"Surviving My Childhood" may not have been the very best title for that poem I wrote recently. It should have been "Surviving OUR Childhood", for whatever I endured, we endured, or oftentimes, I endured at their hands. By we, of course, I mean the other two and a half pairs of young'uns my parents created. I think it kinda worked out well they had us in pairs. (Interestingly enough most of us have had our kids in pairs too, just not as many pairs.) Even after our mom passed and Dad married the wicked witch, she had one of each, so we were still paired off. There were many occasions it was nice to have a partner to have your back.
I'm thinking of the time The First Nut (step-mom #1, just before the wicked witch and very short-lived) refused to serve dinner until someone told her where I was. My brothers, middle and older, had spent the day digging a giant hole in the garden a ways back of the farmhouse we were living in at the time. I note it was a ways back so you understand how the cries of a gullible 8-year-old girl could go unheard. I believed them when they told me they wanted me to stand in the hole just so they could find out how deep it was. I believed them when they told me they just wanted to see how much dirt they could fill in before I couldn't get out on my own. I believed them when they said they would get me out any time I wanted them to. And I believed them when they had packed the hole up to my neck and said they would be right back. Thankfully First Nut was sane enough to make them dig me up. Thankfully for my baby brother she never found his pile of discarded veggies behind the gas heater in the dinning room corner.
My baby brother was a source of many laughs himself. Once we were all riding in the station wagon, (One in a series of many we owned, it was the only kind of car that would hold us all.) and just happened to be driving past the North Carolina State Central Prison in Raleigh NC. Dad was getting irritated over our rowdiness in the way back (the iddy biddy seat that faces backward in the way back- where we three little ones sat) so he had to have been grateful for the opening my baby bro, a huge NC State fan who was just learning to read, provided when he saw the sign fly by and announced, "That's where I'm gonna go when I grow up!" meaning NC State university. Dad laughed as he answered, "If you don't straighten up you will."
It was always straighten up with Dad. If our grades dropped, "Straighten up." If a neighbor complained of our latest offense it was a stern "Straighten up." Cutting up at the table, fighting over a game, giggling in bed after lights out- "Straighten up." But Dad was an over-the-road truck driver for most of our childhood and about the worst the wicked witch could do to us was threaten, "I'm gonna call your Daddy's dispatcher!" We'd get a chance to talk to Dad. (Who I think realized she was a nut, but why things stayed the same is a whole other session on the couch) He liked getting to talk to us, but then he remembered to add "Straighten up" just before he hung up. So for the most part, we were on our own to get into whatever trouble we could find.
I once allowed the gang to talk me into doing a "knock-and-run" at a friend's house. Her Mom wouldn't allow her out to play so we decided to pester her by knocking on her door then running away. So, first of all she lived three houses down at the end of the court meaning she saw each of us frequently and knew us well. Second of all, she lived at the top of a steep, fairly long drive way. Third, the front of her house was walled with waist high bushes. So, I go creeping up the driveway while everyone who'd put me up to it stood a safe distance away at the bottom of the hill. I get up on the porch, where I can clearly see through the glass door, her mother sitting in a recliner with her back to me six feet from the door. She was watching TV. Not smart enough to back out now, I go ahead and ring the bell and as I watch her rise, quickly realize I'll never make it down that hill before she makes it to the door. I did the only thing I could think to do. I jumped down off the side of the porch into the bushes on the other side of the door. Where do you think she looked when she didn't see anyone directly in front of the door? That's right, to the side. "Kim honey, is that you? What'ch doin' down there for? Come on up on the porch honey. I told you she can't come out." Oh how they laughed as I walked down that hill…as they were coming out of hiding.
They laughed then, but I laugh now thinking of my brothers, the two oldest again, running down the hill of a fenced-in pasture next to our home in the mountains. They were running for a very good reason. They had just discovered that Dad's current female friend had been incorrect when she advised them there was no reason not to build a fort in the tree of that particular pasture, for she knew the owner and the cows were kept in a separate fenced in pasture on the other side of the mountain at that time of year. They had a neat little set-up in the tree, just big enough for the two of them. They had a few magazine pictures up there, some phone numbers, and a dollar she had given them so they could call her "if they ever needed somebody" (had a lot of faith in that relationship didn't she?). Well they were up there in their tree one evening when they heard the lowing of a bull getting closer and closer. I don't think I'd ever seen 'em run so fast as they did when they first realized the bull raging toward them from the distance was on the near side of the fence, not the far side as it should have been. They scatted down that tree, sprinted back to our side of the pasture, and were crawling under the fence to safety as the bull was discovering his new tree house. I'm sure that bull enjoyed that tree house for many years.
I say that, but I wouldn't really know. He lived there longer than we did. We moved a lot when I was a kid, a whole lot. Sometimes we lived in one place only a few months so it was hard to establish connections. This was most sadly evidenced one day in my sophomore year of high school. I had just started a new school one county over from where I had been and didn't know anyone, though happily most of the kids were friendly. Well this particular day, we were turning in a project for English class; I don't remember anymore what the assignment was, but I remember that someone had a tri-fold with pictures of each member of the class in the fourth grade. Everyone was excitedly gathered around it "remembering when" and I remember thinking there was no point in me going over because I wouldn't be a part of that time from their childhood class several years ago. Well I did eventually look at it and was dumbstruck to see a picture of me from many years back right up there with the others. I asked the kid where he'd got the pictures. He said from our elementary school yearbook. Excuse me what? No, you don't understand I'm new here, I used to go to school at this other place and before there, several other places, but not here at your place. Now it was his turn to be confused. "Don't you remember going to Blah-blah Elementary with us. We were in the fourth grade. You weren't there for long, but we remembered you." Oops.
Come to find out that was when we were in the farmhouse I liked so much. Guess I relate most of my childhood memories to the house we were living in at the time. The farmhouse was before the house with the half pipe skate ramp next door and after the house where my middle brother and I walked to school together. I learned a very important lesson about time one morning as we rushed to school. We were running late and he, three years older than me he was in charge, was trying to decide if we could stop for breakfast and still make it to class on time. He sent me to ask the crossing guard the time. Later at home, angry he had gotten in trouble for being late, he explained to me that "quarter till" means 15 minutes till the hour, not 25 as I had reported back to him that morning.
Yet even when we didn't always appreciate each other, we always loved each other. In my favorite memory we six are all standing on a blanket spread out on the floor. We younger two girls are the "dancers", my older sister is "lead singer", and the boys are drummer, guitar, and bass. Our band's only song: "Lean On Me." And we played our hearts out.