6.11.2009

A big whirler.

Before the bounced checks, the repo man and my mother's anti-depressants, we lived on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs where all of the brick ranch houses gathered, facing each other in a circle like a powwow or maybe more like a clambake. There were basketball goals in the front yards, trampolines and swimming pools in the backyards.

My sister and I wore matching outfits, handmade by our mother, with shoelace barrettes in our hair. Our best friends were Naomi and Crystal next door - those tan, lemon headed sisters with their thin white-blond hair always pulled tight into high pony-tails. With their hair like that, from far away they looked like bald, elderly men wearing doll's clothes. We spent a lot of time choreographing synchronized dance routines to Whitney Houston's "Oooooh I wanna dance with Somebody!" on their front porch. Their mother, Vivian, looked on, nodding off beat while holding a cigarette between her hot pink acrylic nails.

We'd play hopscotch on an absurdly gigantic scale. Our crude chalk lines would stretch all around the court and down the street. There would be twists and turns and gaps - we'd have to hurl ourselves to the next block or return to block one, five mailboxes away. If our rocks landed on the red squares, we had to do something ridiculous like eat a beetle or lick a bicycle tire. I'd look back from the 13th block and see kids far away, desperately hopping to block 8 or block 4. I was very skilled at this game.

My dad would make Kool-Aid in an old two-gallon pickle jar. We gathered around the table and watched him add sugar, the packet's contents and sometimes lemons. With a long metal spoon, he'd stir up the concoction. Brimming with enthusiasm, he'd sing, "Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid! Tastes great! Wish we all had some! Can't wait!" This excited us and made us laugh. He'd stir so fast, we'd see a Kool-Aid tornado inside whirling red. We'd laugh hysterically. Dad would make exaggerated sound effects of horns honking and trains whistling, all while stirring, stirring. "Hey kids, it's a whirlwind! Look out, Nan! It's a big whirler!" he'd say. At this point, my brothers and sister and I would be jumping up and down wildly. The metal spoon was clanking violently against the inside of the jar. Then the jar suddenly shattered into 10 or 100 pieces. Kool-Aid splashed onto the table, the floor and our faces. We stopped laughing and turned to our Dad, who had stopped mid-whistle to grumble, "God Dammit."

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