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

 

 

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.

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

Pieces of the Lost Treasure

The Farm

Everyone who lived here had to take a vow of poverty and give everything they had to the community. All money and possessions were communal. Some of the things we had in our bus were secret. Our peacock feather wasn’t secret but it should be, staring at it’s incredible beauty shining in the sunlight was one of my favorite things. My mom brought it from New York and we were so lucky she got to keep it. I hope we get to keep it always. Positioned in the bus windows above my bed, I wanted to look at it’s iridescent colors forever.

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Our peacock feather, me and Sky on my bed in our bus.

 

Deborah had other beautiful treasures I liked to look at. The illegal jewelry that she was suppose to have gotten rid of because you weren’t suppose to have fancy things like jewelry. But she still had some of her most special jewelry in a little box. Somehow I knew she felt kind of grumbly about “them” wanting her to get rid of her things that she really loved – like the earrings her good friend gave her. I was completely enthralled with these big silver diamond shapes with little bells. Some of the neatest things I’d ever seen. I loved taking them out and fantasizing about wearing them someday. My mom had pierced ears but she couldn’t wear them or people would see she still had them. We had to keep them hidden in this little box. I liked our secret treasure.

It was about a mile and a half -really, really far I thought- up the dusty dirt road to go give “The Bank Lady” any money I got from my grandparents in my birthday card. The bank lady sat at the special white building across the road from the horse barn. When I would get a card with paper in it my mom would get me dressed, put on my shoes, coat and hat, hand me my paper to carry and off we’d go. After our long march on this strange mission, I would stand in front of The Bank Lady, waiting for some other people to stop talking to her. She had long pretty, brown hair flowing over her shoulders. Then I’d hand her my paper from my Grandparents. The Bank Lady wrote something down and put it in a little metal box..
Toys were a scarce, precious commodity. Any plastic toy was rare and other-worldly. The sheer delight I felt when my grandparents sent me two Barbie dolls, one girl, one boy, was overwhelming. I had never seen barbie dolls before, no one had barbie dolls! It was the best thing ever! Little people to play with? And they could bend? And they were mine? I felt like shaking, shuddering, crying, calling out and parting the heavens for pure ecstatic joy. As I ran from our bus to the house I could glide and the whole world was smiling at me, everything was beautiful and shining and wonderful, the sunshine loved me, the wind was laughing with me, the leaves on the trees were dancing in celebration, I was floating on bubbles made from fairies -exquisite, fabulous barbie doll fairies- blowing me kisses. I was the happiest, luckiest girl in the entire world.
For about 1 day.
After dazzling all the house kids with my amazing dolls, spending a whole day in the house playing and sharing my incredible new dolls with the house kids, something very, very, very, very horrible happened.
On the 2nd day of being the luckiest girl in the world – where were my dolls? They were right here, where did they go? Desperately, I searched and searched everywhere, inside and out and asked everyone. No one knew. I just kept searching. They had to be somewhere. I had to find them. Searching and searching my heart was sinking and breaking that I could not find them. I would not give up until I found them. I would look everywhere. I just had to find the best thing that I had ever, and possibly would ever, own. Everyone watched me keep searching. They seemed to have a solemn look on their faces.
Then, finally, one of the adults stopped me from my austere, determined searching and looked me right in the face and said that Jeffrey, one of the older boys who liked to torment me, cut them up and threw them under the house. I was horrified.
But I could still get the pieces and maybe put them back together somehow!
I darted outside running to the place that had an opening under the house. It was dark and damp. I stuck my head under smelling the musty dankness, all senses acutely scanning for the dismembered body parts. As my eyes adjusted I didn’t see them anywhere. I kept looking. Then I saw something. A piece of the flesh colored rubber. I picked it up and looked at it. But, what in the world? Why was it so tiny? It shouldn’t be tiny. Cut up barbie dolls should be in large chunks like I imagined when the person told me they were cut up. But then I found another piece and then, oh for love of God, no, God!! Please no, God. Noooo! The tears gushed uncontrollably from my face as I picked up tiny piece after tiny piece. Hundreds of tiny pieces lay in the dark dirt completely shredded into nothing but specks of plastic unrecognizable of anything it had ever been. No, I wasn’t going to be able to put the pieces back together at all. My brand new, best present that I had ever gotten was dead and shredded and gone forever.

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.

Grownups aren’t Gods

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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!