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.
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.
It was probably at The Gate where I found adult comic books which I guess stunned me so much I can’t clearly remember where it was I actually found them, but I can extrapolate that it was probably The Gate where I would have been able to, first of all, have the opportunity to find something of this nature and second, to be in an environment enabling me to secretly look at them by myself without other kids around and while grownups were busy. A lot of my most naughtiest adventures were to be had at The Gate.
We had story books but we did not have comic books. So to discover them was wondrous, mmm, a crinkly papery cartoon format more intriguing than a regular word-ridden kids book, so much captivating visual stimulation packed into every inch, obligating your eyes to look at it’s irresistible, busy, exaggerated splendor. Picture galore, so cool!
I might have found these comics under one of the guest mattresses in the upstairs room which were totally bare except for a few mattresses on the floor for visitors…or maybe someone on the late night shift stashed them behind the couch or maybe it wasn’t even at The Gate at all, I have no idea, all I remember is that I sure did find them and sure did stare at them with big, speechless eyes. I knew they were naughty and not for kids but the pictures were so fun to look at all cartoony and bubbly and crazy. There were these silly hippie guy characters who smoked a lot of pot. And there was penises. Big bulging cartoon penises that made my eyes pop out of my head. Why was there penises the size of people? The hairy main characters even look like penises. Gee wiz, someone sure likes penises a lot.
I didn’t tell anyone about looking at those and only saw them a few times…mostly I read kid books. My mom had several story books in our bus…she loved books and I think had given most of her collection to the school library upon moving here but still had a few big ones from when she was a girl that had lots of stories in them. And we had Little Golden Books. One time after my mom read me and this other girl a story about this bird that thought the sky was falling it gave us the idea that maybe if we ran up and down the path from my bus to the house acting super freaked out, screaming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” that maybe we could trick some people into thinking the sky really was falling. We knew it was going to be difficult because obviously, if you look at the sky, you can see that it is not falling. But, if we were able to freak out enough to the point where people believed that we ourselves really believed it, then we could get them to believe it too. If someone saw how serious we were, they wouldn’t even bother to look at the sky, they would just start freaking out with us! Ohhh, this is going to be so fun to trick someone! We are doing such a good job really freaking out about the sky falling. We are really screaming loud, someone is definitely going to believe us! Oh man, it’s going to be so funny. Someone passes by us, a grownup from the house. We are doing so great, flailing our arms around and everything. Why does he only look slightly amused? Can’t he see how serious we are? Ok, maybe if we run a little faster up and down the path and flail our arms a little harder and scream a little louder, they’ll believe us. We got this. Run, flail, scream – with everything we have, as hard as we can. People in the house will hear our totally convincing melodramatic alert that the sky is falling and come out out and freak out with us until they realize we tricked them really good.
We try with all our might but no one believes us, darn it, this is so disappointing! What a loss for them! If only they would take us seriously and let their imaginations work enough to consider that we might be giving them a real warning, we could all have a jolly good laugh. Oh well, we give up. Boring adults.
For a while I thought adults were Gods that knew everything. I looked up to all of them with so much awe, agape at their huge size with their heads almost in the sky, presuming big people had all the answers… but this conviction slowly became unraveled. During the process of disenchantment, many times I had thought perhaps the adults who had exhibited themselves to not be all knowing masters of life, were playing some sort of reverse mind game or were just pretending to be stupid for some sort of higher reason that I couldn’t yet fathom… but it was becoming regrettably apparent, even though they acted like they were always right and knew so much, that some of them were actually quite dumb, not Gods at all! Conceivably, even stupider than little kids like me who barely knew anything and had only been at this learning life puzzle for a couple of years! I can’t remember exactly what happened the first time it really hit me as a sad but undeniable revelation I had to accept, that some adults were indeed ignorant and lost, but I remember it was out at the water pump between the outhouse and the house with this random lady I didn’t even know. We had some sort of incident as she took the liberty to scold me, presumably for the sheer reason of domineering a little kid to feel some narcissistic control and power, in which it dawned on me that while grownups were suppose to have all the answers, this lady certainly did not! She is mean and rude and quite frankly, an idiot. I kind of felt sorry for her, dismayed that she was so blind and couldn’t see reality past her own nose even though she was a big grownup. Wow. Grownups aren’t Gods. How the heck am I suppose to learn everything if the big, tall grownup people who are suppose to know and teach me everything, don’t know everything!? Crap! And worse than not even knowing everything, they force their insane delusions on little kids!? Double crap! I was really counting on them to teach me everything, I had taken so much comfort in placing all my trust in these big, huge people that towered so high above me. I earnestly want to learn absolutely everything. What a set back! Are we seriously just floundering through life with no tangible all knowing bona fide grownup Gods to graciously guide us? Big people are just floundering too? Crap. Crap. Crap!