My year is 1976 and my price tag for fun is a garden hose, a song, a rain dance and a hot summer sun. I spend my days watching my Daddy-O and my Mommy Gah in my yard, my house or my car diligently working to make my world (50′ wide x 125′ lot on Rolling Hill’s drive in Johnson City, TN) a better place.
“Outside” is my neighborhood playground and “rolling down the hill” is my best amusement ride.
My neighborhood sign reads “no rules” (except the golden rule) “no boundaries” (just look twice and run fast) and my brother’s rule, “don’t pass the house with the crazy old lady who smokes and talks about the baby Jesus. Or else her neighbor’s small dog will bite your feet like a South Carolina sand flea.
My family estate sign reads “Shake it Off Manor”. And my church is the “Blue Sky Abbey”.
My days and weeks are spent trying to master the “take”. My brother,
“Christophersteinavinsky”, is a master mind control specialist and everything he has I want. I’m a Peppermint Patti, I will do anything and everything my brother challenges me to do, with very little regard for my parents, my house, my dog, my neighbors or my self. The game shows playing this summer are “bet you can’t”, “mine”,”you’re not invited” and they run every half hour.
Today is a typical hot August summer day. My Mommy Gah is vacuuming and raking the
shag carpet in my Christmas tree room, my brother is playing the game “you’re not invited” next door at Julie’s house and I’m tying a string around my finger to see how tight I can get it before it blows my fingernail off.
Just as my fingertip is about to explode, I look up to see Julie and my brother staring at me as if they know something I don’t. I quickly jump up and run after them crossing well established enemy territorial lines.
As I approach my neighborhood enemy line, Julie and my brother turn and run inside Julie’s
house (Julie’s dad is a scary police officer) slamming the sliding glass door within an inch of my string finger.
Julie, a non-family member, makes the mistake of thinking she can play the “you’re not invited” game too. But unlike my brother, who is a master of this game, I sense Julie is an amateur. Therefore, I turn around and head back to my house and to my Mommy Gah.
And though my brother knows I am scared of Julie’s house and I won’t go inside, Julie does not. And Julie doesn’t know my new game of the week is, “The walk”.
So off I go, with my Daddy-O’s sense of self, along with my new “I don’t care mindset”. And here comes Julie.
Let the games begin.
Julie (the enemy) teases, pokes and makes light of the situation. Julie is eight and though she is bigger than me, I know I am smarter. Today I will beat her without using any of my physical powers.
My brother will call my solution the “Oooh ..You’re in troouubble” haircut; My Mommy Gah calls it the “I can’t believe you did this” haircut; My Daddy-O calls it the “no one will notice” haircut; My Ma-maw calls it the “ooh, she’s precious” haircut; My Aunt Patti calls it the “I’ll fix it” haircut; My Nonnie calls it the “Holy Shit, what the hell did you do to your blondies” haircut; My Aunt Lizbeth just laughs; and My Aunt Lane just looks at me like I’m worrisome and crazier than a one armed woman trying to salute a president while holding three dogs.
Julie, my brother and a few other neighborhood kids taunt, challenge and push me to my competitive limit. It’s the “I bet you can’t” hour of my day.
Julie, my brother’s new best friend negotiates “the bet”
Julie bosses, “I bet you won’t cut your hair off”.
My reply, “uuhHuhh, I bet I will”.
My brother’s response, “I’ll go get the scissors” and off he runs.
Within five minutes my brother is back, scissors in hand; so let the sheering begin. After a few more “l bet you won’t” and “I bet you I will routines”, the crowd begins to grow hungry.
Though I know spankings are never off the table , Mommy Gah is the only cop in town, Daddy-O (the bad cop) is on the road making “that jack”. I know my cuteness will buy me a pass with my Mommy Gah.
Julie, bossy pants neighbor, says for the last time ,
“I bet you won’t cut your hair, you’re too much of a scardey pants”
“Am not”, I say
What Julie didn’t know is I had long since climbed the scardey pants mountain. My brother dared me to touch Daddy-O’s yellow Volkswagen Beetle cigarette lighter when I was five, and though it burned like crazy, it healed up nicely.
I move in for the first snip, the squinting eyes of my audience slowly go from squinting to wide open. My crowd is anticipating, waiting with bated breath, desiring to see carnage as Thelma’s House of Style scissors approach my head.
And just like “the walk”epiphany I had fifty-two minutes ago, my observational voice screams,
“Wait”! What’s in this game for me?
It dawns on me no one else has any skin in my game besides me.
Let the “negotiations” begin.