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.

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).

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.