Posts Tagged ‘Elko childhood’

Did I mention there was the possibility of Dementors in this? No, not my sister. She was more like a vampire. But not when she first came into the world. That happened when we fought over blankets and she bit me. Hard. I think I was six at the time, and she was three. And later, she and I both fought Dementors.

1959. Elko, Nevada.

We lived in Elko during the school year. Winter in Jarbidge country is harsh and the roads snow in. There was no need for a young Forest Ranger to keep his family in the high country during the long, cold, winters.

We stayed in a tiny white house with green trim in the metropolis of Elko, Nevada. The man who ate worms lived on one side of us (I did not make this up), and my best friend, Brenda Brush, lived on the other side. I didn’t make up her name, either.

The man who ate worms was problematic. He growled at us kids. He told us he ate worms. I believed him. My mother, on that unfathomable plane, thought he was funny. I think my brother thought it was a joke, too. But I was afraid of him. He ate worms, for crying out loud! What next? Pill bugs?

I was not aware there was anything odd about my mother, but one day my grandparents came to stay with us and my dad took my mother away somewhere. My grandparents let us eat out at the fast food place, and they even bought me a foot long hot dog, despite my brother’s warnings (the tattle tale) that I wouldn’t eat it. Grandpa put it in the fridge for me when I didn’t eat it, smiling kindly and patting my head. He didn’t get all mad like my dad.

I don’t remember her coming home. Just one day there was a crib in the basement with my brother and me, and we had to be quiet lest we woke the baby up.

I remember sneaking out of bed one night and climbing to the top of the stairs where the baby gate was locked in place. We had the gate because of my little sister, not me. Mom was bent over her books in the kitchen. I don’t think Dad was home, or I would never have been brave enough to sit on the stairs and whine. Mom never scared me as much as Dad did, but she wasn’t giving in and I had to go back to bed.

Mom had a dog. I think it was a chihuahua mix. Squeaky. That should tell you everything you need to know about the dog. Squeaky. Who names a dog that? What kind of evil dwells inside of a dog named that? Why would they unleash that horror onto unsuspecting small children in the early mornings? Squeaky would leave no bone unturned. No flesh un-nipped.

He nipped, whined, yapped, nipped. His sharp teeth pinched and I swear he grinned at my mom when she giggled at us. He never drew blood, but – by God! – his nips hurt!

I hated Squeaky.

I loved the little bundle of human being we called Denny. I didn’t even care that she un-throned me as Baby. There would be plenty of time for sisterly spats in our future.

She was olive-skinned, with dark hair and black eyes. Her coloring was so foreign to the rest of us: fair-skinned, brown-haired, hazel-eyed. Even Dad was fair skinned enough that he didn’t look like my sister, and his light brown eyes were no match for her fierce black eyes. His only advantage was his jet black hair – that trait  my sister did not inherit. People looked at Mom and Dad, and then waggled their eye brows. Mom brushed aside the questions of my sister’s father with a laugh, “Oh, it was the old Indian down the road.”

Years later, her cheeks would flush red when she thought about that statement. She hadn’t meant it like it sounded. Mom only meant it as a way of deflecting people in the same way I learned to deflect people when I was alone with my children, a generation later. Only my children were pasty white with pale white hair and large blue eyes. My tan skin, brown hair, and hazel eyes was not reflected anywhere in them. I counted the rude comments. My mother made them into a joke.

And somewhere in there, Squeaky passed over the Rainbow Bridge. My mother cried, I am sure. She loved her little dogs. I didn’t even note his passing, cruel child.

But I did make friends with the man who ate worms. He let me in on the joke about the time I left the house to attend Kindergarten. He just said that to gross us out. I vowed to grow up to be like him and eat worms.

I need to tell my grandkids that I eat worms. They won’t believe me.

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