Posted by: Linda B | November 4, 2009

memories of being 9

It smells of earth and pine needles. My bedroom window is open and without concept of time I shuffle out of my nightgown and into jeans and a sweatshirt. My mom smiles in the almost-dark as I lose my balance. Her touch steadies me and ties my sneakers. Twenty-five minutes later the sound of green water pushing at the boat nearly drives me back to sleep again. My Dad hands me a fishing pole as the sun peeks its way over the North Carolina pine. Wordlessly he teaches me how to fish and does not make fun of me because I am horrified when a hook catches one in the eye. He lets me release mine even though three of them are bigger than his.

No one else is allowed to pick on my little brother (he’s about five) but I can beat him up when I want to. He follows me around and I usually ignore him (just to piss him off). This time? He has a hand full of catfish eyeballs (thanks, Dad!) and is chasing me through the house while I’m wearing a “dress up” gingham square dancing skirt!. My “bad ass sister” crown slips. SHRIEK!!!!

I’ve climbed so god damned far up the neighbor’s tree that I swear I can see for miles. MILES. I am the Queen of all Things Tall! I rule over all! Christina stands at the foot of the tree looking up. Her dark eyes are jealous. I can’t really see that since she’s so far away but I know they are. She’s scared of climbing up trees. And just when I decide I’m better than her (because she’s a sissy chicken) I realize I might have been better off on the ground… instead of having to admit I’m too scared to climb back down. (But I climbed back down anyhow and never told anyone how scared I was until now).

Lacing on my roller skates, I’m a brilliant girl who just invented the very best way to walk the neighbor’s Alaskan Malamute. I’m so smart! A click of the leash on his collar and off we go… two minutes later I’ve got road rash from shin to chin and the neighbor is having to chase his dog down .. two streets over. Learning occurred. I stick with walking poodles until I’m 22 and get a Rottweiler/Chow mix.

My mom has gone to a PTA meeting because that’s the kind of mom she is; she stays home, she helps us with our homework, she puts menus on the fridge and still answers my dad with a smile (mostly) about what’s for dinner every night. She is the best mom in the neighborhood (even though she yelled at the Army Captain because he tried to take away her Volleyball net) and all the kids at school tell me I have the prettiest mom. (Go figure, she’s 25 years old). This time though the meeting runs late. Dad is stuck with the kids who are hungry. He’s hungry. He doesn’t cook. That’s the “mom’s job”. He drinks a beer. And another. He sends the kids off to clean their room (to get them out from under his feet). And another beer. Mom’s still not home. Another. Again. He comes to “inspect” the rooms. Unfortunately the Maid at the Barbie Townhouse with Moving Elevator didn’t show up to work that day and all of Barbie’s clothes were scattered about. My dad smashes it. Hurricane, Tornado, and Earthquake all at once. “If you can’t keep it clean, you obviously don’t care about it and don’t deserve to have it.” My mom comes home to find white plastic bags crammed full of stuffed animals and toys lined against the outside walk. Trash or Goodwill. He doesn’t care. All of our misplaced toys collected and to be disposed of until we can appreciate what we have. My Mom doesn’t yell. She looks at him. She picks up the beer cans and throws them away in the kitchen. She makes us dinner silently. Later, far into the night, pretending to sleep, I watch her put each one of my toys back where it belongs before going to my brother’s room down the hall.

Out of control, the pedals fly ‘round faster than I can keep my feet to. I nearly lose a shoe and least twenty-six dandelions are crushed under the plastic wheel. The hill finally gets bored with me and flicks my Big Wheel from it’s gravatational field, only to cause my “it-was-a-matter-of-time” crash and burn. Giggling like a fool and knowing a Green Machine would have done a lot worse, I sprawl alone on the side of a weed decorated grass slope. I stare at the blue sky and instead of finding animal shapes in the clouds, I ponder the meaning of life, religion and my existence. I felt different when I finally climbed to my feet, tightened the laces on my shoe and reclaimed my Big Wheeled instrument of death. It was a profound moment though I don’t think I knew the meaning of that word just yet.

“The ice cream man is coming!” (( Does anyone really not know what happens here? ))

Months later… “The ups guy is here! The ups guy is here!” The big truck that sets the neighborhood dogs to barking isn’t from U-P-S. He’s the “ups guy”, our hero in uniform. He’s the guy in brown who brings our Christmas presents from afar (and sometimes birthday presents). We look up from our marbles, stop our game of tag, or ignore the kiss Barbie just stole from Ken (the tart) … and hold our breath. Whose house will he stop at? Who gets the goodies? Are they Christmas presents in brown paper? Is it for me? The world freezes until we know who’s doorbell gets poked with the ups man’s finger.

There’s four feet of snow on the ground. I have rubber boots over blue sneakers, a red nylon parka with fake fur around the hood that my mother bought at Goodwill, a hat, gloves and a lunch box. It takes nearly an hour to walk to school and by the time I get there I’m overheated from the multitude of snowball fights along the way. (Metal lunch boxes are awesome shields). There are chunks of ice in my hair that could easily keep a rum and Coke content for hours. I have to stand in the girl’s bathroom and comb them out before my teacher will let me sit down in class. I hate her for those 20 minutes.

[memories of being 9]

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