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.
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?
(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.)
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.
“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.
For a little while a girl my age and her dad lived at Dogwood Blossom. She didn’t have a mom kind of like I didn’t have a dad and we liked to play together. Her dad was really, really tall and nice. He would play with the kids and lift the brave, bigger kids into the rafters of the house which only he could do because he was so tall. But it wasn’t like the man who would put me on the roof. This was fun and the kids were laughing.
The girl had a grandma that lived really close by, right near the commune. I had never spent the night anywhere away from my mom and brother before but this girl and I were such good friends that they took me to spend the night one night at her grandma’s. This was one of the only times I’d ever been “off the farm” and although it wasn’t far at all, it was still another world. There was a swing set which was so amazingly fabulous. I’d never played on a nice, real swing set before and we got to play on it as much as we wanted, just the two of us, without sharing with dozens of other kids. It was an afternoon in heaven.
Then we went inside and they fed me turkey. Oh, it’s like tofu except I get to have a huge, honkin’ thick piece instead of a thin little slice of barely anything. And there’s so much of it. And they’re telling me I can have more and letting me eat as much as I want! Having so much food for only a few people was the exact opposite of our house! At our house anything yummy was carefully rationed out in tiny amounts among dozens and dozens of hungry people. The only thing we got large amounts of was disgusting stuff like oatmeal. This is marvelous.
Out on the porch, near the door that we used to run in and out of to the swing set, is a refrigerator and next to it is a enormous turkey bigger than me! It is so big it won’t go in the refrigerator – it is half the size of the refrigerator. I’m amazed at how big this stuff we’re eating is, that they tell me is called turkey. It is a big, smooth, weird thing. They also have two smaller ones. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about this food, turkey! What an amazing discovery.
After we eat, my friends dad gets us ready for bed in another room and puts on our diapers. I had never had a man put on my diaper before. Laying there in this strange room with no pants on and a big man towering over me being the one to put on my diaper was like a dark cloud of doom had just rolled in and was putting a shadow of horror over everything making me utterly repulsed and sick to my stomach, in complete despair for my nice, pretty mom. This fun heaven was now a scary nightmare. I didn’t want him to put on my diaper. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I wanted home. Right now. As he put my diaper on I burst into a desperate fit of crying my brains out like I had never done before. My friend was surprised and concerned at my hysteria looking like she wished she could help me feel better. But there was nothing she could do for me. I couldn’t say anything to her because all I could do was cry in a dire need to be home so badly. I had never felt this horrible before. They tried to console me but I just kept crying for home. I wanted to explain but I couldn’t talk, I could only cry.
I cannot remember if I slept there or if they took me home.
Maybe this was the time or maybe it was another time around that age (these early memory flashes are hard to precisely timeline) when my mom carried me from our bus over to another bus in the neighborhood because I was so sick. Normally, as I wasn’t a baby anymore, she would not carry me that far but I was so sick I couldn’t walk and was all floppy and was just crying and crying. She plucked me out of my bed in our bus where I was laying sick and kind of scurried over there. I cried the whole way. I had never felt this weird. Everything looked weird. She carried me into one of the buses in a small conglomeration of buses along the road where a clinic kind of medical lady lived.
Her and my mom were super worried and frantic to take my temperature. I was ill on a phenomenal level of illness. I couldn’t stop crying long enough for them to put the thermometer in my mouth. They decided to do it in my butt. The lady had a son about my age who was standing there watching the whole thing with wide eyes. How embarrassing! I wanted to say no, please do not take the temperature in my butt in front of him! But I couldn’t talk, I could only scream, my whole body was taken over by some kind of madness and they quickly flipped me over and took my temperature in my butt. It was wretched. I didn’t think I could scream any harder…until they stuck my butthole with that cold little glass stick. Right in front of that boy.
I guess I told my mom about the turkey discovery…because I remember she wasn’t happy about it, she was very mad for a long time that they fed me turkey. Apparently, I had never eaten something called meat before and it had made me sick. I didn’t know what that was but I knew I had had a crazy, fantastical adventure that I’d never forget -with turkey- to tell the other kids about, a wild tale from the other side.