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My first grade school year was coming to a close. For a solid week we learned about safety during thunderstorms and around electricity. We received fancy colored handouts, not the normal, mimeographed pages with blurry purple writing. I had grown to like the distinct, inky smell when the damp pages came straight from the printer. That machine fascinated me, but we weren’t allowed near it.
Mrs. Campbell, my first grade teacher, called our attention to the picture of a person standing under a tree and another one beside it with someone inside a house. “Which one of these should you do during a storm?” she asked. We raised our hands high above our heads. “Brian, which one should you do?”
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“Mom, can we get a dog?” I asked.
“No.” She didn’t even look up from the dish she was washing.
“But why?” I whined.
She threw the dish cloth back into the water and turned towards me. “Quit asking. I’ve told you more times than I can count.” Her wet hands became animated dripping water as they emphasized her words. “Why? Because you won’t take care of it.”
“Yes, I will,” I retorted.
“The answer is no! Go find something to do.” She returned to her washing.
I left the kitchen and went to the living room. Dad was zoned out on the couch with his tablet. At the ripe old age of eight, I had learned you never interrupt Dad if he was using it. One time I asked if I could play with it since I wasn’t allowed to have my own. He got mad so, I don’t ask any more.
Coloring always made me feel better. So, I sprawled out with a pillow between me and the hardwood floor. I spread my crayons out and picked a page to color.
I had just finished the sky and grass when I saw movement in the next room. Without moving, I shifted my gaze. A small gray mouse ventured from a hole along the baseboard in the dining room. His nose twitched as he examined the bits of food under the table.
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A mother and her grade-school aged daughter sat down in the pew beside me. “Where did the people who died before Jesus go? Heaven or Hell?” She looked up at her mother. Her voice carried quite well in the nearly empty sanctuary.
The mother shushed her. “God takes care of his own. Worry about being a good girl. You need to be quiet because church is about to start.”
The girl looked up at me and smiled. “What’s your name?” she loudly whispered.
“It’s Jessie,” I replied.
“I’m Caroline.” The girl smiled and wiggled in the pew.
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clack, stomp. Clack, clack, stomp.
that kid upstairs is at it again. She gives me such a headache. The
whole lot of them needs to move. Those noisy kids have been at it for
more than two months. That’s too enough. At least the two older kids
stay away now. What to do about that little one, thought the
downstairs neighbor. I was here first. They need to go.
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It was the summer of 1975 and since at least Christmas I had coveted a doll called ‘Baby Alive’. The TV commercials made her look like so much fun. My younger sister and I had worn the Sears catalog out looking at that doll. As well as all the other wonderful things.
Mom took us to the local five and dime store. The store had put out bins and racks for a sidewalk sale. In a bin front and center was ‘Baby Alive’. “Oh, Mom.” I pointed to the battered boxes. “I want one of those!”