Friday, December 5, 2008

Party of Six

Third grade. By this time, my family had grown; instead of two little brothers, I now had three. Benjamin was born in the same fashion as we all had been: on the floor of a house. Again had my mother given birth with no midwives and no doctors and no pain medications. I was getting older, barely beginning to comprehend the huge responsibilities of being the big sister.

In late March of that year, school had just been let out for a long Easter weekend. For some reason or another, I was never one to run straight home from school. Often did I linger, staying afterward with my good friend Angela; we'd hang out with our teachers and stack chairs on desks or bang erasers on the sidewalks, making little white and pink geometric designs on the concrete. We were almost never in a hurry to get home. Although we rarely had homework, I always wanted to bring home my science book, to have something interesting to read over the weekend.

Angela and I had a lot in common; our parents were of the same generation. Sometimes they'd even socialize; sitting in a circle, in a cloud of smoke, doing what they did back then.

She lived with her mother and brother. Her house was close to the cliffs, nestled into the morning shadows cast by the rising sun. Many a weekend did we have sleepovers, either at her house or mine. Sleepovers almost always meant we'd wake up with the sun to go explore those cliffs, up the trails, up to the top of the H hill, looking down upon the valley. We built huts and forts (balanced plywood) in the field behind my house, we surreptitiously stole matches and made rock-rimmed campfires in little secret spots near the creek. We gathered fruits and nuts from the trees behind my house and stockpiled them. Our little tomboy girls club wasn't exclusive: we made friends with the neighborhood girls *and* boys.

Hurricane Elementary school was only a few blocks from my family's house, and I always walked home from school: down the long sidewalk, past the little Chums shop which would often have left out by the curb a box or two of their prototype tye-dyed beaded creations. My siblings and I had friends on every block, friends with whom we'd play Kick the Can or Tag.

Third grade. School had just been let out for a long Easter weekend. I was carrying a sack of candy; Easter approaching meant that the Easter bunny, of course, would soon be on his way. As usual, I lingered on my walk home. . . stopping to poke through the Chums, checking the structural integrity of the fort. Finally, finally making it upstairs into that little brick house.

And from that day forth, nothing would ever be the same. Seared onto my memory like a red-hot branding iron, that day marked a turning point.


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