the middle of the street. We were every parent’s nightmare. We had to carry our lunchboxes too. We used to have the brown paper bags, but for some reason I begged my mom into getting me a regular lunchbox. Mine was from the TV show The Banana Splits. It was white vinyl. It had a snap fold-over closing. It smelled weird, that strange vinyl smell.  The kind of smell you can’t stand, yet you keep smelling it. 

Every morning we did this. Same time, same place. No coats. Contest. 

I was curious, so I looked up The Banana Splits show. It was around until about 1970. It started in 1968. The puppeteers, Sid and Marty Krofft, made it big after this show ended. Their next cartoon was H.R. Pufnstuff. Remember that one? I also just lost 1 minute and 22 seconds of my life listening to the theme song from The Banana Splits show. It’s called “The Tra La La Song,” and you will never get it out of your head. Seriously. Not even kidding. 

We were going to her house. The babysitter’s house. I always wondered, if we could get ourselves to a babysitter’s house, why did we need a babysitter? Weird. Anyway, it was only about two blocks. I tracked it the other day because I couldn’t remember. We would cut through the alley and out into the street. We rode over to Grand and then two blocks north. Her house was a few houses in from the intersection of Grand and Elizabeth. The house was big. It had a wraparound porch and was painted white. 

She was pretty. She had dark hair and beautiful dark olive skin. She was really tan. Her voice was kind of different. It’s hard to describe. Not high pitched, not deep. Just different. She taught us about life. She taught us about doing our part. She taught us about working. We liked to help her. There was a clothesline in the backyard and a big garden. There were rows and rows of green beans. We picked them for her and ate them the whole time we were picking. We helped with the laundry. We helped with everything. We even helped with cooking and baking.

She let us be kids. She let us play in the dirt. She didn’t get mad if we were dirty or muddy, or if we made a mess. She just let us be. She taught us how to knit and how to put together jigsaw puzzles. The hard ones. The 500 or more pieces ones. I vaguely remember music too. I can’t remember what it was about the music, but something…

She treated us right. She treated us like we were her own. I loved her. 

Thanks Corrine Leidholt. You were a positive influence in my life and I am forever grateful for you. 

Halloween Tradition

Happy Halloween

Do you ever wonder what the history of Halloween is? Me either. 

Okay, I kind of do wonder. I had to go look. Basically, the practices of Halloween mostly come from Celtic paganism in the British Isles, and their feast of Samhain, the new year. They believed it was the time when ghosts and spirits came out to haunt, and the Celts would appease the spirits by giving them treats. Interesting. 

Back to my Halloween. Back to plastic masks with the stinky smell and the eye holes, nose holes and mouth holes that would practically cut your skin if they were moved just right. We could eat a sucker and the stick would stick out the small hole that was the mouth hole. We thought it was cool. Like we were smoking a cigarette. Those things made your whole face sweat and it was hard to breathe. They were also creepy. 

Costumes are creepy. Costumes are uncomfortable. Costumes are weird. But we all did it. We all wore those creepy plastic masks to hide our true identity. Nobody knew who we were unless they were trick or treating with us. Or unless they recognized our parents who took us out trick or treating. Wait a second. That never happened. We went by ourselves. Every year. All the time. Do kids even do that anymore? I mean, it is kind of a scary world out there anymore. 

We used to hit all the “good” houses. The ones that gave “good” Halloween candy. As in none of that rotten crappy candy, such as Necco wafers (GAWD), or candy corn (heaven forbid) or those disgusting peanut butter chews that were wrapped in orange and black paper to make them more appealing looking. It never worked. We could all see right through that little trick. The best houses were remembered every single year. It was tradition. I remember some highlights. 

One in particular was the Mateer House. They lived on Broadway. They gave presents! Can you believe that? Presents. The line was crazy. You had to get there early and you had to wait in line. They greeted kids at the door and then proceeded to take down the kids’ name and write it in a book. I wonder how many kids tried to dupe them and get double presents. I would like to think none, but I bet it happened. They were the cutest little old couple. They obviously loved Halloween. One year I got a sleep mask. It was black. I wonder if I ever used it. 

Another house on Yankton street gave away popcorn balls. Delicious, chewy and sweet popcorn balls. Not too sweet and not full of seeds. Perfect popcorn balls. They lived on the corner of Yankton and Capitol. The Brasel house. The best popcorn ball house. That was definitely a house not to miss. 

If you were lucky enough, some houses gave out full size candy bars. That was definitely a huge score in the trick or treating world. If you found the house, you immediately told all other trick or treaters you came in contact with. Sometimes when it was getting time to head back home and people were turning off porch lights, and you happened to hit their house, they gave you all the candy they had left. That was a huge Halloween score. 

Once it started getting late, and we got home, it was time. My absolute favorite part of Halloween. It was time to sort the candy. Everything had to be perfect. I got rid of my costume. I got rid of my coat, if I needed to wear one that year. I sat down in the living room. The lights had to be on. The bucket or bag, or whatever receptacle was used as the candy collector, was dumped on the floor. I had to shoo away the dog and the Dad. Dad would constantly be in the pile. He would always sneak a Baby Ruth or a Butterfinger. The sorting would begin. The candy sorting ritual. Everything in piles. Baby Ruths in a pile. Kit Kats in a pile. Reese’s in a pile. Every single different kind of candy was in a pile. The only thing I would eat while sorting was gum. Dubble Bubble. Five or six pieces at once. Slupring up that sugary pile of pink putty. Mmmmmmmm. I don’t chew gum anymore. You can probably see why. 

Once everything was sorted into piles, the pieces were counted. It was a tradition. Then the trading could commence with siblings. Sometimes nothing was traded. Sometimes a few things were traded and even sometimes the gross candy was thrown away. Dad wouldn’t even eat it. Every year it was done the exact same way. Every year. It was tradition. 

Butterflies and Freedom

It was summer. The Euclid house. It was hot. I think it was August. My sister and I roamed free. We were young though, so we may have still had a babysitter at home, but that didn’t stop us from roaming. If I had to guess, I would say I was about ten years old. Sherry and I  started hanging out with some kids a few blocks away. I can’t remember who they were, so it must not have been a constant. We rode our bikes a lot and we walked a lot. When it got really, really hot, we would ride our bikes. We went barefoot all the time and when it got that hot, the bottoms of our feet would burn, so we either started riding our bikes barefoot (gasp) or wore shoes, which we hated.

I struggle to remember because it seemed like we were older and it maybe was the Central House. We only lived there for a short time, but still managed to get in a lot of trouble. It really doesn’t matter for the story where we lived, but I want to remember it correctly.

Anyway, we were playing with some kids and were just riding our bikes going somewhere, going anywhere. We ended up on a street that was a big hill. I can remember one of the kids had a skateboard, which freaked me the hell out, because seriously, a skateboard down that steep hill. Even at that age, I knew it was something I wouldn’t do. Apparently fear ran deep.

The hill was steep. Kid steep. It might not be adult steep, but it was close. It was the hill that intersected at Huron and Elizabeth Streets and then down to intersect Central Avenue. If you looked straight ahead you could see the river. You could see the forever. You could see blue, blue sky and white, white clouds. It was incredible. It was an amazing hill.

That was a summer full of butterflies. Monarch butterflies. The orange, white and black butterflies. Pretty ones. Their wings looked like glass, stained glass. They were magical and beautiful…and free. They floated effortlessly through the air. Going somewhere. Going anywhere. They were on a mission. A migration mission.

On that street, on that hot summer day, time stood still. I sat there on my bike looking at the street. At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. The street looked strange. It looked like the asphalt was moving. I felt alone. It seemed like it was just me. I started moving. I started pedaling. I felt like I could fly. Suddenly, I was surrounded. It was the most amazing thing ever. I stopped at the bottom of the hill on the next block. There were hundreds of them. Hundreds and hundreds of Monarch butterflies surrounded me. They landed on me. They covered the street. They were on my face and in my hair. It was beautiful. It was calming. I felt free. Is that what freedom felt like? Could they feel it? I wanted to be a butterfly that day. I felt like a butterfly that day. I was free that day.

Sorry Kevin

My 7th grade math teacher’s name was Mr. Curl. Wallace Curl. Math was not my favorite subject, but it just so happened this was the class I was in when one of the most embarrassing things in my life happened.

Junior high, or middle school as it is called these days, is where it happened. I was shy. I mean really shy. If a teacher called on me, I shrunk in my seat and turned several shades of red, like the phases of a ripening tomato. I hated it. I couldn’t help it. I’m not sure why I was so shy. Does anyone really know why they are shy?

I sat in the middle row. It was the old part of the building. It smelled like old books. I really liked that smell. It also smelled like old wood. The wood floor creaked as feet walked across it. The classroom had windows, so at least when I was daydreaming, I could look out the window. I recall our desks faced north and the windows were to the west.

Kevin Maskovich sat in front of me. He had broken his leg so he was on crutches. He was really nice to me and always took time to talk to me. For the life of me, I can’t remember anyone else who was in this particular math class with me. Tunnel vision and tunnel memory may be real. I do remember Mr. Curl standing at the front of the class with piece of chalk in hand, at the ready to scrawl the math problems on the board, beads of sweat running down his forehead. He had his suit coat hanging on the back of his chair and his shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. Heaven forbid I would have to get up and go to the board. That would be like pulling my fingernails off with a pair of pliers. Actually, pulling the fingernails off may have been better.

Everyone was tired. This class was right after lunch. We had hot ham and cheese sandwiches that day. I have never in my life eaten another one after this tragic day. It was hot in the classroom. There was no air conditioning in the school. I didn’t feel well. I was sweaty and nauseous. I was getting worried. I was afraid I was going to be sick. I didn’t have time to ask to go to the bathroom. I couldn’t stop it. It was like a lava volcano erupting up through my throat. I barfed. I puked. I hurled. I blew chunks. Oh God!!! What just happened? I wanted to die. I wanted to absolutely die! How could this happen? Idiot! Why didn’t I run to the bathroom? Why?????

I remember Kevin saying, “What was that??!!” Well, buddy, it was barf and I got some on you. Poor guy! I felt terrible. He did move his crutches out of the way pretty fast though.

Mr. Curl got the janitor. They brought in that disgusting smelling cat litter-type sawdust product to cover up the vomit. You know, that reddish brown stuff. Vomit powder. Supposedly this helped clean up the mess, once the product absorbed the liquid. GAWD!!! I still wanted to die. I just wanted to slither away. I wanted never to be seen again. I just wanted to go home.

I remember watching the janitor sweeping up the vomit. It almost made me vomit again. Someone came and got me and took me home. It was probably my mom. I was devastated. I was embarrassed and I just wanted to shrivel up into nothing.

The experience was traumatic. I had a hard time going back to school. I think it actually took almost two weeks for me to go back. Every time I thought about going to school I would become physically sick. It was hard. I know I wasn’t really sick, but I couldn’t go back. I just couldn’t. One day when I thought I was all better, dad gave me a ride on his way to work. We pulled up to the school and I told him I couldn’t get out. I told him I felt sick. He took me home. I would have to try another day.

I finally got my shit together. I knew I would have to go back at some point. I knew I would have to face my fears. I couldn’t be “sick” forever. My grades were going to go to crap if I didn’t get back. I forced myself to go. Even though it was the last place I wanted to be, I forced myself to go back. See, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. It’s part of life. It’s part of growing up. It’s part of becoming a better human. So, I had to.

 

** As I was searching Kevin’s name, I realized that he passed away in 2010 from cancer. May he rest in peace. Sorry for puking on you, Kevin.

** Mr. Curl passed away in 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeanie, the babysitter

Her name was Jeanie. A babysitter. Our babysitter. A once-in-a-while babysitter. One of many. We went through a lot of them. She lived close by. Maybe two blocks away. She lived on Euclid and East Seneca. She lived in a small white house with concrete steps leading to the front door. There was a railing too. It was made of wrought iron and was black in color and decorative, pretty much like all step railings at that time. 

She came to our house to babysit us. The Euclid house. This was an evening. I’m not sure why we needed a babysitter at night. The parents never went out. I’m not sure what was going on, but anyway, she came to babysit. 

We were excited, Jeanie was a fun babysitter. She was really nice. She was going to make macaroni and cheese and we were going to watch movies, maybe play some games and have Jiffy Pop Popcorn later on in the evening. Something else also happened in the evening. 

Sherry and I were super excited. We were going to have a slumber party. Not that Pasty was staying overnight or anything, but we were just pretending it was going to be a slumber party. We got all of the pillows and blankets and made a bed in the living room. Awesome! This was going to be so fun. 

We had already eaten macaroni and cheese and now we were ready for the Jiffy Pop Popcorn. I loved that popcorn. I wonder if they still make it. Whoever they are. We watched intently as Jeanie made the popcorn. She patiently shook the pan until the foil started to expand and fill with popped popcorn. She was careful not to burn it. There is nothing worse than burnt popcorn. I think we even got to have pop with it. Our parents used to buy the quart bottles of Coke or Pepsi. The glass ones you had to pay a deposit on. They came in a six pack. I preferred Coke. There is nothing like the combination of popcorn and pop. Mmmmm, so delicious. 

We were eating our snack and then decided to play a game. I can’t remember if we were going to play Monopoly or Sorry. I hope it was Sorry. I really don’t like Monopoly. It’s my story, so I am going to say we played Sorry. Once we finished that it was time for the other thing that happened that night. First we changed into pajamas.

We decided to have a pillow fight. I really don’t know whose idea it was. It was probably Sherry’s. My story, so it was Sherry. Now, Jeanie was a big girl. She was overweight, but we loved her anyway. We didn’t care what she looked like. She was a fun babysitter. 

Jeanie was sitting on the couch. I was standing on the floor facing her and Sherry had her back to Jeanie and was facing me. All of a sudden with one big swipe Sherry was on the floor. Completely flattened. Lying face down and not moving. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I mean, think about it. Someone gets body slammed a pillow. Completely flattened by said pillow. Funny, right? I think so. At the same time I was a little concerned she may have been dead. 

We waited for what seemed like forever. In reality, it was probably 15 seconds max. Was it going to be an ambulance call or just a “I’m telling mom” call. This is Sherry we are talking about, so it’s just a “I’m telling mom” call. She was the biggest tattle tale ever. 

The wind had been completely knocked out of her. Every last bit of it. Once she came back to life, I started laughing. I thought it was so funny. I can still picture it. It was like it was in slow motion. Jeanie taking the pillow up over her head and behind her and then swinging it back to the front with a crap ton of overweight babysitter force. The pillow hit Sherry with such force that her nightgown flew up to her belly. Her knees didn’t even have time to bend, she was instantly flattened to the ground. I mean flattened. She didn’t crumple to the ground, she just flattened. Facedown flattened. 

Jeanie felt terrible. I could tell. I am pretty sure she thought she would get in trouble from our parents. I think she just gave Sherry extra popcorn and pop and all was good again. I’m pretty sure there were no more pillow fights after that incident. 

Adventures in babysitting. Always a good time. 

i’m sensing a theme

It’s a theme. I’ve written about it quite often. Three times, at least. Pants peeing. It’s a thing. Or it was a thing during my childhood anyway. I can happily say it hasn’t happened as an adult. I’m pretty stoked about that. 

This time it was the Euclid house. My and Sherry’s bedroom. We shared a bedroom. It was pretty small. It had a dresser and a bed and a closet. If you remember the fire story, that is the closet we were thrown into after our ass beating for starting our bed on fire. Funny. Not then, but now. 

We were in bed doing nothing. Apparently quite bored with our lives at this point. We were around 7 and 8 or 8 and 9. We were definitely old enough to know better. Most people are when they do something they shouldn’t. 

We didn’t have a TV in our room. We didn’t really have anything. Boredom is what we had. Time on our hands. The worst thing in the world for kids. What’s that phrase? Something about idle hands… I’m not even sure how the conversation started. I think it might have been me. I will take the blame. I am the older sister, so I guess it’s only fair. It still may have been Sherry. I can’t fully recall. It’s been a LONG time ago. I bet Sherry might remember, just because she got in trouble. 

So, like I said, there we were in bed, contemplating our lives. Nothing exciting. I told Sherry that if she peed the bed I would. What??? Yep. We were rotten little kids. Frankly, I am surprised we didn’t get in more trouble. We were always up to something. Always. 

Actually, as I am writing this, I think Sherry said that if I peed she would. It’s becoming clearer as the story unfolds. An aha moment in the memory bank. 

Being the responsible big sister and wanting to help a girl out, I told her sure. So as we were lying there in bed with the covers pulled up to our necks like there were ghosts and vampires coming to get us, I did it. 

I didn’t really do it. I just told Sherry I did it. Obviously I had a lying problem too. I only told Sherry I did it because I actually had a hard time trying to pee my pants. I couldn’t force myself. Sherry didn’t have that problem.

As soon as I told her I peed, she went for it. She gave it everything she had. She did it. She peed her pants all over the bed. I couldn’t believe it. I can’t believe she really thought I would pee my pants. Hahahahahaha. Sucker!

Of course she tattled. We both got in trouble. She got in trouble for peeing her pants in bed. Apparently that was frowned upon in our house. I got in trouble for making her do it. Really? I did no such thing. It was her choice. I just helped a girl out. 

The lesson here is to never trust someone older than you, especially if it is a situation like this. I mean, really Sherry? You actually believed that I would pee my pants? 

cousins always have your back

I remember them the most. The shorts. The olive green colored polyester. The fringe. The ugliness. The kid clothes. Nothing cool. Everything ugly.

It was summertime. We were at the cousins, the farm and all the farm animals that go along with it. You know, because it was, a farm. I was probably 10 or 11 years old.

We spent most of the day playing. We usually played in the barn, specifically the hayloft. The barn was huge. The hayloft was also huge. We had so much fun, just spending hours and hours hanging out and playing. It seemed like there were always kittens in the hayloft too. We always tried to catch them and pet them. 

Inside the barn there were animals. I have mentioned previously (in another post) how afraid of the animals I was. All of the animals. I was even scared of the chickens. Some chickens are assholes though, so I think that is totally justified. 

In order to get to the hayloft we had to walk through a section of animals. Pigs. On the way up to play, I safely made it through that section, only because the pigs were outside. Up the ladder to the hayloft. Safe and sound. Yay me.

I was wearing olive green shorts. They were disgusting. Stretchy polyester. I cut fringes into them to make them look more cool. It didn’t work. They just looked ridiculous. I really wanted blue jean shorts with fringe. That wasn’t going to happen, so in my mind this was the next best thing. I was also wearing a ratty old striped shirt. The shirt was probably polyester too. Good thing playing with matches wasn’t included on this trip. 

Brad was my cousin. I looked up to him. He was a fun cousin and watched out for me. He knew I was the biggest chicken ever. He never held that against me. He just looked out for us city cousins and spent time with us no matter what. He was a great cousin.

We had been playing in the barn for hours. I had to go pee. I had to go pee, bad. Apparently, people pee outside. How? I wasn’t sure how they did this without getting pee all over themselves. That would have to be perfected at a later date. I wanted to go in the house and go to the bathroom. About this time all the pigs came back in the barn. I was not pleased. In fact, I was petrified. There was no way I could walk through those pigs to get out of the barn. I just couldn’t. I was frozen with fear. That feeling, the fear, the scared, would not go away. I hated it. I couldn’t control it. 

Brad was looking out for me. He knew how afraid I was of those pigs. He said he would get me out of there. A shoulder ride. The perfect solution. It was brilliant. I was on the ladder that led up to the hayloft. Just hanging out. I wasn’t going anywhere. Brad came to me and I climbed on his shoulders. Perfection. Out through the pigs he walked. They were all around him. I couldn’t stand it. I was freaked out. He kept walking. 

We got almost through them and I couldn’t do it. I started to pee. I couldn’t stop. I peed all over his shoulders and the back of his neck. I was mortified. I couldn’t help it though. I felt terrible. 

As soon as we got out of the pigs he put me down. He wasn’t too mad. Everyone teased me, which was to be expected. It’s cousins after all. I ran in the house and changed my clothes. 

I was just glad to be safe from the pigs. But more grateful for a cousin who saved me. Even though I peed on his shoulders, he had my back. Cousins. 

I knew i was addicted

 

Summers were fun for us as kids. We used to go boating all the time. It seemed like we went every weekend. We had an old red and white boat. It was small, but it did the job. We didn’t know any different. It was a ski boat, not a fishing boat. Dad liked to boat and swim and ski. He was a very good water skier. He used to be able to ski with my sister on his shoulders. I don’t recall witnessing this, so maybe it isn’t true. But I always remember hearing it. He tried to teach me to ski. I was terrible. I couldn’t get up. I tried and tried and tried. The next day, I had solid bruises down my thighs. It looked like someone tortured me. It was true. It was called a ski rope. I was so mad I couldn’t ski. I never ever tried again. 

Almost every single time after swimming we got to stop at the A&W and get root beer. Dad got a big mug and we got the little baby frosted mugs. Ice cold. I can still taste it and smell it. The car hop brought the tray out and hooked it onto your car using the window slot. They had kind of a rubber kind of tray liner on the trays. I guess people spilled a lot. Sometimes we would get food too. A hamburger or a hot dog, along with some french fries. Their food was good and the root beer was so refreshing after hours of being out in the sun. It was the highlight of the outing. 

Another thing was good too. I thought about it during the all-afternoon outings. I couldn’t wait to get home. I couldn’t wait to smell the lit match. I couldn’t wait to get that hit of smoke from the cigarette. Something about being in the water all afternoon made me want it. Anyone who has ever been addicted you know what I’m talking about. That initial hit. That immediate calm. That immediate relaxation. That immediate satisfaction. It’s not just cigarettes. This is true for anything that one can become addicted to. Drugs, alcohol, even food. You know how it is. You think it about it. You think about it a lot. You especially think about it when it gets closer and closer to the time you can have it. You actually get a little anxious. You actually get a little excited. It is such a crazy thing to think how we are wired. 

Here is the really crazy part. I was ten years old. How can a ten year old feel this? How can a ten year old even know or comprehend this. I knew I was addicted. I knew I needed to stop. It wasn’t like I was a pack a day smoker or anything, but I was getting hooked. I would take one here and one there from the parents. Not enough that they would ever be able to tell. The hooks were digging in. The hands were wrapping around me tighter and tighter. The smoky rope was tying me up. It was holding me hostage. It was real. The addiction was real. It was scary to think about it.

At that point in time my ten year old brain was realizing that smoking was bad,  that smoking was not cool. It wasn’t good for my body. I turned it around. I stopped. I had to. I didn’t want to be addicted to cigarettes. I didn’t want to stink like smoke. I stopped then and there. 

To think about it now, it’s ridiculous. It actually disgusts me. I am so glad I was able to break away from the addiction. But ten years old!!! WTF!!! It came back again as an adult and I kicked it again. It is getting close to 20 years smoke free. I will stay smoke free the rest of my life. 

scars

I wasn’t sure why it happened. I didn’t know what I did wrong. I didn’t know why he picked me. I was in second or third grade. It was the Euclid house. It happened at least twice a week. 

My walk home path from school was to leave the school through the front doors, take a left to the corner of Central, walk up Central to Oak and then take Oak the rest of the way until I came to Euclid. Sometimes I would cut through the alley by Branch Wolf’s house, if I wanted to get home sooner, about one minute sooner. Otherwise I would hit the corner and walk the rest of way on Euclid. Sometimes I would dawdle and play along the way. A typical kid. 

Sometimes I would walk really slow, because I knew what was coming. I don’t know why I wasn’t smart enough to take a different route home. But, looking back, maybe I just didn’t know how to go another way. Once a route is presented to a child, the child tends to stick to what they are told to do. Deviation comes with consequences. I walked super slow hoping they would not be there. I kept looking, trying to see if they were there. I couldn’t tell. 

I would get to the corner of Oak and Grand. The corner house. The tall, tall lilac bushes separated the sidewalk and the yard. I was walking by. Then it happened. Two older boys jumped out of the bushes and started hitting me. They knocked me to the ground and kicked me and hit me. Then they ran off. The whole episode lasted maybe 30 seconds. Those 30 seconds felt like forever. Everything on the ground, my books and me. I stayed there waiting. Waiting for them to leave, hoping they would leave. I stayed there until I could not hear their laughter anymore. I stayed there until it was safe to get up. I cried and ran home.

There was no-one  to tell, or I just didn’t tell anyone. I don’t remember telling anyone at all. I don’t remember if they threatened me if I told on them or what. I just don’t remember. I remember the name of one of them. The other I don’t. The one I remember grew up to be a nice guy, I guess. 

I dreaded the walk home. Never knowing if it was going to happen. It was kind of like a game. A cat and mouse game, only I was the mouse. At least two days a week I was the mouse. I was the one being bullied. I was the one who got picked on. 

I still can’t figure out what I did that would prompt them to beat me up. They were 5th or 6th graders. I hate that I remember this. Why wouldn’t I just forget. Chalk it up to childhood stuff. Childhood things that really don’t mean anything. Just things. Just childhood things. But it was childhood things that I remember. Childhood things that scar. Childhood things that fade, but never go completely away. 

I think that is why I stood up for kids who got picked on. A few years after this, there was a kid at school who got teased all the time. He was in the special ed class. His name was Greg. He was picked on constantly. I hated to watch. I couldn’t stand it. I remember protecting him. I remember telling them to stop picking on him. I felt so bad for him. I bet he cried every single day. He just wanted to belong. He just wanted to have fun. He just wanted to fit in. 

I wonder where he is now…

I wonder where the cats are now…