The first memory ever recalled was in a house on a very busy street. The driveway was very steep & short and dumped straight onto a 4 lane road that spelled Certain Doom to a 5 year old like himself if he ventured off the unfenced yard.
Of course, he never hesitated to play right on the sidewalk when the semi trucks went barreling past every day.
His older brother was 7 and preferred to stay inside and draw pictures of the elaborate adventures only dreams were made of, but he couldn’t wait to get outside & roam the neighborhood, hiding in bushes and pretending not to be seen. He practiced this by hiding in the hedge that separated the old rental house he lived in with his brother & their mother and the old church building next door to the right.
He’d learned the priest’s & alter boys’ schedules fairly quickly and would wait for them to file out onto the grounds before sneaking into the building to look around and see what was so interesting about going to church on Sundays for all these people. Apparently this was frowned on as he was caught once by a priest and told to leave. He made a mental note that stayed with him for years: People who go to church think they’re better than others and don’t want to let new people in unless you have nice clothes, or answer questions.
Against the backyard was a fence that separated their yard from the parking lot of the dentist’s office next door. The office was in a remodeled house on the corner of the block on the left side of their house where he would race his Big Wheel down the steep side street toward Certain Doom Road and cut a hard turn at the last minute, scaring the drivers as they saw a Big Wheel appear out of nowhere seemingly ready to careen right into them.
He spent most of his time entertaining himself like this, or playing with a few other toys since he was pretty much free to do as he pleased. His mother worked at night at the local American Legion as a ‘cocktail waitress’ which was ironic to him as he got a bit older, given the number of men who came over to visit overnight periodically and she would latch the door hook to her bedroom.
He didn’t remember much about his father, except that he was a truck driver in Oregon who didn’t want to see him or his brother, obviously. This wasn’t a concern though, since men clearly aren’t very trustworthy and don’t get to know you except to show you neat tricks to get you to go away and give them some time to get that door latch hooked. The best example of this was the police officer who came to visit, and he dared the officer that he couldn’t put the handcuffs on him since his hands were too small.
Lesson learned: Real handcuffs will indeed fit on a 5-6 year old’s wrists and restrain them. He spent about an hour crying, trying to get them off until the door latch unhooked and it was time for Officer Randy to go back to work. Or home. Or somewhere.
Yeah, the busy street was much more fun than waiting on that door latch.