I had some memories triggered in an odd place yesterday. My mother and I went to IHOP for dinner. We both love breakfast for dinner, so we enjoy IHOP quite a bit. I ordered their strawberry lemonade, which is served with a couple mint leaves on the rim of the glass. After sniffing the leaves and even tasting them, I had to spend a few minutes thinking about when I was about 5 or 6 and would eat the leaves that our next door neighbors, the Johnsons, had growing near the maroon fence in their front yard.
Irene and Sterling were a big part of my growing up experience. I was always over at their house. Their son Jimmy was, I believe, a senior in high school when I was about 5. Yet he always made time to "hang out" with me. He would buy a whole bunch of fireworks and give me some for the 4th of July. He would play Atari video games with me. He was always super nice to me and glad to see me. Not many high school seniors would give that kind of time to a 5-year-old neighbor kid, but Jimmy did. Some of the images I can see are the long walk down the hallway to Jimmy's room at the end of the house and playing Asteroid and surprising Jimmy by accidentally figuring out how to teleport in the game.
Irene and Sterling also had a couple granddaughters that would visit from Page, AZ that were the same age as my little sister and me (Hi Jessica!). We would spend a huge part of each day playing in the Johnson's back yard. I remember getting in trouble for swinging from the branches of the weeping willow. I remember trying, for the first time, a peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich. Good memories.
One thing that always confused me until I was about 10 was Sterling and Irene's relationship. See, I genuinely believed that Irene was a man. She had a deep voice. I never said anything to them, luckily, because that would have been horribly embarrassing. I have many memories like that one that embarrass me, but would have been that much more embarrassing had I not been such an introspective kid. I was precocious, always wandering away from home, only to have a church member call my mom and say that I was found wandering 5 or 6 blocks away, alongside the highway, but if I didn't understand something, I would think about it or look it up in a dictionary. I rarely verbalized these embarrassing thoughts.
The Johnsons were extremely kind, and I was never scared of them like I was of Mr. Robinson (correction, it was Mr. Perkins, the Robinsons were across the street), who lived on the other side of the house. He was scary.
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