Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back in the Day

One of my favorite activities during my workday is eating lunch at my desk. Alone. I turn my radio to 80's music, and I sit in silence listening. Remembering... My friends make fun of the fact that I enjoy the 80's so much. And I do like to add to the humor and joke how it makes me a dork. An adorable dork, but a dork none-the-less.

Actually, as I sit here typing this, "She Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summers is playing. It reminds me of my mom and the time I lived with her and my sister in Hope Mills. My mom worked at a gas station second shift. This meant that we were left to our own devices after school. Unless you were a "latch key kid" growing up, you can not begin to fully appreciate the excitment of that kind of freedom. This was the time that I would rush home from the bus stop to drop my book sack off at the apartment and race back out to play with the neighborhood kids. We would hold street dances in the middle of the road, prompting angry shouts from the drivers that had to swerve to miss us. We would play kickball, dodgeball, and any other kind of ball you can think of. I would catch up with the boys and play a pick up game of football. They were innocent times....fun times. I remember it all very clearly, and I can still recall some of my young friends' names. I also remember the very first fight I ever got in to.

I was not quite 9. I was playing with a group of kids in the woods out on the edge of the apartment complex. We would all go back into the woods and make forts to play war in. Girls and boys would line up behind man-made huts and barriers. Pine cones were our weapons of choice. We would play this way until the street lights came on. This was the signal that it was time to go home. Even us latch key kids paid heed.

Well, during one particular game of war, my battalion was down. We were out most of our men, and it looked like we were going to have to surrender.

"Look, these punks aren't taking me down," my fearless leader hissed to me as we crouched behind a piece of plywood. His name was Robert and he was 10.

"What in the world do you want to do?" I asked. We were under heavy fire of pinecones and rocks. Two of our men had gone home with bloody noses. One was sitting against a tree nursing a very bad boo boo.

"I'm gonna throw our last pile of cones at them." Robert informed me. "I'll cover you as you run through the bushes and capture Jackie." Jackie was commander of the other army. He was 9.

"Why do I have to go? Why can't I cover you or Glenn?" I asked. I already had a nasty cut on my knee that I was sure was going to elicit some sort of lecture from my mom.

"I can't," Glenn informed me. "My mommy just got me a new retainer. If I mess it up, I can't go to my Me-Maw's this weekend." What an impressive army we were.

"I'm the oldest. I call the shots." Robert said. I conceeded to this age old wisdom and prepared to make a mad dash across the border. It never occurred to me to ask how I was supposed to apprehend the enemy's leader. I should probably have asked.

As Robert yelled "Run!", I sprang into action. I dodged pinecone after pinecone. I crouched behind trees until the coast was clear. With what was left of my team cheering me on, I made my way to Jackie and tackled him to the ground.

"I've got him!" I yelled triumphetly as I put my full 80 lbs on him. At least I thought I had him.

With one big swoop, Jackie grabbed my poneytail and flung me to the ground. Pinning me down with his weight, he sneered, "No. I got you. You're going before the firing squad."

Oh, freakin hell. Going before the firing squad meant I had to stand in front of one of the biggest pieces of plywood we had while I got pelted with pinecones, rocks, and anything else they could find.

I began to scream for Robert or Glen to come save me. Glen yelled something back about his retainer and loving his precious Me-Maw. I didn't hear from Robert.

Jackie pulled me to my feet and marched me to the spot where I was to meet my death. I looked for Robert and could not find him anywhere. Sobbing, I asked Glen where he had gotten to.

"He took off that away." Glen stated pointing in the direction of the apartments. My sobs of fear quickly gave way to tears of anger. My commander had abandoned me? In all the war movies I had ever seen, the leader always stayed with their men.

"I don't want to play anymore." I informed Jackie. "I'm going to go beat Robert's ass." Jackie quickly let me go. I ran to the apartment and grabbed my weapon of choice. A baseball bat. Or, rather, a t-ball bat.

I knocked on Robert's door and fearlessly asked his mom if he could come out and play. When Robert came to the door, I grabbed him by the collar and drug him out to the driveway. There, showing no mercy, I beat him black and blue with my pee-wee Louiville slugger.

"What did I do? Wes, what did I do?" Robert cried as he helled his arms over his head.

"You left me!" I screamed. "You were gonna let me face the firing squad all by myself!! How dare you?" Between his cries and mine, I never heard his dad come running out of the house.

He pulled me off of Robert and personally marched me back home. Since momma wasn't there, my sister called our neighbor. He came and made peace with Robert's dad. Later on that evening, Jackie came to check on me.

"I'm ok," I told him as we sat on the stoop outside. "I just lost my temper. He shouldn't have left me like that. I wouldn't have left him. I would have protected him."

"I know that. That's why I like you." Jackie looked at me. He leaned over and softly kissed me goodbye. Grinning, I walked back into the apartment.

At eight years old, I experienced my first fight and kiss in the same day. Now, at the age of thiry-three, a song from that time comes on the radio and brings a smile to my face.

I love the 80's.

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