Do you ever just have those moments where you remember something from childhood? Maybe something about the house you lived in or the friends you had. I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a book about writing, particularly fiction writing, and she recommends writing little episodes from childhood. Just get them all down, she says. So here’s one.
After my parents divorced, we lived in a little house on George Street in Yuma. Cindy chuckles every time I mention the house on George Street. It just has this ring of childhood, I guess. A shady, tree-lined street with kids racing Big Wheels and bicycles with baseball cards wedged in the spokes, and kids jump roping and hop scotching. Not quite the picture. And definitely not shady.
The house was a three-bedroom but smaller than the one we lived in before, and it didn’t have central air, definitely essential in southwestern Arizona. Instead of central air, it had an evaporative cooler, which works passably as long as there is no humidity. But August is monsoon season in Yuma, where the humidity may not rise as high as in southern Ohio, but will still render the swamp cooler, as they’re called, useless. Think El Nino.
Our backyard was mostly dead grass and dirt, unlike at our house on 18th Street, where my dad watered constantly. In the back were a couple fruit trees: an orange tree, which was mostly barren, and a grapefruit tree. None of us kids liked grapefruit, but my twin sister and I were convinced somebody did.
Door to Door Saleskids
We climbed up in that tree—well, Becky did, as I was fearful of even modest heights—and picked a bunch of grapefruit, loading them into my red, Radio Flyer wagon. I can’t remember how much we thought we could get for them, but I’m sure we also offered a discount for higher volume purchases. Was it 50 cents each and maybe three for a dollar? These were organic, mind you.
We lugged the wagon, in which I’d formerly carted Baby Bully around, and attempted to sell door-to-door grapefruit only old people could appreciate. Looking back now, I can hardly believe we were allowed to wander our unfamiliar neighborhood, two nine year olds with a wagon brimming with unpalatable citrus. But then we also rode our bikes far from home, though not across 16th Street. And my sister and I walked from kindergarten to Grandma’s house through iffy residential streets.
How times have changed.
As soon as our girls became old enough to stroll further from home, they reached the age where as parents you become concerned about predators. Can we play outside? Yes, but in the fenced-in backyard. Can we ride our bikes? Yes, but only around the loop—about fifty yards from our house in Toledo. I walk them to school in the small town we live in now. It’s probably a tenth of the distance my sister and I walked alone when we were five. Could we ever return to such a deluded sense of security?
I think Becky and I made a couple bucks selling those grapefruit, most of which we had to unload from my Radio Flyer back at home on George Street. But our overhead was nil and we split the profits. We could have made a lot more had that orange tree not been dead. Who doesn’t like oranges? We could have paid for college with oranges. Or at least had more to spend at Circle K, which we would have ridden our bikes to, at least a mile away.