Welcome Ben

The next house we lived in was on Road 415. It was a long road. Starting in Coarsegold, running south-east. This is the same road my great-aunt lived on.

In the house next to ours was a boy who became our friend. We did the things children do. Smoked, well we didn’t know how to really smoke.

There was a path between the houses. We would walk back and forth. We had a secret place in the woods. Where we smoked. Or did the closest thing kids can do. Until we got caught. He blamed it all on us. Then we weren’t friends.

There was a small orchard. I don’t know if we ever ate the fruit. A barn in the back was a fun place to play. Though it seems like a place we shouldn’t have been in. When not spending time with my sister and our friend. I walked along the back road. It was a dirt road and it ran for miles.

One of our neighbors would give us candy when we visited them. After we got caught smoking. We used to pull out dry grass and pretend they were cigarettes. As an adult I have thought smoking is gross, and I have never done it.

One time my sister, our friend and I came up with a strange idea. We would ride our bikes down the road. Then jump into the grass and roll. It was fun. We would roll with the speed from riding. And as amazing as it seems to me now. We didn’t get hurt. Well, our friend did get a rash from the grass. He was kind of a dork.

But he was first one to tell me the joke most people hear every year. At the end of December. You tell someone. “See you next year.”

Yeah, it was funny at the time. I remember he had a sister. She was older than we were, maybe 12 or 13.

King was with us at this house. We always thought he was so sweet. So clueless. But it turns out when we were not at home, he chased a meter reader off the property.

I was in the second grade. And I wanted to acceptance. One of the cool kids told me to colour my nails with a marker. So I did it. Then people started calling me gay. Because only gay people would wear nail polish. It was the second grade.

But I remember thinking about what they were saying. I never thought they were right. I never thought I should feel shame. I never thought of changing my behavior. What I did think was I would try to fool them. Let them call me names for whatever they wanted to call me. But, all the time they would never know me. I could play like I was gay. And I would know I wasn’t. They would some day have to admit they were wrong, and look like fools. It sounded so logical.

There was a friend I had around this time. His name was Jeremiah. The song is how I recall it so well. “Jeremiah was a bull frog,” my friend hated the song. I can’t blame him. Where did he come from? Where did he go. Because after this house I only saw him ounce. He must have been a relative of one of Mother’s friends. Maybe my brother’s father.

There is a memory. We are at a house in another part of Coarsgegold. There is a building. With two floors and Jeremiah is trying to talk me into jumping off the second floor. He does it, and rolls. He said it was fun. But it doesn’t look fun. It doesn’t look safe. So I don’t jump.

When I think back Mother must have been pregnant most of the time. But I don’t recall the pregnancy in my mind. Also, when we smoked we stole them from her. So, she was smoking while pregnant. In fact there is little I do remember about her during this time.

One of my memories is of a coat. I loved this coat. I wore it all the time. But one time I got paint on it. I felt so sad. It upset me so much I washed it by hand. Trying to remove the paint. The paint came out of the coat. But I don’t have any memory of what happened to it afterwards.

The school we went to was Coarsegold Elementary. A school I attended again starting in the sixth grade.

Aside from the time living with my great-aunt. This was one of my favorite places we lived. It was still country. But closer to people. The kind of place I could see myself living in now. Being happy for the solitude of country life. But knowing neighbors aren’t far. Knowing a drive to town won’t take too long.

I remember waking up. Not feeling sure where I was. The sun filtering through a window. The dust floating. Dancing in the rays of morning light. It felt idyllic. There was a warmth, a comfort. But it was fleeting.

We had a black and white television. It was small. We would watch shows on it. One time Mother’s father came to visit. He thought we may kick the TV stand by accident. And the TV would fall over and kill us. When I offered to let him barrow my radio to listen to music in the shower. He thought it was electrocute him. Which seemed silly to me. It still does.

I have no fond memories of my grand father. And Mother seemed to have no great love for him as a parent. Though I think she tried. He was twins with my great-aunt. And we didn’t have any other family which stayed in touch with us. Mother said it was because we were so poor. And because of problems her father had caused. I don’t know any of them to know if this is true or not.

Other people have cousins. I never had cousins. The first cousin I met was when I went with my dad to see his family in New York. Well, we did have a family reunion. But the two memories of the event for me are eating and getting lost. No, I didn’t get lost. But I did take off and start exploring the rather large church hosting the event.

I grew up alone. In many ways I raised myself. I wonder how I would be different if I had felt like I was a part of a family. If there had been a network of people. A community of caring around us to support us. Who would I be?

I guess I have to accept everything in my past. Because it has made me who I am.  On most days I like myself. For the most part. A different life would have created a different me. And I don’t know I would be happier being another person.

This is the house where my brother Ben was born. Well, not in the house itself. We lived here, when he was born.

After he was born we moved to Fresno. The first and only time I lived in a city until I went to college. Also this is a bit of a watershed period of my life. I felt older. No, I never felt like a child. Maybe it was because I brother. Maybe because I was older. Maybe living in the city made me feel more experienced.

 

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