I was the hoped-for girl after three boys were birthed – fourth time was the charm.
I discovered early that being the youngest and only girl was not a piece of cake, not eazy-peezy. Too much rough-housing with me in the middle. But, I was the apple of Daddy’s eye, the one who wouldn’t disappoint.
I held out hope for similar status in Mama’s heart.
That spot was held by her first born.
I’ve held a life-long fear of snakes – long story.
Stroked a yellow ball python curled around a man’s arm. Once.
Just once. After several gin and tonics ginned up my courage, phony as it was. The yellow beauty was surprising in its dryness and smooth as silk. Warm.
I heard the rattle of a snake hiding under a broad hosta leaf. Too close for comfort. Hopefully
I’ve been scared of figments of imagination brought forward by books and film. The Monster from the Black Lagoon, fish-head dripping algae-laden water, reached for me in dreams. Frankensteins’s monster jolted to life in our small attic crawl space during a fierce electrical storm. Cobra Woman lurked at my bedside. I once screamed when I awoke to see through blurred, sleepy vision her head swaying, looking for the deadliest place to strike.
But I once saw the Cisco Kid on his horse Diablo dressed in all their TV finery – black and silver glowing in the sun – riding down Park Street to the delight of every kid in town. When he passed he smiled down at me and said, “Hello Honey.” I occupied cloud nine for weeks. The one and only time Mama pulled me out of school. Still can’t believe she did that.
I saw Robert Kennedy standing on a flat-bed trailer in a shopping center parking lot giving a campaign speech. Who knew then that I’d be crying a few weeks later when yet another Kennedy took a bullet. I watched Daddy shed tears when the first one died. And Daddy was a Republican. Some things really do transcend politics. I witnessed many times Daddy giving the last money in his pocket to someone who needed it more than he. Maybe he wasn’t a Republican after all.
I grew up in Poplar Bluff
Not as sophisticated as Paris, not as lively as London, not as friendly as Dublin, not as beautiful as Florence but it grounded me in real life. I’ve seen the hardships of poverty, I’ve heard people I thought I knew spew racial hatred, I’ve heard stories of hometown folk illustrating extreme hypocrisy.
I also experienced the beauty of nature, the nurturing of an old-fashioned neighborhood, life-long friendships, my first library card, my first love, peaches that ooze juice down my arm and drip off my elbow.
The best and the worst.
A full life.