Sorry for the missed updates yesterday and today; I’ve been laying around at home, sick with nausea, a sore throat and fever. Make-up word counts coming soon!
Sorry for the missed updates yesterday and today; I’ve been laying around at home, sick with nausea, a sore throat and fever. Make-up word counts coming soon!
While it’s drawing to a close on here, I’m realizing that this writing endeavor is going to exceed the 50k word count by thousands. I’m still debating as to whether or not I’ll be continuing with daily goals and daily blog updates of progress beyond the 30th, but until then:
Tonight’s update gives the reader a little bit of insight as to what it was like for my family when Bobby got clingy with our grandparents and I stayed at home with my mom. It’s a short entry, because I spent a good portion of the day out shopping with all of the other crazies. The good news: the weekend is just now beginning! Hope you all have a great one. Until tomorrow…
In the New Port Richey home, we lived about 45 minutes away from where Grammy and Grampy lived in Clearwater, but that didn’t stop mom from driving us over to visit them at least two or three times a week. Bob and I would lounge on Grampy’s big, king-sized bed and watch TV in his room while mom sat out in the living room with grand dad. Mom’s supervision offered Grammy a break; sometimes she’d nap with the free time, and sometimes she’d go outside for a walk, but most of the time, she either work on cleaning the house or sit in the living room with grand dad and mom. She loved visiting with her daughter.
“Lucy, the gas is getting expensive,” dad mentioned at our house one evening. He sounded annoyed.
“So?” She answered absentmindedly from the computer. Riah was laying on the floor beside her; Dre was pacing around the livingroom. Dre was our new dog — our second dog. He was a Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute mix: black and white, super skinny, with a fluffy tail and sky blue eyes.
“Can’t they come visit us over here sometimes?” Dad continued, dropping some ice cubes into a glass and shaking it so they settled. He made the same drink every day after work: 3/4s orange juice, 1/4 lemonade, lots of ice. It was a juicy cocktail sort of thing – no alcohol in it. Dad had been clean ever since Bobby’s cancer; he made a vow to quit smoking, drinking, gambling and other things if God would save his son. Bobby beat the cancer; dad gave up the substances.
“You know my mom can’t drive,” my mom replied irritably. “Besides, I don’t just go over there for me; I go over there for Grammy’s sake, for Rose’s sake, and especially for Bobby’s sake.”
Bobby was over at Grammy’s right now, spending the night. Mom and Grammy took turns with him, since he took a lot of attention, a lot of patience, and loved Grammy and Grampy like his second set of parents. They returned the affection.
“Whatever,” my dad waved his hand in the air and disappeared into his bedroom, the wooden door slamming behind him. My mom sighed.
I had been sitting on the couch, listening to them and reading a book about an alligator keychain that was submersed into water and became a real, living alligator.
“Hey mom?” I ventured.
“Can I spend the night at Grammy’s too?”
My mom turned away from the computer to look at me. “Well sure,” she said quickly, “on the weekends.” She rose from her chair and walked over to the couch, taking a seat next to me. “During the week you need to be here at the house so you can go to school everyday, but I’m sure Grammy would love to have you on the weekends.” I smiled and she smiled back, but she looked kind of sad.
“Besides,” she added lightly, “I can’t have both of my babies away from me at once!”
She smiled at me and leaned forward to grab the remote.
“Is Rugrats on?” She asked brightly.
“Probably not,” I said, squinting my eyes. “It’s too late; Rugrats comes on during the day.”
“Well do you want to see what kind of movies are on?”
I nodded enthusiastically and we spent the evening on the couch together, watching a rerun of some kids movie, such as Dr. Dolittle, Beethoven, or Beauty and the Beast.
“I like being at home with you and dad, mom,” I whispered quietly during a commercial break. I couldn’t understand why, but I had spent the last few minutes feeling guilty for asking to spend the night away from home.
“Oh, I know you do, sweetie!” My mom reassured me.
She put her arm around me and I could feel that things were better now.
Short entry tonight: how I earned the name “gullible Rose.”
While we lived in the dumpy little house on Elmstreet, hanging out outside took up the free time that was left to me after school. When I wasn’t playing football with Kenny and the boys or browsing through my Pokemon collection at Noel’s place, I was standing out in the yard or on the porch that belonged to a little old lady. Her name was Evelyn, and she lived in a house on the street behind my house, but I usually just referred to her as the “little old lady.” The little old lady Evelyn loved chatting with me, and she also loved bringing a box onto the porch that contained all of her preciously old jewelry. She encouraged me to take whatever I wanted; to this day, I still have a golden pendant that the little old lady handed to me on one warm, Florida afternoon with a smile.
Noel would accompany me to Evelyn’s house sometimes; we’d walk the short distance from my house to hers or we’d ride just hop onto our bikes and ride there. Once we arrived, it was typical for us climb her big Oak tree and break dead branches off from it, tossing them to the ground and sticking them into big, black trash bags. Evelyn would sit watching us from her porch; smiling, looking from us to the occasional car that sped past her row of houses.
“I see one there,” she’d prod us, pointing with her finger and squinting her eyes.
We’d follow with our eyes and it was always rewarding when I could pinpoint which dead branch she had her attention on. It was a job we did for free; Evelyn liked keeping her tree looking nice and young but she was too old to do it herself. Plus, our young, adrenaline-propelled bodies enjoyed letting off the energy that made us tap our feet, twiddle our thumbs and kick our legs around. It was also just fun work.
One day, when the job took longer than usual and we had worked up a sweat, we watched as the little old lady rose from her chair and disappeared into the house. She returned a few minutes later, clutching her pocketbook and motioning us forward with her hand.
We lowered ourselves from the tree and walked across the lush, green lawn, coming to a stop on the first and second steps to her porch.
“You two worked so hard today,” she commended us, smiling, “so I wanted to give you this.”
She produced a five dollar bill and held it out, still smiling.
Noel fidgeted a little. “Five isn’t very much for us to share,” she said bluntly.
My mouth dropped a little. I stood there, speechless, sticking my hands into my pants, awkwardly. The little old lady pursed her lips and nodded. “Very well,” she responded quietly, “I want to be fair to you girls.” She replaced the five dollar bill into the clutch and pulled out a ten instead.
“Is this more fair?” She asked Noel honestly.
“Yeah,” Noel agreed, taking the ten dollar bill from her, stuffing it into her back pocket and smiling. I smiled weakly and thanked Evelyn for being so kind. We tied off the black trash bags and set them by the edge of the road, about a foot or so away from her mailbox. We waved goodbye, mounted our bikes and peddled off. When we were just a few yards away from my house, Noel looked over at me suddenly.
“Hey,” she said nervously, “I think I lost the ten.”
“What?” I responded. “I’m sure you didn’t… you put it into your back pocket, right?”
She paused in the road, straddling the bike between her legs and setting her feet on the ground. I watched as she reached her hand behind her and felt in her back pocket for the ten dollar bill.
“No,” she reported with a worried expression, “it isn’t there!”
We retraced our steps. We returned to the little old lady’s house and searched the porch, the yard, the grass by the mailbox and trash bags… nothing. We pushed our bikes along the path we had ridden on moments before and found nothing but a few empty coke cans and one single penny. The money was gone.
“I’m really sorry,” Noel made a frown.
“No, it’s okay,” I said quickly. “The money wasn’t important anyways.” I smiled.
Noel nodded and started looking kind of strange; uncomfortable.
“Hey listen,” she cut in quickly, “I’ve gotta go home.” She raised one of her feet to where it was resting on a pedal and secured her grip on the bike’s handlebars. “I forgot about some homework thing I have to do.”
I nodded understandingly and waved goodbye as she pedaled away.
I mentioned the unfortunate happening to my mom once I had gotten home and she apologized. “That’s a bummer,” she said sympathetically, making a sad face as she poured a blue box of Kraft macaroni noodles into a boiling pot of water. I guessed that Bobby must have requested macaroni and cheese for dinner that night; one of the few meals he really enjoyed.
Years later, it occurred to me that Noel probably hadn’t lost the ten dollar bill at all; she probably just thought that ten each would have been more fair than five, and unfortunately, we had only been given a single ten. My gullible self just believed her when she said that it was gone.
Happy day before Thanksgiving, everybody! Enjoy the food and time off of work (hopefully you’ll get to enjoy atleast a little of it). Tonight’s entry: more of our stay in NPR, Florida. Football, fights, and a little bit of criminal activity.
“One-missippi two-missipi threemississippi fourmissipifivemisipee!”
I rushed forward and chased the boy who was holding the football.
”I’m open,” Kenny yelled. The acne faced, skinny teenaged boy heard Kenny and threw the ball to him. Kenny, who was shirtless, jumped off of the ground and stretched his hands into the air. He caught the ball and fell back onto the ground. His sneakers slammed against the concrete as his athletic body bolted down the gravel street. “Touchdownnn!” a guy on his team bellowed as Kenny reached the 5th mailbox boundary line. Kenny turned around, grinning widely. Sweat glistened on his chest, streamed down his legs and dripped from his forehead. He slammed the ball down into the road, wiped the sweat from his brow and hollered. He saw me and smiled. I smiled back. I liked Kenny; at the time, I thought that he was pretty much the coolest guy ever.
Kenny was the middle-aged fun guy who lived on the same block as me. All the kids, including myself, loved him. Parents seemed to like him, too. He’d walk outside with his football every day, just as it was getting late in the afternoon, and slowly but surely, all of the neighborhood kids would slip out of their houses and meet him in the middle of the street, directly in front of my house. A game of touch football ensued and it usually lasted until sundown, when moms would call from porch steps that dinner was ready and the younger kids, whose curfew was the street light coming on, would rush themselves home. My mom said that she didn’t think it was very safe for me to be playing outside with the big boys who threw the football around for hours, but dad said that it was good for me; that I was strong enough to handle them.
“Just let her do it, Lucy,” he griped at her one day when I had been banned from going outside. I had spent the entire afternoon watching the game from the window. Sulking.
“The exercise is good for her and they love our Rosie,” he appealed to her, gesturing towards me. “They look out for her. They know she’s small.”
An exaggerated sigh. “Whatever Rose,” my mom gave in wearily. “Go ahead. Go play.”
I ran out from the house as fast as my legs could carry me, beaming and feeling the life and joy just surge through me.
”Can I jump in?” I asked Kenny eagerly as I reached the edge of my yard. It was mid game, and looking back on it now, the gang probably enjoyed playing rough and tough and not having to worry about watching out for a little girl, but Kenny was just a really nice guy.
”YOU BET you can!” Kenny hollered back at me. He was already gripping the ball between his fingers – his fingernails were digging into its white lacing – and it looked like his team was on the offense.
“Can I be on your team, Kenny?” I tried my best to sound casual about it, but I know the request came out as hopeful.
“Duh,” he rolled his eyes at me and smiled.
I fell into my position at his left and rushed forward on the word “hike,” caught up in the bolstering excitement and energy all around me. People were yelling “I’m open,” and I was, too; I didn’t always get the ball thrown to me, and I didn’t usually catch the ball when it was thrown to me, but I loved being a part of the group. I loved playing the game. And when my team was on defense, I was always chosen to be the counter on account of how fast I could talk. I felt important… useful.
Quickly after moving into the neighborhood, I became friends with a girl who lived down the street; her name was Noel. She was older than me by at least four years, but she took a liking to me for some reason. I’d walk over to her house in the afternoons and on the weekends and we’d collected Pokemon cards together. I had a big, blue binder that I kept all of mine in and she had a binder for hers, too. One of my favorite things to do with my allowance was to spend it on buying new packs of cards from the gas station my parents usually stopped at. One day after school, Noel and I decided to walk up to the gas station together and get into some mischief. She wasn’t a very good influence to be around.
“You just distract the guy and I’ll grab the cards,” she briefed me on the way. I nodded silently as we neared the front door. I gulped. I had already spent my monthly allowance and Noel didn’t have any money either, but we wanted a new deck of cards so badly. They were about five bucks a pack, and you never knew what you’d find inside; maybe some precious, valuable card you had been pursuing for months… maybe a bunch of stupid cards you already had multiples of. You just never knew.
“Just play it cool,” Noel instructed me.
“Duh… of course!” I said confidently.
I walked down the candy aisle casually, eyeing the blow pops and little blue packets of Oreos. I knew I was supposed to go distract the cashier any minute now, and I was formulating a plan as to how. Ask him to help you find something, I coached myself. Or… or ask where the restroom is; that’s it! Ask him to show you where the restroom is.
Just as I had decided that I was ready to go perform my duty, Noel walked up beside me. “Didn’t find anything you wanted?” she asked rather loudly.
“Um… no,” I responded slowly, feeling confused.
”Okay, then let’s go.”
She began walking out and I followed her, still very confused.
After we had moved about ten yards away from the gas station, she squealed. “We did it!” she cried, and started laughing. My eyes widened as she pulled a shiny, colorful pack of Pokemon cards out from underneath her shirt.
“You got them?” I asked, amazed.
“Well duh,” she rolled her eyes and smirked.
There weren’t any amazing cards in that pack that I can recall; what I do remember is feeling guilty about the incident about 6 or so years after it had occurred. I remembered my part in the act and told my mom about it. It caused a bad feeling I couldn’t push away, so I had mom send a check to the gas station for roughly the amount of a pack of Pokemon cards. We mailed it but didn’t bother to include an explanation; it was just a check for five dollars and something cents. And thus, the universe was put into balance… once again.
Noel and I had a few sleepovers together and we tried building a tree house out in the front of my yard once. The project never went any further than a single wooden board being nailed at an awkward angle on one of the sturdier, easy to reach branches. We got along fairly well; she was bossy, I tried to be passive… but my mouth always found a way of getting me into very messy situations.
Noel and I were arguing about a petty situation one day; I can’t remember the details of it, what she said, or how long it took us to be okay afterwards. What I do remember and will never forget is what I said and what happened to me a split second after I said it.
Noel made some kind of snooty remark, something to bother, offend or aggravate me; all I knew about Noel, besides her age and poor grades in school, was that she lived at home with her mom; she didn’t know where her father was. So that became my ammunition.
”Yeah?” I looked up at Noel angrily. “Well at least I have a DAD.”
I had my arms folded and I stood there with my head held high for a second; that’ll teach her.
Then, I felt it; a crushing blow to the stomach. I remember opening my eyes and seeing gravel; lifting my gaze and seeing Noel’s blonde hair swaying from side to side as she ran home. I hobbled into the house, still bent over, and gasping for air.
Dad was watching TV when I walked into the house. He bolted up from the recliner as soon as he saw me all bent out of shape.
“What’s wrong?” He asked quickly.
“I.. I ca…can’t…breathe…” I managed to reply.
Mom and dad sat me down and stood in front of me, looking bewilder. I whispered the name “Noel” and dad started pacing he was so angry.
“I knew you shouldn’t be hanging out with that rascal,” dad fumed. “You are always worrying about Kenny and those football kids,” dad pointed at my mom. “THEY aren’t the ones to worry about. It’s that stupid girl.” He kept pacing, shaking his head and glaring at mom.
“This isn’t MY fault,” she said irritably.
They continued arguing while I cradled my stomach in complete and total misery.
“Rose,” dad asked me suddenly, “why did she punch you?”
When I told them why, they were speechless. Dad’s pacing stopped immediately. Mom’s face grew blank. She blinked a few times.
“Well no wonder,” dad said quietly.
Today is the 66% completion marker, and I’m less than five thousand words away from the 50k goal. Happiness abounds! In tonight’s entry, our family settles back into the Sunshine State and I encounter some interesting experiences at, and on the way to, school.
Our new house in Florida was kind of a drag.
It was dark and musty with low-lying ceilings and very few windows. The carpet was stained in shades of orange and yellow, the bathroom grout was black and dirty looking, and all of the ceiling fans spinned in a dangerous looking fashion. The only nice thing about the place was its proximity to the nearby elementary school; okay, and the big, climbable tree out in the front. Wherever our family moved, I always took note of the trees. But everything else about the house was lousy.
I resumed the 2nd grade at a school called Fox Hollow Elementary, falling into the academic care of a certain Mrs. Duncan, a chubby, short woman who liked wearing maroon red dress pants and loosely button oxford shirts. Her shoes were soft and walked around the room quietly; her voice was cheery and her lessons were enjoyable. I remember the 2nd grade, primarily, for three reasons.
First of all, it was in the first grade that I realized I was a math whiz. I understood math. I loved it. I would walk up to Mrs. Duncan in the afternoons, after the final bell had rung and class had been dismissed, and ask for extra math sheets to take home with me.
“And what do you want these for, Miss Amber?” she’d softly, trying to hide her smile.
“Oh, just for practice,” I’d respond simply. “It’s fun.”
Mrs. Duncan kept a colorful chart in the back of the room and put stickers of varying colors on it, all of them symbolizing different levels of accomplishment and academic excellence. She placed the stickers beside the names of children who were doing well with math, and my name usually had the most stickers beside it. While other kids seemed impressed, one kid hated me for it. He was the jealous type, and one week, when he happened (by some merciful act of fate) to score better than me on a quiz, he pointed out to everyone in the room that he had gotten the most stickers. No one really cared that much.
I enjoyed math, and it was nice to realize that I was good at something.
But then we come to reason number two in reference to why 2nd grade was so memorable for me, and the kids in class definitely cared about this one.
1998: The year of the torn dress.
I wore a yellow dress to school one morning. It was nothing fancy, really; just a simple, yellow dress. Less than an hour after entering the classroom and starting on the day’s work, a little boy pointed at me and grinned. “You have a HOLE in your dress!” he shouted across the room.
“WHAT?” I tilted my head and srunched up my face.
“There is a HOLE in your DRESS,” he repeatedly firmly, his finger still pointing to where it was.
“You’re so stupid,” I glared at him, shaking my head vigorously. “I do NOT have a HOLE in my DRESS.”
I stormed to the back of the room and found Mrs. Duncan standing by the blue curtain that separated our room from other classrooms.
“Mrs. Duncan,” I whispered quietly, holding my hands and feeling anxious, “that kid said that I have a hole in my dress. If I turn around will you tell me if I do?”
“Oh, of course, sweetie,” Mrs. Duncan nodded sympathetically.
I turned around and heard a gasp.
“Oh dear,” Mrs. Duncan said slowly, “you do have a hole in your dress, Amber.”
I was mortified.
It wasn’t really hard to figure out why; it was no mystery that in our household, Riah enjoyed chewing whatever objects or clothing she could get her mouth on, whether it was a loaf of bread, a pair of socks, a roll of paper towels or a simple, yellow dress. So Riah must have decided the night before, once she had found the dress either laying on the floor or sticking out of one of my drawers, that she just wanted to eat the butt area out of my dress. Why she didn’t just destroy the entire thing and eliminate any chance of me humiliating myself, I’ll never know, but regardless, I obviously didn’t realize that the hole was there or I wouldn’t have worn the dress. I was about eight years old around this time; I put dresses on every day and never bothered looking into the mirror to examine how they looked on me. So now, at school, I was humiliated, but I was also in control of the situation.
”Do you want to run to the nurse’s office real fast and see if they have a change of clothes for you?” She asked me quietly, bending down to speak with me at eye-level.
”No,” I shook my head quickly, “it’s fine. I’m fine. I’ll just wear this.”
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Duncan looked confused. “It has a hole in it…”
“It’s seriously fine, Mrs. Duncan,” I insisted stubbornly. “I don’t mind wearing it.”
For some reason, the idea of walking to the nurse’s station and changing clothes felt like admitting defeat to the dumb little boy who had callled me out in front of everyone. So I wore the dress. All day.
I hurried back to my seat quickly and resumed my work. I could feel the same little boy staring at me, grinning, shaking his head from left to right. I just ignored him.
At one point, Mrs. Duncan had us moving around the room to gather supplies; scissors, crayons and glue for an art project. I saw the crayons lying in a basket that was about five feet away and thought quickly. I held the chair to my butt and waddled over, retrieving the crayons in one hand and using the other to hold the chair to my butt as I walked back to my desk.
“I know why you did that,” the boy said tauntingly, and people started laughing.
“No you don’t, and I don’t care,” I said snootily. I held my head high, denied everyone’s absurdly rude accusations, and continued to hold a chair to my butt the entire afternoon.
Finally, the third reason why 2nd grade was so memorable for me is because I was driven to school one morning… in a police car.
Like I mentioned before, the elementary school was so close to our house that mom felt comfortable with me either walking or biking to it. Most kids my age had parents drive them to school, what with perverts and predators on the prowl, but my mom trusted me so much that she didn’t seem to worry about my treks to and from school at all. It seemed to work out in everyone’s favor, really; mom was able to sleep in, and I got some exercise.
So one morning, I rolled my bike out from the side of the house and onto the sidewalk and began my ten minute ride to school. I came to the end of the street, turned left, and kept biking for a minute. Then I came out to a main road, turned right, and continued forward. After a few minutes of biking down the road, getting lost in the sights and sounds around me, I realized that I didn’t know where on earth I was.
“I guess I keep going straight,” I reassured myself, and did so. Things started to feel right again. But soon, a large building came into view; it looked like a college university.
Where the heck am I? I began to panick. I felt my heart racing and my mind rolling in confusion. I stopped biking and set my feet on the ground; standing, waiting for some kind of comprehension and direction.
Isn’t this the way I always go? I probed inwardly.
Suddenly, a man’s voice caught my attention.
I turned to look behind me. A police officer was standing there, with a walkie talkie and a gun on his belt. This guy wasn’t some ill-intentioned stranger; he was the real deal.
“Yes… officer. I um…”
“Are you on your way to school?” He gestured towards my backpack.
“Yeah… I mean yes, sir. I just don’t know where it is right now. I’m sort of…”
“Lost?” He asked with a smile. I nodded.
“Let’s see here… you go to Fox Hollow, right? The elementary school nearby?” I nodded again.
“I tell you what,” and he looked over at his car, “how about we plop that bike into the back there and you can ride up front with me?”
I nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah… that would be awesome!”
So a police officer drove me to school that morning.
I was late to class and told everyone that it was because I had been driven to school inside of a cop car that morning. They seemed to be very impressed.
So hopefully those kids will remember me as the girl who rode to school in a cop car one morning, rather than the girl with an obnoxious hole in her dress.
Monday! Hooray, it’s over! Here’s a short, abbreviated entry to celebrate.
Criticism and feedback are welcome as ever,
Our return to the sunshine state was a glorious one for mom and us kids; dad wasn’t quite as psyched about it.
“I’ll miss the mountains,” he sighed into his cell phone.
“What are you talking about?” My mom asked him in a surprised tone of voice. “There weren’t mountains in South Carolina,” she corrected him, laughing.
“Yeahhh,” he admitted slowly, and we could all hear a smile creeping into his voice, “but we were atleast closer to them.”
We were a three-car caravan. Dad was in the front, heading out our grand procession in his brown and white stationwagon, while mom, Bob and I followed behind him in mom’s yellow chevy. The big moving truck trailed behind us all; dad said that a bunch of young hippies were driving it and he didn’t trust them.
“I don’t feel comfortable about it,” he grumbled into the phone, and I could picture him shaking his head. Mom whispered back through her phone, even though we were having a private conversation in our own car, that he had no reason to worry; that even if they did screw something up, we were insured and it would get taken care of.
“Yeah,” dad started, “but some things aren’t replacable, Lucy,” he argued into the phone.
“Yeah,” my mom responded, “I guess.”
We stopped for lunch at an Olive Garden, delighting ourself in its unlimited salad and breadsticks. Bobby ordered mozzarella cheesesticks and I ordered a kid’s plate of cheese ravioli. The picture of spaghetti with meatballs on top did look appetizing though.
“No meat,” my mom reminded me gently.
Dad rolled his eyes.
“I don’t even want it,” I said defensively. “It just looks like it would be fun to eat,” I mumbled to myself.
“You know that you can eat whatever you want to, Rose?” My dad was looking straight at me, making eye contact, nodding his head up and down in a way that asked if I understood.
“I know,” I said quietly, daring to glance over at mom, who was now giving dad the death eye.
“I just want ravioli though,” I followed up quickly. “I don’t want spaghetti and meatballs.” I made an ‘icky’ face at mom to try and make her feel better. She smiled weakly and raised her eyebrows at dad in a way that said “see? Rose knows what’s right and what’s wrong.”
“Just because you grew up with your crazy, religious mom not letting you eat meat, or play cards, or go to the movies doesn’t mean that our kids can’t do those things.” My dad was getting excited now and mom was not in the mood to discuss religious matters.
“This isn’t even a matter of religion,” my mom hissed. “Meat is gross and unhealthy.”
My dad gave an exaggerated sigh and leaned back into his seat. The meal came and us kids got excited about what we had ordered while mom and dad sat sulking in their seats, unenthusiastically cutting into and forking up italian cuisine that made them full, but didn’t make them happy.
Mom and dad didn’t talk much during the rest of the ride down to Florida, except for when dad would call to tell mom that it was time to pull over for gas, or mom would call dad to tell him that the kids needed a potty break.
After it seemed like we had spent forever coloring and napping the time away, we pulled into a concrete slab driveway and fell out of the car.
“Is this our new home?” I asked hopefully. There were cedar trees casting shadows all over the house; the house, itself, was sitting on a road called Red Cedar Lane. The house was painted a light beige color with dark, wooden panels outlining its windows and doors. The roof had two sharp angels that met at a single point and the grass was green and flourishing with an adorable bench swing sitting out front.
“I loveee itt, mommm,” Bobby squealed.
We watched as the front door opened and Grammy, barefoot as usual, came running out to meet us. She was wearing a red skirt, a floral patterned shirt, and a blue denim cap.
“Ohhhhh my boy and my girl!” she cried, fluttering across the yard.
“GRAMMMM!” Bobby started sobbing. I was just beaming with smiles. The trip had been stressful for both of us, but especially for him.
“Are we going to live here with GRAMMY?” I asked mom, wide-eyed. “Because that would be the best thing ever!”
“This isn’t where you two will be leaving,” she teased us, “but you will be staying the night. Mom and dad already have a house picked out and they’ll get the key tomorrow after they sign some papers.” She smiled and I noticed how her wet eyes were gleaming.
“Besides,” Grammy said dramatically with her eyebrows furrowed, “you don’t want to sleep on the floor, do you Bubba!”
He shook his head in agreement and mom and dad smiled at eachother. They seemed to be okay with eachother now that the sun was setting and the trip was over with. The hippie boys were going to meet us at the new house the next morning to unload the truck, but for now, the 18-wheeler was just sitting sideways in front of the house.
Meanwhile, I just kept looking up at Grammy, and staring into her eyes. They always seemed to be twinkling with mischief and adventure.
I sighed, suddenly realizing how hungry and tired I was.
Soon it was time for me to start second grade. The bad news was that Katie and I wouldn’t have any classes together that year.
But then, mom got a phone call from Grammy, saying that granddad (our great grandfather) had suffered from a stroke. That was the very bad news.
“It’s so hard taking care of him by myself, doll babe,” Grammy sighed into the phone. Grand dad was Grammy’s father. When we visited Florida during those early, childhood summers, he would come over to the house sometimes. He was a thrifty man, wearing that same old, curling mustache until the day that he died, but he always either took us out to McDonalds for a hashbrown and orange juice breakfast or brought us a big jar of Mt. Olive whole dill pickles. I had gerenally pleasant memories of him.
“I had made a little room for him in the den,” Grammy continued on the phone, “but it was so inconvenient, having to walk back there every few minutes to check on him, that I’ve just moved him out into a chair in the living room. He sits there all day,” she whispered, “and it’s so hard to communicate with him.” Then we heard a cocker spaniel barking in the background. “Ollie, hush!” Bobby and I could hear Grammy holler across the room. Mom pulled her head away from the phone and winced. We giggled. “Hey mommy?” My mom said loudly into the phone. “Look, It’s hard to hear you right now. Let me get off the phone and talk with Dudley for a minute… I’ll call you back later.”
A sigh. “Okay doll babe, love you, Bobby and Rose… call me.” A click.
Mom disappeared into the room that afternoon and didn’t come out for what seemed like hours. Bobby and I sat at the table in the dining room, tearing sheets out of an Aladdin coloring book and occupying ourselves with them. Bobby used a maximum of three colors and colored slowly and thoughtfully; I tried my best to stay in-between the lines but preffered moving quickly, masterfully rotating the crayon in a constant, circular motion with my left hand. We tried to make our pictures pretty, because soon, if mom approved of them, they’d end up on the fridge.
A holler would draw us away from our work every once in a while. We’d temporarily raise our heads to look towards the bedroom door that was located just down the hallway. Things usually calmed down quickly and we’d end up dropping our heads and resuming our coloring.
Finally, a door opened.
Mom walked out, calm and smiling at us. She passed by the table to take a quick glance at our work. “Ooh, that’s a pretty purple color, Bobby,” she cooed. He smiled proudly. “Very nice, Rose,” she commented, nodded her head enthusiastically towards my artwork. “I’ll be right back,” she smiled at us briefly, grabbing the phone and stepping outside the front door. The door closed and we knew it was a “private” conversation; mom usually talked to Grammy in the livingroom, sitting on the couch with us and putting the phone on speaker so that we could listen, but sometimes, every once in a while, she’d go sit outside on the front steps and talk to Grammy. That was when they were discussing the important stuff. So mom took the conversation outside and didn’t bring anything up afterwards. Everything seemed fine and settled again.
We quickly forgot about the incident and the fact that our grand dad was now a stroke victim, and life continued as usual. I was enjoying the 2nd grade; not quite as much as the 1st grade, but it was still a nice way of occupying my time. Then, one chilly December afternoon, I came home and found mom in an uncharacteristically excellent mood.
There was a Dominoes pizza box on the counter, along with a stack of paper plates, a two-liter of Dr. Pepper and a plastic carton of Publix holiday cookies. It was nearing Christmas. Riah was lying in her cage; its door was open, but she thought of it as being her den and liked hoarding toys inside of it. It looked like mom had gotten her a new one.
“What’s going on?” I asked eagerly.
“Well I didn’t want to tell you guys a few weeks ago because I didn’t know if it would actually work out,” she began explaining with her hands folded in front of her, looking from me to Bobby, who had a string of cheese hanging out from his mouth.
“Caann I havve more docterrr peppppper, momm?” He asked in a high-pitched voice.
“Sure sweetie,” she answered softly,” pouring some soda into his paper cup and looking towards the bedroom door cautiously where dad must have been, either watching a movie or playing internet chess. Dad complained about how much soda Bobby drank; mom tended to indulge Bobby.
“Okay, so what’s going on?” I asked again.
“Oh right,” mom looked back over at me suddenly and blinked. “I’ve already told Bob. Well Rosebud, your dad has officially been transferred to a Publix in Port Richey, Florida. He’s going to be the bakery manager there,” her eyes got big and wide, “so that means that we’re moving, and where we are going to be living is just a little under an hour away from where Grampy and Gramcracker are!”
She smiled brightly and started laughing while I dropped my backpack to the floor and stared at Bobby, wide-eyed. He smiled back at me and started laughing, screeching, giggling.
I jumped up and down and started crying I was so happy.
We were going home.
Short entry today. I’ve been outside enjoying the weather!
Criticism and feedback are very appreciated,
The Spice Girls.
They gave me something to identify with, and define myself by.
My best friend in the 1st grade, Katie Mueller, first introduced me to the band.
We were in PE one day, doing sit ups, playing jump rope, and walking laps around the gym when she started humming a tune to herself.
“What is that?” I asked her.
“Oh, it’s a song by the SPICE Girls,” she smiled.
I nodded and must have looked clueless.
“Wait.. you do know who they are, don’t you?”
“Nope,” I replied, as we began our third lap around the gym.
“You haveee to come over to my house this weekend and listen to them.”
I smiled and told her I’d ask my mom.
“Sure,” my mom responded that afternoon once I got home and asked if we could have a sleepover. “As long as it’s at her house,” she clarified, measuring flour into a cup.
“Yeah, it’ll be at her house,” I said quickly, noticing the Aunt Jemima box sitting on the counter top.
“Are you making pancakes?” I asked hopefully.
“Yep,” she smiled at me, “Bobby wanted some.”
Since the chemo and radiation, Bobby’s taste buds had become very picky, which made his diet very limited. He basically subsisted off of junk food, and for the rest of his life, that didn’t change much.
His favorite thing in the world was pizza, but pancakes, cheese fries, mozzarella sticks and grilled cheese with pickles all came in at a close second. I asked mom if I could have a late-afternoon pancake too and walked into the living room to sit on the couch with Bob.
“Hey Bob,” I smiled at him. He looked up for a second and waved his hand weakly.
“Hi sissterrrbabe,” he said sweetly.
I plopped down beside him and looked over at what he was holding.
“Whatcha doin?” I asked.
“Momm gave me this leappp padd,” he said slowly. “It’s edduu.. I don’tt know what ezacttly it is,” he confessed, “butt I learnn stufff on itt.”
I nodded and turned on the TV. Mom came in a few minutes later with our pancakes and we watched Mr. Miyagi train Daniel on how to be a badass in the the movie The Karate Kid.
“Thanks for coming to spend the night with us, Amber!” Katie’s mom smiled into the rear view mirror.
“Her name is Rose,” Katie corrected her mom.
“I go by Rose, but Amber is my name, too,” I smiled brightly at Katie’s mom from the backseat.
It was an exciting afternoon. After the dismissal bell had rung, instead of heading over to the bus line like usual, I walked over to the carpool area with Katie. We got into her mom’s blue Honda CRV as soon as it pulled up. I sat next to Katie, still wearing my backpack and holding a plastic, yellow Publix bag in my lap. It contained my pajamas, my toothbrush, my favorite stuffed bunny and an outfit for the next morning.
“So what do you girls what to do this evening?” Katie’s mom asked us.
“I wanna show Rose my SPICE girl’s CD,” Katie said excitedly, looking over at me. “You’re going to love it.”
And I did. A lot. We danced around Katie’s bedroom with her kid sister, Allison, grooving to tunes like “Wannabe,” “Stop,” and “Spice Up Your Life.” Her mom helped us use the family’s computer to look up pictures of the band and their bios and I was immediately hooked. The obsession lasted for years; CDs, movies, posters, books, magazines, t-shirts, and even a necklace with the word “baby” on it were all a part of the fan girl collection and were in my possession at some point or another. I was absolutely, all about girl power.
Soon it was dinnertime and Katie’s mom decided to order a pizza. “And if you guys are still a little hungry,” she said, leading us from the dining room into the kitchen, “you can have anything from this drawer in here,” and she pointed to it.
“That’s the kids drawer,” Katie explained. “There’s pudding packs in there, cheese crackers, peanut butter crackers, applesauce… everything!”
“Right,” her mom smiled and looked a little tired. “Just don’t open this drawer,” and she gestured to one right beside the ‘kids’ drawer. It looked like it had a lock on it. It was weird.
“Okay, cool,” I smiled and thanked her.
We played in her backyard for a little while before it got dark out, and then we came back into the house, tired and ready to go to sleep. I laid on an inflatable mattress that night, listening to the soothing sounds of waves and dolphins that Katie usually fell asleep to, but sleep wouldn’t come for me. After about fifteen minutes of ocean bellows, I freaked.
“Katie, wake up!” I announced loudly. “I have got to go home!”
I started crying. Katie’s mom entered into the room quickly, looking concerned.
“What happened?” she asked Katie, kneeling down and putting her arms around my shoulders.
Katie shrugged and shook her head, bewildered. She was still underneath the covers, propped up on her elbows.
“I… I just want my mommy,” I gasped between sobs.
Katie’s asked for my mom’s phone number and I had no idea what it was. She was smart enough to look inside of my backpack, and sure enough, for whatever reason, my name and phone number were written in black Sharpie ink across the front of my lunchbox.
Mom arrived at the house within twenty minutes and I was instantly pacified.
“I’m sorry that didn’t work out,” my mom said sadly and yawned as she steered us home.
“It’s okay,” I said quietly. “Thanks for letting me go.”
It was a quiet ride. The sky was black, the stars were shiny, the trees were creepy, and the telephone poles looked like they were moving… as usual.
“Hey mom?” I whispered as she pulled into our driveway.
“Yes sweetie?” Her door had already opened and the car light came on. I saw dark circles under her eyes.
“Thanks for coming and getting me.”
Friday! At last. It felt like it would never get here.
Have a great, safe weekend everyone. More updates to come.
“Dudley!” My mom called out towards her and dad’s bedroom door one oddly warm October evening. “We need to check the kids candy before they eat it!”
Bobby and I had already plopped down onto the carpet in our livingroom and were dumping the contents of our orange, pumpkin buckets onto the floor. It was Halloween night, and Bobby and I had just gone trick-or-treating together. I was dressed up as a witch and Bobby was dressed up to look like freddie kreuger.
Bobby did great walking from door-to-door. Mom followed along beside us, her eyes riveted on Bobby and their gaze only interrupted when she’d look over at a fellow trick-or-treater and smile. His balance had gotten so good that he could virtually walk on his own; he had adopted his own, unique slant, and he kept it for the rest of his life.
“Ooooh, mommm,” Bobby cried from the floor, holding up a Hershey’s chocolate bar for her to see, “theyyy gaave mee a whooolee chocccklittt barrr!”
His speech was slurred, high-pitched, and it came out very slowly. To people who didn’t know Bobby, it seemed either very cute or very weird; for people who did know Bobby, it was just Bobby.
“I see,” mom smiled down at him, taking the Hershey bar from him and examining it closely.
We had a great time that night, sitting on the couch with mom and dad and watching Michael Myers slowly pursue his victims in the movie Halloween. We staying in our costumes and gorged ourselves on our favorite candies. I gave all of my sweet tarts and laffy taffy to Bobby, but chose to keep all of the Snickers, Hershey bars, Kit Kat bars, Crunch bars and lollipops for myself. Bobby and I fell asleep on the couch that night, and mom let me skip school the next day due to a debilitating tummy ache.
Grammy was no longer visiting with us, and life outside of school was sort of dreary without her, but one day, dad came home with some very exciting, and very unexpected news.
“Lucy?” he called as he entered the front door, carrying his coffee cup, keys and a hairnet in his hand. He saw me standing in the dining room and waved his fingers at me.
“Where’s your mom, Rosie Posie?”
“She’s in the bedroom,” I answered, smiling. I liked when dad was home. It didn’t seem like he was often enough.
I watched as he walked into the bedroom and closed the door behind him. I tip toed over to the door and listened in on their conversation, sneaky, like a fox.
I heard muffled sentences and words through the thin, wooden barrier.
“I think he’d like it,” dad’s voice said.
“Wow,” my mom exhaled. She sounded surprised. It might have been in a good way… or not.
“You.. it… how old again?”
I didn’t hear anything for a minute and pushed my ear closer.
“And its good protection…” my dad continued.
What on EARTH are they talking about! I was thrilled.
“..she said it’s potty trained and it…”
The voice trailed off.
I threw the door open and ran into the bedroom.
“ARE YOU GUYS ADOPTING A BABY?”
Mom and dad stared at me. Dad looked sort of irritated but he didn’t say anything; mom just looked confused. Suddenly, after a few seconds, they both started laughing.
“No, you silly billy,” my mom fell onto the bed, still laughing.
“Your dad,” she continued, with a playful tilt of the head, “was asking me if I thought that we should try getting you two kids a dog again.”
My eyes lit up.
“A dog?” I looked from mom to dad, and dad to mom.
“Really you guys? A dog?”
I couldn’t believe it. Dad raised his eyebrows at mom; apparently, she had just given her approval.
“Yeah!” Dad smiled, nodding his head in affirmation. “A dog.”
We had two dogs before this time. Their names were Hershey and Chocolate, but the arrangement didn’t work out. Our landlord made us keep them outside all of the time and my mom said that it wasn’t right to have dogs who you couldn’t take good care of. Just sticking your dogs outside, she said, wasn’t a “good quality of life” for them to have.
Apparently, my mom and dad thought that things would go differently this time. The story was this: dad’s previous assistant bakery manager, Becky, had recently moved to northern South Carolina. She kept in touch with my dad and it turned out that she just couldn’t balance working full-time with taking care of her new, 6 month old Siberian Husky. She and her husband didn’t have any kids and neither of them were ever at home. They would come in the evenings, let Mariah (the dog) out of her cage, and the first thing she would do was walk into the bedroom, jump onto their bed and pee on their pillows.
“It’s not working out,” she sighed to dad over the phone. “She’s bitter. And I don’t blame her.. we aren’t the right home for her.”
My dad knew that huskies were beautiful, and my mom loved beautiful things; plus, the dog was free, and they wanted it to have a good home. Bobby was stuck at home all day, he was probably bored, and giving a dog another go would give him something to love on and get excited about. Something, perhaps, to make him smile.
My dad’s reasoning convinced my mom and as soon as he contacted Becky and told her that they were willing to take Riah in, she said that she would hop in her car the very next morning and bring the dog down to us.
I remember what it was like when Riah came to our house that day. She was big for her age – atleast 50 pounds – and she had the most gorgeous coloring: red and white all over. Her eyes were a crystal blue, her tail was fluffy and long, and her mask and gaze were penetrating. Becky had her on a leash and brought her over to where she was standing beside the gate to our backyard. Bobby and I were already waiting in the backyard, eager to meet our new pet. Becky smiled over at us as dad unlatched the gate. Riah came bolting over, and when I reached down to pet her, I felt a nip.
“She bit me!” I cried, looking over at my mom.
My mom opened her mouth to say something. I think the shock made her speechless.
“Oh,” Becky cut in quickly, “she’s just loving on you.”
Riah turned out to be a nightmare of a dog, and a part of our family for the next nine years.
Mom snuck her into our house in the late afternoons and let her sleep inside; our landlord, supposedly, never found out. Riah was possessive of her cage, her food, her toys… even her water. You couldn’t go within five feet of her when she had any of these things without her baring her teeth and staring you down. It was intimidating. For years, I had nightmares of Riah coming into my room during the night and killing me.
I was only severely bitten one time, and it happened just a few weeks after she had begun living with us.
I was eating a snack in the livingroom one afternoon, watching something on television. Dad, who was off from work that day, was moving between rooms, holding a conversation with my mom, who was cleaning up in the kitchen.
I was sitting on the couch, and Riah was sitting in front of me, staring at my sandwich. I was cross-legged, with the plate resting on my lap. I smiled at Riah and whispered:
“Do you want a bite, RyeRye?”
Mom had specifically told me, just five minutes before as I was walking from the kitchen to the livingroom, not to feed the dog.
“She doesn’t need to be having table scraps, Rose,” she warned me.
“And, she’s very food aggressive.”
“I know, mom,” I said, exasperated.
“Don’t tell anyone,” I whispered to the dog, tearing off a piece of bread and waving it in front of her face.
“Here you go, doggy!” I said sweetly, quickly dropping the bread onto the floor. Riah moved her head around, looking confused. I was disappointed.
“It’s right there, Riah,” I said, annoyed, and bent down to show her.
I had my finger pointing towards the piece of bread, and once she saw it, she must have thought that I was about to take it from her.
All I remember is instantly being in extreme pain.
Mom and dad came rushing into the livingroom right away.
“Rose, what’s wrong?”
While my mom tried to console me, my dad stood behind her and surveyed the situation: Riah, licking something from off of the floor; Rose, cross-legged with a plate on her lap, bleeding from the stomach and crying.
“Lucy, she fed the dog,” he stated while I continued sobbing.
”Oh Rose! I told you…” she stopped herself.
”Ohhh nevermind,” She fussed. “Here,” she handed the plate to my dad, “go throw this in the kitchen. I need to get some alcohol on this wound and bandage her up.”
I still have the scar. It’s about an inch long, an 1/8th of an inch wide, and located just beneath my left rib cage. It looks like I had stitches, but it actually healed on its own, making a strange line of scar tissue. Riah stayed a part of our family for a long time, and she will always have a place on me.
Our family had moved out of the townhouse and into our final, South Carolina residence: a real home. We started renting the small two-bedroom, two-bath house in the early Spring. It came with a big, fenced in backyard, and we even bought an above-ground pool to put in it (it rose about two and a half feet off of the ground). The transition was easy for our family; dad had been transferred to a Publix right in town and continued working as a bakery manager. Bob was still recovering outside of school and I had yet to start.
While the last few months of uninterrupted childhood passed, I enjoyed what I loved most: being outside. There was a big backyard to explore and it turned out that there was a little boy next door who wanted to explore it with me. His name was Travis and we were the same age. We spent hours outdoors, creating games for ourselves and lugging a little red wagon around our yards, collecting rolly pollys and picking lizards up by their tails and containing all of them inside of it. I got in trouble with my mom one day when Travis and I were using chalk on the driveway and I wrote a cuss word with the color pink. I can’t remember what word it was and why, as a child, I was so fascinated by cuss words. I guess because they were so forbidden.
There was a teenager who lived across the street from us and he took a liking to Bobby and I; particularly, Bobby. I don’t know if it was because Bobby was a boy or because Bobby was noticeably sick. Either way, he liked me, too, and I had a big crush on him. I remember mom letting Bobby and I walk over to his house one day, and while he and Bobby looked at action figures that Russell had in his room, I stared at a poster on his wall.
“You checking Hanson out over there?” He teased and smiled. I didn’t know what “checking out” meant but I smiled back.
“Yeah! Are they rockstars?”
”I guess you could say so,” he replied thoughtfully. “More like a pop boy band though. Actually,” he paused and walked over to where a computer was sitting on his desk, “you guys can borrow this.” He walked over and handed me a CD with “Hanson” written in orange, white and yellow across the front. Russell smiled at Bobby while I looked down at the CD cover: three long haired boys who sort of looked like girls.
“I think you’ll like it, buddy,” he said to Bob, who nodded enthusiastically. Bobby looked up to Russell; I could tell.
And he did enjoy it. We both did, actually. MMMBop quickly became the theme song of our lives. I can’t remember if we ever remembered to return Russell’s CD, but I’m sure that he didn’t mind if we forgot. I doubt that he used it much; it had probably been a cute gift from a dumb girlfriend who didn’t realize that only girls listened to boy bands. It was lame for guys to. That was the general outlook and attitude during the time period I grew up in, anyways.
There were a few other interesting people in our neighborhood: an old woman who lived about two houses down the street was one of them. She loved nothing more than for me to come into her house, sit on her couch, and eat cookies while she smoked a cigarette talked on and on. I can’t remember our conversations very well; she probably talked about her kids, her job, or her childhood, the same things that most older people like to reflect on and share. I would look at the paintings on her walls and the magazines lying on the table in front of me, and after an hour or so of me just sitting there listening to her, she’d dismiss me.
“But oh, you’re young,” she’d smile. “You don’t need to be hanging out with me all day. Go home,” she’d shoo me out the door, “and have fun.” I would have already walked through the door and down the steps by the time she spoke again.
“And Rosey girl?” she’d call out after me.
“Yes ma’m?” I’d turn around in the driveway.
“Come see me again soon, doll.”
There was another person – a girl about three or four years older than me – and we hung out every once in a while. She lived across the street and down three houses. The age difference between us was considerable, considering that I was five, but in the nineties, you made do with what you had: whoever lived next door to you became your friend. Socializing took place in neighborhoods, as in houses and yards… not over the internet.
I’d walk over to her house in the afternoons and we’d stand around in the
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