Barbies, cowboys, and little girls

Her house was just a different place for me to be. Not home. Away from my sisters—this was a place where I felt like somebody—there was no one to pick on me. I tried never to eat there because the dishes had a film and bits of food stuck to them.

Playing around with memories – an entry from 2006

What were the games you used to play when you were between the ages of 4 and 8?

Barbie Dreamhouse
Darcie Disco
Solitaire
War — with myself usually
Hungry hippos
The Monkees
Wonder Woman
Battle Star galactica
Hide and Seek
Manhunt
Cowboys and Indians
Penelope Pitstop
Drawing

I used to play at Michelle’s house a lot. I’d get a note from my mom saying I had permission to get off at her bus stop after school. She lived on Hoffman’s Crossing, along the side of a steep hill. I remember whenever it snowed, there was a chance our bus would get stuck. We looked forward to that. Once, we were at the top of the hill, at the edge of 513, and the bus started to slide backwards. It was so much fun.

I preferred to play at Michelle’s when it was warm out. I didn’t really like her house, it was dirty and I was certain it was haunted. Michelle thought it was haunted, too.

Her house was just a different place for me to be. Not home. Away from my sisters—this was a place where I felt like somebody—there was no one to pick on me. I tried never to eat there because the dishes had a film and bits of food stuck to them.

Behind Michelle’s house, water squeezed between two rocks – a natural spring. The water was always cool. We built our forts nearby. When we played, there was danger—and we had to save our women (ourselves) from it. I generally played Mike from the Monkees or Luke Skywalker from Star Wars as well as the dual role of my own girlfriend. Michelle did the same. One of our characters would get wounded, even knocked unconscious (pretend)—the helpless body dragged back to the fort.

Michelle’s neighbors were fun to go to as well. They had pet ducks and pigs, which they kept in a pen. The ducks had a little pond. Up the hill from their pens was a tire swing.

I liked playing there because I never worried about being fat. At home, as soon as I’d relax and just get into playing, my sister Heather or one of the neighbor kids would point out how fat I was. It stifled me. I never knew what to play when friends came over.

Playing always got more fun just as it was time to leave. Sometimes, my mother would pick me up. She’s sit and have coffee with Shirley, Michelle’s mom, and let us play a while longer. Most of the time though, I’d walk home. Just walk up the hill, past the rehab center, the house on the top of the hill where the lady who did the Levelor Blinds commercial lived, and the lake. I had to be careful around the bend, because people drove like crazy. They might not see a little girl no matter how fat she was. Then down the hill again, past the barn and the house with the little pond, then up the hill to Mt. Grove Road.

Mount Grove Road used to be dirt when we first moved into the neighborhood. Sometime, when I was not aware, they paved it. I don’t remember trucks, steamrollers, or anybody paving the roads at all, just one day the roads were paved and it stayed that way. Every October workmen would put gravel on the roads, which made bicycle riding treacherous. Sometimes Michelle and I rode bikes, too.

I dream about Hoffman’s Crossing a lot. I dream about Michelle’s house. That haunted house. Once, when I stayed at Michelle’s, she told me how her mother woke in the middle of the night to someone staring at her. The skin was green! The grandfather who used to live down the street haunted the house next door; a floating teacup and saucer were seen in the window. Nobody lived there.

But I never slept well at Michelle’s. I was constantly watching the shadows. The sheets were dirty and bloody once. Michelle had chiggers and she’d scratch till she bled. Red crusty bumps covered her skin. All night long, I’d hear her scratching. I didn’t want her blood on me.

I didn’t know chiggers were contagious.

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