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Wednesday Worlds

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IMG_4036

If walls were everywhere.

When You’re Too Old For Bubble Suits

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This is a short excerpt from my second book; Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head, One girl’s true story.

Mama doesn’t love sewing but she’s pretty good at it, and on an enlisted man’s salary, is forced back to the sewing machine to make most of our clothes when we’re very young.

She makes several things we call ‘bubble suits’ which are basically onesies with elastic at the top of each leg and buttons at the top of each shoulder. You only had to undo one button to step into the suit, put one arm through the arm hole, then put your other arm in place and button that side.

There’s a pretty bubble suit with little yellow flowers on it that’s my favorite. I put it on one summer day and notice that it’s kind of tight, but I leave it on and go outside to play. Mama sees me a while later and scolds me to ‘go inside and change before that thing cuts you in half’.

I’m probably six or seven and too old to be wearing a bubble suit anyway, but it is a sad day because I know that I have just outgrown all the homemade ‘baby’ clothes Mama made for us.

Wednesday Worlds

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Walls

If brick walls were transparent.

Wednesday Worlds

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Brick Wall

If crumbling brick walls bloomed.

Wednesday Worlds

chachacha

If Chachacha’s bar lived behind Benbrook Stables

Caution! Wet Cement and Other Childhood Dangers

Vanessa Kindergarten 003

It was a sunny spring day in the U.P. (Upper Peninsula, Michigan). That doesn’t necessarily mean it was warm, but at least there weren’t several feet of snow piled on the sides of the road any longer. There were no snow pants, boots, hats, gloves and parkas to deal with. Gone (for another year) were the brutal blizzards, hours of snow shoveling, and the need for dads to put a heater under the hood of the car to keep the engine from freezing.

We lived about six blocks from the elementary school on Kincheloe Air Force Base. I was a toe-headed kindergartener and happy to be out of school for the day and walking home. My hands were free – Mrs. Mayo sent no “smiley face” papers home that day. In fact, it was a rare day when I was forced to carry anything more than myself home. This was before the days of heavy backpacks crammed full of books, papers and pencils – before hours of homework cut into evening T.V. watching time. This was kindergarten.

Girls were required to wear dresses. Mine was black and white plaid with a red bow at the white, Peter Pan collar. It had a pleated skirt that fell just above my knobby knees, and I was wearing a white cardigan with only the top button done. I can still see my little feet – white ankle socks inside new black Mary Jane’s. I have three sisters (two younger, who hadn’t started school yet – and one older, who got out of school later in the day) and I walked home alone. I guess there weren’t any other kindergarteners who lived nearby, because after I made the one turn onto Harper Street, I was the only kid around. But that was fine by me. Even at five, I liked my alone time.

Something kept me from noticing when the men began yelling at me – until it was too late.

I may have been counting my steps. Counting things becomes an integral part of my daily life – a way of dealing with stress. I couldn’t control much of what went on in our house, but I could control the counting. Or maybe I was daydreaming again about being an orphan who gets adopted by a mom and dad who don’t drink. These parents are rich and they have a brand new station wagon and they take their kids to Disneyland every summer.

“Hey you – get off of there.”

“Stop! Get off the sidewalk!”

“Can’t you see it’s still wet?”

The urgency of their words finally broke through and I suddenly became aware that I was in some kind of trouble. My heart raced, eyes wide, I stood still in a moment of panic. The same stance I take when I’m awakened in the dark of the night by Mama’s screams. Somehow I’d missed the orange cones blocking the way and had been inadvertently leaving little Mary Jane footprints in a stretch of newly repaired sidewalk. I was petrified that I had made a mistake. I was a good girl. I didn’t do bad things. I always did what I was told and tried to keep the peace. I believed that if I could be good enough, no one would get drunk, no one would fight, and no one would have to cry themselves to sleep, ever again.

But I had bigger troubles than just these men yelling at me. The seriousness of the situation became crystal clear when I looked down and saw the white cement creeping up the edges of my new shoes. Mama was going to bust my butt. She would surely use Daddy’s belt instead of her hand for ruining my new shoes. This could upset the delicate balance and turn the whole household upside down for days. I got off the sidewalk and ran as fast as my little legs would carry me.

I don’t know if those men came behind me and smoothed away my footprints or not. I don’t remember ever looking for them, or telling anyone that this ever happened – at least not for several decades. But I do remember rushing home, pulling off my shoes at the front door, and running up the stairs, my socked feet slipping on the smooth wood. I remember locking the bathroom door and turning on the faucet at the sink. I remember holding one shoe under the water at a time, scrubbing away the drying cement, holding my breath until the last of the evidence was washed down the drain. I remember being very careful not to let the water get inside the shoe because I knew it would stay wet for a while and that might give me away.

After using the hand towel to pat dry my now clean shoes, I exited the bathroom, walked across the hall into the bedroom I shared with my older sister, and placed my shoes in the closet. I’m sure this is when I was finally able to breathe normally again – to exhale and believe that I might have just avoided a disaster. Quickly, I changed into play clothes and went down to the basement where I joined my younger sisters in front of the black and white television just in time for a re-run of Lassie – where she too would save the day.

Breaking the Wishbone

Sixth Grade

“He sees you!” Beth yells from across the street.

Georgia squeals, leaps from her hiding place behind the panel wagon in Mr. Mann’s driveway and takes off running. All the kids in the neighborhood call him Misterman like its one word. Mrs. Misterman keeps the garden hose coiled on her front porch (in the shade so the water doesn’t get hot from the sun) and has Dixie cups on the railing for when the neighborhood kids get thirsty. Heart pounding, bare feet flying, Georgia can hear Steve’s footsteps and heavy breath closing in from behind. Stealing a quick glance over her shoulder to see if she’s going to make it back to home base in time, the blond of Steve’s shoulder-length hair catches the late afternoon light and the strangest thought occurs to her.

I WANT him to catch me. A foreign flutter of unnamed excitement bubbles in her belly. Georgia is the most competitive kid on the block. She hates to lose – has been winning at Hide and Chase War all summer. She can run faster than all the girls and most of the boys. She can throw a football with a perfect spiral, hit a baseball over the heads of the infielders and climb highest in all the neighboring trees. Losing is not part of her world, but here she is contemplating losing on purpose – and for what?

His touch.

She knows it without understanding why, that this is what she wants – to have him tackle her; for their bodies to tumble together in the warm grass, to squeal and laugh, to look into his golden brown eyes, study his full lips. Will I let him kiss me? A warmth spreads through her middle as she smiles and slows her run ever so slightly.

These are the last days of summer. Darkness swoops in earlier each day – beckoning the street lights, prompting mothers to step onto front porches, announcing dinner – even before the King of the World has been decided. Sixth grade looms like a dangerous promise for Beth, Georgia, and Steve, the Three Musketeers of Westhaven Drive. Junior High School! Books, lockers, a schedule of classes and teachers for every subject. The air crackles with change. They’ve outgrown the cubbies in Mrs. Mayo’s classroom, the Hank the Cow Dog books in the library, and the monkey bars on the elementary school playground.

“May I please be excused?” Georgia asks after having a second piece of fried chicken and eating all of her broccoli and mashed potatoes.

“Well, hang on just a minute, pumpkin,” Her mom says, patting Georgia’s hand that is already grabbing her plate and glass, ready to head to the kitchen. “Mom! you’re not supposed to call me that anymore,” Georgia whines, eyes rolling, exasperation mounting.

Ignoring the reprimand, her mom continues, “you know what happens on fried chicken night!”

Georgia relents and lets out a small smile when she sees the wishbone in her mom’s other hand. If it breaks in my favor, my wish will come true!

They each take hold of either end of the delicate bone, grasping gently with thumb and forefinger.

“Now close your eyes and make a wish!” her mom says.

Behind closed eyelids, Georgia wonders if her first kiss, in Misterman’s back yard less than an hour ago, was somehow visible, because she could still feel it.

“On three,” her mom says. “One. Two. Three!”

Snap.

Georgia opens her eyes and sees that, through the magic of the wishbone, she will start the new school year with Steve as her boyfriend.

“Yes!!!” she exclaims as she heads to the kitchen to start the dishes.

Sixth grade is going to be awesome!

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