Four years old.
I don’t know exactly who got me into first grade, but it must have been my grandpa, because my parents were fighting and it sounded like this:
“I’m not going to tell her! You tell her!”
“I ain’t tellin’ her teacher, shit!” my father said, putting his foot down.
“Well, she can just figure it out then,” my mother, said. “I’m not going to the school!”
Are you supposed to tell a little girl’s teacher, she could read? I had no idea and either did my sister.
I made my sister tell me every minute of school, on a daily basis, from the moment she left until the moment she came home. The kids would all walk to school and apparently there was a beautiful dog on the way; they would stop and pet him? She knew all kinds of things, but she did not know this.
It was decided there would be no discussions with my teacher. Good or bad, I didn’t know. I had gotten my way and nothing else mattered… until the weekend before school was to start, there was a knock on the door.
My sister and my brother and I all crowded around our mother to see who it was. It might have been one of our friends, except for it was getting dark and near dinnertime. In fact, my mother had our dinner, waiting on the stove. We were waiting for my father and my oldest sister to come home from a hike they went on with my grandpa to come home.
I don’t remember who it was who knocked on the door, but they said my sister was lost on the mountain. They’d spent the whole day, looking for her and come up with nothing. It was getting dark so one of the men in the party hiked to down, to drive to town and get help, but also to tell my mother… who started to weep.
I realized my mother had already been nervous. She’d known they were late getting home, but she hadn’t said anything. My brain scrambled to understand, but it had pretty much exploded in my head.
Has your sister ever been lost on a mountain? The sun was going down, as the man conveyed this message to my mother in an ominous voice. I had been on the mountain as well. I knew there were no lights, anywhere. Once I thought that, I stopped thinking, because I was scared out of my fuckin’ mind.
My other sister started crying; she’s a Pisces. My brother was oblivious, I was stoic and my mother was… well, she was a double Aquarius.
She handled herself, the best she could, which was pretty good, in my opinion. She still had gaskets in her brain where mine were gone. I remember being impressed.
More people appeared at the door, to hug my mother and reassure her. My mother didn’t like sugary hugging. Witnessing her having to deal with this sent me into space.
The next thing I knew, streams of people were coming through our house, with pans and cakes and casseroles.
“This is what they do when someone dies,” my sister informed me. I whipped my head around, so fast.
“She’s dead? They said she’s dead?”
“No, but she may be. If someone dies, people bring food..”
She wouldn’t tell me, so I shut up and tried to stay out of the way of the people mulling around with stressed looks on their faces. There were more of them than I’d ever seen in my life, in our house. I watched as they covered my father’s poker table with a sheet, to place all this food on top. I really didn’t know what was going on. Who is going to eat the food? Are more people coming over? Why? What is happening?
Eventually, one of my mother’s closer friends arrived and started running interference for her. It was decided that this friend would take the kids to a neighbor’s house. The other mother had agreed to watch us.
While we all knew everyone on the block, we were not particular friends with the kids that lived in this house. We were all uncomfortable but what are we supposed to do? I thought it couldn’t be possibly be worse than seeing all the food everywhere, makeshift tables all over the place; more people arriving by the minute. I thought it was a smart idea. I felt relieved.
My mother kissed us each on the head as we filed out. She told us not to worry and to behave. We were obedient kids so she had no worries there.
My mother’s friend shuffled us to the other house. The other mother opened the door and that’s when we saw they had a TV.
I’d never seen a TV before… this was back when people who could afford them, started to buy them for their homes. Us three kids walked into this house; I think this family had three kids. They were all lying on the floor, watching TV.
My memory is crystalline, on this, as it was yet another thing, I’d never seen before. Everything post that knock on the door was unprecedented.
Our parents told us we were too poor to have a TV. This was a problem, because there was a TV right there. Am I too poor so see it? The mom hurried us in and indicated, we should watch TV with her kids.
Really? Sit in front of it? Are we supposed to copy the other kids and lie down?
I glanced at my sister for a clue but she looked at me like I should not be such a stupid dick. I took her advice on the spot and followed her over to sit on the floor with the other kids. They were all lying, comfortably. The three us sat there, cross-legged with our spines stiff.
It must have been the top of the hour, because the first thing that happened was the news came on. I was looking at the bright TV colors when the lady started talking… about my sister!
“Little _____ remains missing at this hour.” the lady said. “The ten-year-old became separated from her father and her grandfather while hiking. She’s lost on the mountain with the family dog, a chihuahua named, Peanuts. ______ was lost wearing shorts and a sleeveless top. Temperatures atop the mountain are expected to drop below freezing tonight; with possible snow, forecast. Over 500 people have joined the search party. Fear is she’s fallen from a cliff…”
That was it. The mom swooped in and turned off the TV. Her kids groaned as my family sat there stunned.
The mother seemed to consider turning the TV back on, perhaps to a different channel, to placate her kids who did not seem to have any idea what was going on. She opted not to. News on every channel at this hour and our sister was definitely on it. My sister explained this to me, later.
The mother went back to what she was doing, I leaned over to my sister and whispered, “She fell off a cliff?”
“No! Fear is! They’re are afraid she fell.”
“But did she?”
“I don’t think so,” she said. “She’s not that stupid.”
I was glad to hear that! I tried to imagine my sister falling from a cliff. I couldn’t do it. This was when I knew for sure it didn’t happen. Not that it couldn’t! It was like being half-way ‘cross a tight rope. I felt tension.
I have little recollection of the next sixteen hours or so. Most of the people cleared out of our house. My mother put us to bed, where we tossed around and slept too, I’m sure.
They found her the next morning, or rather, she found them. Apparently, she walked all over the mountain, overnight, losing her canvass shoes in a creek at some point. Daybreak, she spotted a Forest Ranger jeep. She climbed into it with her dog and waited. Eventually, the Ranger returned to his vehicle and found her, about ten in the morning.
Things got back to normal, quickly. I remember my mother, begging people to take the food home. There were easily fifty dishes; our house was maybe 800 square feet with three bedrooms, four kids and a dog. She couldn’t get beyond this fast enough, and again I was impressed with how she handled everything.
I saw my mother differently after this. She had a sun Pluto opposition, if you wonder. And a Scorpio Mars. She had to get the house back to normal, because it was the weekend before school started. Her youngest daughter was starting first grade.
My mother was twenty-five-years old. Five kids, one deceased and she pulled this off . Our entire family put this behind us within three days. Honestly, we’re like this. We’re all like this, with our Mercury Mars’ and our Jupiter moons.
My sister who was lost is a double Sagittarius with Mercury in the sign. She saw this whole thing as an adventure and she loved to talk about it, or rather, boast about it. We asked a lot of questions.
“What did you do? Were you scared? Did you rest?” We thought she was pretty stupid for losing her shoes.
“I was cold! I froze my ass! I knew they wouldn’t find me ’till the sun came up, so I kept walking. Once I found the jeep, I knew I would be okay. I wondered what was taking so long. First I have to find myself, then I have to wait. And wait! And wait!” she’d explain, throwing her head back to laugh about it.
This is when I knew I was part of an exceptional family. My sister found herself on a mountain; she was on the front page of the paper. I was the first four-year-old, allowed in first grade. My mother could handle a crisis, on the spot, and my other sister seemed to know many, if not most things.
My mother had sewn me a dress for my first day of school, taking the time to embroider my first name on the yoke ‘cross my chest. When I stepped onto the front porch to walk to school with my sisters, I was swelled with pride of my own achievement.
No more staying home with a baby for me! I’d never been happier in my life.