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.)

If Wishes Were Band-aids

I was on “the skinny kid list”. Kids on the skinny kid list were suppose to get extra food. I heard I had got a banana one time for being on the skinny kid list, but, I cannot remember that banana, though it must have been something spectacular as exotic food from the outside that did not come from our own fields was unheard of.
There was a girl, Rebecca, that lived down the hill who was also on the skinny kid list. We met one day when I was taking a bucket bath outside my bus and we became friends. She was kind of strange because she had a cross eye and lied a lot but I felt sorry for her because the other kids were mean to her so I played with her. We liked to sit in the backdoor of my bus with our feet dangling, pressing down on our upper legs as hard as we could to try to see who could make their legs look bigger. I was so impressed with the ladies who had big upper legs that had ripples and jiggled when they walked. It was so womanly and we wanted to have big legs too.
One day, while straining with all our might to make our legs big, insisting back and forth to one another that we had each just pushed hard enough on our own leg to make it bigger than the others leg -“Look how big my leg is!”, “No, look at my leg, it’s bigger!”, “Nuh-aw, mine is!”, we looked up and walking right by us, in shorts, was one of the ladies with big upper legs. Time stopped as we watched in awe her amazing legs shake with each pounding step. Wow. How powerful she must feel with legs like that.
The Farm commune
The lady with amazing, powerful legs was friends with my mom, they were both single moms, and lived in the house with her daughters, Rose and Summer. Rose was around my age and we played together a lot. She was pretty with dark hair and her eyes entranced and mind boggled me to no end. I really wanted to know why they were different than everyone else’s. “Why does her nose go over her eyes”? I asked the grownups. It was amazing. No one else had a face that their nose ever so slightly extended the tiniest bit over their eyes. I got in trouble for asking that question, I wasn’t suppose to talk about why or how her nose went over her eyes but I desperately wanted to know. I wanted to examine the phenomena closely. Why was everyone not astonished about this? Why did they act like her nose did not go over her eyes? “Why does her nose go over her eyes?”, I would plead only to be reprimanded with no answer. Years later I finally discovered that her father was Asian but at the time it was perplexing mystery. Why couldn’t someone just give me an answer? They made me feel bad for asking so I finally stopped inquiring about the extremely curious meeting of her eyes and nose to avoid getting in trouble and just secretly analyzed her special eyes wonderstruck, agonizingly imploring deep inside myself how and why they were different.
Somehow it didn’t occur to me be more sympathetic about not making such a big deal about her eyes, as I myself was startled when people would make a big deal about my eyes, finicky about their color, undecided if they were blue or green, often changing and switching, sometimes one eye blue and one eye green. That’s when people would freak out. Strangers, especially visiting grandma’s, would grab me by the shoulders excitedly exclaiming and yelling “Look at her eyes!”
Deborah told me it was also because I had long, dark lashes that contrasted against my wispy blonde hair.
I climbed up on the old, still intact drivers seat by my moms bed to look at my eyes in the bus mirror. What were they freaking out about? My eyes were totally normal, two different colors was nothing as biologically intriguing as eyes that are a different shape – that’s what we all should be marveling over!
My friend with the eyes I wasn’t suppose to mention had an older sister, Summer. My sister did not live with us so it was Summer who taught me how to skip and tie my shoes. I painfully lusted after the glee the older girls must be having watching them skip around like care free skip masters.  One day, up the very rocky, bumpy Dogwood Lane towards 1st Road, Summer taught us little girls how to skip. It was hard at  first but we finally got the correct stride and were freed from boring old walking and regular running. We wanted to skip everywhere.
Skipping gave us new and improved confidence and powers. Now we had the gumption to skip up Dogwood Lane and be know it all snotties to the meany neighborhood boys across the street who had somehow always seemed to have the upper hand before. But now we could skip and we had a sure fire way to prove that we were smarter than them when we were yelling insults back and forth arguing who was smarter and better, boys or girls. All we had to do was say “Oh yeah? Well, what letter does Celeste’s name start with?” Though none of us could spell my whole name we all knew that oddly enough, it started with a C, not an S. The boys would yell back “S!” and we would all laugh at their naive stupidity, so content and happy that our little trick worked like a charm every time.
A pleasing sense of pride would wash over me with a smile that my name was our main secret weapon to slay the boys in the battle of wits. Deborah said she picked the name Celeste and my father picked Melody and they fought about which name should go first. She did not want people to call me Mel. “Celeste Melody!” she would say sharply when she was mad and about to count to 3.
The best thing about getting hurt was possibly getting an incredible band-aid if there was any. Having a special band-aid sticker was so cool. Something clean out of a rarefied packaged wrapper, something from the outside world, something that wasn’t horse poop, something that was just for you. They smelled peculiar and had lots of tiny perfect holes. If another kid was lucky enough to scrape themselves bloody and get an amazing band-aid, envy could not be helped. If only I could get hurt too so I could bask in the glory of an extraordinary plastic band-aid. Any kid with a marvelous band-aid displayed it proudly and kept the flesh colored plastic treat on as long as possible for the rest of us to admire and pine over. It was a sad day when your tiny morsel of sticky delight, the only thing that made you special, would finally loose it’s stickiness, unable to cling any longer no matter how hard you smushed it down praying for the artificial slither of awesomeness to stay on. Who knows when you’d be so blessed to get another one instead of a plantain leaf.
baby  sink bath on The Farm
One day Rose and I decided to skip down to the Sunhouse right down the hill. The path was packed smooth dirt except for one small, scary rocky part where we both fell down and scraped our elbow. We both scraped the same elbow! We both cried and went back in to Dogwood Blossom explaining what had detoured us from our visit to the Sunhouse. They fixed us up and we were on way again, happily skipping down the path once more, certain that the rocky slope would not stop us this time. But suddenly we both tripped again! And we both scraped our other elbow! The same other elbow!
Once again, we repeated the process of going back, getting fixed up, hurt but quite amused that we had scraped the same elbows at the same times.
Skipping down the path for a third time, thinking how we’ll tell our friends at the Sunhouse how utterly crazy it was that we fell down two times and scraped the exact same elbows each time, the rocks conquered us, again! This time we both scraped the same knee! It was so scary falling and it hurt so much but this synchronized falling and maiming was so ridiculously funny. Again, we hobbled back to the house to get fixed up, more amazed each time, and finally, set out for a forth time convinced that of course we wouldn’t fall again. Strangely enough, this time we both fell again and scraped the other same knee. Laying in the rocks crying in pain, all four joints, elbows and knees officially scraped, our minds were blown. Although this may have been the best band-aid heaven ever, the harmonized falls and matching scrapes were just too incredibly unprecedented and magical. It was our best story for a long time that we told in pure awe and bewilderment, about this experience of absurdly coincidental skipping accidents, and we had the scars to prove it.
farm ride
(Note: I was trying to write this without naming names but realized that no names would be detrimental to the thread of the story telling…so names beyond my own family, I am slightly changing though still trying to keep the essence of the name).

Meetings Everywhere & The Squaredance Skirt Creature

The grownups liked to have meetings. Everywhere. At the gate, at the house, at the barn, at the white offices, everywhere we went, there was meetings.
They would sit in a big circle to talk and pass around doobies. They loved smoking doobies and talking. Us kids would play or sit quietly. If I sat in the circle the grownup next to me might not notice I was a kid and pass me the doobie then I would pass it to the next grownup. Kids were not allowed to smoke. They would hold it with their thumb and finger and suck, suck, suck it in and hold it then blow the smoke out. My mom would hold it in really deep and really long to not waste any. She would close her eyes while she sucked it in and then if she talked while holding it, she sounded funny. The grownups got happy and nice when they smoked. They called it “Uncle Roy”. “Have you seen Uncle Roy”? “We’re going to hang out with Uncle Roy”. They also called “10:13”. 10:13 meant it was time to hang out with Uncle Roy.
Most meetings were pretty boring, I wondered how the grownups could stand to be so boring. Some of them talked slow and drawn out, extra boring. They had meetings about stuff that we needed, stuff that needed to be done and a lot of meetings to talk about someone in particular. People they thought didn’t have “good vibes” or who were being “into the juice”. They wanted to talk to them and tell them what they were doing wrong until the person “copped”. They wanted everyone to cop. “Hey man, you really need to cop to being into the juice, man. Like, that ain’t cool, ya dig, man?”, a grownup would say slowly, and partially out of their nose it sounded like. I wondered why so many people talked partially out of their noses, as if they were holding their breath when they talked and were pushing some of the vocal sound through their nose. Was that the cool way to talk to show you were “tuned in” while telling people to stop being into the juice or while saying what Stephen thinks? Nose talking was annoying, I didn’t “dig” it’s “vibe”, it was bland and dry and boring and annoying and judgmental sounding. Blah blah blah it sounded like.
They had a big meeting about my mom once that she didn’t like at all. About how she was into the juice for using big words. I heard about it for years, her saying; “and then I laughed and said “he averted his eyes”. That was the phrase she spoke that spawned a meeting to be called to tell her she was into the juice for speaking with words like “averted”. They wanted her to sound more like them with the slow, droned out, stony sayings and words like “ain’t”. Deborah hated the word “ain’t” as much as she hated chewing gum and sucking your snot instead of blowing your nose. Everyone said “ain’t”, it was hard not to say it because it seemed like such a normal word used by everyone, but Deborah corrected me every time. Putting my “me’s’ and I’s in the correct places, unlike everyone else, was also extremely important to her.
I think she was very upset and crying in our bus after finding out that people didn’t like her using “big” words, she loved words and had gone to college for English and we had a hardcover Highlights that she had a story published in when she lived in New York about a dog she helped raise and train to be a service dog. I think she was a mixture of sad and mad. She was spittin’ mad that they didn’t like it that she saved her sugar rations and wouldn’t share them after everyone had used theirs. She couldn’t believe they didn’t see what a great thing it was that she hid hers and wouldn’t let them have it so she could save the day when someone needed a birthday cake.
It must have been a long meeting, because I don’t think she ever copped.
But we also had fun meetings, party meetings. The grownups liked to square dance. I didn’t know why they called it square dancing because they always went in circles, not squares.ImageImage
They started having square dance parties at our house. The grownups would get really excited about it. Neighborhood people would come over and they’d move the dinner table off to the side to dance and dance on the bare plywood floor around in a big, fast circle. I stayed pressed up against the wall to not get trampled, in awe of their lively festivities. They went so fast stomping and spinning and skipping around in a big circle and they were so happy! This one lady from down the street wore a long skirt that blew out when she spun. From my viewpoint, sitting on the floor pressed against the wall, each time she passed me, I could see under her skirt. I could see all her hair at the top of her legs. I couldn’t believe she had so much hair. Each time she came by, it was still there, shocking me with it’s dark bushy character, like it was it’s own hairy entity, yelling “BOO!” with every pass impelling my eyeballs to spring forth staring agape at the incredible monstrosity, the creature made of hair under the skirt.