* Writers note: I beg your pardon as of late. I am feeling, as you may be able to sense, a bit scattered lately and have a lot on my brain to ponder. As a result, the writing is not as focused as I would like. I hope you are enjoying nonetheless 😉
Adjusting to a new life, a new neighborhood and life without my mother was not without it’s challenges. In retrospect my life had just become a lot better and my mother had done one of the most selfless acts one could imagine; she had given me up from her life so that I could have a chance at a life. Now that I was in California I was also away from the loving support of both my mother’s and my father’s family. I no longer had my Aunt Nita to protect me or my cousins as playmates. My cousin Lea was no longer around to tell me what I should like and not like. I felt lost. Not only did I feel that isolation but I felt my dad’s isolation. When my dad left Washington he left behind a group of friends who no longer accepted him and family who would talk around him (didn’t want to speak on the whole gay thing). My mom in her rage over his departure spoke frequently to the people who had loved him over his unpopular decision to be true to his soul. I was not immune from this discussion.
My dad had located a daycare for me. It was conveniently up the hill from the elementary school I would eventually attend and this daycare had A LOT of kids running around. Jackie’s must have seen like the perfect place for a dad who was trying to give his little girl some kids to play with while also attempting not to draw too much attention to himself from the other parents. This place had constant activity. Jackie had 3 children of her own (one girl and 2 boys), a large front and back yard, plenty of toys and she loved to cook. She turned her 2 son’s bedroom into a nap room that had a built in divider so the boys were able to keep their own space. Only the select few were allowed to enter into the domain of Alan and Matt’s bedroom/Star Wars collectible enterprise. The daycare kids ranged from ages 6 months old to 11 years old. I would say Jackie was doing quite well for herself given she had no permit to run a daycare and believed in punishing her daycare kids in the same manner she punished her own children: screaming and slapping.
It was at this daycare I would meet my oldest friend, my first big crush/heart ache and feel I was a part of something even though I was constantly on the fringe of it. Allegra was about 4 months older than me and at a time in a child’s life where age ranks supreme this was a big deal. It was actually our first conversation and both of still speak of this meeting with great affection. It went something like this: How old are you? I’m 3. How old are you? I’m 3 too. Well, when is your birthday? June. When is yours? February? Which one comes first? I don’t know. Maybe we should wait to see whose birthday comes next and then that person will be older. Ok. Let’s go play on the big wheels. Yeah.
Of course by the time Allegra turned 4 she had already established herself as the leader of the daycare. This girl was tough. She refused to wear pants. She could outplay the boys in any sport. And, she spoke her mind all of the time. No joke, ALL of the time. If you were 5 years older than her, it did not matter. Allegra would tell you what’s what. She had me in constant trouble with Jackie. Here was me a shy, timid and scared of everyone 3 year old who had just befriended a strong willed child who was determined to exhaust her energy daily. Allegra ran everywhere and usually had a soccer ball or baseball with her. Tha girl had energy! She also got me in good with Alan and Matt so that I was allowed to touch (not play) with the Star War’s figures which was as good as hitting the lotto for the time. She was the first friend I looked up to and wanted to do everything she did. Our friendship has spanned 30 plus years and because we are girls has had its ups and downs.
One activity that used to get us into a lot of trouble was making water balloons out of plastic bags left at the school. We would fill them up, locate a twisty tie on the ground (this was before ziplock), shut them off at the top and proceed to throw them at an unsuspecting fellow daycare child patrons. You would then hear from what seemed like miles away “Allegra and friends!!! Get back up here NOW!!!!” Our stomachs would drop. We would ponder our options and then wonder how the heck she knew what we were up to. Deciding between a timeout in the kitchen if we came up now or a red rear end if we came up later, we opted to trek back up the hill (a very very very steep hill) and face the music. Allegra always received the more severe punishment: time out in the kitchen in which she would obstinately kill ants on the kitchen floor with her thumb. I usually was given some sort of verbal scare and sent to another room away from her which was punishment enough.
An event that stands out at Jackie’s, although I could write a book just on my experiences there alone, was when Allegra decided it would be a great idea to use a new word she had overheard the night before. She not only utilized this word in perfect context but directed it Jackie’s punishment towards her. We were undoubtedly doing something we knew we should not be (card board sliding down the hill, hitting up the janitors down at the school for milk boxes, throwing tan bark at birds, Allegra attempting to teach me how to swing on the monkey bars which inevitably ended in me on my rear end) and Jackie was providing her schpeel on why we were such terrible children. Allegra with full confidence looked at Jackie and said “This is BULLSHIT!” I do believe every child in ear shot dropped their jaw in full disbelief. All of us kids took our medicine and did not dare talk back to Jackie. All of us. We were terrified of Jackie and her wooden spoons placing warschock designs on our behinds. Allegra let the gaffe of all gaffe loose! Jackie looked at her. She looked at us. She looked back at Allegra. She smacked Allegra right on the cheek. And ya know what? Allegra did not cry. Talk about the ultimate middle finger right back at cha! The next thing I recall is watching Allegra’s mother hear of the events as they were told by Jackie and then watch Jackie cower to Allegra’s mother. The tongue lashing was unforgettable and I was forever frightened of pissing off Allegra’s mother from that point on.
To Be Continued………