(A true story inspired from my neighborhood map I’ve been working on for the second edition of Mentor Texts with Rose Cappelli, hopefully published by Stenhouse in 2017).
Allan Berger was always working some kind of mischief. Mothers would wag their fingers at him and make clucking noises. Fathers would hurl angry shouts in his direction. (Usually, by that time, Allan was already turning tail and running!). Little kids would sob uncontrollably or hiccup or both. Thank goodness he left me alone. Until that one afternoon….
We all attended the neighborhood elementary school, Edmonds, on Thouron Avenue, about six city blocks from my house. No one rode a bus and few kids had car rides to and from school. Everybody walked. It was something that I loved about going to elementary school and later to junior high (a half-block from my home). Walking was fun! You had time to share stories with your friends, time to think, time to be outside through the four seasons. Most of the time, I walked with Suzy Q, Liz Appelbaum, and my sisters, Diane and Sandy. That fateful afternoon I was alone for the walk home.
I had stayed after school to talk with my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Steinberg, about an assigned piece of writing. We had to write about our most unforgettable character. I had chosen my riding instructor, Mick Warmington. I had so much to say, and I guess I wanted a little guidance on how to narrow my topic. It was a really warm spring day, and I took my time walking home, still thinking about my “writer’s conference” and mulling over Mrs. Steinberg’s advice. This piece was special because we were going to present our writing to our unforgettable character. I wanted it to be perfect! So I was thinking and walking, strolling and thinking. The sunshine melted like butter across my face and a light breeze played with my long tresses (halfway down my back) – just enough breeze to make it a cool/warm day in May. I was wearing a pink poodle skirt that would fan out in all directions if I twirled.
And with no one in view, I twirled and twirled until I was so dizzy I had to stop. I had just finished twirling when a familiar voice said, “Hey, do that again so I can see your underpants. Do they have little pink hearts on them?” I didn’t need to look back. I knew that voice. I looked straight ahead. The beautiful day had turned frosty, and I shivered. “Didn’t ya hear me? Twirl again!”
Then I heard quick footsteps and a little tug. I felt the breeze on the back of my legs. Allan had lifted up my skirt. “Ha! Pink hearts! Just like I said!” Allan bellowed into the world.
I broke into a run, taking a short cut through Gilbert Street and over to Durham. Pant, pant, pant. I pumped my arms and ran faster than I can ever remember running. Crossing Durham without looking either way for cars, I leaped onto the sidewalk and raced to 1207. Up the steps and up, up, up the back porch steps. Sanctuary! I burst through the kitchen door, jogged through the dining room, and pounded up the steps to the safety of my bedroom. Mom followed shortly. By that time, I was sobbing and gasping and blubbering all over the place like a little kid. It was hard to lie to Mom. She just rubbed my back, handed me tissues, and waited. So I told her the truth. Mom said she was going to call Allan’s mother, but I begged her not to do it. I felt I was old enough to handle it on my own.
That Sunday the doorbell rang around 5:00 p.m., and to my great surprise, Allan Berger, his mom, and his dad were standing at our door. Mom welcomed them as if they were our best friends and ushered them into the dining room. I suddenly realized why Mom had been busy in the kitchen for hours because my mom did not like to cook. She had set the table for eight – why hadn’t I noticed the extra place settings? “Lynne, come help me in the kitchen.” She gave me a wink and I rolled my eyes. “Now, Lynnie,” she whispered, you are going to have to trust me on this. I know what’s best.”
And so, we had a lovely spaghetti dinner with salad and brownies with vanilla ice-cream for dessert. Allan was very quiet. After dinner, Mom suggested that he help her clear. I don’t know what was said between Mom and “the troublemaker” in the kitchen that Sunday evening, but I do know that the next day Allan delivered an apology note to me at school and never gave me or anybody else (as far as I knew) any trouble again. My mom was something else!