Is there anything like an early morning in June? The cool air is not the heat-drenched air of mid-July and smells of freshness and purity. It smells of early morning boardwalk pitch and coffee on the deck. The leaves are blowing gently in the breeze with a promise of warm beauty in the afternoon. Problems evaporate with the effervescence of sunshine and contentment.
Rewritten Fall of 2012
Today we’re asked to be “green” or to preserve environmental quality (by being recyclable, biodegradable, or nonpolluting). But it doesn’t seem like that long ago that I climbed onto the back of a Chevy II station wagon to “take the cans to the dump.” Steve and my dad loaded up a huge barrel from the garage that was filled with tin cans to the hatch door of the station wagon.
“You two sit beside it and make sure it doesn’t move.” said my dad.
It was so heavy that it made the whole back of the car tilt downward and, in fact, we often hit bottom on the dirt road below Halteman Rd. The Chevy II bounced and we desperately tried to hold onto the huge barrel. If one of us was inside the car when my dad started driving, the air thwarted and pushed against our faces till we could barely breathe. It felt like a wind tunnel with our vision blurred and tear-stricken, but we held on to our given responsibility.
When we neared the drop-off point, we had to drive off the road onto the grass up above the creek. Then we all got out, releasing the white knuckled grip we had on the barrel. My dad sighed, and we knew what our job was.
“Now Steve, you take one side and I’ll take the other,” he said.
It was not easy to lift the big barrel, but they grunted and panted till the barrel was up, then a few bent-knee steps, then carefully, carefully they tilted the barrel’s contents down the hill. I watched as the tin cans cascaded over the edge, each one going in a separate direction and then indistinct from the multi-colored rust of discarded cans, old carpet, bicycle rims and car doors. It was a necessity in our lives and we didn’t question the odd expanse of ugliness screaming over the quiet, placid stream below.
Written Spring of 2012
In 8th grade a new girl joined our class at Penn View. Her name was Miona and she was originally from Korea but adopted by a Norristown family. Miona was not Mennonite and through her Heather and I were exposed to a different world.
For entertainment, we would go over to Miona’s house for a weekend, eat supper in her dining room with guests and watch her father with a huge turkey in front of him, serve each person their portion of food. Through Miona I saw what it was like to have a library as a room and witnessed for myself how one of the books was hollowed out for jewels. Her mother never wanted the light on in the dining room when unused because it made the silver in the china cabinet noticeable to passersby and opened themselves up to possible thievery along Burnside Ave. Through Miona, I learned how to “case” a drug store with 3 underage girls, one watching the door and the register attendant, another putting the quarters in the machine, and the other quickly removing the pack of cigarettes. Through Miona, I stayed up late swooning about cute guys and calling one on occasion, singing, “Blue, blue my world is blue….blue is my world since you went away.” As I recall, there wasn’t much response on the other end of the line.
I started smoking that year and my kids laugh today about how I was the most rebellious when I was in junior high. I can’t say I ever really enjoyed smoking, but in 1973 a lot of cool people smoked and I loved the look of having a cigarette between my fingers. Like Clinton, I often didn’t inhale. It hurt my lungs when I did. I remember how after Miona, Heather and I “cased” the drug store, we split the pack of cigarettes, and at home, I hid them in a small red box, underneath Bible quiz cards. I doubt I realized the irony of that.
By 10th grade, Miona and Heather were out of my life. Miona went back to Norristown High School and Heather went to Souderton High School after a particularly fun summer when she met the love of her life. Heather and I were constant summertime buddies, riding bike to the Souderton pool and meeting guys in the park, but when I talked to my parents about transferring to Souderton in 10th grade, they were vehemently opposed. So I lost touch with my “enlightened” friends and started becoming the best goody-too-shoes ever.
See also my 8th grade class picture at https://mymennonitememoir.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/forever-sins/