“Go Look it Up!”

Behind my dad was a book case he and I had built and on the bottom shelf were the 20 some volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia. Back in the day, encyclopedia salesmen went door-to-door in the post-war suburban neighborhoods, pretty certain the people behind those doors wanted the best for their kids, “Better than we had, that’s for damned sure.” My folks didn’t spring for the fancy white binding, but got the red library binding instead. *”Who cares how it looks on the shelf?” said my dad. “It’s what’s inside a book that matters.”

They had some pretty cool features like clear plastic (?) pages that you could lay one on top of the other and see continental drift — that kind of thing. I spent hours with it on the floor “looking it up.”

Fast forward, Boulder, Colorado, 1974. Fresh out of college, BA in English, married (shudder), employed by Head Ski for the Christmas production rush then laid off. Shit. I was the breadwinner. Not cool and very scary. Scanning The Daily Camera (which didn’t employ me because I couldn’t type fast enough) for job openings. Ah, here’s one. Publishing company. Call for an interview. A few hours later, sunny December day, I’m on Pearl Street, tromping up 20 some stairs, stairs right out of a Bukowski poem, complete with the bare light bulb hanging above the top landing. Knock on the door. There’s another young person — a guy — waiting. I sit down. “Hi.” “Hi.” We eye the competition.

Man in a cheap tan suit comes out, cigarette in his hand, and beckons us into his office — together??? We take seats facing his desk. He begins to explain that we will be going door-to-door selling educational materials. In very oblique language (which I don’t totally get, being a very weak aural learner) he explains the nature of the educational material. Suddenly the “competition” stops him. In the lilting tones of Flushing, NY, he says, “So, you want us to go door-to-door selling pornographic encyclopedias?”

“Welllllllll….”

The “competition” takes my hand. “C’mon. Let’s get outta’ heah.” We ran down the stairs and into the bright afternoon, still unemployed, but also not pushing pornography on unsuspecting parents. What?

Fast forward, 1992. My best friends are adolescent boys who live in my “hood,” a whole gang of them (5). We’ve spent all day at the BMX jumps working on our movie, then one of them, Jimmy, says, “Martha, can you help me with a report for school?”

“What’s it about?” He tells me.

I look at my watch. We have an hour before the library at San Diego State closes, and we’re only a few minutes away. “Sure.” I think of all the encyclopedias in the reference section. We park and run across the campus. We have 45 minutes.

These boys’ lives have never imagined a university. One of them even said once, “You’re just like us, Martha, even though you’re a lady, and you’re smart, and you work at a university.” That’s a compare/contrast essay I would LOVE to read. So, there you go. I was just like them even though I’m a lady, I’m smart and worked at a university. Fact is, I agree with that. I never had a group of friends with whom I felt so comfortable and authentic. Go figure.

As fast as I can, I teach them to use an encyclopedia and they — in all their post-bike riding afternoon blood and dust fall on the books in wonderment. Jimmy takes notes on the little papers left on the desks for writing down call numbers. He uses the stubby little pencils that go with the scraps of paper. It’s all we have.

A librarian, seeing us, comes over with a troubled expression. “Can I help you?”

I smile and say, “My son has a report for school.” She nods and hovers, but never bothers us again. A voice comes over the loudspeaker “The library will close in 10 minutes.”

“You about done, Jimmy?”

“Yeah, mom.

*Looking online for a photo of these books, I find they sell for $200 on Etsy as “shelf decor.”

EARLY Childhood Training…

Sometimes a trip up to Colorado Springs is filled with poignant moments. I lived here from the time I was 14 until I was 20, though some of that time I was “away” (85 miles) at college. A lot happened here. It’s amazing to think of the compression of events in childhood, teen years, and young adulthood. At that point in our lives we’re all in a hurry, too. To grow up, to find out “what we’re going to be,” some girls “to be a bride,” to have a family, to have a career, all these things. I remember feeling a LOT of that during the years I lived here. All that, and it seems like adulthood lasts a long time — and not.

I read a little article — a study done at Yale — last night that said scientists have found that it’s likely mammals dream of this world — earth, our species specific lives — before they’re born, kind of an intensive, pre-employment training, maybe like the simulation training astronauts have. Of course, so far the scientists were just studying mice, but it’s not difficult to imagine that even humans — who are among the slowest mammals to reach self-sufficient adulthood — would have some of that evolutionary adaptation, too. It made me wonder about if there’s more of that in prey animals than those who prey upon them. The article (“Eyes Wide Shut”) says, “Mice, of course, differ from humans in their ability to quickly navigate their environment soon after birth. However, human babies are also able to immediately detect objects and identify motion, such as a finger moving across their field of vision, suggesting that their visual system was also primed before birth. Or do prey animals have early visions of lunch and how to find it?

I was intrigued. The earliest dream I remember — and it was a recurring dream — is of going down a long hallway in a hospital. The walls were the green of hospital walls back in the 50’s. The hallway was black and white tiles. Of course, when I was 2 years old, I didn’t know that was a hospital image — or school. I had the dream from time to time until I started school. On both sides of the hallway were doors and I had to choose one. That necessity of choice made the dream a nightmare. And, I have to say, that scenario has happened over and over in my life. What is the right choice?

One thing I loved about living in the People’s Republic of China was that there were very few choices and in many things, no choice at all. The desired thing either was there or it wasn’t. If there was bread there was bread, “Ma Sa! Mien bao!” someone would come and tell me, and I’d hurry to the school bakery to buy bread. Occasionally there was yogurt somewhere in the city. I would ride my bicycle to wherever that was and buy as much as I could carry home. I would use one small bottle to culture my own yogurt from powdered milk and enjoy the rest of it as long as it lasted.

That hallway is a distinctly human metaphor and a modern one. I googled “hallway with doors,” and there was an option, “creepy hallway of doors,” and one of the first images offered was that which I’ve used as the featured photo.

Catching Air

The days reached across spring into the hot long interludes of summer, burning sidewalks and sweat down the back. The little girls, their skate keys on shoestrings tied around their necks, cruised down the street imagining the future of Olympics and Ice Capades. The boys buzzed by on banana-seated sting-rays until someone’s parent yelled down the street, “Supper!” Then the day came when someone took their sister’s skate apart and nailed the wheels to a 2 x 4 and what seemed like destructive mischief was but a bigger thrill, staying up on that wobbly 2 x 4 while riding down the steepest hill they could find.

“Those goddamned things are dangerous. You aren’t riding that. OK we’ll buy one that’s safer, but it belongs to your mom. If she says you can borrow hers, you can. Otherwise? Ride your bikes.”

Then sometime in August the thrill was gone and school couldn’t start soon enough. All this is true — except the banana seat-sting ray. “That’s no goddamned bike. That’s a toy. You’re getting a 3 speed.” My dad had his non-negotiable beliefs, just like everyone else.

The other evening, with the kids and their parents and a friend of theirs, some of these images wafted through my mind. As kids, my brother and I were absolutely free. These kids aren’t. Around the table, there was much staring at phones (not me, of course, obviously because…) The kids were just the same as my brother and me. Virtually interchangeable beings with the little beings I was and with whom I grew up.

I don’t know how things are supposed to be any more. The trap of nostalgia tells all us old people, “Those were the good old days. Kids today….yada yada yada” but I don’t know. I don’t know what world they will grow up to.

One of the Boys on Bikes is sharing his love of BMX with his son and daughter. They’ve joined a very organized BMX club with uniforms and a schedule of races. I think that is awesomely cool. He rides for the team, too. A former pro-trick rider, he’s now racing. The photos of him, the kids, their uniforms and gigantic trophies are wonderful. I’m proud of him and grateful to have had a role in his life during a pivotal few years. I’m glad I had a truck and was willing and able to take him and his pals to the BMX jumps that, sometime in the 70s, kids dug into the hills of same wilderness park where I hiked. I look back on our years of weekends as some of the best times in my life. But the Boys on Bikes didn’t have helmets or uniforms or adult supervision or anything to protect their little bodies from injury. If there was any organization, it came from them and the occasional times when I was there and they asked me. Their sport was dangerous, but so were their lives.

Do I think his kids should be riding helmet-less and hell-bent like he was? No…but. Should kids run wild and free on the summer streets? I guess that depends a little where those streets are.

The other evening, after the cookout, I had to beg permission from the kids’ mom to let them ride their bikes all the way down the alley to my house and back. She was worried someone would pull out of their alley driveway and hit the kids. Since almost no one lives here any more, the chances are slim. Then, I thought, “I think the kids can learn to watch for cars.” So their mom stood by their house and watched as they rode home with me.

I’m not criticizing the mom or anyone else. And I didn’t have kids of my own and the kids in whose lives I was involved are today’s parents. I can’t possibly know what it was like raising kids in the 80s and 90s — or now. All I did with kids was be the nice person down the street they could talk to and a decent stepmom. Is the world dangerous? Yes, but judging from the news one of the most dangerous places for kids is school.

I offered to take the kids for bike rides at the high school. The mom said. “No. The park.” What’s the difference? The high school is a huge parking lot where kids will ride all over the place in every direction. There’s a track kids can ride around and race. There are sidewalks and small hills and lips from which to catch a tiny bit of air. The park is a 3/4 mile track where old people walk off their heart attacks. Lots of kids ride at the high school. I’ve seen them have wonderful times. Little kids with their parents. Older kids without. Oh well. Not my kids. Not my rules. Will I take them? Probably not.

It led me to think about memories of childhood and the sweetness of those recollections of first freedom. ❤

Cloister

When I was a little kid I lived in Nebraska in a town whose eastern border was the Missouri River. This means that “my” Nebraska wasn’t the Nebraska of myth and legend — flat, treeless, grassland — but forest, bluff, and butte. Almost literally across the street from our house was a forest. It belonged to the Columban Fathers, the branch of the Roman Catholic Church that is concerned with books, publishing and missionary work.

The geography was a narrow strip of deciduous forest, a wide open meadow ruled over by an ancient oak tree, then a kind of road. To the right the road went past many strange relics of an arcane faith that had little meaning to a kid brought up American Baptist. At the end a life size Christ hung from a giant cross. Along the way was a “grotto” made of concrete to look like natural rock. Now I know it was meant to be Jesus’ tomb. If my memory is right, there was an angel somewhere on that very convincing concrete climbing wall (how we used it). The passage was lined with trees and, especially in fall, it was very lovely.

My brother took this from the top of the grotto. 1965


Beyond this passage was a real road but I never saw a vehicle on it. It led to the buildings of the cloister. We never went there. Instead we crossed it and went into the REAL forest. This is where things got good. There was a ravine across which we rigged a rope and tire. My brother rode that across the ravine — and I’m sure others did — but it wasn’t my thing. There were mulberry trees from which a friend and I once shook berries. There were my favorite; narrow trails to run on and, in winter, on which we could ride our sleds.

Above: a drawing I did a few years ago of my brother and me sledding at the Mission.

From time to time, we would see a monk walking between the trees, reading from a small book. I never thought they minded us being there, but in time a high fence was erected. We just went under the gate and went on as always. In the intervening years, the cloister has been built up and some of the forest is gone and the meadow is now an area filled with buildings, but…

Years and years later, when I read the life changing book, How the Irish Saved Civilization I learned something strange and wonderful. My “mission” was home to the spiritual descendants of one of the Irish monks who, with St. Gall, crossed the channel to bring books to Europe in the 6th century. Columbanus.

We live in innumerable parallel universes and are oblivious to many of those in which we live. “Here, Martha Ann, this will be very important to you someday.”

“What?”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/rdp-saturday-cloistered/

T-N-T Boxes

Wooden boxes with T-N-T stenciled on the ends. I wish I could tell you what my dad was doing exactly. I can’t. I was just a very little kid, but I THINK they were using balloon bound radio receivers to determine how far into the atmosphere sound waves traveled. All I really KNOW about it is that the by-product of this research were these boxes which formerly held high explosives. My dad thought they were GREAT.

What’s also great, is that I wrote about them three years ago. It’s a good story. And here it is. T-N-T boxes.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/02/06/rdp-thursday-explosive/

Artists in the Family

“You have to do like this,” my brother holds up John Gnagy’s book, Learn to Draw that we’d gotten for Christmas. It was part of a kit with pencils, charcoal, a blender (a paper pencil like thing pointed at the end), a eraser, a sandpaper pencil sharpener, a plastic pencil sharpener and some paper.

Gnagy was on TV, too, but we didn’t watch much TV. Parental controls were parents saying, “No, God dammit.”

I looked at the cone my brother was copying from the book, the early pages where Gnagy was teaching about shading.

“You have to see where the light comes from. That’s how you get three dimensions.”

My brother was always able to talk about art in this kind of way, theoretically, abstractly. I couldn’t, can’t, don’t and am seriously frightened by it. I don’t know what kind of artist I am, but not the theory to reality type.

The kit ended up my brother’s. At that point I saw myself as a future designer of women’s clothing and that’s what I was drawing. I also got a Barbie doll that year (1964) and had discovered sewing clothes for her was a lot of fun. I was also painting in oils, landscapes from my mind.

The interesting thing is that my brother was a cartoonist from the very beginning, but he understood how “real” art was important to cartooning. Somewhere inside he wanted to be a “real” artist and he did some amazing “real” paintings, but there was always something missing from them. At heart he was a story teller but needed a page of squares to tell the story. His painting hero was Howard Pyle whose paintings definitely tell stories.

Years later, when we were both in our late twenties, walking on a snowy Denver street near my mom’s house, I got some useful advice from my brother. I had just taken down my one-woman show at Cafe Nepenthes in Denver. My brother didn’t seem to think much of the show — it wasn’t his “thing,” or, maybe, he was jealous. I don’t know. Artists in a family that doesn’t support art? Well, friction is inevitable. He said I was an “abstract expressionist” (which I had to look up, later, in my book, The Shock of the New) and he said my paintings were flat, lacking depth (that damned shadow thing again). I’d sold $1000+ which I don’t think my brother ever did.

Here’s one of the paintings from that show — not really a Modigliani knock-off.

At that point, I was taking a break from painting and was doing linoleum cuts having seen Picasso’s in the National Gallery earlier that month. I was talking to my brother about them and what I was trying to do. I explained how I felt making art was responding to a divine impulse. I told him how I was having a little trouble with the knives I used to carve my linoleum. “It’s easier if the linoleum is warm,” I said.

His response, “Well, Martha Ann, if you want to talk to God you have to play Black Sabbath backwards at 78 and you need some emery paper, honey.”

Fast-forward 20 some years to San Diego. My brother and his then wife came to visit from Northern California. On my wall was a “thing” I’d spent the whole summer making. It was the dark summer of my mental breakdown, but the products were pretty nice.

“Did you do that?” my brother asked.

“How I spent my summer vacation, Kirk.”

“Dammit, Martha Ann. You ARE an artist.”

He wasn’t entirely happy about that, either.

Hippy Fords of July

One of my favorite cartoons done by my brother depicts me, Aunt Martha and him in the backseat of our car. It’s supposed to be an afternoon we all — and my mom — went up on the Gold Camp Road near Colorado Springs to look at the golden aspen. In real life, my Aunt Martha was driving. She kept looking in the rearview mirror and saw my brother reading a comic book instead of looking out the window. She would then yell at him to “Look at the aspen!!!” My brother might not have put my Aunt Martha in the driver’s seat, but he accurately depicted the sense of the day and each of our personalities.

A cartoon my brother did for my Aunt Martha’s 80th birthday

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/10/12/rdp-saturday-shadows/

1955, the Longest Day of the Year

“What are those?”
“Mannequins, honey. Come on. We need to get you some summer pjs.”
“What kind?”
“Baby dolls. How about that? Would you like that?”
“What are they?”
“Like these.” She pointed to a child mannequin. “Like those.”
I liked them! They had little red roses, lots of lace and a ribbon at the neck.
“They’re pretty!”
“All right then. How about these?” She held up the same but with yellow roses.

It was a rare occurrence for us to be at a store. I don’t think they had much money — dad was working at Denver Research Institute and mom was a stay at home mom. Stores then were not open at night, either, but for some reason – a special longest day of the year sale? – this evening stores were open. While I can see the stores in my mind’s eye, I don’t know where they were exactly. There were no malls back then, but this was not “downtown” Englewood, Colorado, either. Unless it was and I was just too small to know, to have a context. That could be. This is one of my earliest memories.

“It’s the longest day of the year, kids,” said my dad from the front seat. “You know what that means? That means the sun is over the Tropic of Cancer. It’s closer to us today than any other time in the year.”
“Longest day of the year?”
“Yep. The sun won’t go down until after 8 o’clock tonight. You’ll be in bed before the sun goes down!”
My brother and I were at the 7 o’clock bedtime. I was three.

“Go wash your face and brush your teeth and I’ll bring you your new pajamas,” said my mom. I ran into the bathroom and did as I had been told. My mom showed up at the bathroom door when I still had foam in my mouth. “Here you go, baby. When you get them on, come out and show me how they fit.”

I liked them so much. I came out and showed my mom and dad my new PJs. My brother had new pajamas, too. “OK, kids, let me tuck you in.” My dad picked up my brother and took my hand. My brother was still in a crib. Dad pulled down the shades so it would at least be a little dark. “You’ll be sound asleep before the sun goes down,” he said.

It was the longest day of the year! I was too excited to go to sleep right way. I watched the daylight in the lines around the sides of the window shades. It went from the bright white of Colorado day, to the golden slant of sunset, to the soft blue of dusk before I finally closed my eyes.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/set-for-solstice/

Magical Valentine Across Time

I spent six of my formative years — probably the six most formative years — in a small town in Nebraska. I loved it there. It was a Norman Rockwell world with ice cream socials held after Little League games at one church or another, a world where kids were free to go everywhere by bike, where the public swimming pool was surrounded by woods, and winter ice-skating was on a pond in the middle of a forest.

It really was like that. This isn’t just nostalgia. I was a happy kid.

Besides the town and the life it provided my brother and me as kids, I liked all the opportunities my mom and dad put in front of me. Life was great. I didn’t know then that the preparation for life I got was, a lot of it, going to fall by the way in the social tumult of the sixties and seventies, family tragedies, marriage, divorce, grad school, all of it.

Life.

Most of my education was in public school. Then, because my parents hoped that the rigor of a private school would help my incorrigible little brother who refused to learn anything in public school, I went to Brownell/Talbot, an Episcopalian school in Omaha, for sixth and seventh grade. It was a combination of girls’ finishing school and college prep school. My brother was “uninvited” after the first year, but I flourished and found my first ever real friend. It was two very happy school years for me.

I was also a Rainbow Girl. Rainbow is, “A Masonic fraternal order for girls of teen age.” We wore formals to our meetings. We had “dinners” for our parents and for visiting Rainbow Girl Lodges and visiting officers — local, state and national. They were always beautiful events with centerpieces, table favors and name cards, all handmade by us girls. We were taught that this kind of extra-effort showed others that they mattered to us.

The girl I was from 12 to 14 imagined that all these thoughtful, petty things would be part of my adult life mixed in with world travel, art, adventure and athletics. I guess I imagined 45 hour days and did not fully understand the freedom of childhood. 🙂

By the time I was fifteen, that world had vanished not only from my actual existence (we moved away from the little Nebraska town to the vastly more sophisticated Colorado Springs), but almost from my memory. By then, fate was taking my family to some dark places.

And THEN…

My friend Elizabeth invited me to join her and her husband for a Valentine dinner at the local Methodist church this past Saturday. I was nervous because it would mean meeting new people, but I trust my friend and she said it would be fun. When I asked if I could wear jeans, Elizabeth said, “It is kind of fancy.”

I wore my “best” clothes which are velvety, brown cords, a black cashmere sweater and a gold necklace. I haven’t had REAL fancy clothes in a looonnnnggg time. Besides, I couldn’t imagine the dinner being very fancy. This is Colorado, after all…

Monte Vista United Methodist Church
Erected in 1922 in the Prairie architectural style it features fifty-four original geometric stained glass windows and a fifty-seven pipe Estey organ.

The Methodist church is a splendid arts and crafts building. I’ve wanted to see it for a while. Luckily, we arrived when there was still enough day to light the amazing stained glass windows.

Half of this massive cube of a building — built of glazed bricks — is the sanctuary. The other half is a meeting hall where the dinner was held.

Candles and fairy lights, a dozen beautifully set tables, red tablecloths with white lace over them. Centerpieces, handmade table favors; our red, cloth napkins, rolled to look like roses, sat in our coffee cups. Silver. The hosts — people from the Methodist church — wore tuxes and formals as they served us dinner.

We found seats at a table with the minister of the Disciples of Christ church and his wife. The minister stood by his seat until we three ladies were seated. I have not seen that kind of chivalric behavior since I was a girl, but I saw it many times that night.

Dinner was lasagna, salad, and cherry cheese cake. We were served red or white sparkling grape juice (these are Methodists, after all) by the minister of the church who wore a tuxedo and a red bowtie. From time to time, an elegantly dressed Methodist would come and check that everything was fine at our table.

That dinner was a REAL Valentine. Not only was I with some of my favorite people here in Colorado, but I was in a beautiful place surrounded by living relics of a lovely, gentle life I thought had vanished. The sweetness of it sank deeply into my heart, and I thought, “It’s been here all along.”

Handmade Valentine Quilted Wall Hanging (Photo by Elizabeth Shank)

Mom’s Illogical Demands

“We spent all that money on raincoats for you two! You didn’t even take them to school!”

“We didn’t know it was going to rain.” Wasn’t that HER job, to say, “Take your rain coats it looks like rain”?

“Get in here. You’re drenched. Get in the tub.”

“Me first,” says your brother, knowing there are cartoons.

OK now that made sense. Come home from school with your little brother, you’re both soaked from the rain storm and she tells you to get in the bathtub.

“Why?” you ask.

“You’ll catch your death. NOW!!!!”

You both run to your rooms. You wonder what you’re supposed to do while your brother is in the tub avoiding death.

“Get out of your wet clothes!!” yells your mom. “Throw them down the basement stairs!”

You take off your school clothes and run through the house in your underwear, open the basement door and throw your dress, slip, and socks down the basement stairs. Now you’re more or less naked in wet panties. This is madness.

“Billy! Get out of the tub, dry off good! It’s your sister’s turn!”

You hear the water begin its journey down down the drain.

“Dry off good! Maureen, get in there.”

Dry off and then get wet. You’re cold now, but you were fine before. Shivering, you go into the bathroom, turn on the water and get into the tub. “Can I have bubblebath?” you yell.

“I don’t care!” she yells back. “Just get into that tub.”

Your brother passes by the bathroom door in his pajamas. His red-blond hair spikey from being dried with the towel. He makes a face at you as he goes by.

“Stop looking at me!” you yell.

After a while your mother yells again, “Get out of there and get dried off. I need you to set the table.”

Life is an unsupportable burden. First you’re in trouble for getting wet in the rain you couldn’t predict or prevent. Then you’re yelled at for not getting into the bathtub already peopled by your brother. Then you’re yelled at for being IN the bathtub. You heave a sigh reflecting deep world-weariness as you let the water out of the tub. You drag your legs over the side, take your leaden towel from the rack and endure the effort of drying off your skin.

“I’m coming,” you yell back.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/rdp-saturday-drench/

The Cast

“Mom!!!!”

“What happened?”

My little brother held his arm as if it were a bone china tureen filled with hot soup, not that he’d know or care at all about what bone china is.

“I fell out of a tree up at the mission.” The Columban fathers had a mission a block from our house. It was acres and acres of deciduous forest. It was our playground, our happy place.

“I’ll call your father.”

She didn’t drive.

I don’t know what happened next. I don’t know where I went — probably to a neighbor’s  or maybe (I think) my grandma was visiting — or where the bone was set, but my brother came home with a cast on his forearm.

“Simple break,” said my dad. “No reason for hysterics, Helen.”

“I broke my arm,” she stuck out her left arm so we could see the crooked bit. “It never healed right.”

“Helen,” sighed my dad, “there were no hospitals.”

“She sent David for Dr. Festy.” David being her older brother.

“Had to set it with boards in the kitchen, right? They did the best they could.”

“My poor boy. Mother gave me castor oil.”

“For a broken arm?”

“I wouldn’t stop crying.”

My dad shook his head and laughed. That was my grandma. What do you do on a dirt farm with ten kids, no car, no phone, two Percherons, a 7-year-old with a broken arm? From where I sit now, castor oil doesn’t seem that crazy.

“Well, it ruins our vacation,” said my mom.

“Why?” asked my dad.

“Kirk won’t be able to do anything. He has to be in a cast for three months!”

That did not turn out to be the case. Kirk did everything a two-armed kid would do except play Little League which he hated, anyway.

At the end of the summer, we went to Montana on the train as usual. The days were long, hot, sweet and filled with family. There were sunset games of Red Rover and lots of running in the tall grass of the pasture between grandma’s house and Aunt Jo’s. There were backyard picnics with fried chicken, red Jell-o mixed with fruit cocktail, potato salad and pie. The grownups sat in lawn chairs smoking in the darkness while we played monsters with flashlights.

One afternoon our cousins came over to stay with grandma and play with us. My brother  was playing in the ditch (not supposed to because of the cast) with the two youngest cousins, girls, while I tried watercolor painting with out a brush — I was trying to use the bristly ends of some wild grass. It didn’t work. Kirk and my cousins came screeching in through the backdoor. Kirk had caught a sucker with his bare hands. This was a marvel, a feat previously only accomplished by my mom.

“Mom! Look what I caught!” He held the fish carefully in both hands.

“Where’s your cast?” asked my mom, turning pale.

“I don’t know,” said my brother, suddenly realizing how seriously he’d messed up. It turned out he’d been slipping that thing off for weeks when he didn’t want to wear it.

I still have an image in my mind of that tow-headed kid in the Hawaiian shirt my mom had made him during the months she and my dad were living in Honolulu and we were living with Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank in Montana. We’re in a doctor’s waiting room. The chairs are Chartreuse, the tile floor black and white. Kirk and my mom are called into the examining room. They get up and Kirk leaves the cast on the chair.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/broken/