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Through the holes in my jeans I could feel a sting of a splinter from the pole. I felt the warmth of the rubber tires as I climbed to the second, dusty black loop. A simple piece of equipment on the playground, but fun as it was. Simplicity; that was a word I knew well growing up. The simplicity of the things we owned, the meals we ate, the clothing we wore. I like simplicity; it’s reliable, trustworthy…a constant in a changing life. Though I’ve never had the latest and greatest, I never felt like I was lacking in anything. I liked my life as it was.
I grew up in the lower spectrum of middle class. I came home to trailer, and have nothing but fond memories of that aluminum box. My sister and I slept in the same room, in beds turquoise head and foot boards, a single heart carved into them. We used our stuffed animals to create a fluffy fort to protect our room. I remember the shelf we had on our far wall, it was bare of paint and the shelves bowed from all of the books we had piled on it. Most of them were presents from birthdays and Christmases. When it rained or was to cold we would lay on our beds, our fluffy fort
protecting us from the imaginary evils of a child’s mind, and we read for hours quietly. I remember I was happy there in that aluminum box. It burned to the ground two months after we moved out.
We moved into a small, two story town house that would have been small even if spread out into a single floor. My room was long, but it was so narrow it was hard to not feel claustrophobic. The ceiling sloped down towards the closet on the far wall. The rest of my family found it hard to reach the closet without crouching down, but it was perfect for me. The top of my head was just and inch from the popcorn ceiling, it made me feel tall, and I liked that.
My sister and I played outside almost all the time at that house. There was a barren field behind it that all the kids in our small ‘neighborhood’ played. We played group games like red rover and tag. I don’t remember any of the kids’ names, but that’s not too concerning to me. I do remember the time I fell head first onto cement and had to get stitches. My sister and I were playing gypsies, and I was about to ‘curse’ her when I slipped on the hose.
The couple that lived next door to us were my parents’ best friends there. They didn’t have children of their own, but once a year they had a massive family from Russia come to visit. There were seven children, between the ages of eight and fifteen. None of them knew English, and I obviously didn’t know Russian, but we played games that didn’t require any talking. All we needed was laughing.
I also remember when the vent on the door of the laundry room/spare bathroom fell off and sliced opened my left hand, I had to get stitches for that too. Today I realize
what a dump that place was. Our landlord refused to fix anything, and no one who lived in the homes could afford to fix anything themselves. We just lived with the problems…until we moved.
The first actual house I lived in was too small for a family of four, but it was nice. I remember all of the fires we started in our fireplace, the warmth they splashed on my face. I loved watching how the flames changed color, licking upwards trying to find oxygen to feed its hunger. In the summer we always sat outside as a family, the humid air frizzing our hair as we talked. I remember the impact as I crunched against the tree on my first time sledding, however I don’t remember standing up and waving to the crowd that had gathered over concern. Apparently I laughed out an ‘I’m okay’ before my dad swept me up and rushed me to the hospital. When we got there my wrist felt odd, but I didn’t mention it until they asked and the end of everything, it was fractured in several places. I also had to get the stitches along my hairline redone because they dissolved too soon. I still find it ironic how just a week after getting my cast removed I slipped on water and hit my chin on the metal hand crank that opened the window. My dad came home to find my sitting on the couch with the browning warmth drenching the front of my shirt…I had to get stitches again.
I remember all the pets we were finally able to have in that house. Three of the four we owned also died in that house. First there was my cat Bubba, he was a good cat though he was short a few brain cells. He would always run into to walls several times before finally realizing there wasn’t a door there. He died after getting a kidney infection, the same one my sister’s cat Meso was ailed by and we were able to take him
to the vet. We couldn’t afford to do the same for Bubba, and when he died I wasn’t there. Then there was our Sassy, a German shorthair who was my first dog. She was fantastic, she loved to play and to be cuddled, and her hair was short but so soft. She got out one day while we were working in the yard, we all bolted, hoping to catch her…we were a step behind. She was hit by a bastard yakking on his cell phone; I was the only one to see her get hit. He never apologized and just continued on his cell conversation, I wanted to shove his phone down his throat and push him into traffic. Then we had Guinness for just a few months, my sister was working at Bradley’s Veterinary Hospital when we got him. He was a victim of abuse and was going to be put down because of the poor condition of his leg and the inability to get someone to take him in. We did though, and extended his life by a few months. He was just like Sassy in his love of playing and cuddling. He chewed off his gimp paw one night, and was too weak to live without it. He was ready to go though, and just climbed on the table at the office and lay down, he fell asleep before the injection.
I do remember when my grandfather died, it was the first and so far the only death of someone I was close to. I don’t remember if I cried…I hope I did. That’s when we switched houses with my grandmother. They had lived in the country, a house that was built by my grandfather and two of his friends, on ten acres of green land. We had always wanted to move into that house, but not like this. It’s a nice house though, and despite the circumstances of how we got it we have made it our home. I love living there; the quiet, the green, all of it, except the bridge. I hate that bridge they’re building just up the
road; it disrupts the quiet and the sky. I suppose I can live with it though, the trees hide it well enough.
Recently in my life I’ve been having I difficult time remembering a lot of aspects of my past. I hate that, I feel like since I lived through it I should remember it. There are a few things I remember well enough, mostly major events but also odd things, minute things that I shouldn’t remember compared to all the important things I don’t. Lately I’ve been go through photo albums, faces faded and static staring me in the face. Some of them I can remember; My sixth birthday party when I had the bright red balloons, my black swollen face from the sledding accident. However there are others that I see, ones I do not recognize; one such photo I am smiling a huge grin, teeth missing from being lost. I have a huge bruise on my jaw line, but I don’t remember what I did to get it. I try to remember, but maybe I’m not looking in the right places.
I decided to drive to that playground the day after I turned eighteen, the one with the old tires nailed to the pole. I climbed to the top, my hands feeling the warm of the dusty black loops, blanketed with “f*** you” and “Callie’s a whore” and I remembered; birthdays, friends I’ve long forgotten. I was happy again as I sat there in the warmth, and drank my memories. I don’t remember a lot from my life, but of what I do remember it certainly wasn’t the best. At least my parents were always there for me, we had a family stuck together no matter how hard life was.