Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Friends for life

Some lessons in life can be brutal.  Some "lessons" can be way off base as well.  And some lessons won't really sink in for a long time after learning them. 

Loyalty and friendship came as second nature for Jason.  He was a very genuine person.  There was nothing fake about him.  He was the best, most loyal friend I (to this day) have ever had. 

During the summer months prior to starting school, Jason and I had become BEST friends.  We played so well together.  I honestly can't remember ever having so much as a disagreement with him.  We played together in perfect harmony.  A boy and a girl... best friends.  We had everything in common yet were totally different from each other. 

When we started kindergarten, I remember being so excited when I found out Jason & I had the same class.  Mrs. Gray's class at Hillcrest Elementary School.  I knew that riding the big yellow school bus wasn't going to be scarey at all with Jason sitting on the bus next to me.  I wasn't scared at all because my best friend (the one who had my back always) was in this adventure with me.

Arriving at the school and finding our classroom was easy.  My older sister, Edie, was happy to show us the way.  There were so many kids walking around, it would have been easy to lose track of each other, but Jason and I were practically joined at the hip and walked into our classroom together. 

So many things to look at hanging on the walls of our classroom.  It was sensory over load!  The alphebet (each letter having a picture beside it to represent the letter) was hung over a big green chalk board.  I already knew my letters and was eager to show off my knowledge to the teacher.  There was a large globe on a side table.  Pictures of animals, foreign places and children wall papered the walls.  A chart with names on it hung on the wall and a sheet of gold, blue, and red stars were hanging next to it, waiting to be awarded to the children who's names were on the chart.  (I knew the star system because of my older sister bragging whenever she got a "star" for the day.)

Mrs. Gray walked over and asked us our names.  She introduced herself to us as she stuck a sticker, with our name on it, to our shirts.  She asked us to please look on the desks and find the one with our name on the label.  She then turned to another student who was alking in the door. I remember helping Jason find his desk before leaving him to find mine.  I was sad when I found my name on a desk on the opposite side of the classroom. 

The desks were arranged in small groups.  Some groups had four desks together and some had three.  I was placed in a group of three and quickly tried sounding out the names on the lables attached to the other desks in my group.  Vicki Warnacutt (I had a real challenge with her last name) and Daphne Turnball were the other girls who would be sharing this area of the class with me.

I dug my things out of my back pack and stuffed my pencil box into the desk.  I glanced over to see how Jason was doing.  He was sitting in his seat, hands folded on his desk looking in my direction.  I felt a huge weight lift of my shoulders when I realized I would have an unobstructed view of my best friend from my seat.  We weren't in the same group, but at least I could look up and see his sweet smile whenever I needed to.

The rest of my first day of school is mostly a blur.  I remember meeting Vicki and Daphne.  I remember Vicki showing me how to "blow bubbles" in my chocolate milk until the bubbles ran out the top of the container and I remember Daphne choosing white milk instead of chocolate.  But what I remember most about that day was that every time I got scared or over whelmed, all I had to do was look up and find Jason.  Just knowing he was there, maybe not always looking in my direction, made me feel safe and secure.  I had the best friend anybody could ever ask for and he didn't even have to do or say anything to make me feel better.

Friends are amazing that way.  I may not talk to my friends everyday or even every week, but knowing they are there is a wonderful piece of mind.  To this day I know that if I were to pick up the phone, Jason would be there for me.  He's been a constant in my life... even if not on a regular basis... he is my friend.  My lifelong friend...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Army of one

Funny how most of my childhood memories are of summer time. Somehow, in my memories, the house in the summer time always had sunshine beaming in through every window, and there was always a light warm breeze blowing through the house filling it with the sweet scent of lavender from Mom's tree out front.

Each morning held the promise of new adventures and memories of the days gone by.  Every summer day was spent with my BFF Jason Roeder, my siblings and his siblings.  We were inseperable.  The cool thing about having a boy for a best friend was the "balance" he brought to my life.  We were respectful of each others wants and would politley take turns playing different things.  One day was bulding forts and playing army and the next was hanging out in Michelle's "playhouse" and playing with dolls.  Jason was the best friend anyone (boy or girl) could ever ask for.

I remember watching the banana split show with Jason and getting totally into the Land of the Lost.  He loved the dinosaurs and sleastacks, and I loved watching the girl be so tough and brave.  Time spent indoors was always limited.  As soon as the program was over, we were quickly kicked out of the house to play outside.  We had a new game.... Land of the Lost. 

Into the woods we would venture.  We would pretend to out run the man eating dinosaurs and build forts to hide in.  One day while out playing, one of our older siblings (likely Edie) told us a scarey story about "Old Man Shack" who lived out in the woods.  He (supposedly) killed any children who came onto his property and we were very close to his property line.  I was terrified, but didn't want to show Jason (the boy I looked up to more than any human on the planet) any signs of fear.

I remember clutching to my "sword" (aka a long willow stick) thinking I would fight off any old man that tried to grab me.  Jason bravely stood in front of me, closest to the property line, and told me not to worry.... he would never let anything bad happen to me.  I remember hiking back out of the woods that day with a true sense of safety having my best friend following me out, protecting my back from "Old Man Shack." 

We never really went into those parts of the woods after that day.  But I would have.... if my best friend ever asked me to.  We were an "army of one" standing side by side ready to battle man eating dinosaurs, rebel troops trying to gun us down, or even Old Man Shack hunting little kids.

Stepping into the sunlight out from the shadows of the forest, I would always sigh a breath of relief.  Even if I was terrified, however, I learned at a very young age that if you stand strong and true to your friends, you can and will conquer anything that crosses your path.  Summer days were full of battles.... it wasn't until we reached the school yard, however, that our real war would start.....

Don't cross the line!

Living at the end of a dead end street had some definite perks.  We could ride our bikes in the road without too much worry of being run over by a speeding car.  We could draw hop scotch on the pavement with chalk and it would last for days if it didn't rain.  My best friend, Jason Roeder, could build "jumps" to ride our bikes over and place them right on the road, and nobody complained.  Life was good.

There were perks for our parents as well.  They were able to look out the window at any given time and see us.   That is until we decided to venture down the road out of sight.  There were so many things to do OUTSIDE the culdesac that staying in it seemed a waste of good daylight.

Sometimes we would ride our bikes down to Andy Cluphf's house (3 houses down from mine) and get him to come out and shoot hoops in front of Danny & Sherrie Grandlunds house.  We would all make shots at the hoop playing "Around the world" or "Pig."  I honestly don't remember actually playing a real game of basketball.... but intense competitions took place in front of that hoop nonetheless.  On those days I would enevitibly hear the "whistle" from my mom or dad becconing me home for dinner or chores.  I would jump on my schwin and ride the banana seat home as quickly as I could leaving Jason & Andy shooting hoops without me.

As the days got longer in the summer heat, we found more and more things to do with our time.  Andy had a swamp on the back part of his yard.  We would hike around in the woods surrounding the swamp and hunt for frogs and lizards.  Some days we would climb trees and pretend to be pilots flying airplanes.... other days we would build forts and pretend to be at war shooting with our guns widdled out of wood.  Eventually I got so consumed in "playing" I didn't hear the whistle calling me home.  This was really the only rule my mother enforced, come home when you hear her whistle.... I broke the rule time and time again.

Each offense earned me more chores, and longer restrictions.  And each time I was given my freedom back, it seemed I wouldn't "hear" the whistle eventually and I would be punished again.  Finally my dad had heard enough of my disrespect for the rule.  He stomped out into the garage and fumbled around until he found a can of white spray paint.  I watched in confusion as my dad took the can of paint and walked out the driveway.  He walked to the end of our fence line (on the side headed out of the culdesac) and sprayed a white line across the road.

It took me a few moments to realize what the line represented.  It was a fence... a border.... a cage keeping me INSIDE the culdesac.  As dad walked back into the yard, a twinkle of victory in his eyes, he said... and I quote... "Don't go past the line." 

Because we lived where there was no traffic, the line remained across the road until I moved out of my parents house.  MY kids were instructed to not go past the line... heck it might still be there today for all I know!  Its amazing what a little paint, respect and a whole lot of fear will hold inside a culdesac.... 

Cold Snowy Night

I believe I was about 7 or 8 years old when this happend.... I am not sure though.

My parents went out for the evening leaving us 5 kids at home with a babysitter.... Chris Mitchell, the neighbor boy was left in charge.  He was siginificantly older than I was.... he was a grown up, like 17 years old or something.

I remember helping Chris get the younger kids to bed, and then settling in the living room with Edie, my older sister, in front of the television wearing our pajamas.  After a little while, Wendy Bomar, the neighbor girl, showed up and joined us in the living room.  I thought I was so cool being able to stay up with the "big kids" for a change. 

We were all sitting around like a bunch of teenagers talking about school and friends when Chris decided to play a game with us called "Chicken."  Looking back now, I realize he wanted to play the game with Wendy and not us, but he had to include Edie and I in order to keep peace.  He was, afterall, babysitting us in our house and we might "tell on him" if he didn't keep us happy.

So the rules were explained.  Chris would take his hand and start at my toes.  He would slowly drag his fingers up my leg until I said chicken.  The girl who allowed him to go the highest up her leg was the winner.  Stupid game... but I figured if this was what the "big kids" played then I had better just go along with it.

Of course I was first. I am pretty sure Chris was just trying to get us "little kids" out of the way before moving onto the "northern territory" with Wendy, but I didn't mind because I was one of the cool kids that night.  Chris touched my big toe and I giggled.  He slowly drug his fingers up my foot and touched my ankle.  I felt my face flush red and tried to hold my breath.  He stopped momentarily at my ankle and then slowly started up my shin. "CHICKEN!!" Yupp... I let him go as high as my shin... I was so cool!!  Next was Edie.  She was so brave!  She allowed Chris to get just below her KNEE!  I lost the game for sure now.  But that was alright,  I wanted to see how far up her leg Wendy was going to let him go.

Chris, at this point, feigned a dire thirst and sent Edie and I on a search for a can of Pepsi. Edie and I both knew exactly what was in the frige to drink, yet we scoured through it hoping to find a can of pop to please Chris. We returned to the living room where Chris and Wendy were, empty handed, heads hung low. In his final attempt to get rid of us, Chris asked if we would be willing to walk to the little store to buy him his ever desired can of Pepsi. 

Now, on most occasions a walk to the little store was no big deal we did it all the time.  However, it was like 9:00 at night, dark.... and there was about 8" of snow on the ground.  Unfortunatley, Edie and I were willing to do whatever we had to do at this point to save face after losing the game of chicken.  We pulled on our snow boots, tucked our hair into stocking caps, zipped up our puffy snow coats and headed out.  We didn't even change into regular clothes.... we simply put our snow gear on right over top of our night gowns.  Chris was thoughtful enough to supply us with one flashlight, low on batteries of course.

I do believe that Chris thought we would go outside, maybe walk a few blocks and then turn around.  He was simply trying to buy a few minutes alone with Wendy to continue his pursuit of Northern grounds.... I am pretty sure she let him go WAY north of the knee, and Chris wasn't thinking about babysitting anymore.  However, he didn't know my sister Edie very well.  When she said she would do something, she did it.  No matter how much I weenie whined she drug me along on a lot of her adventures... this was simply one of the first traumatic trips we took together.

By the time we reached the end of 95th Dr... I couldn't feel my fingers.  It didn't help that every time a car passed my sister would drag me into the ditch where we would dive down and "hide" in case it was our parents coming home.... like they weren't gonna miss us once they got to the house and realized we were gone.  Not sure her logic on that one... but I always did as she told me to.  By the time we reached the little store, my toes were so cold they were burning. 

My heart dropped when the lights were off and the door was locked to Rodlands Grocery Store.  We had walked all that way (about 2 miles) for nothing.  I remember crying as we trudged through the snow back up the hill toward 95th. 

We quit diving into ditches on our return home hoping at this point our parents WOULD drive past us and pick us up. Not very many cars were on the road that night but each approaching headlight gave me hope that we would be rescued from this pointless mission. 

Sure enough, when we were about 3/4 of the way to our house, our aunt Bonnie passed us on her way home.  She quickly pulled us in from the freezing night, and warmed us up by the heater.  We were both shivering, teeth chattering and soaked through to our underoos.  A few phone calls were made, and we were tucked into a warm make shift bed on the floor.

We went through a lot of babysitters in our childhood, but I am certain that Chris Mitchell was the only one that was fired, sent home without pay and never allowed on our property again.  Our Aunt saved our lives that cold winter night, or at least it felt like it at the time. 

I swore I would never play "big kid" games and never ever follow my sister on any other adventures again.  Ha... That was the first of MANY times I would swear off trouble on 95th Drive.... All the way into adulthood, I would follow my sister anywhere.  And honestly, 9 times out of 10, her roads led us to trouble.  They also led us to adventures and memories worth blogging about.

Cherished Memories

I was watching a documentary the other day about gangs and how they effect today's youth.  It made me a little scared, a little sick and a lot sad.  It sent my mind reeling into the past, back to a time when I was a "gang member" in the Nine Five Drive gang.  It made me think back to the old "gang" and the things we used to do.  If only we could convince today's youth that what our gang did was cool.....  The world would be a lot different. 

My first memories are of that little house at the end of 95th Drive sitting on the corner facing it's very own direction.  The only house on the street that wasn't in uniform with the other houses.  That house was unique, and so were the people who lived in it.  All of my childhood memories are there in that house, on that street with the old gang.  I thought it would be fun to blog about the memories of those times, those places and those people.  My memories are scattered a bit, and I am not certain in which order they actually occured, but I will try to keep them in sequence as much as I can.

My first vivid memory:

A new family had moved in across the street from us!  I could hardly wait to meet them.  After watching cartoons and eating cereal I rushed outside to ride my bicycle.  I wanted to show off to the new kids that I was riding without training wheels.  I still had scabs on my knees and elbows from the crash a few days prior when Dad let me go for the first time, but I didn't care, I was riding without the baby wheels and that was all that mattered. 

Both of my sisters were outside, Emie (my little sister) still had her baby wheels on, so I could easily out run her if I wanted to.  But I didn't want to get into any trouble this morning... I wanted to be the first one to meet the new kids. 

After, what seemed like forever, 2 boys came outside.  Boys... drat.  I peddled my bike up their driveway and wobbled, hopping off before the bike came to a complete stop.  Before me stood 2 boys, one that was a little older (and probably the cutest boy I had ever seen!) and the other was about my age.  They introduced themselves... Wesley and Jason Roeder.  I was instantly smitten with Welsey, but all he wanted to talk about was Space Ships and Astronauts... I didn't know anything about those things so I remember avoiding the topic with him that day... I focused on his younger brother.  He was a sandy haired boy with the thickest glasses I had ever seen and his eyes wiggled when he looked at me. He was the most interesting boy I had ever met.

Turned out, Wesley was my older sisters age, and Jason was my age.  Perfect!  A few moments later a little girl with long thick hair came prancing out to stand beside her brothers. Michelle Roeder, the same age as our little sister.  All three of us "Hinds girls" just met our new best friends but wouldn't really know it for some time.

Jason jumped on a peddle bike and zoomed down his driveway.  He was riding so fast, and without baby wheels.  I grabbed my schwin with the banana seat and took off after him.  Jason was amazing on a bicycle.  He zipped and zagged as I hung back and watched from a safe distance.  And then.... he popped a wheelie.  Simply amazing.  I knew in that moment that he was by far the coolest most amazing boy I had ever met.

We didn't know it that morning... but that was the beginning of "The Gang" on 95th Drive.  Friendships started to blossom that day, and the roots of that friendship started intertwining their way through our very souls....