Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Herstory (To be confused with history) Part II !!

My father had four brothers. My mother had six brothers and two sisters. Needless to say, we had a very large extended family. Every holiday we'd venture to each side of the family's designated house to devour impeccably prepared foods and desserts. We had mashed potatoes, real ones, not that fake stuff you find in resteraunts. We had gravy and corn, ham and turkey, baked chicken, homemade buns and rolls. Honey butter and real butter. We also had that stuff in a container that was weirdly soft though it was cold. We had pies and cakes. Apple pie, pumpkin pies, pecan pies, minced meat pies, and pepperoni pies. My mom would pile my plate high of a little bit of everything. And I had to eat it too! There were, afterall, less fortunate kids who didn't have even real potatoes to eat. And some of those kids spent holidays at restraunts instead of family gatherings.
My mother's father, Grandpap, would make sure to keep a variety of flavored pop in a cooler on the front porch. My eyes would grow as big as saucers as I'd try to choose just one flavor. This was a treat. Afterall, I was only allowed to drink milk, water, and Kool-aid at home. The only catch to the flavored pop was that we kids had to leave the Cherokee Reds for grandpap. Those were his favorites.
The oodles of cousins and I would run around outside playing various games such as Hide-n-Seek and Freeze Tag. We'd spend a good portion of time going over the rules and deciding who was It first. We'd put our shoes in a circle and one of my cousins, usually an older one, would go around pointing to each of the shoes in the circle saying, "My mother punched your mother in the nose. What color was the blood?" The person whose shoe she pointed to had to yell out a color. Usually this ended up with arguing. The more reserved cousins would think that periwinkle or aquamarine couldn't possibly be a color for blood. Blood was obviously red and the person stating the unique color (usually me) was only trying to cheat. So, we'd result to something else. All of our shoes in the circle and the older cousin would say, "Eenie meenie miney moe..." 
After all was said and done, half of the cousins would retreat to the porch or inside while those of us hardcore players would hide and run like our tiny lives depended upon it. At the end of the day, my hair was frizzed out from my pony tail and I was sweating like one of those working horses back home.
And then we'd go to my dad's side of the family, where everyone mostly sat around watching television while us kids would go upstairs. We were only allowed to go upstairs. Everytime one of us cousins ventured down for a drink or to tell on each other, we were redirected back upstairs to play. The only thing these cousins ever wanted to play was house. Boring, in my opinion. And because I was a girl and the oldest, I had to be the mom.
I was never one for babydolls and barbies. I didn't want to be a mom when I grew up. I fantastized about business suits and high heels that went click, clack on the flooring. I wanted to be in charge, a boss. I didn't want to work hard for a living. I didn't want to sweat and get all smelly. I wanted to fill out paperwork and use staplers. I wanted to wear pantyhose and skirts above my knees. Mom only let me wear pantyhose on Easter Sunday and those weren't even pantyhose. Those were more like tights and they were white. And she made me wear those stupid bonnets that all the old church ladies would say was "adorable." Ugh. And my skirts were never skirts. Mom took me school shopping at Sears every school year. She bought me five dresses and two pairs of jeans. The dresses would have been okay if they were even remotely cute. Instead they had this flappy thing in the back and lace around the bottom. I looked like an overgrown baby and the kids in the lower grade levels were not so kind with compliments. I also didn't have those fancy tennis shoes like my cousins. I had these brown things that appeared to have an M on the toes. I used to argue with her that I had to wear tennis shoes for Gym day and she would tell me that those brown things were tennis shoes. I wanted to scream they weren't, but I knew better.
My oldest female cousin on my mom's side used to hand down clothes to me when I was in middle school. I used to think I was the bee's knees. I'd dress myself according to what I'd think she'd she would wear together and put hairspray on the side of my hair to make it fly out like wings. I was the cat's meow waiting for the school bus at the end of my drive and I knew it. When I got on the bus, my bus driver, the evil Miss Cindy, would snicker. As if she knew anything about looking nice, sitting there in her oversized sweaters, sporting a wart next to her thin lips. (I secretly thought she was a witch.) I'd take a seat in the middle. The front of the bus was reserved for ill-behaved students and nerdy kids.I was neither and I wouldn't be caught dead conversing with the nerdy kids. As if my reputation didn't suffer enough. I couldn't sit in the back of the bus because that's where the cool kids sat and I wasn't one of those either, though I hoped and prayed that the threads I wore would allow me internship into their circle.
As each kid entered the bus from their assigned bus stop, they'd pass me and look at me. I didn't dare look them in the eye, that would seem to eager. Instead, I just non-chalantly pretended to be interested in something else...the seat in front of me, an overweight mom in her bathrobe waving from the front porch, a dog chasing the bus. And one by one, they laughed hysterically at me. And the laughing would continue when I got to school and their friends would join in.
When I'd get home I'd put those clothes in the laundry and vow to never, ever, ever wear them again. Somehow, they made their way back into my drawers the next day and I'd have to wear them again the following week. How could I make my mother understand that those clothes were the demise of my social stature?
When I was ten or twelve, maybe nine?, I received a bicycle for my birthday. It was beautiful. It was white. It had a silver sparkling banana seat and a basket in the front with flowers. It sported white and silver training wheels, which of course I didn't needed. (I was too old for training wheels, you see.) It wasn't what I wanted, but I knew better to complain and was thankful to have a bike at all. What I wanted and what I pointed out was a BMX with mag wheels and brakes on the handle bars, and definetly not with training wheels. I wanted it in black and yellow, like a bee. I wanted to tricks like my good male friend. I also wanted to ride that sucker down the tallest hill at the Wheeley Jumps.
I said thank you and enjoyed all the family that came to my party. After everyone left, I stood by my bicycle staring at it. I checked out the chain, all greasy and smooth. I kicked each wheel, they were stiff with air. I hopped on it and rode down our driveway. At the end I wasn't quite sure how to stop so I put my feet down. It didn't stop me but the bank next the mailbox did. Ouch. Everyday, I'd ride my bike up and down Celia Road in front of our house. I was bound and determined I was going to learn how to stop and learn to ride without training wheels. My dad tried to teach me but only got frustrated. It was up to me. I had to learn. And learn fast. No one my age was riding their bikes with toddler wheels.
One day our neighbor, you know, the meanest girl in existance, came riding down the road. Now, her bike had a banana seat too. Somehow, it was much cooler than mine. She started laughing and calling me a baby. She said I was a big chicken and started doing chicken brawks and flapping her arms like wings. I yelled at her that I could ride her bike without training wheels just fine. It's just that my dad didn't have the time to take mine off yet. And then...she dared me. Crap. A dare. Now I had to prove to her that I could ride her bike.
When was I going to learn to keep my big mouth shut? I just knew I was going to throw up. The color in my face vanished. I was trying to make myself invisible. What would happen if I just ran into the house? I could just run in there, lock the door and never, ever come out again. Then something happened.
Suddenly, this mean girl turned nice. It was weird, but I liked it. It was as if she knew in her heart of hearts that this was something very personal to me and that she should not tease me about it for once. She said she'd teach me to ride her bike. That there was really nothing to it and it just took practice. She pulled her bike up into the yard where I was and offered it to me. I looked at her. This was odd, her being nice and all. I hopped off my bike and hopped onto hers. It was much bigger than mine. If I sat on the seat, there was no way I could touch the ground with even my tippy toes. I told her not to let go of me. I was trying not to show it, but I was terrified.
Mom always said that when I borrow something that I needed to return it in the same shape, if not better shape, as when it was given to me. If I wrecked this girl's bike, I would be responsible for fixing it. My dad would be very upset to learn that not only was I riding someone else's bike when I had my own that was perfectly fine, but also that I had wrecked it. I knew I would wreck it. I couldn't even ride my own bike with training wheels without wrecking it. I was caught in a dilemma. I really did need to learn to ride a two wheel bike. But, if I ruined her bike, I'd have to give her mine and then I'd not have a bike at all. What was a girl to do??!
While I was debating on whether to just say thank you but no thanks to the mean-turned-nice girl, something happened. She let go. She gave me a huge push and simply let go of me. She was laughing this wicked evil laugh. I couldn't touch the ground to stop, not even with my tippy toes! I closed my eyes tight. Maybe I'm just dreaming. My feet found the peddles and I peddled that sucker like there was no tomorrow. I started going faster and faster. I wasn't wobbling. I wasn't swerving to the left and to the right. I was riding the bike! I was riding it! I was doing it! This bike and I, we took off through the yard, down over the embankment, across the gravel driveway, through the garden, and straight ahead was the electric fence with barbed wire. And I, not being able to stop. Not remembering that the breaks where right there on the peddles. Not being able to put my feet on the ground, not even with my tippy toes, I rode that bike straight into the fencing.
I knew for sure I'd be in a heap of trouble. The wheel was bent and the tire flat. The chain popped off. The bike was no longer in ridable condition. Somehow, I was able to get down off the bike without assistance. I turned to look at the mean girl. She was just standing where she pushed me with her mouth agate as if she were trying to catch flies. I guess she didn't think I'd ruin her cool bike. I was really in for it now. I expected my mom to come out of the house and call me by two of my three names. (That's how I knew what kind of trouble I'm in. How many names mom used.) I looked up to the porch and no one was there. I looked back down at the bike thinking maybe my imagination got the best of me, yet again, and that perhaps, just maybe, the bike was still in prime shape as when I was pushed. I was wrong. Dead wrong.
The bike jerked out of my hands and the mean girl started pushing it onto the road and up to her house. She never said a word to me. Hopefully, my mom didn't see what had happened. Since the mean girl didn't tell on me, if mom didn't see, I could escape the incident trouble-free and no one would be the wiser.
I retreated to my bike on the other part of our yard. I kept an eye on the front porch, hoping that no one would pop out there to use my two names. I picked my bike up and walked it over to the lilac bush next to the house - my designated parking spot. I climbed the steps slowly and entered the house. No one said a word to me. I had escaped trouble afterall. Whew.
The next day or maybe it was a couple of days later, my dad took those baby wheels off of my bike. He said he figured that since I took off on ol' mean girl's bike like I did that I was ready. I braced for what was sure to come next: a lecture and grounding of a lifetime. But it never came. My dad smiled that wrinkle eyed smile at me and chuckled. He saw my hesitation and probably wondered why I wasn't so fast to hop on my bike. He winked at me and told me to have at it. I looked up at my mom who was on the porch smiling at the two of us. This was really weird. I must be in that show Twilight Zone that everyone at school talked about. 
So I did. I got my now two wheeled bike and took off. I started beaming from ear to ear. This meant new hopes and bounds for me! I could ride my bike with the best of them. I had showed that mean girl that I could really ride her bike. I was a two-wheel bike riding gal now and have been ever since.
I rode that bike all over. I rode it up past the landlord's house, around the bend to the railroad tracks. I rode it down around the bend past the Narrow's. I rode that bike to the creek to pick up frogs and tadpoles. I rode it down to the stream in the pasture to collect rocks under the bridge. I rode it on the other side of the road of the creepy banana spiders and their extensive webs. I know they were teasing me as I rode by, far, far on the opposite side of the road from them. I pulled over when the huge coal trucks came by. I didn't want them hitting me. Then I got bold and started racing them. I'd get the honk from their truck horns and start to giggle.
One day, I went flying around the bend by the Narrows and hit the gravel too fast. I tried to use the brakes to stop. I pushed backwards just like my dad reminded me. My back tire went the opposite way as I was trying to move. And then it stopped suddenly. I flew over the handlebars and hit the gravel. I scooted up on my belly and face. I tried to put my hands out to stop me but they only landed beside my moving body. My bike ran me over and that darn coal truck never stopped to see if I was ok. I was mad. I stood up to first access the damage to my body. It was sore and I thought I felt something trickle from my face. My hands were torn and had some red stuff on them. I wiped the liquid from my chin with the back of my hand and looked at it. Blood. Great. I was in for it now. I wasn't supposed to wear my school clothes outside and this was probably why.
I was bleeding through my shirt, just a little. I had scrapes clear up to my elbows. It hurt to ball my hands into fists. My chin was sore and it hurt a little to breathe. I picked my beloved bicycle up from the ground and there was not a darn tooting thing wrong with it. I walked it up to the house, up the driveway and parked it. I walked into the house and mom started into what I thought was hysterics.
She immediately took my shirt off to look at my upper torso. Yep. All scraped up. Some even had gravel stuck in them. She looked at my palms, my arms, my elbows. She put a washcloth on my chin and told me to hold it there. I did. Though I didn't want to. disappeared into the bathroom. Oh no. I knew it. I looked around for a hiding spot. I looked at the door hoping I could make a dash for it. I wasn't in much pain but I knew there was going to be a lot when mom came out of that bathroom. I was about to make a conscious decision to make a break for it when mom came out and said, "Now this won't hurt a bit."
Won't hurt who a bit? Because it stung like hell to me! She put hydrogen peroxide followed by bactine in all my cuts, scrapes, bruises and what nots. I was mad. I was just perfectly fine without all the stinging. I would have been fine. My torso, elbows and hands were not going to fall off just because they had a tiny bit of gravel in them. My chin would have been just fine too. Have you ever seen anyone without a chin? I mean besides the guy that you see in chewing tobacco prevention videos. No one, to my knowledge, had ever lost a body part from a mere bicycle crash.
She brought out the band-aids and fixed me all up. Dried my tears with a paper towel. She kissed my forehead and told me to be more careful. All my friends will now know that I wrecked my bike. You know, the bike I had bragged about saying that I could ride it faster than any other kid in our county. I was going to be a laughing stalk.
I went back outside and sat on the top step of our porch. I stared at my bike. How could it do something like that to me? I got rid of the training wheels. I made it cool!! We were no longer being laughed at!!
Well, I'll show everyone! I hopped on that bike and took off down the gravel rode. I rode that bike into the Wheely Jumps. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know what my plans were. I didn't know where I was headed. I just knew I had to prove myself. I rode it right on into the Wheeley Jumps and started looking around. I put my feet down, gazing upon the hills. I could do it. If I could ride mean girl's bike over the bank, through the garden and straight into the fence and live, I could surely survive the smallest of the hills on my own bike. Right?
I was sizing up the hills with my new no training wheels necessary ability and not so good braking ability on gravel, when the boys showed up on their gas guzzling, smoke producing dirt bikes. I couldn't really tell who was who because they had helmets on their heads. They also had gloves on. Why someone wore gloves in the middle of summer, I had no earthly idea. But, hey, I'm not judging. Cyndy Lauper wore a ponytail on the side of her head and she was pretty famous.
The last of the bike riders stopped next to me. He took his helmet off and it was Fred Mcdermin. His family lived across the pasture. Their were seven of those boys, him being the middle. His older two brothers were out of the house and married. The younger two were a handful, so their mother said. They were always getting into trouble of some sort. One time I saw Fred driving a tractor down the road with just his feet and he had this gorgeous grin on his face. Then he took his cowboy hat off to me and continued down the road. He sure was handsome. I loved his chipped tooth in the front and the freckles across his nose. He had more of them in the summer than in the winter. He had the clearest blue eyes I think I've ever seen on a person.
Fred nodded up towards the hill and asked me if I was going to take a ride. I replied by saying I was thinking about it. He grinned at me. He told me he thought I needed to grow a few feet before I tried. Then he put his helmet back on, messed up my hair like I was some sort of dog, then took off on his bike and popped a wheely. I couldn't believe he touched me. He really touched me. My stomach did flipflops and I was frozen. I couldn't move. I wanted to move forward and just show him and the rest of the boys that I wasn't some little girl. But I couldn't.
He was right. I needed to grow up. If I was ever going to ride the Wheeley Jumps, I needed to grow up. Or did I? I was bound and determined, I was going to ride those hills, regardless of how big I was. And so, I turned my bike around and went home.

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