Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Our Gang

My footsteps echoed back at me as I stepped into the kitchen and took one last look at my childhood home, known to me now only in dreams. I remember the neighborhood kids, Timmy, Eva and Dawn. Eva Rotherock told me the difference between a boy and girl, and I certainly did NOT believe her, until my mom verified her story. I told the girl who lived in the apartment upstairs, and she didn't believe me either. Her mom had a talk with my mom, who quite awkwardly told me that I should keep such things to myself.

Eileen was a couple years older than us, and had convinced us that she was a witch. She would sink into a reverie and close her eyes, then rose with a murderous look, a piercing cackle in her laugh, and chased her terrified victims around the yard and up into the thick, spidery branches of the big willow, but always and thankfully regained control of herself and coaxed us back down. I warned my mother about it, for her own protection. Mom Constantine was not afraid though, and with a few private words, exercised the evil spirit from Eileen, who was free forever from the possession of the wicked witch.

Timmy introduced me to the five finger discount at the local drug store, where we would steal candy bars and Wacky Packages. My dad sometimes wondered at the size of my collection, but never figured me out. Or perhaps he did and felt a spark of pride; who knows? I finally got caught and actually learned my lesson.

In those days there were no fences between yards and dogs ran free. Back yards bordered on endless fields described by winding paths to secret hideouts and other back yards. I had a crush on Helen Reddy back then; my heart would freeze whenever I Am Woman came on the radio. I was too young to know what it meant, but my dad explained: "Women's Libber."

"I don't know what that is, dad." I said curiously.

"Women want to have the same rights as men, make the same money, be treated the same."

I thought about this for a moment. "Shouldn't they?"

"I guess so." This was the essence of dad. He understood the difference between right and wrong, and could simutaneously support and oppose an ideal, depending on the setting. He was the same on racial issues, as I would come to find years later. I grew up hearing nigger, spic, wop, rice eater, chink, towel head, etc. I knew something was wrong, even when I was a pup, but was convinced that my father hated all people of different color. And YET, whenever he interacted with any of these people, he was just as cordial, polite and respectful as any man could be. Whenever I confronted him about his paradoxical behavior, he would grunt or change the subject.

Randy Wagstaff was my best friend at school. I can't remember much about him really; it was second grade after all, a mere 32 years ago. I noticed while taking a bath that my hand submerged in water looks exactly like his, and even today on that rare occasion that I find myself soaking in the tub, I'll see my hand and feel that ancient wind.

"We're leaving now," my mom said to me, "let's get in the truck."

"Can I call Randy and say good bye?"

She looked irritated, but allowed it begrudgingly. I picked up the phone, which looked conspicuous as the only object a the wall once decorated with paintings, knick-knacks and pictures. I dialed his number that I had committed to heart.

"Hello," his mother answered.

"Hi, is Randy there?"

"He's out playing with his friends; can you call back later?"

I panicked. "No! I'm moving away and I won't be able to."

"Ok, let me see if I can..." I heard the pounding of feet on a hollow floor. "Randy!" she yelled. "Phone."

He picked up on the other line, out of breath, probably from playing tag or hide-and-seek. "Yeah," he said impatiently.

"Randy, I'm leaving now."

"Ok, bye." Click.


jenbeauty said...

So difficult to move around so much as a kid. Amazing the little details you can remember about those friends, they made some strong impressions.

I remember when I first learned about kissing and the bases. Geez Scott, you always going to inspire me to write about silly things?! That is another funny one from my past. Ah the innocence I had in the 5th grade.

Marel Lecone said...

You were too cute. That made me sad for you. Hope that is ok. :)

I was here from jenbeauty. Do you have an address for your cousin's church? Every time that I have heard the name of a church helping out--I was not in the position to write it down. I wanted something local like a church to send some things. I'm at

Take care. And, thanks.

mr. schprock said...

That must have been rough, moving all the time. Nice recollections, very well drawn. I'm older than you, but it feels like we could have been kids at around the same time.

Scott said...

Jen - Write about it, and I don't think any of it is silly. It's who we are, even if it was a long time ago; inside we are still the same.

Marel - Thank you for your comments, and of course it is ok. Stop by and feel sad for me anytime, although I promise my stories aren't always sad. I wrote you on your blog for the rest of my reply. Glad you want to help.

Mr. Schprock - Good to see you back. I missed you! I think you are around ten years older than I am, but I think things changed slower back in the days before the internet. Kids grew up slower and family was more important, people tolerated each other much better, and especially kids were treated like kids. We could play in each other's back yards without permission, and there was more open space to explore.

Mrs.T said...

I think lots of little boys are like that. Unless it's pointed out to them, they sometimes don't realize what they're doing.

Beth said...

Well, I sat down and REALLY read this entry and am so glad I did! We have so many parallels in our youth except I had everyone else believing I was a witch. ;)

I used the five finger discount many a time in my youth as well, but the first time I was caught, my career in thievery ended. I think people believe, "Once a thief, always a thief," but having my dad show up at the police station ... that's all it took. Haha.

My son had a similar "moving away" story. His best friend where he grew up was beside himself with grief when my son moved away. My son wrote him once, called him once, then some months passed and I said, "Why not call Jamie again?"

Bad idea. Jamie was like, "WHO is THIS?" My son answered and he was like, "Oh man, I forgot all about you!" =/

Trevor Record said...

That is so incredibly sad!

Shesawriter said...

Childhood memories are so varied. I remember certain things and not others, then something will happen ... maybe a song will come on, or I'll smell a familiar smell, and everything comes rushing back. It's amazing.

Your writing, as always, Scott, was stellar.


Scott said...

Mrs T - Kids can be cruel without knowing it, I agree.

Knitter - I learned my lesson too. I left out the details because I think I posted about the experience before, but the clerks wrote all the bag, SCOTT, DON'T OPEN, and put a note inside for my mom. I went home and opened it for her while she was distracted with a book and threw it all away. The next trip to the drug store they asked me what happened and I made up an inquisition style punishment, which gave them big smiles each. On another trip, the introduced me to a cop, which scared the bijesus out of me, and I've never stolen again.

Trevor - It's one of those freeze-frame moments in life.

Tanya - I love that feeling of an unbidden memory, good or bad. I need to remember. Thanks for the comps.

jenbeauty said...

Remembering is always good Scott. There are certain situations that always stick out in my mind. It is those little life lessons that we remember the most, or at least for me it seems.

Your encouragement means a lot. Thanks.

Scott said...

You are always welcome Jen!

Sadie Lou said...

That last part reminds me of my son and his little friend Richard.
I swear--when they call each other on the phone, it's just to hear each other breathe.
I get irritated because they don't have anything to say and yet, Ryan always begs me to let him call Richard.
Now that school has begun and summer is over--the boys don't see much of each other. They are in different classes.
Ryan has made a new friend though. Kids are awesome that way.
Cool post Scott.

Miranda said...

This is my favorite post of yours yet, even though the ending is sad!
Call him back! Call him back!