One of my piece's from Wash U's Summer Writer's Institute ... it is often surprising where the words journey once pen meets page...
The summer of 1968, freed from school, my days are framed by tree climbing, book reading, kickball and the hill. Sagewood Drive’s steep hill offers hours, days and weeks of free unfettered fun. The hill is to be conquered, first by tricycle and later by handmade skateboard. Bordering the backyards along Woodhurst Avenue is an abandoned apple orchard. When my parents built our home cows ambled and chewed cud in this pasture, I know this by the black and white Kodak stills glued in our family picture album. Photos of a younger mom and dad holding baby me in our backyard with baby trees. There is one baby album with a snippet of baby Steve’s baby fine hair glued onto a page. Meticulous notes of baby Steve’s firsts: first roll over, first sitting up, first foods, first steps. Among these first, are occasional notations of Ricks first and scarcer still, of Diane’s first.
In the family fold Steve is the athlete and life revolves around Berkley’s baseball diamonds. I spend hours in hot dusty ballparks bored and looking for amusement. Rick, the middle child, is the achiever. Always immersed into a project, this summer he is building a small wooden boat with dad. Steaming the planks so they curve towards the hull, the project takes up much of our patio.
As the baby of the family, I fluctuate between relishing in this role of youngest and attempting to discard the title in my impatience to catch up with older siblings and cousins. The latter is my standard state on the weekends when we are at our river place. It is at the river where I resent my sole claim of youngest. Inside Nana and Pop's pink trailer Shirley Temple plays on the black and white television, she is my companion as I dance and sing to the Good Ship Lolly Pop, while my older brothers and cousins are freed upon the river.
At nightfall I gaze across darkened water towards the sandbar. Disembodied laughter rides the evening breeze; orange glow of campfire captures the dancing silhouettes of my cousins Becky and Bill and my brother Rick. I'm filled with impatience and yearn to leap frog into my teens, to skip over my first: of age 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14. These ages have been lived and experienced already through my cousins and brothers and documented on 8mm reels. I want to join in the dance.