The Election

The grownups are freaking out. Something called a Presidential Election is happening out in the world. All the grownups want to cry, they are having meetings and pacing around, wringing their hands with twisted worried faces.
Evil men out there are going to start something called “World War 3”.  If the one called “Ronald Reagan” becomes “The President”.
I’m so scared, we’re all going to die. Why? Why do these men want to kill us? In my secret place in the bushes by our bus I pray and wish and wish and pray that the bad man, Ronald Reagan, does not become The President so no one gets hurt and we can all live. I love our bus and everything around it and don’t want it to blow up into nothing. It doesn’t make sense, it’s not okay to hurt people and everything is so nice and pretty; the animals, the trees, the moss, the sky, the plants -how could anyone destroy nice things for no reason? I pray pray pray the grown ups can stop these bad men.
They are going to do something called voting. If enough people vote for the good man, he will be The President and the bad man won’t be and won’t kill everyone. The president is the ruler of all the ignorant people called “squares” out there who don’t live here. The grownups are very worried because all the square people out there are not smart and might vote for the bad man. They have to go out there and vote for the good man and make sure he wins. Squares are a shape like a box. Why are they called squares? What does it feels like to be a square person instead of a normal person? They don’t look like squares, they look like human shapes – are squares their favorite shape or can their flesh morph and squish into the shape of a square or do grownups just call them that for some silly reason? Sometimes grownups are silly and don’t make sense.
I am 4 and don’t understand it all but I understand it’s very serious, the most serious thing that’s ever happened. We are barely balancing on the edge of a world wide planetary fiery explosion if Ronald Reagan becomes President. After they vote, if he wins, he will click a button that blows up the world and everyone and thing- BOOM, we’re all gone, we’re all dead.
Killing people is very, very bad. Guns are evil little things that kill people, and bombs are way worse than guns. We are not allowed to play guns. If any kid is caught pretending a stick is a gun or if they hold their finger like a gun, they get in huge trouble. Really huge trouble. They get screamed at, spanked, stashed and viewed as a terrible person for a while. That’s how bad guns are. I can’t believe how brave some of the boys are to play guns outside and wonder what it would feel like to hold my fingers like that. I can imagine how naughty and good it would feel to stretch my fingers into that position and point them at something and pretend some kind of power is shooting out of my finger…but it would probably not be worth how bad my butt would feel from a spanking, so I just stare in awe at the boys who pretend their hand is a gun. I don’t tell on them because I don’t want them to get spanked. They aren’t actually hurting anyone with their fingers, they are just pretending and playing. Why does it make the grownups so mad even though it’s not even real? Could their fingers magically become real if they pretended hard enough? The look on their faces seems so careless and unafraid when they’re doing it, even though any random grownup coming from any direction could see them and it would be all over. Fury from the grownups would rain down upon them, I cannot believe the incredible risk they take.
I ask my mom why anyone would have war and hurt people they don’t even know. She says some people don’t like other people because of the color of their skin. Like if they have a different color. I don’t believe it. That can’t be real. That’s not possible. It’s just not humanly, physically possible in any way. It’s totally impossible and there’s no way that can even be a thing at all. I cannot even fathom how anyone could even come up with such a wildly impossible idea, much less implement that wildly impossible idea. It’s the most impossible thing I’ve ever heard of. Even if there was another reality, like in some dark tunnel outside of this reality, where impossible was possible, it couldn’t even be possible there. Because no matter what color someone’s skin is, they are still a person, just like you, so it would be impossible to not like them just because they had different color. There’s just no way that could be. But my mom says it really is true. I stare off through the trees… somewhere out there is an extremely strange world with extremely bizarre people that make no sense at all.
hippy-kids-in-the-woods
After a while, after the vote, our worst nightmare comes true! Ronald Reagan does win, he does become The President. It’s time to die.
But miraculously, we don’t blow up. And the grownups just go on acting like everything is pretty much normal again, acting like they never acted like we would all be blown up if Ronald Reagan became The President.
But they all get cartoon t-shirts. I play outside our bus watching the big tall men stomp by in their cartoon shirts. The bad men are on their shirts, their cartoon shirts that say “TAKE THE TOYS FROM THE BOYS”. Do these men want to take toys from boys? That’s mean. I keep observing the grownups and their weird shirts so many of them wear now. The 2 giant cartoon men are sinister, ugly and laughing and they have a big black bomb they want to light. One of them is Ronald Reagan. I finally get it, the bombs are their toys, even though it’s not a toy, it’s a bomb. And they are the “boys”, even though they are not really boys, they are men… They are bad men and they are real, not just cartoon shirts, they live out there and wear dark suits, and want to blow up the world and kill everyone with their bombs. That’s why we need to take away their bomb toys. But if the evil square guys want to blow everything up, and they have those bombs, why haven’t they? Why hasn’t Ronald Reagan blown up the world already?
take-toys-from-boys-by-patty-iburThanks to Patty Ibur for pic of shirt she pulled out of chest. It’s almost like I remember! I wrote the story before seeing this image I hadn’t seen in decades, so it’s not perfectly accurate but the description of the impression it made on my child mind, is. lol

 

 

How many ways can your childhood be stolen growing up on America’s largest hippy commune?

Besides having no house, no bed, no toys, no electricity or indoor plumbing, no money, not enough food, not getting to call your mom “Mom”, getting punished and spanked by random strangers, getting 3rd world parasites – you also get, drum roll please: no childhood photos! That you’re not even in.

In these communal days, when our parents moved there, they signed a Vow of Poverty and had to give up everything they owned to the commune. All their money, car, tools, furniture, books – everything was was handed over to be communal. Anyone who had a camera, that was taken and given to “The Media Crew”. You could only take photos if you were one of the few people on that crew with a camera. Most people were doing hard and tedious labor, on farming crews sweating in the hot sun out in the fields, building crews, baking, firewood, sucking shit out of hundreds of outhouses, etc, etc. A few lucky people were entrusted to the awesome easy job of taking photos – for the whole commune, since it was a commune and all, and everything was communal. The people who got to take photos used equipment and film the community provided, ate the food the field workers grew, lived in the houses the builders built, shat in the outhouse the shitter truck crew cleaned, sent their kids to the school the commune built and teachers teached at, living completely off the hard labor of their community, while they snapped pictures of people hard at work, kids at play, whatever they wanted. These were our photos, all of our communal photos.

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Old outhouse. Photo by me.

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Swimming hole outhouse, 2013, still in use. Photo: me

I didn’t even know anyone had a camera. I thought only visitors had otherworldly alien technology like cameras. I am not in one of these thousands of communal photos. And that never bothered me much because, well, there was thousands of people, it’s understandable the Camera Crew didn’t get a picture of everyone. But, although not actually in any of them myself, I can completely relate to the pictures, and almost pretend I’m in them – kids on horse wagons going down dirt roads – one of my earliest memories, a mother walking her little kids to The Store for rations exactly like my mother did when the roads were dusty and the trees were only that big, the pictures of the fields and skinny hairy people working in them just like I remember, lines of odd hippy hillbilly traffic at the gate, the noisy soy dairy making tofu, the giant greenhouse vibrating with plant life that I loved, Services where I sat in a meadow trying not to fidget every Sunday morning with hundreds of meditating hippies, the creeks I learned to swim in – these are my precious childhood photos, that the Camera Crew took.

I don’t know if my birth mother had a camera when she arrived and handed over everything. We only have a handful of photos from the communal days that my grandparents and a few visitors took.

My mother wasn’t on the camera crew, she woke us up at 5 in the morning to drag us to The Woodshop to make breakfast for the Building Crew, up to The Gate for long gate duty hours, into the hot fields for farming, over to households infested with lice for nitpicking, to the hot bakery for bread baking, washing households of shitty diapers, stuff like that, no sweet leisurely job like taking photos.

So when the communal structure crumbled and everyone went scrambling, although the shitter truck guys who had to suck up the shit of the camera crew guys during the communal days get nothing tangible in retrospect, all the hard laborers get nothing, people who handed over their entire inheritance get nothing, one of the camera guys wants all the communal photos to be “his” and only his and he wants to hide and “protect” them from the world. While the people he took photos of shedding blood, sweat and tears for him to survive on during those years get nothing, he claims the communal photos as his. The photos he took DURING the COMMUNAL years, not before or after the communal years, but during, while no one else had a camera or the opportunity to take photos of this incredible historic time.

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New Wave Cave’s old outhouse. Photo: me

Yep. So then, hundreds of kids who did not sign the Vow of Poverty or ask to grow up entrusting a tiny handful of people to take their childhood photos for them, get no childhood photos of their extremely unique amazing childhood -even though there’s thousands of them. Even though this man did indeed sign the Vow of Poverty and agree to live communally, he claims the communal photos as his. He says he’s copyrighted them. He threatened and harassed me into deleting them from my Growing Up on a Hippy Commune blog. I cried  a little as I deleted them, feeling it as a very sad loss.

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New Wave Cave. Photo: ME😛

I’m happy I grew up in communal poverty, but I’m not happy I don’t get to feel like the photos of it are partly mine to treasure and share with the world. It’s actually sickening. Despite all the crazy hardships growing up like that, this – this is just the most ridiculous. Childhood officially stolen.

Sit holed up in a dark cave with your precious photos, hiding them from the world, stroking them, repeating “mine, mine” til they rot.

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Old outhouse. Photo: me

I can tell my growing up on a commune stories without them.

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Tribute I made for the farm, fabric art, donated to auction for Swan Creek Trust Fund. Photo: me

Although I’ve heard he claims photos as his that he didn’t even take, I have erased all the photos he claims as “his” and his name from my blog. When I publish my stories into an actual book, if I use photos, I will license and credit only photos from other photographers, who have not gone on a desperate selfish rampage trying to claim all the communal photos as theirs. I might do some illustrations as well🙂

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2015 self portrait. Photo: me

Now back to Growing Up on a Hippy Commune, new story coming super super soon.🙂

baby celeste (2)

I Suck Therefore I Am

The grownups all hate me for sucking my thumb. Even stranger grownups I don’t know. They all hate me because for some reason, thumbsucking makes you a horrible person, though why, is a mystery to me.

Deborah tells me that sucking my thumb makes me look ugly. She emphasizes the word ugly with disgust. I climb up into the drivers seat of our bus in front of Deborah’s bed, holding on to the big black steering wheel, to stare at myself sucking my thumb in the long bus mirror, to see how it makes me ugly. I still look normal, just with my thumb in my mouth. Everything’s still the same, how do I look ugly?
 My thumb is my best friend. It literally belongs in my mouth, like a foot in a shoe, and it’s the absolute perfect fit. I would not be able to live without sucking my wonderful thumb, it’s what gets me through life. Doing what I must, sucking my thumb, which comes more naturally than breathing, is far more important to me than the grownups not hating me. There’s no contest – they can loathe, grumble, snap, growl, throw dirty looks, spank, stash and punish me all they want, but I will never give up my thumb.
The man who put me on the roof for sucking my thumb is always in the back of my mind. But not even threatening my life will stop me.
nobles in wagonSometimes people stop on the path by our bus and talk to my mom. I looked out my bus window gazing down upon some little kids my age, in a little red wagon, sucking their fingers, how interesting… I give it a try but it’s not good at all, the fit isn’t right. I feel a bit of camaraderie with the finger suckers, as I look into their eyes and they look into mine, that we suck something, but we are not the same, not thumb family.
Slipping my perfectly fitting thumb into my mouth is superior, to pretty much everything. Full on comfort mode is sucking my thumb, rubbing my index finger over my other thumbnail feeling it’s glorious smoothness, and rubbing my bare feet around and around each other. But that’s when I’m in bed putting myself to sleep, for the rest of the day just thumb sucking and maybe some fingernail rubbing suffices.
Deborah says I always have sucked my thumb and that when I was a baby, they got me to take it out for a special picture but only for a second. Ha! What a smart baby I was, to know how great thumbsucking is.
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smart baby me

The grownups detest me for sucking my thumb, and I detest them for making my life miserable. They are obsessed with destroying my ultimate happiness and comfort. Why can’t they just leave me alone? I’m not hurting anyone. I think super hard about why sucking my thumb is so bad and… it’s not. I love it.
“Unplug” they all snap and growl at me everywhere I go. I don’t want to unplug, I just want to hide from them where I can enjoy my thumb in peace.
The grownups of Dogwood Blossom come up with a new plan to stop me from my favorite activity. Between the house and the woods is a small household garden and they are eager to use jalapeno peppers, growing in the little garden, on my thumb. They take me outside in front of the house, retrieve a jalapeno pepper, cut off the top, stick my thumb inside the whole pepper, squeeze it around rubbing it in, back and forth.
They are extremely pleased with themselves convinced that this was going to cure me of my thumbsucking disease.
Then they set me free. I sulk up the dirt path towards our bus as my thumb burns. When I put it in my mouth, it burns my mouth. I don’t care, I will endure the burning, I will endure anything, to suck my thumb.
One day I hear I’m going to be babysat at Cat Fish Pond, a big silver house across the valley on Huckleberry Rd. Everyone over there has big, amazing houses. Cat Fish Pond is especially big, looming with 2 stories, intimidating with perfectly structured walls, like a giant rectangle box, much different than the household our bus is part of, that is just like some random boards nailed together with crazy rooms jutting around. I’m a little scared but excited to get babysat at such a big, important house. And I really, really want to see the pond with the cats and the fish, that only people special enough to be at this big house get to see. It must be a small pond near the house, around the side or back between the house and tall trees, hidden from common bystanders like myself who’ve only seen the house from the road before. It must be really magical with tall interesting plants growing around it and the cats and fish are really nice and happy to share the little pond  -they must be for a whole house to be called Cat Fish Pond, named after them and their pond. In my mind I can see the cats and the fish with all their faces out of the water with really big smiles hovering around the pond. I couldn’t wait to see it.
When I get dropped off, the grownups have a conversation about me sucking my thumb, how I’m not allowed to do it and all the things they can do to make me stop. It’s embarrassing and now I already hate being here and now more grownups don’t like me   .
This house has a lot of kids, we mostly play downstairs in the living room, following the directions of a grownup. Upstairs there is a long, long dark hallway with endless doors to square rooms. It makes me feel sick, I hate it. I would hate to live here. I love our little green cozy bus illuminated with sunlight shining through our little row of windows. This dreary, dark, cold big house is so depressing. The other kids act happy, the sickening cold eerie darkness of the house doesn’t even phase them, but I find it disturbing.
One of the grownup ladies see’s me sucking my thumb and I’m in trouble. She takes me to the kitchen and puts something called cayenne pepper all over my thumb. It is red.
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Photo credit: Time Magazine

I go outside, feeling ostracized and humiliated by strangers, but try to hide my tears and anger so they don’t see through the windows and get me in more trouble. They think I’m bad and now they think I’m even more bad for coming outside by myself. Rubbing the cayenne pepper off on my shirt is futile, I can’t get it off and am going to get in more trouble because it’s smeared on my shirt. My shirt is light colored showing the red stain so I’m definitely in trouble. Probably going to get spanked. I shove my thumb in my mouth and suck the burning hot off until it is gone, pacing the sloped yard back and forth in front of the big house, trying to keep my face turned from the windows so they won’t see me committing the colossal crime of sucking my thumb. I hold my head down, stomping around as I determinedly suck away, pouting, hurt and angry, lifting my eyes as my head stays down, trying to see if they are watching me. It’s so hard to try to look while keeping my head down, but I can’t let them see my face. I can feel them watching me, hating and judging me for sucking my thumb.
Why are grownups so mean?
This house sucks, ‘Cat Fish Pond’–the name is a lie – there’s no magical pond with cats and fish, there’s not even a pond anywhere around.

A Picture Worth a 1000 Wonders

Walking anywhere with my mom I hope we won’t spot any lambsquarter. If I see some and just stay quiet maybe she won’t notice. Because if she does notice, she’ll make me eat it. It’s light green slightly jagged leaves growing on a stalk have a shimmery powered look and I hate it’s taste. But Deborah loves for me to eat it, she says it’s so good for me. Her face lights up when we find some, “Oh, look! Lambsquarter! Eat the lambsquarter!”. Disgust wipes over my face but I have to do what she says so I pick the gross lambsquarter and force myself to eat it. It gets slightly slimy after chewing it and I really, really don’t like eating anything slimy, which is why oatmeal is my sworn enemy. At least lambsquarter is better than oatmeal.
When I’m outside without her, and I find lambsquarter, I rejoice at not having to eat it. “Haha, Lambsquarter, not this time!” I think to myself, relieved to escape it’s yuckiness. But sometimes I think how proud my mom would be if I ate it. And so I eat some. Then I run and tell her.
In our bus, when I say “I’m hungry”, Deborah always says “Well go outside and eat some plantain”. I don’t know when I ever didn’t know what plantain was. Blooming clusters of big, smooth, shiny green leaves close to the ground, growing in the sunshine. Soon tiring of plantain, it’s tough fiber making me thirsty, I go in the woods behind our bus to eat sassafras leaves that grow in the shade. They grow like tiny trees with sporadic big leaves in a variety of neat shapes. I love their neat shapes, and they taste good. Even though they get slightly slimy like lambsquarter, the taste makes up for it. So much better than lambsquarter or plantain. Sassafras tea is all the rage. The older boys dig up the roots to impress the grownups who make tasty, naturally sweet tea and a handful of broken sassafras sticks is a pretty cool thing to have and flaunt inside the house, they’re a yummy treat to chew on, especially when the older boys skin the bark off with their pocket knives.
Not my bus, just one of the countless buses  people lived in, tucked into the woods all over the place.

Not my bus, (ours didn’t have a cook stove), just one of the countless buses people lived in, tucked into the woods all over the place.

I know lots of good spots around our bus and 1st road now. A visitor with a camera came to Dogwood Blossom. Cameras were other worldly, I don’t know anyone here who has one. My mom says I can show him some stuff on 1st Rd for his pictures. I take him onto the road and we chat, I am not very shy because he is so nice, I like him, so words flow freely out of my mouth. I know he must be taking really important pictures with the black camera around his neck, because cameras are so rare and special. As we’re walking and chatting on the road, not too far from my bus, he says he wants to take my picture. My picture? Completely stunned, I don’t know what to do. No one has ever wanted to take my picture, I’ve never had my picture taken. We have some baby pictures of me, but those don’t count because I didn’t know I was getting my picture taken.
As a baby, in NY, before I can remember much. Memories kicked in soon when we moved to The Farm.

As a baby, in NY, before I can remember much. Memories kicked in soon when we moved to The Farm.

What do I do? I can barely breathe, this is so shocking and amazing. This is definitely the biggest deal that’s ever happened to me. What do you do to get your picture taken? How do I act? This is the most important thing I’ve ever done and I don’t want to ruin it but I’m not sure what I should do. I stop talking and just stand there and don’t do anything and he snaps my picture. It is over very fast, before I know it or can think too much harder about it. It didn’t hurt and I don’t feel too different. Actually, I feel worlds different. Someone took my picture! I can’t believe it! This is absolutely incredible! The excitement of being the focus of this magic technology fills my whole body and I feel so special, floating and smiling all day. I hug my mom as a new person who’s had their picture taken and can barely fall asleep that night in our bus wondering all about the picture. What will it look like? I cannot wait to see it. How will I ever be able to sleep or rest from the jittery excitement until I see it?

Eventually the man sends the picture to us. Wow, yep, that’s me! It’s really me, it’s really my picture! That’s the red checkered dress I was wearing, one of my favorite dresses! That’s the dirt road behind me! 1st Rd, across from our bus, where just me and no one else got their picture taken! Just me! The picture really worked! I can’t believe someone took my picture. It’s so stupendously wonderful and makes me feel so special, I will probably be happy forever.
My first picture portrait

My first picture portrait (picture of the picture).

(Note: I was trying to write stories in chronological order, but give up on that. It will all have to be edited into order later.)

Cat Food King

A mouthwatering buzz spread quickly through the 5 and under crowd of the Dogwood Blossom household. Archer scored some cat food.
Like everyone, I went to investigate to see if it was true. If he had really braved the massive feat of sneaking the off limit, delicious, little reddish x-shaped treats we weren’t suppose to touch or eat. Sure enough, sitting on the floor in the living room like a puffed up King, there he was already surrounded with a small but growing harem of hungry little vulture children.
I don’t want to suck up to him…but I’d really love some of that cat food, the thought of it’s tasty, tasty gourmet crunch is irresistible. So I sit down, close but not too close, I don’t want to be too desperate like the other little kids. I’ll hide my desperation for a piece of cat food by sitting a few kids away and not facing him directly. Just kinda here. By coincidence. Ho hum, doo dee doo.
God, I hope I get a piece.
The very first photo I've ever seen or found of DOGWOOD BLOSSOM. (Thank you, Jennifer!) THIS is the house! This is the house I'm writing about! These kids were older, I thought they were sooo big and old! :)

The very first photo I’ve ever seen or found of DOGWOOD BLOSSOM. (Thank you, Jennifer!) THIS is the house! This is the house I’m writing about! These kids were older, I thought they were sooo big and old!🙂

Cats come and go, in, out, on, around the house through the woods and neighborhood. They hiss and growl and screech and fight and are scary. I run away from the desperate, whiny, howling, wild fur monsters. The grownups put out margarine and nutritional yeast for them sometimes. Real cat food is a hard to get, extremely rare treat from the mythical outside world that you’re not suppose to mess around with, like toilet paper.
Glancing over toward the reigning Cat Food King, oh wow, he’s actually got a supply, not just a hastily grabbed handful of a few extremely limited pieces. He had a little baggie. With a twister seal. Plastic baggies were unheard of. Where did he get a baggie? Wow, no wonder he looked like he was basking in full heroic glory, levitating just a little above all of our humbly bowed heads. I wondered if his parents gave him the baggie. Where did he get it?
I hate getting in trouble, I hate getting spanked. I try very hard to be a good kid, so I don’t risk things like sneaking cat food myself. I kind of wish I had the nerve to be so bad, but I don’t. However, I will eat the cat food if supplied by a braver, naughtier kid.
We can’t make too much of a commotion or the grownups will notice that something is up.
Archer will have no power or attentive court of worshipers when the cat food is gone, so this will be a slow, drawn out process of hopefully getting a piece or two.
He frugally distributes a piece here and there to keep us doting in submission to him and his temporary but powerful cat food omnipotence.
He untwists the baggy, takes a piece out and slowly decides who to give it to. Everyone acts really, really nice to Archer the Cat food King hoping to be the lucky one. I try to act cool but in my mind I’m slobbering and drooling all over myself to savor that tasty crunch in my mouth. Why are the scary cats so lucky to have this food? Why are the scary cats luckier than us?
The cats may be scary, intimidating little beasts, but at least they have special treats for some reason, treats that we can secretly taste if we’re lucky and careful to not get caught.
Finally Archer decides to bestow a piece on me, oh joy! I glance around to make sure no grown ups are looking and then pop it in my mouth. It’s so delicious. It’s so crunchy. I really want another piece. We all do.
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Archer decides it’s too risky to continue his Catfood Congregation out in the open of the living room floor. He moves it to our secret hiding place that grownups and not even the bigger kids can access, only little ones. There are many benches and seats around the perimeter of the room, but one couch’s slight leaning angle against the wall makes our secret hiding place, we can slither back there behind it huddling in the darkness of the couch and do anything we want.
One by one, piece by piece the rest of the cat food is distributed by our leader in the tiny dark crevasse of the couch. We stay quiet with hushed whispers to not get caught by the giant grownups. There was enough that we all got several pieces. I still wanted to play it cool back there, but huddling behind the couch, obviously as desperate as the other kids, I’ve lost all dignity, but I don’t care. Cat food is worlds better than slimy, putrid oatmeal. I’m so happy to have eaten 3 or 4 pieces of forbidden, rare, precious cat food. So, so happy.

Snakes With Legs

Turning 5 is my ultimate life goal. No need to bother looking further into the future than big, huge, important number 5. It is such a sturdy, official sounding number. I will be significantly bigger and know so much more when I’m 5. I’ll be more important, a big kid. When people ask how old I am and I proudly say “FIVE”, people will know – I am really going places.
A plethora of extremely valuable wisdom will be downloaded from the universe directly into my brain right when I turn 5. It will be like a whole new world because I’ll be able to do all the things I can’t do now. Yep, when I’m 5. It’s going to be amazing. Probably the best thing ever.
 praying hippy kids
Behind the little household garden, behind the clothesline, behind Dogwood Blossom – our household down the path from our bus, is a graveyard. A pet graveyard. The other, more used side of the house has tiny, bumpy Dogwood Lane and a little yard and isn’t scary. This is the wild, scary side with rocks and tall weeds. Maybe every rock is a gravestone. Eeks! The bigger boys who live in the house tell me ghost stories and creepy things about it to make me scared. I don’t know what pets Dogwood Blossom has ever had besides the feral cats that make hideous noises, crawling on the roof, coming and going as they please. But I imagine there’s all kinds of animals buried there and it’s spooky so I don’t go back there by myself. When I’m 5 it won’t be a problem, I won’t be afraid of anything, but for now I’m still cautious.
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One day, playing alone, I summoned up the courage to tip toe past the pet graveyard to play in the woods. And I made it! I was in the woods all by myself! I am an explorer!  Poking around through the trees, I am careful not to go too far down the hill into the valley, but there is plenty to discover on the crest of the hill with the house still in sight. It’s so exciting searching around. I’m definitely going to find something marvelous. I lift up a big rock at the base of a tree and, oh my god! I knew it! I just knew I was going to make a fantastic, historical new discovery of epic proportions today that would change everything we thought we knew!
By bravely slinking through the graveyard and exploring the mysterious forest, looking for new discoveries and lifting up this rock, I did it – I discovered a miracle nestled into the dark damp dirt under this rock. I found snakes – with legs! A whole family of them! The mom was several inches long, shiny black with white spots. The babies looked exactly like her, except much smaller. And they all had legs! Incredible! I made the discovery of the century – snakes with legs! The mom snake looked at me with her babies huddling close. What should I do? This easily could be the greatest discovery ever made!
I carefully put the rock back over the snakes with legs and bursting with the most excitement I’d ever had, bolted for the house to let everyone know that snakes with legs had just been discovered. We would all celebrate from this day forth, the most amazing discovery ever made in the whole world, right behind our house! I can feel a blissful hysteria emanating from deep inside my stomach throughout my whole body, even my body cannot contain the thrill of being the first person to discover snakes with legs, the thrill is beaming out of every pore.
Finding my mother in the kitchen doing grownup things with other grownups, I squealed “Snakes with legs! I found snakes with legs!“. They look slightly amused but didn’t drop everything and come running? They didn’t understand. “SNAKES! WITH LEGS!” I screamed some more tugging at my moms skirt. She is way above my head, I come only part way up her leg so they don’t take me seriously but they will after they see these snakes with legs. They are really there! I really found real snakes with legs!
Snakes with legs! Snakes with legs!” I keep shrieking fervently until they acknowledge my need for someones attention to this most urgent, pressing matter.
A bigger person comes with me. On cloud nine, flipping up the rock by the tree, I show them my monumental discovery, the family of slimy little snakes with legs. For some illogical reason, they are not shocked beyond belief and dancing for joy around the woods ready to crown me as the Queen of Best New Discovery in all the land. They chuckle and tell me the creatures are salamanders.
Salamanders?
What? Clearly, these so called salamanders are funny little snakes with legs.
No, the big person assures me, they are not snakes at all, they are salamanders. As we leave the snakes with legs -salamanders- under their rock, making our way back up towards the house, my walk is a limp shuffle, my ecstatic excitement is replaced with lackluster disappointment that my great discovery isn’t so great after all.
But I can’t stop thinking about the snakes with legs, or salamanders, whatever they are called. The only thing on my mind as I fall asleep is the extraordinary slimy salamander family with their shiny deep dark black color and white spots. The mom and all her cute tiny babies cuddling in the dark wet dirt, etched into my memory forever. The snakes with legs.
I run to check on my new family the next day, I don’t even care about the pet graveyard.
Sadly, they are all gone. But I saw them. I saw them good. I’ll be able to confirm their curious existence for the rest of my life.
Photo from: NPS

Photo from: NPS

The Makeup Inquisition

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Playing on the ground by myself outside our old green bus, some older girls from the house and a posse of friends stomped up the smooth, well used dirt path that connects to 1st Road. I hum to myself, continuing to play knowing they will just pass me by as usual on their way to do important, cool, older girl things. But to my total surprise they stop and surround me. Oh wow, what do they want? With their arms folded, hands on their hips, in stances that only older girls can pull off with their above-it-all attitudes, they demanded to know if I’m wearing “makeup”. They want to know how I got it and where it is.
What were they talking about? I had no clue. My brain scrambles to pieces, what in the world is “makeup”? It must be something special from the mythical outside, fairy tale world that they somehow know about because they are so big and smart and awesome. Dumbfounded, I don’t know what to say. Stammering out nothing, I want to answer but I have no answer. Oh, how embarrassing, I don’t want them to know how clueless I am that I don’t even know what “makeup” is. I really don’t think I have any but they don’t believe me.
One of the girls steps up out of the group, holds my head and intently rubs my eyes. It hurts but I’m stupefied and scared so I don’t protest, I let her rub my eyes and face. After the forceful face rubbing, they are not satisfied but still determined to discover that I am indeed wearing makeup. As their frustration and anger builds because of their strange notion that I’m wearing this makeup they speak of, they think I am lying and hiding it from them and want me to just give it to them. I would give it to them but I honestly have no idea what they are talking about. Of course I’d love and would give anything to help them any way I can – to impress these older girls would be a dream come true, but I just play with rocks and sticks and dirt and live in this bus and if anyone had anything special, it would be them, not me.
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They will tell on me if I don’t give it to them, they will tell the grownups, they will tell my mom. Well that’s a pretty stupid idle threat, my mom already knows everything about me and everything I have. I’m just a little kid.
It’s not over, they really think I have makeup hidden somewhere and they want it.
I look up at them baffled as they debate loudly among themselves what to do. Soon they come up with a plan.
They force me to come with them to the outhouse sink to wash my face. I am their prisoner as they march me down the path, over the skinny, rocky road to the outhouse in the trees where we reach the little white sink attached to the outside of the wooden outhouse wall. Splashing myself with the cold water over and over as commanded, all the girls stand around, closely watching and inspecting my face until they’re finally convinced that I really do not have any makeup to confess of.
With my face dripping wet, still stunned, I watch the group of chattering, older girls walk away leaving me at the outhouse. The mysterious makeup inquisition is over. They are so big and cool. I wish I did have this thing called makeup to share with them.
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