Thursday, July 02, 2009

Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

So, summer vacation's in full swing now, which means there are kidlets underfoot. Which means my house is a noisy, noisy place. But it's a good kind of noise. Happy kids (for the most part), water splashing as they play in the pool, music, all that fun stuff that summer is supposed to mean.

To me, summer meant freedom. And I don't mean it in a "school's out!" kind of freedom. Every year, on the last day of school, my brother and I would go down the shore with our grandfather. Now, my brother is four years younger than me, and he loved this. He'd leave on the last day of school and not come back home until my grandfather came up right after Labor Day.

But for me, love would be too strong a word. Now, when someone thinks of the Jersey Shore, they usually think of the ocean, the beach, and/or the boardwalk. Well, my grandfather's house was in this little town called Tuckerton, which isn't exactly on the ocean. His house was built on a lagoon (and the water was scary as hell and the bottom was icky mud. No one in their right mind would want to swim in it, even though it was, technically, ocean water. Creature from the Black Lagoon water was more like it.)

And there were no girls there my age. What was worse? There were no boys my age (or older. Older would have been good, too.) The only people under 60 were also (unfortunately) under 12 as well. So for me, it was B-O-O-O-R-R-R-I-I-I-N-N-N-G-G-G.

My mother was a single parent, so I spent summers either at the shore with my grandfather and brother, or I went over to my best friend's house (which was pretty cool, actually.)

But when I was 11, that all changed.

I was---

old enough.

Woohoo! I was old enough to be home by myself. Yay! No more being dragged out of bed at 7AM to go over Kristine's house (no offense, Kris - those were some of the happiest memories of my life, to be honest). I could sleep late. I could watch trashy soap operas (my addiction to All My Children has been rediscovered thanks to being in the gym at 1PM and the television across from my favorite ARC trainer tuned to ABC.) I could do what. I. Wanted.

It was awesome.


It was also the beginning of my night owlishness. I found an old Smith-Corona typewriter in the closet one day. I have no idea why it was there or how I happened to find it, but it set events in motion that brought me to where I am today.

This typewriter was ancient. The kind with the hammers with the letters on them. You know, you'd hit two keys at once, and the arms would swing up and get tangled and stuck. God forbid you hit more than two keys at the same time. You'd spent the next 45 minutes un-sticking them.

And the ribbon! Unlike electric typewriters, this had the old-fashioned spool ribbon that was red on the bottom half and black on the top half. When it ran out, you'd lift it off the spools and flip it around - which, for some reason, was never as simple as it should have been, and you'd end up with red and black fingertips and since the ink was apparently impervious to any liquids (until it made contact with onion skin typing paper, of course. Then it would magically erase all traces of any words), you would stay red and black until it wore off.

And White-Out! Ugh, I used to use it by the gallon.

But, the wonder of finding this relic with the really, really worn ribbon and clunky old keys, was what I found with it.

The urge to write a story.

I didn't know what. Or who. Or why. I just knew I wanted to write a story.

And I did.

And no, I won't tell you what it was, but trust me - it was probably awful. =)

But, I worked on it until late at night. And developed that habit of going to bed as my mom was getting up for work the next morning. I'd sleep, then go out with my friends. Kristine and I had the most kick-ass Barbie games - All My Children was a great starting off point for where our imaginations would lead us. Her grandmother used to say she enjoyed watching our games more than her soaps because there was so much drama. Somehow, I should have known at age 11, where my future lay - in storytelling, with lots of romance and drama.

And now, it's weird. I moved back into the neighborhood where I grew up. My mom still lives in the house where I found that old Smith-Corona. But (almost) everything else is different. Different people live in Kristine's old house. Her family moved to Florida in 1988. Tina's house has different people in it as well. All the houses I spent time in as a kid have different occupants now. Some I know, some I don't. But for me, summer will always mean that same thing... and it will always remind me of those days.

And that makes me smile.

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