Walking Home

As long as I could remember, we lived in an old farm house about a quarter mile outside of town.  Between me and all my school friends lay a strip of highway intersected by a weed landscaped railroad track.  Beside the highway rose a humming grain-elevator, busy with the comings and goings of semi-trucks and grain wagons.  After school, my friends, the “town kids” walked by my big yellow bus in the parking lot as I looked down from the fly-specked window and waved good-bye for the day.  I watched as they skipped on by, arm-in-arm and laughing.  Once home from school, I climbed the old elm tree.  The one that had a tire swing before the rope rotted through and sent me skidding down the side of the tree, bare back against bark.  From my perch on the lower branch I could see our town past the big white grain bin and daydream about the fun the town kids were having after school without me.  I was just sure that Shelly and Regina were walking to the IGA store to buy pink five cent bubble gum and Sean and Travis were probably tracking Travis’s dog, Maude through the woods behind the cemetery.  They would all talk about it the next day at school and I would have nothing to tell.

Mom was going to have a new baby.  I knew that soon, she would grab her stomach and tell my dad, “It’s time!”  In 1976, that’s how babies on T.V. were born, and I knew when that happened my adventure would begin.  The plan was for my sister and me, no matter the time of day or night, to be dropped off at my cousin’s house to stay while Mom had the baby.  Oh, glorious opportunity!  My aunt and uncle lived IN TOWN, across from the high school.  For a day or two, I was going to be a town kid.  My cousin, who was 7, a whole year younger than me, was allowed to walk along the grid work of sidewalks between her house and the elementary school all by herself. For a few days, I would get to walk home with her too.

Dad eventually drove Mom to the hospital where my brother was born.  As seemed to be the case with most babies, my brother announced his coming in the dark of night and we were bundled up and dropped sleepy eyed at my aunt’s house, only to be rushed back into bed.  In the morning, my aunt delivered all of us to school and I could hardly wait for that first walk home.  After school, I met up with my cousin and sister in the courtyard and I was so proud.  I hoped everyone would notice that I was not on the bus.  I felt taller as we crossed the creek behind the school over the little wooden bridge built there by the school grounds keeper.  As a group of boys ran past us, battling with sticks used as swords, I yelled back at my sister to, “hurry up,” just so everyone knew I was in charge.  The grass seemed greener and the sunlight brighter as we made our way up Minnesota Street to Walnut on our walk home.  I paused a block before my cousin’s house to pick wild, purple violas from the neighbors lawn, a gift for my aunt who’s hospitality made me a town kid for a day.

Looking back, I realize how immense my imagination was.  In my myopic view from the elm, those town kids were living it up while I was out in the country eating dinner with my family, finishing my chores and homework.  Only later did I figure out that they climbed trees after dinner and dreamed of riding my big yellow bus.

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