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.
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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.

Grownups aren’t Gods

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It was probably at The Gate where I found adult comic books which I guess stunned me so much I can’t clearly remember where it was I actually found them, but I can extrapolate that it was probably The Gate where I would have been able to, first of all, have the opportunity to find something of this nature and second, to be in an environment enabling me to secretly look at them by myself without other kids around and while grownups were busy. A lot of my most naughtiest adventures were to be had at The Gate.

We had story books but we did not have comic books. So to discover them was wondrous, mmm, a crinkly papery cartoon format more intriguing than a regular word-ridden kids book, so much captivating visual stimulation packed into every inch, obligating your eyes to look at it’s irresistible, busy, exaggerated splendor. Picture galore, so cool!

I might have found these comics under one of the guest mattresses in the upstairs room which were totally bare except for a few mattresses on the floor for visitors…or maybe someone on the late night shift stashed them behind the couch or maybe it wasn’t even at The Gate at all, I have no idea, all I remember is that I sure did find them and sure did stare at them with big, speechless eyes. I knew they were naughty and not for kids but the pictures were so fun to look at all cartoony and bubbly and crazy. There were these silly hippie guy characters who smoked a lot of pot. And there was penises. Big bulging cartoon penises that made my eyes pop out of my head. Why was there penises the size of people? The hairy main characters even look like penises. Gee wiz, someone sure likes penises a lot.

 I didn’t tell anyone about looking at those and only saw them a few times…mostly I read kid books. My mom had several story books in our bus…she loved books and I think had given most of her collection to the school library upon moving here but still had a few big ones from when she was a girl that had lots of stories in them. And we had Little Golden Books. One time after my mom read me and this other girl a story about this bird that thought the sky was falling it gave us the idea that maybe if we ran up and down the path from my bus to the house acting super freaked out, screaming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” that maybe we could trick some people into thinking the sky really was falling. We knew it was going to be difficult because obviously, if you look at the sky, you can see that it is not falling. But, if we were able to freak out enough to the point where people believed that we ourselves really believed it, then we could get them to believe it too. If someone saw how serious we were, they wouldn’t even bother to look at the sky, they would just start freaking out with us! Ohhh, this is going to be so fun to trick someone! We are doing such a good job really freaking out about the sky falling. We are really screaming loud, someone is definitely going to believe us! Oh man, it’s going to be so funny. Someone passes by us, a grownup from the house. We are doing so great, flailing our arms around and everything. Why does he only look slightly amused? Can’t he see how serious we are? Ok, maybe if we run a little faster up and down the path and flail our arms a little harder and scream a little louder, they’ll believe us. We got this. Run, flail, scream – with everything we have, as hard as we can. People in the house will hear our totally convincing melodramatic alert that the sky is falling and come out out and freak out with us until they realize we tricked them really good.

 We try with all our might but no one believes us, darn it, this is so disappointing! What a loss for them! If only they would take us seriously and let their imaginations work enough to consider that we might be giving them a real warning, we could all have a jolly good laugh. Oh well, we give up. Boring adults.

 For a while I thought adults were Gods that knew everything. I looked up to all of them with so much awe, agape at their huge size with their heads almost in the sky, presuming big people had all the answers… but this conviction slowly became unraveled. During the process of disenchantment, many times I had thought perhaps the adults who had exhibited themselves to not be all knowing masters of life, were playing some sort of reverse mind game or were just pretending to be stupid for some sort of higher reason that I couldn’t yet fathom… but it was becoming regrettably apparent, even though they acted like they were always right and knew so much, that some of them were actually quite dumb, not Gods at all! Conceivably, even stupider than little kids like me who barely knew anything and had only been at this learning life puzzle for a couple of years! I can’t remember exactly what happened the first time it really hit me as a sad but undeniable revelation I had to accept, that some adults were indeed ignorant and lost, but I remember it was out at the water pump between the outhouse and the house with this random lady I didn’t even know. We had some sort of incident as she took the liberty to scold me, presumably for the sheer reason of domineering a little kid to feel some narcissistic control and power, in which it dawned on me that while grownups were suppose to have all the answers, this lady certainly did not! She is mean and rude and quite frankly, an idiot. I kind of felt sorry for her, dismayed that she was so blind and couldn’t see reality past her own nose even though she was a big grownup. Wow. Grownups aren’t Gods. How the heck am I suppose to learn everything if the big, tall grownup people who are suppose to know and teach me everything, don’t know everything!? Crap! And worse than not even knowing everything, they force their insane delusions on little kids!? Double crap! I was really counting on them to teach me everything, I had taken so much comfort in placing all my trust in these big, huge people that towered so high above me. I earnestly want to learn absolutely everything. What a set back! Are we seriously just floundering through life with no tangible all knowing bona fide grownup Gods to graciously guide us? Big people are just floundering too? Crap. Crap. Crap!