As I sit down to write this post, I have exactly 41 minutes left to hit “Publish” and make today’s deadline for the 30-day Blogathon. And I have no ideas or jokes or witty lines prepared.
I guess I might as well tell a story.
Once upon a time, a long time ago in a faraway land named New York State, I lived in an apartment above a garage with my mother and my two brothers. My mother was young and single, and one day changed her name for no reason at all and announced that she would no longer answer to “Mom,” or “MomMomMomMomMomMomMom.” Which was basically the same thing, so I don’t understand why she felt the need to specify. She eventually changed it back, most likely because hours upon hours of “What’syournewname, whatisitwhatisit, isitDianaorDorothyorPonyFaceorPoopySnortButt” turned out, upon experience, to be even more bothersome than “MomMomMomMomMom.”
My brothers were twins and four years old. They liked to break my things and pull my hair and mess up my coloring books. Which, I think, says everything anyone might ever need to know about them. I’m pretty certain that those three characteristics are the full and complete contents of their life’s work. If one of my brothers were to apply for a job at your company, that’s what his resume would say. “I break my sister’s things and pull her hair and mess up her coloring books. Please let me knock down buildings with your big yellow tractor-digger-thing.” And a construction (destruction?) company would hire him, because boys who break things and pull hair and mess up coloring books are an evil force that can be used by the power of Trump to build new casinos and hotels.
Unsurprisingly, sometimes I needed to escape from the little-apartment-above-the-garage. Just have some time to myself, to brush my doll’s hair and, when no one was looking, put my tongue on the battery I’d swiped from the junk drawer in the kitchen. I liked the way I’d feel scared and excited just before the metal touched my tongue, the jolt that zinged across my taste buds, the power of knowing that I could do this dangerous thing that everyone at school thought only the biggest, bravest boys could do.
On a sunny afternoon, when I was six, I decided I needed some alone time with my doll and battery. The stairs from the apartment-above-the-garage were long and steep and narrow, and I walked them carefully ever since that one time that I was going too fast and fell. It was like the inside of the dryers at the laundromat, how I tumbled down down down, until I hit the landing hard, with a little oomph, and then cried. Another time I made it down the stairs okay, but upon going out the door immediately slipped on a large patch of ice and banged my face. That hurt so much more than falling down the stairs, even though there were a million stairs and I fell for years, and on the ice it was just me being short and sliding a little ways. It’s funny how the small things seem to always bang you up the hardest.
This day, though, I didn’t fall or slip. The garage was behind a big blue and white house, and I liked to slip around the back side of it and walk the path next to the giant evergreen bushes, where I could look at the moss that grew on the cinder blocks from the basement. I knew it was a plant, but it looked like a big mess of fat worms. Things that looked like other things were mysterious and delightful, and I’d watch the moss-worms carefully as my sneakers picked their way through the narrow path. I held my doll close, and kept my other hand wrapped around the battery in my pocket.
At the corner of the house, the hidden path opened, suddenly, into a bright yard. It was our landlord’s, but they let me play there. They had a teenager, an almost grown up girl who had lots of friends, and she would babysit us sometimes. I liked that a lot. She knew Santa Claus personally, and when she was with us she would call him on the phone and then tell us when it was time to close our eyes and count to 10. Then she’d say, “Okay, he’s gone now! Go look!” and we’d run into a yard that was littered with toys Santa had brought, just now, just for us, and hidden for us to find. They were trinkets she’d bought from the 25 cent machines at the A&P, and I knew that even then, but knowledge has never been able to stand in the way of magic. Not really.
This day, I settled in the yard, battery warm in my hand, doll propped against my lap, thinking about the last time I’d hunted for toys. I had the whole world right here on the grass with me – the sun on my back, Santa at my beck and call, actual power – maybe even electricity, according to Sara who sat next to me in school – in my pocket. I was full up with things and happy.
And then, it fell. Right out of the sky, right above me. Landed with a plop not six inches from my lap.
A dead frog. With a long burn line bisecting it’s cream-colored tummy. Black eyes open, staring.
And in that one unexpected moment, all my full up was suddenly gone and the whole world was just me and that frog.
11:59. Time’s up.