Childhood, Hysterectomy, Summer, Uncategorized, Writing

Johnnycake Road Chapter 3

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Queen Anne’s Lace and Goldenrod

It is finally spring here in Southern New Hampshire, only a month late, and for all we know the snow may not yet be done with us. But, today dawned glorious, not a cloud in the sky, and no pesky wind to slip its icy fingers down our collars. Nothing but sunshine and (for us) warm temperatures in the high fifties, possibly sixty!

I started my latest chapter of the book based on my childhood experiences living in the country in Upstate New York. It’s rough and unfinished but I feel like sharing it. Let me know, do you think this interesting enough to keep going? I will anyway, because it brings me great joy to pull out memories, dust them off and relive them in my imagination. How fun it is to elaborate and fictionalize them a bit and to use them to entertain myself and hopefully others.

It is the eve before I go for my hysterectomy surgery. The process of opening myself up, with my writing and my thinking and my intentions, somehow seems to have coincided with the advent of the surgery, which is a quite literal way of opening up. Somehow, these two are connected in a profound way I haven’t quite sorted out yet. But, I welcome it all. I have learned that opening up and sharing your deepest thoughts is a requirement if you wish to write truthfully and authentically. I am grateful for the people and the beauty that have come through the doors and windows I have thrown open with complete abandon. Or at least what is for me, complete abandon! With that, I share the unfinished work of Chapter 3. I have six weeks of physical recovery ahead of me, and I think this will generate a lot of writing.

Please send my your healing and positive thoughts as I journey through my surgery in the early morning hours tomorrow, April 23rd. Thank you!

Chapter Three – The “Crick”  (unfinished draft)

“Maaaa, I’m BORED!”I hung over the back of a kitchen chair, vulture-like, as my mother sipped coffee and worked a crossword puzzle. The vinyl stuck to my sweaty arms as I dangled them over the back. It was a triple H day in Upstate New York: Hazy, Hot and HUMID. The mild and breezy spring had run smack into a wall of thick, cloistering air that heralded a New York Mohawk Valley summer. It hung in a yellowish haze over the rolling farmland. Cows lolled under shade trees in clusters at the very edge of the pasture, and refused to go home at milking time, prompting the farmer down the road to phone a request that we kids chase them down to the cow paths at dusk. My brother and I were thrilled to oblige, bringing our collie Shepard mix, Poochie to assist. We’d return home panting, our shiny, red faces dripping with grimy sweat mixed with the dust kicked up by the panicked bovines. “I’m surprised those cows could still give milk by the time you kids are done scaring the bejesus out of them,” my mother would remark before she ordered us into the bath tub. We’d had a close call one evening, and it toned down our exuberance just a hair. The second-to-last heifer took acceptance at the unfortunate last in line bovine, who had scrambled up her backside in a panic in an attempt to get away from the deranged,whooping gang of child and pup. The angered cow stopped dead in her tracks and head butted the offending little bossy, resulting in a domino effect of tumbling cow, dog and kids. My brother and I hit the deck and rolled out of the way in the nick of time to avoid a “cow crash” as we came to call it later on. Of course we never told our mother.
“Go watch cartoons with your brother,” she now suggested. From the living room, strains of “Captain Kangaroo” floated into the kitchen and sparking a surge of irritation through my body. My brother and I had just had a fight over which station to watch, and who sat where. Fists had flown, and he had won, and then had triumphantly stretched out with his favorite blanket to watch the babyish show. For a few minutes I sat at the edge of the couch and halfheartedly exchanged kicks with him, but it was too hot to continue the fight.
“Bore-Ring!” I said, in a sing-song voice.
Mom sipped from her mug and without looking up said,”If you’re bored I can give you something to do.”
Ugh, she always said this. Plenty of dishes to wash, tables to dust, rooms to clean. I did my inward eye roll and flounced out of the kitchen before she could assign me any equally boring tasks.
“I’m going outside,” I pushed at the screen door.
“Don’t go any further than you can hear me call you!”
I grunted and let the door slam behind me.
Outside in the blinding morning sunshine, the beauty of the summer day eclipsed any discomfort resulting from the heat. The corn stalks wore their early July dark, green color, and their usual whispering was laid low by the humidity. Whisps of ghostly mist rose in fingers of steamy vapor from the tall grass of the fields. Snowy white Queen Anne’s lace dotted an expanse of mustard yellow goldenrod. I grabbed one of the delicate blooms and examined a lone ladybug clinging to one of the tiny blossoms.My body surged with the realization I was free as the red winged blackbirds sitting on the stalks of milkweed in the field. Their lyrical call “Chereeeeee! Cheereeeeee!”beckoned.I was completely unencumbered by pesky little brothers, blaring television sets, crying baby sisters and irritable adults looking to hand out responsibilities for my own good. My dog, Pooch, looked up briefly from her shady spot where she lay next to the cornfield, then dropped her head in disinterest and closed her eyes. So I was on my own today. The world was my oyster, and I did not have to share it with anyone else. I decided to slip under the barbed wire of the pasture fence and explore the shaded dark cow paths that bordered the edge of the hay field adjacent to our back yard. I always wondered what lay at the end of the paths, which we never really got to see once we chased the cows into the murky depths. That was the point where we usually turned back for home, since it was getting dark and we knew the cows would keep going. Cows were like that; once they started moving, they usually kept going to their next destination, as long as nothing too daunting crossed their path.

 

poetry, Uncategorized, Writing

The Desk Quest

Several months ago, I got it in my head I needed a secretary style writing desk. My husband and I searched every antique shop within a 30 mile radius, plus online ads, ad nauseam. I knew I would recognize the right one when I saw it. My requirements were clear – it absolutely must have a drop front, (no, NOT a roll top) it must have drawers, it must be made of real wood, it must have many cubbies. Perfection of condition not required; it had to be old, because it must have a history. I imagined sitting down to write with the ghosts of previous owners pushing my pen and spiritually urging me on. I imagined spending hours wondering who they were, and what interesting or mundane work they produced while bent over the desk. (My capacity for daydreaming really knows no bounds) For a while it was quite an obsession. There are many of these desks, but none of them really spoke to me. After a while, I decided to give up my quest for a bit and set up a table for my writing space in the spare bedroom of my house. It functioned. It really is a nice little table. I got on with life, and with writing. Words don’t care where you sit when you write them. But, I, being a mere human, remained wistful and dreamy about a real desk.
And then – MAGIC! The desk found me. I casually mentioned my search while at Easter dinner at my in laws. They own a huge New England home which sits right on the common in town. It is the home my husband and his 7 siblings grew up in, a charming large old house filled to the brim with history, antiques and memories. My sister in law said, “Oh, we have one of those here, in the apartment.” The in law apartment is the only part of the house I never saw. She brought me over to show me and there it was. A charming little secretary desk, antique, in very good condition, with the requisite drop front, including key, and cubbies and drawers. I was enthralled. “It belonged to great Aunt Mary,” My sister in law said. “Talk to Christopher (my brother in law), I am sure he would let you buy it.”
Christopher immediately said “Oh I would give it to you. It would be nice to keep it in the family.”
I almost swooned. Not only is it a family heirloom, but it belonged to Great Aunt Mary! And, inside it was a black and white old photograph of said Aunt Mary, in her younger days. Not only do I get to imagine the history, I can envision who the previous owner was as I daydream her various tasks, be it as mundane as writing checks ( or were they Cheques back then) or as exciting as writing a letter to a lover, or an overseas soldier husband, or children off to college. Perhaps she wrote poetry she never showed anyone, and locked it up in the cubbies? Or maybe, just maybe, she enjoyed writing her memoirs, or journaled her feelings and observations? Perhaps she dreamed of a life of writing and publication.
I do not know any of those things, and I don’t think I will ever know, as Great Aunt Mary passed away at the age of 89 some thirty years ago. Sadly, nobody around today knows or remembers a whole lot about her. What I DO know is, the Universe pays attention and sometimes, when you let go of something you seek so diligently, it finds you! And, I am willing to bet, Great Aunt Mary will find a way to speak to me and perhaps reveal a little bit about herself through this cherished heirloom.

 

Childhood, Uncategorized, Writing

My Biggest Fan

For My Dad on his 78th birthday

When I was born, my father was serving on a Naval ship docked in Boston Harbor. A telegram announced my birth. He ran excitedly around the ship spreading the happy news to his shipmates. Finally, someone asked him “Is it a boy or a girl?” He stopped in his tracks and said, “I don’t know!” He was so excited he didn’t read the telegram completely. He had to return to retrieve it to find out he had a daughter.He was 20 years old.

I love this story, because it is really fun to picture a handsome, dark eyed smiling young sailor hopping with excitement at my arrival on this planet. I also love it because it truly didn’t matter to him which gender I was. He just loved me. He has always loved me for ME.

When I was small, he made up wonderful bedtime stories, starring ME, with a cast of animals in supporting roles. I was the rescuer of baby Robins who fell out of their nests, mending them with nothing more than mercurochrome and a band aid, and sending them back home to mama bird, with a dropper of water and a worm for the road. I couldn’t wait to hear what wonderful things I would do next. Dad would brush my long hair, and tell me I was Pocahontas , his Indian princess. He always had a white hanky handy to dry tears or daub at a scraped knee or elbow.  These are some of my earliest memories.

Dad did what lots of Dads do; he stayed up late on Christmas Eve, putting together an elaborate cardboard house for us kids to inhabit on Christmas morning. Until one day in Summer, when my brother and I discovered if you collapsed the cardboard on the garage floor you could run and leap belly first and slide a long way. This is what poor Dad found us and the neighbor kids doing when he drove in the driveway from a long day’s work. All his hard labor flattened and trod upon by an army of kids, led by me. One day I spied Dad through my bedroom window when I should have been asleep one summer evening. He was walking a battered navy blue bicycle up the driveway and into the garage. On Christmas Day that year, I never connected the shiny, red two wheeler bike equipped with training wheels glistening under the sparkling Christmas tree with that junker he brought home that coincidentally, I never saw again. He pulled us in wagons, on sleds, gave us hundreds of piggy back rides. He once entertained us by chewing an entire pink bubble gum cigar and blowing a bubble as large as his head. We sat with our mouths hanging open in awe, until the bubble burst all over his face, getting stuck in his five o’clock shadow. Pink shreds fluttered from his eyebrows which were raised in arched black and pink caterpillars of disbelief and shock. There was gum in his hair, and on his earlobes. My brother and I burst into hilarious belly laughs that followed him as he ran for the bathroom and a warm wash cloth to clean the sticky mess off. He was a pretty good sport about it all. (We were never allowed to have a whole bubble gum cigar; we were “too little”. After that, we never really wanted to, either.)

He taught me how to read before I started school. I learned to love stories, a gift that has lasted a lifetime. How I loved going to the library, choosing a book, usually about animals, and proudly adding it to my book list every week. My love for reading got me into trouble when I started school. Very often, I finished my lessons early in class, so I could read my latest book choice under the desk. It often appeared I wasn’t paying attention when called upon in class. The truth was, I knew the material, but read the lessons faster than the others, and was deeply engrossed in my stories or daydreams and didn’t hear the question being asked. As a result, a nun accused me of cheating in second grade, when I got a 100% on a test. She was convinced I couldn’t possibly know the answers because I was always daydreaming. I was horrified to take home a paper sporting a giant red F. I tried to erase it in class, and Sister Regina snatched the paper back, and emblazoned it with a larger red F and a note home that my dad had to sign the failed paper. Dad read the note, while I looked down at my shoes in shame. He met my eyes. “Did you cheat?” He asked. I shook my head no. “I believe you,” he said. Three very powerful words. We went to the school and he assured that nun I was perfectly capable of passing that test on the spot, verbally if she would like proof that I did not cheat. I got my 100% and my dignity back. Dad has always believed in me.

Dad encouraged me to achieve. He quizzed me on what I wanted to be when I grew up. He talked at length about his dream of me going to college,  ever since I can remember. This clearly meant the world to him, to give me this wonderful opportunity. I told him I wanted to be a Navy nurse. I wanted to “save the soldiers in Vietnam.” I thought they were “fighting the Germans”  A little confused? Yes. No matter, Dad thought that was just swell.

Dad made everything an adventure. New places were to be explored and enjoyed. We hiked, we boated, we swam the Finger Lakes, and we roamed every corner of each place we lived. He encouraged me to love music, and to sing. I could belt out Patti Page’s “Cross Over the Bridge” like a nightclub singer at age 7. Although, I confess, I always confused the words “fickle past” with “pickerel bass” And I wondered why someone would go fishing and leave their “Pickerel Bass” behind them. Speaking of fishing, Dad also taught me how to fish, something I enjoy to this day. He even forgave me for using up all of his rubber worms, as I could practically hear the real worms screaming in pain as they writhed when put on hooks. I couldn’t bear it, and he understood. (However, for the record, it was my sister, not I, who lost his cherished “Red Eyed Warbler” lure. He forgave her too.)

It wasn’t all sunny days and fishing trips between us. We both have regrets; this I know, because we have since spent many wonderful hours snowshoeing in the woods of Maine, talking everything out amongst the tall pines of what we call The Enchanted Forest.  I am so grateful I had the chance to mature enough to make things right between us! We had our share of differences and angst during my teenage years. I know I broke his heart many times. I quit college after a month. What a bitter disappointment that had to be. And how frightening it must have been for him to watch as I made bad choices and stuck with them long after I should have. There were periods of time I stayed isolated from family trying to figure things out for myself. He never abandoned me. When I needed help the most, he and my mother were always there. After my children were born, things began to change. I righted my ship, and eventually sailed back to home port. Dad was a wonderful role model for my boys. He took them hiking in the White Mountains, and he and my mother took them up Mount Washington. They spent summer days on the Maine shore. They played cutthroat games of Scrabble, (and still do) In Winter, Dad took them to the slopes and taught them how to ski. They went animal tracking in the woods, and identified leaves and plants. He was always there for them as much as he was for me. He taught them things a father would teach. He filled a great void in their lives.

Dad can get me through anything. If I close my eyes, I can feel his hand on my elbow at the graveside of my children’s father; his hand over mine as he got me across the Ridge trail in the White Mountains when my fear of heights had overtaken me and had me frozen in place. When asked, he shared his wise counsel when I had my own issues with the daunting task of parenting two very independent teens. I remember wondering just when he got so darned smart. He shined the light when I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

We always want to please our parents, even when we think we don’t. I will never forget that day in 1979 when I called home, crying, on a pay phone from college, after barely a month in, telling my family I planned to quit. I just wanted to go home. My father tried everything to convince me to stay. He was hurt, angry and probably extremely worried for my future. Nothing he could say would change my mind. So, he came and got me, and brought me home. And spent the next thirty years praying, hoping, watching, most likely at times, crying and worrying, sometimes celebrating and above all, loving me. The proudest moment of my life was the day I finally walked for my college diploma, at age 47. My boys were there, my husband, and my family. But the person I searched for first in the crowd was Dad. There were he and Mom, beaming, as if they always knew this day would come. They had more faith than I did.

What more can a person ask for in a father? Someone who from the start loves you for who you are, who always stood in the wings waiting to catch you, and who always, always is ready to celebrate you. My biggest fan. There is nobody on Earth who could do it better.

Happy, Happy birthday DAD. Thank you for loving me. And by the way you may have noticed I left out a certain story involving you, an umbrella, a herd of rogue cows and a school bus full of kids. This time. 

 

Writing

A Writing Exercise

Here is an interesting writing exercise – credit to Kasey Mathews for teaching it to me. Think of a question and write bullet point answers. It’s actually kind of fun, and it gets you writing. Could be a very useful tool not only to get the writing juices flowing, but to help you figure out what you really feel about something that maybe is troubling you, or maybe even to help you decide which way your character in your story should go, etc. I can think of a lot of ways this helps.

Here is my question:

Why do I write?

Answers – writing my very first thoughts, without thinking a whole lot about it:

To sort out my thoughts
To be remembered
To touch others
To make stories come out the way I wish
To remember
To expel feelings
To connect with the world
Because it’s fun

Why do you write?

poetry

Mother Tree

I’ve gone to the meadow today
like a hundred times before
To shed my hardened anger
And let my spirit soar

The soft winds whisper sweetly
Through pine boughs from up high
A red tailed hawk has taken flight
Red-gold against blue sky

The pine’s arms brush the musky earth
She bends her emerald head
And beckons me to crawl inside
Her perfumed evergreen bed

The tree and I sit, back to back
My blood and her sap
I breath and she sighs
I melt into her lap

—Kimberly Nash

 

 

 

Hysterectomy, Uncategorized

Farewell to U(Terus)

On the Impending Loss of my Female Parts

I have recently been advised I need to get a hysterectomy. Because I have had two episodes of post menopausal bleeding, and ultrasound reveals a thickening of the endometrium, and a polyp. Ordinarily this would require a hysteroscopy, biopsy and a d&c, but these were impossible because I have severe adhesions on my cervix, preventing the doctor/surgeon from getting in to perform the procedures. So, because they cannot biopsy they cannot determine if I have uterine cancer. The chances are very low and they don’t think I have it, no family history, less than 6% chance. But, since I no longer “need” the organs, the surest way to prevent cancer is to remove them all. There are ways of doing the surgery that are less invasive than previous times. But it is still surgery. And, I don’t trust doctors, plain and simple. I wish I could. But in my experience they have made mistakes that for one thing have led to me having this adhesion problem. So, for me this is a big deal and it’s frightening and I really can’t stop thinking about it. In two weeks, I will go for an opinion by a gynecological oncologist. A writer friend recently advised me to write about how I feel about my uterus. I’m not one to get all crunchy granola about my body, so it’s kind of an uncomfortable thing for me to write about it. I tend to be sarcastic and crack jokes when things get too close to pulling my mask off, so to speak. So I started out by putting down the facts of the situation. (See above) It is easier for me to start that way. I have tried to think about how I feel about my uterus. Frankly I don’t give it a lot of thought. Does anyone? Aside from housing and growing my babies, I don’t have a lot of use for it. It has given me nothing but trouble most of my adult life, really. From cervical cancer (pre cancer) in my late twenties, a miscarriage that it didn’t expel like it should have, to peri menopause, and bleeding 3 out of 4 weeks of the month for several years, it really has not been my friend. I once had a breast lump that had to be checked out, and the doctor at the time told me it was benign, and a result of my “hormones having a war with my ovaries and my breasts getting caught up in the middle of it all”. She really did say that. I actually mourn my pre-puberty days when I had the stick figure of a boy, and could run like the wind, unencumbered, and without drawing any undue extra attention to myself while doing so. I could just be out in the world, as I was. Free to be myself. After adolescence I lost any sense of self I had. There were too many changes, in my body, in my life, and in the world. I didn’t know how to be, or who to be. Now I find myself at the same kind of junction in life; all kinds of changes in my body, my life, and the world. I think I know who I am, and who I want to be, but I am encumbered by so many things getting in my way. And I am now being asked to make a major decision and remove body parts, to stop everything for weeks while I recover. I just about got to full recovery from my back fracture in 2014. Healing is not an easy thing to accomplish these days. So, how do I feel about my uterus? Nothing but trouble, frankly. I am grateful to have had it so I could have my beautiful children. In that way, it did change my life for the better, so it was useful for 18 months out of 40 years of being active. Thank you Uterus, and I am sorry we couldn’t have been better friends. You made me grow up and I probably have never forgiven you for that! And no, I can’t end this exercise without some sarcasm: How like you it is to be a pain in my butt right up to the bitter end. So thanks, thanks a lot (end sarcasm)

Childhood, Summer, Uncategorized

Snakes

Snakes

The great race on Johnnycake Road was not my first or last encounter with my nemesis The Snake. In fact, we had a rather complicated history, the snake and I. Back at my old house, my next door neighbor, Billy Branson, once kept a pet “Garden” snake in a cardboard box filled with grass and twigs. Billy was a few years older than me, and teased me mercilessly. One eventful summer day, I got all suited up for the great outdoors dressed in my play clothes – jean shorts, a tee shirt and keds with no socks. Fortified with my Kellogg’s breakfast cereal and orange juice, I pushed the screen door open and stepped out onto the concrete patio overlooking our backyard and the Branson’s backyard. Our driveway separated the two properties. Almost immediately, I heard Billy’s reedy voice float over from next door.
“Hey, Kimmy, c’mere” said Billy.
Immediately suspicious, I asked, “Why?”
“I wanna show you something.”
Hmm. Why was he being nice to me? Somehow, I knew that didn’t bode well.
“What?”
“It’s something really neat.”
“I have to ask my Mom,” I stalled.
“Oh come on, it’s just right over here! What are you some baby that can’t walk across your driveway without asking Mommy?”
At seven years old, I was most definitely not a baby, and so that is how I found myself in the neighbors yard without my mother’s permission, following Billy into his garage. He led me to a corner and it took a minute for my eyes to get used to the dark after the blinding sunshine outside. The garage smells were overwhelming; aromas of musty motor oil mixed with dirt, old unwashed garbage can and rotting wood assailed my nostrils. I wrinkled my nose and longed for the fresh air of summer. This better be worth it, I thought.

Billy was bent over a cardboard soda carton box on a work table that might have once been his father’s. Broken tools littered the space, covered with thick dust and cobwebs. Nobody talked about Billy’s father, and when I asked my Mom where he was (because in my little bubble of the world everyone had a father)she just said he didn’t live there. When I pushed it she told me to stop being nosy and never talk about it to Billy, and she meant it. So, I didn’t. Billy motioned me over to the bench, which was about chest high to me. I looked into the box and recoiled. A skinny, greenish snake lay stretched out on clumps of grass. It’s eyes were sharp and shiny.
“He won’t hurt you,” said Billy gently. I raised my eyebrows at his conciliatory tone.
“Why are you being nice to me?”
“Maybe cuz you aren’t being a brat today.”
“I am NOT a brat!”
Somehow it felt better when he was being a little mean. I could trust that. I recovered my initial suspicion and repugnance and took a closer look. I had never seen a snake up close before. He looked so vulnerable in the box. But not afraid. He just looked back at us with similar curiosity, and perhaps, shared a little of my suspicion. A tiny forked tongue flicked in and out so quickly, you almost didn’t even see it. Billy stroked the snake’s head with the tip of his index finger.
“See, he likes to be petted.”
“Is he slimy?” I asked. “Because he looks so shiny, like his skin is wet.” I shuddered a little bit.
“No, he isn’t. Go ahead, pet him!”
I glanced up at Billy’s freckled face, looking for any hint of mischief glinting in his maple syrup colored eyes. To my surprise, they looked kind, in a good big brother kind of way. I always wanted to have a big brother, someone older and stronger who could teach me cool things and protect me from the world. Someone else to be the “responsible one” and “set a good example”. As the eldest child in my family, that mantle fell on my skinny shoulders, and I always felt like that got in the way of all my fun. It sure could put a damper on a kid’s daily decisions. I mean, who could have fun stomping in mud, or jumping out of trees if you had to worry about whether your little brother would get dirty or break his neck following you?
Billy’s mouth curved up in a friendly smile. “Go ahead, he said. I won’t let him hurt you.” That clinched it. I reached out to the snake’s head with my finger. He didn’t move a muscle, except for his flickering tongue. Very slowly, I held my breath, and touched his shiny, scaled head. It felt dry and very smooth.
“Wow,” I breathed.
“That’s great, Kimmy! I think he likes you.”
“Do ya think so?” Wow, I just touched a snake, I thought. Wow.
Billy’s eyes lit up. “Hey, do you wanna hold him?”
Whoa! Hold a snake? “I don’t know…”
Billy’s golden hair caught a ray of sunshine filtering through the dirty garage window. His face had a cherubic quality as he smiled down on me. “Don’t worry, I will show you how. It’s easy.”
Well, that did it. Just like a big brother, he was going to teach me something really cool. I could not believe how great this day was going, right off the bat. I watched closely as Billy gently lifted the snake out of the box. He showed me how to hold he snake behind it’s head in one hand, and drape the rest of the snake’s long body around the other hand. The snake’s green tail curled around his outspread fingers and he gently closed his hand around it. I was mesmerized. The snake seemed so calm, almost sweet. I was eager to try. Billy held the snake toward me, and I did everything exactly the way he showed me. Before long, the snake was in my hands.
“Wow! He’s really neat! I thought snakes were mean.” I whispered.
“Snakes are good! They eat mice, for example,”Billy explained all the virtues of the lowly snake to me.
“You are really good at holding snakes,” he said. A happy warmth spread through my chest at this praise. Billy never said anything nice to me before. I smiled up at him.
He smiled back with big brotherly pride.
“You know,” he said, and his smile got bigger. “You should go show your mother how you can hold a snake! She will be really surprised. Most girls could never even touch a snake, much less hold one!”
What a great idea! “Yeah!” I said.
“Go ahead,” said Billy. He followed me across the driveway and up the cement steps. He held the screen door for me and gave an encouraging wave as I went inside to the kitchen, where my Mom was washing dishes, her back to the door.
“Mom!” I shouted. “Mom!”
Mom turned around, wiping a dirty glass with glistening suds. “What? What is….” She stopped in mid sentence.
“Look what I can do!” I thrust the snake at my mother, waiting for her wonder and amazement at how talented I was.
She stared with a funny half smile on her face. Clearly she was speechless. She did not make a move away from the sink.
“See? I can hold a SNAKE! Billy showed me how!”
“That’s… that’s nice dear. “
“Do you want me to show you how?” I was brimming with a generous desire to share my newfound expertise with my mother. As far as I knew we would be the only two girls on Prospect Avenue who could hold a snake. I imagined her having coffee with her friend JoAnn. “Well you know what my daughter showed me how to do today?” The coffee spoons would stop tapping as my mother bragged to JoAnn. “Really?” JoAnn would drawl and her penciled on eyebrows would arch wide and high above her surprised eyes. “Wow.”
My mother’s voice broke into my daydream. “Now, why don’t you take the snake back outside and give it back to Billy.”
“Okay!” I happily skipped out of the kitchen and through the back door to the patio where Billy was waiting eagerly.
“Here’s your snake,” I handed him back.
“Well? What did your mother say?” He seemed a little less big brotherly. His golden smile was replaced with the typical smirk he wore when he was about to pick on me. He took the snake back.
“She said it was nice. She said she was PROUD of me.” A bit of a white lie, but I knew she thought it.
Billy frowned and stalked back to his garage. I started to follow. “Hey! What can we do now? Can we feed him? What’s his name, huh? You never said his name.”

Billy kept his back turned and bent down next to his mother’s garden and let the snake go. I watched the snake slither into the bushes and disappear.
“Hey!Why’d you do that?”

“You don’t name snakes, stupid,” he said. “That’s a dumb girl thing! Go home and play with your dollies.” He went inside his house and slammed the door on me, and all of my hopes and dreams for a new big brother.

I stood there for a little while, puzzling over the strange turn of events. I looked at the empty snake box in the empty garage. In our garage, my father’s lawnmower and tools were clean and neat, and waiting for him to come home and build us a fort, or mow the lawn. My father would smile and show us how to plant a tree, or pull us around the neighborhood in a red wagon he fixed up. Inside my house, my mother would always be there to witness my latest adventures, to bandage my scraped knees and console me when Billy’s teasing got too mean. She would tell me to ignore him and present me with bologna and cheese sandwiches at lunchtime, and insist I take a nap while she watched her soap operas. Billy’s mother worked and was not home during the day. I often thought he was lucky to be able to spend all day doing whatever he wanted with no adults around to tell him what to do. But I thought now, maybe that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

As if summoned by my thoughts, my own mother appeared at the screen door, wiping her hands. “Did you give that snake back to Billy?”
‘Yes.”
“Good, now come inside and wash your hands. Those creatures are dirty!”
I stood on the steps a minute longer.I thought I saw a curtain move behind a window next door.
“Kimberly Ann!”
“I’m coming!” I ran up the steps and let the screen door slam behind me.