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Probably August

Circumstances have made it possible for me to enjoy another self-indulgent walk. This one I get to take at almost 10 o'clock.
It has been raining off and on here all night. Light sprinkles fall from the deepest blue sky as I step outside and although the rain is a bit colder than I normally like, I enjoy the feel of it tonight.
I decide to turn left. It is garbage night. Everyone on the street is so neat. Their is no shame in placing their garbage bags right below the street lights.

It was the summer I was ten years old and my brother was eight. We used to hang "Outback". Daily, we would hop the fence at the end of our two-acre property into a subdivision of houses. Our gang of kids was large and diverse. Everybody played together. At least sometimes.

The day's sky had turned from a light blue to a pale grey. It was an unexpected colder day. We were all suffering in our shorts and tee-shirts but nobody wanted to go home. A parent might suddenly decide a bedroom needed to be cleaned.
Some kids lasted longer than others. But soon, it was only Nancy, my brother and his best friend, Jeff, and I left. It was three in the afternoon.
We decided to walk around the neighborhood to keep warm. It was too cold to ride our bikes. The garbage men had still not made it to the area.
We were two houses passed Jeff's when my brother noticed a large branch cut from a pine tree in the garbage.
"Shit, it looks like a Christmas tree," he said.
We all agreed with him.
We all also agreed to drag the large branch over to the vacant lot down the street and plant it.
"It needs decoration," said Nancy, afterwards. She was a childhood Martha Stewart.
"What would we even use?" asked Jeff.
"We will have to hurry. Those garbage men could come soon," I said.
"No way!" Jeff exclaimed, horrified. "I will get in how much trouble if I am caught."
I rolled my eyes at him. "Just come on."

We took things like bottle caps and newspaper from people's recycling boxes. Nancy grabbed all the plastic ribbing she could find. I decided the tabs off popcans would make great mock lights. Jeff found a make-up Barbie head with gummy blonde hair. Mike found a stash of popsicle sticks in a shoe box.
The garbage man must have been perturbed to find no one had used twist ties on their bags that week in the neighborhood.

We lugged our loot back to the tree.
"We got to get some garland for this tree before we put anything on it," Nancy said.
My brother said "We could split-up."
"Good idea," answered Nancy. "We will meet back here in half an hour."
I watched my brother and his friend run off. "They are just going to take off to do something else, you know."
"Boys will be boys," Nancy sighed.
We decided we would be able to find some nice flowers for the tree up on Marijuana Mountain. We did not know what marijuana really was. We just called it that because all the older kids did. We always felt cool hanging out there. In the daytime.
We figured right about the flowers and came back to our little tree with armfuls.
The boys came back with nothing but the idea that we should go to the cornfield and peel some husks off the corn. It could be tied together for even more garland. Nancy thought it was a good idea and off we went down the block.
Jeff found a stick on the ground. He looked up at me. He said "I bet we can make some real cool stuff if we peel the bark off sticks."
I thought that was a neat idea.

We had fun decorating the tree that afternoon. Nancy kissed my little brother on the cheek in exchange for his hoard of popsicle sticks. And she bravely snuck home for some glue. Jeff and I decided we could make candy canes from bark. It was time consuming and we only did one each.
Nancy made a elaborate star for the top of the tree out of the sticks. Her and Jeff got into a big fight. What else could be done with his Barbie head? It had to be the topper.
The star ended up winning.

We broke-up for supper with the promise to return in an hour. We had decided we would each come back with little presents for each other to open under our tree.

We converged, dressed warmer in pants and windbreakers, each carrying our little plastic garbage bags of goodies. We were full of excitement.
I gave Nancy four Archie comic books I knew she had not read.
She gave me her favorite ring from her costume box collection.
Jeff gave Nancy the Barbie head.

My brother was the smart one though that night. He had raided the cupboards at home. He gave everyone food.
We sat around that little Christmas tree gorging ourselves on pretzels, marshmallows and macaroni noodles.
We did not notice the cold air.
We did not notice anything but each other and our laughter.

"Oh, no," I said looking up. There were so many stars in the sky.
We all looked at each other, dread creeping up our spines and filling our throats. We all knew the when the street lights come on curfew.
My brother and I ran all the way home, our bumped and bruised legs ahead of our minds. It seemed like we had been running forever before we even reached the fence to hop.
I looked up at the black numbered clock that hung above the stove when we burst through the door into the house.
It was almost ten o'clock.

Not one of us kids got in trouble that night.
I'd like to say it happened in July.
But it was probably August.


phoebe said…
you're a great storyweaver, Q.
Tammy said…
Nice. Nostalgic. I really enjoyed reading it.
Inanna said…
It was like watching the whole thing in Technicolor from the stars. Excellent.
AJ said…
I don't know about anyone else, but I just don't spend enough time remembering things like that. We all have those stories, but how often do we stop to pull them out and dip our toes in the cool water once again...

Thanks for the reminder Beth...
cbeck said…
Ahh the simplicity. Where did it go? Where did it go...

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