Monday, March 28, 2005

Childhood Memories

Childhood seems so long ago. Or was it just yesterday.

One thing was for sure, as soon as the weather was warm enough, I was out riding my black and yellow striped banana seat bike around and around our dead end street. I never thought of it at the time but this was my solitude time. My mind would wander off into the conversations of the day or daydream of tomorrow’s adventures.

Was that my bike or am I remembering my brother's bike? I guess childhood was some time ago.

Tommy was the only kid on the block near my age. When Tommy and I played, I never really thought about him being a boy and me a girl. I don’t think he did either until the day I told him I went to the altar at church and he informed me that girls can’t be altar boys. Neither of us had a clue what the other was talking about. The conversation didn’t last long.

Peter was the grandson of the Greek couple on the block. Peter was my age. I think I always impressed Tommy when I could run faster than Peter. Together, we were the Three Musketeers. Once in a while we allowed Peter’s younger cousin to be a fourth musketeer. But usually it was the three of us scouting about as if we could conquer the world.

Our clubhouse was under Tommy’s back porch. It was great! Dark and damp with a dirt floor. We entered through a piece of lattice work hinged as a door – a very small door. Then the coolest part was the window we could climb though to get into Tommy’s basement.

Tommy’s house was amazing to me. The front door was very big – one of those fancy double doors. The porch of the house wrapped around one side and the roof of the porch stood a distinguished two stories high on white columns. The floor was tile. Our porch had indoor outdoor carpet. We didn’t play on Tommy’s porch much. My porch was the porch for adventure with its high brick front that was perfect for jumping off.

The intrigue of Tommy’s house did not stop at the porch. Once you went through the beautiful double front doors, there was another door. For some reason this was impressive to me. But not as impressive as the staircase and the second floor hallway. A full size pool table with plenty of room around the sides stood ready for a game anytime. Apparently, we were too young to play on the pool table. I only remember being in Tommy’s house a few times and we never played pool.

The pool table in our house was in the damp musty basement. Oh the fun we had down there. It could be the greatest scene of a scary plot or filled with laughter of friends playing pool. We also had a ping pong table that could be placed on top of the pool table.

Ahhh, the ping pong table. I am the youngest of five children. The oldest, by seven years, is my sister. Three brothers are between us. Ronnie, the brother closest to me in age was the greatest thing on earth in my eyes. I remember playing ping pong with my siblings and my dad. My favorite challenger was Ronnie. Dad would let me win too easily. The other brothers seem to have no mercy. Ronnie was always willing to make it challenging for me without beating me horribly – which he could have done easily – and without giving me the game. Sometimes he would play with his left hand to give me the advantage. He was good even with his left hand.

I am told that Ronnie always took care of me. When I was a baby, he would hide me if anyone acted like they were going to take me home with them. He shared his toys. My favorite was playing with the flat bed remote control truck in the kitchen. We’d back that long bed, 18 wheeler up to the cabinets and load it with canned food. Then we’d drive it around the kitchen and return the load to the cabinet.

Ronnie was three years older than me. With that age difference it is amazing to me that he ever wanted me around. He was such a great brother that he even allowed me to be an honorary member of his WC Fields club.

I’m sure we had our sibling spats but overall we got along great. He did get very upset with me one time. I’m not sure he has forgiven me yet. I happened to be in the room when he was asking Mom if he could go see a movie (American Graffiti, I think). I was probably in fourth grade and he in seventh. The scoop on that movie in my peer group was there was a scene of a guy mooning out his window. That’s probably the only information I had on the entire movie and I was glad to share it. This caused Mom not to approve Ronnie’s request to go to that movie. He must have forgiven me. As we got older, he allowed me to double date with him – at least while I was dating his girlfriend’s brother.

There are so many stories coming to mind. One evening we “ran away” together. We actually locked up our suitcases outside the house and rode our bikes to the park for a while. Apparently, Mom wasn’t too concerned. It seems she calmly (mom was always calm) said something like “have fun, be back for dinner.”

Ronnie had his hideout in the basement under the stairs. That was a cool place. He collected pop bottles there until time to load up a grocery cart and wheeled them to the grocery store across the parking lot that joined our back yard. He also had a BB gun target in that little hideout. Of course, I got my turn at that too. His science lab was tucked into that little three foot by four foot space as well. I remember looking at specimens of all kinds on the microscope.

Now in our 40s, we don’t keep in touch much but it is always good to see him and chat with him when our visits to mom and dad coincide. It’s also nice that his youngest daughter is one of my kids’ favorite cousins.

Childhood memories last a lifetime. He will always be my big brother. I’m thankful that he allowed me into his life.

Editing Note: Dad says the basement was not damp and musty. I guess we don't always have accurate perceptions of our childhood memories. :)

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