I was in 5th grade, and it was the first time I had hung out in the yard of our new house after moving in. I was there with my two sister-aunts and my brother-uncle. The easiest explanation of this classification would be to say I’m from Alabama, but that’s really just a mean stereotype. The actual explanation is that my grandmother married a man with two daughters and a son, and since I was living with them, these kids felt like siblings to me. But technically, being my grandma’s step children, they were my aunts, who were only two years older than me, and uncle, who was actually a year younger than me. Ah well. It still sounds strangely sordid. All six of us, two adults and four kids, had spent our first year together cohabitating in a two-bedroom house that could be described generously as 1300 square feet. That’s before the attic was transformed into two additional bedrooms. And by ‘transformed’ I mean they put two beds up there, and we had to pull the folding wooden stairs down by the string in the hallway ceiling to go to bed. It’s funny now, but at the time it was a kid’s dream. It was like a tree house.
The new house didn’t have the tree house style, but it was much classier and was smack dab in the middle of middle class. It was brick and had three large bedrooms and an enclosed garage that we made into part bedroom, part den, part office and part storage for fishing clothes (that for some reason we had gobs of). The only way we could afford to buy the place, I believe, was that almost everything we owned was second-hand, garage sale. All our furniture. All our clothes. My grandma was a master garage-saler. Saturday mornings we were up with the sun, armed with our classified ads and the well-worn map, and headed to the local military base where there were always plenty of families moving away and selling off their stuff. The furniture was nice. Our clothes were another matter. I am not kidding when I say I had a bathing suit once from the 1950s. As cool as that might sound now, it wasn’t then. We were teased mercilessly by the middle class neighborhood kids. We learned we didn’t belong in that middle class neighborhood. We didn’t have the clothes to pull it off.
But of course, all that was yet to happen at the time we were hanging out that day in our new yard. And the fact that we were in our new yard wasn’t what will forever make that day stand out in my mind. A girl I didn’t know and never met, riding her bike by our house, was the reason that day in the yard is in my head. We were goofing off there in the yard, and I vaguely remember the girl passing by on her bike. There was a loud thump, someone screaming and a man from across the street running like lightening to the ditch in front of our new house. From what I learned later, the girl on the bike had wobbled a bit just as a car was passing her, the car caught her front tire and launched her into the ditch. They told us she was alive but wouldn’t let us anywhere near as we waited on the ambulance. I learned what a compound fracture of the femur was that day. And I learned, most likely for the first time, what it felt like to care about a complete stranger.
–RemembeRED prompt– ‘The first time I __________ed after _________ing’