Thursday, June 29, 2017

SISTERHOOD IN THE TRAVELING PANTS

MY SUMMER MAGIC, PART 2 -

BSC, CA – As I sat comfortable in the kitchen, brown as a berry after two weeks at a church summer camp out of state, my aunt popped in the doorway holding a pair of pastel lavender jeans that she had just found in unpacking my camp suitcase. Being doted on is one of the perks to being an only child. Usually it was a plus, but not this time.

When you are 12, a kid, you tell the truth. Since I couldn't recall the camp girls' names, or which girl those jeans belonged to, though I knew they belonged to one of them, I answered, “I don't know” to my aunt's question about the jeans [see part 1]. Then I quickly followed up with, “You see, there were these two girls [I intentionally left out race] I met at camp, and we were friends.”

Professional models used for illustration

Then seeing the look on my aunt's face of disbelief, I added, “Nothing happened.”

But my aunt was always the Raymond Berger to my Perry Mason. “Were these two little black girls?”

“No.” At twelve you always tell the truth, or at least I did. That's how I was raised being churched.

My grandmother and aunt both gasped and looked at each other and my mother got up and whisked me out of the room and up the back stairs saying, “We're going to your room to talk about this.”

As we went around the stairs landing on the way to the second floor, my mother looked at me and smiled, then she said, “I believe you, that was just for them.” I was relieved.

We got inside my room and both sat on my bed. We then had the first of three talks that summer about my camp experience, and these two girls. The first talk, which happened at the start of this story was pretty much the same version as appears in Part 1, not verbatim but in context.

About 3 weeks after the first summer camp talk, my mother came and knocked on my door frame and asked if I had some time. “Sure,” was my answer though she didn't usually request an audience. She walked in and sat down, this time in the chair. She wanted to know in detail how my camp experience went, from the time I got on the bus at the pickup place.

The time passed and we must have talked for over an hour. I went into detail about what I thought I was going to do, say something to Ann, down to getting a cheek kiss from each girl and giving one in return. She listened more than she asked any questions.

After I had finished talking about how the time was spent, then came the questions about the girls. How I felt, which one was prettier, how they were toward me, etc. As I talked about the girls, I began to get a little peeved. True, I had thought about them and us a few times since camp, but this was the present [1956], Emmet Till had been killed and mutilated a summer earlier* in Mississippi for supposedly whistling at a white woman [girl]. He was only 3 years older than me. I was aware of the situation and felt the camp time was a fluke though real, because these girls hadn't just been friendly, we instantly gelled, or at least them to me since I was not the one who initiated contact. And they weren't like the girls I usually met and liked, tomboys.

These two girls were different. They were regular girls. They weren't white girls, they were just girls. I could feel it and I loved it. We had a different time and space at the camp; that was the reason for this mind expansion without any knowledge of drugs. It was the true magic space of kids. We even talked about Santa. Now my mother was rekindling these magic moments and reminding me of things that I was outgrowing. What happened at camp was a mirage. I didn't want to be reminded of something that would never repeat. I started to get a little testy.

I asked my mother why all the interest now? What I had said was all there was to it. When I was in the presence of those two girls things flowed like magic. It was different from anywhere else, in or out of camp. And I liked it. We never got tired of each other, there was always something or someone to say something interesting, and we were like a family. It was strange. I said, “If in some future time they landed and got out of a flying saucer, I'd go back with them.”

She said, “You would? And leave all this, your friends and family and everything here?”

I thought for a minute and answered. “That's a tough one.”

Then I answered. “I love all you guys and I have a nice life but look at the world. It's changing a lot. When we were together at camp, it was just us. We didn't do what the other kids did. They didn't even pay attention to us. We had a blast. And it wasn't me doing this. They took care of me. They took care of everything. So if that kind of thing could happen, then yeah. I love you but yeah, I'd go.”

My mother said, “Oh.” And she left the room. I felt like my answer might have been in reaction to her questions, especially about the girls. I mean, I was never going to see them again. Give it a rest.

About a week before school started up and I began the 7th grade my mother popped in my room again. She said, “I just have one last question about the girls you met at camp.”

She then went into how some things are different from what they seem, even in people. Those two girls weren't like the little white girls that had gone to school across the street. These girls were different from even other whites that were around. She told me that she had heard of people like the girls I had met, so I was lucky to have gotten that chance. Then as she got ready to walk out the room, she turned and asked, “Would you really go off with those girls if they asked you to?”

I answered, “If it was them and we could go be somewhere [in a non-racial atmosphere] like we were, and able to [have free reign] like we did," (and for a moment I thought about the topics we covered staring up at the blue sky laying on soft white sand with a lake to cool us off, like the planet was ours alone and anything was possible), "Yeah, I would. I would go off with them. Why do you ask, that's never going to happen?”

“I was just checking to see if you still felt the same way,” and she left.

Then the 7th grade and puberty came; I changed schools for middle [junior high] school and life moved on. It would be over 20 years before I accidentally re-entered that side of life in Memoirs, Chapter 7, Start of the Magical Mystery Tour, an obvious Beatles song reference.

It would be over 50 years before this old memory drifted back across my mind like something familiar sniffed in the air.

(*- Originally misstated as an 11 year difference. Corrected in Part 1 - Ed)

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