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.

A Picture Worth a 1000 Wonders

Walking anywhere with my mom I hope we won’t spot any lambsquarter. If I see some and just stay quiet maybe she won’t notice. Because if she does notice, she’ll make me eat it. It’s light green slightly jagged leaves growing on a stalk have a shimmery powered look and I hate it’s taste. But Deborah loves for me to eat it, she says it’s so good for me. Her face lights up when we find some, “Oh, look! Lambsquarter! Eat the lambsquarter!”. Disgust wipes over my face but I have to do what she says so I pick the gross lambsquarter and force myself to eat it. It gets slightly slimy after chewing it and I really, really don’t like eating anything slimy, which is why oatmeal is my sworn enemy. At least lambsquarter is better than oatmeal.
When I’m outside without her, and I find lambsquarter, I rejoice at not having to eat it. “Haha, Lambsquarter, not this time!” I think to myself, relieved to escape it’s yuckiness. But sometimes I think how proud my mom would be if I ate it. And so I eat some. Then I run and tell her.
In our bus, when I say “I’m hungry”, Deborah always says “Well go outside and eat some plantain”. I don’t know when I ever didn’t know what plantain was. Blooming clusters of big, smooth, shiny green leaves close to the ground, growing in the sunshine. Soon tiring of plantain, it’s tough fiber making me thirsty, I go in the woods behind our bus to eat sassafras leaves that grow in the shade. They grow like tiny trees with sporadic big leaves in a variety of neat shapes. I love their neat shapes, and they taste good. Even though they get slightly slimy like lambsquarter, the taste makes up for it. So much better than lambsquarter or plantain. Sassafras tea is all the rage. The older boys dig up the roots to impress the grownups who make tasty, naturally sweet tea and a handful of broken sassafras sticks is a pretty cool thing to have and flaunt inside the house, they’re a yummy treat to chew on, especially when the older boys skin the bark off with their pocket knives.
Not my bus, just one of the countless buses  people lived in, tucked into the woods all over the place.

Not my bus, (ours didn’t have a cook stove), just one of the countless buses people lived in, tucked into the woods all over the place.

I know lots of good spots around our bus and 1st road now. A visitor with a camera came to Dogwood Blossom. Cameras were other worldly, I don’t know anyone here who has one. My mom says I can show him some stuff on 1st Rd for his pictures. I take him onto the road and we chat, I am not very shy because he is so nice, I like him, so words flow freely out of my mouth. I know he must be taking really important pictures with the black camera around his neck, because cameras are so rare and special. As we’re walking and chatting on the road, not too far from my bus, he says he wants to take my picture. My picture? Completely stunned, I don’t know what to do. No one has ever wanted to take my picture, I’ve never had my picture taken. We have some baby pictures of me, but those don’t count because I didn’t know I was getting my picture taken.
As a baby, in NY, before I can remember much. Memories kicked in soon when we moved to The Farm.

As a baby, in NY, before I can remember much. Memories kicked in soon when we moved to The Farm.

What do I do? I can barely breathe, this is so shocking and amazing. This is definitely the biggest deal that’s ever happened to me. What do you do to get your picture taken? How do I act? This is the most important thing I’ve ever done and I don’t want to ruin it but I’m not sure what I should do. I stop talking and just stand there and don’t do anything and he snaps my picture. It is over very fast, before I know it or can think too much harder about it. It didn’t hurt and I don’t feel too different. Actually, I feel worlds different. Someone took my picture! I can’t believe it! This is absolutely incredible! The excitement of being the focus of this magic technology fills my whole body and I feel so special, floating and smiling all day. I hug my mom as a new person who’s had their picture taken and can barely fall asleep that night in our bus wondering all about the picture. What will it look like? I cannot wait to see it. How will I ever be able to sleep or rest from the jittery excitement until I see it?

Eventually the man sends the picture to us. Wow, yep, that’s me! It’s really me, it’s really my picture! That’s the red checkered dress I was wearing, one of my favorite dresses! That’s the dirt road behind me! 1st Rd, across from our bus, where just me and no one else got their picture taken! Just me! The picture really worked! I can’t believe someone took my picture. It’s so stupendously wonderful and makes me feel so special, I will probably be happy forever.
My first picture portrait

My first picture portrait (picture of the picture).

(Note: I was trying to write stories in chronological order, but give up on that. It will all have to be edited into order later.)

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

The Makeup Inquisition

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Playing on the ground by myself outside our old green bus, some older girls from the house and a posse of friends stomped up the smooth, well used dirt path that connects to 1st Road. I hum to myself, continuing to play knowing they will just pass me by as usual on their way to do important, cool, older girl things. But to my total surprise they stop and surround me. Oh wow, what do they want? With their arms folded, hands on their hips, in stances that only older girls can pull off with their above-it-all attitudes, they demanded to know if I’m wearing “makeup”. They want to know how I got it and where it is.
What were they talking about? I had no clue. My brain scrambles to pieces, what in the world is “makeup”? It must be something special from the mythical outside, fairy tale world that they somehow know about because they are so big and smart and awesome. Dumbfounded, I don’t know what to say. Stammering out nothing, I want to answer but I have no answer. Oh, how embarrassing, I don’t want them to know how clueless I am that I don’t even know what “makeup” is. I really don’t think I have any but they don’t believe me.
One of the girls steps up out of the group, holds my head and intently rubs my eyes. It hurts but I’m stupefied and scared so I don’t protest, I let her rub my eyes and face. After the forceful face rubbing, they are not satisfied but still determined to discover that I am indeed wearing makeup. As their frustration and anger builds because of their strange notion that I’m wearing this makeup they speak of, they think I am lying and hiding it from them and want me to just give it to them. I would give it to them but I honestly have no idea what they are talking about. Of course I’d love and would give anything to help them any way I can – to impress these older girls would be a dream come true, but I just play with rocks and sticks and dirt and live in this bus and if anyone had anything special, it would be them, not me.
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They will tell on me if I don’t give it to them, they will tell the grownups, they will tell my mom. Well that’s a pretty stupid idle threat, my mom already knows everything about me and everything I have. I’m just a little kid.
It’s not over, they really think I have makeup hidden somewhere and they want it.
I look up at them baffled as they debate loudly among themselves what to do. Soon they come up with a plan.
They force me to come with them to the outhouse sink to wash my face. I am their prisoner as they march me down the path, over the skinny, rocky road to the outhouse in the trees where we reach the little white sink attached to the outside of the wooden outhouse wall. Splashing myself with the cold water over and over as commanded, all the girls stand around, closely watching and inspecting my face until they’re finally convinced that I really do not have any makeup to confess of.
With my face dripping wet, still stunned, I watch the group of chattering, older girls walk away leaving me at the outhouse. The mysterious makeup inquisition is over. They are so big and cool. I wish I did have this thing called makeup to share with them.
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If Wishes Were Band-aids

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

Meetings Everywhere & The Squaredance Skirt Creature

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

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.