Thunder clouds, chainsaws and TP

The Farm tractor clouds
I thought my mom was the best person in the world. She was the smartest and prettiest and bravest, I loved her more than anything. Walking down the road, with Sky on her back, when big luminous clouds rolled in crackling loud scary thunder, she wasn’t even scared! I was petrified that the thunder and lightning was going to kill us as I clung to her praying we could make it to our bus in time. But as the rain started falling on us, she just marched along with her head up happily humming like the booming thunder didn’t even phase her. My astonishment has no end to her incredible competence, she is so brave. I’m so glad I can cling to her hand. If she is not afraid then we must be okay. But what about the lightning? We weren’t safe without a lightning pole! All the houses had metal rod lightning poles sticking out of the ground right next to them so the lightning would hit the pole instead of the house.
Salad Bowl house tortilla flats house
I wondered how fun it would be to have raincoats and rubber rain boots like in story books. If I could stay nice and dry and have rubber on my feet, like the rubber tires on our bus that kept us safe from the lightening, maybe I wouldn’t be afraid and it would be really fun to be in scary rain. I cannot wait to get into our dry bus. I look up at my beautiful mother and cannot believe how amazing she is.
As the wind ferociously whips through trees and the water drops fall from the wild clouds, and the electricity in the air is frighteningly apparent, we stomp down 1st road and finally make it to our wonderful bus before the rain kills us. Oh, how I love our safe, cozy, dry, pretty bus.
storage bus
walking down a farm dirt road
We have the most beautiful candle holder in the world. Deborah had it from when she lived out in the real world and brought with her. It is metal with a heavy base growing into an intricately decorated stem protruding with metal petals to hold a single, thin candle. She teaches me how to melt the bottom of a new candle on the flame from the last bit of the old candle to then smash it on firmly in place. I love the wax drips. I love the elegant, gorgeous candle holder. How lucky we are to have such an amazing candle holder dribbled in so many colored layers of wax. Maybe when I grow up I will have a candle holder like this one.
farm creek
When we go to the creek we usually just go to the familiar spot down the hill from our house. Venturing further down the creek to where it gets bigger from joining up with more creeks, below the big meadow, was a harrowing adventure. We were with a huge group of people and I scamper crawl on my hands and feet across the slippery, wide creek fine but was so worried about my mom carrying Sky on her back. I was so worried she was going to slip and fall. Why is no one helping her cross? I want to help her but I am too little. I pray they make it across. I love my mom and brother so much. Please, please don’t slip and fall. She looks so worried, trying to balance on the slippery wobbly rocks, like she is not going to be able to cross. Then to my horror, she slips and falls. Oh no! My poor, poor mom and brother! Why was no one helping her, what is wrong with these idiots, couldn’t they see that she needed help? But Sky is okay and she is laughing sitting wet in the creek. It’s not funny. She shouldn’t do such dangerous stuff!
The creek in this area is deeper and faster and scarier than our familiar spot. There is a tiny dribble of a water fall and wet cliffs. It is so scary and so fun. I play and explore with the hordes of kids, staying in the fresh cold water til our lips are blue, shaking with uncontrollable shivers making our teeth chatter until the grownups make us get out.
at the creek on The Farm
Often, especially when fall is approaching, when I’m playing outside of our bus, I can hear chainsaws in the distance. I hate them. I hate the sound. It makes me sad. The distant depressing rumble changes in higher and lower tones of sickening despair. I’m not sure why I hate the sound or why it makes me sad, but it does. I can hear multiple chainsaws from different directions and I want them to stop. But they just keep going – ruuuummmm ruuummmm ruuuum. I know they are being used by hairy men cutting up logs with bits of sawdust flying everywhere.
early farm firewood farm firewood
The grownups talked about T.P. a lot. How we needed more T.P. Who had the precious T.P. How everyone needed to use the T.P. sparingly because there was never enough T.P. They got really worried and stressed out about T.P. T.P. was toilet paper, apparently worth more than gold. One time I was in the house. Upstairs had several rooms – a big large room to the right of the stairs and a few little weird cubby hole rooms to the left. An older girl, my sisters age was occupying one of these rooms and I was standing at the top of the stairs and could see her and some other kids hanging out. She was lounging, laid back like she was the coolest thing ever. Then she reached out and grabbed a whole role of T.P. I could not believe she had her own role of hallowed, sacred, coveted, rare T.P. And then, I could barely believe my eyes – she didn’t take a little off the big, fat role – she just blew her nose on the whole, entire role! And just kept talking to her friends so nonchalantly like T.P. didn’t even matter to her. Oh my god! Could she be any cooler? Nope. She must be the coolest person in the world to be able to blow her nose on an entire role of her own T.P. Wow. We only used T.P. for butt wiping in the outhouse, not for blowing our noses. My mom made us blow our noses in rags and hankies instead of using the precious T.P. I knew my mom would not approve of this excessively extravagant T.P. usage. Just wow. My mind was blown harder than any nose had ever been blown by anyone on anything.

The Very Breast Thing

 

I hadn’t nursed since I was a baby, when Sky was born, when we lived in a square green tent down the rocky dirt street, before we moved into our bus. But I had never forgotten about it. I remembered that it was the best thing in the entire world, the source of ultimate happiness. I remembered the priceless feeling of pure bliss and contentment snuggling up to my moms warm, soft body and her yummy, squishy boobies. I remembered that the best, safest, yummiest thing in the whole world was to have one tit in my mouth and the other in my hand, squishing it, feeling how soft and squishy it was while my eyes closed and my mouth sucked the warm delicious sweet mommy nectar out of that glorious, round, squishy dispenser of heaven, rendering me into a blob of serenity while nothing else mattered because it was the only thing I needed or wanted. If only I could suck on them again. I asked her all the time even though I knew the answer would be no.

Image

The milk wasn’t for me anymore, it was for my little brother. I had to drink out of stupid, cold, hard cups. Some people used bottles but Deborah despised bottles like they were evil baby destroyers of doom and took some kind of extreme delight in having her babies drink out of cups like grownups – especially out of this little silver cup with this little handle that had been our older sister’s baby cup or her baby cup or something. She just loved giving us drinks of water from that little silver, bent and dented old cup in our bus which stayed safe in our bus, not the house, because it was special.

 Deborah didn’t let me nurse anymore but sometimes while Sky nursed, I could snuggle up with them and snuggle with her wonderful, warm boobies.

I still grabbed them and squished them whenever I could. I loved them.

Sometimes I would sneak in surprise attack grabs to get in a quick squish of heaven and Deborah would laugh or squeal or scold me. It was becoming apparent that I was never going to get them back for myself the way it used to be. Perhaps, when I first had to give them up, I had thought maybe I was going to get them back someday. But it wasn’t happening. I was growing up, getting bigger and they were slipping away. She just had to let me nurse on them one more time. If I kept asking maybe a miracle would happen and she would let me, and then my life could be complete.

I asked and I asked. I knew she would say no and give me a drink from a cup but I would ask anyway. One night after she nursed Sky and put him to bed, I asked knowing what she would say, ready to go to bed as usual without nursing like I wished I could do again, but sticking to my routine of asking anyway. This time, I could barely believe my ears. She said I could nurse one more time if I counted the stars with her. Oh, thank you God! Finally! I knew I couldn’t count very high and was a little worried that wouldn’t be very much nursing. But, yes, yes, yes! Deal! I’ll take it! I was so happy, what a good deal! What a score! Count the stars for the best thing ever? Yes!

Me and Sky in our bus

Me and Sky in our bus

It was a warm summer night. We went out the bus doors, Deborah sat on the bus steps and I snuggled up in her lap. We looked at the sky framed by tree branches as the points of light quickly appeared one after another until soon the entire sky was filled with a thick uncountable layer of millions of twinkles…

My mom took her left breast out of the top of her shirt and let me nurse as I pretended to count stars. I think maybe I got to 3 before my brain said “Stars? What stars?” and my consciousness was gone into gaga land.

breastfeeding on the farm

Wild West Washing Machines

For a few years, before I slept flat like a normal person, the only way I liked to sleep was on my knees. With my butt in the air, resting my head on the bed with my thumb in my mouth. They tried to get me to sleep flat but this was the only way I felt comfortable falling asleep. I remember how cozy that position felt, how my body involuntarily just happily wiggled and snuggled into sleeping on my knees. Butt in air, thumb in mouth, rotating my feet around each other feeling their softness, was the magic combination I needed to be drugged into sleep world. My little bed in our bus was made out of pieces of 2×4 wood. I had a reoccurring dream almost every night of falling from my bed, falling falling into the darkness. Sometimes this dream would startle me awake. The dream would often happen right after falling asleep. Or at least it seemed.. but it also seemed quite a lot, that all night long had only been 2 seconds before I had to wake up in the morning.
I hated wearing plastic pants over my cloth diaper at night. Plastic pants were worse than getting pricked by diaper pins, they itched and made a red line around my waist and legs from the tight, unfriendly elastic boarders that didn’t always keep in the pee despite their grisly tightness.
“Coldy coldy coldy. Coldy coldy coldy” is what I chanted, especially if the fire had gone out, when I had to get out of bed and get clean with wet rags from the water in the silver pitcher on the woodstove then get dressed as I shivered and hugged myself jumping up and down on the dark strip of grooved lines running the length of the bus, the isle that school buses have.
While we used lanterns and candles, the main communal places were hooked up to DC power. Like The Laundromat. It was filled with lots of small washers and a few gigantic ones always washing away. You could get clothes from the pile of unclaimed clothes. Everyone dropped off and picked up their clothes in big bronto bags made from a mesh like fabric that were closed with bronto pins which looked like giant diaper pins. I got the impression that bronto pins were like a status item. It was cool to have coveted, useful bronto pins if you were a grownup.
Laundry didn’t get dried here, just washed, then you were suppose to take it home and hang it on a clothesline.
laundromat laundromat 2
The Laundromat was fun and scary. There’d be other kids to play with, kids I didn’t know from other households and neighborhoods. While my mom did laundry in the dark, noisy laundromat, it was fun to jump in the bags of clothes, the piles of bronto bags, on the wood pallets outside but mostly I played in the back.
bronto bags
Picking a compatible play partner at The Laundromat was dire. Some of these kids just wanted to hurt each other. It was a dangerous amusement park graveyard of old washers to climb into and get spun around in. Playing with kids who thought it was fun to spin other kids around too fast, too hard, too much was something I earnestly tried to avoid. There were also some see-saws. They were even scarier to play on with the mean crazy kids than in the machines. The mean crazy kids would go too fast, too hard and too high, purposely trying to cause harm and many kids got hurt. One after another, dropping off like flies from the wild west laundry machine jungle labyrinth, a barbaric but irresistible metallic beast in the grasses, with a cold see-saw heart. But it was too much fun to avoid all together. Finding a kid who didn’t want to hurt you or get hurt themselves, but just have some good fun was the best. So many kids, mostly boys of course, seemed to want to prove how cool and brave they were by see-sawing the hardest and highest and knocking each other off with bounces. Not me. I just wanted to have fun without getting hurt.
The horror I felt upon realizing I was see-sawing with a psycho maniac kid out for blood, made the fear of biting my tongue off, cracking my head open and death an imminent reality. If I survive this, I desperately wished holding on for dear life, I’ll just never get back on the stupid see-saw again. But, of course, I would. In some situations, “never” is only 5 minutes. Though, I could not understand why these horrible kids didn’t want to just play nice and safe. Sometimes a grownup would come out and yell and try to get things under control, usually to not much avail. A very special, trained in epic battle, warrior adult was needed to control these wild delirious lunatics, sky-high on washing machine spins and teeter tottering madness.
washing machine playground
It was such a relief to find another kid who shared my sentiments of wanting to stay intact. Then we could just see-saw our little hearts out, only pushing the boundaries of scary harm instead of going all the way over board like the sadistic maniac kids with an apparent death wish for everyone.
When I did find a compatible play partner to see-saw with, we sang and sang over and over “Teeter totter, milk and water. Wash your face in dirty water”. That was the song you were suppose to sing. All the kids sang it. Wash your face in dirty water? Oh yeah, it felt so nasty to say. So bad. So filthy and nasty, I loved it. Could I be any naughtier than singing a song about washing your face in dirty water? Nope. That was just so bad and naughty, I relished forming the words with my lips, belting it out over and over, feeling the awesome, ultimate dirty naughtiness roll off my tongue. With each chorus of the short teeter totter song, I looked forward to getting through the first part to say the super naughty part again.
Mostly we went to The Laundromat in the middle of the day but one time my mom was going up to The Laundromat in the evening. She asked if I wanted to come but I decided to stay at our bus. Perhaps I forgot I would have no light when it got dark because I do not light candles by myself. After she left, I decided what the hell was I thinking, of course I wanted to go with her. I figured I could run and catch up. I started up 1st Road hoping to catch up to her before reaching the main road. I had never been off 1st Road by myself before. As I neared the main road, running as fast as I could calling out “Deborah! Deborah!”, I started to panic as the sun was setting. I wanted my mom bad. Things turned into dark silhouettes. Each silhouette I saw, I prayed to God it was my mom. I got to the main road. Oh no, I am too little to walk on the main road by myself! I could go back now but she’s probably not too far ahead. I took the path in the grass beside the road, my feet padded the ground as I anxiously hurried ahead praying with all my might that each tree, each bush was my mom. “Deborah! Deborah! Wait! Wait! I’m coming! Deborah!” I saw a silhouette ahead, it has to be my mom. I ran anticipating the wonderful, safe feeling of finding her. But it was just a pole. A stupid, scary tall pole. I kept running. That must be her up ahead coming towards me – she must have heard me or decided to come back for me, thank god. I ran towards her, “Deborah!”. But then I saw it was a man. I tried to act normal, not let him see that something was horribly wrong, that I was horribly scared. Just walk normal, try to act like it’s normal that a little kid is out here by the main road by myself. I murmured “hi” as we passed. Phew, he didn’t stop and question me. I continue running toward the Laundromat along side the big fields. There is another pole silhouette, it’s darker now, I wish it was my mom. What if there’s something scary up there behind the pole? But it’s too late to turn around now, it’s already farther to go back to the bus instead of on to the Laundromat. I can see the Laundromat finally and I have to get off the path and walk on the road for a few moments before getting on another path directly connected to my paramount destination. I can’t believe what a fast walker she must be. I finally reach the Laundromat with welcoming electric light I’m not accustomed to and my humming mother, who is shocked to see me, out of breath and so happy and thankful to see her.
I can finally relax and know that the walk home in the dark won’t be super scary because I’ll be safe with my mom and we’ll look at all the stars.

Close Encounters of the Good Morning

The Farm

Our household was mostly filled with a large handful of married couples, most with about 4 or 5 kids ranging in ages. And a slightly revolving door of not as permanent household members shuffling through.

 There was a man named Martin and I didn’t know it, but I always called him Martian. No, they’d laugh, it’s Martin. Yes, that’s what I said, Martian. No, no, they’d laugh more, it’s Martin. Yes, that’s what I keep saying, Martian!

 There was a man in a wheelchair. I was astonished at his whole, skinny body contorted in a terrible way. They said he got Agent Orange in Vietnam. I wasn’t sure what that was but I knew it must have been very, very bad. I knew he got it in the jungle. I pictured him walking through the jungle, with lots of big green leaves and vines like in story books, imagining what he probably looked like as a normal man before he got Agent Orange..then I pictured the Agent Orange spraying out from the forest all over him in an orange misty powder and him falling to the ground to writhe around screaming in pain as it sizzled his skin. I didn’t know if that’s how it happened and I didn’t want to ask him. He was nice and I felt so sorry for him. And I felt bad for his family.

But I sure would love an amazing chair with wheels like that, then I could have all the fun in the world.

 There was a single man who stayed with us for a bit who I thought of more as a special “visitor” than one of us full time not-of-the-world people. He didn’t seem as old and scruffy as the other men; he seemed fresher, more groomed and refined, more gentle mannered, more bemused and mindful of his environment, including me. Like I could feel his eyes seeing me on a deeper level than just a dumb little kid. Which made me feel kind of squirmy and exposed, not hidden under my dumb little kid shield that so many adults automatically see around little kids. His inquisitive smile seemed to pierce the veil that kept grownups on a different level of socializing with random kids as they busied about too preoccupied or tired to take full notice of little people.

One morning, as I was leaving the house back to the bus from breakfast, he was coming to the house for breakfast. He didn’t live in the house either. As I started up the path, I knew we’d say hi to each other. Everyone says hi. But most grownups, it’s just a quick grunt of a hi with barely a look or no look at all as they continue on their way in a hurried, unbroken stride. As we approached each other on the path and I prepared to say the typical “hi” or “hello”, he actually really looked right at me, making true eye contact, and smiled and said something I was totally unprepared for; “Good Morning”.

 “Good morning“? I had never been confronted with “Good Morning” before. It sounded so formal and resplendent. What does it mean? It could mean so many things. Is it a question or a statement? What was I suppose to say? What is the response to “Good morning”? Should I just say just “hi” like we all normally do? But hi couldn’t be an appropriate response equal to the glory of “Good Morning”. Good morning compared to hi was like exotic song birds singing a symphony compared to the dullness of a dirty rock thudding against the ground. Do I say “Thank you”? No, what if that’s wrong?  Do I say “Good morning” too? My mind raced in a panic of not knowing how to respond to this elegant greeting. I could feel my face turning red and my eyes looking towards my feet as I stammered out the most amateur “Good morning” ever uttered. I arduously dug it out of some unknown place inside my chest underneath my frozen vocal chords. It felt strange and uncomfortable forcing my mouth to say it like I was a fraud trying to speak a language that was above me, but I felt it would be rude to not try. Unfortunately, I could not hide my intense discomfort at not knowing how to respond to his gracious, sophisticated acknowledgment of passing me on the path; it was painfully obvious. He chuckled, amused by my blundering. My voice must have cracked and squeaked under the pressure of trying to respond correctly. I survived the awkward, drawn out moment of this anomalous, historic morning passing and as I skipped up the path, relieved I had narrowly evaded a heart attack over someone saying “Good Morning” to me, and embarrassed at my ignorance; I basked in a feeling of shiny reverence that he thought so highly enough of me to direct this cultured, aristocratic terminology right at me.

Celeste

Little me – not sure who took this pic, maybe Grandparents visiting

 “Mom” and “Dad” was terminology that was beyond us too. Some of the older kids, like my sister, who had lived out in the far away real world before, sometimes still called their parents by Mom and Dad. On the rare, special occasions my sister would drop in for a quick visit, although she too called our mom by name, I sometimes heard her call our mom “Mom”. She sounded so comfortable and natural saying it, I wanted to call our mom “Mom” too, but I couldn’t. While I thought of her as my “mom”, I had to address her as “Deborah”. I fantasized about calling her Mom, just saying it so naturally like my sister did. Surely it would make us closer if I could call her Mom, specially bonded like she was with her oldest, favorite child who she praised like an angel and always told my brother and I that she wished we could be like. But I couldn’t call her Mom, even if I tried. I had always called her Deborah and trying to actually call her mom would be like trying to feed myself with my feet instead of my hands. My mind just silently envied in awe and drooled over the ease and genuine way my sister could verbally regard her as “Mom”. She was so, so lucky. Maybe someday, when I’m older and mature like my perfect, angelic, beautiful sister, then maybe I can learn how to say it – naturally, like it’s not even a big deal, and feel how warm and comfortable and satisfying it must be to call your mom, “Mom”. But for now, I still call her Deborah like I am suppose to, like I always have.

My Secret Salad Dressing Potion

 

I didn’t wonder what it would be like to sleep in a bed in a house anymore, I no longer cared – I liked our bus. The house was crowded and wasn’t as cozy as our own little bus – our safe little cave of metal covered in green paint peeling up in benign curls to hint of the yellow it once was. Most the other kids had a dad and a mom, some kids at other houses even had 2 dads and 2 moms. We were different in many ways, deviant of everyone else, but I loved our private bus and my single mom.

We ate household meals at a long, long wooden table with wooden benches granting enough room for the 5 or so families, and sometimes more random or temporary people, who lived at Dogwood Blossom.

Dinners in the house were much better because they weren’t repulsive oatmeal that made me gag every morning and every afternoon when we had cold, gloppy, leftover oatmeal for lunch. The feeling of the gloppy slime with the the course little line in the middle of the whole oats against the inside of my mouth was agonizingly hard to force through my mouth and down my throat. Every bite swallowed was an impossible accomplishment. Sometimes I would plead, beg, even cry in a desperate attempt to be spared from eating it, but I always had to eat it. If I really wanted to impress my mom and make her happy, I would summon every drop of will power within me to eat it all with a smile without complaining but it was so difficult, the bland taste of horrible slime and that little wretched middle line in the oat made me want to choke and vomit with every despicable bite. Everyone else pours lots of white sugar on their’s and all the kids are so happy gobbling it down. But I cannot have any sugar on my bowl of torture, because to my mom, sugar is the root of all evil only for making cakes on peoples birthdays.

So, dinner, I love. Oh wonderful, anything-but-oatmeal dinner!

Except if it was dumplings. I hated those too. Slimy balls of boiled dough just as gag worthy as oatmeal. How could anyone in their right mind want to eat such a thing? But I did like the word. Dumpling. Too bad such a fun word had to be the name of something so gross. Thank god we usually eat soybean tortilla’s instead of slime balls.

We went to the house to help make dinner a lot. It was usually the ladies who made dinner. Big pressure cooker pots of soybeans steaming for hours. They were scary. The little thing on top of the lid shaking away with a jet of hissing steam escaping from the lid, threatening to blow at any time. And did. Everything spraying everywhere, shooting all over the ceiling, the adults yelling and running around. Chaos that only a pressure cooker explosion could create.

A lot of tortilla’s had to be made for everyone. The flour dough would be in a big bowl with a wet towel over it and I’d help in the assembly line of turning it into lots of balls then smashing and rolling the balls flat for someone to heat up quickly on the stove till they bubbled a bit before they burned. Then they’d go under a wet towel to keep from drying out before getting devoured.

Sometimes we’d wait for one of the men to come home with a rare, precious vehicle and they’d hook the battery up to make light in the house. Everyone in the house was excitedly buoyant about it, all of us huddled in the dark waiting for the special, sensational light to illuminate the room and be met with gasps and cheers. I didn’t know how they did it and I couldn’t even see the awesome car outside because it was dark but I imagined it was really close to the house to somehow provide it’s special power to us. It was so fun and amazing to get magical lights turned on.

We were all so happy to eat soybean tortilla’s. Biting into the warm, delicious, soft little soybeans wrapped up in a freshly made tasty tortilla with nutritional yeast, a savory delicacy of yellow flakes that we could only have a little sprinkle of, was eating happiness. I wished we could eat happiness for breakfast too.

The little garden outside by the clothesline was mostly taken over by catnip, but we must have squeezed some kind of salad out of it sometimes.

One time while making dinner, someone lifted me up and put me on the counter and told me to make the salad dressing. They gave me a bottle and told me I could use any of the herbs and spices and things on the shelves to mix with oil. Then they just let me do it all by myself with no supervision even though I had never made salad dressing before. This is so cool! I’m like a scientist cook making a potion. This is so much better than making horse poop potions in the bushes. I’m going to use everything! I blissfully add a dash of this and some of that and shake it up and find some more stuff to add and just keep merrily adding and mixing until it’s time for dinner…

Then at dinner, I could barely believe the main conversation was how good the salad dressing was! All up and down the huge long table, everyone kept exclaiming how delicious it was and kept asking who made it. I was a little bashful but smiley about it. Wow, they all like my salad potion so much, I’ve never seen people like salad dressing, or anything at dinner, so much before!

The next thing I know, while my mom is holding me on her hip just outside of the house on our way to the bus, a house lady is shaking me, waking me up, and more ladies are running out of the house to stop my mom from continuing up the path. They all want to know what I put in the salad dressing. I just want to put my head on my moms shoulder and close my eyes but they all are dying to know how I made the salad dressing that everyone loved so much. I don’t know what to tell them – I don’t know what all that stuff was, I just mixed up everything I could find. They try and try to coerce the secret ingredients out of me, begging for answers, but finally my mom puts a stop to their frantic questioning and I fall back asleep in her arms as she carries me up the path in the dark to our bus. I had no idea I could make such amazing salad dressing. I am so happy everyone liked it and so relieved my mom finally saved me from the salad dressing interrogation which was scary but also, thrilling. Maybe I’m a natural born salad dressing wizard.

My Christmas Miracle

Every house had to chop wood for winter

The grownups seemed pretty happy about “Christmas” but Santa or Jesus were not characters we worshiped or fussed about too much. I think my mom told me that Santa was a “spirit”. If the grownups had a religion, it seems to me to be; “Have good vibes”, “don’t be into the juice” and smoke pot. Constantly, over and over and over on an every day basis, my mom said to me; “Treat everyone how you want to be treated”. I think that was our religion. She told me about karma and how everything you do comes back to you. And God was in everything, even rocks.

I saw the Christmas pictures my mom had from before when she lived out there in fairy tale real world with a plump, dazzling tree covered in amazing ornaments with piles of pretty boxed presents wrapped in beautiful paper. It looked so incredible I could barely believe it. I pestered her a lot, interrogating her about these Christmases and why I missed out on them and all those presents. I wondered what was in those beautiful, wrapped, perfect looking square boxes. I wondered why and how my sister had gotten so many presents. I was enamored with this one picture of her sitting under the unbelievable tree in a pretty nightgown in the middle of an overabundance of presents. How did they get that many presents? How was that possible!? Deborah was annoyed with me. Even as a little kid, I could tell she thought I was being shallow or materialistic or something. She’d roll her eyes and sigh heavily and snap at me sounding disgusted and annoyed saying “The presents weren’t all for us. They were for other people too”. So? We have like 50 people in our house and I’d never seen anything near close to presents on that scale and in that kind of pretty wrapping and a tree like that! I wanted to be there so bad.

Why wasn’t I there when Christmas was like THAT?

We had a tree in the house, a pine tree the grownups cut down from somewhere, but it wasn’t like the tree in the picture. It was bare and scraggly looking compared to that fat, juicy tree. And we didn’t have amazing ornaments. Our house was Dogwood Blossom, and hence the name, we had Dogwood trees which they picked the little, hard red berries from (that we weren’t suppose to eat – I tried, they tasted awful) to make berry chains for the tree. That was our tree decoration. I helped with a needle and thread but it was way too difficult. I tried and tried because I really wanted us to have a pretty tree and it was so exciting that they were letting me use a needle but the berries were so tiny and hard, it was almost unbearable. Endless, tedious, difficult labor of stringing hard, tiny berries would only yield the most pathetic, insignificant amount on the string. How the heck would I ever get enough on there to complete the whole string? Not only is it not worth all this work, it’s impossible! The popcorn was easier to pierce with the needle but how could I put popcorn on a string when I’d rather eat it because we barely ever get to eat something that good?

My only main memory of Christmas from the 4 years of living in a bus at Dogwood Blossom (from ages 3 to 7ish) was the year I went Christmas caroling. I must have been around 4-5ish. The whole house was in a buzz about going “Christmas caroling”. I found out that meant going to other houses and singing songs and they might give us treats! Oh my god, I had to go. My mom wasn’t going though, she was staying home with Sky. This was going to be scary without her, but, I still had to go. I’d be okay with the people from my house. It was mostly bigger people going. It got dark and my mom got me all dressed to go, even the horrible sock wrinkles couldn’t stop me. Our group of people walked across 1st Road to our neighbors house. I think the grownups had papers with the words to the songs. I think someone even gave me one. But I couldn’t read yet. And, crap! What am I even doing here? I don’t know these songs! I’ve never even heard them before! My favorite song is Beautiful Dreamer about mermaids. But I really wanted to sing with everyone. I can’t read and I don’t know the songs, how embarrassing, what am I going to do? What if people notice that I’m not singing and don’t know the words? I stood there amidst the legs, desperate to sing with everyone. Maybe I even prayed.

Then a Christmas miracle happened. A miracle I could hardly believe. This group of singing was like a wave – that I was a part of. All I had to do was open my mouth and let the words come out. I had no idea how it was happening but, somehow, it was happening and it was the most amazing thing I’d ever experienced in my life. I didn’t even know the words but they were just coming out of my mouth right along with everyone! I was riding the song wave, letting it sweep me up and carry me along. I couldn’t believe it! I was elated to no end in pure awe of this fantastic, mysterious dynamism that enabled me to sing songs I didn’t even know. Somehow, I had transcended not knowing. It was the most wonderful, thrilling phenomenon ever. I could barely contain myself and had to control my legs from jumping up and down in utter delight from feeling some kind of benevolent, all knowing power flow through me. I let the higher force take over my mouth and sang song after song that I didn’t know. I didn’t even have a clue what word was coming next, but they came out correctly every time! Oh my god, this is so much fun and way too amazing. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom.

After the people from the big house stood there smiling and listening to us sing, they did give us treats! I was afraid there might not be enough and they might not see me down here in the legs but there was and they did! They gave me a candy cane!!! Holy shit! This is the best night in my entire life!

If I had ever gotten a candy cane before, when I visited my Grandparents or something, I can’t remember. I don’t know if I’ve ever even had any unattainable, almost mythological candy that I only see in story books, at all before. How does this house have candy!? What kind of imperial people live here that they have candy to give us? My mom passionately despises sugar, she never lets us eat it, not even a sprinkle on disgusting oatmeal, she seems to think that candy and anything with sugar is vile – but this is a special night and this is my candy cane that I earned. I can’t believe how lucky I am. The candy cane is a miracle all by itself but the magic of song lyrics that I didn’t even know just flowing out of my mouth!? Wow! What was that!?

They might have kept going down the street to the other houses but I had to tell my mom about this. I run back to my bus holding tight to my candy cane, bursting with excitement to tell my mom all about what just happened. I try to explain but I don’t think she gets just how amazing what I’m telling her is. I tell lots of people over the years about it but no one really gets it or they don’t believe me. But I know it happened. It was just incredible, an ambrosial rapture of melodic channeling , it even out-shined obtaining the wondrous, story book candy cane by an unmeasurable long shot.

That was so mind blowing. I am so happy.

I’m sure I slept snug and cozy in my little bus bed with a gigantic smile all night that night which I then tucked into my heart to keep for forever to never forget the real, unexplainable magic I experienced that one miraculous Christmas.

Curse of the Abominable Sock Wrinkles

We had a silver pitcher that lived on top of our little woodstove in our bus. When it was too cold for outside bucket baths, we washed with rags using the hot water from the silver pitcher. My mom cherished that pitcher with it’s thick handle and elegant, curved mouth for pouring. It was like one of her prize possessions. It made her happy to provide us with a luxury like hot water up in our bus. And she loved rags. And hankies.
Once in a while we’d take baths in the house. The bathroom in Dogwood Blossom was large with a brick fireplace in the wall. To heat up water you had to make a fire in it outside of the house and wait for the water to heat. The bathroom was really only a bathroom with a bathtub in it. Swinging saloon shutter like doors were right in the middle of the door frame so it was not much privacy for bathing. Us young kids could see right under the little doors with the bathtub in a direct line of sight.
When I got to bathe in the house in the real bathtub after a grownup would make a fire to heat up water, I stayed in there as long as I possibly could until the water was freezing and I was wrinkled as a prune. I didn’t know what a prune was, but my mom told me I was wrinkely as one so I knew prunes must be really wrinkley. I still wanted to stay in, splashing around, emerged in all that glorious water, staring in wonderment at the bumpy wrinkles on my hands, but they made me get out.
Then I’d get my teeth brushed. My mother was a tooth brushing fanatic. She always told us about the invisible tiny bugs you can’t see that will eat food out of your teeth while you sleep and then go poop and pee on your teeth and rot them and the most important thing in the whole entire world, is to always brush your teeth every single night. I can’t remember what she usually brushed my teeth with but when we got toothpaste, it was a treat. A man would use his pocket knife to slice open a completely flattened tube of toothpaste while dozens of people stood around hoping to get a miniscule scraping of it’s rare, sweet insides.
We got clothes from the piles of old clothes that other people didn’t want anymore and would put on the side of the road. My mom was diligent in looking though those piles to keep my brother and I in clothes and shoes that fit and even more diligent keeping them clean. She washed them with a metal washboard outside of our bus while she sang. Then she’d hang them on the clothesline by the house. I can almost imagine her as the spitting image of Snow White with birds and bunnies flocking to help as she washed and hung clothes – bewitchingly beautiful with long, black hair, humming and singing while she worked, worked, worked with the savvy voice of a gifted songstress that few are blessed with. Then she’d grumble and hiss and complain about one of the house ladies who took our clothes off the line and dressed her kids in them. The kids who’s faces she would wash, noses she would blow and diapers she would change complaining how the parent wasn’t doing it. I liked watching her wash the really dirty face of this one little boy because it was amazing, like taking a mask off, seeing his smiling, cute face get all clean and pretty – she never let my face get that dirty or my nose get that runny. I didn’t understand her hatred for “filthiness” because the dirty boy seemed perfectly happy with a dirty face, I didn’t see how it was hurting him. She scrubbed our faces and blew our noses like it was religious doctrine. My brother and I weren’t allowed to sniffle like the other kids, we had to blow our noses. She seemed to take work more seriously than most people and did too much to the point of being quite grumpy about “coming home from working all day to find dirty kids and dirty dishes that someone else should have done” that she would then succumb to doing even though she was tired and it wasn’t her turn. She complained to me and Sky. We were her confidants.
In cold weather, she made me wear two layers of socks. I hated it. I begged to be spared from putting on two pairs but no, I had to wear two sock layers and I had to wear a hat. A sickening feeling would fill my gut, knowing that because of the terrible two saggy sock layer situation, the horrible wrinkles were coming. The foul wrinkles that I would have to walk on, stuck between the sole of my foot and the tight shoe. Once she imprisoned my feet into the shoes, there was no escaping. The abhorrent, detestable sock wrinkles were coming to torture me. I must devise a plan to be free of this detestable wrinkle curse.
I got dreamy eyed about the day I would tie my own shoes. Bigger kids who could tie their own shoes, wow, they are so cool. I absolutely cannot wait until I can tie my shoes, it’s going to be the greatest achievement ever. I indulge in fantasies, picturing me tying my shoes all by myself. When I can do that kind of magic, I am going to be so flippin’ cool. Tie shoes I must. Oh, exalted, unfathomable shoe tying ability – you will be mine!
One of the places I have to walk to with wrinkley socks is The Greenhouse when it’s too cold for Sunday Services to be in The Meditation Meadow. They do the same stuff as in the Meadow – close their eyes forever, then awesome OMing then sit and listen to Stephen talk and talk and talk about “vibes” and “energy” and “being into the juice” and who knows what – except, unlike the spacious open meadow, everyone is packed in shoulder to shoulder among the gravelly rows encased in glass. None of his words are much interest to me, he talks slow and methodically, it’s all pretty boring. He drones on about what it means to “be stoned with each other” and says stuff like “It’s far out, man” or “That’s really where it’s at”. And everyone chuckles. As I study all the engaged faces who don’t notice me looking at them, I secretly wish to myself that they would just OM some more. The OMing is so awesome. Far beyond boring words.

Grownups aren’t Gods

Image

It was probably at The Gate where I found adult comic books which I guess stunned me so much I can’t clearly remember where it was I actually found them, but I can extrapolate that it was probably The Gate where I would have been able to, first of all, have the opportunity to find something of this nature and second, to be in an environment enabling me to secretly look at them by myself without other kids around and while grownups were busy. A lot of my most naughtiest adventures were to be had at The Gate.

We had story books but we did not have comic books. So to discover them was wondrous, mmm, a crinkly papery cartoon format more intriguing than a regular word-ridden kids book, so much captivating visual stimulation packed into every inch, obligating your eyes to look at it’s irresistible, busy, exaggerated splendor. Picture galore, so cool!

I might have found these comics under one of the guest mattresses in the upstairs room which were totally bare except for a few mattresses on the floor for visitors…or maybe someone on the late night shift stashed them behind the couch or maybe it wasn’t even at The Gate at all, I have no idea, all I remember is that I sure did find them and sure did stare at them with big, speechless eyes. I knew they were naughty and not for kids but the pictures were so fun to look at all cartoony and bubbly and crazy. There were these silly hippie guy characters who smoked a lot of pot. And there was penises. Big bulging cartoon penises that made my eyes pop out of my head. Why was there penises the size of people? The hairy main characters even look like penises. Gee wiz, someone sure likes penises a lot.

 I didn’t tell anyone about looking at those and only saw them a few times…mostly I read kid books. My mom had several story books in our bus…she loved books and I think had given most of her collection to the school library upon moving here but still had a few big ones from when she was a girl that had lots of stories in them. And we had Little Golden Books. One time after my mom read me and this other girl a story about this bird that thought the sky was falling it gave us the idea that maybe if we ran up and down the path from my bus to the house acting super freaked out, screaming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” that maybe we could trick some people into thinking the sky really was falling. We knew it was going to be difficult because obviously, if you look at the sky, you can see that it is not falling. But, if we were able to freak out enough to the point where people believed that we ourselves really believed it, then we could get them to believe it too. If someone saw how serious we were, they wouldn’t even bother to look at the sky, they would just start freaking out with us! Ohhh, this is going to be so fun to trick someone! We are doing such a good job really freaking out about the sky falling. We are really screaming loud, someone is definitely going to believe us! Oh man, it’s going to be so funny. Someone passes by us, a grownup from the house. We are doing so great, flailing our arms around and everything. Why does he only look slightly amused? Can’t he see how serious we are? Ok, maybe if we run a little faster up and down the path and flail our arms a little harder and scream a little louder, they’ll believe us. We got this. Run, flail, scream – with everything we have, as hard as we can. People in the house will hear our totally convincing melodramatic alert that the sky is falling and come out out and freak out with us until they realize we tricked them really good.

 We try with all our might but no one believes us, darn it, this is so disappointing! What a loss for them! If only they would take us seriously and let their imaginations work enough to consider that we might be giving them a real warning, we could all have a jolly good laugh. Oh well, we give up. Boring adults.

 For a while I thought adults were Gods that knew everything. I looked up to all of them with so much awe, agape at their huge size with their heads almost in the sky, presuming big people had all the answers… but this conviction slowly became unraveled. During the process of disenchantment, many times I had thought perhaps the adults who had exhibited themselves to not be all knowing masters of life, were playing some sort of reverse mind game or were just pretending to be stupid for some sort of higher reason that I couldn’t yet fathom… but it was becoming regrettably apparent, even though they acted like they were always right and knew so much, that some of them were actually quite dumb, not Gods at all! Conceivably, even stupider than little kids like me who barely knew anything and had only been at this learning life puzzle for a couple of years! I can’t remember exactly what happened the first time it really hit me as a sad but undeniable revelation I had to accept, that some adults were indeed ignorant and lost, but I remember it was out at the water pump between the outhouse and the house with this random lady I didn’t even know. We had some sort of incident as she took the liberty to scold me, presumably for the sheer reason of domineering a little kid to feel some narcissistic control and power, in which it dawned on me that while grownups were suppose to have all the answers, this lady certainly did not! She is mean and rude and quite frankly, an idiot. I kind of felt sorry for her, dismayed that she was so blind and couldn’t see reality past her own nose even though she was a big grownup. Wow. Grownups aren’t Gods. How the heck am I suppose to learn everything if the big, tall grownup people who are suppose to know and teach me everything, don’t know everything!? Crap! And worse than not even knowing everything, they force their insane delusions on little kids!? Double crap! I was really counting on them to teach me everything, I had taken so much comfort in placing all my trust in these big, huge people that towered so high above me. I earnestly want to learn absolutely everything. What a set back! Are we seriously just floundering through life with no tangible all knowing bona fide grownup Gods to graciously guide us? Big people are just floundering too? Crap. Crap. Crap!

Yarking was better than OMing

At some point we started the tradition of yarking. Yarking was as good as OMing, even better because it wasn’t so serious; it was fun for everyone of all ages, with the same incredible, mesmerizing effect of intertwined voices becoming one.
A yark could break out at any time, like if someone saw something gross or hurt their finger chopping wood or something and yelled “yark”, a spontaneous yark session might start up, but usually it happened after dinner around dusk when everyone in the household would go outside to stand together and all simultaneously yell “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRKKK” at the top of our lungs, each person holding it as long as they could, just like an OM.
Then, after being satisfied with our strong, fantastic yark job, everyone would be quiet, attentively listening, with expectant, giddy faces, for the other yarks to start echoing around the different valleys from all the other houses. With perked ears, we’d soak in all the other yarks coming from numerous directions, becoming more delighted with every new yark that would join in the gleeful avocation. The close by yarks and the way far off distant yarks, every yark you could hear or barely hear, was an invisible yet priceless jewel of reciprocal gratification. A far reaching, profound testament of our collective attainment resounding through the hills.
After a brief interlude of listening to the incoming yarks, we’d yark back again. Everyone would take the biggest breath possible, tilt our heads up to the rest of the world and let another long, drawn out “YAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRK” sail out of our wide open mouths to twist and spiral together -all of the deep manly tones to the high, little kid tones and all the tones in between- formed into one illustrious entity of sound permeating the air, winding through the trees to find it’s way to the receptive ears of our fellow yarkers.
I absolutely loved standing there yarking, completely forgetting about everything else, absorbed into this group of people as we all become one consecrated yarking force, this is everyone at their best – no nonsense, just yarking, I love them all. I love everything. I’m so happy to be part of this bizarre, wonderful communion that I’m just one big smile, convinced that life doesn’t get any better than a good after dinner yark.

Ghosts at The Gate

Several times a boy, I think his name was Vernon, came over to our bus to get babysat. He was my age, we were the same size and he had hair just as blonde as mine. I thought he was my boyfriend. We took naps in the middle of the afternoon together in my bed wearing our diapers. He was always nice and fun, I adored him. I think we even held hands and whispered secrets. He must be my boyfriend because we look almost just like each other, he’s like a boy me!
(99% sure the boy on the far right is Vernon)
I can barely remember the huge, two story Visitors Tent up near The Store. I slightly recall the awe I felt from the green army canvas noisily slapping in the wind, making me want to hold my moms hand tighter and not get too near it. The outhouse in that area, next to a main path, was an opulent outhouse – it was made from concrete blocks instead of wood and actually painted, with a little white sink on the side and had private stalls with two separate doors, not shared stalls. But it was stinkier, with the poop piled high because more people used it. I only used it if I really had to because I felt like I was imposing on someone else’s first class outhouse and the poop mountain was so gross and intimidating.
Men with a big truck called “The Shitter” would come suck up the poop out of all the outhouses with a huge, fat tube, but I think they had trouble keeping up. Seeing The Shitter Truck go by was really exciting. The times it came to our neighborhood, all the kids would come running gathering around, like it was a big holiday event, to watch it suck the poop up. The Shitter is here! Yay!
shitter truck
The Gate was really far away from all the houses, way up past “The Pond” which was surrounded by trees that I suspected were way bigger than all the other trees because they had so much water to drink.
Being the main portal to the world outside, The Gate was very busy. There was an older gate, but this was the one everyone used now, no one used the old one anymore down by the distinguished white buildings where the grownups have important meetings and where The Bank Lady is. That gate was tiny and I couldn’t imagine how it could have handled all this serious gate action. While at The Gate, it was often like witnessing a parade, with long lines waiting to go in and out, an eccentric cast of all types of transportation apparatuses.
There always had to be people on Gate duty around the clock to record all the ins and outs, answer phone calls, talk to visitors, open and close the gate. When my mom worked there, she did not have time for me, she was always doing something so I kept myself busy. Sometimes there’d be other kids there and a place to play out in back of the gatehouse near a pretty outhouse that had a rainbow on it which made it one of my favorite outhouses. There were some special rooms that were always really clean which made me feel like I had to carefully creep through them. The kitchen was weird because it had no windows and was a more normal kitchen than our makeshift kitchens. The whole building was weird because it was made with bricks and had nice floors and windows and things, not like our makeshift houses… so being up there, ever so slightly brushing against the outside world, watching traffic and visitors, was peculiar and fascinating. There was a back room, it was narrow and long and I liked it because it was light and felt warm, not cold, dark and lonesome like the other rooms. But I didn’t get to go in there, the grownups would have meetings back there where they would laugh and smoke. They also liked to laugh in groups on the big porch.
When my mom would ask a driver of one of the many kinds of vehicles that came through – buses, vans, trucks, semi’s, cars, tractors, wagons – where they were going so she could jot it down in the log book, the one I remember, because I found it so amusing was, “Mount P”.  Mount Pee?  There was somewhere out there called Mount Pee? Too funny. Little did I know they were abbreviating a nearby town called Mt. Pleasant.
Sometimes I helped open and close the big metal gate when someone would need in or out, which we also liked to swing on. The nice grownups would let us get on it for a ride. I think I had to mop the floors in the special, weird rooms and special, weird kitchen. It had nice floors – contrasted to all the other house’s bare wood plywood floors with nails and cracks. I was relieved when I’d finally finish making sure I had dragged the wetness over every inch. Relieved that I could finally run away from those dark, empty, cold rooms that were even spookier than the upstairs attic-esque guestrooms. For some reason I thought The Gate was haunted.
Usually most grownups did not act very interested in what I had to say. They mostly just told me what to do and what not to do but one day at the gate I made friends with a visitor man. He was very interested in talking to me and wanted me to tell him stuff. While the other people were busy with other things; my mom working at the desk that lined the front windows, people talking on the porch, people going up and down the stairs, we sat on the couch talking about amazing things. I wouldn’t usually talk to a grownup like this but he acted like I was equal and what I had to say was truly important even though I was just a stupid little kid and he was a big, smart grownup; like we were real friends despite our massive age difference. The small couch was in the main room against the stairs, he sat reclining on the right side, I sat on the left side with my legs dangling and my hands in my lap. I told him about ghosts. I told him you couldn’t see them if you looked right at them but you could see them if you didn’t look right at them. He believed me. He said that was called “looking out of the corner of your eye”. Yes, I agreed. We looked out of the corner of our eyes. I think I saw a glob of light about the size of a person pass by! Yikes! I didn’t want to see the ghosts! But this was so provoking having such deep, stimulating banter with an adult who obviously not only liked, but respected me and my silly, childish wisdom. He was so nice, my friend.
When the bustle of the day would die down and the sky would start turning pink behind the trees, we would start the long, long walk home. I really hoped something would come by and give us a ride. But not until we passed by the neato pond with the gargantuan trees. We could stop there and get a drink from the water pump and I could relish this ethereal place for a few moments, staring at the dark pond under the trees, transfixed and enchanted by it’s watery secrets, mysteries that maybe the croaking frogs hiding in the grass had the answers to…
After passing the pond, we cross to the other side of the road to the little path in the grass hugging the fence of the horse pasture. Deborah likes to sing while we walk, she likes to sing all the time, she knows so many songs. If someone comes along this skinny path towards us, that I will have to shyly say hi to as we pass because everyone says hi, there won’t be enough room on this narrow path, who will move to the side? If it’s someone on a horse, we will, but if it’s someone else walking, who will it be? A person on a horse comes much faster and it’s over with quick, but another person walking; the process is slow, you can see them in the distance, making the agony of anticipating an awkward passing last and build…until you finally pass them and it really wasn’t bad at all. The passing actually went quite smoothly, even pleasant. Most people here are pretty nice.
We make our way around the horse pastures towards the important, superior white buildings and The Horse Barn. Hopefully we’ll get a ride before we get to  Band Land, The Laundromat and Motor Pool. If we don’t get a ride, we’ll definitely have a few more pass bys of other people walking. I must trot to keep up with my brisk mom. I wish I could ride in a baby backpack like my brother.