The Dime, Chinee and Me
Since I was the youngest, there was always someone escorting me everywhere. Except on our acreage, I was never allowed to venture anywhere on my own. This included Sunday school, regular school or visiting our neighbors, (ok, so the nearest neighbor was almost 2 miles away). My sister closest to me in age was five years older and my Brother was older by 7, so I was most often joined to one of their hips, much to the consternation of my sister.
It was a feather in my cap to have had two older siblings in school with me. It kept being bullied to a minimum and please believe me, I was not opposed to playing the “I’m going to tell my sister or my brother” card. No sir, I didn’t mind that card at all; I felt any owned asset should be used and used wisely. Older siblings were also good for filching a cookie or two every once in a while; especially when Mother didn’t quite agree that a cookie would settle my upset stomach, (I had and still have chronic tummy issues, TMI much?) Those times, Chinee would walk past my sick bed ever so slyly and deposit a cookie as quick as you please into my anxious hands and away from Mother’s unsuspecting eyes. (Heck, I was sick anyway why deny me a little pleasure)? Oh you already know how much better many things are when you’re sneaking them and to have my hero, my big brother, being the one to deliver this small object of my desire was like having chocolate with my chocolate. Was there ever a better brother?
Occasionally, there were times when Mother would pull one of my siblings out of school for extra help around the farm. If it was for help needed inside the home, my sister would be asked to stay. If the chore required more strength and out of doors stamina, Chinee would be staying. It was the quirky mischievous humor of Fate which determined that on this particular school day, my sister would be too ill to attend school and Mother needed Chinee’s help.
(Dear Reader, I must explain something here and now so as not to confuse you in later chapters. My two eldest sisters where 13 and 16 years older than me and were out of the family home and own their own before I started school. So pretty much throughout my entrance into my teens, it was just the three of us youngest kids growing up together).
This particular joke of Fate left me and me alone to climb aboard that which was never before but now became a frighteningly alarming, humongous, flesh eating, body snatching, bully concealing school bus! I actually felt lightheaded at the prospect of leaving the warmth and loving inter-sanctum of my house and being driven away in that yellow rattletrap. What kind of silly errand would cause a Mother to abandon her youngest child to the cruel, lonely world of singularity? I wasn’t even sure if I could find the way to my classroom alone. And who would walk me to the bus that afternoon? Didn’t anyone know that there were millions of buses in that yard after school and blast it, they ALL LOOKED THE SAME! (there was actually only two or 3 buses most days, but still). How would I know which one to board? Was Mother really tired of me, was she hoping I would board the wrong bus? I really didn’t eat much and my sister was the one who awakened me most morning to comb & dress my hair before school thereby freeing Mother to do other things. I could not think of one reason why Mother would do this to me! I hadn’t cried or been an obvious bother for at least a couple of weeks; my shoes were dusted each night and I put my clothes away without being told. Didn’t I gather the eggs every day before and school? (And what a terrifying event that was! I am terrified of a living and walking chicken to this very day! I am absolutely certain that the only cure for a fearless, clucking, chasing chicken is a bag of seasoned flour and a vat of hot oil).
I washed the dishes twice a week and raked the yard every time it needed it. She needed me, I know she needed me yet, she was setting me up for a future episode, (30 years later), of “What ever happened to…” Who would lick the cake batter bowl and beaters if I wasn’t there? Maybe that wasn’t a good example, my sister would be still there of course. Then who would help Mother wrap the presents at Christmas? That wasn’t a winnable argument either because yep, my sister again. MOTHER DIDN’T NEED ME! SHE REALLY DIDN’T NEED ME! The switch was flipped and I saw the light. I was walking the plank, sent out to pasture, deserted, casted off, Dumped! I was dispensable and the big, yellow bus would attend to the dispensing. My whole body began to shake and shutter. The thought of never again having a cookie was an even worse thought than being face to face with the bullies on the bus…alone! Be that as it may, I determined to face my fate as the trooper I was meant to be, if I could only get rid of the urge to wet my britches! (All of my life in time of stress and life altering moments, my bladder has always failed me. It had begun a day long ago in a dimly lit laundromat. Even on the the day of my wedding-after I had been trussed up, tied and sucked in, being escorted down the aisle, I had to make a quick dash to the nearest ladies room; on the way to the hospital to give birth to my first son, contractions five minutes apart, I needed to stop at a nearby Arco; at my youngest son’s wedding as they were about to announce my entry, I was doing a “Lou-Lou Skip to My Lou” jiggle adjustment all the way back down the hallway toward the church’s center aisle, barely making it back in time).
As I was contemplating whether or not going to the outhouse would be the solution to my immediate problem, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up expecting to see a hatchet aimed at my skull, (at least that would be a kinder method of getting rid of me, I thought) but instead, I saw the understanding face of my brother. How long had he been watching me? Had the rattling of my bones alerted him to my distress or had he just intuitively known all along how this would affect me? He leaned down and kissed the top of my head; my knees buckled and my heart melted; He then reached inside his pocket and brought out the dullest, most beat up, saddest looking mercury dime there could possibly be in circulation and he gave it to me. He made me promise to buy two packages of cookies from the School’s cookie machine. One when I first got to school to have with my lunch (if I survived the trip there) and the second at the end of the school day on my way back to the bus, (if I found the right darn bus), that one I was to share with him when I got home. Thusly, he taught me that a little bit of sugar will sweetened any bitter cup.
(Still now, the best way I know to show my love when my friends or family have troubles, is by whipping up a cake, a pie or a batch of cookies to comfort them).
Surprisingly, no one tortured me unnecessarily that first day of which I was alone at school. Well, Ronnie did do his best to annoy me but a handful of playground dirt thrown into his eyes stopped that. Miss Thelma, our bus driver, did not suddenly morph into whatever a pre-1980’s Freddie Kruger would be. I even found my way to the correct bus that afternoon. Malchia did not pull my hair from the seat behind me on the bus and we got home without anything horrible happening.
Chinee was waiting for me at the swing that hung from one of the two grand, stately Sycamore trees framing our house. I ran to him so happy to be shed of my “be a big Girl” edit and I was rewarded by being picked up, swung around, hugged and placed upon the two by four board seat of my rope swing. He knelt beside the swing, asked me about my day and as I recounted it proudly, I shared the Tom’s peanut butter sandwich cookies paid for with his sad pitiful dime. Oh, what a bright, special memory that dull, little dime bought for us as we sat under that tree.
Oh yes by the way, my Mother still needed me after all, She made me rake the yard and gather the evening eggs that day. And for all my trouble, she even served Fried Chicken for dinner! What a day! What a delicious day.