My Memoir

December 17, 2012
I was a six year old when I learned about arguing with authority. It was a trivial problem that I had. The school was replacing the old wooden playground equipment with new, shiny plastic ones. While I don’t remember the argument I had with my teacher, she and my parents do.
“This is silly, the swing set we have now is better!” I had told her.
“You haven’t even seen what the new equipment will look like Abe, and it will be new and even better. And anyway, the decision had already been made.” She had said in a patronizing voice which I had probably deserved.
“Then I’ll come up with a better plan myself, and then you will have to use it.” I had said back. And I did design a better plan for the playground. It didn’t happen though, and the layout probably never made it to the principal’s office.
I learned about limitations in the summer of the second grade. It wasn’t until later that I learned to ignore them. During the summer, we took a vacation to a place less than a mile away from Lake Superior. One day, my distantly related cousins took my brother and me to the lake. The day before, I had been able to wade my way twenty feet out into the water, so that day I was pumped. That day the lake was in a very bad mood, and the water was a lot deeper and the waves a lot bigger.
But I was, and still am, Abe. I’m unstoppable. So I ran out into the lake before the adults had reached the lake. It was a very bad idea. The water was above my head and I couldn’t get to the surface. I was able to swim, but I was short and I was young, and not Michael Phelps. It felt like years, but I was back on the wet sand in easily thirty seconds. I did not make that mistake again that day.
It was the third grade that I learned about unity. Back then, we had built a fort. It was great, on our own we had hauled the thorny branches and rotting logs through the forest ourselves. We had pushed the rock into the clearing. We had chopped down and tied the wood together to make our walls. It was our place, and it was great. The heavy rain was blocked out by the light green leaves under the tree, and the grey boulders were clean and smooth from years of being in the river. The bright sunlight came through the brush walls in patches, and the tips of the rusty barbed wire fence had been cut away. But it was the tree that really made it a special place. It was only fifteen feet tall, but it was climbable to the top. From the top you could see anyone running down the hill, with ample time for a reaction. And that was a very handy thing for us in our fort.
We weren’t the only kids on the block with a fort. The other ones were vicious. They tried to conquer our fort constantly, but we wouldn’t let them. That was why we built walls. That was why we built weapons. Looking back, even the older kid’s weapons were not very advanced, but we all spent countless hours trying. We carefully peeled the bark off of the branch and would whittle out handles. There were little conversations outside of what was necessary to function, but what was said was always important. The most memorable thing anyone ever said was before a fight.
Cameron, an older kid, was the one who started. “Those punks are going to come down that hill screaming and swinging, and none of you are going to run. You’d better not anyway.”
Cameron scared us younger kids. He had two years on us, and a lot more of an understanding of how things worked. If we hadn’t all stood our ground, we would have lost everything. Also, if anyone had run, he would come after us with a vengeance.
After the battle we were all excited and barely able to stand still. That was the last time we had been on the defensive. Clayton and I talked none stop after everyone else had left.
“Cameron said they were going to get their medicine soon!” Clayton had said, overflowing with energy.
“I saw what they called a fort, and it isn’t pretty. If we just run in there, it’s ours!” I had replied. Their fort was little more than three trees in a corner, with a tall maple wood fence at its back. Even with the knowledge, we were unsure of ourselves.
It was the fourth grade when we finally tried to get their fort. That was when I learned to be discrete. Before we left our own fort we had sanded off any sharp edges and filed off and pointy ends.
“They can explain a bruise to their parents, but not a cut,” was Jack’s explanation as we worked.
When we finally got to our destination we were chased away by some adults. When we got to the last spot they had built on we won with ease. We chased them up on their deck and waited for a white flag. While the printer paper they waved wasn’t as gratifying as we wanted, we accepted. That was the last battle we ever fought in.
It was later in the fifth grade that I came to understand that everything ends. The fort was torn down by the owners of the property, and the tree was cut down. When we attempted to rebuild deeper in the forest, it fell apart due to a lack of inspiration and resources. Both clearings still stand today as a monument to our accomplishments.
But that was not the only thing the happened that year that clued me in on this. Our cat died from cancer during the winter. While today I wouldn’t be too surprised today, I was shocked back then that this cat could die.
My mom had found her behind a dumpster in Phoenix, Arizona before I was born. Out of the litter there, she was the only one that survived, but not without suspected brain damage. She thought that she was a dog. She would walk up and try to lick you, and she could be seen chasing her grey, scraggly tail in circles in the yard. She was probably lucky that she lived to get cancer the way she acted though. The year before she had strutted along the fence, which wouldn’t be that stupid if we hadn’t shared the fence with someone who owned dogs. Every afternoon we heard them barking at her, but they could never get her. That is, until she fell in with them. We found her hobbling home with a long gash down her side, and parts of her dark ear were gone. That became normal for her over the last year.

Sixth grade was a strange year for me. It was when I actually learned about how to meet people. After elementary school, everyone got dumped into Smithton, and was sorted into teams. Five people from my old school were on my team. More quickly than I had expected, I made new friends, and lots of them. Looking back, I was lucky. The team I was on, sixty-four, has been accepted by most people as the best team at Smithton, and our lunches were hands down the better. They were the best when we earned pizza.

“Now remember to share equally with everyone kids!” the supervisor had told us.

“Okay,” we all said, somehow keeping a straight face. After she left, the pizza was consumed in less than two minutes.

One of us, Zach, had not been paying attention when we had all been eating our third and fourth pieces. When he turned around his exact words, “Who ate that piece, the one that was right there, who was it?”

Considering that no one knew which piece he was talking about, he never got an answer better Than Carter’s “I don’t know, you I guess.”

During the seventh grade I learned about what it was to do something that others couldn’t. It was that year that we took our field trip to the city museum, in St. Louis. Inside is a giant playground for teenagers. There were tunnels that ran deep through the building and a one hundred foot slide that ran down the middle, and you could hear the screams as kids, mostly girls, spun down to the bottom floor. But it was the outside that was the best. It was literally a giant jungle gym. Once you got to the top of a structure there was a caged in latter that went to another structure and then to a platform over one hundred feet in the air. There was even half of an airplane suspended sixty feet above the cement.

One friend, Alex, wouldn’t go up, repeatedly saying, “No way man, you are going to fall from up there.”

No amount of talking could convince him, but I went up anyway. And it was amazing. The view was great, and there was a rush from looking all the way down to the ground. I could see the teachers below and the cars speeding by on the road adjacent to the building. That was when a girl fainted in a nearby cage. While didn’t ever get involved, it was interesting to learn later when that it was because of fright. The tunnels were the same way. Not everyone would go in I discovered. Claustrophobia got to some people, while the fear of getting lost hit home with others. But not the group I was in, we came alive down there. After an hour of crawling around and getting lost, we finally came out over flowing with excitement. I had done what others could not.

The eighth grade was spent learning about consequences, and when they are too bad. My science teacher got the brunt of this experimenting. I didn’t get interested very easily, and when I did, I often got hurt. The most memorable time this happened was when I accidentally burnt my eye with a match.
“Do you think I could make my face black with this stuff?” I had asked them.
“Yeah, try it!” John had responded.
After I had blown out the match I started rubbing it under my eye. It was still hot. It felt like I had just stuck my face in the oven. And that was before the smoke got in my eyes. At this point John, Nick, and Cody were doubled over laughing. But quickly, the pain went away, and I was better than ever. The consequence was insignificant.

No I am in the ninth grade, a freshman at West Jr. High School, and I continue to learn. Nothing extravagant has happened yet, but something will, because it always has. Life is about learning, and that’s what is going to happen.

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